Research Like a Pro with DNA – What’s Next?
After completing a research like a pro with DNA project, you may not have come to a proven conclusion. Or perhaps you finished your objective and are ready to move forward with something else. What’s next? How do you continue to make progress on your goal or choose a new goal? Here are several suggestions.
Continue Your Research and Writing
Start another iteration of the same objective
If you didn’t come to a proven conclusion after writing your research report, start a new project with the same objective. You will have a new starting point and known facts. Perhaps your objective has changed slightly. You may have identified a new location to search for traditional records. Make a new locality guide. You may have found a common ancestor with DNA Matches that you would like to make a timeline for. Go forward to repeat the Research Like a Pro with DNA process and see if you can get closer to proving the relationship you’re seeking to prove.
Share your research report
You may want to share your research report with family or upload it to FamilySearch Family Tree or other online trees. Be sure to get permission from the DNA matches you include in your report if they haven’t already made their results publicly available. Genealogy Standards says that genealogists “share living test-takers’ data only with written consent to share that data. Assembled research results acknowledge living test-takers’ written consents for sharing their data shown therein.” (Standard 57).
Genetic Genealogy Standard 8 says, “Genealogists respect all limitations on reviewing and sharing DNA test results imposed at the request of the tester. For example, genealogists do not share or otherwise reveal DNA test results (beyond the tools offered by the testing company) or other personal information (name, address, or email) without the written or oral consent of the tester.” Standard 9 says, “Genealogists share DNA test results of living individuals in a work of scholarship only if the tester has given permission or has previously made those results publicly available.”
Blaine Bettinger wrote a helpful article about the conundrum of using DNA evidence in written conclusions when DNA matches are unresponsive. He gives ideas for privatizing the match’s name and their parents’ names in order to use the shared cM to support a conclusion. Read more here: Blaine Bettinger, “Using Semi-Anonymous Genetic Data in Genealogical Conclusions,” 7 October 2018, The Genetic Genealogist (https://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2018/10/07/using-semi-anonymous-genetic-data-genealogical-conclusions/ : accessed 8 Nov 2019). This is a great way to publish your report to online trees without compromising the privacy of the test taker.
Write a proof argument
After completing one or several research reports about your objective, you may feel that you have proven your case. Now it’s time to write a proof argument detailing the conclusion and resolving any conflicting information. To read more about writing proof arguments, see Thomas W. Jones, “Chapter 7: GPS Element 5: The Written Conclusion,” Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2013). One way to write a case study or proof argument that includes DNA evidence is to discuss the traditional research first, then follow up with the DNA evidence. This helps the reader understand the background information and the clues from reasonably exhaustive research in the records. Then adding the DNA evidence can show how the case was proven.
Publish your case study
If you have gone to all the work of writing your proof argument into a case study, why not submit it to a genealogical journal for publication? You may want to hire an editor to review your work and help you tighten up your writing. You will need to ask for permission for all the living test takers whose DNA information you are using in your case study who has not already made their results publicly available. Some great options for submitting your article include the National Genealogy Society Quarterly (NGSQ), The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. There are many genealogical societies at the local level that are also a great place to publish your work.
Choose another objective and start again
Now that you have solved a case including DNA evidence, you may be ready to tackle another brick wall in your family tree. How do you choose the next objective? Here are some ideas:
-Create an cluster chart of your DNA Matches with Genetic Affairs, ConnectedDNA, or another clustering method. Try to identify the common ancestor of each cluster. Maybe one of these clusters will stand out to you as a group that you would like to research further to determine the common ancestor. Often these clusters will hold the answer to a dead end in your tree.
-Review each generation of your tree to see if you have DNA Matches who descend from the ancestors you have found with traditional records. Are there additional cousins you need to test to verify a certain generation? Maybe you are noticing a gap for one branch of the family tree and suspect misattributed parentage.
-Locate a dead end in your family tree and write a research objective. Start the process over again by determining if that research objective could be met with autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, or mitochondrial DNA. Consider the limitations of DNA evidence.
Continue refining your use of correspondence logs, research logs, and company note taking tools to help you stay organized and productive. Practice using new tools for research logs and note-taking like Airtable, or Notion. I wrote about using Airtable for DNA research logs here – DNA Research Logs: How to Keep Track of Genetic Genealogy Searches. One of our Research Like a Pro with DNA study group members tried Airtable but without the ability to italicize names of publications in citations, found it was lacking. I agreed, it is frustrating to not have tools for formatting text. He found another option with similar spreadsheet and database capabilities called Notion. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I plan to! It looks like a great way to have your log and notes all in one place. Update 5 September 2020: Airtable does have the ability to italicize text if you use the “long text” column/field type and turn on rich formatting. I have tried Notion and prefer Airtable for its grouping function! However Notion does allow you to create document style notes within a project which can be nice.
Productivity is something Diana and I are always learning about and trying to improve. Here are some articles and podcast episodes we have created on the topic:
Family History and Getting Things Done – Series of posts about David Allen’s book
RLP 12: Productivity – podcast episode
Continue Your DNA Education
Keep up with new DNA analysis tools
The field is changing rapidly as more and more people test, and new DNA analysis tools are introduced. It’s getting increasingly easier for a person to learn how to use their DNA results, build their family trees, find more ancestors. Is there a DNA analysis tool that you haven’t tried yet? Maybe you have been wanting to use the Tier 1 tools at Gedmatch, or the AutoTree feature at Genetic Affairs. Read more about DNA analysis tools in our articles here:
Join DNA Facebook Groups
One great way to keep updated on developments in genetic genealogy is to join a genetic genealogy Facebook group. Here are some great options:
–Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques group by Blaine Bettinger – Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques is a place to discuss topics in DNA ranging from beginner to advanced.
–International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) group
–Gedmatch.com User Group admin by Randy Whited Eric Wells, Don Worth, and Rob Warthen
–DNA Painter User Group admin by Jonny Perl
–DNA Painter: What Are the Odds? (WATO) Group, admin by Leah LaPerle Larkin
–DNA Detectives group by CeCe Moore
–CutOff Genes Podcast group by Julie Dixon Jackson – A place for listeners of the “CutOff Genes” Podcast
–Genetic Affairs – User Group by Evert-Jan Blom
–DNAGedcom User Group admin by Rob Warthen, John Collins, and Karin Corbeil
–Ancestry DNA Matching group
–MyHeritage Users Group
–FTDNA User Group
Take an institute course in DNA
Genealogy institutes are distinct from conferences because they provide an in-depth learning experience about a specific topic. There are several genealogy institutes that offer DNA courses. Here are a look at some upcoming options. Typically popular courses at institutes sell out due to small classroom size. If you want to make sure you get the class you want, sign up on the day that registration begins!
Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) – for 2020 they are offering Introduction to Genetic Genealogy with Paul Woodbury, and Meeting Standards Using DNA Evidence – Research Strategies with Karen Stanbary. Registration began in July 2019.
SLIG Academy for Professionals – for 2020 they are offering DNA and the 21st-Century Professional with Angie Bush.
SLIG Virtual – They are currently running an Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum with all DNA cases with Angela McGhie and Intermediate Foundations with Sara Scribner. Registration was in July 2019. Next year’s virtual courses have not been announced yet.
Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) – for 2020 they are offering Genetics for Genealogists: Beginning DNA with Patti Lee Hobbs, and Intermediate DNA: Planning for and Conducting Research using DNA and Documentary Sources with Karen Stanbary. Registration begins Saturday, 1 February 2020.
Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) – for 2020 they are offering Practical Genetic Genealogy with Blaine Bettinger, Chromosome Mapping with Karen Stanbary, CG and Blaine Bettnger, Advanced DNA Evidence with Blaine Bettinger, Who’s Your Daddy? Using DNA to Resolve Recent Unknown Identity with Angie Bush and Eva Goodwin. Registration begins February 5, 2020.
Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) – You can purchase several recordings relating to DNA research by Blaine Bettinger, including Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists and Third-Party Tools for Genetic Genealogists. (These recordings don’t seem to be available anymore).
Read DNA books and articles
I made a list of several great books for learning about DNA and genetic genealogy in my blog post here: Resources for Learning About Genetic Genealogy. As you advance your genetic genealogy education, you might find it handy to have several of these books on hand.
Another great way to learn about using DNA evidence in genealogy proof arguments is to read how others have solved their research questions. Here are some articles that utilize DNA evidence in the NGSQ that I have enjoyed.
Mills, Elizabeth Shown. “Testing the FAN Principle Against DNA: Zilphy (Watts) Price Cooksey Cooksey of Georgia and Mississippi.” NGSQ 102 (June 2014): 129–152.
Jones, Thomas W. “Too Few Sources to Solve a Family Mystery? Some Greenfields in Central and Western New York.” NGSQ 103 (June 2015): 85–110.
Stanbary, Karen. “Rafael Arriaga, a Mexican Father in Michigan: Autosomal DNA Helps Identify Paternity.” NGSQ 104 (June 2016): 85–98. NGSQ Award of Excellence, 2016.
Fein, Mara. “A Family for Melville Adolphus Fawcett.” NGSQ 104 (June 2016): 107–124.
Hobbs, Patricia Lee. “DNA Identifies a Father for Rachel, Wife of James Lee of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.” NGSQ 105 (March 2017): 43–56.
Worth Shipley Anderson. “John Stanfield “as he is cald in this country”: An Illegitimate Descent in Eastern Tennessee.” NGSQ 106 (June 2018) 85-101. [A small portion of the article mentions Y-DNA evidence]
Morelli, Jill. “DNA Helps Identify “Molly” (Frisch/Lancour) Morelli’s Father.” NGSQ 106 (December 2018): 293-306.
Melinda Daffin Henningfield. “A Family for Mary (Jones) Hobbs Clark of Carroll County, Arkansas.” NGSQ 107 (March 2019): 5-30.
So what will you do next? Are you ready to restart your research with another objective, or continue your education? Maybe both at the same time?
Best of luck to you in your research!
Other articles in the Research Like a Pro with DNA series:
Step 1 Take a DNA Test: Which DNA Test Should I Take? and DNA-Recommended Testing Strategy
Step 2 Assess: Understanding and Using Your DNA Results – 4 Simple Steps
Step 3 Organize: Seeing the Big Picture: 3 Ways to Chart Your DNA Matches
Step 4 Research Objective: What Do You Want to Know? 3 Steps to Focus Your DNA Research
Step 5 Analyze your Sources: DNA Sources, Information, and Evidence: Sorting it All Out
Step 6 Locality Research: Where in the World Has My DNA Traveled? DNA and Locality Research
Step 7 Research Planning: Genealogy Research Planning with DNA
Methodology and Tools to use as you plan your research:
– Charts for Understanding DNA Inheritance
– Clustering or Creating Genetic Networks
– Pedigree Triangulation
– Chromosome Browsers
– Segment Triangulation
– Chromosome Mapping
– DNA Gedcom
Step 8 Source Citations: DNA Source Citations
Step 9 Research Logs: DNA Research Logs: how to keep Track of Genetic Genealogy Searches
Step 10 Report Writing: DNA Research Reports – the Ultimate Finish
Step 11 What’s Next? Continue Your Research & Writing, Productivity, and Education – You Are Here