This is NOT Genealogies Dark Side

The blog I write today was not the one I planned and I want to make clear this is my OPINION.  

I blog about genealogy because it is my passion and I have found that it pairs wonderfully with my first interest, psychology.  I often start the day reading the news and today was no different.  Having just about finished my second cup of coffee, I was flipping through the stories on The Washington Post when I came across an article published yesterday, “The Dark Side of our Genealogy Craze” by Honor Sachs, an assistant history professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder. 

I beg to differ with the author’s main premise.  In paragraph 1, “…But the rise of genealogy may also, paradoxically, exacerbate the virulently anti-immigration fervor propelling President Trump’s policies and increase racial inequality…”  As the thesis statement, the article continues to present the author’s justification of  her views that researching one’s family history is dangerous for the future and the interest in learning this information is short-lived, per her word choice in the title. I strongly disagree.

To prove her point, the author cites the beginning of the growing interest in finding one’s lineage to Alex Haley’s Roots.  The book and television series without a doubt, gave rise to genealogy in the late 20th century.  Yes, the story was about an African American whose ancestors were enslaved and those of European ancestry did use the methods Haley outlined to begin their own research.  I am one of them with two of my European lines entering through Ellis Island.  I am also a Boomer. 

How the author connected Roots, Boomers and Ellis Island to this statement, “The exploration of this heritage provided a language through which the baby boomer generation could safely distance themselves from the mandates of the Civil Rights era without sounding explicitly racist.” is unclear.  

As a historian, I would think the author would know that the Boomers were deeply affected by the Civil Rights era since we were born in the 1950-60’s and were the product of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.  Boomers are of all races with many of us attending integrated schools as a result of the Supreme Court decision.  While some of us are racist, most of us are not.  Racism is not tied to a generation; it permeates all ages and races. Many Americans of European descent supported (and still do) Civil Rights.  Some even died because of their involvement. Many Boomers raised children to be global citizens in integrated schools.

I believe the real threat to a rise in racism is not genealogy but through online usage and I’m not talking about a subscription to Ancestry.com.  Check out the study, “Measurement invariance of the perceived online racism scale across age and gender.”[1] 

Racism today is not the result of the Boomers or any other generation of Americans with European ancestry interested in genealogy.  Unfortunately, racism will not die with the Boomers but will continue to grow as youths buy into the propaganda they are reading online.

Here’s another problem I have with the Post’s article; the author states “While European immigrants faced significant historic struggles, their descendants mobilized such hardships to dilute the claims of historically persecuted groups that remained marginalized with their own narratives of past immigrant oppression.”  She then goes on to cite Richard Nixon and his “coded language.”  While I agree that Nixon’s word choice were coded for his base, so are every politician of every party in every nation.  Generalizing that all descendants of Europeans who researched their heritage resulted in marginalizing persecuted groups  and “resonates with our modern-day genealogical revival” is just wrong.  Show me the data!

The author continues that although genealogy can benefit those members of historically persecuted groups, it can also “empower those who seek to divide, deny and disenfranchise.”  DNA with the Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” debacle is mentioned, along with others of primarily European descent attempting to gain access to programs for underrepresented people.  Let me be clear – it is wrong to try to gain entry to a privilege that was not established for you.  In my genealogical experience, people who have taken DNA tests typically do not take them for the purpose of undermining the system.  Most take them because they want to know who their birth parents were for health reasons, where their immigrant ancestor originated, or to compare their results with family members to determine which got what genetic material from each parent.

Native American ancestry is a family story for many Americans of all races.  I wish I had a buck for every time I hear it!  My own family had a version but long before DNA, I was able to prove what the true story was;
distant cousins were kidnapped by a tribe and held for several years.    One escaped and the other was released after a truce.

Knowing that information does not make me want to hold an indigenous group today responsible.  It was wrong to steal children then, just as it’s wrong to separate children from their immigrant parents today.  Learning this occurred in my family’s past makes me even more vehemently opposed to what is happening at our border.  Understanding what my immigrant family members were fleeing in the old country makes me more empathetic with today’s people who are seeking asylum.  Remembering that
my grandparents were targeted by the KKK  and
my father’s WWII Army placementwas made due to his German sounding last name (DNA now shows more French then German but who knew back them because there was no DNA tests!) allows me to listen to the message from historically disenfranchised groups to gain their perspective.

Historian George Santayana got it right, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Correlating genealogy with racism is wrong.  I know my family’s past because I am a genealogist.  My ancestors made mistakes just like every human does every day.  I strive to learn from their mistakes and follow their examples for what they did correctly.  

No one inherited a racism gene.  Racism’s root is fear of not being in power, of losing privilege status and therefore, of becoming indigent.  My definition of poor has nothing to do with money; I define poor as those who lack a moral compass.  I’ve met poor wealthy people and rich poor people, as I bet you have.  Interesting that the fear of having no money sometimes results in those who have it in become overly controlling at the expense of others to keep it and those that don’t have it, trying to differentiate from another group to make themselves feel superior.  Those kinds of people unite in their shared biased worldview and make it bad for all the rest of us.  It leads to a closed mindset and a regression to what we see happening with leaders across the world – derogatory name calling, ostracizing, categorizing, and segregating.  Communication ceases which only separates us further.

Please, let’s stop dividing ourselves by age, race, gender, place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, education level and career choice.  The Human Genome Project showed that we all share humanness, we are all one.  Our search for our ancestors isn’t the problem.  Finding your family’s story and relating it to the world today to make for a better tomorrow is imperative.  

[1]Keum, B., & Miller, M. (2018). Measurement invariance of the perceived online racism scale across age and gender. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 12(3), article 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.5817/CP2018-3-3.

Another DNA Site Bites the Dust

Shopping for holiday DNA kits?  I want to caution you about your upcoming purchase.  In the ever changing world of DNA, the results you receive won’t be the same a year from now and I’m not talking about mutations to your chromosomes. 

The more people that test, the larger the database (duh) and that increase results in a refinement of the ethnicities listed.  I’ve lost count of how many times Ancestry.com has emailed me that my results have been altered.  Make sure that you or whoever you purchased the test for, understands that the results are fluid.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around that concept, you need to be cognizant of the bigger picture – that your DNA results might just disappear.  Yes, you paid for them but that doesn’t mean they will be available forever.

I was one of the early testers on Ancestry.com; a few years after I had my X tested they moved to autosomal and no longer supported my original results.  The only way I could access DNA match was to be retested. 

Now the granddaddy of DNA testing has announced that they will be ceasing operation in June 2020 – National Geographic’s Genographic Project.  That project, launched in 2005, was an anthropological study to identify historical migration patterns.  Geno2 was unveiled in 2016 and now that is coming to an end.  Although the purpose of that project was not genealogical, families often were interested in the long term historical findings hiding in their DNA.  

At it’s inception the project was voluntary but I missed my local test date.  When the company decided to expand for a cost, it was pricey for my family’s pocketbook so I didn’t participate.  A colleague did and I was intrigued by the colorful interpretive guide that she received – just what you’d expect from National Geographic.  Eventually, when the price dropped, I did purchase a kit.

If you have results, you must download and save or you won’t be able to access after May 2020.  

The Dark Side of DNA

Happy Dia Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  This year, for Halloween, one of my family members created two glow in the dark pumpkins and a skull and dressed a skeleton to look like Disney’s Coco’s grandpa, Hector.  Sneaky way to get little ones to learn about genealogy relationships!  It was quite lifelike, or should I write, really dead looking?  Two little girls burst into tears which was not my intention and I felt awful but the mom’s said they loved the movie.  I had to show the girls that it wasn’t real.  One little boy was so enamored he said he had questions for Hector and could he come inside.  I told him Hector wasn’t talking tonight and would want the boy to enjoy his candy collecting.  Ahh, children and genealogy, what an interesting mix.  Their reaction is just like adults – some run when you start asking about family history and others want all the details.  

Two weeks ago I wrote about DNA now being available from hair follicles.  Right after reading that article, I found another story that I suspect relates to it though the articles purpose is to bring up a controversial side of DNA and genealogy.  The Messy Consequences of the Golden State Killer Case by Sarah Zhang published in The Atlantic 1 October 2019 will give you a better understanding of why GedMatch and Family Tree Genealogy recently changed their policies. 

As technology evolves, past policies must be rethought.  I’ve blogged in the past about clients and colleagues mentioning that their returned DNA results were just plain wrong.  We all understand that DNA is a Pandora’s box of family secrets but it never crossed my mind that medical procedures acquired as an adult could skew the results.  When I read A Woman Found Her AncestryDNA Test Revealed a Medical Secret also written by Sarah Zhang and published in The Atlantic on 13 September 2019, I was shocked by the findings.  I’m not going to give you a spoiler alert – you must read this article if you have DNA results that seem skewed.  Who would have thought this?!  Clearly not the specialists who first heard their patient’s stories.

