I was beginning to doubt whether or not I would ever be able to write this article!
As all of you know, I have no idea of who my biological father is. This caused me a lot of angst when I was a teenager. I so badly wanted that "Dad" moment that you see on television. The one where the daughter knows that she and her father have a special bond.
Growing up, I assumed that my mother's husband was my father. I had no reason to believe otherwise. I called him "Daddy" and he loved me very much and still does, I am sure. Bring in an ugly divorce and all of the sudden, I knew that "Daddy" was no biological relation to me. I was gutted to the core.
Less than 8 years later, I would be adopted by my Aunt and Uncle. I would now call them "Mom and Dad". I loved them very much then, and I still do now. I honor and respect them very much, too.
As I grow older, it is weird when I am asked for medical information. I have to leave part of my information blank. I simply don't know the answers because I don't know who my father is.
I find it interesting that through the years, I have been discouraged from searching by people. I have been told "What if you are intruding upon his life?" or "What if he has a wife or children?" and similar.
My answer has changed over the years, from quietly backing down my search back then to explaining that I never agreed to be someone's shameful secret. Why should I be a secret, anyway?
After I got my test done from Family Tree DNA, I wanted to know who my father was, RIGHT THEN!
Of course, life doesn't work that way.
I diligently uploaded my DNA to all of the relevant sites. GEDmatch is the massive one that everyone will tell you about. I uploaded to there, and I encouraged all of my family that had been tested to do the same. I joined groups on Facebook and elsewhere that are for people trying to connect with their bio family.
I am referred to as an NPE, which stands for Non-Parental Event or Not Parent Expected. I prefer the easier term of "bastard" because my parents were not married at the time of my conception, or anytime before or after. I truly understand that term, but we live in a gentler time, so NPE it is.
Being a part of these boards is being a part of a community. Adoptees searching for birth parents and birth family, birth family looking for adoptee, people like myself looking for their bio father and similar.
Occasionally, people will post with their reunion story, and they will sometimes post photos of them and one or both parents. It is very heartening to see, and it breeds hope in the soul.
At first, I would scroll through. I did not participate, I only read. I was too scared about all of the what if that was out there. I tried to tell myself that I was too busy or that I was wasting my time, and a bunch of other reasons that were not really valid.
When it boiled down to it, I was scared. I was scared of the possibility of rejection. Of the chance that my birth father did not want to have anything to do with me. Plus many more thoughts that became huge fears that only increased in size during the time that they were allowed to dwell unabated in my head.
I read a post that changed all of that. A woman posted looking for her father. She was in anguish because she wanted to know this man before her grandchild was born. The responses were heartfelt and genuine. People encouraged her to proceed with her search. They told her to be brave. Heart emoji's flew everywhere. She asked the question that had been lying in my heart. "What if he doesn't want anything to do with me?"
The answers back were a balm for me. "Then you know." A woman said. "Give him time. Wait for him to make the decision. Right now, he doesn't even know that there is a decision to make."
Those were the words that firmed my resolve. My biological father, if he was alive, did not know. How could he decide yes or no about knowing me if he did not even know I existed?
I crafted the post over several days. It was really hard for me to try and explain what I now call "My conception story" because I really did not have a lot of details. The ones that I had were not really specific. But they were details. If a person who was born into a traditional family was able to hand out their conception story on an engraved card, I felt like mine was on a dirty bar napkin. But it was all I had.
I added a few photos of me, and a few photos of my mother. Within a few hours, I had people asking to help me. Asking where my DNA results were posted to. Making connections and letting me know what those connections meant. I was really happy, and excited.
This month, I got my very own "search angel". A search angel is a person that helps you with your search and points you in the right direction, asks your contacts questions, and does what is needed to narrow your search down.
My search angel has been amazing. She has asked me questions and helped me on my search. By using my DNA information and my contacts through my DNA test, she has been able to create a family tree with me in it. She sent me an image and said "I think that this man is your father." I stared at that photo. I could see me in him, but for some reason, I didn't want to see the link when she told me that this man was deceased. It was like being gut punched. Shortly afterwards, a photo was sent to me that, if it turns out that he is my father, she is my half sibling.
We will know soon enough, but I am possibly on the path to knowing the other half of me.
Are you going to a High School Reunion?
This is an excellent opportunity for some genealogical research if you are from the area that you went to school.
