Monday, December 31, 2012

Creative ways to use indexes for Familysearch record browsing

Familysearch.org has put many wills and related records (administration, orphan court, etc.) online, and while some are indexed, many have a link which suggests "Browse through... Images." In the ellipses will be a huge number, usually in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. This seems at first intimidating. and the researcher might be inclined to stop right there. Who could stand to browse through each of the thousands of records in order to find the one that is relevant?

But it is usually a prettier picture than that. First, clicking on that link usually takes you to a county list. Then you can click on the county of interest, which certainly narrows down the number of records. Within the list of records may be a wills index. It is almost always alphabetical.  You can find the name of your ancestor, note the will book and page, and then move on to find the link for that particular will book. The page described in the index is not the same page number used by Familysearch.org in its indexing, so you need to make a few guesses, wait until those pages load, and page back and forth a bit until you find the manuscript page in question. The page in the will index listed as 100 might be 80 as indexed by Familysearch, but you will quickly catch on to looking at the numbers in the corners of the scanned manuscript for the original page numbers. It is a very tedious process, but it is very rewarding, as you will see the entire scanned will and all additional paperwork with notes by witnesses as recorded.

And don't forget to scroll down on the counties page. If you assume all the options are on the page in front of you, you may be very wrong.

Now, sometimes, there are even better indexes, and I will tell you about one of them. Pennsylvania Genweb Archives for Bucks County and for a few other counties has lists of will abstracts and indexes of the abstracts. The numbers given to the abstracts in the indexes correspond to the actual will books and pages. So if it says that my ancestor is in will book 4, page 203, for example, I don't need to consult the scanned index on Familysearch.org. I can go straight to the will book, and find that manuscript page. Again, it won't be the same page as indexed by Familysearch, so I still have to guess and turn the pages online. It still takes a bit of time, but is a much more streamlined process, and the information of who has wills and where is much more accessible, I have found it very worthwhile, and enjoyed reading through several wills which I found relevant to my research.

Yes, there are other indexes, too. For New York wills, try those at Sampubco. The wills are nicely listed by county and will book and page. You can order the will from Sampubco, and for many of the wills you can see a scanned image on Familysearch.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good stuff at Familysearch.org for New York research!

Update 12/23: It is a great resource, but why does it so often, after all the work the researcher puts in matching the indexing information to the page of the will or land record--not a quick task--tell the researcher to "try again later," or just spin indefinitely? What can we do to get it to be an efficient search effort? The scans are truly fantastic and it is great to have access, but very frustrating when that access just falls away.

Familysearch.org has put online some lovely scans for counties in  New York. Working with the scanned info is  time-consuming, but I am loving it.

Probate records were put online a few weeks ago, and by working with the index and then with the other microfilmed images we can all see many wills and probate records. Be sure to see the indexes. Then you can find the correct page in the will or probate records. Say it says your ancestor's name for will book 18, page 240. You find the scan of will book 18, then you plug in guesses for the page. Maybe you start with 100 and find that that is a bit short of the scanned page referred to. Keep trying, and you will get it. And there you go. You've got a will you wanted to see and then you can go on to others.

Even more recently, land records were put online. Again, going to each county you are interested in, looking at indexes, and then looking at the actual records, you will find very good information. Number one, you will see who was alive in that place at that time, and secondly, land exchanges were often between relatives, which provides a great clue for genealogy research.

Going through this process is time-consuming, and sometimes the website fails, but we now all have access to information that formerly we would have had to order as microfilms and view at a Family History Center, or order from town clerks or other sources as vital records.

If you are watching a slow-moving show on t.v., this is a perfect multi-tasking complement to that .

And I suggest, when you find a gem of information that you haven't seen online, share it with the rest of us.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gedmatch admix utilities are going strong!

The admix utilities (where you see your proposed ancestral populations in color graphics) at Gedmatch.com are continuing to grow and amaze. They work very efficiently with the data that the DNA tester provides. It is very simple to do, and the process is guided the whole way. You download your files from your testing company quickly and neatly, and then load them up into Gedmatch just as easily, and then the results are ready for you to see. There are several admix programs you can look at, and some of them link to the Oracle population analysis, which gives you  predicted populations for your ancestry. It is all in the process of refinement and development, so don't be expecting firm conclusions about your heritage, but as you compare one program against the other, and compare that to what you know about your ancestry, you can project some likely possibilities for ancestry. It is quick, easy, and a lot of fun to play around with. I highly recommend trying it out if you have that autosomal DNA data to upload.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In response to the challenge of ...Genea-Musings: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - 100 Word Challenge - Grandparents

Genea-Musings: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - 100 Word Challenge - Grandparents

Grandparents are important because they are really all that a genealogist needs in order to succeed in tracking someone's ancestors. We don't need any information about the descendants but we do need the birth dates and places of those grandparents. Once they are found in the census, all of their ancestors can be found (theoretically at least!). This principle applies especially to autosomal DNA matches, who are usually living and who may wish to have their privacy protected. All we researchers need are their grandparents! The information gleaned provides a gateway to the places and times of their own ancestors.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Creative searching for the Diabo family of the Mohawk tribe

I had some good luck in my search for the Diebo family of Canada and New York. The person I was searching for was Joseph Diebo or Diabo (as I found out through the 1915 New York Census--thank goodness for those in-between State censuses). He does not appear, at least not together with his wife and children, on the 1920 or subsequent census records. His children can be identified by the last name Deibo or Diebo.

