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Here are the reasons every family historian should be writing a family history blog–and how can you get started NOW.
Many of us want to write up our family stories, but with busy schedules, a 300-page book may not be in our future!
You don’t have to have a lot of time to write and share your family history. Blogging about family history is a perfect alternative. Blogs are just simple websites that present articles in chronological order beginning with the most recent. This is a great format for telling a story that travels through time.
Blogs also allow your readers to “subscribe” for free much like a podcast. In other words, your readers don’t have to remember to visit your blog and read the latest. Instead, they can receive email prompts when you publish new articles, or they can receive those new articles alongside their other favorite blogs and podcasts in a blog reader. Very convenient indeed!
Still not convinced it’s possible to start your own genealogy-themed blog? Here are 7 reasons why and how you can start a family history blog.
You don’t have to fill hundreds of pages or lay out an entire book. With a blog you can write as little as a paragraph at a time. There are no rules because it is your blog!
Over time, even a one-paragraph blog post, once a week, will eventually result in many pages. It’s a great way to pace yourself and still get your family’s story in writing.
Gone are the days of simply posting a query on a genealogy message board that only reaches genealogists.
By blogging about your family history, other people who are researching the same family lines can find and connect with you through their Google searches. You’ll be writing about the family they are searching for, so you’ll very likely be using many of the same keywords, dates and information that they will include in their search query. This means your blog should pop up high on their Google search results list!
Think of your family history blog as your own big message board. Your posts can be found by anyone in the world searching for the same information. The connection possibilities are endless. So essentially, family history blogs are your way to “fish for cousins.” This of it as “cousin bait!”
Blogs typically include a Comment section at the end of each of your articles, so encourage visitors to your blog to leave comments. Don’t worry, you can set your blog to only show the comments after you have reviewed and approved them.
I’ve heard and shared countless success stories here at Genealogy Gems from readers and listeners. By just “putting it out there” on a blog they have opened the door to a distant relative contacting them with a treasure trove of new information about their family tree.
“Your encouragement to blog genealogy has given me courage and a vehicle for which I can share the stories of our family’s common history. So, over the past month I’ve been posting digital images of each day (from my great grandfather’s) journal from 50 years ago, the transcription of the journal and an historical image that gives context to what he was writing about. I plan to include family photos and other documents as I expand this blog.”
– Chris C.
Have you ever told a story out loud and discovered in telling it that something in the story didn’t quite jive? A blog can help you tell your family’s story “out loud” too.
The process of writing up your family history discoveries can often reveal gaps, errors, or bad assumptions in your research. And that’s a good thing! Use it to your advantage to identify further research that needs to be done. But those items on your research to do list.
And don’t be afraid to let your reader know what your gaps are and where you’re stuck. They just might be able to help!
Your descendants probably prefer to read quick and easy stories on-the-go on their smart phones and tablets, and a blog fits the bill perfectly.
Putting your research on a blog provides your relatives with an easy way to digest the family heritage. And of course they can subscribe to it, since blogs can be delivered to their email inbox or to a blog reader like Feedly.
Blog posts are also super easy to share to Facebook, which means your post can get even more traction.
“The family response has been amazing. The cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles think it is cool and want to see more! They love the stories and can’t wait for subsequent postings so they can hear detailed history about (him) that they never knew about.
I believe this blog will be part of how our family begins healing and comes back together again.”
You can start a blog for free, so cost is not a barrier.
There are no rules, so you can decide how often and how much you write at once.
There is just one thing you have to do to successfully blog about your family history: begin.
The best news of all is that your family history blog will be out there working online for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Even when life gets in the way and you need to take a sabbatical from blogging and genealogy, your blog is still out there ready to be found. You will still be sharing your family’s story, and attracting relatives to it. And when you’re ready, your blog will be ready for you to add the next chapter.
Starting a family history blog isn’t hard. But some people find it intimidating. So I’ve created two entire series to help you get started.
Click to watch this free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel These videos show you how to set up a family history blog. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea. You’ll see how to get started for free in Blogger, with your Google account.
(I use WordPress for my website and my blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.) Need more encouragement? Click here to hear from other readers who are very glad they got started.
Click to listen to a free series from our Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast(an online radio show).
Starting with episode 38, you’ll learn:
The “Footnote Maven,” author of two popular blogs, talks about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, tips for getting people to comment on your blog posts and more.
We hear from two additional popular genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).
How to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!
In this concluding episode, learn how to add a few more gadgets and details to your blog; pre-plan your blog posts, publish your first article, and how to help your readers subscribe. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.
