Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Speaker Profile - Bart Jaski

Bart Jaski
Title of presentation
Irish genealogies and DNA: back into the mythological past


As a student in the Netherlands, I became interested in medieval Irish history, and ended up studying in Cork and Dublin, where I did my PhD. I published Early Irish kingship and succession in 2000, and later became a lecturer at the Celtic Dept. at the University of Utrecht. Since 2007 I’m keeper of manuscripts at the Utrecht University Library.

What do you do as a Day Job?
As keeper of manuscripts I care for about 700 medieval manuscripts and thousands of other documents. Our biggest treasure is the Utrecht Psalter. I’m usually busy with teaching, presenting, digitisation, publishing, making exhibitions, everything to bring the collection out in the open.

What do you do as a Night Job?

I’m still interested in medieval Irish history, and I still publish about it, such as in the Dutch online open access journal Kelten, of which I’m also one of the editors. I’m particularly interested in Irish medieval genealogical texts and how they relate to each other, and in the Irish origin legend (the medieval Irish legend or myth how Ireland became populated in successive invasions).

How did you get into genealogy?

You cannot understand medieval Irish society without appreciating their obsession with genealogical recording. Some of the Irish genealogies are very detailed and very old, more so than anything else in Europe and perhaps even the world. This genealogical recording was necessary to understand claims to land and rights to rule. The Irish did not adhere to primogeniture but to succession according to age and qualifications, so that brother often succeeded brother (women were excluded). There was a lot of competition for power among relatives. Powerful royal dynasties created branches with distinctive surnames who occupied neighbouring territories. And so Connacht surnames such as O’Connor, McDermot, McDonagh, O’Teigeand O’Geraghty are all related and share the same ancestry in the male line. It is this process which defines medieval Irish society, and which does not exist elsewhere in medieval Europe. This is what makes the Irish situation so special.

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy

Genealogy and DNA: it’s a fascinating match with lots of possibilities and pitfalls. I got interested in it when the research about the DNA of the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages was published in 2006 (“A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland”). This opened up new ways of investigating the interrelationship between the various medieval Irish royal dynasties (and surnames), but it also showed that people researching DNA do not always understand the process of the formation of Irish surnames. In 2013 I wrote an article entitled ‘Medieval Irish genealogies and genetics’, to deal with this question. Since then I’ve tried to keep up with recent developments to see where and how DNA and genealogical research can meet.

What will you be talking about at GGI? 

When people research their Irish family history and ancestry, their surname is probably the most important part of their identity. Surnames are inherited from father to son, and certain Irish (Gaelic) surnames can be traced back to ancestors who lived more than a thousand year ago. This makes Irish surnames unique in the world, and they are therefore also important for DNA research worldwide. This research can take us even further back in time – perhaps even into the ‘mythological’ past before the coming of Christianity when Irish tribes dominated the island.

Where can people get more information about you and the work you do?

You can have a look at the webpage Here you find publications such as ‘Medieval Irish genealogies and genetics’ (link), and 76 tables of medieval Irish royal dynasties (link).

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Speaker Profile - David Pike

David Pike
Title of Presentation
Did the Irish bring rare mitochondrial DNA to Newfoundland?

Brief Biography
For over 30 years I have been a member of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2009 I was elected to the society’s Board of Directors, and I was President from 2013 to 2016. I continue to serve as webmaster and as a Board member. Some other societies to which I belong include:
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society
  • Wessex Society of Newfoundland
  • Somerset & Dorset FHS
  • Dorset FHS
  • Isle of Wight FHS
  • Guild of One-Name Studies
  • International Society of Genetic Genealogy

What do you do as a Day Job?
I’m a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland where I teach classes, train postgraduate students and conduct research in the field of combinatorial mathematics.

What do you do as a Night Job?
My day job often spills over into evenings and weekends. However, an ongoing quest of mine is to try to trace the family of Thomas Pike who resided at Poole in Dorset in the late 1600s. One suggestion found in a document from the early 1900s is that the family traces back to Ireland. Curiously we have not yet been able to match the family’s Y-DNA with that of Pikes from anywhere other than Newfoundland (and moreover, we are in a rare subgroup of haplogroup R1b).

How did you get into genealogy?
My initial genealogical endeavours go back to grade school when I had to complete a small pedigree chart as a homework assignment. Since then it has become a much more significant and complicated pursuit that has expanded to include tracing various ancestral and collateral lines, visiting archives, travelling to ancestral homelands, etc. Some of the most rewarding outcomes have been those which were serendipitous, as well as those which led to unexpected twist and turns. Genetic genealogy has led to some of these new discoveries, and it has also enabled questions to be asked that would not have been otherwise conceived of.

PS: if anybody is “missing” a Maurice Merrigan from Ireland, possibly he might be the one who got married in Newfoundland in 1809 and became a 4x-great grandfather of mine.

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy 
I have been engaged with genetic genealogy since 2004 when I founded the Y-DNA project for the PIKE surname and its variants. This project now has over 250 participants, including several with Irish lineages. Overall we have now found evidence of more than twenty distinct genetic clusters for the Pike surname, the largest of which accounts for about 25% of all Pikes who have tested their Y-DNA (and who have been found to share a profile within haplogroup R1a).

I have also been involved with genealogical applications of mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA, for which I am a coordinator for corresponding projects for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What will you be talking about?
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has the distinct feature of being strictly maternally inherited, making it an indispensable tool for genealogical research of matrilineal ancestors. Within the mtDNA Project for Newfoundland and Labrador one particular mtDNA profile (belonging to haplogroup H5a5) has been found to occur at an unusually high frequency, especially in comparison with how rarely it appears to occur elsewhere. Given the substantial number of Irish who settled in Newfoundland, it is natural to ask whether Ireland is the source of this mtDNA lineage (as well as other mtDNA profiles in Newfoundland). This lecture will highlight what is known of the H5a5 profile in Newfoundland and where it may have originated.

Where can people get more information about you and the work you do?

My personal website is at

The Newfoundland and Labrador mtDNA Project’s website is at

The Pike Y-DNA Project’s website it at

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

GGI2019 Dublin - new arrangements

Back to Our Past (BTOP) returns to the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) in October 2019 and this year it is scheduled to take place on Oct 18-19 (Friday & Saturday). This is similar to the exhibition in Belfast (i.e. 2 days instead of 3 days). And Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI2019) will be there too.

BTOP will take place in the Main Hall of the RDS. This is a complete departure from previous years and entry to the exhibition will be via the front entrance of the RDS rather than the side entrance. The GGI2019 DNA Lectures will take place in the Merrion Room, which has a similar capacity to the one we normally use (i.e. 100 people). It is directly above the Main Entrance and is accessible from the floor of the Main Hall via a staircase.

The DNA Lectures will take place in the Merrion Room, above the Main Entrance

The BTOP exhibition area will be in Hall 1 (Main Hall) and the FTDNA stand will be situated near the entrance to the stairs to the DNA Lectures area so people will pass by the stand on their way to and from the lectures. 

The exhibition runs from 10am to 5.30pm, so that will allow a maximum of 7 lectures per day (from 10.30 am every hour). I hope to have the draft final schedule in the next month or two but so far the confirmed international speakers include the following: David Pike, Michelle Patient, Regina Negrycz, Rob Warthen, Mags Gaulden. In addition we will have some home-grown talent, including Lara Cassidy from Trinity College Dublin.

MyHeritage have confirmed they will have a stand. Ancestry have not decided as yet.

Hall1 (the Main Hall) is the new location for BTOP.
GGI takes place in the Merrion Room above the Main Entrance.
(click to enlarge)

We will probably have the ISOGG Day Out on Sunday this year and then most people will make their way home on Monday. Rootstech will be on in London the following weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun 25-27 Oct 2019) so some people will be going on to that.

For details on travel accommodation and general logistics, please visit this page here

Looking forward to seeing you there for GGI2019 Dublin.

Maurice Gleeson
Sep 2019