A Ready-for-RootsTech Guide to DNA

DNA 500 by 500-shutterstock_163156004

Preparation is a key to success. When it comes to RootsTech, the largest genealogy conference in the world, it can make all the difference, especially if you’ve set specific goals you want to achieve at the conference. If one of your goals is to learn more about DNA testing and genetic genealogy, this guide is for you.

Why DNA?

There are usually two reasons individuals test their DNA for genetic genealogy: 1) to learn ethnicity estimates, and 2) to connect with genetic cousins for reunions or for information about their common heritage paper trail. There will opportunities at this year’s RootsTech conference to learn all you need to for either of these scenarios.

This year CeCe Moore, a prominent genetic genealogist, will address RootsTech attendees Saturday morning as a keynote speaker. In addition, RootsTech will offer over 20 sessions covering genetic genealogy ranging from beginning to advanced, and 5 pre-registration lab classes to inform and educate participants on this timely topic. The Expo Hall will host five genetic genealogy companies who will have representatives available to answer your questions: 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage DNA.

Prepare Now

  1. Create a list of your questions. First, write down any DNA questions you have at this point. When you have finished reading this post and its associated links, review your questions to see if you have discovered your answers. If not, organize them and bring them to RootsTech. You will then be prepared to ask these questions in any session where the presenter offers a question-and-answer time, or you can bring your questions to the Expo Hall to have your questions answered by representatives of the different DNA companies. Clear, concise, and thoughtful questions are always easier for the experts to answer.

  2. Define your goals. If you’ve seen a news report on the topic of DNA testing or watched one of the televised shows using genetic genealogy and wonder, Where this is all going?, you may want to attend “How Will DNA Continue to Disrupt Our Industry?”on Wednesday afternoon. Scott Fisher of Extreme Genes will moderate this panel of DNA experts from a variety of DNA-related fields.

    If DNA testing for genealogy is new to you, your goal might be to learn what tests are available. Sessions that may be helpful are Dianhan Southard’s Wednesday 3:00 p.m. presentation, “DNA: The Glue That Holds Families Together” or Tim Janzen’s Thursday 11:00 a.m. presentation, “Family Finder, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA: An Introduction.” The latter presentation is focused on the long-standing direct-to-consumer testing companies, including Family Tree DNA, who pioneered using DNA for genealogical use.

    If you are of African descent, Shannon Christmas will be presenting an intermediate session titled, “Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree”on Friday. There are many other intermediate sessions and a few advanced sessions to instruct you this year at RootsTech.

    If you are interested in citing DNA results or writing up your results, there are two session that may be helpful: Thomas Jones will present an intermediate session on Thursday titled, “Writing about and Documenting DNA Results,” and Angie Bush will present an advanced session on Friday titled, “DNA: Citations, Proof Arguments and Conclusions.” Thomas Jones will also present a session for advanced practitioners titled, “Using Autosomal DNA to Help Extend a Lineage.” You can see the full list of classes below.

  3. Become familiar with the 5 DNA companies represented in the Expo Hall. If you are planning to test your DNA as a result of what you learn at this conference, become familiar with the 5 DNA companies and what DNA tests are offered by each. Also learn about the legal notices for each company, such as their terms of service and privacy policies. Each company’s legal notices are different. Presenters have their own vested interests as employees, affiliates, and business owners and may only cover a portion of relevant material in any given session. Time is limited. Not all companies may be represented in each session you attend. Understanding the legal notices before coming to RootsTech frees you to make an informed decision at the conference. Most, if not all, companies will offer special pricing on their kits at the conference. Many individuals test with more than one company. Here is a summary of the companies that will be at RootsTech:







    Year company founded

    April 2006 (As of Oct 2015, meets FDA standards)

    May 2012

    Early 2000 (Y-DNA & mtDNA)
    Family Finder May 2010



    Autosomal DNA (atDNA)

    Yes: $99—ancestry portion; $199—health and ancestry

    Yes: $99

    Yes: FamilyFinder: currently $79

    Yes: $159

    Yes: $79

    Y-DNA (patrilineal line)

    Yes—for males only. Select locations—included in the price of the atDNA test


    Yes—for males only. Starting at $169 (depends on # of markers)

    Yes—for males only. 20,000 markers tested—included as part of a 3-in-1 test


    mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA—matrilineal line)

    Yes: select locations—included in the price of the atDNA test


    Yes: mtDNA+—$79
    mtDNA full sequence—$199 (most accurate)

    Yes—4,000 markers tested—included as part of a 3-in-1 test


    Method of collection of sample

    saliva sample

    saliva sample

    cheek swab

    cheek swab

    cheek swab

    Additional subscription necessary to maximize use of results






    Legal notices (If interested in purchasing a kit at RootsTech, please read before the conference—it saves valuable conference time.)

    Terms of Service

    Privacy highlights

    For US:
    Terms and Conditions
    For International:
    Terms and Conditions
    Additional Privacy Policy:
    Privacy Statement

    Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Refunds

    For US:
    Terms and Conditions

    Privacy Policy

    Terms and Conditions

    Privacy Policy



    Family Tree DNA is the official testing partner for National Geographic's Genographic Project.


