Monday, November 14, 2016
Returning Home, Bearing Gifts
Now that it has come to a close, it's been a fulfilling weekend. Not that I've spent the time traveling to favored vacation places like Colorado for a winter wonderland, or Florida for a last attempt at clinging to summer sunshine. I did spend the weekend traveling, but it wasn't exactly my idea of a dream getaway. It was a trip to Houston that captured my attention, and solely on account of an indoor activity: attending the Family Tree DNA conference put on for their volunteer group administrators.
I've already mentioned the speaker line-up in store for us this past weekend, and the featured speakers did not disappoint. Paired with those special topics were some new developments at the FTDNA website.
Following Michael Hammer's presentation on migration patterns in paleolithic and neolithic Europe and how recent discoveries may have turned our understanding of such on its head, CEO Bennett Greenspan had FTDNA staff dramatically (and figuratively) "flip the switch" to unveil a new readout for the "Family Finder" autosomal test on the FTDNA website. For those customers with European roots, you can now view a personalized breakdown of your heritage by clicking on the new label, "ancientOrigins." There, a brief explanation details the three categories of focus: hunter-gatherer, farmer, and metal age invader. A fourth category shows percentage of the individual's non-European heritage delineated by the Family Finder test.
Meanwhile, with the announcement of an upcoming change in the type of swab used to collect DNA samples, this holiday season's sales plans were launched, with yet another "flip of the switch," and are now live on the FTDNA website. Most encouraging is seeing the "Family Finder" (autosomal DNA) test price reduced to $59, making the test accessible to many more people—and, incidentally, helping boost match numbers for those who have previously tested. A weekly coupon offering (similar to last year's sale offering?) will bring additional savings to our email boxes.
Several other speakers provided practical tips and applications, suggestions for helpful resources, and other invaluable advice for neophyte project administrators like me. Apparently, I was in good company, for this year brought a record number of new project administrators to this annual Houston event. The networking was great, getting to meet FTDNA staff invaluable, and the event provided the big picture viewpoint I needed. I walked away—reluctantly, after lingering to chat afterwards—equipped with a substantial to-do list, faces to go with key names and the encouragement to keep in touch and provide feedback.
While there are numerous project managers who have been serving admirably in their volunteer capacity at FTDNA for years, the company welcomes ideas for new group projects and volunteers to start up those projects. With this year's many new attendees, it is evident that many more are catching the vision and developing new ways to explore the possibilities in genetic genealogy through this aspect of the company's offerings. Whether through surname projects, haplogroup projects or geographic projects such as my Perry County Ohio project, the group projects offerings at FTDNA are yet another opportunity to explore the many ways we connect in the human family.