Monday, 20 January 2020

Andy Hochreiter - Speaker Profile

Andy Hochreiter
Talk Title:  DNA for Beginners

Brief Biography

Andrew Hochreiter, MEd, MIS, is a genetic genealogist and lecturer who manages multiple DNA surname projects and has successfully applied DNA to trace several related family branches overseas. He instructs continuing education courses in basic and advanced genetic genealogy at two community colleges in Maryland and helped facilitate the genetic genealogy module of the on-line Genealogical Research Course at Boston University. Andy is a frequent speaker in the Mid-Atlantic states and belongs to numerous genealogy organizations including the National Genealogy Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, Guild of One Name Studies, North of Ireland Family History Society, Somerset & Dorset Family History Society and Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society (where he writes a DNA column for their quarterly journal).

What do you do as a Day Job?

Fortunately, Andy is now retired from any Day job shackles and can devote his energies to the pursuit of relatives, ancestors and family history. Previously, he taught in a junior high school before getting drafted into the Army. Despite this imposed career, he found he enjoyed the travels and challenges of military life with overseas tours in Germany, Thailand and Cambodia. After military retirement, he worked as a Defence contractor before becoming fully engaged with genetic genealogy.

What do you do as a Night Job?

Andy’s interest in genetic genealogy has led him into ever-widening activities after retirement, notably in the field of education and lecturing. He enjoys learning new DNA tools and techniques to share this knowledge with both beginners and colleagues. He is involved in multiple genealogical organizations and educational institutions, primarily focused on the use of DNA results to discover matches, define relationships, and uncover new family lines.

How did you get into genealogy?

Andy’s heritage comes from his mother’s British Canadian roots and his paternal grandparents’ immigration from Germany. Although he was fully exposed to his maternal ancestry, his father’s early death left a void in understanding his whole identity. Military travels provided the opportunity to visit his ancestor’s home origins in Germany and England, as well as his wife’s ancestral roots in Slovakia and Hungary. Renewing relationships with overseas cousins added tangible value to discovering family histories along with traditional research. Both Andy’s maternal and paternal ancestors besides his wife’s paternal side immigrants are recent arrivals to the USA. This historical situation propels his research to quickly turn overseas. But his wife’s maternal ancestry has deep colonial roots, which afford an opportunity to explore local sources and repositories. Despite the convenience of on-line resources, Andy values the up-close and hands-on hunt for documentation afforded by visits to archives, court houses and historical societies. There is no better thrill than holding a parchment-thin original record from a family Bible that is the only birth record of an ancestor! Genealogy is an ideal blend of history, culture, language and family chronicles that fosters his curiosity and imagination.

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy 

Andy was attracted to the scientific DNA projects at Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation and National Geographic’s Genographic Project where he took his first DNA tests. The transfer of his results to Family Tree DNA led to establishing personal DNA projects that promoted his increased interest in the value of genetic genealogy. Andy is a great enthusiast and user of genetic genealogy as another valuable means to trace family history. Over the years, he has added DNA tests from all the major test companies including whole genome sequencing in his pursuit of matches, ancestors and DNA revelations. He was a contributor and participant of the Y-DNA Haplogroup E-V13 research group helping to uncover new, private terminal SNPs identified in the Big Y tests. He has recruited project participants worldwide and discovered new branches of his family that included third to seventh cousins. He was featured on two Bavarian TV programs for his genealogical work tracing relatives in Germany using DNA. Upon retirement from full time employment he proposed and developed courses in genetic genealogy at local community colleges, which he continues to teach. He is a frequent lecturer in the Maryland area, where he has addressed numerous genealogical and county historical societies, such as the Southern Maryland Genealogy & History Fair and the Delmarva Genealogy & Heritage Conference. He is a regular contributor to a genetic genealogy column for the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society quarterly journal Der Kurier. He also leads DNA focus groups at the Family History Centers in Washington, DC and Columbia, MD. Andy continually seeks to develop his own knowledge and experience with genetic genealogy by attending national and international educational conferences and institutes.

What will you be talking about?
Genetic genealogy has emerged as an important tool for genealogists and family historians. This presentation introduces the concept of using DNA as an adjunct tool to discover family history. The types of DNA and their unique inheritance patterns are explained, as well as the application of results in genealogical studies. Examples illustrate successful outcomes for breaking down brick walls and solving ancestral mysteries.

