Associates in Action

Associates in Action highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact Alice Hoyt Veen to include your news in an upcoming post.

Career News

Among the BCG associates coordinating a course at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Athens, Georgia, July 23-28, 2017, is Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, who is coordinating “Genealogy as a Profession.” This unique course allows students to interact with working professionals and learn tips on how to create and maintain a successful genealogy business. Registration and information are found at Early bird registration is available until April 1st.

For those who cannot attend a full week-long course, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, also has created two virtual recorded courses through the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (, each of which is six hours long. “Professional Genealogy I: Your Plan for a Genealogical Business” and “Professional Genealogy II: Becoming a Better Professional Researcher” are different from each other and complement the IGHR course.

Many BCG associates teach at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in each of its two weeks this summer. Among the eighteen instructors teaching June 25-30, 2017, are Harold Henderson, CG, Melissa Johnson, CG, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, Karen Mauer Jones, CG, Michael J. Leclerc, CG, Rev. David McDonald, CG, Angela McGhie, CG, Rhoda Miller, Ed.D., CG, Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, Pam Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, and Karen Stanbary, CG.

Among the fifteen instructors teaching at GRIP July 16-21 are Patti Hobbs, CG, Melissa Johnson, CG, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, Karen Mauer Jones, CG, Debra Mieszala, CG, David Rencher, AG, CG, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, Karen Stanbary, CG, and Paula Stuart-Warren, CG. For more information on courses and registration, see

Awards & Achievements

The Board for Certification of Genealogists congratulates the following associates on their successful credential renewals:

James Marion Baker, Ph.D., CG, Rocklin, California; initial certification 14 October 2011.

Susan Farrell Bankhead, CG, Lehi, Utah; initial certification 17 January 2011. ;

Judy Kellar Fox, CG, Aloha, Oregon; initial certification 20 March 2007.

Harold Henderson, CG, La Porte, Indiana; initial certification 1 June 2012.

Sandra M. Hewlett, CG, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; initial certification 30 August 2001.

Jean Foster Kelley, CG, Tampa, Florida; initial certification 21 October 2006. ;

Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, Avenel, New Jersey; initial certification 24 February 2012.

BCG Education Fund 2017 Helen F.M. Leary Distinguished Lecture

The BCG Education Fund announces Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL, as the featured speaker for the 2017 Helen F.M. Leary Distinguished Lecture Series.

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, will speak at the National Genealogical Society (NGS) 2017 Conference, Raleigh, North Carolina, and at the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2017 National Conference, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her topic at the National Genealogical Society Conference is “Rainbows and Kaleidoscopes: Inclusion as a Professional and Personal Genealogical Standard.” The lecture considers how we, as professional and personal genealogists, can enrich our family histories, our client bases, and our collaborations with fellow researchers by adopting inclusion as a genealogical standard. Her topic at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference builds from the NGS lecture. “Rainbows and Kaleidoscopes: Inclusion as a Society and Corporate Genealogical Standard” explores how genealogical societies and companies can better grow their memberships, serve their constituencies, and increase their revenues by adopting inclusion as a genealogical standard.

Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Judy G. Russell is a genealogist with a law degree. She writes, teaches and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical topics, ranging from using court records in family history to understanding DNA testing. A Colorado native with roots deep in the American south on her mother’s side and entirely in Germany on her father’s side, she is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society and numerous state and regional genealogical societies. She has written for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and National Genealogical Society Magazine, among other publications. She is on the faculty of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research in Alabama, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists® and holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist® and Certified Genealogical Lecturer℠. Her blog – chosen as one of the American Bar Association’s top 100 in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – appears at The Legal Genealogist website (

The Helen F.M. Leary Distinguished Lecture Series, initiated in 2007, honors Helen F.M. Leary of North Carolina, Certified Genealogist Emeritus and a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, known for her richly informative and entertaining lectures on methodology, law, writing, and the art of lecturing.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Education Fund, founded in 2000 as an independent non-profit charitable trust, advances the educational aims of the Board for Certification of Genealogists® by funding learning programs consistent with standards promulgated by the Board and by providing incentives for study and scholarly research in accordance with the Board’s standards. For more information, see BCG Education Fund (

BCG Education Fund Trustees:

J.H. Fonkert, CG
Patricia Lee Hobbs, CG
Patricia Hackett Nicola, CG
Angela Packer McGhie, CG
Alice Hoyt Veen, CG

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Congratulations, Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt, CG!

New associate Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt lives in Cartersville in northwest Georgia. This is where she grew up and now does family research. All of her direct family lines are from the South, and many of them were early Georgians. Her professional research encompasses Georgia and includes African American and Native American families with Georgian roots.

