NGS 2021 On-Demand! DNA Lectures – Judy Russell, Diahan Southard, Karen Stanbary, and Paula Williams

The NGS 2021 On-Demand! DNA track consists of eight lectures presented by well-known speakers who have successfully used DNA testing along with traditional genealogical research to solve genealogical problems. Below are descriptions of four lectures that you don’t want to miss!

Judy G. Russell

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

“To Protect People Who Provide DNA Samples”: The Ethics of DNA Testing


Using DNA in genealogy means finding new-technology solutions for old-time ethical dilemmas. Our key ethical obligation when using this 21st century tool is to ensure that those we ask to provide DNA samples for genealogical research do so only after giving informed consent. We can best understand what that means—and be certain we’re acting appropriately—by following the best practices of our field, set out in the Genealogist’s Code of Ethics, and in the newly-revised Standard 57 of Genealogy Standards.

In this session, we’ll review the basics of genealogical privacy and what happens when we add DNA into the mix. We’ll go over each element of that part of the Genealogist’s Code titled “To protect people who provide DNA samples” including full disclosure, informed consent, and protecting the privacy of living people. We’ll consider the interplay of newly-revised Standard 57, “Respect for privacy rights,” with other ethical guidance including the NGS Guidelines on Sharing Information with Others.

BIO: Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, The Legal Genealogist (, is a genealogist with a law degree. With deep roots in the American south and in Germany, she provides expert guidance through the murky territory where law, history, and genealogy come together.


Diahan Southard

The Power of the “Other” DNA Tests: YDNA, mtDNA, and XDNA


This presentation speaks directly to the many genealogists who are new (or fairly new) to YDNA, mtDNA, and XDNA testing. Perhaps you’ve not invested in these tests yet, or you’ve taken one but not been sure how to learn from it. Each of these testing types is specialized in ways that both limit their use and make them incredibly powerful when used appropriately.

You may already know that YDNA and mtDNA explore, respectively, your paternal and maternal origins—just those single lines, straight up your family tree. You may also have learned something about XDNA, which has a slightly more complicated pattern of inheritance. At the beginning of the presentation, I’ll introduce the basics: who can take these kinds of tests, where to take them and the strengths and limitations of each test type.

But the biggest value of this presentation is learning HOW these various tests can fit into your overall genealogical research plan. You’ll see examples of how to deploy YDNA, mtDNA, and XDNA testing to explore specific family history questions, such as finding the identity of an unknown ancestor, confirming the identity of a possible ancestor, or distinguishing an ancestor from someone of a similar name. You’ll see how modern genealogy research methodology now benefits from multiple kinds of DNA evidence, just as you collect multiple kinds of documentary evidence. You’ll come away with greater confidence in your ability to wield YDNA, mtDNA, and XDNA appropriately in pursuit of your genealogical goals.

Diahan will also be presenting “Your DNA Research Log: How to Stay Organized” for the beginner/intermediate, Session NGS2104-DNA-06. Don’t miss that class either, as once you start gathering DNA evidence across test types and testing companies, you’ll definitely be looking for strategies for keeping track of everything!

BIO: Diahan Southard has been part of the genetic genealogy industry since working for the pioneering Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in the 1990s. She is founder of Your DNA Guide (, a globally-recognized DNA education company that helps those who want to build their family tree or discover living relatives through DNA.


Karen Stanbary, CG

Creation of a Meaningful Lump of Wax out of Teeny, Tiny Drips


This case study seeks to answer a research question about the identity of the biological parents of the speaker’s fourth great-grandfather William Wax (1816–1883). The lecture details a step-by-step research strategy incorporating both documentary and genetic sources to answer the research question. Thorough documentary research results in conflicting evidence about the identity of his possible siblings and parents. The analysis of evidence from an extensive focal study group of DNA matches results in ambiguous evidence.

The research plan necessarily expands to include information mined from advanced DNA visualization tools (chromosome mapping, genetic clusters, and visual phasing). Additionally, the ambiguous genetic evidence requires deepening the pedigree evaluation for the focal study group of DNA test takers. This research strategy results in evidence suggesting that many of the members of the focal study group are related to each other on multiple ancestral inheritance pathways—a common problem associated with chain migration groups to the western frontier in early 19th century families.

The body of evidence leads to several potential hypotheses. Recognizing that all evidence must point to one answer, the multiple hypotheses are analyzed and tested. An analysis of the FAN club provides clues leading to additional documentary records. Further documentary research rules out competing hypotheses until the evidence points to a relationship conclusion that meets the Genealogical Proof Standard. DNA evidence is consistent with the conclusion.

BIO: Karen Stanbary, CG, holds the Certified Genealogist credential. She lectures nationally on the use of DNA test results in genealogical problem-solving, always within the framework of the Genealogical Proof Standard. She is a Trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists and chairs that organization’s DNA Committee.


Paula Williams

Solving a Virginia Mystery Using DNA


Family lore tells a different story than the records for the paternity of Paula’s great-grandfather. Which one is the truth? In this lecture, Paula will talk about how she used Y-DNA and autosomal DNA testing to determine which story was true, and then to identify her great-grandfather’s unknown father.

This lecture should give ideas to those wanting to solve their own genealogical mysteries. It can get overwhelming to look at your DNA match list and not know what you’re looking for. However, by methodically analyzing and comparing our DNA matches, and building their trees as if they’re our own, we can find the answers lurking in our match lists. Part of their trees ARE our trees, we just don’t know it yet! We tend to create our own obstacles – focusing only on what we think we know, focusing only on “known” surnames, giving up too quickly when we don’t see our family in someone else’s tree, or when their tree doesn’t go back far enough. Paula overcame some of those obstacles in solving this mystery. Maybe you will be encouraged to do so as well.

Paula will also talk about target testing the relatives who can best help us solve our genealogical puzzles, and the different kinds of DNA tests you can use. Identifying our DNA matches and paying attention to who on our match list shares DNA with whom is crucial to solving these mysteries and having known relatives among those matches can be very helpful.

If you’re attending the Focus on Societies portion of the conference, you can also hear Paula’s “Focused Learning and Collaboration: Special Interest Groups in Your Genealogical Society” lecture.

BIO: Paula Williams specializes in DNA and southern research, and lectures as well as teaches at GRIP. She is a board member for the Virginia Genealogical Society and GRIVA (Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia).


The Virtual NGS 2021 On-Demand! Viewing Starts 15 June

This lecture series is available to view from home on your computer or mobile device and offers you the opportunity to develop exceptional genealogy skills with a highly comprehensive set of on-demand webinars from NGS’s expert conference speakers. On-Demand! packages of audio-visual lectures are now available for purchase.

Select from the 20 or 40 On-Demand! lecture packages with over 85 sessions to choose from. Watch starting 15 June 2021 through 31 December 2021. Both packages come with access to two full days of NGS 2021 Live! from 19-20 May 2021, the virtual conference syllabus, and sponsored bonus sessions. Plus, view the sessions from NGS 2021 Live! and any sessions you did not choose from the breakouts (nine more) beginning 15 June. All sessions will be closed captioned.


To learn more about the NGS 2021 Virtual Family History Conference’s week-long events, 17-21 May, visit the conference and download a copy of the program brochure.