Sydney Congress 2018

Bridging the Past & Future is the title of this year’s big genealogy Congress in Sydney from 9th to 12th March and there are a number of DNA related presentations. Given the high profile of DNA testing as becoming an essential tool for family history research, it is good to see a solid inclusion of DNA-related topics for all levels of DNA experience and understanding:

Sat 10th Mar: 12-12.45pm
Introduction to DNA
AncestryDNA will be giving an introduction to DNA, promoting their product, as part of their presentation on the Ancestry company.

Sat 10th Mar: 4.45-5.30pm
DNA: A modern tool to solve historical puzzles
Presented by Kerry Farmer
“This session will demonstrate cases where DNA tests and traditional genealogical research were both necessary to solve family history puzzles. In one case an adoptee was connected to a well-researched family tree by selective autosomal testing of several relatives. In another example DNA testing provided the clue for linking two family trees – and with this guidance eventually a Scottish Kirk session record was found that confirmed the link. Attendees will not need a strong previous DNA knowledge, although familiarity with some of the terms would be helpful.”
Level: Intermediate to advanced knowledge of DNA

Sun 11th Mar: 11-11.45am
Using MyHeritage’s unique technologies to record the family history of tribal peoples
Presented by Golan Levi
“As the leading global destination for family history and DNA, we at MyHeritage believe that every story counts. In this session, you will hear fascinating stories and learn more about MyHeritage’s unique technologies and how we used them to document the family histories of tribal peoples in Namibia, Siberia and Papua New Guinea.”

Sun 11th Mar: 12-12.45pm
Mapping chromosomes to identify ancestral lines
Presented by Kerry Farmer
“We inherit half of our autosomal DNA from each of our parents. Chromosome mapping is an advanced technique that involves analysing segments we share with genetic relatives to identify the particular DNA we inherited from specific ancestral lines. We compile a spreadsheet of matching segments then use an online tool to build a visual representation (or ‘chromosome map’) of our DNA, coloured according to the ancestor who passed that particular DNA segment to us. This allows us to draw conclusions about where new DNA test ‘matches’ are likely to fit within the family tree.”
Level: Advanced knowledge of DNA

Sun 11th Mar: 3.30-4.30pm
Genealogical DNA testing: Ethical concerns?
Presented by Helen Smith
“DNA testing is the new tool in the genealogist’s toolbox. We enthusiastically embrace this tool asking our relatives for their DNA but, as with the traditional genealogy paper trail, there can be unexpected results. We have to be mindful of our ethical and moral obligations. What do we need to tell them when requesting their DNA? How many times can we ask? What happens when they say no? What can we do with the results if they say yes? What if they change their mind? What can the company do with the results? What are our responsibilities?”

Sun 11th Mar: 4.45-5.30pm
Visualising DNA matches using network graphs
Presented by Shelley Crawford
“You’ve taken an autosomal DNA test. You hope that among your DNA matches you find evidence to confirm your research, or maybe even break through a brick wall. But working your way through pages of matches and shared matches is like walking through a maze. This session will introduce free visualisation tools that can map the maze. Learn how network graphs can be used to visualise connections between your matches, and how graphs can be enhanced to assist with your research goals. While focussing on AncestryDNA shared match information, the ideas discussed can be applied to any list of shared DNA matches.”

For more information, go to the Sydney Congress 2018 website.

Importance of Australian Aboriginal mtDNA Research

Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien, right, appears in a 1938 photograph collected by anthropologists along with a lock of his hair. Today, 87-year-old O’Brien is a Karuna elder, and DNA from his hair has been used to track the migration of his ancestors across Australia. Photo: South Australian Museum

Another interesting report on the research being conducted by Ray Tobler and Alan Cooper at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA

Geneticists trace an Australian migration using Aboriginal artefacts

National Family History Month

Here are the details for DNA talks being given around Australia for National Family History Month


Family Jewels or Pandora’s Box? Discovering Family Through AncestryDNA
Presented by Ralph Sanderson
Aug 23, 2-3pm
National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes
More details from National Library of Australia


DNA Testing and Ancestry
Presented by Michelle Patient
120 Kent St, Sydney
Aug 31, 10.30am-12.30pm
More details from Society of Australian Genealogists


DNA Testing and Genealogy: The Basics
Presented by Ann Swain
Aug 11, 10-11:30am
58 Bellevue Ave, Gaythorne
More details from Queensland Family History Society

Introduction to DNA Testing
Presented by Louise Coakley
Aug 26, 10am-12pm
Followed by DNA Clinic 1pm-4pm
271 Gatton St, Westcourt
More details from Cairns & District Family History Society

Family History and DNA: Let’s Sit Down and Talk About the Basics
Presented by Cheryl Rickard
Aug 18 & 19, 9:30-11am
Fitzroy Room, Rockhampton Southside Library
Call 4936-8043 for details

DNA and Family History
Part of “Genealogy Sunshine Coast Discovery Weekend”
Aug 26 & 27, 10am-4pm
More details from Genealogy Sunshine Coast

Benefits of DNA
Part of the “Family Discovery Day” program
Aug 5, 10am-4pm
Latter Day Saints Chapel, 41 Stark Lane, Forest Glen, Sunshine Coast
Call 0407-146-754 for details


DNA in Family History
Part of the “Find Your Family with Genealogy SA” program
Aug 15, 10-11am
Noarlunga Library

DNA??? Q&A
Presented by Richard Merry
Aug 19, 9am-4pm
Part of the “A Mixed Bag” program
Uniting Church Hall, Williams Rd, Christies Beach
More details from Fleurieu Family History


Introduction to using DNA for family history research
Presented by Ros Escott
Sept 2, 10-11:30am
Hobart Branch Library, 19 Cambridge Rd, Bellerive
More details from Tasmanian Family History Society

Ancient Family History – Human Evolution, Migration & DNA Testing
Presented by Susanna van Essen
Aug 22, 11am-12pm
State Library of Tasmania, 91 Murray St, Hobart

VICTORIA – where are you, Victoria? Any DNA events to advertise??


Introduction to DNA
Presented by Cate Pearce
Aug 8, 11:45am-12:30pm
Part of Grow Your Family Tree program at the State Library of WA
Brochure click here


Changes to AncestryDNA kit management

This is the link to the news about changes in the way AncestryDNA are managing their kits and how it affects those who manage more than one kit. Please read it carefully.

Enhancing Collaboration and Roles on DNA Results

Here are some observations made by Blaine T. Bettinger, on his Facebook page, about some of the misinformation being spread on various forums about the implications of these changes:

Whew, take a deep breath and don’t panic!! There is a LOT of misinformation out there right now! MOST comments I’ve read so far are incorrect because people haven’t thoroughly read the post and don’t understand the new Manager role. Messages will NOT go unanswered now, there will NOT be more paid subscriptions now, people will NOT stop testing now. One test per kit is NOT some weird new thing (FTDNA has always done it!). It’s mostly hype. If you feel strongly about this, PLEASE actually READ the post and checklist!!

**As long as a new kit makes you Manager, you will still be able to do everything you were able to do before (link to YOUR tree, download their data, and so on).**

**If you are a Manager, the kit’s messages are sent to YOUR account! Messaging won’t be any different, you won’t need to log into each account.**

AncestryDNA has announced that as of July 18th, there will be just one DNA kit activation per account (other than for minors). New kits will have to be associated with a new Ancestry account, which can be either a free or paid account. Existing accounts with multiple kits won’t be affected. There is now a new step during the activation process in which the activator can invite you as a manager (able to download raw data and send messages), which I hope will help the process.If you are a Manager, the kit’s messages are sent to your account.

It will be a challenge to ensure that people that I buy kits for and that create a new account give me Manager status, but it isn’t insurmountable and isn’t the end of the world.

[Please feel free to share this to combat all the misinformation out there!!]

Chinese adoptions

This is an interesting article that discusses how one Chinese adoptee, Jenna Cook, who was born and abandoned in China and subsequently adopted by an American couple, has been trying to find her birth parents in China using media notices and DNA. This story is also relevant for many Australians who were adopted from other countries and I think we will be seeing more use of DNA testing for these kinds of adoption cases.

The Search for a Past

Jenna Cook put up 800 posters in Wuhan, China, in her efforts to find her birth family. Behind her, a passerby is reading the poster.