Today, I am interviewing Gail Riddell of New Zealand. Gail is a power project administrator. She is the administrator of 25 DNA group projects and is the co-administrator of another 9 projects. A woman of many talents, she has worked in fields ranging from chauffeur driver to accountant. Her hobbies include crafts and gardening.

Gail Riddell

Gail Riddell at WDYTYA -Live London 2013

Rebekah: Please tell me about yourself. Are you currently working or retired? What are your other hobbies or interests outside of genealogy?

Gail: I am female, a New Zealander born and bred and like all kiwis (a flightless nocturnal bird) adore travel and frequently stay up longer than I should.

I am a full time worker as a public accountant currently. I say it like that because I am a qualified hairdresser, a qualified chauffeur, and a qualified public accountant. (A gal of many abilities and never content to just sit back and let interesting looking opportunities pass me by).

How do I begin to describe where my insatiable curiosity takes me? By way of explanation, I am project oriented, meaning if something looks/sounds interesting, I will give it a go for as long as it remains absorbing to me. At this time it is genetealogy but is currently more focused on FTDNA Projects and the value the latter can mean to every day researchers. (To me, it is bliss to take something chaotic and put it into order.) In the past, my hobbies and interests lay with such as all the family home style handcrafts, landscaping, and the ever present to desire to travel – just to see. (I used to live, prior to family arriving, with a suitcase packed and ready to go but am still a little guilty for maintaining similar). I have a large room filled with equipment merely waiting for the day I return to those handcraft pursuits. And being on a large property, I have ample room to play with landscaping and planting – just not the time, alas.

Rebekah: How long have you been actively involved in genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field?

Gail: I started maybe 40 years ago, but only seriously since the internet became an everyday occurrence for me – around 1998.

My parents asked me to deal with a request from the UK (to update details regarding my family), and when I realized my own name was actually in an old English tome, I was somewhat astonished. I then determined to learn how, when, and why, etc. A family breakup spurred my efforts as I was determined to ensure my children never suffered from not knowing of their roots; their backgrounds as so frequently happens in similar circumstances. Then I was asked to prepare a family tree for a huge family reunion because it was required that each descendant be identified by a particular descendant. This was around the year 2000. From then on, I was totally hooked!

Rebekah: At what point did you decide to become involved in genetic genealogy?

Gail: A time came when I got anxious about all the information I was gathering. Meaning, how genuine was it? Although it is always gratifying to get back to say the 16th or 17th century, I began to wonder about the genuine nature of just what I had found. So many spelling errors, guesses, and indications of dates, etc. started to cause me disquiet. As an avid reader, I had been learning about the arrival of molecular testing for genealogy, but since it was not in New Zealand, I had done nothing until one night I was meandering through some web pages and saw these adverts so I chose to look at them.

To cut a long story short, I eventually selected just two firms and sent away for a 23andMe and FTDNA kit for myself. In due course, these kits arrived, and they sat on my kitchen bench for weeks. Guess why. Yes, I got cold feet! I mean, I knew no one else who had done this in NZ, and all I was going by was zillions of marketing words on the Internet – which should never be trusted, right? Suddenly, it seemed incredibly SCARY! Finally, I did what was required, sent everything off, and deliberately put it all out of my mind. UNTIL the emails began to arrive. That started the worst, the most horrific learning curve I have ever been through. Ever! I sat on the computer for hours on end; I joined CeCe Moore’s valuable Newbie Forum and read over and over everything I could locate on the FTDNA web site in an effort to make sense of it all. I compared the results of my cousins and family with my own and others, all the time trying to prove or disprove some of the answers found on the various forums. Finally! It all just arrived in my brain one day and from that moment, I have never looked back.

Rebekah: What genetic ancestry tests have you taken?

Gail: Only 23andMe and the FTDNA mtDNA Full Sequence and Family Finder. Eventually, my brother went proxy for me regarding the FTDNA Y-111 test, Y-SNPs, etc.

Rebekah: Have you tested family members?

Gail: I think I have doubled my mortgage with testing close and very extended family and anyone who even looks like they may be (or claim to be) family.

Rebekah: Have you ever been surprised by your or your family’s test results?

Gail: No, not me – given my extensive research but certainly some who thought they were family have been surprised! Having said that, the Population Finder results found on both FTDNA and 23andMe have surprised me, but for the moment, I am not placing much emphasis on that. My grandfather’s Y Haplogroup also surprised me, but perhaps this is a facet of the members of the databases currently available to me.

Rebekah: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?

Gail: Not personally, yet, because the prime targets of this in my family have steadfastly refused family contact to date, so I shall have to be patient.

Rebekah: Are you involved as a group project administrator? If so, what made you decide to become involved? What projects do you administrate or co-administrate?

Gail: Yes and I probably look after far too many of them. I only got involved because the Admin of a project to which I had joined my brother made the suggestion due to my writing to her mentioning my frustration with another I had joined him to. (This was when I was an absolute newbie. But with her promise to aid me at the outset via Skype, I decided if I learned the rules and followed her hints, I would not get into too many difficulties). Well, I did get into trouble and got this polite letter from a lovely lady at FTDNA… who remains in close contact with me today. I was utterly mortified! Once I did what she requested, I was away (and even more hooked than ever).

Rebekah: Have you witnessed success stories in your projects?

Gail: Over and over again. Unfortunately, those will never be published!

Rebekah: What advice would you give someone starting out in genealogy or personal ancestry DNA testing?

Gail: Anytime you feel like giving up in sheer frustration, take a deep breath, and contact your Project admin – giving them an opportunity to aid. You WILL get there provided you do not stop reading and learning. (But do yourself a favour and set up a filing system that you understand – both within your computer system and in hard copy so that you can frequently refer to whatever new information comes your way).

Rebekah: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?

Gail: Rebekah, how long is a piece of string? The molecular biologists, the citizen scientists, the testing laboratories, the universities, the paleontologists, and the archeologists are all racing ahead at the speed of light. When coupled with those who are dealing with microchips, which are enabling faster and cheaper and more in-depth measurements and the eventual outcomes of the mysteries still locked in the human gene, the measurement of that piece of string is totally impossible.

Note, Gail is the administrator of these projects:
Border Reivers, Callingham, Gladstone, Kirkpatrick, Neal-ONeal, Riddle & Ruddell, Ruddenklau, Swaysland, Brodie, Brooker, Clan Fraser, Elliott, Fleming, Lovett, New Zealand, Pell, PictonRutherford, Scott, Simmons, Slater, Snedker, Watson, and Webster.

She is also the co-administrator of:
Bieker, Calhoun, Father-Son-Brothers, Fraser, Gilpin, Grimason, McKnight, Old, and Swann.