Monday, February 25, 2013

WDYTYA? Live: Something For Everyone

   This was my first WDYTYA? conference and to be honest it was my first genealogical conference of this size.  With over 120 exhibitors and over 150 workshop sessions, there was literally something for everyone.  I was only there for Sunday of the three-day event and that was probably a good thing.  I was told that it was standing room only and extremely busy on Friday and Saturday. 

   I didn’t go to London specifically for this event.  I’m here on business and lucky enough to grab a ticket.  My first impression was that there really wasn’t anything here for me.  I had to remind myself that this event was geared for the first time and beginner genealogist.  The mega-booth did very well, offering free access to their service on a few dozen computers.  FamilySearch also brought in a dozen computers for folks to try their search.  These kiosks were just as busy, which confused me considering that FamilySearch is always free.

   This should come as no surprise, but there were many folks there selling genealogical records.  There were the big companies selling their subscription services and small societies selling their parish records.  I’m already overpaying for the services I have, I can’t afford to drop $50 dollars for an unknown set of records on a CD with the hope of finding the one record I’m looking for.  It’s difficult to make wise buying decisions at these events.  I did come away unscathed.

   There were more genealogical magazines than I thought existed offered at various booths.  I really should get out more often.  There were lots of books and charts and organizational tools.  Universities were there offering online genealogical courses and degrees.  There were booths with stuff that was completely unrelated to genealogy. 
I wanted to walk in and learn something new and wow.  I didn’t get that.  I imagine that for those new genealogists they got exactly that and more.  It would be like a kid in a genealogical candy store.

   Since Sunday was quieter than the previous days, I was able to see all the booths two or three times.  I took the opportunity to see what was out there, what was working and what wasn’t from a vendor perspective.  I was surprised that no one was at the Mocavo kiosks and not surprised that the Family Tree DNA booth was hopping.  Any booth that gave a person a chance to ask a question and walk away with some free knowledge was busy.  Any booth that was just a service (not to pick on these folks) like art or videos or tourism were not as busy.

   I might attend again in the future, not as a visitor but as a vendor.  I saw a niche or two that was not represented.  If you are into genealogy in the UK, this was the place to be.  I imaging that the SoCal Jamboree will be the place to be in the States in June.  I’ll be at RootsTech all three days in March and I’ll let you know how that goes.

   I’ve been a hermit genealogist most of my life and this social genealogy is new to me.  What are the biggest events in the genealogy world?  If you could only take one trip a year, which event would it be?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Get Your DNA to the Top of the Charts

Deep Into DNA*

Show me your DNA family tree. You don’t have one? This year, set a new resolution to build your DNA tree. You have a great family tree with names, dates and locations. I will be using fan charts to describe a variety of family trees including traditional, nationality, genetic and ethnic.


DNA gives us the ability to view beyond our nationalities to our cultural origins. You may have English ancestry on paper, genetically you might really be Celtic, Norman, Norse or Saxon. All nations are culturally and genetically diverse.

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in the new Going In-Depth
digital genealogy magazine presented by The In-Depth Genealogist.


Friday, February 8, 2013

22 Reasons for DNA Testing

In celebration of reaching 22,222 views on my blog, I'm posting my top 22 reasons why you should have your DNA tested.  Even though there are hundreds of reasons to test your genes, you may only need one.

  1. Validate your paternal & maternal line genealogies - more
  2. Identify your paternal & maternal line deep ancestries - more
  3. Map your tribal migration - more
  4. Adds data to your entire family tree - more
  5. Identify your ethnicity - more
  6. Contact genetic cousins
  7. Helps with adoptee research
  8. Helps with genealogy research on illegitimate ancestors - more
  9. Identify health risk factors - more
  10. Validate your old world homeland - more
  11. Connect with historical events - more
  12. Jump over genealogical brick walls
  13. There is a test type for nearly every research need - more
  14. Prove or disprove oral history - more
  15. Prove or disprove genealogical theories
  16. Find out if you are part Neandertal - more
  17. An invaluable tool in your genealogy - more
  18. Connect related family lines
  19. Eliminate incorrect research paths
  20. Calculate how any two people are related - more
  21. Get a better understanding of who you really are - more
  22. Get a better understanding of what it means to be human - more
DNA tests can unlock valuable information about your past, present and future.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stop the DNA Insanity!

