23 Best Tips for DNA Testing and Family History

DNA testing for family history is becoming wildly popular. Television advertisements, talk shows, books, and even FaceBook are filled with stories of big family discoveries using DNA. Once you decide to get your DNA tested, you will likely have many questions.

These questions include:

  • Which DNA test is right for me or my family member?
  • Which DNA test is better: AncestryDNA, 23andMe or Family Tree DNA?
  • How do I use “matches” to locate other relatives connected through DNA?

23 Best Tips for DNA Testing and Family History answers many of these questions and more. The various tips were selected after listening to hundreds of people’s questions during live workshops and webinars. The 23 tips for DNA testing are split into sections on autosomal DNA, X-DNA, Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and additional tips. There’s even a bonus tip at the end!

23 Best Tips for DNA Testing and Family History can be read cover to cover whether you are a “newbie” or just need a refresher. If you have a very specific question, you can easily find the tips related to your question. 

Other features of the book include: a Resource List that can be used to seek additional information on DNA-related topics; easy-to-understand explanations of terminology used in DNA testing; and advice on the best methods to get results from your DNA testing for family history.

DNA testing connects us with relatives interested in family history. Maybe you’ll meet those cousins you heard about when you were a kid . . . but never met until a DNA test united you. Or maybe you’ll break through a brick wall in your family history research. You might even discover your birth parent or the birth parent of a loved one. It’s amazing what can be done with DNA testing!

Additional DNA Tools and Concepts Boot Camp

Have you been using the information learned about autosomal DNA in the Getting Started with DNA and Genealogy Boot Camp?  Or maybe you missed the first boot camp, but you have a basic understanding of using DNA for genealogy research.  Are you ready to advance to new tools such as those offered on the free website, GEDMatch?  GEDMatch has additional tools for analyzing your DNA results.  It also lets you find new matches! And what about using other types of DNA test such as Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and X-DNA in your research?  Additional DNA Tools and Concepts Boot Camp is probably the perfect way to learn more about DNA testing and genealogy.

Join DNA expert Mary Eberle for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts! 

GEDMatch - Powerful Tools for Analyzing DNA Results and Finding New DNA Matches.

GEDMatch is a free, third-party website offering additional tools to interpret your DNA results. Tools include a chromosome browser. GEDMatch accepts DNA test results from Ancestry, FTDNA, and 23andMe. It can be a great way to find new matches. Learn how to use this helpful website.

Using Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and X-DNA for Genealogy Research.

Understanding when these types of DNA can help (and when they won’t) is crucial. Learn how these types of DNA can be used to answer your genealogy questions.

Recorded April 22, 2017

Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp

Have you ever wanted to earn extra money to support your “genealogy habit” or any other hobby? Maybe you want to supplement your income in order to further your education or upgrade computer equipment? Perhaps you even want to set up a part-time or full-time online business in the genealogy field or some other field? Affiliate marketing may be the perfect resource for your goals.

Come join genealogy marketing expert Thomas MacEntee as he offers a unique education event: Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp!

You’ll learn from the leading affiliate marketer in the genealogy and family history sector how you can earn money online to cover your hobby expenses or even as a new business! You’ll receive over 3 hours of educational content videos, handouts and freebies for one low price:

The Basics of Affiliate Marketing Learn the basics of selecting the right affiliate marketing program for your needs, registering and getting quick approval. The main focus will be on how to generate ads, banners and links to ensure that you get credit for any and all purchases made through your links. In addition, we’ll discuss practices that violate most affiliate marketing terms of service and how to avoid getting “booted” from programs. Finally, we’ll discuss income and tax issues related to affiliate marketing as well as how to track performance of your affiliate links.

Creative Affiliate Marketing Campaigns and Methods Learn the most tried and true marketing techniques for most affiliate marketing programs. Also learn the secret tricks that affiliate marketers use – all legal and within the program terms of service – to boost their sales and income. We’ll cover email marketing, lead magnets/lead pages, freebies, cookies and more!

Begging for Spit: Encouraging Others to Test

Begging for Spit:  Encouraging Others to Test
Presented by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.
One of the biggest challenges facing genealogists is asking family members and non-genealogists to undergo DNA testing. Together we’ll examine novel and interactive ways to encourage participation by making these individuals stakeholders in DNA testing.

DNA & Health: What Can You Really Discover?

DNA & Health: What Can You Really Discover?
Presented by Mary Eberle, J.D.
Health information available through DNA testing has changed dramatically. Current options include DNA testing companies and third-party websites. But what can you really discover? Understanding the basics of how DNA influences diseases is crucial.  It provides a better understanding of how informative DNA testing can be. We’ll explore available tests, third-party websites, and genetic impacts on diseases.

