Welcome to the GSV

DNA and family history

DNA and family history

Do you have questions about DNA tests and results?

DNA logo
6 October 2022
DNA and family history
GSV News

Jenny Redman will lead a discussion on 20 Oct at 1.30pm: DNA testing and your Family History: Why, How and When. She will look at how DNA testing can help you find your family story and how to do that testing.

Are you nervous about security and privacy issues? Jenny will cover these in this session. There will be plenty of time for questions.

This event is free for members and visitors as part of the Victorian Seniors Festival. It’s presented via zoom and you need to register on the website under Activities.

Would DNA help solve that Brick wall?

DNA and GSV logo
DNA and GSV logo
3 February 2022
DNA and family history

Would DNA help solve that Brick wall?

Our online program, Using DNA for Family History, starts again on Tuesday March 29.

Find out how to understand your DNA results, use those results to extend your family tree, and break down brick walls.

The online sessions are presented by Alan Rhodes and involve a presentation, followed by time for questions and discussion. Detailed handouts on each session are provided prior to the session.

These sessions, presented at 11am -12.30 on Zoom, involve a presentation, followed by time for questions and discussion. Detailed handouts on each session are provided prior to the session. They are relevant to which ever testing company you have used.

The early sessions assume people are just starting their DNA and family history journey. You can either follow the whole series of sessions or jump in as you wish, for particular topics. Look at the GSV Events Calendar for the details of each session.

This series of lectures was very popular when presented over the last two years so booking is essential. See GSV Activities on the website for a full list of topics and dates.

If you have not yet done a DNA test and wonder whether you should, why not look at the GSV’s three webcasts, listed in the GSV catalogue?

They cover the basics:

  • Should I do a DNA test?
  • DNA Ethnicity results
  • DNA and family history

If you decide to test, it is strongly recommended that you do so as soon as possible and you should have your results in time to get the best value from the program.

The sessions start in late March so there is still time to have your results for the early sessions.

If you have any questions about the sessions or how they might help you, email us at dna@gsv.org.au

Jenny Redman

3 February 2022

Lots of DNA coming up at GSV

Bill Barlow
13 March 2021
DNA and family history

Our series on DNA and family history are starting back at the beginning this month.


The first session starts on March 30 - Using DNA for Family History.


This introductory presentation by Alan Rhodes is intended to help people get underway and start their DNA journey. Alan will give you the essential DNA basics and explains how a DNA test can set you on your way to finding cousins, common ancestors and solving family history mysteries and more. This session and the series over the next couple of months guide participants in getting best value out of their DNA test such as Ancestry and My Heritage.


This talk will be presented online via Zoom. 

30 March 2021, 11:00 am to 12:30


$5 GSV members. $20 non-members. Maximum 45 participants.

Bookings are required and can be made online via the Register Now link. You will receive an email with the Zoom link.


Then the series continues.


27 April - Using DNA matches

Your DNA matches are the key to using DNA in your family history.  This presentation demonstrates the essential strategies to work out how you are connected to your DNA matches, to identify ancestors and extend your family tree.  The focus is on Ancestry but the strategies are relevant no matter which company you have tested with.


25 May - Ancestry's 'Thrulines'

The 'ThruLines' feature provides you with another way to view your matches and potentially identify new ancestors.  The presentation demonstrates how to use 'ThruLines', verify the suggestions and extend your family tree.


It is worth noting that people who have actually progressed a bit will benefit from revisiting theses sessions.


DNA webcasts in your own time

A reminder also that GSV Members can listen to the 3 introductory DNA webcasts on our website.


And if reading is still your thing...

In our current Ancestor journal go to the regular section 'DNA News and Notes' in which Philip Crane explains how he married conventional genealogical research techniques to his DNA results to make sense of the relationship to one of his ancestors.


There is lots of DNA at GSV.

Zoom in on your DNA in 2021

Bill Barlow
29 January 2021
DNA and family history


Understandably we have been focussed on virus particles lately - and the pandemics that may cut across our family histories.

But now it is again time to zoom in on the smaller molecule that affects us all - DNA.

These molecules are about 2 millionth of a millimetre in size - a metre long if we unravel one - and 30 to 70 times smaller than a Covid virus particle.


There is no need for a degree in microbiology! We have lots of experts who can help us decode this fascinating world.


Our program of DNA Zoom talks commences on Tuesday 9 February.

The talks are presented by Alan Rhodes and proved very popular in 2020.

The first four sessions for 2021 will be on advanced topics following on from last year’s program.  These talks are for people who have some experience using DNA for family history and/or have attended the 2020 program of DNA talks. The topics covered will be Autoclusters (9 Feb), Gedmatch part 1 and 2 (23 Feb and 9 March) and Y DNA (16 March)


New to DNA? What's it all about?

From the 30 March there will be fortnightly Zoom sessions for those new to using DNA for family history.  These sessions will introduce you to all that you need to use DNA in your family history.  The sessions are relevant whether you have tested with any of the major testing companies such as Ancestry and My Heritage.  

These talks were fully booked in 2020 and will include session summaries and further reading, emailed to all participants prior to each session.


Webcast at your own leisure

GSV also has three free webcasts for members to introduce them to DNA and family history.  These topics covered are ‘Should I do a DNA Test’, ‘DNA and Ethnicity Results’ and ‘DNA and Family History’.

See GSV Activities on the website for the full list of topics and dates and book into the sessions.


A cousin of mine emailed a few days ago to tell me he is still finding lots of us through our DNA connections by using 'clustering'. I have to admit I have enough trouble keeping in touch with the ones I find just on social media! I hope he hasn't invited them all to cluster at my place![Ed] 

A study of family history and DNA testing - you can be a part

Bill Barlow
14 December 2020
DNA and family history
GSV News



DNA testing and the re-framing of histories and identities in contemporary society.


A research project at the University of Newcastle, Australia.


A research team at the University of Newcastle in Australia (Drs Shaw, Donnelly, Burke and Parkes from the School of Education) are conducting research into family history and DNA testing and its impacts on people’s understanding of themselves and their place in history. They are conducting an online survey, which is expected to take about 20 - 30 minutes and would welcome your participation if you have utilised DNA-testing in your research.


The Research Team is hoping that GSV members and others will take up this invitation, using the link below to take part in this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2DDTC2L


The purpose of the research is to investigate the use, role and impact of DNA testing in exploring and understanding individual national and global histories and identities. This study is an Australian-first and will provide an exciting opportunity to be involved in a new worldwide project about exploring the past.


Dr Debra Donnelly, Senior Lecturer at the University's School of Education, and principal, researcher for this study said that 'My colleagues and I have become interested in DNA testing and its impact on ideas of history and family heritage. The project is just beginning and we plan to collect data survey data for a few months. We will then analyse the data and likely there will be phase two interviews and case studies.'  


Participants will be asked to reflect on their experience with DNA testing and to provide some general demographic information. The survey will be online for 4-6 months. Links to a plain English report of the findings will be emailed to participating family history societies, so we hope to provide some feedback possibly in this blog.



Making sense of DNA - new events coming up

Bill Barlow
28 July 2020
DNA and family history

Today I was sent two enormous lists of names and details resulting from a distant cousin's Y-DNA investigation. He has not much idea what it all means and I certainly don't, not having ventured into this field yet. 


So maybe I better jump on to the DNA-events that the GSV is offering to help me make sense of this. Go to our website here to see details https://www.gsv.org.au/article/dna-and-family-history-gsv


All these events are able to be accessed from your own home - so plan some family history time online at the GSV.


DNA webcasts

For an interactive offering the GSV has the following Webcasts for members. (Of course non-members can quickly on the website HERE.)


  • 'Should I Test?'

