July 4, 2015

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? This week seems to be all about U.S. records: newspapers, military and railroad employees.

U.S. NAVY SURVIVORS. A new collection with nearly 2 million records from case files of Navy approved pension applications (1861-1910) is now searchable on Fold3. These include Civil War survivors and later Navy veterans.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Over 450 historical newspaper titles for all 50 states (1730-1900) have been added to GenealogyBank. Over 160 of the papers date to the 1700s. Notable are an Ohio (Northwest Territory) paper from 1795, a New Orleans paper from 1803 and a Detroit paper from 1817.

PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPERS. Notable recent additions at Newspapers.com include nearly 400,000 pages of the Wilkes-Barre Record (1881-1949PA) and over 400,000 pages of the Standard-Speaker (1961-2000, Hazleton, PA).

U.S. RAILROAD RECORDS. Ancestry subscribers can access the Chicago and North Western Railroad Employment Records, 1935-1970. The line passed through Wisconsin, Minnesota, SD, Iowa and Nebraska. The collection includes Social Security numbers (born before 1912) and applications (with parents’ names), birth and death date, residences and occupational details.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Google search tip: Though no longer actively digitizing and indexing newspapers, Google News Archive can help you locate online content for specific newspapers. Click here to access its alphabetical listing of newspapers. You can also enter keyword-searches in the search box on that webpage for all the newspapers listed here. There’s an entire chapter on the Google News Archive and what it can still do for us in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, fully revised and updated in 2015.

 

Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches? Read This Post

confused by AncestryDNA matchesOpening your AncestryDNA account to find a New Ancestor Discovery can be a bit like the experience my nine-year old had at the beach today. He noticed something unusual in the sand on his way down to the beach and excitedly used his hands to unearth the treasure. However, it turned out to be a Captain Hook figurine long lost by another (likely much younger) beach-goer. His initial excitement quickly dissipated. He was disappointed as he had clearly found something he did not need or want.

I have heard from many of you that are confused and disappointed with Ancestry’s attempts to merge your genetics and your genealogy. Keep in mind that AncestryDNA matches are only using your genetics. Your DNA Circles and your New Ancestor Discoveries incorporate your linked tree into your genetic test results.

genealogy gems podcast mailboxLisa recently forwarded me a comment from Kate that perfectly illustrates the confusion I’m talking about. “We had DNA done thru Ancestry,” she writes. “The results [have] made me seriously question what they are showing me. I believe they are using my tree to show me results that are more vague than they are revealing. The latest example they show is a person not related by blood. This family is related by name only (my uncle’s spouse).

“My results from Ancestry show that they use my tree to make matches. Just checked the web page for DNA results. They show numerous matches….Three or 4 contacted me because they were convinced they were related by blood when they may have had a remote tree connection. They contacted me because the DNA results showed they were a 3rd or 4th
cousin, when in fact they would only be a 3rd or 4th cousin in my tree.”

I can see why she’s confused. First, let’s review what an AncestryDNA New Ancestor Discovery (NAD) actually IS.  NAD’s are based on the DNA Circle idea created by Ancestry. Remember that a DNA circle is when Ancestry can identify a shared genetic AND genealogical connection between three or more people. Using various standards and measures, they name an ancestor as your connection. This is the ancestor I affectionately call our Party Host. This is the ancestor who passed his or her DNA down to all of their descendants, like tickets inviting them to this party in the future. So, everyone who holds a ticket, AND who has honored that party host ancestor by placing their name in their pedigree chart, is listed as a guest in the form of a DNA circle connection. (Click here to read a blog post about this concept.)

The New Ancestor Discoveries just take that one step further.  The NAD is an attempt to find ticket holders who have not yet taken that extra step and added that important Party Host ancestor to their family tree. The NAD is like a nudge, inviting us to double check our family tree to see if this particular ancestor might need to be added. It is important to remember that a NAD comes only after a DNA circle has already been formed, and there could have been errors in that formation. So the very first thing you need to do with a NAD is to correspond with circle members and double check that the Party Host of the circle, their common ancestor, is correct. Then we can move on to evaluating the NAD.

