Understanding DNA Ethnicity Estimates

DNA ethnicity estimates are fun conversation-starters. But the “pie charts” become more meaningful genealogically when you can assign timelines to the places your ancestors were from. Here’s an update to our ongoing conversation about what DNA...

DNA Testing: 3 Tips Before You Ask Your Relatives to Spit

Here’s what you need to know before you encourage your relatives to join you on your genetic genealogy journey. There are a few things to think about before they spit in that tube and our DNA Guide, Diahan Southard, is here to help!

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Did you see those holiday price wars on DNA testing over the holidays? I’m guessing we haven’t seen the end of these now that it’s becoming so trendy! Genealogists are seeing the research payoffs of DNA testing and now another major genealogy website (MyHeritage) is offering testing services, as well.

As the prices and sales generally become more attractive, more of you will want to expand your personal genetic database to include aunts, uncles, and cousins. But what is the best way to proceed? How exactly do you ask someone for his or her DNA? You may just have one shot at this. If so, which test? Which company? Here are three tips to consider before spitting into the tube!

Tip One: Test the Eldest Generation First

You likely have a limited amount of funds with which to populate your family genetic database, so you’ll want to use them wisely. Anyone who does not have both parents living should be tested first. Here’s what I suggest:

  • ordering an autosomal DNA test for everyone
  • ordering a YDNA for one male delegate for each surname you want represented

As for the testing company, you now have four choices:

1. FTDNA
2. 23andMe
3. AncestryDNA
4. MyHeritage

While there are several factors to consider when choosing a company, database size is probably the number one factor. Currently, AncestryDNA has the largest DNA database. The reason this is important is because your DNA will be matched and compared to others who have taken a DNA test. By testing with a company that has done lots of tests, your chance of finding matches goes up tremendously. You can also go to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy’s wiki for a full list of characteristics of each company.

Tip Two: Take Care of Everything for the Person Being Tested

Depending on the needs and interest of your relative, you can handle everything from ordering, payment, to even correspondence. All they have to do is spit or swab! This will often alleviate feelings of trepidation on part of the person being tested, especially if they aren’t really into this genealogy craze in the first place. Here are my recommendations:

If testing at Family Tree DNA: You will need to keep track of the log-in credentials for each relative.

If testing at AncestryDNA: Make sure all kits are registered under your account. The easiest way to do this is to have the family member take a photo of the activation code on the sample collection tube and send it to you so you can register it after you have logged into your Ancestry account. Hint: Register everyone’s DNA test results under the family member who has a subscription to Ancestry!

If testing at MyHeritage: Make sure that all kits are registered under your account. To the best of my knowledge, you order the kit under your account.

If your relative does want to be involved, all the better! You can have them share their Family Tree DNA or 23andMe login with you, or they can share their AncestryDNA results with you. To share their AncestryDNA results with you, visit my website at https://www.yourdnaguide.com/sharing-ancestrydna.

If you haven’t tested with a particular company yourself, familiarize yourself with the sample collection so you can be helpful when they have questions:

Tip Three: Share Your Own Experience

First of all, nothing speaks louder than your own experience. Before asking your relative to take a test, consider starting with a short summary of your own DNA journey. Keep in mind what might interest them – do they like deep history? If yes, you could share the ethnicity results of your own test. Did they have a special connection to Great-grandpa Joe? In this case, you could show how your DNA connected to a 2nd cousin who was also a descendant of Joe. Maybe you could bust out the photo album. Remind them that while Joe is gone, there are threads of DNA that can speak for him and we need as many of his descendants as possible to be tested in order to preserve his genetic legacy and unravel the mystery of his past.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

 

 

AncestryDNA Review and Breaking News! Updates Launched

“This is really the first time a DNA testing company has so fully integrated genetics and genealogy.  We can now find cousins in the database who do not share our particular genetics, but who do share some of the genetics of our common ancestor.  This is huge.” -Diane Southard, Your DNA Guide

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about some changes taking place over at AncestryDNA. You will recall that they are planning to slash your match list to allow only “invited guests” to your personal DNA party. (Read that post to be reminded why this is a good thing.)

Ancestry has officially announced the launch of this feature update and reports that on average users will see an 80% reduction in the number of matches shown. I had a chance to look at the new site before it launched and one of my favorite features is the question mark that appears next to your match. Clicking on the question mark on your match page will bring up a menu of references to help you better understand the inner workings of matching at Ancestry, including those confidence levels that are a part of every relationship prediction. In this table below you can see that ancestry has tried to give you some fairly solid guidelines by which to assess the quality of your matches. You will want to focus on those matches with a confidence score of “High” or above to have the best chance of genealogical success. confidence chart But an update to the matching feature is only the beginning of the new features at AncestryDNA. Today Ancestry announced “DNA Circles,” a tool that helps you identify others who share common ancestors with you.  The new “DNA Circles” feature has the potential to impact the way you do genetic genealogy at Ancestry.  Here’s why: Autosomal DNA (the kind that Ancestry is testing) has a spotty inheritance pattern. On average we only have half of the DNA of each of our parents, only 25% of our grandparents, only 12.5% of our great grandparents and so on.  This means that AncestryDNA and its competitors (Family Tree DNA and 23andMe) are only able to genetically identify 50% of your genetic 4th cousins. This means that there could be 50% MORE people in these databases that you are actually related to, people that should have been invited to your DNA party, but didn’t have a ticket. Now with DNA Circles, there is a metaphorical “after-party.” After parties are “hosted” by one of your relatives. Ancestry searches your pedigree and that of your matches back 7 generations looking for suitable hosts.  An ancestor qualifies as a host if they have two or more descendants who hold an invitation. At this after-party you can meet some of these long lost cousins that, while related to you, lost their ticket to your DNA party. After-party invitations are provided to those who meet three very important qualifications:

  1. They have their DNA attached to their PUBLIC family tree.
  2. AND that PUBLIC family tree has the name of the hosting ancestor on it.
  3. AND this person shares DNA with at least one other person who also meets the above two criteria.

Here’s an example.  Below is an image of the new AncestryDNA home page. You can see I am a part of two DNA Circles (some of you will be much more popular and invited to several after-parties. For me–just the two for now).  Let’s take a closer look at my DNA Circle hosted by my paternal 5th great grandfather Minus Griggs (who knew the guy liked parties?!). AncestryDNA HomePageNov2014   Clicking on the DNA circle brings up this page where there are three things I want to show you: AncestryDNA

  1. This is your relationship to the host.
  2. This is a list of the individuals who have passed the three criteria listed above and have been invited to this after-party.
  3. This is the innovative part.  You see that the first two matches (after me–I am listed first) have only “Tree Match” in this column. This means that these two people, both descendants of our host, Minus Griggs, didn’t ever appear on my DNA match list. We do not share enough DNA to be considered genetic relatives. However, the third member of the circle has the “DNA Match” designation, meaning that this match DOES appear on my match page. In fact, this is my ONLY DNA match in the circle (there are three others not shown here).  That means that this DNA circle has connected me to FIVE other cousins.  All because I share DNA and genealogy with the third member of this circle, and he shares DNA and genealogy with everyone else.

I can click on each circle member to see exactly how Ancestry THINKS we are related.  This is my first opportunity to DOUBLE CHECK this relationship that Ancestry has handed me, to be sure that both my match and I really did receive tickets to the same after party.

Here is what that page looks like for me and one of my matches.

This is really the first time a DNA testing company has so fully integrated genetics and genealogy.  We can now find cousins in the database who do not share our particular genetics, but who do share some of the genetics of our common ancestor.  In my opinion, this is huge. 

There is one catch, and it is going to be a big one for some of you.  In order to see your DNA Circles, you have to be an Ancestry.com subscriber.

Even though I am excited about these changes, I can’t help but hope for just one step more.  In order to identify these DNA Circles, Ancestry has identified pieces of DNA that can be fairly reliably assigned to a particular ancestor.  There are likely others in the Ancestry database who have these pieces of DNA, we can call them partial tickets to the after-party, but who are lacking the second requirement: a pedigree documenting a relationship to that ancestor.  I hope in the future the folks at Ancestry will honor those partial ticket holders, and allow them to the after-party, so we can sit around with our peanuts and pretzels and figure out how we are all related. Until then, I am going to enjoy the two after-parties hosted by my two generous ancestors.

your_dna_guideReady to walk through the process of using DNA for your genealogy? Let me be your guide! Check out my quick Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat Sheetsguides (left) Purchase each guide individually or pick up the bundle of all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

Questions Asked in the 1950 U.S. Census

What questions were asked in the 1950 census? In this week’s video I’ll explain what was asked, and how the answers given can help provide clues for additional research about your family. You’ll also learn what was not asked and which questions were asked for the first time in 1950. Then we’ll wrap up with my Genealogy Pro Tip for the 1950 Census.

Episode 53 Show Notes  

We’re all looking forward to the 1950 census coming out in April 2022, followed soon after by the searchable index. But before we dig into it, it’s helpful to know what kinds of questions were asked and what kind of information you can expect to find about you, your parents, your grandparents or even your great grandparents.

If you haven’t watched it already, check out Elevenses with Lisa episode 51 for an overview of the 1950 census.

And I’ll have that video link for you again at the end of this video. And of course the best way to find your own genealogy gems is to follow my genealogy gems channel, so click the YouTube Subscribe button and that will toss me and this channel into your favorites list on YouTube for safe keeping and happy viewing for years to come.

The U.S. Federal Census is taken every 10 years here in the United States. Typically in genealogy we see more and more questions being asked each decade, which is awesome for us as family historians. But did you know that the 1950 population questionnaire actually asked FEWER questions than its predecessor in 1940.

Yep, according to the U.S. Census bureau, in 1940 every household was asked 34 questions. However, in 1950 they were asked just 20 questions. As we go through the questions I’ll let you know what’s the same, what unfortunately you will NOT being seeing, BUT also the few NEW questions that were asked.

Questions Asked on the 1950 U.S. Federal Census Questionnaire

The following questions were asked of everyone in the household.

1. Name of street, avenue or road where the household is located

2. Home or apartment number

3. Serial number of dwelling unit

4. Is this house on a farm (or ranch)?

5. If no, is this house on a place of three or more acres? (New question for 1950 thanks to the expansion of suburbia.)

6. Corresponding agriculture questionnaire number

7. Name

8. Relationship to head

9. Race

Census takers were instructed to assume that all members of the related household were the same race. For unrelated people they were to ask. And if you see a description you are unfamiliar with, consult the 1950 census enumerator instructions.)

10. Sex

11. How old was this person on his last birthday?

It was expected that there would be some folks who either didn’t know their exact age or didn’t care to share it. Census takers were instructed to try to zero in and get as accurate as possible. If age wasn’t known, they were instructed to enter an estimate as the very last resort, and footnote that it was an estimate.

12. Is this person now married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married?

Marriage codes found in this column:
MAR = married
WD = widowed
D = divorced
SEP = separated
NEV = never married. People under the age of 14 were automatically labeled as never married. Also, common-law marriages were reported as Married, so while marital status can be an indicator to look for marriage records, it is possible that there may not be any.

13. What State or country was the person born in?

It’s important to note that if the baby was born in a hospital across the state line, they were reported as being born in the state where the family lived. This is important to keep in mind when hunting for birth certificates.

14. If foreign born, is the person naturalized?

This will be a yes or no. But if you see “AP” it means the person was born of American parents abroad or at sea. Also, if born at sea they were an American citizen if their father was, or if they were born after 5/24/1934 and either parent was American.

Before we get to the last six questions which were asked only of people 14 years of age and older, let’s take a look at the questions you might have expected to see that were asked in the previous 1940 census but were not.

Questions Not Asked in the 1950 Census that Were Asked in 1940

These questions include:

  • Home owned (O) or rented (R)
  • Value of home or monthly rental if rented
  • Attended school or college at any time since March 1, 1940?
  • Highest grade of school completed
  • Residence, April 1, 1935
    • City, town or village having 2,600 or more inhabitants. If less, enter “R”
    • County
    • State (or Territory or foreign country)
    • Farm?

Questions Asked in the 1950 Census of People Over the Age of 14

You may be wondering why the last 6 questions of the 1950 census were only asked of people over the age of 14. It’s because these questions were about employment status. Not surprisingly, these questions vary a bit from what was asked about in employment in 1940, but they are pretty similar.

  1. What was this person doing most of last week – working, keeping house, or something else?

Employment Codes used in questions 15:
WK = working
H = keeping house
U = unable to work
OT = other

16. If the person was “keeping house” or “something else” in question 15, did the person do any work at all last week, not counting work around the house? (Including work-for-pay, in his own business, working on a farm or unpaid family work)

17. If the person answered “no” to question 16, was he looking for work?

18. If the person answered “no” to question 17, even if he didn’t work last week, does he have a job or business?

19. If the person was working, how many hours did he or she work in the last week?

20. What kind of work does the person do?

    • What kind of business or industry is the person in?
    • Class of worker the person is.
      • Enumerators were to mark “P” for private employment, “G” for government employment, “O” for own business, or “NP” for working without pay

Here’s an example of an entry you might see for someone’s employment: Jewelry, Salesman, P. Armed forces was used for all types of military service.

The one glaring omission in 1950 is questions about whether the person worked for one of the government program  such as the Works Progress Administration known as the WPA or The Civilian Conversation Corp known as the CCC. This actually makes sense because these employment programs were focused on helping the unemployed during the Depression. WWII had most Americans working and doing their part in some fashion creating low unemployment. Therefore, the WPA was ended in 1943.

Genealogy Clues in the 1950 Census

Let’s quickly recap what you will learn from the answers to the questions asked during the 1950 census that can help you learn more about your family history:

You’ll see the names of your relatives and ancestors, where they lived and the relationships within the family.

You’ll find out where they were living and get the actual address. You can then use this information to find old maps, search city directories and learn much more about their neighborhood and their lives.

If your relatives lived on a farm you’ve got another genealogy gem to find which is their listing in the Agricultural census. Remember the population enumeration, the one counting people, is just one of the enumerations that was conducted. The 1950 population enumeration will give you the number where you can locate them in the agricultural questionnaire.

You’re also going to learn your relative’s age which will get you even closer to determining their birthdate. This in turn will help you locate their birth records. You will also learn the state or country where they were born.

If they were foreign born you will find out if they were naturalized. It’s a little disappointing that it doesn’t tell us the year of immigration or naturalization. However, a “yes” in the “is the person naturalized” column does provide you with an excellent clue to go look for those naturalization records. Learn more about finding and using naturalization records for genealogy in my Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast:

Episode 29: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 1
Genealogy lecturer and blogger Stephen Danko, PhD, begins a 3-part series on U.S. immigration and naturalization records. Learn about passenger arrival lists in the U.S., little-known certificates of arrival and naturalization records: how to find them and what’s in them.

Episode 30: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 2
Stephen Danko continues this series by focusing on passenger departure records created in European ports. He also talks more in-depth about U.S. naturalization records.

Episode 31: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 3
Stephen Danko talks in-depth about passenger list annotations and the immigrant’s experience at Ellis Island. You didn’t know what you were missing with those mysterious scribbles on 20th-century passenger manifests!

And finally, you’ll not only find out if they were married and if they had any previous marriages.

Lisa’s Pro Tip for the 1950 U.S. Census

After my first video on the 1950 census I got this question from Suzanne:
Will the 1950 census also have the children born to mother/children still living question?

The answer is, maybe.

Genealogy Pro Tips

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for additional questions.

As in 1940, 5 percent of the population were asked an additional slate of questions. This was to provide sample data about the population. One of those questions asked was “If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?”

Supplemental Questions Asked in the 1950 Census

Here are the additional questions that were asked of just 5% of the population in the 1950 U.S. Federal Census. (Note: They were asked of all ages.)

21. Was the person living in the same house a year ago? If the answer was no, then…

22. If no to question 21, was the person living on a farm a year ago?

23. If no to question 21, was the person living in the same county a year ago?

24. If no to question 23…

    • What county (or nearest place) was he living in a year ago?
    • What state or foreign country was he living in a year ago?

25. What country were the person’s mother and father born in?

26. What is the highest grade of school that the person has attended?

    • Enumerators were to mark “0” for no school; “K” for kindergarten; “S1” through “S12” depending on the last year of elementary or secondary school attended; “C1” through “C4” depending on the last year of undergraduate college education attended; or “C5” for any graduate or professional school.

27. Did the person finish this grade?

28. Has the person attended school since February 1st?

    • Enumerators could check a box for “yes” or “no” for those under thirty; for those over thirty, they were to check a box for “30 or over.”

For members of the household who were 14 years and older, they also answered these questions centered around employment details, money, military service previous marriages and the question Suzanne is hoping to have answered – children born to women in the household.

1950 census supplemental questions

1950 census supplemental questions asked of 5% of the population.

29. If the person is looking for work, how many weeks has he been looking for work?

30. Last year, how many weeks did this person not work at all, not counting work around the house?

31. Last year, how much money did the person earn working as an employee for wages or salary?

32. Last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?

33. Last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?

34. If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did his relatives in this household earn working for wages or salary?

35. If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?

36. If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?

37. If male: did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during…

    • World War II
    • World War I
    • Any other time, including present service

38. To enumerator: if the person worked in the last year, is there any entry in columns 20a, 20b, or 20c?

39. If yes, skip to question 36; if no, make entries for questions 35a, 35b, and 35c.

      • What kind of work does this person do in his job?
      • What kind or business or industry does this person work in?
      • Class of worker

40. If ever married, has this person been married before?

41. If married, widowed, divorced, or separated, how many years since this event occurred?

42. If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?

Free Download of the 1950 Census Form

You can download the 1950 U.S. Federal Census form from the Census Bureau website

The 1950 U.S. Census – A Valuable Genealogical Record

So now you know all the details on what you can look forward to learning about in the 1950 census. If you would like to learn more about the 1950 census, watch The 1950 Census for Genealogy. You can watch the video and get the complete show notes here.

The 1950 Census for Genealogy

WATCH NEXT: episode 51 and get the show notes here

Yakety Yak – Talk Back in the Comments

Elevenses with Lisa is a genealogy community, and discussion is a big part of the experience. In the Comments below please share on one of these topics:

  • What question are you most looking forward to getting an answer to in the 1950 census?
  • Who you’re hoping to find in the 1950 census?
  • What question do you have for me about the 1950 census?

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