More Tech Safety Suggestion

Last week I blogged about my Evernote account being hacked.  I reached out to some tech savvy colleagues for advice and wanted to share something with you that might be helpful.  

An IT engineer recommended that I check my email accounts for hacks by visiting https://haveibeenpwned.com

That’s not a typo – it is pwned and not owned!

Enter your email address on the page and click pwned?

I have several email accounts and I entered all of them to check.  I was surprised to find that one had been breached.  It was a government site from last summer that I use for genealogy research.  I changed the password on that site and just to be more secure, changed my email password.  

While changing my password I had another “Aha!” moment; I never took the time to really check out my email Security settings.  The devices I have connected to the email are shown but I had to pause at the Third-party apps with account access.  My bad for not reading the small print and clicking “I accept” when visiting an organization’s website!  I had given permission unknowingly to two retail organizations to have access to my calendar and contacts.  It was quite easy to disable that!  I’ve begun my holiday shopping so after I’m done, I plan on rechecking my email account to see if I somehow give permission for access that is unwarranted.  

Just like covid, behind the scene activity to your tech tools can maliciously effect you!  Take a few minutes to check it out and stay safe!

Evernote Info to Keep Your Info Safe

I haven’t used Evernote in awhile, so imagine my surprise this morning to receive an email that someone with a Mac in India signed on to my account 7 hours earlier.  Definitely wasn’t me or anyone I know!

Being somewhat paranoid, I tend to not click on links sent to me in emails.  Instead, I used my current Kindle to go directly to Evernote online as I haven’t downloaded the ap to that Kindle.  

Another surprise – I was unable to disable the device as my account was accessible only from the Kindle that I had the ap downloaded to.  I’m really not understanding that since the hacker didn’t have the Kindle with the ap on it!  Unfortunately, I’m not tech savy enough to figure out how to access my account on a different device so I then spent time on a Kindle hunt to find the device with the ap.

Took me a few minutes to figure out where the old Kindle was and to fire it up.  After getting through the ad to purchase more Evernote services, I clicked on Settings and Devices.  Sure enough, there was the hacker’s device.  Clicking “disable” hopefully blocked the hacker from having some afternoon fun with my account.  

The hacker didn’t find anything useful as after taking notes, I transfer them to whatever computer I’m using as soon as I’m done with a meeting or archive visit.  I keep nothing on Evernote.  That practice wasn’t established because I didn’t trust Evernote to keep my documents safe; it was my process to use Evernote in settings that aren’t conducive to paper and pens/pencils, such as in a library stack or outside at a cemetery with the wind blowing.  Now I’m glad that was how I used the ap!

I decided it would be wise to change my password.  I’m a little miffed with Evernote as you cannot easily do that.  The directions online say to go to Account Settings and click Security Summary.  I don’t have that, possibly because I never purchased an updgrade package.  My only option to update a password is to email them and then they send me an email and then I go back to their site and change the password.  All this for a device I don’t even use any longer.

So, adieu, Evernote.  I’ve uninstalled the ap on the old Kindle after clearing the cache and signing out of the account.  I won’t be downloading it to my new one, either.  When the pandemics over I’ll be using the note ap on my cell instead.  

DNA Today from Hair of the Past

Short blog this week as I’m slammed with work.  I just read something I think is super interesting – Hair DNA Advance Hailed as Forensic Game Changer.  A family member knows I’m interested in DNA and genealogy and passed the article along to me.  Personally I think it’s going to be a boon to family genealogy once the new technology gets simplified.  Imagine being able to take in grandpa’s hair brush or that Victorian hair ring you inherited but have no idea who it originally belonged to!  Better yet, think of mummies that still have clumps of hair or even woolly mammoths.  I can’t even imagine all the new information that will result from these DNA samples.

Genealogy Scams – What You Need to Know

A few weeks ago I received an email from a “well meaning” individual I did not know.  He was writing to inform me that based on my DNA results, I am in the “same tribe” as a wealthy man who went missing in Saudia Arabia about 10 years ago and the bank is ready to close his accounts and  disburse the vast amounts of stock he earned from oil revenue. 

