18 March 2009
Once again the programs for the two days were outstanding.
Bennett Greenspan, CEO and President, and Max Blankfeld, Vice President opened the meeting with a kind welcome to us all and announcements that FTDNA would attend The Gathering 2009 in Edinburgh, Scotland in July and would return to the Who Do You Think You Are Conference next year in London.
Next was a long awaited speaker, Spencer Wells, the head of the National Genographic Project (a five year anthropological study to help determine the migration pattern of our oldest ancestors), spoke on Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project. Dr. Wells was unable to attend in 2005 when the FTDNA conference was held at the National Geographic Society in Washington DC as he was in Chad. The government gave the crew a last minute clearance to enter so that indigenous people could be tested for the study. Dr. Wells explained that a century ago Charles Darwin had realized all of us had come from Africa, and he was correct. The Genographic Project was launched in 2005 with three areas: Testing indigenous people around the world, allowing public participation and providing a Legacy Fund to assist the indigenous in education and health. The current results include a collection of 50,000 samples from the indigenous and the public. The Legacy Foundation has reached $3.5 million…that’s many grants for the groups tested. The first publications are beginning to appear on the results.
NOTE: See the project at https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/index.html for more details and how the public can join this scientific study. IF you or anyone you know has tested through the National Genographic Project, you need to move your test results to Family Tree DNA before the study ends so the results will be preserved in the case you some day wish to use the information for genealogy. At the end of the five years, in 2010, the public samples will be destroyed. There is no cost in moving your result to FTDNA. Family Tree DNA handles all the Genographic testing through the University of Arizona Lab.
Side note: Dr. Wells attended the FTDNA reception and as I had expected to meet him, I took the two books I own that he wrote in order to get his autograph…and below is the photo that was taken then. (Thank you Max! LOL)
Emily with Dr. Wells
Family Tree’s Chief Technology Officer, Mark Williams, presented a view of the new Administrator pages entitled Group Administrator Dashboard (GAD). This total rewrite of the Web pages will allow Admins to view all their projects through one dashboard and to custom design their site. Admins can elect which windows to view and how to place them. Several new options will allow various charts to track the number of testers within a time period, haplogroup charts within a grouped list of testers and more. An administrator can order their members page according to several columns such as kit number, name, haplogroup, etc. Several of us helped Beta test this over the last few weeks, but those administrators who attended the conference are allow to further Beta test these pages. For a while both the old system and the new one will run independently of each other. This new approach provides more flexibility in tracking our projects and contacting our testers. Having all our projects on one page with one password along with all the new tools will be most helpful.
Dr. Ricki Lewis, a geneticist presented on Privacy & Ethics of DNA Testing. During lunch at my table she commented that she knows little about Genetic Genealogy, but remained for the sessions to learn more for her next novel. From my notes, her comments were that testing the entire genome is not helpful as there is too much junk DNA, but she feels that sequencing subsets of the genome can be helpful. She views those seeking DNA for health issues and for genealogical purposes start with a different intent. Dr. Lewis states that for health testing you get bad news, and it is done in secrecy. For ancestry testing the purpose is good news and for sharing.
My Note: In general, the purpose of testing for health and for ancestry can be the desire of the general public as Dr. Lewis stated, but genetic genealogists have a great depth of knowledge and desire for more information than the average person. Any genealogist knows it is important to gather and record family health issues, and this is especially important for those who were adopted. For these reasons, genealogists seek information on health issues, at least for themselves. Those who do understand that environment is the biggest factor and not inherited diseases. They understand that in most all cases, the DNA shows the propensity of getting a disease if one doesn’t take care of themselves properly. For example, one person who took a personal genome test found he had a very high probability for prostate cancer. He went to the doctor and they found he did have it. He is alive today as a result of testing for health. Granted, science has not determined which combination of genes causes most of our health issues, but in some cases they know. Genetic genealogists know and understand this.