Ancestry admits on its help pages that there are three reasons why you might get an NAD, and only one is “right” in the way you and I might view it.

NADhelpFigure1The “right” answer comes when the DNA circle was drawn correctly, the Party Host properly identified, and your DNA connection is strong to two or more members of the circle. You are then able to verify through traditional genealogical methods that you are an actual descendant of the Party Host, holding that coveted ticket, shown in blue in this modified image from the AncestryDNA help page.

There are two other alternatives.

NADhelpFigure2First, you are related to the NAD Party Host (the New Ancestor that was discovered) via marriage. In this second example from Ancestry’s help page, we see that your ancestor was married twice. The members of the DNA circle are descendants of her other marriage. Remember, that you do not share DNA with every member of the DNA circle. In this case, you share the purple DNA with a few members of the circle. But there are other members that share the blue. So the super computers at Ancestry first put all the blues together in a circle with the Party Host at the top. Then you come along with purple DNA that matches a few in the circle and their supercomputer erroneously assumes that you too must have been invited to this “blue” party, but in fact, the blue/purple members of the circle are double booked.  They have been invited to both the blue and the purple party.

How can you fix this?  If you can identify your purple Party Host, then you can add that person to your tree, and the trees of your DNA matches and likely then a new DNA Circle will form with the purple Party Host at its head, and the blue NAD will disappear.

NADhelpFigure3BasicThe other situation that many of you are seeing, especially those of you with ancestry from small communities, is demonstrated in Figure 3 of the Ancestry Help page, reproduced here.  As you can see, this one is much more complicated.  (In fact, the colors I added aren’t even quite accurate, as not all descendants of the blue NAD have the same blue, but rather different shades of blue depending on the segment they received- but this is a story for another post!)

The short of it is, the members of the previously established DNA circle share one single ancestor with each other, but they share multiple separate and distinct ancestors with you. Looking at this chart it seems very clear, but remember, in the database we only see you and the people you match.  We cannot tell from the DNA shared which piece came from which ancestor. So, it is very important to check and double check the pedigrees of those in the circle to identify additional shared lines.

The short of it is, these NAD’s are following the guilt by association rule, but in fact, you could be innocent.  Just keep in mind the simple principle that you DO share a common ancestor with those members of the circle that you share DNA with.  You do NOT necessarily share common ancestry with those in the circle that you do not share DNA with.

The key is to take these NAD’s for what they really are: research suggestions.  Keep your expectations low, and then you will be pleasantly surprised when you are able to verify a connection.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesReady to learn more about DNA testing for family history? Click here to watch two video interviews in which Lisa and I chat about genetic genealogy.

My DNA quick reference guides can get you started on your own DNA research, or help you unpuzzle and maximize results you don’t fully understand. Click here to see all six guides: purchase them individually or as value-priced bundles.

 

Need Family Reunion Ideas? Family Tree Hopscotch

family tree hopscotch 2Recently Lisa heard from Mary Ann, a Genealogy Gems Premium member who met her at the NGS Conference in St. Charles this past spring.  She appreciated the Outside the Box sessions we co-presented along with some of our partner exhibitors, particularly one by Janet Hovorka on family reunion ideas.

“I want to find ways to get younger people in my family interested in the family history,” writes Mary Ann, who says Janet’s session had a “wealth of ideas.” “Ideas started running around in my head related to scavenger hunts, photo guessing games and other things to do when my family gets together every year at Thanksgiving.”

