Not too basic, not too advanced

Finding the right educational opportunity when it comes to integrating DNA into our research systems can be a little like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Some courses are just too basic… The Legal Genealogist does not wish to spend time, once again, with Gregor Mendel and the peas thankyouverymuch.1

Some courses are just too advanced… The Legal Genealogist prefers to understand a little bit more of what the speaker is covering than “Hi, my name is … and the title of this presentation is…”2

It’s hard to find the course that’s just right — that covers enough of the basics to be sure we really do know what we think we know, but goes on to enough beyond the basics to force us out of our comfort zones into using new tools and new ways of thinking.

And so it’s a pleasure to be able to recommend, without reservation, the new DNA course from the National Genealogical Society: Understanding and Using DNA Test Results, presented by Angie Bush.

NGS DNA course

Just released this month in the NGS Learning Center, this new course reinforces our understanding of the basics but goes on all the way to and through using third party tools and solving recent unknown parentage cases. There’s a whole module on the ethical underpinnings of testing, and another just on writing up reports that include DNA results — and how to cite them.

The course begins, of course, with the basics — explaining the fundamentals of DNA and its role in genealogical research. Then it proceeds through an explanation of testing plans and types of tests before going into more detail on each of the major genealogical testing companies.

In all, there are 14 modules in this online course:

• Module 1—Overview and DNA Basics
• Module 2—DNA Testing Plans
• Module 3—Direct Line Testing
• Module 4—Autosomal DNA Testing
• Module 5—Using AncestryDNA
• Module 6—Using MyHeritage
• Module 7—Using 23andMe
• Module 8—Using FamilyTreeDNA
• Module 9—Using LivingDNA
• Module 10—Received Results!
• Module 11—Third Party Tools
• Module 12—Citations and Writing Reports
• Module 13—Ethics and Standards
• Module 14—Recent Unknown Parentage

Students can proceed through the modules at their own pace, and each module ends with a quick quiz to be sure the material has been mastered. Throughout the modules, the language used in the explanations is clear, the graphics helpful in understanding the concepts. Terms are defined when they might not be understood.

Those who aren’t total beginners may be able to move fairly quickly through the first few modules, but anyone who isn’t thoroughly familiar with every testing company will learn something new in the detailed descriptions of each company’s offerings, controls, and systems — and even folks who consider themselves advanced will pick up tips in the tools, writing, ethics and unknown parentage sections.

So… not too basic, not too advanced, for many of us just right.

And since it’s not easy to find the right DNA course… I mean, seriously? Right here in the middle of all the major gift-giving holidays? What better gift to give ourselves this holiday season than a solid educational foundation in this 21st century tool?

Understanding and Using DNA Test Results, presented by Angie Bush.

Highly recommended.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A holiday gift for ourselves,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 22 Dec 2019).


  1. See e.g. “Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), Father of Genetics,” DNA From The Beginning, DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory ( : accessed 22 Dec 2019).
  2. This happened to me once with a YDNA presentation. Seriously. And I was down front in the lecture hall, in the center, and so couldn’t escape. I had absolutely no clue what the speaker was talking about after the first sentence.
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