Episode 206 – Publishing Family History Books
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 206
with Lisa Louise Cooke
In this Blast from the Past episode:
- Lisa reprises a favorite research detour into vehicle forensics to identify an old family car and shares tips for creating short family history books like those she given as holiday gifts to loved ones.
- Hear letters from listeners on a special adoption discovery and a 1940 census mystery that now makes more sense.
- Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard weighs in with 4 reasons to take a DNA test if you haven’t taken the plunge yet.
- Genealogy Gems Editor Sunny Morton spotlights the current Genealogy Gems Book Club title, Murder in Matera.
- The vehicle forensics and family book segments originally appeared in Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 18 and 13, respectively, and are being republished here for web audiences.
MAILBOX: RICHARD ON THE 1940 CENSUS
1940 census tip: Listen in Genealogy Gems Episode 201 or read it on the Genealogy Gems blog.
Evidentia software helps genealogists organize and analyze their research discoveries. Free 14-day trial available.
MAILBOX: ADOPTEE DISCOVERY
Tips for using DNA to solve adoption mysteries, taken from a conversation between genetic genealogy experts Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard and CeCe Moore from DNA Detectives.
Join our conversations on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page.
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is an audio excursion with Lisa on an old railroad track up to a silver mine in the Colorado Rockies, an excursion she originally shared in Episode 18 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, not now available online, and is being republished here exclusively for your enjoyment. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users
GEM: MAKING FAMILY HISTORY BOOKS
Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 2 with a segment on transcribing diaries was republished as Genealogy Gems episode 134.
Qualities of a successful short family history book, from Lisa Louise Cooke
- The book conveys an overall theme.
Start by reviewing all the available material you have. That will give you a good sense of what the time period was like for your ancestor. You’ll also start to understand their goals, experiences, and emotions. Ultimately a theme should begin to surface.
In the case of A Nurse In Training, I wanted to communicate my grandmother as a young woman taking on a new adventure away from home that ultimately led to this warm, caring woman’s successful career as a nurse. I also tucked a bonus subplot in there of how she just happened to meet her husband at the same time!
You don’t need every scrap of research and every photo to get this theme across. It’s your job to be a sharp editor and to pick out the critical pieces. You want the words and photographs that clearly communicate your theme to the reader.
#2. The book can be read in one sitting.
Like it or not, if it takes too long read, they probably won’t. Strive to create a book that doesn’t look intimidating. I create books that are ten to twenty double-sided pages. People will be willing to pick up a thinner book off the coffee table. If it’s well done they’ll find that all of a sudden they’ve finished the entire book without wanting to put it down. The final goal is that they will walk away with a real sense of having gotten to know that ancestor.
#3. It contains the best of the best of what you have.
This goes back to conveying the theme and being a strict editor. My grandma had many funny stories, but there just wasn’t room for all of them. I picked the best of the best. Anyone who reads the book should hopefully come away with the fact that she had a sense of humor and could laugh at herself. So keep the content of your book focused, full of graphics and photos, and including the best of the best. If you can capture their interest in the first three pages, you’ll have them for the entire book.
#4. There are lots of photos and graphics.
A picture is definitely worth a thousand words. Since the number of words in this size book will be limited, photographs will be your best friend. If you’re lacking in family photos, many of my previous podcasts will give you countless ideas for locating associated photos. In A Nurse In Training, I included scanned images of skating rink tickets, programs and announcements from my grandma’s scrapbook, and journal pages in my grandmother’s own hand. These types of items really add texture and interest to your book, as well as help the reader to see that you’ve really done your homework.
#5. Keep it in chronological order.
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and start going back and forth in time. Believe me, for the reader’s sake keep things in chronological order. You as the researcher know this information backward and forwards, but this is probably your reader’s first exposure to it. Be gentle with them and keep it straight forward and simple. Your reader will thank you.
#6. You choose only high-quality images and printing.
High-quality glossy pages, good image quality and a hardcover binding all shout to the reader “I’m worth your time, read me!” For example, I found a drawing of Dameron Hospital where my grandmother worked, but it was a low-quality image and didn’t translate well in the book. As much as I wanted to include it, I ended up leaving it out. I’m glad I did; it wasn’t critical to the book and there were other ways to communicate the hospital to the reader.
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.
MyHeritage is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
4 REASONS TO RSVP YOUR DNA INVITATION
with Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide
I used to think that economics was just a series of numbers and calculations that helped to gauge the future growth of companies and countries. In a word: boring. But that was before I discovered that you can study the economics of people and essentially use math to describe human behavior, and therefore in some ways make that behavior more predictable.
This is of course especially intriguing to my current situation as the parent of a teenager, a pre-teen, and a daughter. Teenagers especially are always talking about the things that “everyone else has,” a phenomenon that Malcom Gladwell, one of these interesting people-economists, describes as the “tipping point.” He says that the tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” For my kids it’s everything from the point at which a party becomes fun to doing everything that is humanly possible to procure a fidget-spinner (if you don’t know what that is, ask the nearest 11 year old).
In DNA testing in the United States, that tipping point is now. We have reached the point where most genealogists at least have the passing notion that genetics can be useful in genealogy. Most genealogists (I would guess 85%) who attend the lectures I give have already had at least one DNA test completed. Let’s stop for just one minute and recognize how incredible that is! Not too long ago I was still trying to convince people that this was a good idea and that you didn’t have to dig up your ancestors to do it! But now we have scores of genealogists who have not only tested themselves, but have convinced half their family to test as well!
This got me thinking though, who are those people who haven’t tested? And why not? One category of people sans DNA test are those who have full pedigree charts. I have heard many of them say that they don’t see the need to do DNA testing since they have most of their lines “way back.” To those with the blessing of ancestors who kept better records than mine, I am offering four reasons why you should RSVP to your invitation to DNA test.
- Record. First and foremost, your DNA is a record. Just as you have obtained birth certificates and marriage licenses for your ancestors, your DNA is a unique record. It does represent you and your family in a way that no other record can. It is a document of your genetic history, and should be preserved. Further, while you may doubt the ability of your DNA to shed light on your current genealogy, don’t underestimate the contribution it might make in the future.
- Second Cousins. And third cousins, and fourth cousins, etc. Having your DNA tested means you can see a biological connection between you and other relatives that have had tested. For many, the idea of meeting or forming relationships with distant cousins is not appealing. But even if you have no intention of attending DNA family reunions or even in corresponding with these relatives, there is something reassuring about seeing them there on your match list. There is a certain thrill that comes with recognizing the connection between you and someone else. A connection that may not add any new names to your tree, but it helps you feel a deeper connection to your ancestor, and a greater appreciation for your biology.
- Verify. Which brings me to the next point. Seeing these cousins on your list can actually help verify the genealogy you have already collected and documented. It helps to reassure you that you have made the right steps along the way, and may help you gain additional resources about your relative through their descendants that you find on your match list. Resources that can help turn that ancestor from a name on a chart, to a story and a life worth preserving.
- Philanthropy. The last reason to go ahead and have your DNA tested is to help others. If you have been lucky enough to fill in most of the blanks on your tree, you can help others do the same by simply having your DNA tested. Your DNA provides a link to your tree that might be just what someone needs to overcome a brick wall in their family history.
So, if you have been hanging out on the outskirts of DNA testing because you feel like your tree is full enough without it, remember to RSVP to your invitation to be DNA tested, and join the party!
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: A FAMILY HISTORY MURDER MYSTERY!
Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy by journalist Helene Stapinski. A story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean.
Murder in Matera continues to unravel a past Helene explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History. Find a whole list of fabulous family history-inspired reading at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/lisa.
GEM: VEHICULAR FORENSICS: Updated links, tips and resources
Here’s the original photo of my grandma next to her father’s car:
The original zoomed in image of the license plate:
The license plate with the “alternative light source” applied:
Since I first published this episode, iGoogle has gone away.
Websites for identifying old cars:
Hubcap Café.com: Collector Car Resources
Flickr group called Vintage Car Identification
From ItStillRuns.com: “Veteran cars were manufactured before 1903, vintage cars were made between 1903 and 1933, and classic cars are considered to be vehicles manufactured from 1933 until fifteen years ago.”
Learn more about ArchiveGrid in Premium Podcast episode 149 (Genealogy Gems Premium subscription required) and in this blog post: How to find original manuscripts and documents using ArchiveGrid.
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke for Google searches and even YouTube:
“Take a ride in a 1928 Willys Knight made in, owned in and driven in Toledo, Ohio”
Forensic Files channel on YouTube
More updated resources:
“The Colorful History of California License Plates” in LA Magazine
- California DMV license plate introduction
- California State Archives
- Willys Overland Knight Registry website and Facebook page
- Inflation Calculator
TIP: Remember that you may be able to make great discoveries IN old photos with your photo editing software (even just with whatever free software is on your computer):
1. Open up the photo editing software
2. Open the photograph in question in the program
3. Use the trim feature to zoom in on the license plate?or whatever feature you want to focus on
4. Zoom in to make it easier to see
5. Try using both the Brightness and Contrast feature of your program in combination until you achieve a favorable result
6. Apply Auto Sharpen for further detail
Savvy tips to help identify old photos
Photo editing apps and software for family history
The Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor is your ultimate guide to identifying old objects in pictures to help you learn more about your family history.
PROFILE AMERICA: FIRST TRAFFIC LIGHT
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
The 1950 Census for Genealogy
Countdown to the 1950 Census – Show Notes
- the interesting and little known stories behind the 1950 census,
- what it can reveal about your family, (and who you will NOT find!)
- the important documents associated with it that you can access right now!
Get the HD version by clicking the gear icon in the video player.
1950 Census Show Notes Cheat Sheet
Premium Members have access to the ad-free downloadable show notes cheat sheet in the Resources section at the bottom of the page. Click here to become a Premium Member.
What You Can Learn About Your Family from the 1950 Census
The 1950 Census may be able to answer all kinds of questions for you such as:
- Where was your family living in 1950?
- Did you have American relatives living abroad?
- What did your relatives do for a living?
- What was their household income in 1949?
The 1950 census also stands out because it ushered in some new features and data collection improvements with the goal of providing more complete and accurate information than ever before.
This census can help you confirm information you already have about your family while also providing new facts and clues for further genealogical research.
So, let’s dig into the 1950 US census. Oh wait…we better hold our horses! The 1950 census isn’t available yet!
When will the 1950 census be released?
The official census day in 1950 was April 1. So as of April 2021 we are one year away from the release of the 1950 Census. However, it’s never too soon to get acquainted with this important genealogical record. There’s a lot we can do to get ready to research when it’s released by the National Archives in April 2022. That will be 72 years after the official 1950 census day.
So why don’t we get to see the 1950 census until 72 years have passed?
The “72-Year Rule” became law in 1978 (92 Stat. 915; Public Law 95-416; October 5, 1978). It restricts access to decennial census records to only the person named on the record or their legal heir.
Why is there a “72-Year Rule” for the Census?
It’s long been believed that the rule was based on the average life-expectancy at the time. However, that may not be the case at all. Letters at the National Archives dating back to 1952 from the census bureau director and the archivist of the U.S. support the rule, but don’t say what it’s based on. Joel Weintraub’s essay Why the 72 Year Rule for U.S. Census Privacy? proposes that the rule evolved for a variety of reasons when the National Archives was first created.
The bottom line: For now, we have to wait until 2022 for the 1950 U.S. Federal Census.
Who was counted during the 1950 census?
In addition to Americans living here in the States, for the first time Americans abroad were enumerated in 1950. This included:
- members of the armed forces,
- crews on vessels at sea,
- and employees of the United States government and their families living in foreign countries.
Be aware that there were other people living abroad at that time who didn’t fall within these official categories. In those cases, they were to be reported by their families or even neighbors who lived in the U.S. This was clearly second-hand information which means that the information wasn’t as reliable. In fact, so much so that these individuals weren’t included in the published statistics. Keep this possibility in mind if you have trouble locating a relative when the census comes out.
What Questions Were Asked in the 1950 Census?
The 1950 population census questionnaire asked for information such as:
- whether their house was on a farm;
- relationship to the head of the household;
- marital status;
- birthplace if they were foreign born,
- whether or not they were naturalized;
- their employment status;
- how many hours they worked in a week;
- and class of worker.
The information provided by your ancestors has the potential to lead you to more genealogical records.
Geographic Areas Covered in the 1950 Census
So where were all these people living? The 1950 census covered:
- the continental United States,
- the territories of Alaska and Hawaii,
- American Samoa,
- the Canal Zone,
- Puerto Rico,
- the Virgin Islands of the United States,
- and some of the smaller island territories.
1950 Census Enumerators
In 1950 the population of the United States was about ½ of the population today. But it still took a lot of people and organization to count 150 million people. The people doing the counting are called enumerators. These enumerators came from all walks of life and had to be trained so that everyone got counted with the fewest mistakes possible. A technical training program was developed to accomplish this goal. 26 chief instructors would teach a few hundred instructors to train 8300 crew leaders who would ultimately train over 140,000 census enumerators.
1950 Census Enumeration District Maps
You may be wondering ‘how did the enumerators know where to go to count people?’ The answer is Enumeration Districts or EDs. The geographic area to be covered by the enumerator was divided up into Enumeration Districts. These ensured that enumerators were not crossing paths and duplicating efforts. EDs were just the right size so that the census taker could cover the area in one census period, which was about 2-4 weeks.
Enumeration District maps were drawn for the 1950 census. These are important for your genealogy research because they:
- describe your ancestors’ neighborhood in 1950
- are essential for figuring out where to find your ancestor in the census.
- don’t fall under the 72-year rule, which means that they are available now.
It takes time for the entire census to be indexed. If you want to start using it as soon as it’s released, you will need ED maps. You’ll need to know where your relatives lived so that you can find the address on the ED map. The map will provide you with the associated ED number. This number is needed to search the unindexed census.
There are 8000 ED maps for the 1950 census that have been digitized. You can find them at the National Archives website in Record Group 29: in the series called Enumeration District and Related Maps 1880-1990.
An alternative place to find 1950 Enumeration District maps is the One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse website. It’s not only an easier way to find the correct map, but it includes maps not found on the National Archives website. It’s also worth reading the essay on the website called Problems Using 1950 Enumeration District Maps. It will help you better understand how to use the maps.
Links to tools demonstrated:
Search 1950 ED Maps at One-Step.
Unified Census 1950 ED Finder search at One-Step.
1950 Census Enumerator Instructions
Up until 1870 the job of census taker fell to the U.S. Marshals. The U.S. Marshalls received very little in the way of instructions or training. It wasn’t until 1830 that they even got printed schedules to record the information given by each household! That all changed with an act of congress passed in 1879 that shifted the job to people specifically hired to be enumerators. This was just in time for the 1880 census.
By 1950, 140,000 census enumerators hit the field armed with their Enumeration District map showing them where to canvas, and a lengthy set of instructions that they received during their training. In fact, 1950 was the last time that the census was taken exclusively in person because in 1960 the Census Bureau started mailing out questionnaires.
The 1950 census enumerator instructions are available for free as a downloadable and searchable PDF file. It’s 24 pages of specific instructions designed to help enumerators record the information they gathered.
The enumerator instructions are important for you as a researcher because they explain what you’re seeing on the census page. If we see a mark or a notation, or a field left blank, the instructions will explain why the census did it that way. If we understand the why behind the information we find we will be much more likely to interpret it correctly.
An example of this can be found in the 1940 census. You’ve probably noticed X’s in circles scattered about the pages. On a map that could be misinterpreted as there’s buried treasure in that house! But alas, it doesn’t. Only the census enumerator instructions can help us really understand their true and important meaning. The 1940 census enumerator instructions state “Enter (X in a circle) after name of person furnishing information.” This helps us better determine the validity of the information provided for each individual in the household.
Who Was Not Counted in the 1950 Census?
The instructions for the 1950 census also includes a list of those people who were not to be enumerated, such as:
- People temporarily visiting the household
- Foreign citizens visiting embassies and similar facilities. Do enumerate foreigners who are studying or working here temporarily.
- Students below college level who are boarding to attend school locally.
- College students visiting but who live elsewhere to attend school.
- People who eat with the family but don’t sleep there.
- Domestic workers who don’t sleep in the household.
- Household members who are currently an inmate in prison or other institution.
- Ship crew members or people who live in lighthouses
- Absent Soldiers and sailors
What are 1950 Census Infant Cards?
There’s also an entire page in the instructions devoted to explaining what Infant Cards were and the information they were to contain. If you have relatives who were born in January, February or March of 1950, they would have had a special Infant Card completed just for them. Learn more: Download the infant card PDF
How Accurate is the 1950 US Census?
Several procedures were put in place in an effort to dramatically improve the accuracy and completeness of the 1950 census. These included:
- improved enumerator training,
- providing enumerators with detailed street maps of their assigned areas,
- publishing “Missed Person” forms in local newspapers,
- and setting aside specific days to conduct a special enumeration of people staying in hotels, motor courts, and other places frequented by transient people.
Also, in an effort to ensure greater accuracy and completeness, a post-enumeration survey was instituted for the first time. The Census Bureau recanvassed a sample of approximately 3,500 small areas and compared these to the original census listings. The goal was to identify households that might have been omitted in the original enumeration. They also took a sample of about 22,000 households and reinterviewed them to determine the number of people who might have been missed in the first count.
How Were Transient People Counted in the 1950 Census?
The challenge of counting people is that people can move around. This means they could be counted twice, or the genealogist’s nightmare: not counted at all!
The solution to counting transient people in the 1950 census was T-Night canvasses. The “T” stood for “transient” and they were held on Tuesday April 11 & Thursday April 13, 1950. They were designed to provide a more accurate count of people who did not have a fixed address or were temporarily away from home.
Tuesday, April 11, 1950 was the date for “an intensive drive to cover in a single night the occupants of certain places usually devoted to transients” such as hotels, YMCAs, and tourist courts or camps (campgrounds). Young men were moving to the city from rural areas, and the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) was a popular, safe and affordable place to stay. By 1940 YMCA room across the country totaled more than 100,000.
According to the instructions, enumerators were to visit these facilities from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening and again from 7 a.m. to 12 noon the next day. On Thursday, April 13, 1950 enumerators turned their attention to missions and flophouses. T-Night enumerators assigned to these facilities were to “station themselves at the main entrance or the lobby of the place” and instructed to interview guests, resident staff and employees personally.
Another unique feature of T-Nights was that enumerators used the Individual Census Report Form (ICR). In an unusual move, it was completed by the person being counted instead of by the census taker. This ensured privacy for the informant since census interviews often had to be conducted in hallways or a room with other roomers. Thanks to the 1950 census enumerators working the hotel lobby, asking guests passing through if they had already completed an ICR, calling up guests on the house phone and working with staff on identifying those checking in, there’s an even better chance that we will find our family members in the 1950 census.
What Does “REG” mean on the 1950 Census?
Even after all of this extra effort, some people never completed the ICR form. In those cases, the enumerator would fill out the ICR on information taken from the hotel register. The entry on the census would be marked “REG” indicating that the information came from the hotel register.
The 1950 Census Residential Survey
A new feature of the 1950 census was the Residential Survey. In a separate surveying effort, information was collected on a sample basis from owners of owner-occupied and rental properties and mortgage lenders.
1950 Census Technology Trivia
According to the National Archives, “The Census Bureau began use of the first non-military computer shortly after completing the 1950 enumeration. UNIVAC I (for Universal Automatic Computer), the first of a series, was delivered in 1951, and helped tabulate some of the statistics for the 1954 economic censuses. It weighed 16,000 pounds and used 5,000 vacuum tubes.”
5 Things to Do While Waiting for the 1950 US Federal Census
Looking for something to do now while you wait for the 1950 census? Here are just a few things you can do while you wait:
1. Review your family tree.
Make a list of those families you want to look up. And look for gaps and questions that might be able to be answered using the 1950 census.
2. Look for 1950 family addresses.
- Old letters
- Ask Relatives
- City directories
- Vital Records
- Occupational records
- Social Security Records
- 1940 census addresses
3. Use the One-Step website to find Enumeration District Numbers
- Enter the state and town to retrieve the map
- Find your ancestor’s address on the map
- Make note of the ED number written on the map for that address
- Read the essay: Problems Using 1950 Enumeration District Maps
Note: The One-Step website includes some maps not found at the National Archives!
4. Download the Enumeration District Map for your Ancestor’s Home
Again, you can access the maps through the One-Step website or the National Archives website. These are excellent research resources to have on hand. They can be used to create map overlays in the Google Earth Pro software. Step-by-step instructions for doing so can be found in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and my downloadable video tutorial series Google Earth for Genealogy.
5. Check out the 1790 through 1940 census records online at the National Archives.
Census records can be found at many popular genealogy websites. The National Archives has a great resource page listing each decennial census and the associated online resources including where census images are hosted and searchable for free or on subscription websites. It also includes additional resources and background on each census taken.
For more ideas on what you can do now to prepare, read How to Find Your Family History in the 1950 Census.
Watch Next: 1950 Census Questions
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Adoption Research Success: “I Continued His Quest to Find His Birth Mother:”
Searching for birth parents? This adoption research success story involved several proven techniques: mapping DNA matches, research legwork–and years of patient determination.
Adoption Research Inspiration
This inspiring letter about adoption research came to me from Liz:
Thank you for your part in a major milestone of my genealogy research! You motivated me, educated me, and shared many wonderful resources throughout hours and hours of your podcasts. After listening to you talk with Diahan Southard a few times, it finally dawned on me that I should contact her to help me better understand DNA and its impact on my research.
Here’s the “story” as it unfolded for me.
During much of the last 30+ years my brother-in-law, Chuck, searched constantly for his birth mother. Chuck maintained hope that information he requested from the state of Michigan or newly available electronic adoption records might give him enough clues to help him find his mother. Six or seven years ago, Chuck was disabled by a stroke and a few years following the stroke vascular dementia robbed him of his ability to continue the search for his mother. In January 2015, we were able to get Chuck (despite the dementia) to spit in the test tube and provide a DNA sample. Little did we know he would be dead by Thanksgiving. As I wrote Chuck’s obituary, I realized I could offer one other piece of assistance to Chuck’s widow and children. I offered to continue his quest to find his birth mother.”
Then Liz outlined the steps she took to carry on the search:
“After gathering the limited detail we had (birth date, location, possible mother’s name and age) I began my research in earnest. Ultimately I:
- created a “proposed” family tree for Chuck based on Chuck’s birth mother’s surname and his birth location,
- reviewed Chuck’s DNA matches and
- began to narrow down the family tree.
I used Diahan Southard’s website tutorials as the foundation for my analysis, put together a PowerPoint presentation with my research and theory and presented the information to her in a video conference. She found no fault in my logic and helped me plan my next steps: the search for Chuck’s birth father.”
Eventually, the paper trail and the genetic research came together to tell a story:
“Last week my niece finally received the adoption records from the state of Michigan, eighty-six years after Chuck was born, over twenty years after Chuck first requested them and almost a year after his daughter requested the records. I am impatiently awaiting my copy! What I do know so far:
My research (thanks to you and Diahan and DNA) accurately determined the identity of Chuck’s mother.
- She had a very difficult young life and died of TB—tuberculosis – when she was just 25 years old in 1939.
- Chuck’s mother became pregnant with Chuck while a ward of the state and an Inmate at a girls school.
- Chuck’s mother became pregnant during a time when the school “farmed out” Inmates to Harper Hospital to work as nurses’ aides.
- Both Chuck’s mother and her sister checked on Chuck after turning him over to the state, both in an attempt to get him back and to learn how he was doing.
It was heartwarming to learn that Chuck actually had a birth family who cared about him! I wish he had known!”
WOW, what an incredible story! Congratulations to Liz on such thorough and persistent research. I feel very sure that Chuck knows that not only did he have a birth family that cared, but also a wonderful sister-in-law (although I would guess he well aware of that even before he passed.)
I’m also thrilled that Genealogy Gems was able to play some part in Chuck and Liz’s story.
Get Ready for Adoption Research Success
Are you looking for someone’s birth parents? Get started with the DNA strategies Liz used:
- Take a DNA test from a company such as AncestryDNA, which has an enormous database of testers and family trees. Click here to learn more about your DNA testing options.
- Map your DNA test results using Google Earth and/or, if you test with AncestryDNA, the site’s tool within an individual DNA match view for identifying locations you have in common on your tree. Click here to learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy by watching my free full-length video class on using Google Earth for genealogy.
- Share your DNA results on other websites (such as Gedmatch) to increase your chances of finding matches.
To access Diahan’s great video tutorials on her site that Liz used, click here— as a Genealogy Gems reader you’ll get a great discount on them.
Along with DNA evidence, create the best paper trail possible, as Liz did. Scour all available records and follow up on all possible leads for any information about the birth parents. In this instance, Liz needed to rely on records created by or about institutions, such as the hospital and state girls’ school. Genealogy Gems Premium members will find tips for finding and using these records in my newest Premium video tutorial, Institutional Records. (If you’re not a member yet, click here to learn more. )
Sources in our cover image for this post include this photograph of a pregnant woman and a postcard found on the Harper Hospital (Detroit, MI) hospital webpage at RootsWeb. Click to view full citation information.