October 21, 2014

Genetic Genealogy: DNA Tests Another Step Forward

dna_in_test_tube_400_wht_8965Recently a group of 100 residents from Wellington, New Zealand assembled together to determine what exactly it was they had in common. Their host? Dr. Spencer Wells, Director of the National Genographic project.  Their admittance fee to this party? A cheek swab.

What they learned about themselves that evening, has a direct impact on YOU, a genealogist interested in identifying your ancestors.

You see, 800 years ago the first inhabitants of New Zealand were just beginning to explore their new territory. They had arrived from the eastern islands of Polynesia and lived in relative isolation for over 500 years.

While first discovered by the Dutch in 1642, New Zealand wasn’t regularly visited by Europeans until the late 18th century. For Spencer Wells and the National Genographic Project, sampling people of New Zealand would provide a rare opportunity to study the genetic effect of a recent collision of indigenous and outside population groups.

We can think of mixing populations like adding a tablespoon of salt to a glass of water. At first it is easy to see the two different substances co-existing in the same location. But soon the salt becomes part of the water- creating a new substance, with only a small portion of the original substances remaining. This is what happened throughout history as outside groups arrived and intermarried with indigenous populations.

The goal of population genetics as a field of study, and specifically of the National Genographic project, is to look at the modern day population (in our example the salt water), and be able to identify which ancestral populations are present (in our example, determine which parts are salt, and which parts are water. This of course, without knowing beforehand that you were dealing with salt water!).

The National Geneographic project has identified 9 ancestral regions from which they believe all modern populations descend. These nine would be like our salt, and our water. They have then described how 43 reference population groups (our salt water) are comprised of their own unique mix of these 9 groups. They can also describe the origins of your direct maternal line, and if you are male, your direct paternal line.

This information was gathered for the Wellington residents. It was determined that the original Polynesian population and a small East Asian population are certainly the minority among a predominately Western European population group. This information will help groups like the National Genographic Project to determine the possible migration patterns of other peoples and cultures.

What does this mean for genealogy?  This kind of research helps fuel the admixture results (the pie charts and percentages) reported to you by a genetic genealogy testing company when you take an autosomal DNA test.  It is this research that helps genetic genealogists look at your DNA and pick out the essential, ancestral elements–your salt and your water–and determine how your unique mix reveals information about the origins and migration patterns of your ancestors.

Check out an article on this topic here.

Returning Orphaned Heirlooms to the Family

custom_text_present_14586Recently my Premium Podcast included a letter from Pat, who was looking for advice on how to return lost or orphaned heirlooms to a family. Ancestry.com had a few family trees posted. Pat didn’t know “whom to contact to get the materials to the most interested, closest family members.” This was my advice–and here’s the inspirational report back.

My advice:

I would first focus on the tree where the tree owner is most closely related to the folks mentioned in the memorabilia. I would probably make copies (depending on what the items are) and offer to all. If I didn’t get a confirmed answer from the first choice in a reasonable time I would offer to my second choice. I would ask the recipient to allow me to pass their contact info on to any others who get around to responding after the fact since it’s everyone’s “family”.

Pat’s response:

“I finally took up the challenge, determined to find a family and offer up the material I had recovered. This material contained old (labeled!) photos, school records, dance cards and letters home to Mom and Dad and seemed potentially quite precious.

It proved difficult to determine which family seemed to have the closest connection, so I decided to offer the material to the person whose Ancestry.com tree contained the most (valid) sources. Fortunately, the tree owner was quick to respond, eager to receive the materials I had to offer. I sent them off and the tree owner is delighted as she is the granddaughter to the original party and believes herself to be the only living descendant of that person!

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistIt feels just right to get those materials back “home”!  I encourage other listeners to do the same.  It produces a great sense of genealogical balance.  So many others have done blessedly wonderful things for me in my research, making it easy to pay it forward just a little bit.

Thank you for the encouragement and the advice. I have loved both podcasts for a number of years now–you are consistently wonderful!”

Thanks, Pat, both for the compliment and for the inspiring message! I love hearing these kinds of stories.

How to Record Phone Calls on Skype and Smartphones

stickman_customer_service_anim_300_wht_2125Looking for ways to record phone calls for family history interviews? Janice emailed me to ask that very question, and I gave her some ideas that can help you out too.

“I live in Maine and have awesome century old relatives that love to share stories. Most are in nursing homes and have hours and hours available of awesome family stories. I am limited on traveling because most visits are five hour drives one way.  They love talking on the phone. Is there any recommendation for an app that could record our conversations for historical preservation.  I would love to share these stories with the Maine Memory Network before they are forgotten.”

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistHere’s my response:

Lucky you for having these relatives to gather stories from! You mentioned using an “app” so I’m assuming you want to be able to use your smartphone. Here’s a good article with some options for recording from a smartphone.

 

How to record phone calls on Skype

Another alternative is to get a Skype account, and call them from your computer using a headset with microphone. For about $2.95 you can call any phone number (calling another skype account is free) and then you could use the program “Pamela” to record the call. Pamela works seamlessly with Skype, automatically generating the recording when you call. The file is saved on your computer as an easy to use MP3 file. The free version of Pamela lets you record for up to 15 minutes at a time. You can always restart another recording after 15 minutes, or purchase the software for unlimited recording length.

Janice’s response to my advice: “Oh how exciting. I like the Skype idea. I have discovered so many relatives to that were orphaned this would be a great way to capture their lost stories. Thanks a million!”

More Tips for Interviewing Relatives

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastWould you like some tips on how to contact and interview long-lost relatives? Check out these two episodes of the FREE Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast:

Episode 14: How to Contact Long-Lost RelativesConnecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that first call. In this episode, we chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has mastered the art of “genealogical cold calling” by conducting hundreds of telephone interviews.

Episode 15: More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives. In today’s episode we talk more about “genealogical cold calling” with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying.

RootsMagic for Mac

cheerleader_jump_custom_15272Now you can run RootsMagic on your Mac! I’ve been recommending this family tree software for a long time and I’m so pleased to see this development.

Here’s what the press release says about RootsMagic for Mac:

MacBridge for RootsMagic 6 allows you easily install and run RootsMagic on your Mac in mere minutes with almost no additional setup or configuration.

MacBridge for RootsMagic is different than other solutions you may be familiar with. For starters, it does not install Windows on your Mac. It also does not create a slow and bulky virtual computer. It runs right on your Mac, using your Mac file system. You can even put the RootsMagic icon on your dock for easy one-click access! So while we are busily working on an actual native Mac version of RootsMagic, MacBridge for RootsMagic 6 gives you the ability to work on a Mac today.

RootsMagic for MacWant to see it for yourself? Here’s a short video demonstrating how quick and easy it is to download and install RootsMagic onto your Mac. Still have questions? Take a look at our answers to some Frequently-Asked Questions about MacBridge for RootsMagic.

Currently, MacBridge for RootsMagic 6 is available only as a download. The regular price is $14.95 but for a limited time, you can get it for only $9.95.

Noisy New York City, Jamaican Slave Revolt and Other Digital Archive Projects

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/.

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/.

Digital archives are getting so much better! They’re not just about reproducing historical documents anymore. Multimedia add-ons–from searchable statistics to animated timelines–fill in the gaps not explained by the map keys.

Recently, Slate.com writer Rebecca posted on some of her favorite digital archives. Four of the five are of interest to genealogists! Read the article to learn more about them:

Historic_Maps_VideoWant to learn more about using maps in your research? Watch my FREE class on Google Earth for Genealogy. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also watch my NEW video class online, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. (Not a Premium member? Learn more here.)

Create a Family History Website with Your Tree

tree_of_knowledge_book_drop_500_wht_489Recently I heard from David with this question:

“Because of your consistent message of starting a family blog [and] anecdotal success from listeners, I started a family history website. A blog just seemed too small….  The ultimate goal is to display the family information for my known relatives as well as create a site that will pop up on Google search results and hopefully put me in contact with new relatives.

My question is about displaying the family tree on the website.  I want to have a page that shows my family tree.  I did not know how to accomplish that, so I decided to include links to my ancestry and myheritage family trees.  The problem with this method is that ancestry requires you to have an account to view the tree, and MyHeritage only shows you some of the family tree and requires an account to view the rest.  This is not a great method to share the family tree with relatives because not everyone has, or wants, an account with these sites.  Is there a website where I can upload my family tree’s GEDCOM file and then link to it on my website where it will display all the members of my tree?”

Mailbox question from Beginning Genealogist

It’s always great to hear that Genealogy Gems is helping out. Congrats on the website David! I recommend blogs to my readers because they are quicker and easier to set up, but in reality I would rather recommend they create a family history website like you are doing. It’s better suited for the long haul of getting your word out and connecting with others.

You pose a great question, and so I did what I just coached everyone in my latest episode #171 to do: just Google it! What you are describing is a ‘website plugin’ so I Googled: family tree website plugin and…Ta-da! There are some out there.

I found one for Word Press (which is where I build my site) so I may have to give that one a try. However, since you are using Weebly I went back and added “weebly” to the search and there are definitely some hits there, though I’m not sure if they specifically include a visual tree plug in. Try the searches and see if you find something you like.

My friend Caroline Pointer has a YouTube video called “Build a Family History Website & Blog on Weebly.” Around the 5:50 mark she shows how she embedded family tree charts into Weebly. Looks like she used Scribd.

Keep up the great work on your family history site!

“Who Else Has Viewed This Record?” Find Living Relatives!

There are lots of ways to find historical records about your ancestors online. Did you know there are also ways to learn who else has added that record to their trees–or who else is researching the same people you are? Here are two ways:

1. On Ancestry.com, when you are looking at an image of a record, there’s a sidebar to your right called “Related Content.” Click on it. Below other suggested records you will see a list showing anyone who has saved this record to their trees. You’ll see a link to that username and you can contact them. This is what it looks like:   Ancestry screen shot who else saved this record

2. On LostCousins.com, you can enter the names of relatives whose names appear on specific censuses. Their database will search for others who are looking for the same people. This is a great resource for people with British Isles roots, as the site originates from there. Here are the censuses they support:

  • England and Wales, 1841, 1881, 1911
  • Scotland, 1881
  • United States, 1880, 1940
  • Canada, 1881
  • Ireland, 1991.

Basic membership at LostCousins.com is free, but has limited functionality. You can only contact new people during certain windows of time during the year. With a £10 annual subscription, you can make new contacts anytime.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and Podcast
Looking for more ways to find living relatives? Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to access my full-length video class, Unleash Your Inner Private Eye to Find Living Relatives. Not a member? Click here to join.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 115 Features 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Evernote

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastIf you’re a Premium member on our site, you can now access Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 115, “Newspapers, Evernote, DNA and a Heartwarming Story.”

This episode is PACKED with news and ideas YOU can use to move your family research forward now. Here are some highlights:

  • 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Evernote when you’re traveling (you have to hear these ideas–they’ll save you a lot of fuss on the road)!
  • Great advice on what to keep on your hard drive v. what to keep on Evernote;
  • A conversation with a listener who reunited lost heirlooms with the right family–the advice I gave her and how it went;
  • An interview with Genealogy Gems’ resident DNA expert Diahan Southard on a recent news story and its impact on genetic genealogy;
  • A recent news story about Canadian birth brothers who were reunited–but are still looking for their sister;
  • Updates on two great online tools, PERSI on FindMyPast sites and the FamilySearch Standard Location Finder; and
  • an update on content at the British Newspaper Archive and some great U.S. newspaper history trivia.

Not a Premium member yet? You’re missing out on the “plus” content in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episodes! Click here for more on becoming a member. Our low annual membership rate is, we think, the best value in genealogy education out there. You don’t just get access to these meaty podcasts: you get unlimited access to Lisa’s online video classes for an entire year. Check it out!

Cruise the Caribbean with Me! Legacy Genealogy Cruise 2015

Genealogy CruiseWant to cruise the Caribbean in style with me–while learning smart strategies for family history research?

I’m pleased to announce I’ll be the featured speaker at the 12th annual Legacy Genealogy Cruise. We embark on June 20, 2015 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA and will visit Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico on the luxurious Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Sea ship.

During the seven-day cruise, I will teach seminars focused on getting quality genealogical results, quickly. You’ll receive loads of strategies and tips you can start using right away, from high-tech solutions to busting brick walls. I will join Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen and others who will offer classes on Legacy and other genealogy technology.

Click here more information or to register! You can also call their travel coordinator, Christy, at 1-800-557-8601 or send an email to LegacyFamilyTreeCruise@gmail.com.

See you on board!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 171 – Coping with Change and Genealogy Storytelling

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryThe newest episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast is now ready for listening! This is a really special episode with a story I think many of us can relate to. It’s about a man who started researching the life of a woman he never met–he doesn’t even know who her descendants are. And yet he feels compelled to learn her story. Learn how and why, and about some of his successes and challenges in the podcast episode.

I’ll give you just one little teaser: 99 postcards found in an attic when he was 13 years old got him started.  He’s held onto them for the past 38 years. Recently he finally started studying the stories on their backs. And that’s when he could see that 86 of them were addressed to a Mrs. Lizzie Milligan and postmarked between 1904 and 1925. Who was she? That’s what he is determined to know. And he’s already blogging his discoveries–in part hoping others can help him solve the mystery.

Episode 171 can be found through iTunes or by clicking here.