Genealogy News Episode 115

Welcome to the Genealogy News from Geneatopia

I’m Patty Roy, also known as Dinah Larkham in Second Life.

Today is Tuesday March 13, 2018 and this is Episode 115.

RootsTech 2018

This episode is devoted to RootsTech 2018 which took place from Wednesday, February 28, to Saturday, March 3.

The first day on Wednesday consisted of sessions but the Expo Hall did not open until that evening. The opening keynote was held was late in the afternoon.

Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch Keynote

Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, was the opening keynote for the conference. He spoke on Wednesday afternoon. The theme of the conference was “Connect, Belong.”

He spoke about imagining if everyone found out how we are all connected with family connections. We would treat each other differently when we find out we are connected.

Also, imagine when you can enter a virtual world where your ancestor was in 1880. It has been created from census and other records. Your ancestors answer the door and you see them based on photos and they tell you their stories.

Everyone deserves to be remembered because it matters. We all matter in this rich tapestry of the human family. We all belong and are connected through generations of time.

Mr. Rockwood encouraged everyone to use FamilySearch Family Tree. He mentioned this last year also. He said you can have more success when everyone shares their family trees. When you decide to use Family Tree you get to connect to other platforms and billions of records. You can upload your tree to the private area and still receive benefits from the global family tree.

He mentioned the FamilySearch Family Tree app, Relatives Around Me, that he encouraged everyone to use at the conference. It can show you cousins who are nearby and conference attendees could meet their cousins at the conference.

Here are some other quotes from the keynote:

“We can create a true family tree of all mankind. Written records and oral history are being saved. The opportunities far exceed the resources.

We need a cooperative effort to partner to connect and belong to the common good. Cooperative efforts and innovation in family trees, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and neural networks will make it possible to create a family tree of all mankind.

Computers are being trained to read and index records. This will accelerate the pace to make records more searchable then artificial intelligence can help reconstitute communities and families.

Imagine that the written records of mankind and the genetic records of mankind are unlocked, searchable, and connected.

We must gather and connect these records before its too late.

FamilySearch has increased its resources to harvest the histories of Africa and of the written records at risk to decay in other parts of the world.

What are the records at risk within your own family? Who will be forgotten if you don’t gather their memories?”

Living DNA

The sponsor for Wednesday was Living DNA. David Nicholson and Hannah Morden, co founders of Living DNA, spoke about what’s new at Living DNA.

They are taking your ancestry back 80,000 years. Living DNA can pinpoint your ancestry down to very specific details. Living DNA results show deep migration roots.

They announced Family Networks. This takes the guesswork out of DNA relationships. It rebuilds you tree based on DNA.

In quarter 2 of 2018 Living DNA will have a private beta of Family Networks. By the Fall of 2018 it will be open to all Living DNA customers.

They also showed the ability to get DNA from a stamp on an old letter and prove that someone was related to the person who wrote the letter.

Living DNA sold their DNA test for $49 at the conference. Their booth was packed and they said if they ran out of tests to sell, conference attendees could order the test for $49 and it would be shipped to them. The test normally costs $159.

Living DNA started selling their test in the Fall of 2016.

New Family Networks feature from Living DNA

Innovation Showcase

The Innovation Showcase was on Wednesday. Scott Fisher was the emcee for the Innovation Showcase. He is the creator and host of Extreme Genes, a nationally syndicated talk show on genealogy and family history.

The panels discussed technology challenges and new innovations. Specifically, they focused on online records and how much more needs to come online, digital memories and what will be required for management and preservation, and the impact DNA is having on the genealogy industry and where’s it’s all going.

The first panel consisted of The Legal Genealogist Judy Russell, David Rencher Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch and Curt Witcher from the Allen County Public Library in Indiana.

During the discussion they wanted to hear from you. They used for people to vote.

The first discussion was online records. The questions was, “In your opinion, what is the single biggest challenge with records?”

Curt’s answer – biggest challenge is that most of our records are in the hands of disinterested and uninformed others.

Judy’s answer – some people are interested in a different way that is not the same as our interests. Those would be those who are concerned about privacy. They feel the easiest way to solve privacy issues is to close records.

David’ answer – threats to access are very subtle. He sees not teaching cursive in school and everybody prints. What does that do to historical records? If they cannot read the records in cursive that will make those records extremely had to research. Mobile applications can translate. What does that do for people learning a language when there is an app to do translation? What will happen to the records when they can’t read cursive and don’t understand the language.

The panelists were asked to give their predictions of records in the near future.

Curt – as quest for our story we can make our voices heard for those record custodians who are disinterested. We as a group have gotten more records available.

Judy – the most exciting thing for the future is to blend the DNA records with the documentary records into a single-family tree.

David – there are so many partners making records available. The archives are doing this themselves. States are digitizing their vital records.

The next topic was digital memories with Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. He sees the issue of there is way too much to organization with so much information such as how many pictures you have. We need to change our attitude about collecting materials from collecting after the fact to as its happening.

The Internet Archive his talking about FamilySearch centers that can help with shoe boxes (stuff people save) and Facebook feeds to get them into permeant storage.

The next set of panelists talked about DNA. The panelists were Ran Snir, Product Manager at DNA MyHeritage, Jim Brewster, Assistant Manager Group Project Team Family Tree DNA, David Nicholson, Managing Director Living DNA, Robin Smith, Product Manager Ancestry Service 23andMe, and Sarah South, Vice President Laboratory Sciences Ancestry.

Ran mentioned that the people buying DNA kits need to know about the value of putting their pedigree online. New tools will make it easier to analyze your DNA.

Robin said there is still a big lack of knowledge about global genetic diversity. 23andMe has many projects to address this.

Jim talked about how DNA has opened up the field of genealogy to those who might not have been interested in it. People are not just testing to prove a connection, they are testing to see what they can find out.

David said people take the test to find out about themselves. DNA testing needs to make it simple to see how you relate to cousins.

Sarah mentioned that DNA needs to be combined with family trees and historical records including oral histories. New users will get relevant information when they test.

MyHeritage DNAQuest

The next day, Thursday, the sponsor was MyHeritage. They had the most announcement of any company at the conference. They had one big announcement on Thursday before the keynote speaker.

Aaron Godfrey, Vice President of Marketing at MyHeritage spoke. He said they are investing in genealogy and DNA. They keep releasing historical record collections and investing in family tree tools and matching technologies. They are constantly adding new DNA features trying to make it easier to understand your DNA matches. They are shifting from genealogy to genetic genealogy. Their goal to create the best platform for genetic genealogy.

They showed a video of a reunion made possible from MyHeritage DNA. They showed how two sisters connected. These sisters were invited to the stage. I’ll have a link in the show notes to the video.

MyHeritage YouTube Video “I found my sister when I least expected to”

MyHeritage has a brand new pro bono initiative called DNAQuest. Its aim is to help adoptees seeking to find their biological family members or parents and other family members looking for a child that they placed for adoption years ago reunite through DNA testing.

MyHeritage will be giving away 15,000 DNA kits worth over $1 million dollars. They believe everyone should have the opportunity to find their family. Priority will be given to those who cannot afford a test.

The first phase will be for those in the United States involving adoptions that took place in the United States. They hope to expand this to other countries and other situations.

For those who think may be eligible for a free DNA kit they can apply at Applications are open until April 30. The free DNA kit will be sent out in May. They encourage anyone who has already had their DNA tested and were involved in adoption to upload their DNA for free at MyHeritage.

There is an advisory board of experts from the fields of adoption and genetic genealogy for this initiative. The advisory board includes: CeCe Moore, founder of The DNA Detectives; Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist; Richard Weiss of DNA Adoption; Richard Hill, DNA Testing Adviser; Katharine Tanya, founder of; Brianne Kirkpatrick, founder of Watershed DNA; Pamela Slaton, investigative genealogist; Leah Larkin, The DNA Geek; and Susan Friel-Williams, Vice President, American Adoption Congress.

MyHeritage Launches DNA Quest — a Major Pro Bono Initiative for Adoptees and Their Biological Families to Find Each Other via DNA Testing

Brandon Stanton Keynote

The keynote speaker on Thursday was Brandon Stanton. He put a blog together in 2010 called Humans of New York and now has over 20 million followers. He stops people on the street and asks them to take their photograph and learns a little about their lives. He has photographed about 10,000 people.

