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.
You may be contemplating taking advantage of the DNA specials that are currently offered – Ancestry.com and MyHeritageDNA.com are both being sold for $59.00 plus shipping. Maybe you’re like me and have tested with a number of different companies over the past several years and believe you know the directions well enough to not read them. I am going to share an embarrasingly dumb mistake I made last month when taking a DNA test to spare you having to learn this lesson on your own.
At my annual wellness physical my physician and I discussed genealogy. Side note: Physicians and genealogists share a lot in common, especially at parties where acquaintances want to poke your brain and get free advice on their chronic complaint – a health issue for the docs and a brick wall for the genealogist.
My medical provider was sharing the results of her recent DNA test and I told her how I had compiled an ancestor health history going back several generations as I believe that some genetic conditions reoccur farther than the two generations back that typically the medical community zeroes in on when you complete the initial paperwork of who had what conditions.
Granted, I have no proof of my theory other than what I’ve discovered in my own family tree and usually, when I mention this to a doctor, I get the same look that is given when you tell them you tried to self diagnose using WebMD. I understand I’m enchroaching on their professional judgement but I mean no disrespect. My current physician is very understanding of this tendency I have and although neither my parents or grandparents had medical concerns that DNA testing could show might affect me, I had two aunts that clearly carried a trait. We both agreed it would be beneficial for me to be tested for medical information.
Deciding I could handle the test’s results, I made a followup appointment to spit into the test tube the next week. The receptionist reiterated what the doctor said, don’t eat or drink anything within an hour of the test. Yeah, yeah, I know already, I’m an expert DNA test taker!
Since my appointment was scheduled as the first visit of the morning, I decided I wouldn’t eat or drink anything after dinner the previous evening. I even brushed my teeth right after dinner so there’d be no chance of a toothpaste interference.
The next morning I got ready quickly and drove straight to the doctor’s office. After signing in and being taken back to an exam room, the MA asked if I had eaten or drank anything in the last hour. “No,” I replied, “Nothing since last night about 6:00.” She then handed me the test tube and told me foam didn’t count so make sure to spit to the line.
No worries, I got this. My only thought was why didn’t they just take a cheek swab as in the days of old – that’s how I took my first Ancestry.com DNA test.
MA left the room and I began to fill the test tube. I was really going to town so I didn’t stop to look at the tube for a bit. When I finally did, I had quite a shock. My spit was not clear; it was tinged with pink.
My first thought was I was bleeding but I felt fine. Then it hit me; I had put lipstick on that morning.
Lipstick does not process in my brain as food or drink. It reminds me of my history as my maternal relatives never left the house without applying it. I asked my grandmother why when I was about 8 and she said you should always put your best face forward. That is, except when you’re taking a DNA test in the doctor’s office.
I didn’t know what to do; should I go look for the MA and ask if I should continue or should I just finish filling the tube? I opened the door and saw no one in the hall so I decided to finish and maybe the test would be valid.
A few minutes later the MA returned and I sheepishly showed her the pink vial. “I’ll check to see if that’s okay,” she said, “Never had that happen before.” That made two of us. Returning, she told me that the test wasn’t going to be acceptable and I needed to “Wash off your makeup, wait an hour and we’ll retest.”
The last time someone told me to “Wash off that makeup” was in 8th grade and my lipstick of choice was Wow Wow White that looked awesome with my then braces. Sister Rosarita felt differently and I was sent to the girl’s gang bathroom to remove it. Then, I was angry at the school rule that was enchroaching on my lifestyle. At the doctor’s office, I was angry at myself for being so stupid.
I was planning on meeting my husband after the appointment so I texted him I’d be late because, well, my lipstick got between my DNA and the tube. He thought that was hysterical. Me, not at all.
A little over an hour later the MA called me from the waiting room and asked if I was sure I had gotten all the lipstick off. I showed her my pale pink lips and said, “This is what they really look like.” She laughed and said, “Nice color.”
The second test went smoothly. My results have been returned and they’re good, too.
The doctor’s office staff were so kind about my mistake and said they’d make sure that they mention “NO LIP PRODUCTS” to future women who will DNA test. I’m letting my dear readers know that, too.
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.
Notice the new Hints feature on Ancestry? It appears at the top of the Hints page in the middle below the ribbon:
To become a part of the Beta test group, simply toggle the button “BETA OFF” to the right to become “BETA ON.”
If you aren’t into Beta testing, here’s what changes you would see – after the two pictures of Joseph Reid, notice there is a “Quick Compare” toggle on the right side of the screen. I have the feature disabled below so all you see in the last column for the Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 is Different and New:
What was different and new? Joseph was misspelled on the Texas Death Certificate as Joshph which is why it is noted as different from what I have in my tree, Joseph. I did not have Joseph’s spouse and children so that information would be “New” to me. Other options are Same (for the named individual) and Match (for a spouse or child).
When you toggle from right to left the Quick Compare button, you see the following:
So now I see what exactly is the difference from my tree and the record (which was what I figured – Joseph was spelled differently, duh!). It also provides the birth date and place I had in my tree. I had Ohio but the death record stated Pennsylvania, USA.
Compare is a nice feature as you can see the differences between the new record and what’s already saved in your tree without having to leave the Hints page. I don’t use Hints often, though, so it’s not likely I’ll be toggling for Quick Compares frequently.
This is how I use Hints – If I have Hints on, I always click Ignore. I do this because the Hint never goes away, it simply disables the waving leaf. If I ever want to see the Hint I ignored, all I need to do is go to the Hints section of an individual as seen below (Click on Hints, it’s in the same line with LifeStory):
Clicking on Ignored will allow me to look at those Ignored Hints again.
If you are looking at Hints for everyone in your tree (by clicking the leaf on the upper right hand corner and selecting your tree) in the Beta option, when you click Ignore you get the following:
I would click “I already have this information.” as I don’t need the same picture saved twice.
If you’d like to offer your input in making Ancestry.com’s Hints better, give the Beta test a try.
Next week, I’m going to blog about why I have Joseph Reid, the father-in-law of my husband’s 5th cousin twice removed. Stay tuned.