Can you help someone who lives in another area?
Of course! I often work with my own distant DNA cousins remotely, and can help people interpret their DNA results through email exchanges or Facetime. Whatever works best for you!
What is the best test to start with?
Ancestry.com - over 7 million people worldwide in the database, and almost 2 million more purchased testing kits over Black Friday weekend with the big sales!
If you tested elsewhere, that's OK, each company has its strengths. You can get into a few databases for free right now with your raw DNA file from your testing company: GEDmatch.com, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA.
What is your rate?
My speaking rate for genealogy clubs is flexible depending on the location of engagement, length of presentation desired and the club's budget. Please contact me with the details, and if I am available that date, I will work it out with you!
My rate for helping adoptees with their DNA is $0, as I am a search angel/volunteer for adoptees by choice. A beautiful option is to pay it forward and purchase a DNA kit for an adoptee who can't afford one (someone you know who is ready to search, or I know several adoptees who need to target test another person to narrow down their search). The best payback for me is hearing that people connected, and/or seeing photos of meetups with biological family, whether immediate family or cousins, aunt or uncle!
How can I learn how to do this, too?
I learned by finding the best people in the business and learning from them. I also learned by reading as many posts as I could on The DNA Detectives Facebook group, attending DNA Boot Camp for a week at SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy) in Salt Lake City, i4GG in San Diego and DNA Day at Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, RootsTech and watching selected podcasts or webinars.
When I called the Dallas Public Library's genealogy help desk, I was connected to a research librarian who told me, "You need to talk to Connie Gray. She is an expert on Texas adoptions." Connie Gray was a wealth of information! She called me and was so generous with her time and information about adoptions, particularly in Texas.
I knew CeCe Moore was amazing, from her work on TV show search and reunions. Her Facebook group, The DNA Detectives, was fascinating to read to learn what worked for other people. I met CeCe last year at i4GG in San Diego, a DNA conference she produces, and again at DNA Boot Camp. CeCe has given me valuable advice for a birth mother and daughter reunion for a birth mom I helped get in the databases. CeCe wrote about that reunion on her blog.
Through The DNA Detectives Facebook page, I connected with three of my actual distant (3rd-4th) cousins, who I've worked with remotely, but haven't met yet. Teri Roberts Wheeler, Heidi Rae and Bobby Nix. Teri is another genetic genealogist I collaborate with. It was such a blessing to watch Heidi's and Bobby's searches, assist a little bit, and see photos of their reunions.
Kathy Fernandes is an expert on Portugal Azores Islands DNA and genealogy. I attended her class about endogamy (where close cousins marry in a limited area and everyone's related to everyone) at last year's i4GG, thinking I would never need to know about the Azores Islands. But guess what? An adoptee I was helping had many Azores Islands DNA matches. I knew just who to call for help, and Kathy generously built the Azores Islands part of the adoptee's tree back several generations. She used Spanish church records and her knowledge of surname patterns for the Azores Islands, which are tricky and inconsistent.
At SLIG DNA Boot Camp I met new DNA friends: Shelley Lewis from Canada, Gretchen Jorgensen from Colorado, Nancy, and I reconnected with Heather Goebel and met many more DNA enthusiasts!
In one of the DNA Facebook groups, I noticed Renee Voegele had a lot of knowledge about Oklahoma and Cherokee genealogy and DNA interpretation, and she has helped me learn more about that.
At one of the East Valley DNA Special Interest Group meetings, I mentioned that if anyone wants to be a search angel volunteer, there is a need for many more. Alyson Johnson took me up on the offer, and we meet every couple of weeks to delve into search methods and tools and techniques. There is always something new to learn about genetic genealogy, which is why DNA Boot Camp at SLIG was 5 full days and we still had more to learn!
Recommended reading: "The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy" by Blaine T. Bettinger, 2016, available on Amazon and elsewhere. You can use this as a reference book and focus on the chapters that apply to you.
Blaine has a great Facebook group called "Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques."
Recommended reading for adoptees, birth moms, and adoptive parents and those close to them: "Birthright: The Guide to Search and Reunion for Adoptees, Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents" by Jean A.S. Strauss. This book is not about DNA; it was published in 1994. It has a lot of good information and food for thought on searches, and various outcomes of reunions, and the best ways to approach them. You can find it on Amazon, often for under $5, and sometimes find it as an ebook for $1 or $2.