I have uploaded by DNA results to several sites and you could benefit from doing that, too. The reason is simple – think about why you tested with the company you chose. I tested with 23andMe because I wanted to find out the amount of Neandertal ancestry I carry and that feature wasn’t available through the other major sites (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com).
Some folks may have selected a company based on pricing. Others may have received a kit as a gift. In the U.S., Ancestry.com commercials are everywhere but that’s not necessarily true in other parts of the world. You stand the greatest chance of maximizing your DNA results by uploading them to sites that accept results.
Last week, I received an email from MyHeritage.com that I have several new DNA matches. Typically, they are 3rd to 5th cousins that I’ve connected with in the past. This time, was different. Luckily, I recognized the surname as one of my maternal line’s great grandmothers of which I have scant information as she had died young in childbirth.
Immediately, I clicked on the “cousins” tree which only contained 10 entries, most of which was private but I could see the geographic region and I knew that this proved promising. I wrote the cousin an email and was happily surprised when he responded a few hours later. We wrote back and forth all week. The irony is that he lives just a little over 100 miles from the homestead but has no knowledge of the family. Why? His grandfather had relocated the family during World War II and never spoke to his children about the family’s history. The grandfather died a few years before the cousin I was corresponding with was born so he could never ask him directly. There is now only one elderly relative, in his 80’s remaining. He plans on taking my family stories to the elder. I’m anxiously awaiting his knowledge.
No telling what you might discover from connecting with a family member across the pond! DNA matching makes it easy and inexpensive.
Recently, my St. Patrick’s Day Ancestry.com special DNA deal results were returned. I had tested with Ancestry years ago prior to autosomal’s availability. When the price for autosomal dropped, I decided to test with two other companies to gain access to their testing population and opted to have my children test with Ancestry. I decided to purchase the Ancestry test because the price was right ($49.00), I wanted to go back one generation further than my children could do in search for my Morrison and Adams brick wall lines, and I wanted to play with Ancestry’s new DNA feature, Thru Lines, without having to wade through my husband’s side that my children inherited.
I’m pleased to connect with one Morrison and five Adams’ family members. Although this certainly doesn’t resolve my brick wall it does support the direction I was going in with my research. I suspected that my Edward Adams was the grandson of Sylvanus Adams of Sussex County, New Jersey but not being able to identify Edward’s father, I couldn’t prove it. My hunch was due to the interesting male name of Evi. After Edward died intestate in Perry County, Ohio in 1822, an Evi Adams living in the area served as administrator. Evi died a few years later and I never was able to find his father, either. Evi was about the same age as Edward so I surmised that they were either brothers or cousins. There were several Evi’s in Sylvanus Adams’ lines before and after him so I felt strongly that Edward’s brother/cousin must be related somehow. DNA seems to be showing that’s correct but I still haven’t found that one document that’s out there somewhere to prove it.
Although I’m pleased with the results I can understand how people who are new to genealogy and DNA give up after getting their results. I know that the ethnic percents are only as valid as the pool used to compare findings. In Ancestry’s case, I’m 51% German. I don’t know how that’s possible since I would have gotten half of my DNA from my mom, who was full blooded Croatian and half from my dad, who was a mix of German, Irish, English, Welsh and Scotts. Ancestry shows me with NO Irish, English Welsh or Scotts. According to Ancestry, I’m only 4% French. 23andMe had me as all French and no German.
I not only understand the pools from which the sample was compared differed, but the history of the areas. My dad’s people were from the Palatinate, the German-French area that experienced bloodshed for years and went back and forth between the two countries. So, am I French or German? I realize I’m a mix of both and I’m fine with that. If I didn’t understand how this works, though, I would be totally confused.
Recently Ancestry got into trouble with their latest DNA commercial. I believe their well loved commercial about the man trading his lederhosen in for a kilt should have been an eye opener. I’m thinking that man needs to test elsewhere to get a fuller picture of his ancestry.
I’ve blogged in the past about the weird finds that I make in locations that had no connection to the relative I was searching. I just had another strange occurrence.
Since I did a surname study, my public Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com trees contain all the Harbaughs in the U.S. Although they are not all my relatives, I’ve been fascinated with that family since my mother-in-law shared a 1947 book, Harbaugh History, by Cooprider and Cooprider, that contained the family story going back to the immigrant ancestor, Yost Harbaugh, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1720. I entered the information from the book, along with several older Harbaugh books that were published, into my trees in an attempt to connect all the Harbaughs. I did this pre-DNA so I still have the lines of 13 immigrants (Herbach/Harbo) I haven’t been able to connect. Since I have so many Harbaughs and my tree is well sourced, a genealogy hobbyist shared a find she had recently made.
The hobbyist had visited an annual flea marked outside of Gainesville, Florida one Saturday morning and met a newly retired former antique dealer who had sold his shop in Hagerstown, Maryland and relocated to a rural area of Florida. He decided to sell some of the items he had moved with him to his new home. One of those items was a photo of a woman (above) and in pencil on the back, was recorded Miss Rose Harbaugh. A clue to the location where the photo was taken was imprinted by the photographic studio on the front – Hagerstown, Maryland.
The hobbyist had grown up in Maryland and was familiar with the Harbaugh name. Like me, she is not a relation to the family. For some reason she can’t explain, the photo haunted her and she decided to purchase it. Once home, she went on Ancestry.com and found several trees that included a Rose Harbaugh. The family loves to re-use names – there’s a lot named George and Frederick. Although Rose wasn’t as widely used (I have identified 37), Rose was often given as a nickname. In the case of the woman in the photo above, that was what happened – she is really Rosina Elizabeth Harbaugh.
The hobbyist decided she liked the effort I had put into my tree and that it was public but she wanted to make sure that the photograph was returned to someone who would appreciate it’s uniqueness. It was unique in that no one seems to have a photo of Rosina posted. Also, Rose was noted to be a “Miss.” As a single woman in middle age with no children, it isn’t likely she will be remembered. The hobbyist wanted to find a person who understood the importance of preserving the photo. Just finding a well sourced tree wasn’t enough for the hobbyist so she decided to check me out online. She said her decision was finalized when she found my website and my genealogical affiliations.
After connecting with me, the hobbyist and I chatted by phone about our genealogical passions and within a week, the photo was in my mailbox.
Rose never visited Florida but her photo gets to retire there. The second daughter and sixth of nine children born to Jonathan and Elizabeth Stephey Harbaugh, Rose was born 15 Dec 1838 in Maryland.* At 22, she remained with her parents and siblings outside of Cavetown, Maryland where her father farmed. By 1870, the family had relocated to Ringgold, Maryland and Rose was employed as a domestic servant. After both her parents died in 1879, Rose moved in with her brother, Samuel, and his wife, finding employment as a store clerk. By 1900, Rose was living on her own; unfortunately, her employment status is unreadable in the 1900 US federal census. In 1910, Rose was working as a 71 year old dressmaker and living on her own. She died on 5 Dec 1917 in Smithsburg, Maryland and is buried in Smithsburg Cemetery.
Rose’s photo is a welcome addition to my Harbaugh collection. One hundred and one plus years after her death, Rose has found a new home thanks to Elaine May for her genealogical act of kindness.
*All information from Harbaugh History, US censuses and Find-A-Grave with full citations on my trees.
I am trying hard not to make this a rant so I’ll let you know up front that I’m very frustrated with many of the lineage societies’ directions and interpretations of what they consider acceptable.
In the past year, I’ve completed a number of society applications for clients and myself. It seems each time there is something a society had a problem with that I couldn’t see was an issue. In the past month alone, I’ve had to have lengthy discussions with their genealogist over several sticking points.
I could certainly understand if the problem was lack of a record for proof of relationship. I could also understand if it was because the person could not have been in two places at the same time; in other words, analysis of existing records couldn’t determine which John Smith was the John Smith who would be a qualifying ancestor. If the application directions were completely disregarded, I could also understand a rejection. I cannot understand the following:
Applying for membership that says “send proof of [military] service” and when more than one proof is sent, such as the enrollment application, pension application, 1890 veteran’s census, newspaper clippings, and family letters to two different organizations for two different U.S. wars and being told in one situation that the sources were “a little thin” and in the other, that a record that was housed at the National Personnel Records center were necessary. So, they never heard about the 1973 fire that destroyed the records they wanted? Makes you think twice of the level of genealogical understanding of the organization. How can a pension application, enlistment paperwork and veteran’s census be considered “a little thin?
Applying for a designated individual and then being told that the ancestor doesn’t qualify because he was a nobleman and not royalty. Had to initially laugh at that one because one of the sources for this disputed ancestor was titled, “The Interim King.” I was able to obtain qualification based on the nobleman’s wife’s father but for the life of me, I don’t understand the difference between a nobleman serving as king and someone who inherited it from his father. The individual who inherited the title came from a line that at one point had the first ruler. What made that person royal? I just don’t understand. The organization has yet to explain it to me.
Being told the application was being rejected because the year for sources was omitted. When I asked the application number that purportedly occurred I didn’t get a response. I always keep a copy and I couldn’t find anywhere where I missed a date. A week later I received an email that no further information was required. I understand people make mistakes but own up to it.
Being told that your application was accepted and two weeks later receiving an email stating that your application wasn’t accepted. Huh? In that situation, the membership chair had obtained a list from the genealogist and assumed that names placed on the list had all been verified but evidently that wasn’t the case; the list was for everyone who had submitted an application. I understand errors happen but you’d think that the board would all be on the same page.
I’m not knocking lineage societies. I think they serve a tremendous purpose. Not only is there fraternity and hopefully, camaraderie, the ideals and promotion of the area of history they represent is important. They are also a wonderful place to save genealogical information and honor our ancestors. That said, I really wish they would get their act together.
When I was a newbie genealogist I loved the hints that Ancestry.com provided. Now all of the online sites offer the same. I was surprised to recently hear that a colleague of mine still happily accepts every hint that is shown. Her reasoning was that she could always sort out later if something was amiss.
“Later” like in never is what I say. Here’s a perfect example of why you need to be careful of those hints:
The hint above flagged for my uncle, George Joseph Kos who did live in northern Indiana and was born in 1921. Family stories say that, although his attendance area high school was Lew Wallace in Gary, he somehow un-enrolled himself and re-enrolled in another high school at the urging of a football coach. Of course, his parents found out about it and my grandmother was livid with all parties – the zoned school who allowed a minor to remove himself, the new school and coach for enrolling him without permission and my uncle, well, for being my uncle. So, the hint looks legit.
My trusting colleague would have clicked “save” while I would have clicked “ignore” if I didn’t have time to check it out. Ignore is a way to really save the hint to look at later while getting the leaf to disappear.
Now I’m going to analyze if this is a correct document for my uncle so I click “Review” on the hint and this displays:
Wow, that does look legit. According to the family story, it was Roosevelt High School where he wanted to play football but he was 15 when that happened. I could rationalize that he was 15-16 years old during the 1936-1937 yearbook so the age is feasible. But Roosevelt High School was in Gary, not East Chicago, a nearby town. Could the towns boundaries have changed? We see that so often in genealogy. I’m still wary so I’d click view and this is what is displayed:
So, the Hint was really for a George KOSTIN not George Kos. This was not my uncle. Then I remember, there were two Roosevelt High Schools. Duh!
Hints are just that – hints – they are not guaranteed correct information. Use with caution.
Recently, I volunteered to provide free genealogy assistance through a local genealogy society to which I belong. I try to help twice a year – fall and spring – which is advertised throughout our county. Every time I attend, I learn something new about genealogy practices. Here’s my latest revelations:
1. Keep your email accounts current – My first “client” had gotten everyone in her family to test. That included her siblings, children and herself. She had a DNA question for me but she couldn’t readily access any of her accounts because she had used an old email address she no longer had. I recommended she contact the DNA test companies to update her records. But that led to the next problem:
2. Know where you did your DNA test and when – She recalled she had last tested with 23andMe but when we clicked “Forgot your password?”, it was sent to her current email The problem was that kit was for her daughter. She then recalled she had purchased the kit two Christmas’ ago intending to use it but gave it to her daughter instead. We tried FTDNA, but couldn’t get in because that was the older email account. She thought she had used Ancestry.com for her sister but it turned out those were her results. Clicking around used up a good deal of time we could have spent analyzing the results. I shared how I save my info; I use Excel to keep a list of the Kit numbers, date the test was ordered, who the test was for and the company that was used. On a second tab, I record contact information from others after the results are returned. This way, I avoid duplication of effort.
3. Try, Try Again – Last fall I assisted a woman trying to find an obituary from the mid-1950’s. Her grandmother had been active in the community where she resided but she couldn’t find the obit in the nearest big city newspaper. I had recommended she contact a research librarian to find out the names of newspapers that were publishing at the time in that location and where the microfilm of those papers were held. She said, “I called and someone said they’d get back with me but nobody did.” Here’s a lesson we all need to heed, don’t think that call is going to happen now, months later. Call again. Ask to be connected with the Reference Desk. If a few days pass with no results, email. I love the Ask-A-Librarian online contact. Not only do you have a record that you made the request, it saves you a phone call and having to spell out the surname while the librarian is trying to take notes.
4. Two Heads Are Better Than One – I love paper but I don’t love having to sort through a ream and a half of every item ever discovered on a brick wall ancestor. In other words, be organized. If the information had been presented in time line order, we could have gotten through it much more expeditiously. The woman used the method of last found information was placed on top. I recommended she sort the information on a table by the year that the record was created. Sure, the immigration paperwork completed when the ancestor was in their mid 30’s had the date and place of birth but keeping the documents in created age order helps to determine the accuracy of the information found. She told me her method drove her uncle nuts but she was so into the hunt for records she didn’t like to take the time to organize them. I recommended she get with her genealogy buddy, the uncle, and see if he was more adept at organization. Then, they could put their heads together and make a timeline on paper (she hates software programs) to find holes. This approach also helps in finding information that was out there that you initially glossed over because you focused on something else. For example, she had the ship manifest so she knew where the ship sailed from. She also had a birth location from the immigration record. She had scant information between the birth and the immigration. I recommended reading the history of the area at the time the ancestor was born to determine if the family had relocated soon after (hint, it was probably the potato famine). If she wasn’t interested in that type of research, her partner could do it and then they could discuss where she could research further.
5. Know What You Want to Know – Your research question is imperative. “I want to know everything about my great grandfather” is not a question. You might be able to eventually get to the point where you know a lot about your great grandfather but to do so, you’ve got to start with a name or a place and a time from which to build. If you start small, you don’t get overwhelmed and quit. INMHO, that’s why people give up on genealogy. It is a practice in patience, analysis, and sometimes, dumb luck. You can control two of the three components. My recommendation for this individual was to focus on one area of a person’s life, like their career, and see what you can find. Then move to why that individual held that job. Perhaps there was indentured or apprenticed paperwork. Maybe the great grandfather or another relative was in the same line of work. Here’s an example I shared; my husband comes from a long line of carpenters. The original carpenter, however, didn’t build homes. He was a ship’s carpenter. That would have been a modern job when ships provided the largest means of transportation. His son was a ship’s carpenter early on in his career but switched as he aged to building homes. That man’s son moved farther inland and continued with the trade. That original research question could disclose a wealth of family information over generations. It pays to be specific about what you’re looking for.
I’m going to be helping out at my local genealogy society’s Ask A Genealogist Day today so I’ve got to make this brief. I had the strangest connection a few weeks ago and I wanted to share the weird workings of the internet.
I have an online presence beyond this blog and my website since I keep my trees public. Usually I get connections through Ancestry.com, followed by MyHeritage.com, then through my website which is my historical home for my blogs. Sure, I get connections through other social media platforms and occasionally, from someone Googling an ancestor and my info comes up but the latest connection was by using Newspapers.com.
An unrelated gentleman from Scotland is writing a book on those who left Beauly in the late 1700’s. He discovered through Newspapers.com that I had saved a newspaper clipping from the Philadelphia [PA] Packet dated 9 Oct 1775 regarding the ship, the Clementina, arriving and that there were many workers ready for indenture. I suspected that my 4th great grandfather, John Morison, was on that ship. I could be wrong, though. There were several John Mor[r]ison’s in Philadelphia at the same time and I saved every shred of evidence on all of them hoping to sort them out and discover which was my real great grandfather.
I had mistakenly thought the author who connected with me had found my information on Ancestry but he said he didn’t have a subscription and his local library didn’t have one, either. I was flabbergasted when he told me that he was using Newspapers.com and it flagged that I had saved the article and provided my contact info. I didn’t know that was even an option.
I’m glad it was as he has been a wealth of information and let me know that my Morison family most likely wasn’t always using that surname as two Morrison families originated in the mid 1600’s from other lines. He also gave me lots of information on another Morrison family that emigrated on the same ship. Peter, his wife and daughters were most likely connected with two other Morrison teenagers on the same boat. Peter had been what we’d call today a game warden overseeing salmon. I had thought, with no proof, that the families emigrating were all related but couldn’t find proof. It’s because both boys later joined the Revolution and were taken prisoner in New York. Both parents requested visitation to them while they were held on a prison ship. The author was able to provide me their baptism records, too. I had no idea that not all children were recorded in Scottish church records since parents had to pay for the recording. Looks like Peter had the eldest children recorded but stopped after the 3rd child.
The author was a wealth of information and I’m so glad we were able to correspond for a few weeks sharing our findings and analyzing what we had found together. We’ve reached the conclusion that ALL the Morrisons in Philadelphia from 1775 to 1800 were related. There was a father-son both named John who must have come some time earlier; both were in the metal trades. Then the next wave of Morrisons came on the Clementina. We suspect that John, a weaver, was the brother of Peter. John came with a wife and son. The wife was noted to be a spinster by 1790 so I believe he had died. She and the adult son died in 1793 from the “plague”, a mosquito epidemic most likely yellow fever. Peter’s son, John, likely is the man who comes and goes from the records as he was a ship’s carpenter. I still haven’t figured out who my John is but I’m working on it (just not today). Even so, I’m closer because of this unlikely connection thanks to Newspapers.com. Happy Hunting!
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.
My online family tree is aging and just like we humans need as we get older, regular check ups are important to maintain its vigor. I think I just discovered a different approach to identify errors to keep my tree robust.
My first computerized tree was done on a TI99 home computer. I had to insert a cartridge to view the genealogical program (which is now in my attic). In 1995,we had switched over to a desktop system and we were online thanks to AOL. I downloaded PAF from FamilySearch.org and spent a few weekends transferring my info from the old software to the new. I’ve been transferring that same tree as it grew ever since.
Around 1997, I created a tree on Rootsweb (now owned by Ancestry.com). My old tree is frozen in cyberspace and I cringe at some of the errors I’m not able to correct. I believe that’s the only tree I’ve got stuck in time.
Over the years I’ve transferred the root tree to various online sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, Geneanet.com, WikiTree.com, and AmericanAncestors. I’ve used Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, and Family Tree Maker software to help identify and correct errors. Last weekend I found another source to fix mistakes in lines I haven’t looked at in years.
Geneanet.com allows you to view tree statistics, whether you’re a member or not. Simply click the down arrow next to your tree’s name which accesses the menu. Under the heading Family History, click Family Tree Statistics. Although the number of people in your tree with the same first name is interesting, it’s not going to fix errors. (As an aside, the largest number of my peeps are named John and Mary, just like my grandparents). To find errors, click “The 20 who lived the longest.” There I discovered I had an ancestor that lived over 500 years and he wasn’t named Methuselah. Clearly, I had entered John Clark’s death date in error, typing 1918 for 1418.
The next individual, Thomas Eaton, had lived for 311 years but not really. He had been pruned once from his line so I deleted him. He was just an unlinked soul lost in my tree.
Now click “The 20 oldest persons still alive” and you’ll be able to identify folks you know have passed but you haven’t found their death date. My oldest was Melba L. Jones born in 1899. Using FindAGrave, I discovered she died 2 Jan 1993. I like how this feature helps me keep my tree current on lines I don’t check often.
I like that only 20 questionable individuals are provided at a time so it makes the task less onerous. It’s still a pain to maintain trees at various sites so I’ve been keeping one current which is linked to my desktop and then every 6 months, update the others. In the interim, when people find me at the other sites, I just redirect them to my always maintained tree.
Now that I’ve Spring Cleaned my tree, I’m ready for more research. Happy Hunting!
I tried Ancestry.com’s new feature, Thru Lines, last weekend and I’m not impressed. If you aren’t sure what it’s about, you can watch their brief video here. What set me off was the comment “For a few short minutes and without doing any research, you can have a whole new network of ancestors and living relatives.” Not in my opinion! If only genealogy were so simple.
Here’s the issue I have and which I wrote in my survey result to Ancestry – say everyone in your family believes that your shared Great Great Grandpa was John Smith Jr.. You all know this because it said so in an unsourced family book written in the 1940’s. Some of your older relatives even remember the author and he was an honest, hard working genealogist. He knew that John Smith Jr. was his Great Grandpa because his mom told him so and she never lied. So there, it’s the truth and nothing but the truth.
Now along comes Ancestry’s Thru Lines and since everyone copied everyone else’s tree on Ancestry because it’s simple to do so, everyone has John Smith Jr.as their 2nd time Great Grandpa and now everyone’s DNA results PROVE it. Except, it proves nothing at all.
All Thru Lines proves is that you are all related. If everyone has a wrong name listed everyone with shared DNA will connect to that wrong name. Perhaps John Smith Jr. was adopted. All of the shared descendants are related to the adopted individual but not to John Smith Sr. Thru Lines is going to give you other relatives you “might” be related to. This just perpetuates the wrong information.
I tried it with one of my adult children’s DNA results and it connected to my husband’s grandmother. Was that accurate? Yes, because far flung family members have also tested and they connect to grandmother’s parents. We also have the paper documentation of the relationship. All Thru Lines did in this example was confirm what my documentation already showed.
Two other features are in the works, New and Improved DNA Matches (I can only hope) and Tree Tags, which is something I’ve been wishing for a long long time. Tree tags is adding info you’d like others to know, such as – “This is not a confirmed relationship.” I would absolutely love that. I actually wanted a color coded option so I could make my confirmed relationships in green and my tentative ones in yellow or red. I understand that some folks have difficulty with color so tagging is a nice alternative. As soon as I’m able to test these features, I’ll blog my opinion.