Both articles are thought provoking whether you are a donor or are making the decision of sharing your DNA results.

The last DNA related article I’d like to share is a topic I’ve also blogged about in the past.  Accepting the foibles of your family history can be difficult.  Although the author, Ken Bradford, used DNA to build his tree, the old fashion research methods also provide the same results – acquiring the knowledge of the past sins of our forefathers.  Look What the DNA Brought In published in Notre Dame Magazine Autumn 2019 can be helpful if your wrestling with the dark side of your family findings.

All of this is quite spooky, don’t you think?  Happy Day of the Dead

Finding Photos and Memorializing the Fallen – A Unique Volunteer Opportunity

Last blog I mentioned Joseph Reid, the father-in-law of my husband’s 5th cousin twice removed.  You may be wondering why in the world I would have someone in my tree that is not related and so far removed.  Here’s the deal…I have done several surname studies which includes everyone by the same surname in a particular area.  My purpose was twofold; I wanted to try to connect all the Harbaughs in the U.S. and updated the last attempt to do so, the 1947 Cooprider & Cooprider Harbaugh History book.

As was common until the 20th century, the Harbaugh couples had many children so my tree became quite large.  (I’ve also did a surname study of the Leiningers but they immigrated later and didn’t have quite as many children in each generation but that, too, added non relatives to my tree.)

Since I have so many Harbaughs in one place and I documented each one as best as possible when I added them, I am frequently emailed about our connections.  Usually, the question is, “How are you related to my (fill in the blank) Harbaugh?”  Actually, I’m not, my husband would be the relation.  I guess folks don’t see the Ancestry.com relationship info at the top of the page:

I try to always respond and let the the person who is inquiring know that all the information I have is public and posted.

When doing the surname study, if information was available, I would include the parents of the person who married into the Harbaugh family but I didn’t research that distant individual.  That’s why Joseph Reid, the father-in-law, was in my tree.  Joseph Reid’s son was Joseph Shortridge Reid (26 Aug 1889 MO-5 Jan 1938 MO) who married Ruth Arelia Harbaugh (11 Feb 1891 MO – 29 Jun 1969 MO).  The couple had 2 daughters and a son.  The email I received regarding the Harbaugh-Reids was inquiring if I had a photo of Joseph Shortridge Reid Jr. who died on 17 Apr 1945 as a casualty in WW2.

The Fields of Honor Database is an organization devoted to memorializing the 28,000 American service personnel that were killed or missing in the line of duty.  They are planning a memorial service in 2020 and were hoping to find photos of those killed in action.  Joseph Reid Jr. was one of those individuals.

I was not familiar with the organization so after checking them out, I decided to try to find a picture of Joseph.  The organization had already contacted Ancestry.com tree owners who had Joseph in their tree but no one but me had responded. 

I don’t frequently research Kansas City, Missouri but I thought I’d accept the challenge.  I checked the typical online sites for a photo – Fold3, MyHeritage, Newspapers.com, Chronicling America, Google, etc. but came up with nada.  I then emailed the American Gold Star Mothers to see if they had a repository that could be accessed.  Unfortunately, the reply I received said they don’t.

Next I contacted the genealogy section of a Kansas City public library and the research librarian did find a photo, albeit of poor quality, that had been placed in the Kansas City Star newspaper with his obituary:

I provided the obituary and photo to Fields of Honor and was asked if I could help with missing photos for Indiana men.  I agreed to do what I could and selected Lake and Elkhart counties.  

Lake County, Indiana is a particularly tricky place to research as many of Gary’s records have disappeared with the city’s decline.  Of course, most of the men I needed photos for had resided in Gary.  I again did a preliminary online search as I had for Joseph and came up with nothing.  I then went to the Lake County, Indiana obituary database that the public library system has available online.  NONE of the names appeared in the database.  I know that database contains names of people who have died elsewhere, like my grandmother for example, so why were all of these men missing?  Then it hit me – I recalled during the Vietnam War that those killed in action had a special write up in the local paper, the Gary [IN] Post Tribune. Could it be possible that this was also a practice in other wars?  

Before emailing the library research team I decided, as a backup, to find more information about the men.  I turned to the 1940 US Federal census to try to get an address of where they were residing. Knowing the area, I thought I could turn to school yearbooks to find a photo.  I could narrow the search to the nearest zoned high school based on the 1940 address.  A few men were not found in the census in Lake County.  That’s not surprising as many men moved to Gary after graduating to secure work in one of the steel mills.  That newly acquired info just gave me another place to look if the newspaper didn’t have a photo.

