08 March 2012

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012

Who Do You Think You Are? Live, the world’s largest genealogy conference, was held once again at the Olympia Center in London’s Kensington-Chelsea area, and once again many of us from the United States attended to help at the Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) booth and at the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) booth.

Max moved for more space
And this is only part of the Booth
Conference attendance appeared to be back to normal from its slump last year. Usually Friday is the largest attendance day, but “on-the-ground” observers contend that both Friday and Saturday were equally busy.  Sundays are always slower. The FTDNA and ISOGG booths were both swamped, so I had little time to take photos and am relying on friends who have shared theirs with me this year.

The hall is so large that any photo appears to show a light attendance, but booths (called stands in the UK) were crowded.  Various stands provided information for dating and identifying your old photos, learning about your family heirlooms, asking experts for advice on particular problems, and identifying your military ancestors. Besides accessing the resources at the stands, various Irish, Scottish, and Welsh societies as well as many counties in England had databases or books available to assist you. There are many workshops on various aspects of UK research as well as discounts on vendors who focus on records from the Isles. And as usual, celebrities from the British show of Who Do You Think You Are? made appearances.  Of special interest was the presentation by Dr. Turi King of the University of Leicester regarding Surnames, DNA and Family History. She was a delight to meet as was Dr. Brian McKechnie of the University of Strathclyde who offers courses in various aspects of genealogy, and Dr.Bruce Winney of Oxford University who is leading the sampling program for a project entitled the Face of Britain.  Meeting Drs. King and Winney were the result of efforts by Brian Swann, PhD to gather various members of the genetic genealogy world together.

As a result of my attending last year’s conference, a short visit to the Scottish genealogy society took my Storrier lineage in Dundee, Scotland back another generation, and this year, at the Northern of Ireland Family History Society, I found the baptismal record of my great-great-grandfather Robert Grey Gilmore who was born in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland along with two possible siblings and another probable family member.  Sadly, the records do not mention his mother’s name, but I did learn that his father was a carpenter. This society has a network of people who look up records for you, so naturally, I joined.
Alasdair McDonald

Chris Pomery
Family Tree DNA, a major sponsor of the conference, rotated their speakers so everyone had an opportunity to attend.  Max Blankfeld explained basic information about DNA testing for genealogy followed by Alasdair MacDonald on Scottish DNA, Katherine Borges on DNA Success Stories, Bennett Greenspan on the ABC’s of Y-DNA, Chris Pomery on Combining Traditional and Genetic Genealogy, Bennett Greenspan on New Frontiers for Genealogy, Chris Pomery on British Populations, and the day closed with a panel of experts to answer any audience questions.

Bennett Greenspan, President and CEO of Family Tree DNA
Max Blankfeld, VP Operations/Marketing of Family Tree DNA
Alasdair Macdonald, Professional Genealogist and Scottish representative for Family Tree DNA
Chris Pomery, author of DNA and Family History and DNA in the Genes
Katherine Borges, Directory of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG)

Ken in white shirt
You never know who will appear in the FTDNA audience.  One year, an actual princess, and this year the paparazzi spotted Ken Chahine, Vice President of the Ancestry.com DNA division.  Looks like Ancestry is still in their learning phase.  Interesting!  AND, there's no one better to learn from than Family Tree DNA!

The real news this year, however, is that many FREE DNA kits were given away to men with particular surnames.  For the last three years Family Tree Y-DNA project administrators have offered to pay for a Y-DNA test if someone walking by the ISOGG booth had a surname listed on the poster.  In previous years about 3-5 tests were given away each year.  This year the following tests were paid by project managers. We were all shocked as even some of us who were there actually had testers for our projects: Katherine Borges obtained the DNA of a Fuller and a Powell; Linda Magellan found a Parker, James Irvine reaped a Urvin, and  I was fortunate to have a Dowlen and a Doolin test, Doolin being my maiden name.

Malcolm Doolin & Emily
Brooks (3 testers)
Pike (2 testers)
Taylor (2 testers)

Each year, several of us from the U.S. travel to London to help at the Family Tree DNA stand and the ISOGG stand.  Although the conference is three days, we become typical tourists and stay a week to explore various parts of London and the surrounding areas.  We also enjoy networking with the attendees and workers, giving us the opportunity to meet other genetic genealogists living in the UK.  It is also an opportunity to research at the Society of Genealogists, the Family History Center, and The National Archives.  Several of us have been successful in getting our lines back a few generations and confirming some ancestors through these depositories.  We have enjoyed meeting so many people in Britain, rekindling friendships there, and experiencing the kind help of strangers in navigating the city.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013 seems too far away!

©Aulicino, 3 Mar 2012

1 comment:

Brian Swann said...

Lovely summary, Emily.

We have come a long way in less than 3 years.

But we only have one previous year of experience to compare the efficacy of posting surnames of interest in the wall - and we learnt how to do that more effectively this year.