My First Virtual Conference Starts Monday

I love presenting at genealogy conferences and mingling with others equally devoted to family history. I also really enjoy visiting the exhibit hall, chatting with vendors, and seeing what’s new. I am not sure how well that will work in an online environment but I am about to find out.

This coming week is the 40th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. It was originally going to be here in San Diego, on Harbor Island, but now it is virtual, using a package called BigMarker. Click here for the IAJGS press release. I will be doing a live session called Ask the Experts About Jewish DNA with Adam Brown on Tuesday at 2:15 PST (5:15 EST).

For the originally planned San Diego conference, I was going to do a talk on dealing with Jewish endogamy in your autosomal DNA test results (click here for those slides), as well as tell a quick story about discovering via DNA that I have third cousins in South Africa (click here for that blog post), but those talks were cut when they went to the online format. So I will give a very brief summary of the endogamy issue in our Ask the Experts session or, if you want to know more, come talk to me at my “table” after that session. Click here to see my slide advising which Jewish matches to follow up on.

The pre-recorded, thus on demand, talks start tomorrow (Sunday) for conference attendees. I plan to listen to the one about South Africa now that I have relatives there.

I have been getting most of my information through the IAJGS facebook group for the conference. Recently they explained how to submit questions in advance, as follows: Continue reading

My Thoughts on the Changes at Ancestry

Drop down menu from messages icon top right, red arrow added by me

The changes to my messages on Ancestry are more of a problem for me than the upcoming changes to small matches. Most of the major bloggers have weighed in with their opinions about Ancestry removing matches of less than 8 cM to people not starred, grouped, or messaged. So I will list some of those articles at the end of this one. Fortunately the date for this change has been moved from early August to late August.

Personally I do not have a strong opinion about small segments. For my family, those matches are not at all useful, so I pay them no attention. About half of them rate to be false matches anyway, although Ancestry has good algorithms for phasing, making more of them real than elsewhere. However I do understand that small matches can be important to people looking into deeper ancestry. Note that I have never used those very small matches even when solving unknown parentage cases.

The other upcoming changes to segment information like showing the size of the largest segment and using decimals for the centimorgans (cM) instead of rounding to the nearest whole number are clear improvements.

However my messages, carefully filed into 50 folders, have just been converted to the new system months after everyone else’s. One major annoyance is that every message thread was suddenly marked unread, all 64 of them! I had previously read almost all of them (only 4 listed unread on my icon). At least they gave me the option to download my old folders of messages.

My Messages look like this now, red arrow is my addition

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Visit with Me on MyHeritage Live this Wednesday

Would you like to see me virtually, in person, and be able to ask me a question? I will talk about ‘Finding family with DNA at MyHeritage‘ on Wednesday July 29 at 11am PST (2pm EST) and then respond to queries. UPDATE: It is over but you can click here to view the video or click here for my slides https://slides.com/kittycooper/findingfamilydnamyh

I am very pleased to be a speaker in the MyHeritage Live series hosted on their FaceBook page at FaceBook.com/myheritage and hope to see some of you there. If you miss it, you can always watch it in the video section of that page later on. There are lots of great sessions available there from this series, check them out!

The Video Library on the MyHeritage FaceBook page

From the MyHeritage blog at https://blog.myheritage.com/2020/06/myheritage-online-events-for-june-july/

“You can participate in these sessions right from our Facebook page — no advanced registration required! Simply visit the Facebook page when the session is scheduled to start and look out for the live video broadcast at the top of the feed. You’ll be able to ask questions in the comments, and the speakers will respond to them live. “

UPDATE 28-JUL-2020: Once we are live I will post the link here and link this image to it also.

Hacking in the Genetic Genealogy World!

There are so many security breaches and problems for us genetic genealogists to worry about these days! Why would anyone want your DNA data? I can understand wanting your credit card information, although these days those companies are quick to spot fraud. But why hack a DNA site? My DNA can tell you my eye color, blood type, and that I have no genetic diseases; but mainly it is useful for seeing who I match and finding out some information about my ethnicity. These sites do not have my social security number or birth date, plus most do not have my credit card numbers on file. Maybe it is a clever criminal wanting to know if there are any close matches to his DNA? Or a foreign country wanting to know if someone whose DNA they have is an American spy?

Hacker image from a photo  by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

We have been suffering through several days of GEDmatch being down, due to being hacked, with no end it sight [UPDATE 25-Jul-2020: it’s back, yeah!]. I hate not being able to run some of their great tools. At least you can ask matches from Ancestry to upload to Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage in order to get the one to one comparisons.

The DNA Geek, Leah Larkin, reported that there have also been fishing emails sent pretending to be from MyHeritage where the G is replaced by a Q! So please don’t fall for any of those see https://thednageek.com/phishing-attempt-at-myheritage/

My Google News Alert had an article that claimed that Ancestry.com user information had been exposed via a cloud hack through the Family Tree Maker Software: https://siliconangle.com/2020/07/21/family-tree-maker-exposes-records-online-via-unsecured-elasticsearch-database/ However MacKeiv Software claims this is not so, and that they spotted the vulnerability before anyone was hacked: https://support.mackiev.com/349796-FAMILY-TREE-MAKER—Data-Security-Article

So I decided that having the same password at all my genealogy sites was not a good idea any more, even though I only use that password for genealogy and DNA. So I went around changing my passwords on those sites yesterday. It’s probably a good practice to change them every six months or so anyway.

Here is the email received yesterday from GEDmatch:
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Tool to find common ancestors at GEDmatch

Whenever I get a new good-sized DNA match, I try and figure out how we are related. Ancestry and MyHeritage both have clever tools that search your tree and the trees of other users to come up with the likely relationship. Of course both you and your match have to have a family tree connected to your DNA on those sites for that to work.

My father’s DNA matches with matching ancestors, first run

GEDmatch has just released a tool for its Tier 1 (paid) members that will search for the common ancestor you have with your DNA matches on that site. This capability requires both you and your match to have uploaded a GEDCOM to GEDmatch and associated it with your kit. I just updated my 2015 blog post about using GEDCOMs at GEDmatch which explains much about them, so click here to read it. By the way, a GEDCOM is a text file that is formatted especially for genealogy programs; it lets you move the facts in your tree from one genealogy web site or program to another.

The new tool found nothing on my mother’s side. She was German and half Jewish. There are almost no Germans at GEDmatch and my one known half 2nd cousin on there has no tree uploaded. As to the Jewish side, very few have their trees far enough back to meet mine. I need to get a few of my known 3rd cousins to upload GEDCOMs.

The above listing, partially repeated below,  shows all the common ancestors my first run of this tool found for my Norwegian-American father using the default settings on the form. I have cut off the first 3 columns on the left which have the kit number, match name, and email address for privacy; also that makes the image readable on this page!


Let’s look at the rest of the columns for my Dad’s top match. Clicking the tree icon would take you to the user profile information. The cM shared are listed next; 40.3 is match that can be anything from a 4th to an 8th or even more distant cousin. Then the name of the possible shared ancestor, first in my GEDCOM and then in my match’s GEDCOM; either one can be clicked on to go to that person’s tree entry. The 8G is how many steps down from that ancestor my Dad is. If you click that, you see a descendant list from that ancestor in your tree. Notice that his match is also 8 steps down, so in the same generation. Subtract one to get the cousin level so this is a 7th cousin.
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