From Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems: DNA testing is one of the most personal ways to get involved in your family history. You have DNA from your parents, who have DNA from their parents, and so it goes, back into your greats and great-greats. The technology of genetic genealogy is all about tapping into that DNA record and pulling out information that might be useful in your family history. DNA can do this for you in two ways:
First, it connects you to places. These are places where your ancestors came from a hundred, a thousand, or tens of thousands of years ago.
Second, it connects you to people. These people are your genetic cousins, other living people who have taken the same DNA test that you took. The similarities in your DNA tell you that you share a common ancestor. You can then examine the pedigree of your match and work with them to help verify your family history, or give you new ideas about who your ancestors might be.
Types of DNA Tests for Family History
You have three choices of DNA tests, each with its own unique purpose.
YDNA – Essentially, if you want to know about a male ancestor, you need to find a direct male descendant to be tested. So if I want to know about my 3X great grandfather Morris Mitchell, I need to find Morris’s son’s son’s son, etc. until I find a living male with the Mitchell surname who can be tested on the Y chromosome DNA (mtDNA) test at Family Tree DNA.
mtDNA – If I want to know about a female ancestor, let’s say Mary West, I need to find Mary’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s etc. child (male or female) to take the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Family Tree DNA.
Autosomal DNA – For any ancestor, male or female, who is fewer than 5 generations from you, you can take the autosomal DNA test at either Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage to find out more about that individual. Remember with the autosomal DNA that you always want to test the oldest generation first. So anyone who does not have both of their parents living should take the autosomal DNA test.
Companies that can Test DNA for Family History
There are several companies that test DNA for family history including:
Each of these companies is offering a very similar kind of test, but each has their own unique tools and databases. Decide which company you want to test with by evaluating things like:
their website accessibility
their company goals
and especially the size of their database
You can see a table comparing these companies here. The MyHeritage test is new, and is not on the chart yet, but will be soon.
Great (DNA) Expectations
The best thing you can do when setting out on your genetic genealogy journey is set good expectations. You can expect that the test will document the personal genetics of the person who takes it. By so doing, you are creating another genealogy record that will last for generations. This test will link you to your ancestors via your cousins. That means that you may take the test looking for ancestors, but what you get are cousins. It will take traditional genealogy work to turn those cousin connections into ancestral connections. Above buy prescription medicine overseas all, expect that this is a growing industry, and what we know today is different than what we will know tomorrow, so enjoy the journey!
There are several comprehensive books on Genetic Genealogy out there. However, for the layman who just wants to understand their DNA test results and get some additional value from them, an entire book full of scientific explanations can be overwhelming and daunting. The following email is one we receive regularly:
Could you direct me to an understandable publication which explains dna results in layman’ terms ?
Genetic Genealogy for the Layman
From Lisa Louise Cooke, host of The Genealogy Gems Podcast: I put myself in the category of “layman” when it comes to understanding DNA test results. And that’s why when I met DNA expert Diahan Southard at a genealogy conference, I immediately invited her to join Genealogy Gems. Diahan’s enthusiasm is contagious, and her ability to explain genetic genealogy to the layman is second to none!
I encouraged Diahan to immediately get to work putting her easy-to-follow explanations into a new series of quick reference guides. Genealogy Gems Publications is proud to publish her wonderful series of DNA quick reference guides for understanding your DNA results in plain language, and helping you get the most out of the investment you made in testing.
Diahan has a regular segment on my free Genealogy Gems Podcast where she answers your questions and provides invaluable insights into the latest in genetic genealogy. You can also find the complete archive of DNA articles at Genealogy Gems by clicking here. The most recent will appear first and then scroll down to read through the past articles.
For those who have tested with Ancestry DNA
If you took the Ancestry test, I would definitely recommend the following guides:
The beauty of the DNA quick reference guide series is that you can mix and match the guides to perfectly suit the testing you have done. We’ve published Diahan’s guides that delve into the testing companies FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe, as well as the other tests available such as Mitochondrial (for your maternal line – both men and women can take this test) and YDNA (for your paternal line – only men take this test.)
Take Your DNA Test Results to the Next Level
If you’ve already tested and feel like you have a good foundation, then I highly recommend Diahan’s Advanced DNA Bundle. It will take your DNA test results to the next level by instructing you on the heart of what matters in plain English.
