Monday, 15 December 2014

The Top Ten Most Viewed Presentations of GGI2014 ... so far

We had a fine line-up of speaker’s at GGI2014 this year, and the viewing figures for the presentations on our YouTube channel reflect this. But which presentations proved the most popular with the viewing public? Read on ... all will be revealed.

But first, a look back on the organisation for this year's DNA Lectures, and the endeavours we undertook to raise the profile of genetic genealogy in Ireland and encourage more people to have their DNA tested. 

The Back to Our Past website and this GGI website both advertised the DNA Lecture schedule well in advance of the event so that people were able to choose what they wanted to see before arriving at the show. In addition, the Show Guide gave the DNA Lectures equal billing to the general genealogy lectures (organised by APGI, Association of Professional Genealogists of Ireland), which certainly raised the profile of DNA testing in the minds of the general public at this year’s event.

It was a very pleasant surprise to see that the speaker’s area had been given a lick of paint. As a result there was no need for a projection screen and we simply projected the image onto the wall, giving us a larger (and higher) picture and making it easier to see for the audience. The sound system and roving microphone worked fine and everyone was able to hear the speakers at the back, as well as questions and comments from the highly engaged audience. There were a few teething problems but these were easily sorted out. Now that I think of it, the door to the Speaker’s Area was a bit squeaky so I must remember to bring a can of oil next year!


Attendance at the lectures was up from 2013 – about 40 people per lecture, fairly consistently. Spencer Wells keynote address packed the Speakers Area to capacity (about 80 people). Some particularly eager audience members attended all three days of the lectures and did not move from their seats. In fact, several people told us they had only came to BTOP to attend the DNA Lectures and nothing else, including several from the US. If we'd known that in advance, we would have got them armchairs. The significant American presence was also reflected in the number of people who paid for their DNA tests in US dollars!

the GGI YouTube channel
All but two of the DNA Lectures were recorded and these were drip-fed onto the GGI YouTube channel over the four weeks following the conference, ensuring ongoing publicity for the event and FTDNA’s sponsorship of it.

Since the event, there have been over 8000 thousand hits on the YouTube channel and lots of complimentary comments on Facebook. Making the DNA Lectures available to view for free is seen as a wonderful service to the global genetic genealogy community, and the generosity of the speakers in making their talks publicly available is highly appreciated.

But which presentations have received the most hits so far? The Top Ten most watched videos (currently) of the presentations at GGI2014 are listed below. These viewing figures will change over time but already they give a very good indication of what is attracting popular attention, and this in turn helps the planning of future events. 

Brad Larkin’s excellent presentation on the Clans of Ireland and how DNA confirms or refutes the genealogies described in the Ancient Annals has proved particularly popular and reflects the interest that people have in connecting with their ancient Irish roots. The fact that DNA is beginning to identify clusters of people with surnames that correspond with those found in the ancient genealogies has rejuvenated interest in the Ancient Annals and presents new avenues of research. This can only help efforts to have the ancient genealogies digitised and made available online.

The tragic loss of all the 19th century Irish censuses in the fire at the Public Record Office in 1922 has meant that many people with Irish ancestry (in particular Americans, Canadians and Australians) hit a massive Brick Wall when trying to reconnect with their Irish ancestral homeland. Thus any methodology that can assist in finding out where one's Irish ancestors came from in Ireland has tremendous popular appeal. Tyrone's presentation from last year is still one of the most watched videos on our YouTube channel. There is a huge need to help the Irish diaspora trace their Irish roots. The increased uptake of DNA testing by an Irish audience, at events like Back to Our Past, will hopefully help break down some of these Brick Walls.



In third place, my own presentation on choosing the right DNA test to answer your specific genealogical conundrums shows that there will always be an audience of newbies who want to learn about the very basics. The first lecture each day at GGI2014 specifically addressed this need and myself, Debbie Kennett, and Katherine Borges discussed the three basic DNA tests and what they can do for you.