Genetic genealogists vary from knowing the basics of how DNA testing helps genealogy to being actual geneticists, mathematicians, doctors, anthropologists, scientists, and lawyers. That is to say, they come from every walk of life, with every background, and with a wide variety of knowledge regarding every aspect of genealogy and the use of DNA for family research. Over the last nine years genetic genealogy has existed, the knowledge base of the followers has grown tremendously. With these annual meetings and other seminars, with the availability of online resources, technical papers, and published books, with the establishment of various email groups, anyone wishing to understand genetics with regard to genealogy can do so.
Dr. Lewis rightfully mentioned the ridiculous aspects of some DNA companies claiming that children have a gene that determines their sports ability, etc. Genetic genealogists know how ludicrous this is. Unfortunate the general public takes the extremes: DNA testing is totally bogus or DNA testing for such genes is a god-sent. Both are wrong.
After a wonderful lunch, Bob McLaren, dressed in his kilt and manager of the Clan MacLaren project gave an interesting presentation entitled: Lessons Learned from Running a Large Surname Project. Mr. McLaren discussed ways to display DNA results, how to recruit members, and how to keep them informed. Bob’s project is one of the larger surname projects with 327 members as of July 2008.
Dr. Doron Behar, postdoctoral fellow in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and FTDNA’s chief lab technician for mitochondrial DNA, and William R. Hurst, administrator of the mtDNA Haplogroup K Project and co-admin of the Hurst Surname Project discussed Advances in mtDNA Testing for Genealogy and Anthropology. They informed the audience that 5100 full mitochondrial DNA records were in GenBank with over 250 of those from Family Tree DNA and that FTDNA has over 4100 completed mtDNA. They clarified that Dna Ancestry misses 75% of the SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) that FTDNA tests. (SNPs determine the haplogroup which is a person’s twig on the Phylogenetic Tree which is the world’s family tree.)
NOTE: GenBank is a collection of publicly accessed DNA sequences for many species. An easy explanation of it can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GenBank
The day ended in a Question and Answer panel. We learned that Ysearch will be updated later this year to include more markers; that the Genographic project requires the haplogroup to be known for the Hyper Variable Region 1 (HVR1) so the required SNPs are tested; that Dna Anecestry originally planned to make the DNA they test a part of a paid subscription in the future. (Personally, that’s scary…you pay; they profit via their subscriptions.); and many more topics.
Dr. Michael Hammer, Biotechnology Research Scientist at eh University of Arizona and Director of the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core facility, discussed the Advances in TMRCA in a break-out session. TMRCA (Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor) is a mathematical probability that helps determine the number of generations back to the common paternal grandfather with people who match on DNA testing. Several models are applied and this process can be very useful guideline when the paper trail dead-ends. Of course there is a constant desire to improve this connection and with more testing it will be. FTDNA is currently looking for more males who have tested 67 markers and who are willing to have their male child, parent or grandchild tested. Three male generations, closely related (not cousins) will help determine a better proximity to the time to the most common ancestor. FTDNA is hoping to get volunteers of male halpogroups other than those who are R1b and I. The audience also learned that R1b and I mutation rates are similar and that J should have faster rates.
The other break-out session was Haplogroups: Uses for Your Project by Eileen Krause, Post-Lab Quaility Assurance Manager at FTDNA. Ms. Krause discussed the future of DNA testing and explained how DNA testing has already begun to bridge the gap between the genealogical paper trail, DNA testing and the SNPs that determine haplogroups.
The Ewing Surname Y-DNA Project by Dr. David Ewing, administrator of the Ewing Surname Y-DNA Project and member of Clan Ewing, gave some wonderful examples of how DNA testing solved some genealogical problems, while creating others with further work could resolve. He showed the audience some techniques for analyzing results and how to explain them to project members. Back mutations and Parallel mutations were explained.
Next, Matt Kaplan, associate staff scientist at the University of Arizona in the Division of Biotechnology and doctoral candidate, and Taylor Edwards, Senior Research Specialist at the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core at the University of Arizona and contributes to all aspects of the laboratory work for FTDNA and the Genographic Project, presented on What’s in a Name…the Current State of Y STR Nomenclature 2009. In 2007 John Butler of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) spoke to the FTDNA conference attendees regarding the standardization of DNA companies. Since that time, Messers. Kaplan and Edwards have worked closely with Dr. Butler to help FTDNA incorporate the changes.
