Meet the Author of a Riveting Family History Tale in the Newest Episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast

Recently I got an email from Jay in New York :

“I have been catching up with all of your family history podcasts. Over the years I have collected a wealth of information on the family. Some good, some not-so-good, some out in-the-open, some hidden.
 
How do you deal with revealing “forgotten” items about family members to other family members? I had an uncle who had a marriage at a very young age, and would like to have forgotten about it. My mother told me about it. I put it on the tree. While showing off the fruits of my labor to his family this “forgotten” marriage was revealed with not happy responses.
 
The things we find in our tree may not always be “good”, How does a person deal with that? and revealing it to others?”
 
This is a great question! And in the newest Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #120 I have some answers for you.
 
Secrets, small and large can be found in many families.  Skeletons in the closet are often secrets closely guarded by family members.
 
It’s a tricky business navigating your way through the shakier branches of the family tree, so I’ve invited a special guest to join me on the show who has done an incredible job of climbing those branches in his own family.
 
Steve Luxenberg is a Washington Post associate editor and award-winning author. In his 25 years at The Post, he has headed the newspaper’s investigative staff and its Sunday section of commentary and opinion.  Steve is going to join me for the full episode to talk about investigating and dealing with family secrets as he did in  his book Annie’s Ghosts.  It’s a riveting tale that kept me feverishly tapping the “Next Page” key on my kindle. 
 
Annie’s Ghosts is about a family secret that Steve stumbled upon in the late 1990s.  His mother, who had always claimed to be an only child, had a sister, Annie.  And while that was a big surprise all by itself, it was just the beginning of a series of secrets and revelations that Steve unearthed by tapping into his long career as an investigative journalist, and employing newly found genealogy techniques and strategies. 

In this interview we talk about being aware of what’s missing in records and stories, rather than just focusing on what is on the page.  For those of you who are Premium Members this discussion is a great follow up to Premium Episode #77 where we talked about being more keenly aware during our research.

Steve’s also going to share he thoughts on storytelling, which he truly masters in this book. 
 
And then we get into some of the genealogical techniques he used: how to avoid tainting memories in Interviews, and how to balance the give and take as well as win trust with the person you are interviewing.  


And speaking of trust, Steve describes how he was able to be incredibly successful in obtaining sensitive documents and getting cooperation from various government agencies and other repositories.
 
He’s also going to tell us about a little known legal maneuver that he made that really made the difference for him in obtaining some of the most closely held documents and how you can use it too!
 
And finally he’ll share his personal feelings about what it was like to get a add a new member to his family, his long lost Aunt Annie.


Enjoy!
 
Quotes from Annie’s Ghosts:
 
“What I didn’t expect, as the week wore on, was that the family would expand to take in a new member.  But that’s what happened.  As people dipped in and out of the records, as the debates flew about what we knew and what we didn’t and whether we should be digging around in the past, Annie gradually became a part of the family consciousness.  She was no longer just a name on a hospital record.  She was no longer just a secret.”
 
“I stopped thinking like a son and started thinking like a journalist.”
 
“I offer to send her the letters; it’s an unexpected present for her, and I’m glad to be able to make the offer, because it allows me to give as well as take, something reporters can’t often do. It’s also a good way to win trust.” 
 
“I want to make sure that if she knows about Annie, she tells me before I tell her, so that I capture her spontaneous memory first.”
 

Help! My Email Doesn’t Fit in Viewer Window

screen resolution settingRecently I heard from Carol in St. Louis, Missouri, who was frustrated that she couldn’t read my entire email newsletter. “Would love to know what you are saying,” she says. But my newsletter email doesn’t fit in her email window. “I don’t want to toggle to the right to see the end of each line and then have to toggle back.”

The good news I shared with Carol is that she could fix this problem–and so can anyone else who has trouble with emails not fitting in their viewers.

Email sizing is related to your computer’s screen resolution setting, and a variety of other variables. It’s different for everyone. 98% of our readers see the email perfectly fitted to their screen.

As you can see in the screen shot here, the email Carol forwarded me appears neatly and completely in my email window in my browser. (I’m on a PC using Firefox.) In cases where it doesn’t come through to your email account that way, we provide a link at the top of the email that you can simply click to view the email on a new web browser tab fitted to the page.

sign up newsletterWant to receive our free email newsletter? Just sign up in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this webpage or on the Genealogy Gems home page. It’s free, we don’t share your email address with anyone else, and you get a free e-book of Google tips for genealogy just for signing up.

Google Scholar and ProQuest Team Up!

This just in! Google Scholar and ProQuest are teaming up to provide a publicly-accessible index to all of ProQuest’s scholarly journal content. Google Scholar already delivers search results on your favorite genealogy keywords (names, places and records) from scholarly publications like dissertations, academic articles and more. (Click here to read my blog post about Google Scholar for genealogy.)

Now the search experience will become more powerful and inclusive. According to a press release, “ProQuest will enable the full text of its scholarly journal content to be indexed in Google Scholar, improving research outcomes. Work is underway and the company anticipates that by the third-quarter of 2015, users starting their research in Google Scholar will be able to access scholarly content via ProQuest.”

“ProQuest has rich, vast content that advances the work of researchers, scholars and students,” blogged the CEO of ProQuest. “Respecting the different ways researchers and librarians choose to conduct their research is essential to ensuring that content is simple to discover and use. We know Google Scholar is a popular starting point for researchers of all kinds. Our teamwork with Google will enable these patrons to be automatically recognized as authenticated ProQuest users and seamlessly link to their ProQuest collections, where they can connect with full-text scholarly content.”

It appears that there will still be a charge to access copyright-protected material (“authenticated ProQuest users” in the quote above are those that have access via a ProQuest subscription). According to the press release, “Users who are not recognized will be sent to a landing page with the abstract or an image of the first page, protecting all rights holders. To read full text, the users will authenticate themselves. There is nothing for libraries to set up – the linking will be seamless and automatic.”

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverLearn more about using Google Scholar and other advance Google search techniques to discover your family history online in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition. The newly-updated and fully-revised book is available now!

Thumbs-Up: AncestryDNA Improves Genetic Matching Technology

ancestrydna matches improvedDouble good news: AncestryDNA has made some improvements to the way they calculate your genetic matches, but they haven’t messed with the site format or layout. There is one downside–so keep reading.

Change is afoot at AncestryDNA. Again.

While stability and predictability seem like honorable qualities in a company or product, when it comes to tech tools, in the ears of tech companies, those words sound more like dated and old. Of course, we are used to this by now. I had a client tell me recently that he wanted to be in touch sooner, but his grandson “upgraded” his computer to Windows 10 and then promptly left for college the next day, leaving him fighting with a new interface and operating system.

The good news is, you won’t have this problem with Ancestry’s new update. There aren’t any changes to the interface or the layout of the information. In fact, many of you will not even notice at first that your match list has changed. You’ll just see this notification when you log in:

AncestryDNA match improvement announcement

But in fact, there likely have been some adjustments made to your match results:

  • Some of your third cousins have been demoted to fourth cousins.
  • Some of your fourth cousins have been demoted to 5th-8th cousins.
  • Some of your Distant Cousins have disappeared off your match list
  • You have new cousins on your Distant Cousin match list.

In general, from what Ancestry has showed us, you gain more than you lose.

Changes in the dregs of your match list may not seem like that big of a deal. But Ancestry has made some big changes in the way that they are calculating matches. They are getting better at it. Which means you match list is now more representative of your ancestral connections, even at the very distant level.

There are two big pieces to this matching puzzle that Ancestry has tinkered with in this latest update: phasing and matching.

You will remember our discussion on DNA phasing and how it can impact your matching. Ancestry has developed a robust reference database of phased DNA in order to better phase our samples. Basically, they have looked through their database at parent-child duos and trios and noted that certain strings of DNA values often travel together. It’s like they have noticed that our DNA says “A black cat scared the mouse” instead of  “The brown cat ate the mouse” and they can then recognize that phrase in our DNA, which in turn helps our DNA tell the true story of our heritage.

In addition to updating the phasing, Ancestry has revamped their matching method. In the past they viewed our DNA in small windows of information, and then stitched those windows together to try to get a better picture of what our DNA looked like. Now instead they have turned to a point-by-point analysis of our DNA. Again to use a sentence example, with the window analysis we may have the following sentence windows:

ack and J

ill went t

he hill t

etch a pai

l of water.

AncestryDNA match comparisonOf those windows, you may share the “etch a pai” with another individual in the database, earning that cousin a spot on your match page. However, the truth is, that bit could say “sketch a painting” or “stretch a painful leg” or “fetch a pail.” With Ancestry’s new method, they are able to see farther on either side of the matching segment, making this clearly “fetch a pail.” That means better matching, which means more confidence in your cousin matches.

The downside to this update is going to come in the reorganization of some of your relationships. Ancestry has tightened their genetic definition of your third and fourth cousins. Basically, that means that some of your true 3rd cousins are going to show up as 4th cousins, and some of your true 4th cousins are going to be shifted down into the abyss of 5th-8th cousins.

This brings us to the downside of this AncestryDNA update: changes to the Shared Matches tool. The shared matches tool allows you to gather matches in the database that are related to you and one other person, provided you are all related at the 4th cousin level or higher. This tightening of the belt on 4th cousins means that some of them are going to drop through the cracks of that tool, really limiting its ability. Grr. Hopefully, Ancestry will fix that, and expand this tool to include all of your matches. They have their fairly good reasons for this, but still….

So, as the winds of change blow yet another iteration of the AncestryDNA match page, I think we can see this as an overall win for doing genealogy with our genetics at Ancestry.

More AncestryDNA Gems


Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU