Preparation is a key to success. When it comes to RootsTech, the largest genealogy conference in the world, it can make all the difference, especially if you’ve set specific goals you want to achieve at the conference. If one of your goals is to learn more about DNA testing and genetic genealogy, this guide is for you.
There are three reasons individuals test their DNA for genetic genealogy: 1) to learn ethnicity estimates, 2) to connect with genetic cousins for reunions or for information about their common heritage paper trail, and 3) to discover personal health information. There will be opportunities at this year’s RootsTech conference to learn all you need to make informed decisions for each of these scenarios.
RootsTech will offer over 40 sessions covering genetic genealogy ranging from beginning to advanced, some of which are pre-registration lab classes, to inform and educate participants on this timely topic. The Expo Hall will host five genetic genealogy companies who will have representatives available to answer your questions: 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage DNA. 23andMe is sponsoring the Demo Theater this year and will host a special presentation, “DNA User Experience Stories” with Angie Bush and Diane Southard on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at noon. Something new this year is the GeneRosity Registry, which is part of Intermountain Healthcare and a major sponsor this year. They seek to accelerate “genetic discoveries for future medical breakthroughs.” If you have already taken a direct-to-consumer DNA test and you are interested in advancing medical science, stop by Booth 2247 in the Expo Hall.
1. Create a list of your questions. First, write down any DNA questions you have at this point. When you have finished reading this post and its associated links, review your questions to see if you have discovered your answers. If not, organize them and bring them to RootsTech. You will then be prepared to ask these questions in any session where the presenter offers a question-and-answer period, or you can bring your questions to the Expo Hall to have your questions answered by representatives of the different DNA companies. Clear, concise, and thoughtful questions are always easier for the experts to answer.
2. Define your goals. For example, if you purchased a Getting Started pass, there are only 2 sessions that you may attend: “DNA User Experience Stories,” held Thursday at noon in the 23andMe Demo Theater and “Before You Test: DNA Basics You Need To Know” that also will be held on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in 155B. If you consider yourself technologically advanced, “Update to Third Party Autosomal DNA Analysis Tools” will be offered at 11 a.m. on Thursday. For the beginner and intermediate family historians, there are many sessions spread throughout the 4-day conference. (See the charts, one for each day, listing the DNA sessions at the end of this post.) Pre-registration for DNA lab sessions and sponsored lunches is required. There are still a few spots left in various sessions.
3. Become familiar with the 5 DNA companies represented in the Expo Hall. If you are planning to test your DNA as a result of what you learn at this conference, become familiar with the 5 DNA companies and what DNA tests are offered by each. Also learn about the legal notices for each company, such as their terms of service and privacy policies. Each company’s legal notices are different. Presenters have their own vested interests as employees, affiliates, and business owners and may only cover a portion of relevant material in any given session. Time is limited. Not all companies may be represented in each session you attend. Understanding the legal notices before coming to RootsTech frees you to make informed decisions at the conference. Most, if not all, companies will offer special pricing on their kits at the conference. Many individuals test with more than one company.
A Note About DNA Test Terms and Conditions
As individuals learn more about genetic genealogy, questions arise. Some of them are legal and are best answered by an attorney without a vested interest in the business of genetic genealogy or even within the genealogy community. Opinions vary throughout the genealogy community and beyond. Each company has its own terms of service and opportunities to opt in or opt out of research studies and to allow degrees for sharing your genetic information. One common question is, Who obtains the rights to my genetic information? It is a good question to ask each company you consider testing with because you must be comfortable with their answer.
For example, one company states,
“We do not claim any ownership rights in the DNA samples, the DNA Results and/or the genetic information in the DNA Reports. Any genetic information derived from the DNA samples, the DNA Results and/or appears in the DNA Reports continues to belong to the person from whom the DNA was collected, subject only to the rights granted to MyHeritage in this Agreement. In addition, you understand that by providing DNA samples and/or DNA Results to us, you acquire no rights in any research or commercial products that may be developed by us that may relate to your DNA.
We will, if requested by you, destroy the DNA sample provided by you. To request destruction of your DNA sample, please contact us using the contact details indicated in the “Contact Us” Section below. In addition, you can, at any time, delete your DNA Results and DNA Reports from the Website by using the delete function from the “Manage DNA kits” page on the Website, or request MyHeritage Customer Support to do this for you.
