Jim Sims

Making genetic genealogy more understandable...

I speak on the topic of genetic genealogy. To see a list of talks I offer, my speaking schedule, and a list of organizations I have spoken to, use the link to my Speaking page.

I'm a regular attendee and frequent speaker at the Oakland County Genealogical Society DNA SIG, which meets more or less quarterly at the Highland Township Public Library in Highland, Michigan on Saturday mornings from 10-11:30AM. The address is 444 Beach Farm Circle, Highland MI 48356. If you plan to attend, please register for a meeting using the Highland Township Library calendar/registration system, so there are plenty of chairs and tables. All are welcome, and the meetings are free to attend. The topics for my presentations at the meetings are chosen to help advance a better understanding of genetic genealogy concepts and techniques with a secondary emphasis on specialty software tools. Judy Nimur Muhn, a professional genealogist, provides the leadership for this group.

Genealogists living in the twenty-first century are the first generation to have access to DNA records for ancestry. There are several different types of DNA records, and each record gives you different information. Like traditional genealogy records, there is a learning curve associated with each DNA record type. Those who learn to use DNA records are in a position to make discoveries not possible before.

To improve your genetic genealogy skills, there is no substitute for practice, practice, practice.


The three types of DNA records correspond to the three types of DNA that can be analyzed for ancestry. Those DNA types are mtDNA, Y-DNA and autosomal DNA. mtDNA is an abbreviation for mitochondrial DNA, which is DNA everyone possess, but we inherit this type of DNA only from our biological mother. Y-DNA is an abbreviation for Y-chromosome DNA, which is DNA only males have and it is passed from biological fathers to biological sons. Everyone has autosomal DNA, and we get half of this type of DNA from each of our biological parents. By understanding the inheritance pattern for each type of DNA, you will be in a position to choose the right type of DNA testing to answer your genealogical question(s). To learn more, take a look at the DNA inheritance page.

If you need motivation to get started practicing your genetic genealogy skills, take up the challenge of understanding your fifty closest DNA matches (autosomal) that you did not test. If you don't understand how the first fifty people on your match list are related to you, you have much to learn about your family. Understanding your closest matches is a good way to avoid working in the traditional genealogical records on the wrong ancestral lines. It is common to find at least one family member at the great-grandparent level or closer who has a different biological relationship than is suggested by traditional genealogical sources.

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