Research Like a Pro® with DNA Study Group
with Diana Elder, AG®, Nicole Dyer, and Robin Wirthlin
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.
Lesson 1: Assess Your DNA Matches & Analyze Your Pedigree
Lesson 2: Organize Your DNA Results & Create a Research Objective
Lesson 3: Writing Source Citations for DNA & Traditional Sources
Lesson 4: Analyze Your Sources & DNA Matches
Lesson 5: Locality Research & Ethnicity
Lesson 6: Exploring DNA Tools & Methodology
Lesson 7: Research Planning – Selecting DNA Tools & Methodology
Lesson 8: Following Your Plan, Research Logging, & Writing As You Go
Lesson 9: Correlating Findings & Writing Your Research Report
Lesson 10: Finishing the Research Report, Publishing & Privacy
Lesson 11: Productivity & Further DNA Education
Each regular session, led by Diana, Nicole, and Robin, will be 90 minutes long and will include:
-15 minute Q&A about the previous assignment
-60 minute lesson taught by Diana, Nicole, or Robin
-15 minutes Q&A about the next assignment
Peer Group Sessions and Mentors
Peer group sessions are an opportunity for participants to meet with 5-6 other participants to discuss their projects. The peer group session will be facilitated by a mentor. Mentors are genealogists who have experience integrating DNA into their research. Each participant will be assigned to a mentor 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 minutes. The purpose of the peer group session is to discuss your personal project and experience completing the assignment. Mentors 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 mentor sessions that can’t be answered by other participants or the mentor can discussed during the Q&A period of the regular session.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact email@example.com for more information.
This is a fast-moving, time-intensive study group. You will have five days to work on your assignment. The time you will spend on assignments will depend on the difficulty of your objective. For easy 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.
Easy: Confirm or reject a traced relationship in the last 3-4 generations that you have already researched with traditional genealogy records. (Traced means you have used traditional records to trace your relationship to an ancestor).
Harder: Test a hypothesized relationship in 3-6 generations that you may or may not have already researched with traditional genealogy records.
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 three people each week: two participants (that rotate each week), and your mentor. The purpose for peer review is twofold: (1) to learn from the work of others and (2) to provide helpful comments to others. We will be creating 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 the 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 two participants, your mentor, and one of the instructors on each of your assignments.
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. Read Research Like a Pro: A Genealogists Guide and complete each assignment, or complete the Research Like a Pro eCourse.
2. 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.
B. DNA and Genetic Genealogy Experience
1. Take an autosomal DNA test and receive your results before the start of the study group. We recommend the following testing companies: Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTree DNA, 23andMe, LivingDNA; or have access to someone else’s autosomal DNA test results (parent, grandparent, etc.). The family tree (requirement A 2) should correspond with the person whose DNA test you are using.
2. 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. Join Blaine Bettinger’s DNA Central subscription website and complete at least one of the courses (which correspond with the DNA testing company you’ve tested with). For example, ANC101 – I’ve Tested at Ancestry DNA, Now What? Also, watch at least one webinar in the DNA Central library, including Jack and Jill: Can DNA Reveal The True Story on the Hill? by Diane Southard. (DNA Central costs $9.99 per month)
c. 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)
d. 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
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 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 and the National Genealogy Society Conference. She is the publicity chair at the Pima County Genealogy Society. 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) in Spring 2019, All-DNA Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum at SLIG in Fall 2019, and Meeting Standards Using DNA Evidence – Research Strategies at SLIG in January 2020.
Robin Wirthlin is a professional genealogist specializing in DNA. Her background in genetic research, B.S. in Molecular Biology from BYU, and Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University, helps her solve complex genetic genealogy research problems. Robin loves using genetic genealogy to solve family history mysteries and breakthrough “brick walls.” Her first solved case involving adoption and identification of birth parents was in 2015, and she has gone on to solve many others, including identifying the parents of previously unknown members of her own family. Robin teaches genealogy classes on local and county levels, and, most recently Healing and Family History- the Emotional Side of DNA, at Rootstech 2020. She attended I4GG Genetic Genealogy conferences: 2014; 2016; 2017, and NGS 2018. She completed studies at: Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) – Chromosome Mapping in June 2018, Forensic Genealogy in July 2018, and Advanced Genetic Genealogy in July/August 2018; SLIG – Advanced Genealogical Methods, January 2019; SLIG Academy for Professionals – DNA and the 21st Century Professional, January 2019, and Project Management Essentials in Genealogy Research, January 2020. Robin blogs about streamlined ways of using DNA in family history research and helped develop the Research Like a Pro with DNA method.
Use the links below to sign up for the study group when registration opens. Choose either the 1pm or 7pm MT session: