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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

Family Tree DNA’s November Conference - Thu, 19 Oct 2017

I managed to get registered today for The 13th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy held each year by Family Tree DNA and I’ll be going to Houston from November 10 to 12 to attend. This is a tough one to get into (unless you are a speaker) as registration is only open to FTDNA group administrators, which I am not. But when Bennett Greenspan attended my Double Match Triangulator workshop at the IAJGS Conference in July, and I mentioned I’d be interested in attending his November Conference, I was allowed this late registration as a guest.


This will be my first time at this conference. It should be great for anyone like me who is interested in advanced DNA analysis. I am not speaking so I will be able to take everything in and enjoy. Only 5 speakers are currently slated. I’m really looking forward to hearing talks by Jim Bartlett and Roberta Estes and meeting both of them in person for the first time. It will also be a pleasure to once again meet up with Judy Russell and Maurice Gleeson and hear them speak. The other person listed is Matt Dexter who I’m not familiar with but is a an adoptee and autosomal expert who I’m sure will also be excellent.

Some of the presentations from the last 2 conferences are available at SlideShare. As Roberta Estes recently wrote: “This conference is one I’ve literally never missed! It’s always wonderful.” Jennifer Zinck shared the extensive set of notes she wrote about last year’s conference: Saturday and Sunday. There was another review done by Moises Garza. The ISOGG has a full page about the conference with links to posts about past conferences.

It’s been quite a year for me and genealogy conferences. This will be my 4th one this year. First was RootsTech in Salt Lake City in February. Then was IAJGS in Orlando in July. I just got back from GCGS in Halifax. And next is Houston. If you count the Brigham Young University Family History Technology Workshop which was in Provo, Utah the day before RootsTech, then that’s 5.

GCGS 2017 Day 3 - Sun, 15 Oct 2017

#cangensummit2017 – The final day at the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia was a half-day with 6 talks in 2 tracks.

We all met for a breakfast together, and then I led off repeating my talk from the day before on intro DNA. I had a few less people than the day before since many had already been at my first talk. It was again well received with many good questions. A few people met to talk to me one on one afterwards.

My talk a bit later on using Autosomal DNA to help find relatives was a full room and I enjoyed giving it. I always prepare my presentations as something that I would like to hear. Most of the attendees in this class already administer one or more DNA tests, so I had the right group to talk to. Hopefully they left with a few new ideas. 

At noon, Christine Woodcock and Kathryn Lake Hogan, the organizers of the Summit (great job!) thanked everyone and closed the conference.

Christine Woodcock and Kathryn Lake HoganSome of the attendees

I got a chance to have some good conversations with Mags Gaulden (Grandma’s Genes), Pamela Wile of the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia, Cheryl Levy (whose talk I listened to yesterday), and I also had another nice talk with Derrell Oakley Teat.

Once it was over (I really hate the end of conferences), I had the afternoon available and I headed to Pier 21 where millions of Canadian immigrants arrived.

Pier 21

There at the research centre, I ran into Jim Benedict (who was another speaker at the Summit) and his wife who apparently had the same idea as me, and we had a nice talk.

I learned a few things. Most of my ancestors did not arrive at Pier 21, since it only began operating in 1928. My ancestors mostly arrived at Pier 2, which no longer exists. The research room has people who help you look up the ship’s record on Ancestry.com, which also has the passenger list of immigrants. If I’d have known they do that, I’d have done it myself long ago. There was a long line of people waiting so after I found out what I needed to know, I excused myself to allow others to get their chance. I did come away with several pictures of my ancestors ships from the research.

SS Nieuw Amsterdam

I followed that up with a half hour personalized guided tour of the museum, and then spent another hour visiting the rest of the museum myself. I did not realize that this Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 became a National museum in the same year that the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg opened (about 5 years ago) and the two are the only National museums in Canada that are outside of Ottawa.

Overall, an excellent day for this genealogist.

GCGS Days 1 and 2 - Sat, 14 Oct 2017

#cangensummit2017 – A couple of great days at the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Friday afternoon the started with Jan Raska from Pier 21, of the Canadian Museum of Immigration providing a very interesting keynote for the almost 60 attendees who arrived in time for his talk.

Jan Raska at the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit, Halifax 2017

Saturday was a full slate of talks. There were 12 presentations in two tracks. I’d say attendance was about 100 split fairly evenly between the two rooms. Talking to different people, I think it’s possible we had at least 8 of Canada’s 10 provinces represented here, plus people from a number of States as well.

My talk on intro DNA went well with good response and questions. I had anticipated many of the questions. To my recommendation that adoptees test everywhere was a suggestion that one should test at AncestryDNA because it has the largest number of testers and then transfer to the others to save money. I responded that the viewpoint of CeCe Moore and others was to “fish in all ponds” to ensure full coverage, especially since 23andMe does not accept transfers.

At lunch I went across the street to Your Father’s Moustache with many of our group. It was a full lively pub and eatery with many entertaining stache-objects decorating the place: “I moustache you a question, but will shave it for later.” – “I’d love to stay but I really moustache.”

I had a very nice conversation between sessions with Fred Pafford who came in from Newfoundland. He’s got over 25,000 in his tree which he programmed and put in a FoxPro database two decades ago. Recently he’s added his tree to MyHeritage and has been getting into DNA in a big way to help solve his brick walls. We both chuckled that DNA always seems to add many more puzzles than it solves.

Following the last session of the day, I went into the Exhibition Hall, something you wouldn’t expect to see at a small conference like this one. There were 8 vendors and even a couple of vendor mini-presentations earlier in the day. I went to the FamilyTreeDNA table where Derrell Oakley Teat was representing the company. She flew up from her home in Florida and on Wednesday will be heading off for Dublin, Ireland which is where Derrell told me AncestryDNA sends their Canadian samples for analysis. I didn’t realize that.

One more day for the GCGS 2017.