RootsTech, Here I Come!!

Yes, it’s true.

Nothing like last minute decisions. Truthfully, RootsTech was an on-again off-again proposition for me, until a close friend told me that she won’t be needing her hotel room next door to the conference center. Now, her reservation is mine and my husband is booking flights.

It’s off to the race!

I’ve never attended RootsTech before. I’m not particularly fond of large conferences or large crowds, so RootsTech has never been a draw for me. Furthermore, I like the ancestor catch far more than the chase. For me, the chase is just a necessity and I don’t particularly enjoy that part.

I know you’re probably all laughing at me, because I do so much chasing. C’est la vie!

However, DNA changed all of that for me. I LOVE the DNA part of the chase. It speaks to the pushing-the-frontier-of-science nerdy part of my soul. I think I received the frontier-pushing gene from my ancestors.

DNA is such an incredibly personal thing to inherit. I can track pieces of it far back in time to ancestors I never knew and certainly don’t possess anything tangible that came from them – except for their DNA.

Not only that, but the same DNA is sharable, and shared, with many cousins who descended from those same ancestors. Pieces of my flesh and blood who lived and loved so long ago connecting those of us who live today. Meeting those myriad cousins, because of and through the DNA gifted to us by those very same ancestors – pure bliss!

Seriously, until the past few years, who could say they were introduced by their ancestors who were born in the 1600s or 1700s or even earlier with Y and mitochondrial DNA testing? DNA testing does that today.

Every. Single. Day.

As DNA testing has progressed, so have the vendors, tools and products that leverage our discoveries.

So, yes, the lure of genetics, genealogy and technology, all in one place is what has finally propelled me to RootsTech.

Are you attending? I’d love to meet you. Please, please find me, say howdy and introduce yourself. If we’re cousins, let me know. You can NEVER have too many cousins!

Here’s my picture, taken at the Dublin GGI Conference.  At RootsTech, I’ll be wearing some piece of DNA clothing every day.  And yes, I DO have enough DNA clothes to wear something different every day of the conference!

You can also recognize me by my signature “wisdom blonde” hair or maybe my special DNA bag. I can’t wait to meet you.

I’ll be blogging and covering the conference “from the floor,” your embedded DNA Reporter😊

Hope to see you there – but if you can’t attend, watch the free live-streamed sessions and of course, DNA-explained articles for news.

Dublin – Heartbeat of the Emerald Isle

In the fall of 2017, I was privileged to spend 10 days in Dublin. I arrived a few days prior to my speaking engagement at Genetic Genealogy Ireland and planned to spend 4 days seeing Ireland, the home of my ancestors. Aside from losing a day to Hurricane Ophelia, I managed to stay on schedule, at least somewhat, with my preplanned tour schedule with my trusty tour guide, Brian O’Reilly.

Because of Hurricane Ophelia, no place, literally, was open on Monday and Tuesday was iffy and very wet. A hurricane is not a storm that ends shortly, but peters out as it moves on, which can take days. A few days later, the remains of Hurricane Brian (not to be confused with tour guide Brian) arrived too, but it was more like a normal (very) windy storm.

Therefore, I spent more time in Dublin itself than I had anticipated since a 12 hour roundtrip drive to either the Cliffs of Moher or the Giant’s Causeway didn’t seem terribly attractive in that weather.

Following the Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference, I spent another day in Dublin with a group of ISOGG volunteers and speakers. These are the folks who make this conference happen.

On our Monday ISOGG “day out”, among other places, we visited Trinity College at the University of Dublin including the Book of Kells and Dr. Dan Bradley’s ancient DNA lab before moving on to UCD (University College Dublin) where we visited a second ancient DNA facility, enjoying both tours and lectures .

I am combining these various adventures scattered over several days into one article.

I don’t know of any specific ancestors that lived in or near Dublin, but Dublin is a medieval city, established officially in 988, with humans having inhabited the area since before 140 AD when Ptolemy provided what is believed to be the earliest reference to a settlement where Dublin would one day be located.

In 841, the Vikings invaded followed by the Norman invasion of 1169, so needless to say, Dublin is a mixture of people that arrived from elsewhere.

Even the “native Irish” were a mixture beginning with Neolithic hunter-gatherers that settled and built the massive passage mounds more than 5000 years ago. Their descendants would have assimilated later with Celts who arrived about 500 BC as well as Anglo-Saxons who announced their arrival with a raid in 684 AD.

Dublin was the center of commerce and trade for eastern Ireland. If your ancestors lived anyplace in the area, they may well have traded here or transacted other kinds of business. One way or another, what happened in Dublin affected all of Ireland.

Ireland isn’t a large island. At its widest point, it’s 174 miles wide, 302 miles north to south and roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Indiana.

The Irish have a very different perspective of distance than people from the US.

Ireland may be small, but they have a rich and sometimes violent history – which makes genealogy research both enthralling and challenging. They also have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, not to mention historical sites.

To preserve their heritage, Ireland has established the National Museum, which is actually a series of free museums, including The Museum of Archaeology where I discovered several archaeological and historical treasures.

National Museum

The National Museum is chocked full of wonderful items from throughout Ireland’s history.

For me, the most interesting artifacts were the bog bodies, the flint mace head excavated at Knowth and the Tara Brooch.

The front of the this carved flint mace head looks eerily like a face.

The side of the mace head had beautiful spirals, echoing the many spirals carved into the rocks at both Knowth and New Grange.

The bog bodies are in an incredible state of preservation, including hair. Much of Ireland, meaning the part not mountainous, is boggy.

Old Crogham Man’s leather armband survived.

This individual is nearly complete.

Unfortunately, DNA has not been able to be recovered from the bog bodies due to the conditions in the bog.

The Tara Brooch, in an incredible state of preservation, was found on a beach by schoolchildren and is believed by some, due to its incredible artistry, to have belonged to the High Kings of Ireland.

Just the day prior, I visited Tara, so finding the brooch in the museum was icing on the cake.

Dublina

I enjoyed visiting Dublina, a recreated medieval village of Dublin adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral. This exhibit would be excellent for children, complete with an archaeology lab and re-enactors demonstrating various parts of medieval life.

The information at Dublina and at the National Museum is duplicated somewhat, but presented differently. I actually preferred the Dublina approach, as the display cards in the Museum were wall-mounted with small print, not displayed in the cases with the artifacts, so the overall experience in Dublina was more enjoyable. Of course, the National Museum has most of the national treasures. Two unique places, both worth a visit.

In 841, the Vikings invaded Dublin, adding their DNA to the Celts and the original Neolithic people who had already settled in Ireland millennia before.

Can you write your name in the runic language?

I cheated and you can too, at this PBS link.

Vikings both owned and sold slaves, which might explain how Viking mitochondrial DNA came to be found in the British Isles.

Even the Vikings were concerned about toilet paper. Maybe it’s in their DNA, given Dublin’s fascination with toilet paper. You’ll see what I mean later!

In medieval Dublin, life was often short, with an average life expectancy of only 30 years. As you might imagine, sanitation in cities was problematic.

Guinness Storehouse

No trip to Dublin is complete without a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, a very popular tourist attraction. This wasn’t my favorite, but I can see why it is for many people.

While the Guinness Storehouse is now a museum, of sorts, Guinness brewing continues among a series of interconnected buildings. The Guinness family owns most of this portion of Dublin and has a 9000 year lease, issued in 1759 to Arthur Guinness who then established the brewery at St. James Gate. And no, that’s not a typo – it’s really 9000.

The Guinness Storehouse tour is self-guided, taking you through the history of beer-making in general, and of Guinness in particular.

I didn’t know that the word beer originated in the Anglo-Saxon language.

Nor had I ever seen hops before. In one area, the flavors in the beer are discussed and you can sniff each one, before tasting the Guinness itself. I always enjoy the science portions of tours.

The best part of the Guinness Storehouse is the top floor Gravity Bar with a panoramic view of all of Dublin where you’re also served a…wait for it…a Guinness. It wasn’t crowded when I visited, but be aware that the lines are often long and the top floor is glassed in and VERY HOT in the summer. Air conditioning is uncommon in Ireland.

