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.”
 

Add Your Local Paper to Digitized Newspapers Online with NEH Funding

Does your local library, historical or genealogical society have a newspaper collection to  share? Let the NEH help!History unfolded Holocaust Project

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting proposals from institutions hoping to participate in the the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). This program creates “a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 in U.S. states and territories.” Guidelines for 2014 are now available and proposals must be submitted by January 15, 2014.

According to the press release, “Each award supports a 2-year project to digitally convert 100,000 newspaper pages from that state’s collections, primarily from microfilm negative. Titles may be printed in Danish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish. The program provides access to this resource through the Chronicling America web site hosted by the Library of Congress. The site currently includes more than 6.6 million newspaper pages in English, French, German, and Spanish, from more than 1100 titles digitized by institutions in 30 states.”

For more program information, please visit the NEH’s program page or this page for technical information from the Library of Congress. Click here to see what institutions have participated.

I can’t say enough good things about this and other initiatives to  support more digitized newspapers online. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers will provide you with more about using these awesome resources to flesh out your family’s story, a tried and true research process, and loads of resources. Check it out in paperback or pdf e-book!

How to Use a Microfilm Reader or a Microfiche Reader

Not sure how to use microfilm or microfiche readers? Watch these quick video tutorials before your next trip to the library!

Recently I heard from a Genealogy Gems Premium member who is digging in deep to her family history. But she confessed that she left the Oklahoma Historical Center in Oklahoma City “in tears because I really didn’t know what I was doing” with the microfiche machine and with microfilms.

I totally understand. Microfilm and fiche readers are not my favorite part of genealogy research, either. But despite the wealth of digitized records that continue to appear online, microfilm is going to be around for a while! FamilySearch and other publishers of microfilmed data (like state archives) do not have copyright permissions to digitize all their microfilmed materials. Even if they can get it, it’s going to take a long time to make that happen.

Meanwhile, we will continue to need microfilm and microfiche readers!microfilm

  • Microfilm is a long reel of film (up to 125 feet, I’ve heard) that are essentially page-by-page photos of a document collection, book, newspaper, etc.
  • Microfiche is a single sheet of film (about 4″ x 6″) that contains the same, only shrunk down so small you need a magnified reader to make sense of it.

These were standard technologies for duplicating records in the pre-digital era. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City alone has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Yes, that’s million! (And yes, they will lend them out to a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library near you.)

To access these fantastic films and fiches, you will need to use microfilm readers and microfiche readers. It’s easy to walk into the library and think everyone knows how to use them but you. But that’s not true. In fact, every single genealogist has had to face their first encounter with a reader. Don’t be shy about asking politely for a tutorial (and help when you do it wrong and something gets stuck). And don’t be shy about watching these tutorials on YouTube before you go to the library again:

How to Use a Microfilm Reader:

How to Use a Microfiche Reader:

As you can see, YouTube is a fantastic place to pick up essential genealogy skills! Click here to check out our more great ideas for using YouTube for family history.

More Beginning Genealogy Tips from Genealogy Gems

4 Beginning Genealogy Answers to Get You Started

6 Sources That May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online: Google and FamilySearch Wiki

AncestryDNA® Ethnicity Estimates Updated

Here’s the latest DNA update quoted from Ancestry®:

Ancestry DNA ethnicity update

Ancestry® Expands Reference Panel to Deliver More Precise Results and New Regions

“Today, Ancestry® announced their latest update to AncestryDNA® ethnicity estimates.

This update was made possible thanks to an increase in the AncestryDNA reference panel.

The reference panel is now more than double its previous size with samples from more places around the world, allowing Ancestry to determine ethnic breakdowns with a higher degree of precision.  

New ethnicity estimates will roll out to new and existing customers over several months, resulting in these potential developments for customers.”

New Ethnicity Regions

From their blog post:

“For example, previously we had North and South America as two large regions: Native American–Andean and Native American–North, Central, South.

With this new update, we are able to refine the areas into 11 smaller ones.

If you received one of the older regions before, your new report will most likely have one of the newer, more precise regions instead like Indigenous Eastern South America, Indigenous Cuba, and Indigenous Americas–Mexico, among others.” 

More Global Regions

“This advancement will enable AncestryDNA to deliver even more regions globally to enhance the experience across diverse populations including improvements and region realignment in West Africa, northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and South Asia.”

Ancestry DNA ethnicity update offers more global regions

When You Will See the Update

“It’s important to note that we are phasing the update over time to ensure individual attention is given to delivering each result; therefore, some may see results earlier or later than others.”

when you will see the ancestry dna ethnicity results update

Read the Full Announcement

Get all the details on this new update announcement by reading their article Ancestry® Expands Reference Panel to Deliver More Precise Results and New Regions

List of AncestryDNA® Regions

“More than 1,000 global regions make up the ethnicities displayed in our DNA test. As DNA science improves, the number of regions we test for (and the countries covered in each region) may change.

This article lists each region, but to see which areas of the globe are included in the regions, you’ll need to view the list from your DNA Story page (which will highlight an area of the map when you click a region).

To see all the regions, click See other regions tested at the bottom of your ethnicity estimate and click on a region on the next page. 

Ethnicity Estimate FAQ

Check out the interactive map and watch the explanatory video: FAQ for new AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate.

ancestry dna ethnicity FAQ

Click here for AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate FAQ

Results May Vary, Here’s an Example

If you’ve taken a DNA test, you may have received different ethnicity results than you expected and different from your family members. DNA expert Diahan Southard explains why this happens in the Genealogy Gems article “Results May Vary:” One Family’s DNA Ethnicity Percentages. Click here to start reading now.  

Click here to pick from our vast collection of DNA articles including DNA Ethnicity Accuracy: How It’s Getting More Specific.

More Resources

Get the DNA SUPER BUNDLE: 10 Quick Reference genetic genealogy guides by Diahan Southard at the Genealogy Gems store. 

10 DNA Genetic Genealogy quick reference guides by Diahan Southard

10 DNA Genetic Genealogy quick reference guides by Diahan Southard available now at the Genealogy Gems Store.

What Do You Think?

Have you noticed the update in your AncestryDNA® account? Did this update deliver any surprises? Please leave a comment below and share what you learned. 

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