Daniel Crouch gave a fabulous talk about the People of the British Isles project. The fact that the genetic map of the UK can be subdivided into (at least) 17 distinct genetic clusters based on autosomal DNA analysis bodes well for the future of biogeographical analysis. It should be possible to compare our autosomal DNA against the POBI database within the next year or so and this will certainly help people identify likely areas where their ancestors once lived in the UK. In time, this will also be possible for those of Irish ancestry when the Irish DNA Atlas project completes its recruitment and joins the POBI database.



Emily Aulicino’s presentation on autosomal DNA comes in at fourth place. Over 50% of the DNA kits bought at this year's and last year's events were FTDNA’s Family Finder test. No wonder then that there is a great interest in autosomal DNA and how to interpret it. This is no mean feat (and we need more speakers on this subject) but Emily covered the topic well, nicely illustrating her talk with success stories from her own experience. This is the newest part of genetic genealogy and we still have a lot to learn, but as more people from Ireland take the test, the more Brick Walls will start to fall - on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cathy Swift (Director of Irish Studies at the University of Limerick) gave an excellent talk about Irish surnames, especially in relation to Limerick, the Dál gCais and Brian Boru, "the man who invented surnames in Ireland". There are lots of gems in Cathy's presentation - her overview of the multicultural influences on the development of surnames in and around Limerick is very illuminating. This was the first time Cathy was at the conference and she found it so engaging that she wants to forge closer links with the Irish genetic genealogy community. This is great news for everyone, and a fine example of the bridges that GGI is building between academia and citizen science.


Gerard Corcoran spoke about using DNA to map migrations of people into and out of Ireland. His talk ranged from ancient times right up to the present and took in all of the major comings and goings along the way. As SNP testing advances, the Y-DNA Haplotree will tells us a lot about these ancient migrations and the next 10 years should be a very exciting time in this regard.

Both myself and Rob Warthen gave talks on how to use DNA testing to help adoptees find their birth families. My presentation was followed by a very powerful 15 minute talk by Stephen Forrest, a Canadian adoptee, who used DNA in combination with traditional documentary research to successfully trace his birth family. Rob and his wife Sue gave us a very personal account of how they used DNA to trace Sue's birth family. Theirs was a journey with many ups and downs and the emotional impact on the audience was very palpable. Many adoptees are turning to DNA testing to help them in their quest to discover their birth family as, for many of them, it is the only means they have of finding out who they are and where they came from.



Lastly, John Cleary gave one of the best presentations I have ever had the pleasure of listening to on how to make the most out of your Y-DNA results. John’s succinct and erudite presentation fully captured the advantages of joining not only surname projects but haplogroup projects, geographic projects and heritage projects. I highly recommend that you give it a look.



Thank you, FTDNA, for sponsoring Genetic Genealogy Ireland yet again. And hearty congratulations to all the speakers who took part in this year’s event. You have enriched the field of genetic genealogy and raised the bar even higher for next year’s event. 

Roll on GGI2015 !

And a very Merry Christmas to all.


Maurice Gleeson
15th Dec 2014

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The GGI2014 Lectures ... on YouTube

After the Party is over … it still goes on!

Following the GGI2014 conference, 18 of the 20 presentations were posted on the GGI YouTube channel. The first presentation went up on Oct 20th, the day after the end of the conference, and videos of the other presentations were posted each weekday over the subsequent 3 weeks (ending on Nov 12th). One of the presentations (Lecture 18, Cynthia’s video on Reconstructing Irish-Caribbean Ancestry) was delayed due to technical difficulties and was posted on Nov 25th.

It is now 7 weeks since the first video was posted and the viewing figures are really quite incredible. In this relatively short space of time, they have been “viewed” over 8500 times for a total of 113,454 minutes - that’s 78 days and 18 hours. This is 3 times the viewing figures for the same period last year indicating that the second year of the conference appears to have been even more popular than the first.

Click to enlarge

Over 60% of the audience is US-based. This probably reflects the huge Irish diaspora in the States and the fact that so many Americans have Irish ancestry. However many of the topics have general appeal to a wide audience and this will also account for their popularity. The fact that we are able to bring these presentations to a much larger audience than just those who attended the 3-day event in Dublin is a fine example of how modern technology is making a huge impact on the practice of genealogy. Ten years ago this sort of thing would not have been possible.