I then contacted the research library staff and am happy to report the following Gary men have been found:

Cloyce Neal Blassingame served in the first integrated Army unit:

Robert E. Cook:

Robert W. Ferguson:

Robert Ferguson was also found in Emerson’s school year book:

and Gordon Miller in Lew Wallace’s school year book:

(The year book publication date was 1946 and Gordon died in 1944.  There was not a 1945 year book, possibly due to the war.  Gordon was pictured with the class of 1944 but I’d like to find verification elsewhere like I did with Robert Ferguson.)

I am still in need of finding photos of the following men:

  • George Fedorchak Jr. (son of Mrs. Mary Fedorchak, 1428 W 13th Avenue, Gary; in 1940 he lived with his widowed mother, Anna, and sisters Marguerite, Genevieve and Helen at 800 “This South Avenue” probably Harrison Street, Gary.  He born about 1920.  Perhaps mother’s name was Mary Ann?).  
  • Edward A. Gooding
  • Mike Zigich (son of Pete & Annie, 2077 Grant St., Gary, born about 1926.  His only sibling predeceased him as a child.  Parents and sibling buried in a Russian Orthodox Cemetery on Ridge Road.  I wrote the parish for a possible church directory photo but did not get a response yet.)

The Zigich name is driving me crazy because I seem to remember Zigich’s when I lived in Gary as a kid.  I’m thinking Mike’s father was a friend of my grandfather.  Their burial place was only a mile from where I lived.  (This is off topic but my dear readers know how my brain works – I know I’m not alone in having a hazy memory from my youth so this is another reason TO WRITE EVERYTHING YOU DO REMEMBER DOWN NOW about your own family.)

So, this gets a little creepy – as the pictures were discovered it slowly dawned on me that people I knew would have known these individuals.  My mother-in-law would have attended Emerson High School with Robert Ferguson.  My aunt and uncle would have attended Lew Wallace with Gordon Miller.  I do recall that Lew Wallace had a memorial to the fallen; I even read the names once when I was waiting for a ride home before I had my driver’s license but the names on the memorial were meaningless to me.  As a teen in the 1970’s, the 1940’s seemed to be in the olden days.  The names listed were just names, not real people to me.  

As the world seems to be forgetting the lessons once learned, “lest not forget” these brave individuals who gave everything they had to end tyrrany.  Don’t let these lives cut short be forgotten!  The Fields of Honor is looking for photos from across the United States.  Click on their database and contribute a picture of a family member or someone from your hometown.  It only takes a few minutes to check your local newspaper archive or public library.  Your help is not only preserving their memory, it’s also supporting society’s fundamental principles in our troubled world. 

Using back door techniques to solve a genealogy mystery

I’ve been researching a mystery man, Anton “Tony” Kos, who was buried in 1934 next to my great grandfather, Joseph Koss, in Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana.  You can see from the above pic I took in December 2001 how close the stones are compared to the next stone to the right.  Looks to me like the plot was one.

I never got a straight answer regarding how Tony and Joseph are related, if at all.  I’d love to find out if they were related, which I strongly think is possible, and why my mother and grandmother refused to verify that.

Here’s what I know…I used to accompany my mom and grandma to the family cemetery around Memorial Day to tend to the graves.  We’d always go to the old part of the cemetery first, to clip the grass around the gravestone of my great grandfather, Joseph Kos[s] who died in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.  When I was old enough to read, I noticed that next to his grave was an Anton Kos.  I knew the family name was originally spelled with one “s” but I had never heard of Anton so I asked how he was related and never got an answer.  I recall my mother just looking at my grandmother and my grandmother looking down and continuing to tidy up her father’s grave.  So, as only a small child will do, I asked again.  I never got a straight answer.  I tried several other times over the years and got various answers; that Kos is a very common Croatian name like Smith is in Great Britain.  That didn’t tell me if Tony was related.  It also didn’t explain why I never saw another grave in the cemetery with the original spelling of the surname.  When I asked about that, I got, “I don’t know why.” as a response. (There actually is another Kos, John, who died in 1934 buried in the cemetery but as a child, I had never seen that grave.)

