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.
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, you may qualify for a study through 23 and Me. (Free Kit!)
Here are the criteria that they list through this link: enroll.23andme.com/research/depression-bipolar/identity/
Please check that you meet all criteria below:
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!
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 life has been a little bit hectic with getting married and moving house. One of the things that I have been wanting to do is to get a nice email out to all of my "good" GEDmatch relatives.
I have been putting this off, wanting to write a "good" email.
I bit the bullet this week, so I wanted to share my do's and don't's right here.
When writing, make excellent notes of WHO you emailed. Include the test kit number, the email address, and if there is a name or initials listed, note them.
Don't make your newly found family member do all of the legwork. List off the surnames that you know of as well as how you are related.
Adopted? No problem. Just mention in passing that you were adopted from city/state and the year of your birth.
I emailed 25 people in my first batch and I got back emails from 7 of them.
The most common responses that I received were:
1. I manage a lot of different family members/kits, so can you please be more specific? (That is why I now include the test number, email and name in each and every email.)
2. What surnames are you researching? That would at least tell me where to look.
3. Where did you have your original test done at so that I can check there as well?
This caused me to change my email to the following (identifying information has been changed for privacy concerns)
Title of email:
Hello GEDMatch DNA cousin!
Body of email:
Hello, my name is Dixie and I matched your test kit T123456 on GEDmatch.com. The person that I match is John Doe.
I have known connections to the following surnames: Brown, Green, White, Black and Grey. I hope that we can compare family trees and determine where we match as I have a lot of brick walls in my research that I would love to get past.
My email address is PirateDixie@gmail.com , My webpage is www.cocktailsandswagger.com if you would like to learn more about the research that I have done so far.
I look forward to hearing from you and comparing notes. Attached, please find a photo of me and my mother so that you can put a name with a face.
I am excited to get to know another cousin!
Notice I answer as many of the questions that my new family members will have? I want this to be easy on them, not a chore! I enclose a picture so that they can put a name with a face and decrease the likelihood that my email will be discarded.
Feel free to use this email, with your modifications, of course, for personal use.
Let me know how your GEDmatch emails went in the comments below.
Hugs and good luck,
This article is going to be a long one, but it is going to be full of a lot of information (primarily for adoptees, but can be modified for birth families as well.)
If you are adopted and are looking for your birth family, there is a lot of information that you should gather before you even search in order to make your search a lot more easy. I will list a lot of those tips, hints and helps here. If you know of any that I have not mentioned, please share by emailing me at PirateDixie@gmail.com or in the comments section below.
Best of luck to all of you on your search!
1. Where were you adopted from? Private Agency/state/foster/in-family adoption or something else? Make sure that you know the source of where you were adopted from.
2. How old were the people involved in the adoption? This includes you, your adoptive parents, the birth parents and any other parties.
3. Where were you born? Do you know the city, the state and the county that you were born in? Make sure that you are completely sure.
4. Do you have your original birth certificate? If not, have you sent off for your original birth certificate?
5. Have you created a narrative of your birth story?
6. Have you contacted the attorneys or government agencies that were responsible for facilitating your placement?
7. Have you had a DNA test done? If not, get one done. If money is an issue, you can get a free test done at Genes For Good. If you want to have access to the largest database, Ancestry.com is the one to go with.
8. Do you have any medical issues that have been in place since birth?
9. If you have had DNA testing done, where are all of the places that you have uploaded it to, such as GEDMatch, DNA.Land, etc.
10. Contact everyone that could have information about you and your files-the hospital, your birth state may have a birth index, the ob/gyn, etc. Check everywhere and leave no stone unturned.
11. Ask everyone in your adoptive family for details about your placement and adoption. They may have clues or information that no one else does. Ask publicly, ask privately. Don't be ashamed. It is your right to pursue this.
12. Make detailed notes at the time that you speak to anyone. Trust and believe when I tell you that you won't remember everything. Ask for spellings, dates, locations and anything else that they are willing and able to share with you.
13. Ask for information that was given to either side by the agency, attorney, etc. There may be valuable clues right there as well.
14. Make sure to ask facilitator if other side ever has written, sent updates, want to write or be in contact or any other information.
15. Write down your test kit numbers and keep them with you. Carry business cards to hand out wherever you go.
16. Prepare a medical history for other side as well as a way for them to contact you.
17. If privacy is a concern, create an email only for this search. Make sure that you check it regularly. You can even set up a notice to let you know when you have an email in that account.
18. Have an honest dialogue with yourself. What is the best case scenario of what you would like to happen? What is the worst case? What are your goals for the short, medium and long term? Are you prepared for the outcomes of death, rejection, mental or physical issues? How about if the person that you are searching for does not want to associate with you, but other relatives do-are you ready for that? What if family members or the family that you are looking for contend that you are creating fake documents or similar? Have you considered counseling to delve into these issues if you don't have ready answers to these issues?
19. Have you set aside money to aid in your search? Except for Genes for Good, DNA tests cost money, requesting documents cost money for copies, and writing to places costs time.
20. Are you willing to create notes and notebooks with all of your search information so that you do not backtrack or lose clues?
21. Are you able to provide verifying information to those family members who may doubt you or the veracity of your search? Are you willing to explain that you are not looking for any claim of money or property?
22. Make sure that all of your contact information at all of the sites you are on is current and correct. It would be a shame to invest all of the time and effort only to not have your matches be able to reach you.
23. Be prepared to ask people who say that they match you for proof as well. Some people are not noble, kind or honest. Be willing to ask for (and pay for) a DNA test if you have any doubts. Also, just because someone shares some physical characteristics does not mean that they are related, and the reverse is true as well.
24. You can set up a free web page or blog for people who are looking for you. Don't share every single detail about you, but for people looking, it may be the place they find without going through agencies, etcetera.
25. Prepare yourself now for the "honeymoon" and possibly "backlash". Some who search have never moved past the place in time of when the adoption event occurred. They may still be dealing with some issues. Some may romanticize or "saint" others. Some may "demonize" others. Be patient. Be kind. Make good notes, take loads of photos and create memories. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. This is an emotional time.
26. Protect your privacy and safety. Although these people are family, until you know one another better, use caution and be safe.
27. Keep originals, make copies to share. I was SO glad I did this one. This includes photos.
28. Reach out for help through social media, adoption support and search groups, DNA search groups and more. Keep track of where you have signed up and check your places regularly.
29. If at all possible, create a family tree.
30. Never EVER give up. Take a break if it gets overwhelming, but don't give up!
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,
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