The panoramic view is absolutely amazing.

The Wicklow Mountains are the source for the water used to brew Guinness.

Soda Bread

If you thought that potatoes were the staple food of Ireland, it’s not. It’s really soda bread, which is served with just about everything. You can always find soda bread along with tea. Sometimes soda bread, “just like grandma used to make,” is enjoyed with nothing, sometimes with butter and often with butter and some kind of jam.

Soda bread and tea just make everything better. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

Doors

Dublin is the city of colorful doors.

Because much of Dublin is historic in nature, owners can change very little of the outside façade, but they can customize their door color, and they do.

When you don’t have a large canvas, you have to be creative in a small space.

There’s an entire store devoted to door jewelry.

Door of the home of the Guinness family, founders of the Guinness empire.

Dubliners tell you about their doors, and stop so you can see either outstanding or remarkable doors, or the doors of the houses of famous people.

Pubs

Dublin is also a city of pubs.

Pubs are generally neighborhood establishments, local places, where people gather to eat, drink and socialize. After all, these people are Irish.

My flight arrived at 9 in the morning, on Sunday, and the hotel couldn’t get me into a room for another 6 hours. What was I to do? Take the hop-on-hop-off tour, of course. These tours are fun. You can stay on the bus and listen to the guide, get off and back onto a later bus, or whatever combination suits your fancy.

As luck would have it, the bus stayed in the starting location for about 40 minutes, parked immediately outside of a pub, Madigans. I know. I know. What luck.

I was hungry and needed to find a restroom, so I decided to have bowl of soup. With soda bread, of course.

Hence, I was introduced to the Irish pub in the nicest of ways. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to return for the traditional Irish music or the Irish step dancing at the Arlington Hotel, recommended by Brian.

Pubs are literally everyplace, on every corner, and often in-between too.

Think you might want to drive in Ireland? Think again! Look at those road signs. Merges, roundabouts and unusual traffic patterns are everyplace. And remember, the cars are coming from the opposite direction you expect when crossing the street.

If you can make it across the street, there’s a pub on the corner where you can take refuge!

Another historic pub that’s also a B&B, the Ferryman.  If crossing the street is dangerous sober, think about it with a couple Guinness under your belt. Aye, better to stay in the pub or at the B&B!!!

Pub grub is the best.

The food in every pub is unique and I failed miserably in my attempts to sample it all!

Some pubs are named after owners, former owners or something in the neighborhood. This pub, The Horse Show House, is located across from the Royal Dublin Society, an area devoted to rugby.

This small village pub in the Wicklow Mountains was extremely unique with its painted ceiling.

And then, some pubs are portable.

I so wanted to ask, but then…perhaps some things are best left unknown!

Toilet Paper

Dubliners are obsessed with toilet paper. Seriously. Remember the Vikings and their moss – I think that trait has descended to the current day population.

In particular, Dubliners are obsessed with getting a good price on toilet paper – to the point that there are pop-up toilet paper markets along the street and on corners. Thankfully I had Brian to explain this phenomenon to me, because I would have never figured it out otherwise.

Brian says that a Dubliner will save $5 on toilet paper and then go the pub and spend $100 the same night bragging about what a good deal he got on toilet paper. We saw a man carrying a large package of TP on his shoulder into the bar across the street. I kid you not.

I love experiencing the culture of different places. I mean, I can hear the negotiations now.

“But that’s only one ply and me fingers break through…”

“Well, yes, I could give it for Christmas, but only for half the price of the Charmin over there….”

Bridges

Old, new, large or small, Dublin has them all. Like all early settlements, Dublin was founded on a river which continues to be the city center. I was lucky to be graced with a beautiful rainbow as we crossed this bridge.

Even the older bridges are beautiful, but one of Dublin’s bridges is famous and shaped like a harp.

The harp is the much beloved national emblem of Ireland. The Brian Boru harp, having nothing to do with Brian Boru, bearing the O’Neill coat of arms and dating from the 14th or 15th century is displayed in the Long Room at Trinity College.

By Marshall Henrie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32781748

In 2009,  a harp shaped bridge was designed for central Dublin in honor of Irish writer and poet, Samuel Beckett. Along with the contemporary design came unwelcome traffic restrictions which inspired an unpublishable Irish ditty about the bridge and inconvenience introduced by the bridge in a high-traffic and already congested area. Let’s just say that some of the words rhyme with Beckett and in Ireland, words are pronounced differently. For example, an equivalent sounding word for Beckett in the US would be Buckett.

You can view the bridge opening ceremony in 2014 in this You Tube video as water through firehoses “plays” the bridge cables like harp strings. It’s truly amazing and probably one of the most unique bridges on the planet.

Through the harp bridge, you can see Dublin’s new conference center which looks like it’s a bit tipsy and had one too many Guinnesses – a fate that has befallen more than one Irishman!

Royal Dublin Society

Genetic Genealogy Ireland was held at the Royal Dublin Society, known as the RDS, for three full days.

The schedule was chocked full of great speakers. The sessions were live streamed and can be seen in the Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Ireland. The sessions, except for a couple that can’t be posted pending the publication of a paper, will all be available on Genetic Genealogy Ireland’s YouTube channel thanks to Maurice Gleeson. In the meantime, you can watch the sessions from the last 4 years. What a wonderful resource.

ISOGG volunteer, Emily Aulicino, at left, assists a visitor with which Family Tree DNA tests would be best to purchase for which relatives. Emily also had her book, Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond available for purchase.

My two presentations went very well, even with a challenging environment in terms of the acoustics in the facility.

If you’re a member of the Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Ireland, you can see Autosomal Tips and Tools at Family Tree DNA and the second presentation, Autosomal DNA Through the Generations – but I’d actually suggest that you might want to wait until the Genetic Genealogy Ireland YouTube videos are released, because the audio will be better – or I surely hope so.

However, I just have to share something fun with you. This is me, just before my session, Autosomal DNA Through the Generations, where I compare the DNA of my granddaughters through three ancestral generations – including 3 of 4 grandparents and one great-grandparent. (Very big thank you to my family and my daughter-in-law’s family!)

Do you spot anything remarkable?  Hint – the dress. Now do you see it? If not, I’ll have an upcoming lighthearted article. Yes, yes, I know I’m very much a geek at heart!

Let’s take a quick look at a couple slides from other presentations that I found quite interesting.  As you probably know, I’m fascinated by ancient DNA, and we were extremely fortunate to have two presentations by scientists who work with ancient DNA in the lab.

I particularly enjoyed the ancient DNA presentations. Here, Dr. Eppie Jones from Cambridge University and Trinity College discusses Ancient DNA and the Genetic History of Europeans.

Dr. Dan Bradley from Trinity discussing Prehistoric Genomics at the Atlantic Edge.

You can see a few more photos of Genetic Genealogy Ireland, courtesy of Gerard Corceran, at this link.

I was so looking forward to visiting both Trinity College and UCD, including the genetics labs, so let’s go!!!

Trinity College, University of Dublin

One of the highlights of my visit was Trinity College, founded in 1592, and in particular, the ancient DNA lab. The wooden gate, above, opens into the plaza, below.

First, we had a delightful tour of the University of Dublin campus by this delightful philosophy professor, Joseph O. Gorman, sporting a charming green waistcoat making him appear something of a leprechaun.

If Joseph Gorman had been my prof, I might have paid more attention. He was excellent, a font of knowledge with a way of making everything interesting.

Here, the group of volunteers and speakers gathers, listening in rapt attention in the plaza inside the college gates. The wooden doored gate through which we entered is in the background, just to the left of professor Gorman’s head. The various college buildings on the campus are entirely inside the area walled by buildings and surround the plaza, an area once the location of the Priory of All Hallows where monks resided.

If you would like to view some very interesting videos about Trinity College and the historical buildings, click here and here for a lovely YouTube introduction including the charming Irish brogue.

Come on, let’s walk around the campus!

If it’s called a buttery, it can’t be bad. I love campuses with history!

