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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Day 4: Oh, no! Only One More Day! #SLIGExperience

When there are technical glitches, beta software utilities, long downloads and uploads and you're STILL excited about all the learning, then you KNOW it's a good course. I highly recommend reviewing this year's syllabus for the "GPS with DNA" course. You'll see top-notch presenters, riveting topics, and lab time to work and explore.

Honestly, I would check out the schedule each day and think how awesome the day was going to be. And every day WAS great. I was never disappointed, always learning and usually highly entertained. Certainly you have all heard, or seen video, about Paul Woodbury and his singing. And then there were the "endogamy" balloons. Lesson learned and we had fun at the same time!

Dr. Michael Lacapo gave three great case studies, highly infused with humor (but no singing or balloons, darn it) to help us learn how to use mtDNA, atDNA and YDNA to its fullest potential for teasing out those answers to our brick walls.

Our fearless leader, Karen Stanbary and amazing Melissa Johnson were incredible as they methodically went through the GPS and how it applied to DNA. Today we broke into groups to analyze NGSQ articles that involved DNA in the GPS. I have a hard time analyzing articles alone and being able to bounce ideas off classmates was a great learning experience, too.

Thanks to Paul Woodbury, Melissa Johnson and Kimberly Powell for assisting us during our labs. My classmates were friendly, awesome, and willing to share expertise, too. The class was large with a variety of technical skills so having all those people in the room was just awesome!

Outside of the class sessions, it was great to be able to network with others who have that same driving passion for genealogy. I was even able to meet up at have dinner with the Minnesota group again this year. Lots of fun!

While I am sad that the class is ending Friday, I more than a little excited to spend some time at the Family History Library over the next few days. And I am looking forward to seeing what's ahead for SLIG 2019!

Day 3 - A Song, Balloons and Laughter #SLIGExperience

Endogamy lesson
The first two days of "GPS & DNA" were very noisy and full of learning. If it was quieter today, it's not because we were learning less. It was because we were all engrossed in the presentations by Michael Lacopo, Paul Woodbury and our fearless instructor, Karen Stanbary. I never expected such a complex topic as endogamy to be infused with so much humor. But Paul Woodbury did just that. Not only did he infuse humor but we were treated to a song and balloons a well. You've probably seen the pictures already but I was able to grab one early on.

Michael Lacopo shared a couple of case studies: one involving Y-DNA and the other involving autosomal DNA. I have followed his blog, Hoosier Daddy, for a couple of years and so was somewhat familiar with the Y-DNA story but nevertheless, it was very engrossing and entertaining.

My poor boggled mind!

And Karen Stanbary has been very patient and encouraging as we all work to get our software loaded, data extracts completed and then loaded into new software for chromosome mapping with so many features it is mind-boggling.

Day 4 promises to bring more lab time to get our new software loaded with all that DNA data and then time to explore chromosome mapping. More fun to come!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Day 2 - Learning is Happening! #SLIGExperience

"Noisy chaos means learning is happening!" (Karen Stanbary)

That may not be the exact quote, but it is close. And if it is true - there is a lot of learning going on in the "GPS with DNA" classroom.

Several of the software tools we are using to help us analyze DNA evidence take multiple complex steps to set up and load the test results, matches and gedcoms. In addition, some of the software and utilities used are being updated frequently or are beta versions. Add to the mix, that some class members are using Mac versions and some are using PC versions.

This means lab time is noisy as class members work to set up their laptops with software, utilities, and test results. We are very fortunate that we have several experts in the room during lab time to assist us as we have questions or problems. There are also a lot of class members helping each other during the process. Don't you just love that about genealogists!

In addition to the software tools, there are also old-fashioned but effective charts and tables to fill out and help us organize our ancestors, our test-takers, and most importantly, our thinking! I've been using some of these charts for years but am now looking at them with a new eye. Charts and tables can tell me what I know, AND what I don't know. Perhaps that should be "who I know, AND who I don't know!" That darn g-g-g-grandmother STILL doesn't have a last name on my chart!

We're learning new terms like "meioses" and "genetic networks" and how using software that creates genetic networks from our data can help us solve complex problems.

Today we will have a new speaker and new topics. Day 3 promises to be just as exciting and full of learning. I expect it will be noisy, too!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Day 1 at SLIG - #SLIGExperience

We're off and learning!
And we're off! The DNA classroom was hopping this morning as everyone was getting themselves acclimated to our week-long rigorous coursework. And I do mean rigorous!

There were lots of new concepts, new software, new resources and the exciting possibilities of new clues, new research paths and new skills!

I had not reviewed the description of the DNA course last year and so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this year's DNA course is a brand new concept. This new course combines learning the skills of DNA research and applying the Genealogical Proof Standards to that research.

I learned today that all the DNA testing companies do things a little differently. Thus, when you are trying to pull results from multiple testing companies, it's not a quick and easy process. But we are assured that the end result will be worth our blood, sweat, and tears.

I'm looking forward to looking at the DNA test results with a fresh lens. Like everyone else, I have a lot of brick walls in the families I am researching. Using new tools and analyzing that data with new skills, I hope to break through those brick walls in a big way!

Bring on Day 2!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tech Day at SLIG - #SLIGExperience

Hats off to SLIG!

Hats off to the SLIG planning committee! What a great idea to plan a full day of technology workshops the Saturday before the conference!

There were fifteen different workshops offered; most were 90 minutes but four of them were twice as long. There were opportunities to learn about Evernote, spreadsheets, writing, Google My Maps, Scrivener, timelines, foreign language tools, mind maps, PowerPoint and more. Just like trying to pick the right week-long course, it was difficult to choose which workshops I should attend.

I decided to go with the variety approach: I picked workshops that would not only build on my technology skills but would also give me a variety of instructors. I've been so impressed by the quality of instructors at SLIG (and other genealogy institutes) that I wanted to get a sampling of as many as I could!

Bonus! I was awarded Hilton bucks for attending a full day of workshops! It was awesome being paid to learn!

I spent many years in the educational technology field, retiring just 18 months ago. I attended too many workshops to count and presented many as well. My experiences showed me that I will always learn something valuable from every workshop.  And I will always learn from other attendees, too.

Tech Day at SLIG was no different. In addition to early networking with other SLIG attendees, I was able to build on my technology skills, not only from the instructors but also other attendees. I love the "interactiveness" of these workshops!

One of my Tech Day class instructors became ill and was unable to teach her evening class. But the SLIG planning committee was on top of things and was able to accommodate me in another excellent class without losing one minute of class time.

I hope that I can participate in another Tech Day next year at SLIG!

Preparing for SLIG 2018 - #SLIGExperience

When I reviewed the list of courses available at this year's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) I was amazed at the content that was available. How was I going to choose just one? So I looked back on my table of genealogy skills that I was determined to work on and decided that this was the year to take the plunge into DNA. I took note of the date and time that registration was opening because I knew that many courses fill very fast. I was very excited to get in the course, "A Practical Approach: Establishing Genealogical Proof with DNA."

In preparation, I began reading books and watching webinars (over and over) to get the basic concepts down. Like literally millions of others, I had been experimenting over the last several years with DNA testing and using myself, my husband, and many family members as guinea pigs. I am fortunate that I have a lot of DNA data and known relationships to help me understand the results.

When I received the course welcome letter three months ago, I reviewed the list of preparations and felt I had a good start already. The items that needed a lot of wait time, like submitting a DNA sample for results, were already in place. I decided I could wait until after the hectic holidays to finish the rest of the preparations. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Like genealogy in general, using DNA for genealogy has a set of standards for ethics. One of these standards is to get informed consent for testing and for transferring the data to other sites for comparisons.  In the end, almost everyone agreed to let me use their data, but it was a time-consuming process and would have been better started earlier.

Other preparations for the class went fairly smoothly: data transfers, software downloads and registering on sites we will be using.  The list of preparations was very thorough and had easy to follow instructions for accomplishing the tasks.

Now I just needed to get ready for the actual travel. I've been to Salt Lake City several times over the past 20 years, but technology has changed my packing techniques. I remember my first few trips to Salt Lake City I packed a huge box of snacks to bring to the Family History Library (FHL) with me. At the end of the trip, the box of snacks was empty and I filled it with reams of paper copies of records to bring home. This year, for the copies, I packed two tiny thumb drives instead (one is a back-up).

What a change! (I have to admit that I still brought the big box of snacks!)

Fellow Minnesotan, Paula Stuart-Warren, in her GenealogybyPaula blog, posted a great list of packing suggestions earlier this month. Paula is also an instructor at SLIG. Thanks, Paula! There were some items there I wouldn't have thought of without your suggestions.