Published August 7, 2017

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Combining genealogy and DNA has been on an increasingly logarithmic path in the last 15 years or so.
I have been mostly an outside observer to whole technology march (not just in genealogy – I’m pretty scrupulous about making sure my iPhone is at least one version – and maybe two! – behind the latest and the greatest).
I’m just not what the tech world calls an “early adopter” since I’m more attuned to the proverb that states “pioneers take all the arrows.”
Which is not to say that I’m not fascinated by what DNA has wrought in the genealogical world. Since I attended my first genealogy DNA lectures at a National Genealogical Society conference in 2000, I have periodically ducked inside the technology tent in order to get myself up to speed with what’s going on.
But many times when it comes to DNA, I do what the guys on the “Pawn Stars” TV show do when they are confronted with something that requires scientific knowledge and precision and say: “I’m going to have to call in an expert.”
A lot of the time that expert is Diahan Southard, who bills herself as “Your DNA Guide.” She started with her college degree in microbiology and added her in-on-the-ground-floor experience with the then-cutting-edge Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation team more than a decade ago.
Her “Your DNA Guide” venture includes offering private consultations as well as the best-written laminated quick guides in the genealogy field, currently numbering 10 in all, with titles as follows:
• Getting Started
• Y Chromosome DNA
• Mitochondrial DNA
• Autosomal DNA
• Understanding AncestryDNA
• Understanding Family Tree DNA
• Understanding 23andMe
• Next Steps (for working with autosomal DNA matches)
• Organizing Your DNA Matches
• Gedmatch: A Next Step for Your Autosomal DNA Test
From my previous “peeks inside the tent,” I knew DNA genealogy basics: the Y chromosome test is paternal ancestry (usually the surname line), mitochondrial (or mtDNA, for short) follows the mother’s mother’s mother’s (etc.) ancestry and autosomal DNA refers to the “jumble” of genetic material that is reshuffled from generation to generation, half from father and mother.
With her keen gift for analogy, Southard tells her readers to imagine that autosomal DNA is a suitcase filled with primary genealogical records, but with a random half of the records from some lines of the suitcase owner’s father and another tossed-together half from the mother.
She explains concepts that are second nature to DNA experts but trip up others, for example: Your genetic pedigree is not the same as your genealogical pedigree. Because of the random reshuffling and only half coming from mother and father, many ancestors’ DNA is not represented in your own DNA, making it difficult to find them using your genetics alone.
She also explains many of the more complicated concepts that just keep coming: Triangulation (using three persons’ DNA to help figure out which ancestors are in common); phasing (in which the raw DNA data to analyzed to determine which are paternal or maternal in origin); and X one-to-one (using the X chromosome of two men to narrow down their relationship to being maternal).
You can contact Southard by e-mail at, or through her Website at


  1. Sara

    9 months ago  

    I have many “way back” DNA matches on my Central PA (Bedford/Blair/Huntingdon) Germans. Can’t miss knowing who those with surname of Dilling are.

  2. Rick Bender

    9 months ago  

    Interesting. I’ll check it out. (I’ve been busy lately with real-world work. Ugh.)

    You’ve reminded me: I descend from John Bender and Catharina Stroh (my ggg-grandparents); I suspect they married c1806. Catharina just seems to vanish after 1813; I suspect she died c1820. A John Bender married Rebecca Stine (14 years younger than he was) in 1820. I have long-suspected that my JB married second to Rebecca. They were in the same area of Lebanon County and lived near[?] my gg-grandfather in Jonestown in the 1830s & ’40s.

    I met Ann, a descendant of JB & Rebecca (through the marriage of their daughter to Joel Hey); she and I match at’s DNA site. Trouble is: We have paper trails that both lead to the Reed family — hers through the Hey family, as I recall; mine through Theiss and Mosser, again, as I recall. Are we related through Bender? Or Reed? Or both?

    Triangulation(?): Ancestry DNA gives me another Bender match which is also a match for Ann. He’s a descendant of JB & Rebecca BUT not through the Hey marriage, meaning he probably doesn’t have the Reed connection (certainly not through the Hey marriage, anyway). It looks to me, right now, like we three are all linked through the Bender line.

    He hasn’t yet replied and he probably doesn’t know anything more than any of the rest of us regarding JB’s existence prior to 1806. So, it likely doesn’t really prove anything, but then, it is supportive to the notion that it was the same JB in both marriages, which helps to focus the research. (I hope .) — Rick