Saving Family Heirlooms

I read a wonderful guest post on MyHeritage that you must read – Do Genealogists Care About Family Artifacts? Of course, the answer is yes, however, life often gets in the way of the “saving.”

My town has a wonderful antique district and I’ve been on the hunt for a demilune since May. Hubby and I have many much loved furniture that once belonged to families other than our own. I’m lucky to have purchased my guest bedroom furniture from an elderly woman who couldn’t take it to the nursing home with her. I promised her I’d care for it when I bought it in 1985 after we lost everything in Hurricane Elena and I’ve kept my word. I blogged last spring about the china cabinet I purchased from Craig’s List. A blended family didn’t have room for two. I know the piece’s history and its travels across the country with a military family. They know they can visit it if they like (it was hard for them to sell it but it was degrading in the unairconditioned 100 year plus garage where they were storing it.)

Some furniture I don’t know its history but would love to. When we first married, I wanted a rocking chair and found one in the classified ads of our then local newspaper. It was smaller than I had envisioned but the price was right – $10.00. It was also hideous – someone had recovered it in green and white gingham with lace glued around the edges. I stripped off the covering and discovered it had been covered several times. Two layers down was horsehair stuffing. After quickly taking that outside I discovered that it was originally caned. I had the piece examined and it’s considered a sewing rocker from the 1840’s. I couldn’t find anyone who caned so I bought a how to book from a craft store and ordered caning material. I can’t say I did a great job but it’s held up for 39 years.

My most favorite piece, though, I rescued from the basement of a house my grandmother rented out when I was 4 years old. I guess my interest in history and saving artifacts started quite young! I can’t explain why I was drawn to it. An old oak chest, it’s top cracked and stained and a piece missing on the back to give it support, it was forlorn sitting abandoned in a dark corner. The drawer and two front doors on the front were hand carved. Someone had painted the inside brown. When the renters skipped we discovered it left behind. Inside was a chemistry book according to my mom as I couldn’t read. I pitched a fit that the chest be brought home. I’m talking a full blown temper tantrum that I still remember to this day. My mom and grandmom were not going to give in to my behavior but I was adamant I wasn’t leaving unless the chest went, too. My grandmother drove a Chevy Nova and it certainly wasn’t going to fit in there. My wonderful grandpa tied it on the roof and my grandparents kept it in their basement. I had told them I would keep my toys in it when I visited their house but they were soon to move to another. They moved that chest to the new house and then a year later, back to their old home. By then, my parents had separated and I truly did use the chest to store my games as I went to live with my grandparents. In the late 1960’s my mom got a brilliant idea to spray paint the chest gold and put it in our bathroom. When my mom and I relocated to Florida in the 1970’s my husband’s family, my then future in-laws, kept it in their basement. After we married and bought a house, we brought it “home.” My husband stripped off the gold and left it unfinished. I’ve moved it three time since and it still contains board games. I’m thinking of finally getting it professional refinished.

My solution to the situation noted in the blog I recommend you read is to put stickers on the bottom of pieces that are of family history so when my time comes, the emotional distress of my surviving family members won’t cloud the stories of where the object came from. That way, family pieces can remain in the family for the next generation. Times a wastin’ – make a note of what’s important to you this week!

And More Results…

Last time I blogged about my son’s autosomal dna results being returned so quickly from Ancestry. Minutes after I finished that blog, 23andMe sent me an email that my results were back. We’re still waiting for hubby’s results from 23andMe. All three kits were mailed at the exact same time. I’m not complaining about 23andMe, my results were returned 2 weeks to the day they received them and the original information said results would be back in 4-6 weeks.

Like me son, there was no startling surprises. Instead, it confirmed that I have quite a bit of neanderthal dna which my mom swore we did. I gasped when I saw the numbers. Don’t you hate it when your parents were right?! I wish my mom was alive to see those findings. When I told hubby he was stunned. “How did your mom know that?” he asked. She was always fascinated with them and read anything she could. Back in the day, the thought was there was none of their dna surviving. I would tell my mom that and she would counter that science will find out the truth. Geez! I always thought my mom was interested because most of the excavated sites were in northern Croatia where her parents had been born. She also swore her slightly extended jaw was a carry over from them. Now I have a cave visit on my bucket list.

The rest of the results were exactly as I had expected. Lots of French/German and Eastern European. Those early Persian-Greek roots show up supporting my grandmother’s stories and my grandfather’s gypsy heritage also is visible. I’m so glad I listened when they told those tales. I admit I didn’t believe them 100% in my youth. Seriously, how many families could pass down stories from 2000 years ago but they proved to be correct.

Since I’m an only child and there are no males that could test on my father’s line for 3 generations back, I never had any results on his side. The autosomal gave me that. It’s a no brainer to figure out from where my Great Britain, Scandinavian and French/German was received.

