A Kiwi in search of her ancestral tribes

DNA to the Max ~ Sydney 2019

I’ve just spend three days attending the DNA to the Max event in Sydney, part of Unlock the Past’s DNA Down Under roadshow.  My verdict: phenomenal!

Blaine Bettinger at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Blaine Bettinger at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Headlining the event was Blaine Bettinger, one of the US’s top genetic genealogists, ably supported by our local Australasian experts.  The topics ranged from the ethics involved in DNA testing, to visual phasing and chromosome mapping. While there were some talks aimed at beginners, most were of intermediate to advanced level. The panel discussions in the last session of each day were brilliant.

Here are my main takeways from the three days:

1. Step away from the small segments

Any match under 7 centiMorgans (cM) lies in what Bettinger terms “the Danger Zone”. Be cautious of a match between 7 and 10 cM, and feel pretty safe with anything over 10 cM.  The caveat though, is that those 10 cM can’t be made up of several small segments –  it should be one block, or segment, on a chromosome.

However, say you have a connection showing on Ancestry’s ThruLines, but it’s with a small segment of 6 cM.  If the paper trail and documentation are sound, it’s definitely worth pursuing the match.  Bettinger says: “You may be genealogically related, but not genetically related.”  So, test to see if that small segment is valid, or just random noise.  Either way, you may have found a cousin.

2. Take up stamp collecting

The testing of artefacts such as stamps and envelopes for DNA is becoming cheaper and more viable.  Louise Coakley’s presentation on the options available now, and what may be available in the future, was eye-opening. There’s no guarantee that your grandmother licked that stamp or envelope herself, so the DNA found may not be from her, but it could be worth the punt to test any letters she sent.

totheletterDNA offers a testing service, including an initial check to see if the sample is suitable for further analysis. Whether the sample is viable, often depends on how the item has been stored.  So break out the acid-free archival pockets and preserve those letters!  I’m off to check out my great aunt’s letter (and envelope), and see what other letters we may have stored away.

3. Get informed consent

If you’re asking family (or strangers) to take a DNA test, make them aware of possible issues.  Just because you’re not requesting a health test right now, doesn’t mean that in three years time, your results won’t automatically indicate a possible health risk (which might be viewable by all).  This may not be a consideration for your 80 year old uncle, but it may be for a cousin in their 40s.

Do they want to know if something unexpected turns up? When Bettinger asked the audience to raise their hands if they had encountered a surprise with their DNA results, over 30 per cent of the 400 strong audience raised their hands.  Some surprises will be good, but it’s important to be aware (and make others aware) that some might not be so positive.

Are they happy to have their raw data transferred to other companies?  Ancestry has the largest database of testers, but they don’t offer a chromosome browser, so uploading to other sites can be useful for detailed analysis.  Get consent before you do.

The Facebook group Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques has an Informed Consent Agreement you can download and use.  (The group is a fantastic resource if you’re interested in DNA.)

Panel discussion at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Panel discussion at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Unlock the Past did an amazing job putting together this event, and I was honoured to be selected as an Ambassador.  I loved catching up with genies I had met at Congress last year, and meeting people I follow on social media.

It’s likely Unlock the Past will hold another DNA Down Under roadshow in 2021 or 2022, so start saving (and testing).

In the meantime, the exciting news is that Blaine Bettinger and Angie Bush will be coming to New Zealand next year in March and April.  As far as I know they will be giving talks in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with a three day workshop in Auckland at the end. If you’re interested in learning more about DNA analysis for family history, miss these at your peril!

DNA Down Under Ambassador

Auckland Family History Expo ~ 2019

Auckland Libraries and the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) Computing Group organise the annual Auckland Family History Expo, as part of the August’s Family History month festivities here in New Zealand. Last time I attended was two years ago, so I was looking forward to this year’s event.

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1857 marriage register entry for George Tunnecliff and Elizabeth Barber, Auckland (NZ Births, Deaths & Marriages 1857/929)

George Tunnecliffe of Taranaki — and Tean?

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series The Tunnecliffes of Taranaki

My 3 x great grandfather George Tunnecliffe (or Tunnecliff/Tunnicliff/Tunnicliffe) arrived in New Zealand aboard the Dinapore, landing in Auckland on 5th of August 1857. Three days later he married a fellow passenger, Elizabeth Barber, and they made their home in the province of Taranaki.

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Family History Month 2019

August is Family History Month in New Zealand and Australia, and there’s quite a bit going on for both hardened researchers and those just starting out. Here are a few events happening in the Wellington region and a couple further afield.

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The Travelling Genie

It’s been over a month since we arrived back from a family trip to the UK, where I managed to squeeze in a few genealogy-related activities.

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Burial site of Martin Burke, Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ. [Block 22B, plot 63]

Martin Burke (1840 – 1918) ~ Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch

While I was in Christchurch last June for the NZSG conference, I was determined to finally discover the resting place of my 2 x great grandfather, Martin Burke.  (There’s a picture of Martin in an earlier blog post.)  My first attempt with my aunt back in 2012 was not successful.  From Christchurch City Council’s cemetery database…

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Ann Philp and Martin Burke, with their daughter Annie Burke

Martin Burke & Ann Philp ~ Canterbury settlers

This is a copy of a photograph that was shared with me by my third cousin, Margaret. The couple are our great great grandparents, Ann Philp and Martin Burke. But who is the girl with them? Ann and Martin had three children: Mary (born 1863), Anne (born 1865) and Thomas (born around 1866), so presumably…

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Australasian genealogy bloggers outside the International Convention Centre at Darling Harbour, Sydney, for Congress 2018.

Geneabloggers unite!

One of the best things about the recent Congress in Sydney was meeting up with fellow genealogy bloggers, easily recognised by our blogger beads (kindly sponsored by GeniAus and Lonetester).  It was a wonderful way to break the ice and get chatting with lots of different folk, especially in the line for a cuppa at…

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International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, at night

Congress 2018 ~ the good, the not so good, and the even better

It has taken me several days to come off Sydney time and the genie high that was the 15th Australasian Congress of Genealogy and Heraldry 2018. What a glorious four days! The weather was good, the venue superb, and the craic mighty – a winning combination. Hats off to the organisers for an amazing event,…

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Hammocks for convict labourers at Hyde Park Barracks

Congress 2018 is here!

Getting up at dark o’clock (3am) is not much fun, but heading to Congress in Sydney was worth the bleary-eyed start. It’s a three hour flight “across the ditch” (aka the Tasman Sea) and after arriving just after 8am it was good to dump my suitcase at the hotel and then head to pre-register. The…

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