Genetic Genealogists


Exploring this Job

Begin exploring the field of genealogy by researching your own family’s history. Try filling out your own family tree at FamilySearch, (Family Search is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) The National Genealogical Society offers a variety of free genealogy resources at its Web site, is another good source of information.

Try to become familiar with commonly used genetics genealogy terms. This will help you better understand terminology in books, blogs, and other resources that you come across as you seek to learn more about the field. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy offers a useful glossary at its Web site,

Read genetics, genealogy, and genetics genealogy blogs to learn more about the field and investigative techniques. Here are a few suggestions:

  • DNA Explained:
  • The Genetic Genealogist:
  • The 23andMe Blog:
  • DNA & Genealogy:

The Job

Genetic genealogists perform DNA testing and analysis in order to conduct genealogical research for clients. They do so to verify or refute findings made via traditional genealogical research, to assist adoptees and others with unknown parentage, and to meet other goals. Other genetic genealogists study human migration patterns, conduct population studies, and conduct genetic testing for diseases and proof of paternity. According to the National Genealogical Society’s Committee on Genetic Genealogy, three types of DNA testing are used in the field of consumer genetic genealogy:

  • Autosomal DNA testing (the most common type of test). This type of DNA is inherited from both parents and provides information about at least five generations of ancestors.
  • Y-DNA testing. This type of testing is only done on males because only they have a Y chromosome.
  • mtDNA or mitochondrial DNA testing. This type of testing is done on both females and males, but it is only used by genetic genealogists to resolve research problems related to the direct female line.

When working with a client, genetic genealogists ask the client to take a DNA test in order to obtain his or her genetic information and match it with the genetic information that has already uploaded to publicly accessible genetic databases. Genetic genealogists who work for companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA also have access to proprietary autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, and mtDNA databases that contain DNA records from their past clients. As they assess the genetic information, genetic genealogists also use traditional genealogy research methods (examining historical and legal documents, studying Census data and other databases, etc.) to build family trees of matches. This may sound easy, but the process is time consuming and sometimes leads to dead ends or false leads. If the genetic genealogist is able to find matches to his or her client’s DNA, the genealogist may discuss the findings with their client in order to gain further insights that will fuel additional research, or they may simply prepare a written and/or oral report that they present to the client.

Forensic genealogists are specialized genetic genealogists who use the FBI’s CODIS database, traditional genealogy methods and sources, and genetic information from direct-to-consumer companies (although only a few companies grant database access to law enforcement agencies) and other sources to identify those who have committed serious crimes such as murder and rape or to identify victims of these crimes. These professionals can also be employed to exonerate those who have been wrongly convicted of a crime. Forensic genealogists may also be known as investigative genetic genealogists.