Fact: DNA data can be difficult to understand and work with.
Myth: You need a Ph.D. to learn how to use DNA data.
On the Famicity blog, we occasionally discuss DNA and how it’s an important part of genealogy and family history research.
So you take a test, you get your basic results, what else can you do with them? What else can your DNA tell you beyond the maps and list of potential matches? How can you learn about taking your results to the next level? The “How” is the biggest question that we’ll discuss today.
With the increasing popularity of DNA tests for learning about a person’s heritage or medical background, the average person can take their data and dig deeper into what everything means.
Think of DNA results as a pure numbers game. Going beyond the charts and graphics, it becomes a matter of understanding the numbers that create the genetic makeup of each of our 23 chromosome pairs.
Let’s look at a few ways a person can work within the genealogy community to learn how to use DNA numbers.
DNA Interest Groups
You might find a DNA Interest Group as a subgroup or committee within a local or state genealogical society. As they strive to preserve local family history, they are open to adopting DNA as a research tool. Like us, they want to know how to use DNA data to increase research effort. Working together for a common goal, five people might be able to learn more about DNA than a single person working alone.
Check with your local genealogical society to see if there is a DNA Interest Group that you can join or if they are holding any educational events you can attend.
Spoiler Alert! We have a blog coming that interviews the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group to get an inside look of how such a group operates.
Combining DNA and traditional research is great way to extend your tree. RootsFinder’s tools make this easier. ~Dallan Quass, President of RootsFinder
RootsFinder is a new online tree that allows you to integrate DNA research with your traditional genealogy research. The first thing you’ll notice is the clean, user-friendly interface.
Import your DNA matches from these sites
Instead of complicated spreadsheets, RootsFinder displays the data in easy-to-read graphs and allows you to link matches to specific lines and people in your tree. Seeing your matches visually helps you discover patterns that are difficult to see any other way.
If you have questions, RootsFinder has an active Facebook community for sharing techniques and answering each other’s questions.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers!
GEDmatch.com is a website that allows you to upload your raw DNA data from many of the DNA testing sites.
Once uploaded, there are many ways to manipulate and read the raw data for breakdowns at the chromosome level and then even compare it to other users who have also uploaded their raw DNA data.
This site is very thorough on analyzing the data but can have a bit of a learning curve. YouTube videos, discussion boards, and other help are available resources to guide anyone wanting to learn more.
The original goal of the website DNAGEDCOM.com of this group was to help adoptees find their biological family but became popular to where it is being widely used.
One feature the site promotes is a Google Chrome Plug-in (Ancestry DNA Helper) that scans your DNA matches on Ancestry.com. The result is a file that you upload to the website for further evaluation.
This seems to be a relatively new site for uploading raw DNA data. I haven’t personally played with this tool but it has good reviews from the people discussing it within various Facebook groups.
We absolutely cannot forget social media! There are endless groups on Facebook to discuss genealogy, ancestry and DNA. Just as mentioned for the RootsFinder DNA tools, there are other groups managed by Facebook users focused on navigating and learning from data. Ask questions, get the answers! Support each other in the quest for knowledge!
Moral of this blog is not get overwhelmed. If you’re seeking to know more, the first thing to understand is that you are not alone. There’s plenty of people and online tools out there to help you.