Thursday, May 27, 2010

Some hints for using Ancestry

This all may be common knowledge for some, but I recently learned some hints for doing Ancestry searches more effectively. Thought I'd throw them out there for others.
--When doing even basic searches, you can put as many names as you want in the search boxes. For example, I have a gggrandfather who used many names and combinations of names over his lifetime. I did a recent search filling in all his names at once and got a great response. In the first name box I wrote Jacob Josiah Joseph (without commas) and came up with all kinds of new things. I think this works especially well with women's names. You can put both maiden and married last name together. Jane Amanda Jennie then Cross Harshman. Try it!
--Ancestry has also improved their wild card selection. You can use the * for zero-unlimited letters and can use it more than once within a word. So Joh*s* can be searching for Johnsons/Johansons. You cannot have the * at both the beginning and the end of a name. Also the ? is used when you are searching for one letter only. So * is often better if 0 letters are possible such as Joh*n for John or Johann which one of my ggrandfathers used interchangeably.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Autosomal DNA, DNA Part 7

Autosomal DNA testing, for genealogical purposes, was first offered to the public earlier this year. We are still in the beginning stages of learning how to best apply it to further our family history research. It is predicted that such testing may be able to identify some relationships as far back as fifth cousins. In this kind of testing men and women are on a level playing field. One thing is becoming clear in the early days of testing. This kind of testing seems to rely even more heavily on well researched family trees than have the earlier types of testing. No longer can one assume that at match lies on the paternal line as is the case in y-chromosome testing. Likewise, one cannot assume that a match lies on the maternal line as is the case in mitochondrial testing. It can be on either of those lines or on any line in between.

If autosomal testing turns out to live up to the promotional promises of testing labs, most of us will have a hard time taking full advantage of the power we are being offered. Rather than being the “magic bullet” that by itself reveals our family trees, it re-emphasizes the need for traditional genealogy research. Experienced genetic genealogist Larry Vick stated it this way, “Whether we use Relative Finder, Family Finder, or both most of us need to do a much better job on our pedigrees to get more value from either test. I plan to spend a week at the Family History Library this summer beefing up my pedigree."

What is the probability that patrons will share enough DNA with a relative that it will be detected by autosomal testing? If you are related within five generations (3rd or more recent cousins) then autosomal is almost sure to detect your relationship. Testing may also detect many 4th cousins and a few 5th and more distant cousins. Early experience with autosomal testing by both FTDNA and 23andMe indicate the following chances of finding a match based on a biological relationship within the last few generations:

So if someone is a 4th cousin or closer, there is a good chance they will be detected in autosomal testing. Farther back detection of matches is a long shot but possible. The main problem is that even those of us with well researched pedigree charts rarely know who all our 32 great-great-great grandparents are. They would be the ancestors we have in common with a potential 4th cousin. In addition, the potential 4th cousin would also have to have documented who their 32 great-great-great grandparents were as well. Beyond this generation some matches will occur. In fact many will show up in the results of an autosomal test because we have many more potential living cousins as we go back a further generation of two. However, the likelihood of identifying a connecting ancestor becomes remote.

[To review previous posts on DNA in this series, click on the Label: "DNA Testing" just below this post and then scroll down through the series.]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Autosomal DNA Testing Continued, DNA Part 6

If you have studied a little genetics you may know that each person has 23 pairs of DNA chromosomes. Twenty-two of those pairs---the autosomal DNA---are what give us our unique characteristics. They are inherited differently than are y-chromosomes if one is male or the mitochondria for both sexes. Y-chromosomes are passed directly from fathers to their male off-spring without mixing with the genes of the mother. Likewise, mitochondrial DNA is passed directly from the mother to all her offspring without mixing with the genes of the father. In this direct transmission, both can pass down unaltered through many generations. That is the norm. The rare copying errors in these intergenerational transfers are what allow us to trace different branches of the human family.

