November 26, 2015

Here’s how to get 75% off Findmypast Subscription through Nov. 30, 2015

findmypast subscription sale 75 offWe see a lot of genealogy website subscription deals. This one for a findmypast subscription is fantastic! Don’t miss it if you have UK roots. Keep reading for the special link and coupon code that you’ll need for the discount.

This weekend, findmypast is celebrating Thanksgiving with a highly tempting offer: a full 75% off a 12-month World subscription (usual cost: $199.50; your cost: about $50–for the entire year!). CLICK HERE  and use the coupon code THNKSGNG15 by Monday, November 30, 2015 to get the discount.


If you have roots in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland, you should be using Findmypast to research them. For those readers in the US, Findmypast estimates that 35 million of us are descended from those first 51 Mayflower passengers (including these celebrities). And that’s just from those 51 people! That doesn’t hold a candle to the millions of other UK descendants who now live all over the world.

Findmypast is home to millions of records you will find only there, from British and Irish newspapers to the crucial 1939 Register. The site has strengthened its US, Canada and Australia collections to help descendants trace their families back to their British, Irish, Welsh or Scottish roots.

This weekend, findmypast is celebrating Thanksgiving with a highly tempting offer: a full 75% off a 12-month World subscription (usual cost: $199.50; your cost: about $50–for the entire year!). CLICK HERE  and use the coupon code THNKSGNG15 by Monday, November 30, 2015 to get the discount.

More UK Research Gems

1939 RegisterAccess the 1939 Register Online at Findmypast

The Bombing of London: Interactive Map of The Blitz

Irish Catholic Parish Registers from the National Library of Ireland




DNA Ethnicity Results: Exciting or Exasperating?

DNA ethnicity results

Wikipedia Commons image. Click to view.

Are your DNA ethnicity results exciting, confusing, inconsistent, exasperating…or all of the above?

Recently Kate expressed on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page her frustration with her ethnicity results provided by AncestryDNA. She gets right to the point when she writes, “the way they refer to the results is confusing.”

Kate, you are not alone. Many genealogists have been lured into taking the autosomal DNA test at one of the three major DNA testing companies just to get this glimpse into their past. Remember that the autosomal DNA test can reveal information about both your mother’s side and your father’s side of your family tree. Many take the test hoping for confirmation of a particular ancestral heritage, others are just curious to see what the results will show. Though their purposes in initiating the testing may vary, the feeling of bewilderment and befuddlement upon receiving the results is fairly universal.

Kate has some specific questions about her results that I think most will share. Let’s take a look at a couple of them. First up, Kate wants to know if our family tree data in any way influences the ethnicity results provided. The answer is an unequivocal “no.” None of the testing companies look at your family tree in any way when determining your ethnicity results. However, the results are dependent on the family trees of the reference population. The reference populations are large numbers of people whose DNA has been tested and THEIR family history has been documented for many generations in that region. The testing companies compare your DNA to theirs and that’s how they assign you to an ethnicity (and place of ancestral origin?).

Next Kate asks, “Do they mean England when they report Great Britain?” Or to put it more broadly, how do these testing companies decide to divide up the world? All of the companies handle this a little bit differently. Let’s look at Ancestry as an example. When you login to view your ethnicity results, you can click on the “show all regions” box below your results to get a list of all of the possible categories that your DNA could be placed in. These 26 categories include nine African regions, Native American, three Asian regions, eight European regions, two Pacific Island regions, two West Asian regions, and then Jewish, which is not a region, per se, but a genetically distinct group.

Clicking on each individual location in the left sidebar will bring up more information on the right about that region. For example, clicking on Great Britain tells us that DNA associated with this region is primarily found in England, Scotland, and Wales, but is also found in Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Basically, this is telling us that people with generations of ancestry in Great Britain are quite a genetic mix from many areas.

GreatBritainRegionThe first chart here shows that if we are to test the DNA of 100 natives of one of these primary regions (England, Scotland or Wales) then 50 of them will have the great Britain “pattern” of DNA covering 60% or more of their entire genome, and 50 of them will have that pattern in less than 60% of their DNA. The fact that this half-way number is so low, only 60%, tells us that there is a lot of uncertainty in this ethnicity estimate because there is so much mixture in this region. Kate, for you that means that when you see Great Britain in your ethnicity estimate, it could mean England, or maybe it means Italy- Ancestry can’t be certain.

IrelandRegionBut that uncertainty isn’t the same for every region. Pictured here is also the ethnicity chart for Ireland. You can see that half the people who are native to Ireland will have 95% or more Irish DNA.  Kate, for us this means that if you have Irish DNA in your results, you can be pretty certain it came from Ireland. From these tables you can see your membership in some regions is more robust than others, and Ancestry is using these tables to try to help us tell the difference.


In the end, the ethnicity results reported by each DNA testing company are highly dependent on two factors: the reference populations they use to compare your DNA against, and the statistical algorithms they use to compute your similarities to these populations. Every company is doing both of these things just a little bit differently.

Kate, if you want to get another take on your ethnicity results, you can take your data over to Family Tree DNA, or you can be tested at 23andMe. A free option is to head over to Gedmatch and try out their various ethnicity tools. If you need help downloading and transferring, you can head over to my website:  Most people have found after searching in multiple places that their “true” results are probably somewhere in the middle.

While these ethnicity results can be interesting and useful, for most they will just be a novelty; something interesting and exciting. I have found that their most useful application is acting like a fly on a fishing line. They attract our family members into DNA testing where we can then set the hook on the real goal: family history.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesIf you’re ready to bait your own hook, I recommend you check out my series of DNA quick guides. These laminated guides will help you choose the right DNA tests for your genetic genealogy questions. You’ll become a smart shopper, more prepared to choose the testing company that’s right for you. And you’ll be prepared to maximize your results from each company, rather than look at them blankly and wondered what the heck you just spent that money on. Click here to see all my DNA guides: I recommend the value-priced bundle!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery week, we post about exciting new genealogy records online. Scan this week’s list for anything you should search (or share with a friend): a colonial North American digital archive; Revolutionary War-era residents of Alabama; U.S. military burials; Freedmen’s Bureau records; California naturalizations and British WWI databases.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN RECORDS. Over 130,000 indexed images were added to the United States Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records 1865-1872 collection, searchable for free on FamilySearch. The index includes “patient registers, registers of sick and wounded, prescription books, and other medical records from freedmen hospitals and dispensaries….Records include letters and endorsements sent and received, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, labor contracts, registers of bounty claimants, registers of complaints, registers of contracts, registers of disbursements, registers of freedmen issued rations, registers of patients, reports, rosters of officers and employees, special and general orders and circulars received, special orders and circulars issued, records relating to claims, court trials, property restoration, and homesteads.”

ALABAMA REVOLUTIONARY WAR. A new database of indexed images at Ancestry “contains biographies, news clippings, and cards in paragraph form detailing persons who were residents in Alabama during the Revolutionary War in America.”

BRITISH WWI RECORDS. Findmypast has released new databases relating to World War I service: Surrey, Military Tribunals, 1915-1918 (military exemptions for the county of Surrey); and two British Army memorial rolls for employees of Lloyds of London and the London Stock Exchange who died in service.

CALIFORNIA NATURALIZATIONS. A database with indexed images of over a century’s worth of California naturalization records (1887-1991) has been updated at

COLONIAL NORTH AMERICA. A new digital archive has been launched: The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University. Its goal is to post digitized versions of “all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America.” According to the site, its “documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion. In addition to reflecting the origins of the United States, the digitized materials also document aspects of life and work in Great Britain, France, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico.” (Click here to read our blog post about the project’s announcement in 2013.)

U.S. MILITARY BURIALS. recently added over 8 million U.S. military veterans’ burial records to the Special Collections that can be accessed by BG+ subscribers. These records include burial and cemetery records from the Veterans Affairs office, as well as military headstones from civilian headstones around the world.

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing these new genealogy records online with friends and fellow genealogists and through your genealogical society social media channels. It’s fun to spread good news!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems  Our review of new genealogy records online this week includes the 1939 Register for England and Wales; church records for Illinois and Kyiv, Ukraine; New York naturalizations and Mexican vital and church records. Which of these may name your family members?  

ENGLAND AND WALES POPULATION REGISTER. The 1939 Register is now online at Findmypast, as we blogged about earlier this week. Click here to learn more about this crucial record set for those researching English and Welsh families.

FLASH SALE! Receive a 10% discount off 300 credits on Findmypast now through Friday 13thNovember 2015 at 11.59pm GMT using the code 1939REG10. Click the graphic below to have the discount automatically set up for you.

(When you use our links and graphics you are helping to support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast – thank you!!)


ILLINOIS CHURCH RECORDS. Ancestry has updated its collection of United Methodist Church records for 87 counties in central and southern Illinois. The collection now spans 1824-2009, bridging record gaps like the lack of government vital records in the past and privacy restrictions for more recent records. Click here to search for baptisms, marriages, deaths, family migrations and more. These records are for congregations that are no longer in existence.

