Tuesday, 25 September 2018

O'Neill Project Team - Speaker Profile

Presentation: Developments in O’Neill DNA Genealogy

Project Team: Sean O’Neill, Fred Mulholland, Dwayne O’Neill & Ed O’Neill. Sean is a member of Clans of Ireland and the Association of O’Neill Clans.

Day Jobs: All four of us are professional engineers in various technical disciplines. Three of us are retired. Sean has been involved with a number of high technology companies since their start up.

Our outside activities include travelling and some of us play tennis, golf and sail.

Night Jobs:
As the administrators of the O’Neill DNA project, there are always questions to be answered from O’Neill’s all over the world. The four of us co-ordinate our activities concerning how best to encourage people to take tests that will yield significant information that matches known genealogy. We interpret their results, group the kits and provide an overview.

How did you get into genealogy?
Sean became involved in genealogy through his father, Desmond O’Neill, who had an avid interest in the genealogy of the Tyrone O’Neill’s and compiled the genealogy of all the main branches of the O’Neill’s into the book ‘The Ancient and Royal Family of O’Neill’. This involved traveling Ireland, visiting churches, graveyards, and meeting people all over Ireland.

Fred initially did not know anyone beyond his grandparents, however, after his father died he found a little scrap of paper with the names of his grandparents and great‑grandparents.  When genealogy data first went online about 1998, he made contact with a cousin who had done extensive research on the Mulholland family. He was then hooked and has been expanding the family tree ever since.

Dwayne first became interested in genealogy with his mother by exploring their common Hodgins (Co. Tipperary) family connections. The family stories that his mother shared was the spark to pursue family information through traditional research.

Ed has been involved in genealogy for over twenty-five years, for the purpose of learning more about his grandparents (and their immigrant parents) who were such special people in his early life. His interest morphed into passion, and then into near-addiction.

What about your involvement with genetic genealogy?
Ed O’Neill was the original group administrator and started in 2005. Sean and Fred started to get involved with DNA testing a couple of years later. Dwayne joined the effort a couple of years ago.

Ed co-authored a paper titled “Insights Into the O’Neills of Ireland from DNA Testing” in 2006 where, for the first time, two separate and different groupings of Tyrone O’Neills were described through DNA test results. From this work the “O’Neill Variety” group was identified with the Tyrone, Fews, McShane and Clanaboy septs.

All of us have done traditional genealogical research on our family trees and had come to a dead end in tracing our ancestors to the late 1700’s. 

A few years ago, Ed O’Neill decided to step back as the lead administrator for the O’Neill Project and Sean volunteered to become the administrator with Ed, Fred and Dwayne being co-administrators.

So what will you be talking about?
The presentation will connect the traditional genealogy of the O’Neill septs to their genetic signatures using Y STR and haplogroup markers. The focus will be on the Tyrone, McShane, Fews and Clanaboy septs and the unique DNA characteristics of this “O’Neill Variety”. In addition, the Ui Neill as descendants of Nial of the Nine Hostages and his son Eóghain (Cenél Eóghain) will be detailed. Other septs will be highlighted including the O’Neills of Leinster, Eoghanachta and Thomond and how they differentiate. Widespread testing using Big Y has greatly contributed to our current understanding.

What DNA tests will be discussed?
Y-DNA including STRs, SNPs & Big Y.

To what surnames is this topic relevant?
The O’Neills (and its various derivations) and related surnames including McShane, Johnson, Paine, etc.

Where can people get more information about your topic?
The FTDNA O’Neill Project at https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/oneill/about
The Association of O’Neill Clans at https://www.oneillclans.com/
The Clans of Ireland at http://www.clansofireland.ie/baile/
The Big Tree for the O’Neill Variety at http://www.ytree.net/DisplayTree.php?blockID=2357

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Andrew Millard - Speaker Profile

Presentation: What are the odds? A tool for fitting a DNA match into a tree

Dr Andrew Millard
Associate Professor in Archaeology at Durham University
BA Chemistry, DPhil Archaeological Science
Member of ISOGG, Society of Genealogists, Guild of One-Name Studies, Northumberland and Durham FHS, Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. Chair of the Trustees of Genuki.