Invite someone you know to start a family history blog of their own. Send them a link to this webpage or share it through social media. They’ll thank you for it later!
And if you have started a family history blog, please comment below and share your experience.
Show Notes: DNA Painter explained with the creator of the shared centimorgans project on DNApainter.com, Blaine Bettinger. In this video, you’ll get answers to questions such as:
Special Guest: Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist
Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members.
(This interview has been slightly edited for clarity)
Lisa: What is DNA painter?
Blaine: DNA Painter is a really incredible website for genealogists working with their DNA results.
There are several different aspects of the website, including chromosome mapping, which is assigning segments of DNA to particular ancestors. There are some tools for testing hypotheses, like What Are the Odds. And there’s also the Shared Centimorgan Project, which allows you to hypothesize what a genealogical relationship to a match might be based on the amount of DNA you share with that match.
Lisa: As I understand it, that’s kind of how you got involved with DNA painter, or how DNA painter evolved. Tell us a little bit about your background and your work with the Shared cM Tool.
Blaine: I have been a genetic genealogist, essentially, for almost 20 years now. I started in 2003 with my first DNA test and I’ve been a genealogist since middle school. So, I’ve been working in this DNA field for a long time.
Once autosomal DNA testing came along, we discovered that there wasn’t a lot of information about known ranges for various relationships. For example, if I test myself in a first cousin, how much DNA would we share? What might be considered a normal amount? What might be an abnormal amount, and so on? So, I started in 2015 collecting data from test takers, for example, sets of first cousins. We wanted to be able to answer questions like what’s your relationship? And how much DNA do you share? Once I started to collect enough of that data, I could get an idea about what the range for various relationships might be.
Johnny Pearl, the incredible creator behind DNA painter, asked if he could host a version of the Shared Centimorgan Project at the website. I was thrilled to see that. And so now there is a hosted version of the Shared Centimorgan Project with all of those ranges for about 40 different relationships at a DNA Painter.
Lisa: Well, that’s really kind of the whole industry, isn’t it? It’s very collaborative. And it’s amazing how it seems like different people have different pieces of the puzzle.
Is DNA Painter free? How does someone get involved? Do we need an account?
Blaine: It depends on what you want to do. If you want to use the Shared Centimorgan Project tool, there’s no cost for that. That’s free for anyone to use. So, you would just go to DNA Painter, and either register for a free account, or have no account and still be able to use the Shared Centimorgan Tool.
If you want to start chromosome mapping at DNA Painter, you do get one free map. That’s the assignment of those segments to ancestors. But if you wanted to have maybe a couple maps, you would have to run into having a subscription to the site, which is well worth the money it takes to have a subscription because it’s so valuable in helping you organize your matches and working with your segment information, and so on.
Lisa: You mentioned the chromosome mapping, and the Shared Centimorgan Tool, and What Are the Odds? Can you give us an example of a burning question that a genealogist might have, and that the answer is, “you need to go to DNA painter to do that”?
Blaine: So, let’s say for example, you get a new match at testing company ABC, and that match shares 400 Centimorgans with you. The immediate question is, how is this person related to me? That’s a lot of DNA to share with someone but without a frame of reference you don’t really know. Is it could that my eighth cousin? Is it my sibling? What are the possible relationships?
If you go to DNA Painter and the Shared Centimorgan Project, you pop in 400 Centimorgans. What that’s going to do is it’s going to give you the possible relationships that that could be. And so that’s going to significantly narrow down your search for your genealogical relationship to this new DNA match that you have.
Lisa: Oh, yeah, that would be huge.
So, does this require much technical know-how? Do people have to feel like they’re scientific in nature, or can anybody do this? Could a person new to using genetic genealogy feel like they could do this?
Blaine: Absolutely! And I think one of the great things about DNA Painter and Johnny is that everything is designed to be user-friendly. The website is incredibly easy to understand and interact with the Shared Centimorgan Project. I’m of course biased, but I think it is also created in such a way to be easily understandable. The results of that search for 400 centimorgan relationships is going to give you an output that I think is easy to interpret and understand.
Lisa: What’s your favorite tip? What do you recommend that people either not miss, or make sure that they do while they are at DNA Painter?
Blaine: Bookmarking the Shared Centimorgan Project I think is really important. I think many genealogists use it on a daily basis. Again, I’m biased, but the value of the tool is that it’s free. And it’s so important to helping you understand the possible relationships for your DNA matches.
Now, years from now, once you do this enough, you can start to remember some of the ranges. You can kind of do it in your head. But until you get to that stage, bookmark that site, and you can just refer to it quickly when you’re working with your DNA results.
