Debra Fleming presented Google for the 20th Century. I always like to attend the classes on using Google to search for your family history just in case they have something new that I can use. Debra talked about the search strategies and how to use the different search engines on Google. Most people already know how to use Google to do their regular searches on the internet. But those of us who have been using Google for some time really take advantage of the different search engines Google has. For example, Google Books is a great way to search for historical books which are out of copyright, published prior to 1923. These books are viewable online and can be searched and downloaded into your library. Newer books that are still in copyright can be seen in snips and may not be as useful. I use Google Books to search for county histories and regional books quite often. Another interesting search engine on Google is their Patents Search. Did any of your ancestors invent something? You may not know this part of their life but you can search for it here. I was able to discover a patent for the thermal insulating sleeve for the Alaska pipeline that was invented by a cousin of mine. Another search engine on Google is Google Scholar. I use Google Scholar all the time at work to look up scientific reports. But you can also look up documents written about your ancestors or where your ancestor was mentioned. I was able to discover an interesting story about a great uncle in a veterinary journal. It's a bit disgusting to talk about but I'll just mention it had something to do with a carnivorous cow and pig intestines and leave it at that. Google Maps is another one of my favorites. I like to look up the old addresses and see what the area looks like today. For example I have been able to show people the old apartments their ancestors lived in. Also, I was able to explore the neighborhood in Amsterdam where my great-great grandfather lived. Many of these areas, especially those in Europe, still look like they did a hundred years ago. The Google News Archive is also a great search engine. At one time Google was going to digitize the newspaper collections of the world and then in 2011 they stopped. However, all the digitized newspapers they had completed are still available and searchable. Some of these newspapers are not housed anywhere else and are an invaluable source for genealogy research. Have you tried Google Images? You may be able to find images of your ancestors if they have been posted online or you can find historical images of their hometowns or important events that add to your stories. One thing I like about Google Images is the way you can specify the search parameters. For example, if you get too many results in your search and you only want to see pictures of people who could be your ancestors you can go to the Tools button and select "black and white" to get old pictures and then click on "face" to see only pictures of people. Using this technique, I was able to find this picture of my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Bornhorst who immigrated from Germany to Ohio.
Debra also discussed using Google Translate and Google Calendar to aid in your research. Google Translate is useful in figuring out what documents written in a foreign language say or in translating foreign websites. Debra uses Google Calendar to track important dates for her ancestors such as births, deaths and marriages. She also highly recommended joining G+ as a social media platform for genealogists. I agree that G+ has a better "environment" than Facebook and is less confrontational in nature but it is hard to convert over to a different platform, even for someone like me who was an early adopter of G+.
The second afternoon session I attended was one by Margo Fariss Brewer who discussed Local Support Groups for Free. This discussion focused on using libraries, universities and other collections in your research. She explained strategies to make your research visits more rewarding. One tip she mentioned was avoiding exam times or times when students would be using the libraries. By avoiding these times you have a better chance of getting assistance from the library staff. She also recommended calling a few days in advance to make sure the collections you want to view are available. In some cases they may be housed offsite or in closed collections and need to be brought in for use. Always go online and research the library you will be visiting. Check their hours, availability of the collections, are there any restrictions on what you can bring in (phone, computer, camera, scanner, notebook, etc.), location of parking and local places to eat. Also, you should ask the librarians if they have any special collections or suggestions for the topic you are researching. Don't waste their time going on about your research stories, get right to the questions and be sure to thank them for their assistance.
The final session was Jeff Haines' discussion on GEDMatch: A Goldmine of Genetic Analysis Tools. This was one of my favorites of the day due to the amount of new information he provided. I have been using GEDMatch for a while now but don't use it everyday. I probably use it once every 2 - 3 months just to check on new matches. Jeff provided a lot of information in his 1-hour slot and I may have to write a full blog on GEDMatch in the near future once I try out his tips. GEDMatch has a good selection of free tools that can provide most of what everyone uses. However, there are some pay services that cost $10/month. The good thing is you only purchase one month at a time and they don't continue to bill you after the end of the month. One thing that has happened recently is that GEDMatch has partnered with WikiTree. This allows the trees on WikeTree to be used in the GEDMatch matching. GEDMatch has an expanded set of ethnic admixture models that you can use. Each model uses a different set of genetic data and provides a different set of values for your ethnicity. This is similar to comparing Ancestry to MyHeritage or FTDNA results, they will be different because each one uses a different model. The One-to-Many analysis compares your DNA to all the DNA sets within the database and lists all of your matches. One thing I like about GEDMatch matches is that it tells you right up front what proportion of DNA match you have so you can see who is most closely related to you. Once you get this full list, you can go to the One-to-One match and see a graphical display of which sections of chromosomes are matched. You can move that information over to third party programs or even into Excel to do more detailed analysis and compare various matching people through triangulation. A really cool tool Jeff demonstrated was Chromosome Painting. This compares two sets of chromosomes and provides a color coded ethnicity map of your chromosomes and shows which areas were inherited from each parent. You can find the comparison tool under the Admixture analysis and then select "Paint differences between 2 kits". One last thing he recommended was to try Genome Mate Pro to help analyse your genetic data from GEDMatch. This tool helps you manage the information you get during your DNA research.
Well, it was a long day and there were some great talks. I hope to make this conference a regular on my schedule in the future. I hope the information I provided in my blog helps others learn a little more about these topics.