Although he stated on that census that he was an alien and had been in the U.S. for ten years, I found him listed in the 1900 census in a school in Seneca, Erie, New York for Catholic Indian boys. It pays to check for people in times and places that might work, even if there is a statement to the contrary! I could tell it was the same person because in 1915 he has family members living with him who also appear in the 1900 census. He was identified as Indian on that census, with 1/8 white ancestry.

 I looked then for the brothers of Joseph, and found a scholarly write-up on line of his brother Paul, who had challenged deportation from the U.S. to Canada in the 1920's. The article gave the names of the parents of Paul and of Joseph: James Diabo and Therese Montour. Further research on those names revealed that the family came from Sault St. Louis, and Caughnawaga in Canada.

 I was surprised to find this much information on families with Native American ancestry, and was pleased to see that there were a number of websites listing marriages, graves, and family lines of the Mohawk tribe in that area. I found a nicely transcribed census record of the Indians in Canada in 1901, and learned that "Diabo" was sometimes written "Dailleboust." Of course--sounds similar!

The research wasn't easy at first, but I kept telling myself that there was always one more place to look, and it was a quick look at familysearch.com that gave me the clue that led to all the others--that 1915 New York census record.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ancestry.com new records

New records added to ancestry.com include many for New Zealand, a Florida Marriage collection, and Pennsylvania, Oyer and Terminer Court Papers. The latter is easy to search by name of the ancestor, and the scanned images are very readable due to excellent handwriting. I found an ancestor who had been subpoenaed to testify in a report of a break-in, and would love to search these records further. It is wonderful to see such records online. They will most certainly help verify family tree information and will add to the stories we have of our ancestors.

Free indexed letters testamentary in Jefferson County, NY

Amazingly free, transcribed for the Jefferson County, New York, USGenweb, are the letters testamentary for the early 1800s. It is an excellent companion to the book I mentioned in my last post, which has will abstracts for the same county from 1830-1850. Thanks to those who were willing to transcribe and post, I am sure there will be some breakthroughs in family trees. The Jefferson County Genweb site is one of the best I have seen. It is easily searchable, and continually adds new records.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jefferson County, New York Will Absracts

Many will abstracts for counties in New York are available at NEHGS. One of the counties that is not included is Jefferson. I was pretty interested to find that a book of will abstracts for Jefferson County from 1830 to 1850 has been published by the Jefferson County New York Genealogical Society and is and is available for purchase from them. Will abstracts can be very brief and relatively uninformative, or they can be very informative, naming a mother, a grandchild, a nephew, land purchases, and so on. I've enjoyed perusing the will abstracts that I have read. They can be relied on as pretty factual. If someone names a daughter or stepson in a will, that person is very likely a daughter or stepson to the person who wrote the will. The abstracts often mention relatives in other States, and often include the town in which the relative dwells. These are major clues in genealogy research. The will abstracts are indexed by name, and the book includes maps of the county and a diagram showing how cities changed their names. If your interest is in Jefferson County, NY genealogy, this is a good book to see, and if you can find a similar book (online or hard copy) for any area, it will probably prove to be very useful. You may see names that you have not seen in census searches.

The website for the historical society mentioned above is Jefferson County New York Historical Society

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Minnesota marriage records

 An excellent resource for marriages in Minnesota is the Minnesota Official Marriage System (link below). It is free to search. You can enter names of bride or groom or both. The search is quick and easy and should lead to helpful information for family trees with any branches in that State.
Minnesota Official Marriage System




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gedmatch is back!


Finally gedmatch has posted an update to the financial situation and the server situation. And many of the utilities (including triangulation) are back, except they may not work for you just as yet. I tried, and got the reply that user zzzzz was not recognized. I know the website is going through some glitches, and a new announcement on the homepage says as much, so I will wait for a bit to expect success with attempts to upload my recent matches.

It appears that Gedmatch is coming close to its fundraising goal to raise enough to be its own server.

It really looks like it is on its way back.

Update Oct 17:  Good news! Triangulation utility worked fine today, and loaded more quickly than in the past.

Update Nov. 14--everything is functioning very well and pages load more quickly than in the past. Nice to see it is all in order.

The more people who load up their info, the more we all will have to work with!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Success in Family Finder testing

What I have been hoping to find for a very long time has happened, and I hope it will happen again. I'm looking to find ancestors I don't know are mine through DNA testing (at FTDNA). If I can find two matches (through  autosomal testing) who have a common ancestor, that is a clue that I may also have that ancestor. It finally happened and I discovered it through a technique that I thought would pay off way earlier--but I'm happy it finally did. I plug in all of the information from the gedcoms of my matches, and extend any lines that I'm able to--and leave it to percolate. I hope to see those names again, and today, in one instance I did. I plugged in names newly submitted by a relatively close match, and lo and behold, I already had those names entered in my  family tree. I checked to see who the "descendant" of this line was, and it was another match. Intrigued, I checked the chromosome browser to compare matching segments, and both matches matched perfectly to one another. Without a doubt, their ancestors in common, a couple who married in the 1600's, are also my ancestors. Now the big challenge is to find my descendant line. In the meantime, I'm learning all I can about these new ancestors. I am sure many customers at the testing companies are also making good finds.

