May 23, 2015

Amazing Family History Find in a Basement!

treasure chestA recent email from listener Helen reminds us to search our basements and attics for unique and amazing family history finds. There’s no substitute for being able to tell family members’ stories through their own words and photographs.

genealogy gems podcast mailbox“I just had to tell you about my recent find. My late father-in-law served in the Canadian Navy for 39 years, entering Naval College when he was only 14. Most of my knowledge about his life came from talking with him before he died. Of course, then I did not know the questions to ask.

“About a month ago, I was preparing for a lecture on his life for a local World War 1 Seminar. I starting looking around in our basement as I knew we had some material from when we cleared out his house when he died, but I had no idea of just what exciting material I would find.

“I found his personal diaries, with the earliest from 1916! The journals give an amazing first-person record of naval service from a person who devoted his life to the service of his country. I was able to weave his actual words into the somewhat dry official record of his long time service [ending with] his being presented with a Commander of the British Empire medal shortly before his retirement.

“I am so grateful that the family saved these invaluable documents through the myriad of moves that a naval officer’s career entails. In a different box, I found his photographs from the same era—some even earlier than the journals. I am now seriously considering publishing the journals along with the photographs, as they deserved to be shared.”

how to start a genealogy blogGot a living relative whose story you want to capture? Click here to read our blog post about the free StoryCorps app that can help you!

Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to access Premium podcast episode 116 to hear a discussion between two authors of books on life-story writing, and here to access a Premium podcast AND video on how to make a family history video.

NGS 2015 App: A New Generation in Conference Apps

NGS conference appAre you heading to NGS this week along with us and thousands of others? Download the NGS app if you haven’t already. This free, multi-event app will work for all current and future conferences of the National Genealogical Society (U.S.).

According to conference organizers, the NGS 2015 app can “help you make the most of your trip to St. Charles before, during and after the conference.” They recommend attendees begin using  it now “so you can plan and improve your conference experience.” But the app will continue to be viable in the future as they add additional events to it.

Features include:

  • The Dashboard to keep you organized with up-to-the-minute information
  • About the NGS 2015 Family History Conference to keep all conference information in one place
  • Alerts of important real-time communications from NGS
  • Twitter feed to follow and join in on the conference chatter. The Twitter hashtag is #NGS2015GEN.

You can also

  • Sync your schedule across multiple devices
  • Locate exhibitors you plan to visit
  • Access a list of Local Places based on Category
  • Connect, message, and share schedules with your colleagues through the Friends feature
  • Link to syllabus material for each lecture, which will be available about 29 April 2015

The NGS Conference App is available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and web-enabled devices. Click here to download or search your app store for NGS Family History Conferences.

turtle_in_shell_400_wht_5833Are you new to attending a big genealogy conference? Click here to find a video that will help you know what to expect, how to prepare and how to get the most out of attending a conference.

Find Your Ancestors in English Manorial Records

Wingfield Manor. The view from the tower at Wingfield Manor, looking North to North East with the village of South Wingfield in the background. Little known, Wingfield Manor is a huge grand ruin of a country mansion built in 1440 by Ralph Cromwell and is one of the many places Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned. It sits atop a small hill over looking the valley below and is quite imposing on the landscape. The ruin is looked after by English Heritage. Wikimedia commons image. Click to view details.

Wingfield Manor. The view from the tower at Wingfield Manor, looking North to North East with the village of South Wingfield in the background. Little known, Wingfield Manor is a huge grand ruin of a country mansion built in 1440 by Ralph Cromwell and is one of the many places Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned. It sits atop a small hill over looking the valley below and is quite imposing on the landscape. The ruin is looked after by English Heritage. Wikimedia commons image. Click to view details.

Was your ancestor the lord of an English manor or, more likely, someone who lived and worked in the vicinity of one? Or are you a Downton Abbey fan who would just enjoy reading the old records kept by a grand manor? Then you should know about English manorial records available online and offline.

The Manorial Document Register, an arm of the National Archives (U.K.), manages manorial records and even has put some online. You can search its site by the name of the manor or, if you don’t know it, the name of the parish or county. According to the site, “The records noted in the Manorial Documents Register include court rolls, surveys, maps, terriers, documents and all other documents relating to the boundaries, franchises, wastes, customs or courts of a manor.”

What’s an English manor?

In English history,  “A manor is an estate or an agricultural unit of local government, held by a landlord,” explains the FamilySearch wiki. “The residence of the landlord was called the manor house. Those living on the manor were subject to the customs of the manor, a sort of local common law often set by the landlord and which varied from manor to manor. The landlord was referred to as Lord of the Manor, but was not necessarily a titled person….Manors began after the Norman Conquest (1066) and weren’t abolished until a property act of 1922.”

