Thursday, April 26, 2012

Privacy and Access to Human Genome Sequence Data

On March 27, 2012 Health and Human Services Department posted a request in the Federal Register:

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is requesting public comment on the ethical issues raised by the ready availability of large-scale human genome sequence data, with regard to privacy and data access and the balancing of individual and societal interests.

This article has a comment period that ends in 29 days (05/25/2012)

I strongly believe that individuals should have access to the information contained within their bodies and have submitted to the Commission my belief that this may become one of the most important civil rights issues of the 21st century. An early draft of my thoughts was published in the blog in November.

Let the Commission know what you think as well. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2 Day DNA Sale

CeCe Moore also know as Your Genetic Genealogist passed along the following notice: 
If you haven’t heard it’s again DNA Day tomorrow and Family Tree DNA felt that was good enough to have a short two day sale.

Nearly the entire offering will be on sale these two days, including upgrades that were not on last year's sale.  The sale will begin at 6PM Thursday April 19th and will conclude at 11:59PM on Saturday April 21st.
There will be no need for a coupon - all prices will be automatically adjusted on the website.
New Kits

Current Group Price
Y-DNA 12

Y-DNA 37
Y-DNA 67
Family Finder
mtFullSequence (FMS)

Y-DNA 12 + mtDNA
FF + Y-DNA 12
FF + mtDNA
FF+ Y-DNA 37
FF + mtDNAPlus
Comprehensive (FF + FMS + Y-DNA 67)


Y-DNA 12
mtDNA add-on
Y-DNA 12-37 Marker
Y-DNA 37-67 Marker
Y-DNA 12-67 Marker
mtFullSequence upgrade (HVR1 to Mega)
mtFullSequence upgrade (HVR2 to Mega)
mtFullSequence add-on
Family Finder add-on
Login to place your order.

Well, it is nice to see that at least one company is keeping up the tradition!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

1940 Census: Supplemental Information

Future generations of genealogists will look fondly back at the 1940 Census as the high water mark of information of census information of genealogical value. It was the first census that used stratified sampling to collect information deemed useful for government policymakers.

As you probably know the US Census was NOT initiated in 1790 in order to provide 21st century genealogists with a treasure trove of family information. I think with 20/20 hindsight we would have had them design it very differently if that had been the case. Rather, it was conducted to apportion membership in the House of Representatives on the basis of population. Hence it became known as the "population census". At first only heads of household were listed by name. Gradually the government started asking more questions to help decision makers.

In a great leap forward, the 1850 census started listing by name all the non-enslaved individuals. All individuals were listed starting in 1870. By 1880 the masses of immigrants made the government interested in countries of birth of both individuals and their parents. In 1900 year of arrival of foreign born residents as well as their citizenship status was added. Gradually the census was becoming more information rich and more cumbersome to collect. 

By 1940 the tide of immigration had ebbed and the Great Depression had turned more attention to economic issues. These trends are evident in the questions asked. By then statisticians had begun to convince the Bureau of the Census that stratified sampling would provide a useful a picture of the population as a whole with a whole lot less cost and effort. Thus the supplemental form was introduced for those of us who are fortunate enough to have family members enumerated on lines 14 and/or 29 of the main census form. If you fall into this category, be sure to look down to the bottom of the image on which your relatives are listed. Although everyone was asked where they were born and where they had been living in 1935, only 5% were asked where their parents were born and several questions about their participation in a new government program called Social Security.

When I located the image below, I was pleased to notice that the individuals on both line 14 and line 29 were persons of family interest:
Census Image for Boone Station, Alamance County, NC (Click on image to see original)
Leonard Kernodle on line 14 is the great-granduncle of five of my seven grandsons and Clyde Smithey on line 29 is their great-grandfather.

It is always important to look at an entire census record. Too often our excitement of discovery causes us to tunnel-vision in on our relative and to ignore the other relevant community information. Were our ancestors as well off as their neighbors? Were they related to their neighbors by family or by occupation or country of origin?

