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DNA and family history

DNA and family history

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