Review: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy
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Bettinger, Blaine T. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2016, 240 pages.
Why Another DNA Genealogy Book?
When The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy was published and the cover caught my attention, I was curious since there seem to be so many quick sheets and books about DNA on the market. But after reading it, I can tell you that what the author has created is way different than what I’ve encountered in the past.
The “guide” is comprehensive and will help every genealogist no matter what the level of DNA knowledge. From an overview of Genetic Genealogy Basics to advice on select the right test, Bettinger covers all the questions I had about DNA and genealogy.
And if you’ve already tested your DNA or that of a relative, the Analyzing and Applying Test Results section offers invaluable information such as Third-Party Autosomal-DNA Tools for interpreting results, to Ethnicity Estimates to Analyzing Complex Questions with DNA.
The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy features:
- Colorful diagrams and expert definitions that explain key DNA terms and concepts such as haplogroups and DNA inheritance patterns
- Detailed guides to each of the major kinds of DNA tests and which tests can solve which family mysteries, with case studies showing how each can be useful
- Information about third-party tools you can use to more thoroughly analyze your test results once you’ve received them
- Test comparison guides and research forms to help you select the most appropriate DNA test and organize your results and research
A Sneak Peak . . .
Here are some tips you’ll find in The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy[i]:
- Learn about your ancestors—both those who gave you DNA and those who didn’t. Genealogists study ancestors of all sorts, but not all of your genealogical ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.) are also genetic ancestors who passed down DNA to you. DNA testing can only give you information about your genetic family tree: the ancestors who contributed to your genetic makeup.
- Think more broadly when looking for testing candidates. If you’re struggling to find someone who can take a DNA test that will help you learn about a particular ancestor, look for any more distant relatives (such as second or third cousins) to test. While you might not have a living relative willing to take a DNA test on your branch of the family tree, your ancestor may have had a descendant through another family line that has the DNA you need to study.
- Don’t accept your ethnicity estimates as absolute fact. While the ethnicity estimates provided by testing companies can be interesting and somewhat informative, they’re just that: estimates that should be taken with a grain of salt. The ethnicity percentages in your results can be flawed due to a number of factors, including the size and distribution of the sample size for each continent or country. Furthermore, they likely won’t represent the ethnicity of all your genealogical ancestors, as the test only estimates the rough geographical background of ancestors who gave you a detectable amount of DNA.
- Download and analyze your raw data. Testing companies can provide you with interesting and important insights, but tools from many other websites and organizations can help you interpret your DNA results. Get your raw DNA data from the testing company, then look for third-party tools in which you can upload for data and receive a more detailed, multifaceted analysis.
The Perfect DNA Genealogy Book?
The author, Blaine T. Bettinger, begins The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by relating how he became “hooked” on genealogy as a child and then later on in college, with DNA testing and results interpretation. Bettinger’s journey is not unlike my own, or in fact that of many genealogists currently working to solve family history mysteries. As I continued reading, I knew that the author was someone I could relate to and his easy-to-understand description of complicated DNA terms would serve me well.
In fact, Bettinger makes it clear from the outset that The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy is intended for many different audiences from beginners to those who have dabbled in DNA testing (that’s me!) to more advanced genealogists looking to better understand their test results.
So far, I’ve used this “guide” to understand what I’ve done wrong in the past in terms of my DNA research and what I need to do in terms of testing others in my family in order to solve some of my family history mysteries.
There are very few titles on my book shelf in my genealogy office that I refer to constantly. I know that The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy will be one of those titles for years to come. I don’t think I could have made some of my recent progress in my research without the valuable information provided by a knowledgeable DNA like Blaine Bettinger.
About The Author: Blaine T. Bettinger
Blaine Bettinger Ph.D. (biochemistry), J.D. is an intellectual property attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC in Syracuse, New York, by day, and a genealogy educator and blogger by night. In 2007, he created The Genetic Genealogist, one of the first blogs devoted to genetic genealogy and personal genomics.
Blaine has written numerous DNA-related articles for the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, Family Tree Magazine, and other publications. He has been an instructor at the inaugural 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, Family Tree University, and Excelsior College (Albany, NY). He is a former editor of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy, and a co-coordinator of the ad hoc Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee. In 2015, he became an alumnus of ProGen Study Group 21 and was elected to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s Board of Trustees.
Blaine was born and raised in Ellisburg, NY, where his ancestors have lived for more than two hundred years, and is the father of two boys. You can find Blaine on his website and on Twitter (@blaine_5).
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©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.
Blog Post Description: Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger – everything you ever wanted to know about DNA and genetic genealogy but were afraid to ask!
[i] The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/guide-to-dna-testing-and-genetic-genealogy, accessed 15 September 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.