    If you Google ‘DNA’ and ‘privacy’ you will get over 200 million articles describing the potential dangers. Imagine if your DNA information got into the wrong hands. Why isn’t someone doing something about this problem?

       A recent study claims that public DNA records can be analyzed to determine the surname of the donor and the algorithm is correct 12% of the time. This is outrageous! To think that an adoptee might actually be able to use DNA to find their birth parents. Unthinkable!

    Before you get a DNA test and add the results to a public database, remember, that your DNA is not yours alone. Your genetic information is a shared attribute across your entire family. You would be unintentionally sharing data about your children’s and your descendant’s DNA. Your genetic ancestry is also the ancestry of your parents and your cousins. You could be putting your entire tribe at risk.

    Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s cousin’s DNA is publicly available. I’m fairly certain that his genetic information was used against him and caused his bid to fail. This is serious.

    Sharing DNA data should be stopped. It’s not yours to share.

    There is too much data out there that puts our privacy at risk. Many States allow public access to vital records. Anyone can walk in and look at my birth record. They will figure out how old I am and where I was born. I’ll have to stop using that information as a challenge question on my bank website. My birth record will allow someone to calculate when my parents were intimate. I shudder with disbelief. A marriage record might tell you how many times the woman has been married - the harlot. A death certificate will tell you where they are buried. There’s no privacy even in death.

    If your family tree is public, then anyone and their brother could study it and then call you claiming to be a long lost cousin. They will be able to talk about great-aunt Edna and recently departed cousin Roy. Next thing you know you are loaning them money. Genealogy should be outlawed. History should stay history. I’m not sure it is worth the inherent risks.

    It doesn’t end there. There are other sources of your information. There are digital phone books and land records. If someone sees my driver’s license, they will know where I live. I’m not safe in my own home. It may be time to go off grid. Perhaps the Luddites had it right.

    Life is risky.

    Getting out of bed every morning is risky. You could stub your toe. We do it anyway because it is worth living. What we do in our lives and the legacy that we leave behind will define who we were. We don’t have time to worry ‘excessively’ about privacy. The bottom line is that if someone wants your information, there will always be a way to get it. Restrictions on public data of any kind would end genealogy research. Today, if I wanted some of your DNA, there is probably a dozen ways for collection - a drinking glass, envelope, cigarette butt or dirty tissue. Tomorrow, with advances in technology a person could walk up to you on the street, shake your hand and process your DNA in their pocket.

    With every new technology advance like DNA testing, there will be those folks that identify the potential risks. Depending on the severity of the risk, there will be other groups of folks who either fix the technology problem or create laws to mitigate the risks. The rest of us need to be actively vocal to make sure that we get the maximum amount of benefit for the minimum danger.

    The fastest way to stop a trend, good or bad, is to announce to the world that the trend exists. Corrective forces kick in and the ship gets righted. In the 70s, Alvin Toffler predicted that we would be overwhelmed by technological change. Forty years later and I’m still a bit underwhelmed.

    As genealogists, the best way to collaborate is to share. I want to find other researchers and I want to be found. None of that will happen if my DNA or family tree is in a box under the bed. DNA can help break down walls where paper records don’t exist. Our genes will unlock doors to our origins.

    Your DNA is your DNA. Unless you are an identical twin, your genes are unique. There are pieces of your DNA that are shared across families, which is why genetic genealogy works. As a whole, your DNA belongs to you and you have the right to use it as you see fit.

    Information wants to be free. Stop worrying and start living. Get tested.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Are You Special?

Deep Into DNA*

We are all special in our own quirky ways. How much does your DNA play a part in who you are? Perhaps you’re not who you think you are. If you’ve received DNA results from one of the major tests, y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA or autosomal DNA, you might already have a glimpse into what makes you special.

Beyond the big tests that give you distant paternal or maternal ancestry or a pie chart of your ethnic mix, there are many specific tests. What percent Neanderthal are you? There’s a test for that. The jury is still out on whether your Neanderthal genes are from a direct descendant or just shared from a common ancestor. When we start talking about what percent chimpanzee you are (yes, there’s a test for that) we are definitely talking about a common ancestor going back seven million years. Just to be clear, we are not descended from chimpanzees or any other living ape, but as cousins, we do share DNA.

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology. Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.