DNA in the News
As of March 28, 2017, AncestryDNA customers can see if their ancestors belonged to about 300 different Genetic Communities, small migratory groups that can be identified by DNA. In the next free Genealogy Gems podcast episode #202, you will learn more about it straight from Ancestry’s Chief Scientific Officer, Catherine Ball. For more information on Genetic Communities, watch the video below:
We often mention fantastic how-to genealogy books on the Genealogy Gems podcasts and website. Here we’ve compiled a list of these, a checklist for your own genealogy reference bookshelf.
(Our favorite pleasure reading picks, fiction and nonfiction, are onThe Genealogy Gems Book Clubwebpage.)
Thank you for purchasing any books through our affiliate links. Your purchases help keep the Genealogy Gems podcast FREE.
State Census Records by Ann S. Lainhart. It’s got everything you need to know about U.S. censuses taken by states and territories. From this guide, you’ll learn what is available in each state (year by year, often county by county), where it is available and what’s in these records. Though it lacks current online resources for state censuses, once you know about them, you can Google them to find any online records and indexes! Find this book referenced in a blog post about state census records here.
From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes by Gena Philibert Ortega. Food is an important ingredient in every family’s history! This three-part keepsake recipe journal will help you celebrate your family recipes and record the precious memories those recipes hold. Listen to Lisa’s 2-part conversation with the author in the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 137 and 138. Watch a free video, “Food Family History,” with both of us on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.
The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil Warby Margaret E. Wagner quotes vivid first-hand accounts. You’ll read about the smells of war, from baking to bodily functions. You’ll learn about the women behind the scenes whose lives were in constant upheaval and uncertainty. Comments from hospital workers describe the mighty effects of war on the wounded. Intermingled are the stories of free blacks, those being emancipated and black women and men who supported the Union effort as soldiers, nurses and more. It’s a fascinating blend of story and picture, told in a timeline format to help family historians put their ancestors’ experiences in context. For those of us who don’t have firsthand account by our ancestors, these voices help bring to life events and experiences our relatives may have faced. Also available in for the Kindle.
Tracing Your Italian Ancestors by Mary Tedesco. This 84-page guide has two important parts. There’s a section on using U.S. records to learn essentials about your family, and then a section on researching in Italian records. Click hereto watch an interview with Mary Tedesco, a host of the popular U.S. television show Genealogy Roadshow.
Zap the Grandma Gap: Connect with Your Family by Connecting Them to Their Family History by Janet Hovorka shares tried-and-tested activities for using family history to connect with children and grandchildren. Span the generation gap with these great games and ideas! Meet the author, see more of her kid-friendly family history titles and hear her suggestions in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 162.
Anabaptist genealogy records include Amish, German Baptist and Mennonite ancestors. In a past post titled “Amish Genealogy Revealed,” we shared tips for searching out your Amish family tree. Here are more helpful resources submitted by our wonderful readers that you won’t want to miss.
What is an Anabaptist?
The term Anabaptist refers to those religions who reject infant baptism in favor of a believer’s baptism. Amish, Mennonite, and German Baptists fall into the category of Anabaptists.
Anabaptist religions often subscribe to more conservative views and dress. Their families are very much intertwined with their religion, making the study of their history rich in detail and customs.
Anabaptist Genealogy Records: More Amish and Mennonite Family History Resources
We shared in our “Amish Genealogy Revealed,” the resources of the Amish newspaper, The Budget, the Amish church directories, and newsletters and books on Amish families. Many thanks to reader Loren Johns for sharing yet another amazing resource. Loren shared:
As someone who has a couple of hundred thousand Amish in my genealogical database, I enjoyed reading your focus on Amish genealogy. Somewhat surprised to see it!
You did not mention the most important source for Amish genealogy. It is the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association, of which I am the secretary. This is a rather informal non-profit association of amateur genealogists interested in Amish and Mennonite genealogy who share their research with each other and with others interested in it, and make it available online.
Further, Mr. Johns shares that the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association (SAGA) maintains a large database of un-merged databases that can be searched simultaneously. He gives an example:
If I search for an Amos J. Whetstone (an Amish name,) I get 17 hits, to three separate men. Amos J. Whetstone (1903-1984) appears in 6 different databases; Amos J. Whetstone (1919-2003) appears in 4 databases; and Amos J. Whetstone (1945- ) appears in 7 databases … so the 17 hits actually represent three men.
This amazing SAGA database contains over 5,000,000 names, though many of those are duplicates. You can imagine the value of such a large database for this specific group. If you are interested in joining SAGA and gaining access to the database, see the membership page here.
