Saturday, November 18, 2017

Holiday DNA Deals? Read Before Purchasing

It's that wonderful time of the year when the DNA companies promote their products with big savings knowing that the family get togethers will turn to great grandma's emigration story and the question everyone wants answered - Where did we really come from?
I've received several emails this week notifying me of "special" offers so I decided to take advantage of the one below: 

 When I go to process the order I get this screen (with my personal info not showing):
The problem is that when I hit "submit order" the lock moves over the words but doesn't process.  I hit the button twice and then, fearing I ordered 4 kits instead of 2, called Ancestry.com at 1-800-Ancestry. 
I spoke with Brittany who told me they had no record of the order.  That was good in that I didn't over order but since I wanted 2 kits, I still needed the order processed.  I asked if they were having trouble with their website and she said no.  Brittany tried and couldn't get it to go through, either.  She placed me on hold and sought out a supervisor.
I must say I was pleased that she returned to the phone after some wait time to tell me she was still checking.  Nice customer service, Ancestry.com, major improvement over the years.  Then it went downhill...
Brittany said that the system couldn't calculate two discounts, meaning it could not take $10.00 off the second kit AND take off free shipping on Kit 1.  I asked if this was because I was a returning customer and the offer was good for new customers only.  She said no.  I asked if there was an override.  She said no and that the coupon code I was using had expired.  I mentioned I had received the notice from several sources in the past few days and that the expiration date hadn't occurred yet.  I also told her exactly where I received the info but since I'm not trying to drag other organizations into this, I'm sure you're understanding of why I'm not blogging my sources. 
Brittany told me the amount would be $162.00 but couldn't explain how that amount was determined.  If I ordered two kits at $79.00 with free shipping the amount would be $158.00; with $10.00 shipping on both kits it would be $178.00.  If it was free shipping on the first kit and half on the second it would be $163.00. 
Maybe I should have just shut my mouth and taken the $162.00 offer but I don't like paying for something when the price isn't clear so I mentioned that there were competitors that were offering kits for less than the quoted amount.  Now I know that the customer service person has no say in the price set and I'm sure she was rolling her eyes at this cheap customer but I figure if enough people speak out then maybe the powers to be will get the website working correctly to accept the offer.  If the offer isn't valid, then they need to just say that the other organizations made up the deal but I really don't think that was the case since I got it from several sources.
We hung up without my placing an order.
I then went on a hunt to see if there was other valid coupon codes but didn't find one.  Next I tried
signing into my Ancestry.com account, clicking "Buy Now," re-ordering and omitting the "expired" coupon code.  Guess what?  It shows this:

But it, too, doesn't allow me to purchase. 
I then went to Amazon.com where I purchased a kit in July during Prime Days.  Since I'm a member, I get free shipping so I figure that would eliminate the need for the expired coupon code.  Here's what I get:
The promotion at Amazon is $79.00 for each kit.  Better than the Ancestry.com offer but not as good as I wanted. 
I'll let you know next week what I decide to do - I've wasted way too much time on this today!  My Turkey Day shopping is waiting for me.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bringing a Family Heirloom Back to Life


In June, I blogged about some of my genealogy finds when we cleaned out our garage - 2 mahogany chairs in particular. 
The initial estimates I got to refinish the chairs were $500.00 each and the price quoted for the upholstery was $500.00-$800.00 per chair, not including material of which two upholsterers estimated I would need 10 yards. So, it would have cost me over $2000.00 to have both chairs in usable condition.
Yes, they have been in the family since about 1880 but we thought that the quotes were way too much.  I eventually found someone to refinish the chairs for $125.00 each but I had to do touch up and pull out the old tacks.  Hubby had to glue the leg support as the man "forgot" to do it.  It took him over 6 weeks to do his magic so instead of leaving them for him to do correctly, I told him I'd finish it myself.  I'm so glad I did as the hurricanes hit the following week and they were safer with us then in his flood prone neighborhood. 
I'm finally finished with upholstering and I think they came out wonderful, considering all I know about upholstery came from youtube videos and internet how-tos.  I bought way too much material; I bought 8 but only used about 4 so it'll be on Craig's List this afternoon.  When I recoop that excess, the cost to reupholster was about $50.00 per chair.  I'd really like to know why both upholsterers who gave me estimates told me I needed 10 yards!
For $350.00, we've got 2 beautiful and comfortable antique chairs to enjoy the holidays.  Best of all, hubby can finally cross this off his "To-Do" list.  They've been on there for over 45 years - seriously!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Two Blogs With Helpful Research Hints



Happy Daily Savings Day!  With the extra hour, I've got a big day with family planned so I'm going to make this blog quick.  If you missed some recent blogs I've done for other genealogical organizations, please enjoy these posts:

4 Big Genealogy Mistakes That May Be Hurting Your Research (And How to Avoid Them) published by Family History Daily (Please note:  my bio has an error in it - I am currently not "On the Clock" and I've asked that the statement be removed.)

Investigating Your Family Legends published by Genealogists.com

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Using Your Genealogical Info To Make You Healthy


Maybe due to Halloween being just around the corner, I was engaged with friends in a conversation about life expectancy. The Social Security Administration has a life expectancy calculator available.  Mine happens to be exactly to the age that my great grandmother was when she died.  Now this calculator does not take into account your current health, habits and genetics. 
I decided to make a mini-pedigree chart based on just my husband and my ancestor's names, age at death, and cause of death.  I went back 5 generations as that takes me to some of them being born in the late 1700's.  I chose that time period because it was pre-industrial revolution and most were living an agrarian lifestyle across the pond.  I was trying to do pluses and minues, such as that was not a rushed society, however, if the crops failed it was extremely stressful.  We have antibiotics but we also have pesticide residue.  I decided the benefits and losses were about equal. 
I truly only had 3 generations of definitely known causes of death with a few several times great grandmothers clearly dying during childbirth.  Since that's not going to be my cause of death I zeroed in on the remaining possibilities.  Most I could do something about - I could take the flu shot every year; my maternal great grandfather died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.  When I get to age 65, I can take the pneumonia vaccine as I've had several grandparents die from that.  I can watch my diet and exercise to keep my heart in good shape.  Not much I can do about the Alzheimers Disease other than keep my mind stimulated.
What really surprised my husband and I, though, was the proof that we descend from a family of klutzes.  I'm serious!  We have had several grandparents die due to accidents - falls from platforms, falls from ladders, and two railroad accidents.  Being careful really isn't something you think about in regards to longevity but in our cases, it is important.
I challenge you to look through your data between now and the New Year as it's almost time for those genealogical resolutions.  Analyzing your ancestor's cause of death is an important legacy.  Learning from their mistakes can result in a long and happy future for you. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Organizational Article You Must Read

I came across the following article in the Washington Post this past week and I had to share it with you - Americans are Pack Rats.  Yes, we are!  I had read this shortly after blogging an article for another genealogy organization about an experience I had with a pack rack relative and my frustration in not being able to locate a photo because I kept getting the response, "Well, it's around here somewhere." 
My genealogy is well organized but occasionally, I have difficulty putting my hands on something I know I have. My most recent mysterious disappearance is of 2 handwritten letters for the eBook I'm currently working on.  I've transcribed the letters but for the life of me can't locate the originals.  I've always kept the entire set together in the same order that I scanned them.  After scanning, I transcribed the letters in order.  The first letter and one written 13 months later have disappeared, along with the scan.  The transcription remains.  I'm considering this my Spooky October Happening as I have one or more each year; some unexplainable genealogical occurrence that is just weird.  I'm hoping by November I can recover the documents. 
But back to the article, I'm thinking that if the author's approach is culturally established, it sure explains why my husband's side didn't have a lot of hand me downs.  I'm still searching for a pic of his great grandmother, for goodness sakes. 
I understand the article's author's motives but I think that I'd like to continue to use the family china until I'm either unaware of my surroundings or die.  I wouldn't want it pitched after my death so I think some items just ought to stay with the current owner until the very end.  I use the label system.  On items that have family value, I've placed a label on the bottom with the name of the original owner.  That way, my descendants can easily identify that it's an item that had significance.  Whether they pitch or not is up to them.  Knowing my family, they'll keep it or pass it along to a family member who would continue to value it. 
This isn't a pleasant thought but end planning is necessary long before your life ends. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Genealogy Is Not For The Faint of Heart


