Monday 25 July 2022

NIFHS DNA Summer School 2022

The North of Ireland Family History Society is running its annual Summer School from Monday 22nd August to Friday 26th August. The line-up of speakers at this years event includes myself, Martin McDowell, Anne Johnston, and EJ Blom. Details are below.

Bookings are now open through 

One of the differences this year is that our classes are being recorded and will be made available to participants for 28 days to allow people to view classes they missed or rewatch.

Monday 22nd August to Friday 26th August 

via Zoom with 2 classes per day.

The course covers Autosomal DNA, Y-DNA and Mt-DNA with classes for both beginners and more experienced DNA researchers. We have how-to classes and also practical examples to show you how to get the most from your DNA results.

Each day has a theme (see schedule below) and each class is stand alone, so you can attend as many or as few as you like.

Classes will be approximately 90 minutes long, with a presentation followed by a question and answer session. The cost per class is £10 and if you book all 10, the price is £80.

We have an extra bonus exclusively for anyone who books all 10 classes -  you will be invited to a free question and answer session to be held on Saturday 3 September at 3pm. So, if you are puzzled over something you have learned or just want to share a big breakthrough, this will be your chance.

And as well as all this, we have some giveaways and special discounts available during the week - book now and make sure you don’t miss out on what promises to be our best Summer School ever!

Monday 22 August 2022 - Autosomal DNA

3.00pm Making Progress with Autosomal DNA – with Anne Johnston

7.00pm Trees and your matches – with Anne Johnston

Tuesday 23 August 2022 - Autosomal DNA

3.00pm Using the Chromosome Browser effectively – with Anne Johnston

7.00pm Inferred Matches/Mapping – with Martin McDowell

Wednesday 24 August 2022 - Y-DNA

3.00pm The Advantages of Y-DNA – with Martin McDowell

7.00pm Using Y-DNA to connect with ancestors in the 1500s, 1400s, and 1200s  - with Maurice Gleeson

Thursday 25 August 2022 - Mitochondrial DNA

3.00pm The Advantages of MT-DNA – with Martin McDowell

7.00pm Using MT-DNA – with guest speaker

Friday 26 August 2022 - Tools provided by two non-testing companies

3.00pm Using GEDmatch – with Martin McDowell

7.00pm Unravelling trees of matches using AutoKinship from Genetic Affairs – with EJ Blom

Further information about the content of each class and how to book is given in the DNA Summer School page on the Society’s website at NIFHS.

You can also keep informed by following our DNA page on Facebook.

I'll be giving examples of how Y-DNA can help establish connections back beyond the reach of autosomal DNA (1700s) and take us into the 1600s (Morgan), 1500s (Spierin), 1400s (Grace O'Malley), and 1200s (Stewart).

Maurice Gleeson
Aug 2022

Sunday 3 April 2022

Burke's Landed Gentry - how to access the various editions online

Burke's Landed Gentry (BLG) can be an invaluable resource for Irish research. A complete list of the various publications by Burke's Peerage can be found on their website here. BLG is just one of many publications by Burke's. There are two separate strands of BLG: 1) BLG of Great Britain & Ireland (19 editions); and 2) BLG of Ireland (5 editions). Below is a list of the various editions and links to any editions that are available to read for free online (at least for me, based in the UK).

If you find any additional links to editions marked "not available", please leave a comment in the Comments section below.

1833 - BLG of GB&I

Burke, John A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, enjoying Territorial Possessions or High Official Rank, but uninvested with Heritable Honours, First published in three volumes 1833–35
Re-issued 1836–37
Additional volume IV 1837

1843 - BLG of GB&I
Burke, John and Burke, John Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland. A Companion to the Peerage and Baronetage. With Supplement, Corrigenda and General Index. Published in Parts, usually bound in three volumes 1843–49.

