What a very eventful year 2017 has been for me! I have learned a lot about my biological paternal family, I have learned a lot about genealogy, and in the spring of this year, I got married!
This coming week, I will be going to the nice people who issue driver's licenses and I will be writing an article about the information that is contained on various ones in the United States.
Additionally, my step son wrote an article for school about genealogy, and I will be including it here, since it was a project that he did without my knowledge (except for one question he asked me). Perhaps some other schools would be interested in doing a similar project.
I look forward to everything that is in store for 2018.
Be safe, be blessed and keep reading!
I have been fascinated with genealogy. The stories that my grandmother, great aunts and great grandmother would tell me were ones that I could recite at least in part by the time that I was a young teen.
As time went by, I would get copies of documents. Carefully, I would copy them and slide them into a page protector. In a time long before the internet, each piece of paper represented someone either sending off for a form, going to the library and making a copy, or sharing a page from a document that someone in the family held.
A distant relative that I met online, Rachel, offered to send me her box of research. I was thrilled. She was advanced in years. She was afraid that the family trees that she had taken years to compile would be lost forever since no one in her immediate family was even remotely interested.
I took her up on the offer and within a few weeks, a large cardboard box came to me. It was filled with all sorts of family trees. Connections that I had never seen. It was very excited. I called Rachel on the phone and asked her where she got all of her information from. She explained that the items she had included, birth certificates and what not were from research. Then she told me the sentence that would break my heart.
"The rest I filled in or made up. I even edited some of the birth certificates and stuff with correction fluid to make them match."
I couldn't believe my ears. The box that I had now had no value to me. I put everything back in it and taped it up. I have never opened it again. She had even created false relationships to famous people because she thought that it would make the tree more interesting.
When you are doing research and adding to your family tree, always cite your source. NEVER make up information.
All eyes are on the United States with all of the weather events that we have been facing right now. Flooding, fires, hurricanes, devastating losses. It is hard to comprehend that this is all happening in the US right now at the same time. Texas coastal cities are still dealing with the devastation that has occurred with Hurricane Harvey. Now, Irma is bearing down on the Atlantic Ocean.
Before I go into saving these things, save lives first. The most important things to save are the lives of your family and animals. This should never come before saving lives. Never choose stuff over lives.
That being said, if you have prepared for evacuation with family and animals and you have time, prepare your stuff. If you have not backed up all of the data, do it now. If you don't have a backup hard drive and can get one, get one and backup your hard drive.
For books and papers, place them in a heavy duty sealed bag. *I used the zip top bags that came in one gallon and 5 gallon sizes. After they are in bags, place them in contractor's trash bags. Three bags per box. Now, place the bags in a plastic tub. Not a cardboard box. Now, a contractor's trash bag over the plastic tub. At the top where the bag closes, make a handle of duct tape and write on there what is in each tub.
There is a popular meme going around right now that is stating to place your things in a dishwasher. Dishwashers are NOT waterproof. They have a drain. What can go out can go in. I have had a dishwasher flood the entire kitchen once. Not waterproof. For a better seal if I were desperate, I would use the refrigerator as it is designed to keep a seal using gaskets. If you DO decide to use this, realize that unless you seal the papers and photos with plastic zip top bags and contractor's bags, the moisture in the refrigerator could cause a lot of problems with mold and bacteria if power is lost in the home and the food goes bad. I seriously would not be using home appliances to store things that were of great value to me.
Mail it ahead. If you are headed to a friend or family member outside of the disaster area, mail your things ahead of you if space is a premium in the transportation that you are using. I am serious. Insure it, and mail it ahead. When I went to England the last time, I mailed my luggage. It was cheaper than airline fees, and it was very freeing to not have to worry about my bags.
I would do the same right now with something as important as my genealogy research and family photos.
Please be safe.
Since I have been on my search for my paternal biological family, I have been fortunate enough to come across some really lovely people. I have met some of the most helpful people that you could ever want to meet.
I have also met some people who really did not think that I should be following through on finding my biological family.
I would like to comment on that with some cold, hard facts, and probably some raw emotion as well.
I am not a secret. I have never lived as though I were a secret. I am a person. I have thoughts, feelings, emotions, and bleed when I am cut, the same as everyone else.
I am not a secret. What two adults did to get me here was something that I was a result of, not because I was an active consenting person.
I am not a secret. When I am asked for my complete medical history, I can only make a guess at part of my history. Because I don't know.
I am not a secret. When I look at my family, I know that I have traits that belong to my biological parent that I don't know.
I am not a secret. I never agreed to be in hiding so that someone would not have to confront their actions from the past.
I am not a secret. I am not in hiding, nor should I have to be.
I am not demanding a relationship with my biological family, if that is not what they want. But what I am wanting is for them to know that I exist. For them to know that there is someone else in the world who is carrying their genetic line. For them to know that life is messy, that is how we are made. I don't hold any anger or grudges, but I am not a secret.
For United States Readers, Independence Day Celebrations are nearly upon us. Although July 4th falls on a Tuesday, there are some sites that are offering free access to their records!
Here are the details:
American Ancestors is being very generous with their offer of access for a week completely free. All that you have to do is sign up, and you are able to use all of their databases! Expires July 6th, 2017.
Ancestry is offering access to their 13 Colonies database, ending on July 4th.
Go sign up and enjoy looking at the free databases!
Ellis Island Statue of Liberty Genealogy Portal
As always, good luck on your search!
A problem that a lot of people have when trying to reach out and contact their genetic family via Ancestry and other similar sites is that the family members that they are trying to reach out to don't check their accounts very often.
This can be really frustrating for a person who is trying to discover their family.
Here are some tips that I have used to try and find the family that I am looking for. I hope that these will help you, too!
1. Search the username in a google search, in quotation marks. If the user name is ABC123, I will search "ABC123" to see what pulls up. If I don't get a lot of hits or if I get no hits, I will remove the quotes. Sometimes I get a lot of hits. Sometimes, I am still stumped.
If I am lucky, at one of these posts, there will be an email address or a contact me button. I pretty much know that I have the right person if I find posts by that user name in a genealogy forum or page.
The weirdest one that I have ever looked for? One match only, and it was to a toy boat collector in Europe. Sent an email and heard back from him in less than 30 minutes. He had only taken the test to learn what his genetic makeup was. Never bothered to create a family tree or check back to the site. Imagine his surprise when I united him to a very close family relative.
2. Notice if the user name is a person's name. Some people will just use their name. JohnWSmith, for example would help my search, especially if I had an idea of the city and state that they are in. The more unusual the name, the easier this will be.
3. Notice if the user name gives a clue. JohnWSmithGolferNYC would really help you out in your search. The username JWSNYC tells me nothing, unless there are matches on the initial google search.
4. Make notes of what actions that you take as you go. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the great lead that you had, only to find out that you can't find it.
5. IF you decide to send emails, take the time to create the same email in a word processing file, such as Microsoft Office or Open Office. That way, you can merely copy and paste over and over to all of the contacts that you find.
6. Make notes of all of the emails that you send out, and if you get responses, make notes of them as well.
Good luck on your search!
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.
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