Reflecting on Family Tree Live UK by Katy Barbier-Greenland

Family Tree Live UK was a fantastic family history conference held at the beautiful Alexandra Palace in London at the end of April 2019. It brought together a mix of professional genealogists and people interested in their own family history, as well as some researchers.

My talk ‘Inheriting the unexpected: dealing with unforeseen family secret discoveries arising from genealogical research’ was in the final timeslot on day one of the event, and one of my favourite parts was actually speaking with people afterwards. Due to the personal nature of my topic I think it struck a chord with some of those in the audience, and it was a privilege to hear their stories on the day. It was also fantastic to meet many of the wonderful genealogists from the lively family history community on Twitter. I placed some of the recommendations coming out of my talk on the Outcomes page of this website, so please check them out and let me know what you think.

My highlight in terms of talks was Dr Larissa Allwork and Dr Nigel Hunt’s talk on ‘Shell shock stories and beyond: trauma and the First World War’ that explored the impacts of shellshock on people and society, with a focus on WWI. Larissa is a public historian with expertise in a number of areas including the ways in which states and societies deal with difficult, provocative and traumatic histories. This talk arises from some of the work Larissa and Nigel have been doing via the ‘trauma’ stream of a major collaboration between universities in the UK called The Centre for Hidden Histories: Community, Commemoration and the First World War, shining a light on shellshock stories at the intersection of psychiatry and history. Really interesting and important work and I was lucky to have a great chat with Larissa throughout the day.

Another highlight was a talk called ‘To DNA or not to DNA - that is the question’ by Katherine Borges, the cofounder and director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). Katherine discussed the ways in which different DNA tests work and invited us to reflect on whether they are always the answer. A third talk I unfortunately missed, although I have seen Dr Penny Walters speak before: she gave a talk on the ethics of DNA testing and I have no doubt it would have been fascinating, as all her talks are.

RS12 - Simmel and beyond by Katy Barbier-Greenland

There will be over 800 presentations at ESA 2019 in Manchester, with a whole range of them coordinated through the various research networks (there are 37 of those - I’m part of the research network 13 which focuses on the sociology of families and relationships).

Each research stream has been put together specifically for this conference and there are only four papers to be given at each one - I’ve listed them below in case you’re interested - sociology today covers so many areas of life, it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around it. I’m presenting alongside my supervisor A/Prof Deb Dempsey in RS12 - Simmel and beyond.

RS01 - Gaming at the Boundaries: Imagining Inclusive Futures

RS02 - Gestational Surrogacy. A Global Phenomenon in Europe

RS03 - Maritime Sociology 

RS04 - Men and Masculinities in a Changing Europe

RS05 - Multi-locality and Family Life 

RS06 - Patterns of Non-Resident Fatherhood 

RS07 - Platform Work: Needs, Activation and Representativeness in the Era of Digital Labour

RS08 - Politics of Engagement

RS09 - Practicing Borders

RS10 - Practicing the Future: Social, Material and Affective Futures

RS11 - Questioning Precariousness: Labour, Collective Organising and Everyday Life 

RS12 - Simmel and Beyond

RS13 - Sociology of Celebration

RS14 - Sociology of Knowledge 

RS15 - Sociology of Law 

RS16 - Sociology of Spatial Mobilities

RS17 - Transformative Rural-Urban Connections

RS18 - Urban Futures: Visions for Social Inclusion

RS19 - Visual and Filmic Sociology

RS20 - Education and Political Participation in Eastern Europe

Presenting at the upcoming ESA conference on Family Secrecy in the Information Age by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I’m so excited to be presenting at the upcoming European Sociological Association conference! The conference is going to be the gathering for sociologists of all types and disciplines and is called ‘Europe and Beyond: Boundaries, Barriers and Belonging’. It will be held in Manchester, UK from 20 – 23 August 2019.

My paper is part of the 'Simmel and beyond' session for researchers whose work grapples with Simmel’s theories on the 100th anniversary of his death. The paper will be delivered in conjunction with one of my supervisors, A/Prof Deb Dempsey. Here’s the abstract:

Family Secrecy in the Information Age: A Re-Examination of Simmel’s ‘The Sociology of Secrecy and Secret Societies’

Discovering an unexpected major family secret typically has significant, ongoing personal and psychological consequences for those involved. Reproductive family secrets, such as those associated with conception and birth, are arguably more difficult to keep in an information age. People are now able to access their family history and biogenetic information in unprecedented ways due to factors including more open policy and legislative trends regarding donors and donation in reproduction, and enhanced opportunities to identify and connect with family members online. Further, sales of DNA home testing kits are expected to reach 100 million by 2021, and family history searches are the second most popular use of the Internet

This talk is based on stories from an empirical research project entitled 'Family Secrets, Secret Families'. Secrets discovered by participants included adoption, donor conception, hidden or secret children, and mis-assigned parentage. In the talk, we reflect on Simmel’s essay 'The sociology of secrecy and of secret societies' and assess its contemporary relevance for how knowledge, power, truth, silence, disclosure, and trust play out in families with reproductive secrets. We argue that Simmels’ insights continue to offer a valuable framework for understanding the power and function of knowledge and information management in family life in the era of the Internet and home DNA testing.

International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki by Katy Barbier-Greenland

The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) hosts a Wiki with a lot of resources and links, one of which is to my Family Secrets, Secret Families website, on their ‘Unexpected results’ page. Thanks ISOGG!

Their website explains that the “ISOGG was founded in 2005 by DNA project administrators who shared a common vision: the promotion and education of genetic genealogy. Our mission is to advocate for and educate about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research, and to promote a supportive network for genetic genealogists.” The Wiki was created for anyone interested in genetic genealogy and all are able to contribute, although the articles and resources are of particular interest to the gg community.

The impacts of family secrets: interviewed for the Boston Globe by Katy Barbier-Greenland

Beth Teitell is a features writer at the Boston Globe, commentator on public radio’s Marketplace, and a published author who writes at the intersection of technology, culture, sport and society, so it was my pleasure to talk with Beth today for a story she’s doing for the Globe on the impacts of family secret discoveries. The story will be out fairly soon I think so very excited to share that once it’s out in the world!

On a vaguely (only VERY vaguely) related note, I travelled to Boston and spent a couple of weeks there in 2013 to interview staff at Harvard and MIT about research ethics and attend an ethics conference, so I have some wonderful memories of Boston - such a beautiful, grand city and the Boston Globe is a left-centre leaning daily publication founded in 1872.

Check out the Family Tree Live speaker blogs! by Katy Barbier-Greenland

The Family Tree Live blogs are up! Mine’s accessible here and includes a really lovely writeup from Helen Tovey, one of the organisers. Tickets are selling like hotcakes apparently and you can pick yours up at the Family Tree Live website for 12 pounds….not bad!

Only three months to go, and excited to be catching up with an amazing psychologist I met along my research journey who lives in London and has expertise in working with families after discovering similar events. Also looking forward to just, well…being in London! I haven’t been there before except to whiz through to other places for other conferences so really excited to have a couple of days there to hang out with the UK’s best family history folk and check out London itself.

DNA, genealogy and the Double Helix History project by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I recently participated in a focus group discussion on the ways in which DNA has impacted on family history work at the Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging, which is the Dutch Genealogical Society. Prof Jerome de Groot ran the group whilst visiting from University of Manchester, UK, as part of his world tour collecting data for the Double Helix History project. The Double Helix History project explores how people ‘get’ and understand their history and themselves, and there’s a lot more to come from this project.

The afternoon was a fascinating discussion with the Netherland’s best genealogy experts: technical, interesting and insightful! Lovely to catch up again with genealogy expert John Boeren who runs Antecedentia and to talk all things family history, DNA and identity with Jerome.