Ontario Ancestors Conference 2022 The Ontario Genealogical Society Virtual Conference 2022, June 24 – 26, Ottawa
The Ontario Genealogical Society Virtual Conference 2022, June 24 – 26, Ottawa

Speaker Review : Ben Dawson

Genetic Genealogy: DNA Testing, Tools & Tips

Date: June 25 Time: 4:00 PM Stream: A 

As the ‘Bloginator’ for the Ontario Ancestors Conference, I posed a few questions to our Speakers. It so interesting to see all of the different perspectives of genealogy research and the real-life stories behind the people.

Question 1: A brief Bio:

I grew up knowing I had a long history of ancestors in Ontario. It wasn’t until I started officially researching my family that I understood how deep that history goes. I have several branches of my family that reach back to the early 1800s in southwestern Ontario covering areas such as Middlesex, Huron, Bruce and York counties among others. I’ve been researching for about 25 years.

I got involved with OGS in 2015 as I was asked to do a short talk for the local branch (London & Middlesex). I joined the society and within 2 years, I had been “promoted” to co-chair of the branch. Before I knew it, I was a member of the OGS board and involved in a number of projects, committees and networking opportunities with like-minded individuals. I have done several talks for OGS and other organizations on genealogical subjects including DNA, cemetery transcription, genealogy software and using social media for genealogy.

I also started my own professional genealogy business called Family Tree Project (www.familytreeproject.ca) in 2020 and enjoy working with clients to help them break down their own brick walls. What started as a hobby has become a lifelong passion!

Question 2: What or when was the moment that you became interested in pursuing your family’s history? 

In my 20s, I had the opportunity to live with my paternal grandmother and step-grandfather for a couple of years. During this time, I became very close with both of them and was fascinated with my grandmother’s stories of her youth. We would sit up until the late hours talking while playing cards together.

At the same time, I discovered a “complete” genealogy that my step-grandfather had done for his family in the basement which included much of my biological family as well. I asked if he minded if I digitized it into a genealogy program and I was hooked!

Question 3: Please provide a bit of insight into what your talk will provide. 

While commercial DNA testing has exploded in popularity over the last few years, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the analysis of the mountains of information that you get with your results.

My presentation is designed to help those new to the process better understand what they are looking at. It also offers some methodology and initial steps they can take to begin to use this information to break down brick walls in their family tree. I also include several 3rd party analysis tools that often go overlooked.

Question 4: What is your ‘AHA’ moment – that moment when you finally found a connection (or broke a brick wall) you’ve been looking for in the records?

When I first DNA tested in 2012, I was so excited about the possibilities that this new technology was going to bring to my family research. While I was initially underwhelmed due to being among the first tested and very few “tools” available at that time, I was able to build my tree out to a 3rd cousin living in California. She was my first confirmed DNA match and it is through this match that I was able to locate the family bible, the first photo of my 2nd great grandparents and numerous other treasures since. This confirmed my beliefs that DNA testing was going to be a game changer for genealogists around the world.

Question 5: Do you have any tips for first-time genealogists?

I researched my family on my own for 20 years before getting involved with the Ontario Genealogical Society. I wish I had done it MUCH sooner as I wasn’t aware of the resources available as well as the community that I would eventually be a part of.

This last comment from Ben is so important!!

“It has helped me immensely to network with others
that share the same passion as me.”