This is not only what I've been looking for, but it is what is going to be happening over and over as databases increase, and as matches begin to submit info online.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The indexing and posting race for USA and UK records

Well, technically they are not in a race or any sort of competition. But in my eyes they are, and it is great fun. At least once a week I look at the "card catalog" for ancestry.com to see the recent additions. And I then cross-check those lovely results with familysearch.org (scroll down on the main page to see your country of interest--I usually check on the U.S. and the U.K.). Recent additions are highlighted. Some of the additions are "browseable." which is fine if you are very motivated to sit through image after image (sometimes I am!). Other additions are indexed, and easily searchable. Today I am impressed to find searchable records from Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is an amazing collection. Today familysearch.org wins, but it is often a very close race. Join in and let me know what you find in the new database additions. Some of these records will be put online for the very first time, or will be made searchable for the very first time.It is all good and a win/win!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jasper Lisney in the Queen's Larder

Some ancestors have names that are so unusual that if they have been documented at all, they can be tracked. There is an amazing array of documents and ancient books now online, and some have great info on ancestors, easily found through a search engine.

Here is one example--you can extrapolate the results below using similarly unusual names in your own family tree.

Lisney is a last name generally found to belong to one family which can be traced to Surrey, England. Jasper Lisney is the name that appears most often in documents online. He seemed to be the most documented member of the extended family.

Names of other family members appear here and there, and making connections is challenging. There was undoubtedly more than one Lisney by the name of Jasper. But I was a little surprised to find a Jasper Lisney listed in the Queen's Larder in the 1680's. He, or another of his name, also worked in the King's Privy Kitchen.

If you have relatives who worked for the King and Queen in London in the ancient times, see the many online books which provide their names, years of service, and more. The link below sends you to just one such example of an online resource.

Online book:
A Collection of ordinances and regulations for the government of the royal household, made in divers reigns from King Edward III to King William and Queen Mary. Edited by John Nichols in 1780.
 (Google eBook)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

There is always one more place to look

I tell myself this all the time. As long as the name I am looking for has only been known to me for a few weeks, there have to be more sources to check out before saying I cannot find a darn thing.

I usually start with the census records. Those records can lead to public family trees, which provide clues, not facts, to further ancestors. Next source that I check is familysearch. They update constantly and have many records which are easily searchable. But it is good to bear in mind that both census records sources and familysearch can be searched in various ways. My favorites are to look for the card catalog on ancestry.com and the recent sources on familysearch (scroll down on the main page). I might want to search birth records in a particular state. If I search those, I may come up with more precise records than by using a general search of the entire site. I'll find some of those spelling variations that might not show up outside the narrower context.

Next--I might look at google books, which often has names and places not searchable on the regular search engine. Then I might go back to the web and look for the last name and date of birth or death, the last name+early settler+name of town. Or first and last name+bio. And so on. if the person I am searching for has a very common name, I try to find a sibling or close relative with an unusual first name. I search them--hey--same family!! Same ancestors.

I look for land records, and I look in the State Genweb archives. I look for information on the spouse. Sometimes the spouse is a cousin, or close family friend. Or the spouse may have been tracked by genealogists already. If so, the collateral info on the person you are interested in is readily available.

If the generations are recent, I look at the many websites which show a person's name, location, and family. They actually tell you to whom the person is related.

Findagrave is just great.

In some locations there are digitized newspapers which can be accessed for free. I don't consider a search of ancestors from California or Northern New York complete without looking through the excellent collections there (see previous posts for info).

Don't forget that there may be State census records that haven't yet been indexed at ancestry.com. Familysearch has quite a few, and so does the US Genweb Census Project. Even more may be found in State records. Keep searching and you will find what is available. Most records can be accessed for free. If you want to access Heritage Quest, you can probably do so with a library card, and it might be possible to get online access from your home to the records. I had to travel to a neighboring county to get a card in a library with such access, which in my State I am entitled to do.

There is more...will update now and then!

And there is always one more place to look. When you find your dead end, remember that!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Facebook apps and genealogy companies

Ancestry.com and Facebook app

I hear that Ancestry.com has acquired the app "We're Related" used on Facebook. Pretty interesting. It is a utility that will allow the living descendants of ancestors who occupy branches of family trees to find each other as distant cousins. This is a way to connect social networking to the hobby of genealogy, and may have a lot of potential.

Living descendants can give each other helpful information about ancestors, and can encourage each other to do just a bit more research to break down those brick walls. The conversation about the past is one of the reasons the hobby of genealogy is booming.

In addition, those who pursue genetic matches always have to begin with the living match, and need to find an ancestor in common from there. By making the connection to the living match fun, social, and appealing, as it may be on a social network website, it may all become a bit easier to begin the conversations that will help identify common ancestors.

