Saturday, November 11, 2023

FamilyTreeDNA's 15th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy

I've just returned from a long weekend in Houston, Texas, where I attended FamilyTreeDNA's 15th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy.

Tailored exclusively for FamilyTreeDNA's Group Project Administrators, sessions provided deep dives into many facets of genetic genealogy, including, of course, Y-DNA, for which FamilyTreeDNA is the industry's mainstay. Project Administrators play a pivotal role in fostering a dynamic learning community. They manage the many surname, geographic, and haplogroup projects that engage FamilyTreeDNA's network of users to help them deepen their knowledge about their genetic genealogy.

The agenda featured a variety of sessions that shared best practices across group projects, highlighted FamilyTreeDNA’s anticipated new features, and provided a forum to connect and share experiences with other administrators.

Highlights included:
  • Meeting Katherine Borges, a founder and current director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), who highlighted the organization’s work to promote the use of DNA testing in genealogy. ISOGG is a great resource if you’re looking to grow your understanding of genetic genealogy and has played an important role advocating for legislation and standards favorable to the sector. The society also produces the free and open-access Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) which is edited by Vance. One of my conference takeaways is to spend time catching up on back issues, which feature illustrative case studies that may inform my own work.
  • Meeting FamilyTreeDNA founder Bennett Greenspan, who Borges called “the father of genetic genealogy.” Greenspan shared his own foray into genealogy and the genetic genealogy business.
FTDNA founder Bennett Greenspan and Family Sleuther
  • Connecting with many experienced Group Project Administrators with decades of experience including Tim Duncan, an administrator for the Clan Donnachaidh Surname DNA Project, and Mags Gaulden of Grandma's Genes, who generously shared their experiences with genetic genealogy and as project administrators. It’s helpful – as a newbie – to see what successful projects can achieve.
  • Touring FamilyTreeDNA’s lab and seeing firsthand how test kits are processed from receipt, DNA extraction, and providing results. It was a fascinating look at the mechanics that go into processing hundreds of kits, including the 100,000th Big Y kit just this past October – a major milestone!
Suited up in a lab coat for a tour of FTDNA's lab

After the conference, I capped my time in Texas with a quick day trip to the suburbs of Austin to meet with a fourth cousin twice removed, Dee, who is a third great-granddaughter of my paternal ancestor Thomas Kirk. A decade ago, when I was puzzling my way through a misattributed paternal event and trying to identify my paternal great-grandfather, Dee stepped up and persuaded her brother to submit a Y-DNA test that helped me link my paternal line to Thomas Kirk (1778-1846) of Licking County, Ohio.
Back in Houston, I connected with a maybe cousin Scott. We’re researching the possibility that his ancestor John Kirk was an uncle to my Thomas Kirk. Scott has built a compelling case and we're now after DNA to help provide supporting evidence of his link to my line. This research has the potential to expand my Kirk family and surface new clues about the Kirks' immigration journey to the American colonies. Will we determine the link? With our dogged persistence, I’m certain the brick wall will eventually give way.
You know it's a good conference when you come home with plenty of research to-dos that will keep you busy for the foreseeable future. Now, where to begin...

No comments:

Post a Comment