I spent three very busy days at the weekend at Who do you think you are? Live, the large family history show at Olympia in London. WDYTYA always provides a good opportunity to meet up with my family history and genetic genealogy friends, and this year was no exception. This is the second year running that the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) has taken a stand at the show, and I was helping on the stand for all three days. As a society our aim is to educate people on the benefits of DNA testing as a tool for family history research. We all have first-hand experience of DNA testing. Most of us are volunteer project administrators in charge of surname, geographical or haplogroup projects. Quite a few of us are in charge of multiple projects! Many of our members have also ventured into the world of personal genomics by testing with companies such as 23andMe. We had a steady stream of visitors on all three days and by the end of the show I was feeling quite hoarse after answering so many questions!
The ISOGG stand was organised by Brian Swann our regional co-ordinator for England. We were assisted by four other members from England: Sue Curd, James Irvine, Vicki Perry and Rebecca Starr. Eight ISOGG members came over from America to help out at this year's event: Emily Aulicino, Katherine Borges, Amber Burnett, Candy Campise, Linda Magellan, Derrell Oakley Teat, Craig Trout and Cynthia Wells. Katherine and Linda travelled here from California and Emily made the journey from Oregon. Our little group probably covered more miles than any of the other exhibitors put together! For many of them it was their second or third year at WDYTYA and it was a great pleasure to see them all again.
Family Tree DNA again took a stand at WDYTYA and sponsored the talks in the DNA workshop. This is their third year in attendance at the show, and it is now a permanent fixture in their calendar. Family Tree DNA were represented by their President and CEO Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, the Vice President who is in charge of Operations and Marketing. It was disappointing that FTDNA's Chief Scientist, Dr Michael Hammer, had to cancel at the last minute after going down with tonsillitis. He is always a most entertaining speaker, and he was much missed this year. I briefly managed to escape from the ISOGG stand to listen to Bennett Greenspan's talk on "New Frontiers for DNA and Genealogy". When the company was founded in the year 2000 it was only possible to buy a 12-marker Y-chromosome DNA test. Today surname projects routinely use 37-marker tests and many people often find it necessary to upgrade to 67 markers. Bennett Greenspan announced at the show that, in response to customer demand, FTDNA will be launching a 111-marker test at the end of March or the beginning of April this year! The 37-marker test is usually more than adequate for surname matching but the new 111-marker test will be of great value in haplogroup projects, and it will also have uses in certain scenarios within surname projects. Family Tree DNA's Walk Through the Y programme, which aims to discover branch-defining SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) in the Y-chromosome, has been a big success, and around six new SNPs are being discovered each week.
I was very pleased to see my friend Princess Maria Sviatopolk-Mirski again at WDYTYA. She visited the show for the first time last year, where she purchased a mitochondrial DNA test. She belongs to haplogroup ROa which is very rare. I wrote about her DNA results and her ancestry in a previous post last year. I also had a quick chat with the writer and genealogist Anthony Adolph. Anthony had his Y-DNA tested earlier this year and has since become very interested in his deep ancestry - he is a haplogroup G, one of the more uncommon haplogroups in the British Isles. I have been helping him to understand SNPs and haplogroup subclades and I was pleased to see that he incorporated some of this new knowledge into his very interesting talk on "Joining the Dots". I have to say that I disagree with him on the benefits of using pen and paper for family trees! I struggle to draw even something basic like a stick man on paper and find it much easier to store all my research in Family Historian which also has the benefit of generating dynamic family trees which can be customised and edited as you go along.
On Saturday I was able to meet up briefly with some of my "virtual" friends from Twitter. I had a chat with Rosemary Morgan while I snatched a quick lunch. I caught up with Emma Jolly who was helping out on the Families in British India stand. I also met up with Mike Kostiuk from Family Tree Folk. Mike kindly presented me with a very nice desk calendar and a magnifying sheet, both of which will come in very handy.
