Review: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy – everything you ever wanted to know about DNA and genetic genealogy but were afraid to ask!

Review: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

[Editor’s Note: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy workbook is available in paperback format and right now you can get it at a 35% savings, for only $22.99 PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS16 at checkout, you’ll save an additional 15%, making the price just $19.54!]

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.

What’s Inside

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]:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©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.

 

Review: Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith – learn how to invest in organizing your genealogy now so you have more time to find ancestors later!

[Editor’s Note: Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher is available in print as well as in e-book format and right now you can get it at a 27% savings, for only $18.99. PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS16 at checkout, you’ll save an additional 15%!]

Smith, Drew. Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2016, 239 pages.

I thought I was pretty well-organized when it came to my own genealogy and family history research: I have a research toolbox online, I use a genealogy research log, etc. But in his new book Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher, author Drew Smith opened my eyes to new areas that require focus and action when it comes to getting stuff “in order.”

A Well-Organized Book on Organizing

Full disclosure: I know Drew Smith personally and not only is he a good author, but a great guy and someone you definitely want to know in the genealogy world. My first look at the table of contents for Organize Your Genealogy told me right away that Drew is “walking the walk” when it comes to getting organized!

The author has chapters that include Organizing Your Space, Organizing Your Goals, Organizing Your Files and even Organizing Your Learning and Organizing Your Volunteering. Drew understands that the more organized you are, the more time you save and that time can be spent on finding those elusive ancestors.

A Book that Respects Different Work Habits

I’ve always said that one method of organization that works for me may not work for another person. It is much like being on a diet to lose weight: if it is a challenge and works counter to your lifestyle, then you won’t stick to it.

In Organize Your Genealogy, for each area of focus on getting organized, Drew honors that some of us are techies who prefer apps and spreadsheets, while others prefer paper and color coded filing systems. Every type of genealogist can find some new ways to get organized since the author has covered almost every possible area.

Example: I never thought about the importance of keeping my emails and other communications organized. In the Organizing Your Communication chapter, Drew covers labels and tags, archiving, creating automatic signatures and more.

Downloadable Templates

One of the best features of this book is access to a variety of worksheet templates to download including Ancestral Village Worksheet, Five Generation Ancestor Chart, Family Group Sheet and a Genealogy Conference Day Planner. There’s no need to “recreate the wheel” and you can get started organizing your genealogy right away with these tools.

What’s Inside

Organize Your Genealogy features:

  • Secrets to developing the organized habits that will maximize your research time and progress
  • Hints for setting up the right physical and online workspaces
  • Proven, useful systems for organizing paper and electronic documents
  • Tips for managing genealogy projects and goals
  • The best tools for organizing every aspect of your ancestry research
  • Checklists and worksheets you can use to easily apply the book’s strategies

A Sneak Peak . . .

Here are some tips you will find in Organize Your Genealogy[i]:

  1. Organize yourself first. Genealogy is a mental game, but you need to pay attention to both your mental and physical needs to be productive. Keep yourself hydrated and well fed, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. And once you’ve done that, note at which time of the day you’re most productive and start building your genealogy routine around it to set yourself up for success.
  2. Keep the most important items close. When organizing your physical and digital workspaces, make sure you’re positioning frequently used items (such as important atlases or a particular ancestor’s file) close to you. This will help you cut through the clutter to find the items or files you really need during research.
  3. Turn your research into a gift. Need more motivation? Create birthday, wedding or anniversary gifts from your hard-earned research (such as photo albums or decorative family trees). In addition to giving yourself purpose and a concrete deadline, making a gift will also show your appreciation for family and friends and maybe even get them hooked on genealogy.
  4. Make specific goals. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Before you dive into research, make a list of specific things you hope to accomplish and brainstorm some ways you can do so.

Here is the book trailer for Organize Your Genealogy[ii]:

Conclusion

You can never be too rich or too thin. Or too organized. Organization skills are the new timesaver in genealogy. A well-organized genealogist knows where he or she “left off” on the last round of research and can achieve amazing results in finding ancestors. Organize Your Genealogy has everything you need to get started – you just need to take the first step!

