Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017

What have the first 2/3rds of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 been like? Here’s my findings..

This year I decided that I would visit the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live show for just two days, rather than three. For the last few years I’ve done the full show, but with lots of other things competing for my time at the moment – packing up my house, and moving in 2 weeks time, and a load of pots and trays of seedlings in need of my attention (see my gardening blog), I’m pre-occupied.

It was great to get to meet up with some familiar faces – friends who i’ve made from my previous visits, or who I’ve got to know via Twitter conversations and the likes of  #AncestryHour. It’s also great to meet with some new faces too, and that includes companies.

As soon as you step into WDYTYA? Live, you can see exactly who the big sponsor is – Ancestry. Their stand seems to get larger each year, in floorspace and height. Still, it’s packed with information-hungry researchers all looking to smash through a brick wall with the help of their research team.

Ancestry show stand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017
Ancestry with their three-pitch stand. Just how much bigger can they get?

Ancestry’s big sell here is obviously their AncestryDNA kit, and even if you somehow missed this whopping great big stand, you’d soon be looking for them as their tests are a hot topic of the many talks in the orbiting theatres.

Once again they had their own mini theatre to help curious family historians to learn more about autowotzits and mitre comicals or something like that.  If only more test-takers would add family trees to Ancestry!!

AncestryDNA talk at WDYTYALive 2017
AncestryDNA’s stand includes a mini theatre where you can learn how the test works, and how to crunch the data.

I swung by the FamilySearch stand, which like previous years seemed very busy, and also like last year, was running series of small demos and tutorials. I managed to join the back of a group of people watching a demo of researching my beloved 1851 census.

FamilySearch research tutorials.
FamilySearch’s tutorials are free and on their stands.

My favourite talk by far on the 2 days was Debbie Kennett‘s talk ‘Autosomal DNA demystified‘. I’ve keenly followed Debbie’s articles and advice on DNA over the year, and so I knew that I’d be a fool to miss this. Her talk clearly lead us into the topic of DNA, the types of tests that are out there – including their benefits and shortfalls – and then led us through how to analyse the data.

Debbie Kennett about to demystify autosomal DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017.
Debbie Kennett about to demystify autosomal DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017.

She also reminded us that whilst DNA is the ‘in’ thing right now (and her stage was surrounded by DNA testing companies), that you should go into it and prepare for the unexpected.

I always find Debbie’s advice to be very clear, even when it’s technical, and her approach to advice always feels impartial. There’s so many companies out there vying for your DNA test money, but it’s hard to pick out what each one can give and how they compare. Debbie seems to be the voice who talks about this.

DNA test price war?

Stand of the show clearly goes to LivingDNA – which really stood out with a big screen and swish stand.

Living DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017
Living DNA had a huge screen stand, and they really stood out as the fresh, new, sparkly attraction.

Living DNA are currently running a test for me, so I hope to report back on this in the near future.

There was definitely what seemed like a price war on this year, with AncestryDNA having slashed their usual price of £79 (excluding that annoying £20 P&P) to £49 (i bought 3 more), and with FamilyTreeDNA pitching at £40, and with newbies LivingDNA pitching at £99. Other tests were also available, but I didn’t spot the prices.

I wondered whether the DNA Test ‘price war’ simply indicates that the main players have finally recouped their product development and marketing budgets, meaning they can now discount their tests, mixed with the surge of competitors making the price more volatile. It feels a bit like it’s a race to the bottom (so to speak), but I think there’s also a need to be clearer about the differences between the tests.

I was really pleased to see that Dr Turi King was back at the show, talking about the Richard III case. I first saw her (as a VIP!!) back in 2013 when it had only recently been revealed who the mystery skeleton was. It was great to hear some of that story again, and also pick up the factoid that poor Richard is missing his feet still. Maybe he had good boots on that day, and someone took an easy way of getting them!

I mentioned this revelation on Twitter, which annoyed Richard III, who despite being somewhat lifeless of late, seemed to get a bit annoyed at Dr King for revealing it. I guess we should all tread caref…. Oh.

Where Do You Think They Were? Live

I was really pleased to bump into Paul Carter and Pam Smith – two more of my regular show chums – and I was really interested to hear about their new Name&Place project which I’m really looking forward to seeing at next year’s show (no pressure!!).

Speaking of ‘where’, I think that this year was the first year ever that Genes Reunited’s stand has been absent. Obviously, as a company, they have been passed from pillar to post, but seeing as they’re now part of the same product family as FindMyPast, then I guess they’re slowly being absorbed out of existence.

Twile and FindMyPast at their WDYTYALive stand in the middle of the show.
Twile and FindMyPast at their WDYTYALive stand in the middle of the show.

It was great to see Twile on the FindMyPast stand, and their infographic idea really strikes a chord. I think infographics are great at giving bitesized pieces of information in a memorable and eye-catching way. Family history needs this, because I’m all to familiar with just how exciting it can be… but not to the person I’m telling it to. Their eyes glaze over as they get confused by the distant cousins and multiple greats.

Once again, I caved in at the Pen & Sword stand following what is probably now my annual papping of it. I love books, and I’ve got loads of them. I tried to resist, remembering that I’ve got to pack all of mine up into boxes and move them in a couple of weeks… but I was finally lured back to the stand and bought just one more – the final copy of Stuart A Raymond’s ‘Tracing Your Nonconformist Ancestors‘.

I also popped along to see the team from MacFamilyTree, not because I’m really thinking about replacing my Reunion software, but I wanted to see what theirs was like, and whether I could finally hunt down a family history software that doesn’t have printable charts that look like they were last designed in 1997. I find that a lot of these modern on-device software releases (as opposed to online subscription websites) are great, but the printable chart options really let them down. I’m not 100% sure I’ve found what I’m looking for still. Maybe I just need to begin a start-up company.

Anyway, that’s it for my two days at the 2017 WDYTYALive show. What did you make of it?

I think this year I went with little expectation or preparation, aiming only to get 2 more DNA kits, to sit in on some more DNA talks, and to catch up with those familiar faces. I did all that, and enjoyed the show.

As I look at my show purchases, I’m trying not to think about how much money I spent – more of how much money I saved on waiting for the show to get the show discounts, and how many more relatives this will enable me to connect with.

Swag from WDYTYALive 2017
Some of my WDYTYA? Live 2017 show swag.

I don’t think my feet or my bank could handle a third day, so I’m glad to be at home with my feet up and a cuppa in my hand.

Enjoy Day 3 of the show, and as ever, happy history hunting!

Andrew

My 2017 Genealogy Resolutions

Happy New Year! What better time to set yourself a new challenge than the start of a new year. Here’s my 5 Genealogy Resolutions for 2017…

Having gone back and checked on the progress of my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions, it’s now time to set myself a new set for 2017.

The aim of these are to encourage me to complete a particular genealogy puzzle that has maybe been baffling me for a while, or to achieve something new. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn (!) that sometimes I get side-tracked by other branches of the family and end up researching those instead. This post acts as a reminder, as well as a way for me to set myself some challenges, so here goes:

1. Kill Mary Clarke

In the last few weeks I spent my 37th £1 on another certificate in a bid to kill off my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary Clarke, later Mary Bailey, but it was another miss. She’s out there still and I need to find her, in order to bring her life story – which includes prison and hard-labour for neglecting and abusing step-children, and numerous stints in workhouses, to a close. Last known address: Hartismere Workhouse, Suffolk in April 1881.

I’ve attempted to kill her off in previous genealogy resolution lists, but her invincibility irritates me.

2. Scan my BMD certificates

At the moment these are all carefully filed in date order in plastic sleeves in a lever-arch folder. There’s a lot. To better preserve these, and to make it easier for me to access them when I want to (if only to stop me accidentally buying the same ones twice), I want to scan them. As there’s a lot, I’m aiming to scan 50%.

3. Finish reading published family histories

For ages now, I’ve had Richard Benson‘s ‘The Valley‘ and Deborah Cohen‘s ‘Family Secrets‘ books on my to-read pile. The events of 2016 consumed me, and caused me not to really have time or the inclination to sit down and read much.

I did manage to read some of Deborah’s book, and I also read ‘The America Ground‘ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, but I want to read more, so that I can get a good feeling about how to approach writing my own family history book.

4. Find my uncle’s grave

In October 2016, as I walked from away from the huddle of mourners at my uncle’s open grave, my mother tells me that he was not the first uncle to be buried there. This confused me, as I’ve always known all of my aunts and uncles. They watched me grow up, and I’ve watched them grow older. But no.

There was another, which my aunt remembers (because she was a young teenager) but my father doesn’t (because he was only very little). Certificates swiftly revealed Malcolm’s short life of 6 weeks. His cleft lip and pneumonia made it impossible for him to thrive, and he died in hospital in 1958. With my aunt visiting the UK in June, we’ll be back to visit my uncle’s grave, and I want to be able to take them all to the spot where their little baby brother was buried.

5. Run a 4th AncestryDNA test

In my first conflict of conferences, in which I was going to feast on my twice yearly nerdfest in Brighton, i switched my mind and decided to return for just 2 days of WDYTYA? Live in 2017 (the Thursday and Friday). I even managed to bag a complete bargain on my usual hotel (£25 a night!). In recent years I’ve stuck around for 3 days, but in 2016, I found this stretched my enthusiasm a bit, and as someone who is a family historian and therefore doesn’t have a stand, have books to sign, nor do I run a series of talks/record videos or podcasts (hmm… maybe that’s 2018’s resolution list right there!), then 2 was best.

During this time I aim to acquire a 4th AncestryDNA kit – avoiding the stupid P&P fees again (honestly, Ancestry, also let these be sold through someone like Amazon – expanding your audience and getting them delivered for free!!), and hopefully at another show discount rate.

This 4th kit may go to my visiting Aunt in June (if she’s interested), or to my mother’s sister (my maternal aunt), my own sister, or if I’ve hit a dead end, then I may try to locate a descendant from one of my 2x Great Grandmother’s first husband’s siblings. My Great Grandfather was illegitimate, but my grandmother tells me that he WAS the first child. DNA is going to be the only way to check, so I need to find a match with someone who contains only his family’s DNA, and not my 2x Great Grandmother’s DNA, in a bid to prove or disprove once and for all.

 

So, there we go. I can think of a load more things I already want to do in 2017, but I like to stick to 5.

Do you ever set yourself Genealogy Resolutions? How have you got on with those? Or what might you set yourself a challenge for in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year to you all – may your 2017 be happy and healthy throughout. Thanks once again for reading my blog.

Andrew

 

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Three)

About 18 months ago, I undertook the Ancestry autosomal DNA test. I’d been completely sceptical of what use it would give me, but after seeing lots of talks from Ancestry, other DNA test providers, and genealogists at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in 2015, I decided to pick up a test for me and for my mother.

We both took the test and after about 6 weeks received our results.

At the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 show, I picked up a third test – again avoiding the expensive P&P cost, and this time for my father. He’d been interested when my mother and I received our results, and had enjoyed reading the historical analysis of how our DNA had gotten into such a mixture through invasion, war, and trade routes.

After dribbling into the AncestryDNA tube just before lunch (in a bid to avoid me seem to descend from a ham and mustard sandwich!), I posted it off.

My parents are Daily Mail newspaper readers. This irritates me a lot, as it is somewhat of a toxic, bigoted, racist, baby-boomer brain-washer (and i’m being polite here), so their news always comes with poorly written and sensational stories that show people of other countries, but mostly Eastern Europe, in a truly horrific way. The only justice in their newspaper habit is that the paper either gets used to light fires, or to line their cat litter tray.

My mother’s DNA result gave her a 1% Eastern European, and 2% Finn and Russian DNA ethnicity, which amused me endlessly, given her newspaper reading habits.

Mother's AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result in Lego
My Mother’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result.

I didn’t inherit the Eastern European DNA, but I did benefit from the Finn and Russian.

My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate in Lego
My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate

But what might my father have?

I received the results.

My father’s AncestryDNA result

I picked up the phone, taught my mother how to go hands-free, and then said (in Daily Mail language) ‘Mother, you’ve only gone and married a bloody foreigner’ – we all laughed.

My father, who has an affinity with Scotland (but no known ancestral connection), actually turned out to be just 46% Great Briton, and yet 24% Irish. Compared to my 61% GB and my mother’s 68% GB, that’s quite a difference.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

My father was somewhat pleased to see that Ireland (24%) and Scandinavia (19%) made up for where his GB DNA had decreased. He feels even more Celt/Viking than ever, even if I’ve yet to find any ancestor with a hint of Irish ancestry in them. My only suspicions might be our Newman (which seems more German to me), Tingey (which seems more French to me), or Clarke ancestors.

My Mother’s DNA remains the most varied, with 7 ethnicities estimated (and they are estimates, remember).

What you can see above, courtesy of my Lego depictions of the three of us, is that I dodged Iberian Peninsula DNA despite it being present in my mother (5%) and my father (3%).

My sister – who has not been tested – has a darker complexion to me, so maybe Iberia plays more of a role in her DNA, or maybe the Italian/Greek? Obviously, she could easily have none of those ethnicities at all – as it’s completely a 50/50 gamble as to what DNA you inherit, and which ones fall by the way-side.

My (decreasing) blond hair, and my gingery beard suggests that I’m a carrier of the red hair gene, and science has found that it has a high frequency in Ireland and Scotland. Maybe this suggests that I have inherited that from my father’s DNA. It’s also clear that I inherited my 4% Italian/Greek ethnicity from my father (his was 3%).

My mother’s high Western European DNA ethnicity (13%), and my father’s lower 5%, played little role in my DNA, which came as a surprise to me, as I’d have guessed that I had some Germanic DNA via my Moden or Gothard ancestors.

What next?

I could try to test some other relatives – they’re certainly curious, but the more distant I get in a bid to see results, the more ‘other’ DNA is being introduced via non-biological Uncles and Aunts.

I was pleased to see Ancestry match me up with a paternal second cousin, once removed, who I already knew their position of in my tree, but had never had contact with before. There’s also a few more distant cousins emerging, which is allowing me to fill in some contemporary generations from distant relatives.

The whole DNA testing exercise has been interesting for us as a family, and it’s a great conversation piece. I’m guessing my parents are having a great time telling their friends about what they’ve discovered. It’s certainly nice to find people who have a link to you, although there’s so many test results that match, and yet the users don’t have trees, or they never reply.

I guess to some degree, it’s a bit of a genetic tourism. Pay > Wait > Oh wow, i’m XYZ > Done.

I think I’ll keep my mind open, and see who else I can cajole into being tested (hopefully either my maternal aunt, or my sister).

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Two)

The Ancestry DNA results are in for my mother and I… but what do you get, and how can they be interpreted?

It’s been a few patient weeks since I did my AncestryDNA test but the email has come through. The results of the AncestryDNA tests for my mother and I have arrived.

Excitedly I clicked on my name first to see what it would reveal.

When you get your results you’re presented with a kind of ‘dashboard’. This includes your name and a brief summary of your Ethnicity Estimate and your DNA Matches.

Able to see the top three results in this dashboard view, I clicked through to view the complete geographic/ethnicity estimate map and results.

AncestryDNA 'Ethnicity Estimate' results  and map.
My AncestryDNA ‘Ethnicity Estimate’ results and map.

With little surprise, Great Britain appeared at the top. Although DNA runs through us all from our very evolution, my family history research (which is a nanosecond snapshot by comparison) has given me a set of documented ancestors who have never strayed outside of England.

Of course, documents lie but DNA doesn’t, but in both cases – it’s all in the interpretation.

After Great Britain, coming in second and as a complete surprise was my 18% Irish genes. So far, I’ve found no Irish ancestors, and only 1-2 Irish relatives. I can’t even put my finger on a few possible Irish surnames… but, they appear to be in the mix somewhere.

In third place, with a nice 11% is my highly anticipated (and hoped for) Scandinavian DNA.   Having been surprised by the Irish DNA, I’d have expected this or Europe West to have turned up as second.

These three are then followed by what Ancestry calls ‘Trace Regions’. They explain that these are small traces of ethnicity, but that they may be unreliable. They’ve included them just in case.

For me, I’m amused by being 4% Italian/Greek, 3% Finn and Northwest Russian, but surprisingly a lowly 3% Western European.

Setting contexts

What is useful, and acts almost as a caveat to the percentage and map, is the potted history of the region when you click on its name. When reading this, you realise that for someone with 61% Great Britain score (the average Great Briton has 60%, so i only just scraped in), seeing Scandinavian in my DNA is absolutely no surprise. Also, seeing Irish and Scandinavian together is no surprise either, and that’s down to the trade and settlement of the Vikings who held around 1/3rd of England by the late 800s. Vikings of course made their way to Ireland too, so it would be unsurprising for both Scandinavian and Irish DNA to turn up.

Reassuringly, Ancestry’s test had spotted that there was a parent/child relationship between myself and my mother’s DNA.

Comparing DNA with my mother

When you look at my mother’s DNA results in comparison, you get a hint of the 50% of the DNA that I didn’t inherit, and a hint at what DNA may well be lurking in my father.

My mother's AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate
My mother’s AncestryDNA results reveal she’s more European than me.

For my mother, her ‘Ethnicity Estimate’ pitches her as 8% more than the average Great Briton, at 68%.

Then, what is my lowest estimated score (of 1%), my mother has as second – she’s 13% Western European. That’s roughly the percentage that I’d have expected to have seen in my result, given ancestral surnames of the likes of the German sounding Moden and Swiss sounding Gothard surnames in her tree.

With delight, I revealed her Scandinavian roots too (she’s a big Vikings fan, and we share a Viking-sounding Yarrow ancestral surname). Her percent is less than mine, so maybe this hints at some Scandinavian DNA in my father too?

It’s not until you reach her ‘Trace Regions’ that Irish DNA turns up – and for her it’s just 3%, whereas mine was 18%. Maybe this also suggests that there’s Irish DNA in my father.

Also amongst my mother’s Trace Regions is 5% Iberian Peninsula, and our shared Finland/Northwest Russa DNA (at 2%).

I’d guess that when looking at geography – for someone with an estimate so high of Western Europe, then seeing the Iberian Peninsula is no surprise. The Fin and Russian ethnicity traces may well be echoes through our Scandinavian DNA too.

Finally, my mother’s Trace Regions end with what has made me chuckle. She’s 1% Eastern European.  She’s a Daily Mail reader, and I continually mock-plead with her to stop reading that ‘newspaper’… which is packed with shock stories and hatred for people from Ukraine, Poland and other Eastern European countries. Hopefully that 1% will serve as another reason she should stop buying it!!

So, what can I do with this new-found knowledge?

This was my questioning right from the out-set. You get a set of data that spans right back through human life – far too far back into history for you to research. At it’s top level, and for those who aren’t really interested in family history, this is a kind of ‘genetic tourism’ or ‘family tree tourism’. Dr Adam Rutherford‘s recent radio feature on The Business of Genetic Ancestry kind of puts it nicely.

AncestryDNA sold this autosomal DNA testing concept to me when they showed what they’d do next with the data – and that’s to use it alongside all the other users who get their test results, and use it to suggest DNA matches to you. It was this point at Who Do You Think You Are? Live that I decided to pay up.

That AncestryDNA dashboard shows you some of those matches, each with a rating of how confident they are at the matches.. and then it’s over to you to reach out to them and explore that connection through Ancestry.

AncestryDNA matches
AncestryDNA shows you who has varying degree of DNA matches with your results.

I’ve already begun reaching out to a few – and it was reassuring to see matches with people I’ve already linked to through good old fashioned family history research, and also a number of people who are strangers but carry some of my obscurer family surnames too.

Ancestry, I’m impressed. All I need to do now, is think of who best to test next. My father? My sister? The oldest blood relative I can find?