Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review of Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists

As part of my continuing series on genealogical institute courses, I asked my friend Mary Kathryn Kozy to share her perspective on the most recent course offered by the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research. "Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists" was taught by Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, and will soon be available for purchase and download.

Review of "Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists"
By Mary Kathryn Kozy

Webinars are a terrific way to increase our knowledge and help us in our personal and professional genealogical pursuits. The Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) is offering wonderful courses by leaders in many genealogical fields. I recently attended Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists taught by Blaine Bettinger, a well-known leader in genetic genealogy. Since I teach classes on DNA topics in my community, I was anxious to learn a little more about what professional genetic genealogists do, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! 

If you’re unfamiliar with the format of VIGR’s courses, the first half is typically offered in two 90-minute presentations with a short break in between on the first day. Homework is then assigned that will be reviewed during one of the two remaining lectures the following week. Some courses have a different schedule, and are taught one presentation per week for four consecutive weeks. Blaine’s course also allowed students to purchase a “plus” session which included a further homework assignment that could be anonymously reviewed during an additional one-hour webinar.

Here are just some of the topics included in this great four-session course:

  •  Why become a professional genetic genealogist? 
  •   Ways to incorporate DNA services into your professional genealogical practice
  •   Issues you will face as a genetic genealogist
  •    Client contracts and avoiding conflicts
  •   Finding clients
  •    Educating yourself and your clients
  •    Writing client reports

What this class didn’t cover was the basics of DNA testing. It was assumed that students already had that knowledge. For those who want to delve more into autosomal DNA, there’s another VIGR course taught by Blaine entitled (Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA.

Now I’m not currently a professional genealogist, but I do want to be one when I grow up! So even though this course dealt with aspects of adding DNA to one’s professional practice, there was still plenty of terrific information for genealogists like me. While I might never have a paying client, the suggestions given for how to create a contract, as well as the information on how to educate a client about their results was invaluable. In working with DNA results, it’s a sure thing that we will inevitably face sensitive and unexpected results. Blaine provided great counsel on how to handle these situations. The additional “plus” session gave students a chance to evaluate a client’s test results, write a basic report, and get feedback from Blaine on those reports, which was also indispensable. I particularly enjoyed this session, since it allowed me to learn from the other great genealogists in the class.

If you’ve even considered adding DNA testing analysis or other DNA services to your professional practice, then you will definitely want to take this course. By the end I had not only had some great “aha!” moments, but I’d also received a boost in confidence that perhaps I can do this one day!

Mary Kathryn Kozy is a rabid genealogist of long standing. She has a B.S. in Zoology and a B.S. in Information Systems and Technology. She has recently completed the Mastering Genealogical Proof study group and is working her way through the ProGen Study Program in ProGen 24. She enjoys lecturing on a number of genealogical topics, but is most frequently requested to speak on DNA. Mary has served on the board of several genealogical societies and is the recent past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State.

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