“The people who lived on the manor were either

  1. Villeins, people who owed allegiance to and were bound to the lord of the manor, or
  2. Free tenant farmers (may also be known as franklin or yeoman) were not subject to the customs of the manor or the will of the lord.

It is estimated that there were between 25,000 and 65,000 manors in England, compared to the approximately 12,000 to 15,000  parishes.”

How else can I find English manorial records?

Manorial records may also exist elsewhere, like a Harvard University collection in the U.S. that has been partly digitized. It’s worth Googling the name of a parish, manor or county and the phrase “manor records” (“manor* records” will also search for the phrase “manorial records).

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverThe all-new second edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke teaches you how to use search operators like these to find exactly what you’re looking for online (if it’s out there, Google can help you find it!).

Family Tree DNA Review: GEDCOM Search Tool Added!

Family Tree DNA review GEDCOM Search toolFamily Tree DNA (FTDNA) has some of my very favorite genetic tools to help you make connections with your DNA matches when you can’t immediately find a genealogical connection, but it’s no secret that their genealogy tools leave much to be desired. However, their latest genealogy tool has promise: if certain conditions are met, you will be able to see whether any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test!

For quite some time now FTDNA has allowed you to enter your genealogical surnames and locations into your account and list your earliest known paternal and maternal line ancestors. The latter is displayed for your YDNA and mtDNA matches to see and the former for your autosomal DNA matches to see. As a bonus, if one of your autosomal matches shares an inputted surname, FTDNA will bold that surname (or location) for you in the “Ancestral Surnames” column of your match page.

A few months ago they upgraded their pedigree tool for uploading a GEDCOM into your account.  This GEDCOM does not in any way interact with your DNA match list or results; it is just provided as a resource to your matches. The pedigree tool itself is clumsy at best, but at least it is searchable and can give you a head start when looking for matches. It would be really nice if FTDNA could scrape all the surnames and locations from your GEDCOM and use that to populate your Ancestral Surnames field, but it does not.

The latest addition to FTDNA’s mediocre genealogy offerings is the ability to search all of the uploaded pedigree information in the FTDNA database. The best part about this feature is that it is not limited to searching just your DNA matches. This means you can see if any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test! This is great news!

Of course, you see the immediate problem: if the cousin of interest hasn’t uploaded a GEDCOM, you still won’t be able to find them. And, of course, the usefulness of the information is completely dependent on other people’s genealogical sleuthing skills. But still, this can be a useful tool.

I tried using this tool to find out if there were other descendants of my ancestors Julia Pond and Austin Tilton who had tested. I have one DNA match who descends from this couple and I am fairly certain this is our connection. I wanted to see if there were others out there who were also descendants of this couple. I started with just a search for “Julia Pond” and got 37 results. I then used the advanced search feature to add her birth year “1821” and “Ohio.”GlobalSearchJuliaPond

There were two matches.  My family tree, and another belonging to Katie.  It was frustrating that I couldn’t see right away if Katie was also a DNA match. But in the Advanced search I can ask to see only DNA matches, and repeat the search. Katie disappeared. By doing this I learned that Katie is descendant of Julia and Austin, but she and I don’t share enough DNA to be considered related. This makes sense, since descendants of this couple would be my 4th cousins at best, and I know that I will only genetically match about half of my fourth cousins. I can now contact my DNA match that lists Julia and Austin on his pedigree and ask him if Katie shows up on his match list. Perhaps they share some DNA that I do not.

Speaking of that DNA match of mine: why wasn’t he listed in my search results for Julia Pond? Well, it turns out that in his pedigree she is listed as born in 1821 from OH, and my search said Ohio. Ah. The search function is not catching those kinds of differences. So be careful.

GlobalSearchJuliaPondMatchDetail

When implemented properly, this tool can help you collect all of the descendants of a particular ancestor so you can learn more about what DNA you inherited from whom, and further your genealogical efforts.

Are you ready to get started? If you’re new to genetic genealogy, the first thing to do is acknowledge you may face some unexpected discoveries. If you’re not willing to chance some surprises on your family tree, don’t pursue it yet. Next, evaluate FTDNA (or other DNA companies) for yourself. If you decide to get started, your first step should be to upload your own GEDCOM, and make it public. Don’t feel like you have to put everything you know in this GEDCOM, just what you are certain of and feel confident sharing. To make it public, go into your Account Settings, and agree to share your Basic Profile.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesAfter this Family Tree DNA review, if you’re ready to explore what DNA can do for YOUR genealogy, why not explore how I can help you do it? My quick guides on genetic genealogy include a guide specifically for those who test at Family Tree DNA.