In this case Clyde Smithey did not go very far down Old Elon College-Ossippe Road to find a bride when he was married later that year. He married Leonard's sister Minnie Lea who was listed on line 15.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1940 Census for Big Cities as well as Vilages

Last week I reported on my first venture into the 1940 US Census. It was a small town in which I knew my grandparents had lived for a long time. For me it was the perfect place to start. 

Since then I have ventured out farther. I tried another small town in which I thought my dad was living about 3 weeks before my parents got married. Voila, there he was. He was listed as MARRIED. Well, there was a modest line drawn through the "M"; but it was not changed to "S". Maybe he had told the enumerator he was getting married soon. In the small town of Jamesport, MO, the enumerator probably knew the Baptist minister was getting married. Who knows. The census record also told me that he had worked 48 hours the previous week and that he had earned $480 dollars in 1939 for 32 weeks of work. (He had graduated from seminary in 1939.) His education level was C7 which documented his four years as an undergraduate and three years as a seminarian. He was paying $5 monthly for rent. "Neosho, Kansas" was listed as his residence on April 1, 1935 (five years previous). No more specific information was added other than an "R" which indicated that residence was not in a city, town or village of more than 2,500 residents. That was at least partially correct. On that date he was completing his junior year at Ottawa University but his permanent address was probably still in Neosho County.

Finding my mother turned out to be a little more problematic. The primary reason was that I was unsure in which small town she was teaching school in 1940. Even though she was a female and had less formal education (C3) than my dad, she had earned $675 for 36 weeks of work in 1939. She was a "boarder" but no amount is listed for the rent she was paying. She was single. Her landlady was the informant for this enumeration.

Researchers now have several sources for the 1940 Census images:
1. US National Archives (NARA)
Each of these sites has its own strengths and weaknesses. It is not my intent to provide a detailed review here -- at least not yet. However, researchers should be aware of all of them. If you are having a problem on one site, try another. The 1-Step site of Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub link to each of these sources for images. The sites also offer search engines -- often based on the 1-Step search engine.

I found the  FamilySearch site to be very helpful in locating villages in Missouri when I was searching for my mother. However, the print utility is still awkward to use. One very useful feature is the map that updates how much of what states have been indexed. Some examples from early this morning were:
1. Delaware 100%
2. Kansas 95%
3. California 7%
4. Nebraska 2%
5. Oregon 92%
6. Washington 0%
7. New York 1%
8. Colorado 97%
THANK YOU to FamilySearch for their leadership and to the volunteers who are making this happen this quickly!

If you know precisely where your family members were living in April, 1940; you can probably find them now. If you don't, I hope they lived in Delaware, Kansas, Colorado or Oregon!

I just found my wife's great-grandparents in Chicago by locating their Enumeration District (ED) in 1930 (using a name search in and using the  1-Step to convert that to the 1940 ED. For me it is easier to scan cities for street addresses in the extreme left column than it is to scan the images for surnames. One thing I was reminded of is that enumerators do not take the census in strict house number order. They walk down one side of a block and often go around the corner to a different street (or two or three) before doubling back to record the other side of the street. In some cases the other side of the street is even in a different ED. In the case of my wife's great-grandparents, the other side of their street was enumerated on image #5 for their ED. They were about 20 images removed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Behind the Genealogy Reference Desk: Catching the Genealogy Wave

Genealogy librarians are invited to attend the following event whether or not you will be registering for the ALA Annual Conference:

The History Section of RUSA is delighted to announce a FREE genealogy workshop to be held on Friday, June 22, 2012 at the Anaheim Public Library. This half-day event will run from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm.
Catering will be provided by ProQuest. Featured presenters include
Wendy Elliott-Scheinberg (professor of history at California State
University, Fullerton) discussing “Local History in the Academic
World” and Kerry Bartels (Archives Specialist, The National Archives
at Riverside) speaking on California Resources. Also joining us will
be Dennis Meldrum (Manager, Book Scanning Operations, FamilySearch) presenting on the FamilySearch digital program. Other speakers still to be announced.

To register for this day please go to

Please feel free to contact Mary Mannix at or Kim Harrison at if you have any questions.

This day is being made possible by the generous sponsorship of ProQuest.
The survey monkey link above was not working early this morning but hopefully it will be functional soon.

Improved Access to Virginia’s Vital Records

Dick Eastman reports improved access to vital records in Virginia that will be good news to those of you who are researching 20th century Virginia families:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sex in the Stone Age--Denisovan

The LATimes calls it:
More Paleolithic than prurient, the new documentary “Sex in the Stone Age” details a remarkable discovery in the Siberian wilderness: archaelogical evidence of a heretofore-unknown species of prehistoric human. (National Geographic, 10 p.m.)
Is it possible early modern man interbred with other types of humans, creating an entirely new hybrid person? Sex in the Stone Age delves into an evolutionary mystery that could revolutionize our understanding of who our ancestors really were. Ancient human fragments are found in Siberia, and DNA testing shows that they are neither a Neanderthal nor a modern human, but another human group previously unknown to science.
Do you know about the Denisovan?

Genetic genealogist Ann Turner, MD, tells us:
The complete genome was just released in February:
I Googled denisovan genome browser and found a link in this news item:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Searching the 1940 US Census--First Attempt

Have you experienced the 1940 US Census yet? I finally got around to it last night. I have been traveling a lot since Friday. On Friday I flew from Nashville to Burbank to give a speech to the DNA interest group of the Southern California Genealogy Society and sign copies of my Crash Course in Genealogy book. On Sunday I returned to Nashville and prepared for a road trip with my wife to Virginia Beach to spend Easter with two of our grandsons---Alex almost 3 and Devin 6 months. Along the road in Hickory, NC, I met for the first time a 6th cousin who has also travelled through life as David Dowell. He is one year and three days younger than me. As result of this literal coast-to-coast jaunt, the Census did not come to the top of my priorities until last night after the grandsons were in bed.

As you may know the images of the 1940 US Census were released on Monday by the US National Archives (NARA). It will be several months before name indexes will be available for all of the 130 million people who were enumerated. Indexers just got access to the images on Monday along with the rest of us. is claiming to have the first index to these images even though it covers only a tiny fraction of the entire country.

For my own first foray into this fantastic treasure house of family information, I picked an easy search. My maternal grandparents were living in the same small town in 1940 that they had been in 1930. That is important because the census records are now searchable by location. My grandparents were living in Breckenridge, MO. According to the censuses Breckenridge had a population of 828 in 1930 but had shrunk to 728 in 1940. This made Breckenridge an ideal size for my first attempt to find family members.

First I looked up my grandparents in the 1930 Census and discovered that they had lived in Enumeration District 13-1 of Caldwell County during that enumeration. An enumeration district is the area assigned to one census taker. Many of the enumeration districts in the 1940 Census are the same as those for 1930. That was the case for Breckenridge.

When I went to and searched for Enumeration District 13-1 of Caldwell County, I got immediate gratification. Enumeration District 13-1 had 22 images. On the first of those 22 images was a listing for my Uncle Frank Adams and his family. My grandparents were a little more elusive. I didn’t find them until I had scanned down to image 7. I discovered that two other uncles were living with my grandparents along with two of my first-cousins. The cousins are twins who were then nine years old. Their father is listed as widowed. None of this was a particular surprise.

However, a feature of the 1940 Census is information about where individuals were living 5 years previously. My grandparents are listed as living in the “same house.” That was as expected. However, I didn’t know that my Uncle Ray had been living in Cody, Wyoming, in 1935 and that my Uncle Clark; the father of the twins had been living in Ralls County, Missouri. Is that location significant? That is where my grandfather was born in 1870. My grandfather had moved across the state by 1893; but extended family still lived in Ralls County.

Another innovation of the 1940 Census is that a symbol was placed by the person in the family unit who provided the information to the census taker. In the case of the Adams family household of my grandparents, my grandmother was the informant. This is indicated by an "X" with a circle drawn around it following her name.

My next venture into the 1940 Census will try something a little more challenging, but I don’t think I’m ready to try my wife’s ancestors in Chicago yet. What has been your experience with the 1940 Census?