This was the topic of a recent Dick Eastman article. The article is from Dick’s plus edition, so you need to subscribe to see it in full and the comments.
I did comment and here is my feeling on the subject:
The future is definitely the one-trees that FamilySearch, Geni, WikiTree and others have created, especially with the efforts recently announced by MyHeritage and Findmypast to share and Sync data with them. Then there’s companies like Living DNA figuring out how to link our DNA relatives together with our genealogical relatives. Eventually we may have one big master genealogy/DNA tree.
But with that in mind, it’s especially important to have genealogy software on your own computer so that you can keep track of what you’ve found out and (if you’ve done it right) keep what you’ve researched separate from what everyone else thinks they’ve researched.
This morning, I received my DNA test results from AncestryDNA. It completes my quadfecta and now gives me results with the big four: Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA and now Ancestry DNA.
Living DNA has been working recently to turn the big four into a big five, but to date I haven’t tested there mainly because they do not yet provide you with your DNA matches. I did however upload my raw data last Fall as part of their One Family One World project which currently has an estimated completion date of August 6, 2018.
With regards to the 4 actual tests I’ve personally done, let’s do a summary:
I took the MyHeritage DNA test right at the MyHeritage booth at RootsTech in Salt Lake City in 2017, and they kept it and delivered it to the lab for me, i.e. I didn’t have to mail it in myself.
The AncestryDNA test I took the first time ended with an email sent from the lab to me stating that they were unable to use the sample. They allowed me to order a replacement sample for free, which I did the same day and I call that “Try 2”.
Overall, it took between 29 and 53 days from the date of my mailing the test to getting the results. Leah Larkin maintains interesting statistics about the different testing companies including processing times. Leah notes that time mailing to results average 20 to 40 days. I suspect my results may be a bit higher because I’m in Canada and most of tests were over the Christmas period.
For fun, let’s compare the ethnicities that the different tests assign to me. Now as far as I know from my own ancestry research, I am 100% Ashkenazi, and my 4 grandparents and their ancestors as far back as I can trace come from an area within a couple of hundred mile radius that is restricted to northeastern Romania and southwestern Ukraine. Yes. This research is tough slogging since records only go back to the mid 1800’s with the originals all being in languages that I do not read. Compound that by a people that only took their surnames in the early to mid 1800’s, so you have brothers who have different surnames. Before that, it was Joseph son of Hirsch. Do you know how many Joseph son of Hirsch’s there were? But I digress.
Back to the ethnicities. I did compare my Family Tree DNA results with my MyHeritage DNA results a year ago when they first came in. This time I’ll compare all 4 companies I tested with, as well as a two others that I uploaded my data to. This should be a good test because unlike most people, I have an expectation of 100% of one ethnicity. Let’s see how well the companies agree:
The two companies that accept free uploads that give ethnicity reports that I uploaded to and list on the right are DNA Land and Gencove. I only uploaded there because each site also provide a list of DNA relatives you match to, but neither site said they were able to find me any matches.
As far as results go, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and DNA Land had what I’d call the best ethnicity estimates for me, getting me at 98% to 99.9% which is pretty close to 100%. MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA are surprisingly off target with over 11% spurious matches that are including me as Spanish, African, South Asian and even Inuit/Eskimo. The latter I jokingly attribute to my genes mutating after a full life of frigid winters here in central Canada.
What this tells me is that estimate of Ashkenazi ethnicity by the various companies are reasonably good, as long as you don’t take any of those percentages under 10% seriously. I am, of course, most impressed by 23andMe’s 99.2%.
Now this is the part I’m interested in, and the part you should be as well. After all, we want to use DNA to help us with our genealogy research and find DNA relatives and in so doing, determine common ancestors and the lines that connect us. As I mentioned above, my own research is hampered by 1850 documentation, surname and language limitations. Conversely, with respect to DNA relatives, the Ashkenazi population has an oddly different problem: We have too many of them.
That’s because the Ashkenazi have what’s called endogamy, which is the practice of marrying within the community. Thus everyone is related to everyone else and it becomes more difficult to identify DNA connections because any relative can be DNA related many ways.