The current rules established by NIST were presented, but the required changes from NIST (below) shows discrepancies in the application of those rules. However, FTDNA will follow the rules.
Currently, three markers that FTDNA test were given as an example of having NIST guidelines.
1. DYS 441 – Add 1 to the current FTDNA nomenclature.
2. DYS 442 – Add 5
3. DYS GATA-H4 – Add 1
These three markers will change on the websites sometime this year. Unfortunately, the certificates previously printed will be wrong after the change.
FTDNA’s goal is to follow the NIST rules, but where NIST has not created a standard, FTDNA must follow the primary literature. These changes will take much time as NIST was created to focus primarily on Forensics and other non-genealogical companies and as more and more markers are being discovered at a rapid pace.
FTDNA vows full disclosure to NIST on their testing process. Their newly found markers are being sent to NIST, and FTDNA will be altering their reports and websites to reflect micro-alleles (partial repeats which will be displayed as decimals. Example: 14.1 instead of 14).
Bennett Greenspan, President of FTDNA, stressed that for all this to work, it is important that ALL other testing labs follow the NIST guidelines. He also suggested that all of us should push for standardization.
After another wonderful lunch, Thomas Krahn, Technical Laboratory Manager of Family Tree DNA’s Genomics Research Center in Houston, presented on A Walk Through the Y Update and NULL Alleles as a break-out session. Mr. Krahn explained that a NULL is the absence of DNA results in a particular marker. The audience learned that there are many possible locations for NULLs, namely, DYS 439, 437, 391, 565, 448, 389, 425, and 448. Some of these appear in particular haplogroups more so than in others.
We also learned the outcome of what tests have gone through the Walk Through the Y program. This testing was geared to finding more SNPs by testing parts of the Y chromosome, with the hopes of finding SNPs particular to family and even in establishing a private SNP. As of now, the project is open to the public through an application available by contacting FTDNA.
Challenges to the Genetic Genealogist by David Ewing and Bob McLaren was another breakout session answered questions regarding how your projects’ genetic information can be integrated with traditional genealogical data. Their presentation included who to test, how to recruit, what marker level to use, and how to make sense of your project results.
The last session of the conference was Updates to the Y-chromosome Tree by Dr. Michael Hammer. We learned that there are 600 SNPs which have been mapped, 20 major haplogroups (A-T), and that the R haplogroup acquired most of the new mutations although seven other groups received new mutations and subclades.
At every conference, Family Tree DNA gives the attendees some gift. At times it is a newly published book, but this year we received an updated Y Phylogenetic Tree. The best part of this tree, besides including the new subclades and SNPs, is that it uses the “short-hand” for subclades, but gives the longer version in the last column. For example, as the current subclades are getting much longer (R1b1b2) many genetic genealogists use the last SNP to indicate the twig (R-M269). However, it is easier to see the route of the twig back to the R branch by seeing the longer version. This Phylogenetic Tree is viewed at Family Tree’s website by clicking on SNPs R Us.
The conference closed with a period of questions and answers.
Various photos from the conference:
Dr. Hammer's TMRCA Presentation
12 March 2009
Family Tree DNA not only performed DNA testing at their booth, but had a series of speakers for the three days who discussed the basics of testing for genealogists and success stories related to the UK. I had decided to attend the conference as an excuse to get back to London as well as being a part of the world’s largest genealogy conference with its debut of genetic genealogy. However, as FTDNA’s booth was so busy, I spent most of Friday and Saturday helping them answer questions and swabbing testers. As a speaker for genetic genealogy, I knew I could be of assistance. It was wonderful meeting so many people and being able to share my knowledge with them.
As a result, our UK Debutant, Family Tree DNA, accomplished what they expected and plans to return next year. They also received an invitation to join The Gathering 2009, an International Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh this summer. Oh, how I wish I could be there! (Donations for my attendance are being accepted now! LOL)
Below is a few photos at the Family Tree DNA booth and presentation stage, taken when things were calm enough to take pictures.
Katherine Borges, Maureen Taylor, and Emily
Katherine Hope Borges
Saturday was Scottish Day. This group entertained the line awaiting entrance.
