November 20, 2017

Analyze Your Family Tree for Free with This Easy Tool

There’s an easy, free way to analyze your family tree for patterns! Discover your ancestors’ average life expectancy, most common first names, how long they stayed married, and more. Share the results at your next family reunion, or use them to understand your family health history just a little bit better. Here’s how.

Whether you’re a paying subscriber to MyHeritage or are signed up as a free user, you have access to a little-known but fascinating tool on the site: Family Statistics.

You’ll find this tool under the Home tab:

analyze your family tree

Use this tool to explore various statistics and patterns in your family history, and to spot the “record-holders” on your tree. You don’t have to enter any information. Just click the topic on the left that you want to view (overview, places, ages, births, marriages, children, divorce). Easy-to-read infographics and summary charts will appear:

analyze your family tree

The Family Statistics tool will tell you:

  • the most common places of birth, death, and residence
  • most common surnames and male/female first names
  • average life expectancy for men and women
  • longest-lived and shortest-lived ancestors
  • oldest/youngest living relatives on tree
  • most common birth month, and how many people were born in each month
  • number of marriages, and the longest and shortest marriages
  • age at first marriage and who was the youngest/oldest when they married
  • the biggest age differences in a couple
  • total number of divorces, as well as the average age (and oldest/youngest) age at divorce, and the longest marriage ending in divorce
  • average number of children per family and people with the most children
  • the youngest/oldest age when having a child
  • the average and biggest/smallest age difference between oldest and youngest children

You can run these statistics for all your trees together or individually. Here are some of the different ways to use the data:

For your research: Watch for possible errors or omissions on your family tree. Do you really have a relative who lived to be 112 years old, or did someone neglect to enter a death date?

For fun: Watch for interesting things to share in a trivia game or quiz at your next family reunion. You might even consider creating a “Hall of Fame” for that great-grandfather who lived to be 103, or that great-aunt who had 14 children. (Remember, don’t embarrass anyone by sharing sensitive or confidential information about living relatives or the recently-deceased.)

For understanding: Do certain patterns tend to run in your family, such as having children at a younger or older age?

For family health history: Longevity–age at death–is a measure in Family Statistics that relates to your family health history. You can’t look at cause of death with this tool, but click here to read about a clever way to look at causes of death in your family.

analyze your family treeMyHeritage is known for the technology tools on its site, such as its new Collection Catalog, the Discoveries pages, its DNA matching (click here to upload your raw data for FREE!), automatic record matching in unindexed content such as books, and automatic name translation in the search function.

Get up to speed on what MyHeritage has to offer in our totally-affordable MyHeritage Quick Guide, newly updated for 2017! Also check out our brand new quick guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites Quick Guide, which compares MyHeritage to what you’ll find on Ancestry, FamilySearch and Findmypast. Each has fantastic features you’ll want to know about!

genealogy giants quick reference guide cheat sheet

New Netflix Documentary: Twins Separated at Birth Reunited by Social Media

A new documentary on Netflix tells the story of twins who were separated at birth–sent to different countries–who rediscovered each other through YouTube and Facebook. Become inspired and learn the remarkable story of how they were reunited by social media.

Twins reunited by social media

A new Netflix documentary on twins separated at birth is getting great reviews–and it’s a great story. We’ve all heard about twins being separated at birth before, but these were sent halfway across the world from each other. They only reconnected because a friend of one twin saw the other in a YouTube video.

I first read this story in the Irish Mirror. Anais, now a college student, grew up in France. She always knew she was adopted and that her biological mother was a single woman in Korea. One day, a friend sent her a YouTube comedy sketch performed by someone who looked just like her. She watched the video over and over. There was no contact information on it. Eventually, the same friend spotted the mystery girl again in a movie trailer. Suddenly, Anais was able to learn more about her from the IMBD database. Her name was Samantha and her birthday was the same as her own.

Anais reached out to Samantha on Facebook, saying she thought they were twins. Samantha replied with a copy of her adoption paperwork—from the same clinic. Three months later, they met in London where Anais lived. Each young woman took a DNA test and traveled to Korea to attend an adoptee conference together.

