Planting Your Master Genealogy Family Tree

In this post I’m going to answer common questions about the best strategy for creating and maintaining your family tree data. 

master family tree

Should I build my family tree online?

This is a question I get in various forms quite often from Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners. But there’s really more to this question than meets the eye. Today’s family historian needs a master game plan for how they will not only build their family tree, but where they will build it, and where they will share it.

On the podcast I describe it this way:

Plant your tree in your own backyard and share branches online.

I’m going to explain what I mean by this by starting at the beginning.

When You Start Your Family Tree

If you’re new to researching your family’s history, you probably started out with one of the big genealogy websites, such as AncestryMyHeritageFindmypast, or FamilySearch. I refer to them as the Genealogy Giants because they have millions of genealogical records, and they offer you the tools to build your family tree on their website. (Learn more about what each of the Genealogy Giants websites have to offer here in this handy comparison guide.)

These sites make it easy to start entering information about yourself, your parents, and your grandparents either on their website or through their mobile app. But should you do that?

My answer is, “not so fast!” Let’s think through the long-term game plan for this important information that is your family’s legacy.

Family is Forever

Genealogy is a hobby that lasts a lifetime. It’s nearly impossible to run out of ancestors or stories to explore.

But have you noticed that websites don’t last forever? And even if they do, their services and tools will undoubtedly change over time.

And there are many, many genealogy websites out there. A large number of them will encourage you or even require you to start creating an online family tree on their site in order to get the most value from the tools that they offer for your research.

As you work with these different genealogy websites, you may start to feel like your tree is getting scattered across the web. It’s easy to find yourself with different versions of your tree, unsure of which one is the most accurate and complete version.

It’s this inevitable situation that leads to my conclusion that you build and protect a master version of your family tree. I’m not suggesting that you can’t or shouldn’t use an online tree. In fact, regardless of whether you do, you need a “Master Family Tree.”

Plant Your “Master Family Tree” in Your Own Backyard

What do I mean when I say that you should plant your “master family tree” in your own backyard? I’m talking about using a genealogy database software program that resides on your own computer. Let’s explore that further.

A master family tree has three important characteristics:

  1. It is owned and controlled by you.
  2. It is the final say on what you currently know about your family tree.
  3. It is protected with online backup to ensure it is safe.
master family tree

Your Master Family Tree

1. Your master family tree is owned and controlled by you.

If you create an online family tree on a genealogy website (or in the case of FamilySearch’s global online tree, you add your information to it) you have given final control of that information to the company who owns the website.

In order to own and control your tree, you will need a genealogy database software program installed on your own computer. I use RootsMagic (and I’m proud to have them as a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast) but there are other programs as well.

A genealogy database software program is installed on your computer. The program and the data you enter into it belongs to you and is under your personal control.

Genealogy databases allow you to not only easily enter data, but also to export it. If you wish to use a different program later, or add your existing data to an online tree, you can export your family tree data as a universally accepted GEDCOM file. (Learn more about GEDCOM files in this article.)

2. It is the final say on what you currently know about your family tree.

As you research your family tree, you will come to important conclusions, such as an ancestor’s birthdate or the village in which they were born. It can take a while to prove your findings are accurate, but once you do, you need one location in which to keep those findings. And most importantly, you must be able to cite the sources for that information. That one location for all this activity is your genealogy database.

However, the nature of genealogy research is that it can take some digging to prove the information is correct. During the process of that research you may find information that you aren’t sure about, and it can be helpful to attach it to the online tree that you have at the same website where you found the information. That gives you a way to hang on to it and keep researching. You can always remove it later. We’ll talk more about strategies for using online family trees a little bit later.

Once you are convinced that the information is correct, then its final resting place is your Master Family Tree. You enter the information and add source citations. This way, whenever you need an accurate view of where you are in your completed family tree research, you can turn to one location: your genealogy database software and the Master Family Tree it contains.

3. It’s protected with online backup to ensure it is safe.

Your family tree isn’t safe unless the database file is backed up to the cloud.

Who among us hasn’t had a computer malfunction or die?

It isn’t good enough to simply back up your computer files to an external hard drive, because that external hard drive is still in your house. If your house is damaged or burglarized, chances are both will be affected.