You can also hire me for an individual consultation to make sure you’re doing the right DNA tests with the right relatives to answer your burning genealogy questions. (Testing the wrong people or DNA type can be a very expensive mistake!)

Jellybean Video: How We Spend Our Time

Jellybean videoA friend sent me a link to this short, thought-provoking video demonstrating how we use our time. In this video, 28,835 jellybeans represent the days of an average life. The narrator adds up how we spend those, from caring for others to commuting to working to watching television.

I’d happily recover some of those television or commuting jellybeans! I’d spend them on family play time or time pursuing family stories that enrich my sense of who I am. Specifically, I think I’m ready to invest more time in organizing my family history research. That will allow me to spend my genealogy jellybeans more wisely in the future. On actual research instead of reminding myself what I already know. On writing and sharing instead of chasing down data I can’t lay my hands on. (Ok, time to watch the Evernote video series!)

What jellybeans do YOU want to move from one pile to another? Watch the “jellybean video” and think about your answers!

Road Trip, Anyone? An Orphan Train Museum

genealogy book clubWe’ve heard from many of you that the best-selling novel Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, featured in our Genealogy Gems Book Club, has piqued your interest in that sad chapter in U.S. and Canadian history. So I thought I’d share this comment from Jenna Mills on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page:

“I’ve become very interested in orphan trains since I heard the interview with the author on your podcast. Fascinating and sad. I’ve since found that that over 250,000 kids are estimated to have been put on a train. 250,000!!!

NOTC-COMPLEXThe National Orphan Train Complex [a museum] is in Concordia, Kansas, so of course a visit there will be forthcoming. I’m halfway through the book and love it. What has really piqued my curiosity is that my great-grandmother adopted a boy while living in Amherst, Nebraska. The railroad doesn’t go through there anymore but did in that time period. I may be taking a trip down a rabbit hole, but this is so fascinating.”

Thanks, Jenna! We’re also aware of an orphan train museum in Louisiana and this lovely summary from an Iowa historical society about riders who landed in their little town. Recently we pinned an image of an old orphan train rider doll on Pinterest.

  Follow Lisa Louise’s board Genealogy Gems Book Club on Pinterest.

genealogy book club genealogy gemsWe invite you to follow the FREE no-commitment, no-fuss Genealogy Gems Book Club. Every quarter we feature our favorite family-history-friendly fiction and nonfiction titles AND exclusive interviews with their authors!

New Pictorial Maps on David Rumsey Map Collection

Map of Hollywood, 1928. Online at David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Click on the map for full citation information.

Map of Hollywood, 1928. Online at David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Click on the map for full citation information.

Pictorial maps are both fun and useful for finding our family history. These use illustrations in addition to regular cartographic images to communicate their messages.

For example, this 1928 map of Hollywood, California, inserts faces of the famous and illustrations of local attractions. But maps like those don’t just exist for popular tourist destinations. And now there are even more pictorial maps online and FREE to use at the David Rumsey Map Collection.

According to a press release, “Over 2,000 pictorial maps and related images have been added…in the form of separate maps, pocket maps, case maps, atlases, manuscript maps, and wall maps.”  These include “certain panoramic and birds-eye maps, diagrammatic maps, and timelines.” Pictorial maps were especially popular during the 1920s-1940s, but David Rumsey includes many from the 19th century and before. The collection continues to grow; check back often to look for the maps you want most.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastDid you know that I teach an entire video class on using historical maps in genealogy research? I’ve put a free excerpt on the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel: Using Sanborn Fire Maps for Genealogy and Family History. Watch it below! Genealogy Gems Premium members can watch the full class, which goes in-depth on four MORE types of helpful historical maps, and download the companion handout! (Click here to learn more about Premium membership.)

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. Might any of these collections include your ancestors? Today: English and Welsh Quaker vital records, Newfoundland censuses, New York marriage record, Nova Scotia deaths, Queensland wills and Pittsburgh newspapers.

ENGLISH AND WELSH BMD. Quaker birth, marriage and burial records from England and Wales, 1578-1841, are now available to FindMyPast subscribers. Quakers were formally known as the Society of Friends, a nonconformist religious group who practiced their faith outside of the established Church of England during this time.

NEWFOUNDLAND CENSUSES. Over a quarter million indexed records have been added to free existing databases of Newfoundland, Canada censuses for 1935 and 1945 at FamilySearch.

NEW YORK MARRIAGES. Nearly 640,000 images have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of New York marriage records (1847-1848, 1908-1936). The collection is only partially indexed, but you can “scroll through” images online, much like you would on a microfilm reader.

NOVA SCOTIA DEATHS. Nearly 350,000 indexed names and over a quarter million images have been added to free FamilySearch databases of Nova Scotia deaths from 1890-1955 and 1956-1957.

