2017 July – Practical Genetic Genealogy


Course Coordinator: Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.

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

Held July 16-21, 2017, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.

PRE-READING: These texts are not required for the course, but students may benefit more from the course if they are already familiar with the concepts and/or techniques covered in one or more of these publications:

Bettinger, Blaine T. and Debbie Parker Wayne, Genetic Genealogy in Practice. Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2016. With 75+ hands-on exercises, this book will help you reinforce the concepts you learn in the course.

Bettinger, Blaine T., The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2016.

Older Books (may not be up-to-date):

  • Aulicino, Emily D. Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2013.
  • Dowell, David R. NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection. n.p.: Libraries Unlimited, 2014.
  • Kennett, Debbie. DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-first Century. Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2011.
  • Smolenyak, Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner. Trace Your Roots with DNA. Emmaus, Penn., Rodale Press, 2004.

In addition to the books above, the following provide insight into the use of DNA to identify family:

  • Griffeth, Bill. The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir Hardcover. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2016.
  • Hill, Richard. Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA. n.p.: self-published, 2012.

Schedule will include the below in roughly the following order, subject to change. 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.

8:30 a.m. Introduction to DNA and Genetic Genealogy (Bettinger)
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).

10:15 a.m. Y-DNA Basics (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, 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.

1:00 p.m. Y-DNA Intermediate Analysis (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.

2:45 p.m. mtDNA Analysis (Bettinger)
Mitochondrial DNA inheritance patterns are reviewed with tips on choosing who should be tested. Case studies demonstrate the use of mtDNA to examine whether results indicate a common ancestor and whether a particular ethnicity is included in the maternal line.

8:30 a.m. atDNA 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.

10:15 a.m. atDNA Company Tools (Stanbary)
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.

1:00 p.m. atDNA 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. X-DNA Analysis (Stanbary)
X-DNA inheritance patterns are reviewed with tips on choosing who should be tested, as well as X-DNA limitations and analysis. Case studies demonstrate the use of X-DNA to examine whether results indicate a common ancestor.

8:30 a.m. atDNA Tools (GEDmatch) (Stanbary)
This session demonstrates the use of third-party atDNA tools.

10:15 a.m. atDNA Tools (DNAGEDcom) (Hobbs)
This session demonstrates the use of third-party atDNA tools.

1:00 p.m. atDNA Tools (GenomeMate Pro) (Stanbary)
This session demonstrates the use of GenomeMate Pro.

2:45 p.m. Writing About and Citing DNA Tests Results (T. Jones)
Using published case studies as examples, this session focuses on integrating—graphically and in words—DNA and documentary evidence in articles, family histories, and other genealogical writing. It addresses issues of explaining, showing, and citing DNA test results, living people’s lineages, and DNA-related resources.

8:30 a.m. Unknown Parentage (Moore)
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.

10:15 a.m. Biogeographical Analysis (Moore)
This session examines the methods by which biogeographical estimates are generated by the testing companies. We will examine some of the limitations and benefits of biogeographical estimates, including how they can be used for genealogical research.

1:00 p.m. Privacy and Ethics (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. Evaluating a Proof Argument Incorporating DNA (Bettinger)
It is our duty as genealogists to review evidence and conclusions carefully and cautiously, rather than accepting them at face value. Genealogical “proof” is a difficult concept to define, even when using only traditional genealogical records. The community has just begun to explore the effect of adding DNA results to genealogical proof. Together we will discuss the most common pitfalls when using DNA evidence, and propose the minimum requirements for a genealogical proof comprising DNA.

8:30 a.m. DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard Project (Stanbary)
When should you consider DNA evidence? How important is DNA evidence to your genealogical research? 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, while for others DNA evidence will be bedrock upon which a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion rests.

10:30 a.m. The Future of Genetic Genealogy (Bettinger)
This session explores the future of genetic genealogy. We’ll learn how genetic information might be used in the future, including to create entire or partial family trees based solely on DNA test results. We will also examine how these recreated genomes might be used to generate the faces and health of ancestors who have been dead for hundreds of years

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).