Finding Birth Families Using DNA Boot Camp

Every day, adoptees and other with unknown parents, such as foundlings, donor-conceived individuals, and others are able to find their birth families with DNA testing. DNA is a powerful tool that can be used to find a birth father, for example.

Typically, after someone has their DNA tested at one of the DNA testing companies, distant relatives are found, such as second, third, or fourth cousins. From this, family trees are built “up” to grandparents, great grandparents, and further back.  Overlap in the matches’ trees are found, oftentimes using “Mirror Trees.” Then, trees are built “down” to include all discoverable descendants of those ancestors.

Join DNA expert Mary Eberle for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts!  This online education event is intended for people searching for their own biological parents and those with parents or ancestors who were adopted or otherwise have unknown parents.


  • Using DNA for Adoption & Unknown Parentage Work: In many states, adoptees have no or limited rights to information on their birth families. This is why DNA is important for many adoptees looking for their birth families. Learn techniques and resources for adoptees and others with unknown parents.
  • Adoption & Unknown Parentage Case Studies: This webinar describes two case studies of adoptees. Both used DNA to find their birth families. Learn the steps required for each case.

Recorded November 18, 2017

Getting Started with DNA and Genealogy Boot Camp

Have you taken one or more DNA test, but really haven’t made an effort to start using the information for genealogy research? Also, are you sure you used the right type of DNA test or the best DNA testing vendor?

Lately, so much has changed in the DNA landscape. If one of your genealogy goals is to really “up your DNA genealogy game” and make a solid commitment to using DNA and connect with other testers then the Getting Started with DNA and Genealogy Boot Camp is for you!

Join DNA expert Mary Eberle of DNA Hunters for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts!

Introduction to Using DNA for Genealogy Research
Presented by: Mary Eberle

Want to start using DNA for genealogy research but want guidance on the best approach? Received your DNA results and want a better understanding of them? This talk covers DNA basics, available tests, where to test, and how to develop your DNA testing plan.


Using Autosomal DNA for Genealogy Research
Presented by:  Mary Eberle

Autosomal DNA (atDNA) provides the most useful information for most genealogists.  Learn how to analyze your atDNA test results and how to find common ancestors with your DNA matches. 

Recorded January 13, 2018

Interpreting Your AncestryDNA Results

Have you tested your DNA with Ancestry and received your results? Are you confused not only by what they mean, but how to use them as part of your genealogy research? To be honest, I’m in the same boat! I tested back when the AncestryDNA test was in “beta” testing and I really haven’t put the results to use. I really want to not only understand my ethnic breakdown but also how to make the results part of my family history research.

Join DNA expert Mary Eberle of DNA Hunters for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts with Interpreting Your AncestryDNA Results Boot Camp!

AncestryDNA: AncestryDNA has the largest database of people tested, helpful tools for analyzing your DNA test results, and many family trees posted by people who’ve tested. Learn how to interpret your DNA results from Ancestry.

Ancestry DNA Hands-on Exercise: In this hands-on exercise, we’ll go through steps to sort through your matches and makes sense out of them. We’ll also discuss the best way to approach your matches to set the stage for developing a productive relationship with them.

Recorded March 10, 2018

Interpreting Your FTDNA and 23andMe Results

Have you tested your DNA with Family Tree DNA or 23andMe and received your results? Are you confused not only by what they mean, but how to use them as part of your genealogy research? And if you’ve tested with AncestryDNA or another company, why are the results somewhat different? Plus, if you’ve taken the Health part of the 23andMe test, what can you do with the results? There’s so much to learn with DNA testing and genetic genealogy. Right?

Interpreting Your FTDNA and 23andMe Results Boot Camp is probably the perfect way to learn how to put those test results to work in your genealogy research. Join DNA expert Mary Eberle for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts! 

Family Tree DNA
Learn how to navigate your Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) results both on the FTDNA website. This webinar will also provide an overview of the third-party tool, DNAGedcom, and how to use it to analyze your FTDNA results.

Learn how to best use your 23andMe results. This webinar covers both the genealogy portion and the health information that 23andMe provides.

Recorded May 12, 2018

Midwest DNA

Leading DNA educators Blaine Bettinger, Mary Eberle and Jane Haldeman unravel the mysteries of DNA testing and how to use DNA results for your genealogy research. Our journey will cover a wide variety of topics, from solving 18th and 19th century genealogical mysteries, to whether DNA results can help manage your health, to how Y-DNA test projects can help your genealogical research. This is an introductory educational event aimed at those who want to effectively put their DNA test results to work!

