3 Strategies for DNA Testing – and another book review

I find three major strategies in using DNA to help genealogy.



The first two have similar goals; the second is just more deliberate and focused than the first.

  1. Fishing – adding our DNA to the database of everyone else and see who is reported as a match. We’re looking to connect to anyone, determine where our lines may intersect, and see if that DNA match has some documents or artifacts we don’t have (bibles, old letters, photos, research they’ve conducted), which may also help us push our family trees back another generation or more.
  2. Targeted Testing – similar to #1, we’re hoping to connect to someone who can provide leads to new evidence, but this time we have a specific brick wall we’re focusing on and we may be recruiting people on that brick wall branch to take a DNA test to help.

In each of those, the distant relatives we discover may have information we need, or they may suggest new places or new names for us to search for records.

Sometimes, documents with direct evidence of who our ancestor’s parents were simply don’t exist. Suppose you’re descended from Famine-era Irish immigrant James Dorsey and you’ve conducted thoroughly exhaustive research and there is *no* record connecting James to any potential parents or siblings. You may be a DNA match to a descendant of a John Darcy (by age and location a possible brother to James), but there is just no documentation connecting James to John. There is direct evidence that John was the son of Michael Darcy, but nothing naming your James. Can you prove that James was the son of Michael too?

That’s the third strategy:

  1. DNA as evidence – two or more people related (perhaps distantly) today suggests that they have ancestors who were more closely related. Analyzing the DNA matches helps predict how and how closely two past individuals might be related, and it may be used as evidence to help prove or disprove a kinship hypothesis.

Genetic Genealogy in Practice, a new workbook by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Wayne Parker, capably fills a real demand for support for genealogists exploring this third strategy. Published by the National Genealogical Society (NGS), this book is targeted to an audience serious about genealogy—and recommends familiarity with the GPS (Genealogy Proof Standards).1 At this time the book is only available via the NGS website here. One doesn’t need to be a member of the NGS to purchase it, but members do get a discount price of $30.06 instead of the non-member price of $36.05.


Genetic Genealogy in Practice contains the basic education needed in DNA. In that regard there is some overlap with Bettinger’s Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, reviewed in my last blog post. Each chapter concludes with exercise questions to test your understanding, and answers are found in the back of the book. Both of the authors, Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Wayne Parker, have extensive experience as teachers in genetic genealogy, and it serves them well in delivering a textbook that is well-organized, clearly presented, and provides feedback.

A significant difference between the two books is the focus on Practice in Genetic Genealogy in Practice: with multiple examples of how to use DNA in a case study, as well as the practice of quizzes. Here is the table of contents and page counts for Genetic Genealogy in Practice:

Preface p 1-2

1             Basic Genetics (p 3-10)

2             Genetic Genealogy, Standards and Ethics (p 11-22)

3             Genealogical Applications for Y-DNA (p 23-44)

4             Genealogical Applications for mtDNA (p 45-66)

5             Genealogical Applications for atDNA (p 67-100)

6             Genealogical Applications for X-DNA (p 101-112)

7             Incorporating DNA Testing in a Family Study (p 113-124)

8             Incorporating DNA Evidence in a Written Conclusion (p 125-132)

9             Conclusion (p 133-134)

Appendix A. Charts for Exercises (p 135-138)

Appendix B. Glossary (p 139-148)

Appendix C. Reading and Source List (p 149-158)

Appendix D. Chapter Exercise Answers (p 155-196)

A more detailed explanation that includes sub-topics covered, reviews, author credentials, and links to purchase can be found on Debbie Wayne’s website here.

For someone new to genetic genealogy, who may be ready for some ‘fishing’ or perhaps ‘targeted testing’, I would recommend the more affordable Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. For genealogists familiar with the GPS who want some guidance in recruiting testers and/or using DNA match results as evidence to support or disprove a kinship hypothesis, Genetic Genealogy in Practice will be very valuable.

In my case, I purchased both and am glad I did!

1. See “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html). The authors of Genetic Genealogy in Practice recommend that readers have studied the books Genealogy Standards written and published by the BCG and Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, published by NGS.


Ann Raymont (c) 2016


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