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What is Genetic Genealogy?

Genetic genealogy is certainly the fastest developing area of genealogy and family history and one of the most challenging to understand and apply in practice.
DNA strand under a magnifying glass
© University of Strathclyde

Genetic genealogy is certainly the fastest developing area of genealogy and family history and one of the most challenging to understand and apply in practice.

Increased Testing in Genetic Genealogy

Although the foundations of the field have been laid with the basic types of tests firmly established, there is no doubt that technology will move on apace. We will soon see more extensive tests, looking at more of our DNA strand and also more specific tests, focussing in on closely defined markers.

If you are interested in gaining a greater understanding of this topic and how test results can be interpreted, there are several ways of doing this. Because of the rate of change in this area, books tend to become outdated very soon, but here is a short list of some useful recent titles:

Genetic Genealogy Testing References

Bettinger, Blaine. (2019) The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, 2nd edition. Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books.

Holton, Graham S., ed. (2019) Tracing your ancestors using DNA: a guide for family historians. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books.

Kennett, Debbie. (2012) DNA and social networking: a guide to genealogy in the twenty-first century. Stroud: The History Press.

Kirkpatrick, Brianne and Shannon Combs-Bennett. (2019) The DNA guide for adoptees New Jersey: Bowker.

There is, however, plenty of reading on the subject to be found online, as well as websites and videos. Try to be selective about what you read, because so much is appearing online, of varying quality. Blogs and Forums can contain the writings of those with little real understanding of this complex subject and also contributions from experts which may be very difficult to understand. The following suggestions should guide you to some of the better material.

Genetic Genealogy Websites

One of the most reliable websites is the ISOGG site (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) which includes the important ISOGG Wiki. Blogs are another useful source to gain greater understanding, if used with care and some worthwhile ones are listed below.

Should you feel drawn to more formal study, a number of courses are available and can be found be searching the Internet. The University of Strathclyde runs its own short online courses which each last for eight weeks and provide an introduction to the principles of the subject and the interpretation of basic test results.

As your understanding grows, you will find that the interpretation of results can be greatly assisted by the use of various online utilities. These can automate a number of the otherwise tedious and time consuming calculations you will probably want to carry out as you examine and compare results from various individuals. Links to a few of these, as well as to a selection of online blogs, articles and websites can be found in the ‘See Also’ section below.

There is also a glossary of DNA terms available in the downloads section below. This is from the Tracing your ancestors using DNA: a guide for family historians book noted above.

© University of Strathclyde
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Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

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