The Burning of the Gipsy – Behind the Scenes of Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?The final episode of TLC’s first season of Who Do You Think You Are? came with more than just an extra helping of ancestral drama. Along with the end of the season came the welcome announcement that WDYTYA? will  return in 2014 on TLC.

First, the final episode recap: American actor Jim Parsons explored his paternal line and discovered one ancestor who was lost in a tragic accident–and another who narrowly escaped death by guillotine.

The Ancestry.com research team reports, “When we went digging into Jim Parsons’ family tree we found his third-great-grandfather was Jean Baptiste Hacker, a phyWDYTYA Gipsy articlesician who was raised in New Orleans but moved to Plaquemine, Louisiana, after starting his medical career. Just a few years later, Dr. Hacker, along with his daughter Leocadie and his nephew, was killed in a tragic fire on board the steamboat Gipsy in December 1854.”

They documented the accident through an article from New Orleans paper the Daily Picayune (digitized at Newspapers.com and shown here):

Another line of research takes Jim’s ancestry back to France, where he learned one of his forebears was an architect to Louis XV. “The timing of Louis Francois [Trouard]’s appointment is significant: 1787 is only two years prior to the French Revolution. Four architects were executed during the Revolution, and another 25 were imprisoned. Yet Louis Francois escaped Republican retribution….”

“At the Chapelle de la Providence, a structure designed by his ancestor, Jim discovers the startling truth: Louis Francois had good revolutionary credentials, including houseguests such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.”

Along with that riveting last episode, TLC just announced it will bring back more of the same next season. On September 10, Digital Spy reported that 2014 will see 10 more episodes. Celebrity guests haven’t been announced yet, so stay tuned! We’ll keep you posted on future developments.

Meanwhile, TV watchers, mark your calendars for the American version of Genealogy Roadshow, the  PBS show scheduled to debut next week.

 

 

3 Reasons You Need the New Version of Google Earth Just Released

Google celebrated Earth Day by releasing Google Earth 7.1 and announcing some great new content! And there are three reasons you will want to make the upgrade:

1. New Hands-Free Navigation Technology
The big news with version 7.1 is Leap Motion support, a touch-free 3d technology that lets you “navigate Google earth with simple hand gestures.” The Leap Motion Controller ($79.99) will start shipping mid-July, so you’ve got some time to get to know Google Earth a little better before you start flying around in it like this:

You KNOW I have to get me some of that!

2. More 3D City Views
There’s also exciting new 3D data in Google Earth, most notably for New York City. But there’s also more imagery for other cities around the world: Innsbruck, Austria; Dijon, France; Cagliari, Italy and the Spanish cities of San Sebastian, Santander, Pamplona, Manresa and Burgos. Other U.S. cities with 3D coverage include Miami, FL;  Houston, TX; Orlando, FL; Encinitas, CA and Spokane, WA.

3. The Addition of the 50th Country to Google Maps’ popular Street View Feature
You can now view 50 countries buy lasix medication online with Google Maps’ popular Street View feature. The newest nations to be added are Hungary and Lesotho (a tiny country within South Africa), and there’s new or updated coverage for Poland, Romania, France, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Thailand and other locations worldwide. Google calls this “the largest single update of Street View imagery we’ve ever pushed, including new and updated imagery for nearly 350,000 miles of roads across 14 countries.”

Help for Using Google Earth for Genealogy
How can you access these fabulous features, both for fun virtual travel and for seriously fun genealogy research? Upload the latest version of Google Earth for free (for PC, Mac or Linux). Then check out my Google Earth for Genealogy 2-CD Bundle. There’s a reason is this one of my best-selling Google Earth for Genealogy Bundlepresentations: Google Earth is one of the best genealogy research tools around! In these CD presentations, I show you how to locate and map ancestral homesteads; use historical map overlays; identify where old photos were taken; create 3D models of ancestral locations; create custom family history tours and much more.

DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

Slave traders in Senegal. "Marchands d'esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526" by Rama - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click to see image online.

Slave traders in Senegal. “Marchands d’esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526” by Rama – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click to see image online.

Did you hear what has been discovered about the remains of three Caribbean slaves found on the island of St. Martin? Scientific techniques identified them as two males and one female, all between 25 and 40 years of age, who were buried around the mid-to-late-1600s.

But where were they from? It took DNA to help answer that question, with a process very similar to that used to identify our ethnic origins in DNA testing today.

First, scientists had to retrieve DNA from the sun-bleached, humidity-soaked remains. Their first stop: the teeth. Traditional DNA extraction and analysis methods failed, but results were found with a new method called whole genome capture. You can think of this method like unleashing an army of vigilantes on your DNA, each one tasked with bringing back a particular portion for analysis. While this method was far more successful, it still was only able to find 7% of the DNA of the best sample.

Second, they needed a reference population: a group of Africans to compare these results to in order to find a match. There is such a group assembled, which contains 11 of the likely 50 population groups that contributed to the slave trade.  Keep in mind that in Africa, especially at that time, populations were not defined by geography as much as language. So when you hear African populations defined, it is often according to their relationship to one very large language group in Africa, called Bantu. There are really two groups: those that are Bantu speakers, and those who are not.

Even with the incomplete DNA and the limited reference population, the group was able to determine that two of the slaves belonged to non-Bantu speaking tribes, likely in present day Ghana or Nigera, while the third was Bantu speaking, possibly from northern Cameroon.

Finding ancient samples such as these, and having technology enough to analyze them, if even just a small part, has huge implications for the future of genetic genealogy, and family history. These kinds of genetic techniques can help place you in a genealogical relationship with another person, where your traditional genealogical methods could not.  Family history, the substance and story of your relationship, inevitably follows.

I think Fatimah Jackson, a biologist and anthropologist at Howard University, said it best. “It seems to me that, as a scientist, the best way to ‘honor’ these unfortunate individuals is to allow their story to be told,” she says. “The story of a few can illuminate the condition of the masses.” We may never know the names and specific life histories of this woman and two men any more than we already do. But DNA has gotten us closer to telling at least some of their story. Click here to read the scientific study.

DNA and genealogyAre you ready to let your genetics help tell your story? Learn more about DNA testing with my Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy Quick Guide, available now in the Genealogy Gems store. In fact, I have a whole series of Guides there on using DNA for genealogy. Check them all out! 

If you’re ready for some one-on-one consulting to see what DNA can tell you about your family history, visit my website to learn more.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

Each Friday we share a list of selected new genealogy records online. Watch for records in which your ancestors might appear–and get inspired by the kinds of records that may be out there waiting for you to discover. This week: Australian cemetery records, British military officer deaths, various U.S. passenger lists and North Carolina marriage records.

AUSTRALIAN CEMETERY RECORDS. Two million indexed records have been added to the free Australia, Queensland Cemetery Records, 1802–1990 dataset at FamilySearch.org. According to the site, “The records include an index which combines several other indexes, cemetery transcriptions, burial and other records from cemeteries in Queensland….Cemetery records are especially helpful for identifying ancestors who were not recorded in other records, such as children who died young or women. They may also give clues to finding more information. In Australia, the first cemetery is reported to have been in Sydney in 1788.”

BRITISH MILITARY OFFICER DEATHS. FindMyPast’s new dataset, Royal Artillery Officer Deaths 1850-2011, lists the details of over 17,000 commissioned officers who were killed or died during the campaigns in Kosovo, Bosnia, Borneo and Iraq as well as the First and Second World Wars. It is estimated that since the regiment’s formation in May 1716, over 2.5 million men and women have served with the regiment. Each record includes a transcript of details found in the original records.

US PASSENGER LISTS. Browsable images were added to several existing US immigration records. Click here (and then scroll down) to view a table that has links directly to these datasets:

  • For San Diego, CA:Airplane Passenger and Crew Lists, 1929–1954 and an apparently segregated Chinese Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905–1923;
  • San Francisco, CA Passenger Lists, 1893–1953;
  • Key West, FL Passenger Lists, 1898-1945;
  • Minnesota Passenger Lists, 1910-1923;
  • New York City, NY Passenger and Crew Lists Soundex (meaning an index based on how a name sounds), 1887-1921; (this is actually a new image collection)
  • North Dakota Manifests of Immigrant Arrivals, 1910-1952 (this is also new).

NORTH CAROLINA (US) COUNTY MARRIAGES, 1741-2011. This new dataset on Ancestry “includes images of marriage bonds, licenses, certificates, and registers from 87 different counties.” According to an Ancestry blog post, some marriages have multiple records in this collection, like a bond and an indexed marriage record. This record set may be particularly useful for those tracing African-American marriages, as they “reference the joining of couples living as man and wife dating back to 1820, and possibly earlier…. Sometimes they also include the names of their former owners.” There’s a free, similar-looking dataset at FamilySearch, but the dates aren’t as extensive (it covers 1762-1979).

Tip: When searching within record sets like these, read the record collection description! Sometimes you are just seeing a partial collection that is being updated on an ongoing basis. Some years or locales may be missing from an otherwise complete record set.

When you have questions that aren’t answered in the record collection description online, Google them! Use keywords like the type of record (“marriage records”) and the missing locale (“Burdett County”) to see whether other sites can lead you to these records or confirm that they don’t exist. Learn more about advanced Google searching for genealogy in the fully-updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 181

1950s family historySock hops. Drive-ins. Juke boxes. Fuzzy dice. Letterman jackets. Poodle skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes. Do the 1950s come to mind? They will when you listen to the newly-published Genealogy Gems podcast, episode 181!

The 1950s are a great era to research your family history, but it may not seem easy at first. Federal censuses (1950 in the U.S. and 1951 in Canada, the U.K. and Australia) are privacy-restricted, and so are many vital records.

In this episode, I’ll inspire you with several very FUN approaches to learning about your family history during this time period. I’ll also give you some tips and factoids about those blacked-out 1950s censuses–including which census had women up in arms because the government asked them to be more honest about their ages!

There’s plenty of news in this episode, too, from a new Google innovation to two new record collections online that fill in some holes in U.S. documentary history (military and African-American). I’ll read some mail from YOU about the new Ancestry site and family history blogging and share some helpful resources. And we announce the latest Genealogy Gems Book Club pick: listen or click here to learn more about that!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastClick here to access Genealogy Gems podcast episode 181. Love this and looking for more? Click here to access the FULL archive of FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episodes. If you love the podcast format but are looking for a more stepGenealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up-by-step approach to family history, check out our free Family History Made Easy podcast series.

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