I’m not greatly impressed with 23andMe’s connections to other test takers. I preferred Ancestry’s which shows clearly if another tester had uploaded a tree, how many were in the tree, if the tree was private or public and if a match from my uploaded tree to another tester was found via a shaky leaf. I discovered that most of 23andMe’s matches to myself were recorded as Anonymous and were so old that they don’t even use the site any longer. There was really no one to share a tree with as all were 3-4 or more cousins apart from me. Since I tested my son through Ancestry I could use that feature to make connections which I did.

I created a database in Excel and made the following headings:
Message to
Common Ancestor
Descended Through (this is where the other person was descended and not me)
Date (I sent the email)
Relationship Estimate (such as 3-4 cousin)
Comments (if no tree, how I deduced where the relationship was)

I sent out 50 brief emails to relatives and recorded who I sent a message to on the database. Within 12 hours I’d heard from 25%. I’ve heard complaints that Ancestry’s system is useless since many people do not upload a tree or have a minimal one, at best. I didn’t find this to be a problem for me as I have a very large tree and recognized many unique surnames. Of the first 50 cousins given, only 3 do I not find a connection. Two of the 3 wrote back immediately and we’re exploring relationships now. I could see how this would be a problem if someone was adopted and had no parental knowledge. On a side note, I attended a training in the past week where the presenter made a catty remark about large trees. The trainer felt it was a “waste of time accumulating people.” I agree just trying to collect names isn’t productive but if a surname study was done with citations to prove relationship then accumulating the data is beneficial to making connections.

The coolest thing about my results was reconnecting with people who have emailed me over the last 22 years since I first posted a public tree online. My 4th cousin on the Bollenbacher line and my 3rd cousin on the Leininger side had tested and sure enough, we’re related exactly how we thought. They made those predictions 10 years ago. It’s nice to know that the paper trail matched the science.

The 23andMe result interpretation again mentions Marie Antoinette as my old Ancestry mtDNA had mentioned years ago. Not relevant to me but does correlate with the other test. The new results added Copernicus in the same haplogroup. My son liked that. Since I’m now working in a STEM school I thought that was appropriate.

Now we wait for hubby’s results. In the meantime, I uploaded my raw data to FTDNA and MyHeritage. I’m going to upload my sons and my results to gedmatch, too. Stay tuned.

The Results Are In!


On Amazon Prime Day, I purchased 3 autosomal DNA kits – two from 23andMe and 1 from Ancestry. Seven years ago, hubby and I tested through Ancestry. He completed mt and y; obviously I just could do mt. Ancestry has long since stopped supporting those test results although they are still available to view on their site. Back in those days, I never connected with anyone. My “closest” match was Marie Antoinette of “let them eat cake” fame. I was so unimpressed I decided not to upgrade when autosomal became available.

A second cousin of mine reconnected with me via Find-A-Grave and in our back and forth emails, had tested with National Geographic. We compared maternal Hapogroup and not surprisingly, were the same.

The more I read about dna, which was my genealogy goal this year, and since I am an only child I thought I could gain some additional info on my paternal side by taking an autosomal test. I also was interested in comparing my husband and his sister and then to our children. My plan was to purchase 5 autosomal kits. Sales had come and gone earlier this year – DNA Day in April, Mothers Day in May, Fathers Day in June. Due to our major remodel I figured I’d wait til November and give the kits as Christmas presents, thinking they’d be on sale. You can just imagine the excitement of my family members when I told them this was my plan. (I’m being facetious).

When I saw the price for 23andMe on Amazon Prime Day I decided I’d buy 2 kits for hubby and me since I had read it’s a good practice to compare results from different companies. I had wanted to do the full health tests but they were sold out. Later that day, Ancestry’s kits went on sale with a limit of 1 so I purchased it and offered it to my kids. My son lost the rock-paper-scissors (I am not making this up) so he took the test.

Two days after purchasing, the Ancestry kit arrived and son completed it the following day. The 23andMe kits arrived three days after purchase and my husband and I completed them immediately. Hubby took them all off to be mailed at the same time.

All of these kits were spit kits; our older tests had been cheek swabs. Personally, I like the cheek swabs more as they were quicker to complete.

On Thursday, Ancestry emailed that our son’s results were ready. Although the instructions said it could take as long as 6 weeks, the results were back in less than 2 weeks. I was quite impressed!

The results were interesting but not startling. Now I always knew he was our biological child so I didn’t anticipate any conflicts there. He had a unique look at birth so I knew he hadn’t been switched by the hospital. I just didn’t know if our ancestors had been faithful. I know that sounds awful but I always had a funny feeling that something was not quite right with a family member’s tale. One of my direct line ancestors had gone out west for 6 months. I personally felt that there was a child born out of wedlock but no one would ever confess to knowing more. Reading so many books and journal and newspaper articles lately about DNA surprises I thought I may have one of my own. If my hunch is correct the test results didn’t reveal it, possibly because no one has yet taken a test.

What we found interesting in the results was that it made our son eager to learn about his heritage. My kids grew up visiting cemeteries and old houses that ancestors had lived in long ago. We have many customs and foods that have been handed down, along with things that belonged to those long gone. None of that interests either one of my kids. What hit him was the DNA Matches. The closest match stating it was a 1st or 2nd cousin was his godfather’s brother. He recognized the name immediately and said, “Wow, now I know why you picked such a close family member.” The results were accurate – the individual was his 2nd cousin and we’ve always said our son favors that side of the family more than any other. It’s not just how he looks, it’s what he like and how he acts. He grew up far away from anyone on that side and only knows about them from occasional holiday notes. He is more open to learning about that line now that he has the results. Why? Because he’s the kind of person who is logical, analytical and very scientific oriented and the results proved what I’ve said for years.

The next closest matches were for two other second cousins on his dad’s side. Surnames of third cousin matches were also familiar and a mix of both my sides and his dads. He recognized the names and just kept saying, “Wow.”

The only Community Circle that he had was Pennsylvania which would be his dad’s side. You know I’ve blogged extensively about the Harbaughs and that would be them. Those lines came in the mid-1700’s and intermarried for several generations. It wasn’t until 1869 that they relocated from Pennsylvania to Indiana.

I should have expected the percentages of ancestry to be what they were – predominately Great Britain with lesser amounts of Scandinavia and Eastern European. Back in the day my husband’s results on his y included Chad but our son’s results did not. My husband’s old mt also showed Asian ethnicity and again, this didn’t show up in our son. We’re thinking that was the reference groups that had been used that are more refined now. Also, my husband’s haplogroups did have lines going from those areas.

Yesterday I uploaded the results to FTDNA and MyHeritage. It takes 24-48 hours to get matches there so I’ll write more if anything exciting is discovered.

Was spending $49 worth it? You bet! I’m looking forward to receiving my results soon.

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!

DNA Father’s Day Specials


Unless you plan on waiting until Black Friday, which I’m going to do, there are two special offers available for DNA kits in honor of Father’s Day:

1. Ancestry DNA is $79.00, however, if you order it via Amazon.com and are a prime member, you don’t have to pay shipping. Sale ends June 18th.

2. MyHeritage DNA is $69.00 – ends June 19th.

MyHeritage DNA Upload Trouble Shooting


I took a wonderful webinar through the Association of Professional Genealogists on Thursday evening on DNA and Ancestry given by Jennifer Anderson Zinck. Although my husband and I tested through Ancestry before their new tests became available in October 2014, our earlier results are still available through the DNA tab on the ribbon. I had thought Ancestry was no longer supporting their older tests so I was pleasantly surprised.

Understandably, the old results aren’t going to be a part of their new communities and circles. I decided to upload that old data into MyHeritage.com’s new DNA feature as they recently began accepting data from other companies.

To upload, click on the MyHeritage DNA tab’s dropdown “Upload DNA data NEW.” Click the pink box “Start.” Click if you are uploading your data or someone else’s. In my case, I was trying to upload my mtDNA. Then, click the Service Terms and Consent Agreement. Next, click the pink box “Upload.” Ancestry downloads the results as a csv file which my computer didn’t like. I converted it to an Excel file as that is what it is and uploaded it.

The pop up told me “DNA uploaded successfully.” Good thing I decided to click “Manage Kits” before I uploaded hubby’s data. Surprise, surprise – my kit was marked “Invalid.” I thought that might be because I had changed formats so I went back through the steps and uploaded the csv file. Again, I got the “DNA uploaded successfully” but in checking further, it was marked as “Invalid.”

I called MyHeritage at 1-877-432-3135. Don’t get confused by the voice mail options! I wasn’t needing billing or accounting (1) or sales (2) and the third option, tech support, says to call back between 7 am -5 pm. Since it was 9:15 AM I thought the phones might be down. The message repeats twice but just hold on because you’ll eventually be placed in the queue for assistance. I was number 9 and the wait time was about 15 minutes.

I told the tech guy the process I had followed and it turns out that MyHeritage does not accept mtDNA or yDNA, only autosomal, which we hadn’t taken. I suggested that the type of test be written on the site to save phone calls and wasted time though autosomal is the way to go now and there probably aren’t a lot of folks like us who have older tests.

So, if you have an autosomal DNA test done at a competitor’s site, you might want to take advantage of MyHeritage’s free offer. Getting your data out to another site just might unlock secrets you never knew existed.

DNA Plan


Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference! I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.

My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell. Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.

I also learned that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) had been reactivated as a free peer reviewed online resource. Check it out!

Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases. My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database. Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported. I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister.

For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother. The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it. Happy Hunting!

National DNA Day

On April 25, 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick’s article, “The Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” was published in Nature.1 Thus began the DNA revolution.

In honor of that anniversary, Thomas MacEntee has deemed April 25th as DNA Day and other organizations have come forward to offer sales and specials that may be of interest to you (Think of this as a genealogist’s own President’s Day sale!)

Ancestry.com’s price is $79.00. The offer ends April 26th. AncestryCanada price is 30% off ; AncestryUK is 25% off

MyHeritage is also offering kits for $79.00 but will bundle a kit with a subscription for even greater savings.

23 and Me is offering free shipping on their $99.00 autosomal kit with 10% off an additional kit

FamilyTreeDNA is offering Family Finder kits for $59.00

The last time these prices were this low was during the 2016 Holiday shopping season.

1 Watson, James D., and Francis Crick. “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.” Nature 171, 4356 (25 April 1953): 737-738.

Pursuing Genealogy on a Shoestring Budget Part 2 – Genealogical Websites

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 2 June 2016.

Last blog we looked at ways to cut costs on genealogical memberships.  We’ll keep a running tab of expenses; for full membership in genealogical organizations the cost would be about $409.00 annually and on a limited budget, less than $100.00.  Today we’re going to explore how to cut costs for those must have online databases.

AmericanAncestors.org is a database offering “hundreds of millions of valuable records.”  For home access, the cost is $89.95 annually but it is free through many public libraries.  Check out the link I’ve provided – it’s to the 453 databases in the collection.  I have found this site very useful for my New England and Long Island ancestors but if you aren’t researching those areas or are on a tight budget, save by using it at the library.

Ancestry.com is most likely available at your local library, too, but I must caution you that not all records are available on the library edition.  It is also only available for use in the library so you are limiting the time you can spend searching.  That’s okay if you’re on a tight budget as there are other sites you can use while you’re at home.  If you are a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) you can get a one time discount of 30% off an annual Ancestry membership.  You must have your AARP card number when you call Ancestry Customer Service and it will extend a current membership so wait until a day or two before your expiration before you renew to take full advantage of the offer.  Call Member Services at 1-800-ANCESTRY.  Cost depends on what membership you’re purchasing (U.S., World., or All).  There’s always the 14 day free trial but if you do that, make sure you’re saving what you find on your computer so you can access it when the trial ends.


Billion Graves is FREE so check it out.  Personally, I’ve never found anything different than what is available 

elsewhere but I still look and so should you.  


Familysearch.org is FREE and if you haven’t created a login you need to.  The caveat here is if you are building 

your tree on this site ANYONE can change what you’ve entered.  Wikis are wonderful and in a perfect world this would not be an issue.  I have had well meaning but not knowledgeable folks change data and make links that are not right.  I know of the changes because they nicely email you when someone has done something to what you’ve entered.  I don’t have the time to keep undoing what someone else does so my skeletal tree is going to remain that.  That’s not to say that the rest of the website is a wonderful FREE source for you to use at home.

Find-a-Grave.com is affiliated with Ancestry.com but remains FREE.  Not all information on the site is accurate so be careful, just as you would if you were researching anywhere else!

FindMyPast is awesome if you’re researching Great Britain.  They boast 8 million records and I have found some info but not enough with the lines I am currently researching to make it worthwhile if money was an issue.  They do have a blog and send lots of emails a week with updated news. Like every other competitor, they want you to save your tree to their site. This increases the number of records they can claim they have while you do all the work.  The benefits, though, are that you can connect with others who are interested in the same lines and you can access the information anywhere you have connectivity.  Fourteen day FREE trial available.

Fold3 -now part of Ancestry.com, has a basic membership for free.  That allows you to search and browse but not access all images.  Kind of like letting you look in the bakery window but not enter to taste!  Specials are offered frequently, such as join for 7 days for free or $49.95 for a premium yearly access.  Fold3 is mostly thought about in regards to military records but they are building on other areas, such as Project Blue Book (I believe this is the first genealogy website to include nonearthling alien information!) to African and Native American collections.

GenealogyBank – I call it the newspaper place.  Check out where they have records before you buy; with over 100 million records you most likely will find something valuable here, especially obits.  Free 30 day FREE trial that’s well worth it so give it a try.

MyHeritage is a not only a place to save your tree online but you can scroll all the way to the bottom of their longggggg page, click search, and use their database.  They have a Nordic Census that I’ve found helpful.  It’s FREE.

Today’s costs – if you are using a library for Ancestry and you’ve taken advantage of the free trials – $0.00. Our running total for the budget concern – still less than $100.00/year.  Next time we’ll look at free additional resources available.