The Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree is always one of the largest regional events of the year. In fact, with 1,600 attendees (plus or minus a bit) most years, this three-day event often is larger than some of the national conferences. This year's event was stretched: a fourth day was added. I had an opportunity to attend the new, fourth day yesterday. I wasn't alone: more than 300 people from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, and China were registered amongst the attendees.
The "Family History and DNA" addition was labeled as a "pre-event." Indeed, it seemed to me to be a totally separate conference. While it was held at the same facility in Burbank, California and certainly was a part of the Jamboree, the one-day "Family History and DNA" event was very different from past Genealogy Jamboree conferences I have attended.
The "Family History and DNA" event was jointly produced by the Southern California Genealogical Society and the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). As the title suggests, the one-day event focused on the use of DNA within genealogy with presentations offered for newcomers, intermediate researchers, and experts alike. I attended a couple of lectures for intermediate DNA DNA-using genealogists and one for beginners. I will say they certainly were worth the trip.
The two best-known speakers of the "Family History and DNA" Day were opening speaker Dr. Spencer Wells and luncheon speaker Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Dr. Wells is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor at Cornell University. He leads The Genographic Project, which is collecting and analyzing hundreds of thousands of DNA samples from people around the world in order to decipher how our ancestors populated the planet. Wells graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas at Austin at the age of 19, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at Stanford and Oxford. He has appeared in numerous documentary films and is the author of three books, The Journey of Man, Deep Ancestry and Pandora's Seed. A more extensive bio of Dr. Wells can be found at National Geographic at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/spencer-wells/.
Dr. Wells spoke on The Genographic Project and the Rise of Citizen Science. I will admit I was not enthused about the title of that talk. I assumed it would be another long, detailed, and somewhat boring presentation by an academic. I now will say that I was wrong! Yes, it was presented by an academic but everything else was different from my expectations. It certainly was interesting to this genetics and DNA non-expert..
The Genographic Project uses the latest available genetic technology to expand our knowledge of the human story, and uses DNA testing around the world involve and the public about the history of people. Along the way, the Genographic Project has helped create a new breed of "citizen scientist." These "scientists" include many genealogists, many of whom do not even realize they are scientists. Yet many genealogists are actively working to expand the knowledge of history and migrations throughout the centuries.
Dr. Wells also spoke about a newer effort that is now well underway, called Geno 2.0. This is a use of educated genealogists/scientists pooling their knowledge and research on the Internet. In short, Geno 2.0 is a form of "crowd sourcing" with the result expected to be better knowledge and understanding by all interested people.
Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been mentioned in this newsletter many times in the past (see http://goo.gl/dC4et). He is an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, and editor. He was the first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship. He has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his teaching, research, and development of academic institutions to study black culture. Gates has hosted several PBS television mini-series, including the history / travel program Wonders of the African World and the biographical African American Lives and Faces of America. He serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, where he is director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.
Professor Gates gave a luncheon talk that was great. He combined history, DNA, and humor in a way that few public speakers can master. He even received a standing ovation at the end of his talk, only the second time I have ever seen that at a genealogy conference. (The other was David Pogue at RootsTech2013, see my earlier article at http://goo.gl/JN4zM for details of Pogue's talk.) A couple of presenters who started their talks immediately after lunch commented that they were unable to match Professor Gates' talk. Indeed, he was a tough act to follow but the one talk I attended after lunch was still a great presentation.
A full list of speakers during the "Family History and DNA" Day is available at http://genealogyjamboree.org/2013/DNAday.htm.
The presentations were offered three at a time, all day long. As a result, it was impossible for me to attend all the presentations but those that I did attend were worthwhile and also well attended. One surprise to me was the talk by Judy G. Russell, probably better-known as The Legal Genealogist. (See her excellent blog at http://www.legalgenealogist.com to read about several of her interests.) She spoke on The ABCs of DNA. I knew that Judy had a law degree and is a professor at a major law school. She is also a Certified Genealogist and often writes and lectures on legal issues from a genealogist's viewpoint. But a legal expert talking about DNA?
Actually, Judy has several fields of expertise and obviously DNA is one of them. She successfully translated much of the terminology and science of DNA into words that the rest of us could understand. She talked about the three major test types - YDNA, mitochondrial (mtDNA) and the new autosomal DNA testing. She described clearly what each offers to the genealogist. In short, this was one of the best DNA presentations for newcomers I have ever heard.
CeCe Moore gave a much more advanced presentation but one that was still clear to most f us who have a bit of experience with DNA. CeCe Moore is a professional genetic genealogist and writes the popular blog “Your Genetic Genealogist.” She serves as the lead Ancestry Ambassador to 23andMe and on the advisory board of the Mixed Roots Foundation as the Co-Director of the “Global Adoptee Genealogy Project.” CeCe is the Southern California Regional Coordinator for ISOGG as well as the moderator of the DNA Newbie Yahoo Group.
In her presentation, CeCe skipped over the basics (which were presented by others at this conference) and talked about Working with Autosomal DNA: Genealogical Case Studies. She focused on using autosomal DNA for learning about your family history and what your ancestors may have passed on to you. Unlike the better-known Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA research techniques, autosomal DNA provides clues about possible cousins and other extended relatives. She talked at length about how to find the more distant relatives who are not direct ancestors.
These were but a few of the many expert presentations offered to genealogists this year at the day devoted to "Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2013" A full list may be found at http://genealogyjamboree.org/2013/DNAday.htm.
The 44th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, continues today (Friday) featuring more than 50 speakers, nearly 150 sessions, and about 70 exhibitors, software and data providers, and societies. The event is being held at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank. I will be here for the remainder of the conference and hope to write about what I see and hear. In the meantime, you can read more about this conference at http://www.scgsgenealogy.com/Jamboree.