25 April 2012

Ancestry.com Acquires Archives.com

Ancestry.com Acquires Archives.com in a move that sure surprised me today.

If my calculations are right Archives.com lasted a little more than two years as a separate company before Ancestry.com bought them. That's less than the three-plus years Footnote.com lasted before Ancestry.com bought it. I'm starting to wonder how many of these companies really plan to be around for a while and how many just want to get big enough so Ancestry offers to buy them.

I wouldn't really mind Ancestry owning so many genealogical resources if they invested some of their millions into making the research experience better. A better user experience would make me stay with Ancestry happily instead of looking for an alternative and hoping that alternative becomes a true rival. To me, better does not mean more hits that do not match my search criteria. It doesn't have anything to do with little shaking leaves because I would never put my family tree on a commercial site. It means honoring the search criteria I specify. It means giving me the option to specify reasonable wildcards and extensions of the exact names, dates, and places I enter and HONORING those. I am much happier getting a few pertinent hits than 10,000 that barely come close to what I asked for.

Make the search experience better. Show me the same records every time I enter the same search criteria.

Then I will tell people how much I love the company instead of telling them about a love-hate relationship. While I am glad Ancestry has made the improvements they have made over the last few years, this is an area still needing more work. How about building up the technical departments and offer a better product customers can't do without?

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved

International DNA Day and the GET Conference

According to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_day), April 25 has been declared DNA Day by several groups. It has been celebrated on other dates in April in other years. On 25 April 1953, Nature published the famous Watson and Crick article based on their work on DNA.1 And let us not forget the contributions of Wilkins, Stokes, Wilson,2 and Rosalind Franklin and Gosling.3 I never heard the name Rosalind Franklin when I was in biology class (decades ago when the women mentioned in history and science classes were few and far between), but I learned about her a few years ago on a PBS special about the discovery of the double helix shape of DNA.

And on DNA Day 2012 the GET Conference is being held - Genomes, Environments, Traits. Live webcasts can be seen at http://www.getconference.org/GET2012/webcast.html. Tweets about the session can be seen at http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23GET2012.

The information covered is not related only to genetic genealogy. It is important for us as genealogists to understand more than the bare bones we need to compare DNA marker values. Every genealogist who uses DNA, especially those offering DNA analysis to clients, needs to understand what is going on in the regulatory world, in medical uses of genetics, in the Personal Genome Project, and in many other areas where new discoveries are made every day.

We can't read only the articles on DNA in genealogy magazines. We have to know what is happening in other areas if we want to be taken seriously.

J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick, "Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid," Nature 171 (April 1953, 4356): 737–738; online archives, Nature.com (http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/watsoncrick.pdf : accessed 25 April 2012).

M. H. F. Wilkins, A. R. Stokes, and H. R. Wilson "Molecular Structure of Deoxypentose Nucleic Acids," Nature 171 (April 1953): 738-740; online archives, Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/wilkins.pdf : accessed 25 April 2012).

Rosalind E. Franklin and R. G. Gosling, "Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate," Nature 171 (April 1953): 740–741; online archives, Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/franklingosling.pdf : accessed 25 April 2012).

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved

18 April 2012

DNA and Central Texas GS, Waco, March 26

On March 26 I did a DNA presentation for the Central Texas Genealogical Society (CTGS, http://ctgs.org/) in Waco, Texas. I was pleased to see so many in attendance — several who traveled some distance to hear the presentation. The growing interest in using DNA for genealogical purposes pleases me. Our knowledge of DNA has grown so much in the last ten to twelve years, but there is still so much more we can learn. Serious genealogists have embraced this technology. We are contributing to the knowledge base in so many ways. The first thing I say when giving a lecture on DNA is "test as much as you can afford, as soon as you can."

The "as soon as you can" part is because none of us know how much time we have in this life. Accidents or sudden illness can swoop in and take that person who holds the key to a genealogical problem. It is so much easier to ask a living person to provide a DNA sample and directions on how it can be used than it is to figure out how to handle this after someone is deceased. The family members who would need to give permission have to deal with grief and more pressing concerns than genealogy. (By the way, have you specified in your will how your DNA sample can be used after your death or who can make those decisions? You should.)

The "as much as you can afford" part is because not everyone can afford the most extensive DNA tests. While prices are much lower than twelve years ago, it is still a significant investment for many genealogists. If you can afford to test sixty-seven markers at one time it will be more economical than testing twenty-five, then twelve more, then thirty more in increments. But if you can only afford to test twenty-five markers, do it now and test more as finances allow. What we learn may not solve your genealogical problem immediately, but your grandkids may learn more from the test than what you learn today.

This was my initial message to CTGS, too. This is one of the best genealogical societies I have been involved with. They are a vibrant and active society, growing at a time when many other societies are struggling to survive. Two things this group does that keep their members active and interested are supporting their local library, the West Waco Library and Genealogy Center (http://www.waco-texas.com/cms-library/page.aspx?id=9), and getting members involved in small interest groups.

During the March 26 meeting formation of a DNA Interest Group was announced. I haven't heard yet how many are in the group, but there seemed to be a lot of interest in the announcement. I can't wait to hear how it goes and visit the group again. It made me sorry I don't live closer to Waco to be able to attend more often.

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved