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DNA Sunday a day early

No, it isn’t Sunday.

You really didn’t sleep through an extra overnight and lose a day.

But around these parts, The Legal Genealogist only ever talks about one thing each year on the anniversary of a particular event, and that’s tomorrow so…

You get DNA Sunday on Saturday.

And a recommendation that’ll make your weekend, your week, your whole research year, especially if you’re struggling a little to understand genetic genealogy and the way it integrates with traditional paper trail genealogy.

You need to buy a book.

dna-bookOrder it now.

Read it carefully.

Work through all the exercises in it.

You’ll understand DNA so much better if you do.


It’s called Genetic Genealogy in Practice, it’s just come out, published by the National Genealogical Society, and it’s written by two of the very best that our field has: Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne.1

Here’s the description:

Genetic Genealogy in Practice, the first workbook on genetic genealogy, … provides family historians and genealogists who have just begun to explore genetic genealogy practical, easy to understand information that they can apply to their research. Readers learn the basic concepts of genetic genealogy. They then build on that knowledge as they study the testing, analysis, and application of Y-DNA, X-DNA, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and autosomal DNA (atDNA) to reach and support genealogical conclusions. Each chapter includes exercises with answer keys for hands-on practice.2

If you’re an NGS member, the price is $30.06. For non-members, it’s $36.05.3 And it’s worth every penny.

Consider, first, the authors.

Blaine’s bio on his blog website reads: “Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., is an intellectual property attorney by day and a genetic genealogist by night. In 2007 he started The Genetic Genealogist (, one of the earliest blogs on the topic. Dr. Bettinger has been interviewed and quoted on personal genomics topics in Newsweek, New Scientist, Wired, and others. He authored I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What? in 2008, which is distributed by Family Tree DNA to all of their new customers.

Blaine frequently authors articles and gives presentations to educate others about the use of DNA to explore their ancestry. He is an instructor for genetic genealogy courses at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research, and Family Tree University. Blaine was also recently elected to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s Board of Trustees, and graduated from ProGen Study Group 21 in 2015.”4

Debbie’s bio on her website reads: “Debbie Parker Wayne, Certified Genealogist®, East Texas, USA. I am the owner of Wayne Research, a genealogical research service. Laws affecting family history and genetic genealogy (DNA) are areas of special interest to me. Many of my posts will be in those areas as well as topics of general interest to genealogists. Contact me through my Web site at”5 She is also a course coordinator for genetic genealogy courses at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP).

What that tells you is they know their stuff. What it doesn’t tell you is that they’re funny, they’re easy to listen to, they write well, and … did I mention? … they know their stuff.

Then consider the scope of the book. The authors note:

No matter how clear DNA concepts seem as you hear a lecture, true knowledge only comes with practice in analyzing DNA test results and correlating the data with a family tree. Whether you attend a one hour lecture, an all-day seminar, or a week-long institute, there never seems to be enough time to cover everything and allow plenty of time for hands-on practice. When practicing on your own, it can be difficult to get feedback as to the validity of your conclusions.


Genetic Genealogy in Practice presents the biological underpinnings needed by genetic genealogists and the concepts used to analyze DNA test results for genealogical research. Typical genealogical questions are presented as exercises at the end of each chapter. An answer key provides immediate feedback to the reader as to whether he or she arrived at the expected conclusion and what concepts should have been considered while working the problem. Readers will then be able to apply the knowledge gained to their own family history to make better conclusions using DNA test results.


This book provides the most current understanding of using all types of DNA tests for genealogy beginning with the basics and moving into intermediate and advanced concepts. Genetic genealogy is a rapidly changing discipline, but the concepts and techniques presented here are those that will stand the test of time. An in-depth list of resources includes places where the reader can find step-by-step guides for transitory procedures that change frequently.


The researcher who is new to genetic genealogy may want to come back to the book and review more advanced concepts after gaining some experience with the basic techniques. DNA can seem complex to many of us, but this book will guide you and help build your knowledge level one step at a time.6

Overall, Genetic Genealogy in Practice is directed to genealogists of all levels, from beginner to intermediate to advanced. For the very first time, there’s a book that offers hands-on exercises in areas of Y-DNA, mtDNA, X-DNA, atDNA, the Genealogical Proof Standard, ethics, and more. Genealogists can test their understanding and expertise in each of these subject areas via 75+ hands-on exercises, and get immediate feedback from an answer key that provides detailed explanations for every exercise.

With this book, genealogists will finally be able gauge their understanding of DNA and how it can be applied to genealogical research. Through the exercises, we can not only identify weak spots in our genetic genealogy education and experience, but will be able to strengthen those weak spots with hands-on experience.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

Highly recommended.


  1. Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne, Genetic Genealogy in Practice (Arlington, Va. : National Genealogical Society, 2016).
  2. Genetic Genealogy in Practice,” NGS Online Store, National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 9 Sep 2016).
  3. If you’re not an NGS member, you might want to rethink that. There’s so much that you get for member dollars, starting with discounts like this and including things like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the NGS Magazine and…
  4. Biographical Material,” The Genetic Genealogist ( : accessed 9 Sep 2016).
  5. About Me,” Deb’s Delvings in Genealogy ( : accessed 9 Sep 2016).
  6. COMING SOON from NGS — Genetic Genealogy in Practice #NGS2016GEN,” UpFront with NGS, posted 3 May 2016 ( : accessed 9 Sep 2016).
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