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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

OGS 2016 Conference Blog Compendium - Sun, 5 Jun 2016

#OGS2016Toronto – These are all the blogs I know of that have posts about the superb conference I just attended in Toronto. I’m only including blogger posts, not the official conference site posts. If there are any I’m missing, please let me know and I’ll update this list.

Updated to include posts to 15 June 2016.

1) Louis Kessler on Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

2) Lara Diamond on Lara’s Jewnealogy

3) John D Reid on Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections

4) Ruth Blair on The Passionate Genealogist

5) Cindi Moynahan-Foreman on My Moynahan Genealogy Blog

6) Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems

7) Judy Russell on The Legal Genealogist

8) Israel Pickholtz on All My Foreparents

9) Gail Dever on Genealogy à la carte

10) RFB on Our Family Shrub

11) Hank Cradduck on LTPhotoMan’s Website

12) Mags Gaulden on Grandma’s Genes Blog

13) Dan Heidt on WI Blog

14) Janet Iles on Janet the Researcher

26 Hours in Toronto–The OGS 2016 Conference - Sun, 5 Jun 2016

Wow! #OGS2016Toronto - What an experience! This was a superb conference.

My time there was so chock full that I barely had time to breathe. I met and talked to so many people, but even so, there were so many more I would have liked to talk to.

I only made plans a couple of months ago to go to the Ontario Genealogical Society’s 2016 Conference in Toronto. It was a three day conference, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to go on the Friday, but there was enough on the Sunday that I just had to use some airmiles and go.

I was only in Toronto for 26 hours, but so much happened, I felt like I was a way for a week. My tweets from the Conference tell much of the story.

I landed in Toronto Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Then I had time to the speed through the really great Expo Hall before it started closing up for the day.

Unfortunately I hadn’t bought a ticket for the Saturday evening Banquet, because I didn’t really expect to be going to anything on the Saturday. I had only registered for the Sunday. But I went to the pre-banquet social time and talked to many people.

Hit the sack and woke up early for a full Sunday. I saw that Lara Diamond had just that morning blogged about the conference so far:

I squeezed in 10 minutes to talk to Esther.

At 1:15 was the Panel on the Future of Genetic Genealogy that Behold Genealogy got to sponsor. It deserves it’s own blog post, so my next post will be on this. At 2:30 CeCe Moore gave the Conference closing keynote: "Lessons from the Cutting Edge". 700 people were packed into the room.

Even the bus to the airport was eventful.

Paul Jones and crew put on a fantastic event and deserve a medal.


Paul Jones, Conference Chair, closing the conference.

Behold’s Genetic Relationship Notation (BGRN) - Sun, 22 May 2016

Yeah, I know. BGRN is a horrible acronym. So if you can get to the end of this post and can think of a better thing to call it, I’ll definitely consider your suggestions.

Almost six months ago, I started thinking about A New Notation for DNA Relationships. I’ve now worked out the bugs, and I’m ready to define the notation more formally, as I prepare to implement it in Behold.


Note: I purchased the right to use this graphic

Behold’s Genetic Relationship Notation defines a string of characters that represent how person A connects to person B. With this string, you should be able to:

a) Determine the expected amount of DNA shared by the two people, and
b) Describe the relationship in words.

The notation uses the following characters to make up the string:

  • X is a female and is the mother of the previous person in the string.
  • Y is a male and is the father of the previous person in the string
  • U is a person of unknown sex and is the a parent of the previous person in the string
  • A is for a non-genetic parent (e.g. adoptive or step-parent)
  • (YX) is for the Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA) of person A and person B when the MRCAs are both the father and mother (usual case).
  • (Y) is for the MRCA of person A and person B with the MRCA is only the father (half-family on the father’s side).
  • (X) is for the MRCA of person A and person B with the MRCA is only the mother (half-family on the mother’s side).
  • 2 follows an X, Y, U and represents an identical twin. In this case, the MRCA above is not needed nor shown.   
  • x is the daughter of the previous person in the string
  • y is the son of the previous person in the string
  • u is the child of the previous person in the string
  • a is for a non-genetic child (e.g. adopted or step-child) of the previous person in the string
  • - (a hyphen) is for the spouse or partner of the previous person in the string.

The core rules, for purely genetic relationships, are:

  1. The string starts with 1 or more:  X, Y or U’s, the first of which represent person A.
  2. These are followed by at most 1 of:  (YX), (Y), (X), or 2.
  3. These are followed by 0 or more:  x, y, or u’s.
  4. The last character in the string represents person B.
  5. A, a and – (hyphen) specify non-genetic relationships (zero DNA match)and are not part of the core rules.

Examples of the notation for genetic relationships and the relationship in words that can be generated from it:

Y = male person
YXY = male person’s mother’s father
YXY(XY)xy = male person’s mother’s fathers’ sister’s son.
U(Y)xxx = person’s paternal half-sister’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter.
Xyy = female person’s son’s son.
XY2x = female person’s father’s identical twin’s daughter.

Here’s example of some common relationships:

X = female person
XX = mother
XXX = grandmother
XXXX = great-grandmother
XX(XY)x = aunt
XX(XY)xx = 1st cousin
XX(XY)xxx = 1st cousin, once removed
XX(XY)xxxx = 1st cousin, twice removed
XXX(XY)x = great-aunt
XXX(XY)xx = 1st cousin, once removed
XXX(XY)xxx = 2nd cousin
XXX(XY)xxxx = 2nd cousin, once removed

(Any of the X’s and x’s (except the last one) can be replaced by Y’s and y’s)

Hopefully, you’re getting the idea.

Note that a line up to a direct ancestor will not have a MRCA, and neither will a line down to a direct descendent. When the step is across to an identical twin, the MRCA parents are not shown.

I won’t go into the calculation of how much DNA is shared since it’s worthy of another post, but let me say that the expected values can be easily obtained from strings written in Behold Genetic Relationship Notation, BGRN.

Now I would like to extend this notation to handle more than just Genetic relationships and include all possible genealogical relationships. So let’s define the extended rules as:

  1. The string starts with an X, Y or U, which represents person A.
  2. These are followed by any number of X, Y, U, A, (YX), (Y), (X), 2, x, y, u, a, and - (hyphens).
  3. (YX), (Y) and (X) must be followed by x, y, u or a.  Therefore the string cannot end with (YX), (Y) or (X),
  4. 2 must follow X, Y, U, A, x, y, u, a or – (hyphen).
  5. The same person is never represented more than once in the string.
  6. The last character in the string represents person B.

Examples of the extended notation and the relationship in words that can be generated from it:

Y- = Male person’s spouse
Y-(YX)xaY = Male person’s spouse’s sister’s adopted child’s father.
XXXX–x-X- = Female person’s mother’s mother’s mother’s spouse’s spouse’ daughter’s spouse’s mother’s spouse.
Y(YX)xy(Y)y-(YX)x- = Male person’s sister’s son’s paternal half-brother’s spouse’s brother’s spouse.

So BGRN can handle any relationship, no matter how complicated.

I am interested in hearing any and all comments, criticisms and suggestions.