09 December 2015

TSLAC Website Redesign

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) just launched a redesigned website. The announcement indicates:
Highlights of the new site include a streamlined user interface, targeted informational categories, enhanced access to search functions and graphical based divisional landing pages. A key feature of the redesign offers mobile responsiveness to meet the needs of the growing number of users accessing the site via handheld and tablet devices.
Be sure to explore all of the topics. Some items of interest to genealogists are found on the "Online Collections" page as well as the "Genealogy Resources" and other pages. The new site has a nice clean look and seems easy to navigate and search. The pages resize for smaller windows. I love this as so many sites nowadays force me to make my browser fill the full screen width or to scroll horizontally.

Screen shot of TSLAC Home Page, 9 December 2015

As with any website, be creative with your search terms and think about how an item would have been referred to in documents. For example, a search for "texas lunatic asylum" results in no hits. Searching for "state lunatic asylum" or just "lunatic asylum" results in hits in two different collections. Neither of the hits is in a collection linked from the "Genealogy Resources" or "Online Collections" pages. Today's researchers are interested in many less used records to help us learn the full life story of our ancestor's lives.

Screen shot of TSLAC Search Results, 9 December 2015

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "TSLAC Website Redesign," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 9 December 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

NGS Announces New Course -- Genetic Genealogy: Autosomal DNA Course

"Genetic Genealogy: Autosomal DNA Course" is now available!

One of the reasons I haven't blogged as much this past year is that I have been developing an online course on using autosomal DNA (atDNA) for genetic genealogy. The National Genealogical Society (NGS) just announced availability of the course. See http://upfront.ngsgenealogy.org/2015/12/ngs-launches-its-newest-course-genetic.html for more information.

The NGS courses are structured with short modules. Each module concludes with a self-test to confirm understanding before moving to the next module. Courses include a glossary and a reading list where additional information can be found. After registering for a course, you work at your own pace and on your own time schedule.

The "Autosomal DNA Course" is aimed at beginner to intermediate level researchers. My own research cases are used to illustrate examples, although some names are changed and blurred for privacy purposes. The first module begins with a brief review of DNA basics including inheritance patterns for DNA. The primary focus is atDNA with some information on X-DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA, Y-DNA, and genetic basics are covered in an earlier course titled "Continuing Genealogical Studies: Genetic Genealogy, the Basics" authored by Dr. Thomas H. Shawker.

The "Autosomal DNA Course" briefly discusses some of the testing companies and tools, but the focus is on concepts for analysis that can be applied no matter which testing company is used and which tool is used to do the analysis.

Credit: Family Finder Test Array Chip by Illumina, image by Debbie Parker Wayne, Family Tree DNA Lab Tour, 16 November 2015

I hope this course helps genealogists who are ready to take the next step toward being a genetic genealogist. My goal in teaching and writing about genetic genealogy has always been to teach only as much of the biology as is needed to use genetics for genealogical research. I try to cover the important concepts we need to know in a way that those of us who are not biologists can understand. I don't have anything against learning more about biology. As a matter of fact, I encourage genealogists who start using DNA to continue studying biological concepts. The more we understand biology and inheritance of DNA, the more we understand all of the implications when forming genealogical conclusions based on DNA. But, no one should be scared away from genetic genealogy thinking you need a biology degree before you start.

Genetic genealogy is a complex subject. For many of us, we need to read or hear something more than once before it sinks in. Reviewing the course material and studying the articles and books in the reading list will cement your understanding of the concepts and allow you to move to more advanced topics with a strong foundation.

Don't forget to check out the other Continuing Genealogical Studies and American Genealogical Studies courses available at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/educational_courses.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "NGS Announces New Course -- Genetic Genealogy: Autosomal DNA Course," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 9 December 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

27 September 2015

Hands-on DNA Workshop and Lectures at TxSGS Conference - 30 October to 1 November 2015

After presentations at conferences many people still have questions on how to analyze their DNA test results. Most of us need hands-on experience to understand how to apply the concepts taught in a lecture.

The Texas State Genealogical Society (TxSGS) 2015 Family History Conference has both a great lineup of DNA lectures and a two-hour hands-on workshop for those who already have some basic knowledge.

Friday afternoon I will lead a two-hour intermediate level DNA workshop from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. The workshop will be repeated from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Each workshop requires registration and a fee above the conference registration. This genetic genealogy workshop is for researchers who are a step beyond the beginner level. DNA beginners may have difficulty with some concepts and tasks.

If you aren't already "a step beyond the beginner level" you can learn more in this workshop by studying before attending the workshop. A good place to start would be the following course and articles.

DNA sessions in the regular conference schedule include:

  • Saturday, 1 p.m., Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, "GATA GACC! DNA and Genetic Genealogy Today"
  • Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Diahan Southard, "What now? Your Next Steps With Autosomal DNA Testing"
  • Saturday, 4:00 p.m., Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, "Correlating atDNA with GenomeMate"
  • Sunday, 1 p.m., Diahan Southard, "A Beginners Guide To Genetic Genealogy"
  • Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Deena Coutant, "DNA Third-Party Tools And Databases"
  • Sunday, 4:00 p.m. Diahan Southard, "An Outsiders Look Inside AncestryDNA"

In addition to the great DNA line-up, the alternating keynote speakers are the ever-popular J. Mark Lowe, CG, and Lisa Louise Cooke. Presenters on non-DNA topics include Susan Ball; Dr. Jose Barragan; Becky Broadbent; H. M. Christmas; Deena Coutant; Schelly Talalay Dardashti; Teri Flack; Sharon Gillins; Connie Gray; Sara Gredler; Colleen Greene; James Harkins (Texas General Land Office); Dr. Martha Everman Jones; Janice Lovelace; Bernard N. Meisner; Kelvin L. Meyers; Laurel Neuman; Paula Perkins; Cari Taplin, CG; Patricia G. Taylor; Randy Whited; Ari Wilkins; and Sharon Wolff.

Check out the conference page for more specifics on all the exciting activities and presentations and for registration information. TxSGS has organized this conference a little differently than in the past where one keynote speaker presented all day on Saturday. Be sure to check the schedule so you don't miss anything.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Hands-on DNA Workshop and Lectures at TxSGS Conference - 30 October to 1 November 2015," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 27 September 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

​Certified Genealogist, CG, Certified Genealogical Lecturer, and CGL are proprietary service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluations for genealogical competence.

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

TSLAC Genealogy After Dark - 16 October 2015

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is hosting another Genealogy After Dark program. The announcement is included below. This is one of my favorite genealogy events in Texas. A chance to view materials at the archives, after work hours for those with a day job, when parking is easier to find in downtown Austin, and with the archivists and librarians completely devoted to helping you learn more about the wonderful and unique resources available at this repository.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission will host our next Genealogy After Dark event on Friday, October 16, 2015 from 5:45 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Optional programming will be provided throughout the evening.

Registration is limited to 30 participants and the deadline to register is October 9, 2015. A link to the registration form is available at:

The State Library will close at 5:00 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for Genealogy After Dark participants. The building will be locked at 6:30 p.m. and no participants will be admitted after that time.

The evening schedule is:
  • 5:45 — Sign-in, All reading rooms open for research
  • 7:00 — Light refreshments in Lobby
  • 10:45 — Microfilm and photocopy rooms close
  • 11:00 — Building secured
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact [Ashley Stevens]. [Her] information is located below.


Ashley D. Stevens, Education & Outreach Coordinator
Archives and Information Services Division
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
512-463-9807 | astevens@tsl.texas.gov

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "TSLAC Genealogy After Dark - 16 October 2015," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 27 September 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

15 March 2015

Family Stories from a 'Library of Souls'

In the midst of all the depressing stories on cable news, CNN's Fareed Zakaria's Global Public Square had an inspiring special show today that I wish could be mandatory viewing for all voting Americans and all American politicians. The show encourages support of research "to power America's future." And the show even has a genealogy angle, while all of the segments focus on my other favorite subjects, science and technology. "Moonshots for the 21st Century" is the title of the special. I highly recommend watching this when it repeats or using the podcast / iTunes links at the bottom of the show's webpage.

Each segment focuses on a new idea that might make the future of America and our world better in the same way as the things we learned preparing for the trip to the moon did in the 1960s. I found all of the segments interesting, but was fascinated by the one that applies to family history.

