August 27, 2015

New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

A new tool at AncestryDNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

AncestryDNA common matches tool

I have been up since 5:30 with plenty of goals and ambitions for today. But I got distracted. Distracted by a new tool at AncestryDNA that is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open.

The new tool AncestryDNA Common Matches tool is hiding between the “Pedigrees and Surnames” filter and the “Map and Locations” filter on your matches’ main match page. The Common Matches tool pulls out the shared 4th cousin or higher matches between two people.

Let’s take a look at how this might work for you.

2015 8 ICWDeniseLet’s say you have a second cousin, Denise, that you have already identified in the Ancestry database and you know your common ancestral couple is Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  You want to gather others who share DNA with both you and Denise. Those individuals then have a high likelihood of being related to Joseph and Louise in some way.

So we click on the “Shared Matches” button on Denise’s page and find that Mike, Spencer, and Wendy all have DNA in common with you and Denise.  After reviewing pedigree charts, you are able to determine that Mike is related through Louise’s sister and Wendy is related through Joseph’s brother.  Note that Wendy’s actual relationship to you is not 4th cousin, as it is shown, but she is actually your 3rd cousin once removed. Remember that the relationship given is not always the exact relationship of two people who have been tested.

2015 8 ICWSpencerBut what about Spencer? Spencer, unfortunately has not yet linked his family tree to his Ancestry account or answered any of your queries about his family tree. I am sure he has just been busy. Or he doesn’t know his family tree. Or his computer was captured by aliens or smashed by his two-year-old grandson just as he was about to click “send” and reveal how the two of you were connected. Whatever the case may be, up until this point you haven’t heard a peep from Spencer and therefore had absolutely no way to figure out how Spencer was related to you.

But now you know that he is somehow associated with the Joseph and Louise Mitchell family because he came up as In Common With (ICW) you and Denise.

We can take this one step further and ask Ancestry to show us who has DNA ICW you and Spencer.  You can see here that while Mike still remains, Wendy has dropped off the list.  Now there are two possible explanations for this: The first is that Spencer is related through Louise’s parents, John and Sarah, and that is why he is not sharing DNA with Wendy.

The other, less likely, possibility is that Spencer is related through Joseph’s parents Louis and Mary, but doesn’t share enough DNA with Wendy to be detected on this test.

While this information is helpful, it still hasn’t completely solved the case. The first thing you should do with your new-found knowledge is start sending more pointed questions to your matches. Here is an example message you might send to Spencer:

“Dear Spencer,

I was just playing around with the new AncestryDNA Common Matches tool and I see that you are related to a few of my other matches that connect through Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  Louise’s parents, John and Sarah Marsh, were both born in Mississippi in the 1840’s and Joseph’s parents Joseph and Mary Mitchell, were born in Tennessee in 1856 and 1863 respectively.

Do any of these names or places sound familiar to you?

I am looking forward to working with you on this connection.

Your DNA Cousin, Diahan”

Assuming this garners a response, you can then work together to find your connection. If his budget is not allowing for a new computer at this time and you never hear from Spencer, the key to figuring out how he is related to you may be in the new match, Beth, who is ICW you and Spencer. If you can figure out how Beth is related to you, you will know Spencer is related in a similar way.

AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA quick guide setSo, what are you waiting for? Head over to AncestryDNA and start growing your genetic family tree! For a little more guidance, I suggest you purchase my set of two laminated quick guides, “Understanding AncestryDNA and “Understanding Family Tree DNA.” This set is very affordable and will specifically help you at two navigate your results at two of the leading genetic genealogy testing companies.

Tools to Highlight Your Great Genealogy Finds

Snagit and Skitch can help you highlight screenshots and other digital images you capture for genealogy. Here’s how!

snagit skitch great genealogy finds

genealogy gems podcast mailboxRecently Diane from Alberta, CA sent in this question:

“I am trying to find how to highlight a portion of a document such as a birth certificate. The document has three people listed for the county and prior to adding it to my tree on Ancestry, I would like to highlight my ancestor so he will stand out. Can you offer any suggestions. I tried Evernote without success, also my family tree program.  What am I missing?”

I suggested Diane use Snagit 12 for Mac  software to highlight her documents. In fact, I use it constantly for a variety of genealogical projects, though I use Snagit 12 for Windows. The full-blown software has loads of cool features!

