DNA Day at the Family History Library

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DNA Day![edit | edit source]

National DNA Day is Sunday, April 25, 2021. Come celebrate with FamilySearch and the Family History Library on Monday, April 26, 2021. The Library will be sponsoring six DNA related classes. Classes will be taught via Zoom and broadcast live to RootsTech.org. Additional, DNA classes and resources will also be highlighted.

DNA Day at the FHL[edit | edit source]

Wondering about the hype surrounding DNA? Come learn about DNA, find out if taking a DNA test is right for you, which tests you can take, and how it might help you in your family history.

Schedule[edit | edit source]

Monday, April 26, 2019
Time Class Title Description View Online Resources

9:00am MDT

Why Genealogists Use DNA

Join us as we discuss the science behind DNA; how it recombines and is inherited and why a test might be helpful in answering some of your genealogy research questions.

See Below

9:45am MDT

How Genealogists Use DNA

This class will discuss the types of DNA tests used for genealogy, the companies that provide them, and which test will best help you with your DNA research problem.

See Below

10:30am MDT

Grouping DNA Matches

The process of clustering or grouping your DNA matches into genetic networks is an essential part of using DNA for genealogy research. This class will introduce the concept of clustering and walk you through the process of grouping your own DNA matches.

See Below

12:00pm MDT


Live Chat with Edgar Gomez and Jonny Perl of DNA Painter


1:00pm MDT

Using DNA to Determine Relationships

Your DNA matches are probably your relatives. But a DNA test only suggests a relationship exists. This class will walk you through the process of determining the common ancestor between you and a DNA match or among a cluster of DNA matches.

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2:15pm MDT

Using DNA to Find Unknown Parents: A Case Study

Come see how DNA and traditional genealogical research were used to identify an unknown biological parent.

See Below

3:00pm MDT

Using DNA to Solve a Brick Wall: A Case Study

Come see how DNA and traditional genealogical research were used to solve a brick wall research problem.

See Below

DNA Basics Learning Center[edit | edit source]

The DNA Basics Learning Center is one of the sponsored booths at RootsTech Connect 2021. The DNA Basics Learning Center offers the following great content which will be accessible until RootsTech 2022.

DNA Activities[edit | edit source]
  • Jelly Genes. See how your DNA is inherited randomly.
  • Genetic Traits Tree. See how some of the genetic traits you inherited are shared (or not shared) with others.

DNA Day Class Resources[edit | edit source]

Understanding and using DNA in genealogy research sometimes require additional study. Key steps, process, and additional resources for each class are listed below.

Why Genealogists Use DNA[edit | edit source]

Why do genealogist use DNA? Do you want to learn more? You may be curious how DNA can help you with your genealogical research. All by itself your DNA results are not helpful. DNA is helpful when it is compared to others DNA. The theory is that finding someone who shares an exact segment of DNA with you means you share a most recent common ancestor or MRCA. DNA alone won't tell you who the ancestor is but used along with your paper trail you just might be able to discover the answer. There are different types of DNA that help solve different genealogical problems.

• Helps identify relationships

• Connect with living relatives

• Identify unknown parents

• Helps break down brick walls

• Connect with origins

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

How Genealogists Use DNA[edit | edit source]

DNA Testing Companies Comparison Chart

There are currently five DNA testing companies who test both ethnicity and provide match lists: AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, and Living DNA. The match lists are essential to using DNA in family history research. A comparison chart is at the right and more information on these companies can be found here.

How autosomal DNA is inherited

Autosomal DNA (atDNA)[edit | edit source]

Autosomal DNA or atDNA testing can help with the following research questions.

  • Adoption and unknown parentage questions
  • Eliminating one of two possible ancestors
  • Finding up to about 3x great-grandparents

How Y-DNA is inherited

Y-DNA[edit | edit source]

Y-DNA testing can help with the following research questions.

  • An unknown father, grandfather, great-grandfather, etc.
  • Surname projects

How mitochondrial DNA is inherited

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)[edit | edit source]

Mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA is most useful when used in conjunction with atDNA on the maternal line.

Grouping DNA Matches[edit | edit source]

The Clustering Process[edit | edit source]

After taking a DNA test, most people have thousands of DNA matches. Clustering is the process of grouping DNA matches by the ancestor or ancestral line on which they appear to relate. Creating clusters will allow you to organize your matches and then focus on the matches that will help solve your research goal.

