Wednesday, May 30, 2018

WGS Research Group, Golden State Killer, GDPR, Virtual Gen Society, and more

Reminder!!!   Everyone is welcome at the Whatcom Genealogical Society Research Group this Friday, June 1 from 1-3 at the Ferndale Library.  I’m planning to dig into immigration and naturalization records for my 2 great-grandfathers.  What are you going to do?

WGS Research Trip to LDS Library in Salt Lake City:  Hotel reservations closing soon.

WGS has reserved a block of rooms for our trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  The arrival date is 15 July and the departure is 22 July.  You are not obligated to stay for the entire week.   

Please contact Cindy Harris, WGS Education Chair, at with any questions or speak to her at the Research Group meeting on Friday. 
Golden State Killer followup: We talked about so many different topics at our May meeting last week.  Not the least of which was the use of GedMatch leading to the arrest of a suspect in the Golden State Killer case.  My post last week gives basic information and links but the topic is not cooling. 

In a local close-to-home case Snohomish and Skagit detectives used similar techniques with GedMatch to ID a suspect in a 1987 double homicide.  (I think the horse is already out of the barn with law enforcement using GedMatch.)  The detectives used Parabon NanoLabs, a crime lab which has just started offering genetic genealogy services.  Our good friend CeCe Moore is heading up this unit.  This Seattle Times article gives all the details plus an infographic of the steps used in this case.
This week “Extreme Genes” podcast episode 238, includes an interview about the ethical concerns of using services like GedMatch to solve crimes.  Lots of food for thought about the implications for you and your grandchildren.  Well worth a listen.

“Extreme Genes” also has an interview about the brand new Virtual Genealogical Society that I mentioned at the meeting.  Since the first of May they have enrolled over 1000 people from 16 countries with offers of 3 webinars a month, socializing, newsletters, special interest groups, prizes, and, to my mind, many of the well-known professional genealogists as members and speakers.  Originally they thought this would fill a void for people in remote places and young people who don’t want to go to meetings.  I don’t fit into either of these categories but I am on the verge of signing up.  $20 a year could be a very good opportunity.

Where can you find “Extreme Genes”?   On your smart phone, tablet or computer.  Click on the Listen button.   It is great while walking or driving.  Just like a radio show, host Fisher has genealogy news, interviews, commercials and theme music. 
For the past few years, but especially the past few months, genealogy businesses around the globe have been preparing for European General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") which took effect last Friday, May 25, 2018.  I’ll bet you are seeing emails from websites asking you to read privacy policies and confirm that you really want to receive emails from them.  GDPR has the intention to restore the “freedom not to be found”.  That is seen as an individual right.

As customers we weren’t sure what affect it would have on us and the resources that are available to us.  The larger companies have been updating their privacy policies and changing their opt-out features.  Small mom and pop companies are retiring instead of trying to figure this out.  The fines are too great.

Richard Hill, the beloved DNA Advisor, told us that the regulation is particularly “onerous” to one person like him.  He said “I am shutting down this newsletter and destroying the subscriber list.”  The good news is that he can be found on Facebook now.

And the news on the first day of GDPR is that Austrian activist Max Schrems has filed lawsuits against Google and Facebook to the tune of $8.8 billion USD.  I knew the fines were being called “onerous” but who knew they were coming so fast.  This story is not going away.  The scoop is here:

Along the same line Sylvia writes in with her concerns about 23andme anonymous matches:

This looks a bit ominous - as of June 15, 2018 23andme is going to block any dna matches that are 'anonymous.' I'm sure it's another security move, but it might impact us when we look for stronger dna matches. I assume that with an anonymous match, you could still contact them to get the info you need on their family tree. If they aren't visible, you won't even know they exist! They will have to 'opt in.' It might be important for our group to know because members may be 'anonymous' and will have to opt in so that they can share their results with others!”

Judith’s response:  Ancestry did something with similar result.  People can opt out from matching at the beginning.  Same thing there.  We will never know about those matches.  It’s the “freedom not to be found”.

Goodbye for today.  Keep me posted on your interests and challenges so I can send information your way.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Summer Reads: True Life Genealogy Mysteries

Last time we talked about DNA I pointed out the DNA Bibliography on the Genies blog.  I suggested one book there, Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA by Richard Hill.  Richard Hill gained prominence with this classic book because it was the first of its kind.  It’s dated somewhat because prior to DNA testing Hill searched for his birth father for many years, gathering clues from people who might have known his parents.  Partway through his search the Y-DNA test became available and he tested the descendants of five brothers who were on the scene at the right time.  Of course, searching for birth parents has changed considerably since those long-ago days.  It’s in the library.

Two recent books come to mind that have captivated our Genies.  

