I read 2 articles this week (Thanks to the NEGHS Newsletter) that at first look appeared to be unrelated but as I processed the information, realized that they were indeed related. The first, Life span has little to do with genes, analysis of large ancestry database shows by Sharon Begley clearly surprised me. Not having a medical background, I assumed, wrongly it appears, that genes were a much stronger indicator to longevity. The article is also interesting in that the data analyzed most likely included my people and yours, if you are an Ancestry.com member. I have no problem with my tree info being shared for research purposes but if you do, and you didn’t take the time to read the disclaimers when you were signing up, you need to be aware that your information is being used by third parties.
The second article, ‘She was like a second mother’: the German woman who saved our Jewish family history by Simon Finch drove home to me how fortunate my family has been in leaving areas of unrest in the nick of time. Those that bravely fought for freedom, from Jacob Wilson Parrot,the First Congressional Medal of Honor awardee from the Civil War and my first cousin three times removed, to two Purple Heart recipients (WW I and II), George Bryant and George Willard Harbaugh, my husband’s grandfather and uncle, all made it home safely.
Family mortality has always interested me. Aside from the occasional accident, such as my great grandfather Frank Landfair falling off a train platform, to my Great Uncle Francis Earl Landfair, being struck my lightening while standing outside talking with friends, I attempted to deduce longevity by averaging the prior three generations of family members, taking into account gender, and adding two years for men and three for women to account for medical advancements. This seemed to work for both my maternal and paternal sides. I guess my data set was too small to make an inference.
I’d be interested to hear if you’ve looked at your ancestor’s longevity and drawn any conclusions. Let me know if you have!
On the plane returning home from New Mexico, I sat next to a woman who had traced her paternal grandfather’s side back to the 1200’s in a Spanish village thanks to the church records and her ability to decipher old handwriting. She mentioned that she had found several deeds belonging to her great grandparents but could not locate the residences as the numbering system had changed in the past 100 years. Lucky for her, she met an elderly man who remembered the family and understood the new address system so she was able to identify where her grandfather and great grandfather were born. Taking into account address changes is an important point to remember as what you’re looking at might not be what you think it was.
There are two websites available to help with situations like this. Whatwasthere.com is a site using Google Street View with uploaded photos of what the area looked like from previous time periods. You can assist this project by uploading old photos you may have that show the area in the past.
Historypin.com is another site where you can place a pin on a Google map and upload a photo of what the area formerly looked like. Your old homestead just might be waiting for you to discover!
Last week when I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico and had a dickens of a time locating the Oldest House that I blogged about on Tuesday. According to the map and online guides, the Oldest House was said to be NEXT TO the Church. All I saw next to the Church was a pizza restaurant.
The church was locked so I tried to follow the sign on the government building next door that said “Visitor Info.” The sign had an arrow directing visitors to enter on the east or south entrance. I walked down the street in the direction the sign had pointed. There was no entrance on the street side so I suppose it was the north or west side. I turned at the intersection and again saw no entrance. Okay, I was certain to find the way in when I reached the back. I walked the entire length of the back side and still found no entrance. Turning left, I finally located the door. So what the sign meant was that there was one entrance and it was on the south east side.
I asked the attendant for directions to the Oldest Home. She said, “It’s BETWEEN the church and the restaurant.” I mentioned that a street was between the restaurant and the church. She insisted the home was BETWEEN and told me to look again.
I walked back to the church and again saw the restaurant in front of me as the church sits back from the street. I turned right to walk down the street BETWEEN the restaurant and the church and lo and behold, there was the Oldest House.
If I was to describe where the house was located, I would say it was BEHIND the restaurant and ACROSS the street from the church. This reminds me how careful we must be when we’re reading old deeds.
My people are famous for recording deeds noting boundaries of big rocks and tree stumps. I now wonder how many noted BETWEEN when I would have considered it BEHIND or south and east as southeast?
I’ve blogged previously about by attempt to analyze my ancestor’s health records to make lifestyle choices to keep me well (See Using Your Genealogical Info to Make You Healthy). This past week, MyHeritage.com has added a new feature that you can use to include your family’s medical history. It is purportedly private and secure, allowing you to keep all of the health records of the living and deceased in one place so you can download and print a checklist of the entered information to share with your physician.