For Mary Ann and the rest of you who want to include heritage among your reunion activities, here’s another idea I just tried. Last weekend, I helped host a RootsTech Family Discovery Day near me (click here to learn more about these free regional events). As part of our activities for children, we created a family tree hopscotch activity in the middle of a gymnasium.

family tree hopscotchHere’s how we did it:

  1. We printed and laminated sheets of paper that said, “Me,” “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma (mom’s mom),” Grandpa (mom’s dad),” and so forth, up to great-great grandparents.
  2. We laid these on the ground and taped all the way around them with electrical tape (which removes easily from the floor). It worked best to lay out the great-great grandparents first (since it was so crowded up there) and then move DOWN the generations, so we’d get the spacing right.
  3. We used more electrical tape to draw relationship lines between parents and then the linking line to each child.
  4. We taped additional questions to the floor around the tree, like: “How many great-great grandparents do you have?” and “If you have three children, and so do each of your children, and so do each of THEIR children, how many great-grandchildren would you have?”
  5. We supplied beanbags for children to toss to one of the ancestor’s spots, where they could then hop. The challenge was to name that ancestor, which we invited them to do with their parents.

This was a popular activity! I’ve been told that very young children actually learn best when they’re active and moving around. The “under 5″ set at the reunion did enjoy tossing the beanbag and hopping around. Several school-age kids commented on how BIG the tree starts to get as you go back in time, and took pride when they could name a relative.

If I had to do it again, I’d make the lower generation squares larger so they’d be easier to hop from. If I adapted this for my own family reunion, I could do it outdoors in sidewalk chalk in a parking lot or driveway. With my own family, I would probably name each person and even try to put a picture or fact or two on each piece of paper about them. This could also be done as a reverse tree that names all the descendants of the common ancestors shared by everyone at the reunion.

how to start a genealogy blogLooking for more reunion tips? Check out my post, Organize a Family Reunion on Facebook: 9 Tips You Can Use.

 

Find Your Ancestors in Freedmen’s Bureau Records–or Help Others Do the Same

freedmens bureau announcementThe more I learn about U.S. history and records, the more I appreciate the challenges faced by those researching their African-American roots. In addition to the emotional toll of learning about their ancestors’ hardships, today’s researchers face the practical challenges of finding kin in records that mostly ignored their existence.

That’s why I’m super excited that the Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed. Scattered records are already transcribed (see the Freedmen’s Bureau Online). But there hasn’t been a comprehensive index of its 1.5 million state field agency documents. These include military pensions, marriage records, property claims, hospital records, trial summaries, labor contracts, school rolls, registers and censuses. Many of the four million African-Americans freed from slavery are mentioned, as are many white Southerners.

FamilySearch indexers began quietly indexing Freedmen’s Bureau records in 2009: the state of Virginia’s records are already searchable. Last week, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday (which celebrates emancipation), FamilySearch issued a call to action. They asked for help indexing the rest of the Freedmen’s Bureau within the year.

“Records, histories and stories will be available on DiscoverFreedmen.org,” says a release. “Additionally, the records will be showcased in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expected to open in late 2016.”

freedmens bureau infographicHere’s a quick history lesson: The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

The richest genealogical records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are in the field office records of each state. Click here to download a PDF from the National Archives about these original records.

Find more tips on finding African-American and other Southern U.S. ancestors here on the Genealogy Gems website. Recent posts include:

sign up newsletterReceive a heads-up about posts like these–and get a free e-book on Google searching for genealogy–when you subscribe to the free Genealogy Gems newsletter in the upper right corner of this webpage or our home page.

DNA for Family History: Free Genetic Genealogy Videos Now on YouTube

Getting started in genetic genealogy videoTwo interviews by Lisa Louise Cooke with Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard are among the latest videos at the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. These free, quick chats can help you along your genetic genealogy path.

How to Get Started Using DNA for Family History Research

3 Genetic Genealogy Misconceptions and Answers to Your DNA Questions

These two videos are among Lisa’s video interviews recently featured on the FamilySearch blog. They were done at RootsTech 2015, along with Lisa’s interviews with Mary Tedesco, Italian research expert and co-host of Genealogy Roadshow, and Hudson Gunn from BillionGraves.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesLooking for more in-depth education on DNA and family history? Click here to watch a free, full-length RootsTech presentation by Diahan Southard. And consider which of Diahan’s laminated quick DNA reference guides can help you take your next DNA steps, whether you’re just getting started or scratching your head over your test results:

  • Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
  • Getting Started Genetics for the Genealogist
  • Mitochondrial DNA for the Genealogist
  • Y Chromosome DNA for the Genealogist
  • Understanding Ancestry: A Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
  • Understanding Family Tree DNA: A Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist.

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 180 is Ready!

podcast logo 180The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 has been published!  Click here to enjoy an episode about big names, like Ancestry and Google and FamilySearch. And big numbers, like the possible price tag for Ancestry at auction, AND small numbers, like the small price of a new handheld computer.

In this episode, we’re also talking about researching on road trip tips, an important online Civil War database, a leading Canadian digital archive and EXCLUSIVE tips for using FamilySearch’s free digitized book collection, which now tops 200,000 titles. Because we’ve gotten so much demand for it, we’re also sharing tips for backing up your data at Ancestry–not just your tree but your sources and DNA, too.

Nathan Goodwin logoThis month we also feature a meaty excerpt from our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist). (Premium subscribers can catch the full interview in Premium episode 124, to be published soon.) He tells us how he got started. We talk about the plot and characters and the challenges of creating genealogical mysteries with dangerous consequences for the present and more!

Mixed in with all this news and how-tos is an assorted cast of listeners-with-questions and an inspiring story about long-lost siblings reunited by radio. Enjoy!

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? This week we cover burials in Cleveland, Ohio; an Oakland, CA newspaper; travelers to the U.S. via Canada, early Vermont pioneers and a register of WWI soldiers’ mothers and widows.

CLEVELAND (OH) BURIALS. The Cleveland Catholic Diocese has posted an index to burials. According to the site, “The following cemeteries have been uploaded into the centralized database: All Saints, Northfield; All Souls, Chardon; Resurrection, Valley City; Holy Cross, Akron; Holy Cross, Brook Park; and St. Joseph, Avon. Work is ongoing on the following cemeteries: Calvary, Cleveland; and Calvary, Lorain.” Registration is required but it is free.

OAKLAND (CA) NEWSPAPER. Nearly 400,00 pages of the Oakland Tribune spanning a full century (1874-1975) is now online at Newspapers.com. Oakland is in Alameda County and became an early terminus for the Transcontinental Railroad.

TRAVELERS TO U.S. VIA CANADA. Nearly 100,000 records appear in a new Ancestry database, U.S., Passenger and Crew Lists for U.S.-Bound Vessels Arriving in Canada, 1912-1939 and 1953-1962. “This collection contains forms, or passenger lists, submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) by airline captains and shipmasters,” according to the collection description. Records are included for the ports of Montreal, Quebec; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Vancouver, British Columbia; Victoria, British Columbia; Toronto, Ontario and Quebec Ports.

VERMONT PIONEERS. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has a new index online of Early Vermont Settlers to 1784. The collection description states, “This database contains modified Register-style genealogical sketches of every identifiable head of household who has been proven to reside in the present-day borders of Vermont by the year 1784. A list of children, their spouse(s), and all their vital records will accompany each sketch. We have noticed that the head of household occasionally dies outside of Vermont and many of the children live west of Vermont in New York, Ohio, and states westward. This database currently contains 34 sketches, 5,700 names and 2,700 records.”

WWI U.S. MOTHER’S PILGRIMAGE. Ancestry has updated its database of mothers and widows of U.S. soldiers killed in World War I and buried overseas, and were invited by the War Department to visit their loved one’s burial place. “Each record provides the name of widow or mother, city and state of residence, and relationship to the deceased. Additionally, information regarding the decedent’s name, rank, unit, and cemetery is provided.”

 

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope

Backblaze butlerNot so long ago, my computer backup plan against various calamities looked something like this:

  • Against flood: keep my laptop off the floor.
  • Against fire: grab my laptop in one hand and my youngest child in the other.
  • Against theft: hide my laptop under a different pile of blankets every time I leave the house.

 

No lie, this was my plan. You don’t have to tell me how terrible it was.

Fortunately, I’ve improved somewhat. I stash copies of important files in Dropbox. Older photos and files are backed up online and on an external hard drive. I started using cloud-based email.

But last week my laptop got sick. First it ran a fever, then shut down entirely. My computer repairman, usually an optimist, said, “Please tell me you have everything backed up.” I hesitated. He sighed.

That crash took three days to resolve and resulted in a prescription for a cooling fan and the dire news that my laptop is living on borrowed time. I was sternly instructed to back everything up, because in those three days I had discovered considerable gaps in my backup plan.

Fortunately, Lisa had just announced Genealogy Gems’ new partnership with Backblaze. I figured if Lisa could entrust thousands of audio, video, image, text, communication and other files to them, I could do the same. So….I signed up for Blackblaze. It’s $5 a month ($50 a year). Less than I spend on Redbox movies for my kids.

It’s taken Backblaze a few days to process my initial backup of over 120,000 files. It’s running continuously in the background and will continue to do so as I work. Like a little data butler, waiting to tidy up after me and be there for me when I need it. Backblaze will even backup my external drives, too (“no extra charge, madam”).

It’s so comforting to have Backblaze that I’ve stopped hiding my laptop under blankets when I leave the house. Because I was still doing that.

If your backup plan needs a little help like mine did, consider Backblaze. It’s easy to sign up, it’s comprehensive and it’s just a few dollars a month. Click here to check it out: www.Backblaze.com/Lisa. Whatever your backup strategy, watch our blog for more on disaster planning and prevention.

See the Incredible Piece of History This Auctioneer Stumbled Into

HMS Alert in pack ice during the Arctic Expedition of 1875. Wikimedia Commons image; click to see image and full citation.

HMS Alert in pack ice during the Arctic Expedition of 1875. Wikimedia Commons image; click to see image and full citation.

Every man-made object has a story behind it–and sometimes an entire chapter in history. One such object is a bottle of ale recently discovered in a garage in Shropshire, England. As reported by TheBlaze.com, a British auctioneer found the bottle. “It looked interesting, so I took a closer look — and, lo and behold, there on the cap were the words ‘Allsopp’s Arctic Ale,’ then embossed on the seal was ‘Arctic Expedition 1875.’”

Now the bottle is up for auction! Here’s the description from the auction site:

“An unopened bottle of Arctic Expedition beer dated 1875, with original intact label and contents. Allsopp’s Arctic Ale was brewed for The British Arctic Expedition of 1875. The Expedition was an attempt by the British Admiralty to reach the North Pole and included two ships HMS Alert and HMS Discovery under the leadership of Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares (1831-1915). Unfortunately the expedition failed to reach the pole but succeeded in mapping the coast lines of Greenland and Ellesmere Island.”

I wondered whether anyone else has sampled another bottle of ’75 Arctic brew. So I googled it. I found a beer blogger who loves the stuff! From Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile: Beer Now and Then blog post of June 10, 2012:

“One indisputably legendary beer is Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, the powerful, rich Burton Ale, original gravity 1130, north of 11 per cent alcohol, brewed in Victorian times….There are a very few bottles left of the Arctic Ale brewed for the expedition under Sir George Nares which set out in 1875 to reach the North Pole. And this week I drank some….

Amazingly, there was still a touch of Burtonian sulphur in the nose, together with a spectrum of flavours that encompassed pears, figs, liquorice, charred raisins, stewed plums, mint, a hint of tobacco, and a memory of cherries. It was dark, powerful and still sweet….Those frozen sailors on the 1875 British Arctic Expedition, some of whom set a new record for furthest north, traveling to within 460 miles of the North Pole, must have cheered whenever another bottle was thawed out and decanted into their mugs.”

Navy/Marine Corps Purple Heart Medal with gold 5/16 inch star and lapel button in presentation case. World War II. Wikepedia Commons image; click to view full citation.

Navy/Marine Corps Purple Heart Medal with gold 5/16 inch star and lapel button in presentation case. World War II. Wikepedia Commons image; click to view full citation.

What history do your family artifacts hold? Click here to read about other family heirlooms, lost and found, trashed or treasured, reported here on our blog, like a post about a Purple Heart medal like the one shown here.

Have you heard a great story like this? Post it on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page or email me!