Exactly 80% of the audience are over 45 years old (no surprise there) but the majority of viewers are male (56%). This in contrast to figures from last year where most viewers were female, which is what you would expect given that most genealogists are women. So what’s causing the men to come out of the woodwork all of a sudden? Was it this year's focus on the Irish clans (Brad Larkin)? Or Brian Boru (Cathy Swift)? Or the excellent presentation by Michelle Leonard on World War One?

Click to enlarge
Most of the Traffic Sources to the videos come from websites external to YouTube (24%), with 16% from the GGI YouTube channel page, and a surprising 11% as a “video suggestion” from YouTube itself - Thank You YouTube! It’s nice to see that the videos were deemed worthy of such a suggestion (with which, of course, I whole-heartedly agree).

Click to enlarge
The vast majority of videos were watched on the YouTube channel itself but 11% of the time they were viewed on other websites in which they had been “embedded” (such as this website).

Click to enlarge
Most of the time, the videos were watched on a computer (77%) but the popularity of tablets (such as the iPad) is clearly evident as 12% of views were on these devices. Even the humble mobile phone was a popular choice for viewing the videos (7.7%) … but some viewers went to the other extreme and chose to enjoy the presentations in the relative luxury of their living rooms watching it on TV (1.5%) … it's well for some!

Click to enlarge
Another interesting piece of information was the data relating to audience retention. This was the average length of time that people viewed each of the presentations and averaged just over 13 minutes (or 24%) per presentation, which I find relatively high. To me this suggests that most viewers were not just people who happened to come across these videos in their web browsing, but were people who targeted these videos for viewing and persisted in their attention for a considerable amount of time. Two of the presentations that held people’s attention the longest were Cathy Swift’s presentation (Emerging dynasties in a maritime world: hunting for Brian Boru’s genetic legacy) and Daniel Crouch (Genetic analysis of the People of the British Isles project). This is not at all surprising as both were excellent presentations.

Click to enlarge
The impact of these presentations has been much greater than the conference itself and reaches an audience that would otherwise be unable to attend the lectures and listen to the speakers. The YouTube channel has attracted 130 new subscribers over the past 7 weeks alone, so the customer base for these videos is growing, and hopefully will continue to do so. Posting videos is a very good way to engage audiences and spread the word about genetic genealogy. It would be great if more conference organisers would do this as it is an invaluable resource that serves to educate people long after the conference is over.

But what were the Top Ten videos? You’ll have to tune in next week for another exciting installment …

Maurice Gleeson
8th Dec 2014






Friday, 14 November 2014

Another successful year at Back to Our Past

This second year of Genetic Genealogy Ireland proved even more successful than the first, and a huge thank you has to go to FamilyTreeDNA for sponsoring the event yet again. Long may it continue! 

Due to the foundations that we laid down last year, publicity & promotion around the event was both easier and more effective this year. The Facebook campaign advertising the regular blog posts on this website resulted in 12,000 hits in the 4 weeks prior to the event. Ireland was the country with the most traffic after the US, indicating that the target audience was being reached. 

Back to Our Past is organised in conjunction with the Over 50’s Show and the Irish Coin & Stamp Fair – as a result BTOP benefits from people interested in attending all three shows in one. Although overall attendance at the show appeared to be down on last year, traffic to the FTDNA stand increased. 

Full credit goes to the ISOGG volunteers who helped out at the FTDNA stand including Derrell Oakley Teat, Katherine Borges, Linda Magellan, Nora Probasco, George Valko, Joss Ar Gall, Brian Swann, Debbie Kennett, and many more. 

The triage system worked very well indeed. ISOGG volunteers would mill around the stand and engage people in conversation, educating them about DNA, and answering any questions. This kept customers at the stand, created a buzz around the area, and attracted more people. It also meant that by the time the customers sat down at the table to be swabbed, they knew exactly what they wanted and could be processed quickly - this streamlined system improved efficiency and turnover. 