He has two best-selling books about the people he has photographed. The books have sold over a 1 million and a half copies.

Here is a quote from the end of his talk.

“If you want to do something big and make a big change on your life you cannot wait for the perfect idea because that will never come. You have to commit yourself to doing the work that you love full time and make hundreds of small evolutions along the way. And trust that you will become who you need to be and the idea will become what it needs to be along the way.”

People should listen more and not be so much about me me me by taking lots of selfies and using social media. We need to ask others how their doing, don’t worry about respecting their privacy. Ask them about their lives.

Brandon does this with strangers so they can be heard.

David Rencher, chief Genealogical officer at FamilySearch presented to Brandon his ancestors. They found some portraits or biographical sketches of prominent male ancestors. Just like the stories and photographs Brandon takes.


Friday was sponsored by Findmypast. Ben Bennett, Executive Vice President at Findmypast, talked about Findmypast’s accomplishments.

He mentioned that two years ago they introduced the U.S. Marriage collection. They have published nearly 70 million records consisting of nearly 280 million names. The project should be completed later this year with about one hundred million marriages online with 400 million names.

Last year Findmypast announced the Catholic Heritage Archive. The goal was to publish millions of Catholic vital records. Ben announced that they have released over 8 million records from over 200 Catholic parishes across New York. They are launching the New York Sacramental Registers in the Catholic Heritage Archive. You can find these records at

In addition to New York they will be adding Catholic parishes from Baltimore, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Toronto, Wilmington, and more.

Although not mentioned in the talk at RootsTech, Findmypast also released on Friday Roman Catholic parish registers for Chicago and Baltimore.

Findmypast Friday March 2nd

Findmypast brings New York Catholic records online for the first time

They will also be publishing records from across the pond including records from Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales.

They now have a British & Irish Roots collections so you can find records quickly for your ancestors who came to America from those areas.

Findmypast acquired Twile. Twile is an online service that combines interactive timelines with photos, text, and video. Many people can collaborate on a timeline. Findmypast had previously invested in Twile.

In the future Findmypast users will be able to automatically display their family history research in a timeline.

The Twile team will continue to develop and maintain Twile and there are no plans to change the features and services for current Twile users.

FindMyPast Acquires Genealogy Startup Twile

Tamsin Todd the new CEO of Findmypast took the stage with Ben. She announced the Findmypast tree. They realized there are many shared trees out there. FamilySearch has agreed to partner with Findmypast that will underpin the new tree offering at Findmypast.

There will also be reference trees that will come from genealogists with reference skills. The shared tree will be built by the community.

This is a new suite of family tree products – the shared tree, reference trees, and private trees. It is still in development. This isn’t a product launch, it’s an early preview. You can find out more at

They will be seeking input about the trees.

Scott Hamilton Keynote

The keynote speaker on Friday was Scott Hamilton. He is an Olympic gold medalist, motivational speaker, television broadcaster, best-selling author of Finish First, and a cancer survivor.

He talked about his youth and how he was very sick as a child. When he started skating he got better and continued to skate.  He went on to talk about getting married, his children, and the death of his parents. He has never talked about his family before and had many people in tears about his journey through life.

Diane Loosle, FamilySearch Salt Lake Family History Library director and senior vice president of FamilySearch patron services, presented Scott with his genealogy of his adopted parents. Later in the day, FamilySearch presented Scott with information about his biological family.


Saturday was sponsored by Ancestry. Ken Chahine, executive vice president and general manager DNA, Ancestry, spoke.

He showed a video of when he was at RootsTech in 2014. It talked about DNA and how to use DNA to get to towns someone came from or where slaves came from in Africa. And DNA would be able to tell attributes of our ancestors such as hair and eye color.

Ancestry has done most of what was predicted in 2014.  Ancestry now has 7 million people in its database. DNA is starting the tell the story of migration.

They have started to reconstruct the DNA of someone from the 1800s. They found out the person had blue eyes and male patterned baldness.

Ancestry will continue to grow their science team, invest in making the AncestryDNA test the most useful for family history.

