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.
How to Start Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA
Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:
First, do comprehensive traditional genealogical research on the problem.
Then do DNA testing.
Follow the clues where they lead.
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
Identify your research problem.
Summarize genealogical research results.
Choose most relevant DNA test/tests to order.
Choose the most helpful family member(s) to test. These are people who carry the particular DNA that falls you will need.
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.
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.
Y Chromosome test – only males can test. It tests a man’s direct paternal line.
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
Sort your matches out by family line or common ancestor couple.
View your match’s name, family tree or family names, and shared matches to help you sort into family lines.
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.
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.
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
Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:
Hedges family of PA
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
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…
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If you’ve got British colonial roots in North America, you know how tough it can be to learn more about your family during that time. That’s why I was excited to read a
The Beaver Map, 1715. By Special Collections Toronto Public Library. Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons.
recent article in the Harvard Gazette.
According to the article, plans are afoot to digitize and make available millions of British colonial documents. Yep, you read that right. Millions. There are still that many colonial-era documents sitting largely untouched in public and private archives, far from the reach of the everyday genealogist.
The Gazette reports not one but two major digitizing projects underway relating to British colonial documents in the U.S. Harvard University is leading the first project, which is already funded and underway. It will capture around 30 million pages of 17th- and 18th-century material from more than 1600 manuscript collections at 12 different Harvard repositories.
As if that’s not good enough news, a much larger project is in the works, too. A larger-scale Colonial Archives of North America has plans to digitally assemble pre-Revolutionary War material from Harvard and several historical societies, archives and Libraries in New England, New York and beyond (including Montreal). I was pleased to see that records relating to businesses, poverty, public health and indigent care will form part of the anticipated collection. These kinds of documents talk about everyday folks and their living conditions. Just what we want for our colonial genealogy. This second project is not funded yet but researchers are confident it will be.
Meanwhile, check out online resources like these for colonial documents:
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 7: Best Subscription Websites for Genealogy Research, Part 1
In our first segment, my guest is Lisa Alzo, popular genealogy lecturer and writer (now the author of nine books and online genealogy instructor at Family Tree University and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies). We talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned in her genealogical journeys (which include international travel in Eastern Europe).
In the second half of the show, we tackle an essential topic: the best subscription sites for family history records. This is a two-part topic: in this episode I talk about the best genealogy websites that require payment to access their core content. In Episode 8, we’ll talk about the fantastic free websites that are out there.
Keep in mind that this episode was recorded a few years ago. As I mention in the show, the online records landscape is constantly changing. Here are a few updates:
The biggest powerhouse paid subscription website is still Ancestry: it’s just bigger and better than what I originally described. As of fall 2013, they host 11 billion historical records. Member-contributed items include over 50 million family trees and 160 million uploads of photographs, stories and scanned documents. They still have a free 14-day trial membership and multiple subscription options: check out current ones here.
WorldVitalRecords is still a great website, though it’s grown more slowly. At our republishing date, it boasts over 158 million digitized images, (including US and UK censuses); 300 million names from vital records; 75 million names from military records, over 100 million pages of newspapers dating from 1739; 1.5 million historical maps; 8000 yearbooks and over 30 million tombstone photos. WorldVitalRecords is now part of the MyHeritage.com family of websites. Click here for a free 3-day trial membership.
Findmypast now has two web storefronts: findmypast.com (recommended for folks in the U.S.) and FindMyPast.co.uk (which specializes in British and Irish roots and records). At last glance in fall 2013, findmypast hosts over 1.5 million family history records. It offers great search options and a budget-friendly pay-per-view model or a more traditional subscription.
RootsIreland is now home now to over 20 million Irish records.
Genline.com for Swedish research is still online, though it’s part of Ancestry.com now. It’s home to over 20 million church record images and more.
Scotland’s People is still your official home for online Scottish records, including an enormous collection of parish records with births and baptisms, banns and marriages and deaths and burials.
Many other sites support specific topics in genealogy research. An example on my side of the pond is Fold3 (formerly Footnote) for American military records. This site is home to over 400 million total records from the Revolutionary War era forward. Check with others who research families from the same location or ethnic background as your family to see what sites would be perfect for you.
My website mentioned in the podcast, GenealogyGems.tv, is now better known as www.genealogygems.com. The Genealogy Gems newsletter mentioned in the episode is now my blog, which you can find on my website.
Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? Please share this post with any genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested. At the end of this post is a search tip for researching records in other languages.
ARGENTINA BAPTISMS. Ancestry has updated its database of Argentina, Select Baptisms, 1645-1930 (in Spanish), which is also searchable on FamilySearch. It’s a partial but growing index; click here to see current coverage on FamilySearch. Baptismal records are generally for newborn babies, with the date and place of event, parents’ names, and newborn death information.
IRELAND PARISH RECORDS. We blogged earlier this week about this new collection and it’s been a super popular post! The National Library of Ireland has posted digitized images of all its parish records, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s. Click on the blog post link to learn more about it.
KANSAS CENSUS RECORDS. Kansas, City and County Census Records, 1919-1961is now available to Ancestry subscribers. Partially indexed, the images are of population schedules for city- and county-level enumerations. These include household, livestock and agricultural details by head of household; beginning in 1953, all household members are named.
Some of the record sets mentioned above–and many others–were written in languages you might not speak. For best results, use the version of the name that would be common in that language, along with keywords in that language, before trying searches in your own language. Google Translatedoes translate common keywords and some common English names (John, Alexander, Mary, Andrew) to other languages, but isn’t guaranteed to show you an equivalent every time (especially if one doesn’t exist). You can also Google “name translator” plus the name of the language you wish to know; several online tools exist. And MyHeritage has advanced translation tools that do the work for you when you’re searching!
Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. Do you see anything you should be searching for your ancestors?
ENGLAND – LAND AND TAX. About a quarter million land tax and valuation records for Plymouth and West Devon (1897-1949) are now searchable for Findmypast.com subscribers. Transcriptions and images can reveal an ancestor’s owner/renter status, property location and size, property use and more.
US – ARIZONA VOTERS. A new database of Arizona voter registrations(1874-1932) is available at Ancestry.com. According to the collection description, “This database consists of Great Registers [lists produced from voter registrations] compiled by county recorders for each county in Arizona, by district. They list the names of eligible voters who registered to vote within the state of Arizona.” In this database you’ll see the state’s transition to female suffrage in 1912.
US – CALIFORNIA PASSENGER ARRIVALS. Over 375,000 names have been added to an existing collection of free FamilySearch.org passenger arrival records for San Francisco, CA (1954-1957). These include inbound passengers, crew lists and changes in crew.
US – DELAWARE WILLS AND PROBATE. Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Delaware Wills and Probate records(1676-1971). The indexed images now span nearly 300 years and include records from all counties (some locales and time periods are not included). Over 134,000 names are indexed.
US – MASSACHUSETTS VITAL RECORDS. Now available to search for free on FamilySearch.org is a new collection of indexed images of Massachusetts delayed and corrected vital records. Spanning about 150 years (1753-1900), the collection is relatively small (31,710 indexed names) but often delayed and corrected vital records can be brick-wall busters!