A most important book on Amish genealogy is Amish and Amish Mennonite Genealogies by Hugh Gingerich and Rachel Kreider. It is sometimes called the Amish genealogy “Bible.” It traces all of the Amish immigrant ancestors (144 different surnames) and their families to 1850, where it had to stop lest it explode into an encyclopedia.
Anabaptist Genealogy Records: Resources for the German Baptist or The Old German Baptist Brethren
George Funderburg and family were members of the German Baptist faith.
Another group of Anabaptist’s are the German Baptist, also known as the Old German Baptist Brethren. Here in Ohio, we sometimes refer a particular break-off by their nickname, Dunkards. The Dunkards were given this nickname for their belief in baptism by immersion.
It is my own family ancestors who were among the Dunkards. Luckily, we have a wonderful archive in Brookville, Ohio called Brethren Heritage Center. The Brethren bodies involved with the Brethren Heritage Center are:
Church of the Brethren
Conservative Grace Brethren International
Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
German Baptist Brethren
Old Brethren German Baptist
Old German Baptist Brethren
Old German Baptist Brethren-New Conference
Old Order German Baptist
The Brethren Church
This heritage center offers many books and collections including family histories, maps, letters, diaries, census records, and birth records. In particular, the heritage center website also has a large list of helpful links to begin researching your Brethren ancestors. To see the list of links, click here.
Anabaptist Genealogy Records – Share Your Knowledge
If you have Anabaptist heritage, you may be aware of additional Anabaptist genealogy records that we have not mentioned. We would be delighted if you would share that information with our Genealogy Gems community in the comments below. We look to you to be an inspiration and teacher to us here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and you always come through. Thank you!
Want tips to keep your online trees current with the master version in your family tree software? I’ve fielded several questions recently from Family Tree Maker users that might be useful to everyone.
In the wake of the announced retirement of Family Tree Maker software, questions continue to pour in about how to use family history software along with online trees. I’ve also taken a couple of questions from people wondering whether to continue their subscriptions at Ancestry.com if they’re not using Family Tree Maker. Find my answers below–and thanks to Gladys, Charles, Lisa and others for sending in these great questions!
Q: “Why switch from Family Tree Maker if it still “works” even after it’s retired? Ancestry.com and its tree system can be continually updated via GEDCOMs (click here to learn more about GEDCOMs) from one’s current Family Tree Maker for as long as one desires. The key problem is that support for FTM will soon disappear.”
A: Yes, you’re right, the key probably is that support will be gone. Into the future, as operating systems and hardware change, FTM users will likely eventually experience problems and ultimately be unable to continue reinstalling it onto new computers. (As I mentioned in this article, this happened to me with my first database.) While it isn’t an emergency, there is an advantage to migrating now. Other companies are offering great specials, and are currently knowledgeable and focused on assisting FTM users in making the move and ensuring that all of their data migrates successfully. Click here to learn about some of these specials.
RootsMagic is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the software that I use personally. The following question came from a listener who wanted to know more about it and how to move their data:
Q: “Can you explain more about RootsMagic and what it can do? Will it allow a transfer of data from the old Family Tree Maker files where I have already stored significant amounts of information?”
A: You can download your content from Ancestry and then load that into RootstMagic. This article on the RootsMagic blog will guide you. And they have an entire “Help” page here devoted specifically to assisting Family Tree Maker users. (Click here to learn why I recommend RootsMagic, which is a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast.)
Q: “Should I just resign myself to having to upload a new GEDCOM to RootsMagic every month to add any new people/content I’ve found on Ancestry.com?”
A: Rather than adding info to my Ancestry tree and then duplicating it in RootsMagic, I look at it the other way around. I enter new found data directly into RootsMagic as I work. I may go ahead and add it to my Ancestry tree as well, but it really depends on what it is. You see, I view my Ancestry.com tree as a drafting table or a work space, not the final resting place for my family tree. For me, a little extra effort is worth keeping control of my data.
I really don’t foresee Ancestry.com resurrecting Family Tree Maker or selling it to another company. This article explains some of the business reasons why.
Q: “If I continue to use Ancestry.com and add content to my online tree, what is the best way to get that content into my RootsMagic tree?”
A: You can download your content from Ancestry and then load that into RootsMagic. This article on the RootsMagic blog will guide you. I think after reading all my answers here you will see that I use Ancestry and MyHeritage as research tools, and RootsMagic as my master complete genealogy database. So I leave RootsMagic open on my computer in the background, and pop over to that window to enter confirmed data as I am working on the various websites.
BONUS QUESTIONS! Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com Subscriptions
Here are my responses to Family Tree Maker user questions about where to invest their subscription dollars and efforts.
Q: “Do you recommend not using Ancestry.com for research anymore?”
A: I think Ancestry is a treasure trove of genealogical data and documents, and I absolutely will continue to use it. However, as I mentioned in my article, I’m a believer in housing my master family tree on my own computer, and backing up that computer to the cloud (I use BackBlaze. I like the service so much they have become a sponsor ofthe Genealogy Gems Podcast.) That way I control the data and know it is protected. I don’t use Ancestry trees for my master tree. Rather, I upload a GEDCOM of the branches I want to generate leads for (shaky leaves). When I find new information I may or may not add it to my Ancestry tree (based on my research needs) but I always add it to RootsMagic master database.
Q: “Should I switch to MyHeritage?”
A: MyHeritage is a great website as well. I use it in much the same way I use Ancestry (above). It has been invaluable for my international research. (Click here to learn why I recommend MyHeritage.com, which is also a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast.)
Final thoughts: In the end, it’s your data and your decision. I hope you’ve found these conversations helpful as you do your own homework on what is right for your family tree.
More Gems on Family History Software and Online Trees
Merging duplicate records in your family tree is important. Perhaps you have inherited a giant genealogy file (GEDCOM) from a relative. What now? Follow along in our series on Inherited Genealogy Files as we talk about how to merge the duplicates in your family tree.
Have you cleaned up your family tree lately? Whether you have inherited a genealogy file from a relative or have been an avid researcher yourself, clean-up is necessary from time to time, especially as your database grows.
Merging Duplicates from an Inherited Genealogy File with RootsMagic
When you sit down to do your genealogy research, the last thing you want to worry about are duplicate names. Duplicates can be distracting and confusing.
You may have inherited a genealogy file or files in the form of GEDCOMs. (Read more on what and how to use a GEDCOM file here.) While inheriting this family history is great, it can also be a lot of work to clean-up, confirm the data, and add source citations where needed.
If you use RootsMagic or other similar software, it can be quick and easy to clean up duplicate names in your database. Start by running a duplicate search by clicking on Tools, selecting Merge, and then clicking Duplicate search merge.
You can search for duplicates by surname or given name. You might consider running a duplicate search for sounds alike, as well. This is particularly important if you have merged two databases in which you and the other contributor may have used different surname spellings.
When you are ready, click Search for duplicates at the bottom of the box. The system will tell you how many duplicates it finds and allow you to compare them one-by-one.
If you find a duplicate, the primary person will be on the left and the matching record on the right. Whichever record/person is most correct, use the Swap button to move that record to the primary position on the left.
If you feel these are a match, click Merge duplicate into primary at the bottom left corner. You have now merged these two individuals. It should be noted that you do not actually lose any of the data of the duplicate person. If I find Dean Howard Lockwood in my index and double click on his name, a pop-up window appears and I see he now has two birth and death entries, however. To fix this, click on the duplicate fact to highlight it, then click Delete fact at the top.
Cleaning Up Duplicate Places
You may not have considered cleaning up the duplicate places that exist in your file. For example, perhaps Great-aunt Susie liked to use the old format for place names. [i.e. , Ross County, Ohio] Notice the comma before the county name Ross. This was the way in which genealogists used to indicate Ross was the name of the county. Now, we use the more recent accepted format and change that to: Ross county, Ohio, United States. You can quickly merge these two places into one by clicking Lists at the top left, and choosing Place List.
Now, choose the place you would like to fix and double click it. In the pop-up window that appears, simply type in the place name as you desire it to appear in your database.
In the example above, we have changed , , Kentucky to Kentucky, United States and clicked OK. But wait, there’s one more step! You may notice your list now shows duplicates of Kentucky, United States or some variation. To fix that problem, click on the merge button at the top of the Place List pop-up window. A new window will pop-up and you can choose all the places you wish to merge together. Then, click Merge selected places.
More on RootsMagic Software
RootsMagic is the genealogy software used and recommended by Lisa Louise Cooke and The Genealogy Gems Podcast. You can purchase this amazing software from the Products We Love tab in our store or by clicking on the RootsMagic 7 image link. When you use our affiliate links, you are helping to support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. Thank you!