Aug 17, 2019

Posted | 4 Comments

Brisbane DNA DownUnder Report Aug 2019

The registration queue

Bribie Island is about an hour’s drive from the event venue and the highway traffic can be unpredictable. After an early start I arrived about 15 minutes before registration was about to commence. Totally shocked to find the car park almost full but I managed to get one of the last spots. Then more shock as I joined the queue to register and slowly shuffled in. There were some familiar faces in the crowd but also a lot of people I hadn’t seen before. Obviously DNA is a hot topic at the moment.

Ambassador goodies

As an Ambassador for DNA DownUnder, I collected my badge, lanyard, blogging beads and other bits and pieces including a Snickers bar. Also everyone received a program, bits and pieces and the genealogy bag to put everything in. Then it was over to the main auditorium to find a seat which was not easy as a sea of faces greeted me as I walked in the door.

In one of those serendipity events two ladies from Cairns (yes some people traveled that far) sat down next to me, and one of the faces was familiar. She looked at my name tag and said I know you, you won’t remember where from. What a blast from the past. When I was in Canberra working for the National Archives of Australia on the Prime Ministers project, I had to go down to Deakin University in Geelong to talk to them about the project as Deakin was one of our early Prime Ministers. So I met Heather Cox about 2002, 17 years ago. Also nice to meet her friend Kesley Court. Wow.

Heather Cox (left) and Kesley Court from Cairns

It just shows that you can go to any genealogy conference and meet friends, people from your past and make new friends. However it is not just about the catch ups and networking. We were there to find out all about DNA. I had met Blaine Bettinger (The Genetic Genealogist) in Seattle last year on the Unlock the Past Alaska cruise and it was great to hear more presentations from him. He manages to make DNA more understandable with simple language.

The first session was Blaine’s introduction to DNA which set the scene and was followed by his talk on using autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th century mysteries. Then we broke for morning tea with lots of nice things to eat although the line up for tea and coffee was a bit long. At these events I usually just go for the juice or water as it is a far smaller queue.

Exhibition area

Louise Coakley was next and I had the pleasure of doing a seminar with her in Townsville a few years ago and I always enjoy her talks. This one covered the standards, ethics risks and limitations of genetic genealogy. Lots of good advice and tips. Then there was the prize draw and sadly no prize for me but lots of other excited winners with prizes supplied by various sponsors including Ancestry, MyHeritage, Gould Genealogy and Unlock the Past.

Lunch followed and again this was plentiful with fruit, sandwiches and wraps and with the longer time allowed, it was easier to get a cup of tea. There was lots of talk and excited clusters of people. A new DNA cousin Rose came up and introduced herself so lovely to put a person to a DNA match.

One of the exhibitors was a travel agency, Albatross Tours, and when I mentioned that my son now lives in Sweden, he gave me a lovely travel guide for a European Christmas. It’s always been on my bucket list but now I have even more incentive to do it with my son overseas for the foreseeable future. The hard part will be deciding where to go and what to do as well as factoring time in Sweden.

After lunch there were two streams of presentations, always a hard choice. I went to Brad Argent, from Ancestry, talking about Myth Busting Ancestry which corrected some false impressions about Ancestry and DNA. The other choice was Blaine Bettinger on using GEDmatch and DNA painter to analyse DNA. I then swapped rooms to hear Louise Coakley on finding Australian matches. This was about making the most use of various filters and search options. The other choice was Helen Smith on getting the most from your FTDNA results.

Afternoon tea followed and the last chance to chat to people and see the exhibitors. The final two talks were Blaine on the limitations of cousin matching and a case study on Helen Marley, one of his ancestors. An alternative to the first talk was Helen Smith on getting the most from your MyHeritage results.

Car park, down the far back

A very full on day which reinforced what I have been learning about DNA as well as giving me some more tips to match up those less obvious cousins. It was a long day but definitely worthwhile and I’m really pleased that I have booked for the 3 day Sydney event.

The DNA DownUnder team will be in Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra before Sydney (29-31 August) and if you are in any of those cities it is not too late to book. August is National Family History Month and I’m so glad that I went to Brisbane and Sydney is now less that two weeks away.

Thanks to the Unlock the Past team which saw the day go smoothly and the various exhibitors and speakers. Don’t miss out if DNA DownUnder is still coming your way. Definitely worthwhile for understanding more about DNA and how it can help with family history research.




  1. Enjoyed reading about your experience in Brisbane – and now am really looking forward to the Sydney event!

  2. It was a lovely surprise to meet up with you Shauna at DNA DownUnder. It was well worthwhile travelling from Cairns to Brisbane to hear such great speakers. And your blogpost/report of the day sums it up perfectly.

  3. shaunahicks says:

    Thanks Heather. It was certainly a blast from our past and a great day.

  4. shaunahicks says:

    Thanks Maggie. I’m about to write up the Sydney experience too.

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