Sunday, 23 October 2016

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2016

Three days, 21-23 October, of top quality talks in Dublin organized by Maurice Gleeson were a feast for the genetic genealogist. Sponsored by Family Tree DNA, the event was held in conjunction with Back to Our Past, a more general genealogy show with the presence of all the major international commercial players active in Ireland, Ancestry, Find my past, Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA, and many of the Irish family history organizations - governmental and societies. Also exhibiting was the new UK company Living DNA with their new autosomal test featuring higher geographic resolution for the UK than available from the big three DNA genealogy companies.
BTOP was in turn part of a 50+ show, the whole thing sponsored by Ancestry. I understand the genealogy component was considerably busier than last year.

Highlighting some talks from the third day.

Robert Casey spoke on Y-SNPs: Key to the future, one of several presentations that explained using SNPs, STRs and genealogical information in conjunction to sort out genetic family trees and link to paper record trees. The rate at which new Y-SNPs are being found is revolutionary. There is the prospect of new technology that will make the analysis less time intensive, and an anticipated improved Big Y test from Family Tree DNA.

The first of two amazing presentations showing developments in autosomal DNA analysis was The genetic identification of the 1916 Cork Rebel, Thomas Kent,  by Jens Carlsson. Executed in 1916 Kent's body was buried in a shallow grave where it was subject to moisture that degraded the DNA. Nevertheless short strands of autosomal DNA were recovered and analysed using a shotgun technique (don't ask). By comparing the recovered DNA against that of two relatives the analysis established the identity with a confidence better than the one in the number of humans who have ever lived.

The second amazing presentation was by
Edmund Gilbert on the Irish DNA Atlas. This is work in progress and the audience was asked not to take photos or record the presentation. My notes are rough as the material came at us quickly - don't rely on it. This is a project complementary to the People of the British Isles project using similar techniques but with even stricter recruitment criteria. Samples from 194 people were used. The analysis is computationally intensive using the equivalent of 94 four processor personal computers for 12 hours each. At the most course resolution the data falls into groups for north, south and east Ireland and Planter group. At finer resolution groups were identified which could be associated with the ancient kingdoms of Ireland. An analysis was shown which split the Planters into three groups and identified differences in origin balance.

Diahan Southard gave a tear-jerker of a presentation on how she gradually came to identifying the ancestry of her adoptee mother, who was in the audience. The story was superbly told and illustrated with exceptionally well prepared visuals, which were also evident in a previous presentation Diahan gave.
The whole event was well chaired as well as organized by Maurice Gleeson who must be counted a treasure of the genetic genealogy community. Many of the presentations from the three days will become available on YouTube, again thanks to Maurice.

3 comments:

Family Sleuther said...

This sounds like a fantastic event. Thank you for the synopsis. I'm eager to hear more about Edmund Gilbert's presentation on the Irish DNA Atlas. Any idea if this will be among the sessions shared on YouTube?

Jill Ball said...

Thanks for the account John. IF this is to be an annual event it would be worth scheduling my next trip to Ireland to coincide.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Jill, it has been an annual event. I was fortunate to be in Ireland for the event two years ago. From the account here, it promises to improve with each year's iteration.