He said they want to get down to the specific port your ancestor landed on and how you inherit your eye color. Based on DNA reconstruction they will be able to sketch what your ancestor looked like.

Natalia Lafourcade

Mexican pop rock singer and song writer Natalia Lafourcade played three songs.

Jason Hewlett, the Emcee, interviewed Natalia about how she keeps grounded, a little about her family, and music.

She also performed at the Oscar or Academy Awards ceremony Sunday, March 4. She sang the song “Remember Me” from the movie Coco. It won the best original song.

Tammy Stansfield, Product manager at FamilySearch International, presented Natalia with information about her ancestors. She was very pleased to find out where her French surname came from and her musical ancestors.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Keynote

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was the next keynote speaker. He has a BA in History from Yale, then he went to England to get a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from University of Cambridge. He teaches African and African American studies at Harvard. He is the host of the PBS show Finding Your Roots.

Season 5 of Finding Your Roots is filming now and will air later this year. He thanked the lead sponsor, founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson and the newest sponsor AT&T.

He shared his story about how he ended up doing a show about genealogy and genetics.

He started with the stories of his ancestors and how he wanted to find out more about his slave ancestors. He had a revelation that he could take some prominent African Americans and do the paper trail of their ancestors. Once the paper trail ended he could use DNA to tell them where they came from in Africa.

The first show was called African American Lives. There was Oprah Winfrey, Ben Carson, Whoopi Goldberg, May Jamison, a physician and astronaut, comedian Chris Tucker, Quincy Jones, and bishop T. D. Jakes. It was a huge hit.

Someone wrote in and told him he was a racist because his show did not do white people or Jewish people like the writer. Next show with different races was called Faces of America.

Eventually it became Finding Your Roots which is the number one show on PBS.

He closed by saying why he does the show. It’s to show how we are all related. The best evidence of our unity is DNA.

He is putting together curriculum for middle school students where every child will have to do their family tree. All the kids in science class will take a DNA test. While they wait for the results the kids will be taught about ancestry and genealogy along with genetics.

It will ignite learning because the students will be learning about themselves

After Dr. Gates spoke, CeCe Moore spoke. When she was first hired to work on Finding Your Roots, the quest would be to present guest with their genealogy based on the paper trail. When the paper trail was exhausted, DNA would be used.

CeCe wanted to integrate DNA research with the paper trail. The season of Finding Your Roots coming up will be using DNA more with the documentary research.

DNA Innovation Contest

There was a DNA Innovation Contest sponsored by Grow Utah. The contest was for new and innovative products or services that will improve the use of individual DNA data in the fields of ancestral history, personal history and family health history.

First prize was for $15,000 and each runner-up received $7500. Other prizes included some business consulting services and a free exhibit hall booth at RootsTech.

The six finalists came to Utah and the top three were chosen.

The two runners-up were RootsFinder and It Runs in My Family.

RootsFinder is an online family tree site. They have partnered with American Ancestors, Findmypast, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Ancestry, FindAGrave and BillionGraves to search for records about your ancestors. A web clipper extension allows you to copy the records that are found to your tree at RootsFinder.

There is also a ToDo Creator extension where you can save search ideas for specific people in your family tree.

When they heard about the DNA Innovation Contest, they created some DNA tools for RootsFinder. The tools allow you to upload data from GEDmatch to compare kits.

There is a segment view that shows blocks representing your chromosomes and the segments you share with matching kits. And there is a Triangulation View that shows clusters of related kits.

RootsFinder is free with ads or you can pay $35/year for the pro version that removes the ads and gives you additional storage and advanced features.

The other runner-up, It Runs in My Family, uses family history to improve your health. It uses social media technologies for family members to collaborate to record family health history.

This information can be shared with health professionals who don’t always have time to discuss family history with their patients.

It can also be used to study genetic health risks.

First place went to DNA Painter. This is a free online tool for chromosome mapping. It maps segments of DNA to chromosomes and assigns different colors to each ancestor that allows you to visually see which ancestors gave you which pieces of your DNA.

In order to use it you need chromosome information from Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, Living DNA or GEDMatch. AncestryDNA results do not contain this information but you can upload your AncestryDNA results to GEDMatch.

