Friday, 22 September 2017

Eppie Jones - Speaker Profile

Title of Presentation: Ancient DNA and the Genetic History of Europeans


I have a B.A. and Ph.D. and I am a Herchel Smith Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge and a Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin

I perform research using ancient DNA with the aim of trying to get a better understanding of the genetic history of Europeans. This often involves bringing genetic data together with information from archaeology, anthropology and earth sciences.

What will you be talking about? 

The ability to recover DNA from ancient human remains is transforming our understanding of the past. In this presentation we will look at how information from millenia-old bones is harnessed and what we can learn from studies using ancient DNA. In particular, we will explore how events which happened thousands of years ago have shaped the genes and traits of people living in Europe today.

Further Information about Eppie

Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin ...

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

Thursday, 14 September 2017

FamilyTreeDNA - sponsors with heart

Once again, our sponsor for this year's Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference is FamilyTreeDNA. Max & Bennett at FTDNA have sponsored our conference since its inception and have been keen supporters of citizen science since they first launched the company back in 2003. FTDNA are the only company that has created an infrastructure for the running of DNA Projects by ordinary "citizen scientists" like you and me. Without this crowd-sourcing initiative, citizen science would never have taken off in the way that it has over these past 15 years or so.

Bennett Greenspan & Max Blankfeld, founders of FTDNA

FamilyTreeDNA is based in Houston, where Hurricane Harvey devastated the city and surrounding areas. The clean-up after Harvey is going to take months and years. Luckily, FTDNA themselves were not too badly affected but several of their employees did suffer from the after-effects of the hurricane. Our hearts go out to them and we wish them continuing support. Max and Bennett started a fundraiser page for affected employees and are matching donations dollar for dollar. So far this has raised over $23,000.

In addition, as members of the community and corporate citizens, FTDNA are donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of all their tests (including upgrades and paid transfers) during the month of September toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. A banner on their home page will display the cumulative amount raised and will be updated twice daily. To date, they have raised over $11,000 toward hurricane relief.

If you are thinking about buying a DNA test in advance of the GGI conference, now would be a perfect time to do so. Not only will you be starting your own incredible adventure into the Land of DNA and Genetic Genealogy, but you will be helping other people in the process.

So for a whole host of different reasons, thank you Max and Bennett!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

GGI2017 logo

The logo for GGI2017 is today revealed to the universe.

It is based on a map of the world by Gerard van Schagen, a Dutch engraver who lived from 1642 to 1724. His world atlas of 1689 was produced using copper engraving and consists of four views of the globe, including views of the north and south poles.

Map is in public domain and sourced from WikiMedia Commons

Ireland is located close to the centre of the map. Five arrows emanate from the island and travel to Iceland, North America, South America, Africa, and Australia. These locations will feature prominently in some of the talks at this year's conference: Gisli Palsson will discuss the Book of Icelanders; Hannes Schroeder will discuss the TransAtlantic Slave Trade; several presenters will be bringing an American perspective to proceedings (Roberta Estes, Dave Vance), whilst others hail from Scandinavia (Peter Sjöland, Hannes Schroeder) and Australasia (Donna Rutherford). The range of topics and presenters serves to underscore how we are all inter-related and how our histories are completely and inextricably enmeshed.

The intersection of the arrows creates several triangles. And Triangulation is a topic of several of the talks this year - using the DNA of several related people to focus on a particular ancestor (Debbie KennettMaurice GleesonRoberta EstesPaddy Waldron).

This ancient map reminds us of our deeper roots and both Dan Bradley & Eppie Jones will be discussing ancient DNA and what it is telling us about early Europeans, including the early Irish. On a related topic, Gianpiero Cavalleri will discuss the deeper roots of the Irish Travellers as revealed by DNA. 

Finally, the atlas is a suitable icon for the final results of the Irish DNA Atlas Project which will be presented at the conference by Ed Gilbert. This project has been running for over 5 years and it will be fascinating to see what it reveals about the DNA of the people of Ireland.

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Roberta Estes - Speaker Profile

Title of Presentations

Session 1 – Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA & How to Use Them

Session 2 – Autosomal DNA Through the Generations

Biographical Details
  • Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Computer Science
  • Masters in Business Administration
  • Graduate work in GIS systems
  • Runs own business (at
  • Author of one of the most popular blogs in genetic genealogy ...

What do you do as a Day Job?

I prepare Y and mtDNA Personalized DNA Reports for clients, as well as general genetic genealogy consulting.

What do you do as a Night Job?

Whatever I didn’t get done in the day 😊
Hopefully some of my own genealogy or quilting.

How did you get into genealogy?

I was pregnant with my daughter, waiting on her arrival, and decided I wanted to know something more about my father’s side of the family. I had NO IDEA I was “doing” genealogy nor that it would ever become an obsession.

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy

I first tested my mitochondrial DNA with Oxford Ancestors in 1999, then started the Estes DNA project with FamilyTreeDNA shortly thereafter. The rest, as they say, is history.

What will you be talking about? 

My presentation will cover autosomal DNA exclusively. Session 1 will cover tools to help you interpret your autosomal DNA results. Did you know that Family Tree DNA provides customers with 9 different tools for autosomal DNA matching and analysis? Did you know that you can use these in combination with each other for even more specific matches. Not only that, but within these tools there are lots of ways to utilize the various features. Do you know how to use your Y and mitochondrial DNA results together with your Family Finder results? We’ll be looking at several different scenarios and different approaches to solving brick walls. Come and see what you’ve been missing!

The second session will explore DNA through the ages - literally! What might you be able to do with DNA matching if you had 4 generations to work with? What could you learn? Looking at how DNA is inherited through multiple generations of the same family is the perfect way to learn about the principles of inheritance and might just peak the interest of your children or grandchildren. What a fun project to undertake with them, or bring older children along to the session. Come and see just how much fun DNA can be as a family affair! DNA kits as Christmas gifts might just be in your family’s future.

Further information about Roberta

Roberta's main blog ...

Roberta's professional website ...

Roberta's publications ...

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Gisli Palsson - Speaker Profile

Title of presentation - Icelandic roots and identities: Genealogies, DNA, and personal names.

Biographical details:
  • Title - Professor of Anthropology
  • Affiliation - University of Iceland
  • Professional qualifications – B.A., M.A, Ph.D.


Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

Day Job - Professor of Anthropology, University of Iceland

Night Job – Photography, sport & grandchildren

How did you get into genealogy?

Icelanders usually grow up with genealogies and family reunions. Family relations are strong and my parents kept records into the past. Long after I left my hometown, the Westman Islands, Iceland, I got passionately involved with genealogy when the Book of Icelanders – a pioneering online tool for tracking connections and family trees – was constructed. I was fortunate, as an anthropologist and a citizen, to follow the construction of the database and its use in genetics and by the public. This experience satisfied my personal curiosity and my anthropological interests in kinship relations and ideas of identity and belonging. One of the issues I have found fascinating is the design and visual metaphors of genealogical relations and their cultural differences across time and space. I have published extensively on these issues for the last 15 years, both academic books (Anthropology and the New Genetics, 2007) and magazine articles (“Spitting Image”, Anthropology Now, 2009).

Tell us about your involvement with genetic genealogy ...

I first got involved with genetic genealogy when I followed developments at deCODE genetics in Reykjavik, all of which are based on combining “deep” genealogies, more or less back to the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century, and genomic mapping. Apart from tracking the genetics of common diseases and their family connections, deCODE launched a project called deCODEme (now out of service), the first case of personal genetic testing services as we now know them (similar to 23andMe). Aside from this I was working on two rather different projects. One of them focused on Inuit communities in Greenland and Canada, addressing indigenous notions of family, relationships, and inheritance. In the Inuit view personal names are a key to identity and belonging, not hereditary material in the Western sense. I discussed the similarities and difference of what I called gene talk and name talk in my article “Genomic Anthropology: Coming in From the Cold?” (Current Anthropology, 2008). The other project relates to my biography of an enslaved man from the Danish West Indies who escaped to Iceland, via Copeinhagen, in 1802 (The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan, 2016). How, I asked, do the descendants of Hans Jonathan (now about 1000), presumably the first black person to settle in Iceland, relate to their African-Caribbean roots? Interestingly, Hans Jonathan’s genome has now been largely reconstructed by anthropologists at deCODE genetics, drawing upon the genetic signature of his living descendants and the Book of Icelanders.

Tell us about your presentation ... 

I will be talking about the genealogical database The Book of Icelanders and the DNA testing of the people of Iceland, how these have helped reconstruct the genome of a runaway Caribbean slave who became an Icelandic merchant in the early 1800s, and the quest of his descendants for roots and identity.


Icelanders, genealogies, deCODEme, The Book of Icelanders, personal names, Hans Jonathan

Relevance to Ireland & Irish genealogy
1. It may be useful and interesting to compare the cases of Iceland and Ireland. How is the use of, and interest, in genealogies different?

2. Genetic research shows that there are significant Irish signatures in the genetic makeup of modern Icelanders, thanks to Norse travels through Ireland. As a result the two contexts may have lots in common.

Questions addressed during presentation:
1. What has driven Icelanders’ interest in genealogies, how have they been assembled and used, and to what extent has their significance been altered with digitalization and the new genetics?

2. How have genealogical records and genetic databases helped the reconstruction of the genome of a runaway Caribbean slave, Hans Jonathan (1784-1827) who settled in Iceland, and the quest of his descendants for roots and identity.

Links & Further Information

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

Monday, 4 September 2017

Donna Rutherford - Speaker Profile

Title of Talk - Autosomal DNA testing for Beginners.

Background - I'm a New Zealander with English, Scottish and Irish ancestry. Many of my family were New Zealand pioneers.


Day Job - I work in the Technology Industry as a Global Business Operations Manager, currently working mostly in the Cloud Technology space. I'm professionally an Accountant, but worked mostly in IT Management during my career.

Night Job - Running our DNA facebook group, writing blogs, and chasing down those DNA matches. I co-admin the Rutherford Project and have just started a Rutherford one-name study. I manage DNA kits for several friends and family.

How did you get into genealogy?

As a teenager I loved the stories from my great aunt about her early life in New Zealand and why our family had left England. Many family members passed down handwritten genealogies and family bibles that were invaluable in starting my own research. In the 90s I wrote my own family tree database and whilst it wasn't a particularly good bit of software, by today's standards, it did the job and got me more interested in the technology side of genealogy.

What about your involvement with genetic genealogy?

At the beginning of 2015 I decided to take an Ancestry DNA test. Once I got the results I spent all my spare time immersing myself in YouTube videos, blogs and facebook groups learning about DNA for Genealogy. It basically changed my life, as I then set about testing on other sites and testing all my family. Since then I've become co-owner and admin of a DNA facebook group where I've been helping people with questions about their own results. This year I've also become co-admin in a Y DNA project (the Rutherford project). I now manage Big Y tests, MtDNA and many many autosomal kits. I specialise in trying to make the complex side of DNA testing easy to understand for people who are new to genetic genealogy.

So what will you be talking about at GGI2017?

Autosomal DNA testing for beginners. Understanding DNA results can be confusing and complex. If people can learn how to read and understand their results, they will get the maximum use of their investment in a DNA test.

My talk will breakdown what a DNA test is, how it works, and how to interpret the results. This will be an easy to understand overview that beginners can feel comfortable attending without any previous experience with DNA. Experienced users most welcome, and hopefully they may pick up some tips and tricks too.

What DNA tests will be discussed?

Autosomal DNA will be the focus of the talk.

Where can people get more information about you or your topic?

My Blog:
My Facebook DNA group:

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Margaret Jordan - Speaker Profile

Title of Presentation: Y-Chromosome DNA and the Ireland yDNA Project


I am a member of the Accredited Genealogists of Ireland 

Day Job

My background is in science and mathematics and I taught in a second level school until I took early retirement in 2006. I live in Co. Cork, Ireland.

How did you get into genealogy?

I started researching the Irish side of my family tree in 1997. My father was fostered and with very little paperwork to go on, it proved very difficult to make progress so I turned to DNA in 1999.

What about your involvement with genetic genealogy?

Over the years, I became more and more involved in using DNA in family history research. I was involved in setting up the O’Shea yDNA Project in 2003 and the Ireland yDNA Project in early 2006. I am also using autosomal DNA in my family history research.

So what will you be talking about?

This presentation will be about the evolution of the Ireland yDNA Project (see and the data which we are now able to extract from it. The talk will look at the major y-haplogroups found in the project and some of the smaller ones as well. This presentation will show how this Y-Geographical Project links up with relevant Y-Haplogroup Projects, other Y-Geographical Projects and Irish Surname Projects, which are all run through Family Tree DNA.

What DNA tests will be discussed?

Y-DNA primarily

Where can people get more information about you or your topic?

For more information just click on the links below:

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Speakers announced for GGI2017 (Dublin, Oct 20-22)

The line-up of speakers for Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2017 were announced today. This is the fifth year of the annual genetic genealogy conference and the topics included in this year's series of DNA Lectures illustrates how this new science is continuing to evolve and develop at quite an amazing rate. There are many new speakers at this year's conference, and this in itself will keep it fresh and engaging.

Each day will start off with an overview of the basics of DNA testing and how it can help your genealogical research. This year we welcome two new speakers to this slot - Ann Marie Coghlan from the Cork Genealogical Society and Donna Rutherford, who runs the Facebook group "DNA help for Genealogy". They will join Michelle Leonard who wowed audiences last year with her wonderfully straightforward and easy to understand presentation on how DNA can help your family tree research.

Now that DNA testing is becoming more commonplace, many more people need help interpreting their results. And to help them with their Y-DNA results, John Cleary and myself each have a presentation in this regard. In addition, James Irvine will be using the example of his own individual Surname DNA Project to illustrate what a powerful tool Y-DNA can be in researching your surname. We also are privileged to have Dave Vance from the USA speaking about his SAPP Programme which is a fantastic piece of software that will help surname project administrators generate Mutation History Trees from the data in their projects. In effect, this will help us build family trees for entire surnames, from their origins to the present day.

For the interpretation of autosomal DNA testing, we have a selection of atDNA aficionados including Paddy Waldron (Clare Roots Society), Debbie Kennett (author & blogger), and (all the way from the USA) Roberta Estes, who writes the world-renowned blog "DNA Explained".

We also welcome back Peter Sjölund (ISOGG, Sweden) who last year gave a very popular talk on Viking DNA and its links with Ireland. This year Peter will be discussing "The Power of mitochondrial DNA" and no doubt will be using some of the excellent examples from his own Swedish genealogical research. You can see Peter's excellent talk from GGI2016 on our dedicated YouTube Channel here.

We also welcome back Margaret Jordan, also of the Cork Genealogical Society. Margaret spoke at GGI2013 and it will be great to have her back to discuss the current status of the Ireland Y-DNA Project (currently over 7600 members strong, making it the largest Irish genetic project in the world).

Margaret's talk will nicely complement the much anticipated presentation of the (almost?) final results of the Irish DNA Atlas project. This is a joint collaboration between the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and the Genealogical Society of Ireland. Over 200 subjects have been recruited from all over Ireland and their autosomal DNA sampled. Each participant must have 8 great grandparents born within a relatively strictly defined geographic area. As a result, the study gives us a snapshot of autosomal DNA in Ireland from about 1850, just after the Great Famine. Ed Gilbert has tantalised us with snippets of information and updates on the projects progress over the past 2 years and we look forward to welcoming him back for this exciting climax.

In addition to Ed's talk, Professor Gianpiero Cavalleri (who heads the Irish DNA Atlas team at the RCSI) will present on the results of an associated part of the study, namely the DNA of the Irish Travellers. The results of this allied study were published by the team earlier this year in the journal  Scientific Reports (a Nature Publishing Journal).

We also have an array of international academic speakers included in this year's event, and a big thank you has to go to Professor Dan Bradley (Trinity College Dublin) for facilitating this. Dan will be giving us another exciting update on the ongoing work of his ancient DNA lab, including the results from additional analyses on neolithic genomes. Another member of his team (Eppie Jones) will be speaking about ancient hunter-gatherers in Ireland. 

And we are delighted to welcome two new speakers to GGI2017 - Professor Gisli Palsson from the University of Iceland, and Professor Hannes Schroeder from the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Gisli will be talking about the genealogical database The Book of Icelanders and the DNA testing of the people of Iceland, how these have helped reconstruct the genome of a runaway Caribbean slave who became an Icelandic merchant in the early 1800s, and the quest of his descendants for roots and identity. And in an allied talk, Hannes will be discussing the work of the EUROTAST team which is exploring the genetics of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

There is lots to see at this year conference and I am very much looking forward to the privilege of chairing the event.

See you in Dublin in October!

Maurice Gleeson
June 2017

Thursday, 30 March 2017

GGI2017 returns to Back to Our Past

The dates for Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2017 are 20th to 22nd October 2017 (Friday to Sunday) ... so be sure to put those dates in your diary. As always we will have a fantastic lineup of speakers and a few surprises!

Another couple of dates for your diary are Friday-Saturday 16th-17th Feb 2018, because that is when Back to Our Past will be launching at The Titanic Centre in Belfast for what should hopefully become an annual event. Genetic Genealogy Ireland hopes to have a presence there also, bringing you an array of speakers with a focus on the genetic genealogy of the north of Ireland.

Things just continue to get bigger and better!

Maurice Gleeson
March 2017

The Latest News on Back to Our Past
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Back to Our Past returns to the RDS, Dublin and is coming to the Titanic, Belfast!

Back to Our Past in the RDS in October has grown over the years into the world's pre-emient event for showcasing Ireland's past, heritage and traditions, while also providing visitors with a unique opportunity to trace their Irish roots.. all at the same time..all under one roof!

Back to Our Past Belfast
And due to numerous requests from both exhibitors and the general public alike we are delighted to be able to announce will be coming to the world's most popular tourist attractions, The Titanic, Belfast, next February. 
Also Featuring...Antique Valuations with Eric Knowles, a series of free presentations and much much more!
To Make A Stand Enquiry Click Here
We have redesigned our Back to Our Past website and want to update it on a regular basis with latest news stories plus topical and relevant articles from the field of genealogy/family history
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