Research Like a Pro® with DNA Study Group
with Diana Elder, AG® and Nicole Dyer
Research Like a Pro® with DNA is a study group to learn how to use DNA in your genealogical research. We will follow a step-by-step process to help you either confirm a relationship proven through traditional research or test a hypothesized ancestral relationship. The Research Like a Pro with DNA Study Group focuses on using autosomal DNA in your genealogical research. One of the prerequisites for the study group is to have access to your autosomal DNA test results. You may also wish to include evidence from Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA tests in your research project, but these tests are not required for the study group.
The next group will be from February 7 – May 15, 2024, meeting weekly on Wednesdays, either 12:00 noon MT or 6:00 pm MT. We will have breaks on February 28 (RootsTech), April 17, and May 1 (extra research and writing time).
Registration begins Monday, December 1, 2023. The early bird registration price will be $425, thereafter, $475.
Dates and Lesson Topics
2/7/24 Lesson 1: Assess Your DNA Matches & Analyze Your Pedigree
2/14/24 Lesson 2: Organize Your DNA Results & Create a Research Objective
2/21/24 Lesson 3: Timelines, Source Citations for DNA & Documentary Sources, and File Organization
2/28/24 No study group meeting because of RootsTech
3/6/24 Lesson 4: Analyze Your Sources & DNA Matches
3/13/24 Lesson 5: Locality Research & Ethnicity
3/20/24 Lesson 6: Exploring DNA Tools & Methodology – genetic networks and pedigree triangulation
3/27/24 Lesson 7: Exploring DNA Tools & Methodology – chromosome browsers and segment data
4/3/24 Lesson 8: Research Planning – Selecting DNA Tools & Methodology
4/10/24 Lesson 9: Following Your Plan, Research Logging, & Writing As You Go
4/17/24 No study group meeting to allow extra research time
4/24/24 Lesson 10: Correlating Findings & Writing Your Research Report
5/1/24 No study group meeting to allow extra writing time
5/8/24 Lesson 11: Finishing the Research Report, Publishing, Privacy, & Copyright
5/15/24 Lesson 12: Productivity & Further DNA Education
Weekly Lesson Format
Each regular session, led by Diana and Nicole, is held virtually via Zoom and is approximately 2 hours long. Each session will include:
-10-minute question and answer that came up during the previous assignment
-90-100 minute lesson taught by Diana or Nicole with breakout rooms and a break halfway through
-5-minute discussion about the next assignment
Lessons will be recorded for review after the session.
Optional Peer Group Sessions and Peer Group Leaders
Peer group sessions are an opportunity for participants to meet with 4-6 other participants to discuss their projects. The peer group session will be facilitated by a peer group leader. Peer group leaders are genealogists who have experience integrating DNA into their research. Each participant will be assigned to a peer group leader who will give feedback on all of their assignments throughout the study group.
The peer group sessions meet two days before the regular session for 30-60 minutes. The purpose of the peer group session is to discuss your personal project and experience completing the assignment. Peer group leaders will also be completing a project during the study group. Their role is to facilitate the discussion during the peer group session. They will share their experience with the assignment as well. Any questions that come up during the peer group sessions that can’t be answered by other participants or the peer group leader can be discussed during the Q&A period of the regular session. Peer sessions are not recorded.
If you are interested in becoming a peer group leader and receiving complimentary registration for the study group, please go to our peer group leader application page here: RLP peer group leaders.
This is a fast-moving, time-intensive study group. After the regular session on Wednesday, you will have until Tuesday at 2pm to turn in your assignment. The time you will spend on assignments will depend on the difficulty of your objective. For typical objectives, expect to spend about 10-15 hours per week, or about 1-2 hours per day. For more difficult objectives, you may spend 15-20 or more hours per week. When you choose your objective, please take into account how much time you have to spend on the assignments and the difficulty level of your chosen objective.
Typical: Confirm or reject a traced relationship in the last 3-4 generations that you have already researched with documentary records. (Traced means you have used documentary records to trace your relationship to an ancestor). If this is the first time you are working with DNA evidence, we encourage you to focus on confirming the genetic connection to one of your second-great-grandparents.
Difficult: Test a hypothesized relationship in 3-6 generations that you may or may not have already researched with traditional genealogy records; or research unknown parents of an ancestor 3-6 generations back.
Peer Review and Feedback
Plan to spend 1-2 hours each week on peer review. After you turn in your assignment, you will have two days to review your assigned peers’ work and give them constructive comments. You will be assigned to give feedback to four people each week: three participants (that rotate each week), and your peer group leader. The purpose of peer review is twofold: (1) to learn from the work of others and (2) to provide helpful comments to others. We will create a feedback schedule that shows your assigned peers each week. It is critical that you complete your assignment on time and that you give feedback to your assigned peers. Past participants in the study group say that peer review is one of their favorite parts of the experience.
After you register, you will be asked to sign a participation agreement stating that you agree to complete your assignments and participate in peer review for three people each week. We will also ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that you will not share private information about DNA testers and matches mentioned in your peers’ work.
You will receive feedback from three participants and your peer group leader on each of your assignments. The instructors will provide feedback on the research objective, research plan, and final report.
We will be using the following tools for creating research reports, charts, and research logs, and so forth during the course and suggest that you become familiar with them.
–Google Drive and Google Docs: Research notes, reflection journal, final report
–Lucidchart: Diagram of close DNA matches, descendancy diagram
–Airtable: Spreadsheet of DNA matches, correspondence log, timeline, and research log
–Ancestry.com Family Trees or a Family Tree Software program of your choice (optional): in Lesson 2, we will be encouraging you to organize your DNA matches by adding them to your family tree once you determine the relationship. This works well in Ancestry.com’s online family tree program. You can also do this in whatever family tree software program you use (but not FamilySearch Family Tree or other online collaborative trees). We will not be sharing family trees for peer review.
We will also be using the above-listed tools’ collaboration/commenting features for peer review. Some guidance will be given for getting started with these tools after you register as well as during the course. Any time you can spend learning how to use these tools prior to the study group will aid your use of them for assignments. Check your welcome email for videos to watch to help you learn more about these tools.
Note about Google Drive: We will not be giving support about how to convert Microsoft Word into Google Docs or sharing Microsoft Word documents on Google Drive. If you are comfortable doing this on your own, that’s fine. However, we encourage everyone to create their documents in Google Docs for ease of sharing and peer review.
A. Genealogy Research Experience
1. Create a family tree that is built on original records to at least 3 generations of ancestors, if possible. We recognize that you may have an adoptee or brick wall somewhere in the first 3 generations.
2. Read Research Like a Pro: A Genealogists Guide and complete each assignment, or complete the Research Like a Pro eCourse. You may also study the Research Like a Pro blog posts here. We strongly encourage you to write a genealogical research report prior to joining the RLP with DNA study group. If you are planning to work on a particular ancestor or objective in the study group, it’s beneficial to write a report summarizing the documentary research to this point prior to the study group.
B. DNA and Genetic Genealogy Experience
1. Take an autosomal DNA test and receive your results before the start of the study group or have access to someone else’s autosomal DNA test results (parent, grandparent, etc.). The family tree in requirement A1 should correspond with the person whose DNA test you are using.
2. Transfer/copy your DNA results to additional testing companies’ databases. We recommend the following testing companies: 23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTree DNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage. You may also want to transfer to GEDmatch. Ancestry has the largest database and the most family trees, so we encourage you to have access to an Ancestry test, at minimum, then transfer to the sites that accept uploads. Only Ancestry and 23andMe do not accept uploads. Practice using the websites and tools at the companies where you have your DNA and read their help articles to guide you.
—-23andMe Education Resources – Tutorials
—-FamilyTreeDNA Learning Center
—-LivingDNA Support Center
—-MyHeritage Knowledge Base
3. Gain a basic understanding of DNA inheritance. You may do this in a variety of ways. Choose one of the following options:
a. Read one of these three books: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne, or Tracing Your Ancestors Using DNA: A Guide for Family Historians edited by Graham S. Holton. (These are affiliate links. Thank you for the support!)
b. Watch the Legacy Family Tree Webinars Series DNA Course 1: Foundations – a five-part series by Blaine Bettinger covering Genealogy and DNA, DNA overview, Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and Autosomal DNA. (Legacy Family Tree Webinars costs $10 per month)
c. Watch several of these free videos and webinars:
—- What is Inheritance? – Learn.Genetics by the University of Utah
—- Finding the Right DNA Test for You: Jim Brewster – RootsTech 2018
—- You’ve Taken a DNA Test, Now What?: Angie Bush – RootsTech 2018
—- My Ancestors are in MY DNA! Angie Bush – RootsTech 2017
—- Essential Considerations for DNA Evidence: Blaine Bettinger – Rootstech 2019
—- Videos by Blaine Bettinger – YouTube (clustering, Thrulines, MyHeritage AutoCluster, genetic networks, sharing different amounts of DNA, quick & dirty trees)
—- Family History Fanatics DNA Videos – YouTube
—- DNA lectures at RootsTech 2020 and RootsTech Connect 2021
Diana Elder, AG
Diana Elder AGⓇ is a professional genealogist accredited in the Gulf South region of the United States. She serves as a Commissioner for The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). Diana first used Y-DNA in 2009 to connect her Texas Royston family to the descendants of John Royston, born in 1610 of Virginia. Since then Diana has continued adding to her DNA knowledge and experience. In 2018 she completed the Advanced DNA course, “A Practical Approach: Establishing Genealogical Proof with DNA” at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and regularly uses DNA in her client work as well as her own family history research. Diana is the author of the bestselling book, Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide, and the creator of the Research Like a Pro study group and e-Course. Diana and her daughter, Nicole Dyer are the hosts of the Research Like a Pro Genealogy Podcast and share research tips on their website, FamilyLocket.com. Follow Diana’s case study for using DNA and traditional genealogy in her seven-part series, beginning with Creating an Objective for a DNA Research Project.
Nicole Dyer is a professional genealogist, lecturer, and creator of FamilyLocket.com and The Research Like a Pro Genealogy Podcast. She is the co-author of Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide. Nicole speaks at genealogy conferences and events including RootsTech, the National Genealogy Society Conference, and institutes. She specializes in Southern United States research and enjoys incorporating DNA evidence into her research. She has completed the following genealogical institutes: Intermediate Foundations at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), Introduction to Genetic Genealogy at SLIG, Advanced Methods at SLIG, All-DNA Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum at SLIG, Meeting Standards Using DNA Evidence – Research Strategies at SLIG, and Advanced DNA Evidence at the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR). She has taught in DNA courses at SLIG and IGHR.
Use the links below to sign up for the study group when registration opens. Choose either the daytime or evening session: