News Release – For Immediate Release: April 4, 2012
Santa Monica, CA. April 4, 2012: The 1940 Census has finally been released and you can now browse the images online. But the waiting’s not over, since you still won’t be able to search the whole census by person until it’s fully indexed in several months.
Help, however, is at hand. Findmypast.com has come up with a way to make your search quicker and simpler – by offering to do the searching for you.
Findmypast.com is the new U.S. addition to the global network of findmypast family history websites, launched in a limited, early form in time for the 1940 Census. Its unique new, customized feature, created for the 1940 Census, is called “We’ll find them for you” and is now live.
All you have to do is to visit findmypast.com, submit the name of the person you’re searching for, plus some extra clues, and findmypast.com will email you as soon as the person’s records become available.
“We’re taking the hassle and delay out of searching”, says Brian Speckart, marketing manager of findmypast.com. “With this new feature, findmypast.com is going the extra mile to help you find your past as quickly and easily as possible.”
While the whole census won’t be searchable for several months, the records of individual U.S. states will be made searchable earlier, one state at a time. A couple of them are likely to be done by mid-April.
Some genealogy sites are offering to alert users simply when a particular state has been indexed. “But we’re going further and finding the particular individual you’re looking for”, says Speckart.
You have to tell findmypast.com in which state the person was living at the time of the 1940 Census. “As soon as that state is indexed, we run a program against the data to find the individual you’re looking for you and then email you the links we find”, says Speckart.
The job of indexing states one by one is being done by an army of volunteers under the banner of the 1940 Community Project, of which findmypast.com is a proud member.
Visitors to findmypast.com will be able to use the site’s new “We’ll find them for you” feature to submit details of the person they want to find.
Supplying the person’s first and last name and state where they were living in 1940 is all that’s required but providing additional clues will help findmypast.com narrow down the search results. Other helpful information includes approximate year of birth, likely birth city, place of residence in 1940 and names of other household members.
The new service isn’t just limited to family members either. Users can submit details of celebrities or other public figures and ask findmypast.com to find them too.
“So, if you happen to know that Marilyn Monroe’s real name was Norma Jean and which state she called home in 1940, we’ll find her for you too”, says Speckart.
Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) has some of my very favorite genetic tools to help you make connections with your DNA matches when you can’t immediately find a genealogical connection, but it’s no secret that their genealogy tools leave much to be desired. However, their latest genealogy tool has promise: if certain conditions are met, you will be able to see whether any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test!
For quite some time now FTDNA has allowed you to enter your genealogical surnames and locations into your account and list your earliest known paternal and maternal line ancestors. The latter is displayed for your YDNA and mtDNA matches to see and the former for your autosomal DNA matches to see. As a bonus, if one of your autosomal matches shares an inputted surname, FTDNA will bold that surname (or location) for you in the “Ancestral Surnames” column of your match page.
A few months ago they upgraded their pedigree tool for uploading a GEDCOM into your account. This GEDCOM does not in any way interact with your DNA match list or results; it is just provided as a resource to your matches. The pedigree tool itself is clumsy at best, but at least it is searchable and can give you a head start when looking for matches. It would be really nice if FTDNA could scrape all the surnames and locations from your GEDCOM and use that to populate your Ancestral Surnames field, but it does not.
The latest addition to FTDNA’s mediocre genealogy offerings is the ability to search all of the uploaded pedigree information in the FTDNA database. The best part about this feature is that it is not limited to searching just your DNA matches. This means you can see if any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test! This is great news!
Of course, you see the immediate problem: if the cousin of interest hasn’t uploaded a GEDCOM, you still won’t be able to find them. And, of course, the usefulness of the information is completely dependent on other people’s genealogical sleuthing skills. But still, this can be a useful tool.
I tried using this tool to find out if there were other descendants of my ancestors Julia Pond and Austin Tilton who had tested. I have one DNA match who descends from this couple and I am fairly certain this is our connection. I wanted to see if there were others out there who were also descendants of this couple. I started with just a search for “Julia Pond” and got 37 results. I then used the advanced search feature to add her birth year “1821” and “Ohio.”
There were two matches. My family tree, and another belonging to Katie. It was frustrating that I couldn’t see right away if Katie was also a DNA match. But in the Advanced search I can ask to see only DNA matches, and repeat the search. Katie disappeared. By doing this I learned that Katie is descendant of Julia and Austin, but she and I don’t share enough DNA to be considered related. This makes sense, since descendants of this couple would be my 4th cousins at best, and I know that I will only genetically match about half of my fourth cousins. I can now contact my DNA match that lists Julia and Austin on his pedigree and ask him if Katie shows up on his match list. Perhaps they share some DNA that I do not.
Speaking of that DNA match of mine: why wasn’t he listed in my search results for Julia Pond? Well, it turns out that in his pedigree she is listed as born in 1821 from OH, and my search said Ohio. Ah. The search function is not catching those kinds of differences. So be careful.
When implemented properly, this tool can help you collect all of the descendants of a particular ancestor so you can learn more about what DNA you inherited from whom, and further your genealogical efforts.
Are you ready to get started? If you’re new to genetic genealogy, the first thing to do is acknowledge you may face some unexpected discoveries. If you’re not willing to chance some surprises on your family tree, don’t pursue it yet. Next, evaluate FTDNA (or other DNA companies) for yourself. If you decide to get started, your first step should be to upload your own GEDCOM, and make it public. Don’t feel like you have to put everything you know in this GEDCOM, just what you are certain of and feel confident sharing. To make it public, go into your Account Settings, and agree to share your Basic Profile.
After this Family Tree DNA review, if you’re ready to explore what DNA can do for YOUR genealogy, why not explore how I can help you do it? My quick guides on genetic genealogy include a guide specifically for those who test at Family Tree DNA.
You can also hire me for an individual consultation to make sure you’re doing the right DNA tests with the right relatives to answer your burning genealogy questions. (Testing the wrong people or DNA type can be a very expensive mistake!)