Thursday 10 October 2013

Knock down brickwalls with DNA at Back to our Past

Click to download half-price entry voucher
As you are no doubt already aware, this year's Back To Our Past show (BTOP) incorporates a Genetic Genealogy Conference with three days of lectures organised by the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG). This DNA/genetics conference will run alongside two strands of traditional genealogy, history and heritage presentations and the main BTOP exhibition.

In preparation for the show, which kicks off on 18 October, ISOGG has carried out a survey to assess the general level of interest in DNA/genetic genealogy.

This was done on Facebook, and invited those of an Irish background to take part.

The results show that 93% of respondees were interested in having a DNA test to help find their ancestors. When asked which type of DNA test they would like to take, 25% selected Y-DNA, which measures the father's direct paternal line (the father's father's father's father etc), while only 8% chose the mitochondrial DNA test, which measures the mother's direct maternal line (the mother's mother's mother's mother etc). But a clear majority of 66% was more interested in discovering what an autosomal DNA test might reveal.

Autosomal DNA tests examine all the chromosones and therefore assess ALL a person's ancestral lines, not just their direct male and female lines. It provides a breakdown of a person's ethnic make-up and can even, depending on the laboratory carrying out the test, reveal information about physical traits and medical risks.

Announcing the findings of ISOGG's survey, Dr Maurice Gleeson said that autosomal DNA testing holds out the most promise for those needing to break down brickwalls in their research; the test will identify about 99% of first and second cousins, 90% of third cousins, 50% of fourth cousins and 10% of fifth cousins.

"Given that the average age for the intrepid family historian is about 70 (ie born around 1940), and allowing 30 years per generation, most Irish genealogists will be interested in contacting DNA cousins who are estimated to be their third or fourth cousins, and who therefore share a common ancestor born about 1820 or 1790 respectively. This collaboration between genetic cousins, identified by DNA, may help break down brick walls in your family tree around the 1800 timepoint.

"Many of these genetic cousins are likely to be American and some of them will have more extensive family trees than you do. After all, American records were not blown up in 1922. In fact, despite the US and Canada being relatively 'young' countries historically, their genealogical records frequently go back much further than ours in Ireland. And this can provide a rich source of information when Irish records run out. Sometimes the way to go further back in Ireland is to jump across the Atlantic and trace those distant cousins who emigrated to the New World. Many of them will have recorded information about their parents that will help you push a particular ancestral line back an extra generation."

You can find out more about the survey results here, but if you want to find out more about DNA testing and how genetic genealogy might help your ancestral research, the place to be is BTOP.

Back to our Past will take place at the Industries Hall, RDS, Dublin on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (18–20 October). Doors open each day at 11am and close at 7pm.

For half price entry to BTOP (once you're in, the Genetic Genealogy Conference, the exhibiton and the two-strand programme of genealogy & heritage talks are free) download the voucher above. For more details about the Show, see Countdown to Back To Our Past 2013 blogpost.