I tentatively placed Anton as a sibling of my great grandfather Joseph.  Joseph was born in 1875 and Anton, in 1879.  I had called the cemetery in 2012 to ask who purchased Anton’s plot and was told that no one did because the cemetery records don’t have an Anton Kos.  I told the clerk I knew where he was buried, immediately south of my great grandfather.  They insisted no one was buried there.  Looking at the records, I understand what happened.  Anton is listed as Tony in cemetery records, even though Anton is chiseled on his tombstone.  Tony was what was recorded on his death certificate and the cemetery must have listed him under that name. My great grandfather’s tombstone has his Americanized name, Joseph Kos and not his birth name, Josip Kos so there was another possible clue that my family was involved.  These folks Americanized as soon as they arrived in 1910.

As an adult, I can see another family trait that gives credence to a relationship; my family plans for their deaths.  I could see that they would have purchased two plots when my great grandfather died in 1919 expecting that his wife would be buried next to him.  But she lived on until 1966.  I’m thinking when a family member who was in need of the plot died, the family buried him instead.  My family always helped out a relative in need, be it sending care packages back across the pond, fronting them money or taking them into their home for awhile.  My grandparents had purchased a larger plot in the newer section of the cemetery that was the intended burial site for them and my great grandmother.  It is also where I buried my mother’s cremains.  

After we tidied the old section (but we never touched Anton’s stone, which is interesting), we’d move to the new section to trim the grass around the Koss stone.  No one was yet buried there but my forward thinking grandparents had enough sense to purchase the stone while they were still employed.  (And thanks, mom, for taking care of your end of life stuff prior to your death.  Hope our kids appreciate we did the same – yes, you can already find me on Find-A-Grave.)

So getting no where with the cemetery, I decided to try to research Anton Anthony Tony to find a connection. 

From Ancestry.com, you can see his death certificate below:

No help with his parents info but it does say he was born in “Yugo Slavia” just like Joseph Koss.  He also died of lung issues, just like Joseph.  Joseph’s whole family had lung issues, hmm.  Not a smoking gun but certainly gives one pause to consider a relationship as they all died young. He also was a laborer in a steel mill, though not the same one where Joseph worked. Granted, most immigrants at the time were laborers and steel mills offered good wages.

I have never been able to find Tony in any census – having checked 1920-1940 under Anton, Anthony and Tony Kos, Koss and Ross (as my own people have been enumerated as). 

There is another mystery – who was Steve Sesta who provided the death certificate info?  I’ve never heard of him.

The death certificate gives me a clue to look at the address where Tony was living when he died, 35 East 39th Street, Gary, Indiana.

So here’s a tip – I want to use the 1940 census to find who was living at Tony’s address.  It could take quite some time using Ancestry.com because I would need to click on every enumeration area and Gary was a large city so there are many.  To save time, I used the National Archives site (just Google 1940 U.S. Federal Census enumeration map and you’ll be taken directly to it or use my link). 

Since I grew up in the city, I know the layout of the street and avenue names, which saved me time.  If you are researching an area you aren’t familiar with, simply use Google earth to get a better idea.  In my case, I knew that streets ran north and south, avenues ran east and west.  Street names west of Broadway used the president’s names in order (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, no repeat of Adams, etc.) and east of Broadway used states’ names, in no particular order.  So, I was looking for 39th Street and could eliminate all of the western side of Broadway simply by identifying if the first page of the census had a presidents name or not.

After going through 3 enumeration areas, I found the address:

The address was divided into two housing units, front and rear.  Steve, who had provided the death certificate info, lived in the rear.  That means Tony was living in the front but he wasn’t there in 1940.  It also explains why there is no parent information for Tony, neighbor Steve did not know that information.  (I know, you’re thinking I should check property records to see who owned the residence but the problem is most of Gary’s records were “lost” according to the Lake County, Indiana property appraiser’s office.  I suspect they’re somewhere in Gary and just weren’t turned over to the county when the law changed but I don’t live anywhere close to be able to hunt around for them so that’s a dead end for me.)

The death certificate did state Tony had worked for 1 year as a laborer for Illinois Steel.  He may have only arrived in the area in 1942, during World War II. 

I checked immigration records but there are many Anton Kos’ who emigrated from Austria-Hungary/Yugoslavia so I’m unable to pinpoint one of them as my mystery man.

I know, from a recent DNA match with another relative, that during World War II, my Cvetkovic relatives were displaced to another part of what is now Croatia, due to mayhem in the area where the family originally resided in Velika Gorica.  It certainly is possible that Tony had left the area because of the war and came to the U.S. to a place where family already resided. 

Tony was survived by a wife, Anna, who was born in 1878.  Perhaps she remarried as she is not listed in cemetery records by the last name Kos or Koss or like Tony, she wasn’t entered in the cemetery database correctly.  Unfortunately, only 30% of the cemetery is listed on Find-A-Grave.  There’s nothing on Billion Graves either. 

