Have you been wanting to use DNA evidence to help solve a genealogical research question? Maybe you have learned about the types of DNA but haven’t tried researching matches and incorporating DNA evidence into a report. The Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) is offering a course this summer that will help you do exactly that. Intermediate DNA: Planning for and Conducting Research Using DNA and Documentary Sources is a unique course. You will bring your own genealogical question and work on it throughout the week. The course is coordinated by Karen Stanbary and includes the following faculty members:
- Karen Stanbary, MA, LCSW, CG®, Course Coordinator
- Nicole Dyer, BA
- Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG®, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
- Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG®, CGLSM
- Angela Packer McGhie, CG®, FUGA
- Paul Woodbury, MEd, AG®
I’m grateful for this opportunity to teach with such experienced instructors. I have enjoyed learning from each of them at previous institutes and conferences. Each of them has unique perspectives and a wealth of knowledge to share.
Karen Stanbary will be teaching about genealogy standards, selecting the best evidence, using autosomal DNA to confirm an ancestral line, and chromosome mapping. She will also talk about match analysis, pedigree evaluation and mitigation, and traced descendant trees.
I will teach about the Leeds Method using a case study as well as tracking DNA matches with Airtable. Paul Woodbury will be teaching about selecting the best matches to prove a biological relationships and tips for searching and communicating with living people. Paul will also be presenting a case study. Angela McGhie is teaching about descending genealogy essentials, which is important when using DNA evidence. Tom Jones and Rebecca Koford will be available for consultations during the hands-on independent work time, as will the other instructors. This is a valuable chance to ask questions and consult with experts.
On the courses page at the IGHR website, you can read about the prerequisites, required books, and course description. The course description says, “Students will bring their own genealogical problem to class and work individually and in small groups to plan for and conduct research using both genetic and documentary sources. The research will be detailed and analyzed in a Research Report to Self.”
Intermediate DNA is a hands-on, immersive learning experience where you will come away with a report about your own family! This is my favorite type of learning experience. Actively applying what I’m learning to my own research not only helps me learn more, but also helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something. On the last day, we will use some of the class time for peer review. Receiving peer review on your work is a valuable experience. I don’t know about you, but it sure motivates me to finish my report when I know someone will be reading it!
Choosing an Ancestral Line
The following advice is given on the course page to help choose your objective: “The course teaches integration of documentary and genetic evidence to achieve proof. It is best to learn the methodology on an easier case.
“Students select one ancestral line in advance. A good choice would be a well-documented line from a DNA test taker to a second great-grandparent couple that is free of unknown parentage and pedigree collapse. Optimally, the student will use test results from second and third cousins on each of the great-grandparents lines to filter and sort autosomal DNA match lists. The cousins can be serendipitous matches or those that resulted from targeted testing.”
We spoke with Debra Hoffman about her experience finding matches to prove her second-great-grandparents in the Proving Your Pedigree course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) on our podcast. You can listen to that discussion here: RLP 197: Proving Your Pedigree with DNA SLIG Course. One takeaway was to choose an ancestral line to focus on where you have plenty of DNA matches to work with, including known cousins.
The difference between this course and the Proving Your Pedigree SLIG course is the work product – you will leave this course with a report to self. Research reports are typically works in progress. You can write a progress report anytime in the middle of researching, or when you have reached a conclusion. Standard 74 in Genealogy Standards gives ten characteristics of research reports. These include starting point analysis, context and background of the planned research, presentation of findings, negative searches, and so forth.
The work product from the Proving Your Pedigree course was a narrative, source-cited lineage. A lineage is a written genealogical work product that follows one line of a family for a few generations. This is what most people write for the Kinship Determination Project element of a BCG portfolio certification application. The lineage was numbered following the systems of numbering laid out in Numbering Your Genealogy.
In the IGHR Intermediate DNA course, we will be meeting daily from July 25-29. Each day we will have independent work time to plan, conduct research, and write our report to self. By the end of the week, we will have a report of the current state of our research about the second-great-grandparent couple we have selected. After the course we can continue researching, picking up where we left off. When working for clients, research projects are often limited to a certain number of hours, with reports on the current state of the research. This is a great way to write reports for yourself as well. We often are not able to finish research all in the same week and need to come back to it when time allows. Returning to previous research is much easier and more efficient if you have written a report.
Both of these courses will help you practice for writing the kinship determination project for certification or the four-generation report for accreditation through ICAPGen. If you are planning to seek certification or accreditation, and incorporate DNA evidence, then this course will help you with that!
Sorting and Filtering Matches
One of the classes I’m teaching is a case study about sorting and filtering matches. I will talk about finding DNA matches that are relevant to the chosen ancestral line by using the Leeds Method. This is an essential step and one that many people don’t know they need to do when incorporating DNA evidence. It will be fun to talk about my own family and DNA matches in this class. Before choosing the ancestral line to focus on for the class, I suggest you do the Leeds Method with your DNA matches to see which of your lines has the most second and third cousins to work with.
Tracking Matches with Airtable
As you may know, I use Airtable to keep track of my DNA matches and research about them. Airtable is a database and spreadsheet hybrid that allows you to save information about your DNA matches. When you have multiple test takers’ matches to keep track of, it’s especially important to have an efficient way of organizing your data. You can read more about how I use Airtable here: Airtable Research Logs.
Whether you want to practice tracking matches, sorting and filtering matches, planning how to include DNA evidence, or writing reports including DNA, I hope to see you at IGHR this summer!
To learn more, go here: Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research – Courses, then scroll down to Course Twelve
To register, go here: Registration for Course 12: Intermediate DNA