You copy segment information for a match and record who is the common ancestor. Those segments are assigned a color and as you add more matches you end up with colors for different ancestors.

Family Tree Maker App AlbumWALK

Family Tree Maker had some news.

A new iPad app will be coming sometime soon. It’s from the makers of Family Tree Maker and it’s called AlbumWALK. You tap the face of someone in a photo and then you record audio about someone telling you about the person.

When you have completed an album, you can play all the narrations with a single tap. You can also add music.

The end result can be exported and uploaded to your Family Tree Maker media collection.

Introducing AlbumWALK.

MyHeritage News

Now for all the rest of the news from MyHeritage.

One-to-Many Chromosome Browser

Recently they released a chromosome browser where you could compare your DNA with one of your matches. Now that chromosome browser can show up to seven matches.

A chromosome browser allows you to visually see where the shared DNA segments are between matches. It’s possible for you to determine who you inherited DNA from and what segment of DNA you inherited.

The chromosome browser will show triangulations that you can download the exact triangulation segments. The triangulated segments are the segments that all the selected matches share. If you don’t want to share this type of information with anyone, there is a privacy option where you can opt out of this feature.

They are working on a tool to find more DNA matches who match on the same triangulated segment.

The chromosome browser does not include the X chromosome. This chromosome is tested as part of autosomal DNA testing. It is inherited differently than the other chromosome and MyHeritage plans to add support for it later in 2018.

The original chromosome browser that was released in January is still available if you want to view only one match.

Another new feature is the ability to download all your DNA matches. You can also export all of the shared DNA segment information for all DNA Matches. This takes some time to process so if you want this information an email will be sent to you when it’s ready to download.

All of these DNA features are free for anyone to use.

Major Upgrade to the MyHeritage Chromosome Browser for Better Exploration of DNA Matches

MyHeritage Adds the 1939 Register, Canadian Obituaries and US Yearbooks

MyHeritage announced the release of some record collections. They now have the 1939 Register of England & Wales. The 1939 Register is similar to a census. It was created at the beginning of World War II to record information about every household.

The purpose of the register was to collect personal details about individuals in order to issue identity cards and ration books. Later on it was used as the basis for the National Health Service’s records.

It is believed that because people knew the data would be used in the event that ration cards would be issued, they tended to fill it in very accurately.

The 1931 census in Britain was destroyed by fire in 1942. This was during wartime but the fire was not caused by enemy action. The Scottish census was stored in a different building and it still exists but won’t be released until 2031 or later.

Since the war was going on, there wasn’t a 1941 census. The 1939 Register can be used as a census substitute.

The initial collection on MyHeritage includes an index, without images. Findmypast also has the 1939 Register with the images.

MyHeritage Yearbooks

MyHeritage has created an automated name index for its collection of U.S. Yearbooks. It is being released as a separate collection from the yearbooks. The names of students and faculty members have been extracted and are now searchable.

From information about the grade level and graduation class of each student the birth year has been calculated. All occurrences of the same name in each yearbook were consolidated into one record with references to the pages where the person is mentioned. Work is still being done to associate the name with the correct photo in the yearbook. The names are sometimes listed on the side of the page, not under the picture.

The years for the yearbooks are from 1890 – 1979.

Canadian Obituaries and Memorials

A new collection of 2 million records of obituaries and memorials form 10 Canadian provinces has been added to MyHeritage. They cover the years mostly from 1997 to 2017.

Every month MyHeritage will be adding newspapers from a particular state. The goal is to have coverage for all states in about a year and a half.

MyHeritage releases new collections with 325 million historical records

FamilySearch Tree Sync

LDS members receive a free subscription to MyHeritage. Now those users can sync their FamilySearch Family Tree with their tree at MyHeritage. This new feature is being released as a beta which means all the bugs have not been worked out.

This is a limited beta and you need to send an email request to get an access code in order to use it.

The only way to sync trees will be to import your FamilySearch Family Tree to MyHeritage. If you already have a tree at MyHeritage you cannot sync that tree to FamilySearch.

Changes that you make to either tree will be transferred to the other tree when you click the sync button.