1850 - BLG of GB&I
Burke, Sir John Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, for 1850: comprising particulars of upwards of 100,000 individuals. With Supplement, Addenda, Corrigenda and Separate Index. A re-issue of the 1843–49 edition with additional pages in the Addenda. It can be found variously dated and one copy dated 1847–53 had the joint editors of John Burke and John Bernard Burke on the title page. Published in parts, usually bound in three volumes 1850–53.
  • Volume 1 (1853)
  • Volume 2 (1853)
  • Volume 3 (1853) and here (1850)

  • 1855 - BLG of GB&I

    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Third Edition. With Supplement. Published in parts 1855–58.
    Can also be found in one volume dated 1858.
  • Volume 1 or here

  • 1862 - BLG of GB&I

    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Fourth Edition. Can be found in one volume with a single title page dated 1863 but was first issued as two parts with two title pages dated 1862 and 1863.
  • Part 1
  • Part 2 or here

  • 1868 - BLG of GB&I

    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Fourth Edition Revised and Enlarged with Supplement and Corrigenda 1868.

    1871 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Fifth Edition with Supplement, two volumes 1871.
    Volume 1 available here (1871)
    Volume 2 available here (1871)

    1875 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Fifth Edition re-issued with two Supplements and Addenda, two volumes 1875.
    Volume 1 available here.
    Volume 2 available here.

    1879 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Sixth Edition with Supplement and Corrigenda, two volumes 1879.
    Volume 1 available here.
    Volume 2 available here.

    1882 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Sixth Edition re-issued with larger Supplement and Addenda, two volumes 1882
    Volume 1 available here.
    Volume 2 available here.

    1886 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Seventh Edition, two volumes 1886
    Volume 1 available here.
    Volume 2 available here.

    1894 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Ashworth P. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Eighth Edition, by Sir Bernard Burke, edited by his sons, two volumes 1894.
    Volume 1 available here.
    Volume 2 available here.

    1898 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Ashworth P. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Ninth Edition, by Sir Bernard Burke, edited by his son, two volumes, including a separate section on Ireland (see Landed Gentry of Ireland for separate issue of this) 1898. Not available online.
  • Volume 1
  • Volume 2

  • 1899 - BLG of I

    Burke, Ashworth P. A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Ireland by Sir Bernard Burke, edited by his son Ashworth P. Burke. (Re-issue of the Irish Supplement of the 1898 Edition of the Landed Gentry, with a Supplement), 1899. Available online here.

    1900 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard and Ashworth P. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain, Tenth Edition with Addenda 1900. Not available online.

    1904 - BLG of I
    Burke, Ashworth P. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland. Second Edition but called Tenth Edition, referring to the numbering of the editions of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain 1904. Not available online.

    1906 - BLG of GB&I
    Burke, Sir Bernard and Burke, Ashworth P. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain, Eleventh Edition with Addenda 1906. Not available online.

    1912 - BLG of I
    Fox-Davies, A. C. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland, New Edition (Third Edition) 1912. Available online here.

    1914 - BLG of GB&I
    Fox-Davies, A. C. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain, Twelfth Edition 1914. Available online here.

    1921 - BLG of GB&I
    Thorpe, A. Winton A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain, Thirteenth Edition 1921. Not available online.

    1925 - BLG of GB&I
    Butler, Alfred T. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, Fourteenth Edition. A re-issue of the 1921 Edition, with Supplement 1925. Not available online.

    1937 - BLG of GB&I
    Pirie-Gordon, H. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, Centenary Edition. Includes an Irish Supplement 1937. Not available online.

    1939 - BLG of GB&I
    Pine, L. G. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry including American Families with British Ancestry, Sixteenth Edition 1939. Available online here.

    1952 - BLG of GB&I
    Pine, L. G. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, Seventeenth Edition 1952. Not available online.

    1954 - BLG of GB&I
    Pine, L. G. Supplement to Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1954. Not available online.

    1958 - BLG of I
    Pine, L. G. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland, Fourth Edition 1958. Not available online.

    1965 - BLG of GB&I
    Townend, Peter Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, Eighteenth Edition, Volumes I and II 1965–69. Not available online.

    1976 - BLG of I (renamed to Burke's Irish Family Records)
    Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh Burke’s Irish Family Records, Fifth Edition 1976. Not available online.