    Company headquarters

    Mountain View, CA, USA

    Lehi, UT, USA

    Houston, TX, USA

    Frome, Somerset, United Kingdom

    Or Yehuda, Israel

    Official website






    Expo Hall booth #

    Booth 638

    Booth 303

    Booths 535, 537, 634, 636

    Booth 233

    Booth 502

  4. Create a DNA testing plan. Creating a DNA testing plan will provide focus, save you money, and give you the best chance of answering your research questions. Be familiar with each of the three DNA tests used for genealogical purposes, and be confident that the kit you order will answer the family history question you want answered. Read more about how to create a plan.

Do you still have questions? These sessions may have your answers!

Day, Time, & Location
Session #

Title and Presenter

Level and Notes

Wednesday 3 p.m.—155A

How Will DNA Continue to Disrupt Our Industry?—Scott Fisher, Moderator

Beginner—no handout

Wednesday 3 p.m.—Ballroom J

DNA: The Glue That Holds Families Together—Dianhan Southard


Wednesday 3 p.m.—251A

Nature and Nurture: Family History for Adoptees—Janet Hovorka and Amy Slade

Not stated

Thursday 11 a.m.—Ballroom J
RT 1490

How to Use DNA Triangulation to Confirm Ancestors—Kitty Cooper


Thursday 11 a.m.—Ballroom A
RT 1129

Family Finder, 23andMe, and Ancestry DNA: An Introduction—Tim Janzen


Thursday 1:30 p.m.—Ballroom G
RT 3000

Writing About and Documenting DNA Results—Thomas Jones


Thursday 1:30 p.m.—Ballroom J
RT 1353

DNA Matching on MyHeritage—Dana Drutman


Thursday 3 p.m.–Ballroom I
RT 3245

My Ancestors Are in My DNA—Angie Bush


Thursday 3 p.m.—251E-LAB
LAB 1176
Pre-registration required

From Click to DNA Connection—Diahan Southard

Intermediate—Also offered Friday 4:30 p.m.

Friday 11 a.m.—250A
RT 1094

Using Genetic Evidence in Your Family Tree—Ross Curtis

Intermediate—No handout

Friday 11 a.m.—251A

Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey—Israel Pickholtz


Friday 11 a.m.—Ballroom G
RT 3002

Using Autosomal DNA to Help Extend a Lineage—Thomas Jones


Friday 1:30 p.m.—250A
RT 9835

Putting Your [Ancestry] DNA Matches to Work—Anna Swayne


Friday 3 p.m.—250A
RT 7452

How [Ancestry] DNA Works: The Science Behind Your DNA Results—Harenda Gaturu


Friday 3 p.m.—251E—LAB
LAB 1616
Pre-registration required

Introduction to Chromosome Mapping—Paul Woodbury

Advanced—Also offered Saturday 1:30 p.m.

Friday 4:30 p.m.—255A

Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree—Shannon Christmas


Friday 4:30 p.m.—251D
RT 1153

DNA: Citations, Proof Arguments, and Conclusions—Angie Bush


Friday 4:30 p.m.—251B-LAB
LAB 1176
Pre-registration required

From Click to DNA Connection—Diahan Southard

Intermediate—Also offered Thursday 3 p.m.

Friday 4:30 p.m.—Ballroom E
RT 9206

Transitioning Genetic Genealogy to the 21st Century with DREAM Technology—Eran Elhaik, University of Sheffield

Beginner—No handout

Saturday 11 a.m.—254B-LAB
LAB 1767
Pre-registration required

GWorks, Strawberries and More!—Angie Bush

Advanced—2-hour lab; Must have an account with http://dnaged.com and client installed on your computer

Saturday 11 a.m.—155A

Let DNA Tell the Story—Dianhan Southard

Getting started pass holders only

Saturday 1:30 p.m.—255D
RT 1440

How to Get More from Your DNA with GEDmatch.com—Shannon Christmas

All—No handout

Saturday 1:30 p.m.—251E-LAB
LAB 1616
Pre-registration required

Introduction to Chromosome Mapping—Paul Woodbury


Saturday 3 p.m.—150
RT 9542

Supercharge Your Research with DNA—Emily Aulicino


Saturday 3 p.m.—250A
RT 9834

Beyond Ethnicity: How DNA Connects Us to Our Past—AncestryDNA team, Anna Swayne, Moderator

No handout

Not all individuals need DNA testing to answer their family history questions. But, as you will hear from CeCe Moore and others at RootsTech, DNA testing offers those who have unanswered questions, such as adoptees, amazing results in extending their biological pedigree. It is a source that relies on the permission of family members to obtain. All people who test must agree to the legal notices, such as terms of service and privacy policy, of the company they use for testing. These policies are different for each company and are best read in an environment conducive to understanding the terms. Read more about DNA terms and conditions.

Genetic genealogy is an exciting and developing field. It can provide answers to family mysteries. It has brought joy to many and sorrow to a few. It is a topic worth learning about so you can make an educated decision about how DNA testing can potentially help you strengthen your family relationships among the living and add to your family tree.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is for information only. The final decision to act upon this information is your own and you take sole responsibility for all outcomes.

Lynn Broderick (https://thesingleleaf.wordpress.com/) is a writer by birth, a teacher by profession, and a researcher by passion. She enjoys researching individuals of the past in the context of family, community, and social history. Known as the Single Leaf, she combined her childhood memories of football and genealogy to create genealogy football and works with her team to win their family history bowl each year. She loves to coach people on how to enjoy pursuing their family history and has done so for over 25 years.

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