Tales of the first spiced up our meals at the Tacoma Seminar last spring.  Genie Sandy could not contain herself as episodes of The Foundling unfolded during mealtimes.  The full title The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me by Paul Joseph Fronczak draws you into the story of an infant kidnapped from a Chicago hospital, a toddler found abandoned in New Jersey, and a man whose DNA tells him he is not who he thought he was.  It’s in the library.

The Stranger in my Genes by Bill Griffeth has also made the rounds of the Genies. Bill Griffeth, a CNBC business anchor and longtime genealogy buff, takes a DNA test at the request of his cousin.  His cousin has to inform him that his father is not his father and Bill struggles emotionally with talking to his ninety-something mother. Bill undertakes to solve the mystery of his origins, a quest which will shake his sense of identity.  Also in the library.

Another book suggestion comes from a former Genie Anna S. She writes:

Recently I read an interesting book about genealogy. It is Daddy, We Hardly Knew You by Germaine Greer (best known as the author of "The Female Eunuch"). She grew up in Australia and traced the Greer name back to a line of ancient Scottish kings. After her father died she started searching for records of his birth, schooling, etc. and couldn't find anything based on what she remembered him saying about his birthplace and early childhood. Eventually she found out that he was actually born to an unmarried servant girl under one name, then adopted and raised under another name, and took the name Greer after leaving home as a young man.

Greer had a book deal, her publisher paid her a large cash advance to write about her family history, and she traveled the world looking for records of her father's birth and military service in WWII, so the story wanders a bit and covers a lot of territory. I found it interesting to learn that just tracing a person's name isn't enough, that you really have to look for original records to learn about family origins.

This book was written in 1991 and Anna found it in the discards pile at the Bellingham Library.  She has passed that copy on to the Genies and it currently resides on my nightstand.  I’ll bring it to our next meeting.

Another Genie Judy S. calls our attention to Gail Lukasik. She says “I listened to her story on YouTube and I made contact with her with my story--very similar to her story.  I was delighted she responded.”  The book White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing by Gail Lukasik is also in the library. The Washington Post named White Like Her one of the most inspiring stories of 2017.  Her website is

Judy also passes on to us a link to Medieval English Church records:

Happy Summer!  This should keep you busy.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Golden State Killer: What does that have to do with you?

Genealogy bloggers are abuzz with talk about the Golden State Killer case.  Mainly how did the cops use GedMatch (a third-party website where you can post your DNA to find matches who tested at other websites) to get a break in this decades-old case. 

Sylvia alerted us to these messages posted on the GedMatch site:

April 27, 2018 To correct a BIG misunderstanding, we do not show any person's DNA on GEDmatch. We only show manipulations of data such as DNA matches

April 27, 2018 We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the Golden State Killer. Although we were not approached by law enforcement or anyone else about this case or about the DNA, it has always been GEDmatch’s policy to inform users that the database could be used for other uses, as set forth in the Site Policy (linked to the login page and While the database was created for genealogical research, it is important that GEDmatch participants understand the possible uses of their DNA, including identification of relatives that have committed crimes or were victims of crimes. If you are concerned about non-genealogical uses of your DNA, you should not upload your DNA to the database and/or you should remove DNA that has already been uploaded.

Some GedMatch users are incensed that detectives created an autosomal DNA sequence from crime scene DNA and loaded it to GedMatch.  They found hundreds of distant matches, researched their trees, and narrowed their suspects to 3-5.  Lastly, they pursued the suspects, collected their DNA and compared to crime scene DNA. 

Detectives followed the same procedures that genealogists use all the time to identify birth parents.  Here’s Andrew Lee from Family History Fanatics on YouTube telling us the steps he thinks they went through in a quick 10-minute video.

Here are some facts:  GedMatch did not collaborate.  The detectives did not notify GedMatch they were doing this.  There was no subpoena.  Everything on GedMatch is public. 

GedMatch users say that they did not intend for their DNA to be used for this purpose.  I like Lisa Louise Cooke’s comment that she can’t think of a better purpose for GedMatch than to catch a serial killer.  Way to go, Lisa!  She has devoted a free Genealogy Gems podcast to this topic:

Episode #217
In this special episode, spend a thought-provoking hour with Lisa as she explores the Golden State Killer case and the investigators' use of genetic genealogy websites. Get ready for a deep dive into the questions we face, the reality of the current DNA environment, and what it all means for you.

Spend an hour with Lisa here:  This includes the shownotes where you can get an idea about what she covers in the podcast.

Some other favorite bloggers exploring this topic are:

Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist and former federal prosecutor, lays out ethical concerns here:

And the most comprehensive list of articles is by Debbie Kennett on Cruwys News where she keeps updating with new links.  Debbie reports from the UK and usually has a little different slant on things genealogical. 

