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

5 Reason You MUST Look at Original Records

Show Notes: When you find family history information online you MUST make every effort to find the original genealogy record so that your family tree will be accurate! There are 5 reasons to find original records. I’ll explain what they are, and what to look for so that you get the most information possible for your family tree.

If you’re a genealogy beginner, this video will help you avoid a lot of problems. And if you’re an advanced genealogist, now is the time to fix things. 

Watch the Video

Show Notes

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

#1 Many online records are simply way too vague.

Records come in many forms. Many genealogy websites consider that each name that appears on a document is a “record” when they’re counting records. So, when you hear that 10 million records have been added to a website, it doesn’t necessarily mean that 10 million genealogical documents have been added. It oftentimes means that that’s the number of names that they’ve added.

One document could have a lot of names. In the case of a death certificate, it could have the name of the deceased, the name of the spouse, the name of the informant, and the names of the parents. Each one of those gets counted as a record.

Recently, MyHeritage announced they’ve added 78 million new records to their website. However, many of these records are simply transcriptions, they’re extracting the information from whatever the original source was. That information becomes searchable, and that’s terrific because they are great clues. So, sometimes when you go and look at the records themselves, it turns out that record really is just a transcription. There is no digital record to look at.

Sometimes the website doesn’t even tell you what the original record was. There will be clues, though. You can use those clues and run a search on those words. So, if it talks about a particular location, or type of record, or the name of the record, you could start searching online and find out where are those original records are actually held. Sometimes they are on another genealogy website. But a lot of times, and I’ve seen this more recently, they are publicly available records, oftentimes from governmental agencies. Very recently, we’ve been seeing more recent records that are just selected text. They may be records for people who just passed away a year or two ago.

There are a wide range of places where these types of records can come from. But if that genealogy website got its hands on the record, chances are you could too. And it’s really important to do that.

#2 What’s important to you might not have been prioritized for indexing.

The indexer is a person, or perhaps even an artificial intelligence machine, who has gone through the documents and extracted information and provided it in text form. Sometimes when you search on a genealogy website, all you’re getting is just that typed text, that transcription, of some of the key data from the original document.

I’ll tell you about one example in my family. I was looking at a 2x great grandmother back in Germany. Her name was Louise Leckzyk. She’s listed as Louise Nikolowski in the Ancestry record hint. Technically, that’s true, she was Louise Nikolowski at the time of the birth of her child. But if you pull up the original record, what you discover is she’s not listed as Louise Nikolowski on the record. She’s listed with her maiden name, which was usually the case in those old German church records. So that’s huge. We’ve talked about how challenging it can be to find maiden names here on the Genealogy Gems channel. So, we don’t want to miss any opportunity to get one. But if we had taken this record hint at face value, and just extracted that information, put it in our database, or attached it to our online family tree, and never looked at the original document, we would have completely missed her maiden name. And that maiden name is the key to finding the next generation, her parents.

#3 Not all information on a record is indexed.

It’s very common for large portions of information on a document not to be indexed. Here’s the reason for that: Indexing costs money. When a genealogy company takes a look at a new record collection they have some hard decisions to make. They have to decide which fields of information will be included in the indexing. Oftentimes, there will be several columns, as in a church record or a census record. The 1950 census was an example of this. There’s so much data that the company has to look at that and say, what do we think would be of the most value to our users? They then index those fields. They’ve got to pay to not only have them indexed, but potentially also reviewed human eyes, or AI. That all costs money.

So, there will inevitably be information that gets left off the index. That means that when you search the website you’re going to see the record result, and it can give you the impression that that is the complete record. But very often, it’s not the complete record. Tracking down and taking a look at the original digital scan of the record is the only way to know.

It’s possible that the records have not been digitally scanned. In the case of public government records, that information may have been typed into a database, not extracted from a digital image. There may not be a digital scanned image. It may be very possible that the only original is sitting in a courthouse or church basement somewhere. It’s also possible that the digital images are only available on a subscription website that you don’t subscribe to.

We need to do our best to try to track down the original document and take a look at it to see if there’s anything else that’s of value to us in our research that the indexers or the company just didn’t pick up on or didn’t spend the money to index.

#4 Different websites potentially have different digital scans of the same record.

Websites sometimes collaborate on acquiring and indexing records. In those cases, they might be working with the same digital images. But oftentimes, they create their own digital scans. That means that a record may be darker or lighter, or sharper or blurrier from one website to the next. So while you found the record on one website, another might have a copy that’s much easier to read.

Digital scanning has also come a long way over the years. Many genealogy sites now are looking at some of the earlier scans they did. They’re realizing that some are pretty low quality by today’s standards. They might determine that it’s worth going back and rescanning the record collection. This happened with some of the earliest census records that were digitized many years ago. It makes a lot of sense, because a lot of time has passed, and technology has certainly changed.

So even though you found information many years ago, it might be worth taking a second look if you have any questions about what’s on that document. You may find that that record is actually a newly digitized image on the same website, or you might find that it’s also available somewhere else.

A lot of the partnerships out there are with FamilySearch which is free. So, while you may have a paid subscription to a site like Ancestry or MyHeritage, if there’s anything that you’re questionable on, or you didn’t actually see the original document from one of those paid websites, head to FamilySearch.org. Run a search and see if they happen to have the digitized images. There’s a good chance they might, and it’s worth taking a look.