Also published on my Genealogy Trends blog

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The street address in the census and mapping

Looking at the street address in the census for your ancestors can be very helpful in tracking them from one decade to the next. If you can't find the ancestors in one census, you can plug in the neighbors' names to see if your ancestors might be there, incorrectly indexed.

Another use for knowing the address is in tracking the heritage of the folks who lived in the area over time. You might note that the community is one of immigrants, and perhaps immigrants from one area.

I have an ancestor with a very common Welsh name (and many of them are common!) who was reported by descendants to have traveled from Wales to Pennsylvania to set up a tailor shop in the 1890's. He returned to Wales by 1900. Well, that really leaves him out of all census listings, since most of the 1890 census is toast (burned in a fire in the holdings in Washington, D.C.). I thought, if only I could find the street where he set up shop. That would be something. I was cleaning out files that day, and written on the top of one was his name and the street in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, where he had worked. I was fortunate to have noted the results of a distant cousin's recollections. Always worthwhile! It was Spring Street. I wasn't able to find any historical maps of the town online, but perhaps I will be able to do so if I contact a local historical society.

I then checked the census listings for my grandparents' address in Carbondale. They arrived three decades after the Welsh ancestor was there. It turns out they were just around the corner from the Street where he set up shop. Now I have the questions: did the family hold onto land or house? Did they try to go to a neighborhood they had heard about? Were relatives next door and all around? Did they look at Spring Street and talk of their relative? As with all questions, with persistence, there will be answers. Even with  researching Welsh ancestors who might seem to have the most common names in the world (Evans, Thomas, Jones and so on).


The whole experience of discovery leads me to the observation that we researchers will be needing historical maps to overlay current maps. We will need something like google maps of the past, and my guess is that this is already in the works. I look forward to seeing it and using it for ancestor searches.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gedmatch overburdened

It appears that the interest in gedmatch has turned into a  computer overload problem. Gedmatch is an excellent website that provides great services for those of us working on DNA matching. Gedmatch has announced that the servers have been overloaded, and as a result, they have to pare away some of the data that has been submitted. This includes the match triangulation feature, which is very useful. I actually wish more people were using it! Then I could see more connections to my matches, and make some inferences. But the popularity of the feature actually seems to be the problem. Let's hope that there will be a solution that will be worthwhile to all involved. The features of gedmatch.com should be of interest to many researchers and to many of the companies offering testing.

Again--the benefits of the triangulation feature include the following-- I ( or any researcher using genetic testing) might be stumped by a match who provides no information about his or her ancestors. In the Gedmatch triangulation utility I can look at some of the matches we have in common, and some of them may be more forthcoming with their information about ancestors. I may notice that all are from the Southern States. That gives me a clue to follow in trying to identify how the elusive matches ancestors match mine. And for all of those people who provide no information whatsoever about their ancestry when they test with RF or FF, please be aware that we researchers are not interested in the current generation. We only want to find the common ancestors we share with you. Yes, preserve your privacy, but why not let us know who your four grandparents (or if that is too close to home--who your gggrandparents) are.


The above is just one benefit of the triangulation feature. If it comes back online, try it out yourself.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Using the ancestry.com leaves

I am a big fan of the leaves at ancestry.com. They take me to a few records--usually not nearly as many as might actually be available, but at least they provide a start, and to a number of online family trees.

I know--expect inaccuracy. Agreed. But don't avoid hints and information because you have to have accuracy at every moment. I like to follow the leaves wherever they lead. Often, people with public family trees online have information that I don't have, and have put in names they know about. There may be inaccuracies, and there may also be gold mines. I plunk the names into my family tree program, and I work with them until I find they are incorrect. Sometimes they are incorrect, and having proved that provides a certain sense of satisfaction and a drive to find the real answer. Often the names given are correct. I work and check, work and check. The beauty of the digital age is that everything is easily erased or changed. Sometimes the fact that someone has made an error can actually lead to useful facts. The facts might be off by a generation, or the name spelling might be off by a few letters.

I find this approach very helpful in working with genetic matches. If you can't trust the information, you can't rely on it. But you can use it and bracket it off as a temporary result, ready to be corrected with better research.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cartes de Visite at Ancestry.com



You may have some Cartes de Visite (often called cabinet photos) at home, saved in old photo albums, and you may have seen them on Ebay--if you haven't it is well worth a trip through the antiquities section of the offerings. Ancestry.com has a set of civil war Cartes de Visite from New York, and most are identified. You could check out the database and make an educated guess as to who your unidentified ancestor might be, or you could just admire the great images of the men from decades past.

The cabinet photos above are mine, and are not from ancestry.com.
The people in them are not yet identified. If you recognize  them, please let me know!

Update July 20: I think the first photo may be of Lieutenant General W. Pyle. I looked up the name of the photographer, L. H. Bonsall, and found a similar photo (identified) for sale at this website: http://www.remainstobeseen.com/index-i-3364-category-CDV.htm.




Thursday, July 12, 2012

NPR Podcast on Melungeon DNA study: direct lineage African?

Update 2016: Research into the origins of Melungeons continues.
There are heritage websites, conferences, and ongoing DNA testing. Updates from those familiar with the research progress are welcome here and useful resources and news items will be linked.

