Tue, 12 July 2016
NEWS: FOIA Turns 50
FOIA for genealogy research: Use the FOIA to request:
Post-WWII Selective Service records: draft registrations and SS-102 forms (with more draft/military information on them), through the end of 1959;
Naturalization certificate files from 1906 to 1956;
Alien registration forms from 1940 to 1944;
Visa files from 1924 to1944;
Registry files for 1929 to 1944 (these document the arrival of an immigrant whose passenger or other arrival record could not be found for whatever reason);
A-files, alien case files for 1944 to 1951;
Click here to read an article on the 50th anniversary of the FOIA and more on FOIA for genealogy
NEWS: NEW RECORD COLLECTIONS ONLINE
Announcement of Freedmen’s Bureau Project completion; In September 2016 you can access the full Freedmen’s Bureau Project at www.DiscoverFreedmen.org.
NEWS: AncestryDNA Hits 2 Million Samples
Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard talks about these AncestryDNA features in:
NEWS: UPCOMING CONFERENCES
Midwest Roots, July 15-16, 2016
The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #178 CeCe Moore talks genetic genealogy on genealogy TV shows
3rd Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference, Arlington,
GEMS NEWS: NEW VIDEOS ONLINE
MAILBOX: CHRIS WITH US PUBLIC RECORDS INDEX TIP AND MORE
Chris’ post about a compelling story of an adopted child in his family
Chris’ post about the changing coastline in Sussex
MAILBOX: “WHERE I’M FROM”
The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #185: Interview with George Ella Lyon
Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society “Where I'm From” contest: “Anyone near and far may join our Contest. Each entry receives a gift from the. We will have a drawing from all entries of cash or a nice prize. Deadline for entries is Aug. 31, 2016. More information on scchgs.org.”
NEW GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB SELECTION
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
It’s a story inspired by love letters exchanged between his grandparents during World War II, when they were each in dangerous places: he on the island of Malta and she in London, both of which suffered some of the worst sustained bombing campaigns of the war.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a fast-paced book. It begins in London in 1939 with Mary North, a wealthy young lady from a privileged family who, on finding out that war has been declared, immediately leaves her finishing school and signs on for the war effort without telling her parents. She fulfills an assignment as a school teacher long enough to make a meaningful connection with a school official and one of her students. Then her students (along with the rest of London’s children) are evacuated to the countryside, leaving her to figure out what to do next.
The plot gets a lot more involved from here. There’s a love triangle, a long-distance romance, a series of scenes that take place on the heavily-bombarded island of Malta, harrowing descriptions of the London Blitz, homeless children who return from the evacuation only to find themselves parentless, homeless and in constant danger. It’s intense and eye-opening, but it’s compassionate and it’s still very readable for those who have less of a stomach for blood and guts but still want to understand some of the human experience of living and loving in a war zone, and then picking up the pieces afterward and figuring out how to keep living.
Click here for more Genealogy Gems Book Club titles
DNA GEM: GENETIC PEDIGREE V GENEALOGICAL PEDIGREE
A key concept in genetic genealogy is that your genetic pedigree is different than your genealogical pedigree. Let me explain.
Your genealogical pedigree, if you are diligent or lucky (or both!) can contain hundreds, even thousands of names and can go back countless generations. You can include as many collateral lines as you want. You can add several sources to your findings, and these days you can even add media, including pictures and copies of the actual documents. Every time someone gets married or welcomes a new baby, you can add that to your chart. In short, there is no end to the amount of information that can make up your pedigree chart.
Not so for your genetic pedigree.
Your genetic pedigree contains only those ancestors for whom you have received some of their DNA. You do not have DNA from all of your ancestors. Using some fancy math we can calculate that the average generation in which you start to see that you have inherited zero blocks of DNA from an ancestor is about seven. But of course, most of us aren’t trying to figure out how much of our DNA we received from great great great grandma Sarah. Most of us just have a list of DNA matches and we are trying to figure out if we are all related to 3X great grandma Sarah. So how does that work?
Well, the first thing we need to recognize is that living descendants of Sarah’s would be our fourth cousins (though not always, but that is a topic for another post!). Again, bring in the fancy math and we can learn that living, documented fourth cousins who have this autosomal DNA test completed will only share DNA with each other 50% of the time.
Yes, only half.
Only half of the time your DNA will tell you what your paper trail might have already figured out: That you and cousin Jim are fourth cousins, related through sweet 3X great grandma Sarah. But here’s where the numbers are in our favor. You have, on average, 940 fourth cousins. So if you are only sharing DNA with 470 of them, that’s not quite so bad, is it? And it only takes one or two of them to be tested and show up on your match list. Their presence there, and their documentation back to sweet Sarah, helps to verify the genealogy you have completed and allows you to gather others who might share this connection so you can learn even more about Sarah and her family. Plus, if you find Jim, then Jim will have 470 4th cousins as well, some of which will not be on your list, giving you access to even more of the 940.
This genetic family tree not matching up exactly with your traditional family tree also manifests itself in your ethnicity results, though there are other reasons for discrepancies there as well.
In short, this DNA stuff is not perfect, or even complete, but if you combine it with your traditional resources, it can be a very powerful tool for verifying and extending your family history.
PROFILE AMERICA: First hamburgers at a 4th of July picnic
Wed, 8 June 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #192
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Highlights from this episode:
NEWS: Dropbox Improvement
Dropbox file-sharing tip: “If you ever want to unshare something you’ve already sent out (like to remove access to a sensitive document), it’s easy to disable an active link.” Just sign in to dropbox.com. “Click the link icon next to the file or folder, and click ‘remove link’ in the top right corner of the box that appears. You can also remove the link by visiting dropbox.com/links and clicking ‘x’ next to the file or folder.”
NEWS: MyHeritage and Tribal Quest
Ghana Oral Genealogy Project (on FamilySearch.org)
NEWS: New Premium Video
Genealogy Gems Premium website membership: Click here to learn more
Click here to watch a free video preview
MAILBOX: Russ Recommends the U.S. Public Records Index
Russ blogs at https://worthy2be.wordpress.com/
Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 181: What to use while waiting for the 1950 census
Russ recommends the “U.S., Public Record Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 and 2.”
“Volume 1 is far more interesting with more data. A search will return a Name AND Birth date, along with more than one ADDRESS, Zip Code and sometimes phone numbers.”
Ancestry’s description of its online database for Volume 1 says original data comes from public records spanning all 50 states, such as voter registration lists, public record filings, historical residential records and other household database listings.
Free partial version (1970-2009) at FamilySearch.org
Another partial version (1970-2010) at MyHeritage
Thoughts about using the U.S. Public Records Index (some of these points come from the FamilySearch wiki):
Not everyone who lived in the U.S. appears in the index, and you’re more likely to find birth information for those born between 1900 and 1990. What you’ll find is primarily where someone lived, and often when they lived there.
It’s rarely possible to positively identify a relative in this index, since there’s limited information and it spans the entire country for up to a half century, and you can’t follow up on the record it comes from because the index doesn’t say where individual records come from. As Russ says, this is a great resource to use in combination with other records. It’s a similar concept to the way you might consult uncited family trees: great hints to go on and follow up with further research into verifiable sources.
When you find more recent listings, you can sometimes find telephone numbers for living distant relatives. The Family History Made Easy podcast has a 2-episode series (episodes 14 and 15) about cold-calling techniques for reaching out to distant relatives you don’t know.
MAILBOX: Katie on Cold-calling and Adoption and DNA
Katie blogs her family history adventures at McKinnon Ancestry.
Click here to read a blog post with her story and see more pictures that go with it.
INTERVIEW: Amie Tennant
Amie Tennant is the newest member of the Genealogy Gems team. She contributes to the blog at www.genealogygems.com. She is also preparing to become a certified genealogist, which is a professional credential offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).
What have you learned in the process of preparing for certification?
“I think the biggest thing I have learned is the meaning of true exhaustive research. We talk a lot about that in our genealogy standards, but essentially, it is looking EVERYWHERE for EVERYTHING that might shed light on your research question.”
Why do you want to become certified?
I want a way to determine how well I am doing. A measuring stick of sorts.
What is the process like?
The process is the same for everyone. Once you have decided to become certified, you apply to the BCG. They send you a packet of information and you are “on the clock.” The clock is up in one year, unless you ask for an extension. The portfolio you create consists of:
Signing the Code of Ethics
Listing your development activities (like formal coursework or enrichment activities);
Transcribe, abstract, create a genealogy research question, analyze the data, and the write the research plan for a document that is supplied to you;
Do those same 5 things for a document of your choosing;
A research report prepared for another person.
A case study with conflicting, indirect or negative evidence;
A kinship determination project (a narrative genealogy that covers at least 3 generations)
There is a lot of great free content on the BCG website: articles, examples, and skill building activities.
GEM: How to Create Family History Videos Quickly and Easily
Visit our page on how to create family history videos which includes video tutorials and inspirational examples.
Genealogy Gems App users can watch Episode #1 of the video tutorial in the Bonus content area.
BOOK CLUB: Interview excerpt with Helen Simonson,
Beatrice Nash is a bright, cosmopolitan young lady who has grown up traveling the world with her father. Now he’s gone, and she’s landed in the small village of East Sussex, England, where the locals aren’t entirely thrilled about engaging her as a female Latin instructor for their schoolchildren. She spends a summer fighting for her job, meeting a local cast of engaging eccentric characters (both gentry and gypsy) and trying not to fall for handsome Hugh. Then the Great War breaks out.
This novel follows Helen’s popular debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 21 languages. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can join us in June to hear our exclusive and fun interview with Helen Simonson.
