Sunday, February 18, 2018

Genealogy Reminders from Coco

If you haven't seen the Disney movie that came out last fall, Coco, then you must do it soon.  I'm not the kind of person that watches the same shows again and again but I have seen Coco 3 times.  Here's why I think Coco is important to genealogy and will help you with your research:

Customs - the story takes place in Mexico on the eve of Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  Even though my family never celebrated that holiday, we sure celebrated many others.  Think back to your own childhood and identify customs that your family practiced.  Did Aunt Marge always bring a special dish?  If so, ask why before it's too late.  I regret not writing down the words in Croatian that my grandparents said before Christmas Eve dinner.  I know it was brought with them from the Old Country but unfortunately, that custom is now lost to me. 

Photo clues - One of my favorite parts of Coco is the altar of photos.  I don't have that layout but I do have a family tree of photos on the wall in my office.  Those photos are of couples going back 5 generations.  Around the tree I've placed pictures of large family gatherings to include more of the extended family.  I also received as a Christmas gift a metal tree that holds smaller photos.  I've placed pictures of many of those couples as infants on this stand alone tree.  By seeing the "big picture" you can often identify people in other photos that were considered unknown. 

In Coco, the main character, Miguel, accidentally discovers a displayed photo had been altered and the missing person is critical to his story.  That part of the film made me laugh as my family does the same thing Miguel's family did!  I inherited some photos from a deceased second cousin and one of them was torn vertically to remove someone.  I've never been able to find a copy of the intact photo but from the dress of the remaining individual, it appears that it was taken before a cantakerous divorce.  There's a story behind every missing person in a photo and it pays to try to uncover it.

Making Wrong Assumptions - Like Miguel, I've been down the wrong trail of who I thought was family.  Aided by spirits, he was able to uncover the truth.  You don't have to hire a medium to find the answer - simply take a DNA test.  One of my husband's cousins is doing a Lazarus project on a line through Gedmatch.  I'll be writing about it soon but in the meantime, if you aren't familiar with that term, it's trying to "raise the dead" by comparing the living's DNA.  The results can help you insure you're researching your direct family lines.

FAN Club - Miguel learns all about a neighbor of his great grandfather and that connection with his family is a key to the story.  What I especially like about this genealogy tip is that the connection isn't an immediate neighbor or made through a religious organization, such as being a baptism sponsor.  This connection is career related and sometimes we overlook that.  Checking out union records, membership in business associations and even competitors in an industry could provide you with a wealth of information about an ancestor's life. 

Family Stories - We all have our legends and just like Miguel's, they get convoluted in the retelling.  To separate the facts from fiction in yours, first write down the story as you remember hearing it.  If possible, ask another family member to tell you what they remember of the story.  There will be some differences and note those.  Next, research to see if there were records for the event mentioned.  Newspapers, court documents, and even almanacs can help you determine the factual basis of the story.  Getting the correct story may help you find that missing marriage record or place of death so this approach is well worth the effort.

Uncovering Buried Memories - The most poignant part of the movie for me was when Abuelita identifies her father, Miguel's great grandfather.  Miguel is so gentle when talking with his senile grandmother and to get information before it's too late can't be stressed enough.  I interviewed my maternal grandmother and mother before their memories became difficult to access.  In hindsight, I wish I had recorded it instead of taking notes.  If you haven't interviewed your older relatives plan on doing that soon. 

Our Gifts - Miguel loved music while the rest of his living family did not.  His genealogical journey helped him understand where his talent came from.  By looking deeper into your family's history, you'll uncover much more than just birth-marriage-death info - you'll discover people you wish you'd met and others who you'd love to understand why they made the choices they did.  Some people we can closely identify with, others, not so much.  They're all a part of us and we're all connected.  Like Miguel's family, we need to make peace with the past so the future can be brighter.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Helix Results Have Arrived

I got the results of my Helix-National Geographic DNA test back this week.  I had sent it off the day after Christmas at the same time two family members mailed their samples to Ancestry.com.  Ancestry had the results back 3 weeks ago so I patiently waited my Helix analysis.

