2016 July – Practical Genetic Genealogy


Course Coordinator: Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL

Instructors: Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.; Patti Hobbs, CG; Karen Stanbary; Thomas W. Jones, PhD., CG, CGL, FASG

Held July 17-22, 2016, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.


These texts are not required for the course, but the students will learn more from the course if they are already familiar with the techniques covered in one or more of these publications:

Aulicino, Emily D. Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2013.

Bettinger, Blaine, PhD (Biochemistry), JD and Matt Dexter. I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What? (self-published, 2008); v2.1 version with atDNA added is available from http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf-docs/Interpreting-Genetic-Genealogy-Results_web_optimized.pdf.

Dowell, David R. NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection. n.p.: Libraries Unlimited, 2014.

Hill, Richard. Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA. n.p.: self-published, 2012.

Kennett, Debbie. DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-first Century. Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2011. This book has the most up-to-ate information available in print on Y-DNA, mtDNA, and atDNA.

Smolenyak, Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner. Trace Your Roots with DNA. Emmaus, Penn., Rodale Press, 2004. Primarily covers Y-DNA and mtDNA.

Schedule will include the below in roughly the following order, subject to change. Classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday and Friday and 8:45 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

See lecture descriptions below for a full description of each lecture. Company differences on test and tool offerings are discussed in individual sessions where the topic fits logically. New tools frequently become available. This schedule may be adjusted as needed to cover important new tools that become available before the course dates.

MONDAY, July 19, 2016

8:45 a.m. Introduction and Basic Genetics (Wayne)

This session introduces the course, the objectives, and student activities. Basic DNA inheritance patterns are described in an easy-to-understand way to lay a foundation for later sessions. Inheritance of all four types of DNA are covered: Y (direct paternal line), X (unique inheritance for males and females), mitochondrial (direct maternal line), and autosomal (inherited from all ancestral lines).

10:30 a.m.  mtDNA and X-DNA Analysis (Wayne)

Mitochondrial DNA and X-DNA inheritance patterns are reviewed with tips on choosing who should be tested. Case studies demonstrate the use of mtDNA and X-DNA to prove whether results indicate a common ancestor or not and whether a particular ethnicity is included in the maternal line. This will be concluded in an exercise session later in the course.

1:00 p.m.  Y-DNA Part 1 (Hobbs)

Y-DNA inheritance patterns are reviewed with tips on choosing who should be tested. Case studies demonstrate use of Y-DNA to prove whether results indicate a common ancestor or not, whether a particular ethnicity is included in the paternal line, how to determine when additional testing is indicated, and incorporation of analysis of fast- and slow-mutating markers.

2:45 p.m.  Y-DNA Part 2 (Hobbs)

This session builds on the Y-DNA basics already covered. More advanced analysis techniques and tools are covered along with specific conditions possibly revealed by Y-DNA testing.


8:45 a.m. atDNA 1 – Basics (Hobbs)

Autosomal DNA inheritance patterns are reviewed with tips on choosing who should be tested and how the results can be applied to genealogical research. Case studies demonstrate use of atDNA to prove whether results indicate a common ancestor or not and how far back in time the common ancestor is likely to be. Commonly used terms are defined.

10:30 a.m. atDNA 2 – Connecting the Dots with Company Tools (Wayne)     

This session builds on the atDNA basics already covered. Differences between the tools offered by the testing companies are discussed. Detailed step-by-step procedures for analysis are included. Spreadsheets and other tools for advanced analysis are demonstrated.

1 p.m. atDNA 3 – Match Analysis (Hobbs)  

This session covers what happens when you find a close match and what makes a “good” match. Detailed use of chromosome browsers and “in common with” tools are used to explore overlapping DNA segments. Tools to help efficiently handle the massive amount of data used in atDNA analysis are discussed.

2:45 p.m. atDNA Tools – Part 2: GEDmatch, DNAgedcom, and More (Hobbs)

This session demonstrates the use of atDNA tools for kinship analysis. Case studies will use DNAgedcom, GEDmatch, or other useful tools that may become available before the course date.


8:45 a.m. atDNA Tools – Part 1: GenomeMate Pro  (Stanbary )

This session demonstrates the use of atDNA tools for kinship analysis. Case studies will use GenomeMate Pro (other useful tools that may become available before the course date may be added).

10:30 a.m. atDNA Tools – Part 3: Essential Third Party Tools (Stanbary)    

This session demonstrates how to use autosomal DNA third party tools and sites such as GEDmatch, DNAGedcom, and others. A family study using DNA phasing is included.

1 p.m. Applied Analysis Workshop – Demo (Bettinger)

This session demonstrates company and third-party site access.

2:45 p.m. Applied Analysis Workshop – Student Exercise (Bettinger)

This session provides time for students to practice with company and third-party tools with instructor assistance.


8:45 a.m. Brick Walls and Unknown Parentage (Bettinger)

This session demonstrates how to use the techniques already covered for cases such as adoption and other brick walls where little or nothing is known of the ancestral origins of the DNA testers.

10:30 a.m. Ethnicity, Admixture, and Kinship Analysis (Bettinger)

The advances made and the limits of what can be learned about ethnicity and deep ancestry (admixture) with current tests and the currently available population databases is demonstrated. This session also demonstrates pros and cons of useful tools and sites for advanced analysis that have not been covered in earlier sessions.

1:00 p.m. Privacy and Ethical Issues (Bettinger)

This session includes discussions on cultural attitudes to DNA testing, privacy and ethical issues every genealogist should consider before sharing genetic information.

2:45 p.m. Case Studies: Using Autosomal DNA to Solve a Family Mystery (Jones)

This case study shows how targeted autosomal-DNA testing helped identify the father and paternal grandparents of siblings born in New York State in the 1820s. Besides the genealogical methods, the presentation addresses locating people to test, interpreting the results, and applying them to help answer a specific research question.


8:30 a.m. DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard Project (Wayne)

DNA alone can prove two people are related, but cannot prove who the common ancestor is or what the exact relationship is. DNA will not be useful as evidence for every genealogical research question, for others DNA evidence will be bedrock upon which a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion rests. Case studies illustrate methods to incorporate DNA analysis into a narrative.

10:15 a.m. Advancing Towards the Future of Genetic Genealogy (Wayne)

This session explores online educational resources the attendee can use to advance their genetic genealogy knowledge. This is a constantly changing field and we must keep abreast of new discoveries. “The Future of atDNA: Universal Genetic Family Tree” is included (if Blaine is not doing it elsewhere).

FRIDAY 11:30 a.m.: Course Wrap-Up and Certificates before Lunch

Daily Exercises: Each day ends with hands-on exercises to be completed by students. Each includes a genealogical tree and a research goal discussed in class; student determines who to test, which test to perform, initial conclusion based on given findings. Exercises include discussion of projects to correlate documentary evidence from traditional research with DNA test results (Y-DNA, mtDNA, atDNA, and X-DNA).