But let’s see what the different companies give me as far as relatives go. At Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage DNA and 23andMe, you can download your match list. At AncestryDNA, you need a 3rd party tool to get your DNA matches downloaded. I used the the DNAGedcom client tool. It took 12 hours for that tool to download my AncestryDNA matches for me. I then re-downloaded my match lists from the other 3 companies so that they’d all be up to date and comparable.
I’m excluding my uncle from the above, who I had done the testing for. Excluding my uncle, not a single match denoted to be closer than a 2nd cousin was found by any company.
Over at Family Tree DNA, I have 15187 DNA relatives. From what I understand, that makes up about 75% of all the Ashkenazi people who have tested there. The number is quite large because they include people who match down to 17 cM and include the totals of small segments, which is also why they classify many of the people as 5th Cousin to Remote. The other companies stop at 4th Cousin to remote. The numbers include a 3rd cousin that I knew prior to getting my test results who had been sharing family information with me for over 10 years. At the time, I was pleasantly surprised to find he had DNA tested. But he is still the only person I know how I’m related to of the over 15 thousand in the list.
MyHeritage DNA shows me at 4713 DNA relatives. Apparently they make an adjustment for the endogamy of people who have declared themselves Ashkenazi or I might have had 5 times that number. I don’t know exactly how I’m related to any of these people.
23andMe only includes 1125 DNA relatives. And only 652 of them (58%) opted in for sharing information. But there I found 8 actual cousins who I already had in my family tree who I know are between 2nd Cousins and 3rd Cousins once removed. I’ve since communicated with them and we’ll be sharing information. My Family Tree DNA cousin, and these 8 cousins and my uncle are all on my father’s side, which is from northeast Romania. I’m still looking for someone who is on my mother’s side who has DNA tested from southwest Ukraine.
AncestryDNA gave me 100820 (yes, that’s over one hundred thousand) DNA matches. They are displayed at ancestry.com on 2016 pages of 50 people each plus an additional page with 20 more people = 100820. The closest match is 355 cM which is a much closer match than at any of the other companies. That should be a real 2nd cousin. But I don’t recognize the person’s name. I did send her a message and hopefully she’ll respond and maybe we can see if we can figure out what the connection might be. Since AncestryDNA does not give you its own way to download your match list, I used DNAGedcom Client to download the matches. I started it running at 9 a.m. and it completed at 9 p.m., so it took 12 hours. It created a csv (comma delimited file) 47 MB in size which contained 98869 matches. The people on the last page (page 2017) of my Ancestry match list are listed in the match list download, so I’m not sure why the number is less than the 100820 matches that I calculate. But I won’t sweat over the 2000 that may not have got downloaded. Maybe DNAGedcom Client missed some. Ancestry’s list includes every person who matches on even one segment of 6 cM or more, which is why I have so many in my list. If AncestryDNA has tested 7 million people so far, then my match list contains 1.5% of their test population.
GEDmatch only gives you your 2000 closest matches (less 1 for my uncle). Those take me down to matches of 57 cM. My cousin who tested at Family Tree DNA is among the other 1999. My matches are made up of 882 people from AncestryDNA, 743 from Family Tree DNA, 285 from 23andMe, 67 from MyHeritage DNA and 22 from other testing companies, which you can tell from the prefix of their kit number (A, T, M, H, Z).
Also, DNA Land and Gencove, who say they provide matches, both said they had zero matches for me.
Given all those matches from the 4 testing companies and GEDmatch, I’ve so far only found 9 people related to me. And for all 9, I knew beforehand that they were related to me. You’d think I’d find a match who is a new person whose relationship we can determine so that I can add them and their family to my tree. But that hasn’t happened yet.
Both #genchat and #genchatDNA are Twitter chat sessions which meet periodically and gather together genealogists to provide their set of insights about the current topic.
Tomorrow, I am the #genchatDNA featured “Answerer”. If you are a genealogist who is also on Twitter, join me tomorrow, Saturday March 17 for a very fast hour starting at 8 pm GMT. (Check your local time in North America, below.)
The #genchat sessions are once every two weeks on Friday evening. The #genchatDNA sessions are every month on a Saturday afternoon.
The #genchatDNA discussions only began in November last year. Previous chats were:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 – What to Expect When Both Parents Test
Dec, 2017 – (no session this month)
Sat, Nov 18, 2017 – Where Do I Start?
I try to join in here (and at #genchat) whenever there is a topic of interest to me and I’m available. I pretty well have to be at home and on my computer to make it manageable. Different people do it different ways, often handling the multitude of tweets during the hour with a Twitter client such as TweetChat or Hootsuite. I tried Nurph a couple of years ago, but decided on a simpler way even before Nurph was discontinued.
What I do is keep 4 browser windows open to the Twitter site:
My primary window will be open to a search of #genchat or #genchatDNA with “Latest” selected. That shows all posts with the tag in it from newest to oldest. Every minute or so, it updates with a message that says “12 new tweets” and when I’m ready I can click on that and read the latest. The other nice thing about this window is when I click on the Tweet button, the “Compose New Tweet” form already has the search term #genchatDNA in the box for me so I won’t forget to add it.
My 2nd window contains my own Twitter feed. That way, if anyone I follow forgets to add the genchat hash tag, I’ll still see it.
I keep one window open to my Twitter notifications, so I can see any reactions to any of my tweets and respond if I get a question or comment, and
A window with my own tweets and responses, just so I can refer back to what I had said earlier.
There is a webpage home for #genchat at: www.genealogygenchat.com. There, you will find a schedule of future #genchat session. Amy Johnson Crow will be the guest on March 30th in “Learning the Write Stuff”.
Some of the #genchat-ers got together at RootsTech last month holding their #GenChat cutout that they were using to promote the chat sessions:
Ask anyone about #genchat they will tell you 3 things: (1) it’s FUN; (2) it’s FRIENDLY; and, (3) it’s the FASTEST 60 minutes of #genealogy in your life
— SirLeprechaunRabbit®The Bunny Bartender (@leprchaunrabbit) March 15, 2018
I believe there is also a #genchatDE, but that one is all in German, so I for one would have trouble following and participating.
Another genealogy chat session seen on Twitter is #AncestryHour which appears to be very popular and is on every Tuesday at 7 pm GMT. It is more a free-for-all, with no specific topic and no moderator asking pre-set questions.
And I believe there is an #iamnextgen chat. I am very familiar with the NextGen Genealogy Network made up of some of our brightest young new genealogists between the ages of 18 and 50, but I haven’t participated there because I think I’d be classified as #iamprevgen.
I’ve just released version 2.1 of DMT which includes support for MyHeritage DNA’s new segment download files.
MyHeritage DNA made some big announcements last week at #RootsTech, and included among those was the ability to download your match list and your segment match list.
Double Match Triangulator reads two or more segment match files and shows you all triangulations between the people involved. It can read segment match files from Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, GEDmatch and now MyHeritage DNA. Note that Ancestry DNA still does not allow you to download or even display your segment match data, so DMT (and many other DNA tools) cannot use Ancestry DNA data.
For MyHeritage DNA, the procedure to download your segment match data is simple. Go to your DNA matches page, click on the “Advanced options” download, and select “Export shared DNA segment info for all DNA Matches”.
Once you do that, your data will be downloaded into a file with a name that looks like: nnnnnn DNA Matches shared segments dddddd.csv
Where: nnnnnn is the name of the DNA tester, dddddd is the date, and .csv means the type of file is comma delimited text. The file looks like this:
and when you open that with Excel or another spreadsheet program, you get:
When you use one of these MyHeritage files as Person A, and a second file as Person B (e.g. my uncle), Double Match Triangulator will find all the double matches and triangulations both Person A and Person B have in common with all their other matches and will present them both numerically and graphically in a spreadsheet for you. DMT also does it’s best to delineate triangulation groups and puts boxes around them. The goal of all this is to help you analyze segments of your DNA and quickly give you data you can use to try to find common ancestors and determine which segments of DNA they passed down to you.
I was very excited to hear that MyHeritage DNA was enabling data downloads and I immediately started using it for my own DNA analysis.
If you’re a MyHeritage DNA customer, you can now use DMT to help you analyze your matches. One of other exciting announcements by MyHeritage DNA at RootsTech was that they enhanced their Chromosome Browser and it now can show you segments that triangulate. It actually will check that the segments of yourself and up to 7 people match each other and if so, it will show a box around the parts that do triangulate.
