Trace Your Native American Ancestors with BIA Genealogy Guide

Native American Dancer. Image by Paco Lyptic, some rights reserved. Wikimedia Commons.

Many North American families have a tradition that someone in their family tree was a Native American. In fact, I have sometimes heard people say that they originally got interested in genealogy because they wanted to learn whether they really did have a Native American connection.

However, it’s not always easy to track down and verify American Indian ancestry. That’s why I was pleased to get a tip from podcast listener Kate Vaughan. She says that a Choctaw friend of hers recommends Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an e-book to which you can click directly.

Once you’ve done the research and confirmed your native roots, you can actually contact tribal leaders and see if you’re eligible to enroll in the tribe (each tribe has its own requirements). You can also apply for a certificate degree of Indian Blood from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that shows your blood quantum and tribal affiliation.

Standing in Judgment of Our Ancestors

Standing in judgement of our ancestors may be unavoidable. Genealogists dig up the good, the bad, and the ugly. We cannot pick and choose what we find, but we might be able to pick what and how we share it with others.

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Recently, I received a letter from a Gem’s reader which included a very delicate and sensitive matter. She writes:

Hi Lisa!

I love your blog and podcast. Thank you for all you do getting gems together for us!  I have a question for you and would love to know your opinion (or the opinion of anyone else as well!)

I was recently at a family wedding. I printed out all the family and ancestor’s paper trails and documents and was passing them around to my aunt, uncles, and cousins. My mom’s eldest brother brought up a memory he had of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, a German immigrant. My uncle whispered it to me because the saying my great-grandfather often said is very prejudice. I won’t tell you what the quote is but it’s prejudice against Jewish, Irish, and Dutch people. Here’s my question – should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? As genealogists we are always trying to get a full view of the person we are researching – past the census records, military service paperwork, and wills – and into the real person and personality. So, I now have a more broad view of my great-grandfather, but it’s negative. Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? I’m conflicted about what to do. Maybe if this was a further distanced relative I would have an easier time brushing aside this prejudice but I’m having a hard time with the “right thing to do.” Any advice would be wonderful!

As a side note I will tell you that in the following generations this mans’ children and grandchildren have married Irish and Jewish spouses. Haha. I guess the “saying” was never echoed by his descendants!

Thanks,
Jennifer

Judgement of Our Ancestors

This is a great question and I applaud you for thoughtfully taking a moment to really think it through and ask for advice before moving forward on recording what you were told.

 
You asked – Should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? My opinion is, no. Mother Lisa says this is gossip and you didn’t hear it straight from your great-grandfather. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone else attributing a negative comment to me without having the chance to review or rebuke it. It’s a slippery slope.
 
judgement of our ancestors

Little Tea & Gossip by Robert Payton Reid, Source: http:⁄⁄www.liveinternet.ru⁄users⁄pmos_nmos⁄post357791815⁄

 

You also asked – Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? And there’s the slippery slope. I believe that we, in modern times, should avoid sitting in judgement of ancestors who are not here to defend themselves. We don’t want to presume that we are in a position to decide how wrong “the crime” is. We certainly don’t want to be negatively prejudiced against others ourselves, but it is impossible to put oneself in another’s shoes in a differing time and circumstance. We know nothing about what the person really said. Perhaps they were joking (even though in extremely bad taste!) Maybe the person who heard this, and passed it on, had an ax to grind and part or none of it is true. Or, maybe there was an experience that our ancestor suffered that could have given him a reason to gripe based on his personal experience. You just don’t know.

In my book, I would chalk this up to gossip and either prove it with substantiated evidence or move on. What goes around comes around so let’s hope it will prevent an occurrence of someone gossiping about you and your future descendant spreading it into the ages.

 

Deciding to Write the Whole Story

In cases where you have secured substantial evidence that a negative story is true, you still have a choice to make. When I come across particularly sensitive or negative information about an ancestor, and before I make it public, I ask myself, “who will this help, and who will it hurt?” Does adding it to the family history enrich it? Is there anyone living today who might be hurt? If someone stands to be injured, but you’re set on capturing the story, I encourage you to do so privately for your own records and of course, cite all of your sources.

 
If you do decide to write and publish sensitive stories, I know that you will want to do so in as gentle and fair a way as possible. Here are some things to consider when writing about delicate stories of our ancestors:
  • Be sure to cite your source – who told you the story and when. The reader can decide whether to take the story with a grain of salt or believe it.
  • Let your readers know your reason for sharing the story in the first place. Genealogy Gems blogger Amie Tennant recently read a family history that included a horrible childhood memory. The writer stated it was important to put the family dynamics in full view so that other stories would be seen in the “right light.”
  • If naming everyone in the story will cause hurt or embarrassment, consider documenting the essence of the story without naming names.

Whatever you decide, writing a family history, though difficult at times, can be a rewarding experience.

 

A Tip for Harnessing New Technologies for Genealogy

Lisa BYU Keynote

Photo courtesy of The Ancestry Insider

New technologies don’t stay new. They keep evolving. Here’s a tip for harnessing new and emerging technologies to advance family history research and stay connected with living relatives. 

Last week, I was at the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy in Provo, Utah. What a friendly, welcoming group! (Be sure to check out the BYU Family History Library here.) All week, I taught sessions and gave a keynote address on various technologies that help our research. The week’s discussions reminded me how quickly technology moves–and how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology.

It’s part of my job to learn about these new technologies and pass the best ones–the “gems” along to you. But here’s a tip I shared during my keynote address that will help you focus on the technologies you care most about: Think about which tasks you want to accomplish with technology, rather than just learning genealogy-specific technology. Then keep up with developments in the technologies that accomplish those tasks.

For example, by now, many of us have used (or at least heard of) Google Translate. We can use it with foreign-language documents and to correspond with overseas relatives and archives. But Google Translate’s functionality keeps improving. “By the audible gasps of the audience” (during my keynote address) reported the FamilySearch blog, “most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.”

Genealogists are really thinking about these issues. The Ancestry Insider blogged about my keynote talk, too, and my observation that genealogists haven’t been embracing digital video at the same speed at which they embrace other forms of digital media. In the comments section of that post Cathy added, “Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YOUTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living….Our children and grandchildren don’t write letters, they email, text, instagram. They don’t write journals, they blog. They make videos of current history….We all need to look to the future and [learn] how to save the new technologies.” Cathy gets it!

A special thanks to conference organizers Stephen Young and John Best, who welcomed me and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton all week long. They did a fantastic job of organizing a large event while retaining a warm, personal environment.

Continue reading about applying technology to your family history here.

Famicity: A New Way to Gather and Share Family Stories

Famicity: a new free platform that allows families to gather, record and share their stories. Now in English and French.

One of the things I love about RootsTech is meeting innovators who are passionate about creating new ways to discover, preserve and share family history. While I was there I met Guillaume Languereau, CEO and co-founder of Famicity. I was impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication to his company and thought I’d share it with you.

What is Famicity?

Famicity is a free platform that helps families curate and share their pictures, videos and memories “so future generations remember who they are and where they come from,” says Guillaume. “The goal is to create a living family tree where the whole family will collaborate and share to preserve the story of each and every person.”

“It’s a legacy center,” Guillaume says, meant not just for distant family history but for recording the history that’s unfolding now. In fact, he says, “the users who share the most are young mothers with a newborn baby.”

Famicity appears to work similarly to family trees on many genealogy websites, with emphasis on family social networking and privacy. No paid subscriptions are required; relatives can be invited by email. You can build a tree from scratch or by importing a GEDCOM file. Each person in the family has a profile, with his or her information organized in timeline format. The design is meant to serve the needs of old and young. “A child just has to click on a person to discover the story of his/her life. It has never been easier to tell every family member’s story.”

The service was developed in France over the course of 5 years. It launched there  and now has 150,000 users who have documented more than 3 million ancestors. Its success brought Guillaume to RootsTech 2016 to launch Famicity in English.

Famicity is a free service available on PC, MAC, tablets, and mobiles. Here’s a video teaser:

 

I do remind everyone, when they upload and share family history pictures, video, stories and other precious “digital artifacts,” to keep and back up their own master copies of them on their own computers. I love seeing relatives share and collaborate online–and I also love knowing they’ve secured and backed up their master files within their own reach. I use Backblaze which you can learn more about here.

More Gems on Building Trees with Your Family

MyHeritage: Adding Photos and Stories to Your Tree (Free Video Tutorial)how to approach a genealogist about a family tree error Ancestry

Errors on Someone Else’s Ancestry.com Tree?

Who Else Has Viewed This Record? Find Living Relatives on Ancestry.com

TLC Renews “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Long Lost Family”

TLC Renews Who Do You Think You AreGenealogy is coming back to TV. TLC has renewed “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Long Lost Family” for additional seasons.

TLC announced on June 9th that the network will have additional seasons of both “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Long Lost Family.” Both series averaged over 1.8 million viewers.

The two-time Emmy-nominated WDYTYA follows celebrities as they take a personal journey of their family tree. Recent celebrities included Bryan Cranston, who uncovered an ancestor’s heroic dedication during the Civil War, and Molly Ringwald, who learned about the dangerous conditions of her coal-mining ancestors.

The “Long Lost Family” series features the emotional and touching stories of people who have had a separation from their family. The show reunites these individuals and shares their stories of adoption, mystery, and questions. This past season reunited several family members, including a mother and daughter who worked together and did not realize they were related. “Long Lost Family” is hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, who also share their own stories of adoption.

Ancestry will be teaming up with TLC again as a sponsor for both series. As part of the sponsorship, Ancestry provides the family history research to help make discoveries possible on both series.

Are you a fan of these genealogy-themed shows? We’d love to hear which stories have touched you the most. Please leave a comment below:

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