By submitting DNA samples to us and/or DNA Results to the Website, you grant us a royalty-free, world-wide license to use your DNA samples, the DNA Results and the resulting DNA Reports, and any DNA samples and/or DNA Results you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Section and the resulting DNA Reports, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis, to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered. You hereby release us from any and all claims, liens, demands, actions or suits in connection with the DNA testing, DNA samples, DNA Results and/or DNA Reports, including, without limitation, errors, omissions, claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity, emotional distress or economic loss. This section continues even if you stop using the Website or the DNA Services.” (“Terms and Conditions,” myheritage.com, emphasis added).
4. Create a DNA testing plan. Creating a DNA testing plan will provide focus, save you money, and give you the best chance of answering your research questions. Be familiar with each of the three DNA tests used for genealogical purposes, and be confident that the kit you order will answer the family history question you want answered. There are 3 tests offered for genealogical purposes:
Autosomal DNA, atDNA, is the collaborative DNA from all of your ancestors, male and female, that recombined to define you. It is the DNA from which your ethnic origin estimates are derived as far as scientists and others in related fields can currently determine. These estimates are subject to modification as the reference panels on which the results are based are modified. All 5 companies offer this test. Some companies identify matches to the X chromosome. One good question to ask each company is, How many SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) are tested by your company?  The more SNPs, the more comprehensive the results. This is the DNA test that assists you in finding living cousin matches with others who have tested.
Y-DNA is the DNA that defines paternal lineage and is inherited only by males; it is passed down from father to son. It provides positive identification of the biological paternal family and outlines the migration pattern of direct paternal ancestors (from son to father, etc.) as far as science can currently identify. It is defined on the top line of your traditional pedigree chart. It is a male-only test, so females must find a brother, father, brother of their father, or son of a brother to test for this information. Family Tree DNA is the only major company to offer this as an independent test for genealogical purposes. There are also many surname projects administered through Family Tree DNA.
Mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA, is the DNA inherited by all of a mother’s children, but passed on only to the next generation by females. It identifies the maternal migration pattern (from son or daughter to mother, etc.) as far as science can currently identify. It is defined on the bottom line of your traditional pedigree chart. Family Tree DNA is the only major company to offer full sequencing of the mitochondrial genome for genealogical purposes.
DNA results are just another source, like vital records, censuses, probate or land records. They can assist in extracting one’s biological heritage. It is important to note that a DNA test may or may not provide the answer to your question, or it may provide an answer that leaves you or others in your family uncomfortable. Expectations of extending your lineage must be managed. Not all individuals who take a DNA test find generations of ancestors. Many online trees contain misinformation, and DNA testing is not a short cut to obtain a verified pedigree. In addition, an individual must be prepared to accept that an identified living cousin through DNA may not want to have contact or establish a relationship with the one tested.
Genetic genealogy is an exciting and developing field. It can provide answers to family mysteries. It has brought joy to many and sorrow to a few. It is a topic worth learning about so you can make an educated decision about how DNA testing can potentially help you strengthen your family relationships among the living and add to your family tree.
Not registered for RootsTech? There’s still time. Check out the website.
 MyHeritage. “Terms and Conditions”. (https://www.myheritage.com/FP/Company/popup-terms-conditions.php: accessed February 12, 2018)
“A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP, pronounced snip) is a DNA sequence variation occurring when a single nucleotide adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), or guanine (G]) in the genome (or other shared sequence) differs between members of a species or paired chromosomes in an individual.” International Society of Genetic Genealogy. “Single-nucleotide polymorphism”. (http://isogg.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism: accessed February 12, 2018).
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is a global conference celebrating families across generations, where people of all ages are inspired to discover and share their memories and connections. This annual event has become the largest of its kind in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants worldwide.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official ambassador to the RootsTech Conference and, as such, I am provided complimentary admission and other services to accomplish my duties. Nevertheless, I have been with RootsTech since its inception and with its predecessor for many years as a paid participant. As always, my coverage and opinions are my own and are not affected by my current status. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Copyright © 2018. Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.