Thursday 8 October 2015

Back To Our Past 2015: preview

This time tomorrow, Back To Our Past, the Irish genealogy industry's only major annual get-together, will be underway in the Serpentine Hall at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. (Times: Friday 11:30am to 6pm; Saturday 11:00am to 6pm; Sunday 11:00am to 6pm)
It'll be the first time the show is held in this Hall. On the last five occasions it's taken place in the larger Industries Hall and this was the initial plan for the 2015 event until the Ireland Rugby Team emerged as serious contenders for this year's Rugby World Cup. Such was the nation's enthusiastic belief in its team, the dates of the show were moved forward one weekend so as not to clash with the Quarter Finals, which would see half the country glued to their TVs rather than focussing on their family trees.

As it turns out, Ireland has, indeed, reached the Quarter Finals, so the date shift was probably a good idea, even though it meant the Serpentine Hall was the only available space at the RDS on the revised dates.

One consequence of the venue change is a smaller lecture programme. The Serpentine Hall has space for only two, rather than the usual three, Presentation Areas. One of these will accommodate the Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference (about which, more below). The other will be home to the traditional genealogy talks programme, downsized due to the space restraints to just one strand of lectures.

From my perspective, this downsizing of the traditional genealogy programme is hugely negative. The lecture programme is usually one of the main attractions of the show. In previous years it has been expertly organised by Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) to include a range of genealogy, heritage and history topics of interest to all levels of researcher. With only one strand of lectures this year, there has been no overall organiser of the programme and what we are left with doesn't exactly get my juices flowing. With only 16 lecture slots available, it's a shame to see 11 of them allocated to commercial enterprises whose raison d'etre is to flog you something and to promote their own products/databases.

Fortunately, AGI were also allocated five slots, so there are a handful of presentations geared to independently-assessed advice. These include three Ask The Experts/Q&A sessions, where the audience will have the opportuntity to learn from a panel of professional genealogists as they answer beginner-level questions from the floor; a lecture by genealogy teacher Sean Murphy on the Irish Diaspora; and a 'case study' presentation by Tony Hennessey MAGI.

You can view and download the 'General Genealogy Talks Programme' here.

As the show organisers haven't published a list of exhibitors or a floor plan, I can't provide a run-down of all the organisations who'll be attending but I know that Ancestry, FindMyPast, Irish Genealogical Research Society, the North of Ireland Family History Society, Glasnevin Trust, Eneclann, Ancestral Connections Summer School, FamilyTreeDNA and Irish Roots Magazine have stands, as do the National Library of Ireland who will be promoting their RC Parish Registers website. AGI will be offering free genealogy consultations on their stand; you can book these via their website or, take pot-luck on the day.

I've also received early notification of a couple of excellent promotions running at BTOP. Both involve DNA tests.

First up is a special deal to promote cousin matching with AncestryDNA. If you buy one AncestryDNA test at Back To Our Past, you'll be offered a second kit FREE. The idea is that you can take the test and you can get a family member to take the test. This second person may be a cousin that you're working with on your tree. Or it may be close family member such as a parent; by both taking the test you'll be able to work out which of your matches are on your mother's or father’s side of your tree. The cost works out at £49.50 per AncestryDNA kit so it’s a good offer and it should allow researchers an opportunity to get their family involved.

FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) will also be offering tests at special low prices, as follows:
  • Family Finder (atDNA): €79* ($88, usual price $99)
  • Y-DNA-37: €116* ($129, usual price $169)
  • Y-DNA-67: €214* ($238, usual price $268)
  • Full Mitochondrial Sequence: €152* ($169, usual price $199)
  • The Big Y: €438* ($488.75, usual price $575)
FTDNA are also offering a 15% discount off any upgrade, so if you are thinking of upgrading from Y-DNA-37 to Y-DNA-67, now would be a perfect chance to do so. What's more, free tests may be available for those with certain surnames. See the surname list here.

FTDNA are, once again, sponsoring Genetic Genealogy Ireland, and there's another excellent line-up of speakers and topics in the conference schedule. The 21 lectures offer something for everyone, whether you have no prior understanding of DNA testing for genealogy purposes or you are an expert in the field. You can see the full Genetic Genealogy Ireland lecture schedule here.

So I'll start making my way in the general direction of Ballsbridge in anticipation of another good Back To Our Past and leave you with a link to Irish Roots magazine where you can download a free admission ticket.

*euro prices are approximate due to fluctuating exchange rates. Customers will be charged in US dollars.