If you're planning to test with Helix, please know that you will not discover any matches - these results take you back thousands of years instead of the past few generations.  I purposely wanted to see if the findings were similar to the mitDNA Haplogroup results I got about 8 years ago from Ancestry and more recently, from 23andMe.  They were basically the same and also confirmed my Neandertal ancestry that 23andMe had found last summer.

Alas, I had no Denisovian which I suspected I might have since they were known to be in the Siberian/Mongolian/China regions.  My thinking was my eastern European genes might have come from way east in the distant past but I was wrong.

My favorite part of the results was the interactive web timeline.  It's a nice touch to have pictures of all ages of people and the countryside pop up with the description of when your ancestor resided in the region.  Think National Geo Magazine and you get the idea of how well done this is. The migration pattern is also clearly shown and as I've blogged about many times, follows the family lore that's been passed down to me.  (If I could only figure out why my family can't get the stories of the last 100 years right but can remember things from thousands of years ago I will never know!)

You do not get to download your chromosomes to upload anywhere else.  I didn't need that as I've already tested with companies that provide that result but that may be important to you so keep it in mind.

My family thought the link to genius was the most interesting result.  Personally, I thought it was meaningless as the connections are far removed.  Hubby thought it was just phenomenal so, shhh, I bought him a kit for Valentine's Day.  It was on sale and even less expensive than what I paid for it at Thanksgiving.  I figure he'll get the results back by his birthday so he can gloat over his genius cousins.  My prediction is that we're going to have similar findings since our lines have crossed several times in the last 300 years in various parts of the world.

One of those "geniuses" and they qualify how they came to define the word, was of course, Marie Antoinette who shows up in every DNA test I've ever taken.  I'm thinking I should probably investigate exactly where that connection is so this summer, I'll be heavily researching my Croatians which, at the time my ancestor's resided there, was Austria-Hungary.  Marie was born in Vienna, Austria.  My maternal lines were in the military for generations so I suspect they traveled throughout the region.  For displaying valor on the battlefield, they were titled and that's where I'm going to start my research.

Funny, for years I've had the stories and tried to validate them by uncovering the facts.  Now I have the DNA facts and I'm trying to find the story. Genealogy upside down!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Synchronicity in the Work Place


Synchronicity is the occurrence of events that relate but the connection was made in an unexplainable way.  I've written about odd happening with my genealogy many times before.  Sometimes I randomly start up a conversation with an individual and discover we're related.  A wayward email or a post from long ago (remember mail list servs?!) finds there way to me and uncovers the key to long sought after records.  I'm in an archive miles from where my ancestor lived and something pops in my mind to check an individual out and discover records there that shouldn't be.  Those eebee jeebee occurrences are indeed special!

I realize that all of us humans on planet earth are related; sharing something close to 99.5% DNA.  Perhaps the following true story is not as weird as I see it.  You be the judge.

My primary job is still in the educational arena and that's where the occurrence I'm about to describe happened in mid-January.  The flu hit our workplace hard the first week of January.  One of the individuals in a supervisory capacity went from flu to bronchitis to pneumonia over a 2 week period.  While home recuperating, she received in the US mail a piece of junk mail from Reader's Digest for a man she supervises. 

I don't know about you, but I weekly get someone else's mail delivered to my house so this is no big deal, right?  Wrong!  The two do not reside in the same neighborhood.  In fact, they don't even live in the same county.  The names of the cities where they live are not similar and neither is the street address or zip code.  The envelope was not stuck to another.  The supervisor who received it does not have a last name alphabetically close to her employee so that wasn't a reason for the wrong delivery.

Upon receiving the letter, the supervisor texted the employee that he might want to stop by her home after work to pick up his mail.  He responded, "Huh?  What mail."  She then took a pic of what had arrived at her home that day and sent it to him.  The address was clearly typewritten showing his first and last name, home address, city, state and zip.  Typically, his mail is delivered to a post office box.  He called his local post office and spoke with the postmaster for an explanation of how this could have happened.