To begin, you must first click that you have read the most lengthy Terms and Conditions I’ve ever seen. The next page asks you if your siblings, parents, aunts/uncles and grandparents had any of 10 medical conditions, such as stroke, heart and various cancers. For any condition selected, possible names from your tree are then provided for you to mark. Warning: If you have a big family in the past 3 generations, you’re going to have a lot of clicking to do! I clicked yes for heart attack as one of my husband’s relatives had that condition. To identify who had the heart attack, the program listed my husband, his siblings, aunts/uncles and grandparents for a total of 18 people. Only one of them had ever had a heart attack but the program will not allow you to move forward unless you click no for all of those who never had one. Of the 4 health conditions I selected, only 3 individuals needed a yes so this process was slow and could have been really lengthy if there had been additional medical conditions selected.
Next you can add allergies, other health conditions to include the age at onset, and other characteristics, such as height, weight and eye color. I found it interesting that height is entered in inches – I would have expected centimeters.
One of the options is hair color. In our family, that changes with age so I wasn’t sure if I should put blonde (from someone’s youth) or brown (in adulthood).
Sleep, smoking and exercise can also be added. No option existed for someone who never smoked but was raised in a household of smokers which I think is important.
Once you’ve entered the info, various icons appear under the individual that had been selected. This way, you can readily see patterns, if any, for a family condition.
Errors can be corrected quickly. I wrongly entered a stroke for my father-in-law. Simply click on the icon, a panel appears with the conditions identified. Clicking on the 3 dots (…) a choice to delete appears to remove the mistake.
Once you’re done adding the information for all of your relatives, you can click on the LIST button on the upper right ribbon to obtain the names of the individuals that had conditions entered. Besides the individual’s name and medical condition, birth, death, onset age and relationship is included.
The problem I see is that many of the initial conditions listed are due to lifestyle. I’m not sure it is helpful to your physician to know that a grandparent had diabetes if no one else in the family did and you follow a good diet and exercise regime.
Under the Nutrition category, there are several choices – omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, paleo and other – but those options alone do not tell a complete picture of nutrition. (I’m thinking about one of my former roommates who was a vegetarian. Her diet consisted of skipping breakfast, potato chips for a late morning snack, peanut butter and jelly for lunch, pretzels for an afternoon snack and a salad saturated in a mayo based dressing for dinner.)
A bigger concern I have is with entering misinformation. Unless the medical condition was definitely known, including wrong information could be a serious problem. Like with all genealogy, records should be consulted before including data going by memory alone.
I asked two medical providers in my family what they thought of the program. One is a physician and the other works as a chemical engineer for a medical lab. Both laughed and said this was a serious waste of time. Most of the medical conditions listed are due to lifestyle. Additionally, living conditions of someone 75 years ago will not be the same as our lives today and that greatly impacts health.
They both recommended, if there is a pattern of a medical condition in a family, a consultation with a geneticist would be more beneficial than taking the time to input the data on MyHeritage and presenting a list to your health care provider. An added caution here is not to think that the DNA test you purchased for genealogy purposes is going to provide the specialists with the information they need. Geneticists would provide a DNA test that is analyzed far differently than what is given by a genealogy company. If you have concerns about your family’s health, the new MyHeritage program is not going to be beneficial to your medical provider.
I wanted to share a recent article in the New York Times, “The Historians vs The Genealogists” by John Sedgwick, who is a historian. I was trained in the social sciences so I know that my genealogy work is influenced by my background, particularly in psychology, sociology and education. I think that’s one of the greatest benefits of genealogy as a second career; your past influences your analysis of your present research. Collaborating with others makes the analysis even more powerful, especially if the background of the collaborators is diverse.
I just came to the realization that DNA has made me a lazy genealogist. Here’s why…
I have made public several trees that are quite large. The reason for their size is because I once did surname studies – I tried to link all of the Leiningers, Harbaughs, Duers, Kos[s]s, Landfairs and Kuhns in the U.S. from an identified gateway ancestor. I want contact from far flung relatives as I don’t know these folks personally and needing closer relatives input, I made the trees public.
Due to the many places I’ve placed the trees online, their size, and my weekly blog posts, I get over 500 comments weekly. Granted, many are spam, but quite a few are serious inquiries.
Before DNA, I would go to the tree mentioned, search for the name provided in the inquiry, review what citations I had and then respond.
Since DNA, I find myself instead responding with my own query – Have you had your DNA analyzed and if so, what provider did you use and what is your profile name?
Last evening, after sending the same question repeatedly, it hit me that this is a seriously lazy response to well meaning folks who’ve taken the time to contact me.
My intentions were never to be rude but I’m afraid that’s how it’s appearing. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was the recipient and wasn’t into DNA. I queried colleagues in my local genealogical society and they think my response is acceptable but I’m not so sure. What do you think, readers?! Would you be offended if you emailed someone for more information and received a question in response?
I got the results of my Helix-National Geographic DNA test back this week. I had sent it off the day after Christmas at the same time two family members mailed their samples to Ancestry.com. Ancestry had the results back 3 weeks ago so I patiently waited my Helix analysis.
If you’re planning to test with Helix, please know that you will not discover any matches – these results take you back thousands of years instead of the past few generations. I purposely wanted to see if the findings were similar to the mitDNA Haplogroup results I got about 8 years ago from Ancestry and more recently, from 23andMe. They were basically the same and also confirmed my Neandertal ancestry that 23andMe had found last summer.
Alas, I had no Denisovian which I suspected I might have since they were known to be in the Siberian/Mongolian/China regions. My thinking was my eastern European genes might have come from way east in the distant past but I was wrong.
My favorite part of the results was the interactive web timeline. It’s a nice touch to have pictures of all ages of people and the countryside pop up with the description of when your ancestor resided in the region. Think National Geo Magazine and you get the idea of how well done this is. The migration pattern is also clearly shown and as I’ve blogged about many times, follows the family lore that’s been passed down to me. (If I could only figure out why my family can’t get the stories of the last 100 years right but can remember things from thousands of years ago I will never know!)
You do not get to download your chromosomes to upload anywhere else. I didn’t need that as I’ve already tested with companies that provide that result but that may be important to you so keep it in mind.
My family thought the link to genius was the most interesting result. Personally, I thought it was meaningless as the connections are far removed. Hubby thought it was just phenomenal so, shhh, I bought him a kit for Valentine’s Day. It was on sale and even less expensive than what I paid for it at Thanksgiving. I figure he’ll get the results back by his birthday so he can gloat over his genius cousins. My prediction is that we’re going to have similar findings since our lines have crossed several times in the last 300 years in various parts of the world.
One of those “geniuses” and they qualify how they came to define the word, was of course, Marie Antoinette who shows up in every DNA test I’ve ever taken. I’m thinking I should probably investigate exactly where that connection is so this summer, I’ll be heavily researching my Croatians which, at the time my ancestor’s resided there, was Austria-Hungary. Marie was born in Vienna, Austria. My maternal lines were in the military for generations so I suspect they traveled throughout the region. For displaying valor on the battlefield, they were titled and that’s where I’m going to start my research.
Funny, for years I’ve had the stories and tried to validate them by uncovering the facts. Now I have the DNA facts and I’m trying to find the story. Genealogy upside down!
Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new but before we do that, let’s take a look back at the most read Genealogy At Heart posts from last year in descending order and a tie in 4th place:
If you’re on the east coast of the U.S., get a cup of cocoa, stay warm and enjoy re-reading these blogs.
Next week, I’ll rank articles that I did for other publications in 2017.
Genealogists need to take a tip from Santa Claus – we should be “making a list and checking it twice!” No, not to find out who’s naughty or nice, although that does make family history interesting and more entertaining to pass on to relatives. The list making and checking is critical, especially when you acquire information from someone else. Here’s what recently happened to me…
Through this blog, I made contact with a second cousin I had never met. He put me in contact with several other cousins and we all shared info on a brick wall ancestor to see if putting our heads together could resolve the dead end.
Three of us live far away from where the ancestor had resided; one of us lives within reasonable driving distance. That individual had gone to the courthouse and pulled the probate records years ago. As I reviewed the paperwork making a list of all that we had discovered, it struck me that our common ancestor would have been left an orphan. I decided to go on FamilySearch.org to see if records were available for the area as the driving distance cousin, with family commitments and the approaching holidays, couldn’t find the time to make another visit.
I must have been a good genealogist this year as oh, what a wonderful early present I found! The probate file was now online and contained the guardianship information. The file was 40 pages – the cousin had only 3 pages. I’m not sure if the courthouse employee only copied the last 3 pages or my cousin only had cash for those pages but the entire packet was a gem for me because I discovered my 3rd great grandfather in another line was the appraiser. His signature was all over the documents.
Lesson learned – ALWAYS go back to the source to see if the information is accurate and complete. By my making a list of what records we had found, I was able to identify other places to check. We haven’t climbed over that brick wall yet but we’re getting closer!
Have a wonderful holiday – I’ll be writing again after New Year’s Day.
I’ve been watching this season’s Our American Family show and thought the style of the presentation would be an awesome way for families to record their own history. With the holidays upon us, check out a few of the episodes, then video your family at the next gathering. I’ve blogged previously about using helpful media to use and interview questions that can help get grandma talking. Once you’ve got the recording, putting it together could be a wonderful present for your next year’s holiday season!