Congratulations are in order for Bridget Bray of BBNY Group LLC, who did an outstanding job pulling everything together for The Genealogy Event in New York City on October 26th and 27th. The Metropolitan Pavilion was a buzz of activity from just before noon on Friday, when a crowd lined up to enter, until 6pm on Saturday, when everything wrapped up.
The format of the event consisted of 30 minute power learning sessions, with 15 minute breaks in between. I really liked this format. I typically start to get fidgety after sitting in a presentation for a while. With the condensed timeframe, presenters needed to choose their best and most important information, which is obviously beneficial to attendees.
One of the highlights of my visit was an appointment with Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective. Maureen looked at three pictures and confirmed some suspicions I had, as well as gave some great tips and insight. She was able to pinpoint two of the photos to the 1870s and one to 1900. I thought that the two pictures from the 1870s had been taken several years apart, as the woman looked much younger. Maureen said that she had recently learned more about the artists who did these terrible, inaccurate renditions. The tintype, which showed the woman looking older, was probably a better representation of the subject’s actual appearance.
I had the opportunity to speak with Kenny Freestone of Ancestry.com. I was told by their representative that Kenny was a DNA specialist. I asked Kenny about the availability of raw data. He said the same thing we’ve been hearing. Ancestry believes that our raw data belongs to us and they intend to release it in early 2013, It is Ancestry’s hope to provide service such that we will no longer need our raw DNA to go to outside sources. It appears that the intent is to become one-stop shopping for DNA needs. I then questioned Kenny about the questionable population results. He referred me to the paper “The People of the British Isles”. He said that people in the British Isles have a lot more Scandinavian that anyone believes. I am skeptical but I suppose time will tell. Thirdly, I asked Kenny a question about possible persistence of certain segments and he said he did not know. I will admit that I asked the question simply to find out if he could answer it. It appears that he is more of a product manager, as his card states, than a DNA expert. He was quite pleasant and I told him that I’d hold him to his word that we will have our raw data very soon.
Almost all of the presenters did an outstanding job. Among my favorite were:
- Ron Arons, author of The Jews of Sing Sing, presented Finding Living People on the Internet on Friday and Putting the Flesh on the Bones on Saturday. Ron was engaging, informative, and entertaining. Ron says he’s not a stalker but he’s sure got first rate skills. I love finding living relatives, so he’s a man after my heart. Ron’s specialty is criminals and black sheep.
- As expected, Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, gave a well-prepared, cohesive, and informative talk titled The ABCs of DNA. The lecture was at a basic level, as I am sure was appropriate for the majority of the attendees. I enjoyed watching Judy’s speaking style and learning important things about how to give a solid presentation.
- Laura Prescott gave two wonderful talks. There’s An App For That was chock full of useful apps for genealogists. I did not sit in on her timelines talk because I saw it last weekend at the Connecticut Society of Genealogists seminar, but I know it was great because I have already tried several of her ideas and found them to be quite useful.
- Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA gave a talk titled Success Stories Using DNA. Like Judy’s, the talk was at a basic level. I went to the lecture both days, simply because I wanted to.
The best part of the weekend was that I got to spend it with my 4th cousin, Suzanne. We met on a genealogy message board more than 8 years ago and have been collaborating ever since, but had never met in person despite living just two hours apart. We are planning a trip to the New York Public Library together in the near future.
Bennett Greenspan, President and Founder of Family Tree DNA