QUEENSLAND (AU) WILLS. More than 45,000 wills from Queensland, Australia are now indexed for FindMyPast subscribers. The database covers nearly a century: 1857 to 1940 and includes name and year of death.

PITTSBURGH NEWSPAPERS. Newspapers.com and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have partnered to put issues of that paper online (1877-1921). “If you take into account the earlier papers that evolved into The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (like The Pittsburg Post, The Pittsburgh Gazette, and others—also on Newspapers.com), you’ll find issues dating back as far as 1786,” says a news release. “That’s 135 years of Pittsburgh history!”

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Here’s a tip: Most databases, even those with thousands of names in them, are incomplete. If you don’t find an ancestor in a record set in which they should appear, double check the record set description to see whether the years you want might not be included. Search on multiple name spellings, nicknames and initials, as well as for the names of other relatives. Page through any images online. Search that same website (and others) for additional record sets that may cover the same time frame and place. Finally, ask yourself why they could be missing from the records and follow up on logical lines of inquiry. This tip comes to you courtesy of the newly-revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, which teaches you how to harness the powerful, free features on Google to find your ancestors.

DNA in the UK: Are Your British Ancestors Roman?

Nature Britains Genes

The key to learning about our ancestors from our own DNA is to have a lot of people tested who can all trace their ancestry to a specific geographic location. A groundbreaking scientific study has just been published in Nature by Stephen Leslie and colleagues that details the origins of the people of the UK. (Read the abstract here.) This study has ramifications for you, as a genetic genealogist, even if you don’t have origins in the UK.

Dr. Leslie and colleagues collected data from 2,039 Britons of European ancestry who lived in rural areas and knew that their four grandparents were all born within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of each other. This means that their DNA should accurately represent the DNA of individuals living in that area in the late 1800s. Using multiple fancy and advanced statistical methods, the researchers identified 17 distinct genetic groups. When they overlaid these groups on a map of the UK, what they found was remarkable.  Each genetic group, with few exceptions, mapped to a very specific geographic location.

The largest cluster by far, encompassing half of those tested, maps to Central/South England. Well, the first serious settlers of Britain were from the Roman Empire whose influence in 43 AD at the time of their entry into Britain was extensive, from Spain to France to Italy to parts of the middle east and North Africa. Then around 450 AD the Angles, from modern day northern Germany and southern Denmark, and the Saxons, from Germany, invaded. According to linguistic and archeological evidence, the previous Roman culture was basically wiped out. But were the actual people destroyed, or just their culture?

To find out, the team compared the UK samples with 6,209 people from continental Europe to understand their ancestors’ contributions to Britons’ ancestry. According to the DNA evidence, the descendants of those first Roman settlers are still very much alive. In fact, the paper reports that Saxon ancestry in Central/South England is very likely to be under 50%, and most likely in the range of 10–40%, with instead a large portion of the genetics now being attributed to France and by extension, the Roman Empire.

Another interesting finding: the Viking conquerors were nearly genetically absent in most of the UK. 

Very unfortunately, this data on DNA in the UK will not be a part of the reference samples at your genetic genealogy testing company. But it does demonstrate unequivocally that THIS WORKS!  DNA testing can help us trace our ancestral origins and thanks to improved techniques and larger data sets, we have much to look forward to.   Dr. Peter Donnelly, population geneticist at Oxford and co-author of this paper said, “History is written by the winners, and archaeology studies the burials of wealthy people. But genetic evidence is interesting because it complements that by showing what is happening to the masses rather than the elite.”

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesLearn more about DNA testing for family history with my Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy Quick Guide, available now in the Genealogy Gems store. In fact, I have a whole series of Guides there on using DNA for genealogy. Check them all out!

If you’re ready for some one-on-one consulting to see what DNA can tell you about your family history, visit my website to learn more.

WWII Military Records Free at Fold3 Thru May 15

John Morton WWIIIn commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8, Fold3 is offering free access to its World War II collection.

This is a great opportunity to reach in and grab those WWII military records you may not have had subscription access to! Both my grandfathers served in World War, and so did one of my husband’s grandfathers, John Morton (pictured here).

According to a Fold3 blog post, “The WWII Collection, currently with over 72 million records, has a diverse array of resources to mine, whether you’re interested in historical aspects of the war or are searching for specific individuals who fought in it.” Popular databases in this collection include:

New and updated Fold3 datasets include:

To learn more about VE Day, search for “VE Day” on Fold3 to find thousands of documents and photos about it.

how to start a genealogy blogWant to look back a little further in time? Read our blog post on 5 Ways to Discover Your Family History in World War I.