Yesterday was our local genealogy group's Family History Support Day.  We had a wonderful turnout - larger than ever! The free event matches people with no genealogy experience with a researcher who can help them get started or provide ideas to overcome a family mystery. 
A few of the folks I helped were stunned by the results.  The DNA testing companies now include a warning but I'm thinking all genealogists might want to do so.  Uncovering family secrets is often hard to deal with. 
Here's the 5 pieces of info I uncovered that I had to share with visitors that left them rattled:

1. Cherokee Princess - Her question - What was the name of my great grandma that was a Cherokee princess?  A great uncle told the woman that because they were of Native American royalty, they escaped the Trail of Tears and remained in South Carolina.  First problem with the legend is that South Carolina wasn't one of the 9 states that fell under the Removal Act.  Most of that region's Native Americans relocated to Florida and formed the Seminole Tribe.  Second problem is the law didn't exclude any group so even if she was related to a Native American leader, aka "royalty,' her family wouldn't have been permitted to remain.  Third problem is the Trail of Tears was in the early 1800's so the family member involved would have been more generations back then a great grandmother.  I identified on her maternal line her great grandparents; they were all born and died in South Carolina and were all identified as Black.  I recommended DNA to verify if she has Native American ancestry. 
2.  Only Child - Her question - "My parents divorced when I was small and my mom and I moved from Florida where I was born to New York where I grew up.  I think we stayed with a relative in New York but I was small and don't remember.  How can I find out who we stayed with as my mom is deceased and I'm an only child."  Lucky for the woman, this wasn't difficult to find as she's in her 80's so she was in the 1940 US Federal census.  What she initially failed to tell me was that she had changed her birth name under which she was enumerated.  I first looked for her in New York but didn't find her.  I then looked for her in Florida but she weren't there.  I then did a search without a location and still couldn't find her.  I then looked using her mother's name and voila - found them in South Carolina (yes, there was a lot of people from South Carolina and Georgia yesterday which isn't surprising since that's all the same temperate zones and farmers migrated between those areas).  When I showed her the record I thought that the enumerator had mistakenly put her father's name as hers; that's when she told me that was her birth name but she had changed it to a more feminine name.  I asked about the 11 month old sibling enumerated after her.  She was stunned.  The sibling had been named after her grandmother who she thought might be the family member they had been living with.  I found the grandmother living in the same district with an uncle and his family.  I wasn't able in the short time period to figure out what happened to her sister.  She may have died or is still out there having been adopted.  It was hard for her to move forward with her initial question since the discovery was made.  I found her mother in the 1930 US Federal census living with a family in Florida.  The name was familiar to her; it was her great aunt's family.  The cousin had gotten married and divorced and relocated to New York in 1940.  Although she wasn't living with her on enumeration day, it's likely that was the New York connection.  I recommended she get in touch with the woman's grandchildren as she and her only son are deceased, to see if they have further information. 
3.  The Reason Grandpa Left  Grandma - Her question - "I'd like to find out why my grandfather took my mom away from my grandmother and gave her to my aunt to raise."  This is a tricky question because a family might not have left guardianship records that could tell us what was happening.  The grandmother could have been ill - physically or mentally, incarcerated or dead.  I didn't find a death date so I turned to census records to discover where the family was located.  Grandma had been born in 1915 in South Carolina.  She had told her daughter she remembered living with her parents until right before she started school.  That means, she would have been 5-7 years old.  The great grandparents and grandma were not found in the 1920 US Federal census anywhere.  That's explainable as supposedly great grandpa was a traveling salesman.  The family probably missed being enumerated in their travels.  Their circuit was the entire southeast region.  I found that great grandpa died in 1922 in South Carolina.  I also found that great grandma had another child but it wasn't with great grandpa - the father's name was recorded as "DK" (don't know).  That child died soon after he was born in 1921.  Although unconfirmed, it's likely that the great grandparents split up due to great grandmother's pregnancy from another man.  Great grandpa, in poor health and traveling, placed his daughter with his sister's family to give her stability.  The great grandma died in the 1930's and had resumed using her maiden name.  Everyone from that generation are deceased so the real reason may never be uncovered.
4.  Darn Those Genes! - Her question - "I'd like to find out about my dad's side because my parents were divorced and all I know was that he was mean like his dad."  So the counselor in me kicked in to ask her to elaborate on what she meant by the word, "mean."  She said she didn't remember him but he supposedly was abusive after drinking which he did all the time.  I had just begun to try to identify vitals on her father when her cell rang.  It was her son calling and by the time she got it out of her purse, she had missed the call.  She became quite upset because her son was incarcerated from selling drugs and they could only speak weekly.  I asked her if her son was also an alcoholic but that hadn't been his drug of choice.  She mentioned her daughter and adult grandchildren who had no drug issues.  She couldn't understand her son's life choices.  I recommended that when he's released, the family get their DNA done and upload it to promethease.com.  For $5.00 an analysis, the family will be able to identify their health indicators, addiction being one of them.  Although genetics alone does not preclude one to make a life choice, it does explain why some have more difficulty then others.  She was very appreciative.  She had never thought about her father's influence continuing in his absence.  My new genetic slogan - Gone but not forgotten.
5.  That's Not How You Spell It - Her question - "Should I go to Salt Lake City or a library in Minneapolis to find out who my great grandparents were because I can't find them online?  Someone has my family in their tree online but it's not my people."  The simple answer is - maybe.  This woman had a huge binder full of family info which is awesome but the problem was that it was in no order whatsoever.  We wasted a lot of time as she tried to find simple information, such as her parent's vitals.  She guessed her mom died in 2011 but it was 2001.  She thought her mom had died in one Florida county but it turned out she was in a neighboring county where she had been taken to a specialized hospital.  It took us about an hour to get to her grandparents as she shuffled through her binder and would get sidetracked when she came to a picture.  Her question then changed to "How can I identify these people?"  My advice to her, which I wrote down, was to first organize the binder by generation.  Make it into a timeline beginning with birth and going through death of her parents.  Buying dividers that were oversized so that she could label the generations for quick info retrieval.  I made by hand, a skeletal pedigree chart and explained how to use a group sheet so she could place the group sheet in the front of each section.  She had more info, such as death certificates, in her safety deposit box.  I recommended she make a copy and include those, too.  She was quite upset about the wrong info online.  It turns out it wasn't wrong.  She was adamant the surname spelling ended in "son" but the online tree had "sen."  I told her that spelling was optional prior to the last century.  Census records showed that her great grandparents did not read or write.  Enumerators wrote names phonetically.  So, should she go to Salt Lake or Minneapolis?  No need to for an answer to the question she had but of course, if she needs to once she organizes what she has. 

In five hours, five ah ha moments that shook folks' core beliefs.  Genealogy is definitely not for the faint of heart.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

It's Family History Month


Since 2001 in the U.S., Congress deemed October as Family History Month.  If you're new to genealogy it's the perfect time to get acquainted with your local society as many offer free events that will help you get on the fast track.  Next Saturday, my county group is hosting a get started event at a mid county library.  A neighboring county has provided free scanning of heirloom photos and documents, overcoming brick wall help and youth activities to get the next generation involved.  How to find these events?  Check your local library and historical museums, the newspaper and Facebook. 
If you are a well seasoned genealogist then it's your turn to step up and assist at one of the offered events.  Sharing your expertise, I've found, is rewarding on so many levels.  You've exercised your brain muscles and experienced the joy that comes with helping someone solve a mystery.  You may even find a connection to your own family! 
If you're unable to attend an upcoming event, you can celebrate in a variety of ways.  This year, by posting my husbands, adult child and my dna on several sites, I've connected with many 2nd and 3rd cousins I would never have been able to do locally.  In just the past 2 weeks, I've had 3 photos of my dad from World War II mailed to me.  I'd never seen these photos before and would never have viewed them if I hadn't posted my dna results.  Last October, a family member of my mother's closest friend found me online and sent me a copy of my wedding announcement.  Sure, I had one, but it was special to know that someone besides family had treasured it for over 40 years.  Over the summer, a cousin on my husband's side was preparing to renovate and discovered letters that had been sent to her grandmother that were written by my husband's grandmother.  She mailed them to us.  I highly recommend having your dna done and posting it but be forewarned - if you aren't able to emotionally handle the horror that might result in finding out you aren't who you thought you were then skip the test!  Ironic, isn't it, that Family History Month starts with warm autumn days and ends with Halloween night. 
Another celebration idea is to pull out your old photo albums and using a stickee, tab the pages with 12 of your favorite photos.  I've used them in a rotating frame in my office as they make me smile and put me in the right mood to research that particular line.  If you are a paper calendar type, then use the photos to replace the ones that came with it or have a company make one professionally for you.  Sometimes you can get bulk pricing with the extras being given as family gifts for the upcoming holidays.
Last week I wrote about heirloom cookbooks.  If you checked any you own, make a dish this month that your family had enjoyed.  You'd be surprised how the smell and texture of food can bring back an old memory and just might provide the hint you need to move forward with your research.
Three simple ideas for the three weeks left in this month (where is the time going?!)  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Genealogical Gems Hidden In A Cookbook


Do you own a treasured family cookbook?  I have several from my maternal grandmother and my mother-in-law.  We don't think of these hand me downs as genealogical gems but they are!  Take the time to look through each book carefully.  I love the dedication that my mom and aunts wrote to their mom.  They always noted the holiday - Mother's Day, birthday or Christmas - and the year the gift was presented. 
A dog eared page or starred recipe tells much about the previous owner's family, as well.  I come from a long line of sweet toothed individuals and the favorite recipes of old confirm my sugar cravings.
Sometimes you might find a letter or note that was used as a bookmark.  Family relationships and residential addresses can be gained, along with some family gossip.   
If you've obtained community cookbooks then you may win the genealogical prize find.   This type of cookbook combined submitted recipes from members of a local church or civic organization.  Not only will you confirm your family member's name and group affiliation, you'll also identify their favorite food.  Not sure if you're family member's cherished recipes were included?  Visit vintagekitchenheave.etsy.com and omnivorebook.com.  Look for the time period and location where your ancestor resided.  For a low price, you might just discover tasty morsels both edible and historical. Bon Appetit!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Amazing Info Found - The Net As a Beginning Tool

Life has returned to semi-normal after the recent hurricanes.  By semi, I mean the county still hasn't collected the debris, milk and gas aren't available everywhere and several parks remain closed due to damage.  When our power was out for several days, I limited my internet usage to conserve my cell phone battery.  It wasn't until I went to clean my spam filter for my website, Genealogyatheart, that I discovered a message from a distant cousin.  He had discovered my site and our connection through our great grandfather by simply Googling the last name.
I replied to his comment and he included one of his nieces on our messages. Between the 3 of us, family puzzles began to be solved quickly. In the past week, I discovered that my paternal grandparents had hosted a small family reunion at their farm in the 1960's.  My parent's divorce was finalized by that time so my mom knew nothing of the event.  Without my cousins input, I wouldn't have known about it, either.
That got my brain going about unidentified people on an old movie I had inherited from my father.  Hubby and I have had all our 8 mm films and VHS tapes professionally saved to a DVD.  (Side note:  If you think your VHS tapes aren't so old they need to be saved, think again.  The oldest VHS tape from 1984 was fading away while some of the 1950 movies looked as good as new).  The DVD contains still photos of some of the movies so hubby took those of the mystery people, along with another CD we had made of all the old family photos we had scanned years ago, and sent them off to both cousins for help in identifying these unknown folks.
We're fairly certain that the picture above is of my grandmother, Lola, and her older brother, Stanley.  Why?  I have the photo and they have the photo.  They are descended from Stanley and it was in their box of photos of his family.  My step mother had placed all the old photos in one box so I was never sure who any of my unlabeled people were.  Were they a Leininger, Landfair, Kuhn, Kable, Kettering, Bollenbacher, Adams or Duer?  I had tried the old Google Picassa facial recognition feature and it helped somewhat but I didn't have enough identified photos to have it match effectively.  
These cousins sent me a few other photos electronically over the past week to see if it would help but Picassa is no longer supported by Google and it kept freezing so no answers there! I'm hopeful they'll be able to match some of the photos on the CD to photos in their box so at least we can categorize by surname.
The cousin who initially contacted me stated their tale is that the family originated from Ireland and not Bavaria as my line recalled.  I tend to believe them for several reasons.  I've had another family member misidentified's country of origin as Germany instead of being born in the U.S.  Maria Duer Kuhn's death certificate states she was born in Germany but she was born in Ohio.  Her son was the informant.  Her husband was the one born in Germany.  It seems like my Great British ancestors assumed the German culture of those they married in Ohio.  Additional support for their story is that my DNA has a much higher likelihood of Great Britain then it does of German.  Further, Landfair is not a German surname.  When I questioned that years ago I was told that it probably had been changed from Lamphere.  Could be but no proof of that was ever discovered.
One of the cousins also has a copy of my great grandfather's funeral program which she will send me.  I've blogged about him previously - he's the gentleman who "accidentally fell from a platform" and there was a followup investigation a few months after his death resulting in additional paperwork after the death certificate.  The lesson there was make sure you get the complete records you request.
This gets me to the point of today's blog - there remains A LOT of additional information about your ancestors out there - in attics, basements and the brains of the living who recall the unrecorded stories past down.  The internet can help you get to those that hold the key you need but alone, the internet is not enough.  Reach out to long lost family and you just might discover the info you seek.  Happy Hunting!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Genealogy Without Power


Hurricane Irma is long gone and our power has finally been restored!  Four days without electricity was challenging.  I honestly don't know how our ancestors, females especially, survived Florida's heat and humidity back in the day in those long dresses.  The cold water to bathe in doesn't help!
We were fortunate, as were most of our neighbors, in regards to physical objects being spared.  All we had was a leaning fence which we've since fixed, a broken mailbox as the wind tore off the door, several dents in my car hood and lots of vegetation debris to rake up.  Our next door neighbor lost her mother the day after the storm and our neighbor behind us welcomed a new baby.  Nothing like adding more stress to an already difficult time!  The cycle of life continues...
For me, I can't even remember the last week I spent at home and didn't do any genealogy.  It has to have been years ago.  Genealogy is so dependent upon online tools today that there was little I could do without electricity.
I was trying to limit my cell phone usage to conserve it so my response to a few clients was terse.  Two responded they didn't know I lived in the storm's path.  One had found me online and the other through a former client.  There was no need for them to know my physical location but it still surprised me that they hadn't.
I love to read out of print books but I had to limit that, too, to conserve battery life on my Kindle.  I could use my laptop for a bit to work on the current e-Book I'm writing but it's an old laptop and the battery life is short so I decided not to do that.
I had gathered all of my most precious documents and did spend about an hour reshelving them in our office.  That was the extent of my time invested in genealogy.  Now I'm backlogged and better get to work!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hunkered Down With the Genealogy

The rain just started pummeling us about 5 minutes ago so sorry - no post today as we're going into our closet in a minute to ride out Hurricane Irma which is expected to go right over us early tomorrow morning.  Backed up the computer on that wonderful little device I got on Amazon during Prime Days (tho I am not really happy with you - Amazon - for your price gouging last week.)  The cats must have know cause they found spots in the closet and are cozy right now.
Please send good thoughts/prayers to the peeps in Florida - we're gonna need all the help we can right now.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Maps With A Past



I just love maps!  Check out the following about some unique maps that were new to me -
http://www.atlasobscura.com/lists/13-marvelous-maps-that-go-beyond-paper

What Would You Do?


Happy Labor Day Weekend and the last long weekend of summer.  It's my 40th wedding anniversary, too.  On a not so happy note, it's our 32nd anniversary of losing everything in Hurricane Elena.  We spent that wedding anniversary camping out at North East High in St. Petersburg, Florida with our oldest child and my mom.  Like Hurricane Harvey, the mega rain maker, Elena decided to park herself offshore where she rotated away for several days.  It was the rain that did the most damage.

That life experience made me relate to a recent Washington Post article that asked victims of Harvey what they took with them when they evacuated.  One woman had time to grab her lipstick, another, just his medicine.  For people who have been fortunate enough to not have to evacuate quickly from a life threatening situation those answers might seem ridiculous.  I can assure you they aren't.

I overheard someone in the checkout line yesterday decline to donate for hurricane relief because he said the people should have taken precautions.  I interjected that the initial recommendation had been to stay put and not evacuate.  He considered that and then replied that they should have put together items they needed when they realized the severity of the situation.  Clearly, this man never lived through a disaster.

In our case, we had sold our first home the Sunday before the storm.  With the pending contract, we spent the following days looking for a new one which we found late Friday afternoon.  We placed a contract on it and went out to dinner to celebrate.  We had heard weather reports of a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico but like so many others in late summer, the fickleness of the tract didn't cause us to worry.  We had lived in our home for 7 years and experienced minor street flooding but nothing more serious than that. We went to bed early, skipping the late weather report.

Close to midnight, we were awakened by the sound of a fire truck siren and a loudspeaker announcing, "Prepare to evacuate immediately."  This was pre-cell phone days and reverse home phone emergency contacts.  Following the fire truck was a police car.  We were told he needed the names of our next of kin in case we chose not to leave.  We made the instant decision to go.

So what do you take?  We grabbed a suit case and threw underwear, socks and a few changes of clothes.  We didn't even think about a toothbrush.  I put a few books and toys in a grocery bag for our daughter.  She went into the car seat first and was followed by the cat in a pillowcase which I held on my lap and our lab, who was the only one who was happy about a late night car ride.  We drove to my mom's and discovered she was also being evacuated so she crammed into the car and we headed to the high school.  Mom had thought to pack snacks.

Did I take any insurance papers, family heirlooms, or cash?  Nope.  I had my driver's license in my wallet with a couple of bucks.  The car wasn't even filled with gas and it didn't occur to us that electricity was needed to operate gasoline pumps.  Duh!  When confronted with an emergency, fight or flight kicks in. All the long term planning in the world gets down to what can you take in an instant.  If you've never experienced that I hope you never do.

We returned to our destroyed home 5 days later.  The flood waters had receded leaving tell tale water lines on the walls, particle board furniture that had collapsed, broken windows from wind damage with curtains blowing outside, and soggy smelly carpet.  Nothing is spared.  Think of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets sitting in 3 feet of water for a day.  Now imagine it for even longer.  My husband's grandmother's wicker doll carriage was destroyed, along with my paternal great grandmother's china sugar bowl that had fallen to the floor when the hutch collapsed.  It's not pretty.

Thankfully, the camera was high up on a shelf in the closet so we could take pictures for FEMA of the damage.  Our important paperwork was also spared as it had been kept in the top drawer of a file cabinet in our home office.  Pure dumb luck!  We weren't so lucky with the home sale, though.  The buyer of our home cancelled the sale.  FEMA lost our paperwork which included the pictures and we had to resubmit (hooray for negatives).  We had no electricity for 2 weeks so my daughter and I stayed at my mom's while my husband guarded the home with the dog as looters were coming out as bad as the critters.  Disasters sure bring out the worse in humanity.

I swore I'd be better prepared next time.  Technology has definitely helped as I've scanned every photo and document in case it doesn't make it through the next time.  Those items are saved in a cloud, on CDs that I've given to several individuals and on one that is in my plastic tub where I store important paperwork.  If there's time, I can take the plastic tote and if not, hopefully, the contents will be safe until I return.  I haven't been able to find a fireproof device but that would be best option.

Now that I think about it, it's almost miraculous that any object survives to be past down for more than a generation or two!  That thought makes me treasure what I've received and marvel at the historical events that have item has survived.  If only they could talk!






Sunday, August 20, 2017

Unexpected Results of Having My DNA Done

Just read a wonderful article from NPR on dealing with DNA's unexpected results that I highly recommend - read it here.

I'm still receiving emails from my matches.  Yesterday I got an email at 10 AM from a descendant of Samuel Samuelson and as I was responding, I got another email from a descendant of Samuel's wife, Maria Swanson.  I happily connected the two folks who kindly responded to my initial query.  I just love those kinds of coincidences!  Think about this, both send me a response within minutes of each other and after 150+ years, reconnect.  Very weird!

What was even more awesome was that one of the emailers mentioned that his 100+ year old great aunt is still alive.  I strongly urged that they share the info I sent.  Hopefully, the photo of that woman's grandfather will spark some memory that can be recorded before it's too late.  That was certainly an unexpected result of having my DNA done.  I never thought I'd find someone who was still alive who had personal knowledge of those living in the 1800's.

Here's another result that I never anticipated - I've connected with a great grandson of one of my husband's aunts who didn't know his great grandmother.  We have wonderful memories from when we were teens of this lovely lady and I shared via email some of the kind things she did.  I'm sure he'll pass the information to his own children someday and I just love that the connection will go forward.  Happy Hunting!





Thursday, August 17, 2017

Saving Family Heirlooms

I read a wonderful guest post on MyHeritage that you must read - Do Genealogists Care About Family Artifacts?  Of course, the answer is yes, however, life often gets in the way of the "saving."



My town has a wonderful antique district and I've been on the hunt for a demilune since May.  Hubby and I have many much loved furniture that once belonged to families other than our own.  I'm lucky to have purchased my guest bedroom furniture from an elderly woman who couldn't take it to the nursing home with her.  I promised her I'd care for it when I bought it in 1985 after we lost everything in Hurricane Elena and I've kept my word.  I blogged last spring about the china cabinet I purchased from Craig's List.  A blended family didn't have room for two.  I know the piece's history and its travels across the country with a military family.  They know they can visit it if they like (it was hard for them to sell it but it was degrading in the unairconditioned 100 year plus garage where they were storing it.)

Some furniture I don't know its history but would love to.  When we first married, I wanted a rocking chair and found one in the classified ads of our then local newspaper.  It was smaller than I had envisioned but the price was right - $10.00.  It was also hideous - someone had recovered it in green and white gingham with lace glued around the edges.  I stripped off the covering and discovered it had been covered several times.  Two layers down was horsehair stuffing.  After quickly taking that outside I discovered that it was originally caned.  I had the piece examined and it's considered a sewing rocker from the 1840's.  I couldn't find anyone who caned so I bought a how to book from a craft store and ordered caning material.  I can't say I did a great job but it's held up for 39 years.

