28 April 2017

NERGC 2017 - Day 1 & 2

The 2017 New England Regional Genealogical Consortium is going on through Saturday 29 April. This is the first genealogy conference that I have ever attended. And it was worth it so far. The conference is held every two years and this year it is in Springfield, Massachusetts at the MassMutal Center. Exactly 80 miles from my house.

Wednesday was a day of special tracks of presentations on different aspects of genealogy such as tech day, DNA day, librarians day, society day, and professional day. I chose to attend the DNA day. The day was broken into 4 sessions where experts on DNA genealogy such as Jim Brewster and Janine Cloud both from Family Tree DNA, Blaine Bettinger from the Genetic Genealogist, and Diahan Southard from Your DNA Guide gave presentations on beginning with DNA in genealogy.

Jim Brewster gave overviews on the differences between Autosomal, Y-DNA, & mt-DNA kits. Autosomal kits trace both parents lines whereas Y-DNA traces only the father's male line and the mt-DNA traces only the mother's female line. He also spoke on the various group projects within Family Tree DNA that a tester could join. Those groups being surname, haplogroup, geographical, lineage, and private.

Blaine Bettinger, a solid expert on the field of genealogy and DNA spoke in depth on centiMorgans (cM) within DNA. In short, cM is a measurement of genetic distance of two people or how closely they are related. The higher the number of cM; the closer in relationship the two individuals are.

Bettinger also mentioned that usually by 7-9 generations DNA usually drops from the genetic tree. To further illustrate this point, I inherited 50% of my DNA from each of my parents. 25% came from grandparents. 12.5% from great grandparents. 6% from great great grandparents; etc. So the farther back one traces, the less DNA will be passed on.

Diahan Southard stressed in her session that one should test the right person with the correct DNA test that will bring you to the conclusion that you are looking for. In other words if you are simply looking for relatives on both sides of your family; test yourself with an Autosomal DNA kit. If you are interested in only your male line go with the Y-DNA kit. Also most importantly, test the oldest generation first; because they may not be here for testing tomorrow. The older generation will have more DNA than you.

Yesterday (Thursday) was the first actual day of the conference and the opening keynote speaker was Mary Tedesco from Origins Italy and Genealogy Roadshow on PBS. She gave a lively and informative presentation on the history of genealogy from its early origins as a specific field of family study to its recent explosion in popularity. Topics such as early founders of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), printed family genealogies, computers, the Internet, and DNA.

The exhibit hall was open and loaded with various genealogy vendors and multiple genealogy societies located throughout New England. A list vendors in genealogy circles that were present included Ancestry, Family Tree Maker, MyHeritage, NEHGS, New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B), Family Tree DNA, Association of Professional Genealogists, Boston University, Family Search, Geni, Daughters of the American Revolution, National Institute for Genealogical Studies, and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Quiet corner of the exhibit hall

After the Tedesco's opening presentation, I headed to the exhibit hall and controlled myself. I almost turned into a kid in the candy store. Lots of great stuff to look at and buy from the vendors. As I went from table to table I was being told to attach a ribbon on my name tag to indicate that I belong to these societies or use these products. I saw some people whose ribbons were down to their knees.

The vendors and other genealogists were extremely friendly and helpful that I ended up missing my next session because I was wrapped up talking and checking stuff out. I also bought a couple of books from the NYB&G and NEHGS and saved on shipping.

Next I ventured into two separate sessions by Thomas MacEntee who is the operator of GeneaBloggers. He discussed his Genealogy Do-Over system. After years of research he realized that he had many errors and lacked the proper source documentation for data in his tree. His "Do-Over" is a method to correct the errors.

Thomas MacEntee in action

MacEntee's next session discussed locating relatives that are still alive. Seems backwards but sometimes that is a must. Because unknown living relatives may hold the key too solving some of your brick wall problems. MacEntee also pointed out his favorite search sites for locating living people such as veromi.com, peoplesmart.com, and zabasearch.com. He stressed do not pay for any of the additional features they may offer. Stick with the free data.

Another point he stressed was on contacting this newly found relative. How do you do it? Phone call, email, or letter. Email can easily end up in a spam folder or be ignored so drop that idea. A cold call on the phone may automatically make the person think that this call is a scam. Therefore, write a letter aside from the information that you are looking for include all of your contact info (name, address, phone, email, etc.), include a tree showing family connections, pictures and stories may help to prove that you are indeed the real deal and not a scammer.

That was it for the day for me. Day 3 and 4 tomorrow.