Wow, I’m so lucky that this person found my DNA and linked me to a wealthy relative I didn’t know existed, NOT!  This letter was clearly a take on the old Nigerian banking scam that still circulates today. 

Another genealogy scam making the rounds that I never receive is one I found on Wikipedia. The “Death Certificate Scam: Person will get an obituary off Internet. Find out relatives related. Get their emails. Contact them with fake story of another family member near death, which of course, is only told in ambiguous language. It originates out of Ethiopia with the “makelawi” tag in the email, but it can have de (German free email tag) along with it.”

I’m not sure how many people fall for these poorly worded (in English) emails.  I know several of my colleagues weren’t happy to get the DNA scam as they felt that it will make more people hesitant to have their DNA tested.  Although that may make someone pause before spitting, being able to make your results private would lessen the likelihood of fraudulent people contacting you because of your test results, if that is your concern.  (I’ve had people tell me they were hesitant to take a DNA test because they didn’t want the insurance company to get the results and deny them coverage which would be illegal but we all know how that goes.)


My concern is different then my colleagues; as I blogged a few weeks ago, I have been volunteering with an organization trying to obtain photos of American service people who were killed in Europe during World War II.  In contacting a small public library in rural Indiana for assistance, I was surprised to hear back that the family of the killed in action serviceman was found but they were hesitant to provide a photo because they had several questions about the reasons the photo was needed.  


I, too, check out organizations before I affiliate with them so the inquiry was probably a wise course of action.  I forwarded the email to the person I had been working with and the library staff received a detailed explanation, an offer to provide the name and contact information of the local individual who had been maintaining the grave for the past several years, an invitation to attend the upcoming memorial service and the organization’s goal as the 75th anniversary of the deaths approaches.  


I was impressed with the response less than 24 hours after the questions were received but disappointed that the family decided to ignore the information.  This reminds me of a distant cousin I have who absolutely refuses to share photos of our shared ancestor because, well, there is no reason. 

Not every query is a scam.   If you are concerned that you received a possible nefarious email, check out the FTC’s recommended ways to recognize and avoid scams.  If you are contacted for a picture of your great great grandma by someone who writing a history of the town she lived in, most likely it’s a legitimate request.  Check it out and after making a decision, respond to the inquirer with your answer.  It’s the right thing to do.

Ancestry Ghost Hints

It’s October and my surroundings are beginning to look creepy with Halloween quickly approaching. One thing that greatly disturbs me more than the skeletons and witches on every corner is my Ancestry.com ghost hints.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, a ghost hint is the term used for those pesky hints that were once available and no longer are. There are several reasons for their occurrence – an individual may have uploaded media and then removed it or made it private or Ancestry may have discontinued the database for the hint.

Every so often I go through the hints as sometimes I miss a new database that Ancestry has added and the hints can give me some information I may have missed. The ghost hints, though, remain and give a false number of the hints that are available. I’ve clipped below the grayed out hints that appear on my All Hints page:

As you can see above, there are 7 and all of them are records. When I look at the hint counter, however, it shows that I have 14 hints, 8 of which are records and 6 that are photos.

Clicking on Records or Photos just gives me the message ” You currently have no photo hints for Reset filter to see all hints ”

Also, look at the count over the leaf of 99+ on the upper right corner. I don’t have over 99 hints as I actually have zero. That count has stayed the same even after leaving the program and signing on a different computer the following day.

This lack of accuracy scares me; how many other data counts are off that we aren’t aware of? How do we know that filtering we set when doing a search is correct?

Ghost hints aren’t a new phenomena; I first noticed them in June a few years ago and when I called Customer Service was informed the problem must be on my end with cache in my computer. Yeah, sure. The following May, at an NGS Conference, I asked one of the Ancestry reps about the situation as my ghost inhabitants had grown. He explained the reasons which I mentioned in my first paragraph and said the company was working on cleaning up the problem by periodically doing a refresh. The problem is the refresh does not work for all the hints as I’ve had the 7 above for YEARS.

I’d really love for Ancestry to stop being a ghost host and send these phantoms to parts unknown.

Why Sharing Your DNA is Important

There has been much controversy lately regarding law enforcement’s use of DNA results from public sites to solve crimes. I’ve even had a Client who requested the removal of results due to media coverage. Here’s my top five reasons to keep your DNA public:

You’re reconnecting with close family that may hold the key you otherwise wouldn’t ever uncover
You’ve gained collaborators who care about the line you’re interested in learning more about
You gain health information that you otherwise wouldn’t obtain so you can make better lifestyle changes, if needed, to enhance your quality of life
By sharing your information, you’re being altruistic in helping others
You’re leaving a footprint for future genealogists
I understand the cons. No one likes to snitch on family but the real truth is that withholding your DNA results is not going to alter people who make poor choices need to make restitution for their actions. The serial killers who have recently been outed continued to make bad choices that negatively affected others. If DNA results had been available years ago, think of how many families would not have suffered the loss of a loved one.

My long time readers will know from past blogs that my family has made some really awful choices – abusive behavior and law breaking readily come to mind – and I’ve found that other families I’ve researched have a few bad apples or black sheep, too. All humans share DNA, obviously some more closely than others. Just because you share DNA genetically with someone who committed a crime does not make you more likely to do the same. Hiding your DNA is not going to change their actions at all.

No one appreciates Big Brother nosing in on you and your loved ones. A few nights ago, however, the importance of using technology to catch a criminal was really driven home to me. Because their is currently an open police investigation I’m going to be vague in details. Suffice it to say that we were able to possibly prevent a future homicide due to a Fitbit, security cameras and a cell phone record. Giving up a little bit of privacy for the common good of a community is the right thing to do.

If you’re thinking about removing your public results, seriously think again. The information you withhold may save a life.

Unexpected Results of Having My DNA Done


Just read a wonderful article from NPR on dealing with DNA’s unexpected results that I highly recommend – read it here.

I’m still receiving emails from my matches. Yesterday I got an email at 10 AM from a descendant of Samuel Samuelson and as I was responding, I got another email from a descendant of Samuel’s wife, Maria Swanson. I happily connected the two folks who kindly responded to my initial query. I just love those kinds of coincidences! Think about this, both send me a response within minutes of each other and after 150+ years, reconnect. Very weird!

What was even more awesome was that one of the emailers mentioned that his 100+ year old great aunt is still alive. I strongly urged that they share the info I sent. Hopefully, the photo of that woman’s grandfather will spark some memory that can be recorded before it’s too late. That was certainly an unexpected result of having my DNA done. I never thought I’d find someone who was still alive who had personal knowledge of those living in the 1800’s.

Here’s another result that I never anticipated – I’ve connected with a great grandson of one of my husband’s aunts who didn’t know his great grandmother. We have wonderful memories from when we were teens of this lovely lady and I shared via email some of the kind things she did. I’m sure he’ll pass the information to his own children someday and I just love that the connection will go forward. Happy Hunting!

Must Reads

Still catching up from my recent vacations and would like to pass on some awesome articles I’ve just read:

Ancient DNA solves the mystery of the Canaanites (Washington Post)

She thought she was Irish… (Washington Post)

How a rare skin disease links SA to an 18th century Frenchman (The Conversation Africa)

Save the Census (New York Times)

Plus, just announced, Legacy Family Tree will merge with MyHeritage. Special deals coming soon!

Goodbye, FHL Microfilm Rental!


If you haven’t seen the latest news about renting microfilm for use at local Family History Libraries, then you need to check out this link NOW.

