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.


Genealem said...

Excellent blog on WDYTYA, Debbie...but why would I expect anything less! LOL.....It's great to see the different perspectives each of us have on the conference. I greatly appreciate you!

Alexander (Sandy) Burnfield said...

Thanks for this Debbie - I enjoyed reading it and will pass the info about the Probate stuff to my wife Penny who has been doing our family trees

Debbie said...

Thank you for your kind comments. I'm also looking forward to the Probate Indexes coming online.

Salabencher said...

Great Post, lets hope that princess comes back U4!

Alexander (Sandy) Burnfield said...

A very interesting report on the Conference and how things are developing very fast now. Did Sykes ask any questions or make any comments? And let us know more about the Princess and her genetic make up if she permits it!

Debbie Kennett said...

Sykes didn't ask any questions during the talks but he did have a long chat with Bennett and Michael Hammer on Saturday when the show had closed. Princess Maria had some very interesting DNA results. She turned out to be a very rare haplogroup. You can read more here:

She has a very interesting family history. She's now investigating her maternal Engelhardt line. We think she's related to Nick Clegg, whose mother was an Engelhardt from the Smolensk family.