Where can people get more information about you and the work you do?
Andy is an active participant in many genealogical organizations.

He is also a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), where his contact information is displayed ...

He also belongs to numerous Facebook genealogy groups where his comments can be read.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Jonny Perl - Speaker Profile

Jonny Perl
Talk Title:  DNA Painter - choose the right tool for the job

Brief Biography

I was born in Belfast but grew up mostly in England. I studied English at university but found my first job in scientific electronic publishing. Later I co-founded a digital agency in London.

A few years ago I left and became a freelance web developer, and in 2017 founded the website

I am a member of ISOGG and the SOG in London.

What do you do as a Day Job?

My days are split between looking after my two children and working with genetic genealogy. So after I drop my kids off at school I come home and work on either DNA Painter (e.g. developing and testing new features) or my own genealogy.

What do you do as a Night Job?

I consider myself very fortunate in that in order to make DNA Painter as useful as possible, it’s essential that I remain very engaged with my own genealogy in order to be an active user myself. So my ‘night job’ is very similar to my day job, except my children have gone to bed. I also try to stop sometimes and do something completely different …

How did you get into genealogy?

In retrospect I got into it comparatively late. As a child I was fascinated by ‘Then and Now’ books about places I knew well, and I would enjoy going to the sites of old photographs and imagining how things were then.

But this didn’t extend to my own family history until 2007. I was chatting to my mother. She is an only child, and both her parents died before I was born. For some reason on this particular day she started to recount the names of some of my Irish forebears. In that moment, I was hooked completely, and I haven’t really stopped since.

My father’s heritage is a mixture of English and German Jewish, giving me a nice variety of records to research alongside Ireland. I’ve also been helped enormously by the work of others who became addicted to genealogy before me. These include an English great-aunt and a German great-uncle who were both clearly as gripped as I now am. I dearly wish I could hang out with them now and show them my research! More recently I’ve worked closely with a third cousin who has been my generous guide to the Jewish records of Breslau.

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy

It has all been a bit of a whirlwind! I finally took an autosomal test in late 2016 after purchasing a kit on black Friday. My results arrived in January 2017, at which point I realized I had very little background knowledge and didn’t know what to expect. But I knew there was information in here that would help with my genealogical research, and I wanted to unlock it. I was ‘working’ freelance at the time, so I was able to indulge my obsession to the full.

I found myself on a quest for knowledge, and with so many DNA matches, I wanted to centralise my research into each of them. More specifically, I knew I shared segments on chromosome 4 and 7 with a specific cousin. Since we had identified our genealogical connection, I realised I could reasonably assume that I inherited these segments of DNA from one or other of our common ancestors.

I found out what I was doing had a name: chromosome mapping. This led to my creating the DNA Painter website so that I could do this in a way that pleased me. I subsequently made some other tools that have become popular with genealogists, including the shared cM tool and ‘What are the odds?’

What will you be talking about?

Many different techniques are available to help you investigate your DNA matches. In his talk, Jonny will show how the tools at DNA Painter can be used to help with a variety of research questions, helping you understand the pros and cons of each approach and make breakthroughs more quickly. 

Where can people get more information about you and the work you do?

Here are some relevant links ...

Mike Sager - Speaker Profile

Mike Sager
Title of Talk: The Tree of Mankind

Brief Biography: 
  • BS Biology and MS Zoology (Texas Tech University) 
  • Phylogenetics Analyst with FTDNA
  • My Master’s Thesis centered around the phylogenetics of Crocodilian mitochondria.

What do you do as a Day Job? 

Most of my work focuses on the construction of FTDNAs rapidly growing Y chromosome haplotree. My other duties include panel/primer design, BigY technical support and other Y chromosome product result analysis.

How did you get into genetic genealogy? 

During my time at University I focused my studies around phylogenetics. My master’s thesis studied the amount of mitochondrial variation among various populations of African Dwarf Crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis) throughout the western coast of Africa. 

Shortly after graduating I took a position with FamilyTreeDNA working on the emerging SNP Pack pipeline. At this point in time (early 2015) BigY was still relatively new to the community and I do not believe anyone really knew what was in store. 

