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 6 May 2016.

F321, Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “Systematically Using Autosomal DNA Test Results to Help Break Through Genealogical Brick Walls”

Reviewed by Melinda Daffin Henningfield, CG

Dr. Thomas W. Jones suggests autosomal DNA (atDNA) as another puzzle piece in helping family historians identify their ancestors. DNA should be employed along with traditional genealogical methods. He emphasizes that using DNA does not relieve the genealogist from adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard.[1]

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
Courtesy of Scott Stewart Photography

Most genealogists are not geneticists and may be baffled at how to begin using atDNA in their research. Utilizing a case study, Jones provides a framework to assist in employing this tool.[2] He steps through traditional research that brought him to specific and unanswered questions of identity. These were recognized as questions that might be answered using DNA. He discusses challenges in using DNA as a tool and outlines specific steps that can be followed to use it effectively.

Identifying ancestors for whom few traditional records exist is a constant challenge for family historians. Genealogists can now employ atDNA as an additional tool for identifying ancestors, but the large number of results makes it confusing to many. Jones gives a blueprint which clarifies how to begin this process. This lecture will assist beginning-to-advanced genealogists wanting to use this tool. The use of atDNA, accompanied by skillful use of traditional genealogical methods, can help family historians identify those elusive ancestors and break down those brick walls.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, imprint of Turner Publishing, 2014), 1–3.
[2] Thomas W. Jones, “Too Few Sources to Solve a Family Mystery? Some Greenfields in Central and Western New York,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 103 (June 2015): 85–103.

A recording of this lecture may be previewed and 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.