8 June 2019

Why I'm going to DNA Down Under

2 cities
I've made a lot of progress since I first wrote about my plans to use DNA tests as a tool for family history research. Although I was interested in finding out whether my 'ethnicity estimates' contained any surprises, my main reasons for using DNA were (1) to confirm or disprove relationships that seemed likely (based on my traditional research), and (2) to put me in contact with others who share the same ancestry.

My parents died before DNA tests became affordable, so in 2012 my 91-year-old uncle agreed to have his Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA tested. Tests for autosomal DNA are the most popular with family historians, because they have the potential to identify descendants of all ancestral lines (maternal and paternal) within about the last six generations. Autosomal DNA is inherited (by both males and females) from mother, father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.

It was important to test my uncle, not just myself, because that gets me a generation further back when looking for ancestors in common with his matches. The more relatives who are tested, the more useful the results will be. I can now compare my uncle's DNA with that of his nephew, two nieces, and fifteen other known relatives ranging from a first cousin once removed to a fifth cousin once removed. That data has helped me to work out how some of his other DNA matches must be related. To do that, though, it is usually necessary to know the start and end points of matching chromosome segments. Annoyingly, that information is not provided by AncestryDNA - so I persuaded relatives who tested there to either test with, or transfer their AncestryDNA raw data to, FamilyTreeDNA, who provide a very useful Chromosome Browser.

I started with my uncle (who has since passed away), but I've also had my own DNA tested at FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA and LivingDNA, and I've uploaded my data to MyHeritageDNA and Gedmatch. Other links that I found helpful are on my Web site.

Thanks to DNA results, I've contacted dozens of previously unknown relatives (DNA matches) who have shared their knowledge with me. Some even had letters written by my direct ancestors! Although I've already made progress, I know that I could make better use of all the tools that are now available to help us analyse our DNA data. There's lots more to learn, and that's why I'll be attending 'DNA Down Under'.

'DNA Down Under' is a world class DNA-themed conference and road show featuring respected genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger. The August 2019 events in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney will include topics suitable for all levels (beginner to expert). The Sydney programme is almost entirely different from those in the other five cities. You can go to your city's page and book the two-city bundle at $30 off the price of booking the two cities separately. The admission cost includes a light lunch, morning tea and afternoon tea/coffee.

If you have not done a DNA test and want to know how it can help with your family history, or if you have tested but are unsure how to make the most of your results, 'DNA Down Under' is for you!

(Disclosure: As an appointed DNA Down Under 'ambassador', I receive free admission to the one-day event in Brisbane... but I would have booked a seat even if I had not been offered a free ticket. #DNADU)

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2019/06/why-im-going-to-dna-down-under.html.)

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