The stand was much improved on last year thanks to the addition of several posters on the basic aspects of DNA. These posters were well worth the investment - they attracted people to the stand, helped engage people in conversation, and generated discussion. They will remain in Dublin and can be used again for subsequent events. 


Once again there was two-way traffic between the stand and the lectures with the lectures driving people to buy DNA kits and volunteers on the stand directing interested people to find out more about DNA at the lectures. 

In total, 136 kits were sold over the 3 days of the event (approximately 40, 55, and 40 on Days 1, 2, and 3 respectively). This is up from 99 kits last year, an increase of 36%. The number of tests ordered also went up, from 113 to 148 (an increase of 32%). These figures are very similar to those from London when FTDNA first started attending Who Do You Think You Are back in 2009. Hopefully the number of customers testing in Dublin will continue to increase as they did in London (earlier this year 485 kits were sold at the WDYTYA event). 

The choice of tests bought by customers was very similar to last year. The Family Finder test was again the most popular, accounting for just over half of all tests. Y-DNA came in second place accounting for 40%, with mtDNA accounting for 9%. 



The Free DNA tests sponsored by Project Admins proved very popular and several customers availed of these. These Free DNA tests resulted in additional project members for the following surname projects: Cassidy, Dalton, Fitzgerald, Gough, Kennedy, Lloyd, Lyons (2) and Taylor. 

Both Debbie Kennett and Emily Aulicino had copies of their books for sale at the event and they all sold out – a further indication of the interest among the Irish in the use of DNA testing as an additional tool for Family Tree Research. Both Debbie and Emily have written excellent blog reports on the event and these can be seen by clicking on the links below. 

Debbie’s blog –
http://cruwys.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/back-to-our-past-and-genetic-genealogy.html

Emily’s blog –
http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/back-to-our-past-2014-october-17-19-rds.html

Thanks again to FamilyTreeDNA for supporting the genetic genealogy community - without you, none of this would have happened!









Thursday, 16 October 2014

Special low prices for DNA tests at BTOP

Everyone coming to Back to Our Past 2014 can get a DNA test for lower than the usual price. This is good news for anyone whose name is not on the list of Free DNA Tests.

FamilyTreeDNA have announced that they will have special discounts on the DNA tests being sold at Back to Our Past, which in fact is a double saving because buyers also save on the cost of postage and packaging.

The good news is that these special discounts apply to all three main DNA tests.

Y-DNA-37 ... €102 
The Y-DNA-37 test, which traces the fathers father's father's line, is useful for both deep and recent ancestry, and is the standard test for anyone interested in researching a specific surname within the family. It is usually $169 if bought directly off the website, but at BTOP it is on special offer at $129. In euro, that's about 102 euro instead of 133 euro. Anyone taking this test should also sign up to the appropriate surname project to get the most out of their Y-DNA results. And that part is completely free.

Family Finder ... €70
The Family Finder test is also at a special discount. This is the most popular test among customers and accounted for 50% of kits bought by the Irish public at last years event. The usual price is $99 (plus additional shipping costs) but at BTOP it is going for $89 (about 70 euro). This is the test that tells you your ethnic makeup and connects you with genetic cousins with whom you share a common ancestor within the last 6 generations or so - that will potentially take you back to your 4x great grandparents (all 64 of them) who probably lived some time between 1700 and 1750.

FMS ... €133

People interested in researching their mother's mother's mother's line can now get the Full Mitochondrial Sequence (FMS) test for $169 instead of the usual $199 (that's 133 euro instead of 157 euro). Like the Y-DNA test, this mitochondrial DNA test is useful for tracing both deep and recent ancestry. It will show you the "route" your ancestors took out of Africa 60,000 years ago and will give you clues as to where they settled along the way. It may even help you identify ancestral homelands.

And for those who simply want to dip their toe in the genetic water, the cheapest DNA tests are the Y-DNA-12 and the mtDNAplus. You can upgrade either of these tests at a later stage if you want, without having to give another sample. The Y-DNA-12 test is available for $59 (about 46 euro) and the mtDNAplus test for $69 (about 54 euro).

