Book Review: The Manual to Online Public Records by Sankey and Hetherington. Updated 4th Edition.
If you are doing a lot of online research for finding family members in your search for reunion or building family trees, this book can be one of the tools in your arsenal that will help you to find matches.
Published by Facts on Demand Press, this book is amazing! It breaks down into different sections search strategies and tools.
Chapter 5 and 6 are what will make this book a goldmine for genealogists and family searchers. It is a list of resources broken down by state and county. I have used these sections so much already that I have bookmarks in the areas that I tend to use the most. Chapter 6 is Federal resources and how to access them. I find myself using this book all the time in looking up information and I know that you will, too. The thing that I find the most helpful in using this book is the way it is laid out is very intelligent. Seeing all of the licensing bodies, for example, will allow me to look in areas that I might not have considered up until then.
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.
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 a new user to Autosomal DNA, only having my results arrive to me in the fall of 2016, so any time that new information is found by me, it is always new to me, no matter how long it has been out there.
Before you go to any of these sites, you will want to download your DNA and place the files in a folder on your desktop for easy access. Some sites will require that you convert your files to a different format. I have included a few links to get that done as well!
All of the links that I am going to include in this article have been visited and tried out with me. I will provide information about each link below. Bookmark this page!
www.gedmatch.com This site is such a fun site to visit, as well as very informative. If I were to write of all of the features at this 90 percent free site, I would be writing a several page long article.
Here are the basics: You create a profile and upload your DNA files to the site. Allow up to a few days for the site to process the data. Go back and you will have the following information available to you with just a few clicks of the mouse:
One to Many comparison: displays DNA matches found in their database. (If you have completed a DNA test somewhere, you may see some matches that you already know about!) I love this feature because I get to see a lot of people who are related to me who are not in my FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) profile.
X Match: Only displays those who you are an X chromosome match to.
A nice feature of these 2 tables is that when someone uploads data to the GEDMatch site, for the first 30 days, these two tables will reflect that by showing the test number with a green background in the test kit rectangle. The brighter the green, the more recent that it was uploaded. A white background in this field reflects that it has been greater than 30 days since the user uploaded their data.
Admixture Heritage (ethnicity) There are so many variables that you can use on this site to explore this option, I simply don't have the room to list them all here. Check it out, and you may very well find yourself spending a few hours in the Admixture Heritage section.
Are Your Parents Related? I don't know who my biological father is, so to be honest, I was a little bit nervous when I did this test. I was relieved that there is no relation between them, but for certain tribes of Jewish ancestry, this is a common problem. This test will show the answer if you are uncertain and looking for this information. Free.
Archaic DNA Matches. Going back. Way back. You may be amazed at what you find. My thought was "cool".
The GedMatch.com is a great website, and they also offer a pay as you go option called Tier 1 Utilities that gives you access to 7 other features that are not covered in the free option. I have not used them, but I have plans to in the future. As soon as I do, I will update this portion of the article.
GedMatch is an excellent program that provides thousands of dollars worth of tests that are free. Plan to go over there with a pen and paper for all the notes that you will be making as well as printing out some of the beautiful charts and graphs that are free. I am actually considering framing a couple of them because they are lovely and distinctive.
dnagedcom.com I always feel a bit technically challenged when I come to this website because I don't remember how I got to the place on the site to access the information that I am interested in. After a few bad clicks and making notes, I finally will find the place I want to be. I am sure that your experience will vary, perhaps it would be better if I went there a lot more. I wish that I were more enthusiastic about this site, but perhaps with time and practice, which I endeavor to do this summer, my experience with this site will change. I will update as I use it more. The site is free to upload data, free to use.
http://dnaadoption.com/ This is a wonderful site if you are an adoptee or other displaced family member trying to family your family through DNA. I cannot say enough lovely and wonderful things about the wonderful group of people there. If you are on this search, as I am, I wish you nothing but the very best of luck in your search, and when you find your family, I hope that you will contact me here so that we can share the happy news. All of the very best of luck to you!
https://opensnp.org/ This is a place where you are free to upload your information and create DNA phenotype questionnaires as well as answer others. It is funded by donations, and I would strongly urge a donation if you can afford it. People are doing science research on their own as well as contributing to the research of others. Yay, science!
http://www.y-str.org/ This site is the very first site that I ran my DNA through. I was so glad that it was so easy. The creator of the tools that are still on his site for free is no longer working on the DNA project. He has moved his attention to spreading the word of God. I wish him the very best of luck and I urge you to go and have a look at the tools that he has created as they are free. The program files that are there must be downloaded to your hard drive for them to work. Some of the programs are nearly instant in their results showing up. Others, especially those that are processing a lot of information, such as the Parentless Phasing application can take a long time. For free, you can't complain!
www.promethease.com I found Promethease sort of by accident by doing a search for something else that was autosomal related and there was the Promethease site. But I am so very glad that I did. Promethease is chock full of information. If you were to print your results, I imagine that the report would be at least 50 pages long. Promethease IS pay to play. Their rates start at $5.00 and go to $10.00, depending on the amount of information that you are submitting. Save the bookmark when you get your results, or if you have the inclination, print the files, too! My family and I all ran our results through Promethease and the emails flew back and forth that week as we compared the results. It was really cool to nod at one another when we discovered that there was a genetic link to some issues in the family. For others, it can be a jumping point to a discussion with your doctor. After appx. 30 days, your results will be discarded unless you have saved your bookmark.
For all of these these tools, you will need to have a copy of your DNA results on your hard drive. I can only attest to the tools that are for autosomal DNA. I have not had any of the other tests done. At the point I do, however, there will be a post right here to let you know.
Tell me which tools you liked the best in the comments section!
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.
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!
I saw an ad with some really interesting and cool graphics last week for a company called Twile. That ad promised easy to create graphics that would make genealogy more interesting and accessible for family members that perhaps don't have the genealogy fever that some of us do.
The graphic that was showed looked really interesting and cool.
I saved the link, but I put off messing around with the site until I had a little bit of time.
I like their "Trees Without Roots Fall Over" Tagline. It is catchy.
The infographic that is offered is eye catching as well. I downloaded the 2 that are currently offered. One is called pastel, and the other, in honor of Saint Patrick's Day is Green and Orange.
Follow their easy instructions about getting your gedcom file. It is pretty simple. I opted to use my gedcom file from Ancestry.com. I searched online about how to download my gedcom from Ancestry and it was pretty simple.
After I uploaded the file to Twile, it took less than five minutes and I was able to look at their site and see how they presented the information that is my family tree.
I can't wait to see what else Twile has up their collective sleeves to make genealogy fun and engaging for the family historian to engage other members, but this is a really good, fun and easy to use tool!
I write a lot about genetic genealogy, family trees, DNA, and home life as well as the occasional product review. Comments? Email me at CocktailsAndSwagger@Hotmail.com