A number of the members of my Devon DNA project called at the ISOGG stand to say hello. It is always good to put a name to a face. Alasdair MacDonald, the administrator of the Scottish DNA project, came to visit our stand. I was very pleased to learn from him that the University of Strathclyde is now incorporating a DNA module as an integral component of their genealogical studies courses. I chatted briefly with a number of my friends from the Guild of One-Name Studies, and had a quick lunch with my fellow Guild member and DNA enthusiast Chris Pomery on Sunday. The Guild had their best ever success at this year's show and signed up a record number of new members. I was hoping to buy a copy of the new Surname Atlas CD from the Guild but the stand was always so busy that I never got a chance. I visited the Devon Family History Society stand and had a chat with some of my fellow DFHS members. I was intrigued to discover that they were all heading off for a meeting with the LDS to discuss the digitisation of the Devon records. Devon County Council were apparently completely unaware of this initiative when they decided to cut the budget for the Devon Record Offices. There was little time to visit the other stalls but I did manage to call in at the Berkshire Family History Society's stand where I bought a copy of their new Berkshire Marriage Index CD and upgraded my copy of the Berkshire Burial Index to the new 9th edition.
The highlight of the show for me was the talk by Dr Turi King of the University of Leicester on "Surnames, DNA and family history". Turi is one of the pioneering researchers in the study of surnames and genetics and is the co-author of a number of interesting papers on the subject. She is the co-author, along with David Hey and George Redmonds, of a new book, Surnames, DNA and Family History, which is due out in the autumn. She is now working on the interdisciplinary Roots of the British Project with colleagues at Leicester University. A small group of ISOGG members had the privilege of meeting up with Turi afterwards to talk with her further about her work.
This is the fourth year in a row that I have attended "Who do you think you are?" The organisers had been confidently predicting a record attendance at this year's show. Last year it was so busy on Saturday morning that at one point the organisers had to close the doors and not allow anyone else to enter the building. This year it was much quieter and the attendance was noticeably down on last year. The photo below was taken towards the end of the afternoon on the Saturday when the normally busy aisles were quite empty.
BBC's Who do you think you are? magazine. The only noticeable difference this year was that the organisers introduced a fee of £2 for the show guide which included a map of the exhibition hall and listings of all the exhibitors. In previous years the guides have been given out free of charge to all attendees. The tickets are already quite expensive and understandably many people did not want to pay the extra money for the guide. Consequently a lot of people were wandering around very lost and were not able to find the stalls they wanted to visit. A number of the talks were also poorly attended, presumably because people were not aware of all the free talks that were available and were not able to plan their day accordingly. I trust that the organisers will rectify this mistake and ensure that programmes are included in the ticket price next year.
There are a number of other bloggers who have written reports from this year's WDYTYA. The prolific writer Chris Paton has posted numerous reports, photos and videos on his Scottish Genes blog. The video interviews can also be accessed on his YouTube channel.
I have provided below a list of all the other write-ups I have been able to find, all of which are well worth reading, as they all provide different perspectives.
A report from Day 1 at WDYTYA by Dick Eastman
A report from Days 2 and 3 at WDYTYA by Dick Eastman
Show report from the Society of Genealogists
Who do you think you are? Live Coverage Round-up from MyHeritage
Video interviews from Nick Thorne the "Nosey Genealogist" - includes interviews with Anthony Adolph, Dan Jones of Ancestry.co.uk and Nigel Bayley of TheGenealogist.co.uk.
My day at the show by Alan Stewart
A US perspective from genetic genealogist Emily Aulicino
Who do you think you are? This show could help unravel the mystery by Suzi Grogan
WDYTYA Live report from Family Tree UK
A report from the Families in British India Society
A report from Canadian John Reid from the Anglo-Celtic Connections blog
A wrap-up report from Lisa Louise Cooke from the American Family Tree Magazine
In addition, the Society of Genealogists has made the handouts from all the talks in the SOG workshops available online on their website.
© Debbie Kennett 2011