DMT provides you great information to help you find those triangulations. For example, if I take myself, my uncle, and the first 7 people with those long green X’s in the above output from DMT and enter them into the MyHeritage DNA Chromosome Browser, I immediately get:
and I know these people are all in one triangulation group on my father’s side (since my uncle, Person B, is my father’s brother).
If I knew who any of those seven people were, I might be able to identify the grandparent or great-grandparent (or maybe even further back) that was the ancestor who passed this segment down to me.
The next step then would be to go to the bottom of the MyHeritage DNA Chromosome Browser page where there’s the Shared DNA segments info:
That tells me the exact locations where these people all triangulate. Of course, I could also get that from Double Match Triangulator which gives me a more complete list of the 97 people that triangulate over a slightly larger range. DMT tells me the full triangulating group is from locations 4,440,598 to 18,528,026
Then the next step would be to go to Jonny Perl’s wonderful tool DNA Painter, which won the RootsTech DNA Innovation Contest last week, and to add that segment and specify that it belongs to the ancestor I’ve identified.
You can see that the hashed grey line under the “SHARED OR BOTH” label fits in nicely to the blue segment belonging to my father and is likely on my paternal grandmother’s side because it starts just after that short black line belonging to my paternal grandfather.
We’ve got exciting times coming with the use of all these tools together.
Saturday is the most difficult day to have a #NotAtRootsTech day for me, because all of the family is home and I have to excuse myself upstairs to the office and mostly ignore them. But let’s continue.
The Connect Belong video at the beginning of the Live Stream today was fun to watch. It asked people if they Connect or Belong. Great selection of people asked and great answers. I hope that gets posted somewhere. If so, I’ll add the link here.
The live stream had Jason Hewlett sitting with Natalia Lafourcade, who is the singer of “Remember Me” in the movie Coco and will be singing at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles tomorrow as it is up for best song. She sang 3 songs including Remember Me for the RootsTech audience. Natalie Lafourcade was very excited to find out that her father’s side came from France because. Earlier she had mentioned she thought it odd that she was Spanish from Mexico/Chile but had a French last name.
The magnificent Henry Louis Gates Jr. was the Keynote Speaker at the IAJGS Conference I attended last July in Florida, so I knew to expect the best. I’m a regular watcher of his Finding Your Roots series. “In social studies class, every child will have to do their family tree. Down the hall to the science class, every kid will spit in the test tube. … We’ll reignite the love of learning.” – Henry Louis Gates Jr.
CeCe Moore followed Dr. Gates and told us how DNA is exploding.
“Advancing Your Genealogy Research With DNA” by Anna Swayne who works at Ancestry. She gave a really nice slide of the AncestryDNA Science Team:
Curt Witcher once again (lucky guy got to be involved in 3 live stream broadcasts during the Conference). “More Web for your Genealogy”. As much data as Ancestry and Findmypast and MyHeritage have, it’s the “snowflake on top of the iceberg. … Think about it.” Search tools don’t index the web completely. So his successful surfing strategy is to visit the websites of local public libraries, state libraries, state archives, historical societies genealogical societies, and GenWeb. I downloaded his handout from the RootsTech app. Curt Witcher
The final day of RootsTech (or any conference) is always a downer for me. I find it so sad for it to be over. In my first year there, 2012, my flight home was Sunday morning, so I was able to enjoy a post-RootsTech event which was a Dick Eastman dinner for readers of his EOGN newsletters. That was a lot of fun. But after that RootsTech turned Saturday into Family Discovery Day which invited many thousands of younger people into the Convention Centre for free for inspirational stories. So in 2014 and 2017, I took the Saturday afternoon flight home, leaving while the action was still on and avoiding the end. However, I also missed Dick’s dinners and I’m so sad that I’ve never been able to attend a Dear Myrtle post RootsTech party which she hosts and sounds like so much fun.
This year, I see they’ve eliminated the Family Discovery Day and have a full slate of Genealogy topics all day Saturday which is great. Next time I’m at RootsTech (and there will be a next time), I’ll stay over until Sunday to catch some of the post-conference events, and I think I might even try to come the Sunday before to catch some of the pre-conference events. Being there the whole time might even give me a slight chance of being able to visit every booth in the Exhibit Hall.
#NotAtRootsTech 2018 was a lot of fun. Looking forward to 2019, whether I’m there or not.
Caught up on my Twitter feed from last night. One tweet from Nicole Dyer led me to her blog post about Diana’s classes on Source Citations and Getting Organized. They made the presentation slides available so I took a look and also downloaded their great handouts from the RootsTech App.
I do disagree with Diana’s very first step: “Divide papers by families”, as I am of the philosophy that you should keep all source material by where you got it, which retains context and relatedness. Otherwise her presentations and ideas are excellent.
Turned on the RootsTech live stream.I liked how Jason Hewlett started off by highlighting the #NotAtRootsTech posters who sent a tweet of themselves watching RootsTech. This was the winner:
Ben Bennett of Findmypast: “We also believe that the benefits of a shared tree can be watered down if we have too many shared trees, and so we asked ourselves, what if we didn’t actually build another shared tree? Instead, what if we focused our efforts on contributing to a community that is already alive and progressing?” – So FamilySearch is partnering with Findmypast (just as they are doing with MyHeritage as announced a few days ago). Findmypast will be building a new suite of family tree products including their shared tree, reference tree, and updates to their private trees is still in development. But it appears to me that FamilySearch, with MyHeritage and Findmypast now aligning with them, is winning the battle of which shared tree will become THE shared tree. If that ends up happening and we end up with one shared tree for all, then the efforts that got the big companies to get together annually at RootsTech will have paid off the genealogical community big time! Congrats to all the big companies.
The 5 big DNA companies got together on Day 1 of RootsTech. They will compete and cooperate with each other and maybe the ultimate result will be one big DNA tree integrated with the one big shared family tree. Wouldn’t that be something!
Watched Scott Hamilton. Wonderful. He made me cry.
Read Roberta Estes’ blog post on Day 2 which includes a detailed summary of Gilad Japhet’s MyHeritage lunch speech that includes MyHeritage’s new innovations and plans. It seems like the push is towards combining DNA, family trees and historical records seamlessly. Hooray!
Right after that, I received in my email a press release from MyHeritage DNA about their new changes. And these are monumental! You can now download your match list. They now have a 7 person chromosome browser. And the best part is that the chromosome browser will show triangulations and you can download the exact triangulation segments. Wow! This really changes everything. I immediately tweeted:
This of course distracted me from RootsTech for the rest of the afternoon as I tested out the new features. What I found will deserve a blog post on its own.
It was appropriate that while I was feeling out the new MyHeritage DNA downloads and triangulation features, that I could simultaneously watch Jim Brewster of Family Tree DNA giving the talk: “Finding the Right DNA Test for You”. He gave a nice intro which surprisingly was so different from Yaniv Erlich’s MyHeritage talk yesterday that they had hardly any overlap. It is worthwhile watching both talks. Jim Brewster of Family Tree DNA
3 p.m. Mountain Time (4 p.m. in my Central Time) was Curt Witcher (my right-booted compatriot) and Amy Johnson Crow with “How Not to Leave Your Genealogy Behind”. I love librarians. My first part-time job after school was in our local library, and that’s likely where I got an interest in research.
Best lines I’ve heard so far from the conference, by Amy: “You know what, I’m pretty good at guilting my kids. Guilt can be a good motivator.” And Curt responded: “I will haunt you from the grave.” And Amy said: “Yeah, I think I’ve actually used that line.” … Curt: “Guilt is only worth about one generation, at best.”
”Don’t forget about your genealogy software. … How do you expect others to get that out? … You’re asking them to be a genealogist. … That’s asking a lot.” – says Amy. Amy Johnson Crow and Curt Witcher.
Went to my in-laws for supper so I didn’t catch the last live stream “Finding Elusive Records at FamilySearch” with Robert Kehrer
Back home at 9 p.m. Central Time for this week’s Twitter #genchat session. Today’s topic is quite relevant. It’s: “RootsTech / Not At RootsTech (Will you survive it?)”. Below are the Q’s that I A’d to.
Q1: Who went to #RootsTech? Who was #NotAtRootsTech? A1: I’m a #NotAtRootsTech this year. But I spent the whole time watching live stream, tweeting, facebooking, reading blogs - I’m just as exhausted as I was in past years at #RootsTech #genchat
I counted about 30 people answered question 1 with about 6 at RootsTech and the others not.
Q3 Non-Attendees: Besides livestream, did you follow via other methods? #RootsTech #NotAtRootsTech #genchat A3: Yes I followed #RootsTech every which way possible. And I blogged every day as if I was there. Posting for Day 3 right after #genchat ends and including #genchat highlights.
Q5 Non-Attendees: Who were some of the folks who contributed to your virtual experience? #genchat #RootsTech #NotAtRootsTech A5: The best people at #RootsTech for information about what’s going on are those on social media. Randy Seaver is maintaining a compendium of blog posts. Several others are posting to YouTube, interviews, experiences, etc. And then there’s all the #RootTech tweets #genchat
Q7 Non-Attendees: What sessions would you like to have seen that you didn’t see? #NotAtRootsTech #genchat A7: #RootsTech is as hard on attendees as non-attendees, since there’s 20 sessions on at a time and you can only pick one. But for those #NotAtRootsTech there’s no choice. :-( #genchat
Q8 What was your favourite moment? A8: My favorite #RootsTech #NotAtRootsTech moment was the standing ovation given to Deborah Abbott after her Thursday afternoon talk about her stories #genchat
Saw Blaine Bettinger’s post on Facebook about Jonny Perl’s win, which reminded me to join Jonny’s DNA Painter Facebook group. Once there, I watched a 5 minute video of Jonny’s presentation of DNA painter to the contest judges and a small crowd. If I can find a public link to that presentation, I’ll post it.
Watched a 6 minute video by Lara Diamond of an interview by several people of Brandon Stanton in the media hub, also on Facebook with no public link.
The great thing about the RootsTech Live Feed is that I can take a shower and then rewind the feed so that I don’t miss anything. That’s one advantage over being there in person. Of course, all the people at RootsTech can watch the live stuff from the feeds after they get home. But there’s nothing like the actual experience of being at RootsTech.
Next was the live stream of Yaniv Erlich of MyHeritage DNA. It started with a very nice intro to DNA testing with a good description of how the chip determines each SNP using synthetic strings of DNA that finds the complementary strand of your DNA and joins with it. He explains the phasing they do and claims a 99% SNP accuracy. Then he explains imputation when comparing two individuals to fill in missing SNPs with “very good accuracy”. “You would not get bad results, but you would get better if they are from the same company.” They then “stitch” together identical sections that have a small split, e.g. due to an error in phasing.
Very interesting and something I’ve never seen a DNA company explain before was how they do confidence classification, so as to include as many likely true matches as possible and exclude as many “child-only” matches as possible. This was a good DNA talk.
Last year at RootsTech, my Fitbit told me I was averaging close to 14,000 steps per day. It’s 3 p.m. here in Winnipeg and I look and I’m at (ugh) only 1,400 steps. That means the #RootsTech is 10 times better than #NotAtRootsTech. I don’t use Google Photos and really don’t use Catholic Records, so the next two live streams were not of interest to me. What better time than to stretch my legs with a walk to Tim Hortons.
I always appreciate the sponsors of any conference. It’s amazing how many sponsors RootsTech has this year, including some interesting ones who you wouldn’t suspect, like WordPress and Dell EMC:
Finished off the day watching the final live stream by Deborah Abbott: “A Gift of Life. Who’s Writing YOUR Story?” She said: “The things that I’m going to talk about, you have to make it relate to you.” Here’s some of the things she told us to record: That first boyfriend. How was that kiss? Did they like their spouse right away when they met? What extraordinary things did they do? “Before writing your ancestor’s story, write your own…. As you talk about yourself, you can pull those ancestors in. … Write your memoirs. Tell you descendants about things they know nothing about.”
She said to record every bit of what you went through … and she told us her stories. Deborah Abbott received a standing ovation for her talk.
RootsTech 2018 has started. This year it is a 4 day affair running from Wednesday to Saturday. They added on Wednesday, which last year, was an Innovator Summit day and an extra you had to get a ticket to separately. This year, the day was part of the package.
Last year there were a lot of people on Wednesday, and swarms of people from Thursday to Saturday. This year, the swarms started on Wednesday. Registration for attendees opened on Tuesday and the lines were hundreds of people long. If you weren’t a RootsTech Ambassador or otherwise an insider, you’d have up to 2 to 3 hours in line to register.