The segments are
  1. Sending Astronauts to Mars
  2. 3-D Printing a Human Heart
  3. Creating a Star on Earth
  4. Flying from New York to London in One Hour
  5. Mapping the Human Brain

In the segment on mapping the human brain, Dr. Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and author of The Future of the Mind (and one of my favorite living scientists), talked about the challenges in mapping the human brain the way we have mapped the human genome.

Kaku said, "we've learned more about the brain in the last ten and fifteen years than in all of human history combined." He went on to say we can now do things that were thought preposterous ten or fifteen years ago. After discussing some of the ideas seen in recent science fiction movies and how those things may become possible, Kaku said, "someday we may have a library of souls ... One day our descendants may have a conversation with us because we live forever in a library of souls."

I'm not sure if I think that is more creepy or exciting—it is both of those things to me. So now I have to add to my to-do list not only creating a book about my ancestors that will be interesting enough to get my descendants to read—I have to think about how I want my mind to present this to my descendants from my captured brain after I am gone. Hmmm. I can edit what I put in a book or article. How do I edit my brain to be sure my thoughts are presented the way I want after my body is gone and my brain is stored in a computer?

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Family Stories from a 'Library of Souls'," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 15 March 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

09 March 2015

All-day Intermediate DNA Workshop

On March 21st I will be doing an all-day DNA workshop for Dallas (Texas) Genealogical Society. I will begin with a brief review of genetic genealogy basics and advice about choosing a DNA testing company. The remaining sessions will provide in-depth information about tools and applications for mitochondrial DNA, Y-DNA, and autosomal DNA studies. Attendees will get more from these sessions if you already understand the basics of DNA covered in one hour sessions or have read some of the publications in the "Foundational Knowledge" section of my DNA bibliography page. Each session will include a real-life case study which uses the latest tools and techniques to analyze these DNA types. Sessions include:
  • Genetic Genealogy Today: Review and Updates - A brief review of genetic genealogy basics such as the inheritance patterns of each type of DNA used for genealogy. This includes an introduction to some of the tools to be illustrated in later sessions.
  • Genetic Genealogy Company Comparisons - Information on how to choose a DNA testing company, the pros and cons of each company's offerings, and the tests available today.
  • Tools and Applications for mtDNA - Illustration of a real-life case study using the latest tools and techniques to analyze mitochondrial DNA (passed along the matrilineal line).
  • Tools and Applications for Y-DNA - Illustration of a real-life case study using the latest tools and techniques to analyze Y-DNA (passed along the patrilineal line).
  • Tools and Applications for atDNA - Illustration of a real-life case study using the latest tools and techniques to analyze autosomal DNA (inherited through all ancestral lines).
Check here for more information and registration links.

I hope to see you there!

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "All-day Intermediate DNA Workshop," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 9 March 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

Free Genealogy Seminar, Tyler, Texas

The Tyler FamilySearch Center and the East Texas Genealogical Society join once again to provide the 15th Annual Family History Fair. This is free and open to all, but you must pre-register to reserve a syllabus packet. Download Pre-Registration form at ETGS website at www.etgs.org OR at Event Blogspot at http://2015-fhf-tylertx.blogspot.com. Registration starts at 8:30a.m. Welcome and Introductions start at 9:00a.m. followed by the first session.

The featured speaker is Susan D. Kaufman, B.S. In the morning she will present two sessions:
  • Using Criminal Records for Genealogical Research
  • Unusual Source Records for Genealogical Research
In the afternoon there will be multiple 45-minute sessions offered:
  • Clayton Library: The Gem of the Gulf Coast - Susan Kaufman
  • Quilts & Their Stories: Binding Generations Together - Debbie Burkett
  • DNA and Genetic Genealogy - Debbie Parker Wayne, CG,CGL
  • Sound Census Strategy - Debbie Parker Wayne, CG,CGL
  • Getting Started with FamilySearch-FREE Resource for Family History - V. W. 'Web' Freeman, MMS, MA
  • Storytelling: making genealogy come to life by telling 'the Rest of the Story' - John Connally
  • Beginning Genealogy & other courses for Youth - Angie Johnston, Youth Track

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Free Genealogy Seminar, Tyler, Texas," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 9 March 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

26 February 2015

Apostille or certification of DNA Test results

I have received several private e-mail messages from Europeans asking me to provide an apostille for DNA test results. This question may come up more often as DNA testing becomes more common, but some may be using the test results in ways not intended or easily supported with our current handling methods for genetic genealogy tests.

