Attended My First Virtual Conference: Success!

I learned much more than usual from my first completely online conference, the 2020 IAJGS conference on Jewish Genealogy. Perhaps because there were fewer distractions: no seat-mates, no deciding on where to dine, no exhibit hall, and that I was only doing one presentation. Although it may have been because I had a purpose: to learn how to research my husband’s Polish roots. Or maybe with fewer talks, they were just very high quality ones, aside from a few technical glitches.

from the top right, me, my brother Shipley Munson (moderator), and Adam Brown (Y DNA expert)

Actually the online format is better in many ways. I can play and replay the talks easily and take screen shots for myself of key points. There were many more questions and answers plus people could chat both privately and publicly with each other, I also really like the many excellent on demand videos on specific topics which I am still working through.

I asked my friend Heather how it went for her and she said “I especially appreciate knowing the names of the audience while listening to talks. More valuable than being there in person and perhaps only meeting the person next to me. Makes it easier to figure out who has common interests.” She also said, ” It was cool  to be able to chat and make contact (share email addresses) while the talk was going on without bothering the speaker or my seat-mates.”

So what went badly? I personally never figured out the exhibit hall replacement. I missed the excitement of the live hall and seeing what was new from the various vendors. I would have loved a few small zoom-style break-out sessions on common interests where I could see everyone’s faces while chatting. However, much to my surprise, I actually preferred being at a virtual conference.

Now for a little follow up on our Chat with the Jewish DNA Experts session.

First of all, I loved Adam’s slides and now I am convinced to test my husband’s E1a1 Y-DNA at Family Tree DNA for Adam’s Jewish DNA project. The deep history of human migrations revealed in those Y SNPs fascinates me.

In my talk, I reused many slides from past presentations but perhaps I should have included my “G” slide, shown above. The “G” trick is how I quickly figure out cousin relationships, so I added the above to my talk just now. My slides are always available online at

Also I did not mention that 4th and 5th cousins will not always share the large segments that you usually see with 2nds and 3rds. Plus I did not include the most current URL for Lara Diamond’s study of shared Jewish DNA, since corrected, which is

I asked my brother, who was kind enough to moderate for us, what he got out of the talk followed by the Q&A. He said he understood and enjoyed the talk, but many of the questions were over his head, as he is not a DNA expert. However he thought that the following two points came across loud and clear:

  1. Get as many relatives to test as you can, 2nd cousins are really helpful.
  2. Closer family will share large segments.

Exactly! I do hope he heard the point that Jewish matches can appear closer than they are when you are related via the ancestors of both your parents, one of the reasons we look at segment sizes. The other being endogamy (past cousin marriages).

Thanks to the 200+ people who attended; hope you all enjoyed it. Click here or the image below for the current slides.

My slide illustrating that ethnicity is not very useful for Ashkenazim but other questions may be answered

5 thoughts on “Attended My First Virtual Conference: Success!

Click here to add your thoughts at the end of the comments
  1. Hi Kitty.
    I got up early in Australia to join your session live and it was well worth while. Thank you.
    You answered my question about having 3 paternal and 4 maternal cousins data but there is endogamy in my family and My Heritage “in common with” often gives me family from both sides. Your suggestion was to look at segments.
    So the very next set of MH DNA matches I just got is a beauty. She matches me 115.4 over 9 segments. Longest block 33.3, also segments of 16.1, 14.4, 12.4 and 11.1 as well as a couple under 10. She also matches my paternal 1C and 1C1R and three maternal 1C1R from two different families. It seems quite definite that we share a MCRA maybe 3-5 gens back.
    When I look at the chromosome browser on MH, I can see clearly that she matches some of my maternal and some of my paternal cousins as indicated. Her endogamy is about as bad as mine! But when I put the data into DNA painter, and exclude values lower than 6, suddenly all the maternal ones disappear and I’m left with only paternal matches.
    But when I run my eye down the matches as downloaded from MH, none of them are less than 6 (that’s why I chose 6 not 7). I would send you the figures and the DNA painter, but I don’t know how to do it in this format. (I’m not very familiar with blogs).
    Do you have any idea what’s going on? Can I take the paternal matches on DNA painter as “true” paternal, ie not mixed with maternal?
    Helen Gardner

    • Helen –
      Lovely that you got up so early to listen to me. Can you look at the segment matches to your new match from the point of view of your cousins? You can do that on GEDmatch and 23andme, but not on MyHeritage unless you have the cousins in your account or they give you their log in. You need to see the sizes of the segments that cousins from each side share.

      Although you can look to see if they triangulate, covered in this post:

      Do each cousin with the new match looking for those triangulations (if you do all at once then the triangulating only shows where everyone matches which is not useful here)

      If the segments shared are only large with cousins from one side then that might be a findable relatonship. Remember it is easy in the jewish genealogy world to be related on both sides.

      I cannot really speak to how you are using DNApainter as I use spreadsheets for this. I usually ignore segments below 10cM for jewish matches unless they triangulate.

  2. This was the first IAJGS conference I have ever attended… My husband is the one of Jewish descent and despite 20+ yrs of research experience before I marrying him this is a whole new way of research issues. I loved the ability to attend virtually as traveling is a chore and not possible since I have two elementary age kids who started back to school Aug 3rd. One is doing Distance learning and I had to keep my eyes on him…so I mostly focus my efforts last week on things not being recorded as I can go back and listen to the recorded ones at my leisure. I’ve attended NGS conferences in the past and those are fun too but exhausting. Its hard to take a break when needed because you miss so much…Probably a good thing I never figured out the exhibit hall…my husband and wallet are appreciative 🙂

  3. Re: “I had a purpose: to learn how to research my husband’s Polish roots.”

    Need that info.. A person I am trying to help identify her adopted husband’s paternal ancestors suspects they might have been polish. Not Jewish so far.

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