10 February 2020
As we countdown to Family Tree Live, taking place at London's Alexandra Palace in April, we chat to Janine Cloud from show sponsors FamilyTreeDNA and find out what the DNA firm will be offering at the show…
How did you become involved in genealogy, DNA and with FamilyTreeDNA?
I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember. It helped that I grew up knowing that my paternal grandfather was Cherokee – enrolled, born in Indian Territory, not just family lore – but a grade school assignment to complete a pedigree chart had me asking my family for information. One of my father’s sisters was a genealogist, as was one of my mother’s sisters, so they helped me and I was hooked for life.
When the internet came along, I got involved with a group of researchers on one of my mother’s ancestral lines – the Allisons/Ellisons out of Lanarkshire, Scotland – and in 2001, several of the men announced they were going to do DNA tests.
I thought it sounded odd at the time, but fast forward to 2011, I was job hunting and came across an ad for FamilyTreeDNA and was thrilled to discover it was in Houston. I began work that July as a customer service representative, moved up to customer service manager, then developed the Group Projects team.
How do you think DNA has changed family history for the better?
My favourite thing to say about DNA testing is that it has opened many doors, but some of those doors have been closets! Our ancestors likely never anticipated that we would uncover so many of their secrets.
Overall, though, DNA testing has allowed people who either don’t have documentation, such as adoptees, or who have incomplete documentation, such as researchers from the American South and Ireland, to connect with ancestors they would have had no other way of finding, or with living family members they would not have otherwise been able to find.
DNA testing has also involved a whole group of people known as citizen scientists who might not have become interested in family history otherwise. I think the scientific aspect of testing, whether it’s migration paths or mutation rates, appeals to a younger demographic. That’s important since traditionally family historians and genealogists tend to be in the retiree category.
I believe Brits refer to that group as “OAPs”? At any rate, getting younger people interested in recording and preserving their family history benefits everyone involved.
What would you say to someone who may be unsure about taking a DNA test?
Ask lots of questions. Do your research. Learn what tests can and cannot do and ask yourself what you might want out of the test. It’s okay not to test, especially if you may think you might find out information you aren’t ready to know.
I would also ask what is keeping you from testing?
Where is the sticking point?
The answer to that question would determine what else I would say. Most importantly, though, I’d remind everyone that your DNA is YOUR DNA. You have control over it.
How is FamilyTreeDNA different from other DNA test providers?
We were the first company to provide DNA testing for genealogy direct to consumers – 20 years ago this year!
We’re the only company with an in-house, industry-accredited lab, where all our tests are processed.
In addition, while there are other companies that do Y and mtDNA testing, none of them have comparative databases, so with those companies you don’t get matched against others who might share direct paternal and direct maternal ancestors with you.
Because we do more than one kind of test, we’re also the only major company that stores your sample for additional customer-facing tests. Other companies generally keep the sample, but most of them only do one test, so there’s nothing further for the customer to do with that sample; the company may use it for internal research and development.
We do not charge subscription fees of any kind.
We do not sell your information to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, or anyone else.
In addition, we’re the only company that has a network of over 10,000 free-to-join group projects run by volunteer administrators to help further research on surnames, haplogroups, and geographic regions.
What aspect of coming to London and to Family Tree Live are you most looking forward to?
My first visit to London was this past October for RootsTech London, and I fell in love with the city. It’s a history-lover’s dream and a photographer’s paradise, so I’m thrilled at the opportunity to do more sightseeing and taking dozens of photos.
There’s so much to see and do!
I’m excited about seeing some of our UK group project administrators in person at Family Tree Live, since we typically only interact online.
I’m also anticipating we will meet many lovely British customers.
Unfortunately, I don’t often get to attend many lectures as I am working on our stand when I am not speaking, but I love meeting new people, so that makes up for it.
What can visitors to Family Tree Live expect from the FamilyTreeDNA stand?
We’ll have some great deals on DNA tests to either take yourself or buy as gifts. My assistant, Fernando Felix, and I will be answering questions about DNA testing, and we will have some volunteers on the stand to help as well.
Expect smiles, laughter, and fun with genetic genealogy!
FamilyTreeDNA are sponsors of Family Tree Live 2020
You can speak to the DNA experts and find out much more in our series of lectures in the FamilyTreeDNA Theatre.
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