Monday 15 March 2010

Blood of the Irish DVD

Blood of the Irish is a major two-part documentary which was broadcast on Irish television last year. There was considerable disappointment at that time amongst the genetic genealogy community that the programme could not be seen in the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and all the many other countries where the Irish diaspora can be found today. I am therefore delighted to report that the programme is now available on DVD from the production company Crossing the Line Films. Further information about the programme can be found on the RTE website here. The DVD will be region-free so that it can be viewed anywhere in the world. There is a standard three-Euro charge for shipping. The following press release was written by Crossing the Line films.
OUT ON 12 MARCH 2010



'Blood of the Irish'

Crossing The Line Films are delighted to announce the release of the IFTA-winning documentary series 'Blood of the Irish', a two-hour documentary that seeks the truth about the origins of Irish people.

Broadcaster Diarmuid Gavin travels to the heart of Africa and beyond in a quest to find the very origins of the Irish people. Who are the Irish and whose blood flows in our veins? A landmark series for RTÉ, Blood of the Irish explores the most fundamental questions about the Irish population; who were the first people to settle here and where did they come from? Why are the oldest Irish human remains less than 10,000 years old when just 100 kms away in Britain, human traces go back 700,000 years? Did the first Irish arrive overland on an ice bridge, or on a small fragile boat blown ashore by the winds of chance?

Produced by Crossing the Line Films, a veteran production company skilled at documentaries exploring history, science and adventure, the documentary is full of spectacular landscapes, cutting edge DNA studies, computer graphics, latest archaeology and prominent academic contributors. It also includes ordinary Irish people and their own quest for their origins – including even an appearance by Daniel O'Donnell.

For all those with an interest in Irish history and prehistory, geneaology, genetics, archaeology and general Irish studies, 'Blood of the Irish' is a showpiece documentary which offers an educational and approachable view into one of the great mysteries of Irish people. Who are we; and where do we come from?

Out on 12 March 2010 in retailers throughout Ireland and available region-free through the website

PG rated
RRP 17.99 euros

Crossing The Line Films
Barr an Uisce, Killincarrig Road
Greystones, Co Wicklow
Tel: (01) 287 5394

Monday 1 March 2010

Who do you think you are? Live 2010

I'm just recovering from three busy days at the big "Who do you think you are? Live" show at Olympia in London. I belong to an organisation called ISOGG (the International Society of Genetic Genealogy), and for the first time this year we had a stand at WDYTYA. ISOGG is an independent volunteer-run organisation which helps to educate people about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research. With the presence of Family Tree DNA and the return of their popular DNA workshop our services were very much in demand.

I've been at WDYTYA for the last three years now but this was I am sure the busiest year ever, and it will be interesting to see the final attendance figures. The advance tickets had already sold out for Saturday and it was so busy that by around mid-day the hall reached capacity, and no one else was allowed in until the crowds had subsided. At this stage there were still hundreds of people queuing round the block. I do hope they all eventually managed to gain entry. The picture below shows the lower hall from the Gallery during one of the quieter moments on Saturday.
Family Tree DNA were very busy throughout the entire three days. They brought with them double the number of kits compared to last year and there were very few left at the end of the show. There was a constant stream of people at the stand queuing up to be swabbed, including two people who will be joining my Devon DNA Project. The DNA talks were all very well received. I particularly enjoyed Dr Michael Hammer's presentation on "The peopling of the world". I was intrigued to see that Professor Bryan Sykes, the owner of Oxford Ancestors and author of The Seven Daughters of Eve, was in the audience for the talks by Dr Michael Hammer and Chris Pomery.
To coincide with WDYTYA Family Tree DNA have announced the pre-launch of their new Family Finder DNA test. Those people who were at the show had the opportunity to learn about the test and buy a kit to participate in the beta testing programme. Traditionally genealogists have used Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) tests to explore the paternal line, which usually coincides with surnames, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests to explore the direct maternal line. The Family Finder test is an autosomal DNA test which can be used to explore all the other lines which are not covered by Y-DNA and mtDNA, and can be used to find matches with close cousins back to around five generations. If you have a match with a cousin you will share a segment of DNA. These matching segments can be seen in this screenshot of the new chromosome browser.
Rather than order a Family Finder test for myself I've ordered tests for my mum and dad as this will take me back one further generation. I shall be fascinated to see the results. Further information on the Family Finder test can be found in a new section on the FTDNA website. Further details can be found in the official FAQs. The official launch will probably be some time in March. The beta testing is rolling out in phases to cope with the anticipated demand.

While working on the ISOGG stand I had the pleasure of being introduced to Princess Maria Sviatopolk-Mirski, who had her mitochondrial DNA tested by Family Tree DNA while visiting the show. I have promised to help Maria understand her results when they come in. Maria descends from an ancient Belarusian dynasty. Her great-grandfather, Prince Nicolai Ivanovitch Sviatopolk-Mirski, was the last owner of Mir Castle near Minsk.

We were so busy on the ISOGG stand that I had very little opportunity to visit all the other stalls. I did however manage to pay a quick visit to the National Probate Service's stand and get a sneak preview of their new website. Contrary to popular rumour Ancestry have not acquired a contract to publish the National Probate Indexes. However the Probate Service are in the process of digitising all the indexes themselves and they expect to launch the new website within the next eight to ten months. The indexes will be searchable free of charge, and it will be possible to download wills online for just £5. I was fascinated to learn that the Probate Service often receive requests for the wills of famous people. They told me that they had already received over 2,000 orders for Princess Diana's will. No doubt they will receive many more such requests when the indexes go online.