Open Clip Art http://openclipart.org/, designed by Anonymous, modified by Debbie Parker Wayne, 2015

An apostille is a a certificate that authenticates a document for use in another country. Genealogists who do research for and in European countries often deal with the need for an apostille authenticating the documents they provide.

While I would be willing to attest to the contents of my own reports or proof arguments, I do so with many caveats. I cannot attest to who provided a particular DNA sample—and neither can any genealogical DNA testing company that receives the sample via postal service. I cannot attest to the validity of the test results—only the testing company can do that. I cannot attest to the interpretation of those results unless I do the interpretation myself.

Anyone who needs authentication of DNA test results should contact the testing company to determine if the company can provide such authentication and what rules for chain of custody might be required. It would be best to determine the needed authentication is available before taking the test as special circumstances may be needed to verify the sample came from a particular person.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Apostille or certification of DNA Test results," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 26 February 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

23 February 2015

Genetic Genealogy at GRIP 2015

The availability of genetic genealogy education this past year or two has soared. In addition to many regular conference sessions and one-day pre-conference offerings focused on genetic genealogy, last year saw the first week-long courses in genetic genealogy offered at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). We filled two sessions. Then in January at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) we filled a getting started course and an advanced course.

Registration for GRIP 2015 has started. This year GRIP is offering courses on two dates, (1) June 28 to July 3, 2015, and (2) July 19 to July 24, 2015. We still have openings for "Practical Genetic Genealogy" in both sessions.

Sessions offered starting June 28th include:
  • Writing Your Immigrant Families’ Stories: From Research to Publishing with John P. Colletta, PhD and Michael Hait, CG
  • Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard with Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL
  • Research in New York State: Resources and Strategies with Karen Mauer Jones, CG, FGBS (formerly Green)
  • Problem Solving with Church Records with Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CG
  • Advanced Research Tools: Land Records with Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL and Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL
  • Practical Genetic Genealogy with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD

Sessions offered starting July 19th include:
  • Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper with Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA
  • Advanced Research Methods with Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL
  • Refresh, Rebuild and Recharge Your Genealogy Career with D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS
  • Pennsylvania: Research in the Keystone State with Sharon Cook MacInnes, PhD and Michael D. Lacopo, DVM
  • Law School for Genealogists with Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL and Richard G. “Rick” Sayre, CG, CGL
  • Practical Genetic Genealogy with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, Patti Hobbs, CG, and Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD

The 2015 "Practical Genetic Genealogy" course has been modified based on our experience and on suggestions from 2014 attendees. The GRIP course still goes more in-depth than the getting started course did at SLIG. Several topics have been compressed or removed, without removing any critical content. This makes time for two new sessions illustrating genealogical problem solving using genetic genealogy tools such as GenomeMate, Genetic Genealogy Kit (GGK), utilities on DNAgedcom or GEDmatch, or other useful tools.

CeCe Moore, Blaine Bettinger, and I will speak again at GRIP. We are also adding a new speaker.

Patti Hobbs will be joining us this year at GRIP in July. She has been focused on completing her portfolio for the Board for Certification of Genealogists. I was able to convince her to attend the 2014 "Practical Genetic Genealogy" course with the idea she would help teach once she completed her portfolio. It was not a surprise to anyone who knows her when we saw the announcement that Patricia Lee Hobbs was now a board-certified genealogist. Her knowledge of biology helps her understand more than many of us about how DNA can be used in genealogy, her teaching and speaking skills help her explain complex concepts in an easy to understand way, her credentials demonstrate she knows traditional research. Patti will be a great addition as we focus on correlating genetics and documentary evidence to solve genealogical problems.

CeCe Moore is well-known as the genetic genealogy consultant for Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Genealogy Roadshow, both on PBS. She has worked many high-profile cases that used DNA to trace family history, seen on television on 20/20, CBS This Morning, and The Doctors. She also works extensively with individuals of unknown parentage to help them learn about their genealogy through DNA, often reuniting them with biological family members. CeCe uses case studies from her work to illustrate how autosomal DNA can help solve genealogical problems.

Blaine Bettinger, PhD (Biochemistry), JD, is also well-known in the genetic genealogy community. Blaine is an intellectual property attorney and blogs as The Genetic Genealogist. He chaired a committee that formed Genetic Genealogy Standards to help us all as we navigate this exciting field of research. Blaine's experience as a project administrator and in using genetic genealogy for his own research provide useful examples for students.

I am a full-time, professional genealogist experienced using DNA analysis, as well as more traditional techniques, for genealogical research. My client projects include both documentary research and DNA analysis. My family research incorporates both. I performed research for television shows such as the Canadian series Ancestors in the Attic, the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., and The Learning Channel’s Who Do You Think You Are?.

Between the four of us, we have wide-ranging experience in documentary research and genetic genealogy. We all enjoy showing others how exciting it can be to solve genealogical problems with DNA test results. We want all of our students to leave with knowledge they can immediately put to use, gained from hands-on experience using DNA evidence from real family history stories.

Because genetic genealogy is a complex topic some concepts are best retained when heard more than once. Our reading list includes some books that will give you a head start. My online bibliography also has links to some articles freely available online and to some videos.

We'd love to have you join us. The GRIP registration page is here.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Genetic Genealogy at GRIP 2015," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 23 February 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

13 February 2015

DNA Quick Reference Notes

This post has been superceded by the updated documents and additional information in the Publications area of my website.

I've been promising students in the genetic genealogy sessions at the
Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), the
Forensic Genealogy Institute, the Institute for Genetic Genealogy (I4GG), the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), and many of my other presentations that I would put copies of my Quick Reference DNA documents on this blog where they could get copies. I'm finally fulfilling that promise so everyone can print color copies of the complete document even if only portions or non-color copies were provided in syllabus material.

Many of these have a Creative Commons license so others can improve them as long as copies are freely provided to others under the same licensing scheme.

Documents I keep close when doing genetic genealogy include:

QuickRef___DNA_mt_.pdf - mtDNA QuickRef with my mtDNA molecule diagram, mtDNA Regions and Common Ancestor Matches chart, Family Tree DNA Match List Threshold chart, Native American mtDNA Haplogroups table, and Heteroplasmy notes.

QuickRef___DNA_Y.pdf - Y-DNA STR Marker chart noting fast-mutating markers, conversion between AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA marker values, and noting which Family Tree DNA markers were tested by AncestryDNA.

QuickRef_DNA_inherited_atDNA.pdf - table with Percentage of Shared Autosomal DNA averages by relationship, some shared percentage ranges and some cM values also included.

Xinherit_chart_femalecolored.pdf - X-DNA Inheritance Chart for Female Focus Person.

Xinherit_chart_malecolored.pdf - X-DNA Inheritance Chart for Male Focus Person.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "DNA QuickRef Notes," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 13 February 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

Hands-On Workshops for All Serious Genealogists

I can't count the number of times I have attended a lecture, thought I perfectly understood what the speaker was saying, then could not figure out how to put what I had learned into practice after I got home. Most of us learn more by doing than by listening. For more advanced concepts this "doing" can be even more important than it is in a basics class.

The BCG Education Fund Putting Skills to Work workshops give us two different half-day workshops in one day. Both workshops are at an intermediate to advanced level. Both provide hands-on exercises designed to complement the lecture material so we go home with practical skills we can immediately make use of. We leave knowing how to put what we learned into practice because we've already done so.

At the NGS conference this year in St. Charles, Missouri, the BCG Education Fund, an independent charitable trust, sponsors the Putting Skills to Work workshops, on Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 8:30 am–4:30 pm.

This intensive day of learning, limited to sixty students, focuses on skills needed by any genealogist and advocates established standards of the genealogical field. Topics are geared to intermediate and advanced practitioners. The registration fee of $110 includes lunch, hands-on exercises, and syllabus. NGS Conference registration is not required.

These workshops are unique offerings even when the title is similar to sessions taught by these speakers in the past. Workshop attendees will participate in one workshop in the morning and the second workshop in the afternoon, getting both of these useful topics in one day.

