I am incredibly honored to announce my election to the Board of Trustees of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society! The NYG&B is the largest and oldest genealogical society in New York State, and the second oldest genealogical society in the nation. As a lifelong genealogist with New York roots dating back almost 250 years, joining the NYG&B is a dream come true for me.
Over the past decade, DNA has become a powerful tool for genealogical research. As a member of the NYG&B’s Board of Trustees, I hope to be able to help bridge the (ever-closing) gap between traditional genealogy and genetic genealogy, and help both members and non-members understand and incorporate DNA into their family histories.
The board represents an incredible group of people dedicated to helping people discovery their family histories, and I am so grateful to be able to join them. The full list is below.
Yesterday, when I checked my AncestryDNA account I had 205 pages of matches, or 10,250 matches in the database. Today, thanks to Ancestry’s new matching algorithm, I have 57 pages of matches, or 2,850 matches in the database (a reduction of 72.2%!). I also have DNA Circles, groups of people who MIGHT share a common ancestor (some of whom share DNA with me).
A New Matching Algorithm
I wrote recently about the new algorithm (see “Finding Genetic Cousins – Separating Fact from Fiction“), as did Judy Russell (“When less is more“) and Roberta Estes (“DNA Day With Ancestry“). In essence, AncestryDNA is leveraging information about allele frequencies (“pile-ups”) in which small IBS segments of DNA shared by many, many people are not utilized for matching.
This week in Vox, health reporter Julia Belluz (Twitter) wrote about genetic genealogy testing in “Genetic testing brings families together: And sometimes tears them apart.” The article focuses largely on testing company 23andMe, and presents the following thesis:
Direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies are revealing family secrets, many of which are emotionally damaging, without regard to those affected by the family secrets and without sufficient warning to the test-taker.
Unfortunately, rather than presenting a balanced view of the consequences of uncovering family secrets using DNA testing (and despite the title of the article), Belluz focuses only on examples of negative outcomes. The article is a perfect demonstration of “genetic exceptionalism,” the theory that genetic information is special and must therefore be treated differently from other types of information. Despite its many adherents, genetic exceptionalism is a theory without a logical underpinning.
The latest announcement by the newly founded Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) is bound to excite genealogists looking to further their knowledge, as well as those with with limited time or resources to attend courses in person.
VIGR will offer courses on a comprehensive list of genealogical subjects, giving genealogists access to a great curriculum year-round through the VIGR virtual platform. I’m proud to announce that I will be a speaker for the VIGR, and I look forward to interacting with the online genealogical community though my course on autosomal DNA. I am honored to be listed among the incredible speakers below.
No fewer than nine upcoming courses are already listed on the VIGR official website, the earliest commencing in November this year. Each will consist of a total of four 90-minute lectures, presented two each on consecutive Saturdays. Each course will also have extensive syllabus material and practical exercises, as well as time for Q&A. The institute intends to keep class sizes small, which allows for more interaction with instructors and a greater depth of instruction as compared to more typical genealogy webinars.
In 2013, genetic genealogist and popular lecturer Maurice Gleeson organized Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013, the first of its kind conference in Ireland. The event was hugely successful (see all the YouTube videos here), and is back for round two in 2014.
The schedule for Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 has just been released (see “DNA Lecture schedule announced“), and features a great lineup of speakers:
- Spencer Wells (Keynote Speaker)
- Maurice Gleeson
- Brad Larkin
- Paul Burns
- Catherine Swift
- Emily Aulicino
- Debbie Kennett
- Richard M Byrne
- Cynthia Wells
- Kirsten Bos
- Katherine Borges
- Tyrone Bowes
- Daniel Crouch
- Patrick Guinness
- Rob Warthen
- Michelle Leonard
- Gerard Corcoran
Announcing the launch of the world’s first multimedia how-to website for genetic genealogists!
How-To DNA (www.howtodna.com) is your how-to guide for genetic genealogy! The site will have short instructional how-to videos for beginners, as well as presentations and webcasts for the advanced genealogist. For example, you can already watch these short two-minute videos:
And there will be many, many more how-to videos coming over the next few weeks and months, including:
- How to interpret your DNA test results
- How to use a chromosome browser
- How to use free third-party tools like GEDmatch
- How to do so much more!
How-To DNA will also provide links to the latest videos, podcasts, and other instructional material created by DNA experts. As an example, listen to this terrific podcast with CeCe Moore being interviewed by The Genealogy Guys and get the latest scoop on CeCe’s involvement with Finding Your Roots! And if you weren’t able to attend the SCGS Jamboree, you can listen to Maurice Gleeson’s incredible talk about DNA and Irish Genealogy.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Leclerc at Mocavo about DNA, our genealogical beginnings, and so much more. Michael recorded our conversation, and it’s now available as this week’s Mocavo Fireside Chat!
If you’re curious about Y-DNA, mtDNA, or autosomal DNA, or have questions about DNA in general, I think you’ll enjoy this Fireside Chat. And be sure to check out the previous chats, it’s a lineup full of great guests!
I know I say this every year, but 2014 is shaping up to be the year of Genetic Genealogy. There are many incredible opportunities this year for anyone interested in genetic genealogy to learn more and interact with others.
For example, just last month RootsTech 2014 featured numerous DNA sessions. This coming June, there will be an entire day of DNA at the 2014 SCGS Jamboree, where I and many other speakers will cover numerous topics related to DNA (see my coverage here and here). Among my presentations at Jamboree will be a completely new lecture that I’m really excited about – “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” which will be the first presentation completely devoted to the topic, and which I hope will spur some important conversation!
EDIT 2/8/2014 - I am happy to report that the group originally organized by CeCe Moore is still planning to work on standards, guidelines, and certification for Genetic Genealogists, and thus I will continue to work with that group. Thank you to everyone that expressed support, and I will try to contact you soon.
Below, I’m taking the unenviable position of disagreeing, at least in part, with an editorial by Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones in National Genealogical Society Quarterly entitled “DNA Standards.” (1) I’m writing to share my viewpoint and my thoughts about moving forward, and to provide a venue for continued discussion on the subject.
This is also the first post in a series of posts about “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” culminating with a presentation with the same title at SCGS Jamboree 2014 (on Friday June 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM).
As I wrote previously, the Southern California Genealogical Society has officially announced the 45th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree (June 6-8, 2014), which will again be preceded by Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014.
In addition to many presentations on DNA Day (Thursday), there are DNA-related presentations planned throughout Jamboree (Friday through Saturday).
Browsing through the schedule (links at top of page here), these are the presentations I found either directed to DNA or explicitly utilizing DNA:
- Blaine Bettinger (FR018) – “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard”
- CeCe Moore (FR019) – “Why Should I Take a DNA Test?”
- Nicka Smith, Angela Walton-Raji, Bernice Bennett and Shelly Murphy (FR024) – “The Future of African American Genealogy”
- Bennett Greenspan (SA037) – “The Future of Genetic Genealogy”
- ISOGG (SA049) – “Ask the Experts about DNA and Genealogy”
- Maurice Gleeson (SU020) – “Ireland and the Slave Trade”
- Drew Smith (SU024) – “DNA 102: Understanding and Using Test Results”
- Blaine Bettinger (SU029) – “Begging for Spit”
My Other Presentations
I’m especially excited about presenting “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard.” This topic has not received nearly enough coverage by the genealogy community, and I think it’s very important. I will absolutely be asking for input from others, so feel free to share your thoughts below (or on a future post I’m planning). Here’s the short summary of the presentation: