DNA is a hot topic and people are realizing that there is a lot to learn about their results and going beyond the ethnicity and medical to find relatives and learn more about family history.
Involvement in a DNA Interest Group is one way to look at the DNA numbers and collaborate with others on DNA. Here’s a recent interview with Ann Raymont, one of the founders of the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group.
The Central Indiana DNA Interest Group (CIDIG) is a group of people in central Indiana who are interested in DNA testing, especially as it pertains to advancing our family histories.
The CIDIG has five team leaders who support the local community in this learning endeavor. Some folks attend just one meeting; some attend lots of them.
What Inspired This Group to Form?
Back in 2015, it was hard to find education on how to use DNA testing effectively for genealogy. Several members of the Indiana Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) were pursuing opportunities at conferences and by self-study, but the realization came that many others didn’t know about or have those learning options. The CIDIG wanted to promote knowledge-sharing.
I saw one of my Indiana APG colleagues at a DNA workshop during the 2015 National Genealogical Society conference. Angela and I put our heads together and arranged a kickoff meeting of a proposed Central Indiana DNA Interest Group at a local genealogy society that November. It was an open-to-the-public brainstorming session to hear what area genealogists wanted from such a group: what topics, how often to meet, where, etc. (Two more Indiana APG members, Andrea and Denise, also stepped forward at this meeting and volunteered to be co-leaders.) Our first formal CIDIG presentation took place at a local library in early 2016.
We have five team leaders now—Steve is an attorney specializing in adoptees and people with unknown parentage. We all have different areas of expertise to contribute.
What Does a DNA Interest Group Do?
At first, we focused on sharing our DNA knowledge with those just dipping their toes in genetic genealogy.
Our presentations focus on which tests to take, differences between companies, whom to test in the family, what ethnicity results really tell you, and basic information on how it all works and how it can apply to genealogy. Over the months (and now years), we’ve introduced more topics, such as working with family trees, navigating AncestryDNA pages, understanding chromosome mapping and triangulation, tools like GEDmatch and DNA Painter, organizing your match data, etc.
We share some intriguing case studies as well but we continue to offer beginning programming periodically, as new folks discover DNA testing all the time and ask for help getting started.
We also have roundtable discussions on topics like recruiting family to test, ethics and privacy, getting your matches to reply, sharing success stories. It’s important that folks who attend get a chance to contribute and discuss their experiences; we can all learn from each other!
We offer one-on-one consults too; more on that below!
What’s the Greatest DNA Discovery the Group has Found?
At least one participant has discovered their birth family through DNA testing. That has to be the most significant find.
Others have learned intriguing stories: a man who abandoned one family to start another, a widow who gave her baby to her brother-in-law and his wife to raise as their own…. We’ve connected with distant cousins in foreign countries…. It’s always satisfying to add more names to our pedigree charts, but there are also previously untold stories that DNA can shed a light on too.
At first, we focused on sharing our DNA knowledge with those just dipping their toes in genetic genealogy. We usually ask at the start who has already tested and where. If everyone has tested (which is happening more often), then we can gloss over some of the content, but if some are just exploring the idea of DNA testing, our Basics presentations (and resource list and handouts) should be able to help them out.
The CIDIG holds a variety of events where attendance ranges from 10 to 60 people, both members and non-members of the group.
Every event that the CIDIG hosts is open to the public. Home base for events is the local county library. Meetings are held there usually once a month and those events are free.
When external organizations engage our services—generally within a 50-mile radius—we bill the host organization for our time. It is up to that organization to decide what, if anything, to charge participants.
1-on-1 Consult Events
Once a year or so, the monthly meeting is simply a time in which we invite folks to drop in with a DNA question. One or two of the team leaders then meets with the attendee for 15-20 minutes to try to answer the question and make recommendations on what to do next. In addition, we now partner with the Indiana State Library (which offers free genealogy consults one Saturday a month) and we offer the 15-20 minute DNA consult service there with them. Interested guests need to email their DNA question at least a week in advance.
Announcing the New CIDIG Website
The CIDIG is proud to announce the launch of their new website.
This new website is a great addition to the organization with key objectives such as having our calendar of upcoming events online along with more information and content specific to the CIDIG. People can sign-up for our annual one-on-one consults online at our website.
Handouts that contain information about us and standard resources that we recommend at our events should be available online soon.
About Ann Raymont, CG®, CIDNA Team Leader
Ann has been doing genealogy for more years than she would care to admit.
However, it’s only since 2014 that she committed to learning genealogy standards and best practices, to conduct her research more effectively and ensure her conclusions are valid.
DNA is one of those genealogy sources that she now considers routinely in her problem-solving: for some brick walls, it’s more valuable than others.
Ann took the Boston University program in Genealogical Research in 2014, followed by an 18-month study group in professional genealogy (called ProGen, now a 12-month program) in 2015 and 2016. As of October 21, 2018, is an official board-certified genealogist.
It was ProGen that prompted her to develop a website and monthly blog (DNAsleuth.wordpress.com).
She has also participated in several conferences and multiple week-long genealogy institutes, several of which were DNA-specific.
When Ann isn’t digging up ancestors (figuratively!), she does volunteer research for Indiana’s Underground Railroad Initiative.