Saturday, September 20, 2008

CGSSD Meeting review - Computer Genealogy 101 and then DNA for Genealogists

The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) meeting today had two parts - described here on Wednesday.

1a) User groups for Legacy and MacIntosh genealogy software. I didn't go - I went to 1b) below.

1b) A special "Computer Genealogy 101" class taught by myself (Randy Seaver) - it was a summary of genealogy information currently available on the Internet. This went fairly well - although there were only 17 in attendance, most of them veteran online genealogy researchers. Hopefully, everybody learned something from the 93 slides presented very quickly in less than 70 minutes. The slides discussed large database sites, family tree sites, data portal sites, some specific web sites and some libraries and societies, often with a screen shot of the web site's home page and some comments about the site. I finished up with a list of commercial databases available for free access at local libraries, and my top 25 genealogy web sites.

2) The program speaker was Barbara Bowling Gosink, MD, on "DNA for Genealogists." Barbara is an engaging and funny lady, with a wealth of knowledge. She gave a really interesting presentation with excellent graphics slides showing elements of DNA, an excellent explanation of how the Y-chromosome (for males) and mitochondrial DNA (for males and females) can be used in genealogy and anthropology research. Her main point was that 99.9% of the 3 billion nucleotide pairs in the human genome are identical in all humans - but that the variations between persons is the other 0.1%, or 3 million SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). Most of the variations have come about over the last 60,000 to 100,000 years.

She showed the migration patterns out of Africa determined by the different haplogroups, showing the major markers along the way, sort of like the interactive map at

Neanderthals shared 99.5% of the human genome, Chimpanzees and Bonobos share 98.4%, and dogs share 95%. I, and you, share 50% of our genome with a banana, 40% with worms, and 30% with yeast!

This was, by far, the most informative and entertaining talk I've heard about DNA research.

There were about 55 people in the room for Barbara's talk. CGSSD has the best venue of any of the San Diego societies - with an overhead projector, wireless internet access, and classroom seating with excellent visibility at UCSD, although the room seats only about 120 people.

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