It is hard to believe that we are now at day 5 of the conference and that all that is left is the Friday morning sessions tomorrow. We have already started to say goodbye to our old and new friends who are leaving tonight. The time has flown by and so much has been done in so little time. We managed to get some photos taken of most of the UK-SIG people together, and we hope to post them and other pictures for people to see somewhere.
Today was a lot less strenuous than the first few days and has been much more relaxed. My first session today was on Google Earth and using it for genealogy. Jay Sage gave the talk and showed how Google Earth worked and also how it could be used to improve the presentation of genealogical location information. Some of the presentation was technical, well most of it was, but not that difficult we shouldn’t all be able to use it to some extent. The really interesting parts were about being able to overlay old maps onto Google Earth images and then to see how places had changed over time. This is really useful for finding the true locations of streets that had changed names or had been removed. It was possible to create and record a journey around the world or a country or a town based on life events. A person’s birth place, where they lived at different ages, where they married, where they died and where they were buried could be a timeline transformed into a journey. Images can be associated with different locations, and also text can be added. The possibilities are enormous with the technology, such as being able to clearly identify cemeteries or being able to work out the exact position where an old photo had been taken. It was even possible to associate Google Earth images with family tree software. I really want to have a go at this when we get back. Maybe, we will even be able to do some things with it on the JGSGB website to add a wow factor!
Our next activity was a meeting with Neville Lamdan of the International Institute fo Jewish Genealogy, who I wrote about earlier in the week. Jeanette and I had the chance to talk to Neville about the possible involvement of JGSGB and our members in an academic project. This was the Scottish Jewry project and helping with finding the England-based records needed for it. Neville will be providing us with the details of the project so that we can decide if we want to get involved. Jeanette and I think it is a really good project and hope to see JGSGB involved in it.
The next session was on Jewish DNA research and was a very popular session. When I got there a few minutes after the due starting time there were no seats and I had to sit on the floor. It was worth it to learn about the use of DNA as a tool to ascertain Jewish lineages. The first part was about research that had been done into the Cohen lineage. For those that don’t know, the Kohanim or Cohanim (depending on you spelling preference) are the priestly line descended from Aaron about 3,300 years ago. The DNA analysis of the Y chromosome of Kohanim published in 1997 showed that there was a definite difference between them and non-Kohanim going back at least 106 generations. This would take the lineage back between 2,500 and 3,100 years depending on the years per generation. The difference was seen in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi populations.
The DNA talk also confirmed that the Jews of the Diaspora were descended from middle-eastern populations going back over 2000 years ago. This was despite there being some non-Jewish DNA entering the lineage through marriage. Work on the Ashkenazi DNA lineage had shown that around half of the Ashkenazi population in the world were descended from four women who lived about 1000 years ago. This was a bottleneck in the Jewish population that had lead to a number of genetic diseases coming about. The talk confirmed some things that I had heard before but also provided new and interesting information. There had been tests on Ethiopian Jews, which showed that they did not have middle-east lineage, so they had probably adopted Judaism sometime in the past. The Lemba of southern Africa on the other hand had markers for middle-east descent.
Before I could go to lunch there was another meeting to go to. This was about a new committee of IAJGS to look at supporting struggling genealogy societies and also to get non-affiliated societies, historical societies and so on to join with IAJGS. We had a short chance to through around some ideas for supporting societies and also for increasing membership participation. Tomorrow we will learn if the IAJGS Board will approve the committee. I really feel that there has to be a support network for fellow societies that means they don’t feel they are on their own. This will also help us in JGSGB to get ideas for making sure we continue to grow and deliver relevant services to members. The meeting went on a little longer than expected, so that I arrived at lunch after Jeanette had eaten. Jeanette’s lunch was also a meeting about planning for the International Jewish Genealogy month in November.
My plans to attend an afternoon session were sidetracked by responding to e-mails, so I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with other people. We had arranged to have the UK people together briefly at 3.30 p.m. for a photo, which we did.
The final thing this afternoon was to help a fellow delegate to find the details of a family in England. He had some basic details about them up to the late 19th century but needed to find marriages and deaths for them. So, after a week at a genealogy conference, I finally got to do some. It felt really great to find the information on FreeBMD (http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/) and findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk/) and to be able to show how straightforward it could be.
Tonight, most people will be at the Gala Dinner but we had not booked beforehand so won’t be there. In the past we have avoided these dinners as we haven’t really known that many people who go to them. Maybe next time we might just go – especially as it will be French cuisine!
So after a rest we will be off out to eat at a local restaurant. Then one more morning to go.