My most favorite piece, though, I rescued from the basement of a house my grandmother rented out when I was 4 years old.  I guess my interest in history and saving artifacts started quite young!  I can't explain why I was drawn to it.  An old oak chest, it's top cracked and stained and a piece missing on the back to give it support, it was forlorn sitting abandoned in a dark corner.  The drawer and two front doors on the front were hand carved.  Someone had painted the inside brown.  When the renters skipped we discovered it left behind.  Inside was a chemistry book according to my mom as I couldn't read.  I pitched a fit that the chest be brought home.  I'm talking a full blown temper tantrum that I still remember to this day.  My mom and grandmom were not going to give in to my behavior but I was adamant I wasn't leaving unless the chest went, too.  My grandmother drove a Chevy Nova and it certainly wasn't going to fit in there.  My wonderful grandpa tied it on the roof and my grandparents kept it in their basement.  I had told them I would keep my toys in it when I visited their house but they were soon to move to another.  They moved that chest to the new house and then a year later, back to their old home.  By then, my parents had separated and I truly did use the chest to store my games as I went to live with my grandparents.  In the late 1960's my mom got a brilliant idea to spray paint the chest gold and put it in our bathroom.  When my mom and I relocated to Florida in the 1970's my husband's family, my then future in-laws, kept it in their basement.  After we married and bought a house, we brought it "home."   My husband stripped off the gold and left it unfinished.   I've moved it three time since and it still contains board games.  I'm thinking of finally getting it professional refinished.

My solution to the situation noted in the blog I recommend you read is to put stickers on the bottom of pieces that are of family history so when my time comes, the emotional distress of my surviving family members won't cloud the stories of where the object came from.  That way, family pieces can remain in the family for the next generation.  Times a wastin' - make a note of what's important to you this week!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gedmatch How To



Since I last blogged I explored Gedmatch.  It was simple (and free!) to use and I highly recommend it.  Here's how:

  • First watch the Youtube video Gedmatch Basics.  There is no handout but you really don't need one.
  • I had already created an account on the site but if you haven't, you can make one as you're watching the video.
  • Once you've logged in to Gedmatch, look on the right side where you'll upload your DNA files.  I had one 23andMe and one Ancestry to upload and compare.  
  • If you're not sure how to get your DNA files, don't worry!  The video and the Gedmatch site will direct you to the provider and step you through downloading it to your computer and then uploading it to Gedmatch.
  • Now you're ready to analyze what you've uploaded.  Not all features are available immediately but that's okay, what you'll be most interested in is the 1 to Many which compared shared DNA to everyone who's uploaded on the site and the 1 to 1 which compares two people.  I was interested in 1 to 1 as I uploaded my son and my results.  
  • Your options to view the results are position, graph or position with graph.  I chose position with graph.  I like seeing the color comparison; my son preferred the position table only.  See the picture at the top as that shows what you'll see for position with graph.  The yellow denotes the match from person 1 to person 2 is half, the green are full matches.  There's a lot of green looking at all 22 chromosomes and the rest yellow as our relationship is mother-son.  
  • Check the bottom of the data to see the estimated relationship, how many segments matched and the largest matching segment.  
  • There are other analysis tools available which I haven't checked out.  I plan on doing that when I get my daughter tested as I'd like to compare her to my son.  
DNA offers continue this week - Ancestry and FTDNA both have promotions for $69.00. 

We're still waiting for hubby's results to be returned from 23andMe.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

And More Results...


Last time I blogged about my son's autosomal dna results being returned so quickly from Ancestry.  Minutes after I finished that blog, 23andMe sent me an email that my results were back.  We're still waiting for hubby's results from 23andMe.  All three kits were mailed at the exact same time.  I'm not complaining about 23andMe, my results were returned 2 weeks to the day they received them and the original information said results would be back in 4-6 weeks.

Like me son, there was no startling surprises.  Instead, it confirmed that I have quite a bit of neanderthal dna which my mom swore we did.  I gasped when I saw the numbers.  Don't you hate it when your parents were right?!  I wish my mom was alive to see those findings.  When I told hubby he was stunned.  "How did your mom know that?"  he asked.  She was always fascinated with them and read anything she could.  Back in the day, the thought was there was none of their dna surviving.  I would tell my mom that and she would counter that science will find out the truth.  Geez!  I always thought my mom was interested because most of the excavated sites were in northern Croatia where her parents had been born.  She also swore her slightly extended jaw was a carry over from them.  Now I have a cave visit on my bucket list.

The rest of the results were exactly as I had expected.  Lots of French/German and Eastern European.   Those early Persian-Greek roots show up supporting my grandmother's stories and my grandfather's gypsy heritage also is visible.  I'm so glad I listened when they told those tales.  I admit I didn't believe them 100% in my youth.  Seriously, how many families could pass down stories from 2000 years ago but they proved to be correct.

Since I'm an only child and there are no males that could test on my father's line for 3 generations back, I never had any results on his side.  The autosomal gave me that.  It's a no brainer to figure out from where my Great Britain, Scandinavian and French/German was received.

I'm not greatly impressed with 23andMe's connections to other test takers.  I preferred Ancestry's which shows clearly if another tester had uploaded a tree, how many were in the tree, if the tree was private or public and if a match from my uploaded tree to another tester was found via a shaky leaf.  I discovered that most of 23andMe's matches to myself were recorded as Anonymous and were so old that they don't even use the site any longer.  There was really no one to share a tree with as all were 3-4 or more cousins apart from me.  Since I tested my son through Ancestry I could use that feature to make connections which I did.

I created a database in Excel and made the following headings:
Message to
Common Ancestor
Descended Through (this is where the other person was descended and not me)
Date (I sent the email)
Relationship Estimate (such as 3-4 cousin)
Comments (if no tree, how I deduced where the relationship was)

I sent out 50 brief emails to relatives and recorded who I sent a message to on the database.  Within 12 hours I'd heard from 25%.  I've heard complaints that Ancestry's system is useless since many people do not upload a tree or have a minimal one, at best.  I didn't find this to be a problem for me as I have a very large tree and recognized many unique surnames.  Of the first 50 cousins given, only 3 do I not find a connection.  Two of the 3 wrote back immediately and we're exploring relationships now.  I could see how this would be a problem if someone was adopted and had no parental knowledge.  On a side note, I attended a training in the past week where the presenter made a catty remark about large trees.  The trainer felt it was a "waste of time accumulating people."  I agree just trying to collect names isn't productive but if a surname study was done with citations to prove relationship then accumulating the data is beneficial to making connections.

The coolest thing about my results was reconnecting with people who have emailed me over the last 22 years since I first posted a public tree online.  My 4th cousin on the Bollenbacher line and my 3rd cousin on the Leininger side had tested and sure enough, we're related exactly how we thought.  They made those predictions 10 years ago.  It's nice to know that the paper trail matched the science.

The 23andMe result interpretation again mentions Marie Antoinette as my old Ancestry mtDNA had mentioned years ago.  Not relevant to me but does correlate with the other test.  The new results added Copernicus in the same haplogroup.  My son liked that.  Since I'm now working in a STEM school I thought that was appropriate.

Now we wait for hubby's results.  In the meantime, I uploaded my raw data to FTDNA and MyHeritage.  I'm going to upload my sons and my results to gedmatch, too.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Results Are In!



On Amazon Prime Day, I purchased 3 autosomal DNA kits - two from 23andMe and 1 from Ancestry.  Seven years ago, hubby and I tested through Ancestry.  He completed mt and y; obviously I just could do mt.  Ancestry has long since stopped supporting those test results although they are still available to view on their site.  Back in those days, I never connected with anyone.  My "closest" match was Marie Antoinette of  "let them eat cake" fame.  I was so unimpressed I decided not to upgrade when autosomal became available.

A second cousin of mine reconnected with me via Find-A-Grave and in our back and forth emails, had tested with National Geographic.  We compared maternal Hapogroup and not surprisingly, were the same.

The more I read about dna, which was my genealogy goal this year, and since I am an only child I thought I could gain some additional info on my paternal side by taking an autosomal test.  I also was interested in comparing my husband and his sister and then to our children.  My plan was to purchase 5 autosomal kits.  Sales had come and gone earlier this year - DNA Day in April, Mothers Day in May, Fathers Day in June.  Due to our major remodel I figured I'd wait til November and give the kits as Christmas presents, thinking they'd be on sale.  You can just imagine the excitement of my family members when I told them this was my plan. (I'm being facetious).

