Minnesota Genealogical Society

North Star DNA Day Program

October 5, 2017

Join us Thursday, October 5, for a full day of learning about DNA testing for genealogy. Instructors Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG; J. H. Fonkert, CG; Lois Abromitis Mackin, Ph.D.; and John Vanek will discuss how you can use DNA tests to answer different kinds of genealogical questions. Featured topics will include the potential value of genetic testing, DNA basics, risks and ethics of testing, using autosomal tests, third-party tools, and how to keep up with changes in genetic genealogy. In addition to lecture-style presentations, you will have the opportunity to participate in two small-group discussions focusing on topics of particular interest to you (you’ll choose two topics after you register). This day will be most suitable for researchers beginning their genetic genealogy journey, as well as those who have done some testing.

Time Topic Instructor
8:30-9:00 a.m. Check in
9:00-9:45 a.m. Welcome
Understanding DNA: Genetic Fundamentals, Patterns of Inheritance, and Ethical Considerations

John Vanek, M.A.
9:45-10:00 a.m. BREAK
10:00-10:45 a.m. DNA: Adding Science to Your Genealogy Toolbox J. H. Fonkert, CG
10:45-11:00 a.m. BREAK
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. It’s All Relatives: Using Autosomal DNA Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG
12:00-1:00 p.m. LUNCH
1:00-2:00 p.m. Third-Party Tools: What They Are and Why You Should Know About Them Lois Abromitis Mackin, Ph.D.
2:00-2:15 p.m. BREAK
2:15-2:55 p.m. Small group work at tables, Round 1
Table topics:
  • Choosing a testing company/deciding whom to test
  • Working with autosomal DNA
  • Working with Y-DNA
  • Working with mitochondrial DNA
  • Working with X-DNA
  • Working with GEDmatch
  • Other third-party tools
  • Communicating/collaborating with your matches
Table facilitators
2:55-3:10 p.m. BREAK
3:10-3:50 p.m. Small group work at tables, Round 2 Table facilitators
3:50-4:10 p.m. Wrap up—Keeping Current with Developments in Genetic Genealogy All

North Star DNA Day Program Topics

Understanding DNA: Genetic Fundamentals, Patterns of Inheritance, and Ethical Considerations, John Vanek, M.A.
In this session, we will develop a better understanding of our own bio-chemistry. We’ll look in detail at what DNA is. What exactly is being tested when you spit in the tube? By the end, you should have a clearer understanding of common terms like autosomal, mitochondrial, haplogroup, and SNP. We’ll then touch on four different patterns of genetic inheritance that can help genealogists answer different kinds of questions. Finally, we will consider several ethical issues raised by genetic genealogy, including concerns about privacy.

DNA: Adding Science to Your Genealogy Toolbox, J. H. Fonkert, CG
Like other genealogy sources, DNA carries information about past events forward to us. As with any other source, genealogists must learn what it can and can't tell us. DNA is especially valuable when used to test specific relationship hypotheses. Your research question determines what kind of DNA will be most useful. A key to practical genetic genealogy is an understanding why DNA results may make two individuals to appear more or less closely related than they really are. DNA alone rarely answers a research question; it is usually necessary to blend DNA evidence with traditional evidence.

It's All Relatives: Using Autosomal DNA, Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG
The amazing world of DNA, when added to all the other genealogical tools, has the potential to unlock previously closed doors to our family's history. Autosomal DNA (FamilyFinder, AncestryDNA, DNA Relatives, etc.) results provide lists of people who share DNA segments with you. They shared ancestors with you possibly as far back as 5-6 generations on any of your ancestral lines. We will explore the steps for making use of your results to begin to identify shared ancestors. With specific examples, we will also explore how to develop a research strategy with that DNA test to knock on those previously unopened doors.

Third-Party Tools: What They Are and Why You Should Know About Them, Lois Abromitis Mackin, Ph.D.
Today’s genetic genealogists might test at one, two, three, or more testing companies, accumulating matches at each testing company. On- and offline tools created by developers independent of the testing companies (third-party tools) offer a way to consolidate matches and analyze data across testing companies. This session will focus primarily on GEDmatch, but will also provide a taste of two other tools, DNAGedcom and GenomeMate Pro.

Table topics

  • Choosing a testing company/deciding whom to test
  • Working with autosomal DNA
  • Working with Y-DNA
  • Working with X-DNA
  • Working with mitochondrial DNA
  • Working with GEDmatch
  • Other third-party tools
  • Communicating/collaborating with your matches

Wrap-up: Keeping Current with Developments in Genetic Genealogy, all

North Star DNA Day Speakers

Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG (research@newtrails.org), is a nationally-known family history researcher, writer, adult educator, and genetic genealogist. She is known for her publication Ancestry’s Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources (Provo, UT: Ancestry, Inc., 2003) and as a mentor to doctoral students in Education at Walden University.

J. H. Fonkert, CG
J. H. (Jay) Fonkert, CG (jfonkert@aol.com), is co-editor of Minnesota Genealogist and has published two articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, as well as dozens more in other publications. He has studied in both the practical and advanced genetic genealogy courses at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh.

Lois Abromitis Mackin, Ph.D. (lois@loismackin.com), is a professional genealogist focusing on American and English research. She has tested her DNA with Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and LivingDNA. Lois administers a DNA surname project and has completed both the practical and advanced genetic genealogy courses at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh.

John Vanek, M.A. (john@genealogicresearch.com), is a professional genealogist from the Twin Cities. Before becoming a genealogist, he worked as a researcher and writer for the Minnesota Historical Society and the Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. John specializes in using DNA to solve family mysteries and has experience researching many Midwestern ethnic groups.