March 4, 2015

New Celebs Announced for WDYTYA 2015

WDYTYA logoThe popular, two-time Emmy-nominated television series Who Do You Think You Are? returns to TLC on Sunday, March 8 (10pm EST/9pm CST in the U.S.) with the family history stories of four fabulous celebs:

  • Melissa Etheridge, who heads to Quebec to trace the history of her paternal side, learns about the scandalous marriage of her 6x great-grandparents.
  • America Ferrera, who brings the series to Honduras for the first time ever, learns about the father she barely knew, and unravels her great-grandfather’s role in the violent Central American political system.
  • Tony Goldwyn, who is familiar with his prestigious paternal Hollywood lineage, but knows little about his mother’s side of the family. In his episode, he comes to learn about his 3x great-grandparents, who fought for women’s rights and westward expansion.
  • Josh Groban, who discovers his 8x great-grandfather was a highly educated and renowned scientist that studied astronomy, and was quoted by Isaac Newton himself.

Previously-announced celebrity guests on WDYTYA 2015 are Julie Chen, Angie Harmon, Bill Paxton and Sean Hayes. The current episode lineup looks like this, so mark your calendars!

  • March 8           Julie Chen
  • March 15         Josh Groban
  • March 22         Angie Harmon
  • March 29         Sean Hayes
  • April 5              Tony Goldwyn
  • April 12            America Ferrera
  • April 19            Bill Paxton
  • April 26            Melissa Etheridge

Ancestry Beta Testing Its New Website: Want to See It?

lab_rat_with_pen_clipboard_14929 (1)Ancestry.com has spent a year preparing a new website based on a ton of user feedback. They’re just about ready to introduce it! According to a media rep, the “new and improved Ancestry experience…makes it easier for anyone to discover and tell the rich, unique story of their family.”

According to Ancestry, features on the new site include:

  • “A new LifeStory view to transform your ancestors’ facts and events into engaging, unique stories;
  • A new, intuitive, modern look to streamline your work flows and make your family story the focus;
  • Historical Insights to discover significant historical events that your ancestors may have experienced;
  • A new Facts View to make it easier to validate facts with sources, and edit and review facts contextually;
  • A new Media Gallery where you can consolidate all your media in one place.”

“Ancestry beta” (a test version of the new site) will be showcased at RootsTech next weekend, Feb. 12-14. If you visit the Ancestry booth, you will be able to opt in to participate in the site. Not going to RootsTech? Click here to added to a waiting list (they will add people over the next few months). You can use Ancestry beta in the latest version of Chrome, Firefox and IE11.

Here’s what the new LifeStory view looks like for my husband’s ancestor, Harry R. Cooke. What do you think? Tell us on Facebook!

Ancestry beta life story view

 

Genealogy Edu-tainment! Celebrity Interview, Bestseller for Book Club, DNA Chat and More!

tv_film_icon_400_wht_15178 (1)Are you ready for a hearty dose of genealogy edu-tainment? It’s all there in the newest episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast: a genealogy television celebrity, a best-seller for our new Genealogy Gems Book Club title and an industry insider peek at Ancestry’s DNA products.

Since it’s the beginning of the year, a lot of television shows are ramping back up (like WDYTYA in March). Genealogy Roadshow on PBS will it be back with new episodes and a new addition to the panel of hosts: professional genealogist Mary Tedesco. She joins Lisa in this episode to talk about her experience on the show and about Italian research, her specialty.

genealogy book clubDid you hear about our new featured book for Genealogy Gems Book Club? It’s the internationally best-selling novel Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline! Tune in to the episodes or click to the show notes to learn more about the book and why I chose it for our virtual book club. And don’t forget the best part of our book club: the author will join us for an exclusive interview! The interviews are fun even if you haven’t read the book, and fantastic if you have. That interview is coming up in May.

DNA Guide Diahan Southard also makes an appearance on the January Genealogy Gems podcast episodes. She offers a frank insider’s opinion of what’s going on with AncestryDNA and Ancestry.com’s DNA Circles feature. Stay up-to-date in this fast-moving and fascinating aspect of genealogy with Your DNA Guide on Genealogy Gems!

Finally, you’ll hear about Lisa’s newest project. Available by popular demand is the revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox! 

Which are the Best Genealogy Websites for YOU??

money_tree_PA_500_wht_3903Bill Johnson in Manassas, Virginia, USA, wrote to me with this question–and I know he’s not the only one asking it!

“It’s difficult to know what genealogical resources to spend your money on. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com (world package) for years. But, there is FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc. Your books identify dozens of other resources that all sound good — and cost money. Then there are some of the free resources like the National Archives and the LDS resources [FamilySearch].  Where should you spend your time and money?  While money is always a factor, I find that my time is a more precious resource.  If I have Ancestry.com, would I gain anything by subscribing to FindMyPast? MyHeritage? FamilySearch? The National Archives or the BLM sites?  I am concerned about wasting money on redundancy.  Why visit a site that only offers a select subset of the data that I access through Ancestry?