Somehow, I have a maiden name for her as Smolkovic but I have no idea where I got that info.  I also have a marriage date, but no place, and two children residing in Rhode Island.  That info was obtained years ago before I carefully sourced (shame on me!). This is an area I need to further research.

I checked City Directories and there is only one Anthony in Gary but he was married to a Mary living on Filmore Street in Gary in 1918.  He never appears in any other directory.  My Kos line doesn’t arrive in Gary until 1919 so I suspect he wasn’t the my Tony.  There is no Tony or Anton ever in any City Directory for Gary. I got his obituary thanks to the Ask-A-Librarian link on the Lake County library site but it provides basically no information other than he had died after a long illness, which disputes the information on the death certificate.  Or, maybe not.  Perhaps he suffered from lung problems for years but the incident that caused his death had been short.  

There is no one in my family much older than me left who would know – definitely no one who was alive in 1943 that would remember.  Decided I’d try the cemetery again since it’s recently been sold and maybe the new owners have done an inventory of grave sites. Sent an email on Sunday and haven’t gotten a response so will follow up with a phone call this week.  

If that falls through, I’m going to attempt to check Baptism records for Velika Gorica to see if I can link Anton to Joseph’s parents.  Unfortunately, they aren’t on Familysearch.org so I’ll have to email a genealogist in Croatia to do some digging.  

Connecting Tony and Joseph would be awesome but I’ll most likely never get the story of why he was not discussed since dead men tell no tales! 

Where to Search for Your Immigrant U.S. Ancestors

If you are researching when your ancestors arrived in the U.S., it’s important to know what documents were available to show immigration status.  Although it’s possible your forefathers didn’t become naturalized citizens, meaning they were granted citizenship, it’s wise to check records to gain family insights.

Before the break with Great Britain, immigrants to what is now the U.S. were considered subjects of the crown.  In 1776, every man, woman and child, excluding Native Americans and African Americans, were granted “collective” citizenship.  No documents exist to state that status, however.  It was a right earned by merely being in the country at the time it separated from Great Britain.

Between 1776-1789, an immigrant who purchased land could become a citizen through denization.  Check land records, if available.  Citizens who became naturalized through denization, however, could not hold public office.  An “oath of allegiance” was required to obtain voting rights and to hold a public office.  Oaths were recorded in court records. Even if your relative did not seek naturalization, they were required by law to report to the nearest court and register that they were residing in the country.  Check Report and Registry logs between 1798-1828. 

Although the laws changed between 1790-1906, typically 3 steps must have been completed for an individual to be considered naturalized.  After having a Declaration of Intention filed with the local court, a final petition 1-2 years later would need to be submitted in a court in the nearest town.  You may have to check various towns as settlers could complete the paperwork where they currently resided.  After the petition was accepted, a Certificate of Naturalization was provided by the local court.

Prior to 1906, immigration records were not as complete as in later years.  Only the country of origin and not the city/town may have been listed as people were on the move.  Typically, parent information was excluded but you may get lucky.  For these later records, you will need to file a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Prepare for a long wait – I have had to wait over a year to obtain my grandparents paperwork but it was well worth it.  The photo alone was a gem!

My Tree Tags – Trying Out Ancestry.com’s New Feature

Two weekends ago I tried using My Tree Tags on Ancestry.com and I think you’ll like this new feature.  For years, I’ve wished that there was a way to flag my ancestors so I could create various lists of my folks.  This feature will do that and more.

To try it for yourself, click on Extras on the ribbon (it’s the last entry).  Then, click on My Tree Tags.  Notice it’s in Beta so it’s still being improved.  I had no problems with the feature so the IT Department must have worked the bugs out long before they made the Beta available to the general public.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why should I waste my time Beta testing when it isn’t a finished program?”  Simply because you still have time to provide your insights to make the program even better!  You have the option to give feedback using a short survey.

Once you click Enable you are good to go.  The first change you’ll notice is that the former search button for individuals is now called Tree Search.  When you click it, the Tree Search looks different then it did:

This threw me for a minute but it works the same  – just type in the individual you are trying to located in the search box and they’ll display as a drop down as they did before.

To use My Tree Tags, click Filters and it will display the tag choices:

Each Filter contains more items to explore.  I personally like the Custom filter as I created one I titled “Lineage” which allows me to identify the people I selected to join various lineage societies.  In the Custom feature, you can even write a description of what the title means to you so others, if your tree is public, can better understand your definition.  I’m thinking of identifying careers as I’d like to analyze those that followed a particular career path, such as teacher, minister, or farmer.

