DNA Down Under … an Event Like No Other!!

Welcome …

August has been a big month for me. As part of the organising team for Unlock the Past’s DNA Down Under roadshow, myself along with the others have been busy with the preparation and attending these events.

DNA Down Under truly was an event like no other in Australia. For a start it was an event that went to 6 Australian cities, 5 of which were full one-day events (Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Melboourne), and Sydney which was a non-stop 3-day event. It was also the first ‘DNA only’ genealogy conference to be held, and from the reaction, attendace, and comments – this is just what Australia needed. It catered to everyone from the “I haven’t even tested yet, what will DNA show me?” through to the very advanced genetic genealogy topics.

I made it to three venues: Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney – so I know it all, right? Ha … I’ll admit I didn’t get to a whole lot of talks even over the three venues, which is the downside of being an organiser and exhibitor. Still I did manage to get to some.

Anyway there’s no doubt about it, there was a vibe to DNA Down Under that I haven’t noticed with other Australian conferences apart from the last Congress. People were so excited, they were counting down the days – and I don’t believe that they were disappointed.

Baline Bettinger with the new edition of his book

Blaine Bettinger (aka The Genetic Genealogist), speaker, author, Facebook group convenor, DNA guru, and all round great guy – Blaine has an incredible knack to be able to teach everyone in a room the basics of DNA without losing them with scientific jargon. Not an easy task. There’s no doubt that DNA is a big topic, and I have sat through numerous DNA talks before, and I have seen many walk out at the end more confused. However these talks, not so. People were so excited because they now ‘get it’, and were so eager to learn more.

A quote I noted from the Blaine’s “Introduction to DNA” talk was “use DNA to confirm or support your research”. In otherwords DNA is not a replacement for traditional research, merely an added tool you can utilise, and a powerful one at that. He said that if a major new record set was to suddenly be discovered, genies would go crazy using it to add and verify their current data. That’s how you should think of DNA testing.



the best introduction to DNA talk … ever!


Blaine was just one of a fantastic group of presenters who taught people about the various aspects of DNA and genetic genealogy including: the myths of DNA testing, how to interpret your results, how to use GEDmatch and DNA Painter, finding matches, using DNA to solve old family mysteries, as well and genetic genealogy standards and ethics and more! There was even a few special talks in different states: Perth was lucky enough to have the Producer of ‘Every Family Has a Secret’ show talk about that, while Sydney had talks from the Police Forensic Department, along with other talks on adoption, genomics and more!

Apart from everyone being able to understand the basics of genetic genealogy and DNA testing, one other thing that struck me were the ethics talks. The topic wasn’t new to me as I’ve heard the amazing Judy G. Russell talk on the topic, but I think it was an eye-opener to so many, with so many facets to consider.
– we need to inform testers of the risks BEFORE they test
– we should get consent from testers in writing
– we cannot transfer data to a different site without their consent (ie. take an Ancestry DNA test, but then also upload those results to GEDmatch and/or MyHeritage DNA)
– if you are managing a test for someone, before testing ask if they want to know about any ‘surprises’ or ‘unexpected results’ if they show up
– respect the wishes of those who don’t wish to test
– respect the privacy of those who have tested (ie. don’t share their results with others)
and a whole heap more!!

Louise Coakley spoke on the topic at most of states, while Blaine covered it in Sydney. Thanks to both of them, many have gone away much wiser and now understand the potentional ethical and legal ramifications of what DNA testing can mean.

not suprising, this talk was packed!

The last talk of both Day 2 and Day 3 in Sydney were panel discussion. The first was on DNA Ethics and again this brought up lots of interesting (and thought provoking) questions (and answers) from the panelists.

The second panel discussion was on DNA: A Look at the Future … again very interesting, and as someone said, it’d be interesting to have that recorded and play it back in 1-2 years time, and see what has and hasn’t happened in the ever-changing DNA world.

the panel L-R: Michelle Patient, Helen Smith, Brad Argent, Blaine Bettinger and Louise Coakley. Chaired by Kerry Farmer.


One of the best parts of a genealogy conference is meeting friends – old and new. This happened to some degree at the one-day events. After an intese day of learning, some stayed and had dinner together, but it happened a lot more in Sydney with three days for people to catch up! And of course there was the geneablogger photo is Sydney.

Official geneablogger photo, DNA Down Under Sydney
Back Row L-R: Susie Zada, Janelle Collins, Fran Kitto, Melanie Dunstan, Chez Leggatt, Kerry Farmer
Middle Row L-R: Patsy Daly, Sue Wyatt, Heather Clarey, Shelley Crawford, Pauleen Cass, Veronica Williams, Fiona Tellesson, Margaret Moxon, Jennie Fairs, Shauna Hicks, Judy Lofthouse, Maggie Gaffney
Front Row L-R: Sharn White, Alona Tester, Helen Smith, Blaine Bettinger, Jill Ball, Lilian Magill
Other geneabloggers at DNA Down Under Sydney, but who missed the photo: Maureen Trotter, Michelle Patient, Jan Gow, Louise Coakley, Diane Smith, Jenny Joyce

You know you’ve been to a good conference when everyone leaves absolutely exhausted, but also so disappointed that it’s over. There’s no doubt that was so many of us at DNA Down Under – particualarly after Sydney. But you also know it’s been a conference when people are asking when’s the next one. To that one I say … maybe 2021 … so stay tuned!!

There’s so much more I can say about the conference, but plenty of other bloggers have written as well, so take a moment to read those if you get a chance. But here’s just a few photos from the conference.

DNA Down Under Brisbane [photo credit: Alan Phillips]

the crowd in Adelaide

and Sydney is READY. TO. GO!!

I got a front row seat

pic with my ‘big sis’ and roomy, Helen Smith

awsome to catch up with these lovely ladies
L-R: Shelley Crawford, little ol me, Jill Ball and Shauna Hicks

I finally got a photo with Blaine!!

Alan Phillips, the organiser, and man who made DNA Down Under happen
[photo credit: Dorothy Arms]

love these bags!  [photo credit: Dorothy Arms]

Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques Facebook Group – click here
The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy – click here
Shared Centimorgan tool – click here
International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) – click here


7 Responses to “DNA Down Under … an Event Like No Other!!”

  1. Pauleen Cass says:

    You hit the nail on the head Alona! It was a great event from the one-days to the three day intensive in Sydney. So much to learn provided by knowledgeable speakers. Thank you so much Team Unlock the Past for this amazing learning experience.

  2. Judy Webster says:

    Sincere thanks to you, Alan, Blaine and the entire team. It was a wonderful event. I’m glad I was able to at least say a quick Hello to you in Brisbane, Alona. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the dinner, and I couldn’t get to Sydney, as I had to go to North Queensland for family reasons.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Looking forward to the next one. Hopefully you will choose a different city for the 3 or 4 day event.

    • Alona says:

      Kathleen a survey will be going out soon asking for feedback on the event, and asking for suggestions for the next one (which will include various state options).

  4. Great report Alona. I also enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces in your photos.

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