The New Year (and decade) is well underway and I’ve been putting off my Genealogy Goals for the year. Why? I’m one of those people that just won’t let something go if I’ve committed to it. My last year goal was to honor my ancestors through various lineage societies. My thought process was the more places you leave your work, the more likely it won’t be lost. Sadly, that goal really didn’t work out for me in a few cases.
I am a member of several societies and they are all legit. That means, they have goals I agree with, they didn’t take my money and run (those are out there) and they actively pursue initiatives to improve genealogy through historical education.
Unfortunately, two I selected last year didn’t measure up. Both cashed the check, told me I was a member and then emailed me that they weren’t done verifying what I submitted and would keep me informed. But they didn’t. I followed up every few months. Next month will be a year in so I’m thinking of ways to resolve this. Sad that a few bad apples tarnish the reputation of those that are good.
How do you know if a lineage society is reputable? Check out the membership locally. The two I attempted to join did not have that option; one was brand new and the other appears to have had changes of personnel at the national level. If you aren’t able to meet local members then you know you may be taking a risk. If you’re willing to invest the time to complete the paperwork and the money to join then go ahead. If not, then definitely don’t bother.
Without a doubt, researching African American genealogy in the U.S. has never been easy, even though Alex Haley made it look like it was in Roots. Sure, you can go back to the 1870 census but it often takes hours of Boots on the Ground to determine lineage before the Civil War.
Perhaps that’s about to change! Coming soon, an online database thanks to the University of Michigan’s Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade study that is partnering with organizations to link databases and attempt to match individuals as they moved from place to place. I first read about this amazing work in the January-February 2020 Smithsonian article, Tracing the Enslaved by Amy Crawford. Although the database combining multiple records held in archives around the globe is not yet available, it’s scheduled to be open soon.
In the meantime, try researching the Slave Societies Digital Archive, the brainchild of Jane Landers of Vanderbilt University. Begun in 2003, over 700,000 pages of documents have been digitized from Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, Angola and Florida (which was then Spanish). Many of the documents are religious because these once Spanish held territories had a different view of Africans; they were thought to be more souls to save for Catholicism, thus they recorded Baptisms and other vitals.
While you were partying away the holidays, you might have missed the announcement from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, that he has sold his business to Verogen, Inc.
What does this mean to you? Well, stay tuned as for now, not much but in the ever changing world of genealogy it could be something later.
I’m not surprised by the sale; GEDMatch was having a difficult time moving the company forward (ie. the website was early millenium when they started) and with policy, such as what constituted adherence to their guidelines ethically regarding privacy and usage by 3rd party sources. I’ve blogged about last year (The Dark Side of DNA) if you’d like details.
Personally, I’ve left my DNA open to view. This may be a naive decision but I think it’s the most ethical for the moment. I don’t care if I’m contacted by the police searching for a relative. No one is going to steal the limited DNA available and clone me (I have heard that claim from a few clients). On the contrary, I may connect with others who hold the answers to which I seek. And maybe not!
Like every decision we make daily, there are pros and cons. I’m taking a wait and see attitude with this sale and will keep you informed of any new developments.
New Year! December was a busy month for genealogy so I’ll be trying to
catch up with all the changes each week. I ended the decade watching
the last Star Wars movie which was bittersweet to me. The franchise
started while I was in college, saw one of the films when I was first
pregnant with my oldest who became a lifelong fan, and the remaining
movies I can remember by associating with various stages of my life.
Wars is an epic in science fiction genealogy. Do you recall being
shocked to discover that Darth Vader was Luke’s father? That Luke and
Leia were twins? If you haven’t seen the movie yet I’ll not spoil it
but I’ll give you a hint – Mill’s FAN Club. Yes, there is another
connection nicely tying up all the movies.
keep the movie in mind as you search for your elusive ancestors. Wonder
why know one talked about Great Uncle Bob? I say check out his
relationships. His business buddies might just be holding the key to
his separation from the family. Also look for his political views;
perhaps the rest of the family didn’t share his outlook for the future.
find the parents of your maternal great grandma? Check out death
records, obits, cemeteries and family Bibles to see if great grandma’s
parents died shortly after her birth. Like Luke and Leia finding each
other, you just might discover a whole new side of the family that had
been separated due to the unexpected loss.
your teenage several times great grandpa left Merry Ole England for the
Caribbean? Like Rey, he may have been sheltered by his parents for his
safety. Although Rey was sold, many families indentured their loved
ones. I found my Duer family did so as their Quaker beliefs were
causing them to be arrested. Leaving the country was one of their only
I’ll miss Star Wars but on the bright
side, I’ll remember those shocking movie moments and know I’ll get to
experience similar emotions as I continue to work on my own family