by Lisa Cooke | Mar 25, 2019 | 01 What's New, Ancestry |
Ancestry.com is packed with all kinds of mostly-undiscovered genealogical treasures, and some of them you’ll never find from a search box.
Here, expert Nancy Hendrickson shares some favorite treasures, tips for finding those treasures, and helpful reminders for improving your genealogy research.
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Ancestry.com is a “genealogy giant:” one of the four biggest global records resources. Whether you subscribe or have free access through your local library or Family History Center, you should not miss exploring this website for your family history.
Ancestry is also a financial investment. If you’ve been using the site for quite a while, you may be wondering if you are really getting all you can out of it’s vast genealogical record collections and many research tools.
Nancy Hendrickson, the author of The Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com and the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook: A How-To Manual for Tracing Your Family Tree on the #1 Genealogy Website knows the website inside and out. Today she’s sharing four great tips for taking your research to the next level. In addition, we’ve added in some examples and additional things to consider. So let’s get started using Ancestry more effectively.
Nancy Henrickson, author of the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook
4 Tips for Using Ancestry.com More Effectively
1. Verify what you learn.
Any single record can be wrong, incomplete, or misread by you or by the person how indexed it. Double check the assertions made in the record by looking for that same information in additional sources. Be careful to make sure your sources weren’t getting their information from the same person or place. Otherwise, they’ll naturally say the same thing!
Nobody wants to discover conflicting information, of course. But you do want to know if something is inaccurate before it leads you down a wrong research path.
The best thing about verifying facts in additional sources is that sometimes you find NEW or BETTER information such as:
- parents’ names,
- a middle name that proves key to someone’s identity,
- or a burial place.
For example, let’s say you find an ancestor’s death date in the Social Security Death Index. While it’s a great source, don’t stop there!
Like any record, the SSDI is sometimes wrong and the information it contains is definitely limited. Use the Ancestry.com Card Catalog to see what records about death may be on the site for that time and place. You’ll find the Card Catalog under Search in the main menu.
Ancestry Card Catalog
Use the filters on the left side to drill down to death records for the location you want. Remember that records collections have been created on a specific geographical level: try local, regional (such as state or province) as well as national levels.
Using the Card Catalog search filters
2. Don’t just repeat what other people’s trees say.
Seeing the same information over and over can provide a false sense of accuracy. Remember, just because seven different online trees name the same parents for one of your ancestors doesn’t mean those are the correct parents. Those Ancestry users may all be misquoting the same wrong source without actually verifying the information!
You often come across likely matches in others’ trees when you review Ancestry’s automated “leaf” hints, or when you run a general search on a name. When you do, it’s simply an indication that the tree may be worth exploring. Here’s an example:
Exploring Ancestry Hints
Let’s take a closer look at this example.
The purple arrows: You can see that multiple pieces of very specific information are the same on your tree and another one.
The red arrow: You see sources attached to that person’s profile, such as the news article thumbnail image. (Note the difference with the record shown below, with just an empty profile image.) Yes, you will definitely want to review that news article!
The blue arrow: In addition to either of the above, you also see specific information that is unknown to you.
This tree profile looks promising enough you might naturally consider reviewing the tree hint and attaching it to yours. But then you wouldn’t be able to see the news article or other sources attached to that tree.
Instead, click the checkbox and then click the name of the tree to look at it and its attached sources:
Select the tree to review it more closely.
Then you’ll be able to check out the news article along with the other sources and records attached to this person’s profile. You won’t just see what that person thinks about your common ancestor – you’ll see evidence of why she thinks it.
3. Ancestry.com has more than indexed historical documents.
Nancy reminds us that “Ancestry.com is a fantastic resource for old maps, stories, photos, published county histories, and more. For example, looking at the old maps in their collections can reveal the true nature of an ancestor’s daily life, hardships, travels, and more. And your chance of finding early American ancestors is high in county histories: there were fewer people and early settlers were talked about, even if the family wasn’t wealthy or prominent.”
Here are some of Nancy’s favorite collections at Ancestry:
This collection includes nearly 7 million records extracted from about 1,200 county and land ownership maps from across the country. These are indexed by property owners’ names.