The Trinity campus is just beautiful, with gardens polka dotted from place to place like living jewels.

Along with old trees growing in what was the cemetery from the monastery originally located here.

I could hardly wait to see the Book of Kells, created about 800 AD and eventually stored in the monastery in Kells, not far from Dublin and from where the book received its name, up close and personal.

Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed, although I certainly understand why.

On the second floor, above the Book of Kells exhibit on the main floor, we find is the infamous Trinity Library Long Room. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such an incredibly beautiful library.

In the library long room, this beautiful spiral staircase is still in use.

By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42693401

This amazing room is full of artifacts as well, some of them books, some busts and  just this incredible room itself.  Just look at that ceiling!

Taken from across the green, the old Trinity Library building is actually very long, unheated and uncooled. Translated, it is very hot and very cold, depending on the time of year. The actual “long room” is on the second floor, with the Book of Kells exhibit on the bottom floor.

Past more gardens and on to the Smurfit Institute of Genetics.

Yes, I think this building should be blue!

Of course. Whoever thought we’d come so far from pea pods in 1866 to the discovery of DNA in 1953 and on to the human genome being sequenced in 2003.  And today, we visit the ancient DNA lab.

We didn’t get any closer than the hallway. They aren’t being rude.  Contamination is the bane of genetics, and especially ancient genetic extraction when samples are already contaminated and scientists have so little to work with in the first place.

However, we could peek in.

I think this is the neatest lab I’ve ever seen.

Irish humor is everyplace.

Ok, I can’t leave my trolley in the plants, but you didn’t say anything about my mops.

Not the ancient DNA lab where chances are few and mistakes are catastrophic, but geneticists in training in a more traditional lab.

James Watson, greeting students every day at the top of the stairs. Just think, this field is new enough that I bet Dr. Bradley knows James Watson.

Dr. Dan Bradley explaining how genetic research was done with gel plates when he first began. I think these are antiques now!

Dan explaining the discovery that the Petrous bone in the skull contains by far the best preserved DNA in ancient specimens. This groundbreaking research came out of this lab. The skull that Dr. Bradley is holding is a plastic model, not a real skull.

Here, a bovine Petrous bone with Dr. Bradley in the background.

Dr. Eppie Jones, the face of the future in genetics. All I can say is that I hope bright young women stay in STEM focused education and sit up and take notice of Eppie’s accomplishments!

On the way from Trinity to UCD (University College Dublin), we passed this wall art. DNA is finally mainstream.

You can view additional photos of Trinity, courtesy Gerard Corcoran, here.

University College Dublin (UCD)

UCD has an ancient genetics lab too.

The ancient DNA lab is vacant today.

We were treated to a presentation about the analysis of DNA, ancient and otherwise. With the advances in both DNA extraction and the analysis of those results, the science of genetics has now morphed into two segments, the actual technical part of the extraction and processing, and the subsequent analysis.

The Insight Center for Data Analytics specializes in the analysis process.

Now that we have the ability to gather huge amounts of genetic information, what can we do with the data, how we advance science and at the same time, make the results understandable?

In the genetics lab at UCD.

New, super fast, super expensive sequencing machine.

Dr. Sean Ennis with the Genomics Medicine Ireland project discussing the Irish Genome initiative. How are the Irish alike and different from others? What defines the Irish, genetically?

The Irish are 95% lactose tolerant, reaching nearly 100% in Western Ireland.

What more can we learn in the future? The project is undertaking sampling DNA of the Irish who have a disease and those who are healthy as well.

Genetic pathways, art in the UCD genetics building.

You can view additional (lovely) photos of UCD at this link, courtesy of Gerard Corcoran who arranged the day’s festivities.

The Irish Folklore Collection

While UCD is a tremendously modern research facility, that’s not all it has to offer. The library hosts the Irish Folklore Collection which has recently undertaken to digitize oral histories recorded in the 1930s, which reach back into the mid 1800s.

At this link, you can search the catalog by name, surname, location or keyword.

You can search by surname here as well.

In the schools collection, you can search by surname or location. It would be worth looking to see where your ancestral surname is found in the early 1900s because the same family may be found in the same location much earlier.

Dinner

Our day ended at a Chinese restaurant where the walls were literally tiles with quarter inch tiles, arranged in the shape of flowers.

This entire restaurant was tiled in this manner. Absolutely amazing!

And since we’re on the subject of art, let’s visit take a side trip!

Quilts, the Universal Language

When possible, I always try to find a quilt shop. Brian and I found 4 in or near Dublin. Two were closed, one was relatively small, although I did find a souvenir fabric, but the last shop, Apple Tree Crafts, held two beautiful quilts.

These stylized trees are each hand embroidered – putting thread to fabric in the creation of art.

Of course, these poppies spoke to me and said, “Take me home,” so I did! Not the whole quilt, just the poppy fabric.

If you’re looking for quilt shops in Ireland, check out this link from the Quilter’s Guild of Ireland and always, always call ahead.

Around the corner from the quilt shop, we found a florist decorated for halloween.

I guess it’s evident that Ireland celebrates Halloween too.

Bye to Dublin

Dublin is a wonderful city. I barely scratched the surface in my 10 days. Of course, I was distracted by the conference and the hurricane. Minor details.

I never realized before my visit how genuinely nice and helpful the Irish are. The language is delightful, both Gaelic and English with that wonderful brogue. I can hear some of that brogue in Appalachia where so many Scots-Irish were transplanted.

The Irish have a wonderful and charming sense of humor as well as being very difficult to upset. They have a permanent lemonade out of lemons attitude. Or more specifically, a trip to the local pub can fix anything, along with Guinness, soda bread and some cheap toilet paper.

How does life get better?

Ophelia – A Hurricane In Ireland

If you find this a bit unbelievable, well, so do I.

I’ve learned an awful lot about hurricanes in Ireland over these past couple days, including that they aren’t generally called hurricanes. Cyclone appears to the official name, but here in Dublin, they call them “Big Winds.” As in, “the last big wind we had was in 1987,” or worse yet, if you want to feel really old, “the last big wind we had was before I was born.” It’s also called the Great Storm of 1987.

It appears that the “greatest storm ever”, which of course means in the history we are aware of, was recorded when a freak storm occurred between the nights of January 6 and 7, 1839. It was titled, “The Night of the Big Wind.” This article is a fascinating read, and although it doesn’t happen often, severe storms of hurricanes clearly do happen in Ireland. And they have likely happened in Ireland forever and maybe one in a lifetime would have been known to our ancestors.

Well, big wind, hurricane, typhoon or cyclone, a rose by any other name…and this one is named Ophelia.

In Hamlet’s tale, Ophelia, a name he appears to have made up, is a women tragically torn and who then then descends into madness.

That’s a good description, if I’ve ever heard one, for a hurricane that is going to hit Ireland – way off track…tomorrow…exactly 30 years to the day since the last “big one.”

It’s insane!

Now, of course, this would happen to me. I swear, is Michael Lacopo hiding in my suitcase? Am I related to him and don’t know it? Do we both carry a calamity gene? This kind of thing is only supposed to happen to him, and I mean, it happens regularly to him. In the genetic genealogy community, everyone asks Michael his travel arrangements before booking their own, because everyone knows what happens to Michael. I’m not kidding!

Hurricane Magnet

On the other hand, this isn’t exactly my first hurricane. I seem to attract them, somehow. In fact, I actually got married in the lull caused by the eye of hurricane Isabella, in Ohio. Yes, I said, in Ohio. And then there’s the hurricane on the Outer Banks where I waited too long to evacuate and the road was washing out as I tried to make my way to the Bonner bridge before the road was washed entirely into the sea. That was one of those trips that if you start, you don’t dare stop. And then there was the next hurricane too that sandblasted the side of my car, also on the outer banks….but never mind…I’m sure you get the drift. And suffice it to say I don’t even live anyplace near a hurricane state.

So, apparently I have some sort of hurricane magnetism…and it’s showing again. Mind you, I couldn’t even so much as muster up a rainstorm at home for weeks on end this summer.

Dublin

This trip to Dublin, I swear, has been jinxed from the beginning. I hesitate to say any more, because I don’t want to further jinx the trip, but let’s just say that this trip has been in jeopardy more than once, beginning with the fall in July that happened two days after I booked my (uncancellable) accommodations. You’ve already read about the resulting DVT.

My doctor authorized this trip, but ONLY IF I promised to fly first class, with seat room more befitting my “body type.” I do not fit well into 17 inch seats. Who over the age of about 10 does?

To say I nearly had a coronary or a stroke when I saw the price of the first class upgrade is an understatement. But by that time, it was either lose the 10 days unrefundable hotel and flight I had already booked or upgrade. Do you want to bleed this way or that way?

So, the upgrade was booked and I wrapped both legs in ace bandages for the journey, which she also made me promise. I then discovered that the only way to keep ace bandages in place was to use leggings, or in my case, long underwear given that I didn’t have any leggings.

So, I arrived at the airport looking and walking stiffly like a mummy which earned me a special “groin pat down” in security, even though I am already TSA prechecked. And lots of questions about why my legs were wrapped. I so wanted to say, “because I’m a mummy, in fact I’m a grand-mummy too,” but because I’ve heard that the TSA agents have no sense of humor whatsoever, for once in my lifetime, I kept my mouth shut and better judgement prevailed. Otherwise, I’d still be at that same airport, in some small room.

After all that, what else could possibly go wrong?

Let’s just say something did not agree with me. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to make the actual flight, given that I was apparently homesteading in the bathroom. Not only that, there were there gate changes, in different concourses (of course), with me only able to hobble.

I then received one of “those” phone calls, while camped out in the bathroom.

You know, one of the phone calls we know that is eventually inevitable but we dread intensely. Yes, a family member had passed away, unexpectedly.

So there I sat, in the airport bathroom, in jeopardy of missing a flight in a different concourse, flying into an area that was expecting a hurricane, sobbing as I received the news and trying to compose myself enough to call my family members most affected. I had by now pretty much turned into an emotional wreck.

I considered bagging the entire trip, but there was nothing to be done at home, and the trip, still uncancellable, was extremely costly. The only blessing is that my family member’s passing was swift. So, I managed to find the correct gate, at the last minute, and deposit myself on the plane. I’m not a drinker, but I had two drinks just the same, which for me is absolutely unheard of. I’m going to have to change that answer on my medical records from “no alcohol” to 2 per year.

Yesterday ended as day faded into night and then, just a very few hours later, night faded back into day after an artificially shortened night because you’re flying into the dawn.

So, as I sit here in a historical hotel in Dublin this later afternoon, the sky is darkening once again, but this time, it’s not because of night’s approach. It’s the wrath of Ophelia beginning.

I told you that I’d take you along on this trip, but this wasn’t exactly what I meant. Just the same, let’s make lemonade out of lemons!

We get to experience Dublin together and maybe we will have a great adventure!

Emerald Isle Beginnings

The day began very early, as the sunlight emerged on the horizon and the plane flew above or through some of Ophelia’s turbulence. It was strong enough to wake me up, bouncing around in the plane. Belongings were hitting the floor. The captain woke us up to tell us to fasten our seatbelts.

We passed over the turbulence that was Ophelia, who would catch up with me again in a couple days, playing our own personal cat and mouse game it seems.

When we landed in Ireland, leaving Ophelia behind in the Atlantic, the sun was bright and beautiful. You can definitely see where the nickname “Emerald Isle” originated. That sunshine was to be short-lived.

Of course, I couldn’t check into my hotel when I arrived, because the rooms weren’t quite yet ready. That’s what happens when you arrive at 9 in the morning.

My choices were to sit in the lobby and wait…and wait…and wait…or do something else. I chose to have a tea and some soda bread with black currant and raspberry jams and then take a hop-on-hop-off tour that took a total of about two and a half hours. That would hopefully give the hotel enough time to prepare a room and I would get to see something of Dublin.

By early evening, the winds, gloom and clouds of Ophelia had replaced the beautiful sunshine, but thankfully, not until after I had finished my tour.

Dublin in Under Three Hours

The first thing I learned on the tour is where the word Donnybrook came from.

Donnybrook

This church was the location between Ballsbridge and Donnybrook where the locals prayed for the souls of Donnybrook, and prayed for many of them to go away, it appears.

Our guide told us that while initially, Donnybrook was a local medieval fair, beginning in about the year 800, that over time it devolved into something that included copious amounts of drinking and various degrees of alcohol infused arguing and fighting. Hence, the genesis of the word Donnybrook.

Now, I assure you that my ancestors were involved in this, because, well, my ancestors were always involved in anything like this. I wouldn’t know what to do with a well-behaved ancestor. I would wonder how they ever got into my pedigree chart. Must surely be an NPE!

I would love, just love to visit Donnybrook fair for a day, back in the 1200s or 1300s, perhaps, with whichever of my ancestors might have been living here at the time. Oh, what fun we would have!

Doors

Dublin is also the land of doors. In Georgian neighborhoods, the only thing you are allowed to change on historical homes is the color of the door, hence, this. The guide said it also helps you find the right house when you come home late at night from the pub, or Donnybrook.

And, are you ready for this, the cheapest of these cost upwards of a million dollars, and I’m not talking about the entire row of apartments, but just one flat. And those are the cheap seats.

Markets

Sunday is the day in Dublin for art and street fairs. The fence along this public park sports the offerings of local artists and many people are walking and chatting.

Small markets appear all over the old part of the city, in nooks and crannies.

Along the River Liffey

The Irish famine shaped the people and the history of Ireland as well as the US, Canada and other diaspora regions. Due to the famine, many died, and many immigrated as well between 1840 and 1850.

This photo doesn’t do this memorial justice. Take a minute and look at this short YouTube video.

In the same video, you also get a look at Ireland’s harp bridge. This isn’t the official name, but I also discovered that in Dublin, everything has a nickname and about 90% of them are not printable here.

This bridge can also be played like a harp using fire hoses with pressurized water to vibrate the strings.

Embassy District

The American embassy.

The RDS, or Royal Dublin Society center, where Genetic Genealogy Ireland is going to be held later this week. I can hardly wait!

The Clayton Ballsbridge, my hotel, was next on the circuit.

This beautiful old building was opened as a Masonic Girl’s School in the 1880s.

The tile in the entryway is just beautiful.

Of course, I’m on the 6th floor and with Ophelia headed our way tomorrow, we’ll see just how well this building is constructed. I love old buildings though, and would much prefer to stay in a historic structure if possible.

Architecture

Put another way, the only buildings I’m not cracked up about are modern lifeless ones. I just love quaint, artistic buildings.

The Ferryman, along the river, across from what was the oldest Viking settlement known in Ireland. The descendants of those men probably have a brew in this pub today.

One of the things I dearly love about European cities is the intermingling of the old, meaning medieval, and the new. This is just a typical street scene. Lots of people walking everyplace.

Here’s another example of a beautiful old church behind the Guinness Brewery.

Guinness

Guinness, we have to talk about Guinness for a minute.

I know Guinness as a brand of beer, but in Dublin, it’s a wealthy family who happens to brew beer…the favorite beer of the Irish, it seems.

The Guinness Storehouse, which is also Ireland’s most popular tour, isn’t just a place, but a complex.

The Brewery and the Guinness Storehouse may be where I’ll be touring later this week, given that we were told that they “never close.” I hope that isn’t a dare to Ophelia.

Now, at one point, the hop-on-hop-off bus parked at a stop for a full 40 minutes. So it became the hop-off bus because if you wanted to go to the bathroom or do anything except sit there, you got off.

Now I’m not saying this was planned, but the location where the bus stopped just happened to be right in front of a pub. Like 15 feet from the door

Not just a pub, but a little hole-in-the-wall Irish pub, Madigans – the kind of place I’m just a sucker for. These places are either wonderful or terrible, with very little inbetween. I asked the tour guide where he might suggest something to do, close, for half an hour or so, and he suggested a bowl of soup in the pub.

