I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!
Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3 of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!
I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.
When I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.
In the #10 genealogy blog postNew AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…
A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!
…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.
How to Find Early American Ancestors – New England Genealogy
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In this episode: In this episode we head back to 17th century New England with Lindsay Fulton of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. She’s going to share the best resources for finding your early American ancestors. Lindsay Fulton is with American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society where leads the Research and Library Services team as Vice President. She is a frequent contributor to the NEHGS blog and was featured in the Emmy-Winning Program: Finding your Roots: The Seedlings, a web series inspired by the popular PBS series “Finding Your Roots.”
Genealogy Gems Premium Members Exclusive Download:
This interview topic comes from my YouTube video series Elevenses with Lisaepisode 33. You can find all the free Elevenses with Lisa videos and show notes here. Log into your Premium membership and then click here to download the handy PDF show notes that compliment this podcast episode.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
DNA Testing Companies
There are several companies that test DNA for family history including:
Each of these companies offers a very similar autosomal DNA test, but each has its 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.
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 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!
Genetic Genealogy for the Layman
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 ? Thank you” – Anne B.
Genealogy Gems Publications is proud to publish Diahan Southard’s 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.
8 Guides to Help You Understand and Use Your DNA Results
The complete collection of DNA quick reference guides cover:
The testing companies: AncestryDNA, 23andme, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage
The tests: Autosomal, YDNA, Mitochondrial
How to find your ancestors using your DNA.
All guides are available in convenient digital download format.
Click here to shop now: Save on the set of 8 DNA quick reference guides at the Genealogy Gems store.
Free Podcast: Diahan has a regular segment on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast where she answers your questions and provides invaluable insights into the latest in genetic genealogy.
Free Articles: You can browse the complete archive of DNA articles at Genealogy Gems. The most recent will appear first and then scroll down to read through the past articles.
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:
A ton of genealogy and family history research can be done for free. In this episode I’ll share 15 fabulous free websites and what I love about them. These are essential for everyone serious about saving money while climbing their family tree.
(Get your ad-free Show Notes Cheat Sheet at the bottom of this page in the Resources section.)
LISA’S SHOW NOTES: Get your ad-free downloadable handout in the Resources section at the bottom of this page.
Snagit Clipping Tool: Here’s our link for purchasing your copy of Snagit (screen clipping tool) Thank you for using our link. Use coupon code GENEALOGY15to get 15% off. (We will be compensated at no additional cost to you, which makes the free Elevenses with Lisa show and notes possible.)
“Cooperative effort between the National Park Service and several public and private partners whose goal is to increase Americans’ understanding of this decisive era in American history by making information about it widely accessible.
11. Soldiers and Sailors Database
Men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
Histories of Union and Confederate regiments.
Links to descriptions of significant battles.
Selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records.
Do you have relatives who served in or were affected by the American Civil War? Check out this book by Library of Congress staffers, who draw on the unmatched resources of the national library to tell this epic story.
The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War by 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 in the war activity are the struggles 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
Catch the highlights of this book in this lecture by author Margaret Wagner, who calls the Civil War “the greatest and most costly struggle in U.S. history” and a major turning point in national history. There’s a link to the transcript for those who want to read or quote the talk.