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.

Family Tree Live update by Katy Barbier-Greenland

Family Tree Live UK is really coming together…the organisers are busily organising blogs for all speakers which is going to be really fun in terms of updating and sharing news and ideas to a new audience. While my project is based in sociology and psychology, I’ve found that it has really strong resonance with family history, so I’m excited to give this talk to this new audience.

Actually, it’s the first time I will be able to draw on my background as a social worker as well as my PhD research to reflect on the impacts of family secret discoveries arising from genealogical research, and what on earth to do about them…how to prepare, how to support yourself and others. I hope the talk will compliment some of the more technical talks which are the ‘how to’, because this won’t give you tips on finding people but if you find something unexpected, it’ll help you with the ‘what next’.

Simmel, sex and secrecy by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I’ll be submitting an abstract to present at the European Sociological Association’s 2019 conference to be held in Manchester, UK, in late August. The theme of the conference is ‘EUROPE AND BEYOND: BOUNDARIES, BARRIERS AND BELONGING’.

There are a large number of different research areas people will be speaking on, and the Research Network 13 called Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives is doing a really interesting joint session with the Network that focuses on the Sociology of Children and Childhood called ““In the child’s best interests?”: Global perspectives on parenting culture, family policy and child well-being’. I thought I could present on perspectives from around the world about the ways in which some parents and others keep secrets from children, often considering this to be in the child’s best interests.

BUT…..I think though that I would really like to present on Simmel, who is one of my key scholars. There’s a session called ‘Simmel and Beyond’ as it’s the 100 year anniversary of his death for which papers can be submitted by those “challenged by Simmel’s thinking and who use his concepts and methodology to present here the results of their investigations”. He’s the ‘original gangster’ as far as the sociology of secrets is concerned, and has a lot of really interesting things to say around secrecy and privacy in families and society, in terms of how these things function and what the impacts can be. He talks about knowledge and boundaries (in terms of who knows and who doesn’t know), power, truth and lies…pretty fascinating stuff and all absolutely relevant to draw from to help me understand the experience and impacts of contemporary family secrets.

Building Bridges by Katy Barbier-Greenland

Somehow I managed to get up SUPER early, ready for my 4:15am conference presentation at Building Bridges between Disciplines live via Zoom! Of course in Melbourne it was the very reasonable time of 2:15pm.

We did have a few technical difficulties, but I was really happy with how things went overall. Thanks to Swinburne for including me from across the oceans! Thanks in particular to my supervisor Deb Dempsey for saying ‘yes’ to the possibility of me zooming in, to Carolyn Beasley for organising the tech, and for Greg Every for chairing the session I was in.

It was a fabulous program and a well-organised conference - heard really positive things about the rest of the day. See you in 2019!

Presenting at Family Tree Live UK! by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I got some great news this week - I’ve been accepted to deliver a talk at the genealogy conference called Family Tree Live UK! This conference is a two-day family history conference held at the incredible venue Alexandra Palace in London. So excited to be back in the UK and I can’t wait to give this talk - it’s one that I’ve been wanting to give for a long time now.

My talk is called ‘Inheriting the unexpected: Dealing with unforeseen family secret discoveries arising from genealogical research’ and draws on my background in psychology and social work, and of course this project - my PhD - in sociology and psychology. I’m really interested in sharing my thoughts around how people might prepare themselves, and how they might support themselves and others. It’s clear from my research that the effects of discovering something major in your family history can reverberate throughout your life, and tends to be a profound and ongoing experience of rewriting your life story.

Post Secret Lives rundown by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I worked as one of three event techs at the Secret Lives history conference recently in Leicester, UK. What an experience….exhausting! Fascinating! Fun!

A great range of talks and some wonderful people. Some talks by amazing public figures like Emily Brand, Nick Barratt and Janina Ramirez, all of whom were absolutely captivating speakers when they shared their slice of history.

I also had some really insightful conversations with people there about their own experiences in searching for or discovering intriguing stories about their own families or those of others in their work as genealogists. All in all a great experience, although I’m definitely not giving up my day job as a freelance writer slash PhD student to become a technical person (of any kind) anytime soon…..

Presenting at Building Bridges: Connectivity between Disciplines conference by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I’ll be presenting at this year’s Swinburne University research student conference. which is called Building Bridges: Connectivity Between Disciplines.

I’ll be presenting from afar, Skyping in from Amsterdam to Melbourne! Looking forward to sharing a few of my reflections from both a sociological and psychological perspective on some of the ways that discovering major family secrets can impact on people’s lives, on their identities and on their understandings of ‘family’.


now seeking participants! by Katy Barbier-Greenland

I've just announced another callout for participants! Would love to hear from you if you've got a family secret you're happy to share with me anonymously.

Perhaps you've come across your secret while exploring your family tree? Maybe you've discovered that you're adopted, or were conceived with the use of a donor? Perhaps something unexpected has come to light through DNA testing?

If so, I'd love to interview you about your family secret and the impacts on your life, and how it's changed the ways in which you think about your identity and family. 

Please feel free to contact me through the Call for Participants form or by emailing me directly: katy.barbier.greenland@gmail.com 

I look forward to hearing from you!