MEXICO. For October, Ancestry announced the addition of “more than 250 million Mexican birth, marriage, death, and church records—plus U.S. census, border crossing, and naturalization records.” click here to search Mexican records on Ancestry–through Monday, October 9, access to these collections is free.

NEW YORK NATURALIZATIONS. Ancestry’s collection of naturalization records for New York (1882-1944) have been updated. click here to search for immigrant ancestors who may have naturalized in New York, which welcomed millions of immigrants who may have done this paperwork during that time.

UKRAINE CHURCH RECORDS. You can new browse a new collection of Orthodox church records for the Diocese of Kyiv, Ukraine (1734-1920) on FamilySearch. These include duplicate records of baptisms/births, marriages, and burials/deaths created by church officials for civil authorities. Click here to view these records for free (sign-in may be required).

Please help spread the great news! Thank you for sharing these new genealogy records online with your genealogy societies, fellow researchers and family.

Simply copy and paste the URL for this page:

  • into an email
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NEW!! Access the 1939 Register Online at Findmypast

1939 RegisterThe 1939 Register–the most comprehensive population survey EVER of England and Wales known–is finally searchable online!

Today FindMyPast, in association with the U.K.’s National Archive, has launched a digitized, searchable version of the 1939 Register. This major record set fills a major gap at a pivotal time in history.

“Anyone can now discover their family, their home and their community on the eve of WWII,” states a FindMyPast release. “Until now, the most recent information available was the 1911 census. Owing to the 100 year rule, the 1921 census will not be released until 2022, while the 1931 census was destroyed in the war and the 1941 census was never taken. The 1939 Register therefore bridges an important 30-year gap in history.”

“In September 1939, WWII had just broken out,” explains Findmypast. “65,000 enumerators were employed to visit every house in England and Wales to take stock of the civil population. The information that they recorded was used to issue Identity Cards, plan mass evacuations, establish rationing and co-ordinate other war-time provisions….

“Each record includes the names of inhabitants at each address, their date of birth, marital status and occupation….Comprising 1.2 million pages in 7,000 volumes and documenting the lives of 41 million people, the 1939 Register opens a window to a world on the brink of cataclysmic change.” Some of the records even include changes made clear up to 1991.

Additionally, Findmypast has added unique period photographs, infographics, regional newspaper articles and maps “personally tailored to each record.” They are promoting a “rich and unique user experience unrivaled by any other family history research tool to date.”

What about privacy concerns? This is a relatively recent record set: more recent than national censuses that DO have privacy restrictions on them. About 28 million records have been cleared of privacy restrictions. The remainder will remain temporary closed, “either because the individual recorded is still living and less than 100 years old or proof of death has not been verified….The Register will be updated weekly….Records will also be opened as people reach the age of 100 years+1 day.”

Interestingly, it appears individuals may have the ability to show proof of death to have records released: “Findmypast, working with The National Archives, will have an ongoing process to identify records which can be opened on proof of death provided either by matching against robust data sets or supplied by users.”

The Register is free to search on Findmypast. Charges apply to view the records, with discounts for subscribers and pay-per-view packages starting at £6.95.

More Research Gems for English Genealogy

bombing of London the blitz 4WWII Documents at the National Archive (U.K.)

The Bombing of London: Check Out this Interactive Map of the Blitz

Findmypast Library Edition: Request it at Your Public Library!


We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Millions of marriage and divorce records in the U.S. lead the pack for new genealogy records online this week. Alabama Civil War and post-Civil War records, along with British and U.S. newspapers, round out the list. Take a look! Which of your ancestors may be newly-mentioned online?  

We dig these gems

ALABAMA CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS. A Civil War-era database of soldiers (including those exempted from service, those who served in the militia or home guide and soldiers from other states who have Alabama connections) is now on Ancestry. Data was extracted from the state archives’ card file that was created throughout the 1900s. (Not an Ancestry subscriber? Click here to get started.)

ALABAMA VOTER REGISTRATIONS. Now available on Ancestry is an 1867 Alabama voter registration that was one of the first statewide records to name African-American adult male residents. Some counties’ records are missing and others did not fully include all qualified residents, but this is still a valuable record collection, with name, race, county of residence, precinct, length of residence, loyalty oath reference information and sometimes other remarks.

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 3.5 million new articles from 22 newspaper titles from England, Scotland and Wales are newly available on Findmypast.

US MARRIAGES AND DIVORCES–ANCESTRY. Ancestry has added new marriage indexes for West Virginia (1931-1970), Maine (1892-1985) and Jackson Co, Missouri (1840-1895), updated its Idaho divorce collection (1947-1964) and added a new collection of Oregon divorce records (1961-1985).

U.S. MARRIAGES–FAMILYSEARCH. FamilySearch has added hundreds of thousands of indexed county marriage records to free collections for Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington. Louisiana’s collection alone contains over a million entries, and Pennsylvania’s dates to the 1600s.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Nearly half a million digitized newspaper pages from the Oakland Tribune (1874-1975) are among the newly listed or updated collections at So are nearly 200,000 pages each from The Des Moines Register and DeKalb, Illinois’ The Daily Chronicle.

share celebrate balloonsThank you for sharing these new and updated records collections on your society Facebook pages and with your genealogy-loving friends and relatives. You’re a GEM for helping us spread the good news!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? With whom should you share this good news? New this week: electoral registers for England, Wales and Ireland; British Columbia marriages and deaths; WWI-era absent voter lists for England; Dutch Christian Reformed Church records (US); Iowa prison records and over 46 million Swedish household records!

We dig these gems

ENGLAND, WALES AND IRELAND ELECTORAL REGISTERS. A century’s worth of electoral registers for England and Wales (1832-1932) are now searchable for Findmypast subscribers, as are Irish registers for 1885-1886. According to a press release, the England and Wales database is the “largest single collection released on Findmypast to date with over 5.4 million images and approximately 220 million names.” These annual registers fill the gaps between censuses and can help you “discover where your family lived, when they could vote and details of the property your family owned in the 19th & 20th centuries.”

BRITAIN ABSENT VOTERS. The new Britain, Absent Voters Lists 1918-1921 at Findmypast “contains over 20,000 pages listing over 100,000 names of service men, women serving with the auxiliary forces, merchant seamen, diplomats and others…absent from their homes.” Because of the timing of the lists, they include “men who were killed, missing or taken prisoner in the period of time between the compiling of lists and the publication of the register. Records can reveal your ancestors name, a description of their service and their qualifying premises, allowing you to uncover details of the home they left behind and the part they played in one of history’s bloodiest conflicts.”

BRITISH COLUMBIA VITAL RECORDS. FamilySearch has updated its free collections of marriage and death records for British Columbia. Over 300,000 additional deaths are reported for 1872-1932 and 1937. Over 18,000 marriages have been added for the years 1859-1932 and 1937.

DUTCH CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH RECORDS. Vital and membership records ((1856-1970) of the Dutch Christian Reformed Church are now searchable on Ancestry. This church split from the historic Dutch Reformed Church in 1858 in Michigan. Vital records include baptisms, marriages and deaths, and often include dates, places and the names and relationships of family members. Membership records include registers of entire families; information about transfers (moves) to different congregations, addresses, birth and baptismal dates.

IOWA CONVICTS. Convict registers from three Iowa state penitentiaries (1867-1970) are now on Ancestry: the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison, established in 1839; the Anamosa State Penitentiary in Anamosa; and the Iowa State Reformatory for Women in Rockwell City.

SWEDISH HOUSEHOLD RECORDS. Over 46 million household records dating 1880-1920 are now searchable at MyHeritage. According to the collection description, “The Household Examination Books are the primary source for researching the lives of individuals and families throughout the Parishes of Sweden, from the late 1600’s until modern times. The books were created and kept by the Swedish Lutheran Church which was tasked with keeping the official records of the Swedish population until 1991.”

share celebrate balloonsThank you for sharing this list of great new resources with your genealogy buddies and for posting them on your society pages. Let’s spread the news!


Do You Need these WWII Documents at The National Archives [UK]?

Recently I heard about a slew of WWII documents at The National Archives [U.K.], some newly available online. Look closely at the descriptions: they have holdings of records of non-British forces, too!

Battle of Britain WWII documents at National Archives UK

Battle of Britain air observer. Wikipedia Commons image. Click to view.

Recently The National Archives [UK] promoted some of the WWII documents in its vaults, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Below are resources and collections they’ve highlighted.

The National Archives’ guide to researching WWII. This is an overview to researching British government and military records of WWII.

Guide to Royal Air Force Service Records. Use this overview to see what records are available at The National Archives, and learn about related records that have been digitized and indexed at Findmypast.

Royal Air Force combat reports. These are “official reports which pilots or air gunners filed after they had encountered enemy aircraft on operational flights,” says a description on the site. “The reports cover action seen by the squadrons, wings and groups serving with Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm. Now held at The National Archives in series AIR 50, they include Commonwealth, United States Army Air Force and Allied units based in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.”

Royal Air Force operations record books for squadrons. “Most of them date from the Second World War but there are some from the 1920s and 1930s and a few from the First World War,” says the site. “The ORBs, in series AIR 27, were created to provide a complete record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each book includes an accurate record of operations carried out by the unit. This online collection also includes some operations record books for dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons under British Command.” Part of the series is viewable online.

More Exciting WWII Resources from Genealogy Gems:

10 Maps for Family History at David Rumsey Map Collection

The Ghost Army of WWII Author Interview in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 182

The Bombing of London in WWII: Interactive Map of The Blitz

thank you for sharingI love it when people share! Thank you for passing this post along to others who will want to know about it.


We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: Delaware land records, French censuses, British directories, Irish newspapers, Spanish municipal records (to the 1300s!), and U.S. passport applications. With whom should you share the great news?

We dig these gems

DELAWARE LAND RECORDS. Ancestry has added a new database of Delaware land records, 1677-1947. According to the database description, “Delaware is a state-land state, meaning that following the Revolutionary War, it continued to grant property within its boundaries, as it had in its Colonial days. This collection includes the recorded transfers of property by grant or by deed. Most Delaware land had been granted by the time of statehood, so in the years following the Revolutionary War, you will find deeds recording the transfer of lands between private parties as they were transcribed into the registers of the county recorder of deeds.”

FRANCE CENSUSES. Find half a million indexed entries and associated images for the Dordogne Census of 1876 and about 30,000 names from the Haute-Garonne Toulouse Censuses (1830-31) in new free collections at Records may include names, age, occupation, nationality, household position and, in the second, address.

GREAT BRITAIN DIRECTORIES. Findmypast has added 122 British almanacs and directories that include “trade directories, county guides, almanacs and general directories. Inside you will find the names of prominent people, tradesmen, people who held office, business owners and local civil servants.”

IRISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 724,000 new, fully searchable newspaper articles have been added to Findmypast. According to the site, new additions span 1836-172 and include a national publication, The Evening Freeman. “Five newspapers have also been added to with supplementary articles. They include substantial updates to Belfast Commerical Chronicle (135,813 new articles), Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser (61,194 new articles) and The Pilot (17,721 new articles).”

SPAIN MUNICIPAL RECORDS. Over 400,000 indexed records and digital images have been added to a free database of Barcelona civil registrations, censuses, military records, and other miscellaneous records (1387-1950) at FamilySearch. Additional browse-only records are also available.

US PASSPORTS. Over a million indexed names have been added to a free image collection of 200 years’ worth of U.S. passport applications (1795-1925) at This dataset is still being indexed; browsable images are available at that link, too. This collection overlaps with content already available (by subscription) at

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: more Italian civil registrations, Ohio and Pennsylvania marriage records, thousands of New York genealogical resources, Illinois state censuses and school records for England, Wales, Ireland and Australia.

We dig these gems

SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 2.9 million School Admission Register records from England and Wales, Ireland and NSW, Australia are now searchable on Findmypast. Record content varies, but according to Findmypast, “These fascinating new records can allow you a glimpse into your ancestors’ early life, pinpoint the area they grew up in, reveal if they had a perfect attendance or occasionally played truant and can even determine whether they worked in a school as an adult.”

ILLINOIS STATE CENSUSES. Ancestry has updated its collection of Illinois state censuses, which now include 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855 and 1865, along with 1865 agricultural schedules for several counties and nonpopulation schedules of the federal censuses for 1850-1880. (Learn more about U.S. state censuses here.)

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch continues to upload Italy’s civil registration records. This week, they added browse-only records (not yet indexed) for Potenza, Rieti and Trapani.

NEW YORK GENEALOGY MATERIAL. Thousands of pages of materials from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society are now searchable on Findmypast. Among these are all back issues of the NYG&B Record, the second-oldest genealogical journal in the U.S. (in print since 1870). Findmypast’s Joshua Taylor calls it “the single most important scholarly resource that exists for people researching New York families.” Other collections include unique census fragments, vital records abstracts, baptismal registers and old diaries. Click here to see and search the full list.

OHIO MARRIAGES. More than a quarter million indexed records and thousands of images have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of Ohio marriage records for 1789-2013.

PENNSYLVANIA MARRIAGES. Over a million digitized images of Pennsylvania civil marriage records (1677-1950) are now free to browse at FamilySearch. The collection description says it’s an “index and images of various city and county marriage records, many from Philadelphia.”

www.geneaogygems.comDid you find anything worth sharing here? Please do! We love getting the word out about new genealogy records online.