Which paid sites do you regularly use?  Which free sites do you use?  Your books have a plethora of suggestions but the pool of resources is increasing by the day.  It is really getting rather confusing.”

What a great question!!! Here’s my answer:

“I agree, it’s gotten more complicated selecting the best genealogy websites for your own needs. I will take a look at covering this more in depth in a future podcast episode. I do have a few ideas for you right now.

It’s really about accessing the right website (or tool) for the task.

  • For general depth of records I turn first to Ancestry.com (you only need the world edition if you need records outside of the U.S.), and then FamilySearch.org. With Ancestry.com, I make sure I use the card catalog and search by location tool (scroll down to the map) so I’m not missing all the record sets that don’t automatically jump to the top of the general search results. FamilySearch is free, so I check its online resources EVERY TIME I have a question. I check both browsable and indexed content (from the main screen, click Search, then Records, then scroll down and click Browse all Published Collections (or click to that screen here). You’ll be able to choose a location and see all content they have and whether it’s been indexed or you just have to browse through it (like reading microfilm, only online).
  • For me personally, I was slow to warm up to MyHeritage because I just wasn’t sure how it would best help me. Once I embraced it and posted my tree, its strength in my research became clear: for the first time ever I connected with a distant cousin in the “old country” (Germany)! The international user base of MyHeritage stands above other sites. And the fact that you can create your own family site on MyHeritage makes it a great ongoing resource for staying connected. (Disclosure: MyHeritage is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. However, that is because of the value I came to experience in my own research as I just mentioned.)
  • When I am focused on my husband’s British roots I head to FindMyPast and pay as I go as needed.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistOur mission here at Genealogy Gems is to reveal innovative ways of using the myriad of tech tools so you’ll know you can turn to them only when you need them. Think of it as a toolbelt. The right tool for the right job! But I also only bring tech tools and websites to the podcast and my website that I believe are worthwhile. Believe it or not, I weed a lot of them out!

I hope that helps, and I wish you great genealogical success!”  Lisa

What to Do When Genealogy Records Were Burned

flames_300_wht_8629Recently Sue from Elk Grove, Illinois wrote in with a question about what to do when records were lost due to fire (or war, or disasters, etc.):

“We have been trying to locate information on my great great grandparents Hugh and Mae Sullivan. I have never been able to find marriage or birth records and have realized that it was mainly due to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Interestingly, through a directory from 1866, they may have lived only blocks from the origin of the fire. I have them in 1880 with 4 sons, the first of which was born just 10 months following the fire.

“I suspect that they may have lost other children in the tragedy. I am unsure which direction to go to find more of their story and any suggestions would be helpful. Several newspapers are reported to have lists of the missing but I have either been unable to read them or to locate them. Sam Fink’s list [an index of Cook County marriages and deaths] did not provide any information. I suspect that my ancestors were among the very poor immigrants that flooded into Chicago. There were relief societies and I have wondered if records were kept of those who were rehoused.”

Here’s my response to Sue:

genealogy gems podcast mailboxI think you are on the right track with newspapers. Newspapers.com (owned by Ancestry) carries the Chicago Daily from 1871. Here is a screen shot of the List of Missing from Oct. 11, 1871.  It might be worth a subscription to Newspapers.com to be able to really comb through all the issues.

newspapers com missing clipHere’s a tip on working with less-than-the best digital images of historical newspapers. You can “invert” the actual image (have it read white-on-black instead of black-on-white), then darken it and add a little more contrast to get the most readable copy possible. This can be done right from the Newpapers.com viewer.

Also, in Family History podcast episode #37 I discussed a book specifically on Chicago research: Finding Your Chicago Ancestors: A Beginners Guide To Family History In The City Of Chicago by Grace DuMelle. As I recall, it was a very comprehensive book and could give you good leads on where to look.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

 

For more tips like these, read my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. Inside you’ll find:

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Worksheets and Checklists
  • Tech Tools You Probably Aren’t Using But Should
  • A Massive Amount of Location Specific Websites  and a Case Study that Puts It Al Together

AncestryDNA Review and Breaking News! Updates Launched

“This is really the first time a DNA testing company has so fully integrated genetics and genealogy.  We can now find cousins in the database who do not share our particular genetics, but who do share some of the genetics of our common ancestor.  This is huge.” -Diane Southard, Your DNA Guide