The transfer of the 22 pairs of autosomal DNA from one generation to the next is quite a different process. Each of the parents has 22 PAIRS of autosomal DNA. Only about half of the DNA from each pair of parental chromosomes can be passed on to a given offspring. Generally, the DNA contained in each pair of parental chromosomes is shuffled (like shuffling a deck of cards) before it is passed on. Both the father and the mother contribute their DNA. In this process about half of the characteristics of the mother and about half of the father are transmitted. But, which half?

If this couple has another baby, the mixing process is repeated again. Again each parent contributes to the process. However, after this mixing process is completed, the half of the DNA that is passed on to the second child may be quite different. Hence, the difference between siblings.

This mixing and passing down goes on generation after generation. During this process some strands of DNA remain intact and others are jumbled up into new sequences. Autosomal DNA testing, for genealogical purposes, is looking for intact strands of DNA that are similar between individuals. The more such strands that are shared by two individuals, the closer their biological relationship is thought to be.

[To review previous posts on DNA in this series, click on the Label: "DNA Testing" just below this post and then scroll down through the series.]

Monday, May 24, 2010

Internet Explorer 8 Problems?

I have noticed that about two-thirds of the visits to my blog over the last two months have been by viewers who were using the browser Internet Explorer. Of these IE visitors, ninety percent were using IE version 8. IE 8, as some of you may be aware, has some compatibility issues. Microsoft refuses it call this a bug, but it sure walks like a bug. If you are experiencing problems viewing web pages, this may be the reason. This can be a problem viewing Dick Eastman's online newsletter linked in my previous post.

There are at least two possible solutions. First, you can download a different browser such as Firefox, Opera, Chrome, etc. If you insist on staying with IE 8, you need to check out the fix Eastman outlines.

Bought Any Genealogical "Snake Oil" Lately?

In a recent article in The Huffington Post "Congratulations, Mom -- Here's Your Graduation Present" Chris Rodda wrote an expose of a scheme aimed at novice genealogists. Megan Smolenyak pointed out the article from her Facebook page a couple of days ago. This kind of scheme has been around for decades in one form or another but the Internet allows it to be taken to whole new levels. The claim is that you can purchase a family coat of arms and a family history and "operators are standing by."

Michael Walshe, the spokesperson for Historical Research Center website, claims he was the one who brought us Ginsu knives and many other "as seen on TV" trinkets. Dick Eastman, in today's edition of his Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter reveals more about Walshe. Well he reveals more questions at least. Included in these questions about Walshe's claims about the money he made on his previous ventures. Eastman, also discloses that Walshe now has an even better deal--at least for himself. "For only 5,000 British pounds or so (roughly $7,500 US dollars), Walshe will set you up with your own branch of the Historical Research Center." Think of it. You also can rip off aspiring family historians at the same time you are making Walshe richer. What could be more disgusting! Hang on to your wallets and especially your credit cards.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

DAR Analytical Index Cards -- View Cards Online

This morning as I was preparing for my visit to the DAR Library next month, I discovered a resource that can be accessed from home. The DAR Analytical Index Cards file is a card file that indexes segments of books and other resources. It would be useful in locating a few pages about your ancestors that are included in a book primarily about another family or a larger community. The Index is made up of the images of the original cards which were previously available only in the Library in DC. I'm using it to identify documents to look at during my visit there. By organizing my research before I get to the Library, I will be able to more effectively use the limited time I will be able to spend on site.

Even if you are not planning to visit DC, this resource can be useful in identifying books and other resources that you may be able to find in other repositories. I am hoping using this file along with the DAR Library's online catalog in advance, before I leave home, will help my visit to the Library be more productive.

Friday, May 21, 2010

DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS)

I just discovered a feature that was at least new to me as I explored the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) site in preparation for my visit to the DAR Library in Washington,DC next month. One of the most interesting features of the site is their The DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS).

After entering GRS I did an "Ancestor" search on my revolutionary 4th great-grandfather, Richard Dowell, and found links to the applications of descendants who have used his service to apply for DAR membership. Although information on persons who were living at the time of the application are not shown online, there was still quite a bit of information of genealogical interest there. By selecting the "Descendants" tab, one can search for those along the line that was used to "prove" membership. I definitely will be returning to this site to see what data is here that will help me fill in my family tree.

A word of caution, however. I did see one line that had been proven by a paper trail that DNA has now disproved. I guess even the DAR is not infallible.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Southern California Jamboree Coming in June

There is still time to register for all or part of the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree coming Friday through Sunday, June 11-13, 2010, at the Marriott Los Angeles Burbank Airport Hotel and Convention Center in Burbank. This is the 41st annual event and it has become the largest regional genealogy conference and seems to grow bigger and better each year.

JamboFREE is available on Friday morning but only by advanced registration. This would be a good way to sample Jamboree if you are not sure you want to indulge in the entire event. A short, almost 2 minute, video preview of what to expect if you attend, prepared by Roots Television, is available online for your viewing pleasure at an even lower investment of your time than JamboFREE. If you want to learn more about genealogy research, this is a great opportunity and it's almost in our own backyard.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites for 2010 has published the rankings for the 50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites for 2010. Also included are the rankings for these sites for 2009 and 2008. If we all click through to look at these we can boost up the rankings by all the traffic we send their way! ;-) Check to see how your favorites are doing. Perhaps you will get some ideas of sites you would like to try.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Granite Mountain Vault

Have your heard of the Vault? It is the underground storage area where the LDS Church stores the archive copy of all the images they have collected related to family history. When I was in Salt Lake City last month to attend the National Genealogical Society Annual Conference, we were given a video tour of the Vault and its role in preserving the information that allows us to do family history research. We were also given an update of the colossal project underway to convert the vast microform collection to digital format.

That video tour is now available for for viewing on your computer screen.
1. Granite Mountain Vault -- Part 1
2. Converting Microfilm to Digital Media -- Part 2
3. FamilySearch filmed the vital records before a 2004 cyclone destroyed much of the island of Niue and thus saved this town's records of its history -- Part 3

You will probably have to click on the Play icon on the viewer to get the films to begin to play.

If these videos open small on your monitor screen, you should be able to download them to RealPlayer through your browser. Then they can be viewed in full screen mode. RealPlayer is a free download add on for most popular browsers. To accomplish this try right clicking on the image shown in the viewer after the video has started. If "Download This Video To RealPlayer" pops up on your screen, you are on your way. After the download is completed, you and play it. You also should be able to increase the image size to full screen mode by clickin on the maximize button in the upper right corner of the viewer screen.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Searching This Blog

You can search the blog from Google. Today a person in New York did a Google search for "Wing Family in Rhode Island" and was referred to an item on this site that I posted on March 28th. So if you want to find an old post here and can't remember when you saw it here, one way to retrieve it would be to Google some keywords in the post.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

EXTRA: Digital Copy Machines Steal Secrets!

Take a look at the trail you appear to be leaving when you use a copy machine to reproduce your valuable documents.

East Coast Research Trip in June

If any of you live in the general area of Washington DC, I invite you to join us at the DAR Library in Washington on June 24th. A handful of cousins and research colleagues have already indicated they plan to be there. This is the second research day in DC for me. Actually started my genealogy research at the Library of Congress when I was a graduate student in the 1960s.

Three years ago when the American Library Association last met in DC, I met cousin on my mom's Cashatt line, Ida Cann and her husband David, Sally Keefer, a cousin on my dad's Pierce line and Wayne Smithey a research colleague on my stepson's Smithey line at the Library of Congress for a day of research in the Local History and Genealogy Room. All of the original cast members plan to return this year when ALA returns to DC. The other four live in the extended DC area. This year cousin George Dowell and Jerry McCabe, my long time conference roommate have indicated they plan to join us.

If you live nearby or otherwise plan to be in the area on June 24th, you are more than welcome to join us. This year Wayne indicated he would prefer the DAR Library because of its open stack arrangement. Both the DAR and LC are among my favorite research spots.