About The Author: Drew Smith

Drew Smith is a librarian at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has an extensive career in education, information technology and genealogy. He has written numerous articles for national genealogy magazines, especially on using technology for genealogical research. He is the co-host of The Genealogy Guys Podcast, named one of the best genealogy blogs or websites four times by Family Tree Magazine. Drew is the co-author of Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques (McGraw-Hill, 2013) and author of Social Networking for Genealogists (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009). He lives near Tampa, Florida, with his husband, George, and a number of cats.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

[i] Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/organize-your-genealogy, accessed 10 June 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.

[ii] Organize Your Genealogy Book Trailer (https://youtu.be/fJoNE8_UVlE, accessed 10 June 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.

 

 

Review: Military Record Retrieval Service from Twisted Twigs

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews the Military Records Retrieval service provided by Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy.

[Editor’s Note: make sure you check out the special offer at the end of this review – a special discount for fans and followers of GeneaBloggers on the Military Record Retrieval Service from Twisted Twigs!]

Professional genealogist Deidre Erin Denton, through her website Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy, offers a Military Record Retrieval Service that can actually save you time and money! I am always interested when someone in our industry develops a new product or service so I contact Deidre for more information. As a result of our conversations, not only did I learn more about her records retrieval service, I also received a few sample pension files AND I managed to put together a discount for fans and friends of GeneaBloggers!

If you don’t know Deidre or her involvement in genealogy, click here to read her story. I love the fact that she saw an opportunity not just as a business owner, but also as a way to help genealogists get the records they need at a lower price and on a faster timeline!

Military Records Retrieval Service – How It Works

You can order a US Civil War Pension, for example, from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For $80, you receive the first 100 pages of the file and pay $0.70 per page after the first 100. In addition, you receive a photocopy (in black and white) in the mail after a 3 to 6 month wait during which time you receive no update from NARA as to progress.

By using the Military Records Retrieval service from Twisted Twigs, you pay only $65 for a complete pension and receive digitized color images in PDF format within 60 days. In addition, you will receive updates along the way as to progress made in the retrieval process.

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews the Military Records Retrieval service provided by Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy.

How to Order

In order to take advantage of this deal from Twisted Twigs, visit http://twistedtwigsgenealogy.com/geneabloggers/ and use the payment button at the bottom of the page. You can pay using Paypal or with a Check or Money Order.

First, you must have basic soldier service information or pension index card information in order for a search to be successful. Then email the information to Twisted Twigs and make payment. Within 24 hours, you will receive a confirmation email stating that your order has been accepted.

In addition, what if there are problems in locating your records? Here is what Deidre has posted on her site: “On the slim chance NARA cannot locate your ancestor’s pension file, you may request another veteran’s file or receive a full refund. We also resubmit requests a few days after a request is returned as ‘file not found’. The file may have been overlooked, we were helped by ‘lazy puller’, or perhaps a new tech was in training.  A second submission usually receives results… or it’s really lost.”

What Can You Expect?

I have had the opportunity to review several actual pension files that were retrieved for clients. The PDF files were easy to download, clear and the fact that they are in COLOR (and not black and white) makes a big difference.

As for the content, I always find pension files to be great finds and to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “like a box of chocolates.” You really never know what you will find!

In the samples provided to me, I saw affidavits related to marriages, military service and more. I saw marriage certificates, letters from family members and even neighbors, and much more. Not only do these records help document military service, but very often I have discovered the marriage and birth info needed for spouses and children.

Conclusion

When you cannot make it to NARA to pull pension files, use a competent records retrieval service like the one provided by Deidre at Twisted Twigs. It is obvious from the sample files that Deidre know how to locate these files and get them into your hands as soon as possible. Also click here to read the many testimonials about the Military Records Retrieval service and you will see how Deidre is invested in making sure you succeed when it comes to accessing these military records.

Special Offer for GeneaBloggers Fans and Followers

Right now, place your order for Military Records Retrieval at Twisted Twigs and get a special price of just $65 per file. This special promotion expires on May 31. 2016 when the price will rise. Visit http://twistedtwigsgenealogy.com/geneabloggers/ for more information.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.