Dr. Maurice Gleeson talks about teaching the Genetic Genealogy track, at this year’s British Institute, in Salt Lake City, September 2017..
Dr. Maurice Gleeson talks about teaching the Genetic Genealogy track, at this year’s British Institute, in Salt Lake City, September 2017 in an interview with Fiona Fitzsimons. Read the full interview here.
Fiona: Maurice, this coming September at the British Institute, you will teach the track on genetic genealogy. Can you explain to our readers the growing fascination with genetic genealogy?
Maurice: One of the major reasons is that people want to learn how they can apply DNA technology to their own family tree. DNA is an emerging tool and genetic genealogy an emerging science. It has gained hugely in popularity in recent years – Ancestry is currently at 4 million tests. The growth of DNA sales by the commercial testing companies is increasing exponentially and will reach twenty million by 2020.
Fiona: How long have you been involved in genetic genealogy?
Maurice: I started in 2008 with my first DNA test for my Spearin line, and have been going strong ever since. At that stage a group of us were collaborating on research into the Spearin Family from Limerick. When we did a DNA test we were rather shocked that we were all actually related to each other genetically. The discovery brought us back from the 1800’s where most of the group had a brick wall, to Limerick in the 1600’s/ early 1700s where there was documentary evidence from old wills.
Fiona: What do you enjoy most about genetic genealogy?
Maurice: It’s quite an intellectual pursuit. There is an intellectual challenge to interpret data and collate it in such a way that you can piece [evidence] together, and tell a good story. One of the other challenges is that because it is an emerging science, it’s quite a challenge to actually keep up with all the developments in the field. A third aspect that I find very rewarding is working with people, including adoptees, where there is a huge emotional investment in the results of the research
Being able to apply it to your own personal genealogy is very very rewarding, especially when you break through some of those brick walls.
Fiona: You work with adoptees and are a consultant on the T.V. show, Adoption Stories. What’s your most memorable success?
Maurice: Winne, a 75 year old lady contacted me three years ago. Within eight weeks we had found her four half siblings. They welcomed her into the family and had a huge family reunion.
Winnie and I have been friends ever since, and we’re currently on the trail of her birth father. Hopefully we will be able to solve that part of the puzzle in the next few weeks.
Fiona: What are you most looking forward to doing at the British Institute in September 2017?
Maurice: I’m really looking forward to the interaction with people in the workshops. That’s one of the most stimulating aspects of genetic genealogy – when you can get together with a group of like-minded people and just simply talk about DNA, exchange stories, hear success stories and help people overcome problems in their own genealogy.
Fiona: How would you encourage people to prepare to attend your class?
Maurice: There are a couple of videos online that I have done and they can be found on my YouTube channel “DNA and Family Tree research”. So before enrolling, you could watch one of the introductory lectures on DNA. The second thing? Pick a genealogical problem on your own family tree and try to come up with specific methods to answer that question through the use of DNA.
Fiona: Can you give our readers one tip on doing genetic genealogy?
Maurice: DNA is just a pointer. At the end of the day you have to go back to the records. You don’t need to get bogged down in the technicalities of DNA to make full use of genetic genealogy, because all DNA is saying is that “person A and person B are related to each other – now go away and find out how”. It points you in the direction of further documentary research.
Fiona: Dr. Maurice Gleeson, thank you for taking time out to speak to me.