Thursday, May 30, 2013

Free RUSA History Section Genealogy Preconference, 28 June 2013, Chicago, IL

This is the kind of genealogy programming in which I would have been involved over the last several years. In the previous post I mentioned that I had decided to step asside from ALA. This is one of the activities that I will miss the most:

2013 RUSA Genealogy Preconference“Behind the Genealogy Reference Desk: Chicago Style Genealogy”American Library Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL The History Section of RUSA is delighted to announce a FREE genealogy workshop to be held on Friday, June 28, 2013 at the Harold Washington Library Center of the Chicago Public Library (downtown Chicago).  Sponsored by ProQuest, this all-day event will run from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.  A delicious luncheon is included, along with a free pass to the ALA Exhibit Hall. This can’t-miss program features an exciting line-up of speakers and topics: ·         “ – Discover the Past by Address,” Matt Rutherford. is a project produced by the Newberry Library and uses Google Maps to help genealogists and local historians discover and share historical information about Chicago.
 ·         “And the Rockets' Red Glare: Sources for War of 1812 Research,” Curt B. Witcher, FUGA, FIGS.  This presentation will cover both popular and lesser known sources for War of 1812 research, including a close-up look at the War of 1812 pensions being digitized through the FGS Preserve the Pensions initiative.
 ·         “Genealogical Education Opportunities,” Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL.  Genealogy patron questions are rising.  Educate yourself through this interactive workshop to evaluate which learning opportunities are best for your own needs and budget.
 ·         “OCLC WorldCat and FamilySearch,” Chip Nilges and Michael J. Hall.  Learn how the recent partnership can enhance the research experience from the beginner to the expert.
 ·         “Beginning African American Research,” Sandy Joseph.  Discover the many African American resources that are available to you and your patrons. To register for this event, please go to  Attendee information will be sent to you in a private email. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Michael Hall, Preconference Chair (, or Bill Forsyth at ProQuest (

If you are going to be in Chicago area for ALA next month and are interested in genealogy, either for your own research or to help library users do their own, this event can be a great educational resource for you. The cost of this program is underwritten by ProQuest which markets Ancestry Library Edition, Heritage Quest and various other online maps and newspapers databases to libraries and other institutions.

Jamboree Live and Streaming

With good reason the annual Jamboree sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society and held each June at the Burbank Airport Hilton is one of the biggest and best genealogy events in the US.

When I lived on the West Coast, I attended each year except when I worked on the other end of my family tree by being present for the birth of a grandson in Nashville.

Now I live in Nashville. I was torn as to whether or not I could justify attending Jamboree. As some of you may know, this is the year I am quitting the American Library Association "cold turkey". After attending 42 consecutive annual conferences and almost all Midwinter sessions, it was time to move on. Over the years I had been an active member of almost every committee or task force of ALA that had to do with personnel, education and ethics. Actually, I had originally intended to make my exit two years ago. However, I was offered the one assignment I could not turn down -- chair of the genealogy committee. I have constructed a "methadone" schedule to ease my exit from ALA.

In February I attended my first RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. Any conference there has the double attraction of being near the Family History Library. The Library is within walking distance from our time share where I long have been spending two weeks a year to do research. My second week there this year will be in August during The Federation of East European Family History Societies Research Workshop.

The 9th International Genetic Genealogy Conference sponsored by FTDNA for project administrators is, to me, a must attend event. It will be in Houston on November 9-10. 

As I was creating my post-ALA professional schedule, I was torn about kind of "group" meeting to attend between February and August. I really was not thrilled about NGS in Las Vegas. Next year in Richmond is much more appealing.

Then the Southern California Genealogical Society and the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG) upped the ante. They added a full day FAMILY HISTORY AND DNA: GENETIC GENEALOGY IN 2013. It is hard to imagine a more prestigous I was hooked and immediately registered. I even agreed to facilitate one of the discussion groups the last hour of the day. If you can be in Burbank that day, you will be in for a treat.

If you cannot attend you may be able to sample some of the content the following day:
Live-Streamed Jamboree Sessions Announced

"SCGS is there for you, no matter where you are." That statement is never as true as it will be the coming 10 days, during the Society's annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.