I don’t rent as much as I used to because the records for the areas where I do the most research are online at FamilySearch or it just never will be and I’ve had to rely on methods other than microfilm. My last film request was in March and I’ve been going through my pending projects to see if there’s any films I’ll need soon. Of course, I can’t predict the need of the next Client. Genealogy Murphy’s Law will result in a new Client meeting on September 1st for a microfilm need that I wouldn’t be able to obtain.

My advice if you’re planning to rent is don’t delay – you’ve only got 2 months left and most likely will be a flurry of activity on the shipping side. After you get the email from Salt Lake that your films have shipped, make a note to call your local library a few days later to verify the films have been received.

A colleague has concerns that not everything will be available online due to legal agreements previously made with the record holders. That means, waiting patiently until 2020 will still not allow you to view the films online. In those cases, you’ll have to either travel to Salt Lake or hire someone local to do a look up for you because those films will not be shipped locally any longer. If your research is extensive and you’re on a budget, it would probably be best for you to do the research in person. My favorite time to go is late winter into early spring as it’s not so busy. I’m thinking I may skip the NGS Conference next year and travel to Salt Lake instead.

If you can’t make a trip and need to hire someone, I’d highly recommend asking your local genealogical society for referrals. If they haven’t used anyone, then check out the Association of Professional Genealogist’s site. APG members sign an ethics agreement and in the unlikely event your have a problem, you can reach out to APG for assistance.

I have such mixed emotions about the end of microfilm. I’m not sure what my attachment is; I sure didn’t shed a tear when the world moved from Beta, 8 tracks, my Garmond GPS, or hardwired phones. Maybe it’s because I have so many memories of so many places and so many finds that make me a tad sad about the demise. Perhaps it’s becoming one with the record in a dimly lit room and the comforting whirring sound of the machine as I rewind it speedily. I’ll miss sharing in a happy dance when the stranger sitting next to me makes a phenomenal find.

Of course, there’s so many reasons why this move is a good thing. It’s just, well, like the old song says, “Breaking up is hard to do…” RIP Microfilm Distribution. 1859* – 31 Aug 2017.

*Based on the first patent issued to Rene Dagron

Ancestry.com and RootsMagic Synch Now Available!


RootsMagic has just announced that their new version 7.5 has been released. I’m so excited to again be able to synch my large tree from Ancestry to my desktop. I know it works because I’ve been one of the Beta Testers and I tried synching my 70k+ tree, along with smaller trees I’ve done over the years, in the past two months. Kudos to the RootsMagic staff – awesome job!

Beta testers were sworn to secrecy as the hardworking IT staff at RootsMagic toiled away to remove bugs we found. I’ve been very satisfied with the company’s response to comments and their diligence in getting it right before releasing it to the general public. Not like the other company that shall not be named.

It does take a good 12 hours to synch my largest tree so be forewarned it’s not going to be instantaneous. When I say synch, I mean truly synch – as in all of my people, over 21,000 photos, 2000 stories and 248,000 records will be accessible to me on my desktop. When I change anything online at Ancestry or on my desktop, the trees will match.

What’s really cool is that RootsMagic also provides hints with FamilySearch, MyHeritage and FindMyPast. It is simple to use, too. If you already are a part of RootsMagic, simply update to the newest version by clicking the link they provide at Help – Check for Updates. Then, click the Ancestry.com icon on the ribbon (it’s between Family Search logo and the open book on the right). Sign into Ancestry with your sign on and password. I clicked “remember” so that I don’t have to redo it each time I log on to RootsMagic. You’ll have two options – upload your RootsMagic tree to Ancestry of download an Ancestry tree to RootsMagic. Although I have a gedcom of my Ancestry tree saved on RootsMagic, it did not have all the goodies I wanted – meaning the media (photo, stories, audio) so I selected the option on the right – Download an Ancestry tree. I began that process as I started writing this blog and it’s already 21% complete. Keep in mind, this is a HUGE tree so that’s to be expected.

I’m walking away from my tree now and knowing it’ll be all synched and ready to go tomorrow morning. Oh, joy!