Thursday, 20 March 2014

What do UK & Irish customers look like?

A Comparison of DNA testing at WDYTYA2014 and GGI2013

FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) is the only one of the major DNA testing companies to sponsor major genealogy events and exhibitions. Such events usually involve a set of sponsored DNA Lectures as well as an FTDNA stand offering DNA tests at discounted rates to the general public. Two recent events sponsored by FTDNA (and organised by ISOGG*) were Who Do You Think You Are in London (20-22 Feb 2014) and Genetic Genealogy Ireland at Back to Our Past in Dublin (18-20 Oct 2013). Below is a comparison of some of the statistics from the two events.

Customers underwent a triage system before they took the test - an ISOGG* volunteer would explain the three main types of DNA test and help the customer decide which one might be best to address their specific situation and any particular Brick Walls they were facing in their research.

Altogether, customers bought 485 kits at WDYTYA2014 and ordered 550 tests. At GGI2013, 99 kits were bought and 113 tests ordered. At both events, the autosomal DNA test (atDNA, Family Finder) proved to be the most popular, followed by Y-DNA in second place and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in third.
*ISOGG, International Society of Genetic Genealogy

There were important differences between the two events which warrant cautious interpretation of the data. This was the 6th year of FTDNA's presence at WDYTYA but only their first at BTOP so the Irish audience were possibly less aware of FTDNA and genetic testing than the UK audience. In addition, the Y-DNA-12 and mtDNAplus (HVR1+2) tests ($49 each at the show) were not widely advertised at the Dublin event but were at the London one.

Further breakdown of the WDYTYA data reveals that the most popular mtDNA test was the basic mtDNAplus test (HVR1+2, 23% out of 29%), with only 6% ordering the mitochondrial full genome sequence (mt FGS). Y-DNA tests were more evenly split between Y-DNA-12 (13%) and Y-DNA-37 (17%).

A total of 36% of customers bought the most basic tests (Y-DNA-12 and mtDNAplus), suggesting that about one third of all customers are simply dipping their toe in the genetic water (and are reluctant to take an immediate plunge into the gene pool). Further analysis confirms that 36% of females and 37% of males ordered a single basic test and none other (or only ordered the two basic tests and none other: 4 males). 

Family Finder was the most popular of the DNA tests ordered by women at both events, particularly in Dublin, accounting for 84% of all female tests. The number of takers for the basic mtDNAplus test (HVR1+2) might have been bigger in Dublin had it been advertised as widely as it was at the London event. However, the data suggest that for women the Family Finder test was seen as a more useful and relevant test for standard family tree research in both the UK and Ireland.

For men, Y-DNA was the most popular test accounting for almost two-thirds of all tests ordered by men. At WDYTYA, the Y-DNA-37 marker test was the most popular (34%) followed by the Y-DNA-12 (28%). At both events, Family Finder proved more popular than mtDNA among men, accounting for about a quarter of tests ordered.

Multiple tests were ordered by 11% of women and 22% of men, almost double the amount. This probably reflects the greater choice that men have in terms of the type of tests on offer.

More women than men bought kits in the UK (55% compared to 45%), possibly reflecting the female preponderance among genealogists. The reverse was true in Ireland with 61% of kits being bought by men, possibly suggesting that in Ireland at least, behind every good man there is a woman with a knife in his back ("You will buy that DNA test, dear").

And lastly, although the Dublin event was a National event, most of the people who ordered kits were from Dublin and surrounding counties. This points to a possible need for "DNA outreach work" to areas that are more remote from the event location in order to ensure a more even coverage of the country. The same is probably true for the London event, and there is probably a need for greater regional coverage. The advent of WDYTYA Scotland in August of this year would be an excellent venue for DNA testing, but other regional events should also be identified, both in the UK and in Ireland.

These results raise several important points for discussion.
The popularity of the basic tests suggests that a lot of people are simply curious, may not understand all the nuances of DNA, and simply want to dip their toe in the water. The fact that this group of customers accounts for about one third of the total group emphasises the fact that there will always be an ongoing and continuous need for basic education of "newbies" regarding genetic genealogy and how to interpret and use their results. Following the WDYTYA event, we designed a "new and improved" welcome email for new FTDNA customers which contains instructions and suggestions on what to do while waiting for your results and has links to a variety of different resources.
The popularity of the Y-DNA-12 test may be surprising and somewhat frustrating to some genetic genealogists who may contend that you can't learn anything from a 12-marker test. However, from the experience of my Irish Caribbean project, it is certainly very helpful for determining whether the direct male line goes back to an African man or a European man. This would also be useful information for African American customers.
In addition, in rare cases 12 markers may be sufficient to match individuals, especially where rare marker values are present, or a combination of unusual markers. Group B in the Wheaton DNA project is a good example of this. The first 5 markers can be used as the basis for a match.
Furthermore, customers know that the Y-DNA-12 is an "introductory" test and they can always upgrade later. And convincing someone to upgrade a test is probably easier to do than trying to sell them a 37-marker test from the very start. 
The preponderance of autosomal DNA testing (40-50% of tests taken) suggests that people at these events are more interested in breaking down the Brick Walls in their family trees than discovering their deep ancestry. These results are in keeping with the poll conducted on this website (and previously reported here) with currently 69% of respondents choosing atDNA as the most relevant test for them. This raises the questions: is there sufficient support for these people when it comes to helping them interpret their results? What kind of support with atDNA do these people need?
Y-DNA projects are common and have a Project Admin to help guide project members, but atDNA projects are rare and there is thus a relative lack of supportive Admins. In short, with Y-DNA you get support, with atDNA you largely go it alone. Some Y-DNA projects are beginning to allow Family Finder testers to join the project, but do Project Admins (more used to dealing with Y-DNA) feel comfortable advising their members about the use and interpretation of atDNA? Is there a need to up-skill Project Admins in the use of atDNA? Given the popularity of the atDNA test, it is perhaps no surprise that the most watched video of the DNA Lectures at both WDYTYA and BTOP specifically addresses the interpretation of atDNA results.
Despite these outstanding questions, there is little doubt that DNA testing is growing in popularity and the education and support of new customers will be a continuing need for some time to come.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

DNA Lectures at WDYTYA2014

This year's Who Do You Think You Are was a great success. 

There were huge crowds lining up to be DNA tested and FTDNA ran out of kits on the last day. Over 500 people were tested making this the most popular year for DNA testing yet.

The DNA Lectures went down very well and the line-up of Academics and Citizen Scientists covered a rich array of topics, far broader than previous years. The good news is that many of these presentations were recorded and are slowly becoming available on the dedicated YouTube channel "DNA Lectures - Who Do You Think You Are 2014"

The full schedule of DNA Lectures is available here and below. Just click on the image for the larger version.

You can read Debbie Kennett's blog about the recent WDYTYA show here and Emily Aulicino's blog here.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Who Do You Think You Are 2014

Who Do You Think You Are 2014 is due to take place at Olympia in London on Feb 20-22. This year's DNA Workshop presentations promise to be the best yet. 

Sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by ISOGG, the lecture schedule includes something for the beginner, the intermediate and the advanced genetic genealogist. The full schedule for all 3 days of lectures can be found here -

Beginners will be particularly interested in the introductory lectures on DNA and how it can help your family tree research. Autosomal DNA and it's application to genealogy is discussed in bespoke lectures on each of the 3 days. Specific lectures will discuss DNA projects in England, Scotland and Wales.

Among the academic speakers, Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum draws on recent study findings to illustrate how Continental Europe and the British Isles were populated. Jean Manco picks up this theme and explores how the genetic makeup of Europe changed after the fall of the Roman Empire. Moving forward in time, the plague that wiped out 50% of Europe's population is the theme of Kirsten Bos' presentation on The Black Death and the discoveries she made from the remains of plague victims found in Smithfield, East London. 

Andy Grierson reveals how the advent of commercial DNA testing has helped unleash the power of "Citizen Science" and in the process has led to some astounding discoveries. 

The use of DNA to help identify the remains of soldiers found on the Western Front is the subject of a fascinating presentation by Andy Robertshaw, complimenting the focus of this year's event on the 100 year anniversary of the start of The Great War.

If you're in London in February, make sure you don't miss this event.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Adrian Martyn's presentation is now available

A Happy New Year to everyone - here's hoping it brings you lots of good things and many new genealogical discoveries.

It's great to start the year off with some good news, and in that regard it gives me pleasure to announce that the very popular presentation that Adrian Martyn gave on The Medieval Families of Galway Town is now available to watch on YouTube.

Adrian discusses the Medieval Families of Galway Town and why we need DNA studies on them. He also takes an in-depth look at the Tribes of Galway of which there were fourteen - Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, Darcy, Deane, Font, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martyn, Morris, Skerrett.

You can read more about Adrian on his Speaker Profile page.

The presentation starts at 1 minute 22 seconds, just so you can skip ahead to the good bits!

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Munster Irish - slides now available for download

One of the most popular talks at this years GGI2013 was The Munster Irish DNA Project presented jointly by Elizabeth O'Donoghue / Ross, Nigel McCarthy and Finbar O Mahony. The good news is that the slides from this excellent presentation are now available for download from Elizabeth's profile page or simply by clicking here.

The YouTube videos of the presentations are proving to be very popular indeed and even though it is only 6 weeks since the event took place, they have been viewed a total of 3000 times for 37,500 minutes (that's 625 hours). The YouTube Channel is simply called Genetic Genealogy Ireland and you can access it here.

And if you're stuck for a Christmas present for someone, why not take advantage of the FTDNA Christmas sale. This goes on until 31st Dec and they usually extend it for a few days into the New Year. The Y-DNA-37 test is only $119 (usual price $169). The Family Finder test is it's usual price of only $99, but, if you live in the US, you also get a free $100 gift card for use at!

Friday, 15 November 2013

GGI2013 feedback at 9th FTDNA Annual Conference in Houston

Maurice Gleeson presents
at FTDNA Conference
On Sunday 10th November, Maurice Gleeson provided feedback on GGI2013 at the 9th Annual Conference of FamilyTreeDNA, sponsors of GGI2013. His presentation emphasised the success of Ireland's first genetic genealogy conference and was enthusiastically received by both the sponsors FTDNA and the assembled audience of about 250 project administrators. With a bit of luck, we will be able to repeat the event again next year.

The FTDNA conference was very well attended and there were some excellent presentations. Several people did extensive write-ups of the conference and Debbie Kennett has summarised them in her blog post here.

In addition, FTDNA announced a special offer!

FTDNA's new Big Y test
The Big Y DNA Test replaces the Walk the Y test and covers 10 million base pairs. It will help identify many more SNP markers and will help further elucidate the finer branches of the Y-DNA haplotree. It is on offer at $200 less than it's normal price until December 1st 2013.

You can read more about the test at Debbie Kennett's blog and Roberta Estes blog.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The GGI2013 conference starts today. Be sure to follow the Facebook updates and the Twitter feeds #ggi2013, and why not watch the presentations on our dedicated YouTube channel - most will be uploaded there immediately after each talk.

Help make this conference a success - please Like, Comment, & Share -