Another problem with backing up to an external hard drive is that they can malfunction and break. And of course, there is the problem of remembering to back it up on a regular basis.

Cloud backup solves all these problems by backing up your files automatically and storing them safely in an offsite location. 

Cloud backup is actually very simple to install and requires no work on your part once it’s up and running. (We’ve got an article here that will walk you through the process.)

There are many cloud backup services available. I use Backblaze (which you can learn more about here). As a genealogist I have a checklist of features that are important to me, and Backblaze checked all the boxes.

Regardless of which service you choose the important thing is to not wait another day to set it up. This protection is a critical part of your Master Family Tree plan.

Using Online Family Trees

Now that you have your own database on your own computer that is backed up to the cloud for protection, let’s talk about strategic ways that you can use online family trees.

First, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to create a tree on a genealogy website just because they prompt you to do so. While there are benefits for you to doing so, the company who owns that website actually benefits tremendously as well.

In today’s world, data is very valuable. I encourage you to read the terms of service and other fine print (I know, it’s boring!) because it will explain the ownership and potential use of that data.

While it’s not the focus of this article, it’s important to understand that other industries are interested in family history data, and data may be shared or sold (with or without identifying information, depending on the terms).

But as I say, there are benefits to using online family trees. These benefits include:

  • Hints – Online family trees generate research hints on the Genealogy Giants websites and some of the other websites that offer trees.
  • Cousin Connection – Online family trees offer you an opportunity to possibly connect with other relatives who find your tree.
  • DNA – Online family trees can now dovetail with your DNA test results (if you took a test with the company where your tree resides). This can offer you additional research avenues.

These benefits can be helpful indeed. However, problems can arise too. They include:

  • Copying – When you tree is public other users of the website can copy and redistribute your information including family photos.
  • Errors – If you discover an error in your tree, you may fix it, but chances are it has already been widely copied and distributed by other users.
  • Email – If you have your entire tree online and your email notifications are active, you may receive an onslaught of hints for people in your tree. Often these are very distant cousins that you are not actively researching. And let’s face it, the emails can be annoying and distract your focus from your targeted research. For example, as of this writing at Ancestry.com you can’t select which ancestors you want to receive email hint notifications for. You can only select hints for the entire tree.

So, let’s review my strategy:

Plant your tree in your own backyard and share branches online.

Now that you’ve planted your tree in your own backed up software, let’s explore the ways in which you can share branches online.

Targeted Online Family Trees

Many people don’t realize that you don’t have to add your entire tree to a website. You can just add parts of your tree.

For example, I may just put my direct ancestors in my tree (grandparents, great-grandparents, and so forth). This can still be a fairly larger number of people. I may want to include their siblings because they grew up in the same household. But I can leave out the far-reaching branches and relatives that really don’t have a direct impact on that line of research.

You can also have multiple trees that focus on specific areas of your research that are important to you.

Exploratory Online Family Trees

Some genealogists also create trees that represent a working theory that they have. This type of tree can help expose where the problems or inaccuracies lie. As you research the theory and as hints arise it can become very clear that a relationship does not exist after all.

An exploratory tree is an excellent reminder that we can’t and shouldn’t make assumptions about someone’s intent or purpose with their online tree. I’ve heard from many people who are angry about inaccuracies they find in other people’s trees. But we can’t know their purpose, and therefore, it really isn’t our place to judge.

However, it is a fair argument that a good practice would be to clearly mark these exploratory trees accordingly to deter other users from blindly copying and replicating the inaccurate information. An easy way to do this is in the title or name of the tree. For example, a tree could be titled “Jonas Smith Tree UNPROVEN”.

Creating multiple, limited trees can be an effective strategy for conducting targeted online research that only generates hints and connections for those ancestors that you are interested in at the current time.

And remember, you can remove any of your trees at any time. For example, you can delete an exploratory tree that has served its purpose and helped you prove or disprove a relationship.

Plan Now for Success

A family tree can seem like a simple thing, but as you can see there’s more to it than meets the eye. A bit of planning now can ensure that your family tree stays healthy and growing. 

About the Author

Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

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!

10 Surprising Things You Can Find at Google Books

Google Books: Elevenses with Lisa Episode 30

Who doesn’t love a good genealogical surprise? Sometimes we discover something we overlooked the first time around. Other times we find gems in places we never expected. Google Books is one of those places full of unexpected surprises.  