Throughout it all, Samantha had the video camera running. She’d already been on-screen in Memoirs of a Geisha and now she took a shot at directing herself and her sister as they were getting to know each other. The result is Twinsters and it’s on Netflix. The show is getting some awesome reviews from critics and audience members alike. If you’ve got Netflix, check it out!

This unlikely reunion started entirely on social media: YouTube, Facebook, and Skype. Just goes to show you the amazing power of these technologies to bring family members together!

More Stories Like This One: Reunited by Social Media

siblings reunited by social mediaScottish Birth Siblings Reunited: “When You Are Fostered, You Don’t Know Who You Are”

Twins Reunited 78 Years After Separation at Birth

YouTube for Family History: Documentaries You’ll Love

How and Why to Create an Alternate Family Tree

alternate family treeUse an “alternate family tree” to emphasize unique or interesting patterns in your family history, such as eye or hair color, birthplace, age at death, or adoption. Here’s how to do it–and WHY.

Alternate family trees are popping up all over social media and genealogy blogs. Have you seen them? Some trees emphasize the age at death, cause of death, or birthplace for each individual.

There can be tremendous value to creating trees like these. Recognizing patterns can help tear down brick walls. Imagine a pedigree chart with birth places instead of names. It’s a new way to see migration patterns. I also love the a-ha moments I have! For example, the time I realized my hair and eye coloring likely came from my maternal great-grandmother who I have a special connection with.

I can share these quick “did you know” revelations with my relatives on social media (totally shareable images!) or at family reunions. Images are often more powerful than words because they are easy to glance over. Your family won’t be able to resist taking a look, and most importantly, sharing your tree images with other family members. Shared images can generate new information when shared with the right relative. Hey, here’s an idea: you could even blow up your alternate family tree to poster size for the next family reunion!

Take a look at these examples of my own alternate family trees for age at death (left) and birthplace (right).

Alternate_Trees_1 alternate family tree Alternate_Trees_2 alternate family tree

 

Other alternate family trees may focus on occupations, schooling, or color of eyes or hair.

I was inspired to create an alternate family tree that had significance to my own immediate family. We have a lot of adoption in our family tree. My three children are adopted, my husband is adopted, and several of my great-grandparents were raised by other family members. This is a unique perspective. Blood lines are important, but even more important are those people who influenced my family the most as caregivers.

I created a pedigree that indicates who, if anyone, the father and mother figures were. Take a look:

Alternate Family Tree

Did you notice that every set of my great-grandparents had one or more parent die or abandon them? I was shocked to see this significant ancestral dynamic. I had never considered the likely effect of such a family tree. It was fascinating!

How to Create an Alternate Family Tree

The easiest way to create an alternate family tree is to use a genealogy software program. I use RootsMagic. RootsMagic is a genealogy software program for PC and Mac computers. (Note: To use RootsMagic on your Mac computer, you will need to use the MacBridge add-on.) You can purchase the full version of RootsMagic for $29.95 or you can use the RootsMagic Essentials for free!

There are two ways to make an alternate family tree using RootsMagic. You can start from scratch or use the wall chart report.

Starting from Scratch

To start a new pedigree, click the “blank sheet of paper” icon at the top left. Name your tree with a title that will indicate its purpose. (Example: Age-at-Death Tree)

Alternate Family Tree

Instead of using the names of your ancestors, use whatever alternate pieces of information you wish in the name fields.

Now, you simply click “Reports” across the top and choose “Pedigree.” You can generate the report and print out your new alternate tree.

Using an Existing Tree

If you already have your tree on RootsMagic, you can use the Wall Chart feature to create trees with unique data.

As an example, if I wanted to create an occupation family tree, I would first need to enter that data for each person by clicking on the individual and then “Add a Fact.” From the drop-down list, choose “occupation.” Type in the occupation in the description field at the right and click “Save.”

Alternate Family Tree

Add the occupation to each individual and when you are ready to print your alternate family tree, simply take the following steps in the image below.