At a young age I gravitated towards puzzles, patterns and numbers. I think these interests were what really got me hooked on YDNA. Piecing together a Tree of Mankind from various testing platforms was intriguing. My interest in YDNA piqued around this time when my results from the National Genographic Project came through. I really wanted to see where I fit in this tree. I found myself starting to venture more into BigY analysis in an effort to further the SNP pack products and keep them relevant. This grew over time to where I am today – looking at NGS results almost exclusively for the past several years. 

My interest has not waned with this saturation, but in fact has grown. I have built the largest Y chromosome haplotree in existence – and it’s a fascinating scenario where a consumer-based company outpaces academia. 

Even though I have analyzed ~40,000 BigYs, the penetration into the worlds population is extremely shallow! As a result of this, there are still fascinating new results coming in with each batch – new stories being told and new lines being documented.

What will you be talking about? 

We will explore the Y chromosome haplotree in a variety of ways; from how the tree is built to tips and tricks for understanding and interpreting, and how new samples are incorporated to some of the more notable results FTDNA has produced.  

Links & Resources

Monday, 13 January 2020

Peter McWilliam - Speaker Profile

Peter McWilliam
Presentation: A Tale of Triangulated Segments - DNA and early records connect families from Clones and North America

Membership: Clogher Historical Society, Creggan Historical Society and Irish Genealogical Research Society

Biographical Details: I grew up in Monaghan town but now live in Dublin. I received a Ph.D. in Genetics from Trinity College, Dublin in 1980 and subsequently worked in research in Munich, TCD and RCSI. In retirement I combine my former profession and my interest in local history with a particular interest in the application of DNA testing to genealogy.

How did you get into genealogy?

My initial involvement was probably sparked by the death of my father in 1989. My entire family moved from Monaghan to Dublin in 1970 when I was 18. Genealogy provided me with a way to keep connected with my childhood roots.

My great uncle, Rev John McWilliam was born in Monaghan in 1885 though he lived out his life as a Presbyterian minister in Scotland. He was an avid genealogist and in his later years wrote out his findings for the benefit of the family so one quarter of my genealogy was well covered.

I regret that I didn’t question my father more before his death so I made sure that I didn’t make the same mistake with my mother and she helped me work up my maternal lines.

Almost all my ancestry, certainly back to 1800 and probably even 1700, is from south Ulster (and predominantly Ulster Scots). Because of the spatial coherence of this genealogy, I have become increasingly interested in the local history of the region. In turn this has led me to work on a major source for 18th Century history – Memorials in the Registry of Deeds – and I have become a (minor) member of the Registry of Deeds Indexing project.

I am currently exploring the limits of autosomal testing back into the 18th century.

What about your involvement in Genetic Genealogy?

For some time I resisted the temptation to take a DNA test; with my professional background I knew I would get sucked in. I finally took my first test with Family Tree in 2013 though I subsequently took tests with Ancestry, 23andme and downloaded my raw DNA data to My Heritage and of course to Gedmatch.

Initially I got no relevant or useful matches though I did organise tests for a number of cousins to help define some ancestral lines. However I now have matches for most of my ancestral lines spread over the various testing companies.

I have always been aware of the 18th and 19th Century Ulster Scots migrations to North America. In fact an ancestor, Matthew Russell was master of the ships Newry and Robert sailing from Newry to New York and Philadelphia between 1763 and 1775 and advertising for Passengers, Redemptioners and Servants. However the penny hadn’t really dropped and I never really associated it with my own family since we had stayed in situ. It was only when I realised that most of my Family Tree matches (and subsequently Ancestry) came from America and many from southern states like the Carolinas’ that I really understood that these matches must have come from emigrant siblings of ancestors.

This has sparked an interest in the migration process – an interest intensified by the collaboration with Jeff Blakely described in this presentation.

So what will you be talking about?

Irish genealogy becomes increasingly difficult in the period between 1800 and 1830; in this collaborative project a combination of Clones, American and family records are used to identify a DNA test panel to address some genealogical puzzles in this time period.

Surviving records from this parish are explored to assess the possibilities for genealogical research in the 18th century.

Resources: Family Web site -