Monday, 15 December 2014

The Top Ten Most Viewed Presentations of GGI2014 ... so far

We had a fine line-up of speaker’s at GGI2014 this year, and the viewing figures for the presentations on our YouTube channel reflect this. But which presentations proved the most popular with the viewing public? Read on ... all will be revealed.

But first, a look back on the organisation for this year's DNA Lectures, and the endeavours we undertook to raise the profile of genetic genealogy in Ireland and encourage more people to have their DNA tested. 

The Back to Our Past website and this GGI website both advertised the DNA Lecture schedule well in advance of the event so that people were able to choose what they wanted to see before arriving at the show. In addition, the Show Guide gave the DNA Lectures equal billing to the general genealogy lectures (organised by APGI, Association of Professional Genealogists of Ireland), which certainly raised the profile of DNA testing in the minds of the general public at this year’s event.

It was a very pleasant surprise to see that the speaker’s area had been given a lick of paint. As a result there was no need for a projection screen and we simply projected the image onto the wall, giving us a larger (and higher) picture and making it easier to see for the audience. The sound system and roving microphone worked fine and everyone was able to hear the speakers at the back, as well as questions and comments from the highly engaged audience. There were a few teething problems but these were easily sorted out. Now that I think of it, the door to the Speaker’s Area was a bit squeaky so I must remember to bring a can of oil next year!

Attendance at the lectures was up from 2013 – about 40 people per lecture, fairly consistently. Spencer Wells keynote address packed the Speakers Area to capacity (about 80 people). Some particularly eager audience members attended all three days of the lectures and did not move from their seats. In fact, several people told us they had only came to BTOP to attend the DNA Lectures and nothing else, including several from the US. If we'd known that in advance, we would have got them armchairs. The significant American presence was also reflected in the number of people who paid for their DNA tests in US dollars!

the GGI YouTube channel
All but two of the DNA Lectures were recorded and these were drip-fed onto the GGI YouTube channel over the four weeks following the conference, ensuring ongoing publicity for the event and FTDNA’s sponsorship of it.

Since the event, there have been over 8000 thousand hits on the YouTube channel and lots of complimentary comments on Facebook. Making the DNA Lectures available to view for free is seen as a wonderful service to the global genetic genealogy community, and the generosity of the speakers in making their talks publicly available is highly appreciated.

But which presentations have received the most hits so far? The Top Ten most watched videos (currently) of the presentations at GGI2014 are listed below. These viewing figures will change over time but already they give a very good indication of what is attracting popular attention, and this in turn helps the planning of future events. 

Brad Larkin’s excellent presentation on the Clans of Ireland and how DNA confirms or refutes the genealogies described in the Ancient Annals has proved particularly popular and reflects the interest that people have in connecting with their ancient Irish roots. The fact that DNA is beginning to identify clusters of people with surnames that correspond with those found in the ancient genealogies has rejuvenated interest in the Ancient Annals and presents new avenues of research. This can only help efforts to have the ancient genealogies digitised and made available online.

The tragic loss of all the 19th century Irish censuses in the fire at the Public Record Office in 1922 has meant that many people with Irish ancestry (in particular Americans, Canadians and Australians) hit a massive Brick Wall when trying to reconnect with their Irish ancestral homeland. Thus any methodology that can assist in finding out where one's Irish ancestors came from in Ireland has tremendous popular appeal. Tyrone's presentation from last year is still one of the most watched videos on our YouTube channel. There is a huge need to help the Irish diaspora trace their Irish roots. The increased uptake of DNA testing by an Irish audience, at events like Back to Our Past, will hopefully help break down some of these Brick Walls.

In third place, my own presentation on choosing the right DNA test to answer your specific genealogical conundrums shows that there will always be an audience of newbies who want to learn about the very basics. The first lecture each day at GGI2014 specifically addressed this need and myself, Debbie Kennett, and Katherine Borges discussed the three basic DNA tests and what they can do for you.

Daniel Crouch gave a fabulous talk about the People of the British Isles project. The fact that the genetic map of the UK can be subdivided into (at least) 17 distinct genetic clusters based on autosomal DNA analysis bodes well for the future of biogeographical analysis. It should be possible to compare our autosomal DNA against the POBI database within the next year or so and this will certainly help people identify likely areas where their ancestors once lived in the UK. In time, this will also be possible for those of Irish ancestry when the Irish DNA Atlas project completes its recruitment and joins the POBI database.

Emily Aulicino’s presentation on autosomal DNA comes in at fourth place. Over 50% of the DNA kits bought at this year's and last year's events were FTDNA’s Family Finder test. No wonder then that there is a great interest in autosomal DNA and how to interpret it. This is no mean feat (and we need more speakers on this subject) but Emily covered the topic well, nicely illustrating her talk with success stories from her own experience. This is the newest part of genetic genealogy and we still have a lot to learn, but as more people from Ireland take the test, the more Brick Walls will start to fall - on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cathy Swift (Director of Irish Studies at the University of Limerick) gave an excellent talk about Irish surnames, especially in relation to Limerick, the Dál gCais and Brian Boru, "the man who invented surnames in Ireland". There are lots of gems in Cathy's presentation - her overview of the multicultural influences on the development of surnames in and around Limerick is very illuminating. This was the first time Cathy was at the conference and she found it so engaging that she wants to forge closer links with the Irish genetic genealogy community. This is great news for everyone, and a fine example of the bridges that GGI is building between academia and citizen science.

Gerard Corcoran spoke about using DNA to map migrations of people into and out of Ireland. His talk ranged from ancient times right up to the present and took in all of the major comings and goings along the way. As SNP testing advances, the Y-DNA Haplotree will tells us a lot about these ancient migrations and the next 10 years should be a very exciting time in this regard.

Both myself and Rob Warthen gave talks on how to use DNA testing to help adoptees find their birth families. My presentation was followed by a very powerful 15 minute talk by Stephen Forrest, a Canadian adoptee, who used DNA in combination with traditional documentary research to successfully trace his birth family. Rob and his wife Sue gave us a very personal account of how they used DNA to trace Sue's birth family. Theirs was a journey with many ups and downs and the emotional impact on the audience was very palpable. Many adoptees are turning to DNA testing to help them in their quest to discover their birth family as, for many of them, it is the only means they have of finding out who they are and where they came from.

Lastly, John Cleary gave one of the best presentations I have ever had the pleasure of listening to on how to make the most out of your Y-DNA results. John’s succinct and erudite presentation fully captured the advantages of joining not only surname projects but haplogroup projects, geographic projects and heritage projects. I highly recommend that you give it a look.

Thank you, FTDNA, for sponsoring Genetic Genealogy Ireland yet again. And hearty congratulations to all the speakers who took part in this year’s event. You have enriched the field of genetic genealogy and raised the bar even higher for next year’s event. 

Roll on GGI2015 !

And a very Merry Christmas to all.

Maurice Gleeson
15th Dec 2014

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