    There are several useful links that provide general background information about BLG and its utility and reliability:

    Maurice Gleeson
    April 2022

    Wednesday 7 October 2020

    Plans for the next Genetic Genealogy Ireland

    Unfortunately the GGI2020 conference in Dublin has been cancelled due to the ongoing problems with COVID. The conference was due to run on Oct 17-18, 2020 but due to COVID restrictions, this is no longer possible.

    However, the past 6 months has seen an explosion in online webinars and conferences and the word ZOOM has now acquired an entirely different additional meaning. Moves are afoot to try to have GGI2021 as a virtual conference some time next year. Further details will be released in due course.

    In the meantime, you can enjoy presentations from previous years of GGI. You will find details of every single presentation on our Speaker Profiles page starting with GGI2020 Belfast and going all the way back to GGI2013 Dublin (10 conferences in total). Many of these presentations were recorded and you can watch them on our YouTube Channel and our dedicated page on Legacy FamilyTreeWebinars.

    Some of the most popular videos are included below. Just click on them to view.

    Maurice Gleeson
    Oct 2020

    Origins of the Irish 

    Prof James P Mallory

    Professor Jim Mallory's talk from 2018 in Belfast is the most popular of the GGI videos with over 42,000 views. This is an excellent talk and Prof Mallory's wit and intellect shine brightly throughout. His comments about his chapter on DNA in his book of the same name are particularly amusing and insightful. New DNA evidence from ancient remains is causing major reworking of previous theories about who are the Irish and how did they get there. This is a must see!

    Viking DNA in Ireland. Do you have some and where did it come from? 

    Peter Sjölund

    Peter Sjölund is one of Sweden's foremost genetic genealogists and his talk at GGI2016 struck a chord with the Irish audience (commanding over 31,000 views). Everyone in Ireland is fascinated by the Vikings and want to know if they have inherited any Viking DNA. Peter discusses recent advances in the understanding of Scandinavian DNA which has allowed us to trace the DNA of the Vikings back to different parts of Scandinavia and all the way back to when people first colonised Scandinavia at the end of the Ice Age. If you suspect you are a Viking, this is for you.

    DNA vs the Irish Annals 

    Brad Larkin

    Back in 2014, Brad Larkin gave his first talk on how DNA is helping our understanding of Irish Clan system, as described in the Irish Annals and the Traditional Genealogies (some of which are the oldest in Europe and stretch back over 2000 years). Brad gave a follow-up talk in Belfast at GGI2018. Irish Clan research has received a lot of renewed interest in recent years, helped by the plethora of Irish surname projects at FTDNA together with major advances in the study of ancient Irish DNA (Prof Dan Bradley & Lara Cassidy of Trinity College Dublin have been regular speakers at the conference). We can expect increased cross-fertilisation between ancient DNA and citizen science over the course of the next few years and Irish Clan research promises to be a popular topic for the foreseeable future. Between his two presentations, Brad has garnered more than 33,000 views.

    Thursday 12 March 2020

    Thank you, Belfast !

    A great time was had by all at GGI2020 Belfast (Feb 14-15). It's always great to see old friends and make new ones and this year's event certainly did not disappoint on that score - the good food and superior company at dinner each night is always a high point of the event. This was the third time that Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI) was run in Belfast (as part of the Back to Our Past event). And no sooner was it all over than everyone jumped on a plane to RootsTech! So now that all that is over, here is a brief recap of the Belfast weekend in photos.

    Back to Our Past runs in Belfast in February & Dublin in October

    The ICC at the Waterfront Hall is an excellent venue and it was a pleasure to return there for the second year in a row. The iconic TV programme Game of Thrones was filmed in Belfast. This lovely stained glass window has been erected outside the Waterfront Hall and we passed it each day on the way to the conference. Which characters from the TV show do you recognise?

    (click to enlarge)

    The FTDNA stand stretched for a good 30 feet and as it was at the entrance to the event, we captured quite a few punters on their way in. As always, the power behind the FTDNA stand was our very own Dee (Derrell Oakley Teat). This is her 10th Back to Our Past event in Ireland and she runs the stand like a well-oiled machine.

    The FamilyTreeDNA stand drew a lot of attention and enquiries

    Joining Dee at various times during the day was Mike Sager (Mr Big Y) and a host of ISOGG volunteers including James Irvine (pictured), Cathal McElgunn, Candy Jones, Linda Horton, Andy Hochreiter, and many more. The folks at the North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS) stand also lent a hand from time to time.

    The FTDNA stand with posters, list of free DNA tests for surname projects,
    and the DNA Lecture schedule on the TV screen

    The FTDNA stand saw a steady stream of customers, especially on the second day of the event. Sales included at least 4 Big Y tests, which were offered at a very attractive discount by FTDNA (who were the only DNA company advertising at the event so they had a captive audience).

    Martin McDowell helping a customer with the NIFHS stand in the background.

    Everyone who tested at the FTDNA stand was automatically entered into the North of Ireland DNA Project (unless they requested otherwise). Project membership is fast-approaching the 5000 members milestone and the Society works very hard to recruit local people for DNA testing. They run regular Introductory Courses on DNA and have two regular DNA Special Interest Groups. If you have ancestry from the North of Ireland, you need to join this project - you are highly likely to find DNA cousins among its membership. Transfers from other companies are especially welcome.

    Speakers featured above are Martin Hayden, Andrew Kane, Peter McWilliam, Cathal McElgunn,
    Jonny Perl, Donna Rutherford, Martin McDowell & Paddy Waldron (photo: Gerard Corcoran)

    Admission to the event was free and there was very good attendance at both the DNA Lectures (organised by my good self) and the traditional genealogy lectures (organised by Martin McDowell of NIFHS). A Big Thank You has to go to the speakers, ISOGG volunteers, and of course our sponsors, FamilyTreeDNA for their continuing support - this is a team effort and everybody's contribution goes towards making this event a great success.

    Mike Sager discusses the incredible growth of the Tree of Mankind,
    thanks in large part to the Big Y test from FTDNA (photo: Gerard Corcoran)

    We were delighted that FTDNA were able to spare Mike Sager and loaned him to the community for a few days. Mike gave an inspiring talk on the Tree of Mankind, informed by his unique insights as the Big Y guru. He is the one man in the World who knows more about the Tree of Mankind than anybody else - he builds new branches every day! The size of Haplogroup R is truly astounding, accounting for about 50% of all known branches in the Y-Hapolotree. And this is just present-day branches - think of all the other branches that have gone extinct over the passage of the last 250,000 years. Mike highlighted this consideration when he spoke of the huge distance between the early branches of the Tree: A-L1090 is a SNP Block of 432 SNPs, and A-L1088 is a SNP Block of 2674 SNPs - this is greater than the distance between that latter branch and the most downstream branch today. The potential number of extinct branches is mind-boggling - we only see the survivors.

    Martin Hayden discusses the power of X DNA

    We also had 6 new speakers at this year's GGI. It was great to see this new talent emerge and many of the new speakers were from the North of Ireland so there was a distinct local flavour to the proceedings. A full list of the talks can be found in this blog post here and biographical sketches of each of the speakers can be found on our Speaker Profiles page. We also had Expert Panel Discussions on both days and the second one turned into a very interesting exploration of DNA and adoption searching in Ireland, which raised some very interesting ethical considerations.

    Each presentation was recorded live and these videos will be available over the course of the next several weeks. Some speakers have opted to have the video of their presentation hosted on the GGI YouTube Channel where they can be viewed for free. There are three videos from 2019 there already and 6 more (from 2020) will be added over the course of the next few weeks. Further information on the new arrangements for accessing GGI videos can be found here.

    The GGI YouTube Channel

    The rest of the recorded presentations are going up on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website where there is a new special section for Genetic Genealogy Ireland. You will find most of the videos from the 2019 GGI events there now - they were uploaded just before GGI2020 Belfast. Legacy Family Tree Webinars is a subscription service and the monies raised help the speakers to cover their travel expenses. But at $50 per year, it is a very cost-effective way of gaining access to their entire library of educational videos - it would cost a lot more to attend a single conference. Full details of how to access the videos are included here.

    Some videos are hosted on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website

    The day after conference is a traditional time for rest and relaxation. This started with a morning tour of Queens University Belfast and a stroll through the Botanic Gardens and the fabulous Palm House Conservatory. We were all glad of a bit of tropical heat which contrasted nicely with the crisp chill of the Belfast morning.

    The Glasshouse (photo: Donna Rutherford)

    GGI2020 coincided with the Northern Ireland Science Festival and the group attended two lectures in the impressive Whitla Hall at Queens University Belfast. Adam Rutherford gave a very thought-provoking talk on genetics and racism, and Prof Alice Roberts took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of her BBC TV series The Incredible Human Journey, charting the journey of Man out of Africa and into the rest of the World.

    Adam Rutherford - on stage at Whitla Hall (photo: Donna Rutherford)

    And then, before you knew it, it was all done. Gallileo adequately captures how everyone felt when the day drew to a close - it's always sad to say goodbye to friends and colleagues. Who else will listen eagerly to us spouting off about genealogy?

    I've no one to talk to about DNA ...

    If you'd like to be part of the fun, the next GGI event is on in Dublin in October. However, the usual dates have been moved forward by 1 day to 17-18 Oct (Saturday & Sunday, not Friday). And we will have a special ISOGG Day Out on the Monday (Oct 19th). The following weekend (starting on Sunday) is the MyHeritage annual conference which this year is in Tel Aviv (25-26 Oct), and 2 weeks after that is the FTDNA Annual Conference in Houston (13-15 Nov).

    I'm sure I'll see you at one of them!

    Maurice Gleeson
    March 2020

    Thursday 13 February 2020

    FTDNA has the largest "local DNA database" in Northern Ireland

    In this guest post from Martin McDowell of the North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS), he explains how FamilyTreeDNA has the largest "local DNA database" in the North of Ireland (compared to the other direct-to-consumer companies). This is of huge importance if you are researching your North of Ireland ancestry - in short, you must add your DNA to the FTDNA database and join the North of Ireland DNA Project ...
    Maurice Gleeson
    Feb 2020
    Are you fishing in the right pool?

    We all know how important finding a DNA match is. What we might not all know is that different companies have more market dominance in certain parts of the world and therefore might be more useful when pursuing matches in a particular locality.

    No one can doubt Ancestry and 23andMe have sold the vast majority of autosomal tests to American and Canadian customers. It is my view that MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA are stronger than Ancestry in other parts of the world such as Australia and New Zealand.

    The reason for this dates back a number of years before Ancestry, MyHeritage and Living DNA had entered the DNA market. 23andMe and Family Tree DNA were the only testing companies for people testing around the world and as Family Tree DNA was the cheaper option internationally it tended to get the bulk of the non-US business. Even when Ancestry started selling DNA tests in 2012 they didn’t sell outside of the United States and Canada until 2015.

    People may not be aware that even in 2020 Ancestry only offer DNA tests for sale in 34 countries:

    By contrast, Family Tree DNA will sell autosomal DNA tests to anyone in any country (except Sudan or Iran as noted on their website). So if you are looking for matches in another country you need to be aware that testing with Ancestry is not enough on its own and that you need to be in one of the other databases too – preferably as many as possible!

    The NIFHS has a strong presence at all the
    major genealogy events in the UK & Ireland
    My work as a project administrator with Family Tree DNA has left me surprised on a number of occasions when someone from a country/ethnicity has tested that I do not expect to receive many matches for - and yet they do. South Africa and Jamaica are two countries that spring to mind. And having spoken to people in Norway and Sweden about their matches it is also clear that Family Tree DNA also have large numbers of testers in the Scandinavian countries. As do MyHeritage. And this is something that the genetic genealogist needs to be aware of when they test - if you are not fishing in the right pool then you won’t catch a fish!

