10 Top Tips for Breaking Down Your Genealogy Brick Wall

“One of the most incredible and likely true stories I’ve ever seen!” announced Dave Obee as he met with Genealogy Gems Listener Sarah Stout, the winner of our #RootsTech 2013 conference registration contest.

The question to contestant was “who’s class would you most like to attend at RootsTech?” Sarah’s answer was Dave Obee, and that was because she was running up against a Canadian brick wall in her family history research, and Dave is a Canadian Research Guru!

Read more about Sarah’s incredible genealogical brick wall:

WATCH THE VIDEO

In my new video at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel I get the two together and Dave dishes up 10 terrific tips that will not only help Sarah, but are sure to prove their worth in your own family tree climbing.

Dave Obee’s Top 10 Tips:

1. Create a Timeline – “plot her life…it’s easier to see the holes.”
2. Understand Geography – “plot movements”
3. Find Every Possible Record
4. Understand How Records Were Created
5. Read Every Local Story in Newspapers at that Time
6. Tap into Local Knowledge – “Locals know more” (historical and genealogical societies)
7. Go There if You Can in Person
8. Look for Negative Proof
9. Collaborate with Other Researchers
10. Be Diligent About Proof

Resources Mentioned in the video:

Subscribe to the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel for free to receive instant updates of all of my latest videos from RootsTech 2013 and beyond.

 

How to Upgrade Your DNA Test with Your DNA Guide

When it comes to chocolate my general rule of thumb is that more is usually better! The same is true with DNA testing. With this big DNA test upgrade sale, now is the perfect time to get MORE! I love being Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems, and today I’ll walk you through how to get the best deal and the right tests. Take my hand, and let’s get upgrading!

more is better with dna

Diahan SouthardThis month, Family Tree DNA is running this Family Tree DNA’s Friends & Family sale, which means that all of the kits and upgrades are on sale! This sale is the perfect time to upgrade your DNA tests. (By clicking our link above you are supporting the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and we will receive compensation from the affiliate link. Thank you!)

Once in your account, click the Upgrade button. In very basic terms, to Upgrade means that they are going to go back to your DNA sample that they have on file, and do more testing.

upgrade your DNA test

Depending on the tests you have already had completed at Family Tree DNA, you will see several different options in the Upgrade menu. Most of you will see this box, listing the option to do more advanced testing, find gene variants, or order certificates.

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If you’re testing for general genealogy purposes, you can most likely ignore all of those options. The advanced testing is aptly named as it is only for very specific, very, advanced problems. The gene variant report can be interesting, but you can get a similar report for only $5 from Promethease.com. As for the certificates, that is up to you. It is a printed report of your DNA values for either your YDNA or your mtDNA test. These are nice to give to relatives that have tested for you that might want something tangible to hold as evidence of their participation in your genetic genealogy efforts.

The last option in this box is to have a personalized report written. This will be several pages of information about the DNA testing you have had completed, but don’t expect them to find your ancestors or do much interpretation of the results.

Beyond those options, if you have not had mitochondrial DNA testing completed, or if you have only had the lower mtDNAPlus test completed, you will see options to evaluate your mtDNA. If you are going to try to do family history with your mtDNA test, you need to have the Full Sequence test completed. For the most part, using mtDNA in your family history won’t get you very far, but it is a good record of your direct maternal line.

ftdna tests

If you are a man with the YDNA test, you will also see options to upgrade your YDNA test to a higher number of markers. You will want to upgrade from 37 to 67 or 111 if you have other matches on your match page who have also tested at those higher levels and you would like to get a better comparison. You can check to see if they have tested at a higher level by looking at your match page under their name. In general, the 67 marker test will help you better decide if you are or are not related to someone, while the 111 marker test will help you better determine how you are related to known connections on your match list.

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If you have not yet taken the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA, that option will present itself as well. If the person tested is still available for testing, you should actually start their autosomal DNA testing experience with AncestryDNA, then transfer for free into their FTDNA account. If your family member is deceased, then you can get permission from their closest living relative, or whoever is administrating their account, to have them tested on the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA.

So remember my general rule of thumb when it comes to chocolate and DNA testing, more is usually better. Click here to shop the Family Tree DNA Friends & Family!

Get more help with my quick guide: Understanding Family Tree DNA.

Genealogy Gems is Now Mobile-Friendly! Here are the Highlights

Genealogy Gems mobile friendly websiteThe Genealogy Gems website is now mobile-friendly. Your go-to family history resource just got a whole lot easier to read on-the-go!

Here at Genealogy Gems we are working hard every day to create a compelling resource for genealogy inspiration, tips, tech tools and news you can use RIGHT NOW. That’s why we are pleased as punch to let you know that our new mobile-friendly site design makes it easier to soak up all the ideas on our pages regardless of the size of your device’s screen.

Here are some of our website highlights that are especially mobile-friendly:

  • The free Genealogy Gems podcast (with over 1.75 million downloads) has been entertaining and educating family history lovers around the world for almost 10 years. Back in the “old” days (circa 2007) the only way to get your hands on a podcast (recorded “radio” show) was to download iTunes, subscribe to the podcast, and listen through your computer speakers. If you were lucky enough to have an iPod you could plug it in and figure out how to transfer the audio files so you could listen untethered from your computer. Today, smartphones make it oh-so-easy to take us with you when commuting, exercising, gardening and more. You can subscribe to the free show through the Podcasts app (iOS) or better yet download the Genealogy Gems app (in the iTunes Store and for Android) and you’ll also get access to great bonus content.
  • Our daily blog keeps readers up to date on new genealogy record collections, industry news, the genetic genealogy industry and technology tools. We boost your research skills, take you to must-see news articles and more. Mobile readers can get their daily dose of genealogy gems from our website or by following our Facebook page (See us First on Facebook to stay current on our posts). Our convenient category search (you’ll find it in the upper left corner of our home page) makes it easy to target posts on your favorite topics.
  • The free Family History Made Easy podcast teaches listeners step-by-step, episode by episode, how to start their genealogy research off right–and keep it going. Refresh your skills with the entire series or catch individual episodes for a targeted brush-up.
  • Premium Members-Only videos and podcast. Genealogy Gems Premium members can access over 2 dozen instructional videos on Lisa’s most popular topics (the same standing-room-only content Lisa delivers at top conferences). The premium podcast delivers more of Lisa’s signature brand of warm conversation, expert interviews, how-tos and more. Click here to learn more about Premium membership and take the best of Lisa Louise Cooke along wherever you go.

tablet mobile premium subscribeResources

Mobile-Friendly Search Results Come to Google

Compare Look-Alikes in Your Family with this Web App

Ancestry App for Apple Watch

 

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists

In this installment of the Collaborative Genealogy blog post mini-series I’m going to share one of my favorite ways to organize and share family history data and source material: Evernote.

Evernote is a free software, website and app that can hold both research content and the source citation information that goes with it. You can pull data from websites and Evernote will often automatically capture information about the site you got it from. You can upload images, scanned  documents and other multimedia content. And of course you can use it to keep track of non-electronic sources, too.

Research teams using Dropbox put themselves on the same page–literally. It’s easier to be sure you’re looking at the same sources. It’s easy to add notes like data you’ve abstracted from the source (or that seems to be missing from the source). It’s easy to tag data: every source that cites an ancestor can be tagged with her name. That way, when you are ready to analyze or write up someone’s life story, every piece is there. No more hunting for sources you knew you had somewhere!

Evernote Quick Ref GuideMy recent post provides two tips for using Evernote and introduces my Evernote for Windows for Genealogists Quick Reference Guide “cheat sheet” (click here for U.S. and here for international shipping). It’s been so popular since its release that we sold out for a while, but it’s back in stock. This 4-page laminated guide offers at-a-glance training and reminders so you can be up to speed quickly using Evernote for genealogy.

Want to learn more about using Evernote? Click here for tips and complete resources on getting started in Evernote, like a complete video mini-series that walks you through the process of signing up for your free Evernote account, downloading the desktop app, getting and using the web clipper….There’s so much you can do with Evernote and I show you how! 

For more on collaborative research (including more on Evernote for genealogists), check out the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. It’s got an article I’ve co-written with Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton.

Check out my other blog posts in this series on collaboration:

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free

“I Found My Family History in Newspapers!” – A Success Story

Recently I did a webinar for Legacy Family Tree called “Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers.” Soon after, I heard from a happy student named Christina.

“I just had to let you know how grateful I am to you,” she writes. “I finally had a chance to utilize the information you shared and wanted to check out the websites you talked about. I started with the Stanford Data Visualization and the very first newspaper I opened online had one of my ancestors on the front page. WOW! When I went into my Legacy program I discovered that I already had that information, but now I also had a verification.”

She goes on to say she started reading through more newspaper issues, which were so interesting she kept getting  distracted. She found another ancestor mentioned in a political newspaper and guesses she’s just discovered his political affiliation.

Then she tells me about a longtime family mystery she decided to try to solve in newspapers. “My cousin’s daughter contacted me about a year ago for information about a child that died in the same time period that the local court records were lost in a fire. I didn’t think we would ever get the information. But I thought I would use the date that we had and start with any paper I could get online, starting the day after. I wasn’t sure it would hit papers that soon in that time period, but I had to start somewhere.  Lo and behold, her death notice was on page 4 of the first paper I opened!”

“I realize I am very lucky to have found so much right away and it won’t happe

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

Available at http://genealogygems.com

n every time, but I am encouraged that your training was so helpful that I am going to break through a lot of walls.  Again, Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.”

I’ve heard countless stories like these from so many people who have discovered their family histories in newspapers. A video version of my newspaper class is available as part of Genealogy Gems Premium Membership, along with over a dozen other instructional videos, and over 100 exclusive podcast episodes. Starting today 11/29/13 through Monday 12/2/13 when you purchase a 1 year membership you will get an exclusive free ebook. Click here for all the details.

You can also get my complete newspaper research method in my book: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available in print and as an e-book. And also starting today 11/29/13 through Monday 12/2/13 you can get it as part of a special book bundle or ebook bundle at a 40% savings.

 

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