My History


Every presentation I give is tailored for the audience that I'm delivering it to. They can range from 45-90 minutes in length (before questions). I am also able to combine and expand presentations to cover an entire day, in either lecture-led or seminar formats.

I have five core presentations which I refine, update and localise as the context demands:

1. DNA Testing & Surname History: How Y-chromosome tests are used in surname reconstruction projects.

This talk focuses specifically on the usefulness of the Y-chromosome test when reconstructing the family trees of a single surname or a group of surnames, showing how one can easily scale down one's goals to use this test to check the links between two individuals. I usually include details about existing DNA surname projects for surnames which originate in the same county where I'm speaking as well as review larger scale projects looking at Irish and Scottish surnames as a whole. To close, I highlight several successful reconstruction projects where the DNA element was both crucial and now broadly completed.

2. Second Generation DNA Tests for Genealogists: How Family Finder can find your relatives.

This talk focuses on the new generation of relationship revealing tests which started to come onstream in 2009. After reviewing the previous set of tests, principally the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA tests which respectively investigate the direct male and direct female lines only, I explain how the latest tests seek to identify anyone who is related to you through a connection in your family tree within the previous 4-5 generations. I outline some scenarios in which this kind of test would prove useful to family historians, and some where it would not.

3. The Surnames of County X: Which surnames originated here and how they are linked.

This talk summarises the early stages of an analysis of the distribution of surnames in the counties of England and Wales in the 1841 census. In each county I can outline which surnames occur almost exclusively there, those that spread over its borders into adjacent counties, and suggest different types of linkages between surnames. Some of these patterns are common across the country while others are more locally specific. I conclude by showing how and why some surnames are increasing in frequency while others appear to be dying out.

4. Running a Surname Study: Expanding family history to reconstruct an entire surname

This talk explains what a "one-name" study is, how to define one's goals when starting one, the options you face to manage the project, and how you can network using the internet to find the data you need and the contacts who will provide it for you. I also cover aspects such as variant surnames, "deviant" spellings, and other tricky issues in modern and pre-modern documentary records. I am well placed to explain how to integrate documentary research into a DNA-led study, and vice versa how to integrate DNA results into a documentary research project.

5. The Future of Family History: what citizen scientists are discovering about our history

This talk highlights some of the key developments of the past decade — notably the rapid expansion of online datasets, the arrival of mainstream DNA testing, and the growth of collaborative working via the internet — and looks forward to the next ten. It focuses on major academic projects, including the Family Names of the UK project in Bristol and the Genographic DNA project in the USA, and shows how citizen scientists are expanding the boundaries of knowledge by using academic data in new ways and through their own discoveries.

A generic (unlocalised) version of Presentation #1 can be viewed below:

DNA Testing & Surname History