To create a cluster, follow this process

  1. Choose a match with a known relationship
  2. View shared or in-common-with matches
  3. Create a cluster; name the cluster for the common ancestor
  4. Add matches shared between you and the known match to that cluster
  5. Repeat
  6. As you identify the relationship between you and each match, view shared matches and add to the appropriate cluster
Clustering Tools and Resources[edit | edit source]
An example of color coding

As you start clustering your matches, consider how some of the following tools and resources might help:

  • Color Coding: Ancestry DNA lets users assign Matches to groups which are identified by a name a color. Currently, users can create up to 24 different groups. Carefully plan how to use these groups to create clusters. One popular method is to assign a different color to each parent, grandparent, and great grandparent. As matches are identified as belonging to these ancestors (either by determining a relationship or through shared or in-common-with), they are added to the groups. Learn more about color coding here and here.
  • AutoClusters: Some websites will build clusters for you. AutoClusters are available from MyHeritage, Genetic Affairs, GEDMatch, and DNAGedcom. Note that AutoClustering is usually a Tier 1 or subscription service.
  • Leeds Method: The Leeds Method is a method for clustering your matches by which grandparent you are related to. Learn more about the Leeds Method here and here.
  • Spreadsheets: When working with DNA matches, it may be necessary to search for shared matches and then record a list of matches in each cluster on a spreadsheet. You may choose to create a new tab for each cluster or follow the Leeds Method. Spreadsheets are also great ways to build clusters of Matches across companies.
Other Clustering Situations[edit | edit source]

As you start clustering, you may run into some of the following situations.

  • Unknown Parents: When one or both parents are unknown, you cannot build clusters off of known relatives. However, clusters will help in the process of identifying those unknown parents. Start with the top match in the 1C-2C range. Build a cluster around shared matches. Repeat for all other members of the cluster. Then, take the first match not in the first cluster and build a cluster around them.
  • Endogamy, Pedigree Collapse, and Multiple Relationships. In cases of endogamy (a population which has been physically or socially isolated for hundreds of years), pedigree collapse (the same ancestors appear multiple times in the same tree) or when you are related in multiple ways to your matches, it can be difficult to create clearly defined clusters. Learn more about these kinds of situations and how to work with your DNA matches here, here, here, or here.
  • Matches in Multiple Clusters: When matches unexpectedly appear in multiple clusters, it may be for a number of different reasons. First, the match may descend from a much closer ancestor but be several generations further removed. Second, the match may be related in more than one way. For example, a match can be related on both your father's side of the family and mother's side of the family. Third, the match may appear in one of the clusters because it is a false positive as the DNA company reports them as a shared match if they share DNA with both you and the match you are working with whether or not they are related on the same line.
  • Isolating Matches. If you are researching an ancestor, you may want to focus just on matches related to that ancestor. This will be discussed more in later presentations.

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

Using DNA to Determine Relationships[edit | edit source]

One of the two key processes to working with your DNA matches is to determine the relationship between you and each of your Matches. As you work to determine that relationship, start by evaluating your matches. Review the name of the match and the manager of the DNA kit. Identify what the generational relationship you may be to the match by comparing ages (the Match as well as their parents or grandparents). Review the Shared cMs Project to determine what potential relationships that amount of DNA may suggest. And consider what clusters the match already belongs to. Evaluating the match ahead of time will give a sense of where in your tree to search for a common ancestor.

The process for determining a relationship is as follows.

  1. Start by choosing a match. Evaluate the match.
  2. Review the family tree of the match. If the tree is incomplete, you may have to build out their tree or contact the match for more information.
  3. Identify the most recent common ancestor or MRCA. Remember that you will need to be familiar with your own family tree in order to spot the MRCA.
  4. Determine your relationship to the match. It may be helpful to draw it out in a descendancy chart.
  5. Record the relationship using the notes feature of the DNA website or on a separate spreadsheet or file.

As you review the trees of your matches, you may run into a variety of different kinds of trees, including:

  • If a match has a Full Tree, review their tree and determine the common ancestor. If you cannot find a common ancestor, it is possible there is a non-paternal event (NPE) or misattributed parental event (MPE) either in your line or in the ancestry of your match. Review the shared matches to determine whether the NPE/MPE is in your tree. (Are you getting matches from all of your ancestors?) If you determine the event happened in the tree of your ancestor, wait for them to reach out to you.
  • If a match has a Small Tree with at least one name and date for one ancestor, see if you can fill in the their tree either by searching other trees or build their tree for them.
  • If a match has not yet linked their DNA results to their tree, review all of their unlinked trees and see if you can figure out the relationship. Be careful, if the DNA kit is managed by someone else, the unlinked trees may belong to the kit owner, not the test taker.
  • If a match does not have a tree or has a private tree, use clusters to determine which line they belong to. If they are part of the line you are researching, contact them. However, keep your communication short and to the point. Remember that many people take DNA tests to see their ethnicity results but are unlikely to reply.

When working with unknown clusters, your goal is to 1) identify an ancestor common to several members of the cluster, 2) identify descendants of that common ancestor or common ancestral couple, and 3) look for common names and locations with known information.

Using DNA to Find Unknown Parents: A Case Study[edit | edit source]

Identifying unknown parents can be solved using a combination of sound, genealogical research coupled with DNA testing. To do so, follow these steps. The case study for this presentation was done entirely using Ancestry DNA matches, but you can apply the same principles using other DNA companies.

Take a DNA test with a company that provides information about DNA matches There are five companies that provide DNA match lists:

  • Ancestry
  • MyHeritage
  • Family Tree
  • 23andMe
  • Living DNA

For maximum results, seriously consider testing with every company. You never know which company will list the closest match that can solve the problem.

Identify and isolate matches

Matches are listed in order by the amount of DNA they share with you. This is measured in centiMorgans (cM). When possible, identify who the person is and how that person is biologically related to you. Be exact with your relationship and note if the person is a half-relation (half-sibling, half-nephew, etc.)

Use the tool DNA Painter: Shared centiMorgan project to identify possible relationships between you and your match. DNA Painter will show any possible relationships, as well as how likely those relationships are. Any other relationship is virtually impossible, unless you are related multiple times to the match.

When isolating matches, if possible, identify a known relative who only shares a portion of your ancestors. For example, a grandchild would not be a good place to start, but a half-sibling would be. Identify all shared matches with that person and make sure to clearly label them. You can then label the individuals you do not share matches with, as from a different branch of the family. The best practice is to isolate paternal from maternal matches, working backwards one generation at a time. In the case of unknown parents, creating clusters of individuals that share matches with each other, even when the parent is unidentified, is essential to creating a list of potential candidates for the parent.

Build trees for your matches

Next, build a common tree for each cluster of matches. First, look at all available family trees for each match (not every match will have a tree). In those available trees, look for any shared surnames. If there are no shared surnames, look for any shared locations. Keep in mind that if a match's tree is not far enough back to identify shared surnames, you may have to do some genealogical research to extend a tree until you come across the surname.

Once a likely ancestral couple or ancestor is identified, track all descendants of that couple forward until the time the person with the unknown parents was born. Then, identify all potential candidates for the parent. Then, use the tool DNA Painter: What Are the Odds? to plot out the descent of each of your matches in the cluster to the ancestor or ancestral couple. Be sure to enter how many centiMorgans you share, as well as birth years of each generation. Then, use suggested hypotheses to identify the most likely place for the person with unknown parents to be in the family tree.

Keep in mind that candidates should be alive, of childbearing age, and ideally living in the same area (particularly for unknown mothers) as the birth of the person.

Craft a Theory

In the What Are the Odds tool, each score is based on how likely the person fits in that position in the tree. Rank the highest scores in the list, and focus on those relationships first. Identify potential candidates in those spots.

Confirm your Theory

Once a potential candidate is identified, you can then confirm (or debunk) your theory by eliminating any candidates based on age, location, or other reasons and contacting matches without trees to identify their specific relationship to the target ancestor. If possible, you can identify key people to submit a DNA test that can help verify or disprove a candidate (the closer a relationship to the candidate, the better). Keep using the DNA Painter tools Shared cM Project and What Are the Odds to identify possible genetic relationships and refine your hypotheses.

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

Using DNA to Solve a Brick Wall: A Case Study[edit | edit source]

Some brick wall research problems can be solved using a combination of sound, genealogical research coupled with DNA testing. To do so, you will want to follow these steps. These steps assume that you have taken a DNA test and have built a family tree. The case study for this presentation was done entirely using Ancestry DNA matches, but you can apply the same principles using other DNA companies.

Identify and Isolate your Matches

For those close matches, you may recognize their names or profiles. For other matches you will need to look at any tree information they have attached to their DNA profile. Do you recognize any of the names as being also found in your family tree? Or perhaps their ancestors lived in the same location as yours. Once you’ve identified how you are connected to a match, use the Shared Matches feature on Ancestry, to identify any other matches that share the same DNA. This process helps you to place all shared matches in one common cluster. Follow this procedure until you are able to isolate matches you are connected to along the brick wall line. See Grouping DNA Matches above for more ideas on how to identify and isolate your matches.

Depending on how far back the Brick Wall ancestor is you will want to make sure you isolate your match clusters to include only those who will share the same DNA. Those who connect to the children of the brick wall ancestor will also share the DNA of the spouse of the brick wall ancestor. Ideally you will want to identify matches who descend from possible siblings of the brick wall ancestor, and share the same parents.

Build Trees for your Matches

Next you will want to start building more fully the family trees of your identified and isolated matches. You can do that by using trees found online or by doing your own original research. These don’t have to be perfect at this point but rather provide a good basis for helping to craft a theory. It is most helpful to put all the matches in one shared tree and link the DNA match in your shared matches tree. As you start to unite these trees, you may see a pattern developing or a theory or two rise to the surface. Make notes regarding possible theories.

Craft a Theory

Based on the information you have put in your Shared matches tree, how are these matches connected? Where is the most likely place to find the Most Recent common Ancestor or the MRCA?

Confirm your Theory

In this case study, the information from the matches tree was entered in the What Are the Odds Tool found on DNAPainter.com. Once the data is entered you can test your theories by entering hypothesis or using the suggest hypothesis option. The WATO tool will tell you how likely your theory is to be true. The higher the number, the more likely you have a match.

Once you have your theory, do more research to determine if the theoretical MRCA lived in the area or associated with some of the same people as your ancestor. You may also need to reach out to other descendants of the MRCA to invite them to test to help confirm your hypothesis if you need more confirmation and regular genealogical research sources are not providing conclusive evidence.

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

There are many videos online that may provide further assistance to your Brick Wall research and using DNA. Here are a few from RootsTech Connect held in February 2021.

You can also schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our specialists to discuss DNA or traditional family history research by following this link.

Past DNA Day Celebrations[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library first celebrated DNA Day on April 25, 2019. Classes taught included: