Monday, 12 March 2018

Genetic Genealogy Ireland Belfast and Game of Thrones

I had a wonderful time in February in Belfast attending the first ever Genetic Genealogy Ireland/Back To Our Past conference in Northern Ireland. It was a great opportunity to meet up with my genetic genealogy friends and we took a few extra days in Belfast to see some of the sights.

The conference was held in the magnificent Titanic Centre which is a fantastic venue in its own right with first-class facilities. We were based in the Titanic Suite on the top floor which features a replica of the Titanic staircase. There were over forty exhibitors though it was a shame that the two biggest genealogy companies, Ancestry and Findmypast, were not represented. Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage DNA were the only two DNA companies present. The feedback from the show was very positive so I'm hoping we'll all be back again next year with an even bigger and better event.

We had an excellent series of genetic genealogy lectures spread out over two days. Family Tree DNA generously provided sponsorship for the DNA lecture area. The lectures were livestreamed in the Genetic Genealogy Ireland Facebook group. Recordings of the talks are now being uploaded to the Genetic Genealogy Ireland YouTube channel. Five talks are currently available and can be viewed from the links below or directly on YouTube. (If you're receiving this via e-mail unfortunately the embedded YouTube links do not work.)

My talk was on some of the mysteries of the Titanic that were solved by DNA.
(Direct YouTube link here

Donna Rutherford gave a fantastic presentation on the genetics of the characters in the Game of Thrones. (Direct YouTube link

Ed Gilbert gave us an update on the Irish DNA Atlas Project.
(Direct YouTube link

Martin McDowell told us about the successful DNA project run by the North of Ireland Family History Society. (Direct YouTube link

Michelle Leonard gave a very useful talk on the practical application of autosomal DNA testing featuring lots of case studies. (Direct YouTube link

Look out for more videos from the conference on the Genetic Genealogy Ireland YouTube channel over the next couple of weeks. See the Genetic Genealogy Ireland blog for the full lecture schedule.

Recordings of the presentation from the October 2017 Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference in Dublin will also be added once the Belfast lectures are all online.

While we were in Belfast a number of us signed up to go on two Game of Thrones tours which provided a great opportunity to see some of the stunning coastal scenery and countryside in Northern Ireland. Both tours were led by extras from the Game of Thrones. They were very entertaining hosts and gave us some fascinating insights into how the shows were made.

The Iron Islands Tour took us north of Belfast along the County Antrim coast up to the Giant's Causeway. The Winterfell Locations Trek allowed us to explore the countryside to the south of Belfast and took us into the Tollymore Forest at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. This location was used in the filming of the first ever episode of the first series of Game of Thrones. The forest also provided the inspiration for the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis. These were my all-time favourite books as a child. If you ever get the chance to visit Belfast I can highly recommend both of these tours.

I wasn't previously very interested in watching Game of Thrones but now, inspired by my trip, I'm determined to try and catch up on the DVDs. My husband is a great fan of the programme but had failed to convince me to watch it.

After the conference we had a free day to explore the exhibition at the Titanic Centre.

I've shared below a selection of the photographs I took in Dublin which I hope will give you a sense of all the fun we had and what a wonderful country Northern Ireland is.

The magnificent Titanic Centre, the setting for Genetic Genealogy Ireland Belfast

The Titanic Centre viewed from the harbour.

The entrance to the Titanic Centre.

Carnlough Harbour was the location used for Braavo's Canal in the Game of Thrones.

Daenerys Targaryen (aka Linda) and Catelyn Stark (aka Katherine) at Carnlough Harbour.
These steps feature in a famous scene in the Game of Thrones involving a character called Arya

The Caves of Cushendon. The cave on the left is now better known as Melisandre's Cave
 after the famous smoke baby scene in the Game of Thrones

The beautiful Antrim coast.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Catelyn Stark (aka Katherine), Daenerys Targaryen (aka Linda) and Melisandre (aka Donna)
braving the cold near Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Rathlin Island can be seen in the distance. The first ever ancient DNA paper from Ireland included three Bronze Age samples from Rathlin Island (See Cassidy et al 2016.)
A disused quarry at Larrybane which was used as Renly's Camp in Game of Thrones

Genetic genealogists having fun dressing up on Ballintoy Beach
 which featured in a number of scenes in the Game of Thrones

The Giant's Causeway

Bregagh Road in Ballymoney now better known as the Dark Hedges from the Game of Thrones 

Melisandre (aka Donna), Daenerys Targaryen (aka Linda) and Catelyn Stark (aka Katherine) at the Dark Hedges

Martin McDowell tells us about the North of Ireland Family History Society's DNA Project

Michelle Leonard explains how autosomal DNA tests work

Brad Larkin on DNA clans and the monarchy

The Family Tree DNA stand at Back To Our Past

The MyHeritage stand at Back to Our Past

The magnificent replica Titanic staircase in the Titanic Suite

Professor Jim Mallory spoke about the Origins of the Irish

Ed Gilbert gave us an update on the Irish DNA Atlas Project

Donna Rutherford dressed up as Melisandre to talk about the genetics of the Game of Thrones

Melisandre (aka Donna), Daenerys Targaryen (aka Linda) and Catelyn Stark (aka Katherine)
helped to answer questions about DNA testing in our panel session!

A gathering of genetic genealogists on the Titanic staircase

Belfast city centre and the River Lagan at night


Castle Ward was transformed into Winterfell for the Game of Thrones with a lot of CGI wizardry

The Dire Wolves from the Game of Thrones

Inch Abbey was the setting for Rob Starrk's camp in Game of Thrones

The view from Inch Abbey

Tracy, Linda, Debbie and Donna having fun dressing up at Inch Abbey

Maurice, Katherine and Linda in full battle dress 

The Tollymore Forest at the foot of the Mourne mountains
The SS Nomadic was specially built to transfer White Star passengers onto the Titanic at Cherbourg.
The fully restored ship is now on display in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast

A big fish spotted outside the Harbour Commissioner's Office

The oldest building in Belfast

Samson and Delilah, the giant Harland and Wolff cranes, dominate the Belfast skyline

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It does look like you had a fun time as well as an interesting conference