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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

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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Who is my great great grandfather’s daddy? A ThruLines experiment

My great great grandfather Jørgen Oleson Wold, 1816-1892, from Skougar near Drammen, Norway, was born 9 years before his parents tied the knot. Although his father is listed as the man his mother eventually married, DNA testing has stirred up my doubts.

Having a child out of wedlock was not uncommon in rural Norway of the 1800s. It was not considered shameful in many areas. Often the couple would marry later on; you had to be able to support a wife in order to have one. Another reason is that people wanted to be sure they could have children before marrying, since many hands were needed on the farm. The data shows that quite often women were pregnant at the altar. Click here for an article showing that having a sexual relationship and getting pregnant was the normal way to start a marriage in at least one area of Norway at that time. Night visiting, fully clothed, was a customary way for young people to get to know each other.

According to the 19th century clerygyman and sociologist Eilert Sundt (my 10th cousin 3R), who looked carefully at many population statistics, 43% of all Norwegian children were conceived before their parents got married back in the mid 1800s. Click here for the article that cites this.

The problem for Jørgen’s parentage is that there are no DNA matches on just his father of record’s line. It is always possible to get less DNA from one 3rd grandparent but it seemed that all my family’s matches to the descendants of other children of that marriage were smaller than expected. We also have many matches quite far back on Jørgen’s wife’s line, suggesting it was possible we just had more DNA from her side but also demonstrating that when there are many generations of large families, DNA matches to 5th and 6th cousins will be found. This is also true on our other Norwegian lines.

Could Jørgen have a different father? If so, I would expect to see a group of 4th cousin matches who match each other but are not assigned to any of our known lines. Since Norwegian records are good, our ancestors are well documented back into the 1700s or even earlier.

There is a large group of matches that fits that scenario, all descended from one Torkild Westby b 1810, Drammen, Norway. It so happens that Westby/Vestby is a farm in Skoger just outside of Drammen where Jørgen may have lived as a youth. Norwegians did not have surnames back then, they used their father’s name plus their farm of residence which could change. Also W was pronounced as V in Norway so they are interchangable in the spelling. When Torkild’s children came to America they used the surname Westbye. I found the birth record for Torkild in the Norwegian archives and sure enough, he was born on farm Westby in Skoger..

Torkild’s birth and baptism record in the Skoger Churchbook for 1810 – http://urn.digitalarkivet.no/URN:NBN:no-a1450-kb20070402610138.jpg (3rd from bottom on right)

I decided to try a ThruLines experiment by changing Jørgen’s father to Torkild’s father, Jahn Jahnsen Westbye, in my Ancestry tree and see what happened. For Jørgen’s father and grandfather of record, Thrulines listed no DNA matches that were not also listed for his son.

Continue reading

Super Large Numbers Do Not Work in my Ahnentafel to GEDCOM Tool

Alert, there is a bug in my tool to convert text files to GEDCOMs: very large Ahnentafel numbers like “46406041600” will cause it to hang.

I will add code to ignore large numbers by May (end of this week). If you are a regular user of this tool, check this post for the update when the new feature is released.

Something must have changed on the collection of trees because I had three emails in the last week complaining that my tool hung and did not complete the conversion. In all cases, the Ahnentafel went up to extremely large numbers, so eliminating those last few lines fixed the problem

Here is an example of the last several lines of a file that did not work:

Here are the last few lines of the same file after removing the lines with very high numbers. This version worked.

Do you really need these people born in the 1200s? What is the probability that they even are actually your ancestors?

This appears to be some sort of limitation in either the storage space for the program or the number sizes. Thus I propose to modify the code to ignore ahnentafel numbers with more than seven digits and to have it tell you that it did that.

Any other ideas out there? Remember I make almost no money on this, just the occasional small thank you donation, so I am not looking for a solution that will take lots of my time.

Rootstech 2020 is Happening Now

Rootstech is a huge, amazing genealogy conference organized by FamilySearch.org that is going on now through Saturday in Salt Lake City. This is the 10th anniversary of the conference that should be on every genealogist’s bucket list. Sadly I am missing it again this year. If you go to one, be sure to leave some time to do research in the best family history library in this country, and perhaps anywhere, just one block from the conference.

For those of us who cannot go in person, the organizers generously live stream one session in each time slot at rootstech.org (scroll down for the schedule) and for those of us who can’t watch live, they then make those presentations available at rootstech.org/category/2020-rootstech-sessions

Wednesdays live stream sessions online

If you want more, you can purchase a virtual pass and see the 30 classes that are videotaped at your leisure for a very reasonable price at rootstech.org/salt-lake/virtual-pass

Rootstech wrote a blog post celebrating the history of the conference at rootstech.org/blog/rootstech-then-and-now, but they failed to mention my wonderful brother Shipley Munson who shepherded it from a large conference to the gigantic must-go-to conference it is today. So I will celebrate him here. Thanks for everything Ship!

Shipley Munson and A.J.Jacobs on screen at Rootstech 2016

UPDATE 27 Feb 2020: Another way to follow along is to read some of the blog posts Randy Seaver lists here: geneamusings.com/2020/02/rootstech-2020-salt-lake-city-blog.html