Sometimes the genealogy website will have tools that allow you to get a better look at the digitized document. Ancestry is a great example of this. On the digitized image page click the tool icon to open the Tools menu. One of my favorite tools is “Invert colors”. Click that button, and it will turn it into a negative image. Sometimes this allows words to pop out in a way that they were not as clearly visible in the normal view.

I downloaded a digital scan from a website several years ago, and it was hard to decipher. I did some searching and was able to find  a clearer copy on another website.

#5 You can verify that the words were indexed accurately.

Reviewing a scan of the entire document provides you with a lot of examples of the handwriting of the person who made the entry. If you have any doubt about words or spelling, making comparisons with other entries can be extremely helpful.

When I first looked at a baptismal record of my 2x great grandmother’s son, I thought her surname was Lekcyzk. However, after seeing a different digital scan, I started to question that. Having the original record allows me to review the handwriting of the person who wrote these records. Comparing the handwriting of other entries on the page helped me determine that the swish at the top is the dotting of an eye that just had a bit more flourish. I also reconfirmed that the Z in the name is definitely a Z by comparing it to other Zs on the page.  

Bonus Reason: You may have missed the second page.

Some records have more than one page, and it’s easy to miss them. If the indexer took information primarily off of the first page, it may not be obvious when you look at that page, that in fact, it’s a two-page (or more) document. More pages potentially means more valuable information!

It’s also possible that if you downloaded a document years ago when you first started doing genealogy, you might have missed the additional pages. Now that you’re a more experienced researcher, it would be worth going back and looking at particular types of records that are prone to having second pages. Examples of this are:

  • census records,
  • passenger list,
  • passport records,
  • criminal records,
  • and probate records.

If you have single page records that fall in one of these categories saved to your computer, you might want to go back and do another search for them and check the images that come before and after that page to see if there are more gems to be found.

I hope I’ve convinced you to always make the effort to obtain and review original records for the information that you find while doing genealogy research online.

I’ll bet there’s even more reasons to do this, so I’m counting on you. Please leave a comment and let me know what you’ve found following these 5 reasons, and any additional reasons that you have.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. This week: Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Wales and U.S. passport and homestead records.

AUSTRALIA – QUEENSLAND. Ancestry.com has added several indexes for Queensland, Australia: Prison and Reformatory Indexes (1824-1936), Property Indexes (1842-1895), Index to Aliens (1913) and Occupational Indexes (1857-1922). These indexes all come from the Queensland State Archives. You can search them for free at Ancestry.com or from the QSA website.

BELGIUM CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch has updated its civil registration collections for several parts of Belgium (dating back to the 1500s for some areas): Antwerp, Brabant, East Flanders, HainautLiège and West Flanders. According to FamilySearch, these collections include “civil registration(s) of births, marriages and deaths from the Belgium National Archives. The collection also includes marriage proclamations, marriage supplements, and some original indexes.”

CZECH REPUBLIC SCHOOL REGISTERS. Over a million browsable digital images from the Opava State Regional Archive have been added to a free collection of Czech Republic School Registers (1799-1953) at FamilySearch.org. “School registers contain the full name for a child, birth date, place of birth, country, religion and father’s full name, and place of residence.”

ENGLAND AND WALES SCHOOL RECORDS. Findmypast.com has just added about 687,000 new school admission records for 41 counties in England and Wales (1870-1914). Original records may include names, residence, birth data, school name and location, parents’ names, admission information, father’s occupation, any exemption from religious instruction, previous school attendance, illnesses/absence and even exam results.

ENGLAND – CORNWALL. Several new collections on Cornwall are searchable at Ancestry.com: Congregational and Baptist Church Registers (1763-1923), Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1839-1872), Militia and Sea Fencibles Index (1780 – 1831), Bodmin Gaol Records (1821-1899), Penzance Dispensary Admissions (1828-1841), Truro Police Charge Books (1846-1896) and Inmates at St. Lawrence’s Asylum, Bodmin (1840-1900).

GERMANY VITAL RECORDS. Ancestry.com has recently added a new collection of death records for Mannheim. It has also updated collections of birth records for Hamburg; birth, marriage and death records for Regen County (dating to 1876) and birth, marriage and death records for Oldenberg.

JAPAN GENEALOGIES AND VILLAGE RECORDS. FamilySearch.org has added nearly a quarter million browsable images to its collection of Japanese village records (dating back to 709 AD) and nearly 60,000 browsable records to its collection of Japanese genealogies (dating to 850 AD).

MEXICO CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Ancestry.com has updated its collections of indexed images to Chihuahua, Mexico birth, marriage and death records from civil registrations. The collections are in Spanish, so use Spanish names and locations.

U.S. HOMESTEAD RECORDS. Ancestry.com’s collection of U.S. Homestead Records (1861-1936) has recently been updated. According to the collection description, “Homestead files consist of unbound documents that include final certificates, applications with land descriptions, affidavits showing proof of citizenship, register and receiver receipts, notices and final proofs, and testimonies of witnesses. These documents are part of the Records of the Bureau of Land Management (formerly known as the General Land Office), Record Group (RG) 49. The collection currently includes records from Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, and part of Iowa. Additional records will be added in future updates.”

U.S. PASSPORTS. Nearly 40,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection of United States Passport Applications (1795-1925). These are a fantastic resource for finding immigrant ancestors and those who traveled a lot. Click here to learn more about U.S. passport records.

thank you for sharing

Thanks for sharing this post with others who have ancestors from these parts of the world. You’re a gem!

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