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,
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.
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.
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