    Within Northern of Ireland I can confirm, without any fear of contradiction, that Family Tree DNA is the major testing company used by local people. This is partly because the North of Ireland Family History Society has promoted DNA testing for a number of years, during many of which Family Tree DNA was the only real option. The rest of Ireland is also well represented on Family Tree DNA where they are well known as the only sponsor of Genetic Genealogy Ireland and where they can be found taking a stand at many local genealogy events.

    Recruitment to our DNA Project continues to grow at a very fast rate
    The result of all these efforts is that the majority of people with a Northern Irish background get a higher number of matches on Family Tree DNA than other testers receive from countries that are not as well represented on the database. These regional differences are crucial to success and an important factor to bear in mind when you are looking for a match.

    Another benefit of Family Tree DNA is that they also have some of the earliest autosomal DNA tests. As FTDNA started selling Y and MT tests before they introduced Family Finder in 2010, their DNA storage policy meant that even people who had died prior to the introduction of Family Finder in 2010 could still have an autosomal DNA test performed on their sample. And this is still providing benefit. One of my 4th cousins had a Y-DNA test done in 2009. Although he died in 2012, his family paid for an autosomal test in 2019 and I got a match with him shortly after.

    With results for new Northern Irish testers coming through within the North of Ireland DNA Project almost every day, the database is now far more useful than in previous years. These tests are more beneficial as we have been running an education programme to encourage and support people to add family trees and to use the family matching tool. And the family matching tool is now much more useful than previously as you can link DNA matches to your tree (no matter what distance that relationship is) and the family matching will identify which of your other matches are maternal or paternal. It’s a feature I use daily with great success.

    Many new testers within our project are receiving over 7,000 matches when their results arrive and at the same time a higher proportion of larger matches. This is a massive increase on the 2,000 we expected only a few years back. One of my testers in the north of the province commented to me recently that he felt that within our project we were already receiving better DNA matches on a routine basis than he had previously thought he would see in his lifetime. Long may it continue!

    Martin McDowell
    NIFHS, Feb 2020
    The NIFHS runs regular courses in genetic genealogy

    Wednesday 12 February 2020

    DNA Test sale prices at Back to Our Past - Belfast

    Here are the discounted sale prices for the various DNA tests and upgrades that you can order from the FTDNA stand at the Back to Our Past event in Belfast this weekend (Feb 14-15, ICC, Waterfront Hall).

    The Family Finder test is now only £40 ($49) - this is a great first test for anyone starting off with DNA testing. It will connect you with cousins (thousands of them) with whom you share a common ancestor some time since the 1700s.

    And the Y-DNA-37 test is only £80 ($99). This helps you track back along your direct male line and will take you back before the 1700s and well into the deep and distant past. This is a great test for exploring the surname of one of your ancestral lines and may connect you with a particular Irish clan.

    And there is good news for people who have already tested and want to upgrade. There are discounted upgrade prices for all tests - so for example if you have done a Y37 test and want to upgrade to the crème de la crème of Y-DNA  tests, the Big Y-700, it only costs £250 ($319). This test will place you firmly on a specific branch of the Tree of Mankind and is the definitive test for establishing the deeper ancestral origins of your direct male line.

    So there is something here for everyone.

    The FTDNA Stand is at the entrance to the event so see you there!

    Maurice Gleeson

    Feb 2020

    Tuesday 11 February 2020

    How big is the FamilyTreeDNA database?

    This guest post from Martin McDowell describes a new method for estimating the size of FTDNA's autosomal DNA database based on a clever analysis of kit number prefixes. The estimated database size based on this analysis is almost 2 million, much higher than previous estimates ...

    Family Tree DNA Database Size

    As Family Tree DNA traditionally does not release a figure on the size of its autosomal DNA database, I decided to look at the various kit numbering systems to see if I could come up with an assessment of database size that takes into account its predominance in some countries around the world (such as the North of Ireland).

    Luckily kit numbers are consecutive at Family Tree DNA and we also know which prefixes they use ...