Once you’ve selected tags, they will display on the Facts page under your ancestor’s identifying information in white letters in a blue box:

Only 3 tags will show.  If more were selected a + and a number appears on the right; click to display the other tags that were selected:

Now here’s the awesome part – say you want to find all of your military people.  When you click on Military it will display all others in your tree that you’ve identified with the same tag:

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how the list is ordered; it’s not by alpha of last name or by dates.  It doesn’t seem to be by how I identified people, either.  

If you goof, it’s simple to correct an error.  The edit button is the pencil in the circle at the end of the tag.  Click it and change – add or delete – whatever you’d like.

IMHO, the best part is that you can identify if you are working on a line and making a hypothesis.  I became so frustrated with brick wall (another tag you can select) ancestors that I was then researching (currently researching is also a tag) that I stopped adding to my tree as I did the research because someone would copy the information and before I knew it, it had spread like a wildfire.  I’m hopeful that tagging will alert someone that the information is not verified yet.  

If you decide you don’t want to use the feature, go back to Extras on the ribbon and disable it.  You’re back to where you were.  

Making Ancestry.com Ghost Hints Disappear

I finally discovered a simple way to remove Ancestry.com ghost hints.  Ghost hints are those phantom records that once were available but for several reasons – maybe the original poster removed them or Ancestry no longer supports the source of the record – are now not available.  Those hints show up under the “All hints” area but when you click on one to view, a pop up lets you know they are no longer available.  They then remain a grayed out phantom forever; a reminder of what once was but as Poe so eloquently noted, “Quoth the raven, nevermore.”  

I first noticed this problem several years ago and contacted Ancestry Customer Service.  The rep said she had no idea what I was talking about as no one else ever called about that situation.  Yeah, I bet.  She recommended logging out and then back in.  Of course, that didn’t make them disappear.  A few months later, at a genealogical conference, I learned I was not alone and that these mysteriously disappearing records and photos had been named Ghost Hints.  I also found threads online that others had reported it and that Ancestry was working on a solution.

Fast forward several months and in speaking with an Ancestry rep at a national conference, I learned that Ancestry, periodically, would correct the situation by doing a refresh on their end.  That did seem to work but for the past year and a half, even with their refresh, seven Ghost Hints remained.  I finally discovered how to get rid of them and it’s very simple.  Just follow these steps:

1.  On the ribbon, click on All Hints.  The counter is inaccurate and I haven’t figured out how to correct that yet.  Here’s what mine looked like when I really had no active hints and four Ghost Hints for three individuals:

2.  Here’s the four Ghost hints for three individuals, all have been showing “more than 90 days ago.”

3.  I’m going to step you through removing the Ghost Hint now…Click on the down arrow on the right and then click”View his Hints”

4.  This will take you to the hint tab on the individual’s page.  In the example above, we’re on John Hollinghead’s hint tab:

You can see that there is no hint available as the source info section is blank.  To get rid of these two pesky Ghost Hints, simply click “Ignore”

5.  After clicking the page will refresh as shown below:

6.  Now go back to the ribbon on the right hand side and click the leaf icon.  It shows I have no recent hints.  I still had two more Ghost Hints to remove, however, so I’m going to click on “See all recent hints in…Main Tree” to get rid of them, too:

7.  Back to the All Hints area, you can see that John Hollingshead’s Ghost Hints have vanished!  I’m going to follow the steps above to remove the last two remaining Ghost Hints:

8.  I successfully removed the Ghost Hints but notice that the counter on the left side and the leaf counter on the ribbon at the top are still wrong.  Funny how the two counters don’t even agree on the total.  The left side notes that I have one record and six photos for a total of seven All Hints.  Math is correct although there is no record or photo hints appearing.  The leaf icon claims I have 8 hints but when I click on the leaf, it states I have no hints – as shown in step 6 above.  Perhaps when Ancestry does their updates the counter will correct itself.  At least the counters have stopped showing I have negative hints as in the past, the counter sometimes displayed a negative number.   

I’m not sure when Ancestry fixed the problem. As of two years ago, the response about the Ghost Hint problem was the following:

I found a YouTube video from November 2017 that allows you to make the hints disappear but it involves going into the code.  You can view that video here.  Sometime after, Ancestry must have come up with the way I just discovered.  Really simple to make them disappear now – thanks, Ancestry.com!

Growing Your Genealogy with Living Family Member Interaction

Zen needed

Sometimes, you just have to practice self control when you’re around your family.  (‘m referring to the living ones and not the death ones who left no documents or photos behind.)  I bet, as the family historian, you’ve encountered some of the following situations:

  • They just make one excuse after another for not going into (Fill in the blank – attic, basement, closet, storage facility, garage) to retrieve the (Fill in the blank – birth certificate, Bible, photo)  that you desperately need yet…
  • You receive a frantic call at an inopportune time wanting to know if your family is related to a celebrity
  • Your family expects you to help them for FREE join a lineage society
  • Even though you’ve shared all the discoveries you’ve found and ignored the glassy eyed bored looks you’ve gotten in return, they want some arcane piece of info on some distant ancestor because someone at work or some show on TV made them think about that story you told, only you have no knowledge of what they’re talking about because they’ve jumbled different people and events together in their minds
  • You’ve bought the DNA kit, helped them follow the simple instructions, mailed it back for them and monitor it and they don’t believe the results (even though your DNA and theirs is a close match)

Those are my top 5 pet peeves and over the past holiday season, each of them raised their ugly heads.  Two of the above became the most problematic.  

The first situation was the result of Ancestry’s recent upgrade of their DNA results.  With the old results, one family member showed more Swedish than anyone else in the family.  As a genealogist, my take on it is “So what” as we all know that the percentages are fluid since they’re based on the pool tested.  As the pool grows, so the results change.  I have explained this in the past but I guess somehow I’m not doing a good job.  In my family’s case, the updated stats shifted the percent slightly making the former number 1 in second place and the the former second place in first.  No big deal, right?  Evidently it was.  Instead of just asking for my take on the change, the newly placed number 1 decided that the results were questionable and so purchased a test from a competitor.  Of course, the competitor’s pool was different and the results varied but in this individual’s head, those results were more valid (because they hadn’t been updated yet).  Since the percents of test two were even less than the first test results, the individual became upset at all the ‘misleading info and the waste of money.”

It was time to take a deep breath.  I ignored the waste of money part since I had paid for the first test and the individual had gotten a deep discount on the second test.  I brought up my own results from several companies and showed how the results vary and again explained why.  I don’t think it got through any better than the previous times I’ve explained but it did end the conversation on a positive note.  

The second situation was a family member who asked me to write down the birth and death dates for two ancestors.  When I did, I was informed that I was wrong.  I had to bite my tongue to not respond, “If you know the information why are you asking me?”  Instead, after a pause, I asked if the individual wanted a copy of the birth and death certificates.  The response was no.  I then asked why the information was being questioned.  The answer was it didn’t seem like it had been that long ago when the individuals died.  Sure, as we age, time seems to go much quicker.  In this situation, I owned the problem as I jumped to the conclusion that the asker doubted my research when that wasn’t the case at all.  

Family can be a help in our genealogy quest – not just with gaining names and dates of ancestors but in showing us character areas where we need to grow.  

Valentine Gift Idea – a Family Tree Poster

Valentine’s is around the corner and here’s a quick gift idea for family – a poster of your family tree.  I discovered that Geneanet has some free templates that make awesome (inexpensive) gifts.  I did this last minute before Christmas and the results were beautiful.

If you have a Geneanet tree you can follow the instructions below.  If not, first you need to create an account a thttps://en.geneanet.org/  Although they have a premium service, which is a nice option, you don’t have to pay to become a member and upload a tree.

Download wherever you’ve saved your family tree and then upload to Geneanet on the ribbon under Family Tree – Import/Export a Family Tree.  Depending on the size of your tree, this may take a few minutes.

Once your tree is uploaded, open up the individual (or yourself) that you want to start as the base of your chart.  Then click on Charts & Lists – Ancestry – Printable Family Tree.  There are several templates from which you can select.  I chose a fan design and used a tree in the background on one and a lion on another.  You can also select up to 10 generations to include.  I saved it to a thumb drive and then took it to my closest big box office supply store.  They quickly printed it for me on poster paper and the cost was $3.17 ($1.08 a piece with tax).  Make sure you tell the sales person to leave a border around the poster if you intend to get it framed.  I didn’t which I should have.

The only downside is that GENEANET is printed in large letters at the bottom right but for the price, I believe it’s worth the advertising.

Now just think – you’re family will stop asking you how so and so is related and when great grandpa died.  Well, maybe if your family is like mine they’ll continue to ask but that’s okay, you can redirect them to the chart.  I call it baby steps in training them to be interested in genealogy.