Mnnnn, now that sounded good.

Ok, Ok, he really suggested soup and a Guinness.

Ok, well maybe he suggested he Guinness part and then muttered something about soup in a barely audible whisper at the end.

WhatEVER.

Did you know that soup in Ireland comes with soda bread? Well, actually, I think everything in Ireland comes with soda bread, from what I’ve seen.

I’m working my way up to Guinness. It’s pretty dark. So I started with a lager, Clonmel 1650. That’s good. I think I’m officially Irish now. My ancestors would be proud, even though I did ask for the smallest one possible.

And there is traditional Irish music on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Oh my. I’m not saying where I’ll be later in the week, but this is certainly a candidate.

Did I mention, that the Irish like to drink….a lot? Irish poet Brendan Breham described himself as a drinker with a writing problem. That’s about right, judging from what I saw today.

I don’t even know what to say.  No, it’s not Halloween here.

Need I say more?

So far, I’m feeling my Irish roots, but I’m not pedaling anything nor am I wearing a Viking horned hat, at least not yet. The week is still young though. No promises about tomorrow or the next day either.

The Week Ahead

What does this week hold, especially with Ophelia? I don’t know.

I do know one thing though, this trip cost far too much to not have fun…so I’m going to. Come hell or high water.  Ummm, maybe I shouldn’t have said that last part…

Someone suggested that if we can’t sightsee, we could pub crawl to get a look at the local flavor, of course. The Irish are extremely helpful like that. Seriously, they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Perhaps because they are all mellow, or at least have that mellow gene.

Actually, that pub crawl sounds pretty interesting, especially it if includes traditional Irish music and Guinness. After all, Madigan’s pub is on the ground floor, it’s safe, safer than the 6th floor.  Yea…that’s it, all in the interest of safety. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So, if you don’t hear from me for the rest of the week:

  • I’ve met Ophelia and she was a worthy opponent
  • I’ve fallen in love with Dublin and am busy looking for a house in the even poorer district, probably someplace in Donnybrook.
  • Ophelia was no big whoop and I’m back to sightseeing with Brian.  Who’s Brian, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to wait to find out.
  • Make something up about what Roberta is doing.

Just thinking that option 4 might be by far the most interesting, and you guys might just have some good ideas too.

You know, I’m wondering if that howling that I’m hearing outside is ghosts, singing Irishmen who drank a bit too much, werewolves or Ophelia has come to call. It’s an unworldly sound, whatever it is.

Upcoming Speaking Events – In Person and Online – Ireland, Native Americans and More

Generally, I don’t travel to speak much, but clearly, I’ve lost my mind this fall and scheduled three back to back events. What was I thinking? I hope you can join me, in person, or online.

There are three fantastic opportunities!

Genetic Genealogy Ireland

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be both attending and presenting at Genetic Genealogy Ireland this upcoming week from October 20-22 in Dublin. I hope to meet many new friends and see where my Irish ancestors were from.

I’ll be presenting at the GGI conference on October 21 and 22, as well as participating in a roundtable on Saturday.

After the conference, Maurice Gleeson, wonderful man that he is,  puts (most of) the sessions online at YouTube on GGI’s own YouTube channel, so be sure to take a look. Past sessions are available too and all are free. It doesn’t get better than that, unless you can join in the festivities in person.

This is an incredible lineup and you won’t be sorry. When I’m not speaking, you’ll find me in the other sessions – that’s for sure.  Many of these speakers seldom appear and these are truly unique opportunities.

Family Tree University Workshop and Webinar on Native American Heritage

Can’t come to Ireland?

Have Native American ancestors, or think you might?

I’ve created a workshop duo for Family Tree University that includes both a video presentation and then on November 7th, a live webinar at 7 PM EST where we will step through working with various tools at each of the three main vendors, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry, plus GedMatch.

This series will help the novice, someone who thinks they might have family history and would like to confirm that story, or someone who knows they have Native heritage and is looking for more information.

You can sign up here for the package that includes both the pre-session webinar and the online workshop.

In the pre-session, I cover:
◾Native American history and how it affects DNA
◾Types of DNA
◾Formulating a DNA test strategy
◾Resources

In the live hour-long workshop, I’ll be reviewing the various unique tools you can use through the different DNA testing vendors, how each one can help you in order learn as much as possible about your Native ancestry and potentially find relatives. Finding relatives may be just the key to discovering more about your heritage, where your ancestor lived, or maybe even your tribe – although no DNA test alone can do that.

Are you using your DNA information to its fullest capacity?  Sign up to find out.

Family Tree DNA 13th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy

I’ll be presenting sessions in Houston, Texas at the Family Tree DNA conference November 10-12. That conference registration is now full, so if you’re a project administrator and you’ve registered, I’ll see you there.

This conference is one I’ve literally never missed! It’s always wonderful.

In the Mean Time…

Yes, I do have articles scheduled for publication during this time. I’ll try to catch anything that comes up spontaneously as well.

The great news is that the two conferences, plus my rambling around Ireland will provide great blog fodder, so be sure to stay tuned!

Who knows, maybe I’ll be visiting where your ancestors were from too.

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2017

I’m super excited about visiting Dublin in less than a month. That’s right, Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2017 is fast approaching.

The 3-day conference takes place at the Royal Dublin Society October 20-22 and is being chaired and orchestrated by Dr. Maurice Gleeson. You can sign up here or pay at the door and it’s very reasonably priced at $10 Euro per day – or get a 50% discount by booking in advance here.

Actually, looking at the list of speakers, I think I’ve just about died and gone to DNA geekie Heaven.

Maurice has done an absolutely fantastic job of lining up speakers that you just can’t see anyplace else. Most aren’t normally on the “speaking circuit,” so to speak, so I really welcome this rare opportunity. Many work in specialized fields like ancient DNA or have specific focuses like the Ireland DNA project or the Iceland sequencing initiative.

I can’t wait to learn from each and every speaker. You can view the speaker profiles here.

Not only am I a genealogist, but I absolutely love science and combining technology with science to solve problems – in this case – genetics, to break down brick walls. While I’m not big on attending genealogy conferences, per se, genetics and genetic genealogy conferences make my eyes light up like Christmas tree bulbs and I hyperventilate.

Not only that, but at genetics conferences, we get to meet other genetic genealogists, geneticists, and academics and discuss all sorts of lovely things like mutation rates and segment size late into the night…in a nice Irish pub over brews. OK, so now I’m fantasizing…but maybe not. We’ll see.

My Sessions

Maurice has been gracious enough to invite me to present two sessions, which I’ve just recently finalized. After my ungraceful cobblestone dance in the Netherland in July, there was some question about my attendance, but let’s just say I have made every effort to be present – and barring something unforeseen, I’ll be there, not tap dancing, but limping a bit and trying to travel very light.

My two presentations will be:

  • Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA and How to Use Them
  • Autosomal DNA Through the Generations

Both of these are new presentations developed specially for Genetic Genealogy Ireland.

The first session looks at how to use the various tools available at Family Tree DNA, their options and utilizing the tools successfully together. Family Tree DNA provides us lots of ways to break down brick walls. I can’t say for sure right now, but there might even be a surprise in the mix. Stay tuned.

The second session utilizes 4 generations of the same family that have tested, and looks at what we can learn about inheritance. We will be discussing segments and phasing, along with the Family Phasing tool at Family Tree DNA that allows you to connect your DNA to your tree, along with that of your relatives to show you if your non-connected matches are related to you maternally or paternally. This is a fun presentation, actually built cooperatively with my teenage granddaughter who is very interested in genetics. It’s imperative that we infect the next generation, you know!

If you have a child or grandchild that might be interested, this is the perfect subject because you can test multiple generations too – and let’s face it – science is a lot more fun when it’s YOUR story.

You can read my complete speaker profile here.

Past Lectures and Social Media

Can’t attend, but want to follow along? Do you have Irish ancestors, and not just on St. Patrick’s Day? Does your DNA run a little green?

Well, you’re in luck. Genetic Genealogy Ireland has a Facebook group here.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland also has its own YouTube channel. You can view past lectures, here, for free. (Have I mentioned that Maurice, who has made this possible, is wonderful?)

And yes, I suspect strongly that this means that you’ll eventually have the opportunity to view the 2017 lectures as well, but seriously, if you can attend, please do.

Can’t Wait to Meet You

If you’re attending the conference, I can’t wait to meet you in person. Be sure to say hello. I’ll either be in the various DNA sessions or probably at the Family Tree DNA booth helping the volunteers there.

I hope to be able to blog from the conference. Depending on the wifi quality, the cost and my exhaustion level, I may have to wait until I get home, but rest assured, I’ll be sharing.

Thank You

The 3 full days of genetic genealogy lectures are sponsored by Family Tree DNA and organized by the ISOGG volunteers who will be attending and available to answer your genetic genealogy questions. Not a member of ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy)? It’s free to join, so please do.

A big thank you to Dr. Gleeson, ISOGG Education Ambassador who blogs here, Family Tree DNA and the ISOGG volunteers. This conference wouldn’t be happening without them.

Summer Hiatus and October in Dublin

Remember summer vacation when you were a kid?

Summer vacation seemed like it would last FOREVER. The endless days of sunshine and the smell of freshly cut grass with the swimming hole or beach beckoning endlessly.

As adults, we get so caught up in work and family that we forget what those summer holidays were like. I haven’t even seen my hammock in years. Where is it anyway?

I’m trying to remember those summertimes of yesteryear, and I’m giving myself a kickstarter by taking some time off.

Well, OK, it’s not really “off.” I’m preparing for three trips that are genetic genealogy related, and I’ll be writing about those in the coming months.

Plus, I’m stuck on some of my 52 Ancestors articles, waiting for information to arrive which is arriving very slowly. I think the staff from those various locations must be on vacation too.

I’ve found that I can’t prepare to travel, create presentations, complete customer reports, create a class and then travel along with maintaining my current article production schedule, so I’m taking a bit of a hiatus – in particular from my 52 Ancestors articles.

I have several regular articles already scheduled, but unfortunately, those ancestors are just going to have to wait patiently.  Maybe they’ll relinquish some of their closely guarded secrets in the mean time!  You think?

Upcoming Event – Dublin, Ireland

I do want to share with you that one of the events on my schedule is an appearance where I’ll be giving two separate presentations, at Genetic Genealogy Ireland, sponsored by Family Tree DNA, which takes place on October 20-22 in Dublin, Ireland.

Needless to say, I’m very excited.

Most of my regular readers know that I’m mostly retired from speaking and traveling, but this is one exception I’m glad to make. Of course, it helps a lot that I have McDowell ancestors whose homelands are close by, along with my McNiel line thought to have descended from the Niall of the Nine Hostages lineage, which of course means I absolutely HAVE to visit Tara.

Let’s just say that it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to convince me to speak😊

So, I hope to see you in October in Dublin! Take a look at the list of incredibly exciting speakers here. I can hardly wait and hope to meet lots of you in person!

__________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

2016 Genetic Genealogy Retrospective

In past years, I’ve written a “best of” article about genetic genealogy happenings throughout the year. For several years, the genetic genealogy industry was relatively new, and there were lots of new tools being announced by the testing vendors and others as well.

This year is a bit different. I’ve noticed a leveling off – there have been very few announcements of new tools by vendors, with only a few exceptions.  I think genetic genealogy is maturing and has perhaps begun a new chapter.  Let’s take a look.

Vendors

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA leads the pack this year with their new Phased Family Matches which utilizes close relatives, up to third cousins, to assign your matches to either maternal or paternal buckets, or both if the individual is related on both sides of your tree.

Both Buckets

They are the first and remain the only vendor to offer this kind of feature.

Phased FF2

Phased Family Matching is extremely useful in terms of identifying which side of your family tree your matches are from. This tool, in addition to Family Tree DNA’s nine other autosomal tools helps identify common ancestors by showing you who is related to whom.

Family Tree DNA has also added other features such as a revamped tree with the ability to connect DNA results to family members.  DNA results connected to the tree is the foundation for the new Phased Family Matching.

The new Ancient Origins feature, released in November, was developed collaboratively with Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona Hammer Lab.

Ancient European Origins is based on the full genome sequencing work now being performed in the academic realm on ancient remains. These European results fall into three primary groups of categories based on age and culture.  Customer’s DNA is compared to the ancient remains to determine how much of the customer’s European DNA came from which group.  This exciting new feature allows us to understand more about our ancestors, long before the advent of surnames and paper or parchment records. Ancient DNA is redefining what we know, or thought we knew, about population migration.

2016-ancient-origins

You can view Dr. Hammer’s presentation given at the Family Tree DNA Conference in conjunction with the announcement of the new Ancient Origins feature here.

Family Tree DNA maintains its leadership position among the three primary vendors relative to Y DNA testing, mtDNA testing and autosomal tools.

Ancestry

In May of 2016, Ancestry changed the chip utilized by their tests, removing about 300,000 of their previous 682,000 SNPs and replacing them with medically optimized SNPs. The rather immediate effect was that due to the chip incompatibility, Ancestry V2 test files created on the new chip cannot be uploaded to Family Tree DNA, but they can be uploaded to GedMatch.  Family Tree DNA is working on a resolution to this problem.

I tested on the new Ancestry V2 chip, and while there is a difference in how much matching DNA I share with my matches as compared to the V1 chip, it’s not as pronounced as I expected. There is no need for people who tested on the earlier chip to retest.

Unfortunately, Ancestry has remained steadfast in their refusal to implement a chromosome browser, instead focusing on sales by advertising the ethnicity “self-discovery” aspect of DNA testing.

Ancestry does have the largest autosomal data base but many people tested only for ethnicity, don’t have trees or have private trees.  In my case, about half of my matches fall into that category.

Ancestry maintains its leadership position relative to DNA tree matching, known as a Shared Ancestor Hint, identifying common ancestors in the trees of people whose DNA matches.

ancestry-common-ancestors

23andMe

23andMe struggled for most of the year to meet a November 2015 deadline, which is now more than a year past, to transition its customers to the 23andMe “New Experience” which includes a new customer interface. I was finally transitioned in September 2016, and the experience has been very frustrating and extremely disappointing, and that’s putting it mildly. Some customers, specifically international customers, are still not transitioned, nor is it clear if or when they will be.

I tested on the 23andMe older V3 chip as well as their newer V4 chip. After my transition to the New Experience, I compared the results of the two tests. The new security rules incorporated into the New Experience meant that I was only able to view about 25% of my matches (400 of 1651(V3) matches or 1700 (V4) matches). 23andMe has, in essence, relegated themselves into the non-player status for genetic genealogy, except perhaps for adoptees who need to swim in every pool – but only then as a last place candidate. And those adoptees had better pray that if they have a close match, that match falls into the 25% of their matches that are useful.

In December, 23andMe began providing segment information for ethnicity segments, except the parental phasing portion does not function accurately, calling into question the overall accuracy of the 23andme ethnicity information. Ironically, up until now, while 23andMe slipped in every other area, they had been viewed at the best, meaning most accurate, in terms of ethnicity estimates.

New Kids on the Block

MyHeritage

In May of 2016, MyHeritage began encouraging people who have tested at other vendors to upload their results. I was initially very hesitant, because aside from GedMatch that has a plethora of genetic genealogy tools, I have seen no benefit to the participant to upload their DNA anyplace, other than Family Tree DNA (available for V3 23andMe and V1 Ancestry only).

Any serious genealogist is going to test at least at Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, both, and upload to GedMatch. My Heritage was “just another upload site” with no tools, not even matching initially.

However, in September, MyHeritage implemented matching, although they have had a series of what I hope are “startup issues,” with numerous invalid matches, apparently resulting from their usage of imputation.