You can also download the free Snagit Chrome extension here. After you install Snagit, you’ll see it show up on your browser page. Here’s what it looks like on Google Chrome (the blue “s” button):
Snagit icon on browser page

 

 

Snagit Sample Thomas Hall census When you see something on your screen you want to capture, just click on the blue “S” icon. You’ll be asked at the outset to give Snagit access to various cloud storage options so it can store the image for you. Once you allow it access, then you’ll be able to name your file and add your own shapes, arrows and text. Use these to call attention to part of a record; annotate what you learned from it or even mark your ancestor’s face in a group photo.

As far as doing something similar in Evernote: Evernote only allows you to highlight typed text, not portions of an image. However, you can download Skitch and drag and drop the document from Evernote into Skitch. Then you can highlight an image to your hearts content. When you’re done you can Save to Evernote in the menu (SKITCH > SAVE TO EVERNOTE).

Share BoldThanks to Diane for a great question! I hope you’ll all share this post: Snagit is free and makes it so easy to take notes on your digital images, for your own use or to share with others!

Resources

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Should Evernote Be My Digital Archive?

Annotating and Transcribing Documents in Evernote (What Evernote Can and Can’t Do for Family History)

Find Your WWII Ancestors with these Military Research Gems

find your WWII ancestorsReady to research your WWII ancestors? We recommend these resources–and give you more from WWII author Rick Beyer, who recently appeared on the Genealogy Gems podcast. 

Recently author Rick Beyer joined me on the free Genealogy Gems podcast (episode 182) to talk about his fascinating book and PBS companion documentary, The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery. His stories have stayed in my mind ever since. I find myself wanting to learn more about my own family’s involvement in World War II–and wanting to hear more from Rick Beyer.

I did a little digging and found these titles:

finding your fathers war

Finding Your Father’s War Revised Edition: A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army by Jonathan Gawne. Now on its third printing, this popular guide helps readers navigate the records and repositories that can shed light on your Greatest Generation ancestors.

i thought my father was god

I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project, edited by Paul Auster. This collection of 180 personal stories ranks close to 5 stars by Amazon readers. It includes Rick Beyer’s story, “A Plate of Peas,” which he reads for us on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel (watch it below).

 

More Resources

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 165 (listen for free!), about WWII records at the U.S. National Archives and tips for finding soldiers’ overseas travels.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online, which spotlights several European databases that have recently come online, including records that may mention your WWII ancestors.

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 46 (Premium membership required to access), which includes several online resources for color photographs from WWII.

genealogy book club genealogy gemsKnow anyone else who would love to know about these resources? Please share this post with them! And if you enjoy reading about history and family themes, check out the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We regularly interview best-selling and critically-acclaimed authors on our show: see why these are some of our most popular episodes!

Write Your Family History: A Printed Book or Digital Archive?

print v digital archive write your family historyIt’s time (maybe past time!) to write your family history. Should you write a book or throw everything into a digital archive?

Recently Joyce attended a genealogy conference I taught that was sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System. She wrote to us that she went home with a newly-resolved plan for how to write her family history:

“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak. I learned a lot also. There was a question asked at the conference that I had also thought a lot about: how to leave your legacy to your family. With technology changing every day, I have decided that the old-fashioned way is probably the best. Technology will not change the fact that we can sit down to a paper book. So I will keep my CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; however, I will print out books for my family to have, whether they have access to the computer or not.

 

A Combination Approach

I certainly agree that paper and books are certainly a solution for genealogical information being accessible for generations to come. I like a combination approach. Since paper can deteriorate and become damaged like anything else, having a cloud back up service (I use Backblaze) and digital items like flash drives is also a good plan.

Part of leaving a legacy also involves finding ways to share that help the next generations (particularly those not interested in research) understand the value of the family tree. That’s where a Google Earth “family history tour” or other innovative sharing comes into play. If you can click click, copy, and paste, you can create an exciting multi-media story that looks like a video game that will captivate the next generation!  (Learn how to create a Google Earth family history tour in my 2-volume Google Earth for Genealogy CD). The combination of sharing the info in fascinating ways and preserving the info in reliable multiple formats is a comprehensive strategy for the future!

Resources

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-Free Life

Recommended File Formats for Long-Term Digital Preservation

Why I Use and Recommend Backblaze Cloud-based Computer Backup Service

email thisReady to make your own plan to write your family history and preserve it digitally? Share your resolve–along with this post–with someone else! Use the handy icons at the top of the page to share on Facebook, Pinterest or your favorite social media site, or email the link to this article to a friend. Thanks!

