Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

Birmingham has been the centre of the genealogical universe in the UK for the last two weekends. I had an enjoyable weekend at the Hilton Metropole Hotel at the beginning of April attending the annual conference of the Guild of One-Name Studies. Such events are always a good chance to catch up with old friends, to network and to meet other like-minded people who share my obsession with researching a single surname. I have registered my maiden name Cruwys with the Guild, and it was largely thanks to my fellow Guild members Chris Pomery and Susan Meates that I started my own Cruwys DNA Project which in turn led to my wider interest in the world of DNA testing.

Last weekend I was back in Birmingham again for Who Do You Think You Are? Live which is the big genealogy event in the UK and is now the second largest family history show in the world after Rootstech. This year I helped to organise the DNA lecture schedule on behalf of ISOGG (the International Society of Genetic Genealogy) and Family Tree DNA. We had a great line-up of speakers. You can see the full workshop schedule here. We are very grateful to the genetic genealogists and the academics who gave so generously of their free time, and especially so as none of the speakers receives any payment for attending or any expenses.

Thanks to the sterling efforts of Maurice Gleeson most of the talks in the DNA workshop have been recorded and will be uploaded to the Who Do You Think You Are? DNA Lectures channel on YouTube over the course of the next couple of weeks. This brief introductory video provides a taster of the delights in store.


The two highlights of the show for me were the talks by Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester and Ed Gilbert from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Mark Jobling gave us a masterclass on the Y-chromosome and next generation sequencing. His talk has been recorded and will be available on YouTube in due course.

Ed Gilbert gave a fantastic presentation on the Irish DNA Atlas Project. He shared with us the preliminary and very exciting results from the project. However, the analysis of the data is ongoing and, until a paper has been written and published, the results and the maps cannot be publicly shared. I can guarantee it will be worth the wait! The project has so far recruited 217 people but there are still some gaps in their coverage and they are always on the lookout for more participants. To qualify you need to have eight great-grandparents all born within the same region of Ireland. For further details see the latest issue of Ireland's Genealogical Gazette which also includes a brief write-up of Ed's talk on page 2.

Another personal highlight for me this year was the opportunity to meet Richard Hill, the author of the book Finding Family: My Search for My Roots and the Secrets in my DNA. Richard was adopted but only discovered the truth about his birth by accident at the age of eighteen on a visit to his doctor. Richard subsequently set out on a search to find his biological parents. His case was probably the first adoption DNA success story, and his success encouraged many other people to follow in his footsteps. Richard gave an inspiring talk on his personal genetic detective story. If you've not already done so I highly recommend reading his book. There are so many twists and turns in his story that it reads like a novel. Real life is often so much more interesting than fiction.

Turi King gave an entertaining talk on "Discovering Richard III" which was much enjoyed by a large audience which also included the Antiques Roadshow expert Eric Knowles.

Doug Speed from UCL presented the results of computer simulations investigating the amount of autosomal DNA sharing between individuals. His lecture will be of particular interest to our more advanced genetic genealogists.

John Reid gave an interesting talk with lots of audience participation asking the question "Did DNA really prove it was Richard III's skeleton in the Leicester car park?"

Julia Bell made her debut at WDYTYA? Live and gave an inspiring talk on how she was able to identify her unknown GI grandfather. She is now working with foundlings in the UK and is well on the way to "achieving the impossible" in some of these cases.

Scott Brouilette from Illumina explained to us how next generation sequencing works.

ISOGG once again had a stand at the show to educate genealogists about the benefits of DNA testing. Barbara Griffiths, Brian Swann, Richard Hill, James Irvine, John Blair and Ann Blair all helped out on the stand. Barbara and Brian both worked hard to provide the materials for the display and handouts for people to take home with them. We missed Sue Curd this year  she stayed at home to recover from a nasty cold. Joss Le Gall did a magnificent job shepherding people into the DNA workshop, taking photographs and sharing pictures on social media.

ISOGG members Katherine Borges, Linda Magellan, Derrell Oakley Teat, Emily Aulicino and Michelle Leonard all helped out on the Family Tree DNA stand. They are not employed by Family Tree DNA and they all help out as volunteers at their own expense because they want to promote genetic genealogy and encourage participation in FTDNA surname projects.

A number of project administrators were offering sponsored Y-DNA tests this year. I don't have the final tally but I know that there were at least ten sponsored tests taken up this year. The surnames include Dunn and White.

AncestryDNA were promoting their DNA test very heavily at the show and selling the kit for just £59. An additional benefit of buying the test at the show is that you also avoid the £20 postage charge. There seemed to be a lot of people buying AncestryDNA tests which will provide a much-needed boost to the number of UK testers. If anyone has tested at AncestryDNA make sure you also transfer your results to the Family Finder database with the free autosomal DNA transfer programme. This allows people to benefit from being in two different databases, and to pick up a different range of matches.

BritainsDNA were recently acquired by Source BioScience and were noticeable by their absence this year.

Katherine Borges, the Director of ISOGG, was the final speaker on Saturday. She made the announcement during her talk that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy is being relaunched and that it will now be coming under the control of ISOGG. Leah Larkin is taking over as Editor, and Linda Magellan will be helping with the formatting and the IT work. The first issue should be out some time in the summer. Turi King had originally agreed to take over as editor but, soon after her appointment, Richard III was discovered and her life has not been the same since. However, she has kindly agreed to assist as a member of the new Advisory Board.

In previous years it has been possible to get free tickets for the lectures in the Society of Genealogists workshops. This year for the first time a charge was introduced for these lectures by Immediate Media. However, this charge was very unpopular with the speakers. As with the DNA workshops, none of the SOG speakers receive a fee for speaking and they do not get their expenses reimbursed. It is therefore quite unacceptable that the organisers should charge people to go to these talks and not give the speakers a share of the takings.

The aisles are much wider at the NEC than at Olympia so the space does not look as crowded, making it difficult to gauge the actual attendance. It also seemed as though there were fewer stalls than in previous years. The organisation leading up to the show was chaotic at best, though the problems were partly caused by the sickness of a key member of staff at Immediate Media, the company who organise the show. There were extensive delays in getting the DNA workshop timetable published and I do not think the event was very well promoted. However, it all turned out well in the end and the staff were all really helpful during the course of the three days. I did hear on the grapevine that the number of pre-booked tickets was up on last year so I shall be interested to see what the final turn out is.

I seem to have spent quite a bit of time this year tied up in meetings but hopefully these will all bear fruit in the near future. There are some exciting new developments on the way from all the DNA vendors in the next 12 months. I would have liked to have had some time to have a proper look at some of the stands. There was supposedly a Spitfire somewhere in the hall but I never managed to get near it! I only had time to snatch a few quick photos and say hello to people in passing on my way to and from coffee shop to get some much needed sustenance. A selection of photos is provided below with the emphasis very much on DNA!

It has already been confirmed that WDYTYA? Live will take place next year from Thursday 6th April to Saturday 8th April at the NEC in Birmingham so keep those dates free in your diary. See you all next year!

Garrett Hellenthal from UCL explaining how DNA can be used to infer historical events.

Professor Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester speaking about "Fathers and sons, the next generation: the Y-chromosome in the genome sequencing era.

Mistress Agnes and Master Christopher (alias Janet Few and Chris Braund) in action.
The queue of people outside the NEC on Saturday morning waiting for the doors to open.

A busy Family Tree DNA stand.

Bennett Greenspan, CEO of Family Tree DNA, talking to a packed house about
 "Genetic genealogy: the past, the present and the future".

Doug Speed from UCL on using DNA to determine relatedness.

The Berkshire Family History Society's stand.

Graham Riggs and Maureen Selley worked hard on the Devon Family History Society's stand.

Turi King from the University of Leicester spoke about the discovery and identification of Richard III.

Crowds of people at the AncestryDNA stand.

The Guild of One-Name Studies had a busy show and signed up over 40 new members.

Katherine Borges, Director of ISOGG, with Maurice Gleeson at the end of the day
 on Saturday after another successful WDYTYA Live.
Further reading
A number of the speakers in the SOG workshops have made their handouts or PDFs of their Powerpoints available on the SOG website. You can download the files here.

If you attended the show you can fill out the feedback survey here.

A number of other genealogists have blogged about their experiences at WDYTYA Live. I've included a selection of links here:

- Who Do You Think You Are? Live Part 1 by Steve Jackson
- Who Do You Think You Are? Live Part 2 by Steve Jackson
- Who Do You Think You Are? Live in Birmingham, England - Day 1 by Dick Eastman
- WDYTYA? Live 2016 - So much to do, so little time by Jane Roberts
- A report and pictures from Who Do You Think You Are? Live in Birmingham, England by Dick Eastman
- WDYTYA? Live 2016: Day 1 by John Reid
- WDYTYA? Live: Day 3 by John Reid
- My trip to Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 by Chris Paton

© 2016 Debbie Kennett

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