Decennial Conference on Genetic Genealogy

  Family Tree DNA kicked off its Decennial Conference on Genetic Genealogy at the Hyatt North Houston in Houston, Texas.  Max Blankenfeld welcomed the crowd of more than 180 group administrators and acknowledged those who had been to all ten conferences as well as those who have been group administrators for more than ten years. Max encouraged constructive feedback of Family Tree DNA in order to be sure the company moves in a way that works for the administrators and customers. Bennett Greenspan gave an overview of the speakers for the weekend. The first speaker of the morning, Dr. Blaine Bettinger, is an intellectual property attorney who writes The Genetic Genealogist blog. Blaine pointed out that there are no “Ethics Police” and you will not go to ethics jail, although there may be consequences. He reminded us that we need to be proactive instead of reactive in order to increase positive feedback and reduce the negatives. The way to do this is through education. Be sure to remind individuals to read Terms of Use but you do need to explain further and not rely on this, as most people do not read terms of use. Be sure to provide information to project members about what information will be made publicly available. Surprises occur and people should be aware of this before testing. Blaine warned to be aware of genetic exceptionalism. DNA reveals family secrets every day. Never promise anonymity, as DNA is identifiable by nature. It is important that we never promise the absence of medical information, as we don’t know what we don’t know. Blaine reviewed GINA and...

9th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy – Day 1

Max Blankfeld opened the conference with a welcome.  Max talked about competition making for healthy growth.  This has been the best year ever and there are great things in the pipeline. In June of this year, what started as an acquisition became something that could be a guarantee of continuity for Family Tree DNA.  Three new people have been added to staff.  Nir Leibovich is the Chief Business Officer, David Mittelman is the Chief Scientific Officer, and Jason Wang is the Chief Technology Officer leading the Engineering Department. Max got a little bit emotional as he talked about people who have been great supporters of Family Tree DNA who are no longer with us.  He stressed that he really appreciates what they brought to the company and most importantly, their friendship.  He also sent best wishes to Bill Hurst for a speedy recovery. Bennett stepped up to join Max to talk about group administrators who have been with them for 10 years or more.  Each of these group administrators will receive a plaque to honor their years of commitment. Bennett talked a bit about the lab tours.  Approximately 60 people in total have or will attend lab tours during this conference period.  Bennett shared the news about the CAP certification.  This allows the company to justify the acquisition of some expensive instruments that will be beneficial to the genealogical community. The first speaker of the day was Amy McGuire, PhD, JD, of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine, presenting Am I My Brother’s Keeper?  DNA Identifiability and Obligations to Biological Relatives in Genetic Genealogy. ...

Get your DNA test here! A tour of the Family Tree DNA Lab

It’s that time of year again!  Genetic Genealogy enthusiasts have gathered at the Sheraton North Houston for the 9th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy.  This year lab tours were offered on Friday as well as Monday, which is great for those who plan to fly out on Sunday.  Bennett Greenspan, President of Family Tree DNA, welcomed our group to the lab. The lab at Family Tree DNA is a fully functional five or six day a week lab.  Our first stop was the Pre-PCR area where DNA has not been amplified.  Once DNA is amplified, it never returns to this area.  Our group put on lab coats and anyone with open-toed shoes put on booties. Bennett explained that all of the tubes have a red cap instead of the old tethered cap style.  The machine shown below automatically fills each tube with the buffer that allows the sample to sit for long periods.  The buffer arrests any potential for bacterial growth while the DNA is in the tube.  About 400 per hour can be produced by this machine. The next robot extracts approximately 600 samples per day during one normal shift.  Around Christmas time the process is doubled in order to extract 1,200 samples per day. The liquid handling robot takes DNA, puts it into a daughter plate, and puts a primer mix and a master mix in the well.  Master mix is a neutral solution and the primer mix might be for any of the Y-DNA SNPs that have to be used for a confirmation purpose. DNA samples that arrived yesterday or the day before that have not...

NERGC 2013 – Saturday

Another early morning.  This morning started with a ProGen breakfast at 7:00 A.M.  It was nice to get to visit with other ProGen members and also to spend some time with my mentor, Sandy Clunies.  Christine Cook from my group was also in attendance.  It was great for the three of us to have a chance to chat. The first session I attend this morning was Craig Scott’s “Getting Ink on Paper: Publishing Your Genealogical Material in the Digital Age.”  Of all the sessions I attended during this conference, this is by far the one that taught me the most new things that I did not know before.  If you are even slightly interested in publishing, this is a must-see lecture. Next, I went to get a seat for Elissa Scalise Powell’s “Eating an Elephant: Managing Large Projects.”  This talk discussed methods of completing large tasks such as publication, website building, certification, or society work.  Prioritization is key in large project management, as is delegation.  Tools such as Storyboard That, Mind View 5, and Scrivener can be very useful tools, as can an old-fashioned notebook with tabs. The NEAPG luncheon was quite enjoyable.  I sat at the Connecticut table, along with Barbara Mathews and Claire Ammon.  We had the opportunity to discuss some Connecticut resources.  Claire and I worked together to help one of our table visitors come up with a list of possible resources and repositories for New Haven ancestors. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was VERY tired but I really wanted to attend “Researching a Community” by David Allen Lambert.  David shared the way that he built a website...

NERGC 2013 – Friday

Wow, today seemed to go on forever but I’ll try to give a quick recap before going to bed so that I can be back at the conference hotel in less than six hours.  Exhausting but totally worth it!  I’m not used to burning the candle on both ends like this but it’s not everyday that I get to see old friends and make new ones.  Please overlook typos tonight because proof-reading is simply not going to happen! This morning I was slated to volunteer at Registration starting at 7 A.M.  I was able to have a very nice conversation with Beth Mariotti, Director of Godfrey Memorial Library.  I am on the board of the Friends of Godfrey.  If you have not checked out Godfrey Memorial Library and the Godfrey Scholar website, you should!  Stephen Morse recently redesigned the site and it’s wonderful. Around 8 A.M. I received a message asking me to help with the mayor’s visit.  I was happy to be able to help by taking the photos during his visit.  I posted a few of those here earlier today. I finished taking photos just in time to get to Colleen Fitzpatrick’s talk, “The Secrets of Abraham Lincoln’s DNA.”  This talk was filled with many interesting facts.  Of course, I like anything that involves genetic genealogy so it certainly wasn’t a hard sell for me. After this talk, there was some unopposed exhibitor time.  GeneaBloggers took this opportunity to go to the designated area in the conference hall and have a meet and greet and get some blog posts published.  How fun to meet so many of our fellow...

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