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David Cosman

Great Britain SIG/
Hybrid Meetings

David Cosman


David grew up in Nottingham, England, a city in the East Midlands, 2 hours north of London. He came to the U.S. in 1976 to do a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health he joined the nascent biotechnology industry, coming to Seattle in 1983 to work for Immunex Corporation. There he worked on cloning genes that regulate the immune system in the hope that they could be turned into useful drugs.

When he isn’t involved with genealogy, David likes to spend his time in nature. He is an avid traveler and recently returned from a trip to South America including the Atacama Desert, glaciers and lakes in Patagonia and a brief cruise in the Straights of Magellan. Favorite past trips have been safaris to various countries in Southern and East Africa, and he is planning an Indian safari for next year. But David also enjoys the local nature scene and likes to ski and hike all over the West. He figures that this is the time in his life that he should experience the natural environments that are more difficult to reach and leave the cultural travels for later in life.

Genealogy and BIGS

His parents didn’t talk much about their own family backgrounds, and like most of us, young David wasn’t especially interested in that subject. Then, about five years ago, after both his parents were deceased, he was reviewing some of his father’s belongings and came across a collection of photographs that he had never seen. Even though names had been written on the back of the photos, David didn’t have the slightest idea who these people were. And that was a mystery he felt compelled to solve. Soon he was constructing his family tree on Shortly after that he heard about BIGS and decided he should investigate the organization. After attending a meeting or two he concluded that BIGS could help him learn what he needed to know in order to advance his family history.


After joining BIGS, as you might expect, David quickly became involved with the Great Britain Special Interest Group. Sometime later, he agreed to take on the leadership of the group, a position he continues to hold. David is also a member of the Hybrid Meeting Committee. But, many in our community might say that David’s most important contribution to BIGS has been his informal volunteerism. David is looked to for his willingness to help others with his knowledge of genealogical DNA, an aspect of genealogy that some find daunting, and one that David’s scientific background is particularly suited for.

David has served on other non-profit boards and continues working with two other organizations in that capacity. He prefers working within BIGS where volunteering provides him with a better opportunity to get to really know other members and their situations by being more directly involved. He would encourage others to volunteer because it helps the organization function, will spread the workload, and allow for a deeper engagement with other members.

A Surprising Fact

David didn’t know his ethnicity, and never really thought much about it, until, at about age 20, he made the accidental discovery that he was half Jewish. At that time, while still in college in England, he took a summer job in the U.S which financed a bus trip to see more of the United States. On that trip he visited a cousin of his father’s who told him more about the family’s background. Undoubtedly, another important and surprising piece of information to stimulate David’s eventual deep interest in genealogy.

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In Appreciation...

At our May TreeBuilder session at the Bainbridge Library, Larry Noedel and I had the pleasure of awarding Tressa Johnson, KRL Librarian, an honorary membership in BIGS, along with an engraved jade glass paperweight inscribed to her, with our gratitude. Tressa has been a valuable partner in planning and an enthusiastic supporter of BIGS for several years now in her role as adult services librarian here on Bainbridge. Thank you, Tressa!

~Andrea Hoskins

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Holly Ardinger


Where did you grow up, what led you to this area, and when did you arrive?

I was born in Iowa City and my family settled in Des Moines, IA when I was in 3rd grade. I moved back and forth between California and Iowa for college, medical school, internship, and residency training and along the way met my husband (a native Californian), had two sons (born in Iowa City, an apparent family nesting place) and a career in the Kansas City area before moving to Bainbridge Island in the fall of 2016 to be close to our two grandchildren who live in Seattle.

In your working life, what kind of things did you do?

I had an interesting and challenging career as a pediatric geneticist at a large children’s hospital. I evaluated infants and children for the purpose of diagnosing a genetic disorder. Working closely with genetic counselors and other specialists, we had to choose the correct genetic testing, review the results, and provide genetic counseling to families. Early on, there was very little genetic testing available so that diagnosis depended on recognizing patterns of differences in an individual that defined a particular disorder. Throughout my work life, I taught medical students, residents, and other physicians about genetics in medicine and towards the end of my career I worked as an editor for an online clinical genetics resource for health care professionals through the University of Washington (GeneReviews).

Describe your current living situation and free time interests other than genealogy.

I live on Bainbridge Island with my husband of 41 years, Robert (a retired pediatric cardiologist), and our eight-month-old Bernedoodle puppy, Abby, who is the littermate of our grandchildren’s dog. I like to do lots of walking, coffee drinking, reading (especially mystery novels) and hanging out with our grandchildren. My husband took up the banjo in retirement, so I listen to a lot of banjo music these days when he practices. As we are new to this region, I am trying to learn to identify the local birds, trees, and flowers. 

When and how did you get involved with genealogy and what has been most important to you?

As part of my work as a pediatric geneticist, I collected family history information and drew pedigrees for each patient. It dawned on me that I should do the same for my own family and in the early 1990s I began researching. I was lucky to be in Kansas City where there was a branch of the National Archives as well as three local genealogy libraries in which to search (this was before there were online records of any kind).  My husband and I were fortunate to have paternal grandmothers who were alive and willing to share lots of family information and photos to give me a good start. I love the thrill of the hunt for information and also trying to understand how the family structure or location may have influenced the decisions or pathways taken by individual members.

Tell us when and why you got involved with BIGS and a little about your history with the organization.

When we lived in the Kansas City area, I had tried a couple of times to get involved with the local genealogy group, but work hours and our sons’ school activities made that difficult to do with any regularity. Before we moved to BI, I had found BIGS online and once we were settled in, I joined right away.  I found that I was learning something from every speaker and especially enjoyed the Evening Discussion Group that met once a month to help solve each other’s mysteries or celebrate new findings. I liked the people I met and felt like I had found my “tribe”. I wanted to provide behind-the-scenes support as a way of giving back so volunteered to run for secretary.

What has been satisfying about being a board member?

I’ve enjoyed getting to know other board members and also being able to help BIGS stay as a useful and functional organization.  As a board member, I feel more connected to BIGS than I felt before being on the board.

What have you learned from being on the board?

I have learned that there are many ways to approach a challenge and that individuals bring all sorts of experience to the table which may be different than my own. Advanced knowledge of genealogy is definitely not a prerequisite to being on the board, but good humor and attention to detail are valuable attributes!

Tell us something about yourself that others might find surprising.

I am just finishing my second year of Italian language classes. Although I have no Italian heritage, I love the language (it sounds so musical to me) and hope to use it when we travel to Italy again (where I love the art, the food, and the people!)

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