Be reminded that if you have concerns about your DNA results being online or want to opt out of cousin matching, the testing services are providing options to remove or opt out.  The only way you can be sure that your information will be private is to not have it on the internet.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Genies Meeting Monday and Much More

If you want to attend a conference without leaving home, may I suggest the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree?  They have live screening with recording available until July 31.  Six DNA/genetics presentations for $99 and/or twelve genealogy presentations for $55.  Note that there are two different links for these registrations.  All the details are at the end of this post and on our blog under the Events tab.

And don’t miss these upcoming events.

Who Do You Think You Are? TV series on TLC starting May 21st.

A Time to Write:  Monday, June 4 is the next meeting of Loretta Willems’ group for people wanting to write their stories, either their own memories or the stories they revealed in their genealogical research.  Loretta is the author of The Gift of Laughter: The Story of a California Mennonite Family.  She attends the Whatcom Writers and Publishers group and spoke last month to the Ferndale Genies.  Meetings are the 1st Monday of each month 2:30-4:00.  Contact Loretta Willems for details:

June Ferndale Genies Monthly Meeting:   3rd Monday June 18th 1:00-3:30 at the Ferndale Library.   No presentation is planned.  We will have news and announcements.  Time for presenting your brick wall problem or reading your writing selection.  

There will be ample time for questions and research.  Come prepared with questions and passwords.  Bring a computing device or plan to borrow a library laptop.

Whatcom Genealogical Society (WGS):    

Friday, June 1, 2018   WGS Research Group, 1:00-3:00, doors open at 12:30 for setup. 
Ferndale Public Library, 2125 Main Street, Ferndale

Who: WGS members and friends.  Everyone welcome!

What:  A hands-on informal opportunity to discuss genealogy research including but not limited to organization, DNA, navigating software, and technology.  Because this is a hands-on meeting, please bring your laptops, tablets, scanners, USB drives, and research with you.  A limited number of laptops will be available on site.  Help and answers will be “crowd-sourced” by attendees and there will be no formal lecture.

Monday, June 11 Monthly Meeting– “Becoming America: A Study of Immigration” with Janice Lovelace. What conditions existed for your ancestors to leave their home countries and make a journey to a new place? What conditions existed to encourage settlement in the Americas, especially the United States?

Always 2nd Monday at 2:00 pm at the Bellingham Elks Lodge, 710 Samish Way, Bellingham, WA. Park around back and enter on the lower level (unless you have a big truck or an RV).  Visitors welcome!  Contact:  360-733-8300

No meetings July or August.

2nd Sat, 1pm – 3pm at the Burlington Senior Center, 1011 Greenleaf Ave, Burlington, WA 98233, (map)

Saturday, June 9   Planning Strategies for Visiting Ancestral Homelands, Libraries, & Archives

Barbara Johnson is back to share strategies to get the most out of your visit to distant ancestral homelands far afield.  Also, not all archives and libraries have the same procedures.   Advance preparations for these visits helps avoid frustration and disappointment.  Barb will share examples from her travels. 

July-August – no meetings - Enjoy the summer break. See you in September!

Southern California Genealogical Society, May 31 and June 1-2, 2018

LIVE Streaming for Genetic Genealogy and Jamboree NOW OPEN!
Ø The 6th Annual Genetic Genealogy conference is offering six classes on Thursday, May 31. 

Ø The 49th Annual Genealogy Jamboree is offering six classes on Friday, June 1 AND six classes on Saturday, June 2.

Genetic Genealogy Live Steam
·      Six presentations to choose from
·      Register for one for $20
·      Register for the series of six for $99
·      Watch live or anytime through 11:59 PM on July 31, 2018
·      Handouts available to registrants for download and printing 
Register for genetic genealogy here:

Genealogy Jamboree Live Stream
·      Twelve presentations
·      Register for the series and watch as many or as few as you want
·      $10 for SCGS members
·      $55 for non-members (Or join SCGS first, register for live streaming as a member and save $5!)
·      Watch live or anytime through 11:59 PM on July 31, 2018
·      Handouts available to registrants for download and printing
 Register for genealogy jamboree here:

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Loretta's Writing Group Monday

If you haven't picked up your writing since our last Genies meeting, tomorrow is the day to meet with fellow writers and begin again with newfound enthusiasm.  Don't miss the first gathering of this group.

A Time to Write:  Starting May 7, Loretta Willems is leading a group for people wanting to write their stories, either their own memories or the stories they revealed in their genealogical research.  Loretta is the author of The Gift of Laughter: The Story of a California Mennonite Family.  She attends the Whatcom Writers and Publishers group and spoke last month to the Ferndale Genies.  Meetings are the 1st Monday of each month 2:30-4:00.  Contact Loretta Willems for details: