DNA Foundations – Tools and Techniques

Instructor: Edward J. Swierczewski Jr.
Dates offered: Saturdays, April 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th
Time: 8:00 am – 11:00 am PT/11:00 am – 2:00 pm ET
Cost: $300
Registration: 19-25 January 2024

Course Description: This course is for people who need to learn how to use foundational level DNA tools and techniques.  This course is for those who manage their own kits and who also manage other people’s kits.  The need for basic DNA knowledge and skill sets grows as we want to take advantage of the many of resources and tools available, thereby facilitating your own or your client’s genealogical goals. 

DNA Foundations – Tools and Techniques begins with the basics: the different types of DNA and their inheritance patterns, properly interpreting admixture (ethnicity) estimates, identifying and grouping matches, and assigning results as maternal and/or paternal, i.e., phasing.

The tools currently provided by each of the major testing companies will be reviewed, as well as several third-party tools.  A portion of each course session will also cover topics such as: ethical issues, informed consent, Terms of Service (TOS), BCG standards referencing DNA, The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG), and related issues.  By providing the solid “how to” on using the tools and techniques, facilitating best practices, and acquainting learners with cutting edge research and issues, this course will equip the participants with real world knowledge and skills that can be immediately applied to their specific needs and goals.  

Prerequisites: This course has no educational or experience prerequisites, but learners must have the results from a DNA kit, preferably their own, accessible to use during the course, and have basic computer skills to access the internet.

Required subscription websites and course materials: The websites we will visit do not have any costs associated with them.

Required reading: Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne, Genetic Genealogy in Practice (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2016).  New, used, or borrowed – your choice.


  • Understand the principles of how several DNA tools work.
  • Gain hands-on experience using several DNA tools and interpreting their results.
  • Review and apply some of the BCG standards that reference DNA issues.
  • Explore ethical issues involving DNA testing, informed consent, TOS, and privacy concerns.
  • Learn how to break down brick walls and advance your own or your client’s genealogical goals.

Course Outline
(Subject to Change)

Session 1:

  • Introductions
  • Lecture: Autosomal DNA, Inheritance Patterns
  • Tools and Techniques: Match List Grouping I – In Common With Tools
  • In-Class Exercise
  • Lecture: BCG Genealogical Proof Standard, Ethical Issues
  • In-Class Exercise
  • Lecture: DNA Segments, Phasing
  • Tools and Techniques: Identifying Parental Lines – Auto and Visual Phasing Tools
  • In-Class Exercise
  • Homework Assignment

Session 2:

  • Review of Homework
  • Lecture: Clustering Methods
  • Tolls and Techniques: Match List Grouping II – Leeds Method & Automatic Clustering Tools
  • In-class exercise
  • Lecture: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), Terms of Service (TOS)
  • In-class exercise
  • Lecture: Admixture Benefits and limitations
  • Tools and Techniques: Admixture (Ethnicity) Estimates – Using Estimate Maps and Comparison Charts
  • In-class exercise
  • Homework Assignment

Session 3:

  • Review of Homework
  • Lecture: DNA Reconstruction
  • Tools and Techniques: Match List Grouping III – Chromosome Browsers & Chromosome Mapping Tools
  • In-class exercise
  • Lecture: Informed Consent, Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG)
  • In-class exercise
  • Lecture: Mitochondrial DNA
  • Tools ad Techniques: Mitochondrial DNA – mt-DNA Tests and Match Lists, Haplogroups and Tools
  • In-Class exercise
  • Homework Assignment

Session 4:

  • Review of Homework
  • Lecture: Y-DNA
  • Tools and Techniques: Y-DNA – Y-DNA Tests, Match Lists, Haplogroups and Tools
  • In-Class exercise
  • Lecture: Best Practices: Security Protocols, General DNA Issues
  • In-Class exercise
  • Lecture: X-DNA, Combining DNA Data
  • Tools and Techniques: Creating Genetic Trees – Putting all of the DNA data together
  • In-Class exercise
  • Homework Assignment and Course Wrap-up