When I saw the price for 23andMe on Amazon Prime Day I decided I'd buy 2 kits for hubby and me since I had read it's a good practice to compare results from different companies.  I had wanted to do the full health tests but they were sold out.  Later that day, Ancestry's kits went on sale with a limit of 1 so I purchased it and offered it to my kids.  My son lost the rock-paper-scissors (I am not making this up) so he took the test.

Two days after purchasing, the Ancestry kit arrived and son completed it the following day.  The 23andMe kits arrived three days after purchase and my husband and I completed them immediately.  Hubby took them all off to be mailed at the same time.

All of these kits were spit kits;  our older tests had been cheek swabs.  Personally, I like the cheek swabs more as they were quicker to complete.

On Thursday, Ancestry emailed that our son's results were ready.  Although the instructions said it could take as long as 6 weeks, the results were back in less than 2 weeks.  I was quite impressed!

The results were interesting but not startling.  Now I always knew he was our biological child so I didn't anticipate any conflicts there.  He had a unique look at birth so I knew he hadn't been switched by the hospital.  I just didn't know if our ancestors had been faithful.  I know that sounds awful but I always had a funny feeling that something was not quite right with a family member's tale.  One of my direct line ancestors had gone out west for 6 months.  I personally felt that there was a child born out of wedlock but no one would ever confess to knowing more.  Reading so many books and journal and newspaper articles lately about DNA surprises I thought I may have one of my own.  If my hunch is correct the test results didn't reveal it, possibly because no one has yet taken a test.

What we found interesting in the results was that it made our son eager to learn about his heritage.  My kids grew up visiting cemeteries and old houses that ancestors had lived in long ago.  We have many customs and foods that have been handed down, along with things that belonged to those long gone.  None of that interests either one of my kids.  What hit him was the DNA Matches.  The closest match stating it was a 1st or 2nd cousin was his godfather's brother.  He recognized the name immediately and said, "Wow, now I know why you picked such a close family member."  The results were accurate - the individual was his 2nd cousin and we've always said our son favors that side of the family more than any other.  It's not just how he looks, it's what he like and how he acts.  He grew up far away from anyone on that side and only knows about them from occasional holiday notes.  He is more open to learning about that line now that he has the results.  Why?  Because he's the kind of person who is logical, analytical and very scientific oriented and the results proved what I've said for years.

The next closest matches were for two other second cousins on his dad's side.  Surnames of third cousin matches were also familiar and a mix of both my sides and his dads.  He recognized the names and just kept saying, "Wow."

The only Community Circle that he had was Pennsylvania which would be his dad's side.  You know I've blogged extensively about the Harbaughs and that would be them.  Those lines came in the mid-1700's and intermarried for several generations.  It wasn't until 1869 that they relocated from Pennsylvania to Indiana.

I should have expected the percentages of ancestry to be what they were - predominately Great Britain with lesser amounts of Scandinavia and Eastern European.  Back in the day my husband's results on his y included Chad but our son's results did not.  My husband's old mt also showed Asian ethnicity and again, this didn't show up in our son.  We're thinking that was the reference groups that had been used that are more refined now.  Also, my husband's haplogroups did have lines going from those areas.

Yesterday I uploaded the results to FTDNA and MyHeritage.  It takes 24-48 hours to get matches there so I'll write more if anything exciting is discovered.

Was spending $49 worth it?  You bet!  I'm looking forward to receiving my results soon.  




Thursday, August 3, 2017

Must Reads



Still catching up from my recent vacations and would like to pass on some awesome articles I've just read:

Ancient DNA solves the mystery of the Canaanites (Washington Post)

She thought she was Irish... (Washington Post)

How a rare skin disease links SA to an 18th century Frenchman (The Conversation Africa)

Save the Census (New York Times)

Plus, just announced, Legacy Family Tree will merge with MyHeritage.  Special deals coming soon!


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Small, Small World


Disney is right - it's a small world after all!  Just back from my travels through the jungles of Central America with a family member and the similarities I've encountered were quite interesting.

First stop was Grand Cayman; our driver gave us historical insights as he took us around the island.  The cemeteries, above ground, reminded my of New Orleans.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out if you can't go down you go up!  The colorful island flowers left on graves was a custom that I've found everywhere.  It's nice to see the commonality of remembering our ancestors.

Next we visited Honduras which reminded me of the West Tampa neighborhood.  At the beach we met a local who told us about his educational journey from the island to the mainland for high school.  He received a technical degree in air conditioning but was unable to find work so he returned to his birth island.  Sure, wars, religious persecution, natural disasters and limited marriage opportunity influence migration but I've found with my own ancestors, it was mostly the desire to find work that created wanderlust.  I truly believe that Maslow should have put work as a basic need on his hierarchy.  We, as genealogists, need to keep in mind occupation as an important factor for movement.

I love Belize!  Any country that only has 5 working stoplights  and people with a warm and funny attitude is my kind of place.  It was in the jungle, however, where I met 3 guides that shared their love of genealogy.  All had had their DNA done.  Two were 100% Mayan and one was 1/3 Mayan, Spanish and African.  In a remote jungle would be the last place on earth I think I would be talking DNA with someone I met but well, it happened.  Their genealogy is oral which is probably wise since we all know what happens when computers crash. In their case, there isn't electricity close.  I wish I could have the capacity to remember my maternal and paternal lines as well as they do.

Our last stop was an adventure at Tulum, Mexico and spending half a day on Mayan land.  We had authentic lunches in both Belize and in Mexico and I had to laugh at the staple similarities - chicken, beans, rice, and fruit with slight variations in preparation - different seasonings.  When I came back and spoke with family, friends and colleagues I got similar comments which applies to my own family.  If your grandmother was known for a specific dish and your mom and you tried repeatedly to replicate it with no success, well, that seems to be a worldwide commonality.  I cannot for the life of me make my mother's flaky apple turnovers.  She came up with her recipe because she couldn't make her mother's to die for apple strudel.  A friend told me she has given up making her mom's fruit iced tea because she can't get it right, even with her mom standing over her.  The patient guide in Belize gave me the recipe but I bet when I make it, it will not taste as delicious.  Guess I'm just going to have to go back!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Genealogical Kindness Needed


Seriously, folks, I've had my fill this week of dealing with difficult people.  IMHO, life's too short for bad manners.

I have a very large online public tree on several sites.  The reason it's large is because I've done surname studies over the last 20+ years for several lines with unique names - Duer, Harbaugh and Leininger.  Taking the last family history book published, that would be 1947 for the Harbaughs and 1973 for the Leiningers, I've add all the info into the tree from those sources and then tried to prove the info was correct by adding additional citations.  I then tried to update the original works going forward so that family could reconnect.  The Duer information was unpublished; I received it from a family historian about 2010.

The gateway ancestor's for all of these lines died in the 19th century or earlier so some of those included in the tree are far removed from my direct line.  I don't personally know these people.  I made the tree public to help reconnect and aid in correcting any errors.

Three times this week I have heard from distant relatives and the comments/emails were rude.  One woman told me my tree was confusing her.  I offered to help but needed to know what was confusing about it.  She said I had no pictures for a person she was interested in.  Huh?  I understand visual learning but really, you're complaining because there was no picture.

Later that day, someone posted a comment that they were sure I was wrong about a gateway ancestor because they had their Y-DNA done.  I responded to please share and I'd be happy to look further.  No response.  I wouldn't have been concerned if the individual had emailed me privately but to post a comment and then not respond when someone is willing to check further is wrong.

That evening, I hit the trifecta when someone commented on another line that he was certain "you must have made this up."  I was taken aback.  Did you not look at the citations?  Did you not see my comment that mentioned I concurred with other researchers that it was possible two brothers were confused so I included both names as the possible father?

 The old adage we can choose our friends but not our relatives applies here!  That last comment ticked me off so much that I considered making my tree private.  I haven't done so because I think the good outweighs the few thoughtless individuals.

Thanks, dear readers, for reading my rant.  Please help me spread genealogical kindness this week.  It's sorely needed.

I will be taking a much needed vacation so will not have a blog post until I return the end of July.




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Artifacts on eBay - A Must Read


I recently read a fascinating story in The Weekly Genealogist, the online edition published by AmericanAncestors.org about stolen artifacts being sold on eBay.  The blog, Rare Colonial Documents Found on eBay, originally published by the Smithsonian, is a must read if you search for documents on eBay as I do.

Although I knew that each state has laws regarding record retention, it never occurred to me to search them when I discovered something that just wasn't quite right.  I assumed (ahem, wrongly!) that the document must not be an original or had been disposed by the government and some nice person saved it from a dumpster.

I discovered my several times great grandfather's indenture records on eBay a few years ago.  There were other individuals listed on what appeared to be a court ledger page.  The price was steep and I didn't buy it.  I did cite where and when I found it and using the snipping tool, saved a picture of it.  The seller was overseas and it never dawned on me to report him/her. Now I know better.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Goodbye, FHL Microfilm Rental!


So another technology bites the dust...

If you haven't seen the latest news about renting microfilm for use at local Family History Libraries, then you need to check out this link NOW.

I don't rent as much as I used to because the records for the areas where I do the most research are online at FamilySearch or it just never will be and I've had to rely on methods other than microfilm.  My last film request was in March and I've been going through my pending projects  to see if there's any films I'll need soon. Of course, I can't predict the need of the next Client.  Genealogy Murphy's Law will result in a new Client meeting on September 1st for a microfilm need that I wouldn't be able to obtain.

My advice if you're planning to rent is don't delay - you've only got 2 months left and  most likely will be a flurry of activity on the shipping side.  After you get the email from Salt Lake that your films have shipped, make a note to call your local library a few days later to verify the films have been received.

A colleague has concerns that not everything will be available online due to legal agreements previously made with the record holders.  That means, waiting patiently until 2020 will still not allow you to view the films online.  In those cases, you'll have to either travel to Salt Lake or hire someone local to do a look up for you because those films will not be shipped locally any longer.  If your research is extensive and you're on a budget, it would probably be best for you to do the research in person.  My favorite time to go is late winter into early spring as it's not so busy.  I'm thinking I may skip the NGS Conference next year and travel to Salt Lake instead.

If you can't make a trip and need to hire someone, I'd highly recommend asking your local genealogical society for referrals.  If they haven't used anyone, then check out the Association of Professional Genealogist's site.  APG members sign an ethics agreement and in the unlikely event your have a problem, you can reach out to APG for assistance.

I have such mixed emotions about the end of microfilm.  I'm not sure what my attachment is; I sure didn't shed a tear when the world moved from Beta, 8 tracks, my Garmond GPS, or hardwired phones.  Maybe it's because I have so many memories of so many places and so many finds that make me a tad sad about the demise.  Perhaps it's becoming one with the record in a dimly lit room and the comforting whirring sound of the machine as I rewind it speedily.  I'll miss sharing in a happy dance when the stranger sitting next to me makes a phenomenal find.

Of course, there's so many reasons why this move is a good thing.  It's just, well, like the old song says, "Breaking up is hard to do..."  RIP Microfilm Distribution.  1859* - 31 Aug 2017.

*Based on the first patent issued to Rene Dagron


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ancestry.com and RootsMagic Synch Now Available!



RootsMagic has just announced that their new version 7.5 has been released.  I'm so excited to again be able to synch my large tree from Ancestry to my desktop.  I know it works because I've been one of the Beta Testers and I tried synching my 70k+ tree, along with smaller trees I've done over the years, in the past two months.  Kudos to the RootsMagic staff - awesome job!

Beta testers were sworn to secrecy as the hardworking IT staff at RootsMagic toiled away to remove bugs we found.  I've been very satisfied with the company's response to comments and their diligence in getting it right before releasing it to the general public.  Not like the other company that shall not be named.

It does take a good 12 hours to synch my largest tree so be forewarned it's not going to be instantaneous.  When I say synch, I mean truly synch - as in all of my people, over 21,000 photos, 2000 stories and 248,000 records will be accessible to me on my desktop.  When I change anything online at Ancestry or on my desktop, the trees will match.

What's really cool is that RootsMagic also provides hints with FamilySearch, MyHeritage and FindMyPast.  It is simple to use, too.  If you already are a part of RootsMagic, simply update to the newest version by clicking the link they provide at Help - Check for Updates.  Then, click the Ancestry.com icon on the ribbon (it's between Family Search logo and the open book on the right).  Sign into Ancestry with your sign on and password.  I clicked "remember" so that I don't have to redo it each time I log on to RootsMagic.  You'll have two options - upload your RootsMagic tree to Ancestry of download an Ancestry tree to RootsMagic.  Although I have a gedcom of my Ancestry tree saved on RootsMagic, it did not have all the goodies I wanted - meaning the media (photo, stories, audio) so I selected the option on the right - Download an Ancestry tree.  I began that process as I started writing this blog and it's already 21% complete.  Keep in mind, this is a HUGE tree so that's to be expected.

I'm walking away from my tree now and knowing it'll be all synched and ready to go tomorrow morning.  Oh, joy!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Genealogy Finds in Your Own Home

With our interior home renovations just about finished, it was time for hubby and I to clean the garage.  Yuck!  Everything we didn't know what to do with, weren't sure if we wanted to keep or it really belongs there got left in any available space.  We were going to start working on it last month but we were just too busy.  Last Friday was D-Day and we're still plugging away.  The heat, mosquitoes and never ending rain have made progress slow, not to mention the Craig's List postings and removals that helped us feel better about tossing stuff.

I never thought cleaning the garage would unveil genealogy tidbits but it has.  Our first "find" was an ancient mahogany chair that we've been dragging around from house to house for close to 40 years.  My husband stripped it but never finished it as we never knew where to put it.  I've got space now in the living room and told him I wanted to have it professionally refinished.  He reminded me we have a mate in the attic.  Completely forgot about that!  That will go into the entry as it's smaller.  And this will be the only item we're bringing back into the house (famous last words).

The chairs belonged to an unknown Harbaugh family member and we're guessing it would be his great grandparents, George Frederick.and Margaret "Maggie" Long.  I was hoping whoever I found to refinish them would be able to give me a rough age estimate, however, the price I got was $900.00 so it looks  like I'll be doing them myself.  One chair hubby stripped 45 years ago so that'll be a quick finish; the other, not so much.

For Father's Day I bought my husband a large tool chest.  He's got a zillion tools, many that have been handed down.  As he cleans and places them in his new chest, I'm hearing recollections of their original owners.  He comes from a family of builders so there were lots of tales.  It's funny how objects - dusty, rusty and stained - can stir old memories from the brain.  His dad's WWII ammunition box held his extra trowels which reminded him of his dad's attempt at securing bricks to build a fireplace right after the war.  Dad enlisted the help of his youngest sister who helped him carry bricks nightly until they had enough to complete the job.  Stuck to the ammo box was a magnet.  I was surprised to learn that Uncle Carl once worked for a magnet factory and gave some to my husband to play with when he was a child.  That was the first time I ever heard that story!

As the family historian, I thought I knew just about all of the stories but I was wrong.  Next time you're trying to learn more about your family I highly recommend cleaning the garage.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

History Unfolded - A Newspaper Project


Last week, I blogged about a summer volunteer opportunity through the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.  A new challenge was just posted so I added my guess and the reason why.  If deciphering transcriptions aren't your style, here's a new project that needs your help...

History Unfolded is creating a searchable newspaper database to measure the pulse of regional newspapers during the 1930's and '40's regarding news about 30 Holocaust events.  If you love to read old papers, then this is for you!  You may use Newspapers.com or a local paper in which you have access.  For more details - check out their website.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Scaffolding Your Research

Happy Father's Day!  Check out my new blog post for AncestorCloud - Scaffolding Your Research.  I've got to get the link corrected in the article.  It should be ICLD.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

DNA Father's Day Specials



Unless you plan on waiting until Black Friday, which I'm going to do, there are two special offers available for DNA kits in honor of Father's Day:

1.  Ancestry DNA is $79.00, however, if you order it via Amazon.com and are a prime member, you don't have to pay shipping.  Sale ends June 18th.

https://www.ancestry.com/dna/?s_kwcid=ancestry+dna&gclid=CjwKEAjw4IjKBRDr6p752cCUm3kSJAC-eqRt4XT4Ibb1gHEgQtBEchtKXf1dQsalBrGBcH9vm1zETRoCq_7w_wcB&o_xid=58712&o_lid=58712&o_sch=Paid+Search+Brand

2.  MyHeritage DNA is $69.00 - ends June 19th.

https://www.myheritage.com/dna?utm_source=ppc_google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=mh_search_us_en_des_mhdna_exact_dna-myheritage&utm_content=199656509902&utm_term=myheritage+dna&tr_camp_id=694994790&tr_ad_group=myheritage_dna_kw&tr_ag_id=42700909157&tr_placement=&tr_device=c&tr_account=904-055-9108&keyword=&tr_size=&gclid=CjwKEAjw4IjKBRDr6p752cCUm3kSJAC-eqRtwmq9NJWdwwzl3E7ue2hmUlhplCthKcZw2oWf4aFfsRoCTbTw_wcB

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Transcription Challenge



The Transcription Challenge is a unique way to volunteer.  As AmericanAncestors.org transcribes the Massachusetts:  Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1798-1900, they have discovered some very difficult words to transcribe.   Knowing the old saying “Many hands make light work” and “Two heads are better than one” are true, weekly during the summer, a new transcription challenge will be posted with the undecipherable area circled in red.  So far, 4 challenges are available.  All you need to do is take a look and make a comment of what you think is written for the appropriate number of the problem’s name.   This is a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon!  Give it a try…

Sunday, June 4, 2017

MyHeritage DNA Upload Trouble Shooting



I took a wonderful webinar through the Association of Professional Genealogists on Thursday evening on DNA and Ancestry given by Jennifer Anderson Zinck.  Although my husband and I tested through Ancestry before their autosomal test became available in October 2014, our earlier results are still available through the DNA tab on the ribbon. I had thought Ancestry was no longer supporting their older tests so I was pleasantly surprised.

Understandably, the old results aren’t going to be a part of their new communities and circles.  I decided to upload that old data into MyHeritage.com’s new DNA feature as they recently began accepting data from other companies.  MyHeritage provides the largest ethnicity estimates of all current test companies.

To upload, click on the MyHeritage DNA tab’s dropdown “Upload DNA data NEW.”  Click the pink box “Start.”  Click if you are uploading your data or someone else's.  In my case, I was trying to upload my mtDNA.  Then, click the Service Terms and Consent Agreement.  Next, click the pink box “Upload.” Ancestry downloads the results as a csv file which my computer didn’t like.  I converted it to an Excel file as that is what it is and uploaded it. 

The pop up told me “DNA uploaded successfully.”  Good thing I decided to click “Manage Kits” before I uploaded hubby’s data.  Surprise, surprise – my kit was marked “Invalid.”  I thought that might be because I had changed formats so I went back through the steps and uploaded the csv file.  Again, I got the “DNA uploaded successfully” but in checking further, it was marked as “Invalid.”

I called MyHeritage at 1-877-432-3135.  Don’t get confused by the voice mail options!  I wasn’t needing billing or accounting (1) or sales (2) and the third option, tech support, says to call back between 7 am -5 pm.  Since it was 9:15 AM on a weekday I thought the phones might be down.  The message repeats twice but just hold on because you’ll eventually be placed in the queue for assistance.  I was number 9 and the wait time was about 15 minutes.

I told the tech guy the process I had followed and it turns out that MyHeritage does not accept mtDNA or yDNA, only autosomal, which we hadn’t taken.  I suggested that the type of test be written on the site to save phone calls and wasted time though autosomal is the way to go now and there probably aren't a lot of folks like us who have older tests.

So, if you have an autosomal DNA test done at a competitor’s site, you might want to take advantage of MyHeritage’s free offer.  Getting your data out to another site just might unlock secrets you never knew existed.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Snapping Stones - Tips for Photographing


Each Memorial Day when I was growing up, I’d accompany my family to tend the graves of ancestors I never knew.  Small flags stood at attention on the graves of veterans and the scent from flowers filled the air. 

My grandmother had a “cemetery box” in the trunk of her car; it contained hand clippers, a trowel, garden gloves, a rag and a paper bag.  Grandma would don the gloves and clip any tall grass growing around the stone, putting the clippings in the paper bag.  If weeds were sprouting my mom carefully pulled them out or used the trowel to remove before tossing them into the paper bag.  Finally, the stone would be wiped down.  I don’t remember seeing either spraying the stones with a cleaning product but I had usually lost interest by that time and was wandering around looking at the pictures on nearby markers.

In the older part of the cemetery where my great grandfather lay, many stones contained photos of the deceased.   Frozen in time, I was fascinated by the faces staring out at me.  Many were in uniform having died during World War I.  Others were like my great grandfather who had died in the 1919 flu epidemic.  Who knew from which others had succumbed?  My imagination would kick in and I’d make up stories about their demise.  I was usually in the middle of some epic made up tale when I was called to return.  Back into the car we drove to yet another area of the cemetery to pay respects to family friends and former neighbors. 

In all those visits it never once occurred to me to take a picture of the stones.  Assuming they would always be there, why would a photo be needed?  By the time I had entered by teens vandals had toppled many stones in the older part of the cemetery and those that couldn’t be moved were damaged by having the picture obliterated by blows.  My great grandfather’s picture was one that was destroyed.  We had a copy of the photo but the stone was never repaired. 
Thank goodness for Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves and individuals who have posted gravestone photos on other sites.  If you’re planning an upcoming cemetery visit, make sure you snap a picture during your visit and upload to preserve the record.  Although we don’t think of a tombstone as a record, they are and need to be cited just like paper documents.

Here are a few hints for photographing stones:
  • It’s okay to tidy up the stone a bit but avoid major scrubbing.  I’ve added a spray bottle and bleach tablets to my cemetery kit.  Placing one tablet in the bottle and adding water, I can spray the stone to remove algae and dirt quickly.  I sometimes need to use a soft bristle brush, too, but be gentle! 
  • If someone has placed flowers or other adornments in front of the stone it’s alright to move them for the photo but please carefully replace when you’re done.
  • For upright standing stones – get down in front and level with the stone.  It reduces distortion and if the photo is taken close up, minimizes your shadow. 
  • For flat stones – try to take the picture from directly above making sure you don’t include your feet.  If you can’t do that, please crop the photo before uploading. 
  • Back up and take a photo of stones adjacent to the one that is of interest to you.  Possible relatives, neighbors or friends may have been buried close by and might be of help when you are researching paper documents when you return home.  This method may alert you to a child who died between census years or an uncle who came for a visit and passed away unexpectedly.  


Remember, just because it’s engraved in granite doesn’t make it so!  Conflicting evidence does occur; an error could have been made just like with paper.  If the cemetery office is open, stop in and ask for a copy of the records.  To save the staff time I often photograph them in lieu of having a photocopy made.  Being thoughtful goes a long way!