Friday, June 14, 2013

The First Ever Independent Genetic Genealogy Conference was a Smashing Success!

It has been a week now since our history-making  SCGS/ISOGG Genetic Genealogy Conference in Burbank. It was a smashing success in every way. I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the speakers who generously came, often from all the way across the country, to share their knowledge and expertise with us. I was thrilled and honored by the enthusiastic response from all of the speakers to my invitations to participate.

Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Dr. Spencer Wells were our headliner speakers and they definitely lived up to their reputations (and more). We would have been extremely lucky to have even one of them attend. For me, having both accept my invitation to speak was nothing short of incredible!

Dr. Wells of National Geographic did a wonderful job encouraging all of us citizen scientists and recognizing our efforts. I had seen him speak before and always love how he makes the science so interesting and approachable, even for the beginners in the audience. Dr. Wells spent the day at the conference, attending presentations and interacting with the community. He even joined us for dinner and socialized with a group of genetic genealogists late into the night. He is definitely one of us!

The packed house for Spencer Wells' wonderful opening presentation

Professor Gates spoke at our luncheon and he was absolutely hilarious! I had no idea he would have us rolling in the aisles with laughter the way he did. If he ever decides that he wants a new career, stand-up comedy should be first on his list! He regaled us with tales of his own family history and his early ventures into television. The Professor was a fitting participant in our history-making day since his PBS shows were the first to introduce genetic genealogy into American homes. He also stuck around most of the day, attending presentations and socializing with the attendees. (I have to tell you that giving a presentation while looking out on the audience of Dr. Wells, Professor Gates, Dr. Mountain and many of my colleagues was quite intimidating!)

Professor Gates entertaining us

With these two celebrities, it might seem easy to forget our other speakers, except that they were all so outstanding in their own right! We had wonderful representation from the companies that our community depends on - Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, Dr. Joanna Mountain from 23andMe and Dr. Ken Chahine from AncestryDNA all gave presentations packed full of valuable information for genetic genealogists. Their speeches were standing room only. This was a very important part of the event to me. From the beginning of the planning process, one of my goals for the conference was to gather management from all of these companies in one place with the common purpose of promoting the education of the community. This was the very first time that this has happened and it will not be the last time.

Dr. Mountain explaining the finer points

Many of our leading genetic genealogists also generously gave of their time to ensure that our first conference would be a success. The informative presentations from Dr. Tim Janzen, Blaine Bettinger, Judy Russell, Dick Hill, Debbie Parker-Wayne, Alice Fairhurst, David Reynolds, Emily Aulicino and Katherine Borges were essential to this groundbreaking event. Many of these presentations were livestreamed and/or recorded so more people could benefit from these outstanding speeches. Dr. Kathy Johnston and Bonny Cook were also integral to the event and helped it to run as smoothly as it did. Additionally, all of the roundtable discussion leaders and the general volunteer efforts were very much appreciated by us all.

Blaine Bettinger sharing his knowledge

We had a total of 352 attendees, including speakers, which is a very good turnout for the first conference of this kind in the history of our field. We even had attendees from China, Australia and the UK, making this an international event! Thank you all for the tremendous support! The success of this inaugural event ensures that we can hold similar conferences in the future. This has proven that the time had indeed come for genetic genealogy to have its own annual conference. Thanks to SCGS for giving us this trial run, Paula Hinkel for her expertise in conference planning, which ensured a perfectly executed day, and Vicki Hilb for taking such good care of the speakers.

Next year we plan to hold the event on the East Coast, so those who could not make the long trip this year can participate in our second annual conference. I hope to again entice our wonderful Dr. Wells and Professor Gates to join us (they say they will!). We intend to hold a two day event next time in order to allow attendees to see more of the speakers and presentations. I will update everyone once we have dates and a location nailed down. I hope it will be as much fun as this one was!

Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of everyone since it was such a whirlwind day, but thanks to Tim Janzen, I have quite a few to share with you all.  (His are the clear ones. :-))

 CeCe and Professor Gates
Tim Janzen Presenting

Dick Hill telling his tale...

The Gates Luncheon
Confirming My Pedigree with DNA
What the Livestreaming looked like from our end

Does DNA Testing Work?

Socializing was fun with Blaine...
...and Debbie Parker-Wayne (with Cyndi Howells of "Cyndi's List" in the background)

I couldn't have asked for a better group of people with whom to share the day! There were so many familiar faces and friendly people that it was impossible to have the time to speak to everyone I wanted to. It was wonderful to be among people who share the same passion for genetic genealogy. Thank you to everyone who made the event so successful. It really was a dream come true!

Update: I received some great new photos from Katherine Borges which I have added, two below and one above in the section about Dr. Well's speech.

Adam, Spencer Wells, me, Lennart, Leo and Alice's infamous gold hat
At the Jamboree ISOGG booth, Back Row: Emily, Bonny, me, Kathy
Front Row: Linda and Katherine


  1. Thanks so much for all of the hard work you put in to making this happen. You were/are amazing!

  2. CeCe, this is a very nice recap of the day. It was wonderful, wasn't it! Thanks for having me.

    1. It really was a great time, Emily. I sure wish that I had pictures of you to include! I am missing so many people.
      Thank you so much for generously agreeing to come from Oregon to speak. :-)

    2. Aha! I just got one from Katherine. It has been added above. :-)

  3. Great work, CeCe! Of course, it's early but any thoughts on timing and location on the east coast for next year's conference?

  4. Thank YOU for all your efforts to Get This Done, CeCe. It wouldn't have happened without you.

  5. CeCe,

    You did a fabulous job of organizing this event. I was thrilled to be a part of it and can't wait to see you and the rest of this great genetic genealogy group at future events.

    But I so wish there was more time between Jamboree and IGHR so we could enjoy both without rushing from one to the other!

  6. Hi CeCe,

    It was great seeing you at the event in Burbank. Great job to you on the photos you shared with the wider genetic genealogy community online.

    Best wishes,
    Brad Larkin