National Genealogical Society

Educational Courses

Genetic Genealogy, the Basics

Thomas H. Shawer, md, is a physician, a nationally recognized lecturer, chair­man of the NGS Genetic Genealogy Commit­tee, and the author of the NGS book, Unlocking Your Genetic History.

This is a six-lesson self-paced course designed for genealogists who want to learn about DNA. The course consists of a PDF file that can be printed or read on a computer using the free Adobe Reader, which is available at

What Will I Learn

The course consists of lessons, examples, exercises, and self-graded exams. After completing this six-lesson online course, students will

  • understand the structure of the DNA molecule, how it is organized, how it replicates, and how it functions;
  • learn about human chromosomes and how the Y chromosome is inherited;
  • recognize and become familiar with the two types of DNA markers used in genetic genealogy;
  • become familiar with the concepts of haplotypes and haplogroups;
  • examine a Y surname project and evaluate the test results of the participants; and
  • understand the structure of the mitochondrial DNA molecule, how it is inherited, and how it can be used in genealogy.

To learn more about Genetic Genealogy, the Basics, see the course syllabus.

Requirements & Fees

You will need a computer and Internet connection to download the Genetic Genealogy, the Basics PDF file from the NGS website. You’ll also need the free Adobe Reader to open, view, and print the course on your own computer.

The course tuition is $70, but NGS members receive a discounted price of $45.  Join today to receive the member price.

Register online for the Genetic Genealogy, the Basics course now.

Refund and Cancellation Policy

All purchases of courses on CD are final. There are no refunds.

Certificate of Completion

This is a self-study course and NGS does not issue a certificate upon completion. Since the National Genealogical Society is not a licensing body, no certification or accreditation is implied.

Want Something More?

NGS offers genealogists quality training and education. Other selections include American Genealogy: Home Study Course. This sixteen-lesson course is available on three CDs. It offers the more experienced genealogist an in-depth independent study course on American records.


Contact the NGS Course Administrator at

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Home Study Course on CD

NGS offers American Genealogy: Home Study Course, a sixteen-lesson course on three CDs, for the more experienced genealogist who wants an in-depth independent study course. Learn more.