DNA Launch Pad

Welcome to the DNA Launch Pad at Ventura County Genealogical Society (VCGS), a page for DNA-related links and information. The DNA Launch Pad is designed to get you started, or help you out of a confusing corner. Here you will find introductory material for newcomers to DNA for genealogy, and also reference material for more advanced genetic genealogists. While this list could contain many hundreds of links, efforts have been made to keep this reference to a manageable size and to provide a curated list of links and references. The reader is encouraged to further explore this complex topic via the many avenues below; and is invited to join us at a future VCGS DNA SIG meeting!

Table of Contents


Companies for Genetic Genealogy

Some companies have been offering direct-to-consumer autosomal DNA tests for genealogy since as early as 2007. (Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests were available even earlier.) Although some include health aspects, we at VCGS are focused on genealogy aspects. As of early 2021, there are four major players and one up-and-coming vendor; these five are listed below, in order of database size.

CompanyDatabase Size*Latest News
AncestryDNA19,000,000AncestryDNA to be acquired by The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm [Aug 2020].
23andMe12,000,00023andMe will merge with VG Acquisition Corp (VGAC), a special acquisition company (SPAC) [Feb 2021].
MyHeritageDNA4,500,000MyHeritage to be acquired by Francisco Partners, a private equity firm [Feb 2021].
FamilyTreeDNA1,400,000FamilyTreeDNA and parent company Gene by Gene to merge with MyGene [Jan 2021].
LivingDNA300,000

* Database size estimates are taken from ISOGG Comparison Chart as of January 2021.


Jump-Start for Beginners

We understand that DNA for genealogy can be overwhelming when one is starting out. Here are some links to get you started step-by-step, and a couple of places to get your questions answered.

WebsiteAbout
FamilySearch Wiki DNA BasicsThis portal to DNA Resources on the Family Search Wiki is a good introduction.
Genetic Genealogy StandardsThese Standards are important reading for beginning genetic genealogists; they were created by a committee including genealogists, genetic genealogists, and scientists, then published on 10 Jan 2015. 
DNA Newbie Facebook GroupA Facebook Group where newbies can ask questions; has about 16,100 members as of April 2021.
DNA Newbie on Groups.ioA Groups.io Group where newbies can ask questions; has about 350 members as of April 2021.

Books

These two books should both be part of your reference library for genetic genealogy. Check them out from your local library, or purchase your own copy from the VCGS Book Table.

BookAbout
The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy; Blaine T. Bettinger; First Edition 2016; Second Edition 2019This is the favorite reference of the VCGS DNA SIG. Chock-full of information, and plenty of charts and diagrams to illustrate complex topics, this is an excellent reference for newbies and experienced researchers alike.
The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are; Libby Copeland; 2020Libby Copeland is a journalist who encountered a compelling story in genetic genealogy. The narrative tells the story of several individuals and their DNA journeys, and is interspersed with technical explanations and detail. The book is a smooth read, instructive, and enjoyable.

Bloggers

Change is rapid in the DNA field, and it requires more than reading hard-copy books to stay current on the latest developments. Following a few selected bloggers is a good way to keep up-to-date. The list below consists of bloggers who post regularly about DNA-related topics. All of them are also often found presenting at Conferences and Institutes, so you can depend on them to know what they are talking about! Although the list seems daunting, each blogger has a different focus; we recommend that the reader choose two or three to follow, based on your research interests.

BlogBloggerAbout
DNAeXplainedRoberta EstesRoberta Estes posts about DNA, genealogy, and her own family genealogy journey. She is a strong proponent of genetic genealogy, and her blog contains many explanatory posts, filled with details and illustrations. The DNA posts on this blog are recommended both to read when published, and also to return to for later reference.
The Legal GenealogistJudy G. RussellJudy Russell posts almost every day, reserving Sunday for posts about DNA and genealogy. She is a wonderful speaker and writer, and her posts are always insightful and well-researched. 
The DNA GeekLeah LarkinLeah Larkin does not call her blog “The DNA Geek” for no reason. There are lots of posts with detailed analysis, charts, and figures. She is the author of the “What Are the Odds (WATO)” tool on the DNA Painter site. Highly recommended, particularly when you have a challenging DNA puzzle to solve.
Cruwys NewsDebbie KennettDebbie Kennett is based in the U.K., and has published two books on genealogy and genetic genealogy. Her blog posts are rigorous and scholarly, and highly recommended.
SegmentologyJim BartlettJim Bartlett is a well-known speaker on DNA topics; his blog “Segmentology” focuses on segment triangulation.
Lara’s JewnealogyLara DiamondLara Diamond’s blog has many posts on DNA; often focused on Ashkenszi Jewish heritage and similar issues of endogamy.
Kitty Cooper’s BlogKitty Munson CooperKitty Cooper’s areas of focus are Scandinavian DNA heritage, unknown parentage cases, Ashkenazi Jewish DNA heritage, and issues of endogamy. She also posts the occasional and well-received “how-to.”
Through the TreesShannon ChristmasShannon Christmas’ own description of his blog reads, “A didactic guide to new tools and technologies for genealogy.” His blog posts often spotlight African-American issues related to DNA and genealogy.
Genealem’s Genetic GenealogyEmily AulicinoEmily Aulicino is a speaker, blogger, and author – she has published “Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond” in 2013. She blogs exclusively on genetic genealogy, and keeps her readers current with the latest DNA news.
Dana Leeds’ BlogDana LeedsDana Leeds is the creator of “The Leeds Method” and her blog is a wonderful resource for tips and tricks on how to maximize this technique. Many recent cluster analysis tools are based on the Leeds Method, but the method itself can be done with pencil and paper, or a spreadsheet.
DNA and Family Tree ResearchMaurice GleesonMaurice Gleeson is an in-demand speaker who focuses on Irish heritage and Y-DNA. He organizes the annual conference “Genetic Genealogy Ireland.” In addition to his blog posts, you can find links to many of his previous lectures on his YouTube channel.
The Genetic GenealogistBlaine T. BettingerBlaine Bettinger’s blog is infrequently updated, although he is still very active in DNA circles. This blog link is provided because there are still valuable resources on the blog page, such as X-Match charts, and the Shared CentiMorgan Project.

Facebook Groups

Occasionally, you want the opportunity to ask a question or engage in a discussion. Active user communities like these Facebook Groups can help. There are literally dozens of Facebook Groups dedicated to DNA and genealogy – below are a selected few listed in order of membership size. Please note all these groups are private; therefore, you must request to join.

Facebook GroupMembers*About
Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques70,200A Facebook Group started by Blaine Bettinger to discuss Tips and Techniques for Genetic Genealogy. 
ISOGG Facebook Group19,300A Facebook Group supporting interactive discussion among ISOGG members. 
DNA Newbie Facebook Group16,100A Facebook Group where newbies can ask questions.

* Facebook Group membership numbers are taken from the groups themselves as of April 2021.


Conferences & Societies

Even after utilizing all the above resources, perhaps you just want to talk to someone face-to-face. Participating in a Society, or attending a Conference, is great for this. Here we will highlight just one local Conference, and one local Society, but by now (2021) all the regular genealogy Conferences and Institutes have a DNA track and DNA-focused lectures. Attend any Conference or Society close to you and immerse yourself in DNA for a day, a weekend, or a week!

Conference / SocietyLocationAbout
Genealogy JamboreeBurbank, CaliforniaHosted in Burbank by the Southern California Genealogical Society, this conference has two separate events: a DNA Conference and a Genealogy Conference (which includes DNA topics). Drive down US101 or take the Amtrak, but head south to Burbank for this fabulous DNA Conference, held in late May / early June every year.
RootsTechSalt Lake City, UtahRootsTech, sponsored by FamilySearch, was held virtually in February 2021, but the sessions are available free online for an entire year! Check them out!
Ventura County Genealogical Society DNA SIGVentura, CaliforniaYes, that’s right, we are tooting our own horn. Everyone is welcome to join the Society and participate in the DNA discussions.

Third-Party Tools

These tools can be confusing and difficult to keep straight, particularly for beginning genetic genealogists. The tools are listed here in alphabetical order.

Tool / WebsiteOriginatorAbout
Borland GeneticsKevin BorlandBorland Genetics is a DNA database, where users upload their results from a DNA vendor. Users are encouraged to upload relatives’ results as well, to allow for phasing, thereby increasing matching accuracy. The goal is to reconstruct an ancestors’ DNA, based on all kits which relate to that ancestor. Both free and premium tools are offered.
David Pike utilitiesDavid PikeDavid Pike’s utilities are designed for processing unzipped autosomal files from Family Tree DNA and/or 23andMe. They were originally designed for personal, not public, use. Ten different utlities are listed; explore for yourself. Free.
DNA2TreeDavid NealDNA2Tree for your iPhone finds common ancestors, analyzes clusters, builds a birth family tree. Subscription.
DNAgedcomRob WarthenDNAgedcom offers a suite of utilities, all based on the DNAgedcom Client. The utilities perform advanced analysis on one’s DNA match data. Subscription.
DNA CentralBlaine T. BettingerDNA Central is an education website, offering self-guided courses, a newsletter, and a video library. Subscription.
DNA PainterJonny PerlDNA Painter offers a suite of tools, including, but not limited to: chromosome mapper, shared cM tool, and What are the Odds (WATO). Both free and premium tools are offered.
Double Match TriangulatorLouis KesslerThe Double Match Triangulator is a DNA analysis tool which you download to your computer. The result is a spreadsheet which displays segment triangulations. Paid license (free trial available).
GEDmatchCurtis Rogers and John Olson; currently owned by VerogenGEDmatch is a DNA database, where users upload their results from a DNA vendor. Primary advantages are the opportunity to gather matches from sites where you have not tested; the chance to see segment data for Ancestry matches; and the large suite of utilities available for working with your data. Both free and premium tools are offered.
Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT)Rebecca WalkerThe GDAT, formerly known as GenomeMatePro, is software that you download to your computer. It is intended to help you manage match data from single or multiple vendors. Several utilities are available to assist with analysis. It relies on the DNAgedcom Client (see above) to download your data for import into the GDAT. Free; donations accepted.
Genetic AffairsEvert-Jan BlomGenetic Affairs offers a suite of tools, including, but not limited to cluster analysis. You must provide your login details, and you will then receive the cluster analysis in your email. Micropayments.
HAPl-DNAresearchers at Cornell UniversityHAPl-DNA offers a suite of tools which perform taks such as reconstruct raw data for one parent, or detect whether half-siblings or grandparent-grandchild pairs are related through their mother or father. Free; donations accepted.
James Lick mtDNA haplogroup AnalysisJames LickJames Lick offers mtDNA haplogroup Analysis, which aims to further refine one’s mitochondrial haplogroup from a 23andMe autosomal test. Free.
Morley DNAChris MorleyMorleyDNA offers a Y-SNP Subclade Predictor, which aims to extract Y-DNA from an autosomal test. Free.
Your DNA FamilyAndreas WestYour DNA Family is software that you download to your computer. Their goal is to automate many tasks and make it easier to work with your matches. It currently works only with 23andMe matches. Subscription.
Y-DNA Haplogroup Predictor (NEVGEN)Milos Cetkovic Gentula and Aco NevskiNEVGEN aims to further refine one’s Y-DNA haplogroup prediction. Free.
Y-DNA Family Grouping AppChase AshleyThe Y-DNA Family Grouping App is intended for Y-DNA Project Administrators on FamilyTreeDNA, to assist in grouping project members. Free.

Online DNA Reference Sources

When you are searching for more information than is available on this page, check out any of the following top-level references.

Resource Link
ISOGG Wiki
Cyndi’s List DNA
FamilySearch Wiki DNA Basics

This page last updated 11 Apr 2021, Teri Reynolds.