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Clan Forbes Family History Project: Frequently Asked Questions


The Clan Forbes’ Family History Project is now in full swing, headed up by Philip Stead, MSc student of Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. As announced earlier, Mr. Stead plans to conduct analysis of the Y chromosome single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the Clan Chief, Malcolm, Lord Forbes, and calculating time to “The Most Recent Common Ancestor” (TMRCA) of those project participants who belong to this lineage. Mr. Stead will also analyse the Y chromosome SNPs associated with those with the surname Forbes from different yDNA haplogroups and investigate the autosomal DNA (atDNA) connections between project members to determine associated families or “septs.”


The success of the project depends on wide participation from individuals willing to contribute their Big Y-700 DNA data, which will be used to carry out the genetic analysis components of the investigation. Participants will need to have tested their DNA at FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) or be willing to upload their atDNA raw data from other services such as Ancestry.com to the Forbes FTDNA project.


We have received some questions about the project and would like to provide you with some answers.


What do I need to do to take part in the project?

If you have already taken a genetic test, then you will be asked to grant the researcher access to the data on the FTDNA database and provide details regarding your documented lineage to a Forbes ancestor. If you have not taken a genetic test then you will be provided with a test from FTNA. The testing service has robust procedures in place for testing DNA ethically and with full respect for the privacy requirements of a tester. The DNA sample is easy to provide and non-invasive: it involves lightly scrubbing the inside of your cheek with a small brush to provide some cheek cells. These are placed in a phial and sent by post to the lab in Houston, Texas, USA. After several weeks the results will be announced in a dedicated webpage that is provided for your use, along with other information. Once your test results are available, you will be asked to grant the researcher advanced access to the data. If you have already taken a test but the results need upgrading, then this will be done with your consent.


What happens to the information in the project?


All participants will be anonymised in the final report using pseudonyms. Information about the segments of DNA shared between you and your genetic relatives will be discussed, and the surnames in question will also be mentioned. Once the project is completed, the researcher and the University of Strathclyde will no longer have access to your DNA data. The University of Strathclyde is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office who implements the Data Protection Act 1998. All personal data on participants will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.


If I join the project, can I withdraw my consent at any time?


Yes. Anyone who agrees to participate in this analysis has the right to withdraw access to your genetic data, without any questions asked and without consequences to yourself, at any time.


What are the potential risks to me?


As with all genetic testing, you may learn unexpected information with real consequences about your family. These include illegitimacy, relatives you were not aware of and half-sibling relationships. If you require support as a result of any of these issues, you can reach out to the National Family Mediation (NFM.org). Please inform the researcher in advance of testing whether you would like to know any new information learned about your family.


How does FamilyTreeDNA protect my privacy?


FamilyTreeDNA has posted a detailed Privacy Statement at https://www.familytreedna.com/legal/privacy-statement that includes the types of information collected and how it is used. The testing service states “FamilyTreeDNA does not share your individual Personal Information with third parties without your additional consent other than as described in this Privacy Statement. We will never share your Genetic Information with pharmaceutical or insurance companies, employers, or third-party marketers without your express consent.”


However, FTDNA does identify an exception: “For requests made by law enforcement and their authorized representatives that meet the requirements of our Law Enforcement Guidelines, FamilyTreeDNA may create limited access law enforcement accounts (“LE Accounts”) which are permitted to upload genetic information to the database to identify the remains of a deceased individual or to identify the perpetrator of a homicide or sexual assault. FamilyTreeDNA will track Law Enforcement Accounts via an in-house identification system that will allow users to opt out of Law Enforcement Matching.


Would I be notified of a law enforcement request?


Yes, unless prohibited by law. FTDNA states: “Unless we are legally barred from doing so, our policy for any request of additional user information is to notify users of the request and supply a copy of the request prior to disclosure. In the U.S., law enforcement officials may prohibit this disclosure by submitting a court order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2705(b) or state statute signed by a judge. We will assess requests not to notify users from law enforcement outside the U.S. under applicable law. For all requests, we may also elect, in our sole discretion, not to notify the user if doing so would be considered counterproductive and if we are not legally permitted to do so.


What kind of consent do you need in order for me to participate?


You will need to sign a consent form that states:

  • I confirm that I have read and understood the information sheet for the above project and the researcher has answered any queries to my satisfaction.

  • I consent to being a participant in the project.

  • I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw from the project at any time, up to the point of completion, without having to give a reason and without any consequences. If I exercise my right to withdraw and I don’t want my data to be used, any data which have been collected from me will be destroyed.

  • I understand that I retain ownership of my DNA sample at all times.

  • I confirm that my personal data (i.e. data which identify me personally) can be used for the purposes of communication between the Investigators and myself as part of the study.

  • I understand that I can withdraw from the study any personal data at any time.

  • I understand that if my test has been funded by the student, sole access to the test data will be transferred to myself at the end of the study.

  • I understand that anonymised data (i.e. .data which do not identify me personally) cannot be withdrawn once they have been included in the study.

  • I understand that no information that identifies me will be made publicly available.

  • I consent to results from the DNA tests I have taken with a third-party organisation being analysed for this study.

Graham Hills Building, University of Strathclyde

Is this project approved by the University of Strathclyde?


Yes. This investigation was granted ethical approval by the University of Strathclyde Ethics Committee. If you have any questions/concerns, during or after the investigation, or wish to contact an independent person to whom any questions may be directed or further information may be sought from, please contact: Secretary to the University Ethics Committee, Research & Knowledge Exchange Services, University of Strathclyde, Graham Hills Building, 50 George Street, Glasgow G1 1QE. The telephone number is 0141 548 3707 and e-mail address is ethics@strath.ac.uk


You may also contact Tahitia McCabe, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Strathclyde, Graham Hills Building, 40 George Street, Glasgow G1 1QE. Her telephone number is 0141 548 3483 and her e-mail address is scosh@strath.ac.uk

How is this project funded?


The individual participants generally pay for their own tests. However, Mr. Stead has already contributed a considerable amount of funds to pay for upgrading the DNA tests. The Clan Forbes Society is also committed to raising additional funds from individual members and to paying for testing from its operating funds. If you are highlighted as a participant of particular interest to the study and you are struggling to fund an upgrade, please email Philip Stead to enquire about gaining support for upgrading. All upgrades will be conducted through the Forbes FTDNA project general fund, and anyone can make a donation if they wish to support this project. Once you have a FTDNA account and joined the Forbes Y-DNA Group, you can click the “Donate” button the group webpage: https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/forbes/about. You can also make a tax-deductible contribution to the Clan Forbes Society, which is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC). You can specify that your gift of any amount be specifically allocated to our genealogical activities: https://www.clan-forbes.org/donate.


Who do I contact for more information about this project?


Please contact Philip Stead at philip.stead.2019@uni.strath.ac.uk. The results of this project may be published in the future. If you are interested, you can request a copy of the dissertation after it has been graded by the University. The Chief Investigator and Dissertation Supervisor for the project is Graham Holton, Graham Hills Building, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1QE. His e-mail address is g.s.holton@strath.ac.uk .

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