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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

I4GG 2020 round up

My favorite yearly conference is the two days of talks that i4GG puts together for us serious genetic genealogists. Thank you CeCe and Lennart for doing this and for making the very professional videos, which are free to conference attendees and available for purchase by everyone else.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Paul Fronczak and his daughter. Paul was the child returned to his parents after the famous Chicago baby-napping case in 1964. In 2012 a DNA test showed that he was not their child. His book The Foundling, about his search for his roots, his missing twin sister, and the real Paul Fronczak, is a terrific read. (click here for the BBC summary of the case)

I have just started using a great tool called Scapple, that I learned about from Michelle Trostler‘s talk. So far I love it! It is an inexpensive mind mapping package that makes it super easy to quickly put together possible family charts for clients. It is always pleasurable to hear about actual cases and how they were solved. Both Michelle and Carol Rolnick obliged.

Chaos ensued when Katherine Borges, the director of ISOGG (whose Wiki is my go to resource), told us about the FamilySearch app with “Relatives Around Me” on its menu towards the end of her epigenetics talk. Everyone was downloading it to their smartphones and running around finding their cousins. I discovered many 12th cousins, including Tim Janzen, from a dubious connection that needs more research, a Thomas Gray who went to Norway and became Graa. Sadly I never did find my real 8th cousin Dixie Hansen in the room!

I presented on What’s New at GEDmatch and also about Automated Tree Building Tools, focusing on DNA2tree, as Dana Leeds was covering Genetic Affairs (GA) which she did quite well. I do have a blog post on GA in progress, it now includes GEDCOMs with the tree building! As always my slides can be found at https://slides.com/kittycooper


The biggest take away from the conference for me was that we all need to be more diligent in getting our relatives to opt in to law enforcement (LE) usage on GEDmatch
. Many of the cases that have been solved with genetic genealogy could not be done today now that the usable database for LE investigations is down to about 200K from over a million before the opt in requirement.

Also perhaps we need a team to identify kits of people who are deceased. GEDmatch will opt them in if presented with an obituary.

I am also putting together a new email message to send to reluctant cousins appealing to their desire to be good citizens.

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Clicking Over from DNA Ancestor Hints

The great new features just keep coming for Ancestry‘s DNA product. Now we can click new people into our tree from a DNA match with an Ancestor hint. This can be done from the page where it shows the pathway for each of you to the common ancestor, explained in detail on the next page of this post. Hopefully you will all be careful about this, checking sources and so forth …

One thing I love about Ancestry‘s common ancestor feature is that it always uses my tree first before extrapolating from other trees and records. Yes that’s right, it uses records!

When I look at a DNA match with a common ancestor I always note the relationship in the notepad and then color code by great grandparent line. This means that when I look through my DNA matches with common ancestors, the ones not yet categorized are easy to see since they have nothing added in the right hand column, for example Susan in the diagram above.

The other approach would be to filter by “Matches you haven’t viewed” and visually scan for common ancestors since you cannot combine those filters. Personally I have too many distant cousins that I have not looked at yet, but I often use the group filter of “Close matches – 4th cousin or closer” and combine it with the sort by date. People who have just gotten their test results are more likely to be on the site and thus may respond to your message.

The problem with the latter approach is that some matches you have already viewed may have recently added some tree information and Ancestry has found a common ancestor that was not there before. Therefore it is best to add notes and/or color codes and periodically check the list of people with common ancestors for new finds.

The other day I saw a very fanciful looking match with distant cousin “A” to my VE line from Hordaland. Her ancestry was almost entirely Norwegian with a bit of Swedish so that fit. Curious about an ancestor called just “J” in her line I had to investigate.
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South African Cousins! Thanks to DNA

Recently my maternal aunts, cousins and I had a strong DNA match at 23andme to a woman whose name was not familiar to me, Sharon, born in South Africa. This was exciting because I had thought that I had no family left there. I knew that my Jewish great grandmother Charlotte Langermann Thannhauser had had three brothers who went off to South Africa to make their fortunes. None of whom were thought to have any living descendants.

Extracts from the chromosome browser at 23andme comparing Sharon to my family

One of the brothers, Max Langermann, of Johannesburg and London, did become very rich but had no children of his own. Another, Jakob, also of Johannesburg, died in his 30s in 1898, unmarried, and his will names his five living siblings at that time as his heirs, each of whom received 105 pounds (about $20K today). The third brother, (Ernst) Isador, died in his early 40s, on board ship returning from India to his home in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harere, Zimbabwe). His son Frederick was adopted by Max. My mother had told me that Fred was Jakob’s son but since Jakob died a few years before Frederick’s birth, that could not be. Documents I found seemed to indicate that Fred was Isador’s son but Frederick had no children of his own, So who could this new relative be descended from?

from Jakob’s will – note that Isador’s given name was Ernst – all documents are also on GENI

Frederick Edward Langerman signed Max’s will, 8 years after Isador’s death, he was about 18

Since Sharon was listed as 28% Jewish and her mother has no Jewish DNA, she deduced that her father’s mother, whose name she did not know, had to have been Jewish. I sent her my Langermann family tree. Sharon consulted with her mother and sent me this:

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My 2019 Jamboree Roundup

Another wonderful Jamboree, the 50th birthday celebration, is over. This is my favorite conference not just because of the great weather and outdoor bar but also for the manageable size and a day for just DNA, not to mention the high quality of the presenters. So I was very sad to hear that it will not happen next year; they are reinventing themselves for 2020 – click here for the announcement on their blog.

Ask the DNA Experts: Brad Larkin, Kitty Cooper, Tim Janzen, Angie Bush, Dave Dowell, moderator Alice Fairhurst photo credit: Ann Schumacher

The DNA Experts Panel this year went particularly well. However when looking at one attendee’s evaluation form I saw that they had taken notes on their form (including my “read my blog!” refrain); so I include that image without the ratings (all good, yes we read what you say!) at the end of this post in case they did not make another copy.

My plan at a genealogy conference is always to attend a maximum of 2-3 talks a day (more is information overload for me) and otherwise hang out in the exhibit hall looking at what’s new from my favorite vendors. Plus spend time with friends over lunch and in the bar when the day is done. Thank you all for the glasses of wine!

When I get home after the conference, I like to watch some of the presentations that were streamed, particularly the early morning ones that I was not awake yet for. The genealogy ones are free online, thanks to Ancestry‘s sponsorship, until July 31. Go to https://webcastandbeyond.com/streaming/jamboree/ to get a login id.

Thomas MacEntee of Abundant Genealogy starting his streamed talk – screenshot from that archive

I really loved listening to Thomas MacEntee explaining how to you can do genealogy in 15 minute chunks. Like you, I said to myself, “No way!” But his presentation taught me a great deal about keeping track of my research, staying organized, and how not to chase those bright shiny objects (BSOs – this latter is my biggest failing!) by adding them to my to do list.

There is always news at these conferences.
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