DC will be the last destination of my June voyage of family discovery, reunion and research. On June 2nd I plan to fly to Nashville for the birth of a new grandson and some quality time with his big brother Noah who is now almost 3. Two weeks later I'm flying to Baltimore and pick up a rental car. Then I will drive up to the Philadelphia area to do some research in the Quaker records at Swarthmore College. Then I'll continue up the coast to a Wing Family Reunion in Hyannis, MA. On my return trip I plan to spend a couple of days in Delaware researching my ancestors who settled in New Sweden in the 17th Century. Then back to the DC area.

I would be happy to see any of you at any stop along the trail. Actually I'll be at the DAR on both the 24th and 25th. On the 24th I will be researching in the Library all day. On the 25th I am attending an all day workshop "Behind the Genealogical Reference Desk" which is primarily designed for librarians who help family history researchers. Then after a few days attending other ALA meetings, I'll return to the left coast on Tuesday, June 29th.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at local FHL is offered free in the local Family History libraries in Atascadero and SLO, I believe.
I like to go to the libraries just to browse through their book collections and also look at the microfilms and microfiches they have. In SLO I found an index to all the births in Chicago going way back in the 1800's. I located my gfather and his brother so that I could then order the actual copies of the birth records. I got the family's address in Chicago and another verification of family names from that record.

Friday, May 7, 2010 Free Offers through its partnership with the U. S. National Archives makes wonderful content available such as Revolutionary War pension files and much more. Currently, the company is offering free content in a variety of packages:
1. Access to their Historical Newspaper collection is available free for the month of May;
2. Access to all collections for 7 days; or
3. Access to a basic free membership.

Be advised that options 1 and 2 above will require you to enter a credit card number and the account will roll into a paid subscription after the free period ends. If you are disciplined enough to cancel the subscription be the time it ends, these accounts are a great way to get an idea about whether or not a regular subscription would be worth while for you. If not you may be better served by the basic free membership--option 3 above. It will not give you the same access of the other options but it is a good starting point.

If you have never explored, it is well worth your time to investigate the content offered here and it's ability to further your family history research.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

1940 US Census

It's only 697 days until the the 1940 US Census will be released. :-)

It's still 697 days until the the 1940 US Census will be released. :-(

If you can't wait to find out about it click on You will find information about the questions asked, the form on which the answers were recorded and also a digital clock that is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the census is released to the public.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sharing Facts in RootsMagic 4

While I was at NGS last week I learned about a feature in RootsMagic that was new to me. It is the ability to share a fact among several people. I have long known how the share events like the census or a residence with a married couple. However, I did not know how to like events like this with other household members.

In the family unit at below, the father, mother and infant son were enumerated in the 1910 census. To link this event to the infant, Robert, one needed to click on the "SHARE" button in the lower right corner of the screen.
A box then opens so you can choose the individuals with whom the fact is to be shared. Then you can click on "Add a person" or "Add multiple people". In this case I want to add only one individual. Because only my Uncle Robert had been born at that time.

When I click on the button, the list of persons in my database opens and I just have to place a check mark by Robert's name and click "OK", to attach this census information to his individual record. Now that information will be included in reports I print that include Robert whether or not I include his parents in that report.

If you use a genealogy program other than RootsMagic, root around in it and see if your program has a similar feature.

Monday, May 3, 2010 Announcements at NGS made some announcements to the genealogical world at the National Genealogy Conference (NGS) that ended Saturday in Salt Lake City. At least one (or more) should be of interest. As you may know Ancestry seems to be getting out of the print publishing methodology. About a month ago they published the last issue of Ancestry magazine. In a parallel move Ancestry announced at NGS they announced had launched a new wiki. This wiki will now be the venue for access to two venerable and pricey genealogical reference books:
1. The Redbook: American State,County, and Town Sources; &
2. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy.
These sources will now be available online in wiki format---meaning that anyone can update them as needed.
When I took a tour of Ancestry headquarters in Provo on Thursday, I noticed that every staff member had a copy of the red book and the white book on their desks next to their computer monitors.

To take a peek at this new online wiki click the following link:

Ancestry also announced that there will be a MAC version of Family Tree Maker 2010. Dr D found this less interesting that the new wiki; but it may leave some of you salivating on your keyboard.