Painting Your Chromosomes with Your Ancestors

Painting Your Chromosomes with Your Ancestors
Presented by Mary Eberle, J.D.
This talk will cover a new DNA tool for painting your chromosomes: DNA Painter. The tool lets you input the DNA segments and ancestors shared with your matches. This information is displayed on your chromosomes in a colorful picture that shows which pieces of DNA you inherited from your specific ancestors. Sharing the picture with new DNA matches helps pinpoint your common ancestors.

Photo Organizing Boot Camp

Are you overwhelmed with the sheer volume of family pictures spread around your computer, phone, photo albums, file folders, and memory boxes? Do you have heritage family photos that you’re concerned about preserving? How do you start? What’s the priority? Where do you save photos… and how do you share them with family members? Learn from Ben and Hilarie Robison of Legacy Tale how to use technology to simplify these tasks and finally get your “photo house” in order, plus avoid future photo overwhelm.

In this two-part webinar, Hilarie will teach you how to scan old photos with a scanner or your phone, with proper settings for storing as well as printing so you can preserve and share those priceless heirloom pictures. In his signature style that makes complex technology understandable for everyone, Ben will clearly explain the basics of digital photo management and sharing so you can efficiently manage your mountains of digital photos going forward. Together, this husband-wife team will teach you how to manage the mess and preserve what’s precious.



Preserving Old Photos and Documents through Digitization

  • Decide what matters
  • Use a flatbed scanner
  • Use a phone app scanner
  • Make basic corrections
  • Digitize documents, newspaper articles, and more
  • Q&A (interspersed throughout)

Organizing Digital Memories

  • Make a plan
  • Use cloud storage
  • Share your photos
  • Understand file formats
  • Set appropriate resolution
  • Capture details in metadata
  • Q&A (interspersed throughout)

Here's What You Get . . .

With this digital download, you get both recorded webinars totaling 3 hours of genealogy education, and 19 pages of handouts! You'll have unlimited access to these materials and learn how to finally get your family photos organized and digitized!

Solving Family Mysteries with DNA Boot Camp

So let’s say that you’ve taken a DNA test and you’re still looking for a better way to find that elusive ancestor since no other documentation exists.  Or maybe you were adopted or your parent was. How do you handle these “family mystery” situations which can become quite convoluted and complex? There’s a technique called Mirror Trees that I just learned about.  It’s a great way to help in these kinds of mysteries.

I don’t know about you, but I also have matches that are close, but I have no idea who they are—or their name is there, but they don’t have a tree. That valuable match is sitting in my match list, but they are a total mystery to me. There has to be a better way than what I am doing and I could use some help! 

Join DNA expert Mary Eberle for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts! 

Mirror Trees

Mirror trees are trees built based on matches’ trees. They’re often used in unknown parentage cases. However, they’re also helpful for breaking down brick walls further back in your tree and determining how your matches are related to each other and to you. Learn how to build and use mirror trees.

Best Tools for Researching Difficult DNA Matches

Have a really strong DNA match, but that the person doesn’t even have a name, let alone a tree? This webinar covers both free and subscription-based websites to help your detective work. It also covers the clues that can be used to figure out who matches are, where they’re from, and other important information. These new insights into your mystery can help you figure out your connection to them and place them in your family tree.  

The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook

Back in December 2014, I made a big announcement online and in social media: Genealogy and I are parting ways. Done. Finished. Game over.

Have you ever said to yourself, “That’s it! I’ve had it and it just isn’t worth it anymore!” Well, have you? Sort of like the character Howard Beale in the movie Network when he says, live on air, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

By the end of 2014, after more than 25 years of researching my own family history, that is how I felt.

My Past Genealogy Research Frustrates Me!

While many who read my post thought that I was leaving the genealogy community or closing down my genealogy business, I had to clarify what I meant by “leaving:” Starting in 2015, I planned on setting my 20+ years of genealogy research aside and starting over. From scratch.

Seriously. How many times have you thought about doing the same thing? Did you start your research the same way I did, by just collecting names, grabbing stuff from other online trees, or pasting text into your genealogy software? Lately, has the prospect of going back and citing sources or proving facts and evidence brought you down and ruined your genealogy buzz? Do you throw up your hands and say, “I give up!” only to return to the same review and edit process days or weeks later?

If you are like me, you need a genealogy makeover. Better yet, a Genealogy Do-Over. That is what I decided to call the journey upon which I embarked in early 2015. Now I want you to come along.

Genealogy Do-Over: A New Journey of Genealogical Discovery

Here is the short summary of The Genealogy Do-Over: I set aside everything* related to my genealogy research including notebooks, papers, and even digitized files and my genealogy database files and START OVER. I’m hitting the reset button. I’m allowing myself to have a do-over! (* certain items such as vital records ordered and paid for or research gathered on long-distance trips can be retained).

Since I started my initial research, much has changed in the areas of genealogy research methodology and education. I now realize the need to collect facts and track them properly, including the use of source citations. I now understand the process of analyzing evidence and proving facts to reach a conclusion. In essence, I know a lot more about the “process” of genealogical research and I want to put it to use.

This is not to say that I have not been following proven guidelines when it comes to finding family history. For my research clients (mostly pro bono), I actually employ all the methods advocated by many in the genealogy community. However, when it comes to my own research from years ago, I am not walking the walk . . . I have just been talking the talk.

It is not always easy to “walk backwards” and review every bit of information gathered over the years. Instead, I wanted to do more than re-walk a trodden path: I wanted to head out from the same starting point and see where the journey took me. I knew I would have access to better tools, better knowledge and be better equipped for each twist and turn. Now, I encourage you to join me on this journey.

The Genealogy Do-Over journey is constructed of 12 mileposts or journey markers that are laid out over one year. You can choose to pace yourself differently. You can even decide to drop some of the less important tasks and add your own. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are on a firm footing to finding your ancestors.

A short synopsis of the route:

  • Take inventory of what you have, box up the physical items and set them aside.
  • Move all digital genealogy files into a HOLD folder.
  • Gather tools to research.
  • Set research goals.
  • Start with your own knowledge and write it down.
  • Start tracking research.
  • Interview family members.
  • And more!

And then, month by month, continue with research, add more skills and areas of focus including citing sources, tracking searches, building a research toolbox, creating an educational plan, researching offline as well as online, and more.

By the end of the year, hopefully you will have completed a review of a firm foundation in genealogy and family history research skill building. I realize that some focus areas may differ; anyone along for the journey has the freedom to add or remove content. This program has to work for you and should not be something that you dread each week or that you find you are working against.

You’re Invited – You Get a Genealogy Do-Over Too

I created The Genealogy Do-Over as a collaborative community effort to re-examine the way in which each of us has personally pursued our genealogical research. My intent was to be honest with myself without beating myself up. I wanted to feel the joy of looking at one small fact and perhaps realizing that I never looked at it from all angles. I wanted the discipline of not following a possible lead just because it shakes or makes more noise than other leads.

Most of all, I wanted to be open to all possibilities on my journey of genealogical self-discovery and to enjoy that journey. This has meant researching genealogy with a plan, with a purpose, with sound practices and with the support of my fellow researchers. I do not intend to make this journey again. The Genealogy Do-Over is my chance, and your chance, to get it right!

Using Autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th Century Mysteries

Using Autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th Century Mysteries
Presented by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.
Even though our 18th and 19th century ancestors have been dead for decades, their DNA still survives in their descendants. Learn how to use autosomal DNA to attack and potentially solve genealogical mysteries and brick walls for ancestors who were born or lived in the 1800’s, 1700’s, and beyond. Together we’ll also examine some of the ways that leaders in the field have attacked or solved their 18th and 19th century mysteries using autosomal DNA.

Using Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and X-DNA for Genealogy Research Boot Camp

Have you been using the information learned about in the Getting Started with DNA and Genealogy Boot Camp? Or maybe you missed the first boot camp, but you have a basic understanding of using DNA for genealogy research? Have you discovered how to use other types of DNA tests such as Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and X-DNA in your research?

Join DNA expert Mary Eberle of DNA Hunters for over 3 hours of recorded webinars PLUS some amazing handouts!

Using Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and X-DNA for Genealogy Research

Understanding when these types of DNA can help (and when they won’t) is crucial. Learn how these types of DNA can be used to answer your genealogy questions.

Case Studies with Hands-on Exercises

Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and X-DNA can be useful in the right situation. We’ll explore case studies where these types of DNA helped determine relationships between matches, find the birth parent, and more.

Recorded February 10, 2018

Y-DNA Projects

Y-DNA Projects
Presented by Jane Haldeman
Y-DNA projects focus on specific research goals. They include research on surnames, Y-DNA haplogroups, locations, and communities. Run by volunteers, projects create opportunities for people to collaborate on their common genetic heritage. Membership is free. Learn how a Y-DNA project can help you with your research goals.