12th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy

This past November the 11 through the 13th I had the opportunity to attend the 12th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. The conference was being hosted by Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and it was mainly for group administrators. As you may know I manage the We Are Cousins DNA Project and assumed that the conference could be beneficial to both my knowledge about DNA and the overall success of the project.

Registration was full but I was still added to the waiting list in case someone decided to cancel their spot. Lucky for me someone did and I got to register.


Mario Davila and I drove out of McAllen, Texas early Friday morning and took us about six hours driving time to get to Houston. We arrived about 8:00 pm, just in time to enjoy the social that night. We got our registration packet and then got a ticket for a beer (could have been any type of drink but I am a beer guy).

The following morning at 8:30 I got to listen to Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfield, the two founders of FTDNA, give their welcome speech. At 8:45 Michael Hammer presented on Ancient European DNA. The presentation was very informative and he provided an overview of the migration patterns that our ancestors took into Europe. He also was the one that presented FTDNA’s new feature called “Ancient European Origins”.

This are my percentages within this new feature.


I’ll go into depth in a future post so that you may get a better grasp about this new feature.

After Dr, Hammers presentation at 9:45 I listened to Bill Griffeth present his book “Stranger in my Genes”. Every attend got a copy of his book in our registration bags, I thought this was a very nice detail on the part of FTDNA. His story was very moving and inspiring.

At 11:00 am Janine Cloud presented on “Personal Privacy in Public Projects” and I know know what can and can not be shared at the We Are Cousins DNA Project.

FTDNA also hosted lunch and the idea of them doing this was so that we the attendees could net work with each other and their staff.

After lunch I attended the roundtables “Discussion on Privacy in Projects”. Our group was very lucky that Bennett Greenspan stepped in to help out with the tougher questions that the group had.  At the end it was very clear that they are very big on privacy and how group administrators can help. After the round tables I attended the breakout session by Jim Brewster “GAP 101 – The Basics”. I learned that I had my Project settings all wrong, good thing I attended, settings are all fixed now.

At 3:15 we heard Connie Bormans talk about “The Life Cycle of a Sample”, a presentation that provided an inside look as to what happens when they get a sample. Then at 4:00 I listened to Michael Sager present “Understanding SNP Packs”. Let me tell you this presentation was way over my head but I learned a ton of new stuff.

I was fortunate enough to have a beer with Bennett Greenspan at the social and talk a bit about the Crypto Jews of Nuevo Leon. He even recommended a book by a friend of his that Richard Santos “Silent Heritage”.


So this were the Saturday events. I woke up earlier on Sunday to pack all my belongings since we were going to check out on Sunday at mid day but still stay until the end of the last presentation. Breakfast was also hosted by FTDNA.

At 8:00 am I attended the “ISOGG Chapter Meeting” whose speaker was Katherine Borges and learned of the great resource that ISOGG is. Brad Larking provided a short “Surname Journal Update” but to be honest with you I can’t remember it. Afterward’s Bennet Greespan presented on “Making the Most of Family Finder’s Matchign Tool”. You can read about this on my previous post “How to Separate Your Maternal and Paternal Matches with FTDNA“.

Doron Behar presneted “Big Y”.  I finally learned about what the heck a Big Y test is and how it is helping citizen scientists with genealogy research.

At about 10:30 we heard Barbara Rae-Venter present “Cold Case Solved: Autosomal DNA Analysis Reveals Kidnapped Victim Lisa Jensen’s Real Identity”. This was an excellent presentation but the sheer amount that work that went into it was amazing. It also provided ideas that can be applied to my own research.

After lunch I attended the “Project Management” presentation by Gail Riddell. I learned basic management techniques for the project’s data. Then at 2:30 I attended “How to research Native American Ancestry with the Big-Y” by Marie Rundquist. This presentation was very fascinating and the possibilities are awesome but the only draw back is the cost of each Big-Y test.

At about 3:30 Elliot Greenspan presented updates that have taken in the background to help improve their websites data handling thus making it faster for us to interact with their website. He also talked about future things that they are playing with. It was just exciting to see that FTDNA is very vibrant and have a long term look on the future ahead.

Towards the very end Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfield revealed the holiday pricing for their tests thus leaving us with our mouths open. Their Family Finder test is only $59.00 the lowest it has ever been.  If interested in buying a kit, please use this link to help this website out: mexgenlink.com/dnaspecials .

I almost forgot to mention that I meet my favorite DNA author Emily D. Aulicino she is the author of “Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond“.


I was impressed by their commitment to have us network and network I did, I meet many great people and I am looking forward to attending next year.


  1. Moises, Thank you so much for attending the Conference. I have seen the Ancient Origins page and thought it could answer the question of why some of us have “Russian” ancestors. I look forward to hearing more about that. Also I have my list of about 60 “Ashkenazi/Sephardic” familyfinder matches I am thinking of emailing. Would it be helpful for them to reach out to FTDNA or the We Are Cousins DNA project? I think their Jewish DNA must be Sephardic.

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