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 ...

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