DNA at GRIP
The week before last was the course in Practical Genetic Genealogy at GRIP in Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful course with excellent instructors. I really wish I could bring up the lectures again in podcast form, but that is not an option.
If I had any illusions about there being some simple solution to the endogamy problem - endogamy being the tendency of certain groups to marry within a relatively small tribe - those illusions would be banished. To be sure, our three wonderful lecturers, Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and CeCe Moore referred to Ashkenazi Jewish endogamy frequently, but it was generally as an example of where the usual rules do not work.
(I sat in the center of the front row and was rather undisciplined when it came to comments and questions, and all three of them were very graceful about it. As were the other students. And everyone was very concerned for me and my family because of the war going on in Israel.)
The course was well-structured and included homework, which we'd go over at the end of the following day.
If I had to name one lesson I took away from the course it is that although the smaller matching segments may indeed be real, they are probably more generations in the past and it is not an efficient use of my time to be looking at them. I should really be concentrating on only the larger matches.
Of course, that and getting more family members to test.
During the course, I received test results for my third cousin once removed, Ralph, and it showed some really nice matches that brought smiles to the lecturers as well. I'll probably discuss those matches in about two weeks.
Wednesday evening, I gave a talk to people from the entire program (the DNA course and the five others) on "Special Challenges of Jewish Genealogy." For the most part, they hadn't a clue about what we have to deal with as researchers, aside from our unusual alphabet. There were probably forty people in attendance and it was well-received.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that many of the people in the class take clients and want to upgrade their DNA skills in order to better serve their clients or widen their client base. That may work for the general population, but I wonder whether Jewish clients would be patient with all the difficulties and ambiguities. ("This is all I get for my money?") For now, I am sticking to the Pikholz Project and my other families, plus lending a hand elsewhere when I can.
I did not tweet or blog the course, but I did put a few things I learned at GRIPitt.org on Facebook:
Things I have learned at GRIPitt.org - everyone but me pronounces it "autozomal" as though it were written with a "z."The week as a whole was wonderful and I came away with a lot of old friends. I had had some contact with some of the students before the course, as well as exchanges with some of the instructors (from my course and others). Now I consider them my friends. A few have asked me a week later how things are going in Israel.
Things I learned at GRIPitt.org. CeCe Moore says that the day is coming when we will be able to get DNA from more obscure sources. So Save and label your gf's false teeth, your gm's hair, your father's baseball cap etc etc. But NOT in plastic, which promortes bacteria.
And tell people (us!) you have it so we can create the demand.
Things I learned at GRIPitt.org: Genealogists will stand in line for ten minutes to get M&Ms and bottled water.
Things I learned at GRIPitt.org: The world of genealogy is full of old friends whom I haven't met yet.
There should be a class picture here, but they have not been distributed yet.
I had a feeling of swimming with the big fish. I spoke briefly with Judy Russell, Cyndi sat next to me the first evening, Kikmberly Powell of the APG Quarterly was in our course, and more.
My new old friend Pittsburgher Elissa Scalise Powell put together a really nice program.
A bonus for the week was spending time with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken, as I stayed there during the course and for three days beforehand.
Although I don't use it myself, I am sad to see the demise of The Master Genealogist. It's another step on the road that leads to only online trees, where we will no longer be able to maintain definitive databases distinct from illustrative websites.