NPR has provided a podcast online which explores the topic of DNA research of Melungeon ancestry. The podcast itself includes an interview with Roberta Estes, lead researcher of the recent study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy, and with Wayne Winkler, whose family is identified as of Melungeon heritage. Both Winkler and Estes explain in the interview that the research into the ancestry of the Melungeons has a long way to go, and that more families will ideally be included in future research. The results may eventually show a more mixed heritage than has been identified in the recently published paper.

I think it is a good sign that the research to date is not considered, at least in the words of the NPR interviewees, to be the definitive description of the ethnic heritage of the Melungeons. Winkler says, referring to the long published article: "But I think, as people understand what this is, they see it as, really, a foundation for future research and not the last word."

The interview was balanced and the discussion logical.See the transcript and hear the podcast at: NPR podcast on Melungeon DNA research.

In contrast, unfortunately, the written summary above the online podcast describes the research results in a more sensationalistic way: For Some People of Appalachia, Complicated Roots reads the header. That sounds interesting and believable. But the rest is a bit extreme. The summary states that the "Melungeon people of Appalachia believed they were of Portuguese descent. Turns out, their direct lineage is more African than anything else." Since only Y-DNA and MTDNA, were tested, this statement makes no sense.

For those who were tested, and it is a small group, results for Y-DNA as African did turn up. But Y-DNA is very limited in describing anyone's heritage. It can only keep track of the line of the father's father's father's father and so on. All the women  who married into the line, and all of their ancestry, is invisible with this type of testing. The MTDNA, which tests for the matrilineal ancestry, is similarly limited, and as I understand from the study, it was more European than African. It is not possible to extrapolate the results of this study to determine the heritage of the Melungeons. Some of the heritage has been identified, but the evidence is not enough to support a statement that the main heritage is African.

I can recommend listening to the podcast and reading the study (link provided in comments to previous post).

Sources:

"For Some People of Appalachia, Complicated Roots." NPR Public Radio. N.p., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 July 2012.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What genealogy software to buy?

If you are considering purchasing family tree or genealogy software, you need to find the package that will work with your computer abilities, your computer platform, and your goals. And cost is also a factor. You may want to check out this website to see the excellent comparison between software package options.

I found a great side-by-side comparison of such packages at at Findthebest.com.

I use Family Tree Maker and find it very efficient and pleasant to use. I like the interface with the information on ancestry.com, and I am constantly finding new features that amaze me. I particularly like the feature that allows the information from ancestry.com to be added to a person on a family tree with the documentation included. Talk about time-saving!! The forum at Family Tree DNA currently is running a poll which shows that for those who have responded, this is the software of choice.

Update December 2015: Ancestry.com has announced that it is dropping its interface with Family Tree maker. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rare SNP search at Gedmatch.com


Update 7/20/2012: The Rare SNP feature has been moved from Gedmatch to another website. I think we can expect that there will soon be information on Gedmatch.com about how to access the new website.


Using your autosomal DNA results, which are easy to load up to Gedmatch.com, you can search for rare SNPs you have in common with one other person (whose kit number you know). You could compare yourself to a close or distant relative. I tried it and found it pretty easy to do and the results are fascinating to read. What is an SNP? you may ask. An SNP is just short for SNiP, a snip, or section of DNA that can be compared to the same sections of DNA for another individual. Working with SNPs, we can find commonalities which point to how related or unrelated we are to another person, or we can look at decoding the messages in the SNPs.

The utility works very quickly. Enter the kit numbers, click to compare, and boom! It is there before you.

Then you can see what scientific abstracts have to say regarding these SNPs and their correlation to health issues. I wish I could understand those abstracts better, but at least I can see what the headings are and know that the SNPs are (possibly) relevant to certain health matters, whether in a positive or negative way.  For example: you may see that a certain SNP has been researched in regard to certain addiction issues or cancers. Your particular mutations are relevant, and the way in which they are relevant is explained. You can see the information and the source of the research.Very intriguing, and for those scientifically-inclined, it should be quite interesting to ponder.

Again, we have a new and useful feature from Gedmatch.com.
This is the websites's description of the feature, and they say it better than I can:
"This utility finds rare SNPs that are shared by more than one person.
It may be useful for identifying SNPs from deep common ancestry,
or SNPs related to shared characteristics."
http://gedmatch.com/

image from Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Browse scanned records at Familysearch.org

https://familysearch.org/Newly added to the collection of images that can be browsed at Familysearch.org are many probate records from Pennsylvania. To find them, just go to the Familysearch website and then, instead of searching for a name, scroll down below the name boxes to the locations that have images to browse. The header is "Browse by location." Click on any location that interests you, and you will be into the data set. Most of these images are not indexed, but there are some indexes for some of the locations.

For the most part, the indexes are not connected to the data sets you will want to look at, so you can take notes of what to look for when you find the index. There may be a box or file number. Again, you have to browse for that number. Many of the images are in chronological order, which is helpful. Sometimes they load slowly.

There should be some good finds here, although it takes a bit of work to get to results that are relevant to a particular family tree.

There are images for many other locations, too. New York has many records included. I found the Cornwall records to be excellent. You can see birth, marriage, and burial records for specific locations. I found a marriage record that I have not seen before anywhere. It helps connect a family relationship.

It is wonderful to see scanned records from so many far-flung locations. Instead of traveling or ordering microfilms, you can just browse at your computer.

The information takes a bit of time to wade through, but it can be rewarding, and perhaps in the future these records will all be indexed and searchable.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Melungeon ancestry currently debated

I have been reading with interest the Melungeon-DNA email list hosted by rootsweb.com. The main topic seems to be the same as ever, and it is a very interesting one--what is the ancestry of the Melungeons?

A little twist, though,has arisen in this debate--and that is--what exactly are researchers determining, and how are they determining it? When you analyze Y-Dna and Mtdna, which are very specific and very limited, just what do you end up with? Can you make judgments about the ethnic make-up of a population as a whole?

In addition, there is a second twist, which is that a scholarly paper has been interpreted by the media. The online discussion has covered every possible permutation of the arguments that can arise from the facts, the way the research was done, and the interpretation of results.

The scholarly paper was recently  written on the topic of the ancestry of the Melungeons and it  has been accepted in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy. The article has generated some media attention, and some good discussion.

I haven't seen the article yet, but I gather from the thread that I have been reading that it appears that  the authors looked at MtDNA and Y-DNA lines to see what evidence there might be for ancestry. MtDNA traces a person's mother's mother's mother's mother--and so on, for thousands, and often tens of thousands of years. It is very good for identifying that matrilineal lineage, but of course cannot account for any ancestry introduced by males (and their mothers) throughout the many generations traced back. It is useful, but limited. Y-DNA is similarly limited, in that it can trace a man's father's father's father--etc. for many generations, but again, any women and their fathers who married into that line do not get represented in the DNA picture that results.

Update July 1, 2012: Thanks to those who sent a link to the article, I have now read it. It is very interesting  and contains a lot of information about the families studied. Having seen the article, I would still suggest that autosomal DNA analysis be looked at in the future, along with relevant paper trails. In response to the comments that autosomal DNA doesn't go back many generations, I would say that many of us who have tested find that our cousin matches appear to be clearly beyond five generations back. Some useful information may be gleaned by testing. That's just my opinion.

A media report on the paper points to men of African ancestry marrying women of European ancestry. That means, of the people whose DNA was accepted into the study and then taken into account for the research (and that may mean including or excluding some persons, according to what I have read in the thread), many of the paternal lines were of African ancestry and the maternal lines of European ancestry.

This might tell a story, and it might not. For example, a man who submitted both YDNA and MtDNA for the study might find that the ancient patrilineal ancestor was from Africa. The ancient matrilineal ancestor was from Europe. But there could be all sorts of other ancestry (Native American, for example)  introduced into the person's genetic make-up.This additional ancestry can be seen to some extent in autosomal DNA, although the results are not as neat and tidy as those of Y-DNA and MtDNA. Autosomal DNA is also problematic in that it can only show heritage for a certain number of generations, and even then it is a spotty record, as some ancestry is inevitably discarded as DNA recombines with each generation. Yet, I'd want to see the autosomal results, and see those analyzed by geneticists. I think they would add to the picture.

Melungeon stories and documents about heritage provide a variety of possible directions for ancestry, including Native American, Portuguese, Turkish, African, and others. It will indeed be interesting to see just what the DNA will be able to show. And, in my opinion, that means looking at autosomal DNA and connecting that to paper trails as much as can be done. It is a lot of work, but would provide a richer basis for analysis than what was provided for the paper in JOGG. That work is important, but does not tell the readers much about the ethnic ancestry of the population.

The debate itself is fascinating, and if you want to see it for yourself, check the email list at rootsweb.com (easy to subscribe to).
I think following the debate is a great way to see the different points of view and the evidence for each. The researchers are informed, and so are their critics. It is the kind of debate that lets the readers glean information and ideas.

You may also wish to see a bit about the hullaballoo in a HuffPost article

Also recommended: blog about Melungeons from an informed and intelligent point of view:

Melungeon blog

See also a perspective from a blogger with relevant family history:  http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You want admixture? Now you can find Pygmy and Amerindian ancestry and even Beringian ancestry on HarappaWorld!

HarappaWorld at Gedmatch.com

Gedmatch.com

Are you part pygmy? 

The admixture utilities seem to be, at least to me, one of the best features of Gedmatch.com. The results are beautiful, instantaneous. and you can go from one admixture program to another in minutes.

There is now yet another admixture program to plug your data into, and it is just as much fun as the others. This one is called HarappaWorld, and has some intriguing ethnic groups as reference points for the admixture. I had never heard of some of them.

 Anyone who has raw data from autosomal testing will enjoy this new utility. You can compare the results of two kits (say you and your uncle) to each other and see the painted colors representing ethnic groups on each chromosome. It is amazing and wonderful that genetic scientists are willing to put up these utilities on Gedmatch.com for anyone to use. It enriches everyone's understanding and curiosity.

 Yes, I'm intrigued. The results bring us as many questions as answers, and that is half the fun.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New "Hunter-Gatherer" analysis at Gedmatch.com includes long-awaited Amerindian results

If you have had your autosomal DNA analyzed at FTDNA or 23andme, and you haven't entered your results on Gedmatch.com, you are missing out. The new additions to the website are mind-boggling. In the past one paid for admixture analysis.  At Gedmatch.com you can upload your results and get beautiful admixture images showing heritage in colors. No charge.  Not only are there several (actually many) different admixture programs developed by different geneticists, but also there is the "Hunter-Gatherer" analysis, a new and different approach to your heritage. It is really a fun application and as I have said before, gives bang to the buck for having tested in the first place. It includes analysis of Amerindian/Arctic segments, and that is certainly what many have been hoping to see in bright colors. And there it is. If your data is already uploaded--take a look and enjoy.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Combining maps, biographies, real estate ads to find the house of Elias Alley


 I always like to start from what is known or what can be known, and to move from there to make logical connections. Often very little is known, so researchers have to creatively milk that tiny bit of information for all it is worth.

In tackling the question of where Elias Alley (born 1738 in New Rochelle, New York)  lived in Dutchess County in the late 1700's, I looked first to the family history as written up in Settlers of the Beekman Patent by Frank J. Doherty. A very good description of Alley's property is given. It was located in an area close to Todd Hill Road and Sprout Creek. I looked these places up on a few maps online, and found some good images of Todd Hill Road. I could see the area  that would have been owned by Alley. There is even a road called "Alley Road."


I did an online search for "Alley" at Todd Hill Road, and came up with a beautiful set of pictures of the Alley home, which happens to be for sale. The architecture is shown inside and out in the advertisement, and there is a good historical description as well, with a reference to Doherty's work on the family.

This isn't the first time that I have had such luck. A number of very old homes are for sale around the U.S., and because they are pricy, they get lots of space on a realtor's website, with photos and descriptions. You just have to catch a chance to view the images during the sale time.

The next step--to identify where the neighbors lived and which ones might be related. Since Alley moved away before the 1790 census, leaving son John in charge, according to Doherty, finding John in the census might be the logical next step, but of course it is not as easy as that. Either it wasn't John listed as head of household, or he is not clearly indexed-- more questions than answers there!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Admixture models (PLURAL!) will take your data at Gedmatch

I can hardly keep up with the new features that keep appearing at gedmatch.com.
There are new,  well-designed models for admixture of your genetic heritage available at Gedmatch. Just put in your kit number (assuming you have had your DNA tested), if you have already put your data in the system--and if you haven't, be sure to upload it according to the instructions--it is simple. Then click and wait.


You can choose to have results analyzed by Magnus Ducatus Lituaniae Project feature.. The blog which explains it is available here: http://magnusducatus.blogspot.com/e.Magnus Ducatus project. 

Or you can enter your data into the Davidski Eurogenes K12 feature for admixture analysis.

Or you can use the Dienekes Dodecad admixture feature.

Or, of course, try using all three and compare the results. All three provide chromosome painting.

They are all amazing and your results appear immediately.

The results show up in a color pie graph broken down into heritage areas: Paleo Mediterranean, East Eurasian, West Eurasian, Caucasian, South Asian, etc.

 See how your heritage looks according to this model.See Gedmatch.com.

And...there is a new feature at gedmatch.com for comparing segments from two people on one chromosome. It is so much easier than piling everything into a chromosome browser and scanning for results in common with someone else.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Genealogy--it's Everywhere! Books, film...

Genealogy allows us a window through which to observe our culture, our history, our family, our traits. It isn't just a science of who begat whom, although I am convinced that it is the best logic puzzle ever discovered. We see politics, traditions, social structures, and much more through the simple framework of the genealogy search. Our ancestors were usually not just our ancestors, but also the ancestors of many others. We can find distant cousins, or choose not to do so, but at the very least we can place our ancestors in the fabric of the life that went  before.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Find the mother-in-law's name in the newspapers!

Well, not all the time. But you can find great information in digital historical newspapers. Today I was looking for the ancestors of Adolph Law Voge, who was a scientist and a genealogist. I'm interested in his ancestry to make some sense of all of the information he collected. There is little information on the internet for the lines he was less interested in. I knew his grandfather was Harvey G. Law, so I looked for Harvey in the newspapers. I tried the Fulton Historical Postcards website first  (a good site for NY newspapers), and saw a lot of hits--over a hundred. I scrolled down the margin, and low and behold, I found the the funeral announcement for his mother-in-law, and learned that the gathering to be held at his home. Her name matched the name I had seen near his in a census listing, so it all made sense. With that name, I was able to search a few family trees and find the mother-in-law's ancestry, thus extending my knowledge of the tree for Adolph Law Voge.See these newspapers at: Old Fulton NY Postcards

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mayflower Genealogy Society accepts autosomal DNA with paper trail as proof of ancestry!

Wow! Knock me over  with a feather. I thought it would never happen. I could always see so many arguments against it. But the Mayflower society has accepted DNA proof of lineage--not on its own, but with accompanying paper trail. I have seen many queries about DNA for the DAR and I always thought it would never be, but now I have to become more open-minded. I have read that a case of autosomal DNA has been accepted for  Bonham (and thus Fuller) descendant  Brownie McKie (source: New Jersey Hunterdon County list on rootsweb.com).

