Review of Unlock the Past in Seattle One Day Seminar

21 September 2018

Seattle’s famous Sky Needle Sep 2018

In conjunction with the Unlock the Past genealogy cruise to Alaska (a separate blog post to follow), there was a one day seminar in Seattle open to cruise registrants as well as those in the Seattle area of the USA. There were four speakers – Blaine Bettinger, Maurice Gleeson, Cyndi Ingle and Wayne Shepheard. The event was also live streamed and recorded for those unable to attend.

As with any conference with multiple streams, it was often a tough choice of which session to attend. I am also registered for the recorded sessions, so once they become available, then I can see what I missed on the day.

I went with the DNA stream and listened to four talks by Blaine Bettinger:

  • Using Y-DNA and mtDNA to explore your ancestry
  • Using Autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th century mysteries
  • Using Third Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA
  • Phasing and Mapping Your DNA.

Overall Blaine was easy to understand and follow his examples but I wondered how basic his talks were to the majority of the audience. If you were totally new to the topic then it was a great introduction but if you were already across the basics and looking for more, then you may have been a little disappointed. The last two talks were most relevant for me but I was already aware of Gedmatch and DNA Painter and have phased my results. Understanding what all my matches mean and which ones to actively follow up is my challenge and I did pick up some pointers for when I next have time to sit down and analyse my results.

Seattle water front

I also went to Cyndi Ingle‘s The Hidden Web: Digging Deeper which was all about maximising your searches on the internet. Google searches web pages but doesn’t search dynamic databases where you enter your own search terms and results are collated at that point in time only. Advanced searching, use of wild cards and searching smaller individual databases within a bigger collection may turn up better results.

As a former archivist and librarian, it was a talk that I could really relate too and the searching techniques are what I try to demonstrate in my own talks. Although it is ever so tempting to just try our luck in the bigger search pools!

Maurice Gleeson was giving several talks on the Alaska cruise (different talks) but as I mentioned at the start, once the recorded stream is available I will be able to watch his talks on various aspects of Irish genealogy including immigration, BDMs, newspapers, gravestones, probate and genetic genealogy.

History Speaks, one of the USA exhibitors

The fourth speaker, Wayne Shepheard‘s talk was on Genealogy and the Little Ice Age (between AD 1300-1850). This period was characterised by substantially cooler world temperatures, unstable weather, more frequent and intense storms, and harsh living conditions which challenged food production. As that time period covers some of my known ancestors, it should be interesting to watch that webinar to understand more about what it was like to live at that time.

There were breaks during the day to look at the book stall and other exhibitors as well as to renew friendships with previous cruisers and to meet new people.

The Seattle Library was a great venue with a wonderful theatre for the main DNA sessions and a smaller room for the second stream. There were several options for lunch nearby and somehow I managed to pick a hotel just across the road from the library. My only complaint was that the venue was very cold and I had to return to the hotel to get a cardigan.

It was a good start to our Alaskan adventure and there are many things on my DNA to do list to follow up now that I am back home. Thanks to the Unlock the Past team and the speakers for a great day.

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