10 surprising things to find at Google Books

with Lisa Louise Cooke

What is Google Books

Google Books is a free online catalog of over 25 million books, 10 million of which are digitized and searchable. The collection is international in scope.

You can search at the stand-alone website. You can also start your search at Google.com and then select Books results on the search results page.

While you would expect to find books at Google Books, you may be surprised to discover there it also includes many other types of published materials. Here are 10 surprising things you can find at Google Books. Watch the video and follow along in the article below.

10 Surprising Things at Google Books

1. Magazines

The final issue of Ancestry magazine was published in 2010. Though times and technology change, core genealogical methodology stays much the same. Browse or search past issues spanning 1994 through 2010 at Google Books for free. You’ll also find countless other magazine titles including Life magazine (1953-1972).

Quickly access all the issues of Ancestry magazine at Google Books.
Browse all of the magazines at Google Books.

2. City Directories

An ideal way to fill in between census enumerations is with city directories. Typically published yearly but sometimes irregularly, they are an invaluable source for information about your ancestors. You might find listed their place of employment and spouse’s name in addition to address and phone number.

Search Tip: Target city directories specifically by searching for the name of the city in quotation marks. Google interprets quotation marks to mean that you want that word exactly as written to appear in each returned result. Next add the phrase city directory, again in quotes. To ensure you don’t miss directories that include additional words between city and directory, place an asterisk between the words.

Here’s how your search will look:  “Nashville” “city * directory”

This search operator tells Google that the phrase may also include a word or two between city and directory. An example might be The Nashville City and Business Directory.

3. Almanacs

When we hear the word almanac we often automatically think of the yearly Old Farmer’s Almanac. However, almanacs of the 19th century and earlier sometimes also included information on local residents and businesses. It’s worth taking a look to see if your ancestor’s community published almanacs. Businesses and other organizations also published almanacs.

4. Governmental Publications

It’s not uncommon for every person at some point in their life to interact with the government. Those interactions create paperwork, and that paperwork may have been published. In Google books, search for probate documents, hearings and other types of government generated works in combination with the names of your ancestors, their businesses, and other organizations with which they were associated.

5. County Histories

The digitized items on Google Books are often there because they either fall within the public domain (published prior to 1924). Consequently, there is a very good chance that the county history published in your ancestor’s area is digitized and available on Google Books. These books are a wealth of historical information about families and communities.

6. Compiled Family Histories

There’s a good chance that sometime in the past someone has researched a family line that connects to your family tree. These genealogies may be published in a compiled family history. Since the phrase compiled family history will probably not be in the title of the book, try this search approach:
1. Search for the word genealogy (no quotation marks) and a surname (with quotation marks)
2. Filter to Free Google eBooks
3. Filter by time frame (for example 19th century)

7. Newspapers

The Google News Archive was a newspaper digitization project that was discontinued several years ago. The archive remains but is very difficult to search. The good news is that those digitized newspapers are now included in Google Books with its powerful search engine. Start by running a search and then on the results page filter Document Type to Newspapers. Use the Share a Clip clipping tool (found in the three stacked dots button on the digitized book page) to clip articles.

Newspapers may appear in the old Classic View of Google Books (as they do at the time of this writing.) If so, use the search box in the column on the left side of the page to search within the newspaper.

Search Tip: Save time by visiting the Google News Archive to see which newspapers are included and the years that they cover. 

8. Genealogy Journals

The oldest genealogy journal has been published quarterly by the New England Historical and Genealogical Society since 1847. Since then many other societies such as the Genealogical Society of Utah have regularly published journals. These journals often list families and sources and are an invaluable resource to genealogists today. Family Associations also often publish journals.

Try a simple search of genealogy journal to start browsing. Then try adding a surname, state, or country or combination of those. Filter down to Free Google eBooks to view only free digitized publications.

Family Journal at Google Books

The Historical Journal of the More Family. United States: John More Association, 1892.

9. Maps

Old maps can be found in  many of the surprising items we’ve found so far. County Histories in particular are a wonderful resource of old maps. Many times, they will include plat maps that even include the owners name written on the property. Many maps may be one-of-a-kind.

