DNA for Genealogy Is Popular on TV and in Denver

DNA for Genealogy Is Popular on TV and in Denver

In the last several years genealogy-themed TV shows have become hugely popular, and more recently, the addition of DNA testing (genetic genealogy) has also found its way into these shows.

Two new DNA/genealogy reality TV shows debut this week.  I plan to watch and hope you do, too.

Relative Race

Relative Race premieres tonight, February 28 at 6:00pm MT on BYU TV.  It is an original competition family history-based reality show that has been described as Amazing Race meets Who Do You Think You Are.

Relative Race maps

Relative Race features four married couples as they travel across the US in search of long lost relatives, armed with only paper maps, a rental car, a $25 per diem and a flip phone. Using the science and technology provided by AncestryDNA, the couples embark on a journey that starts in San Francisco, ends in New York City and leads them to unknown relatives along the way. Cameras follow all four teams as they drive across the country -more than 4500 miles- in just ten days, stopping each day to complete a challenge and find (and stay with) their newly discovered relatives in a different city. At the end of each day, the team that finishes last receives a strike; after three strikes, teams are eliminated and the remaining teams travel to NYC for the grand finale where there is a $25k grand prize for the winning couple.

BYUtv is available on Dish (Ch. 9403), DirecTV (Ch. 374), and carried by nearly 600 cable television providers nationwide.  Episodes can also be streamed live or watched on demand on, or via a variety of smartphone apps that can be downloaded.  View the trailer on the Relative Race official site.

Long Lost Family

A new 8-episode season of Long Lost Family will premiere on TLC on March 6 at 9:00pm MT.  The show has aired on British TV for a couple of seasons, and the trailer and TV schedule for the current season can be viewed on the TLC website.


The show premieres with an episode titled, “I’ve Waited for This Call for 45 Years,” in which a mother is reunited with a child that she was forced to give up for adoption.  The show utilizes DNA testing to help establish close family relationships when reuniting biological family members.

Finding Your Roots

Season 3 of Finding Your Roots continues with two more episodes to round out the current season on March 1 and 8.  Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. continues to explore the backgrounds of celebrities by utilizing DNA testing and consulting by genetic genealogist CeCe Moore.


The remaining schedule can be found on the PBS website, and full episodes of this season can also be watched online.  The Behind the Scenes blog provides more information on how DNA testing was used to solve some of these cases.


DNA Seminar and Q&A Sessions at Denver Public Library

If you are in the Denver area and lucky to be one of the 225+ individuals who have a seat in CeCe Moore’s sold out all-day seminar at Denver Public Library on March 5, you will no doubt hear about some of the ways she has used DNA to solve these cases.

I will be providing 4 DNA Q&A sessions in the weeks following CeCe’s seminar to give attendees an opportunity to have their DNA questions answered in a small-group format limited to 40 attendees each.  Registration for the sessions scheduled on March 10 and 26 will open on this website on March 6.  Check the calendar for a session that meets your schedule and submit your questions in advance via the registration form.

DNA with DigiDeena Facebook Cover



FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conference Recap

FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conference Recap

RootsTech logoThe Federation of Genealogical Societies/RootsTech combined conference was held February 11-14 in Salt Lake City, and was the largest genealogical conference ever in the U.S. with over 23,000 attendees.  This year was the first time the separate FGS and RootsTech conferences were held together, which enabled a huge expo hall with vendors covering many aspects of genealogy, storytelling, photos, games, and historic preservation.

The FGS conference had a librarian’s day and society day before the main conference, and RootsTech held an Innovator’s Summit for tech developers who work to build software or apps for genealogists. The core FGS conference sessions mainly focused on genealogical methodology and records, while the RootsTech sessions covered technology, software and online searching or connecting with family.

FGS2015 SpeakerBadgeI was honored to deliver one of the FGS keynotes and three other lectures during the conference:

  • Society Day Keynote:  New Growth
  • Communicating on a Shoestring Budget:  Cost-Effective Solutions for Societies
  • Using Constant Contact’s Toolkit for Society Communications
  • Beyond the Census:  The Non-Population Schedules

RootsTech is sponsored by FamilySearch, so it is no wonder that many of the new companies or developers who debuted their apps were certified partners of FamilySearch. Most of these apps provided extended functionality or unique views of the FamilySearch Family Tree, making it more apparent where gaps in research or possible errors exist.

FamilySearch logoSeveral of these newer Family Tree apps include:

  • KinPoint – Mainly a research aid by use of color-coded dots, that provides error notifications, missing records, hints, timelines, photos, and the ability to explore ancestors’ occupations or countries of origin
  • RootsMapper – Plots the birth location and migration paths of ancestors with lines on a Google Map for up to 10 generations
  • Puzzilla –  A descendant and ancestor viewer that uses color-coded dots to diagram a 360-degree view of a family tree, visually indicating where additional research could be done at end-of-line locations on the tree
  • TreeSeek –  The ability to print decorative charts directly from Family Tree or via GEDCOM file, including fun charts like popular male or female name clouds from your own tree
  • RecordSeek – A bookmarklet app that makes creating source citations easy by saving website links with genealogy documentation directly to Family Tree or into a “source box” to review later

In order to use these apps, an individual needs to have a free FamilySearch username and password to access the features, and should build out a few generations on the Family Tree if they aren’t already there. Some apps also offer additional premium features for a modest subscription price. After seeing the features of these apps, I had an “a-ha” moment that I really needed to build out more branches on the Family Tree so I wouldn’t miss the analysis benefits these tools can offer.

One new company named MooseRoots provides free ad-supported “interactive data visualizations” of historical records and trends to such things as demographics and name popularity. Searching for the name Rufus reveals that its most popular year was 1880 when it was the 88th most common baby name—not surprisingly, my great-grandfather was given that name in 1881. Searching for a 1920 census record of one of my ancestors allowed me to drill down into statistics from the county where he lived, providing insight on such things like racial and urban/rural composition of the county, literacy rates, and historical facts from that decade placed into the context of my ancestor’s life. Clicking around on this site and seeing various charts, graphs and statistics was fun, and revealed social context that can help enhance the story of an ancestor’s life.

Another new company named HistoryLines debuted in beta at the demo theater, and just recently went live last week. This company has a simple “discover-build-share” model. Based on a date and place, discover how life was for an ancestor, including education, clothing styles and cultural influences in his or her region. Build upon this base story by adding personal events, stories and memories to the historical timeline. Then finally, share the ancestor’s story in a variety of online platforms or in printed copies that can be handed out at a family gathering. This company is one of several that is using historical context to enhance our understanding of what it was like for our ancestors; this context is what aids us in appropriately interpreting the records and clues we locate so that we draw correct conclusions from them and can write a fuller story of their lives.

Last, on the fun side, I picked up a couple sets of The Game of Genealogy. This board game resembles the game of Clue, but is adapted for genealogy where you visit courthouses, cemeteries or archives to gain clues or points and “discover” more ancestors. The game made a fun family activity while on a recent visit with relatives, and could also be used at society game nights or family reunions.

The FGS/RootsTech conference offered many opportunities to learn, whether in the classroom sessions, computer labs, or when wandering the various demos in the expo hall. If you have not been to a large genealogical conference, consider attending one—you may be pleasantly surprised at all you can learn!

RootsTech 2016 will be held in Salt Lake City February 3-6. FGS 2016 will be held in Springfield, Illinois August 31 to September 3.  I hope to see you there!

Deena Coutant & Jen Baldwin

Deena Coutant & Jen Baldwin before FGS Society Day keynote 11 February 2015. Photo by J Paul Hawthorne.