Genetic Genealogy: Understanding Your DNA and How to Use It in Genealogy

On Saturday, July 24, the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies hosted a virtual workshop on genetic genealogy. The program was presented by Shannon Christmas, an experienced genealogist specializing in genetic, colonial American, and African American genealogy in Virginia and the Carolinas. He serves as a 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador, an Ace, the administrator of the Captain Thomas Graves of Jamestown Autosomal DNA Project, and a co-administrator of the Hemings-Jefferson-Wayles-Eppes Autosomal DNA Project. Christmas has a special interest in using autosomal DNA to verify and extend pedigrees, assess the veracity of oral history, and reconstruct ancestral genomes. 

Chart with boxes labeled male or female to show how companies test for mitochondrial DNA
Christmas talked about how DNA test companies use DNA to uncover the genealogical roots of test takers.

In the three-hour workshop, Christmas explained the value of the different DNA tests on the market and the importance of taking tests from different companies to get a complete picture of the test taker’s ancestry. He talked about the particular importance of DNA testing to African American genealogy and explained how DNA can fill in the gaps left by paper records in the pre-Civil War period.

Screenshot of DNA Painter chromosome mapping
He demonstrated using a product like DNA Painter to visualize one person’s DNA from a variety of test results.

To watch the full video of the workshop, click below.

More genealogy resources from the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies/Roberts Library can be found here:




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