Rootstech Wrap Up

Rootstech is over and I am exhausted. This year I was up early enough to go to the keynote sessions almost every morning. Wow! In a huge hall we saw great multimedia presentations over many screens while listening to a star speaker. I particularly loved Paula Madison and her Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem; so of course I bought the kindle version of the book. [update: the pictures are better in the physical versions but it is still a great read]

Perhaps it is because of my work with adoptees and DNA that I so appreciated her story, but more likely it was just that she was terrific and the tale was so well told. I also got to see the short form of her documentary at the media dinner, definitely worth seeing.

My other favorite keynote speaker was David Isay and his StoryCorps. His concept is to get two people in a booth, facilitate their conversation, and record the result for posterity. I think the story I liked best was the one where the boy with Asperger’s interviews his mother – Sarah and Joshua. But every snippet he played for us brought tears to my eyes, the wild grandad, my son the veteran, and the boy who became close to the mother of the boy from the rival gang that he had killed.

And of course it was great to see A.J.Jacobs again and hear a report on the Global Family Reunion.

Usually my favorite things at Rootstech are the exhibit hall, networking with fellow genetic genealogists, and learning a few new things. This year I have to add to that the sensational MyHeritage after party (click here for the slideshow over at Geneabloggers) and the Keynote sessions. [Addendum: The keynotes and other recorded sessions are available at the Rootstech video archive]

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Will I see you at Rootstech next week?

It is almost time for Rootstech 2016, my favorite genealogy conference! Not a surprise that this event suits me since I am a techie who loves doing family history and DNA. Perhaps I also like the fact that it takes place in Salt Lake City next door to the Family History Library, a wonderful genealogy resource. You can find me there on level B1 looking at Norwegian bygdebuks whenever I have a bit of free time.

Speaker BadgeI will be giving a slightly advanced DNA talk late on Friday about how I have used triangulation to solve some of my family’s genealogical questions. Don’t come if you do not know what an autosomal DNA test is. But you will have plenty of chances to learn about genetics and genealogy earlier in the week from other speakers at Rootstech.

Triangulation is an incredibly important tool in the genetic genealogists arsenal. It is our own “proof standard.”  I gave this class for my local DNA group and at the SCGS Jamboree DNA day last year, as I will again this year. This talk does change a little each time and I am always improving the slides. I was very pleased that so many people told me afterwards that they felt they finally understood this difficult concept. Going through a few cases step by step seems to be very helpful for most people. One of the stories I use is how we proved Kristine really is a WOLD cousin which is written up here in my triangulation post.

But there are many other interesting DNA talks by some of my favorite presenters, Bennet Greenspan (founder of Family Tree DNA), Tim Janzen, Diane Southard, and a number of the folk from the DNA team. Did you notice that 23andme is missing?

If you get to Salt Lake City early, you may want to hear Israel Pickholtz, the author of Endogamy. He is going to give a talk about Jewish DNA on the Tuesday night before the conference for the Utah Jewish Genealogy Society.

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Sale at Ancestry until Monday night

ALERT! DNA testing is on sale for $69 for the four days after Thanksgiving starting now. Also you can save 20% on gift memberships at– scroll down that same page to see the offer. Click on it for even more membership offers.

Addendum [29 nov]: To see a sample of what you get with an Ancestry DNA test read this old post of mine:


I am a cousin, even in my DNA!

A recent email informed me that my brother and I had a DNA connection to A.J.Jacobs, the writer and Esquire editor who read the whole Encyclopedia and lived a biblical year among other creative endeavors. Having had dinner with this fascinating fellow at my brother’s house during the last Rootstech, I was extremely pleased.

A.J. Jacobs and Shipley Munson

A.J. Jacobs with my brother Shipley at Rootstech 2015

A.J.’s latest mission is pursuing the fact that we are all related, by throwing the biggest family reunion ever on June 6. This is sponsored by most of the major genealogical companies and is a fund raiser for Alzheimer’s, which as A.J. said in his email “hits genealogy particularly hard, since it erases family memories.”

Happily for me, there will be a branch party at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree where I will be on that day.

His TED talk explains it better than any post I could write:

This is what I read in the email:

With the help of dozens of scientists and volunteers, my family and I are putting together a world-wide event on June 6 that will unite cousins from all over the globe. You can watch a TED talk about it here. Or hear it on NPR here.

Our partners include the top firms in the field, including: FamilySearch, Geni, MyHeritage, Findmypast, 23andme, Family Tree DNA, and WikiTree.

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