If you're not sure which DNA test is best for you, read our handy guide here (Which DNA test is best for you?), or ask one of the ISOGG volunteers at the FTDNA stand. And to learn more about how DNA testing is revolutionising the world of family tree research, come to the DNA Lectures at the show and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of genetic genealogy!





These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).









Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Migration of Man

Spencer Wells has been studying your oldest ancestors for more than 20 years. And he's coming to Dublin to tell you what he found.

Spencer is giving the Keynote Address at Genetic Genealogy Ireland - 3.30 pm, Sat 18th October 2014 at Back to Our Past at the RDS, Dublin.

The earliest humans originated in Africa, and eventually made their way out to the rest of the world. There were several migrations out of Africa over the millennia, but all of them died out. It is only the last exodus of humans that has survived, and we are the children of that exodus.

All human beings in existence today descend from one single man who lived in Africa about 330,000 years ago. So the genetic evidence tells us. And both archaeological and linguistic evidence supports the incredible story that is being revealed by our DNA. Spencer is one of the pioneers at the forefront of this genetic research into the incredible human journey.



TED Talk by Spencer Wells - the origins of human diversity

In his engrossing book and documentary "The Journey of Man", Spencer describes how humans migrated out of Africa, developing mutations in their DNA as they went. These mutations act as "markers" that allow us to track the route that they took. These mutations happen all the time, in all humans, and develop slowly over hundreds of years, serving as a "paper trail" that allows us to follow these markers back in time to their source.

The earliest groups of humans (known as  anatomically modern humans or homo sapiens sapiens) first emerged some 200,000 years ago. We find their present-day descendants among the San people of southern Africa. These people are key to the study of human migration and the development of human diversity. And because the various peoples in Africa are the oldest peoples on the earth, there is many times more genetic diversity within Africa than outside of it.

This documentary follows Spencer and his crew as they scour Africa, and the rest of the world, for indigenous people with deep roots in one place, asking for samples of DNA to test, in order to piece together our "big family" genetic tree. There are plenty of surprises along the way. It is particularly fascinating to see the diverse ways in which people and tribes react when Spencer returns with their DNA results and they discover what their DNA says about who they are and where they came from. 

Here is the entire documentary in thirteen parts.



Maurice Gleeson - Solving Adoption Mysteries in your Family Tree

Name - Maurice Gleeson

Member - ISOGG, GOONS, IGRS, GSI, APG

Day Job - psychiatrist, pharmaceutical physician, & genetic genealogist

Night Job - Organiser of Genetic Genealogy Ireland; Project Administrator for iCARASpearin Surname Project, & Irish mitochondrial DNA project

How did you get into genealogy?
My Dad has been "doing the family tree" on and off since I was a teenager. I remember him having long conversations with my granny on Sunday afternoons when we used to visit her in Clontarf. I think we still have the roll of engineering graph paper on which he drew his first version of the tree. It's up in the attic somewhere. I joined the fray about 8 years ago and quickly became addicted. I've been an avid genealogist ever since.

What about your involvement with genetic genealogy?
I first tested in 2008 and have since used DNA to trace one line of my family (the Spierin line) back to the 1600's in Limerick. I've also set up the iCARA project to help people with Irish surnames in the Caribbean find their Irish ancestral homeland and even distant cousins living in Ireland today. I'm also co-administrator of the Ireland mitochondrial DNA project. Now I speak on DNA and family tree research at genealogy meetings - this past year I have presented in London, Los Angeles, Washington, Glasgow, and Birr, Co. Offaly.

So what will you be talking about?
I have two presentations at this years conference. My first presentation is "Which DNA test is best for you?" and I will give a detailed description of the 3 main types of DNA test.That way you can decide for yourself which test might be best to help answer the questions you have relating to your own family tree research.

The second presentation is called "Solving Adoption Mysteries in your Family Tree". Many family trees have an individual who was adopted. It might be the person researching the tree, one of their parents, or one of their grandparents. There may be documentary evidence, there may not. In both cases, DNA testing can answer questions that the documentary evidence has failed to address. And in some instances, DNA testing can circumvent the need for documentary evidence entirely. There is a full explanation of how this can be done on a dedicated page on the GGI website here - Solving Adoption Mysteries in your Family Tree

What DNA tests will be discussed?
All DNA tests will be discussed in both presentations ... Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA.