I find this absolutely fascinating. It may be that DNA will be used to help prove ancestry in many of the lineage societies in the future. The paper trail and the DNA info combined appear to have been used to prove the lineage. Clearly, if the paper trail had been enough, the DNA wouldn't have been brought in to the mix. It looks like DNA alone is not enough, but can add to a paper trail that is not entirely definitive on its own by showing a relationship to a descendant with accepted proof of lineage.

Update April 2016: DAR accepts DNA evidence in applications supported by documentation of the family line. See: Link to DAR and DNA

image from: endtimepilgrim.org

So...DNA forums is gone...

DNA forums appears to be gone. It was a great site for those who had tons of questions and wanted to lurk and learn. It had posts on everything from all the Y-DNA haplotypes to comments on the major DNA testing companies. Recently a new website has sprung up. Some topics are covered nicely and hopefully more and more will emerge because we do need that great source of information. The top geneticists and biologists can exchange info and ideas, and those of us who want to expand our family trees and learn what we can about genetics can read and post. The new website is: .http://eng.molgen.org/index.php.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Finding that common ground--literally-- for the DNA connection

Those of us who are pursuing autosomal DNA matching to give us an edge in our paper trail chases find that sometimes it's easy, and most of the time it's very hard, to make that connection with another person's family tree.

It is going to get easier, as more matches appear and their trees start matching up to one another.

In the meantime, while we work hard to extend the trees of the matches beyond what even they even guessed were there ancestors, and while we speculate at what might be that common ancestor, one angle to take is the geographical one.

If I look at a match's tree, I might see two areas where I could follow the lines to connect to a potential ancestor. I can't really ignore any possibilities, because people were mobile, and we may have ancestors from places we don't know they hailed from. But while keeping that in mind, I can extend the trees in the directions most likely to prove fruitful in a geographical sense. And as I do so, I check back to the trees of other matches, and check their chromosome browser results against each other, and see if there might be a location that makes sense, at least for the moment. Then I take a good look at my tree, and, keeping it all in mind, I begin to see at least where the possible match might be.

Family Tree Maker is very helpful for this exercise, because I can click on "places," choose a location, such as Somerset, New Jersey, and have all the ancestors, or ancestors of matches, I have listed to date show up in a list. I can then investigate via the census to see just how close they may have lived to one another, and then I can further check for marriages and land exchanges to see which families were linked to others. 

Just one way to make a little, or a lot, if you are lucky, of progress.

Happy hunting!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Online parish records in England

If you are already using the online IGI county indexes in England, you have access to a wonderful resource for parish records. The online OPC (online parish records) is also excellent, and actually quite amazing in how easy it is to use and how many records are transcribed. Only a few counties have been done, but do look into those counties if you have ancestors there. The Sussex OPC is very impressive. It is very easy to search by surname, and has many records. It is easier to find a birth, marriage, or death date there than on IGI, in my opinion. And the birth records include parent names if they were available. Pair those results with what you see on the public member trees on rootsweb or ancestry..com, and with census records, and you will find you can really confirm or begin to question, some of those ancestor connections.
http://www.sussex-opc.org/

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Searching in Australia!

If you have British or Welsh ancestry, you may have cousins in Australia.  An excellent resource for Australian searching is "Trove," sponsored by the National Library of Australia.  It is a repository for digitized newspapers, and like most of these types of websites, it is excellent. It is very searchable, and has an added plus, which is that the article content is presented in a sidebar in a more legible script than you see in the scanned newspaper article, which is also visible.
Whoever thought of this, it was a brilliant idea.
I finally found the entire story of a the accidental death and funeral of a distant cousin who died in the 1880's.
Signing up is free, and it appears that searches without signing up are also possible.
Check it out at:  http://trove.nla.gov.au/
Image from:  flynationwide.co.za

Monday, January 16, 2012

Scanned marriage documents in UK at ancestry.com

Recently, I have been researching UK vital records, and I have been very pleased to find scanned marriage records from the UK.  This is a great boon to research, as ordering each record that might be desired is time-consuming and costly. Ancestry.com doesn't have all the records scanned, of course. But what is available is amazing. Everything can be seen, from the signature, or mark of the bride and groom, to the names of the witnesses, and the condition of the prospective pair (spinster, bachelor, widow, or widower). This is exactly the kind of document that is invaluable to the researcher, and kudos to ancestry.com for putting them on their website.
I know that familysearch.com and Fold3 are also doing a great job of scanning records. It is a delight to peruse them, and the information is amazing. The more that are scanned, the more families we can put together, and the we will have access to our family stories.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Family History in Haiti

Link to Genealogie d'Haiti et de Saint-Domingue
This is a special niche, and will only be of interest to those whose ancestors lived in, or passed through Haiti. Remember the slave uprising, and the plantations of yore.  For those people with any history of ancestry there, this is an excellent website, based on documentation from many sources. It is a one-stop place to acquire very good information, with details on the sources. This is really the best place on the web to see family trees for former residents of Haiti, including those with French ancestry. Truly a great find, and a boon to those who need those names.   And yes, Haiti ancestry is connected to Southern State ancestry. Enjoy!

Image from London Times:  http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/173971-blame-it-france
Is it just me or does the plantation look sort of like a waffle?