Yvonne states that goal-setting is not one of her strong attributes, but it would be hard to find evidence of this. Her path to certification was carefully planned and executed. After finishing Boston University’s Genealogical Research Program, she knew she was not yet ready to apply for certification. She studied The BCG Application Guide, Genealogy Standards, Evidence Explained, and journal articles. Having identified the specific skills she needed to improve, Yvonne looked for advanced courses taught by some of the best genealogists in our field. She found many of those courses online (e.g. BCG webinars and the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research), which proves that one need not spend a fortune to acquire the knowledge and skills for certification. The time between her decision to seek certification and her actual portfolio submission was three years. This was a woman with a plan!

Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt, CG

Yvonne recognizes that there can be an emotional block for people thinking about applying for certification. The possibility of failure was a difficult challenge for her. She carefully considered the consequences of failure and accepted that possibility. She then committed herself to doing everything she could to prepare herself to succeed. She advises others who are considering applying for certification to identify problem areas in their work and target educational opportunities to correct or improve them.

Guided by group mentoring with her heroes Elizabeth Shown Mills and Judy Russell, Yvonne pursued advanced research skills. A particular post by Mills on the BCG Facebook page became a reminder for Yvonne of what she needed to do with her portfolio. The post lists common reasons that portfolios are not successful.

Thomas MacEntee assisted her when Yvonne became the target of cyber-bullying involving an unfounded attack on her family research. The incident influenced Yvonne’s desire for certification and contributed to her appreciation for ethical behavior in genealogy.

Completing the portfolio has made Yvonne a better researcher. She believes that her research prior to the certification process was shallow. Now she knows how to dig deeper. In the next five years, she hopes to target educational opportunities to strengthen the weak areas identified in her portfolio, work toward becoming a better presenter and obtaining her CGL, and promote ethical genealogical behavior in as many ways as she can. Sound familiar? Yvonne has a plan!

Yvonne can be reached at Congratulations, Yvonne!

by Karlene Ferguson, CG

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Russell on Conflicting Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 4 May 2016.

W121, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “When Worlds Collide: Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records

Reviewed by Harold Henderson, CG

Judy G. Russell led off the BCG Skillbuilding Track at NGS 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale with a close look at the fourth element of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
Courtesy Scott Stewart

How should researchers respond to conflict when they find it? First, make sure the conflict matters, and then spend a lot of time with Standard 48, Resolving evidence consistencies.[1] A close reading will answer many questions. The standard outlines the classic three techniques of seeking corroboration, analyzing quality, and explaining how a conflict might have arisen, or any combination of the three.

Russell drew on two other authors’ slightly different takes on conflict resolution, emphasizing the importance of publication and peer review in making sure you’ve made the right call.[2] Three meaty examples involving a variety of records highlighted the value of seeking additional evidence. The visuals enhanced the talk, but an audio recording would also have value both in instructing beginners and reminding the rest of us that we cannot wish away conflicting evidence. It must be dealt with properly or we have no conclusion.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville:, imprint of Turner Publishing, 2014), 27–28.

[2] Harold Henderson, “How to Handle Conflicting Evidence: A Six-Step Program,” Archives: Family History Made Simple and Affordable, “Learn from Experts,” 8 October 2013 ( : accessed 5 May 2016). Also, Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 16: Speculation, Hypothesis, Interpretation & Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 5 May 2016).

Click for more information.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

BCG Certification Seminar, 2016 NGS Conference in Ft. Lauderdale

“Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards”

Thursday, 5 May 2016, 9:30am to noon, Sessions T211 and T221

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG

Michael Ramage, JD, CG

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

The BCG Certification Seminar will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, 5 May 2016, at the National Genealogical Society’s 2016 Family History Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During this interactive seminar Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG, and Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, trustees and members of BCG’s executive committee, will demystify the certification process and answer questions like, “Am I ready?” and “Can I do this?”

Certification is open to every genealogist whose work meets standards. Among those certified by BCG are genealogists who study their own family history, researchers who specialize in a particular surname, and professionals who conduct research (for a fee or pro bono) for other genealogists, attorneys, geneticists, biographers, and academics in many fields. They include teachers at all levels; writers and editors of books, journal articles, and newspaper columns; speakers at local, regional, and national conferences; employees of private and government agencies; lineage and genealogical society volunteers; and librarians and archivists.

How do I know if I am ready to apply? Practicing genealogy is often a solitary endeavor. Knowing when we produce work that consistently meets standards is often the hardest part of self-evaluation. There is no one right way to prepare for certification. Successful applicants come from all walks of life. They usually demonstrate some combination of focused genealogical education and experience.

If you are curious about certification and what is required to earn the post-nominal title of Certified Genealogist, these are the sessions for you. Part 1 of the BCG Certification Seminar begins at 9:30 a.m. The focus is on the organization, preparing for certification, and the application process. At 10:30 a.m. there is a half-hour break. Part 2 begins at 11:00 a.m. The focus is on the elements of a portfolio and strategies for compiling a successful portfolio.

BCG wants applicants for certification to succeed! Successful applicants often say that their attendance at certification seminars at national conferences was an integral part of preparing for their accomplishment. The seminars will be recorded and available for purchase.

We look forward to seeing you in Fort Lauderdale!

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Genetic Genealogy Education

We can’t stick our heads in the sand any more when it comes to learning about using DNA testing in genealogical research. Millions of people are taking DNA tests, and many (ourselves included) will need help understanding test results. Additionally, we must at least consider genetic genealogy as part of our reasonably exhaustive research. Not all projects require DNA testing, but some will benefit from it, and others will be difficult to pursue without it. We can’t ignore the value of genetic testing as a research tool. Let’s learn how to use it!

In informing ourselves about DNA testing we also meet continuing education standards. The two knowledge and skill development standards apply to genetic genealogy as well as to document-based work.

82. Development goals. Genealogists improve and update their (a) attainment of genealogical standards, (b) knowledge of genealogically useful materials and contexts, (c) skills in reconstructing unknown or forgotten relationships, families, people, groups, and events, and (d) abilities to present their findings to others.[1]

83. Regular engagement. Genealogists engage in formal or informal development activities, or both, on an ongoing basis:

  • Formal development activities include attending conference, seminar, and workshop presentations … participating in classroom-based or online courses of study; and engaging in virtual or in-person structured study groups, webinars, and similar venues.
  • Informal development activities include conducting genealogical research of increasing difficulty, consulting with advanced practitioners, [etc.].[2]

Here are many options for both self-directed and guided genetic genealogy education. A huge thank-you to Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, for assembling and providing the second part of this post. Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, and Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, also made helpful contributions.

There are two main ways to learn about DNA; self-education and organized courses or institutes. In the “early days” of genetic genealogy, the only option was self-education. Today there are numerous options for professionals to learn about genetic genealogy.

Genetic Genealogy Self-Education

1. The single best way to learn about genetic genealogy is the hands-on approach: test yourself and numerous family members, and then explore the results using the tools at the vendor(s)’ website.

2. Books and articles are a good way to gain a basic understanding of the fundamentals of genetic genealogy.

Association of Professional Genealogists. Quarterly., 23–24 (DNA) and 30 (Genetic Genealogy). A regular feature begun in March 2014 follows good pieces published earlier.

Aulicino, Emily D. Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2013.

“Chromosomes and Inheritance.” University of Utah. Learn.Genetics: Genetic Science Learning Center.

Dowell, David R. NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2014.

Fitzpatrick, Colleen, and Andrew Yeiser. DNA and Genealogy. Fountain Valley, California: Rice Book Press, 2005.

Hill, Richard. Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors and Confirm Relationships through DNA Testing. 2009. Kindle edition.

Kennett, Debbie. DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century. Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2011.

National Genealogical Society Magazine. (members only). See Oct-Dec 2011 (Judy G. Russell), Oct-Dec 2013, Apr-Jun2014, and regularly beginning July-Sept 2014 (Debbie Parker Wayne).

Smolenyak, Megan Smolenyak, and Ann Turner. Trace Your Roots with DNA. Emmaus, Penn.: Rodale Press, 2004. Discusses Y-DNA and mtDNA; published before widespread atDNA testing, but useful general introduction to genetic testing.

Wayne, Debbie Parker. This site lists print and online educational publications by Debbie and others she recommends.

3. Blogs, forums, and mailing lists help us stay on top of the newest developments. Often news is shared the very same day it is available. Here is an essential list of blogs, forums, and mailing lists for the professional genetic genealogist.

Essential Blogs:

23andMe. The 23andMe Blog.

AncestryDNA. Articles About AncestryDNA.

Aulicino, Emily. DNA—Genealem’s Genetic Genealogy.

Bartlett, Jim. Segment-ology.

Bettinger, Blaine. The Genetic Genealogist.

Christmas, Shannon. Through the Trees.

Cooper, Kitty. Kitty Cooper’s Blog: Musings on Genealogy, Genetics, and Gardening.

Dowell, David R. Dr D Digs Up Ancestors.

Estes, Roberta. DNAeXplained—Genetic Genealogy. This post discusses genetic genealogy educational opportunities:

Moore, CeCe. Your Genetic Genealogist.