A DNA test can help you extend your family tree, finds cousins and perhaps break through a brick wall in your research.  What is involved in taking a test? Which test should you take? What company? Is it safe?  This webcast will provide guidance on all these questions.


  • DNA Ethnicity Results
  • DNA and family history


Live presentations on Zoom


Over the coming months we will also present a series of live presentations on ZOOM covering a range of topics on genetic genealogy.  These will be from beginner to more advanced topics, about 30-minute presentations followed by time for online questions and discussion.  We hope this will make GSV’s presentations more available to members unable to travel and to regional members.


DNA Genetic Genealogy Study Group


Convener: Maureen Trotter. This new group has been started for intermediate to advanced genetic genealogy users. It is a self help group for people who are familiar with DNA terminology and available software tools, and who would like to work in a small study group where participants meet to continue to hone their skills in genetic genealogy. Participants will have completed the GSV DNA for beginners classes or have a similar knowledge base. The study group will meet on the first Tuesday of the month, 10.00 am to 12.00 pm. Maximum attendees of 14 per meeting.


DNA Discussion Circle


This circle DETAILS HERE is for GSV members who would like to find out how DNA may assist them in furthering their family history. DNA can be used to confirm or establish links in your family tree as well as identifying your particular genetic origins.



And there is leisurely background reading to help you get up to speed. The past nine issues of our Ancestor journal has featured a series of articles - 'DNA News and Notes' - beginning with 'How did the DNA craze start?' by David Andreassen in June 2018.  Members can still read these past issues online.


So it might be refreshing to take our focus from viruses (30-200 nm) -that may be 1,000 to 10,000 time smaller than a grain of salt - to DNA molecules with a diameter of 2 nm or 2 billionth of a metre. Though if you could stretch the spiralled DNA out in a straight line it is about a metre long! Plenty on offer to keep you occupied.


DNA uncovers sperm-donor fraud

Bill Barlow
7 September 2019
DNA and family history

A recent report ('The fertility fraud' by Jacqueline Mroz published in The Age 24 August 2019) reminded me of the tricky questions facing the family historian today. 


An American woman used DNA tests and found to her surprise that her biological father was not a sperm donor in California, as she had been told, but rather her mother's fertility doctor who had fraudulently donated his own sperm. These modern cases are not rare apparently - and of course unrecorded sperm 'donors' are not new. 


A few years ago I wrote of my experiences compiling family descendancy records -both in the GSV Library (John Ebbott of Badharlick: descendants in Australia and Edward Needham Barlow and descendants). This article below was first published in Fifty-plus NewsDecember 2014/January 2015.


Who is in the family?


   While compiling and editing a descendancy record of my mother’s family I have been prompted again and again to consider who gets to be recorded in the family? As one family member asked, ‘what are the protocols?’

   If two people were once in the family, as a domestic partnership, what should you do?  At what stage of a relationship is a ‘partner’ recorded for posterity. An 80-year-old friend who divorced many years ago, has since had a long-standing partnership of over 20 years.  There were no children from this relationship but it was certainly significant to them both. A family ‘tree’ will capture relationships with progeny, but should such relationships without descendants be shown? Will this person’s significant partner be shown on the family record? 

   A defacto relationship is legally defined as a couple for those over 18 years of age – of opposite or same sex - who are living together on a ‘genuine domestic basis’, and who are not ‘related by family’, that is as siblings or as parent or child. A couple can still formally register as a partnership, that is, in a domestic relationship, even if not living together, as long as neither are already married or registered in a partnership. The partnership starts when the couple can show that it did. But if some family members tell me they are ‘partners’, then they are in my history. So I added ‘ptnr’ to ‘m’ (married) in my abbreviations list.

   If a marriage has ended – especially when there is a second relationship to be recorded – then I can signify a divorce (‘div’) – if there actually was one – or ‘sep’ for separation. Partnerships are less clear cut. So I leave it up to the individual concerned to decide which partnerships – and separations - have been ‘significant’ in their ‘family history’.