Lisa: That’s a good idea. It’s very easy to just drag that URL right on to your web browser bookmark bar and have a bookmark ready to go.
You’ve really been on the forefront of all of this genetic genealogy. And I know that you’re the author of a book, tell us the name of your book.
Blaine: The name of my book is the Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, second edition.
Lisa: What do you think we can look forward to in the future of genetic genealogy?
Blaine: I think it’s really hard to predict in some ways. Some of the tools we have now are our tools we couldn’t even have imagined several years ago. And what’s fueling this growth is the growth of the databases themselves.
For example, just in the past week or so Ancestry came out with a new tool called Side View that allows the grouping of your matches into the two different sides of your family: your paternal side and your maternal side. We couldn’t have imagined a tool like that just a couple of years ago, but it’s because of the size of the database.
For me, the future is two-fold. Number one, it’s the development of these new tools by the testing companies. And it’s also development of new tools by third parties, including the tools like the Shared Centimorgan Project, DNA Painter, and so on. I think we’re going to see more and more tools come out that allow us to work with our results in new and interesting ways.
Lisa: Do you think they’ll ever be a time where the tools and the machine learning that eventually there’s enough data accumulated between people who have tested and people who do genealogy and people who do both, that it could actually automate this process?
Blaine: I do think there’s a huge potential for automation. The one thing that I think is missing right now is that most genetic genealogists, most genealogists period, function as islands. And there isn’t enough collaboration in a way that allows us to benefit from each other’s work. And so, I think there needs to be a way to start to tie together in a more collaborative way, the work that we’ve done. For example, assigning segments of DNA to ancestors.
If I figure out that this stretch of DNA came from Jane and John Doe, that’s great, but that lives on my computer. If there were a way to share that with the world in an easy and collaborative way by clicking a couple of buttons, then, once we have thousands of people doing that, we could have a pretty incredible database and start to really work in a collaborative fashion.
Lisa: Collaboration certainly has been the key behind so much of what’s grown in genealogy.
Blaine, thank you so much for all of your work in this area. It’s fascinating to watch what you’ve been up to and I’m going to keep my eyes on you into the future. Please tell folks where they can visit you to learn more about you and what you have to offer.
Blaine: The two main places are thegeneticgenealogist.com, which is my blog. If you’re a Facebook user, we have Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques, which is a Facebook group. It’s free to join, and from beginner to expert, everybody I think has a really good time in that Facebook group.
Lisa: It’s always good to see you. Thank you so much, Blaine!
Blaine: Thank you so much.
Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members.
Do you have a DNA problem?
Maybe it’s as simple as having a ton of matches and not knowing what to do with them. How do you keep track of all those matches. How to you know which matches to focus on? How can you can use all your matches to do what you really want to do, which is learn more about my family history?
In this episode of Elevenses with Lisa we are visiting with someone who has worked past many of those problems. She uses her DNA matches to solve some of her genealogical questions and the questions of her patrons. Today she’s here to help you!
My special guest is Sara Allen, a librarian at the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to talk to Sara because she’s not a biologist, or a Genetic Genealogy Guru. She’s like you and me: she’s passionate about family history! She shares genetic genealogy with folks in a very practical, and easy-to-understand way.
As a side note, we were lucky to record this episode because the day Sara and I were to meet to record the library was closed due to a snow storm. I’m in Texas and we’re buried in a deep freeze with devastating power outages, and at our house, no water for a time. But we moved things around and got it done. However, in all the chaos I managed to put my microphone on the wrong setting, so I’m going to sound like I’m sitting in a Folgers coffee can. But that doesn’t matter because it is what Sara has to say that’s really important.
Oh, and they were also doing construction at the library the day we finally recorded, so it’ll sound occasionally like we use jack hammers on our DNA! However, neither snow nor ice nor lack of water nor construction zones will keep us (as your faithful genealogists) from the swift completion of this appointed show.
Special Guest: Sara Allen, Librarian, Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:
Then she shared the specific steps for her research plan.
Step 3 was to choose the most relevant DNA test. This is important because there are three main kinds of tests out there. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Understanding what each test is capable of is key to getting the results you need.
If you’ve decided that an Autosomal DNA test is what you need, a relative one or two generations older (on the correct side of the family) is always better. Examples: Parents, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, Great-aunts/uncles, Parent’s first cousin
If you’re going to do a Y or mtDNA, choose a family member who falls within the correct path of DNA inheritance.
If there is a family tree, copy it, either electronically or print it out on paper. Compare and contrast trees looking for common names, common ancestor couples, common places. Work on establishing relationship between the different matches based on their trees. In other words, do genealogy!
Here’s an outline of the case Sara covers in this episode so you can follow along.
Dovey Reynolds was born around 1822 in North Carolina and was married in 1846 in Owen County, Indiana to Phillip Allen. She died in 1901 in Jefferson County, Kansas. No records have been found naming her parents.
Autosomal DNA – test the closest living person to the mystery ancestor: Test my father or his sister (aunt) to get one generation closer.
Step 5: Complete Family Tree for Other Family Lines
Results of our search for “Reynolds” in matches’ trees: Look for Reynolds in key locations in Dovey’s life such as NC and IN, especially Owen Co. IN, and maybe KS:
24 matches to William Reynolds’ descendants (27 cM – 8 cM)
Granddaughter Kathy took the autosomal DNA test.
Ancestry DNA match sorting options:
Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:
Can we find a marriage between these 2 families? Yes – Daniel Hedges married Alice Crute ca. 1894 probably Warren Co. PA.
with Lisa Louise Cooke
In this episode:
Click here to watch the short RootsTech 2018 official recap video.
Update: The Companion Guidebook has been discontinued.
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.
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 https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
Beginning German Genealogy: Defining “German”
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is some get-started-now tips from Legacy Tree Genealogists on tracing your German ancestors. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.
To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit www.legacytree.com. Exclusive Offer for Genealogy Gems readers: Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project using code GGP100. (Offer may expire without notice.)
Click here to see the full article (and plenty of images!) on the Genealogy Gems website.
Findmypast.com is the Genealogy Giant best known for its deep, unparalleled historical record content for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Tamsin Todd is the Chief Executive Officer of Findmypast.com. She “has worked in the travel, retail and technology sectors, and brings with her a track record of leading successful growth businesses. She spent the early part of her career at Amazon and then Microsoft, where she led the introduction of ecommerce and search products into the UK and Europe. This was followed by stints as Head of Ecommerce at Betfair, and Managing Director of TUI-owned Crystal Ski Holidays. She joins Findmypast from Addison Lee, where she was Chief Customer Officer of Europe’s largest car service company. Tamsin lives in London with her family, and is Digital Trustee of the Imperial War Museums.”
Ben Bennett is Executive Vice President, North America and International at Findmypast.com, “focused on helping families stay connected in the United States and other markets across the globe.”
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Just last year, if you had asked me if I thought anyone could catch AncestryDNA in their race to own the genetic genealogy market, I would have been skeptical. However, it is clear that MyHeritage intends to be a contender, and they are quickly ramping up their efforts to gain market share and your confidence.
MyHeritage began 2018 by making a much-needed change to their DNA matching algorithm, which had some errors in it. They were able to adjust it, and now it is humming right along, telling our second cousins from our fourth. Another development, launched in February, is the addition of a Chromosome Browser.
Much like you would browse the library shelves for the perfect book, or browse through the sale rack for a great bargain, you can use a Chromosome Browser to look through your chromosomes for the pieces of DNA you share with your genetic cousins.
Chromosome Browsers can be everything from a fun way to review your genetic genealogy results, to a tool to assist in determining how you are related to someone else. Let’s go over three tips to help you make use of this new tool.
There are actually two different kinds of Chromosome Browsers in MyHeritage: one to view only the segments you share with one match (the One-to-One Browser), and a browser where you can see the segments shared with multiple matches (the One-to-Many Browser).
To get to the One-to-One Browser, head over to your match page and find a cousin for whom you would like to see your shared DNA segments. Click on Review DNA Match, then scroll down past all the individual match information, past the Shared Matches and Shared Ethnicities until you see the Chromosome Browser.
To find the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser, you can use the main DNA navigation menu at the top of the MyHeritage homepage. Click on DNA, then on Chromosome Browser, as shown below.
In the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser you can compare yourself, or any account you manage, to anyone else in your match page. To choose a match to evaluate, just click on their name and they will be added to the queue at the top, as shown here.
Clicking on Compare will then allow you to see the actual segments you share with each person:
In this One-To-Many view, each individual match gets their own line for each chromosome. Since we have added 7 people to the Chromosome Browser, there are seven lines next to each chromosome number. Each match not only gets their own line, but also their own color. So you can easily match up the lines on the chromosome to the match that shares that piece of DNA with you. For the majority of people the majority of the time, these Chromosome Browsers are just another fun way to visualize the connection you have with your DNA match. In the end, it doesn’t matter where you are sharing on the chromosome, just how much DNA you are sharing. You can obtain that information from your main match page and never look at this Chromosome Browser image, and still make fantastic genetic genealogy discoveries.
Another feature of the Chromosome Browser on MyHeritage is the Triangulation tool. To understand how this works, you first need to understand that you actually have two copies of each chromosome. Two copies of chromosome 1, two copies of chromosome 2, etc. One copy is from mom, and the other from dad. However, in the Chromosome Browser image, you see only one line for yourself (in grey). Therefore, when you see someone matching you on chromosome 14, for example, you don’t know if that person is matching you on the chromosome 14 you got from your mom, or the chromosome 14 you got from your dad.
Likewise, if you see two people whose shared piece with you looks to be in the same location on the same chromosome, you can’t tell if they are both sharing on the same copy of that chromosome, or if one match is related to your dad’s family, and the other match is related to your mom’s family. However, this is what the Triangulation tool does for us. It tells us if two (or three or four, etc.) matches are sharing on the same copy of the same chromosome. Be careful when you use this tool, though. Many erroneously assume that when they see a segment shared between multiple people, that indicates the presence of a recent common ancestor for all of those people. However, that is not always the case.
MyHeritage.com 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.
Ready to start exploring what the MyHeritage DNA chromosome browser may tell you about your family history? You have two options. Click here to upload your autosomal DNA test results from another company to MyHeritage for FREE. Or click here to order a MyHeritage DNA test kit. Either way, you can start using all the great tools at MyHeritage DNA!
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Michael Strauss, Military Minutes Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
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MyHeritage DNA is new on the scene of genetic genealogy. With the recent launch of their DNA Matching, I decided to give it a test drive for you. I have now uploaded my test results from another company. Follow along as I share what I like about the MyHeritage DNA site…maybe it is just what you’ve been looking for!There is no question that the launch of MyHeritage DNA fully into the genetic genealogy market is exciting news. We absolutely need someone to challenge AncestryDNA. Competition is good.
In September, MyHeritage began to provide matching results for individuals who had uploaded their test results from another company to their site. As of today, uploading your DNA test results to MyHeritage DNA is still free, so if you have been thinking about it, you may want to take advantage sooner rather than later. As expected, the matches are only as good as the depth of the database, and it is early in the game. Their DNA database is small, but even now we can get an idea of what to expect from MyHeritage as they take their first steps into genetic genealogy.
One of the most exciting elements of their November 7, 2016 announcement is their development of a Founder Population project where they have hand-picked individuals to represent their reference population for calculating ethnicity. They plan to launch with 25 population groups, but will likely increase to 100 in a fairly short amount of time. This is a far more advanced ethnicity report than is currently offered anywhere else.
After you have figured out how to download your raw data from your testing company (see my instructions here: http://www.yourdnaguide.com/transferring), and add it to MyHeritage (you have to add a family tree to MyHeritage to do this), you will need to wait the requisite time to process. Then, you will receive an email notice that you have new DNA matches:
You can access DNA matches when you log on to the site: under Discoveries, click DNA Matches (as shown below).
As for my favorite features, I like how they list all the possible relationships that make sense between you and your match, taking into account multiple factors like your age, gender, and your genetics instead of a simple, generic range like 2nd-4th buy chlamydia medication uk cousins. The accompanying chart, which visually shows you all possible relationships, is also very helpful. You can access the chart by clicking on the little question mark icon next to the relationship suggestions.
I like that these suggestions remind us that our genetic relationships have different genealogical interpretations. Meaning that genetically, a 2nd-cousin-once-removed, a first-cousin-twice-removed, and a second-cousin, all fall within a similar genetic range and it is impossible to determine your exact relationship based on the genetics alone.
I also like how MyHeritage offers all three genetic descriptors of your relationship:
While this is more of an intermediate to advanced piece to your results, it can be important as your relationship analysis becomes more involved.
MyHeritage makes a unique claim in their press release about their matching feature addressing a main concern genetic genealogists have: the lack of pedigree information provided by their matches. MyHeritage claims that 95% of their DNA samples have pedigrees attached. That is remarkable! However, from my own quick calculation of my matches, the number with pedigrees is more like 60%.
They also indicated that they will soon be doing a bit of pedigree-analysis for you by providing a list of shared surnames and locations between you and your match. This will be based on the pedigrees you have both submitted and will certainly be a welcome addition.
According to their November 9th Q and A, MyHeritage hasn’t decided yet if the ethnicity features will be available to those who only transfer, and they hint at many more features they have in the works that may only be offered to those who purchase their test.
In short, the MyHeritage DNA site is currently functioning much like the top three genetic genealogy sites (Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and 23andMe) and like the free tool Gedmatch: it offers a meeting place for those who have been tested at one company to meet those who have tested at another.