DNA Problem Solving – Using Genetic Genealogy to Find Answers

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 44 Show Notes

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
Email: genealogy@acpl.info

How to Start Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA

Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:

  1. First, do comprehensive traditional genealogical research on the problem.
  2. Then do DNA testing.
  3. Follow the clues where they lead.
  4. Use the genealogical proof standard to come to an accurate conclusion/solution. Also view the DNA standards.

Then she shared the specific steps for her research plan.  

Research Plan for Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA

  1. Identify your research problem.
  2. Summarize genealogical research results.
  3. Choose most relevant DNA test/tests to order.
  4. Choose the most helpful family member(s) to test. These are people who carry the particular DNA that falls you will need.
  5. Complete the rest of your family tree to at least 4th great grandparents (4GG) if possible.

Choosing the Right DNA Test

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.

  1. Autosomal test – autosomal DNA is inherited 50/50 from mother and father. Both men and women can be tested. Start with this test, unless your mystery goes farther back than 5-6 generations of great grandparents.
  2. Y Chromosome test – only males can test. It tests a man’s direct paternal line.
  3. Mitochondrial (mtDNA) test – Both men and women inherit Mitochondrial DNA and can be tested for it. However, it’s important to understand that only women can pass it on to the next generation. Follow the line of potential inheritance in order to identify the right person to test. The Mitochondrial test tests the direct maternal line only.

How to Choose the Best Family Member to DNA Test

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.

Sorting DNA Matches

  1. Sort your matches out by family line or common ancestor couple.
  2. View your match’s name, family tree or family names, and shared matches to help you sort into family lines.
  3. Use known cousins to help you sort. If you are related to a cousin in only one way, then your “shared matches” with that cousin should be “relatives” on the same side of the family as the cousin.
  4. Sara uses color coding dots to stay organized and detangle matches.

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!

Case #1: Who Were the Parents of Dovey Renolds Allen?

Here’s an outline of the case Sara covers in this episode so you can follow along.

Step 1: Define the Problem

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.

Step 2: Write a Research Summary

  • Records for Dovey as a married adult were found
  • Dovey’s obituary and death certificate from Kansas were sought. No death certificate found. Obituary did not name parents.
  • Owen County Library, Archives and Court house were searched. Extensive research was done, but not exhaustive; I did not document the sources that I used….so this work needs to be redone
  • 1840 Census searched for Owen Co. Indiana Reynolds. 1 household found with female 15-19 years old (age Dovey would be), headed by William Reynolds.
  • William Reynolds died in 1856, leaving a widow Amy, and naming children Jane, Solomon and Edmond in his will.  Dovey not mentioned
  • Possible father. No records found linking Dovey to this father

Step 3: Select the Right DNA Test

  • Autosomal DNA:  Dovey was my 3rd great grandmother. I have inherited approximately 3% of my autosomal DNA from her.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is not relevant to this case due to inheritance path.
  • Since she is a female, Y-DNA is not relevant.

Step 4: Select the Right Relative to Test

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

DNA Match Analysis Strategies

  • Search DNA matches’ trees for “Reynolds” surname.
  • Each DNA company has a tool for searching your matches (23andme is not as good as others.)

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:

  • Matches with Reynolds in their trees from New England, Canada, England, etc. probably NOT related.
  • Create a note for yourself, saying, for instance, “Maine Reynolds family” so you don’t waste time on probable irrelevant matches.

Match Summary

24 matches to William Reynolds’ descendants  (27 cM – 8 cM)

  • 10 matches from daughter Lucy
  • 4 matches from daughter Diana
  • 1 match from daughter Temperance
  • 3 from son Solomon
  • 2 from son Edmond
  • 4 from daughter Deborah

DNA Preliminary Conclusions

  • DNA links my aunt to descendants of 6 of William Reynold’s children.
  • This does not prove that Dovey was William’s daughter. She could have been his niece or other close relative.
  • Aunt shares the correct  number of cMs with the matches to be 4th-5th cousins with them.
  • Aunt’s shared matches with these Reynolds matches are on her paternal line – which is the correct side of the family.
  • More genealogical research could provide the definite link.

 

Case #2: Mysterious Leroy Porter

Step 1: Define Problem:

  • Leroy Porter was born in 1897 in France or PA
  • Married Ina Hill and died in Michigan.
  • Leroy was a teller of tall tales; family wants to know his origins, his parentage, and was he really from France?

Step 2: Research Summary

  • Death certificate (informant wife) says parents were Daniel Porter and Mary Baschley of PA.
  • Leroy cannot be found on any census prior to 1920 as Leroy Porter.
  • No trace of parents of those names found

Step 3: DNA Testing Options

Granddaughter Kathy took the autosomal DNA test.

  • Y-chromosome test not applicable for Kathy (there may be a candidate for Y DNA testing within the family)
  • Mitochondrial DNA not applicable

Step 4:  Test the correct person: 

  • Several of Leroy’s daughters are alive, so if they took an autosomal test, would be one generation closer.

Ancestry DNA match sorting options:

  • “Add to Group” option
  • Allows you to name the group, and add colored dots, up to 24 different colors
  • Notes field = enter free text notes about matches

Results

Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:

  1. Hedges family of PA
  2. Crute family of PA

Can we find a marriage between these 2 families? Yes – Daniel Hedges married Alice Crute ca. 1894 probably Warren Co. PA.

More Genealogical Work

  • Sara found “LeRoy Hedges” in the 1900 Warren Co. PA Census!
  • She went through Kathy’s tree to find matches to Hedges/Crute family
  • Were the cMs within range for the relationships? Yes = 2nd DNA points to Leroy Hedges being Leroy Porter.

Leroy Hedges = Leroy Porter Summary

  • Family broken up by 1910
  • Parents remarried
  • Siblings in orphanage
  • Leroy Hedges ran away and was not heard from again
  • Did he go to Michigan and marry Ina Hill as Leroy Porter?
  • No official name change document found
  • Could compare photographs if Hedges family has one…

Resources

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Elevenses with Lisa (2020: The 1st Year)

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Ethnicities

German Genealogy for Beginners
German Villages – How to find them
Irish Genealogy Expert Solutions Beginner Part 1 (Premium)
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Google Books – 10 Surprising Finds
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5 Ways to Use Old Maps in Your Research (Premium)
Best Websites for Finding Old Maps (Premium)
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Davidrumsey.com Free Maps and How to Find Them
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A Month by Month Plan for Genealogy (Premium)
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State Library of Pennsylvania
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WikiTree (Beginner)
WorldCat – 5 Things You Should Do

How to Research Your Irish Ancestors: Irish Genealogy and Family History

If you want to find your ancestors in Irish records, you have come to the right place!

I want to introduce you to Donna Moughty, EXPERT Irish genealogist. She’s going to explain what you need to do in order to be successful:

 

Irish Genealogy Quick Reference Guides

irish genealogy cheat sheetThe Irish Research Quick Reference Guides Donna referred to walk you through the critical steps to Irish genealogy success.

Step 1 – Preparing for Success in Irish Records Research
Without the right preparation, researching in Ireland can be frustrating! Before you jump the pond, start your research at home to determine a place in Ireland, as well as details to help differentiate your person from someone of the same name. This guide shows you how to idenitfy records in the US to set you up for success in your Irish research.

Guide #2 – Irish Civil Registration and Church Records
Civil Registration for all of Ireland began in 1864, with Protestant marriages dating back to 1845. Even if your ancestors left before that date, they likely had relatives that remained in Ireland. Prior to Civil Registration, the only records of births (baptisms), marriages or deaths (burials) are in church records. This guide explains how to use the new online Civil Registration records as well as how to identify the surviving church records for your ancestors in Ireland.

More Free Irish Genealogy Records and Strategies

Here at Genealogy Gems we continually cover Irish genealogical records and provide research strategies. To find our blog posts, click the Home button  in the menu…

…and then select Irish from the menu. Our blog posts that mention Irish genealogy will appear in a continuous thread, starting with the most recent.

Find It Fast!

Some posts mention Irish records along with other records. If you’re in a hurry, use Control F (Mac: Command) to search for the words  “Irish” or “Ireland” to jump to what you want.

Get Our Free Genealogy Gems Newsletter

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Free Genealogy – How to Find Free Genealogy Records

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 21 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: August 20, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history. 

How to Find Free Genealogy Resources

In the genealogy community it’s often said, “Only a fraction of genealogical records are online.” That’s true indeed, but it’s not a reason not to start your search online. A more helpful and accurate piece of advice would be “while not everything is online, all search for genealogical information starts online.”

The reason for this is simple. Online research before you go will reveal:

  • If the materials are available at a more convenient location
  • If the materials are available somewhere online for free
  • The call number, location, and other specific information you need to quickly access the materials once you arrive.
  • Details about gaining access to the facility and materials.

The last bullet point above will help you avoid the disappointment of discovering an unforeseen closure, or that the specific records you need are actually help at a satellite location.

New genealogical information and records are uploaded daily to the internet. Some of this information is available for free. In this article and episode we will cover strategic ways to locate and access free genealogy online.

The Amount of Data Continues to Increase – Read more about the growth of online information here.

The Path of Least Resistance to Free Genealogy

Most genealogists want to obtain records at the lowest available cost with the least amount of travel. Therefore, always starting your search online just makes good sense.

Here’s our path of least resistance:

  1. Free and Online: FamilySearch, Google, WorldCat
  2. Online and Subscription: Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, niche sites
  3. Free and Locally Offline: Libraries, Archives, Universities
  4. Offline and Distant: Examples include the National Archives, Allen County Library, Family History Library, NEHGS
The path to free genealogy

www.GenealogyGems.com

Free Genealogy Records Online

FamilySearch

FamilySearch is a free genealogy website.

The FamilySearch Catalog: New digitized images are added daily from microfilms & digital camera operators. These include books, maps, compiled family histories, and more. The catalog also includes materials that are not online but are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or through Inter-library loan.

 The FamilySearch Wiki is a free online genealogical guide comprised of more than 93,000 articles. It covers 244 countries, territories, and islands. It includes links to genealogy databases and online resources as well as how-to information.

Use the FamilySearch Wiki Watchlist to follow pages of research interest. Here’s how to watch Wiki pages for new and free genealogy content:

  1. Log in with your free FamilySearch account
  2. navigate to the desired page
  3. click the Watchlist link in the upper right corner of the page.
Click the Watchlist button to follow the page

Look for the Watchlist link, and the blue buttons that lead to free online genealogy records for that location.

Google.com

Google is still your best bet for finding sources both online and offline.

You can dramatically improve your search results by incorporating search operators into your search. Watch episode 13 of Elevenses with Lisa to learn about how to use search operators when googling for genealogy.  

Get all of the Elevenses with Lisa episodes here.

how to get better google search results

Learn how to google for free genealogy in episode 13.

Find More Free Genealogy with these Google Search Strategies

The most comprehensive and best-selling book on the topic of using Google for genealogy: 
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, by Lisa Louise Cooke. 

Google Alerts Finds Free Genealogy for You

Set up free Google Alerts to be on the lookout for new and updated search results. You’ll receive them by email, and you can control the frequency.

Google Alerts for genealogy and family history

Google Alerts do the work of searching for free genealogy for you.

How to Create a Google Alert:

  1. Highlight and copy (Control C on Windows or Command C on Mac) the search query that you typed into the Google search box
  2. Go to www.google.com/alerts
  3. Sign into your free Google account
  4. Paste (Control V or Command V) your search query into the Search Query box on the Google Alerts page
  5. Select the Result Type you desire (ex. Everything, News, etc.)
  6. Select how often you wish to receive alerts
  7. Select How Many results you want to receive (I recommend Only the Best Results)
  8. Enter / Select the email address you want your alerts to be sent to
  9. Click the Create Alert button

Partnerships Make Free Genealogy Available

Many of the genealogy giants enter partnerships with each other in order to facilitate digitization and indexing of genealogical records. This means that the same materials may be found in different locations on the web, and sometimes for free.

WorldCat.org

17,900 subscribing member libraries in 123 countries collectively maintain WorldCat’s database which is the world’s largest bibliographic database.

Use WorldCat to check that you are indeed accessing the resource from the most convenient repository and if it’s available for free. Here’s how:

  1. Run your search
  2. Click an item
  3. Under Find a Copy in the Library enter your zip code
  4. The library closest to you will be listed at the top

Once you get your search results, look to the left in the Formats box. There you can quickly narrow down to only items that are online by clicking boxes like Downloadable Article. Some of these may require a log in on the website you are referred to.

How to Find Free Records at Genealogy Websites

Ancestry.com

If you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry.com you can still take advantage of their many free collections available here. Then read my article Why Use Ancestry for FREE if You’re NOT a Subscriber for more tips of free stuff at Ancestry.

MyHeritage.com

To find free records at MyHeritage.com, go to https://tinyurl.com/LisaMyHeritage. In the footer menu of the website, click on Historical Records. Then fill in your search criteria.  (Update: If you don’t see Historical Records in the footer, go to Research > Collection Catalog and search on the keyword “free.”) Scroll down the search results and look for the green free tags. 

Findmypast.com

To find free records at Findmypast which specialized in British genealogy but also includes records from around the world, go to https://tinyurl.com/FMPLisa.

(Some links in our articles are affiliate links. We will be compensated at no additional cost to use when you use them. This makes it possible for us to bring this free show to you. Thank you!)

Google Site Search Can Help Locate Free Genealogy

A site search works like many search operators as previously discussed in Elevenses with Lisa episode 13 (watch and read here.) It provides Google with specific instructions about the type of search you want to conduct with your search terms and keywords.

Google Site Search for free genealogy

This Site search tip comes from Lisa Louise Cooke’s book The Genealogists’s Google Toolbox.

Site search runs your query only on the specified website. This is extremely helpful and efficient if:

  • you have a particular website in mind that you want to search,
  • you aren’t having success using the search field provided by the website,
  • the website you want to search doesn’t have a search field.

Here’s an example of a Site search:

Free Pennsylvania site:ancestry.com

Try running the search above for yourself. You’ll find results that include many free genealogy records pertaining to Pennsylvania. Substitute the words to meet your search needs.

Construct a Site search for Free Genealogy by first typing in the words and phrases you wish to search for. Include the word free. Leave the appropriate spacing between them and follow the last item with a space. Then type site: and add the website home page address (URL). You can copy the URL and simply paste it in place. There is no space between the colon and the URL. And note that www is not required.

Searching for Offline Local Sources with Free Genealogy Information

To find what’s local and free:

  • Search WorldCat.org (be sure to use the Zip Code filtering to find the genealogy materials at the location closest to you.)
  • Use Google to search.
  • Find your local Family History Center here. These centers have unique free resources as well as free access to some subscription genealogy websites.

When you find a library, archive or other repository, visit their website and look for:

  • Databases they offer
  • Their online catalog to plan your research
  • Other associated libraries
  • Details on planning a visit

Get Free Genealogy Help on Facebook

Search for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) on Facebook. 

RAOGK on Facebook

Get free genealogy records help on Facebook.

Learn More with these Resources

Free Tools at MyHeritage for a Limited Time

Now through Sept. 10, 2020 you can get free access to Myheritage Photo Enhancer and MyHeritage In Color here

Click to use MyHeritage for free for a imited time.

 

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