According to the collection description, “They also indicate township and county boundaries and can include photos of county officers, landholders, and some buildings and homes.”
Example: Shenandoah Counties, Virginia – included in U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918
This is a browse-only collection of “more than 2,200 volumes of county and regional histories from California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, 1878 in the U.S., County and Regional Histories and Atlases, 1804-1984 collection
In them you’ll find history, biographical sketches, maps, business notices, statistics and population numbers, pictures, descriptions of industry and business, stories of early settlement and pioneers, colleges and universities, military history, geography, and plenty of other details.”
Reminder: you can’t search this database by an ancestor’s name. Instead, look for places, and then start reading.
A collection of maps and atlases detailing land areas that comprise the present-day United States and Canada, as well as various other parts of the world. It contains a variety of maps and atlases created for different scopes and purposes, including land ownership atlases and bird’s-eye view maps.
Warrant Plan Records in the Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000 Collection at Ancestry
Land ownership atlases usually show the names of contemporary owners or occupants of land and structures.
Some of the maps depict countries and wider geographical areas, while others depict counties, cities, towns, and smaller geographical areas.
4. Expand your search to the other Ancestry resources on the Web
Ancestry owns a lot of other web resources. Search these too!
Nancy says, “They include Find A Grave, Fold3, and RootsWeb, one of the oldest online genealogy communities around. Don’t give up! Keep looking in other places for the information you want to find.”
Find A Grave
Search results from Ancestry.com do include Find A Grave entries. Many of these contain additional information about the deceased and links to their relatives. As always, be sure to confirm the information you find here.
Fold3 is home to millions of U.S. military records. Ancestry.com subscribers can upgrade their subscription to include Fold3 access, or you can subscribe separately.
RootsWeb is a free and long-lived family history web resource, now hosted by Ancestry.
“The primary purpose and function of RootsWeb.com is to connect people so that they can help each other and share genealogical research,” says the site. “Most resources on RootsWeb.com are designed to facilitate such connections.” You can use RootsWeb in a variety of ways: search it, contribute records, upload your family tree, post your family surnames on a board others can see, and more.
Ancestry has changed one of the ways RootsWeb users have traditionally connected: Mailing Lists. According to the website:
“Beginning March 2nd, 2020 the Mailing Lists functionality on RootsWeb will be discontinued. Users will no longer be able to send outgoing emails or accept incoming emails. Additionally, administration tools will no longer be available to list administrators and mailing lists will be put into an archival state. Administrators may save the email addresses in their list prior to March 2nd. After that, mailing list archives will remain available and searchable on RootsWeb. As an alternative to RootsWeb Mailing Lists, Ancestry message boards are a great option to network with others in the genealogy community. Message boards are available for free with an Ancestry registered account.”
Learn More about Using Ancestry
Nancy Hendrickson’s Book
Nancy shares many more Ancestry tips and treasures in her Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook. To get the most out of this book read the section on using the Ancestry.com Catalog. Nancy does 95% of her research in the catalog. The workbook is divided into topics, such as military records, so choose a chapter that fits your current goals. It’s also important to not just read the workbook, but also do the exercises. They teach you Nancy’s thought processes for how she finds specific answers or approaches certain types of problems. Then you can apply the same concepts to your own research. Don’t miss the chapter on social history. That’s where you’ll dig into everyday life. And finally, take advantage of the forms that are included. They will help you log your findings and analyze what you’ve learned.
Genealogy Gems Article
Browse-only collections at Ancestry and other genealogy websites are sometimes viewed as inaccessible, but they are actually a hidden treasure. Click here to read How to Find and Browse Unindexed Records at Ancestry – The Better Browsing Checklist. In this article you’ll learn how to access these browse-only collections at Ancestry and expand your family history research.
Read this article by Lisa Louise Cooke at Genealogy Gems
by Lisa Cooke | Mar 20, 2017 | 01 What's New, DNA |
Your DNA test results come with raw DNA data. This raw data is the next piece in your DNA puzzle. Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard, shares some interesting facts about raw DNA data and its use. Dig in and learn why!
What is Raw DNA Data?
Raw DNA data is the actual output file created by the DNA testing company. You can access your raw data at each testing company, and I strongly encourage that you do. You will need to download and save your raw data results to your computer. For instructions on how to do this, head on over to this page on my Your DNA Guide website.
This file contains your little DNA values at over 700,000 locations tested by your testing company. Any company with the right set-up and analysis tools can help you find matches with other people, and make additional genealogical discoveries. They may also be able to tell you if you like cilantro and are likely to have high blood sugar!
Raw DNA Data Research Projects and Destinations
Raw DNA data has to have a place to go. There are several research projects underway that utilize your data from any of the big four testing companies (Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, and AncestryDNA) for various genealogical or genetic purposes.
Home page of the DNA Land website
Let’s look at four examples of places you might upload your raw DNA data.
1. Family Tree DNA. If you have tested at 23andMe or AncestryDNA, you can transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free! You can access all of your matches and use the matching tools. For an additional $19, you can get access to the ethnicity features and other tools.
2. DNA Land. The not-for-profit DNA Land has over 26,000 individuals who have voluntarily uploaded their autosomal DNA test results into their website to be used for research purposes. Their self-stated goal is to “make genetic discoveries for the benefit of humanity.”
3. MyHeritage. MyHeritage also accepts your raw DNA data for incorporation into their genealogical database. You can upload your results for free and receive access to matches along with the ability to contact them. For a one-time fee of $29, you can unlock access to all of MyHeritage DNA’s features and tools as well. Learn more and upload your data here.
4. Geni.com. Geni.com (a family tree collaboration tool) jumped on the DNA bandwagon and announced they too would be integrating DNA into their family tree tool. Utilizing a partnership with Family Tree DNA, Geni.com is utilizing all three kinds of DNA (autosomal, YDNA, and mDNA) in their offering. The interface looks much like what you would see at your testing company: a list of matches with some family tree information.
The biggest takeaway from the recent influx of destinations for your raw DNA data shows us that the integration of DNA into genealogy is in full swing. I estimate every genealogy company and every major genealogy software will offer some kind of DNA integration within the next five years. DNA has certainly earned a permanent spot as a genealogical record type!
A Word of Caution
With all of these options available, and surely more to come, you will want to be careful about who you are giving your raw data to. Make sure you are comfortable with the company and its goals. Be sure you understand what role your DNA will be playing in their research, as well. These are exciting times in the world of genealogy.
Take the Next Steps in Your DNA Journey
Wherever you are in your DNA journey, we can help!
Take your very first steps and learn how to get started using DNA testing for family history.
If you have already taken the plunge, learn how to harness the power of DNA matching.
For the most help in understanding DNA for family history, take a look at the ten different DNA guides in both print and digital form from Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard.
by Lisa Cooke | May 20, 2019 | 01 What's New, DNA, MyHeritage
MyHeritage Expands to Health
From the MyHeritage press release: Tel Aviv, Israel & Lehi, Utah
— MyHeritage, the leading global service for family history and DNA testing, announced today a major expansion of its DNA product line with the launch of the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry tes
t. The test provides a new dimension of genetic insight with comprehensive health reports that can empower future health and lifestyle choices. It is a superset of the current MyHeritage DNA Ancestry-Only test, and includes its pillar features: a percentage breakdown of ethnic origins and matching to relatives through shared DNA. MyHeritage is now the only global consumer DNA company to offer an extensive health and ancestry product in over 40 languages.
The launch of the Health + Ancestry product distinguishes MyHeritage as the only major service that bridges consumers’ past, present, and future: MyHeritage’s integrated suite of products enable users to discover their family history and ethnic origins, find new relatives, and receive valuable insights to help manage choices regarding their health that may impact their future well-being.
“Our Health + Ancestry test is the next step in the evolution of MyHeritage. After 16 years of changing lives for the better through family history research and genetic genealogy, we are excited to expand our mission and try to improve and save lives as well. Our vision is to integrate our successful family history technologies with the new health product in innovative ways that bridge heritage and heredity to deliver deeper insights for our users,” said Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “We are proud to be part of a movement to democratize healthcare globally and make genetic testing accessible to millions of people, and allow them to discover what makes them unique.”
What Health Data is Included?
According to the company, The MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test provides health reports that show users their risk of developing or carrying genetic conditions. Reports include conditions where specific genes contribute to the risk, such as hereditary breast cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and late-onset Parkinson’s disease; conditions associated with multiple genes, such as heart disease, and type 2 diabetes; and carrier status reports on conditions that can be passed down from a couple to their children, such as Tay-Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis.
In total, MyHeritage’s Health + Ancestry test covers one of the most extensive ranges of conditions offered by an at-home DNA test: 11 Genetic Risk Reports, including a hereditary breast cancer (BRCA) report that tests 10 pathogenic variants; 3 Polygenic Risk Reports; and 15 Carrier Status Reports.
Taking the Test
MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry is a Laboratory Developed Test, processed in a CLIA certified and CAP accredited DNA lab in Texas. The at-home DNA test is an easy and painless cheek swab, and does not require spitting as some other tests do, which makes it more suitable and convenient for all populations, including older people.
Health reports only determine users’ genetic risk for the supported conditions. However, all users are required to complete a personal and family health history questionnaire, to ensure that each user receives the reports appropriate for them. MyHeritage works with PWNHealth, an independent physician network and genetic counseling service, to provide end-to-end physician oversight of the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test for all U.S. customers, which includes genetic counseling, if appropriate. PWNHealth’s physician oversight and genetic counseling fee is included in the total price.
Your Health Data is Private
Privacy is strictly enforced. All health data is protected by state-of-the-art encryption. Health report data is secured using additional password protection and is so secure that even MyHeritage employees cannot access it. MyHeritage has never licensed or sold user data, and has committed to never do so without obtaining explicit user consent. MyHeritage is the only consumer DNA company that has pledged to never sell data to insurance companies. It also applies a strict policy to prohibit use of its DNA services by law enforcement agencies.
Pricing & Ordering
The MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit is available at the price of $199 + shipping
. Users who have already purchased a MyHeritage DNA test for ethnicity and genealogy matching can upgrade to receive health reports for $120. To order, visit the MyHeritage DNA website
. An annual Health subscription is available as an optional add-on to the new DNA kit, which grants users access to new health reports as they are released. As a special benefit for the launch, the Health subscription is currently offered for free for the first twelve months and users can cancel it anytime.
The new health product is not intended to independently diagnose, prevent, or treat any disease or condition or tell users anything about their current state of health in the absence of medical and clinical information.
The product is also not intended for making medical decisions, including prescription or dosing of medications. Users may need to obtain further services from their physician, a genetic counselor, or other healthcare provider, in order to obtain diagnostic results regarding the conditions or diseases indicated within the MyHeritage DNA health reports.
The health reports provide genetic risk information based on assessment of specific genetic variants but do not report on users’ entire genetic profile. The health reports do not detect all genetic variants related to a given disease, and the absence of a variant tested does not rule out the presence of other genetic variants that may be related to the disease.
For most diseases, currently known genes are only responsible for a portion of the overall risk. Other factors such as environment and lifestyle may affect the risk of developing a given disease and, depending on the condition, may be more relevant predictors.
If a user’s data indicate that the user is not at elevated genetic risk for a disease or condition, this should not be interpreted as meaning that the user is safe from developing the disease or condition. The opposite is also true; if a user’s data indicates that the user is at an elevated genetic risk for a disease or condition, it does not mean that the user will definitively develop the disease or condition. Any findings within the health reports should be confirmed and supplemented by additional medical and clinical testing as recommended by the user’s healthcare provider.
MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry is available globally except in a few countries that do not allow health-related consumer genetic testing. In the USA, it is available in all states except New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, where separate laboratory certifications are required and are currently being pursued. Altogether, MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry is now the genetic test for health available in the greatest number of languages and with the widest global reach.
Disclosure: This article is a press release provided by MyHeritage. It is intended for informational purposes, and not intended as a promotion of DNA health tests. This article does contain affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you).