Attended My First Virtual Conference: Success!

I learned much more than usual from my first completely online conference, the 2020 IAJGS conference on Jewish Genealogy. Perhaps because there were fewer distractions: no seat mates, no deciding on where to dine, no exhibit hall, and only doing one talk myself. Although it may have been because I had a purpose: to learn how to research my husband’s Polish roots. Or maybe with fewer talks, they were just very high quality ones, aside from a few technical glitches.

from the top right, me, my brother Shipley Munson (moderator), and Adam Brown (Y DNA expert)

Actually the online format is better in many ways. I can play and replay the talks easily and take screen shots for myself of key points. There were many more questions and answers plus people could chat both privately and publicly with each other, I also really like the many excellent on demand videos on specific topics which I am still working through.

I asked my friend Heather how it went for her and she said “I especially appreciate knowing the names of the audience while listening to talks. More valuable than being there in person and perhaps only meeting the person next to me. Makes it easier to figure out who has common interests.”

So what went badly? I personally never figured out the exhibit hall replacement. I missed the excitement of the live hall and seeing what was new from the various vendors. I would have loved a few small zoom style break-out sessions on common interests where I could see everyone’s faces while chatting. However, much to my surprise, I actually preferred being at a virtual conference.

Now for a little follow up on our Chat with the Jewish DNA Experts session.

First of all, I loved Adam’s slides and now I am convinced to test my husband’s E1a1 Y-DNA at family tree DNA for Adam’s project. The deep history of human migrations revealed in those Y SNPs fascinates me.

In my talk, I reused many slides from past presentations but perhaps I should have included my “G” slide, shown above, which is how I quickly make sense of cousin relationships, so I added it just now. My slides are always available online at

Also I did not mention that 4th and 5th cousins will not always share the large segments that you usually see with 2nds and 3rds. Plus I did not have the most current URL for Lara Diamond’s study of shared jewish DNA, since corrected, which is

I asked my brother, who was kind enough to moderate for us, what he got out of the talk followed by the Q&A. He said he understood and enjoyed the talk but many of the questions were over his head, as a DNA novice. However he thought that the following two points came across loud and clear:

  1. Get as many relatives to test as you can, 2nd cousins are really helpful.
  2. Closer family will share large segments.

Exactly! Thanks to all who came. Click here or the image below for the current slides.

My slide illustrating that ethnicity is not very useful for Ashkenazim but other questions may be answered

Source: Kitty Cooper’s Blog

Posted On: August 16, 2020 at 07:59PM