05 June 2015

Southern California Genealogical Society Jamoboree, 2015: DNA Day, etc.

Well, check another thing or two off the bucket list! The Southern California Genealogical Society Genealogy Jamboree held each year in Los Angeles, California is one regional conference that has always peaked my interest. Some how it never rose to the level of actually attending. This year my genealogy buddy," Janette, suggested we attend. I'm easy. Sure.

The conference runs from Friday to Sunday, 5 - 7 June 2015. I decided the register for the pre-Jamboree DNA day on Thursday, 4 June and also signed up for Judy Russell's 2 hour workshop on court records. I flew in to Burbank earlt Thursday morning and managed to arrive with time to spare before the first session on Thursday.

I've been doing some self-education on DNA testing and results in an effort to better understand and integrate findings into my research. One of the things I've noticed is that most conferences do not (and probably cannot) get into DNA beyond entry-level presentations. So, when I saw that Jamboree was devoting a full day to DNA, I was anxious to participate.

My take home message from the DNA talks: explore the ISOGG website and especially their wiki.

I love this logo!

Tim Janzen, "Programs to Help You Analyze Your Autosomal DNA Data"

Tim Janzen, M.D., is quite technically astute regarding DNA. He discussed GEDmatch, as well as tools designed by several other genealogy DNA researchers including Felix Immanuel and Kitty Cooper (also a conference presenter). Janzen has also developed his own utilities. He makes use of Excel spreadsheets in his analyses.

This was exactly the type of presentation I was hoping for. Something that goes beyond "here-are-the-four-type-of-DNA-tests" to get into some of the grit associated with analysis. The content of Janzen's presentation was quite good. He could use a little work on PowerPoint slide design: too much written information on most slides.

Kitty Cooper, "How to Do an Autosomal DNA Triangulation to Confirm a Specific Ancestor"

In some ways it might have been better if I'd heard Kitty's presentation before Tom's. Kitty, the triangulation queen, based her presentation on her blog post about triangulation as an analysis technique.

She explained the why behind going to the effort of triangulating/mapping results among one's matches and oneself. It is not enough that one matches two other people at the same spot on one of the 22 chromosomes. Each chromosome has two strands of DNA at each location representing one's autosomal genetic inheritance from one's father and mother. One person might match with one's mother and the other with one's father. In that case, they would not match each other. 

Kitty walked through some examples triangulating testing results. Like Janzen, spreadsheets for data management are an important part of her toolbox. She also discussed tools at Family Tree DNA, 23andme, GEDmatch and on her website.

Angie Bush, "Trump Cards, Magic Bullets and DNA"

Trump card: a decisive answer to or the deciding factor in an argument of questions
Magic bullet: quick and easy solution to a difficult question 

Angie Bush's presentation was well organized and presented. I think this is the kind of presentation that many researchers, early in their foray into genetic testing, need to hear. 

Yes, DNA testing can answer some intractable questions, but one needs to select the test based upon one's research question and be aware of the pros and cons of each type of DNA result. DNA testing is another tool in the research toolbox.

The key question: does genetic and non-genetic evidence support the biological relationship proposed?

Tim Janzen, "Using Autosomal DNA as a Means to Trace Your Family Tree"

The hand out for this talk consisted of a four page table comparing characteristics of the three genealogical testing companies: 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry. The elements for comparison include everything from price to ease of contacting matches to ease of results analyses to special features.

Based upon the handout, I did not quite expect the content of the presentation. I'm not complaining. 

Tim presented some basics of autosomal DNA results including information on the concepts Identical by Descent (true matches) and Identical by State (chance match with no actual common ancestor). He discussed recent work on thresh holds for predicting relatedness.

His recommendations? Test parent-cchild trios or duos, if possible. Test at all three companies (or test at Ancestry and 23andMe and load results onto Family Tree DNA). Test as many relatives as possible. Create a match list spreadsheet and keep it current.

Judy G. Russell, "Order in the Court: Hands-on With Court Records"

I knew in registering for this 2-hour workshop that I would, unfortunately miss some good DNA talks. Nevertheless, based on my previous experience listening to Judy Russell and my desire to better understand legalese, I knew this workshop was not not be missed.
Judy provided a thick handout of criminal and civil case studies and other court-generated documents for the class to read through and dissect. This was a platform for learning several legal concepts. A great way to learn. 

In the process she told us about several important sources, such as Black's Law Dictionary (various editions available online and in CD format) and Bovier's (mostly related to Southern US court).
This first day of Jamboree was worth waiting for. I look forward to Friday's offerings.

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