   Children of the family is a bit more complex. And it has always been thus, as kings of England and many others in history have found! 

   Biological children of the couple is simple enough. ‘Children of the marriage’ as it says on the Death Certificates. But the position in the family can be obscured, as famous actor Jack Nicholson found out later – his parents were actually his grandparents and his sister his mother. But at least he was in the right family. Adopted children are also part of the family. Should this status be recorded? Does the adopted child know or want it widely known? Privacy and publicity must also be considered

   And blended families are increasingly common. That is, increasingly acknowledged as such. So step-children need to be recorded and the parent in the couple to whom they were born.

   This can give rise to a family group with various ‘family’ or last names – children may retain their biological father’s name for example. 

   Now things get even trickier. My favourite enriched family record involves a person who was married, had children, then divorced. This has been followed by a publicly proclaimed same-sex partnering, and then a child of that partnership by IVF.

Recently I read in The Age, that a couple using IVF technology may also have the genes of a third person ‘in the mix’ to kick-start the conception. So my family history ‘tree’ could be looking more like a bush. 

   So who is in the family? Everyone the family says is in. That’s easier.


Check the rules on websites, eg. BDM Vic.and get help understanding your family's DNA.The GSV hosts talks and Discussion Circles for members. Find these Events on our website https://www.gsv.org.au

DNA Discussion Circle meets in January. GSV closed 22 Dec - 1 Jan

Bill Barlow
7 December 2018
DNA and family history
GSV News

Even though lots of things don't happen in January after our hectic Christmases, life actually keeps on going!  Just like the DNA DISCUSSION CIRCLE  which will have a meeting in January on Wednesday 9 th. at 10.30 am - 12 pm, as shown in our latest Ancestor journal in 'Around the Circles' (but unfortunately missed out in the 'What's On in January' section. Our apologies. 

You can find out more about this interesting discussion circle on our website HERE.


Later in January the Early English (the Discussion Circle, that is)  will meet on Wed 23 and London Research on Thurs 24. 

The following week on THURSDAY 31, Stephen Hawke will talk on New Poor Laws - post 1834.

Plan your January and see the website to book and find out what other Classes and focussed research assistance is available (Scotland and Ireland).



Family history and DNA focus group - invitation to participate.

Bill Barlow
17 June 2018
DNA and family history

For GSV members only -  25 and 27 July.

We need YOU to help us understand how genetics is understood.






  • Have you had your DNA tested for family history?
  • Are you interested in having your DNA tested for family history investigation?
  • Are you worried about issues to do with privacy, ethics and bio data?
  • Has testing your DNA changed your family history story?

Free of charge. Maximum of 12 participants. Bookings are essential and can be made online, https://www.gsv.org.au, by email, gsv@gsv.org.au, by phone 9662 4455 or in person at the GSV (9.00 am to 4.00 pm Mon - Fri).

Research Leader: Dr Jerome de Groot, Manchester University. The "Double-Helix" project is investigating what people think about genetic science and how it affects them. In particular, the project is interested in talking with family historians about their experiences of commercial DNA services offered by MyHeritageDNA or Ancestry.com.

Two separate focus groups will be run at the GSV Research and Education Centre on 25th and 27th July. These are discussion groups for people to share their experiences. The sessions will be structured debate and discussion, encouraging participants to share their experiences.

The discussions will be recorded for research purposes. Any use of the discussion will be agreed with participants. No biodata or information relating to genetic data will be sought.



The DNA of Cornwall: talk at SWERD

Bill Barlow
28 March 2018
DNA and family history

South West England Research & Discussion (SWERD) is one of a number of Discussion Circles that the GSV hosts for its members. These are part of the annual membership and there is no limit to the number you can participate in, beyond your own time. Doing your own research can be exhilarating but having the chance to share your problems, and findings, with others is even more fun.