Why? Yearbooks will be brought out, photos that you may or may not have seen before and more.
When I went to a high school reunion with a friend of mine, he was delighted when he saw a photo of his mother in photos of the big football game, gluing sequins onto posters. His mother was deceased, so any new photos were welcome additions to his collection.
Here are some tools to use if you are going to be going to a high school reunion, get business cards printed ahead of time. There is no need to have a lot of information on there. Links to social media. Email address. Phone number if you feel comfortable sharing. Always put a link to your LinkedIn account as well. Most important part of the business card? A tip I learned from a realtor: Have a photo on your business card. People will not throw away a business card with a photo on it as quickly as they will discard others.
When you mingle with others, tell them that you are into genealogy and let them know to get in touch with you through any of the means that are on the card.
If you are in a town where you have family, make it a point to let people that you really want to get in touch.
If you are interested, you can also live-stream your Facebook some video of your high school while you are there. Make it a point to say people's names if you are bad at this sort of thing. YouTube is an option here as well, but in Facebook, you can tag fellow users right then and right there so that you do not forget to tag them later.
Of course, have a good time. That goes without saying. But unless you are on the committees, find out who is in charge of the reunion, who is in charge of media and anything other groups and committees that are there. You may want to reach out to these people in order to get copies of the contact information, photos or videos from the event.
I love reading. It is one of my great passions. I like to read a book where every page is a joy to experience.
I recently read Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) By Megan Smolenyak, the companion book to the television series of the same name. She refers to herself and other genealogists as "genies", which I find very endearing.
Megan writes about how you can research your own family tree and she provides copious links for the diligent to use in their own searches. She writes in a style that is easily understood and followed by others, and I found myself making notes throughout the time that I was reading, filling a composition notebook with links and observations for use on my own family tree.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a lot of information in WDYTYA that I did not know about and had not seen before. Some of the links I did not even know existed.
WDYTYA shows how to research for the novice. It is the helper who gives you the nudge that you need to point you in the right direction. It is the notebook with all of the links you need, it is a great companion book.
There is a difference between the hardcover and the paperback editions. The hardcover features celebrity genealogy profiles in a color section, whereas the paperback does not. If you are wanting a book solely for researching your family, the paperback should suffice. I found that the celebrity section added some depth and understanding.
I recommend this book strongly for the amount of links that it contains, the easy to follow directions and the delightful way that the author makes a sometimes tricky hobby into something that becomes more vibrant and alive with each found relative.
My friend, Katy and I got together a month ago to go over photos. As I mentioned in the past, it is a shame when photos from the past are not labeled because you just don't know the relevance.
We were poring over the photos when I saw a man in a uniform, arm dangling over a beautiful woman. "Who's that?" I asked.
"I wish I knew" Katy sighed, dropping it into the cookie tin of photos.
"Hand it back. Just let me look for a second" I saw writing on the uniform. We grabbed a magnifying glass and looked. There, on the uniform were 2 embroidered patches. One was the name of the company, the other was the name of the person. Neither Katy or myself knew the name of the company, so with Google, we were able to find out the name of the business, which gave us the place of the business.
Once we knew all of that, Katy knew which part of her family it was. A little more asking around of family members, and she was able to determine that the photo was of an older great uncle who never came home from World War II.
Look for clues in your photos.
Some examples for dating a photo include:
Cars. If a 2000 Ford Mustang is in a photo, you know that it is not from 1985.
Landmarks in the background. I used to hear the story from my late mother about the bridge heading into the small town of Columbia, Louisiana. The joke was that by the time you crossed that bridge, a relative would have called my great grandmother and let her know that you were on the way to her house. How? Because the community was so small (at the time) that everyone knew everyone as well as the car that they drove. When I was small, we picked persimmons from the side of the bridge, making sure that we did not touch the peel to our lips because the alum (I don't think that is what it actually was) would taste bitter. We loved the time there, and a when I wanted a timeline of a photo that was taken long before I was born, I looked up the history of the bridge. I was thrilled to have a working timeline to go on.
Products. A photo with my great-grandmother shows a box of cereal on the table, a brand I had never heard of. A quick Google search found the brand for me, as well as the years that it was made. I was able to greatly narrow the field of timeline, and by doing that, I was able to also find out some of the food habits of my ancestors, which always adds some depth to them.
I know, these things can seem to be long shots in identifying family, but by narrowing down your timeline with clues, you can eliminate those who have not yet been born, those who have already passed away, and those who were deployed or at college or otherwise not around at that time. This may help you to determine who those people are in those photos.
As I mentioned in my post last weekend, Sunday, my husband and I were married. It was a very simple and intimate ceremony involving close family, a best friend, the minister and his wife. It is everything that we could possibly want, and we are very happy!
I made it a point when we got home to go and update all of the family trees that we have online with all of the pertinent information.
We don't have the marriage license back from the state yet, but as soon as we do, it will be going in a frame on the wall. I am beyond excited as I was pleasantly surprised to note how beautiful the certificate was when we when to get it.
Some things that I decided to include in my family tree notes for future generations is all of the guests, their relationship to either one of us, where they were born, when they were born, where they live now and their employment or student status and location.
I feel that for future generations, this could be the information that breaks down a road block and it makes me feel good to know that in my own small way, I am making a contribution.
Something else that I did was to label each of the digital photos that with the full names of each person that was in that image.
I also listed off the specific location that we were married, not just the city, county, state.
I will be spending a large part of this summer documenting digital photos with this information. I know that I have written in the past about the tragedy of old photos that had no labels on them. Although they were interesting images, they hold no personal or historical significance to me.
I appreciate all of the emails that I have gotten from each and everyone of you wishing me the best of luck for a happy and successful marriage. The wedding, to be honest, is not the part I was concerned about. It is the marriage!
Don't forget to check out my links to the right!
Hugs to you all,
This weekend has been one of a lot of housecleaning of my online family trees. I have been ruthless in pruning and cutting away family members who are not related to me. I am not talking about in laws or anything like that. I am talking about family members who I used to believe were related to me and I now know that they are not. Although I want to have a full and robust family tree, I need to prune the "bad branches" to make sure that I am not getting false positives.
First cuts to make it? Step parents and adoptive parents. I still love everyone, none of that has changed. I am increasing my odds of my parental family finding me by removing the people that I have no biological relation to.
Someone sent me an email explaining how we were related based on a surname that is of no blood relation to me. I sent a nice email and I am still pruning the tree, hours after I started this process.
I learned a couple of things that I would like to share.
When you download the GEDCOM file with all of the "bad" information, don't rename it and don't meddle with that file. If you make a mistake, that is your master copy, there for you in case you need it. I got a little crazy deleting people and nearly deleted myself at one point.
This is for Ancestry.com Other sites will be different, of course.
So, here is how I have done it. I hope that: 1. This is not confusing. 2. That you are able to follow all of this. Let me know if you have any question either by emailing me or by commenting below.
1. Download your GEDCOM file from Ancestry. To do this, go to the main page, click on TREES, then manage your trees. Go to Tree Settings. On the right hand column, there is a green rectangular box that says "Export tree". It will take several minutes to do, but less than 30 minutes unless servers are busy. leave that page open, you will be using it again in a moment.
2. Once the file is downloaded, create a new tree with a name that will let you know that this is for your DNA tree. I included the words Autosomal in there so that I will know which tree is the one for my research.
3. Upload the file you just downloaded. (I know, this is confusing.) This file is your GEDCOM file. Note that the name of the file will be the same as the tree that you took it from. Don't change the name of the file, because again, if you make an error, you don't want there to be a conflict.
4. Do you have family members that are no biological relation to you? Parents who are not your parents? We will use a parent who is not a parent for my example. (Referred to as a non parental event) Don't delete the parent yet. Save yourself some aggravation. Go back on their timeline as far as you can go. All the way back as many generations as there are. Start deleting people that are not related to you all the way back there. Don't forget spouses and children of these genetic non parents! Otherwise you will be forever cleaning up!
5. Remove all of the people that need removed. It may take a while, but be patient.
Now, go back and edit any relationships that may be mis-listed. Change siblings to half siblings and things like that. Ancestry has a setting for step parents, but I removed any and all similar ties because I was still having people contact me in reference to having a match to me.
6. When you are done, if you would like, you can download the GEDCOM file, which should show up with the name of the new family tree that you created. You can then use that new GEDCOM file to upload to any of the places online that host a family tree.
I am really fortunate that a good part of my Moore family line is well documented. I was on a site recently looking up my great-great grandfather, Dotta Cusetta Moore.
Dotta Cusetta was a farmer in northern Louisiana. As many of the men in his family, he chose to go by his initials instead of his name, so I see a lot of things with "DC" on them instead of his name. Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered DC's Old Man Draft Registration from 1942. This little gem has remained hidden from me because of the misspellings.
DC was 64 at the time of the registration. I would like to think that he looked really good for his age because of the fact that 54 was originally written in, and then the 6 in the 64 was overwritten many times to attempt to cover the 5.
There is a lot of good information on this registration, and I want to share all of my findings with you.
1. His name. The ONLY part of my grandfather's name that is correct is his surname, Moore. However, I have run across a lot of spellings of Moore.
2. His place of residence. The address is there, and I can check and see if that address still exists by looking at old maps of the time and seeing how things have changed or remained the same.
3. He did not have a telephone installed at the time of the registration, which is a nice little factoid for gleaning information after the draft.
4. Place of birth. The place of birth is listed as Downsville, Louisiana. If I were searching for a birth record or certificate for DC, this would be an excellent place to start looking.
5. Date of birth. The date of birth matches some of the documents that I have, so I am able to verify that this is my family member.
6. Name and address of person who will always know your address. DC chose to list a relative who lived just down the road from him.
7. Employer's name and address. As stated in the 1940 census, DC was a farmer.
DC did not sign the registration card. Instead, the name was written out, he made his mark of X and it was witnessed by Isabel Elliott, the registrar. This lets me know that DC was at the very least functionally illiterate. There may be other details, but I am keeping it simple right now.
Now, by forwarding one frame in the search that I was conducting, I am able to see the reverse of the registration card. This is the Registrar's Report. It lists off the race, height, weight, complexion, any other physical characteristics and the signature and location where all of this was conducted.
My GG Grandfather was white, 5'2" tall. (Petite!) weighed 138 pounds, had gray hair and blue eyes. His complexion was described as sallow.
Isabell, the registrar completed the back as well, signing it at the bottom and dating it.
To find this document was a nice reward at the end of a very trying week!
My source for this document is the invaluable FamilySearch.Org,
a free site where you can view and review millions of records.
Recently, I was talking with some friends that are active in completing their family genealogy. One of my friends, Wendy shared a story that with her permission, I am going to share here.
Wendy was looking for a long lost uncle. He would appear and disappear from the timeline that her family had. No one could seem to find his birth certificate anywhere. When she was at a family gathering for a sick relative, someone remembered that when the missing uncle was born, his father brought home a brand new candy from the candy store as a celebration for the kids. The candy? Lifesavers Pep-O-Mint. Year of Lifesavers? 1912. The year that the family genealogists had been looking for? 1932. The person that kept appearing and disappearing from the timeline? His son, who unfortunately drowned before he was 25. Once the story of the Lifesavers candy was used as a timeline starting place, a quick search was performed, and there was the missing uncle, born on December 31st of 1912.
Sometimes, the most obscure and strangest clue can be the one that opens up the path to the information that you are looking for.
If you come from a large family, a family census can be a really great way to get to know one another.
It allows you to create questions that are relevant to your family, and get input from your family before you send it out.
A family census allows you to ask questions that can benefit your family in terms of gathering medical history and regional disbursement.
If you are connecting via DNA links, a family census can allow your family to see the types of connections that are shared.
I have created a family census form that I will be adding to the site this week for sale in a PDF format. If you have suggestions for the census, please feel free to email me. I would love to have input on this.
Here are some of the questions that I am including in my family census:
Of course, there is room for more questions, and I have not decided if all of these questions will make the cut, but I want to create a dynamic document that will not take longer than 10 minutes to fill out.
Let me know your thoughts!
Last week, I did a brief review of the fun to use website for genealogy, Twile. This week, they added to their site the ability to have their graphics printed! Twile is the company that creates fun to see genealogy infographics using your GEDCOM file. My review is right below this post, so check that out for more information.
Since I created my 2 images for free with Twile, some of my younger family members have expressed an interest to know more about genealogy, and a desire to create their own graphics.
Sometimes, the hardest part of doing genealogy is trying to get other family members interested and engaged!
I really like my Twile experience, and I am looking forward to what they have plans for in the future!
My name is Dixie, and this is the blog part of my page, where I write about whatever strikes my fancy. Contact me at: PirateDixie@gmail.com