DNA to the Max

Yesterday the Castle Hill RSL had an electric atmosphere as 400 hyper-excited amateur genetic genealogists convened to hear a panel of experts teach them more about DNA, what it means for genealogy and how to maximise its benefits. Add to that the opportunity to catch up with genimates from all over the conference, make some new friends, meet some “old” friends, and meet some blogging genimates in person for the first time.

Once again the primary attraction was DNA guru Blaine Bettinger from the USA. It’s as well that Blaine is such a lovely human being as otherwise he would be full of himself from everyone’s awed enthusiasm for him. It was perhaps surprising how many had attended the DNA Down Under seminars in other cities and knew what a treat we were in for, as we also had our national DNA gurus to teach us as well.

First talk of the day and Blaine completely tipped my thoughts on ethnicity results from DNA onto their head. I won’t be quite so glib about dismissing it any more. I also learnt more about 23 and me’s offerings so again I need to look more into my results from that company. Interestingly that is where I have several of my Kunkel matches. It also encouraged me to look again at my Genetic Communities on Ancestry. He also emphasised that, currently at least, it’s most helpful to look at our ethnicity from a continental perspective rather than individual countries.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kerry Farmer’s talk on combining DNA with traditional genealogy. We all know that DNA isn’t a magic bullet that will drop our entire family history in our laps but it was very interesting to see Kerry’s practical application of using traditional genealogy and targeted DNA testing to determine formerly unknown ancestors. I also liked that she showed us it might still be a work in progress.

Both Kerry and Blaine emphasised the importance of looking at your tree completeness and that of your DNA matches.

Louise Coakley from North Queensland gave a great explanation of how the different types of DNA that can be tested are inherited.

Blaine’s presentation on the “Latest additions in third party tools” reminded me that I had opened an account at Genetic Affairs and perhaps it was time to revisit it…oops. In GEDmatch I’d noticed only last week there was an option to build a Superkit but didn’t get round to exploring it. Now I know what it does, and how it can be of benefit, it’s gone on my “To Do” list…my notes are scattered with asterisked “check this”, “do this” comments.

His talk on “Identifying your DNA matches” he says may seem a “bit creepy’ to some people but he gave us different strategies for focusing in on those good matches with strong centimorgan lengths. I’m sure it’s because of this that last night it finally dawned on me that one of my more recent match names was dimly familiar from email exchanges over 20 years ago. I’m going to have to wait until I get home to follow up on those but meanwhile I can send a brief message to her.

We rounded off the day with a dinner meeting of those attending RootsTech London in October. Thanks GeniAus for organising that.

So at the end of day 1 it was clear it was not only DNA to the Max, it was a DNA Intensive. Speaking for myself I know I was challenged more yesterday than I had been at the one day seminar in Brisbane, I suppose because it took the learning to another level.

Thanks to all the wonderful speakers and to Unlock the Past for giving us all this opportunity.

I was delighted to meet my genimate Fiona Tellesson in person!

8 thoughts on “DNA to the Max

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