Goons reps Ann And Helen - at WAGS GOONS Seminar Sunday 29 November 2015

On Sunday 29th November, the long term member of the Guild of One Name Studies and Queensland regional rep Helen Smith, whom you may have seen on a genie-cruise, presented two workshops at WAGS.

It was a great day organised by the GOONS Western Australian representative, Ann Spiro.

Using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles 

Helen’s first talk on solving puzzles was engaging. DNA tests are a subject I've found difficult to get to grips with. DNA rarely solves mysteries on its own – you will still need to do standard research!

Forget what you see on TV – these are not the same DNA markers as used in crime shows, AND it can take over 6 weeks for autosomal tests results and much longer (3 months presently) for Y-DNA testing. The Mitcochondral (mtDNA) results take about  6-8 weeks - some of this is the shipping time back to the laboratory in the USA. Also the testing company, FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) keeps your DNA samples for long periods (25 years), which mean those samples can be used for an upgrade and later testing, or for tests that haven’t been invented as yet.

Further, some additional testing may be required for Y-DNA to further determine your haplotype (at an added cost) to improve your chances of relevant matches.

With Non Paternal Events (NPE) accounting for up to 10% of births in some time periods and areas, it is important to realise that you may uncover facts that some of your family do not wish to be found.

Y-DNA is for testing up the male surname line as it is only passed from father to son.

mtDNA, is of limited use if you are “fishing” for relatives – the DNA changes slowly and a full sequence exact match could mean a 50% chance of finding a common ancestor over 125 years or the match may be years further back into a non-genealogical timeframe.

Humans have 22 pairs of chromosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes, XY for males and XX for females. There is rearrangement of the autosomes as they are inherited unlike the direct line non-rearranged inheritance pattern of YDNA and mtDNA.

This means in the 22 pairs you inherit about 50% of your mother’s DNA and 50% of your fathers, about 25% each grandparent, 12.5% each great grandparent, and so on. This means you get about 6-7 generations back and you will have inherited non-detectable amounts from that ancestor so you have a “Genetic family tree” and also a paper trail that will go further back than autosomal testing.

It was interesting to learn that the different testing companies’ algorithms (mathematical equations) can give variable numerical results, e.g. Ancestry said one person shared 6 centimorgans (cM) of DNA whilst FTDNA said they shared 22cM. It is certainly important to know what you wish to find, so you can spend wisely to get the correct test to answer your genealogical question.

One of the interesting points made was that there are surname projects you can use to help you with your search at FTDNA. (

Also, what is not obvious, is that there are third party tools available, like Gedmatch ( which can help you analyse and get the best results from your test.

I am happy to say, I can now see the way forward!

NB: WAGS has copies of a recommended book from Unlock the Past, available in the Bookshop: DNA for Genealogists, by Kerry Farmer.

Fishing for Cousins: using blogs as baits.

Helen's second talk was about blogging.

Helen made it seem so easy using Google Blogger. I must admit it was impressive.

If you missed out on these wonderful talks, you might want to view one of her blogs. Search for “Helen V Smith”- she has several different blogs. Or go to

Also see the over 3500 family history blogs listed here at Geneabloggers

Whilst not actually blogs, did you know there are over 5,000 family history groups on Facebook ?

Helen’s talks were very engaging with plenty of slides, live sites used and many questions answered.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to hear one of her talks, grab it!


Ian Barnes

Member #9003