The Southern California Genealogical Society announces its schedule of live-streamed sessions of the 2013 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. The "JamboSTREAM" webcast is free to viewers and is made available through the gracious support of
Note below that the DNA Day programs are not included in the streaming offerings. Those available are from the extensive offerings from Jamboree proper:
Live-Stream Video Schedule

Friday, June 7

1:30 PM to 2:30 PM
Craig Roberts Scott MA, CG

3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Judy G. Russell JD, CG

4:30 PM to 6:00 PM
CeCe Moore; Alice Fairhurst; Ken Chahine PhD; Joanna Mountain PhD; Bennett Greenspan
Co-Sponsored by International Society of Genetic Genealogy

Saturday, June 8

8:30 AM to 9:30 AM
Craig Roberts Scott MA,CG

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Kory L. Meyerink MLS, AG, FUGA

11:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Lisa Louise Cooke

2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Jean Wilcox Hibben PhD, MA, CG

3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Leland Meitzler

5:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Thomas MacEntee

Sunday, June 9

8:30 AM to 9:30 AM
Cyndi Ingle Howells

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Tom Underhill

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
James Ryan, PhD

2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Denise Levenick
All of these sessions should be first-rate. If your interest is in the application of DNA to family history, you should try to watch the late afternoon (Pacific time) panel which will also include Katherine Borges, co-founder of ISOGG, as well as the listed luminaries who are at the cutting edge of genetic genealogy. It appears that one must register for each "event" separately. Apparently the registration process is working well for those in the US and Canada but somewhat problematically for those outside these two countries.

Dr D would be very interested in the experiences of any of you who watch or attempt to watch any of these streams. FamilySearch has ambitious plans to stream some of RootsTech next February.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Got Neanderthal DNA?

Do you know how much of your DNA is Neanderthal? You can find out at 23andMe. Actually my reported 2.5% is below the 2.7% average for those of European descent in which most of the surviving Neanderthal DNA is found today. You can find out many more useful things about possible living cousins, your health and deep ancestry for $99. The Neanderthal thing is more of a curiosity now; but could it mean anything? No one knows yet. Here is what 23andMe currently reports to me:

An estimated 2.5% of your DNA is from Neanderthals.
Dave Dowell (you)2.5%
22nd percentile
Average European user

  • Higher brow
  • Narrower shoulders
  • Slightly taller

  • Heavy eyebrow ridge
  • Long, low, bigger skull
  • Prominent nose with developed nasal chambers for cold-air protection 
This is a new and as yet inexact subbranch of genomic science. As more people have been tested the European average has inched up from the 2.6% figure that was used when I was first tested at 23andMe to the 2.7% figure now used. 

Even my Neanderthal component in my DNA is calculated differently by other labs. The National Geographic Geno 2.0 project reports Denisovan components as well as Neanderthal. This leads to a slightly different Neanderthal component result than above.

When our ancestors first migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago, they were not alone. At that time, at least two other species of hominid cousins walked the Eurasian landmass: Neanderthals and Denisovans. Most non-Africans are about 2% Neanderthal. The Denisovan component of your Geno 2.0 results is more experimental, as we are still working to determine the best way to assess the percentage Denisovan ancestry you carry. The evolution of this data is another way you are actively involved in helping advance knowledge of anthropological genetics!

So what does this mean? For now it is mainly a curiosity. As this branch of inquiry matures, it may mean much more -- or not. Our knowledge base of Neanderthal is small and our knowledge base of Denisovan DNA (found so far only in South East Asia) is currently minuscule.

23andMe offers this additional information on Neanderthals:

More about Neanderthals

Neanderthals were a group of humans who lived in Europe and Western Asia. They are the closest evolutionary relatives of modern humans, but they went extinct about 30,000 years ago. The first Neanderthals arrived in Europe as early as 600,000 to 350,000 years ago. Neanderthals — Homo neanderthalensis — and modern humans — Homo sapiens — lived along side each other for thousands of years. Genetic evidence suggest that they interbred and although Neanderthals disappeared about 30,000 years ago, traces of their DNA — between 1 percent and 4 percent — are found in all modern humans outside of Africa. Apart from the curiosity of finding what percentage of a modern human's genome is Neanderthal, the information has great value for science. By comparing our DNA with Neanderthal DNA, scientists can detect the most recent evolutionary changes as we developed into fully modern humans. Read more about the science behind this tool.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? is back

In a press issued today, it was announced that Who Do You Think You Are? would be returning to the airwaves in two months:

Eight New Episodes of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' to Premiere July 23 on TLC

via press release:
TLC BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO “Who Do You Think You Are?”All-new episodes, helmed by EPs Lisa Kudrow & Dan Bucatinsky, set to premiere July 23 TLC has ordered all-new episodes of the fan-favorite reality series Who Do You Think You Are?, with production already underway, the network announced today. 
Celebrities such as Christina Applegate, Cindy Crawford, Zooey Deschanel, and Chris O’Donnell have signed up for the emotional journey, with additional subjects to be announced. Each discovers amazing details about their family trees’ deep roots.

While we wait for that celebrity reality show to resume we have a very offbeat genealogy show to tide us over. You may either love this show or hate it and it may take you ten or fifteen minutes to decide. You may want to read a New York Times review or an Los Angeles Times review to help you know what to expect.

The first two episodes of Family Tree have already aired and can be viewed online.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Angelina Jolie, the BRCA Genes and Myriad Genetics

Angelina’s Jolie’s announcement in today’s New York Times op-ed, “My Medical Choice”, that she has had a double mastectomy is so timely for me. I just finished Jeff Wheelwright’s, TheWandering Gene and the Indian Princess. The book traces the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes through a large extended family in the Southwestern United States. Although the book wanders through many other historical social and religious threads, the main focus is how the BRCA genes are inherited and chronicles the decisions many women faced in dealing with the results.

Also, the AMP v. Myriad Genetics case now before the US Supreme Court will refocus attention to whether the tests for these genes can patented and thus create a monopoly which allows Myriad to profit handsomely from the test. Although I’ll not go into the legal intricacies here, you can read the plaintiff’s (ACLU’s) viewpoint for yourself. Additional background can be found at Judy Russell’s The Legal Genealogist blog. The bottom line for this post is that the price Myriad is able to charge discourages many women from seeking testing that may be critical to their informed health decisions and/or their peace of mind. Look for the Supreme Courts’ decision around the end of June.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Family Tree -- The TV "Mockumentary" Series

On May 12th HBO will launch the first of eight episodes of Family Tree
"Having recently lost his job and his girlfriend, 30-year-old Tom Chadwick has a rather unsure sense of his own identity. But when he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great aunt he never met, Tom starts investigating his lineage and uncovers a whole world of unusual stories and characters, acquiring a growing sense of  of who he and his real family are." [show website]
This is not your typical "this is your life" genealogy program. It is a comedy. Wikipedia calls this genre a "mockumentary" which it defines as "a type of film or television show in which fictional events are presented in a documentary style to create a parody."

Family Tree intertitle.png

HBOWatch provides this teaser: [click in the upper border]

"The show follows a young man investigating his lineage, going from the UK to Los Angeles.
The series stars Bridemaids and The IT Crowd-actor Chris O`Dowd, who also have appeared on GIRLS. The rest of the cast varies from British actors like the comedienne Nina Conti to known american actors like Ed Begely Jr. and Fred Willard. The series is created by Christopher Guest (The Spinal Tap) and Jim Piddock. Like Guest other work this is a mockumentary-show where most of the dialogue is improvised."

The series is also scheduled to air on BBC Two and will debut On Demand on May 13th. For more information check the official show website.

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Genealogy Series Coming to your TV

Some of you will want to set your DVRs for one or more of these genealogy related series. Megan Smolenyak recently introduced coming four attractions. The variety should provide at least one that will scratch your family history itch. These shows are:
Family Tree on HBO;
Who Do You Think Your Are? on TLC;

Finding Your Roots on PBS; and

Genealogy Road Show on PBS whose production company recently announced casting calls which were listed in this blog last week. Here's the link to Megan's post: