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

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 ...

The support group is on Facebook

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