Tuesday, February 23, 2010

First Post! Introduction.

Note: this first post on the blog is also the first version of the "About" page. It seems a good idea to start things off with the basics!

This blog is a part of the British Isles DNA Project.

The project, is a project made up of, and administered by, volunteer genetic genealogists with a specific interest in the genetic make-up of Britain and Ireland, both out of scientific interest and also because improved understandings of this are helping genealogists identify likely origins for their ancestors. This is one of the biggest projects of this type.

We the co-admins are:

There are two basic aims of the blog:-

  • The primary aim is to provide on-going informal updates to both our fellow participants and our correspondents working in this same field. Having a blog helps avoid the problem of needing to wait for publishable and perfected conclusions in order to get a feel for what is happening, and it also gives people a chance to give better feedback that might help the project.
  • The secondary aim is to promote and assist not only participation, but also the best possible participation.

What do we mean by "best possible participation"? The blog will hopefully help remind all of us of the practical importance to this project of trying to identify the British or Irish county-of-origin of participants' ancestors. This means along the male line of Y DNA participants, and the maternal line of mitochondrial DNA participants. Please note that if you can name a parish of origin, this is better than only the county, and if you can get back earlier than 1800 your data becomes particularly important!

We (the admins) may be able to help advise participants about how to trace their family trees back further in Britain in some cases.

We therefore ask our fellow participants to all do their best to make sure they have given us the best possible information about their ancestral origins. For Family Tree DNA customers there is a box where you can put such information, but please check with us if you need any help. For participants coming from other testing companies or organizations, you will need to contact us in order to get all information correct for you.

(If there is any reason why privacy concerning your distant ancestors is an issue, omitting the ancestor’s name, especially their first name, is less of an issue for this project than omitting the time and place when he or she lived, so please insert those if possible. Parish name + County name + some Date reference such as “adult in 1760s” would be fine.)

Let’s be ambitious in trying to teach ourselves and others about the historic genetic make-up of the British Isles and how the different parts fitted with each other and their European neighbors going back in time. This is a new field where we amateurs are playing a role in science-based research. You may be surprised to know that academic researchers have problems we do not have because most people they test do not know where their ancestors lived before the industrial revolution, whereas genealogists like us tend to know our ancestors. (We also tend to buy ourselves and our relatives pretty good quality DNA tests, because we often need 37 or more markers in order to make genealogically useful conclusions!)

For those who are interested, here are some academic articles, in these cases about Y DNA. The first one tries to use localized surnames in order to see if they can help get a more accurate measure of genetic populations before industrialism. It is not a big study but it shows the genetic impact of the fact that in industrialized areas, where people live today is not the same as where their ancestors lived. The second one is an interesting summary of the area, and mentions genetic genealogist amateurs specifically.

  • Bowden et al. (2008), "Excavating Past Population Structures by Surname-Based Sampling: The Genetic Legacy of the Vikings in Northwest England", Molecular Biology and Evolution 25 (2): 301-309, doi:10.1093/molbev/msm255
  • King and Jobling (2009), "What's in a name? Y chromosomes, surnames and the genetic genealogy revolution", Trends in Genetics 25 (8): 351-360, doi:10.1016/j.tig.2009.06.003.
Online at http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/KingJobling09.TiG.SurnamesReview.pdf

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