A sampling of resources for beginning genetic genealogy
(All links shown were accessed/verified in Feb 2016 unless otherwise noted.)
Testing companies for DNA for the purpose of genealogy
FamilyTreeDNA: http://www.familytreedna.com. The autosomal test is called Family Finder. (A discount is available for the Y-37 test by using https://www.familytreedna.com/dar.aspx?dar=65C96644-6816-4A6C-AB17-BD31FCEDE999.)
Think about what you hope to accomplish. Are you looking for distant cousins who might have photos, documents, or leads on your ancestors? Are you trying to track your direct paternal line back, possibly hundreds of years? Are your recent ancestors from another country? Is ethnicity what you’re most interested in? Are you or a close relative an adoptee looking for biological family? Do you want health reports? Is the tester unable to spit in a vial but may be able to do a cheek swab? Does the company you’re considering sell kits in your country? The answers to these questions will help you decide which company is a best fit for you. For a quick comparison of the different autosomal options, see: http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_testing_comparison_chart.
After you test, consider putting a copy of your DNA data in free third-party sites, so you can look for matches with people who tested at a different company who also shared this way.
GEDmatch: see my initial blog post here: https://dnasleuth.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/6/.
DNALand: See Randy Seaver’s blog post here: http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/10/dnaland-launches-new-3rd-party-dna.html. It offers links to more information, and walks you through the process.
- FAQ for newbies: Genetic genealogist Kitty Cooper maintains an excellent FAQ for newbies at her blog here: http://blog.kittycooper.com/dna-testing/newbie-faq/. It’s also posted in the files for the yahoo group DNA-NEWBIE (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DNA-NEWBIE), where she announces updates monthly. The yahoo group welcomes newbies (of course!), but topics do stray into more advanced territory from time to time.
- ISOGG wiki: ISOGG is the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. Their Wiki at http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Wiki_Welcome_Page is the best single reference for genealogists with DNA questions. In particular, look at the sections under DNA tests. Autosomal DNA (http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA) takes you to a page full of useful tables and links; Y-DNA (http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Y_chromosome_DNA_tests ) will answer questions on Y-DNA; etc. Check out the glossary too!
- Beginner’s Guide to Genetic Genealogy: by Kelly Wheaton is here: https://sites.google.com/site/wheatonsurname/beginners-guide-to-genetic-genealogy.
- For the math geeks: Steve Mount’s 2011 blog post on “Genetic Genealogy and the Single Segment,” (http://ongenetics.blogspot.com/2011/02/genetic-genealogy-and-single-segment.html).
- Adoption: For tips and training, see http://dnaadoption.com/. (These are of benefit to non-adoptees too.) Get Started * How-To’s * Reference Docs * Tools * For Adoptees * Resources and Links * Classes and associated discussion group: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DNAAdoption/info.
- X Chromosome: At the end of March 2016, Jared Smith posted this excellent article on understanding how X chromosome matches work here – http://smithplanet.com/stuff/x-chromosome.htm.
- Triangulation (more advanced): this is a bit of a controversial topic on a methodology some consider using. For a reasonable discussion of the topic, see Debbie Kennett’s Jan 2016 blog post here: http://cruwys.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/autosomal-dna-triangulation-part-1.html.
- Endogamy and pedigree collapse (added Oct 2016): See Paul Woodbury’s excellent Oct 2016 blog post here: https://www.legacytree.com/blog/dealing-endogamy-part-exploring-amounts-shared-dna.
- Relationship chart (e.g. to explain what is a 4th cousin twice removed, etc.): see http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kordyban/chart/relationship_chart.html
- Relationship chart based on shared cM (i.e., a chart that shows the possible/likely relationships between DNA matches closer than 4th cousins, based on the number of centimorgans shared. See Blaine Bettinger’s chart here: http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Shared-cM-Relationship-Tree.jpg. Aug 2017 update: Check out the latest charts and detailed analysis here: http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Shared_cM_Project_2017.pdf .
- Relationship chart, as above, but including more distant relationships: see “Average autosomal DNA shared by pairs of relatives, in percentages and centiMorgans” at http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_statistics.
- Odds of matching (i.e. What are the odds that two people descended from the same Most Recent Common Ancestor will have enough DNA in common to be identified as a match to each other? For FTDNA, see: https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/autosomal-ancestry/universal-dna-matching/probability-relative-share-enough-dna-family-finder-detect/. From 23andMe, see: https://customercare.23andme.com/hc/en-us/articles/202907230-The-probability-of-detecting-different-types-of-cousins. AncsestryDNA claims to have somewhat higher success rates.
More things you might want to be aware of:
- Your genetic tree is not the same as your genealogical tree. For example, 10 generations back, you have 1024 genealogical ancestors but DNA from only perhaps 470 of them, on average. See http://burtleburtle.net/bob/future/ancestors.html for numbers, and Blaine Bettinger’s blog post http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2009/11/10/qa-everyone-has-two-family-trees-a-genealogical-tree-and-a-genetic-tree/ for a good explanation with visuals.
- Your ethnicity results: how accurate are they? See Judy Russell: http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/02/22/making-the-best-of-whats-not-so-good/. [Update Apr 2016:] I also like Kitty Cooper’s blog post on the subject here, where she compares a family member’s results across different companies: http://blog.kittycooper.com/2016/04/ancestry-composition-comparisons-a-case-study/. ETA July 2017: See also Roberta Estes’s blog post with plenty of links here: https://dna-explained.com/2017/07/02/ethnicity-and-physical-features-are-not-accurate-predictors-of-parentage-or-heritage/.
Blogs (good for beginners)
- Kitty Cooper: See http://blog.kittycooper.com. An excellent intro is: http://blog.kittycooper.com/2015/03/using-your-dna-test-results-the-basics-for-genealogists/.
- Blaine Bettinger: http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/
- CeCe Moore: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/
- Judy Russell http://www.legalgenealogist.com/ (DNA posts usually on Sundays; see also Top Posts)
Webinars, videos, presentations, and courses
For an excellent blog post on educating yourself in genetic genealogy, see Debbie Parker Wayne, “Becoming a Genetic Genealogist,” Deb’s Delvings Blog, posted 12 January 2016 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/2016/01/becoming-genetic-genealogist.html/ : accessed 3 Feb 2016).
Here are some examples of opportunities to pursue more education:
- My favorite short freebie, by Maurice Gleeson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=21&v=BwdkWruaG2Q. Very basic, light-hearted intro to atDNA. (Note: the cost of testing now is less than mentioned in the video)
- FamilyTreeDNA: https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/ftdna/webinars/
- 23andMe: https://www.youtube.com/user/23andMe/videos
- AncestryDNA: http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2012/10/22/youve-received-your-ancestrydna-results-now-what/
- 2014 Genetic Genealogy Conference (I4GG) recorded all 27 presentations and made them available on video for $50 for all, or $4 each, here: http://i4gg.org/product-category/videos/. This post lists the videos and adds the degree of complexity for each: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2014/09/videos-from-i4gg-conference-are-now.html.
- Diahan Southard, http://www.yourdnaguide.com/#/video-training/.
- Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research: Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA” $69 — http://vigrgenealogy.com/store/bettinger-finally-autosomal/
- National Genealogical Society: “Genetic Genealogy: The Basics” (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/genetic_genealogy) and “Continuing Genealogical Studies: Genetic Genealogy, Autosomal DNA” (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/genetic_genealogy_autosomal_dna.) For a review see Niki Barra’s blog post: http://www.copperleafgenealogy.com/review-ngs-autosomal-dna-course/.
- FamilyTree University: https://www.shopfamilytree.com/more-resources/genealogy-video-courses/expert-webinars, e.g. Autosomal Crash Course, $49
- National Institute for Genealogical Studies: DNA- Introduction to Genealogy. 8 weeks, $89: http://genealogicalstudies.com/
Books and articles
- Aulicino, Emily D. Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2013
- Bettinger, Blaine, and Matt Dexter. I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What? (free!) https://www.familytreedna.com/pdf-docs/Interpreting-Genetic-Genealogy-Results_web_optimized.pdf.
- Bettinger, Blaine. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. (Family Tree Books, 2016.)
- Bettinger, Blaine and Parker, Debbie Wayne. Genetic Genealogy in Practice. (National Genealogical Society, 2016.)
- Hill, Richard. Several books, all good…
- Kennet, Debbie. DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-first Century. Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2011.
Genetic genealogy – standards/code of ethics
As genealogists who use DNA in our work, we have standards and a code of ethics to adhere to. Note: these are OUR standards, for genealogists, not the standards for the testing companies. The full document is here: http://www.geneticgenealogystandards.com/.
(c) Ann Raymont 2016