At the end of the day: Doron Behar (mtDNA specialist), Michael Hammer (Heads the University of Arizona lab for FTDNA) and Max Blankfeld (FTDNA V-P)
Perhaps the most difficult aspect is the need for many Americans to have very old records available; that is pre 1700s as our families came to the colonies that early. Americans over the years have created a horde of paper records, unlike most countries.
WDTYTA? Conference allowed those who took the time to explore as many of the 200+ booths as possible, a glimpse at what is available. Booth after booth contained various county’s gleanings and surname organizations as well as books and magazines on a large variety of genealogical topics and representatives of the many National Archives.
The National Archives at Kew, the Scottish National Archives, the Irish National Archives, and the National Library of Wales are only a few of the locations that provide, not only online services, but a great deal of assistance to those who visit. Each of these were represented at the conference and it only took a few minutes for me to get the father of my David Storrier of Co, Angus, Scotland and to verify the locations I had were accurate. For just a few pence, I can now go online to search for more and see the primary documents. The National Library of Wales is currently surveying any interested persons to suggest what documents would be of use for their online services. Over the last few years in the U.S., we have seen many states place their birth, death and marriage records online.
My particular lines came to the U.S. in the 1600 and 1700s, leaving the research in the UK and the Republic of Ireland a bit tricky. Only my Gilmore-Storrier line came as late as 1838. Mostly parish records are available in these centuries unless your ancestor was in the military or connected to the government in some way. Luckily for me, my Welsh lines left a pedigree that has been supported by the old manuscripts. However, there is always some missing dates and places.
When all else fails, we can turn to DNA testing to help break those brick walls. Although Americans dearly hope that the British will be as enthusiastic about DNA testing as we are, many of us have either more disposable income or are more frivolous is how we spend our money. It is really hard to say and putting anyone in the same box is not a safe idea.
What I do know from attending the conference and helping at the FTDNA booth is that, like Americans, the British are very interested in solving questions of paternity, are curious about their most ancient roots, and are hoping to dissolve some brick walls…just like the rest of the genealogy and genetic genealogy world.
I’ve know a few genealogists from England and Wales who know a great deal about researching in the United States. Perhaps it is time that those of us who desire to find our ancestors in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland take the time to learn how to research the many archives, public record offices, and family history centers of the area. Searching from a distance is always difficult, but is no reason to throw up our hands, and, of course, traveling to another country to research those records, and visiting the towns where your ancestors lived is a wonderful treat.
©Aulicno, 9 Mar 2009
08 March 2009
First in the Q on Day 1
L-R Derrell, Emily, Candy, and Maureen Taylor
Besides building bridges across that rather large pond, the time was also spent creating connections. Business cards were flying everywhere, offers of help with repairing old photos, searching various archives, and, in some cases, further business opportunities regarding magazine articles and consulting opportunities. Connections were being made.
Then there was the connections we created
from just getting to know each other a bit more..
and connecting through laughter.
Friday night of the conference, many of us gathered at the Pizza Express restaurant next to the Olympia Center. That first night produced a massive crowd which included three members of the FamilyTree
.........................Debbie, Megan, and Katherine
DNA staff, Max Blankfeld, vice-president; Doron Behar, mtDNA geneticist; and Michael Hammer, head of the testing lab. Other notables were Megan Smolenyak, Chris Pomery, Dick Eastman, Katherine Borges, and DNA administrators: Brian Swann, David Palmer, Debbie Kennett, Lorna McDougall, Susan Spires, Derrell Oakley Teat, Candy Campise, L.A. Chancey, and myself.
Waiter, Back L-R: David, Chris, Brian, and Lorna
Front L-R: Max and Doron
Back L-R: Chris, Brian, Megan, and Dick
Front L-R: Katherine, Emily and Susan
* * * Both photos courtesy of Candy Campise * * *
L-R Front: Candy and Derrell
Right Rear: L.A.
Rear, standing: Michael
Debbie in blue on left
Saturday night was a late dinner as everyone was saying good-bye and the booth was being disassembled. Those survivors (Max, Doron, Megan, Katherine, Debbie, and I) returned to the Pizza Express and were entertained by our Italian waiter, Paolo, who thought his name boring and wanted to change it to Marco or Massimo. Quickly he became Marco Paolo!