Where can people get more information about you or your topic?
For more information just click on the links below:
  • The ISOGG wiki is a great place to get general information about DNA testing
  • For those researching their Irish family trees, there is a useful guide on the GGI website here - Finding your Irish Ancestors



These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).



You can watch a video of the presentation by simply clicking on the image below. To watch it in Full Screen, click on the "square" icon in the bottom right of the screen.










Sunday, 12 October 2014

Michelle Leonard ... Identifying the Fallen Soldiers of WW1 - DNA on the battlefield

Name - Michelle Leonard
             University of Strathclyde

Qualifications - MA in Modern History & English (The University of St Andrews) and PGCert in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies (The University of Strathclyde)

Member - Society of Genealogists

Day Job - Genealogist, Freelance Researcher, Historian (plus my less relevant jobs - I also work for a cycle development charity as a cycle trainer and ride leader, I am one of the organisers of Glasgow's women's cycling group Belles on Bikes and I am a political campaigner).

Night Job - I've got enough day jobs I think! I do sing in an alternative community choir sometimes though.

How did you get into genealogy?
I have been "into" genealogy since I was a teenager and finding a census return entry meant scrolling through microfiche in the Mitchell Library for 3 days! I have been interested in my family history for as long as I can remember and I believe this stems from the fact that my paternal grandparents died long before I was born and my maternal grandparents when I was a baby. Since I grew up without these connections I was always curious about them and those who came before them. My passion for the process of genealogy, however, began when I found a box of 19th and early 20th century family photographs as a teenager and was desperate to put names to all of the familiar yet unfamiliar faces. There were also a couple of family mysteries that I became aware of at that time that I wanted to solve so I began actively researching my family tree via the microfiche and paper records in the Mitchell Library and have been hooked ever since. I love the challenge of putting a tree together, the process of following every lead and the satisfaction gained by solving mysteries along the way.

My lineage is predominantly Scottish on my maternal side and chiefly Irish on my paternal side but I have many branches that veer off overseas to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. I worked on my own tree for a number of years (and still do when I can which isn't often - the curse of the genealogist is that you end up spending more time on other people's trees than your own!) before helping friends, family and those looking for assistance with brick walls online via several forums and websites especially RAOGK to whom I volunteered my time and expertise. This has led to virtual genealogy friendships with people in many different countries.

What about your involvement with genetic genealogy?
My only real involvement with genetic genealogy is via the Fromelles Project and having to learn about which relatives would be appropriate DNA donors. I have also studied genetic genealogy briefly as part of my postgraduate course and had my own paternal line tested via Family Tree DNA. I find the concept and results fascinating and feel this is a field that will grow and grow in the coming years.

So what will you be talking about?
I will be talking about the Fromelles Genealogy Project.

In May 2008 250 WWI soldiers were discovered in a mass grave in France. This led to the instigation of a ground-breaking project to discover who these men were via DNA testing, anthropological study and genealogical research. I have worked on the Project tracing DNA-appropriate donors since that time and was the genealogical consultant for the official Fromelles documentary made to coincide with the opening of the cemetery in 2010. This presentation will talk about the project and specifically how genealogical work has so far helped to identify 144 of those men and give them named graves in the first military cemetery to be built in France in over 50 years. It will tell the story of the battle, the fight to discover the mass grave, the discovery itself and the questions it threw up, the DNA testing program, how DNA-appropriate relatives were traced, the process that led to the identifications and the individual stories of some of the men.

What DNA tests will be discussed?
I'll be talking about how Y-DNA and mtDNA was used in the project to help identify the soldiers.

Where can people get more information about you or your topic?

My LinkedIn age - https://www.linkedin.com/pub/michelle-leonard/37/17b/9ab

A Channel 4 documentary about the project - http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=27f_1279846095

The story of Fromelles as published in issue 44 of Wartime - http://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/44/




These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).


You can watch a video of the presentation by simply clicking on the image below. To watch it in Full Screen, click on the "square" icon in the bottom right of the screen.