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DNA Research: Expanding your Family Tree


Most of the important scientific discoveries in the last 100 years are only understood and managed by scientists, academics or industry. But using DNA tests really is different. Every one of us can take part in a very popular way to understand more about ourselves and where we came from.

However, the essential need-to-know is how to interpret your test’s results. This four-part course aims to give you the knowledge and the skills you need. It focuses on how to use your test results and the related DNA tools to progress your family history search.

In four sessions, spread over 4 weeks, you can learn:

- How DNA knowledge can transform your interpretation of your results

- How to work with matches

- More advanced techniques, including an update on third-party tools

- About the concerns relating to privacy and consent.


Who should attend?

To get the most from this course, you should have already taken an autosomal DNA test and want to learn more about how to use your results for research. 



20 November - Methods and Techniques for working with DNA Results (Mia Bennett)

There are many ways to use your DNA results to help with your genealogical journey. Choosing which methods and techniques will help you depends on the questions you are hoping to answer using your DNA results. Do you just want to confirm that your researched family tree is your biological tree? Do you have a brickwall in your tree you would like to break down? Do you have unknown parentage in a recent generation?

In this session will present a number of methods and techniques that will help in each of these circumstances. In particular, methods for grouping (also known as clustering) your matches will be discussed as well as techniques for working with the groups you have created. Although the talk focusses primarily on autosomal DNA, the use of Y-DNA and mtDNA to augment your research where relevant will be covered


27 November - A Guide To DNA Third Party Tools (Michelle Leonard)

While all of the different DNA testing companies boast helpful internal tools, there are also many excellent third party tools that can aid you on your DNA testing journey.

Michelle provides an overview of the major and minor third party tools available at this time and includes practical hints and tips on how to get the most out of them. DNA Painter, GEDMatch, Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT) and Genetic Affairs are just some of the tools that Michelle includes during her session. These tools can help with understanding, interpreting and organizing your DNA results and, ultimately, can contribute to how successful you are in identifying matches and making family history breakthroughs using DNA.


4 December - Applying DNA tools, methods and techniques to your research (Mia Bennett)

This session builds on the previous two sessions by working through some case studies. If you are just verifying your research, what do you do? How can you use the methods, techniques and tools to help solve a brickwall? How can an unknown parentage case be approached? By using real (although anonymised) cases, these questions are answered. A key learning point will be to understand which of the methods, techniques and tools are useful in different scenarios so you can apply the learning to your own research.


11 December - Solving cold cases with genetic genealogy: can we, could we, should we? (Debbie Kennett)

Family historians have long known the power of genetic genealogy. But it was the arrest of a suspect in the Golden State Killer case in April 2018 which brought our hobby to the world’s attention. Since then genetic genealogy has been used to solve over 200 cold cases in the US, bringing closure to victims and making a society a safer place. But it has sparked a fierce debate about whether the end justifies the means with concerns raised about privacy and informed consent. Is this the start of the slippery slope and where do we draw the line? 

In this session, Debbie Kennett looks at the developments over the last two years, provides an overview of the major players in the market and discusses some of the latest research findings.


Each presentation lasts approximately 60 minutes, followed by an extended Q&A discussion.


About the speakers: 

Mia Bennett is Vice-Chair of Trustees at the Society of Genealogists. She is an associate of AGRA and is a professional researcher ( Currently studying with the IHGS, she has previously studied at the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy. Her specialism is using DNA to support family history research.

She also has an interest in breaking down brickwalls and finding the hidden records available to researchers. Mia regularly gives talks on DNA and more traditional research including for SoG, Family Tree Live, FHF Really Useful Show and on an Unlock the Past cruise.


Michelle Leonard is a Scottish professional genealogist, DNA detective, freelance researcher, speaker, author, historian and the official genetic genealogist of #AncestryHour. She holds an M.A. in English and Modern History from the University of St Andrews and a PgCert in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies from the University of Strathclyde.

She runs her own genealogy and DNA consultancy business, Genes & Genealogy, specialising in solving unknown parentage, adoption and all manner of unknown ancestor mysteries by combining DNA analysis techniques with traditional research methodologies. Michelle is the co-author of "Tracing Your Ancestors Using DNA: A Guide For Family Historians" released June 2019.


Debbie Kennett is an internationally recognised expert on genetic genealogy. She is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.  

She is the author of two books, DNA and Social Networking and The Surnames Handbook. Debbie writes about DNA testing for all the UK family history magazines and writes the popular blog Cruwys News.  



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