Once you sync your tree you will have all the features at MyHeritage available. That would include Smart Matches, Record Matches, DNA matches, and so on. As you place new sources to your MyHeritage tree, they will be automatically added to the FamilySearch Family Tree.

New FamilySearch Tree Sync (beta) allows FamilySearch users to synchronize their family trees with MyHeritage

Paper in Journal Science

The journal Science published a paper titled “Quantitative analysis of population-scale family trees with millions of relatives.” The research for this paper was led by MyHeritage chief science officer, Dr. Yaniv Erlich.

The data used for the research came from Geni which is owned and operated by MyHeritage. Geni is a website where everyone collaborates on one single tree. The tree has 13 million people related across 11 generations. The data was anonymized and cleanup by the researchers before it was analyzed.

They found that having good genes only effects a few for a long life and gives you at most 5 additional years. Genes play a part in longevity about 16 percent of the time. If you smoke you might lose more than 10 years.

They were able to trace where spouses were born and determine who was traveling to find their future spouse. They found out that women traveled more than men.

Before the industrial age people used to marry their second or third cousins.  Now they tend to marry their seventh cousin.

The next step is to tie DNA results to the tree to study genetics and disease.

Large Online Family Trees Validated by Scientifically Conducted MyHeritage Study

The Big Tree

MyHeritage is working on making it easier to view DNA results and matches. They are working on a project called “The Big Tree.” It will combine all the trees at MyHeritage, the tree at Geni, historical records and DNA data points that will have 10 billion nodes.

They can generate this large graph in about an hour. It’s important to recalculate this graph often because of all the data that is being added and changed.

This Big Tree will be the infrastructure of for many projects at MyHeritage that they are creating. The first project to come out of this is the Theory of Family Relativity. It will be able to show you relationship paths to your DNA matches using a paper trail. Even if you don’t share surnames with you DNA match, you will be able to see how you are connected. This is done by using the trees of your matches to prove how you are related to someone that does not have a common ancestor in their tree. This can happen because your match may not have gone back far enough to the common ancestor.

The FamilySearch Family Tree is also participating in the Theory of Family Relativity. So, you can match in the FamilySearch Family Tree and then from there match back to a tree at MyHeritage.

It will also go through the records such as the census or a yearbook to find out the common ancestors. It will work even if there is no tree to work with because it will use trees of the DNA matches.

This new feature will be available later this year.

In the coming years, they may use the Big Tree to show you search results that will most likely be for you family. So, if you have a common name, the records that will be for your family will show up first.

MyHeritage has learned that 78% of people in Germany have never heard of DNA testing. They want to change that. They will be educating people first in Europe about the benefits of DNA testing and to create family trees.

Perspectives on Combining Genealogy and Genetics
MyHeritage sponsored lunch
MyHeritage’s founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet

All the streaming sessions are now available at

There was no glass enclosed area for bloggers to record videos so there were not as many videos recorded this year. This was done due to cost, it was too expensive to create this area for video recording.

At the end of the show notes for this episode I’ll have to links to all the videos that were created at the conference.

RootsTech 2019 will be held February 27 – March 2 in Salt Lake City.

Be sure to check out the calendar at for the webinars coming up. And while you’re there consider making a donation to help defray the costs of the podcast.

The calendar also has all the Google Hangouts that are scheduled, events going on in Second Life, and online events that you pay for.

And that’s it for this episode.

You can send email to

You can find links to things mentioned in this show in the show notes at as well as a transcript. The transcript can also be found in the Geneatopia Flipboard magazine and you can find the recording on YouTube.

This is episode 115.

Thanks for listening.

Videos for RootsTech 2018

Livestream RootsTech 2018 – Thursday

Livestream RootsTech 2018 – Saturday


Mondays with Myrt the Monday of the week of RootsTech


Jill Ball

Anita Henderson

Lara Diamond

Ellen Thompson-Jennings

Family History Fanatics

The Not Old – Better Show

Jenny Hawran

Share White

Tierra Cotton-Bellow
Pressing My Way Pre-RootsTech Recap

Tony Burroughs

Genealogy Gems – recorded their classes and put them up on YouTube

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