Monday, February 10, 2014

My Rootstech 2014 Highlights

Something Spencer Wells and I have in common. He said visiting this exhibit influenced his career choice. I was inspired to study Art History in college after visiting this exhibit. This is my actual ticket.

I attended the 2014 Rootstech conference virtually by watching the streaming video. This year's streamed sessions and keynotes were thought provoking. I appreciated the intellectual sophistication of Spencer Wells keynote speech. Lisa Louise Cooke's iPad presentation introduced me to all the possibilities for using one to aid in my genealogy research. The Stephanie Nielson keynote, the final keynote speech of the conference, was very inspiring and a real tear jerker. I recommend watching it if you haven't
I'll share some of the notes I took during the sessions. I recorded many of the key points in Spencer Wells' speech. Introduced as the "Indiana Jones" of DNA, he is the founder of the Genographic DNA Project. He said when he put his idea forward regarding offering DNA tests to the public his colleague didn't think it would take off. The first day 10,000 test kits were sold, which immediately proved his colleague wrong with his prediction that maybe he would sell only few hundred or thousand kits over many years. After one year 100,000 kits were sold. About a decade later 1 million kits had been sold by DNA companies. In the one year period between 2013 and 2014 nearly 1 million more people have taken a DNA test. DNA testing has now become viral. He also explained that all humans share 99.9 percent of the same DNA. This is because mutations in DNA are very rare. We all descend from common ancestors in Africa 200,000 years ago. Migration began 60,000 years ago. Africans have accumulated the most mutations which points to Africa as the place of origin of mankind. As he said copy errors in DNA are rare but do happen at rate of about 100 per generation which represents a smalls fraction of our DNA. These collected errors allow us to identify our DNA cousins who share the same sequences. Spencer Wells wants us to spread the word about our experience with DNA to encourage others to test. I agree, the more testers we have the more we'll learn.
I also enjoyed the streaming session "Introduction to DNA for Genealogists". The overview of all the tests offered and companies offering them was interesting. I have not tested with, and was I interested in the presenter's results. Ancestry groups matches according to their confidence level. At low confidence level the presenter has around 4000 matches. As he stated the high number of matches are overwhelming to deal with. The solution to this problem would be if everyone who tested posted a tree so it wouldn't be necessary to contact thousands of people to request their information. It really surprised me that with all his matches only about 4 people actually posted trees. This is a problem with all the testing companies. Few people post family trees. He talked about the changing nature of DNA test results, and how your current results may change as the science advances. He felt that the study of SNPs will lead to better matching in the future.
Here are some to the other tips and highlights:
  1. During the "FamilySearch Family Tree: What's New and What's Next"presentation it was announced that there would be hints attached to names on your tree, like the shaky leaves. Photo uploading will be made easier too.
  2. Puzzilla is an app you can use with your Familysearch tree to see your terminal tree branches. I looked at my tree with this app and discovered that wrong additions were made to some of my lines.
  3. I didn't know that you could dictate with your iPad instead of typing. Lisa Louise Cooke with her "Become an iPad Power User" sold me on an iPad which will likely be my next computer.
  4. During Joshua Taylor's session "Information Overload: Managing Online Searches and Their Results" I was persuaded to try to use the search Yippy engine. It categorizes your searches which can be handy. He also said that when looking for a specific kind of document think about all the possible people or agencies that might have it and search accordingly. 
  5. "5 Ways to Do Genealogy in Your Sleep"session introduced me to some new strategies such as setting up an alert on Ebay for a family bible. One of my names is rare, Forgey, so I can just set up an alert for anything coming up on that name.
  6. The "Getting the Most Out of" presenter Christa Cowan had some great advice regarding searching that site. She said if your search results don't produce a possible match at the top of the match page continue to narrow your search. I will also start using the general location box in my searches. 
As Christa Cowan's young nephew's observation in a cemetery confirms, we have more dead relatives than living ones, and we need all the help with can get to keep them all straight and discover more. Here is a link to videos of the streamed session :

Puzzilla Tree

No comments: