I attended the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS) DNA Workshop last weekend. I was impressed with the conference organization and agenda.
The logistics were excellent. Registration was easy; the conference program booklet was done well with a few extra blank pages for notes. I don’t know how many people were there, but I’d guess a couple hundred. The venue, The Augusta Elks Club, was adequate for the event, and the food was good. The MGS bookstore people were there. If you have ancestors from Maine, the MGS Bookstore probably has a book or two that can augment your research. Also, the Maine Historical Society had folks there promoting the society.
However, the real reason for my attending was to see Blaine Bettinger (@Blaine_5) speak. I had never seen Blaine before, but I have used several of his genetic genealogy charts for years. Because I have respected his work for several years, I was excited to meet him in person and hear him speak. I was not disappointed. Blaine was energetic all day and kept the audience engaged and interested. As the day progressed on his topics got more and more advanced.
His first topic was “Introduction to DNA for Genealogists” and he explained the types of chromosomes (X, Y, Mitochondrial, and autosomal) and the tests for each of them. He also went through inheritance and what each of the tests might show you.
Picture : by Emmanuel Douzery
[CC BY-SA 4.0]via Wikimedia Commons
His second session was “Using mtDNA and Y-DNA to Explore Your Genealogy.” He explained Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), what HVR1 & HVR2 tests are about and what a full genome test is. He also provided information about how mtDNA test results may be used to solve family mysteries. Then he moved on to Y-DNA testing. He described STR (short tandem repeat) testing versus SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms) testing. I understand the STR explanations fairly well, but I got lost in the SNP stuff, again. I’ve listened to other people speak about SNPs, I didn’t understand them either. One of these days, I’ll get it.
Again, he spoke about using the test results to solve family mysteries. As you may know from reading my blog, in my case, I was able to use Y-DNA results to be certain that “Roberts” surnamed individuals were on my paternal line. See: My Paternal Brick Wall and Finding Family … tools to determine my biological father and half-siblings for details.
After lunch, Blaine continued with “Using Autosomal DNA to Solve Family Mysteries.” Besides the basics of what Autosomal DNA is, he reminded us that we have two family trees. A Genealogical Family Tree and a Genetic Family Tree. The chance of matching a first or second cousin is really high (over 99%), but the chance of matching a fifth cousin might be as low as 10%. That is to say that only one in ten of your fifth cousins may hold a DNA string that you also inherited. That is understandable, on average a 5th cousin would match only 3.32cM or .0488% of a match.
(See http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_statistics for details.)
Photo used by permission
Blaine’s 4th talk of the day was about “Using Third-Party Tools to Analyze your DNA.” This talk was an intermediate session with a close look at some of GEDMatch’s tools. Besides looking at the various matches available, but also looked at phasing and a tool he runs on everyone he imports into GEDMatch, the “Are Your Parents Related” tool, which answers questions regarding homozygosity that can skew your other results. He also talked about Lazarus and triangulation tools that GEDMatch has.
Although Blaine took questions throughout his presentations regarding issues at that point, he also had a more formal Question and Answers session at the end of the conference using Q&A cards written during the conference.
I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. I thought Blaine Bettinger was a great speaker. He kept to the topics. His slides were legible and decipherable from across the room. I would go out of my way to attend future conferences where he is a speaker.
To learn more about Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., see his Genetic Genealogist website. His website includes a biography page, a presentations page, and a “Contact Me” page. I’m sure you will enjoy having him as a speaker for your conference and your attendees will learn a lot.
On May 21st, I’ll be going to the “Third Annual Southern Maine Genealogy Conference” sponsored by the Greater Portland Chapter (GPC) of the Maine Genealogical Society. This conference will be in Portland, ME, (much closer to me) and will feature D. Joshua Taylor of Who Do You Think You Are? fame (no known relationship). Another fantastic day of genealogical programming is scheduled. I’m looking forward to listening to him talk. You can register for this conference on the GPC-MGS website.