Owston, Jim. The Lineal Arboretum.

Russell, Judy G. The Legal Genealogist.

Wayne, Debbie Parker. Deb’s Delvings in Genealogy.

Some Essential Forums and Mailing Lists:

“DNAAdoption.” Yahoo! Groups.

“DNA Detectives.” Facebook. The group is closed, with membership by application.

DNA: GENEALOGY—DNA mailing list.

“DNA-NEWBIE.” Yahoo! Groups.

“International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).” Facebook. The group is closed, with membership by application.

International Society of Genetic Genealogy [ISOGG] Wiki. This is an essential resource. Although this Wikipedia-style source of information is curated by volunteers, it contains some of the most sophisticated and detailed analysis of genetic genealogy. The following pages, for example, are among those absolutely essential for every genetic genealogist:

Genetic Genealogy Educational Courses and Institutes

1. Instructor-led courses and institutes include but are not limited to the following. Some of the advanced courses and tools courses have prerequisites.

DNAAdoption. While its main focus is providing DNA information for adoptees, it offers several online courses for genealogists as well.

Family Tree University. FTU offers beginning Genetic Genealogy 101 and Genetic Genealogy 201 courses.

Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). In the summer of 2016, GRIP is offering two weeklong courses, “Practical Genetic Genealogy” and “Advanced Genetic Genealogy.”

Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). In the summer of 2016, IGHR is offering a weeklong “Genetic Genealogy Tools & Techniques” course.

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). In January 2016 SLIG is offering two weeklong courses, “Beginning Genetic Genealogy” and “Advanced DNA Analysis Techniques for Genealogical Research.”

Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research. VIGR offers several levels of genetic genealogy courses online. Most are recorded and can be accessed after the live air dates at “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA” is available now. New courses are added periodically.

2. Lectures and webinars

DNA is a now a very popular topic at every major genealogy conference in the United States, with some conferences offering one or more DNA-focused days. Here are nationally recognized speakers and presentations.

Bettinger, Blaine.

Bush, Angie.

“FamilyTreeDNA.” YouTube FamilyTreeDNA webinars have been archived at this free site.

Gleeson, Maurice.

Moore, CeCe. ; resources:

Russell, Judy.

Southard, Diahan.

Wayne, Debbie Parker.


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Turner Publishing, 2014), 43.

[2] Ibid., 43–44.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

News from October 2015 BCG Trustees Meeting

The trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) met in Salt Lake City on 10 October 2015. Three new trustees joined the Board: Paul Graham, CG, Judy Kellar Fox, CG, and Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL. Two trustees retired from the board: Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, and Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. Both have served as president of BCG and provided distinguished service to the Board and the community at large for many years.

BCG officers for 2015–2016 are Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, president; Stefani Evans, CG, vice president; David McDonald, D.Min., CG, secretary; Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG, treasurer; Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, and Richard G. Sayre, members-at-large.

BCG is in the process of redesigning its website. Judy G. Russell issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on 26 October 2015. The RFP is for a redesign and update of the BCG website and overall BCG graphics for branding purposes.

The BCG trustees honored thirty-year associate Miriam Weiner with Emeritus status. “Miriam was the first Jewish genealogist to become certified by the BCG and is known for her pioneering work in Holocaust research and Eastern European records,” said President Jeanne Larzalere Bloom. “The Board is grateful for her many contributions to the field of genealogy and for promoting genealogy standards during her distinguished career.”

BCG will host “meet and greet” events at two national conferences in 2016. The gathering at the National Genealogical Society conference (4–7 May 2016, Ft. Lauderdale, FL) will be organized by Nicki Birch, CG. That at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference (31 August–3 September 2016, Springfield, IL) will be organized by David McDonald.

For questions or more information, please visit or contact Nicki Birch at

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Recordings of BCG-Family History Library Lectures

If you were unable to attend the lectures sponsored by BCG and the Family History Library yesterday, you may access recordings of all for a small fee each. For many of us that’s a lot cheaper than a trip to Salt Lake City!

NOTE: Jamb Tapes has gone out of business, so the recordings referred to below are no longer available through them. They may be archived in genealogical libraries.–October 2016

Michael Hait, CG, “What Is ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Research’?” Jamb Tapes May 2015, F351

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, “The Art of Negative Space Research: Women,” Jamb Tapes May 2015, S451

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “After the Courthouse Burns: Rekindling Family History Through DNA,” 2014 International Genetic Genealogy Conference

Michael Ramage, JD, CG, “Forensic Genealogy Meets the Genealogical Proof Standard,” Jamb Tapes May 2015, F342

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “Margaret’s Baby’s Father and the Lessons He Taught Me (about Illegitimacy, Footloose Males, Burned Counties & More),” an earlier version at Jamb Tapes 2008, F-144

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “When Does Newfound Evidence Overturn a Proved Conclusion?” Jamb Tapes May 2015, F321


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Respecting the Privacy of DNA Test Takers

We, all of us who take a genetic test or sponsor or manage a test for someone else, have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our privacy and that of our testers. We must familiarize ourselves with what genetic genealogy tests entail, the uses to which test results may be put, and the testing companies’ privacy safeguards. We must obtain permission from our testers for the testing and for the use of test results. We must respect testers’ restrictions on usage and publication of their results. Several respected groups have set standards that guide us.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Code of Ethics addresses the issue.

  • We agree to keep confidential personal or genealogical information unless we have written consent.[1] DNA test results are treated like all genealogical information.
  • We agree not to publish or circulate research or reports to which others have a proprietary right unless we have written consent.[2] This includes reports from DNA testing companies. The reports belong to the testers.

BCG has published genealogy standards that also apply to DNA test results:

  • Standard 22: “Genealogists ethically, lawfully, prudently, and respectfully use others’ information and products, whether the material is digitized, oral, published, unpublished, written, or in any other form.”[3]
  • Standard 34: “Genealogists may use agents . . . to find, obtain, and provide information potentially relevant to a research question.” Genetic testing companies fall under the category of agents.[4]

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) “Standards for Sharing Information with Others” expand on these guidelines.[5]

In January 2015 the Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee of scientists and genealogists published guidelines based on BCG and NGS standards that specifically address DNA testing for genealogy. Nine standards, excerpted here, directly or indirectly address the issue of privacy.[6] We are both “the tester” and the “genealogists.”

  • “Testing With Consent. Genealogists only obtain DNA for testing after receiving consent, written or oral, from the tester. . . .
  • “Raw Data. Genealogists believe that testers have an inalienable right to their own DNA test results and raw data, even if someone other than the tester purchased the DNA test.
  • “DNA Storage. Genealogists are aware of the DNA storage options offered by testing companies, and consider the implications of storing versus not storing DNA samples for future testing. . . .
  • “Terms of Service. Genealogists review and understand the terms and conditions to which the tester consents when purchasing a DNA test. [See the links to testing companies’ terms of service below.]
  • “Privacy. Genealogists only test with companies that respect and protect the privacy of testers. However, genealogists understand that complete anonymity of DNA tests results can never be guaranteed.
  • “Access by Third Parties. Genealogists understand that once DNA test results are made publicly available, they can be freely accessed, copied, and analyzed by a third party without permission. . . .
  • “Sharing Results. Genealogists respect all limitations on reviewing and sharing DNA test results imposed at the request of the tester. . . .
  • “Scholarship. When lecturing or writing about genetic genealogy, genealogists respect the privacy of others. Genealogists privatize or redact the names of living genetic matches from presentations unless the genetic matches have given prior permission or made their results publicly available. Genealogists share DNA test results of living individuals in a work of scholarship only if the tester has given permission or has previously made those results publicly available. . . .
  • “Health Information. Genealogists understand that DNA tests may have medical implications.”

There’s no doubt that following these standards requires extra effort on our part. We need to inform ourselves. We need to communicate with our testers and educate them. We need to explain their rights and the potential limitations on their privacy. We need to solicit their consent before the tests are taken and before we share any results.

In scrupulously applying standards of privacy to all the information we gather, we become more trustworthy genealogists.

Testing Companies’ Terms of Service

23andMe: “Terms of Service.” 23andMe.

AncestryDNA: “AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions.” AncestryDNA. Revised 30 September 2014.

FamilyTreeDNA: “Legal Issues—Privacy Policy, Terms of Service and Refunds.” FamilyTreeDNA.

Further reading about Genetic Genealogy Standards

Bettinger, Blaine T., PhD, JD. “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (June 2015): 105–7.

Russell, Judy, JD, CG, CGL. “The Ethics of DNA Testing.” OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists 21 (January 2015): 1–2, 7.

Wayne, Debbie Parker, CG, CGL. “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” NGS Magazine 41 (April–June 2015): 58–61.

The author gratefully acknowledges input from Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD; Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG; Stefani Evans, CG; Alison Hare, CG; Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL; and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL.


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.:, 2014), 46.

[2] Ibid., 47–48.

[3] Ibid., 16.

[4] Ibid., 21.

[5] “Standards for Sharing Information with Others,” National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 7 October 2015).

[6] The Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee, Genetic Genealogy Standards  ( : accessed 7 October 2015), Standards 2–10.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.