Wednesday, June 8, 2016

London and Toronto

I'm afraid that blogging from actual events is more than I can handle and both events have been covered by blogs, Facebook posts and tweets, but having spent nearly a week abroad, I figure I should say something here, if only for my own record.

As I write this, I am in my home office expecting to get a call any minute from the fellow delivering my suitcase. Each of the three legs of my trip included a stopover in Brussels and two of the three times my suitcase was not loaded onto the connecting flight. In London, they delivered it to my hotel at 1:20 AM, in time for my four o'clock taxi. Here they are not in such a rush, but since it's mostly laundry, neither am I.

The Wednesday evening program was sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and the Guild of One-Name Studies (of which I am a member). The program was organized by Jeanette Rosenberg of the JGS and most of the attendees are members of that organization. The audience also included my wife's brother and one of her cousins with his wife.

Jeanette's husband Mark Nicholls picked me up at the airport after what seemed an interminable wait at Border Control, plus filling out papers for the missing suitcase. They took me from the hotel to the program site and back.

Paul Howse of the Guild did the introductions.

With Debbie Kennett, in my traveling clothes
Debbie Kennett spoke first. She gave a nice, professional, comprehensive introduction to the whole notion of DNA and its use in genealogy research. (She also addressed - aggressively - some of the nonsense that is being published in the field.)

I followed with the latest iteration of my basic DNA talk that has accompanied the publication of ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People. I have renamed it Lessons
With Paul Howse (right)
in Jewish DNA - One Man's Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
. It was well received. We took questions together afterwards and in most cases we both had what to say.

Debbie and I exchanged signatures on our books. Hers was on the reading list for the course I took at GRIP two years ago.

My thanks to Mark Nicholls for the photos.

My friend and colleague Lara Diamond and I were invited to the first-ever Jewish stream of the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference, where we heard some of the top speakers in the field. Much of the conference was centered on matters Canadian, which didn't much interest either of us. But there were also some top-notch speakers including CeCe Moore and Judy Russell, whom I already knew, and Maurice Gleason whom I knew only by reputation.

There were some of the usual vendors, but mostly Canadian groups with limited appeal for those of us with no Canadian interests. (Actually, my grandfather arrived in the US via Montreal and St. Albans Vermont, at age seven with his mother and an older brother and sister. That was 1904. The rest of the family had preceded them in stages.
Actually, Uncle Dave was nine and Aunt Bessie was a bit older

Friday, I listened to Maurice on the basics of Y-DNA research. Mostly basic stuff with a lot on the FTDNA surname projects. Even knowing much of the material, I can usually learn something from a new speaker and such was the case here.

I spoke Friday afternoon at a special "by invitation only" seminar for the Genetic Genealogy Special Interest Group of the Toronto branch of the Society, on Observations on the DNA of Populations Who "Marry Within the Tribe." This was a first-time event for this talk and it was well-received.

Lara and I both went to the Jewish neighborhood for Shabbat and I met several very nice couples, all of whom had done genealogies of their families. It made me think about how much genealogy is being done outside what we consider the genealogy community. It is important to harness all these private projects so that others can see their work in a searchable format, learn from it and perhaps connect to them. (Programs like where people can change each others' data are not the solution.) I don't think this is being addressed. I don't even think that we are aware of the scope of such works. 

I imagine that the non-Jewish world has the same phenomenon.

Lara at 8:30, from her blog
Bright and early at 8:30 Sunday morning Lara spoke about ancestral movement in Europe in a talk called Movement Between Towns in Eastern Europe (aka Ancestral Towns May Not Have Been So Ancestral). It was a good crowd and it went well. (We aren't competing or anything, but she had more people than I.)

Shamelessly lifted from Lara's blog
I followed with my basic DNA talk, Lessons, in a different room, then we went back to Lara's room for her second talk Jewish Genealogy Research in Ukraine. It was largely the same people she had at 8:30, so they must have liked it.

Later, I did a Pop-up presentation in the hallway - fifteen minutes showing two case studies, while Lara did some "Ask the Expert" consulting.

We moved on to a panel discussion on the future of genetic genealogy, including the panel's thoughts on the long-term viability of the testing companies who control all our spit-and-swab data and many of the analytical tools. The final program was a keynote address by CeCe Moore to a packed auditorium where she impressed everyone with her stories of people who had searched successfully for their birth families. The folks doing that kind of work are having a real affect on peoples' lives.

Sunday evening, I gave a non-DNA talk to the JGS of Toronto. Perhaps they'll have me back to do DNA.

You can see Lara's more detailed descriptions of the conference here and here.

After I arrived in Toronto Thursday, I met with a fellow who had a few weak matches with my family and wanted to talk about trying to nail down the possible Jewish background of his grandfather. That is not the kind of thing that holds much interest for me as it is all so remote and tenuous, but he found it useful and attended my other talks. I thought something similar awaited me Monday morning, when I had a meeting scheduled with a man whose family matched mine on our Y-DNA line.

I was wrong. This one was real. A few days earlier, the latest Avotaynu had an article by Rachel Unkefer, J. B. Royal and Wim Penninx called Y-DNA Evidence for an Ashkenzai Lineage's Iberian Origin. This study is being done on a haplogroup called FGC20747 and it includes my line. It appears to include the Goldlust line as well, and one of the Goldlusts was my Monday meeting. As a result of our meeting, they have now joined that project and we look forward to learning more about our joint heritage, which appears headed for the days of the Inquisition - not generation after generation, but in a more macro view.

As my own work has concentrated on the past 220 years, I really do not fully understand this type of Y-DNA research but between the GRIP course next month and some personal mentoring from Rachel afterwards, I hope to enhance my understanding.

It was a good conference and a great experience. Many thanks to JGS Toronto president  Marla Waltman - whose mother matches over forty Pikholz descendants from Skalat and who was responsible for creating the Jewish stream and inviting Lara and me to speak. Les Kelman, too, facilitated our participation.

Housekeeping Notes
Suitcase arrived.

The call for papers for RootsTech2017 has gone out. I may submit some proposals for that February event. I have also submitted proposals for the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Pittsburgh at the end of August of next year.

I have another second cousin lined up for a DNA test as soon as we find out about the Fathers' Day sale prices. Perhaps some others of you will also sign up.

Only a month before my summer trip and things are falling into place nicely. I'll write more later but in the meantime, you can see some of it here.

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