    New estimates for the FTDNA database size are larger than previously
    Any attempt to estimate database size based solely on a comparison of matches across the various companies isn’t going to be representative due to the fact that FTDNA has a large international component that may not show up in any individual’s list of matches. They also have a different way of working out exactly what constitutes a match. The other factor that needs to be taken into consideration is that many people who have transferred from another company did not receive their full list of matches as for a period of time those testers only received matches up to a 3rd-5th cousin level. So looking at tests in the system is a much more accurate way of estimating exactly how many people they have in their database. However an additional complication which arises is that FTDNA has some people in their database who have only taken a Y-DNA or mtDNA test but luckily they do report these numbers so we can take this into account.

    I have used the kit prefixes to calculate a database size that takes into account autosomal testers around the world as well as in the US market. I used the highest kit ID numbers I could find for each prefix in the North of Ireland DNA Project (n = 4629). Using this method, I found kit numbers in excess of ...
    1. 925,000 (non-prefix kits) 
    2. 84,000 (IN kits) ... International - a test kit that was ordered through the FTDNA website alone (not with other kits) that is being shipped internationally 
    3. 67,000 (MK kits) ... Multi Kit - a test ordered through the FTDNA website at the same time as several other kits, all of which are being shipped domestically 
    4. 54,000 (MI kits) ... Multi Kit International - a test ordered through the FTDNA website at the same time as several other kits, all of which are being shipped internationally 
    5. 32,000 (AM kits) ... test was ordered through 
    6. 27,000 (BP kits) ... Basic Packaging. Kits sent out in the basic plastic packaging rather than the colourful cardboard box 
    7. 271,000 (N kits) ... transfer from the National Geographic Genographic Project 
    8. 612,000 (B kits) ... transfer of Y-DNA or autosomal results through a lab transfer program (i.e. from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage)
    9. 71,300 (all other prefixes) ... I searched the public Results Pages of a variety of haplogroup & geographic projects to try to identify the highest kit number for the remaining (19) prefixes. Those for which no kits could be found were assigned a value of zero.
      • A kits ... highest number > A2700 (in Jewish DNA project)
      • E kits ... highest number > E37900 (in Europe East project)
      • K kits ... highest number > K2400 (in Kazakhstan DNA project)
      • M kits ... highest number > M11400 (in Arab DNA project) 
      • T kits ... highest number > T1900 (in Libya DNA project)
      • U kits ... highest number > U4000 (in British Isles by county project)
      • V kits ... highest number > V7400 (in Jewish DNA project)
      • Z kits ... highest number > Z3600 (in Brazil DNA project)
      • all others ... zero
    First I added up the totals for items 1-6 and 9 in the list above. I then reduced the total by 20% to take into account those who either did not take a Family Finder test (or did not migrate atDNA results from another company to an existing kit). In other words, this sum total was reduced to 80% of its value. In my experience many more than 80% of test-takers have autosomal results - probably closer to 90% - but I am taking this conservative figure of 80% in order to reduce the risk of overestimating the database size. 

    I then added in transfer kits from other companies (all of which are autosomal) - these are the B kits in item 8. It is important to include transfers from other companies as their inclusion is a relevant component of the FTDNA database size. This is also the same reporting method used by other companies who accept transfers such as MyHeritage and, of course, Gedmatch.

    Lastly, I added in the N kits (item 7) but I applied a more conservative reduction of 50% of its value (instead of the 20% reduction used with the items 1-6 and 9).

    Thus, the actual numbers were as follows:
    • sum of items 1-6 and 9 = 1,260,300
    • 80% of above total = 1,008,240
    • plus item 8 (612,000) = 1,620,240
    • plus 50% of item 7 (271,000) = 1,755,740 (sum total)

    So based on these kit numbers, and the conservative approach, my estimated total database size for January 2020 comes to 1,755,740. If a 90% figure is used instead of 80%, the total estimate would be 1,881,770. Both these estimates are a lot higher than previous estimates of the FTDNA database size.

    Whilst this estimate still places Family Tree DNA below the big three, it does show its importance in the marketplace and particularly in the countries and regions where their kits make up a sizeable proportion of DNA tests taken (such as the North of Ireland).

    Martin McDowell
    NIFHS, Feb 2020

    Martin McDowell is Project Administrator for the North of Ireland DNA Project