Dropbox vs. Backblaze: Does Cloud Storage for Genealogy Replace Computer Backup?

cloud storage computer backup serviceDoes using cloud storage for genealogy (like Dropbox) replace having a computer backup service like Backblaze?

Recently I heard from Jim in Midland, Texas, USA, who is a little perplexed:

“Hi Lisa, I’ve heard all your podcasts, some more than once, and I appreciate your tutelege of five years.  I’m nearly 80 and some of the techie stuff is frustrating, but I’m still working at it.

You recommend Backblaze for cloud storage now. Does this mean that Backblaze is a replacement for Dropbox or do they serve different functions? I haven’t used either, but I am looking for a means of storing my information in a safe and retrievable place.”

Jim asks a great question! Dropbox and Backblaze are indeed different animals.

Dropbox quote boxDropbox is a temporary place to put active files you want to access from a variety of computing devices (such as a  smartphone, iPad, your spouse’s computer, etc.) I think of it as Grand Central station for the files I’m actively working with.

You can install Dropbox on multiple computers and download the app to your various mobile devices so that any file stored there is accessible and synchronized. Many apps and devices build connection to Dropbox right in to their own service or device, making it super easy to access files.

Cloud storage for genealogy research makes it easier to collaborate, research while traveling and access your files from different devices or locations. However, I don’t know anyone who only uses Dropbox for ALL of their files. Typically we also save files to our computer’s hard drive, particularly more archival types of files. So while you would be able to retrieve files stored on Dropbox if your computer crashed, and files that are on that computer would be lost. Dropbox also makes it easy to share folders and files with others. Again, think Grand Central Station for active files. Dropbox does have limitations regarding the amount of storage and sharing.

Backblaze quote boxBackblaze is a cloud-based backup service for your entire computer. Once you activate Backblaze, you can just forget about it. It constantly is backing up EVERY file on that computer. If that computer crashed all of your files would be retrievable from Backblaze. You have the added convenience of being able to also access your files from Backblaze.com or the Backblaze app, and in that way it overlaps Dropbox. But that’s not usually how you would access your files. Usually, you would just turn on the backup, and forget about it. There is no limit to how many of your computer files you can back up with a cloud-based backup service like Backblaze.

My Bottom Line: Dropbox is short term storage for active projects, and Backblaze is long term, automatic, secure storage.

Files I’m currently working on (like projects, articles, etc.) I store in Dropbox, making it easy to work on the file from different computing devices and making it easy to share with others. While they are in Dropbox they are “on the Cloud” on the Dropbox servers. Once the project or item is done, I move the file(s) to my main computer. This keeps me from going over my Dropbox limits, and ensures the files are still accessible AND fully backed up and secure in case something happens to my computer. I can full restore my files to a new computer in one swoop if need be.

backblaze genealogy gems handshakeI have chosen Backblaze as the official cloud backup for Genealogy Gems. Backblaze is also a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast. For only $4.99 a month Backblaze can back up your computer files, too. Why not check them out and see if their service is right for you? Click here to learn more about Backblaze.

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. It’s PACKED with European military records from WWII back to the War of 1812. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

BRITISH POWs IN JAPAN. Over 56,000 records pertaining to the 37,583 British and Commonwealth soldiers released from Japanese captivity in 1945 are now available on Forces War Records. ‘This collection…lists the soldiers, along with the occasional civilian, who endured these conditions. Prisoners were only obliged to provide their name, rank and number so the amount of military information is limited, however the records do include the date of capture, the camp in which they were held and the date of liberation, be that through release, escape or death.”

BRITISH JEWS IN WWI. Findmypast’s new British Jewry Book of Honour 1914-1920 “contains nearly 57,000 color images and transcripts of [an original] two-volume book published in 1922 to record and honor” contributions of more than 50,000 Jews to the British and colonial forces during World War I. “It describes Jewish enlistment, casualties, military honors, Jewish units and the work of Jewish hospitals and other Jewish institutions and agencies. Importantly, it contains alphabetical lists of those killed in action, those who were awarded military honors and the nominal rolls of Jews who served, listed by service and by regiment.”

BRITISH WAR OF 1812. The British Army Casualty Index War of 1812 now at Findmypast “contains the details of over 12,000 soldiers in the British Army who died, deserted, or were imprisoned during the War of 1812 (or the Anglo American War)….Each record consists of a transcript of the original source material that will reveal the soldiers name, birth place, former occupation, rank, regiment or unit, place or action, company officer, company number, removal date and manner of removal – this may include information on how a soldier died or whether he deserted or was a prisoner of war.”

SCOTTISH CHURCH RECORDS. A new Findmypast collection, Scottish Covenanters 1679-1688 contains over 81,000 records of The Covenanters, a “Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland, England and Ireland, during the 17th century….The records list the individuals who signed the Covenant…[and] a transcript created using sources held by The National Archives and the National Library of Scotland…[with] the Covenanter’s name, county, a description (often their occupation or relatives) and place.”

WWII in EUROPE. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has launched a new online database of British, Irish, and Commonwealth WWII casualties. It will now be possible for the first time “to see the original records of all 1.7 million individuals the Commission commemorates.” According to a press release, “The digitized records cover British, Irish and Commonwealth casualties from the Second World War, together with records for most other nationals commemorated at CWGC sites: this includes the records for German soldiers.”

We love seeing all these new genealogy records online every week! The trick is to get the word out about them. Will you help us by sharing this post with others?

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 126 Features Family History Travel and More

premium podcast 126Genealogy Gems Premium members can now tune in to Premium podcast episode 126 on family history travel and more.

Have you ever tried to squeeze some family history into your family vacations? It’s not always easy to convince a spouse or the kids to make a teensy-weensy research stop or a pilgrimage to an old family cemetery, is it? In this episode, Lisa and Sunny reminisce and share hard-won advice and laughs about their adventures in bringing family history on the road with relatives. Lisa even made a video about the time she took her entire family to the Family History Library! Check it out.

In this episode Lisa also follows up on a hot new Ancestry database for those with U.S. roots: the Social Security Applications and Claims database. With more info than the SSDI on those original SS-5 applications, this database is a WINNER, and she shares success stories. Learn how to see your favorite friends and fan pages first in your Facebook feed and MORE in this great summer episode.

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipPremium members on our site have access to this exclusive episode AND ALL previous Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episodes. (That’s 125 and counting!). They can also watch exclusive full-length video tutorials on Lisa’s most popular topics (like Evernote, Google and Google Earth, and organizing your computer files). To learn more about the benefits of Premium membership, click here.

3 Sparkling Ohio Genealogy Research Gems

Ohio genealogy resourcesA listener sent in her favorite resources for Ohio genealogy research. Could any of these help you find your Buckeye State ancestors?

Recently we heard from Genealogy Gems Premium member Kate, after she listened to Premium podcast episode 125 with Cheryl McClellan (available to Premium members). “That [episode] was perfect for my situation. I am looking at our budget and thinking of letting my 12 year subscription to Ancestry drop. Cheryl’s comments helped me make that decision….Lisa, you always have answers when I most need them.”

“Wanted to share a few sources that have I have found very helpful in Ohio genealogy research. We live in Michigan but have used the Toledo Public Library for research for years as many ancestors have lived there.

  1. Toledo Public Library: The Blade obituary index, 1837 to present. Through an online search from your home, you can request an obit and there is no fee. You may request up to 3 at a time. They will look them up when they have time and email you an image of the obit. It has taken up to a couple of weeks. They are very helpful. They also gave me a link to Google News so I can look myself on the Toledo Blade images. As you know there are gaps and not all images are legible. The Library has the paper on microfilm to fill in where needed.
  2. FamilySearch has an index and images for Ohio Deaths 1908 – 1953. This has the full image of death certificates. You have to create a user account to see the images. Wow, what a great help to understand how all these people are related. Just one example in my tree: there are 11 Mary Lehaneys. Some never married, some did. They all died as Mary Lehaney and if their husband died, they are listed as Mrs Tom Lehaney etc.
  3. FamilySearch has the Toledo Catholic Diocese record images. My paternal line is mostly Catholic and lived in Toledo area for many years. Again, not indexed, but when you know about the time [can you can find] not only birth and marriages, [but] the complete burial records from the Catholic Cemeteries.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastAnyone who researches in Ohio may find these [resources] invaluable….Lisa, keep your beautiful smile and thanks for all your help!”

Thank YOU, Kate! We hope her suggestions prove helpful to many of you doing Ohio genealogy! Anyone can become a Genealogy Gems Premium member like Kate. Members get 12 months of access to monthly Premium podcast episodes and the full Premium podcast archive–all packed with genealogy news, tips and interviews like the one that helped Kate. We also have more than 2 dozen in depth video classes for Premium members only, with more added regularly. These include our entire series on Evernote for genealogy! Click here to see the current list of Premium videos.

I’m Sha-Sha: What are the Grandparent Nicknames in Your Family?

What are the grandparent nicknames in your family? sha shaHow do they compare to other traditional, trendy and international grandmother and grandfather nicknames?

Recently I got this cute email question from Premium member Kathy from Northridge, CA: “I am curious as to how you got your Grandma name of “Sha-Sha.” In my family both my grandmothers had special names.  My maternal grandmother’s name was Marian. She had a cat named Kitty Mit. According to family lore my grandmother would always say to my oldest cousin, “You’re my little Kitty mitty,” and my cousin ended up calling her “Minnie” because of that. My paternal grandmother had the initials MD (she too was a Marion). Her friends gave her the nickname of Doc so my brother and I called her Grandma Doc.

I only had one grandfather (my paternal grandfather died at 59 when my dad was 17) so he just got the name Grandpa. Now when my nephew was a toddler he started out by identifying my parents as Big Grandma and Little Grandma. He didn’t quite get the gender reference straight. My father was 6-4 feet tall; hence he was “big” and my mom was 5 foot 3 so she was “little.”  Now my nephew is a father himself and my great-nephew calls his grandmas “LaLa (whose name is Linda) and YaYa (whose name is Cathy..and no we are not Greek!). We don’t know how he came up with those names but they are stuck with them! LOL The Grandpas are Papa Ted & Mike.”

Well, since you asked….Davy started calling me Sha Sha as soon as he learned to talk, and like so many grandparent names, it stuck. (I fully admit I was SO anxious for him to call me anything that I took the first name he offered.) Now if anyone tries to refer to me as Grandma he scowls at them and asks why in the world they are calling me some foreign name.

I discussed this on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 118, and on the next Episode #119 I shared lots of wonderful stories from listeners about their terms of endearment. Kathy’s is right up there in being adorable! I LOVE Big Grandma and Little Grandma. Kids know what they see!

Kathy’s question got me Googling, of course. Guess what I found? The Ultimate Guide to Grandparent Names. This free webpage lists out common traditional and trendy nicknames for both grandmothers and grandfathers. You’ll also find a list of grandparent nicknames from other languages, too (I see that “Ya-Ya” is a Greek nickname for grandmother, as Kathy said).

Share this message with your favorite or fellow grandparent!

Don’t Lose Control When You Post Your Family Tree Online

Online tree out of controlWhen you post your family tree online at multiple websites, it’s easy to lose track of changes you make at each one. Maintaining a master family tree on your own computer can help solve that problem.

Recently Gems podcast listener Louis wrote in with a question many of us face. He recently purchased RootsMagic 7 software to keep track of his family tree, but he’s still finding it difficult to corral all his data in one place. Here’s the problem, he says:

“I have my family tree splattered everywhere: FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Ancestry. I’m afraid of losing control of my tree and would like some advice on keeping things straight. Each of the sites I go on seem to offer different information, so I started posting tree information on different sites. Can you offer any suggestions that I can use to centralize my data across different sites?”

I can fully appreciate Louis’ situation. Here’s a quick summary of how I keep my family tree organized all in one place.

Websites come and go, as we know, so I look at my RootsMagic database on my computer as my MASTER database and tree. This kind of approach lets you post your family tree online but not lose control of it!

When I post GEDCOM files of my family tree on other websites (what’s a GEDCOM?), I do so to try and connect with cousins and gain research leads. With that in mind, I upload only the portion of the tree for which I want to generate those connections and leads. In other words, I don’t put my entire GEDCOM on each site (MyHeritage, Ancestry, etc.) because I don’t want to get bogged down with requests and alerts for far flung branches that I’m not focused on researching right now. To do this I make a copy of my database, edit it to fit my research, and then upload it.

As I find documents and data on these websites, I may “attach” them to the tree on that site, but I always download a copy and retain that on my computer and make note of it in RootsMagic. That way I retain control of my tree and my sources.

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyAnd of course the final step is to back up my computer so everything is safe and secure. I do that with Backblaze (the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast) and you can click here to learn more about their service for my listeners.

In the end, it is my family tree and history. I want to keep ownership of it on my own computer, even when I share parts of it online.

Resources

RootsMagic the Master GenealogistBest Genealogy Software: Which You Should Choose and Why

RootsMagic Update for FamilySearch Compatibility

Free RootsMagic Guides

Family Tree Builder for Mac

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