One of the most rapidly advancing areas of genealogy and family history research is genetic genealogy. At this point, millions of people all over the world have gotten involved in using the most cutting edge tools to better understand their family history and discover more ancestors.
But for those of us who haven't yet taken the plunge into DNA testing, the world of genetic genealogy can be overwhelming - where do you start?
We have compiled a short list of resources that can help you get started - there's a lot to learn about genetic genealogy, but the great news is that there are many experts out there who are very skilled at teaching the basics to those of us who are new to the scene.
These resources will help you get a better understanding of what discoveries are possible with DNA testing - they'll be useful for intermediate and advanced genetic genealogists too!
DNA Basics (video series)
The University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center has a series of fantastic videos on the most basic aspects of DNA and genetics.
If you're very interested in the science of genetics and want a broad background of understanding before focusing on DNA and genealogy specifically, visit their Basic Genetics page.
If you want to get to the genealogically pertinent information right away, we recommend going straight to the Molecular Genealogy series page.
These brief videos offer an essential overview of the four types of DNA, which you will hear mentioned frequently in the world of genetic genealogy.
The Genetic Genealogist (blog, book)
Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., has been writing about and exploring genetic genealogy since the earliest days of the field's development. His blog, The Genetic Genealogist, is one of the most widely read on the topic and may be the best place to go for coverage the most up to date developments in the field, and many interesting posts about DNA and genealogy. In such a rapidly developing area, it's important for everyone - even beginners - to keep up with the current trends.
Beginners may want to check out his recent book, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, which was published in October of 2016.
This book, written in easy-to-understand language, and replete with clear explanations of core concepts, is a fantastic introduction to genetic genealogy. This book, along with another of Bettinger's recent publications, was reviewed in the April 2017 Record, which can be read by NYG&B members by clicking here.
Blaine presented a recent NYG&B webinar, Using Autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th Century Mysteries, which NYG&B members can watch on-demand in our webinar library.
DNA demystified - A Beginner's Guide to Genetic Genealogy (video lecture)
If you would prefer to watch a single lecture that introduces genetic genealogy in a straightforward way, you should take a look at Debbie Kennett's presentation from Who Do You Think You Are 2016.
This presentation covers each of the types of DNA tests and how they related to family history research. While the DNA Basics videos from the University of Utah give a solid explanation of each of the four types of DNA, this presentation discusses the genealogical implications in more detail - specifically, what different family history puzzles may be solved by testing the different types of DNA.
Beginner's Guide to Genetic Genealogy (web course)
Kelly Wheaton, an active member of the genetic genealogy community and a member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists, has created an often-shared 19-lesson web course that is fantastic for beginner and intermediate genetic genealogists alike. Click here to visit the Beginner's Guide to Genetic Genealogy.
This is primarily a text-based course and is written in easy to follow language that makes learning this intimidating subject seem like a breeze. Each lesson is filled with links, charts and other useful resources that readers are encouraged to explore.
Unless you're highly motivated, this isn't the kind of course that can be realistically be completed in one session - it's worth exploring one lesson at a time, and even reading key lessons more than once. After completing the course, you will undoubtedly have a very firm grasp on the entire subject.
DNA: Connecting Your Ancestors to the Records (Ancestry Academy video course)
If you have an Ancestry Academy account, you will definitely want to watch DNA: Connecting Your Ancestors to the Records, taught by Angie Bush, MS. Angie has years of experience in the biotech field, as well as years of experience as a professional genealogist. She currently serves as the Region 1 Director for the National Genealogical Society and chair of its genetic genealogy committee, in addition to her role as a genetic genealogist researcher with AncestryProGenealogists
This unique combination makes her a fantastic resource for all things genetic genealogy, and her course will serve as an excellent foundation.
If you're an intermediate and are familiar with GEDMatch - a free website where people can compare autosomal DNA results from a wide variety of testing companies - Angie has a great YouTube tutorial on using the site. Click here to watch.
New York G&B Resources (video and articles)
NYG&B members have access to several useful resources for learning more about genetic genealogy.
There are genetic genealogy webinars available:
- Should You Add DNA Testing to Your Genealogy Toolbox? Presented by Skip Duett
- Integrating DNA with Family History - Presented by Daniel Horowitz
- Using Autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th Century Mysteries - Presented by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.
We also have an article in our New York Knowledge Base, authored by Debra S. Katz - Accidental Adventures in Genetic Genealogy: How DNA Can Break Down Brick Walls.
This interesting read outlines a genealogist's dive into the world of DNA, and how it helped her make several important discoveries.
International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki
There are so many more resources available for learning about DNA and genealogy, and we can't possibly outline them all. For our last resource, we would like to let you know about one of the best central repositories for genetic genealogy learning and education - the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki.
This wiki is a treasure trove for beginner, intermediate and advanced genetic genealogists alike. There is an excellent section that lists recommended resources for beginners. The ISOGG website is also worth exploring as well - and if you really get into DNA and genealogy, you will definitely want to consider joining the society!
We hope these resources help you dive into the exciting world of genetic genealogy.
About the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
Since 1869, the NYG&B's mission has been to help our thousands of worldwide members discover their family's New York story, and there has never been a better time to join.
The cost of an Individual Annual Membership is less than six dollars a month, and includes the following benefits:
- Access to over 50 exclusive digital record sets covering the entire state of New York, including the fully searchable archives of The Record.
- A complimentary subscription to all of Findmypast's North American records, as well as U.K. and Irish Census records.
- Access to hundreds of expert-authored Knowledge Base articles and webinars to help you navigate the tricky New York research landscape.
- Exclusive discounts and advanced access to conferences, seminars, workshops and lectures to learn more about researching people and places across New York State.
To learn more or join us, please visit our member benefits page.