Marco Paolo and Emily
Although the WDYTYA? Conference focuses mostly on genealogy, the following list of Friday night diners spans three continents (as David lives in Hong Kong) and provides some incite of the depth of genetic genealogy interest that the conference amassed. The evening was spent, for some, an opportunity to meet for the first time and for others a chance to kindle old friendships.
Co-author of Trace Your Roots with DNA
Roots Television: http://www.rootstelevision.com/
Her genealogy site is: http://www.genetealogy.com/
Megan’s blog currently is at: http://megansrootsworld.blogspot.com/, but will be moving to: http://www.rootstelevision.com/blogs/megans-rootsworld.html
Be sure to see the Haley-Baff Reunion on Roots Television
Alec Haley’s book and movie Roots started a genealogical phenomenon in the U.S. regarding. Recently, his nephew Christopher tested his DNA and a Scottish Baff family matched, proving the family’s oral history. Christopher Haley met his Scottish cousin in London this last week. The story can been seen at:
Author of DNA and Family History and Family History in the Genes
Sign up for his email newsletter at:
Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
Director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy
ISOGG coordinator for England and Wales. His vision brought Family Tree DNA to the WDYTYA? Conference which lead to many of us in America to travel to London.
Administrator for the Picton DNA Project
See his interview with Dick Eastman at:
Palmer DNA Project
Cruwys DNA Administrator
MacDougall DNA Project
Squires DNA Administrator
Derrell Oakley Teat
Hodgens DNA Project
Co-Administrator for the Hodgens DNA Project
Chancey-Chauncey DNA Project
My involvement can be seen within this blog.
My Family Tree DNA projects include: Ireland, Campania Region of Italy, Messina Province of Sicily, two genealogical society affiliates (GFO and WVGS), and six surname projects: Conard-Conrad, Derby, Doolin, Lamson, Ogan, and Talley-Tally
Creating connections...just a start, but one never knows where it may lead...
©Aulicino, 8 Mar 2009
Friday night of the conference, many of us gathered at the Pizza Express restaurant next to the Olympia Center. That first night produced a massive crowd which included three members of the Family Tree DNA staff, Max Blankfeld, vice-president; Doron Behar, mtDNA geneticist; and Michael Hammer, head of the testing lab. Other notables were Megan Smolenyak, Chris Pomery, Dick Eastman, Katherine Borges, and DNA administrators: Brian Swann, David Palmer, Debbie Kennett, Lorna McDougall, Susan Spires, Derrell Oakley Teat, Candy Campise and L.A. Chancey.
05 March 2009
This last week we may have begun closing that gap and building a strong bridge back to the motherland. We all find that preverbial brick wall sooner or later, and we all know that DNA testing can help break through those walls. However, without people testing their DNA in the various parts of the UK, many Americans may never find their roots across the pond. With the advent of Family Tree DNA attending the Who Do You Think You Are? Conference and with the overwhelming interest in their presentations as well as the number of tests sold, we may have just witnessed the strongest pipeline yet to linking both sides of the pond.
Building bridges was what this conference was for me.
Many bloggers have already posted information regarding the conference and some of those who attended WDYTYA are listed below. I do not wish to repeat their stories, but to give you my experiences and perspective. I was most pleased to actually meet some of the people with whom I have been corresponding and who are leaders in our field. To share a meal with them and to enjoy each others company was a pleasure. I thank all of you for what you bring to the genealogy and genetic genealogy table. Each of us has much to give and by doing so you enrich the lives of many.
Maureen Taylor, Photo Detective: http://blog.familytreemagazine.com/photodetectiveblog/?p_PageAlias=photodetective
The third annual Who Do You Think You Are? Conference at the Olympia Center in the Kensington area of London ran from February 27th to March 1st and provided, for the first time, Genetic Genealogy venues. This genealogical fair is the largest in the UK, and no doubt in the world. It is a by-product of the British interest in the BBC show by the same name. While showcasing a celebrity’s lineage, this TV program provides a wonderful view of British history. Being in London, I had the opportunity to see an episode and was delighted when the Thompson line was followed to early Virginia although my particular line landed in Massachusetts. Creating these connections between the countries and providing a historical view-point for the general public can only increase the interest in genealogy as well as genetic genealogy. Building bridges is the key.