The postmaster said he couldn't explain it.  From where the letter was mailed, it would have arrived at the Tampa International Airport receiving facility where it would have been sorted.  It would have then traveled by truck to the county where the man lives to be further sorted and delivered to his local post office where the employees should have put it in his pick up box.  The truck from the airport to the county post office would not have been the same vehicle that carried mail for the person who received it since she resides in a different county.

The postmaster could offer no explanation in how it went through 4 sorts (the airport, the county facility, the local facility, the home mail delivery person) and no one noticed it was headed for the wrong destination or how its final arrival was to someone who knew the person well. 

Both supervisor and employee have endured a lot of ribbing about the universe wanting to connect them personally.  I'd be tired of hearing how they should purchase a lottery ticket or take advantage of the junk mail offer.  Certainly weird things happen and perhaps there is no hidden message to uncover here.  We're still talking about it 3 weeks later so I said I'd put it out there to cyberspace to see if someone can come up with a rational explanation.  Any ideas?



Saturday, January 27, 2018

Awesome Genealogy Resources I've Recently Discovered

Brrr, it's been freezing in Florida!  I'm spending most of my free time curled up on the sofa in front of a fire with a cup of cocoa and my laptop and Kindle catching up on reading I put off during the holidays.  I want to share some of my amazing finds that could benefit your research:

Do You Understand Family Relationships?  Trying to explain to a non-genealogist how someone is related can be difficult.  I've discovered a wonderful pdf and a fantastic article recently published by Genealogy in Time.  Check out The Key To Understanding Family Relationships and become an expert!

Burned courthouses, wars and vermin aren't, unfortunately, a thing of the past that impedes our needed record research.  What Would You Take?, an article on Genealogy Bank, focuses on the sometimes split second decision of what to do about your research when disaster is only minutes away.  We don't like to think about it, but this article is a must read for everyone.

So, your DNA results are being returned and your family is scratching their heads in confusion.  Maybe this article will help - How DNA Testing Botched My Family's Heritage that I found on Gizmodo is thought provoking.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Field of DNA Just Lost a Founding Father


If you've had the pleasure to swipe or spit to collect your DNA for evaluation, you most likely anxiously awaited the results.  Perhaps you were trying to discover your birth parents or you were hoping the findings would put to rest the family tale of someone having an affair and therefore, the rest of that line really wasn't blood related. 

More and more individuals, however, are also using the results to get a better picture of their possible medical issues in the future so they can make positive lifestyle changes now.  I never stopped to think about the tireless unnamed individuals who have diligently persevered over the years for us to benefit from their work. 

Sure, you've heard of Watson and Crick and perhaps unacknowledged, Rosalind Franklin.  You might also think about the names of Nobel Prize winners in the field of genetics.  There are so many others, though, who made significant contributions and one has just passed.

Dr. Arno Motulsky was a genetic pioneer who died this week at the age of 94.  His story is amazing; as a German Jewish child trying to flee the impending Holocaust to his eventual landing in the United States, he pressed onward living a long and productive life.

As someone interested in both family history and the science of DNA, I found his obituary of interest.  You can read it here

Thank you, Dr. Motulsky, and rest in peace.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Top 10 Genealogy At Heart Posts from 2017



Happy New Year!  Out with the old and in with the new but before we do that, let's take a look back at the most read Genealogy At Heart posts from last year in descending order and a tie in 4th place:

10 VivaVolunteers!  A Unique Opportunity for You

  9 More on Accessing Records

  8 Saturday Serendipity

  7 Access to Preserved Records is Being Threatened!

  6 My Grandfather's C-File Has Finally Arrived!

  5 Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

  4 Perseverance Amidst Adversity - The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs

  4 Genealogy Resolutions

  2  Privacy and the Genealogist Part 2

  1  Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1

If you're on the east coast of the U.S., get a cup of cocoa, stay warm and enjoy re-reading these blogs.

Next week, I'll rank articles that I did for other publications in 2017.