This report of the recent SWERD meeting - Wednesday 14 March 2018 - from Stephen Hawke gives a good idea of the value of this circle on South West England. [Bill]


Meeting Notes

  1. Introductions

    We had a very full house, with 45 attendees at the meeting (including four new SWERD members and some visitors from the DNA discussion circle).
  2. Presentation – Dr Joe Flood - DNA and Genealogy: The DNA of Cornwall

    Dr Joe Flood is both the Administrator of the Cornwall DNA projects on the FamilyTreeDNA website and also runs a One Name Study on the Coad and Coode surnames. DNA research has been particularly useful in resolving brickwalls and establishing global connections for the Coad and Coode family researchers. Joe’s presentation included interesting anecdotes on the family myths, surprises and new social connections found through combining the One Name Study and DNA research.

Joe’s presentation covered three broad topics (all with fascinating case studies, charts and research findings):

Firstly, we covered the use of autosomal DNA research – this included commentary on the relative costs and ‘usefulness’ of the offerings from the various DNA test providers. This aspect of research is particularly useful for confirming family connections and uncovering ‘new’ cousins.

Next we turned to Y DNA research – the research that follows the male-line. Again, this has proved very useful for resolving brickwalls and Joe provided examples of successes in extending and joining the various Coad/Coode family trees.

The research pages Joe administers on the FTDNA website currently have 600 members on the Cornwall project (autosomal DNA research) and 120 members on the Cornwall Advanced Y DNA project. Joe advised that there is also a project page for those with Devon origins. These projects are free to join (after you’ve done your DNA test), the data and discussion sections are a great learning tool and they provide the opportunity for feedback and help from very experienced researchers. I’m a fan – I joined both projects with my DNA test results a few months ago and straight up connected to some ‘new’ third cousins here in Melbourne who’ve provided fantastic photos (late 19th and early 20th century) and new aspects to our shared family history.

The final section of Joe’s presentation turned to some of the deep ancestry material, including the DNA connections of some members of the Cornwall DNA projects to the Beaker people who settled in Britain and Cornwall several thousand years ago. This aspect of the research has also found some pockets of ‘very rare DNA’ amongst some members of the Cornish Advanced Y DNA project. Joe is keen for more of us with Cornish heritage to join the FTDNA projects to help expand his and your research and findings.

I’m afraid my notes are not doing Joe’s really interesting presentation justice. Fortunately, Joe has made a copy of the presentation available to SWERD members and it has plenty of detail in the slides to show the depth and detail you can take up in using DNA research.

I’m also aware that this is a complex area and to help you through that complexity GSV is rolling out a number of new education sessions on different aspects of DNA research. There are some details in the current issue of Ancestor and keep an eye on the GSV website for updates. These will be popular, so make sure you register ASAP for these to secure a place. The first session is on 17 April – you can book for this through the ‘All Events’ section on the frontpage of the GSV website.

At the meeting we passed around the very large book Joe has written – Unravelling the Code: The Coads and Coodes of Cornwall and Devon – and descriptions of the book and on-line purchases are available through www.lulu.com/spotlight/coad

Joe has uploaded his presentation to his webpage (address as below) and from a quick look he has other papers of interest to DNA researchers on his page as well: https://rmit.academia.edu/JoeFlood/Other

I also want to acknowledge Joe’s dedication and generosity in providing his presentation at GSV. He is still recuperating and went above and beyond the call of duty in providing us with his very informative presentation. Thanks also to one of our members who saw to Joe’s safe homeward journey. 

  1. Next meeting

    The next meeting will be held on Friday 13 April 2018, 12:30 to 2:00pm. The discussion topic will be 'Our poor ancestors', with a focus on Poor Laws and workhouses in the southwest.  Many of us had ancestors who were subject to the Poor Laws or who spent time in workhouses and we’ll look at the materials available to research their lives.  Start thinking on what you know of your poor ancestors in the southwest and how you've researched them, and come along to join in a fascinating discussion in April. If you are not a GSV member, join up and join in!

    Stephen Hawke, SWERD Convenor