Although the use of DNA testing for the genealogical research has only been mentioned in a few previous episodes, we may see more of its use in the American version, due to air this spring on the public broadcasting station, as executive producer Lisa Kudrow of the cast of Friends, has not only been tested by Family Tree DNA, but will be featured in the series along with other famous American actors.
Like several American genealogists, I made the trek to London this last week to participate in the first attempt to build a bridge between the two cultures in the field of Genetic Genealogy. Family Tree DNA brought Max Blankfeld, FTDNA Vice-president; Dr. Doron Behar, mtDNA specialist and an internationally known population geneticist; and Dr. Michael Hammer, geneticist, who runs the testing lab at the University of Arizona for FTDNA. Each of these plus genetic genealogy author Chris Pomery, ISOGG director Katherine Borges, and ISOGG coordinator for England and Wales, Brian Swann gave presentations on various aspects of genetic genealogy. The FTDNA booth was constantly a buzz explaining the benefits of using DNA for genealogy as well as taking many samples for testing. Although not an employee of Family Tree DNA, but an administrator of eleven DNA projects with them and an ISOGG regional coordinator and speaker, I volunteered to assist for the first two conference days as they were swamped. It was a delight meeting so many wonderful people and to have the opportunity to share my knowledge of genetic genealogy with them.
One of my proudest moments was to test Peter Beauclerk-Dewar, author of Royal Bastards: Illegitimate Children of the British Royal Family. Quite by accident, I had wanted to purchase his book earlier, but the store had sold out. When Mr. Beauclerk-Dewar pulled a copy of his book from a bag, I asked him where he had gotten it. His reply that he wrote it was a delight. After DNA testing he went home (just around the corner) to get me a copy. He graciously signed it to me personally and actually sold a few more copies to my traveling companions. Mr. Beaucler-Dewar told me that he had used Family Tree DNA to test some of the people in his book to prove their lineage to royal families, but now he was testing himself! More bridges being built.
Aside from the FTDNA booth and their speakers, over 200 genealogical groups from all over the UK participated. Representatives from various national archives, the National Library of Wales, genealogical groups, family associations, and much more attended. The traveler that I know made the longest journey was ISOGG member David Palmer who lives in Hong Kong. Dr. Doron Behar, previously mentioned, lives in Israel, so there could have been others who came great distances besides those of us in America.
I was delighted to meet Pauline Prynne of Photographs Retouched by Prynne (http://www.retouchedbyprynne.co.uk/) who stayed at the same hotel as I and my friends. We had a delightful time getting to know her at breakfast each morning. Her booth showed some wonderfully restored photos so be sure to check her webpage.
Irish Roots Magazine (http://www.irishrootsmedia.com/) discussed with me their interest in doing an article about the Ireland DNA Project I help administer at Family Tree DNA. It would be delightful to have their support though an article as it may lead to more interest in DNA testing as many Americans cannot locate the birthplace of their Irish ancestors and testing may be the only help. Building more bridges.
I’m also pleased to know that the National Library in Wales is planning to make many of their records available online. Recently, a survey allowed people to choose areas of interest as the library welcomes readers’ views on its exciting plans to make as much as possible of its Welsh collections available online. For any of you with Welsh ancestry, you might visit the following link to take the survey: www.scotinform.co.uk/Onlinesurveys/NLW/3/English/theatreofmemory3.htm?id=O2E79
I was very pleased to visit the Scottish National Archives booth (http://www.nas.gov.uk/) and to find another generation for my Storrier family through their site. I will be checking this resource further as I just know there must be more information.
For those of you who did not make it to London this last week, I urge you to visit the vendors list (http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.co.uk/component/option,com_exhibitors/Itemid,29/) and click on the WebPages of the sites that interest you. As Americans we may not know all that is available to us, and this opportunity is possibly the bridge that we need.
Remember: Build Bridges.
©Aulicino, 5 Mar 2009