AncestryDNA product image new_1f_screens2I blogged a couple of weeks ago about some changes taking place over at AncestryDNA. You will recall that they are planning to slash your match list to allow only “invited guests” to your personal DNA party. (Read that post to be reminded why this is a good thing.) Ancestry has officially announced the launch of this feature update and reports that on average users will see an 80% reduction in the number of matches shown. I had a chance to look at the new site before it launched and one of my favorite features is the question mark that appears next to your match. Clicking on the question mark on your match page will bring up a menu of references to help you better understand the inner workings of matching at Ancestry, including those confidence levels that are a part of every relationship prediction. In this table below you can see that ancestry has tried to give you some fairly solid guidelines by which to assess the quality of your matches. You will want to focus on those matches with a confidence score of “High” or above to have the best chance of genealogical success. confidence chart But an update to the matching feature is only the beginning of the new features at AncestryDNA. Today Ancestry announced “DNA Circles,” a tool that helps you identify others who share common ancestors with you.  The new “DNA Circles” feature has the potential to impact the way you do genetic genealogy at Ancestry.  Here’s why: Autosomal DNA (the kind that Ancestry is testing) has a spotty inheritance pattern. On average we only have half of the DNA of each of our parents, only 25% of our grandparents, only 12.5% of our great grandparents and so on.  This means that AncestryDNA and its competitors (Family Tree DNA and 23andMe) are only able to genetically identify 50% of your genetic 4th cousins. This means that there could be 50% MORE people in these databases that you are actually related to, people that should have been invited to your DNA party, but didn’t have a ticket. Now with DNA Circles, there is a metaphorical “after-party.” After parties are “hosted” by one of your relatives. Ancestry searches your pedigree and that of your matches back 7 generations looking for suitable hosts.  An ancestor qualifies as a host if they have two or more descendants who hold an invitation. At this after-party you can meet some of these long lost cousins that, while related to you, lost their ticket to your DNA party. After-party invitations are provided to those who meet three very important qualifications:

  1. They have their DNA attached to their PUBLIC family tree.
  2. AND that PUBLIC family tree has the name of the hosting ancestor on it.
  3. AND this person shares DNA with at least one other person who also meets the above two criteria.

Here’s an example.  Below is an image of the new AncestryDNA home page. You can see I am a part of two DNA Circles (some of you will be much more popular and invited to several after-parties. For me–just the two for now).  Let’s take a closer look at my DNA Circle hosted by my paternal 5th great grandfather Minus Griggs (who knew the guy liked parties?!). AncestryDNA HomePageNov2014   Clicking on the DNA circle brings up this page where there are three things I want to show you: AncestryDNA

  1. This is your relationship to the host.
  2. This is a list of the individuals who have passed the three criteria listed above and have been invited to this after-party.
  3. This is the innovative part.  You see that the first two matches (after me–I am listed first) have only “Tree Match” in this column. This means that these two people, both descendants of our host, Minus Griggs, didn’t ever appear on my DNA match list. We do not share enough DNA to be considered genetic relatives. However, the third member of the circle has the “DNA Match” designation, meaning that this match DOES appear on my match page. In fact, this is my ONLY DNA match in the circle (there are three others not shown here).  That means that this DNA circle has connected me to FIVE other cousins.  All because I share DNA and genealogy with the third member of this circle, and he shares DNA and genealogy with everyone else.

I can click on each circle member to see exactly how Ancestry THINKS we are related.  This is my first opportunity to DOUBLE CHECK this relationship that Ancestry has handed me, to be sure that both my match and I really did receive tickets to the same after party.

Here is what that page looks like for me and one of my matches.

GriggsCircleDetail This is really the first time a DNA testing company has so fully integrated genetics and genealogy.  We can now find cousins in the database who do not share our particular genetics, but who do share some of the genetics of our common ancestor.  In my opinion, this is huge. 

There is one catch, and it is going to be a big one for some of you.  In order to see your DNA Circles, you have to be an Ancestry.com subscriber.

Even though I am excited about these changes, I can’t help but hope for just one step more.  In order to identify these DNA Circles, Ancestry has identified pieces of DNA that can be fairly reliably assigned to a particular ancestor.  There are likely others in the Ancestry database who have these pieces of DNA, we can call them partial tickets to the after-party, but who are lacking the second requirement: a pedigree documenting a relationship to that ancestor.  I hope in the future the folks at Ancestry will honor those partial ticket holders, and allow them to the after-party, so we can sit around with our peanuts and pretzels and figure out how we are all related. Until then, I am going to enjoy the two after-parties hosted by my two generous ancestors.

your_dna_guideGenealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat SheetsReady to walk through the process of using DNA for your genealogy? Let me be your guide! Check out my quick guides (left) Purchase each guide individually or pick up the bundle of all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

Inspiring Ideas in Genealogy Gems Podcast 173

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family History“We all need a little inspiration now and then!”

That’s Lisa’s theme for the recently-released FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 173 (click here for the podcast in iTunes, and here for how to our app). Here are the highlights:

  • Lisa talks about creating family history ambiance in her new home office. The podcast episode page includes a picture of her new heritage display. (I love the vintage cameras and family photos.)
  • Catch Diahan Southard chatting about exciting updates to autosomal DNA research at AncestryDNA.com.
  • We hear from a listener with an inspiring story about using MyHeritage.com. If you still mentally categorize MyHeritage as “best for non-US only” research, check out this story of discovering a Civil War casualty in her family through MyHeritage. (Did you catch our recent post about the new institutional MyHeritage access at FamilySearch Centers?)
  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsLisa and I chat about the fantastic response we’re hearing to the launch of the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club and some additional reading suggestions from listeners. Click here to read about books recommended by two of YOU.
  • Finally, catch our link to a story about a couple who is celebrating 80 years of marriage. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!

Finally, in this episode Lisa also catches us up on some exciting news: a digital WWI archive on Europeana; newly-available German records the 1865 New York (US) state census online; and plans to digitize important Indiana records. Catch up on all the great news and get inspired in Genealogy Gems podcast 173!

Savvy DNA Shopping Tip: Transfer Genealogy DNA Test Results to FTDNA for FREE

DNA shopperSavvy shopping can save you money and time. So what does savvy DNA shopping look like? Genetic genealogy tests–yDNA, autosomal and mDNA–do require a financial investment. They aren’t cheap. But they can save you hours of traditional research and give you results that no paper trail may provide.

Three main companies are currently selling autosomal DNA tests (that’s the test that is not limited to a direct maternal or a direct paternal line, and that can help you find genetic cousins with connections back as far as six or seven generations).  Those three companies, 23andMe.com, DNA Ancestry and Family Tree DNA  are all competing for you genetic genealogy dollar. All offer a good service, and it can be difficult to decide who to give your $99 to.

When your success or failure in finding matches depends entirely on who else has also been tested, it would be nice to have a crystal ball to tell you which testing company has the most participants who are useful to your research. FTDNA has no crystal ball, but they now are offering a reasonable substitute: FREE access to their database for anyone who has test results from 23andMe (if you received results before November of 2013) and AncestryDNA. Yes, I said FREE!

There are conditions. You can see your first 20 matches (but they can’t see you), and try out some of the tools that FTDNA has to help you identify how you are related to others. To have full access to the tools and results, you can pay $38, or just recruit four of your family members or friends to transfer, and then your transfer is FREE.

So, if you have been tested by Ancestry or 23andMe, run, don’t walk, to transfer your Y-DNA results to Family Tree DNA and take a look inside their version of the crystal ball. If you haven’t “done DNA” yet, currently the best option is to be tested with AncestryDNA and then transfer to FTDNA.” (watch for holiday sales, which would probably drop the price to $79). This gives you access to TWO databases of potential relatives for around $110–if you are a savvy shopper!

DNA Guide Cheat Sheet Diahan Southard

Final DNA shopping tip: be an educated consumer! Check out these quick guides I wrote to help genealogists find and use the DNA products that will help their research. Purchase each guide individually or pick up all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

MORE German Genealogy Records at Ancestry.com

German genealogy recordsNearly 12 million German genealogy records are newly searchable on Ancestry.com! You’ll find these in more than 30 databases of civil registrations of birth, marriages, residences and deaths between 1874-1950.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • around a million each of births and  deaths for Berlin, and about 2 million marriages;
  • over a million parish register transcripts for Pomerania and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (some are updates to existing records);
  • over 300,000 records of the Rhineland-Palatinate area (family registers, marriages and emigration registers);
  • over a million vital records for Saxony.

Click here for a full description of these records, with direct links to each dataset. Happy hunting for your German roots!

Indiana Genealogy Records to be Digitized by Ancestry.com

ebook ereader for Mac Digital Genealogy books at Google BooksA recent news article at Indianapublicmedia,org reports that more than 13 million Indiana genealogy records will be digitized and put online–and Ancestry.com is picking up the tab.

Among the records doing online are early 20th-century birth and death certificates and marriage records since 1958. According to the report, it would take the state a decade and over 3 million dollars to digitize these records. So Ancestry.com’s offer to take on the work is a godsend for both the state and those who want to use these records.

The deal gives Hoosier residents the first free access to the digitized records (onsite at the state archives). Three years after the the project is completed (which should happen in 2016), the state archives will offer records for free through its own website. Some records may still have confidentiality restrictions. But this still represents a great step forward for those whose ancestors helped to settle Indiana!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastLearn more about using vital records in your family history research with these episodes from our FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, a step-by-step series for beginners and those refreshing their skills:

  • Episode 24 on using U.S. marriage records;
  • Episode 25 on using U.S. civil birth records;
  • Episode 4 on using death records and a variety of additional vital records resources in the U.S.