A microbiology graduate, Diahan Southard has spent 15 years in the genetic genealogy industry. In her current position as Your DNA Guide, she provides personalized, interactive experiences to assist individuals and families in interpreting their genetic results in the context of their genealogical information.
She is also the author of DNA Quick Guides, producer of a video tutorial series, as well as a featured author for Family Tree Magazine and regular contributor to Your Genealogy Today.
What do you do as a Day Job?
This is it!
What do you do as a Night Job?
I am a mom.
How did you get into genealogy?
Can I just say divine providence? My high school English teacher advised all of us seniors to get involved in research as soon as we started college. So, I did. I walked into the Microbiology department at Brigham Young University and asked to see a list of research interests of the professors in the department. After a boring list including bacteria and viruses I saw “Arceogenetics” and I was hooked. I started immediately working for Dr. Scott Woodward on using DNA to investigate the origins of some ancient Egyptian burials. That project turned into the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, the first genetic genealogy database effort.
I worked for SMGF and its sister companies, including Relative Genetics and GeneTree until SMGF was sold to Ancestry.com. With some, okay with A LOT of encouragement from friends and colleagues I spent about a year working with Ugo Perego as Your Genetic Genealogy Consultant, and then went out on my own as Your DNA Guide, where I now happily reside.
Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy
As mentioned above, I have been in genetic genealogy since it has been an industry. I have done it all, from the actual bench lab work, to the analysis, to the marketing, to the training of CEOs and CFOs who didn’t even know what DNA was.
I started lecturing and gathering blood samples for SMGF when I was still in college, traveling to wherever they would take me, and lugging home coolers full of blood, and folders full of pedigree charts. My passion is definitely teaching. At first I did it in the form of what we called VIP reports that we would create for influential people that we were trying to convince of the merits of the SMGF database effort. I created YDNA family reports for the early adopters of that technology – and I think those are still my favourite cases.
But I slowly learned that writing everything out on paper and handing it over still left people with questions. I am very much enjoying the one-on-one interactions that now form my consultation sessions, where we are live in real time and I can assess the level of need and understanding and adjust our conversation accordingly.
I still never tire of those “aha!” moments. It reassures me that anyone can learn this stuff!
What will you be talking about?
I will be covering two topics at this year's conference:
Five Tips To Make Sense of Your DNA Testing
At some point in the recent past you were convinced that DNA testing could help with your genealogy, so you went through with the testing. But now you are faced with confusing results and a long list of matches. This lecture will refresh your biology knowledge, create the foundation of genetic genealogy knowledge, and most importantly, cover basic to intermediate strategies on how to turn your list of cousins into ancestral discoveries. You will leave with a solid understand on how to start actually using your autosomal DNA testing in your genealogy. DNA is the universal language, and learning how to navigate the website where you are tested can help anyone make breakthroughs in their family history.
The Marriage of Genetics and Genealogy: A Case Study
My mom was adopted from an unwed mother’s home in Seattle, Washington. Come learn how we were able to use a combination of genetic and genealogical tools to connect with our biological family, and how it has affected our lives. Leave with concrete ideas on how to apply these same methods to your own personal genetic genealogy endeavors, weather you are looking for your father, or your 3X Great Grandfather.
What questions will you address during your presentation?
- What is the first thing I should do upon receiving my autosomal DNA test results?
- What do the relationship ranges of 2nd-4th cousin really mean?
- How can I navigate the company’s website?
- Which are my best matches?
What DNA tests will be discussed – Y, mitochondrial, autosomal DNA?