The number of people also filled up many of the talks. I read a number of reports of people wrote that they couldn’t get into some of the talks they wanted to. Unfortunately, that’s what success brings. There’s the old joke about being told how terrible a restaurant is because you can’t book a reservation as they’re always full.
I had the pleasure (honour) of going to RootsTech in 2012, 2014 and 2017. This is my off year, so I am what’s technically called a #NotAtRootsTech-er this year. LDC of Ottawa has a wonderful #NotAtRootsTech Survival Guide and made buttons for those of us not there to display:
Having been a past participant of RootsTech, I know what it’s like. I gave a talk to the Manitoba Genealogical Society on Monday, and one person couldn’t be there because they were at RootsTech. I asked how many others had been. Not one of the two dozen there had. So I spent the next 20 minutes expounding upon how they must make the trip at least once.
With the experience of RootsTech fresh in my mind from last year, I didn’t need much to get in the RootsTech spirit. Between the Live Feed yesterday, social media Twitter tweets under the hashtag of #RootsTech and #NotAtRootsTech, Facebook posts, Blog posts and YouTube videos, there was enough to make me feel totally immersed and involved all day. At 8:28 a.m. RootsTech time, I tweeted:
Day 1 was a bit of a different day. The Keynote by Steve Rockwood was at 4:30 pm, rather than first thing in the morning, so people got to attend talks prior to that all day. Also, the Exhibition Hall did not open until the evening, which likely contributed to the overfilling of the talks, because the huge hall was not available as an alternative. I’m sure it will be easier getting into the talks on Thursday and Friday.
On Day 1, I enjoyed the live feeds of “Family History in 5 Minutes a Day” by Deborah Gamble, “DNA—One Family, One World” by David Nicholson and Hannah Morden of Living DNA, “Organizing and Preserving Photograph Collections” by Ari Wilkins, and the General Session and Innovation Showcase to close the day. I have to admit I didn’t watch the WWII talk since I personally have little interest in WWII research. I went to the online RootsTech app and downloaded the handouts for each of the talks as I listened to them.
Jason Hewlett was again the entertaining host. It was a pleasure meeting him (albeit clean shaven) last year:
There were several announcements that I found very interesting, most on a DNA front:
Living DNA was making the biggest splash. They are all-in this year, being a major sponsor of RootsTech. And they are working to put themselves on equal footing with Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, Ancestry DNA and MyHeritage DNA and turn the big four into a big five. Above: Hannah Morden and David Nicholson of Living DNA
One thing they showed in a video during their presentation just blew me away:
They did it! @Living_DNA got DNA from a postage stamp. It took them 4 tries, but they did it!!! Save all your great-grandparent’s letters! #rootstech
David and Hannah during the day announced that Living DNA had a new “Family Networks” offering. As part of this, they will be making match data and a chromosome browser available.
Later during the Innovation Showcase section, 5 representatives from the 5 DNA companies were on stage together, which might be a first:
Ran Snir (MyHeritage DNA), Jim Brewster (Family Tree DNA), David Nicholson (Living DNA), Robin Smith (23andMe), Sarah South (Ancestry DNA) and Scott Fisher moderating.
They were asked if they’d be able to work together. David Nicholson said: “I think it’s great that we’re all onstage together. That’s a start.” But then Robin Smith said that competition is healthy and good for everyone,. I agree that both of them are correct. Both cooperation and competition is needed.
Another big announcement was from MyHeritage announcing a New FamilySearch Tree Sync, allowing FamilySearch users to synchronize their family trees with MyHeritage.
Prices for DNA kits at the Conference are as low as they’ve ever been. No better place to pick up a DNA kit than at RootsTech. Which company? Why not all of them?
It was also nice to see Curt Witcher, Judy Russell, David Rencher and moderator Scott Fisher on the Innovation Panel.
Being a contestant (and 3rd place winner) of the Innovator Showdown in 2017, and someone very interested in DNA software, I wanted to know what was going on with the DNA Innovation Contest this year. This was a somewhat last-minute thing announced by Grow Utah in December. This is a $30,000 cash and $20,000 in-kind contest with 3 prize winners ($15K 1st, $7.5K each runner-up).
That did not give contestants much time, but they still got a really good group of entrants together. The six finalists were given space to display in the Exhibit Hall:
The winner was Jonny Perl of DNA Painter. Jonny had to fly in from England for this and it was quite an adventure. He has really done an amazing job in adding useful and easy to use features in his free online offering.
The two runners-up were RootsFinder and ItRunsInMyFamily. I was very happy for Dallan, who was in the 2012 Developer Challenge with me (I had entered Behold, Dallan was a top-6 finalist with his GEDCOM parser) as well as Heather Henderson who works with Dallan. They had entered RootsFinder in the 2017 Innovator Showdown and I got to meet Heather as she was the presenter for RootsFinder in the semifinals.
That was quite a first day. I look forward to what else comes out of RootsTech over these next 3 days.
And be sure you read what everyone has to say about RootsTech. Randy Seaver is keeping up his Compendium of Blog Posts for RootsTech 2017. Each person has a unique perspective and you get a different taste of RootsTech from every post, so pick some to read and enjoy.
GenSoftReviews reached a milestone and now has 1000 different genealogy programs listed at the site.
The numbers have been creeping up over time. GenSoftReviews started in Sept 2008 with the 355 programs I transferred over from my my old genealogy software links page. The number grew to 466 by the end of 2009. 556 for 2010, 595 for 2011, 702 for 2012, 765 for 2013, 862 for 2014, 936 for 2015, 980 for 2016, and 992 at the end of 2017.
I’m always on the lookout for new programs that can be considered to have a genealogy aspect to them. There are a number of people who suggest new programs to me from time to time, which I’m very appreciative of. If the program is active and supported and it’s not already on GenSoftReviews, I add it. If you know of any current programs not on GenSoftReviews, please let me know.
Early on, I used to delete programs from GenSoftReviews that no longer were available. But now I just mark those programs as “unsupported” and point their web address to an archive.org snapshot of what their site was, or to some other information about the program that’s still on the web. Many unsupported programs still have active users as well as reviews on GenSoftReviews, including such programs as Family Tree Maker by Ancestry, The Master Genealogist (TMG) and Personal Ancestral File (PAF).
As genealogy software expert Tamura Jones tweeted:
That’s an excellent question. There are a lot of hardworking developers out there who have created programs with their own ideas of what’s needed to help a genealogist. They all deserve a look at. Taking Tamura’s question a step further, I’d ask: “How many have you even heard of?”
Here’s a breakdown of the 1000 programs:
466 Windows programs
116 Mac programs
105 Unix programs
132 handheld programs (phones or tablets)
389 online programs
These total 1208 because some programs run on multiple platforms.
355 full featured programs that can edit and save your genealogy data.
404 utility programs that read in genealogy data and do something with it.
233 auxiliary programs that do some genealogical task for you.
Hmm. These total 992 and should total 1000. I’ll have to find the 8 unclassified.
627 free programs
287 programs you have to purchase to use.
65 programs you have to pay a subscription to use.
71 programs that are unsupported.
This totals 1050 because some programs have both free and purchase versions.
The 1000 programs as I write this have acquired 4926 user reviews, or an average of about 5 reviews per program. The top 10 are:
560 reviews: Family Tree Maker 2008 – 2014
474 reviews: My Heritage
343 reviews: Family Tree Builder
223 reviews: Ahnenblatt
205 reviews: RootsMagic
200 reviews: Geni
185 reviews: WikiTree
173 reviews: Legacy Family Tree
150 reviews: The Next Generation (TNG)
147 reviews: The Master Genealogist (TMG)
These top 10 make up 2660 or 54% of all the reviews.
270 (27%) of the 1000 programs have had at least 1 review. So that means 730 which is 73% have not had any reviews yet. What uncommon genealogy software do you use? Does it have a review at GenSoftReviews yet? If not, why not consider adding your review?
55 programs have had at least 10 reviews which is the minimum needed to qualify for a GenSoftReviews Users Choice award at the end of the year. Of those, 39 have been a winner of the award at least once. That means they had averaged a rating of at least 4 stars out of 5 from their users.
Next time you wonder if there’s a genealogy program out there that might be able to help you do something a little easier, why not take a browse through the 1000 programs listed at GenSoftReviews. You might just find the gem you’ve been looking for.
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