It gives us great pleasure to publish the winner of the Surname DNA Journal 2015 Genetic Genealogist of the Year award as Dr Maurice Gleeson MB of London, England. Dr Gleeson contributed to the advancement of the field of Genetic Genealogy in numerous ways this past year.
- Dr Gleeson, the founder of the Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference in Dublin, continued his leadership of that event in 2015. The Dublin conference is outstanding not just for the rich array of genetic and genealogy speakers but also because it includes important researchers from disciplines such as history and linguistics. The cross-pollination approach which Dr. Gleeson favors adds tremendous insight into for all of northwestern Europe, not just Ireland.
- Dr Gleeson was active with the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) and integral to its presence at the Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) conference events in the United Kingdom. Maurice was also a frequent contributor to the ISOGG Facebook group page which helps attract new participants to our field.
- Among his personal research projects, in 2015 Maurice launched the Silvermines DNA Project and continues his ongoing research with the Spearin Surname Project, the Farrell DNA Project, the Gleason/Gleeson DNA Project, the Irish Caribbean DNA Project (iCARA), and the Ireland mtDNA Project. He also writes a general information blog on DNA and Family Tree Research.
- Dr Gleeson, a former thespian, is a fabulous orator and speaks at a variety of venues to spread enthusiasm and interest in the subject of Genetic Genealogy. His presentations are wonderfully illustrated and always bursting with details, insights, and a pinch of humor for good measure.
Perhaps the single most salient point about Dr Gleeson is that he is equally adept at assisting and inspiring genetic genealogists from the newest ‘newbie‘ to the most experienced researchers in our field. Dr Gleeson was presented with his award during the 2015 International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. Dr Gleeson gave a fascinating presentation at the conference on Combining SNPs, STRs, & Genealogy to build a Surname Origins Tree and took time out to answer a few questions for Surname DNA Journal:
Q: For you personally, what is the most important contribution you have made to the field of genetic genealogy in the past year?
Personally rewarding, I would say helping adoptees reconnect with their birth family. For instance, there was one 76 year old woman who had been searching for her birth family for 40 years. Within eight weeks of taking a genetic genealogy test, she was reunited with her biological family. In another case an adoptee from Birr [County Offaly, Ireland] approached me but had no credit card [required for ordering from the major testing companies]. I arranged an alternative form of payment for her and low-and-behold - it turns out that she and I are cousins!
Q. What do you see as your focus going into 2016?
I see 2016 as a year of consolidation - pulling together all the data and information from Surname Projects, writing it up, and publishing it. I am also working on the Gleeson Gathering 2016 event in August as well as the WDYTYA conference in April. For the field as a whole, I would like to see continued advances in the collaborative environment in 2016.