Alternate Family Tree

After taking these six steps, it is time to “Generate Report.” You will be taken to a new screen where you will see your creation.

Alternate Family Tree

Once you have completed your alternate tree, it’s a great idea to print it and lay it out in front of you. You might ask yourself, “What does this information tell me?” The interpretation of the data will be unique for everyone. Maybe your “Cause of Death Tree” will make you think, “Oh no! I should really be watching my heart health!”

I hope that you will take the opportunity to create an alternate family tree or two today. Genealogy Gems Premium website members who like this idea will also want to listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast #136, due out later this month. In that episode, Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard goes in depth on the value of gathering family health history.

shareHow does this view of your family tree make you feel?
We love to hear from you so leave your feelings or comments below,
and please feel free to share your alternate family tree on our Facebook page!
More Family Tree and RootsMagic Gems

RootsMagic 7 Uploads Family Tree Maker Files Directly

What are the Politics of Your Family Tree?

Family Tree Hopscotch: Fun at the Family Reunion

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 192 is Ready

GGP 192The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192 is ready. It’s perfect pre-family reunion listening: learn to make oh-so-shareable family videos, gather health info from relatives and more.

It’s tough to pick one favorite part of the new Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192. I loved the segments that have inspired me as I’m getting ready to attend a family reunion this month:

  • Lisa teaches us how to easily create professional-looking family history videos–and I do mean EASY and BEAUTIFUL (see the example below);
  • A listener shares a favorite database that can help us find and connect with living relatives.
  • The inspiring story of how DNA solved one family’s adoption mystery.

But there’s more! New Genealogy Gems team member Amie Tennant shares insights as she prepares for professional certification. And you’ll hear a fun segment from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with author Helen Simonson on The Summer Before the WarYou’ll also hear something new about Dropbox and a new initiative to capture the family histories of remote, indigenous populations.GGP thanks for sharing

Whether you’re in tech mode, prepping for a family reunion or looking for tips and inspiration to be a better genealogist, this episode has something for you.

Who else do you know who will enjoy this free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #192? Will you share it with them? Thank you!

3 Ways to Talk about DNA at Your Next Family Reunion

talk about dna at your next family reunion

Wish your family would take more interest in its history and even have its DNA tested? Here are 3 tips for talking about DNA at your next family reunion or gathering.

In the northern hemisphere, it’s summer time–prime family reunion season! If any of your plans this summer involve visiting with extended family, check out these 3 tips for using DNA to get your family excited about family history.

1. Show your ethnicity results.

Start off with the most flashy and entertaining part of the DNA test, your ethnicity results. Most of the time they don’t actually help you DO family history, but they definitely get people interested.

When you pull out the results, you might also want to have handy your family’s migration chart. This was recently popularized by J. Paul Hawthorne and is a simple way to describe the birth locations of your ancestors so you can visualize the migration of your family over the course of several generations. If you want to try it, here is a link to a spreadsheet I made based on his.

Then you can pull out your DNA test results and talk about how much of your DNA test results are reflected in your ethnicity chart. You might even have a good chuckle over some of the more outlandish claims (22% Scandinavian?! Where did that come from?). Now is a good time to mention any family stories about Native American Princesses or African cousins.

2. Show your DNA match list.

Next, it’s time to segue to how DNA testing really helps your family history. Show them how your relatives show up on your DNA match list. You can then show them an individual on your match list that you have figured out your relationship to.  You can weave in just a bit of the genealogical research you did to find your common ancestor, and end with the cool fact that you actually have DNA from that ancestor, and so does your match! If you are especially lucky, the person you are talking to will also have some connection to this ancestor, and you can tell them that if they take a DNA test, it can help them document their relationship to this ancestor as well.

3. Invite relatives to test.

If you find yourself at a family reunion for a particularly pesky set of ancestors for whom you don’t know much about their parents or grandparents, this is a perfect time to help your family members understand that they might be THE ONE, the one who holds the right combination of genetics to help you bust through that brick wall.

I myself will be attending the Chenoweth Family Reunion this year, though I am only an honorary Chenoweth. They have the ambitious goal of finding direct paternal line descendants of the 21 continuing lines of the 29 grandsons of John Chenoweth and Mary Calvert, and they are over half-way there! As part of their festivities they are including a special DNA lecture on the progress of their project.

Having a specific goal like this really helps focus your family on a particular effort, and lets them track the progress of both the DNA and the traditional research. It is also very unifying, especially for a group as large as theirs. They all wear different colored T-shirts to represent the different lines they descend from. But when we look at the DNA, it is clear that, at least in their YDNA, there is no distinction, they are certainly all part of the same paternal line.

DNA ethnicity results may varyMore DNA Gems from Diahan Southard

3 Reasons to Test Your DNA for Genealogy

When to Do an mtDNA Test for Genealogy

Results May Vary: One Family’s DNA Ethnicity Percentages


This Family Tree Quilt Stitches 2600 Relatives Together

White family tree quilt center compressedA giant family tree quilt documents 9 generations and just over 2600 family names. Here’s how the quilter completed this beautiful family heirloom.

Not long ago, I came across this article from a local news outlet about the White family celebrating its 104th reunion. That’s quite an accomplishment, but what really caught my eye was the heirloom on display: a family tree quilt so large it couldn’t easily fit in a single photograph.

I tracked down the designer and creator of the family tree quilt. She’s a busy young mom named Jennifer Reiter. “Before we had our 100th reunion, I was reading a book with my girls about pioneer days,” she says. “A little girl was traveling. When they arrived at their destination, they made a quilt with all the memories from their favorite dress material. I got a crazy idea to do something like that for our family’s 100th-anniversary reunion: a quilt with everyone’s names on it.”

White family tree quilt sketch center block compressedIt wasn’t an easy undertaking. Jennifer took the names from a family history book her mother-in-law had. The founding couple from the 1700s had four children. Jennifer designed the quilt such that each quadrant of the quilt would represent one branch of the family. She sketched out her design across 46 pages from a notebook. Then she copied everyone’s names onto quilt block templates that were sent each out to volunteers in the family to help hand-stitch.

White family tree quilt showing family separation compressedAll the descendants’ names are on the quilt, Jennifer reports. “Each family unit appeared on one square. If a child got married and had a family, they got another square of their own. Each generation was a different color thread. My color is orange, so I can easily see who else is from the same generation I am. I tried to keep the colors of the fabric about the same, family-wise, too.”

“It took a year,” Jennifer says. “I didn’t get quite as much help as I white family tree quilt key for color generation compressedthought I would.” The final quilt documents 9 generations with 2601 names in it on a quilt that’s larger than king-sized. There are 256 quilt blocks, each of them 6″ square.

The quilt made its debut appearance at the 100th White family reunion, and a few years since then. It also took an honorable mention in the county fair. But she learned a lesson about letting it out of her sight too often: “There were a few years it was missing after it got left at the reunion. Someone went to the camp and they were looking for it again. The secretary had it. Now I have it my possession permanently.”

What an amazing accomplishment–and what an heirloom for the White family! Thanks for sharing it with us, Jennifer.

More Inspiring Family Quilts from Genealogy Gems

wedding quilt dressA New Heritage Quilt from Old Family Fabrics (with an entire wedding dress sewn into it!)

A Photo Quilt Stitches Together Childhood Memories

A Quilt that Brought My Family Together (story in free Genealogy Gems podcast)

Family Reunion Ideas: Top 10 Ways to Incorporate Family History

Family Reunion Top 10Family reunions are the perfect place to share your family history with others. The trick is to keep things light and fun!

These top 10 family reunion ideas can sprinkle a healthy–and tasty– dose of heritage into your next family gathering.

1. Family Tree Hopscotch. This life-sized bean bag toss/hopscotch game quizzes family members on the names of ancestors. It’s aimed at kids, but adults enjoy it, too!

2. Table Talk: If you’ll be seated at tables, provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity. Place a form at each place setting for guests to fill out. (Or a short list of questions for people to answer, if a videographer will make the rounds at each table) Include questions like, What’s your earliest childhood memory?  Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of? What are three things you remember about great-grandmother? Can you imagine how this Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest, a great place for collecting family reunion ideas) might be adapted this way?

3. Put Ancestors at the Center of Things: Centerpieces or displays that celebrate your heritage will attract curious relatives and may prompt memories and comments. One of our Premium members sent us a description of her conversation-starting centerpiece: click here to read about it. If guests won’t be seated at tables, set up a family history display table next to the refreshments table (where they’re most likely to walk by!). Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says, “I shared our family history: Have you?”

4. Sweet Memories: Create “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history. I write about these in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies. They are great conversation starters–and the candy is a definite incentive to get people talking.

5. Heritage Scrapbook: A mini, accordion-style scrapbook craft project makes a fun, meaningful activity for all ages. Relatives can work on these alone or in little groups. It’s the kind of project that would be easy to adapt for any family’s background.

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Family History: Make a holiday craft that celebrates your heritage. Click here for a free PDF with directions on making a heritage Christmas stocking. Or make a family history-themed wreath, following these instructions I posted on YouTube.

7. Games: Try a heritage twist on the classic wedding or baby shower games. Create a crossword puzzle or word search with family surnames, hometowns, favorites and more. (Here’s a link to one website that creates a puzzle for you for free.) Or invite guests to bring their own baby pictures. Post them for all to see and let your guests guess who each baby is.

8. Cook up some Conversation: When I was looking for family reunion ideas a while back it occurred to me that my family’s love of food was a great angle to tap into. Heritage cookbooks are a time-honored way to share family recipes, and they can double as a reunion fund-raiser if you like. Ask family members to submit recipes. Add recipes from ancestors. Share them with each family or guest who attends. Remember, it’s not hard to create an e-book of recipes that you can’t share by email or on Facebook. An easy version of this idea: Snapfish offers a really cute way to share individual recipes on pre-printed cards. Only one or two recipes required to make this a success!

9. The Amazing Family History Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of questions that will require some scavenger-hunt type searching among your relatives. Questions might include finding someone who has at least 10 grandchildren, was born in California, is about to start kindergarten, likes the Beatles, etc. Research ahead of time so that questions all apply. This activity gets people talking!

10. DNA Day. Purchase a few DNA kits for genealogy. Have them on hand in case family members want or are willing to have their DNA swabs done. This is especially great if older relatives are coming, but might not complete the swabs if you mailed them to them.

BONUS FAMILY REUNION TIP: Did you know you can organize a great family reunion on Facebook–even if not everyone is ON Facebook? Click here to read a post with great tips about using Facebook to keep everyone in the loop and share the good times with those who can’t attend.

sharingBe sure to share this article on family reunion ideas with the family reunion planners you know! It can be so helpful to get a fresh burst of ideas when planning big family gatherings.

 

“My Name is Jane:” Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Janes heritage scrapbookThis mini heritage scrapbook celebrates my family name–Jane–which has been passed down through several generations.

My daughter’s middle name is Jane. And so is mine. So is my mother’s, and her mother’s. In fact, we can document several generations with this name. We are “the Janes,” and we are very proud of that.

Janes scrapbook croppedSo I was thrilled when my aunt Judie (mother of a Jane) made this little mini-scrapbook for my mother. It’s an accordion scrapbook style, with several little fold-out pages. It’s mostly pictures, but Judie wrote a poem in the front. It starts:

“Grandma named my momma Jane.
It passed through my grandma’s side.
Every generation had one.
A sign of women’s pride.”

What a perfect little keepsake this is! This kind of scrapbook is easily adapted and simplified–or made even more elaborate, like the one in the YouTube video tutorial shown below. This would be a perfect craft to do with children or at a family reunion, and here’s how:

Love this? Check out our Pinterest boards, Heritage Scrapbooking for Family History and Family History Craft Projects. Or sign up for our free email newsletter to see more inspiring ideas like these! Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right corner of this webpage.

Thank you for sharing this post with those you think will love it!

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124: Ancestry, Book Club Interview and More

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 124If there’s a theme for Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124, it’s travel! (Which works for us here in the U.S., where we are enjoying summer vacations.) Our ancestors sure traveled, and sometimes a paper trail followed them. In this episode you’ll hear Contributing Editor Sunny Morton’s interview with Phil Goldfarb, author of two volumes on U.S. passport applications. More episode highlights include:

  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsThe exclusive Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of our featured title, The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist);
  • Another tip for photographing headstones on your trips to the cemetery, whether your own relatives’ or for sites like BillionGraves;
  • Follow-up tips on saving your data at Ancestry and navigating the remodeled Ancestry website;
  • An easy, inexpensive family history craft that would be perfect for a family reunion this summer.

liesHere’s a teaser from our conversation on passport applications: People lied on them, including those who became famous. Clara Barton lied about her age and Harry Houdini said he was born in the U.S., when he was actually born in Austria-Hungary. Also, passport applications can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival in the U.S., the ship they arrived on and the court and date of naturalization.

Did you know that Genealogy Gems Premium members have access to our full archive of Premium podcast episodes, as well as hours’ worth of exclusive video tutorials on genealogy research skills, using online records and harnessing powerful technology tools like Google searching, Google Earth and Evernote for genealogy? Click here to learn more about Premium membership for yourself or for your genealogy society or library.

As always, our Genealogy Gems flagship podcast remains free, thanks to your support and purchases you make through the links we provide (like for the books we recommend on this page).

Need Family Reunion Ideas? Family Tree Hopscotch

family tree hopscotch 2Recently Lisa heard from Mary Ann, a Genealogy Gems Premium member who met her at the NGS Conference in St. Charles this past spring.  She appreciated the Outside the Box sessions we co-presented along with some of our partner exhibitors, particularly one by Janet Hovorka on family reunion ideas.

“I want to find ways to get younger people in my family interested in the family history,” writes Mary Ann, who says Janet’s session had a “wealth of ideas.” “Ideas started running around in my head related to scavenger hunts, photo guessing games and other things to do when my family gets together every year at Thanksgiving.”

For Mary Ann and the rest of you who want to include heritage among your reunion activities, here’s another idea I just tried. Last weekend, I helped host a RootsTech Family Discovery Day near me (click here to learn more about these free regional events). As part of our activities for children, we created a family tree hopscotch activity in the middle of a gymnasium.

family tree hopscotchHere’s how we did it:

  1. We printed and laminated sheets of paper that said, “Me,” “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma (mom’s mom),” Grandpa (mom’s dad),” and so forth, up to great-great grandparents.
  2. We laid these on the ground and taped all the way around them with electrical tape (which removes easily from the floor). It worked best to lay out the great-great grandparents first (since it was so crowded up there) and then move DOWN the generations, so we’d get the spacing right.
  3. We used more electrical tape to draw relationship lines between parents and then the linking line to each child.
  4. We taped additional questions to the floor around the tree, like: “How many great-great grandparents do you have?” and “If you have three children, and so do each of your children, and so do each of THEIR children, how many great-grandchildren would you have?”
  5. We supplied beanbags for children to toss to one of the ancestor’s spots, where they could then hop. The challenge was to name that ancestor, which we invited them to do with their parents.

This was a popular activity! I’ve been told that very young children actually learn best when they’re active and moving around. The “under 5” set at the reunion did enjoy tossing the beanbag and hopping around. Several school-age kids commented on how BIG the tree starts to get as you go back in time, and took pride when they could name a relative.

If I had to do it again, I’d make the lower generation squares larger so they’d be easier to hop from. If I adapted this for my own family reunion, I could do it outdoors in sidewalk chalk in a parking lot or driveway. With my own family, I would probably name each person and even try to put a picture or fact or two on each piece of paper about them. This could also be done as a reverse tree that names all the descendants of the common ancestors shared by everyone at the reunion.

how to start a genealogy blogLooking for more reunion tips? Check out my post, Organize a Family Reunion on Facebook: 9 Tips You Can Use.