GENEALOGY GEMS PODCAST PRODUCTION CREDITS:
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Contributing Editor
Vienna Thomas, Audio Editor
Additional content by Lacey Cooke, Amie Tennant
Tue, 10 May 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
NEWS: Upcoming Live-Streaming from FGS from Periscope
Lisa’s Twitter handle: @LisaCooke
New German Records with James Beidler
His new book: Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites.
Jim mentioned this new website for Protestant church records: Archion.de
Links to new German genealogy databases:
CHURCH. An enormous collection of Lutheran baptisms, marriages and burials is now searchable on Ancestry.com. You’ll find over 24 million records from “parish registers from numerous Protestant communities in Baden, today part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg…[and] some communities to the north, such as Wiesbaden in adjacent Hessen.” Another new Ancestry.com collection contains over a million birth, marriage and death records taken from weekly church reports in Dresden, Germany for 1685-1879.
CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Nearly 300,000 indexed names have been added to a free online collection of civil registrations for Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany (1811-1814, 1833-1928).
IMMIGRATION TO U.S. A new database on Ancestry.com catalogs German immigrants to the U.S., 1712-1933.
MILITARY. Over 400,000 records are part of a new Ancestry.com collection of Bremen military lists (1712-1914). According to the collection description, “The core of the collection are the muster rolls created by recruiting commmissions including actual musters from 1894-1917 for men born between 1874 and 1899. These records are arranged in chronological-alphabetical order and contain detailed information about male military personnel in the city.”
Get the book on sale at Shop Family Tree by clicking the link below and then save an additional 15% with our coupon code:
MyHeritage Book Matching
Canadian Conferences Coming Up
Lisa Louise Cooke at the Ontario Genealogical Society, June 3-5, 2016 at the International Plaza Hotel, Toronto
The Great Canadian Genealogy Summit (CANGEN), October 21-23, 2016 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Brampton, Ontario
Thom’s Google Success Story with Google Earth and Google Books
Click here to read a blog post to see Thom’s full story with his map overlay and the Google Book search result he found
Learn more about Google Earth for genealogy:
FREE Google Earth for Genealogy video (Get started!)
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition, by Lisa Louise Cooke (fully revised and updated in 2015)
Donna’s Evernote Question
Q: What’s the best way to move Evernote notes into notebooks?
A: Sometimes getting organized can gobble up all your research time. So one approach I often recommend is just to move Evernote notes as you use them. That way you can keep researching, while getting more organized each day. As you create new notes you'll be putting them directly where they belong, and as you use existing notes, you can tidy them up as you go.
If you feel more comfortable getting everything moved in one fell swoop, that's good too. One way to save time is with a simple trick: decide what you have more of (genealogy or personal) and then move ALL your notes into that notebook. Now you only have less than 1/2 of your notes that need to be moved.
You can move the rest to the other notebook by selecting multiple notes at once. Here's a step-by-step breakdown:
Click here to find more great resources for using Evernote for genealogy, including free tips, step-by-step helps, a unique Evernote cheat sheet and free and Premium videos
Click here to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium membership
INTERVIEW: Amy Crow and 4 Apps for Local History (and Tips for Using Them)
History Pin: “like Pinterest for history.” Especially strong for local history in England, Ireland, Scotland, but also wonderful for the U.S. A lot of organizations have added photos and curated them into collections, like Pinterest boards.
Instagram. Follow libraries, archives and historical societies that are in towns where your ancestors lived. They may post historic photos from their collections. Instagram now has a feature where you can share photos with those you follow on Instagram. Use it to share a cool old picture that relates to your family history with a young relative.
The Clio. This website and local history app (available through Google Play and on iTunes for iPhone/iPad) shows you historic sites around you when you turn on your location services. The resources, descriptions and bibliographic entries on this site are great to follow up with for your research.
What Was There. At this site (or with the iPhone app) you can view historic photos plotted on a map near your current location. Use it to look around and ask the question, “What happened here?” if you’re on a walk or visiting somewhere. The site is integrated with Google Street View. You can also upload your own old photos if you know where they were taken and do an overlay in Google Maps, in much the same way Lisa teaches about doing in Google Earth.
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
From Sunny: This novel takes place in a small English town just before and then right into the events of World War I. The heroine, Beatrice Nash, is trying to find her footing as an independent, educated woman. She’s got a romance on the horizon, and she’s getting to know some fantastic characters, gypsies and gentry when—bam, here comes WWI, first as rumors and dinner conversation, then as a trickle of refugees into town and finally as a horrible pull on their local young men into combat.
Lisa always asks me when we’re talking about possible titles for the Book Club, “What does this book mean to us as genealogists?” For me, The Summer Before the War does a couple of things. First, I think it can be difficult to imagine our ancestors in living color with a full range of human emotions. When we can find photos, they’re black and white (or brown and white). When we find them in print, they’re often more reserved in what they say than we like. Times were stricter then, and we may make assumptions about their passions and how they lived them out.
What a novel like The Summer Before the War does for me is remind me that people at that times had just as many feelings as I do. They lived and breathed and loved and hurt and were tempted and frightened and everything else. Yes, a novel is not a historically accurate re-creation of my ancestor’s character (or anyone else’s ancestor’s characters, for that matter), but it places the human spirit in a certain time and place, perhaps a time and place that was also inhabited by my relatives. It helps me imagine their lives from a fuller perspective.
The other thing I love about this book is that it reminds me that history didn’t happen in neat intervals. Sometimes I separate out in my mind certain events in an ancestor’s timeline. During these years they went to school, or got married and started a family, or worked as a teacher. But then you dump a war on top of that timeline. You realize that for some people, the war snuck in the back door of their lives and stayed there while they were trying to get married and start a family or work as a teacher, or all of the above. Of course, for those who went to the front or to whom the fight came, the story is more dramatic, but even then, the war happened to them within the context of other things that were already happening. The Summer Before the War is really good at showing how the conflict just gradually dawned on this English village, before becoming an everyday and grim reality for many of its residents, and the final chapter for a few of them.
The book is The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. Helen joins us for a fantastic conversation about the book in next month’s Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (Lisa will put an excerpt from the interview into this free podcast, too). So use the link in the show notes to grab your copy of The Summer Before the War and enjoy it. It’s a fun, easy read but with plenty of meat on its bones for those who love history---and re-imagining the lives of their ancestors.
DNA WITH DIAHAN: Changes at AncestryDNA
Change is afoot at AncestryDNA. Again.
While stability and predictability seem like honorable qualities in a company or product, when it comes to tech tools, in the ears of tech companies, those words sound more like dated and old. Of course, we are used to this by now. I had a client tell me recently that he wanted to be in touch sooner, but his grandson “upgraded” his computer to Windows 10 and then promptly left for college the next day, leaving him fighting with a new interface and operating system.
The good news is, you won’t have this problem with Ancestry’s new update. There aren’t any changes to the interface or the layout of the information. In fact, many of you will not even notice at first that your match list has changed. But in fact, there likely have been some adjustments made, as we see below:
Some of your third cousins have been demoted to fourth cousins.
Some of your fourth cousins have been demoted to 5th-8th cousins.
Some of your Distant Cousins have disappeared off your match list
You have new cousins on your Distant Cousin match list. In general, from what Ancestry has showed us, you gain more than you lose.
Changes in the dregs of your match list may not seem like that big of a deal, so why am I telling you about it? Probably because I am a nerd, and I like cool science stuff, so I think you should too.
You see, Ancestry has made some big changes in the way that they are calculating matches. They are getting better at it. Which means you match list is now more representative of your ancestral connections, even at the very distant level.
There are two big pieces to this matching puzzle that Ancestry has tinkered with in this latest update: phasing and matching.
You will remember our discussion on DNA phasing (link) and how it can impact your matching. Ancestry has developed a robust reference database of phased DNA in order to better phase our samples. Basically, they have looked through their database at parent child duos and trios and noted that certain strings of DNA values often travel together. Its like they have noticed that our DNA says “A black cat scared the mouse” instead of “The brown cat ate the mouse” and they can then recognize that phrase in our DNA, which in turn helps our DNA tell the true story of our heritage.
In addition to updating the phasing, Ancestry has revamped their matching method. In the past they viewed our DNA in small windows of information, and then stitched those windows together to try to get a better picture of what our DNA looked like. Now instead they have turned to a point by point analysis of our DNA. Again to use a sentence example, with the window analysis we may have the following sentence windows:
ack and J
ill went t
he hill t
etch a pai
l of water.
Of those windows you may share the “etch a pai” with another individual in the database, earning that cousin a spot on your match page. However, the truth is, that bit could say “sketch a painting” or “stretch a painful leg” or “fetch a pail.” With Ancestry’s new method, they are able to see farther on either side of the matching segment, making this clearly “fetch a pail.” That means better matching, which means more confidence in your cousin matches.
The downside to this update is going to come in the reorganization of some of your relationships. Ancestry has tightened their genetic definition of your third and fourth cousins. Basically, that means that some of your true 3rd cousins are going to show up as 4th cousins, and some of your true 4th cousins are going to be shifted down into the abyss of 5th-8th cousins. What is really upsetting about this is what this does to the Shared Matches tool (link). The shared matches tool allows you to gather matches in the database that are related to you and one other person, provided you are all related at the 4th cousin level or higher. This tightening of the belt on 4th cousins means that some of them are going to drop through the cracks of that tool, really limiting its ability. Grr. Hopefully Ancestry will fix that, and expand this tool to include all of your matches. They have their fairly good reasons for this, but still…
So, as the winds of change blow yet another iteration of the AncestryDNA match page, I think we can see this as an overall win for doing genealogy with our genetics at Ancestry.
Get Diahan's DNA quick reference guides at the Genealogy Gems store.
Let Diahan Southard be Your DNA Guide.
PROFILE AMERICA: The First High School
Here’s a link to their post
Wed, 6 April 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast
Highlights from this episode:
Click the player below to listen:
NEWS: NGS Streaming Sessions
National Genealogical Society: NGS 2016 is offering registration packages for the following live-streaming lecture series:
Thurs, May 5, 2016: Land Records, Maps and Google Earth
How to Follow and Envision Your Ancestor’s Footprints Through Time with Google Earth by Lisa Louise Cooke
More Conference Streaming Sessions by Lisa Louise Cooke: RootsTech 2016 (these are free!)
NEWS: New Genealogy Records Online
deeds and mortgages for South Jutland, Denmark on FamilySearch.org;
Land tax records for Devon, Plymouth & West Devon, Englandon Findmypast.com;
Brazil civil registration records on FamilySearch.org;
United States War of 1812 Index to Service Records at FamilySearch.org
Freedmen’s Bureau marriages at FamilySearch.org;
Louisiana wills and estates updated on Ancestry.com;
North Carolina civil marriage bonds and certificates at FamilySearch.org
Maryland church records on FamilySearch.org;
New York State church records at Findmypast
Illinois marriage records on FamilySearch.org in 3 collections:
North Dakota funeral homes (hosted by the Red River Genealogical Society) at Ancestry.com--search for free;
1945 South Dakota state census at Ancestry.com updated
NEWS: Family Tree Maker Direct Import into RootsMagic
MAILBOX: Carol and the Coast Guard in Google Books
Google Books search on "USCG Beale:" search results include this PDF document
Google.com search "coast guard history" 1920..1935 "Beale:” results include Cutters Historical Bibliography
MAIL: Gail’s Trouble with Gmail
If you’re not receiving the Genealogy Gems free weekly email newsletter, consider these possibilities:
Gmail is a powerful, free tool for using and archiving email. That’s why there’s an entire chapter on Gmail in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition. Gmail can help you sort and even keyword-search your past email, and this book will show you how.
MAILBOX: Neik from The Netherlands with Research Tips
CONVERSATION GEM: Celeste’s Google Search Success Story and Google Search Methodology Tips
For Genealogy Gems Premium members (See all Premium videos at http://lisalouisecooke.com/premium-videos):
CONVERSATION GEM: Jillian on Irish adoption law
INTERVIEW: Scott from Extreme Genes Helps Solve a 30-Year Old Missing Persons Case
More “Cold Case” Inspiration:
Premium Video: Genealogical Cold Cases (To learn about Premium membership click here)
BOOK CLUB: The Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson
British author Helen Simonson’s debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel , became a NYT best-seller and has been translated into 21 languages. Her newest book, The Summer Before the War, is another great read: light and charming, with a dash of romance and humor. It’s so easy to read and love.
It’s the early 1900s, and main character Beatrice Nash has recently lost her father. The estate settlement lost her control over her own funds and freedom. She comes to a small English town as a Latin teacher and must mind her manners and local politics to keep her job. Beatrice meets a man and the appeal appears mutual, but he’s already engaged.
This isn’t just Beatrice’s story. You’ll meet an entire village full of charming and irascible and expatriate and unconventional and way-too-conventional and mysterious characters, including the local gentry and the local gypsies. They all have their own stories, which unfold as they begin to experience the first great shock of the 20th century close-up: World War I. First it’s the stunned refugees who they enter the quiet village in which the story is set, and the drama that unfolds as the village tries to rally and care for them. Eventually you’ll see the battlefront through the eyes of a few characters who enlist, not all of whom are going to make it back home.
Despite the realities they face, this is somehow still an easy and charming read, one into which it’s easy to disappear. Helen Simonson will join us in June to talk about The Summer Before the War.
Wed, 9 March 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 189
BYUtv’s new reality series Relative Race (http://www.relativerace.com/) premiered on February 28, 2016. The show “features four married couples as they travel across the US in search of long lost relatives, armed with only paper maps, a rental car, a $25 per diem and a flip phone.” (Interview with two contestants later in the show.)
Databases of Runaway Slave Notices
New York Times on new websites that will launch databases of runaway slave notices:
Irish Collections and Tips from Findmypast
Index to Irish Parish Records for 1670-1900 at Findmypast.com (FREE FOREVER to search), with links to free digitized content at the National Library of Ireland
Click here to link to Q&A with Brian Donovan, head of Irish Data and Development at Findmypast on getting started in Irish research
MyHeritage Updates Its Search Technologies
Click here to learn more about Record Detective II from the MyHeritage blog.
Marquise’ new blog: The Blakeslee Tribe
Kim recommends my free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast series for beginners and those who want a “genealogy do-over.” She particularly mentions a three-part series on immigration and naturalization records in Episode 29, Episode 30 and Episode 31.
Matt’s suggestion for Find A Grave: leave virtual flowers on the “tombstones” of deceased relatives so other relatives can find you:
INTERVIEW: Janice and Patrick Wright from Relative Race
Relative Race host Dan J. Debenham described how BYUtv’s original competition reality show came into being: “What could we create that would be very different from what’s currently out there and that would show people discovering family all across the country?"
Four teams race from San Francisco to New York in 10 days. Their goal? Find unknown relatives, complete challenges, and don't get eliminated.
In this episode you will hear from Team Black: Patrick Wright is an executive at Alpha Media, a growing radio broadcast media company based in Portland, OR; Janice is a freelance Media Consultant. They joined the Relative Race show because they love travel and adventure.
BOOK CLUB: Interview excerpt with Tara Austen Weaver on Orchard House
Author Tara Austen Weaver talks about gardening and family, and how tending a garden isn’t so different from nourishing family relationships.
DNA GEM: 3 Reasons to Test with Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard
My youngest child, Eleanor, is nearly 8, so it was fun to have a 2 year old over the other day. She loved following Eleanor around, and Eleanor was equally thrilled to have someone to mentor in the ways of big girl play. I took special delight in listening to my daughter’s patient and surprisingly complete answers to our guest’s constant inquiries of “Why?” It got me thinking about the Whys of genealogy, and especially of genetic genealogy.
I decided that there are three main reasons to have your DNA tested for genealogical purposes.
In genealogy, primary information is given by a source with firsthand knowledge of an event, with the best primary information being created at or around the time of the event. I think we can safely say that DNA falls into that category on both counts. Therefore, it is an excellent source of genealogical information and should be obtained as part of a thorough genealogical search.
DNA possesses several qualities that make this record type stand out from the rest. First and foremost, it cannot be falsified in any way. No name change, no deception, no miscommunication or misspelling can tarnish this record. Even if it is not a complete record of our family history, the story that it does tell is accurate.
So much of genealogy work, especially in today’s digital world, is intangible. We add ancestors to our pedigree charts with a click of our mouse, having no idea of their physical characteristics, never once setting foot in the same places that they did, or if they preferred bread and butter or toast and jam.
But with the advent of DNA testing, I am able to see a physical connection between me and my ancestor. The first time I saw it seems unremarkable. It was just a blue line on top of a grey line, representing the location in the DNA where I had the same information as my cousin. But that line meant that we had both inherited a physical piece of DNA from our common ancestor, Lucy J. Claunch. That realization didn’t add names or dates to my pedigree chart- Lucy had been on my chart since the beginning. But it did add a sense of purpose and reality to my genealogical work. In short, it inspired me to know more about Lucy and to tell her story because I felt inextricably tied to it. Perhaps many of you don’t need a DNA test to feel similarly motivated, you already understand what I learned: Her story is my story. But because I have her DNA in me, I am able to take that idea one step further. Because she lives on in me, my story is her story. So I better make it a good one.
Has your DNA motivated you to find out more about your story?
Genealogy Gems readers and listeners get a special price on Diahan Southard's DNA Video Training
PROFILE AMERICA: Voter Documentation
Wed, 17 February 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast
Highlights from this episode include:
NEWS: Findmypast creates new partnerships
During RootsTech, Findmypast.com announced new partnerships with RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, FamilySearch, Family-Historian, Puzzilla, Billion Graves and RootsCity. A press release stated that “Findmypast will make its vast record collection of more than 8 billion records available to customers via these partners. The rollout of these partnerships will begin in 2016, with exact dates to be detailed later….Customers using these various family history products will benefit from having Findmypast’s record collection embedded within the actual product in ways that each partner determines will benefit their customers most.”
NEWS: More on the Family Tree Maker Roller Coaster
On February 2, Ancestry.com announced an agreement with RootsMagic to connect their family history software with Ancestry.com by the end of 2016. Hooray for being able to continue to sync your online tree with your master tree at home in your own control, your own software, where Ancestry says you’ll also have access to Ancestry hints and searches.
On the same day, Ancestry also announced the acquisition of Family Tree Maker software for both Mac and Windows by a company called Software MacKiev. According to Ancestry, “This new agreement means you will receive software updates and new versions from Software MacKiev, and have the ability to purchase new versions of Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev as they are released.“
Ancestry hopes to have both these solutions fully functional by the time Family Tree Maker software stops being supported at the end of this year.
NEWS: New Genealogy Records Online
IRELAND CENSUS RECORDS. MyHeritage.com has added to its site “over 8.7 million Irish census records from the 1901 and 1911 censuses [which record every household member]. Both collections are completely free and contain images.”
IRELAND PARISH RECORDS. Findmypast.com subscribers now have access to an exclusive index to the National Library of Ireland’s free online collection of digitized-but-not-indexed registers from 1000 parishes, with over 10 million baptisms and marriages.
(US) DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH RECORDS. Ancestry.com has added a new collection of Dutch Reformed Church records (1701-1995) from 14 states and has updated a separate but similar collection of Dutch Reformed Records (1639-1989).
US MARRIAGES. Findmypast has just released an enormous collection of marriage records from across the United States. “Containing over 450 million names from 1650 to 2010…the US Marriages collection will, when complete, include over 100 million records, 60% of which have never been published online before.” A third of the data are already online.
NEWS: MyHeritage Audio Recordings
Audio Recordings feature on the MyHeritage app: Use to interview relatives right from their profile in your family tree, where you’ll now find an audio icon that looks like earphones. Tap it to create a new recording or to access recordings you’ve previously saved. Listen to the recording anytime, download it to your own computer (which you should definitely do to store as your master file) and share it with anyone who is a member of your family website on MyHeritage.com.
NEWS: RootsTech Follow-Up
Live-streamed RootsTech 2016 sessions by Lisa Louise Cooke:
Lisa Louise Cooke’s RootsTech 2016 lecture on Google methodology, with top tips and strategies taken from her book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
The lectures below were streamed live from the Genealogy Gems theater in the RootsTech Exhibitor Hall. Click to watch them: give the video a few seconds to adjust to the proper orientation.
Here’s the news article Cathy sent in along with her email about learning more about her grandfather’s death. Inspired by the Genealogy Gems blog post about Googling for coroner’s records to solve mysterious deaths, she went looking for coroner’s records online, too.
“Well, I still haven't found the Coroners' Records but I did find a couple of newspaper articles - & apparently the body was indeed found on 21st December - but he had been missing since June!”
MAIL: Trisha finds Railroad Retirement Board Records
Railroad Retirement Board’s instructions for genealogists (redirects inquiries to The National Archives, which has an entire webpage dedicated to its Railroad Retirement Board records.
Additional railroad history and genealogy suggestions:
“When it comes to backing up your precious data, investing in an online backup service is one of the smartest things you can do.”
However, if you ever DO need to restore your hard drive, it’s not so easy to download the massive amounts of files you probably have. The solution has generally been to ship an entire hard drive to a customer, but that can cost $100 or more on top of regular backup service fees.
The article gave Backblaze two thumbs-up for its new solution: the Restore Return Refund Program. It refunds the cost of those hard drives they send you when you return them within 30 days after restoring your data. It’s a $99 refund for USB flash drives and $189 for USB hard drives, so it essentially makes this a free service. Other leading cloud-based computer backup services either won’t ship hard drives at all or continue to charge large fees for it. Other online magazines--The Next Web and Verge—gave similar reports.
INTERVIEW: Lisa talks to Cindy and Sabrina at Union College
Cindy Cochran of Lincoln-Lancaster County (Nebraska) Genealogical Society and Sabrina Riley of Union College on the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society collection at Union College
What’s in their collection?
BOOK CLUB: Update from Book Club Guru Sunny Morton
We hope you’ve gotten to savor Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austen Weaver, the current featured book of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. You’ll love her mouthwatering descriptions of food; fascinating insights into gardening; and touching descriptions of how we nurture and harvest our family relationships in ways not so different from gardening. In the next episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear a snippet of our interview with Tara Weaver in the free Genealogy Gems podcast. Next month, Genealogy Gems Premium website members will be able to hear the entire interview with Tara on the Premium podcast.
Additional books that were recently recommended at the Genealogy Gems Book Club Open House at RootsTech 2016:
DNA GEM: Diahan Southard Comments on NPR article
Recently NPR published an article entitled “DNA, Genealogy, and the Search For Who We Are.” This sounds like exactly the kind of article that I would want to read, considering that I am, after all, Your DNA Guide. However, after only the first two sentences of this article, I stopped reading. I could already tell this was one of those articles, you know, the kind meant to sensationalize and not to communicate accurate information. I closed the browser page. I just don’t have time to read information that is meant to incite, and not to inform.
But then I read some comments from some friends that had read it, and then Lisa asked me to review it for you, so I read it in its entirety. It was difficult to get through, even though it wasn’t very long. There are just so many things that are wrong with the presentation of this material.
Let’s take three big ones.
First of all, the “facts” are taken out of context. Yes, it is true, your genetic pedigree is not the same as your genealogical pedigree. Your genetic pedigree can only contain a finite amount of information while your paper pedigree can contain limitless amounts. In general, our personal set of genetics will only connect us to half of our fourth cousins, and it is true that if we go back far enough we will have zero DNA from some of our ancestors. The author implies that this kind of incomplete information is unacceptable and should be discarded. What he is missing is that by genetically connecting me to my fourth cousin, that fourth cousin is genetically connected to another fourth cousin, who I might not share DNA with, but through the testing and the genealogical research, I can confidently identify as kin. One of the powers of DNA is that it allows you to create networks with living people who can work together to verify and expand our knowledge of our ancestors.
Secondly, this author claims that DNA testing and traditional research are mutually exclusive. He claims, “…family and family history are one thing, and DNA-based ancestry is another.” I don’t think I even need to comment on that. That is just wrong. Genetic genealogy is just one more tool in our toolbox to help us answer family history questions.
Before I go on, I think we do need a little perspective about where this author is coming from. As US citizens, many of us have enjoyed the rapid growth and general acceptance of the genetic genealogy industry. The author of this article gained much of his content from sources in the UK. Unfortunately, the UK has seen a stream of less-than-reputable companies hawking genetic genealogy-like products that are frankly a scam. So, from that perspective, caution when entering a genetic genealogy experience should be exercised.
That background knowledge, provided by my colleague Debbie Kennett in the UK made me feel a little sheepish about my initial hostile reaction to the article. But then I read again where the author states, “It is family that matters — and family is relationship, not DNA,” and I am back on my soapbox. Perhaps this author did not pay attention in 7th grade biology. DNA is family. That’s how this works. I have heard so many stories from so many of you reporting how it was this very DNA stuff that led you to a discovery about your family. Just yesterday I received an email from a woman who recently reconnected with a relative she found through DNA testing. She said, “Spent a week with Carolyn and her husband out in Colorado this Fall and the time spent together is beyond words. It is as if we had known each other our whole lives. But then again on a different level, I am sure we have known each other.”
To me, that is a story worth telling, a story that is every bit as real as one that is discovered using only paper research methods. DNA deserves a spot in your family history research. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
PROFILE AMERICA: “Oh Canada”
Wed, 13 January 2016
This New Year’s episode is packed with fresh energy and perspective!
We welcome the Legal Genealogist Judy Russell to the podcast. Judy takes on a Genealogy Gems listener’s fantastic question about the bounty land his War of 1812 ancestor never claimed.
NEWS: Family Tree Maker Software Discontinued
Here’s the announcement and my initial comments that reached nearly 30,000 people on Facebook (at press time):
NEWS: New Records Online
AUSTRALIA CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. A new browse-only collection of Tasmanian civil registrations (1839-1938) is now online at FamilySearch.org. It includes district registers, counterfoils of marriage certificates and some church records.
ENGLAND PARISH AND ELECTORAL. Significantly-updated indexes of Kent parish registers and registers of electors (both dating to the 1500s!) are now online at FamilySearch, as Lancashire parish records to 1538 and another collection of parish registers back to 1603 that include Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.
ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS: More indexed images continue to be added regularly to the free collection at FamilySearch.org! Click here for the current list.
PHILIPPINES (MANILA) CIVIL REGISTRATIONS: More than 400,000 indexed records for the city of Manila have been added to an existing collection of Philippines civil registrations at FamilySearch.org.
WALES ELECTORAL REGISTERS. Over 1.6 million indexed names from electoral registers for Glamorgan and West Glamorgan, Wales (1839-1935) are now searchable at FamilySearch.org.
BONUS AUDIO ON THE APP:
BRITISH IN INDIA. Findmypast has published new record collections relating to British overseas travelers, workers and expatriates. The first includes “British people who either lived, worked or travelled in India from as early as 1664 up to 1961 with an index of births, marriages, divorces and deaths compiled by the Society of Genealogists.” There are also new collections from the India Office: births and baptisms and wills and probates.
DIGITAL BOOKS. A new FREE collection of 150,000 digitized books is searchable at MyHeritage.com. Among the titles are family, local and military histories; city and county directories; school and university yearbooks and church and congregational minutes.
GEMS NEWS: RootsTech 2016: February 3-6 in Salt Lake City, Utah
Here’s the schedule for my official RootsTech lectures and those of our regular Gems contributors:
11:00 Soothe Your Tech Tummy Ache with These 10 Tools, Lisa Louise Cooke
If you’ve been to my booth at a major conference in the past few years, you already know about the “Outside the Box” mini-sessions I’ve presented along with some of my partners in the past. These sessions have been SO popular that people end up lining the walkways around our booth, several deep, crowding the exhibit hall aisles in to listen and sign up for the free handouts.
This year, I’m planning an even richer class experience at the Genealogy Gems booth. There will be 20 sessions, some of them shorter and some longer, taught by myself and my dynamic partners at Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine. I have quadrupled the size of our booth so we can invite many more of you to come in, have a seat and hear these sessions in comfort, without having to stand in the aisles.
Here are the FREE classes we’re teaching at Genealogy Gems booth #1230 in the RootsTech exhibit hall:
Remember, if you register for RootsTech before January 18, you’ll save a LOT on registration (you’ll pay $169 instead of $249 for the full 4-day event). Come by and say hello at our booth!
GEMS NEWS: “Where I’m From”
Winners: Everyone who entered will receive a year of Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership! In this episode you’ll hear Beverly Field’s wonderful poem, and you’ll hear from more winners in coming episodes.
MAILBOX: Where I’m From
Picture books by George Ella Lyon recommended by Katharine:
MAILBOX: Family Tree Maker
Click here to read a blog post that answers Charles’ question about why not to continue using Family Tree Maker after it “expires.”
Click here to read about specials for Family Tree Maker users and what I do with my master family tree.
Click here to access Moving your tree from Family Tree Maker to Reunion, for Reunion 11 (for Mac) software, as recommended by Bill
Click here to read which family history software I recommend and why
Click here for more Family Tree Maker questions and a couple of bonus questions about keeping Ancestry.com subscriptions or transferring to MyHeritage, which does offer free desktop family history software that syncs with its online trees.
MAILBOX: GOOGLE SEARCHING CORONER’S RECORDS
Click here to read a detailed answer to Lydia’s question on Google searching coroner’s records
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox is available through the store on my website at www.genealogygems.com.
INTERVIEW: Judy Russell
Robert from Covington, LA wrote in with this excellent question! Here’s the full question and an accompanying image: “We have a copy of our great great grandfather's Warrant from the War of 1812. This has never been redeemed. I expect that the time for redeeming has long since expired but can't find confirmation of this anywhere.
I have an affidavit from my grandmother dated 1911 stating the grant was lost or destroyed when she was a little girl being raised by her grandmother, the widow of one of the two brothers listed on the certificate. Her husband, one of those two, died before 1850 and therefore his will has no mention of the Land Grant.
The certificate I have is a copy of a re-issue by the Commissioner of Pensions dated 1917. From the wording on the note the Commissioner scribbled on the copy he sent, it appears he hand copied the information on file onto a blank certificate and certified the copy.
I have attached a copy of the certificate we have (above) and a copy of what I have been able to fill in for what is not too legible (below). I have blanked out the family names and certificate number since it is not clear to me if it is or is not redeemable and I don’t have any control where this information may end up once committed to the internet.
My main interest now is whether or not the certificate could still be good or if these grants have all “timed out” and none could therefore still be redeemable. I spent about a half day researching on the internet but could not find any information indicating grants were still redeemable after all this time.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Judy’s advice about researching laws or statutes relating to our genealogy questions—and to hear how she answered this fantastic question.
Genealogy Gems Book Club: A New Book!
Orchard House by Tara Austin Weaver
Tara Austin Weaver's Tea & Cookies blog: www.teaandcookiesblog.com
Tara’s recipe for Orchard House is one part food, one part gardening and two parts family drama, liberally seasoned with humor and introspection. The “book jacket” summary of Orchard House, from the publishers:
“Peeling paint, stained floors, vine-covered windows, a neglected and wild garden—Tara can’t get the Seattle real estate listing out of her head. Any sane person would see the abandoned property for what it was: a ramshackle half-acre filled with dead grass, blackberry vines, and trouble. But Tara sees potential and promise—not only for the edible bounty the garden could yield for her family, but for the personal renewal she and her mother might reap along the way.
So begins Orchard House, a story of rehabilitation and cultivation—of land and soul. Through bleak winters, springs that sputter with rain and cold, golden days of summer, and autumns full of apples, pears, and pumpkins, this evocative memoir recounts the Weavers’ trials and triumphs, what grew and what didn’t, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned. Inexorably, as mother and daughter tend this wild patch and the fruits of their labor begin to flourish, green shoots of hope emerge from the darkness of their past.
For anyone who has ever planted something they wished would survive—or tried to mend something that seemed forever broken—Orchard House is a tale of healing and growth, set in the most unlikely place.”
In March, we’ll play an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Tara Austen Weaver in this podcast. Genealogy Gems Premium website members will be able to listen to the full interview in March’s Genealogy Gems Premium podcast.
RootsTech Book Club Open House: Thurs, Feb 4, 10am-11am at the Genealogy Gems booth #1230 in the Exhibitor Hall. Stop by and chat about books or family history or both! Free bookmarks, display copies of featured titles a win chance to win a great Book Club prize just for suggesting a book.
PROFILE AMERICA: Ellis Island Opens
Tue, 8 December 2015
Genealogy Gems Podcast
This month’s episode celebrates upcoming holiday family time with a special segment on interviewing relatives. Diahan Southard offers her thanks for DNA connections that are helping fill holes left by adoption. And you’ll hear about:
NEWS: MyHeritage Search Connect
Genealogy companies are getting smarter, there’s no doubt about it. The latest smart-searching feature from MyHeritage.com is one great example. MyHeritage recently released Search Connect ™. This is new technology that helps you find others who have been searching for the same rare surnames that may be on your family tree. Here’s how it works.
For several years, MyHeritage has kept a database of who is searching for what ancestors. I can only imagine how huge that database is! They have now put that database to use as a social networking tool. They whittled it down, at least for now, to just those folks searching for rare surnames. Just that database has 30 million names in it!
Now when you search for those rare surnames in the SuperSearch area of MyHeritage, results from the database of other searchers are included in your search results (and they even get translated if needed, thanks to MyHeritage’s Global Name Translation tool). You can click to look at their larger search history to see if this is really a match for you, then contact them through the site. You can also search on that database separately here.
The database will continue to be updated weekly, so it will stay fresh. Also, you can opt-out if you DON’T want your past or current searches to be included in it. All you have to do is log in to your family site and click on your name in the upper right-hand side of the screen. Select ‘My Privacy, then on ‘My member preferences’ on the left and uncheck ‘Enable Search Connect™’.”
GEMS NEWS: Contest Results
Recently we ran a contest celebrating our milestone 1000th blog post on the Genealogy Gems website. We counted down our Top 10 posts of 2015 and many of you helped us share those posts on Facebook. Charles Meiser was one person who helped, and he won a copy of the Video course Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects by our very own Contributing Editor Sunny Morton.
I do have a nice consolation prize for those who didn’t win: a coupon code for 25% off your own copy of Pain Free Family History Writing Projects. Her class is packed full of strategies to help you finally get your family history written. And her approach really helps you think outside the box about what really constitutes family history writing. She shares some fun and fantastic ways of passing along your family history without writing a 300-page volume. The coupon code for this digital download video is LISA100 and it’s good through the end of 2015 when you click on this link.
GEMS NEWS: Write of Your Life Podcast
A few months ago I was interviewed on the Write of Your Life podcast. The thrust of what I talked about was the importance of what I call “family founders,” those people we can look to in our tree for inspiration and think of as role models. Family history helps modern families grow and heal. The people we meet on our family tree—people with the same genes we have—inspire and teach and motivate us in ways they never could have imagined, and maybe we never could have, either, until we “met” them.
Click here to listen to the interview. And then I’d love to hear from any of you about how family history has meaning in YOUR life.
MAILBOX: Where I’m From Poems
Between now and the end of the year, I encourage you write your own poem. Just make a list about where you’re from—the places, people, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, phrases, songs and rhythms that are part of your story. Shape it into a poem. Then call in to share it with us on our voicemail at (925) 272-4021. Those who do so by December 30, 2015 will be eligible for a chance to win a one-year Genealogy Gems Premium membership or renewal. Next month, I’ll share a couple more of your entries on the podcast. Give it a try! Click here to learn more about this contest.
MAILBOX: The Case of the Missing Parents Continues
Cluster research, in which you try to recognize little migratory groups and use other members of the group to learn more about your own ancestor of primary interest. It’s a concept that Contributing Editor Sunny Morton wrote an entire how-to class on. She gave some great tips from that class in the November 2015 Family Tree Magazine podcast, which I also host. That brick-wall-busting class is called Cluster and Collateral Research 101.
DNA testing. Depending on which test she takes, her results may lead to common relatives descended from those “missing” parents. I recommended the “Getting Started” DNA guide I offer through the Genealogy Gems website. It’s an inexpensive and helpful way to start your DNA journey. As your DNA journey progresses, the entire series of DNA guides written by our resident DNA expert, Diahan Southard, can help with next steps.
SPECIAL INTERVIEW: Kathy Hawkins: Interviewing Tips for Older Relatives
Here are four tips she shared that I especially appreciated:
Kathy shared information about Timeslips Creative Storytelling, which teaches caregivers how to have more meaningful, joyful interactions with memory-impaired loved ones. Click here to see a pdf with some creative storytelling and arts materials that Timeslips offers.
BOOK CLUB: Excerpt from Citizens Creek
This month, over on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast, our Premium members will hear an exclusive interview with Lalita Tademy, author of Citizens Creek. In this episode, we also play a brief excerpt for you.
If you’re enjoying these snippets of interviews and you’re not already a Premium website member, consider whether it’s finally time to take the plunge. With Genealogy Gems Premium website membership, one LOW price gets you an entire YEAR’s access to current and ALL back episodes of the monthly Genealogy Gems Premium podcast. That podcast is like this podcast—but on steroids. You get MORE meaty interviews, more fun conversations and exclusive, full-length interviews with the authors of our Book Club selections. You also have access to my most popular classes on video, which if you were to take them at conferences or purchase something like them from another web site would EACH be more expensive than the entire annual membership price.
Why not try it for a year? Get as much out of it as you can—there’s definitely a year’s worth of materials to watch and listen to. At the end of the year, YOU decide whether to renew—I never auto-renew my subscribers. It’s always your choice to continue to enjoy Genealogy Gems Premium privileges.
DNA GEM: Filling Empty Seats at the Table with DNA
Earlier this year we related the story of Mary McPherson and her cousin Dolores Washington-Fleming who discovered a common connection through Peter Edward Williams. Mary is a descendant of his wife, and Dolores through his slave.
Mary and Dolores welcomed this new connection and shared information about their common ancestor. As they reunited for the first time, perhaps they talked about what life might have been like in the 1850’s in the south, and how their ancestors would’ve never guessed that the two of them would be gathered around the same table.
As word spreads of the power of DNA testing to reveal the secrets of the past, many adoptees are flocking to genetic genealogy testing companies with the intention of filling the empty seats at their holiday tables. The New York Times reported a touching story of Khrys Vaughan who felt her identity crumble when she found out she was adopted. Turning to DNA testing she was able to connect with cousins and feel a biological connection she didn’t know she had been missing. Even though she still has many open seats at her table, she felt that filling even one meant that she was no longer biologically adrift, but could now look at someone and say, “This is my family.”
A similar story broke recently out of California. Just days old, Jen Chervin was found outside a hospital in Yuba City, CA. That was 40 years ago. But this year, Jen used the power of the genetic genealogy database in combination with some serious genealogy work to find her parents. While neither is in a position to openly embrace her as a daughter at this time in their lives, Jen now has a name card to place at seats of honor around her holiday table, all thanks to a simple saliva test.
This has been a landmark year in my own family. In one seeming miracle after another, I have added the names of maternal grandparents and great grandparents to my family tree as DNA testing has helped my mom fill in some of the missing pieces in her life. We have had a true Texas welcome from some of her paternal second cousins, and an outpouring of kindness from a maternal second cousin. While our place cards for mother and father are only tentatively penciled in, I know as I look around our genetic holiday table, I am excited about the new faces I see and I can’t wait to learn more.
If you want to get started filling seats at your table, there is no time like the present to give yourself, or someone else, the present of DNA testing! The first rule in DNA testing is to test the oldest generation. So parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles should be first on your list. If you are that oldest generation, then pat yourself on the back and get swabbing!
The savvy shopper begins with the AncestryDNA test for all interested parties, and the YDNA 37 marker test from Family Tree DNA for all males. Then sit back and wait for the results to roll in! As they do, check back here at Genealogy Gems for tips on how to use that data to fill seats at your holiday table next year.
And turn to Diahan Southard’s DNA quick reference guides in the Genealogy Gems store at http://shop.lisalouisecooke.com/
In November 1904, he received a patent for the world's first detachable electric plug: the two-, now sometimes three-prong plug familiar to us today. Remarkable as it sounds, at the time electric terminals would extend out from a wall, and any electrical device had to be hardwired to them--a time consuming process with a chance of electrocution. Hubbell was no one-hit wonder, as in the 1890s he created an electric switch and patented the pull-chain electric light socket.”
Wed, 4 November 2015
This month all of us here at Genealogy Gems are celebrating reaching a milestone 1000 blog posts on our website. But we’re not just celebrating our own genealogy writing. We’re celebrating YOURS! Today I have a special segment that celebrates what YOU have shared with us about your adventures in family history blogging. I also have a short, fun family history writing challenge to share with everyone, not just those who blog. I’ll introduce that challenge with a surprise guest—the poet laureate of Kentucky.
Genealogy Gems App Users: Check out the Bonus Content video
NEWS: More U.S. Marriage Records Online
Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington. Louisiana’s collection alone contains over a million entries, and Pennsylvania’s dates to the 1600s! But FamilySearch isn’t alone in the marriage record publishing frenzy.
Of course, not every ancestor who married stayed that way: Ancestry has also updated its Idaho divorce collection and added a new collection of Oregon divorce records. A lot of these are older but you’ll be surprised at how far into the 20th century some of these new marriage record collections are. Use these to recharge your research if you’ve stalled somewhere on your U.S. family tree!
NEWS: National Archives (U.S.) Doing More Digitizing
So the National Archives has partnered with these organizations in the past, but this time around, the contract allows them to get records online faster by uploading digitized and partially-digitized collections before they’re even indexed, like FamilySearch already does. There are new provisions to protect personally identifying information, and Ancestrywill have a shorter window of exclusivity with their content. They invest in record digitization and indexing so they will have exclusive access to the images and indexes for a period of time, after which the National Archives can put the material on its site and share it with other partners. It’s a win-win even for those who don’t subscribe to Ancestry: you’ll just have to wait longer to win!
And FYI, in case you wonder why FamilySearch and Ancestry seem so favored, the U.S. National Archives does sign content partnerships with other companies. Findmypast has a contract pending, and there’s already a contract with military records site Fold3.
NEWS: RootsMagic for Mac and More
Speaking of a full Mac version of RootsMagic, you may recall that last year they launched MacBridge for RootsMagic. This was really a great step forward, but there was an additional fee and it required extra steps to download and use.
But now when you buy RootsMagic 7, you can install it on both Windows and Mac computers in your household....So your single purchase includes licenses for both. Great, right?! So if you already own RootsMagic 7 for Windows, you can head back to their website, and download RootsMagic 7 for Mac any time and use the same registration key that you got with your original purchase.
And something I really love about Rootstmagic is the free and easy to access support they provide their users. There’s nothing worse than struggling to use your genealogy software when you’re hot on the trail of ancestors. Well they have just published two new free PDF RootsMagic user guides – one that’s all about installing RootsMagic for Mac, and another guide on how to create a Shareable CD. So now you have lots of new things to do when it comes to Rootsmagic.
This month we are celebrating 1000 blog posts on the Genealogy Gems website. It’s hard to believe we’re up to 1000 different posts on family history news, tips, stories and more! Who knew there was so much to say? But our blog is only a drop in the genealogy-blogging bucket! I keep hearing from so many of you about your blogging successes. So here’s a taste of what I’m hearing:
“I absolutely love blogging about my family,” commented Diane on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. “Once I got serious, 2 years ago, I have really enjoyed it. I've connected with cousins and made many new friends. I write tips to help other researchers and that's also been very rewarding. It's a regular part of my life now. I would really miss it if I couldn't write.”
Here’s another one. Debra wrote in to say, “I have been reading about blogging for genealogy on your website and finally decided to bite the bullet and start one. Now I am trying to figure out how to get it noticed and remembered that you asked us to send you the link if we started one, so here is the information.” Her blog: Dezi Duz it, at www.deziduzit.blogspot.com.
I took a quick peek at it. It’s still a young blog, but I have to say that Debra is going about this the right way. Her blog posts are packed with family names and locations that can help other relatives find her, if they’re searching for those same names and locations online. She’s also got great stories and memories in her posts, which she’s added documents and photos to. That content will keep interested relatives reading, once they’ve discovered her, which may take some time—but it’s worth it!
A new podcast listener and blogger wrote to me recently. Jolanta is a Polish immigrant to Northern Ireland and a professional translator. She says, “I only just discovered podcast as a medium and your podcast in particular. I am loving it! Love the book club, the tips and really everything about it! I drive a lot and it is recorded loud enough to comfortably listen in a car (unlike some other podcasts) and I still have quite a lot of shows to go so I will be occupied for a while!”
She goes on to say, “Motivated by your show, I decided to take a plunge and start my own blog…I am not a native English speaker, but this is a way to challenge myself. I only have one post up so far and the next one nearly ready, but the more I listen to your podcasts the more ideas I have.”
Since she wrote us, she’s added more to her blog at www.genealogytranslator.com. I’m so pleased that the show is inspiring Jolanta, because she’s inspiring me! What a feat, to blog in your second language! She says that as an immigrant, she feels doing her genealogy is even more important, because since she left 11 years ago, her daughter has been born. Jolanta says, “She needs to know where her roots are!” and I couldn’t agree more. Good for her!
Another Debra wrote in recently with this comment: “I am fairly new to your podcast series; I enjoy listening while I work on my quilting projects. You have inspired me to start a family history blog as a starting base for writing my family history. Last week, I listened to one of your early podcasts on the subject of cold-calling. I was amazed to hear how difficult it is for many people to reach out to others for help with their research into their own family history. I took that topic and wrote a blog entry about the first cold-call that I remember. It has inspired me to write about more cold-calls in the near future. I would like to invite you to read that entry on my site, dygenerations.com. Thank you for your excitement and your inspirations.” Well, you’re welcome, Debra, and thank you for sharing your blog post with your experience cold-contacting a distant relative: an experience that actually led to meeting that relative, who introduced her to another relative who lived in the old family home, which had a family burial plot in her back garden! What a great contact and friendship she describes!
Mike from Sydney, Australia wrote to say, “Congratulations on a great podcast from Down Under. I listen to every episode during my travels to and from work. I recently watched your 'how to blog your family history' series on YouTube and became motivated to finally 'get on my butt' and do something. Your recent episode 184 with Judy's blogging experience was the clincher. I have now proudly given birth to my first blog at http://familyarising.blogspot.com.au/. And it wasn't painful. It has only taken about 20 years since blogging has been around! Thank you for inspiring me and all your other listeners.”
It feels so good to hear that so many people are getting into the spirit of blogging their family history! It’s never too late to start! I’ll share one last letter from Chris, who wrote in after we announced the new Irish Catholic Parish Registers online from the National Library of Ireland.
Chris says, “Since you turned everyone on to this latest resource I thought I'd share the results.” She sent me a link to her blog post link about using these, where she reports: “I was very lucky. I knew enough information to make a smart guess at exactly where to look and within half an hour I had baptismal records for three people in my dad's family.” In fact, these relatives she talks about have the surname Cooke, just like my married name.
Do you still need more motivation to get blogging? I came across a marketing blog post on the power of blogging for businesses. Well, we as family historians are in the business of sharing our family history stories. So I think about things from that point of view when I hear the following, taken from a post on Hubspot Blogs.
First, businesses that blog attract two-thirds more potential customers than those who don’t. Likewise, family historians who share their family history online can attract interest from lots of relatives, including those they’ve never met and those they never knew were interested in family history!
Second, blog posts can pull in new customers for businesses whether you wrote them yesterday or years ago. It’s worth updating older blog posts with more current information and keeping your current contact information on your blog, even if you’re not actively adding to it right now.
Third, marketing experts say that by 2020, customers are expected to manage about 85% of business without even talking to a human. Wow! I think we’ll see some trending that direction in family history research, too. Increasingly, our relatives are likely looking for their family history online first—not as much by reaching out to distant relatives and relatives-of-relatives by mail or phone, though I still encourage that cold-calling approach that worked so well for Debra.
GENEALOGY GEMS FOR SOCIETIES
A few months ago I heard from Richard. “I have been asked by my local genealogical Society to conduct and present at the meeting in August. My thought for the class was Internet Genealogy and providing a comprehensive overview on how members and non-members can increase their sources and find ‘hidden’ records on line. Can I include images of your website and small clips of some of your online free videos as part of the presentation? I would of course include the source information and provide credit for you. I am also planning to hype up your podcast as well since it has given me a number of new outlooks on the best hobby in the world. Thank you again for your continued information and assistance in every media format known.”
Thank you, Richard! I’m so glad he wants to share Genealogy Gems with his local society. I’ve actually heard that from so many of you that I’ve created a new program to meet this need. Genealogy Gems for Societies is a premium subscription service just for genealogical societies and groups, such as libraries. This is a cost-effective way for groups to enjoy my high-quality family history video presentations their regular meetings. It includes:
A year-long license to show video recordings of my most popular classes as group presentations
Permission to republish articles and blog posts from our enormous online archive—remember? we’re up to 1000 blog posts now!—in your society newsletter. (Your newsletter editor will LOVE this feature!), and
Discounts for your society and its members on Genealogy Gems live seminars and purchases from our online store.
INTERVIEW: Where I'm From with George Ella Lyon
Today I arranged for a special segment that Contributing Editor Sunny Morton recorded with George Ella Lyon, the poet laureate of Kentucky, George Ella Lyon, whose own poem on family identity has inspired hundreds of people to write their own and has even become an official statewide initiative in Kentucky! One of those who wrote their own version of the poem was Sunny’s own 11-year old son Alex. Enjoy the conversation—and listen for that writing invitation I told you was coming!
George Ella Lyon is the Poet Laureate for the state of Kentucky and the author of a very popular family history writing exercise based on her poem, “Where I’m From.” She uses her poem to encourage others to make lists about where they’re from, and shape them into their own poems. As she says on her website, “the poem as a writing prompt has traveled in amazing ways. People have used it at their family reunions, teachers have used it with kids all over the United States, in Ecuador and China; they have taken it to girls in juvenile detention, to men in prison for life, and to refugees in a camp in the Sudan.”
The “Where I’m From” poem has inspired a current initiative by the Kentucky Arts Council to encourage people to reflect on and document their own heritage. Of course, we hope this conversation will inspire YOU to write about where you’re from, too! Here are some of George Ella Lyon’s tips on writing your own version of “Where I’m From:”
Tell us where you are from!
DNA GEM: Ethnicity Results: Exciting or Exasperating?
Facebook follower Kate Vaughan recently wrote in expressing her frustration with her ethnicity results provided by AncestryDNA. She gets right to the point when she writes, “the way they refer to the results is confusing.”
Kate, you are not alone. Many genealogists have been lured into taking the autosomal DNA test at one of the three major DNA testing companies just to get this glimpse into their past. Remember that the autosomal DNA test can reveal information about both your mother’s side and your father’s side of your family tree. Many take the test hoping for confirmation of a particular ancestral heritage, others are just curious to see what the results will show. Though their purposes in initiating the testing may vary, the feeling of bewilderment and befuddlement upon receiving the results is fairly universal.
Kate has some specific questions about her results that I think most will share. Let’s take a look at a couple of them. First up, Kate wants to know if our family tree data in any way influences the ethnicity results provided. The answer is an unequivocal “no.” None of the testing companies look at your family tree in any way when determining your ethnicity results. However, the results are dependent on the family trees of the reference population. The reference populations are large numbers of people whose DNA has been tested and THEIR family history has been documented for many generations in that region. The testing companies compare your DNA to theirs and that’s how they assign you to an ethnicity (and place of ancestral origin?).
Next Kate asks, “Do they mean England when they report Great Britain?” Or to put it more broadly, how do these testing companies decide to divide up the world? All of the companies handle this a little bit differently. Let’s look at Ancestry as an example. When you login to view your ethnicity results, you can click on the “show all regions” box below your results to get a list of all of the possible categories that your DNA could be placed in. These 26 categories include nine African regions, Native American, three Asian regions, eight European regions, two Pacific Island regions, two West Asian regions, and then Jewish, which is not a region, per se, but a genetically distinct group.
Clicking on each individual location in the left sidebar will bring up more information on the right about that region. For example, clicking on Great Britain tells us that DNA associated with this region is primarily found in England, Scotland, and Wales, but is also found in Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Basically, this is telling us that people with generations of ancestry in Great Britain are quite a genetic mix from many areas.
The first chart here shows that if we are to test the DNA of 100 natives of one of these primary regions (England, Scotland or Wales) then 50 of them will have the great Britain “pattern” of DNA covering 60% or more of their entire genome, and 50 of them will have that pattern in less than 60% of their DNA. The fact that this half-way number is so low, only 60%, tells us that there is a lot of uncertainty in this ethnicity estimate because there is so much mixture in this region. Kate, for you that means that when you see Great Britain in your ethnicity estimate, it could mean England, or maybe it means Italy- Ancestry can’t be certain.
But that uncertainty isn’t the same for every region. Pictured here is also the ethnicity chart for Ireland. You can see that half the people who are native to Ireland will have 95% or more Irish DNA. Kate, for us this means that if you have Irish DNA in your results, you can be pretty certain it came from Ireland. From these tables you can see your membership in some regions is more robust than others, and Ancestry is using these tables to try to help us tell the difference.
In the end, the ethnicity results reported by each DNA testing company are highly dependent on two factors: the reference populations they use to compare your DNA against, and the statistical algorithms they use to compute your similarities to these populations. Every company is doing both of these things just a little bit differently.
Kate, if you want to get another take on your ethnicity results, you can take your data over to Family Tree DNA, or you can be tested at 23andMe. A free option is to head over to Gedmatch and try out their various ethnicity tools. If you need help downloading and transferring, you can head over to my website: http://www.yourdnaguide.com/transferring. Most people have found after searching in multiple places that their “true” results are probably somewhere in the middle.
While these ethnicity results can be interesting and useful, for most they will just be a novelty; something interesting and exciting. I have found that their most useful application is acting like a fly on a fishing line. They attract our family members into DNA testing where we can then set the hook on the real goal: family history.
The Statue of Liberty had a birthday just recently! On October 28, 1886, the now-famous Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor in New York City. Every school child in the U.S. knows this was a gift from France. According to Profile America, “the statue was the first glimpse of America for more than 20 million immigrants who came through nearby Ellis Island, chiefly from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Poland. In 1910, the year of the greatest influx, some 15 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born.”
Each of those 20 million immigrants to the U.S.—and each of our other ancestors from all over the world—has a unique story. Of migration or change, loss and love, being favored by fate--or not-so-favored. All the stories I find—and all the stories I hear and read from YOU—tell me that we have so much to learn from our ancestors’ lives, so much to be inspired by.
Their stories shape us and, in so doing, become part of OUR stories. That gives us double the stories to tell! I invite you to get sharing those stories, if you aren’t already. Blog if that works for you, because the world is your audience. Or write something else and share it in another way. Put together a short biography of a fascinating ancestor. Transcribe an old diary or interview. Write about your research journey and how your findings inspired you. However you most want to share it: just DO it! Your own legacy will love on. The legacies of those who love from the past will live on. And legacies of those yet to come will benefit from that which you’ve left for them.
Tue, 6 October 2015
In this episode I’ll kick things off with two fabulous online resources I think are Gems. Two of you wrote in with your own advice, one on saving your genealogy from theft and another with another tip on digital preservation. I found a funny poem online that the author gave me permission to share. And then Sunny will join me to announce our next Genealogy Gems Book Club pick—and we may or may not digress a little to talk about other fun things on our minds. So sit back and relax—or do whatever you love to do while listening to podcasts—and let’s get started.
NEWS: Ancestry Web Indexes
Did you see the recent article on the Genealogy Gems website about Ancestry Web Indexes? These are FREE resources that anyone can access. You don’t need to be an Ancestry subscriber or even create a free login on the site.
Here’s what they’re all about. For the past few years, Ancestry has been indexing databases from other websites on their own site. They’re not stealing data or take credit for data from other places—everything is fully cited and points to the original sites. Ancestry is extending the power of its ability to help users find their family history online wherever it may be. They’re taking advantage of the fact that it’s already a place where people are looking and their site’s powerful search tools.
What I think is cool is that you may have a better search experience at Ancestry than you would at the original site. Some sites that host databases or indexes don’t offer very flexible search parameters. If you search for Elizabeth Madison, they may not recognize “Beth” or “Lizzie” as acceptable search results, or alternate spellings of her last name. But Ancestry does.
A subscription to that original site may be required to see any images or other content that’s members-only. But if there’s data out there, I want to know about it. Then I can decide whether I want to get access to it. Another bonus is that a lot of their big Web Indexes are from sites that are not in English. This gives English-speakers a portal to that data, in case they are intimidated by trying to search a site in another language or by applying Google Translate, which I teach about using in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Anyway, I think it’s just one more online tool we should all know about! Just within the past few weeks, here are a few new Ancestry Web Indexes:
Danish Emigration (that’s Emigration with an E—for people moving OUT of the country), more than 300,000 records from 1868 to 1908.
An Indiana Marriage Index for 1806-1861, with another 300,000 records;
Alberta, Canada newspaper vital events index back to 1889; and
Here’s a tip that wasn’t in our article: you can search for Ancestry Web Indexes by going to Ancestry’s drop-down Search menu. Click on Card Catalog, and do a title search for the word “Web.” You’ll see lots of results that say “Web:” followed by the name of the index. Just another helpful tip to get the most out of one of the world’s biggest genealogy websites, whether you’re a subscriber or not!
NEWS: Bomb Sight website
There’s a new website and mobile app that I have to recommend that reveals the Blitz in a new way: Bomb Sight, http://www.bombsight.org/. The core of this site is a digitized version of 559 bomb census maps that show where each and every bomb fell between July of 1940 and the following June. These maps were classified until 1971, and were previously only available in their fragile, original condition in the British National Archives.
Now you can explore all those neighborhoods and read about the individual bombs that devastated them. You can even see related historical images and read stories and memories. It’s stunning to look closely at a neighborhood and see how densely the bombs fell. It’s also stunning to pan out to the widest view and see SO many dots. So many bombs. So much destruction. Take a few minutes, won’t you, and explore BombSight.org, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the bombing of London.
Advice to a new family history blogger
So I took a look at Judy’s blog. Here is a summary of my comments:
Her posts are packed with genealogical data
She shows great use of search keywords: she even included all the name spelling variations!
In addition to the wonderful information her blog provides to readers, it’s also wonderful Google “cousin bait” because others searching for all those names and places will find her
I would love to see a "Next Steps" list after the Questions list (which I think was a great addition to the post)
A Sobering Reminder about Computer Backups
I met Kathy from Carmel Valley, California on the Legacy Genealogy Cruise this past June, which was SO much fun! Afterward, Kathy sent me this note: “Hi Lisa, I hope all is well with you and your family. I am still thinking about our lovely Caribbean cruise.
I thought you might share a reminder with your listeners. My husband and I were out of town last week and were robbed. The robbers took only electronics (thank goodness) and did not mess up the house….another thing to be thankful for. But your listeners can not rely on external hard drives as backup. If the external hard drive is by the computer….the robbers will take that as well. Thank goodness we had a web-based backup. So we did not lose our precious research or photographs. It could have been so much worse.
This is just another reason why your listeners should look at BackBlaze or another company that provides the same service. I am grateful that I did. Yes, we have to purchase new computer equipment….BUT we have our research and our photos. Gratitude, gratitude.”
I’m so sorry Kathy was robbed. But I’m so glad she didn’t lose the most important part of her computer: what was on it. And I sure appreciate her sharing her close call with us.
We’ve heard it before: the way to keep from losing copies of anything is to keep multiple copies in multiple physical locations. Kathy mentioned robbery, but another common scenario that would take out all your in-house computer storage is a natural disaster—a flood or fires, like the ones that recently plagued Carmel Valley where she lives (I hope Kathy wasn’t affected).
But it’s a lot of work to back up everything yourself on an ongoing basis and keep distributing it to multiple physical locations. A cloud-based backup service does this work for you: both the backup and the offsite storage! Here at Genealogy Gems, I trust Backblaze as our official cloud-based computer backup service. Do your homework and find what’s right for you. But I did my homework and I recommend Backblaze. It’s less than five bucks a month for the peace of mind and security that your computer’s contents will ALWAYS be safely stored and available for you to retrieve from their secure online vault. I encourage you to check them out at www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
Digital file storage
“I was very interested in listening to podcast Episode 183 since one of its major segments dealt with preservation of old photos and videos. For the last three years (as time permits), I've been scanning my (and my wife's family's) old photos - mainly black and white. This is still a work-in-progress. Tried to do a good bit of reading about this subject (on the Internet) before I started. Also attended a genealogy seminar in 2009 where one of the presentations covered digital photo preservation.
“Based on what I've read and heard, the ‘experts’ generally appear to recommend using the .tif file format (versus jpg, gif, png, bmp) for capturing and retaining any photos you deem valuable or important. This decision seems to be driven by the loss-less nature of the .tif format versus the "lossy" nature of the other formats. There's no question that a .tif version of a given image is substantially larger than its jpg counterpart, too. Since the choice of a file format is a pretty basic (and important) aspect of the digital preservation process, I was surprised it wasn't mentioned in the podcast or associated notes.
I loved hearing from Bill. He’s absolutely right that TIF is preferred over JPG for just the reasons he mentioned. Kristin and I didn't cover that in our conversation due to time constraints, and the fact that we've covered the advantages of TIF over JPG several times before in past Genealogy Gems episodes (like episode 57 with Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist, which is available for free online). We addressed image resolution because this is a specific area we haven't covered as much.
Just a reminder, the Genealogy Gems coupon code for Larsen Digital is still good! The code is Gengem10, and it’s good for 10% off services like digitizing old photos and your family videos and film reels. Visit their website at www.larsendigital.com, call them at 800-776-8357 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GEM: “Open Letter Grandma”
Recently I came across this wonderful poem that resonated so well with me—and made me laugh—that I got the author’s permission to share it on the podcast. It’s called “Open Letter to Grandma” by Amie Bowser Tennant, and it’s posted on her blog, RootsBid. (Click on the link to read the poem.)
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: Citizens Creek: A Novel by Lalita Tademy
Citizens Creek is a novel, but it’s based on the lives of real people. The publisher describes it as “the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.
“Cow Tom’s legacy lives on—especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her—in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.
Contributing Editor and Book Club Guru first considered this book for the Genealogy Gems Book Club because of the compelling history told about both Native Americans and African Americans. “But then,” she says, “the characters’ stories became more personal and more relatable and more obviously about family, relationships and legacy. We see how the experiences of one generation shape them—and how they shape themselves--and what effects all this has on the next generation. We see how the next generations look backward for inspiration and support and guidance, to see how best to manage in the present and think about the future.”
Next episode, Sunny will share a couple of passages from the book about Rose, Cow Tom’s granddaughter, who becomes the keeper of his secrets.
DNA GEM: Some Suggestions for the Empty Handed Genetic Genealogists
“Over one million people have had their DNA tested for genealogical purposes, and that number is climbing fast. If we were able to survey all of those who have tested, how many would answer that they are fully satisfied with their results? I think the level of satisfaction we feel with our genetic genealogy experience has everything to do with our expectations going in.
“What did you expect going in? Many are drawn to genetic genealogy by the pretty pie charts and maps that reveal our mix of ancestral heritage. If they are expecting a nice addition to their coffee table pieces, they are pleased. If they are expecting a crystal ball into their ancestral heritage, they are often disappointed.
“Likewise, when you see a 2nd-4th cousin on your match page, you may have every expectation that you can figure out how you are related to each other. But when that common ancestor remains elusive, many fear that the test is not helpful, or worse, inaccurate.
“Recently we heard from Jenna on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Jenna has followed the autosomal DNA testing plan perfectly: She tested first with Ancestry, then transferred to Family Tree DNA. She even went the extra step and uploaded her results into GedMatch, a free third party tool, and yet, she feels she hasn’t made any positive connections.
“For anyone in this situation, here are 2 explanations, and 2 next-steps to help set good expectations for your genetic genealogy experience.
“First, you need to know your own family history. If your family is not from the United States, or have only recently immigrated to the United States, you will not find very many matches in the databases. This will change as time moves on and genetic genealogy gains greater exposure and acceptance in other markets.
“If you do have ancestry from the United States, but are still coming up empty handed, it might be because you happen to be the pioneer in your family, the first to jump into genetic genealogy. While 1 million people is a lot of tested individuals, I am consistently surprised by the number of people I meet who have never heard of using DNA testing in genealogy.
“Unfortunately, both of these explanations just require patience to be resolved. But, while you are waiting, here are 2 tips to get the most out of what you have:
“First, as our Facebook friend suggested, start with a goal. In her case, she is interested in her paternal grandmother’s father. Anytime you are researching a male, if you can find his direct paternal descendant, a living male with his surname, you should have him take the YDNA test.
“In the absence, or in addition to that, having as many descendants of your ancestor tested as possible will help you fill in the genetic gaps that naturally occur as DNA is passed down. But short of throwing more money at the testing companies, you can search each database by surname and location to look for others who might share these genealogical characteristics with the individual you are looking for.
“My second tip is to focus on your closest genetic match and use all the available tools to investigate your relationship. This will involve using the Common Matches tools found at Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA, and GEDmatch. In this way you can find multiple individuals that may all be related to you through a single common ancestor. You can then use their known genealogies to look for overlapping genealogical information, like surnames and locations to help you identify your shared common ancestor.
“Most people that I talk to who feel like their DNA has left them empty handed are just simply not aware of how to use the tools and clues at their testing company to tease information out of their matches. That I why I have written the genetic genealogy quick guides that do take you step by step through your results to make sure you are making the most of your DNA test results.
“You can find these guides under the Store tab at GenealogyGems.com. I also offer customized DNA guidance like the help I’ve been giving Lisa, which she’s talked about in her free weekly newsletter. If you’re interested in a consultant, find me through my website, YourDNAGuide.com.”—Diahan Southard