Imputation is when a vendor infers what they think your DNA will look like in regions where other vendors test, and your vendor doesn’t. The best example would be the 300,000 or so Ancestry locations that are unique to the Ancestry V2 chip. Imputation would result in a vendor “inferring” or imputing your results for these 300,000 locations based on…well, we don’t exactly know based on what. But we do know it cannot be accurate.  It’s not your DNA.

In the midst of this, in October, 23andMe announced on their forum that they had severed a previous business relationship with MyHeritage where 23andMe allowed customers to link to MyHeritage trees in lieu of having customer trees directly on the 23andMe site.  This approach had been problematic because customers are only allowed 250 individuals in their tree for free, and anything above that requires a MyHeritage subscription.  Currently 23andMe has no tree capability.

It appears that MyHeritage refined their DNA matching routines at least somewhat, because many of the bogus matches were gone in November when they announced that their beta was complete and that they were going to sell their own autosomal DNA tests. However, matching issues have not disappeared or been entirely resolved.

While Family Tree DNA’s lab will be processing the MyHeritage autosomal tests, the results will NOT be automatically placed in the Family Tree DNA data base.

MyHeritage will be doing their own matching within their own database. There are no comparison tools, tree matching or ethnicity estimates today, but My Heritage says they will develop a chromosome browser and ethnicity estimates. However, it is NOT clear whether these will be available for free to individuals who have transferred their results into MyHeritage or if they will only be available to people who tested through MyHeritage.

2016-myheritage-matches

For the record, I have 28 matches today at MyHeritage.

2016-myheritage-second-match

I found that my second closest match at MyHeritage is also at Ancestry.

2016-myheritage-at-ancestry

At MyHeritage, they report that I match this individual on a total of 64.1 cM, across 7 segments, with the largest segment being 14.9 cM.

Ancestry reports this same match at 8.3 cM total across 1 segment, which of course means that the longest segment is also 8.3 cM.

Ancestry estimates the relationship as 5th to 8th cousin, and MyHeritage estimates it as 2nd to 4th.

While I think Ancestry’s Timber strips out too much DNA, there is clearly a HUGE difference in the reported results and the majority of this issue likely lies with the MyHeritage DNA imputation and matching routines.

I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file to MyHeritage, so MyHeritage is imputing at least 300,000 SNPs for me – almost half of the SNPs needed to match to Ancestry files.  They are probably imputing that many for my match’s file too, so that we have an equal number of SNPs for comparison.  Combined, this would mean that my match and I are comparing 382,000 actual SNPs that we both tested, and roughly 600,000 SNPs that we did not test and were imputed.  No wonder the MyHeritage numbers are so “off.”

My Heritage has a long way to go before they are a real player in this arena. However, My Heritage has potential, as they have a large subscriber base in Europe, where we desperately need additional testers – so I’m hopeful that they can attract additional genealogists that are willing to test from areas that are under-represented to date.

My Heritage got off to a bit of a rocky start by requiring users to relinquish the rights to their DNA, but then changed their terms in May, according to Judy Russell’s blog.

All vendors can change their terms at any time, in a positive or negative direction, so I would strongly encourage all individuals considering utilizing any testing company or upload service to closely read all the legal language, including Terms and Conditions and any links found in the Terms and Conditions.

Please note that MyHeritage is a subscription genealogy site, similar to Ancestry.  MyHeritage also owns Geni.com.  One site, MyHeritage, allows individual trees and the other, Geni, embraces the “one world tree” model.  For a comparison of the two, check out Judy Russell’s articles, here and here.  Geni has also embraced DNA by allowing uploads from Family Tree DNA of Y, mitochondrial and autosomal, but the benefits and possible benefits are much less clear.

If the MyHeritage story sounds like a confusing soap opera, it is.  Let’s hope that 2017 brings both clarity and improvements.

Living DNA

Living DNA is a company out of the British Isles with a new test that purports to provide you with a breakdown of your ethnicity and the locations of your ancestral lines within 21 regions in the British Isles.  Truthfully, I’m very skeptical, but open minded.

They have had my kit for several weeks now, and testing has yet to begin.  I’ll write about the results when I receive them.  So far, I don’t know of anyone who has received results.

2016-living-dna

Genos

I debated whether or not I should include Genos, because they are not a test for genealogy and are medically focused. However, I am including them because they have launched a new model for genetic testing wherein your full exome is tested, you receive the results along with information on the SNPs where mutations are found. You can then choose to be involved with research programs in the future, if you wish, or not.

That’s a vastly different model that the current approach taken by 23andMe and Ancestry where you relinquish your rights to the sale of your DNA when you sign up to test.  I like this new approach with complete transparency, allowing the customer to decide the fate of their DNA. I wrote about the Genos test and the results, here.

Third Parties

Individuals sometimes create and introduce new tools to assist genealogists with genetic genealogy and analysis.

I have covered these extensively over the years.

GedMatch, WikiTree, DNAGedcom.com and Kitty Cooper’s tools remain my favorites.

I love Kitty’s Ancestor Chromosome Mapper which maps the segments identified with your ancestors on your chromosomes. I just love seeing which ancestors’ DNA I carry on which chromosomes.  Somehow, this makes me feel closer to them.  They’re not really gone, because they still exist in me and other descendants as well.

Roberta's ancestor map2

In order to use Kitty’s tool, you’ll have to have mapped at least some of your autosomal DNA to ancestors.

The Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer written by Don Worth and available at DNAGedcom is still one of my favorite tools for quick, visual and easy to understand segment matching results.

ADSA Crumley cluster

GedMatch has offered a triangulation tool for some time now, but recently introduced a new Triangulation Groups tool.

2016-gedmatch-triangulation-groups

I have not utilized this tool extensively but it looks very interesting. Unfortunately, there is no explanation or help function available for what this tool is displaying or how to understand and interpret the results. Hopefully, that will be added soon, as I think it would be possible to misinterpret the output without educational material.

GedMatch also introduced their “Evil Twin” tool, which made me laugh when I saw the name.  Using parental phasing, you can phase your DNA to your parent or parents at GedMatch, creating kits that only have your mother’s half of your DNA, or your father’s half.  These phased kits allow you to see your matches that come from that parent, only.  However, the “Evil Twin” feature creates a kit made up of the DNA that you DIDN’T receive from that parent – so in essence it’s your other half, your evil twin – you know, that person who got blamed for everything you “didn’t do.”  In any case, this allows you to see the matches to the other half of your parent’s DNA that do not show up as your matches.

Truthfully, the Evil Twin tool is interesting, but since you have to have that parent’s DNA to phase against in the first place, it’s just as easy to look at your parent’s matches – at least for me.

Others offer unique tools that are a bit different.

DNAadoption.com offers tools, search and research techniques, especially for adoptees and those looking to identify a parent or grandparents, but perhaps even more important, they offer genetic genealogy classes including basic and introductory.

I send all adoptees in their direction, but I encourage everyone to utilize their classes.

WikiTree has continued to develop and enhance their DNA offerings.  While WikiTree is not a testing service nor do they offer autosomal data tools like Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, they do allow individuals to discover whether anyone in their ancestral line has tested their Y, mitochondrial or autosomal DNA.

Specifically, you can identify the haplogroup of any male or female ancestor if another individual from that direct lineage has tested and provided that information for that ancestor on WikiTree.  While I am generally not a fan of the “one world tree” types of implementations, I am a fan of WikiTree because of their far-sighted DNA comparisons, the fact that they actively engage their customers, they listen and they expend a significant amount of effort making sure they “get it right,” relative to DNA. Check out WikiTree’s article,  Putting DNA Results Into Action, for how to utilize their DNA Features.

2016-wikitree-peter-roberts

Thanks particularly to Chris Whitten at WikiTree and Peter Roberts for their tireless efforts.  WikiTree is the only vendor to offer the ability to discover the Y and mtDNA haplogroups of ancestors by searching trees.

All of the people creating the tools mentioned above, to the best of my knowledge, are primarily volunteers, although GedMatch does charge a small subscription service for their high end tools, including the triangulation and evil twin tools.  DNAGedcom does as well.  Wikitree generates some revenue for the site through ads on pages of non-members. DNAAdoption charges nominally for classes but they do have need-based scholarships. Kitty has a donation link on her website and all of these folks would gladly accept donations, I’m sure.  Websites and everything that goes along with them aren’t free.  Donations are a nice way to say thank you.

What Defined 2016

I have noticed two trends in the genetic genealogy industry in 2016, and they are intertwined – ethnicity and education.

First, there is an avalanche of new testers, many of whom are not genetic genealogists.

Why would one test if they weren’t a genetic genealogist?

The answer is simple…

Ethnicity.

Or more specifically, the targeted marketing of ethnicity.  Ethnicity testing looks like an easy, quick answer to a basic human question, and it sells kits.

Ethnicity

“Kim just wanted to know who she was.”

I have to tell you, these commercials absolutely make me CRINGE.

Yes, they do bring additional testers into the community, BUT carrying significantly misset expectations. If you’re wondering about WHY I would suggest that ethnicity results really cannot tell you “who you are,” check out this article about ethnicity estimates.

And yes, that’s what they are, estimates – very interesting estimates, but estimates just the same.  Estimates that provide important and valid hints and clues, but not definitive answers.

ESTIMATES.

Nothing more.

Estimates based on proprietary vendor algorithms that tend to be fairly accurate at the continental level, and not so much within continents – in particular, not terribly accurate within Europe. Not all of this can be laid a the vendor’s feet.  For example, DNA testing is illegal in France.  Not to mention, genetic genealogy and population genetics is still a new and emerging field.  We’re on the frontier, folks.

The ethnicity results one receives from the 3 major vendors (Ancestry, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe) and the various tools at GedMatch don’t and won’t agree – because they use different reference populations, different matching routines, etc.  Not to mention people and populations move around and have moved around.

The next thing that happens, after these people receive their results, is that we find them on the Facebook groups asking questions like, “Why doesn’t my full blooded Native American grandmother show up?” and “I just got my Ancestry results back. What do I do?”  They mean that question quite literally.

I’m not making fun of these people, or light of the situation. Their level of frustration and confusion is evident. I feel sorry for them…but the genetic genealogy community and the rest of us are left with applying ointment and Band-Aids.  Truthfully, we’re out-numbered.

Because of the expectations, people who test today don’t realize that genetic testing is a TOOL, it’s not an ANSWER. It’s only part of the story. Oh, and did I mention, ethnicity is only an ESTIMATE!!!

But an estimate isn’t what these folks are expecting. They are expecting “the answer,” their own personal answer, which is very, very unfortunate, because eventually they are either unhappy or blissfully unaware.

Many become unhappy because they perceive the results to be in error without understanding anything about the technology or what information can reasonably be delivered, or they swallow “the answer” lock stock and barrel, again, without understanding anything about the technology.

Ethnicity is fun, it isn’t “bad” but the results need to be evaluated in context with other information, such as Y and mitochondrial haplogroups, genealogical records and ethnicity results from the other major testing companies.

Fortunately, we can recruit some of the ethnicity testers to become genealogists, but that requires education and encouragement. Let’s hope that those DNA ethnicity results light the fires of curiosity and that we can fan those flames!

Education

The genetic genealogy community desperately needs educational resources, in part as a result of the avalanche of new testers – approximately 1 million a year, and that estimate may be low. Thankfully, we do have several education options – but we can always use more.  Unfortunately, the learning curve is rather steep.

My blog offers just shy of 800 articles, all key word searchable, but one has to first find the blog and want to search and learn, as opposed to being handed “the answer.”

Of course, the “Help” link is always a good place to start as are these articles, DNA Testing for Genealogy 101 and Autosomal DNA Testing 101.  These two articles should be “must reads” for everyone who has DNA tested, or wants to, for that matter.  Tips and Tricks for Contact Success is another article that is immensely helpful to people just beginning to reach out.

In order to address the need for basic understanding of autosomal DNA principles, tools and how to utilize them, I began the “Concepts” series in February 2016. To date I offer the following 15 articles about genetic genealogy concepts. To be clear, DNA testing is only the genetic part of genetic genealogy, the genealogical research part being the second half of the equation.

The Concepts Series

Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Concepts – Identical By Descent, State, Population and Chance

Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab

Concepts – Parental Phasing

Concepts – Y DNA Matching and Connecting With Your Paternal Ancestor

Concepts – Downloading Autosomal Data From Family Tree DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 1 – Assigning Parental Sides

Concepts – Genetic Distance

Concepts – Relationship Predictions

Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation

Concepts – Sorting Spreadsheets for Autosomal DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 2 – Updating Matching Spreadsheets, Bucketed Family Finder Matches and Pileups

Concepts – Why DNA Testing the Oldest Family Members Is Critically Important

Concepts – Undocumented Adoptions Versus Untested Y Lines

My blog isn’t the only resource of course.

Kelly Wheaton provides 19 free lessons in her Beginners Guide to Genetic Genealogy.

Other blogs I highly recommend include:

Excellent books in print that should be in every genetic genealogist’s library:

And of course, the ISOGG Wiki.

Online Conference Resources

The good news and bad news is that I’m constantly seeing a genetic genealogy seminar, webinar or symposium hosted by a group someplace that is online, and often free. When I see names I recognize as being reputable, I am delighted that there is so much available to people who want to learn.

And for the record, I think that includes everyone. Even professional genetic genealogists watch these sessions, because you just never know what wonderful tidbit you’re going to pick up.  Learning, in this fast moving field, is an everyday event.

The bad news is that I can’t keep track of everything available, so I don’t mean to slight any resource.  Please feel free to post additional resources in the comments.

You would be hard pressed to find any genealogy conference, anyplace, today that didn’t include at least a few sessions about genetic genealogy. However, genetic genealogy has come of age and has its own dedicated conferences.

Dr. Maurice Gleeson, the gentleman who coordinates Genetic Genealogy Ireland films the sessions at the conference and then makes them available, for free, on YouTube. This link provides a list of the various sessions from 2016 and past years as well. Well worth your time!  A big thank you to Maurice!!!

The 19 video series from the I4GG Conference this fall is now available for $99. This series is an excellent opportunity for genetic genealogy education.

As always, I encourage project administrators to attend the Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy. The sessions are not filmed, but the slides are made available after the conference, courtesy of the presenters and Family Tree DNA. You can view the presentations from 2015 and 2016 at this link.

Jennifer Zinck attended the conference and published her excellent notes here and here, if you want to read what she had to say about the sessions she attended. Thankfully, she can type much faster and more accurately than I can! Thank you so much Jennifer.

If you’d like to read about the unique lifetime achievement awards presented at the conference this year to Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, the founders of Family Tree DNA, click here. They were quite surprised!  This article also documents the history of genetic genealogy from the beginning – a walk down memory lane.

The 13th annual Family Tree DNA conference which will be held November 10-12, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency North Houston. Registration is always limited due to facility size, so mark your calendars now, watch for the announcement and be sure to register in time.

Summary

2016 has been an extremely busy year. I think my blog has had more views, more comments and by far, more questions, than ever before.

I’ve noticed that the membership in the ISOGG Facebook group, dedicated to genetic genealogy, has increased by about 50% in the past year, from roughly 8,000 members to just under 12,000. Other social media groups have been formed as well, some focused on specific aspects of genetic genealogy, such as specific surnames, adoption search, Native American or African American heritage and research.

The genetic aspect of genealogy has become “normal” today, with most genealogists not only accepting DNA testing, but embracing the various tools and what they can do for us in terms of understanding our ancestors, tracking them, and verifying that they are indeed who we think they are.

I may have to explain the three basic kinds of DNA testing and how they are used today, but no longer do I have to explain THAT DNA testing for genealogy exists and that it’s legitimate.

I hope that each of us can become an ambassador for genetic genealogy, encouraging others to test, with appropriate expectations, and helping to educate, enlighten and encourage. After all, the more people who test and are excited about the results, the better for everyone else.

Genetic genealogy is and can only be a collaborative team sport.

Here’s wishing you many new cousins and discoveries in 2017.

Happy New Year!!!