A quick and easy way to spot maps within a book is to use Thumbnail View. You’ll find the Thumbnail View button (which looks like a checkerboard or collection of six squares) at the top of the screen when viewing a digitized book. Once clicked, your view will change from a single page to many pages at once. This makes it very easy to scroll and spot maps. You can also try looking through the Contents menu for Maps.

Use the Share a Clip feature (mentioned in #7) to clip the map. In the pop-up box, click the Copy button next to the image link. Paste the link in a new browser tab and hit Enter on your keyboard. On a PC, right-click the image and save it to your computer by selecting Save Image As.

10. Photographs

Like old maps, there are many photographs and images in old digitized books at Google Books. These could include photos, engravings and drawings of your ancestors, their homes or other items relating to your family history. Follow the directions in #9 to find and save photos and images.

Tips for using Google Books

When reviewing a digitized book, look for the Contents menu at the top of the screen. Here you’ll find addition options to jump to different parts of the book such as topics or chapters.

In the new Google Books user interface, you will find the digitized book is overlayed over the catalog entry for the book. The search box at the top of the screen is for searching only within that book. To close the book and view the catalog entry, click the X in the upper right corner of the screen.

To remove the yellow highlighted items, you searched for from a book and start a new search, click the Clear Search button.

Translate foreign language text by using the clipping tool. While viewing a digitized page, click the three stacked dots and select Share a Clip. Using your mouse, draw a box around the text you want to translate. In the Share this Clip pop-up window click the Translate button.

How to filter your search results down to only free digitized book: On the search results page you should see that the Tools button is greyed out (if it is not, click it) and in the drop down menu click Any Books and select Free Google eBooks.

How to cite books in Google Books: Close the digitized book to reveal the book’s catalog entry page. In the About this edition click the Create Citation button. Copy the desired source citation.

Resources

  • Book: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke. Learn everything you need to know about effective searching as well as using Google Books and the Google News Archive.
  • Premium Members: Watch my Premium video class Google books the Tool I Use Every Day for many more specific and effective strategies for using Google Books for genealogy.
  • Bonus Download exclusively for Premium Members: Download the show notes handout
  • Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member today. 

Answers to Your Live Chat Questions

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions.

From Carolyn: ​Can you put in a year range for the city directory search
From Lisa: Yes, you can use the numrange search operator when searching Google Books. Example: “Nashville” “city * directory” 1850..1900

From Regina: What if you have a really common surname?
From Lisa:
Common names pose a challenge but you can find them too! It takes a bit more strategy, and I cover that extensively in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

From Mary: ​Could you find diaries, journals, and manuscripts? What would it be under?
From Lisa: If the items were formally published then there is definitely a possibility of finding them in Google Books. Run a search on diary and filter down to Free Google eBooks and you will see many examples. From there, you can try adding names, places, etc. 

From Kathryn: ​When you clip a map or image, how can you add the citation of the book?
From Lisa: Click the X to close the digitized book. This will reveal the book’s catalog entry page. In the About this edition click the Create Citation button. Copy the desired source citation. You can then paste it into the document where you are using the clipping, or paste it into the meta data (Properties) of the image file. 

From Georgiann: ​Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with the ALL of this good information. Lisa, are you cloned so I can have you sit next to me to calm me down as I start?
From Lisa: Well, as you heard in this episode it turns out I don’t have a twin, LOL! However, Premium Membership is the next best thing. Then you can have me “on demand” all year long. 

 

Episode 197

Episode 197

with Lisa Louise Cooke

This episode celebrates the most recent family history there is: our own. A chat between host and producer Lisa Louise Cook and Gems editor Sunny Morton explores the meaning and memories behind heirlooms hanging in Lisa’s bedroom. They comment on the larger value, for self and others, of recording our own memories in honor of Sunny’s new book, Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.

Also in this episode:

  • A spotlight on new marriage records online for the U.S. and around the world.
  • Lisa walks a listener through several tips for learning more about her immigrant ancestors (a mother and daughter). Lisa shows how to use today’s technology tools to help with traditional research skills such as locating passenger lists, immigrant society records and naturalization.
  • Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard talks about organizing your DNA matches so you can get the most out of them.
  • Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author and Victorian lifestyle expert Sarah Chrisman describes what it’s like in her home–which doesn’t use electricity–as the days grow shorter and the darkness comes earlier.

NEW RECORDS ONLINE: Marriage Records

New York City Marriages: a new index to more than 3 million marriage licenses for recent New York City marriages (1950-1995)

Free FamilySearch marriage record collections recently added or updated include:

Learn more about marriage record research: Listen to Using Marriage Records in Family History: Episode 24 in Lisa Louise Cooke’s free step-by-step podcast, Genealogy: Family History Made Easy.

 

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users: Finding Copies of Images Online with Google on Your Mobile Device

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is an exclusive step-by-step tutorial PDF that shows you how to use your mobile device and Google to locate copies of images online. Remember, the Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.

 

MAILBOX: Finding a Female Immigrant Ancestor

Question from Jo: “I have been fortunate to find information about most of my great-grandparents.  I have hit a wall with my maternal great grandmother who immigrated from Switzerland to the US in the 1880s when she was 8 years old. I was hoping that by upgrading to International records on Ancestry that I could find the ship and where she and her mother came from. The curious thing for me is that she and her mother traveled solo to the US and went to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ve been to Cincinnati and have searched there and have found directories with addresses but no profession is listed like other people. I didn’t find any ship records either. Where might you suggest that I look or search to find more information?”

Tips for searching passenger arrival lists:

Consider what ports would have been the most logical point of arrival for an immigrant ancestor based on the time period and the U.S. location in which you find them. Cincinnati, Ohio, was reachable by rail by the 1880s from major ports, as well as by water via the Mississippi River for southern ports, so that doesn’t narrow things down much. According to an Ancestry.com article, more than 80% of immigrants arrived at the Port of New York by the 1890s, so Jo might scrutinize those New York passenger arrival lists for the 1880s again.

Free New York City passenger arrival databases at

Search multiple NYC passenger lists simultaneously at Steve Morse’s One-Step web portal

For “deeper” searching at Ancestry.com or other sites with powerful, flexible search interfaces: do a “nameless search” (without any name) for girls around age 8 for arrivals in particular years. Try additional searches with various combinations of name, place of origin (Switzerland) or “Swiss” in the keyword field, which will bring up that word in the ethnicity or nationality column. That column doesn’t have its own search field in Ancestry.com but it is indexed, so use the keyword field to search it.

Research Swiss immigration to Cincinnati during that time period. Who was coming, why they were coming and where they were coming from? Click here for free tips about researching historical questions such as these.

The Swiss in the United States at Internet Archive

Swiss-American Historical Society and Swiss Center: Genealogy

Tips for researching records of immigrant societies:

In the U.S., the time between an immigrant’s arrival and naturalization is often documented in records of ethnic organizations such as fraternal benefit societies, immigrant aid and colonization societies. These kinds of community groups often existed in cities and towns where specific immigrant groups had a strong presence.

Become an expert Google searcher (for genealogy and everything else you want to find online) with The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition, by Lisa Louise Cooke. Or click here to get started with basic Google search strategies you can use now.

Tips for researching naturalizations:

Naturalization records from that time period won’t reliably tell you where an ancestor was from. But they’re still worth looking for, especially if census or other records indicated that the person naturalized.

When looking for women’s and children’s naturalization records, remember that during this time period, they automatically became naturalized if their husband or father did, so individual records for married women and minor children won’t exist under their own names. But a woman could apply on her own, too. Click here to read a free article on women’s naturalizations.

Learn more in a free, 3-episode series on immigration and naturalization records: episodes 29-31 in the free, step-by-step Genealogy: Family History Made Easy podcast.

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. In the works: RootsMagic will be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

 

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 http://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

 

INTERVIEW: Sunny Morton on recording your own life stories

 

Story of My Life

 “Some people about writing their life stories like I do about going to the gym. I put off going, but once I do I remember how much I enjoy it?and how much good it does me.” -Sunny

Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy available as a writeable PDF ebook or as a full-sized softcover workbook

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: Sarah Chrisman

 

This Victorian Life

Featured Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman describes what it’s like when the days get shorter and the darkness comes early?in a house without electricity.

 

 

 

 

Legacy Tree Genealogists provides expert genealogy research service that works with your research goals, budget and schedule. The Legacy Tree Discovery package offers 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations: a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance. Click here to learn more.

GENEALOGY GEMS EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Go to www.legacytree.com/genealogygems and use coupon code SAVE100 with your purchase of research services.

 

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.

 

 

DNA WITH DIAHAN SOUTHARD

Parents spend a good portion of their parenting time ferreting out the real story from their children. One time when Henry was in Kindergarten he was playing outside with another little boy. I was in and out of the house watching him and checking on other things. Hours later I noticed that his bike had been spray-painted black. When confronted, he claimed he had no idea how such a thing could have happened. Unfortunately, I jumped to conclusions and blamed the other kid (you have to give me credit, at six Henry was such a good boy and had such an angelic face with his blue blue eyes and blonde blonde hair). But as I was on the phone with my husband telling him about the issue I looked over at Henry and I saw it- that guilty look and my stomach sank, recalling the things I had said to the other boy’s mom. “I’ll have to call you back,” I told my husband.

As genealogists, we spend our time trying to ferret out the real story from our ancestors, or at least from the records they left behind, because they’re not sitting in front of us with guilty looks on their faces. We are constantly checking family stories against, say, the information on a census record, then comparing it to the family will, then making sure it all agrees with what’s in the military records. And even if we have total agreement, which isn’t always, more information often comes along, like in the form of DNA testing, and we may find even more apparent discrepancies.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a reporter, Cameron McWhirter, who talks about finding just that kind of discrepancy between his family lore and his DNA. He even goes so far as to say, “I am descended, at least partially, from liars.” And he makes the point that “many immigrants reinvented themselves when they arrived here (the United States),” which could be a nice way of saying they had a chance to INVENT a new legacy, not just reinvent it. His assessments are certainly interesting, and worth reviewing, to help us see how DNA testing can affect the way we look at family stories and traditional research results.

McWhirter may be the classic modern genealogist, never having set foot inside a courthouse or scanned through microfiche, relying instead entirely, he reports, on internet research. Now before you roll your eyes, just stop for a minute and appreciate how exciting this is. Here is a man who never gave his family history a second thought, yet because of the death of his parents started to tinker around a bit, and then due to the large volume of information online “was quickly pulled into the obsessive world of modern genealogical research.” I say, score one for the genealogy world!

What he found was that while his dad was proudly and solidly a self-proclaimed Scot, the records and DNA revealed his heritage was actually from Ireland and eastern Europe. McWhirter says that his “father hated Notre Dame, but judging by my results he could have been one-quarter to one-half Irish. He spoke dismissively of people from Eastern Europe, but part of his genetic code likely came from that region.”

McWhirter’s evaluation of his genetic report includes only his ethnicity results, which as you can hear, were meaningful to him in the way they flew in the face of his father’s prejudices and assertions of his own identity. But the ethnicity results fall short of the point of testing for most genealogists. He might even more powerfully transform his sense of family identity if he took a look at his match list and saw an actual living cousin, for example, a third cousin perhaps who was also descended from his German great-grandmother, who maybe never mentioned that she was also Jewish.

Connecting with other cousins who also have paper trails to our ancestors serves to provide further confidence that we have put all of the pieces together and honored the right ancestor with a spot on our pedigree chart. It’s like we multiply our own research efforts by finding more people like us?literally?who are descended from the same people and interested in finding them. As long as they’re as diligent in their research as we are, of course.

At a recent conference I met a 5th cousin. Even with a connection that distant it was exciting, and it made we want to look again at our connecting ancestors and pause for just a minute to marvel how my DNA verified my paper trail back to them, and that part of them was around, in me, and in my new cousin. To me, THAT’s a bigger picture I want to see?when the paper trail comes together with the DNA trail and turns into real live cousins, even if they turn out to be a little different than the stories and sense of identity that were handed to us when we were young.

Maybe you’re something like Cameron McWhirter: you’ve taken a DNA test, been intrigued (or disappointed) by the ethnicity results, but haven’t yet fully explored all your matches on your list. I’m telling you, you may be seriously missing some opportunities. If that’s you, I may actually have written my new DNA quick guide just for you. It’s called “Next Steps: Working with Your Autosomal DNA Matches.” This guide will teach you how to leverage the power of known relatives who have tested. You’ll get an intro to chromosome browsers and their role in the search process, and access to a free bonus template for evaluating the genealogical relationship of a match in relationship to the predicted genetic relationship. This guide also gives you a methodology for converting UNknown relatives on your match list into known relatives, which is what we’re going for here.

So check it out, either as a solo purchase or as part of my Advanced DNA bundle.

*Update: The Next Steps guide has been replaced with Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNA.

 

PROFILE AMERICA: Lights Out

 

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Amie Tennant, Content Contributor

Vienna Thomas, Audio Editor

Lacey Cooke, Additional Production Support

FREE NEWSLETTER:

Subscribe to the Genealogy Gems newsletter to receive a free weekly e-mail newsletter, with tips, inspiration and money-saving deals.

Genealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up
Check out this new episode!

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!

Episode 217 – The Golden State Killer and Your Genealogy and DNA

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 217

with Lisa Louise Cooke

In this special episode, host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke takes a look at the Golden State killer, one of the most notorious crime sprees in recent memory. She’ll talk about the role that DNA testing played in an ultimate arrest, and the impact that these events are having on genealogists and the use of DNA in genealogy.

The Golden State Killer

Golden State Killer: It’s Not Overdocuseries. (As an Amazon Associate, Genealogy Gems earns from qualifying purchases)
“The Golden State Killer,” 48 Hours episode on CBSNews.com (44-minute episode)

Between 1974 and 1986, activities attributed to the Golden State Killer include at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 through 1986.
The criminal’s methods led some investigators to believe that these differently-labeled criminals were very likely one in the same.
In 2001, DNA definitively linked several rapes in Contra Costa County believed to have been part of the East Area Rapist series, a series of murders in Southern California.
In 2011, DNA evidence proved that the Domingo?Sanchez murders were committed by the same man, known as the Golden State Killer.

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, don’t forget to check out your bonus content for this episode! The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users

MyHeritage

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homelandClick here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

StoryWorth makes it easy and fun for Mom to share stories with loved ones every week. At the end of the year, she’ll get them all bound in a beautiful hardcover book. Strengthen your bond as you get to know her in a whole new way! Go to http://www.storyworth.com/lisa for $20 off when you subscribe. Give a gift for Mother’s Day that is actually a gift for you, too!

Help solve DNA mysteries with these resources:

Caution: In this episode, Lisa shares her personal opinions on the use of technology for crime fighting and the implications for DNA testing for genealogy. She encourages everyone to do their own homework and make informed decisions in line with their own values, opinions, and objectives.

Reality check: “The only way to ensure privacy is to never put anything of any kind online. Just like the only way to ensure you will never be in a car accident is to never, under any circumstances, get in a car.”

Read more about DNA testing company partnerships:
Another personal genetics company is sharing client data,” Wired.com article by Katie M. Palmer, published 21 July 2015, on Ancestry.com’s partnership with Google-owned Calico biotech firm
23andMe teams with Big Pharma to find treatments hidden in our DNA,” Wired.com article by Davey Alba, published 12 January 2015, on 23andMe’s partnership with Pfizer

Several ways we already use DNA matches:

  • Genealogists use to build family trees
  • Adoptees use to identify birth parents (or other biological relatives)
  • Orphans trying to find long lost siblings and relatives
  • Anyone looking for estranged family members
  • Researchers identifying unidentified human remains, including POW/MIAs

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.

More information on DNA testing

How to download, transfer and upload your DNA with various testing companies by Diahan Southard
How DIY genetic testing kits can be used against you,” News.com.au article by Gavin Fernando, published 3 May, 2018.

“When you test, you are also making a decision on behalf of your parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, and future descendants. Regardless of good intentions or stated ethics codes in the genealogy community, it isn’t possible to write and get the express permission of everyone who could be affected by you having your DNA tested.” ?Lisa Louise Cooke

Genealogy Gems can help you whether you test or not!

Keep listening to the Genealogy Gems Podcast for genealogy news, tips, inspiration and strategies (DNA is one of many tools talked about!)

Read free online articles at GenealogyGems.com. Click here to read dozens of articles on DNA.

Click here to view our complete line of DNA quick reference guides

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member, to get access to all the Premium video classes and the entire Premium Podcast: new monthly episodes plus the full archive of more than 150 previous ones.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, DNA Content Contributor
Hannah Fullerton, Audio Editor
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager

Disclosure: This document 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 this free podcast and blog!

Resources

Download this episode

Download the show notes

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU