Meet the Team | Your DNA Guide

Diahan Southard, Founder and CEO, Genetic Genealogy Expert and Educator

Diahan Southard is a leading voice for consumer DNA testing, one of the world’s most fascinating, dynamic and socially-transformative new hobbies. Nearly 30 million people have taken a DNA test. The numbers keep rising and so do the uses of their data–and questions about that use. As Founder of Your DNA Guide, Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience. You will walk away from an interaction with Diahan enlightened and motivated, as she has a passion for genetic genealogy, a genuine love for people, and a gift for making the technical understandable.

Diahan’s involvement in genetic genealogy began nearly 20 years ago as a bench scientist for the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, the world’s first genetic genealogy database. Today, Diahan often weighs in on the compelling–and sometimes competing–ethical, familial, health, and criminal justice implications of consumer DNA testing. She voices the conviction that learning ancestral ethnicity can unite people rather than divide them. She counsels those who learn family secrets to tread carefully but courageously. Diahan seeks to bridge the needs of those who want answers from DNA with those who want privacy. The stories she shares illuminate the human experience of navigating the histories hidden deep within the genomes of individuals, families and societies.

While she truly enjoys enlightening minds of genealogists everywhere, Diahan considers her greatest DNA contribution to be her three children. She feels it is a true gift that she can be a stay-at-home mom and a work-from-home business woman. Of course, this would never be possible without the unwavering support of her handsome husband who holds down the fort as she travels and lectures.

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Jayne Ekins, Genetic Genealogist, Contributing Author

Jayne has 19 years of experience in the field of genetic genealogy. She had the extraordinary experience of being mentored by Dr. Scott Woodward and his visionary team at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in the earliest days of this burgeoning field. She has been a part of nearly every stage of driving the discovery process forward: field specimen collection, marker selection and assay design, data management and computational processes, analysis and algorithms, and investigating population-level research questions.

She has lectured throughout the United States and international venues on the applications of molecular biology to elucidating ancient and recent genealogical connections. She has authored and co-authored many peer-reviewed scientific publications, as well as general articles on genetic genealogy. It is a pleasure for her to see the accelerating developments in genetic genealogy, and the wide accessibility and application it has for the average human curious about their origins.

Read Jayne’s recollections of working at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.

Danielle Francis, Customer Service Specialist

As part of the team at Your DNA Guide, Dani manages the customer service account, answering questions, scheduling events, and pointing curious learners like you in the right direction to even know where to get started with their genetic genealogy. She is a student at Brigham Young University working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health. When not working on school or responding to inquiries about the world of genetic genealogy you can find her working on an art project (usually watercolor) or reading a book (usually nonfiction).

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Kathie Knoll, Product Manager

Kathie Knoll is a marketing and communications strategist. She has been involved in product development or strategic marketing in family history for the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in genetic genealogy with Relative Genetics (a Sorenson company), Ancestry.com and currently with Your DNA Guide. 

With degrees in both business and history, Your DNA Guide provides the perfect backdrop to utilize both of her interests. She is enthusiastic about assisting Workshop participants in the Your DNA Guide—the Academy eLearning platform.

Kathie enjoys documenting her own family history and spending time with her energetic children and family while volunteering locally in the community and with her church family.

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Michelle Leonard, Genetic Genealogist, Contributing Author

Michelle is a Genetic Genealogy Coach for the Your DNA Guide DNA Skills Workshop. She conducts one-on-one coaching sessions and is on hand to help and guide participants throughout their Workshop experience. She is a Scottish professional genealogist, DNA detective, speaker, author and historian with a wealth of international experience in both the traditional and genetic genealogy fields. Her first involvement with DNA came in 2009 when she worked on the ground-breaking ‘Fromelles Genealogy Project’ tracking down appropriate DNA donors to identify WWI soldiers buried in a mass grave in France and she has been immersed in using DNA for family history ever since! She runs her own genealogy and DNA consultancy business, Genes & Genealogy, and specializes in solving unknown parentage and all manner of unknown ancestor mysteries using a combination of DNA expertise and conventional research methodologies. Michelle is also a co-author of Tracing Your Ancestors Using DNA: A Guide For Family Historians and the official genetic genealogist of #AncestryHour.

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Sunny Morton, Content Manager, Contributing Editor

You may have read Sunny’s work in Family Tree Magazine (US) or in several languages on the global FamilySearch blog, seen her powerful genealogy presentations, or heard her on Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcast. Sunny has authored hundreds of how-to and news articles. She is author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy and co-author of the NGS Book Award-winning How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records (with Harold Henderson, CG). At Your DNA Guide, she uses her award-winning writing and editing talents to help put Diahan’s expert advice into plain English and publish it on our blog, in Your DNA Guide—the Book and in Your DNA Guide—the Academy Workshops and Courses.

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Amber Oldenburg, Social Media Manager

At Your DNA Guide, Amber maintains our social media presence and works to develop and implement engaging content. When not working on Your DNA Guide’s social media strategy, she can be found traveling the country with her family or reading a book a history book.

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Katie Ritchie, Sales and Campaign Manager

Katie has an B.S. in Microbiology. During college at Brigham Young University, Katie worked for Dr. Scott Woodward, a pioneer in the field of genetic genealogy. She became an early employee of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation and worked there for 10 years until the Foundation was sold in 2012 to Ancestry. Her favorite responsibility was working on “Special Cases” for genealogists who wanted to ask their DNA specific questions—just like we do now at Your DNA Guide!

Send an email to Katie