What do you do as a Day Job?
My day job is as a university academic. I’m an expert in dating, chemical analysis of bones and teeth and statistics in archaeology. The activities include teaching undergraduates and postgraduates, researching and the inevitable admin. So you might find me in a lecture theatre, preparing samples in the lab, or (most likely) sat in my office at my computer.

What do you do as a Night Job? 
You mean when my day job isn’t stretching into a night job as well? I’m using genetic genealogy to identify ancestors and unravel more than one adoption in my family tree, but I only have one match at the third-cousin level on that side. So I’m looking at matches and building lots of trees for fairly distant relatives. They all have roots in either Caherciveen in Kerry or Athenry in Galway. You’ll also find me hanging out and answering questions in a few genetic genealogy Facebook groups

How did you get into genealogy?
I don’t really remember as I started very young. My mother has a family tree I drew up aged 7, and the first source material I collected (and still have) was a newspaper cutting from when I was 10. By the age of 17, I’d done a course in family history and joined the local family history society. My Granny had a family story about being related to the founder of Crosse & Blackwell. Studying her family soon led to the Bodimeade one-name study. It turns out that I spent the last two years of school at a college in the hamlet where every Bodimeade alive has had an ancestor. Thomas Blackwell of Cross & Blackwell was born there, and his mother was a Bodimeade, but I’ve never proved the connection. My paternal grandparents had a family archive going back to the early 19th century, and I spent many Saturday afternoons poring through it for clues. That led me to chasing records for family around the globe. New Zealand, India, St Helena, California: they were a well-travelled lot!

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy
I think Katherine Borges was to blame for my initial involvement in genetic genealogy, it might have been about 2007. I was teaching about ancient DNA and ISOGG had a page on its website about ancient DNA sequences, which was a clear crossover between my professional interests and my genealogy interests. We started corresponding, and I would send her things from academic papers to add to the page. Since then mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA have been eclipsed by autosomal DNA of course.

I got involved with the ISOGG Facebook group and with my mathematical bent ended up answering queries that needed quantitative answers. I realised that the academic papers that many ideas were based on didn’t actually account for the way genetic genealogy companies analyse data, so I started doing my own simulations. Then along came Leah Larkin with the idea behind WATO and I helped develop the maths behind it. I’m still working on simulations to examine the amount of shared DNA expected for different possible relationships, which is particularly useful when there is pedigree collapse. It’s coming along slowly, but that’s because it’s my night job!

What will you be talking about?
I’ll be introducing WATO - What Are The Odds? – a new tool to help place matches in a tree. Adoptees and others with unknown parents (or grandparents, or even great-grandparents) often have a set of autosomal matches with a common ancestor. The question is where do they fit within that family tree? Using things like the Shared cM Project, it is possible to eliminate some potential relationships, but what about all those that fall within the known ranges? Can we say that some are more likely than others? Who would be the best people to test next in order to narrow the possibilities? These are the types of questions WATO is designed to address. 

Where can people get more information about you and the work you do?
WATO can be found on Jonny Perl’s DNA Painter website https://dnapainter.com/tools/probability

The ideas underlying it have been set out by Leah Larkin in a series of posts on her DNA Geek: Science the heck out of your DNA ... http://thednageek.com/science-the-heck-out-of-your-dna-part-1/

The support group is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/WhatAretheOdds/

Friday, 14 September 2018

Barbara Rae-Venter - Speaker Profile

Title of your presentation: Cold Case Solved: The Use of Autosomal DNA in Identifying Offenders and Victims of Violent Crime.

Brief biographical details
Ph.D. Biology University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California
J.D. University of Texas Law School, Austin, Texas.
Member: ISOGG, Monterey County Genealogy Society (MoCoGenSo)

Day Job: Retired intellectual property attorney; specialized in patenting biotechnology inventions.

Night Job: I am a Search Angel with DNAAdoption.org and help teach the online autosomal DNA classes that we offer to teach adoptees how to use their autosomal DNA to find birth relatives. I also assist law enforcement with identification of unknown crime victims as well as violent offenders using autosomal DNA and work with adoptees and others to identify immediate birth family members.

How I got into genealogy: My mother was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne in England but at the age of 7, she and her family emigrated to New Zealand. Her father was born in Inverness, and my mother was very proud of her Scottish ancestry. Starting in about the late 90’s, with her help, I began researching my mother’s family history. In November 2006, my parents were in a car accident in New Zealand in which my mother was killed. I stayed in my parent’s home during my father’s lengthy hospitalization and I discovered my paternal grandmother’s birth certificate in my father’s desk. To my surprise, my grandmother had been born in New Zealand. I had thought that all of my grandparents were off the boat from Scotland. Clearly there was a lot to be learned about my family and so it began—my addiction to genealogy. Research on my paternal grandmother’s family, revealed not only that her father had been born in Waipu, New Zealand in 1862 but that her mother’s family had arrived in New Zealand in 1839. And my paternal grandfather’s family I discovered had arrived in New Zealand 1851.

Involvement with genetic genealogy: I began doing DNA testing on myself and family members when consumer DNA testing first became available and have personally tested at just about every one of the consumer testing companies. And whenever I travel, I take along some DNA kits. Due to a scarcity of official records, traditional research, especially on my paternal grandmother’s paternal line, is difficult. My grandmother’s family was caught up in the Scottish clearances. They made their way from Sutherlandshire, Scotland first to Pictou and then St Ann’s in Nova Scotia and then three decades later to Waipu, New Zealand where they founded a Gaelic speaking community. Details of this epic voyage: https://www.waipumuseum.com/html/migration.htm. To facilitate research on this branch of my family, I have set up the Normanites Project on FamilyTreeDNA; followers of the Rev Norman McLeod were often referred to as Normanites. Matches with adoptees led me to take a class with DNAAdoption in 2012 to learn how to solve unknown parentage cases. I have now taken that knowledge and applied it to solving unknown parentage cases of a different ilk, those involving identification of violent crime offenders and victims of crime whose identity is unknown.

What I will be talking about: I will explore the use of autosomal DNA testing in solving cases of “unknown parentage”, from adoptees, to the unknown victims of violent crime, to violent offenders. I will also discuss some of the issues raised by the use of public databases such as GEDmatch in solving these cases.

Information about me and the work that I do:

website: www.GenealogyConsult.com

video: adoptee reunion ... https://tinyurl.com/yavl38fj

Adam Keim’s story (adoptee) ... https://blog.23andme.com/23andme-customer-stories/a-list-for-midlife/

Forensic Magazine Article on solving cold case ... https://www.forensicmag.com/article/2017/02/tale-abandoned-girls-dna-led-notorious-cold-case

Boston Globe Article on the aftermath of identifying Lisa’s mother ... http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/05/13/finding-lisa-story-murders-mysteries-loss-and-incredibly-new-life/vCCxbYYUD63kjIoIMJQiWM/story.html

Boston Globe article on identification of Lisa’s abductor ... http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/08/18/authorities-identify-mysterious-serial-killer-linked-allenstown-murders/6Nma4Dasrj7Quz6aBFsdbO/story.html

New York Times Article on identifying The Golden State Killer ... https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/science/barbara-rae-venter-gsk.html

Friday, 10 August 2018

DNA Lecture schedule for GGI2018 Dublin

Genetic Genealogy Ireland returns to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin from 19th to 21st October 2018.   Admission is free by simply registering at www.backtoourpast.ie. Once again the lectures are kindly sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG. And this year a whole new stream of lectures is being added to the lineup - privacy, data protection & ethics.

The DNA Lecture Schedule

This is a timely addition to the programme. The past year has seen the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation - the new EU law introduced on May 25th) and as a result there have been sweeping changes to privacy and data protection which have had a huge impact on the way all companies operate. It has also had some pretty devastating effects on the genetic genealogy community with the loss of the WorldFamilies.net website (and all the Surname Projects hosted there), the closure of genetic databases (Ysearch, mitoSearch) and the barring of EU residents from accessing products of companies such as Full Genomes Corporation and scientific journals (e.g. SurnameDNA journal). Click on the links and see if you can access them!

There have also been extensive improvements to the FamilyTreeDNA website and the way that Project Managers can manage their DNA Projects.

All of the above changes have been associated with knee-jerk reactions, teething problems, uncertainty, and much discussion over the best way forward for the genetic genealogy community and the institutions and organisations which serve it.

Then in April we were alerted to the good news that "Buckskin Girl" (a murder victim who had remained unidentified for 37 years) had finally had her identity restored and her family could now find peace. The shocking part of the story was that the identification had been made by the use of Gedmatch - a public DNA database set up by members of the genetic genealogy community. On the one hand the news was not that surprising - for years we have been using the same technique (i.e. DNA & Genealogy combined) to help adoptees and foundlings trace their birth families. So in many ways this was simply an extension of the technique to a new area - identifying murder victims and solving cases of "missing persons". But it did create a hot debate on the use of our DNA by law enforcement agencies and it raised many questions including: what safeguards are needed to protect the public from the misuse, misapplication or misinterpretation of the DNA results by law enforcement agencies? These questions became even more pertinent when the police announced they had used similar techniques to identify a prime suspect in the Golden State Killer case.

The field of genetics is advancing at an incredible rate. This applies to genetic genealogy and ancient DNA in particular. But it won't be long before there are similar major steps forward in forensic genetics and medical genetics. There is (and always will be) a need for public discussion on the issues raised by these new developments as they occur and this is reflected in the programme for GGI2018.

Talks dealing with these topics include the presentation by James Irvine on GDPR and what it means for us, Debbie Kennett's talk on finding missing persons, Barbara Rae Venter's talk on how DNA can be used for the Greater Good, and my own talk on DNA testing options at the former Mother & Babies Home in Tuam (where the bodies of 800 children may be buried in a disused pit). These talks will address some of the hot topics that are being discussed not just within our own community but by the larger general public.

There are also associated Panel Discussions to discuss both ethics and data protection which will allow the general public at the event to address any questions they may have.

We are delighted to welcome seven new speakers to GGI. These newcomers include Barbara Rae Venter, Lara Cassidy (Trinity College Dublin), Andrew Millard (University of Durham), Dwayne O'Neill, Cathal McElgunn, John Brazil, and Martin Curley:

  • Barbara will discuss the societal aspects of DNA and the Greater Good
  • Lara will give us an update on the current state of Ancient DNA
  • Andrew will introduce the newly launched WATO tool and how it helps you manage your atDNA matches
  • Dwayne will summarise the findings from the O'Neill DNA project and what it tells us about this powerful Irish dynasty
  • Cathal will discuss an unusual use of third party tools and the ethical issues raised
  • John brings us a discussion from a Haplogroup Project perspective and the challenges deciphering the morphology of a particular branch of the Tree of Mankind
  • Martin will reveal the many successes associated with DNA testing of a local population (in this case, Galway). This latter presentation will be followed by a Panel Discussion on Autosomal DNA Projects, with hints & tips of how to run such a project should you want to set one up yourself.

As well as these new speakers and new topics, we have a regular stream of Beginners talks (courtesy of Martin McDowell, Linda Magellan & Donna Rutherford), a stream of Y-DNA talks (Dwayne O'Neill, John Brazil & John Cleary), and a stream of autosomal DNA talks (Katherine Borges, Andrew Millard, Cathal McElgunn & Martin Curley). 

Several of the talks deal with third party tools. Katherine Borges will discuss the use of DNA Painter - the user-friendly tool developed by Johnny Perl that helps us manage our atDNA matches. And Andrew Millard will discuss WATO - another helpful tool co-developed with Johnny Perl & Leah LaPerle Larkin.

So there is something for everyone. Is it any wonder that the theme for this year's conference is: 
To Boldly Go ... (where no one has gone before).

See you in October!

Maurice Gleeson
August 2018

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

BTOP & GGI return to Belfast

The dates for Back to Our Past and Genetic Genealogy Ireland have been announced for next year in Belfast. Once again, this will be a 2-day event running over Friday and Saturday, 15th & 16th of February, 2019.

The first event took place earlier this year (2018) in the iconic Titanic Belfast museum on Belfast's waterfront and was a great success. So much so that the organisers are expanding the event next year, including more exhibitors, and moving it to a larger venue - The Belfast Waterfront.

This award-winning multi-purpose venue was built in 1997 and has been voted Best Event Space 2017 and (in 2002) the Second Best Conference Centre in the World. As well as conferences, conventions and exhibitions, it hosts concerts by the Ulster orchestra; plays, operas & musicals; and the ever-popular TV show Britain's Got Talent. If you're lucky, you might get an audition while you're there.

The Belfast Waterfront - the second best Conference Centre in the world 

The venue itself is located in the heart of Belfast City, minutes walk from Belfast City Hall. Nearby hotels include the Hilton Belfast, the Malmaison Belfast, and the oh-so-affordable Premier Inn. The Titanic Belfast museum is a mere 20 minutes walk north & slightly east. The address of the Belfast Waterfront is 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast, BT1 3WH, Northern Ireland.

Ideally located near ... well, everything!

The DNA Lectures will take place in Hall 2B which has a capacity for 300 people - so plenty of room for everyone! You can go on a virtual tour here.

The DNA Lectures of GGI2019 Belfast are in Hall 2B (top left)

See you in Belfast next February!

Maurice Gleeson
July 2018

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Back to Our Past 2018, Dublin

Back to Our Past is back at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin from October 19th to 21st.

Kindly sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and jointly organised by ISOGG volunteers from Ireland, the UK and the US, Back to Our Past features 3 days of DNA Lectures from the créme de la créme of genetic genealogists.

These international speakers will cover a range of topics relating to all three types of DNA test (Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal DNA) and there will be several Expert Panels over the weekend where a host of experts will contribute to discussion of the hot topics in genetic genealogy.

Audiences in 2017 reached an all-time high

In addition there will be an exhibition hall featuring stands and booths hosted by a variety of different organisations and institutions of general interest to all genealogists.

Floor Plan of Back to Our Past (DNA Lectures are upstairs)

If you are interested in coming you will find some practical information about travel, accommodation and logistics on this page here.

Looking forward to seeing you in Dublin in October!

Maurice Gleeson
July 2018

Tickets are 10 euro per day or can be booked in advance from the Back to Our Past website

Monday, 23 April 2018

Galway Genetic Genealogy, May 5th, Mountbellew

Martin Curley is organising a 1-day conference on genetic genealogy on May 5th in Mountbellew, Co. Galway (9.30-15.30). The admission fee of 10 euro includes a light lunch. A local tour is available after the conference. The agenda for the conference is below, and includes introductory talks as well as a presentation on DNA options in relation to the Tuam Mothers & Babies Home.

Venue: The conference will be held in Holy Rosary College, on the Caltra side of Mountbellew, just a short walk from the square. Coordinates: 53.4695915, -8.4974634. Or simply click on this map here. Parking is available onsite and also close by.

Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew

There has been good deal of interest generated over the past few weeks and the Heritage Office in Galway County has helped promote the conference. On the day there will be AV and breakout rooms with IT facilities for the workshops.

For more information, or for bookings (10 euro admission fee), please contact Martin Curley via email by clicking the link here.


9:00 Registration Tea & Coffee

9:30 Welcome and Introductions

9:45 Introduction to Genetic Genealogy & making use of DNA results (Maurice Gleeson)

10:25 The Bellew DNA project and the use of DNA in tracing family links (Seamus Bellew)

11:10 Break

11:30 Update on ISOGG activities and projects (Gerard Corcoran)

12:10 Combining archival, oral and DNA evidence to recreate family histories (Paddy Waldron)

12:50 Creating a Parish / DNA project (Martin Curley)

1:20 Lunch

2:00 Tuam Mother & Baby Home – options for DNA testing (Maurice Gleeson)

2:30 Practical Workshops on Tracing Family Connections 2 x 30 minutes

Civil Records | gedmatch.com | Census | Census Substitutes | Y-DNA tests

3:30 Final Comments & Conclusion

Location of Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew