Saturday, July 26, 2014

WDYTYA? Followup

If you are interested in more information on the story of Cynthia Nixon which aired on this season's first episode of the US version of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC on Wednesday evening, I have a couple of suggestions for going deeper. If you missed the show when it was first aired, you can watch a recap online at the TLC site. Two respected bloggers offer you a chance to explore the most explosive event in Cynthia's family history in more detail. 

Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, covered legal aspects of the case and turns it into a legal thriller where you get to come up with your own verdict.

Roberta Estes, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy discussed missed opportunities for researching deeper -- particularly with DNA.

Dr. D has long wondered why Ancestry continues to miss opportunities to market its DNA testing product. The company offers one of the three most used DNA testing programs in the US. However, no DNA test reports made it into any of the episodes of the program last season -- a trend that has continued through episode 1 this season. We are only offered about 42 minutes of content in each episode. A little of that is used to remind us what happened before commercial breaks in case our short term memory is a little challenged. 

One of the biggest challenges of the show is to film around the availability of the guest celebrities. Since it takes several weeks to get DNA tests back from the lab and to identify other potential relatives whose DNA reports might match, it is challenging from a time perspective to include such testing. Still, since is the lead corporate sponsor, one would think DNA testing could be fitted in somewhere -- at least in some episodes. Is it possible that the DNA testing package being offered by Ancestry is not as conducive to genetic analysis as the tools offered by some of its competitors?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tennessee Ancestry Library Event (TALE)

Reserve your spot now for the Tennessee Ancestry Library Event (TALE) on Saturday, September 20th.

"Discover and celebrate your family history! This full day of genealogy classes, sponsored by and the Tennessee State Library & Archives, will be held at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel (623 Union Street, Nashville, TN 37219) on Saturday, September 20. Registration for the all-day event is only $30.00. Space is limited, register today! 

Speakers will include Chuck Sherrill, J. Mark Lowe and Ancestry’s own Anne Gillespie Mitchell, Kim Harrison, Juliana Szucs Smith, Loretto (“Lou”) Szucs, and Anna Swayne. Topics include: How to Search Successfully to Tell Your Story on; AncestryDNA: Another View into Your Family Story; Your Ancestor’s Lawsuit: Finding and Using Tennessee’s Supreme Court Case File; Jumpstart Your Research; and a Live Q&A Panel." 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Facebook account Clone

Early yesterday evening I began to receive notices from family and friends that something was amiss with my Facebook (FB) account. It seemed I had a new account which had about a half dozen pictures from my original account -- including my profile picture. Many if not all of my existing Facebook friends had been invited to accept "friend" requests to the new fake site. I had even been given a sex change. 

With some tips from savvy friends -- especially Drew Smith -- I quickly, began to understand what had happened. If I did a FB search for my name, I only got into my own original site. However, if my wife did the same search, she got 2 hits. One listed me as her husband and the other listed me as a female. My conclusion, possibly correct, was that whoever created the site was sophisticated enough to block me from findind the new site by searching from my original site. When I tried to follow a link sent me by a friend, I got this message: 

Sorry, this page isn't available

The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.

This prevented me from logging into the new site and requesting FB to take the pretender down. But my wife and others could still find the second site. 

This must have happened many times before. As I worked my way through the many FB help pages, I was first directed to log into the offending site and then contact FB. That was not possible in my case because I could not find the site from my legitimate account. 

With a little more digging, I found an option to have a friend to request that the rogue site be removed. My wife did so. I was then contacted by FB to verify that I wanted the second site removed. They took it down within minutes. 

If you ever get a friend request from an existing friend, be a real friend and notify the person immediately of this anomaly. Apparently 40 of my friends accepted the fake friend requests. If this happens to you, contact FB immediately.

I have no idea who did this or why. Be vigilant.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cousin Jim's Biological Mother

On June 30th I along with three other Adams 1st cousins met in person, for the first time, our newly found 39th first cousin, Jim Jones. Previous posts have chronicled the discovery of Jim through a DNA match: Another Adams Cousin; and X Factor: Another Adams Cousin, part 2

Over the Spring, we had examined each of my mother's 9 sisters which DNA tests indicated could have been Jim's biological mother. Gradually we had ruled out five. Four of them were already married at the time Jim was born so we assumed that Jim's birth name would not have been Adams if any of them had been the the biological mother. 

The 5th was a little more difficult to rule out. Aunt Hattie had been institutionalized for the portion of her life that any living family could recall. The exact circumstances of her entry to the state hospital were unclear. She, at age 21, was still living at home along with her parents and three other sisters in the 1930 census. That was about a year and a half before Jim was born. By 1935 she was a patient in the state hospital. For a time we entertained the thought that Jim's birth could have been the result of a sexual assault that left her severely traumatized. After getting a court order, her records were released. Her disability was documented to have resulted from scarlatina suffered when she was nine years old. In addition she had been continuously hospitalized for the rest of her life beginning a few months before Jim was conceived. 

This was the state of our research when five first cousins (including Jim) met for lunch three weeks ago. 

Doris Logston, Pearl Rogers, Mary Sturm, Jim Jones & Dave Dowell
Right after our lunch Jim returned to the courthouse with renewed vigor to seek any further information that might help our search. On Saturday, July 5th he received a letter from the court which gave him the name of his birth mother. She was one of the four aunts still on our "suspects" list. She had died in 1997 -- one of the last surviving members of her generation of our family. She had never had other descendants to our knowledge.

We now turn our search to a more daunting task of attempting to identify Jim's birth father.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Genealogy on the Small Screen

For those of you who like to watch genealogy revealed on television, three series of shows will be coming your way over the next few months.

Who Do You Think You Are?

First out of the chute is season 6 of the US version of Who Do You Think You Are?

I know that many of you have difficulty viewing this on The Learning Channel (TLC). However, this series kicks off the 2014-15 viewing season on July 23 at 9 PM Eastern time. I did a small sliver of research for one of the episodes; but I don't know if it was even filmed -- let along avoided the cutting room floor. has reported that 10 episodes were ordered by TLC. 

I am hoping that some segments will use DNA research this year. Last season I was surprised that there were no such episodes even though, one of the major US DNA testing companies was a principal sponsor. 

Finding Your Roots

Next up will be  Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It is set to begin on public television on September 23rd. Anderson Cooper, Valerie Jarrett, Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Anthony Bourdain, Deepak Chopra, Tina Fey, Alan Dershowitz, and Jessica Alba are among those who have been identified as featured guests.

This series has been in production for many months. DNA results as well as traditional documentary research has been included. CeCe Moore is the DNA consultant for the series.

Genealogy Roadshow

The Genealogy Roadshow will be returning to public television in Spring 2015. 

I'm not sure how many shows will be included. Filming will be underway this fall at different cities around the country. Those of you who are familiar with this series will recall that it deals with the family histories of non-celebrity "common folks". Casting calls have already gone out in New Orleans and Philadelphia.

Happy viewing!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Genetic Genealogy Reading List

I just returned home from at trip to California for Genealogy Jamboree sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society Society (SCGS) which was preceded by an excellent day long pre-conference "Family History & DNA." 

Those of you unable to attend or to remotely view the streamed sessions could benefit from the excellent reading list prepared for inclusion in the syllabus of the DNA Day attendees. The "DNA & Genealogy Reference Books" list was complied by Bonny Cook on behalf of the DNA Interest Group of SCGS and the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG). I believe Alice Fairhurst deserves credit for the companion list of "DNA Web Sites of Interest to Genetic Genealogists." You may find both of these lists useful in building your knowledge of genetic genealogy.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ancestry "Retires" Several Products

This somewhat abbreviated post is being sent to you from Burbank where I attended a very successful DNA Day yesterday and will begin Jamboree this morning.

Ancestry prunes its product line

Ancestry has announced several decisions to trim its sails that are not pleasing to most family historians. Most of these are to take effect in early September. Two of them which will most affect me are:
1.       The websites, which many of us use to stay connected with others who are interested in researching and documenting branches of our family trees, will be closing September 5th.
2.       The company is also getting out of the yDNA and the mtDNA testing business.
Neither of these decisions is too surprising. However, taken together, do they indicate some bigger strategy is being implemented? Both of these two products have become orphaned over the years. They are soon to be removed from life support. Other products to be "retired" are MyCanvas, and Mundia.

Most MyFamily customers balked at migrating from version 1.0 to “the next generation of” as Ancestry call its version 2.0. Facebook did the rest. These sites which were early social media sites for family members when they were first offered about 15 years ago have gradually lost the vitality they once enjoyed. Many of us would not have been able to make the progress we have achieved with our family histories without MyFamily or some vehicle like it. Users have been notified that we have until September 5th to download content from our sites.

yDNA and mtDNA testing (now called LegacyDNA)

Many of us think Ancestry has been out of the yDNA &mtDNA testing business for years. However, the company has continued to claim that was not the case even after it became clear in 2012 that their heart and capital investments were all going into atDNA testing. The biggest effect of the recent announcement is to end support for database the test results.

Ancestry is a business
For more information on how these produces will be phased out, Ancestry has established links to aid current customers. It remains to be seen whether these announcements signal a change in Ancestry's basic business plan. However it is a reminder that Ancestry is a business that is answerable only to its investors -- particularly since the corporation was taken private almost three years ago. This is a reminder that Ancestry is a for-profit business and that reality takes precedence over more altruistic goals of collecting and preserving genealogically relevant information.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paper Will Record Any Nonsense Any Fool Writes Down

Way back in the last century, I took a course on the history of the Renaissance and the Reformation. I don't remember much about the Renaissance or the Reformation from that course, but I still remember and apply a few pearls of wisdom that Professor Emeritus Thornton shared with us. One of them was
"Paper is a very neutral medium. It will record any nonsense any fool writes down."
I wonder what Professor Thornton would have said about the medium of silicone. 

As an expansion of Professor Thornton's admonition, I often say that since I was born in Missouri, the "Show-Me" state that I have to see things to believe them. But of course Photoshop has challenged that as well.

This morning on the right column of my Facebook page I discovered the following image:

I'm happy to have the publicity for my forthcoming book which is now winding it's way through the editorial processes of my publisher. It is also interesting to see it paired with an ad for DNA.Ancestry. However, I don't want people to buy it because CeCe's name is associated with it. She had to withdraw from the project because of her success in other aspects of genetic genealogy. She is blessed with a brain for genetic genealogy, a face for television and is an articulate spokesperson. Although she was originally contracted to participate in the writing of the book, she had to step aside to try to retain some small smidgen of sanity among her many commitments. The publisher has already updated its website to reflect the true status of authorship of the book. is more intransigent to updates. The publisher claims to have no traction there. 

Bottom line: I'd be happy for you to pre-order the book at Amazon or from the publisher. However, I don't want you to do it based on out dated information. For those of you who will be attending Jamboree in Burbank later this week, I'll be distributing flyers about the book. Hope to see you there. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Don't Forget The Older Generation! I did.

When you are deciding who in your family to DNA test, don't forget the older generation. I did in my post a couple weeks ago. Within minutes of my post Blaine Bettinger and Dave Nicolson illuminated that blind spot. Blaine commented,
If you can't test both parents, of course - I've tested both my parents and thus haven't tested my siblings. There's a few reasons to do so even though, as Tim Janzen points out for phasing purposes, but these are for very advanced phasing purposes.
Dave added,
Siblings of your parents are fair game for this same analysis (unless you have THEIR parents tested  I have a tested parent, a tested uncle, and an untested parent and aunt... Hoping mom and her sister will be willing to test, to fill out that generation...
When recording the information that can illuminate your family history, the autosomal DNA of your family's oldest generation gives the longest view back into your ancestry. I wrote the earlier post with my own personal blinders firmly in place. By the dawn of atDNA testing for the general public in 2010, I was the older generation in my family. To compound my situation. I am an only child and therefore have no siblings to test.

From that perspective I was challenged by Judy Russell and Thomas Jones at RootsTech 2014. Judy very effectively demonstrated how knowledge of our family members can disappear forever within 3 generations unless we care enough to record and preserve it. Dr. Jones likened DNA to the oral histories that too often disappear unrecorded with each of the members of the older generation of our families as they pass on. 

So far no one has challenged the math of "Should I Test My Siblings Also?" There is still plenty of time to help me refine my calculations in that post. In the meantime I will throw some more out to you to review.

Testing Parents vs Testing Siblings

First let me say this is not an either/or proposition if you are fortunate enough to have a choice of family members to test. Today atDNA tests are relatively inexpensive but cost is always an issue. How do you set testing priorities?

Blaine was correct. If you are fortunate enough to have autosomal test reports on both your parents, testing your sibling will only be of minimal value. Also Dave made a very good point about the importance of collecting the autosomal DNA of your uncles and aunts. The recombination of autosomal DNA through the generations quickly begins to make it difficult to trace shared segments back to commons ancestors. Every generation the person being tested is closer to that common ancestor, the more certain we can be about our conclusions.  

With yDNA and mtDNA that focus is not lost as quickly as the generations pass. However, it does become more difficult to find the right family member(s) to test to trace some of our lines. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Clues from the Resilient"

Today's Science includes two articles of possible interest: 

    Genetic information from individuals who do not succumb to disease may point to new therapies and ideas about wellness

    By S. H. Friend and E. E. Schadt
A video presentation by the principal author is available. For those of you who cannot get through the AAAS pay wall to see the article, this presentation may be a very adequate substitute. You may wish to see the video in any case.

Also in this same issue and of possible interest to those of you into biochemistry is :  

Happy reading.