Barbara J. Mathews, CG, will lead the session "Evidence Analysis, Correlation, and Resolution: The Heart of the Genealogical Proof Standard." Focusing on only direct evidence creates unnecessary research dead ends. This session addresses weighing and correlating sources, evidence, and information in its diverse forms for successful resolution of thorny problems. There will be hands-on exercises and active class participation.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, will lead the session "Baker's Dozen Steps to Writing Research Reports." Many researchers think that committing their research to paper is a separate process from performing the research. Use these thirteen steps to "write as you go" to use time more efficiently, drive the research process, and produce a sharable work product.

Every genealogist needs to understand how to analyze and correlate evidence to ensure we place our ancestors in the correct families. We all should be writing reports, even if those reports are only to ourselves, so that we don't waste time trying to remember what we did when we last worked on a particular line.

Come join these two experts and learn ways to efficiently and accurately perform research and record it.

Registration is through the NGS Conference registration site at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/. If you've already registered for the conference, just login and add the Putting Skills to Work workshop. If you haven't registered yet, now is the time to do it!

For more information see BCG Education Fund



To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Hands-On Workshops for All Serious Genealogists," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 13 February 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

03 January 2015

Which DNA test should I take?

Which DNA test should I take? Is it worthwhile? What will I learn?

I see these and similar questions asked dozens of times a day on mail lists, forums, and social media sites. Some people recommend what worked for them, but what was "best" for us may not be best for the person asking today.

Chart of one person's number of Family Finder matches at Family Tree DNA over several years.

A DNA test is the genealogical resource that keeps on giving: as more people test you will get more matches. After taking a DNA test you need to periodically look at data for your new matches. You never know when the person whose DNA can solve your hardest genealogical problem will take a DNA test.

Knowing how DNA test results could contribute evidence to answer your genealogical question is critical to knowing which test to take and where. So here are some specific questions with the answer I would give today. As companies change their lab procedures, sequencing techniques, databases, tool offerings, customer service, and we learn more about DNA, these answers might change. As new companies are formed, these answers might change.

The three biggest genetic genealogy testing companies include Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA. For anthropological testing that may also be applied to genealogical research there is the National Geographic Genographic Project.

Many other companies also offer specialty testing and analysis services for those unable to do the analysis themselves. The "big three" will be the primary focus of this article. For the tests that are offered by all three companies, the base price of the tests is the same, although sale prices can provide significant savings. To find out about sales read the posts of genetic genealogists on blogs, Facebook, mail lists, and forums.

Debbie Parker Wayne, Partial Display of Mapped Chromosome Segments, 5 July 2014, created with Chromosome Mapping Tool by Kitty Cooper (http://kittymunson.com/dna/ChromosomeMapper.php : accessed 5 July 2014).

Is it worthwhile to take a DNA test for genealogy?
Yes, unequivocally for most of us.

For yourself, how much you will learn depends on how much effort you are willing to put in to learning how to use DNA evidence. For more information see Debbie Parker Wayne, "Disappointed in DNA test results?," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 16 September 2013 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/2013/09/disappointed-in-dna-test-results.html : accessed 3 January 2015). There are hundreds of blogs posts out there from dozens of genetic genealogists on how to use DNA test results.

For others, your DNA and family tree may provide the match needed to break down a long standing brick wall. Or for someone who has no knowledge of her biological parents to connect to family.

For the future, one of the best reasons to take a DNA test is to "bank" your DNA or the DNA of elderly relatives for future testing. As much as we know today about DNA, more will be known in the future. Our grandkids and great-grandkids may learn more from our DNA than we will be able to learn.

Today, Family Tree DNA advertises DNA samples will be stored to allow for testing in the future. Other companies may store leftover biological material, but they do not allow additional tests to be ordered at this time. No company can guarantee there will be enough stored material or viable DNA material for a particular test. But if the material is not stored and made available then there is NO chance of testing once a relative is deceased.

Is one company more economical than the others?
See Judy G. Russell, "2014: Most bang for DNA bucks," The Legal Genealogist blog, posted 6 April 2014 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2014/04/06/2014-most-bang-for-dna-bucks/ : accessed 3 January 2015).

What will I learn?
A DNA test will provide several types of information: a list of other people in the database of the testing company who have DNA that matches yours and values for the DNA markers tested. Depending on the type of DNA test the markers and values will vary. For some test types, the companies provide an ethnicity prediction based on comparison to the population database used by the testing company.

Notice use of the phrase "the testing company" above. This means you may get different lists of people with matching DNA at each company because different people tested at each company and different ethnicity predictions because each company uses a different population database. This is why testing at all three companies is recommended. More on test types, databases, and ethnicity predictions below.

What kinds of tests are offered for genetic genealogy?
Y-DNA tests have been offered for about fifteen years now. Only men have Y-DNA; Y-DNA is passed from father to son. You can only learn about the direct patrilineal line of the man tested, and Y-DNA can be traced back many generations.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests have also been offered for about fifteen years now. Both men and women have mtDNA; mtDNA is passed from mother to all children; only daughters pass mtDNA to the next generation. You can only learn about the direct matrilineal line of the person tested, and mtDNA can be traced back many generations.

Autosomal DNA (atDNA) tests have been widely available for over five years now. Both men and women have atDNA; atDNA is passed from both parents, they inherited it from both of their parents, and so on. You can learn about every line on the pedigree chart of the person tested, but atDNA can only be traced back easily and reliably a limited number of generations. As you go back more generations it generally gets more difficult to use atDNA for genealogical evidence.

What can you learn from a Y-DNA test?
See Debbie Parker Wayne, "Using Y-DNA for Genealogy," National Genealogical Society, NGS Magazine 40 (January-March 2014): 20-24; PDF online (http://debbiewayne.com/pubs/pub_NGSMag_201311_Y-DNA_ALL.pdf : accessed 3 January 2015).

What can you learn from an mtDNA test?
See Debbie Parker Wayne, "Using mitochondrial DNA for Genealogy," National Genealogical Society, NGS Magazine 39 (October-December 2013): 26-30; PDF online (http://debbiewayne.com/pubs/pub_NGSMag_201308_mtDNA_ALL.pdf : accessed 3 January 2015).

What can you learn from an atDNA test?
See Debbie Parker Wayne, "Using autosomal DNA for Genealogy," National Genealogical Society, NGS Magazine 40 (April-June 2014), 50-54; PDF online (http://debbiewayne.com/pubs/pub_NGSMag_201402_atDNA_ALL.pdf : accessed 3 January 2015)
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Using X-DNA for Genealogy," National Genealogical Society, NGS Magazine 40 (July-September 2014): 57-61; PDF online (http://debbiewayne.com/pubs/pub_NGSMag_201405_X-DNA_ALL.pdf : accessed 3 January 2015).

Which company should I test with ... if I am interested in testing myself and I have no specific goal in mind? I just think DNA testing is cool and I want to do it.
Take an autosomal DNA test with all three of the "big" genetic genealogy testing companies. If you also want to contribute to anthropological discoveries for the human race test at National Geographic Genographic Project.

This can be accomplished by ordering individual tests from each company or by testing separately at 23andMe and AncestryDNA then transferring results from AncestryDNA to Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA does the lab work for National Geographic so results from the Genographic Project can be transferred to the Family Tree DNA database then additional tests can be ordered using the same DNA sample provided for National Geographic.

The only test offered by three of the companies is primarily an autosomal test so you don't have to know a specific name for the test. Family Tree DNA offers other tests so you must order a "Family Finder" test to get the autosomal DNA test there.

Does my ethnicity affect which company I should test with?
It depends.

Some factors to consider include (statements based on my personal experience and statements made by other genetic genealogists that I trust, your experience may vary):
  • African American ancestry: 23andMe actively recruited African and African American testers so have a significant number of testers in their database. AncestryDNA, by providing access to many family trees and documents, can make it easier to see patterns that can link slaveholders and ancestors who were held in slavery. Family Tree DNA uses a higher threshold that seems to result in fewer DNA matches for many African American researchers.
  • American Colonial ancestry: AncestryDNA's database includes more testers with deep colonial American ancestry, but all of the testing companies cover many in this category.
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and others where small populations intermarried: These intermarriages result in a lot of small shared DNA segments that confuse the algorithms into predicting a closer relationship between two testers. Family Tree DNA has a lot of expertise in this area for those with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. AncestryDNA modified their match algorithm recently and may get better in this area. 23andMe limits the number of matches seen by a tester so some relatives may not be seen in the DNA match list.
  • Native American: Where Native American ancestry is suspected on the direct patrilineal line a Y-DNA test gives conclusive results. Where Native American ancestry is suspected on the direct matrilineal line an mtDNA test gives conclusive results. Where Native American ancestry is suspected on other lines, an autosomal DNA may or may not provide evidence.

    If the Native American ancestor is within five or so generations of a tester, it is likely to be detected. If it is more generations to the Native American ancestor, or random recombination of DNA resulted in the tester not having a detectable amount of DNA from that particular ancestor, Native American ancestry may not be detected even though it exists in the lineage. Testing other cousins in this line may result in detectable amounts of Native American DNA.

    23andMe uses an algorithm that seems to detect small amounts of Native American DNA not reported by the other companies
  • Old World lineage (not North or South American): Today, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA have more testers in their databases from outside of the Americas. AncestryDNA is about to offer testing outside of the USA so their database of testers from other locales may grow soon.

Will I learn about health related issues from a genetic genealogy test?
If you are interested in learning health related information, testing at 23andMe or AncestryDNA will provide more medically-significant markers. The data from the testing company can be analyzed by Promethease or other third-party tools. At some point in the future, 23andMe may again provide links to the medically significant information without the need for a third-party tool.

Which testing company is easiest? I don't have time to learn how to analyze DNA.
Testing at AncestryDNA may be the easiest for those who are not willing to invest time in learning how to use DNA results effectively for genealogical research. A public tree on Ancestry helps to get the most from a DNA test taken at Ancestry.

AncestryDNA does not provide the detailed segment data needed to make use of the most popular DNA analysis tools. Those who have tested at AncestryDNA and want to do detailed analysis must upload the raw DNA data to a third-party website (such as GEDmatch) or use third-party utilities (of which there are many). Comparisons can only be done with others who have also uploaded to the same site.

You can learn SO MUCH MORE from your DNA tests if you are willing to invest some time in learning how DNA answers genealogical questions. The image above labeled "Partial Display of Mapped Chromosome Segments" shows how some are mapping particular segments of chromosomes to specific ancestors using detailed DNA analysis and tools written by genetic genealogists with programming skills.

geralt, stress___burnout-231452_1280.jpg, "Burnout Man Psychology Rays Stress Hand Face Old," PixBay (http://pixabay.com/en/burnout-man-psychology-rays-stress-231452/ : accessed 16 July 2014), Public Domain CC0 license.

How do I learn to make effective and detailed use of DNA to answer genealogical questions?
  1. Learn about genetic genealogy and analysis techniques. Places for more information include:
  2. Practice the techniques on your own family data.

Choosing a testing company when you can't afford to test at all three may be affected by the following considerations.

Is support via telephone an important consideration?
Both Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA provide telephone support, but the knowledge level of the customer service representatives covers a wide spectrum. In my experience and anecdotally, Family Tree DNA excels in both telephone and e-mail support to customers, quickly getting more knowledgeable persons involved if the first rep contacted cannot answer a question.

23andMe offers support online and not via telephone. Their customer support representatives have a reputation for providing knowledgeable and useful answers.

Are you testing an elderly relative who has trouble producing saliva?
Family Tree DNA uses a cheek swab to obtain a DNA sample (the tester rubs the swab on the inside of the cheek, cheek cells collect on the cotton swab). This is easier for many elderly people. As a special request option, 23andMe offers a test kit that requires less saliva than the standard test.

The ways we use DNA and the tools we use will continue to advance and change over the coming years. We will all need to continue our education as those advances come.

** Disclaimer: I coordinate the "Practical Genetic Genealogy" courses offered at GRIP and the "Getting Started with Genetic Genealogy" course offered in 2015 at SLIG. Back in 2010 I started planning topics I thought should be offered in a week-long institute for genetic genealogists. I then searched for the best people to help teach the course and found CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger. We had similar ideas about what was needed to bring the genealogy and genetic genealogy communities together. CeCe and Blaine helped refine the session topics based on their experiences. In July 2014 our plans came to fruition with the first "Practical Genetic Genealogy" course offered at GRIP. More and more institutes and conferences are offering more advanced genetic genealogy education.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Which DNA test should I take?," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 3 January 2015 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2015, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved