DNA Testing – Sales From the “BIG 3”

DNA_animationWhen the subject of DNA comes up, I like to give people the simplest answers so that their eyes don’t glaze over: The three types (Y-DNA, mtDNA, and atDNA) what each can do and what each CANNOT do.  It’s important to have at least a basic understanding of your reasons to test so that you don’t waste your money or test with the wrong company.

Here are the “holiday sale” prices from the 3 companies that I generally recommend. Each name is hyperlinked to their website:

FamilyTreeDNA currently has an autosomal DNA (atDNA) test on sale for $89. That’s the DNA that comes to you from both parents. You have ABOUT 50% from Mom and ABOUT 50% from Dad. Having said that, each of your parents received ABOUT the same percentage from each of their parents. Thus, you have ABOUT 25% from each of your 4 grandparents, ABOUT 12.5% from each of your 8 great grandparents and so on until the percentage of the atDNA from a distant ancestor is too minimal to detect. These test are normally called “Cousin Finders” or “Family Finders.” Don’t expect to learn the ancient origins of your ancestors, it can’t be done with this test.

23andME has had its ups and downs but has come back strong after a few unfortunate “misunderstandings” with the FDA. They now advertise that they are the only testing company that meets FDA standards for being clinically and scientifically valid.  Truly a great opportunity to use the “cousin finder” aspect

My kids gave this to me about 25 years ago for Father's Day!

My kids gave this to me about 25 years ago for Father’s Day!

with atDNA, maternal and paternal ancestors with mtDNA and Y-DNA respectively, and, believe it or not, determine your possible ancient connection to Neanderthal, the proto-typical “caveman!” The “caveman” term is really quite misleading as we learn more about that branch of our collective tree. Currently, a single test is $199 if you order by December 13, 2015. Then if you order more tests for a family member by January 4, 2016, you’ll get a 10% discount on each.  This company will give you some very interesting health information. It’s best to check this page of the website to learn more.

Ancestry.com, the most promoted genealogical service, now has a division called AncestryDNA and their test is usually $99, it’s also on sale for $69 for Black Friday.  That’s a GREAT deal! Although they heavily promote their services, they are certainly not the “only game in town.” When they first began offering tests, Y-DNA, mtDNA and atDNA were all a part of their menu. Right from the start, they stumbled. Most of the ancestry reports they delivered showed nearly everyone with 98% Scandinavian DNA. Well, no. That was a little off. They then refined their testing algorithms, purchased other valid DNA databases and limited their services to atDNA. It makes sense since atDNA is the “cousin finder” and they have a phenomenally large collection of family trees which can theoretically be matched up with the atDNA results. First caveat is that of the millions of trees at Ancestry.com a relatively low percentage have been thoroughly researched; the data often lacks proper genealogical research meaning public records (sources) and other citations. Much of their data is from people harvesting undocumented data from other trees containing undocumented data. Their latest testing process is up to par and their matching strategies are reasonably accurate. But proceed with care!

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck in your DNA adventures!

Is a Utah Mormon the Real King of England?

There’s an interesting DNA case that has been developing in Britain. There is a dispute involving

Stitchill, Roxburghshire, Scotland

Stichill, Roxburghshire, Scotland

the 13th century Pringle of Stichill, with Stichill being a town and civil parish in the county of Roxburghshire in Scotland. Described in the article as a “bitter dispute,” 2 lines of Pringle men are battling out the true and rightful heir to the title.  Both have spent a great deal of money in the courts to sort it all out. And it all started with a simple family tree project!

Invoking DNA evidence, the case is now to be decided by the highest courts in Great Britain. The Queen herself had to make the decision to send the case to the 7 judges of the Supreme Court based on a little used law called the “Judicial Act 1833.”

Here in the Daily Mail article, you can read the details of that case and also the potential case of Mormon lawyer James Ord. He “joked” that if  DNA evidence is ruled to be admissible evidence, he may be able to make a claim to the throne. It seems that George IV sired a bevy of illegitimate children (I’ll pause for the collective gasp) and Mr. Ord may be a distant cousin of one of those offspring, an American seaman.

The Royal Family has only been subjected to DNA testing once. The case of Richard III and the DNA results from that test could prove catastrophic to the current Royal line inasmuch as it would call into doubt the lineage of Henry VII who seized the throne from Richard.

Genealogists may want to subscribe to the Daily Mail to follow these stories.

Find-A-Grave Project – BIG Project

At the November meeting of the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS), we listened to a presentation titled, “CSI Gravestones: Causes of Death.” Although that may sound a bit on the morbid side, one of the details that most genealogists look for is the cause of death. The intriguing nature of this presentation was the highlighting of the propensities of our ancestors to “broadcast” those causes through the epitaphs carved in stone on grave markers all over New England. It’s not seen very much these days, if at all.

Mr. Nathaniel Parks Elmwood Cemetery Holyoke, Massachusetts

Mr. Nathaniel Parks
Elmwood Cemetery
Holyoke, Massachusetts

The most interesting, or rather, the most tragic gravestone I’ve ever photographed is the memorial to Mr. Nathaniel Parks who was 19 years old on the 19th of March 1794 when he was shot to death by Mr. Luther Frink. Considering the length of time between the shooting and the burial, it’s safe to assume that Mr. Frink admitted the cause of young Nathaniel’s demise. See his memorial at Find-A-Grave here.

What’s the BIG project I was talking about? Let’s get back to the WMGS meeting. Al and Betsy McKee of Longmeadow, Massachusetts have been photographing gravestones for over 20 years. They’ve traveled up and down the Connecticut River Valley from northern Massachusetts down into southern Connecticut. They have a little over 20,000 images in their  collection. They sorted out about 50 or so for us that showed causes of death: fevers, war, old age among many other causes including illnesses that we are no longer confronted with.

Since I’ve been involved with Find-A-Grave for over 15 years, it occurred to me that the McKee’s had probably uploaded many of their images to that site. At the conclusion of the presentation, I asked them about that. Well, they just never got involved with uploading to Find-A-Grave. So I proposed a collaborative project between them and WMGS.  And they’re all for it. My idea was to open an account so that the memorials that get posted would give credit to them for the photographs.

Find-A-Grave is one of the websites that researchers use on a fairly regular basis. Creating an

William Bassett Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

William Bassett
Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

account is totally free and anyone can upload any memorial as long as the memorial has not already been posted. Incredibly, there are over 140 million memorials for “regular people” all the way up to presidents and movie stars. It’s a good research tool in that using the site to search for an ancestor can turn up some surprising results. That’s the upside. The downside is that realistically, anyone can upload anything. So you may find someone who is a target of your research, but the data gleaned from such a memorial must be verified before we take it as fact. Either way, it’s just another breadcrumb in the relentless search for our ancestors.

Why put up memorials? There are many reasons. First, it is a memorial and it does just that, memorialize a family member, friend or anyone who you are familiar with who you feel deserves to be remembered in such a manner. Many of us simply like to provide the information to researchers from around the country and actually from around the world. The photo isn’t necessary, it’s more of a bonus. I’ve had email over the years from people who appreciate the fact that they can “visit” friends and family when there is no opportunity to visit the actual cemetery. One elderly woman saw her sister in one of the local cemeteries and, according to her daughter, teared up.  The cemetery is here in Massachusetts and she currently lives with her daughter and son-in-law in California with no hope of making a trip back here.

So here’s the point of this post. If you’re familiar with Find-A-Grave or even if you’re new to it and would like to take part in this project, just get in touch with me at dave@oldbones.info. As we put together the details, I’m sure we can easily find a way to allow anyone from anywhere to pitch in.

Chicopee Library Named LDS Family History Center

Chicopee Public Library

Chicopee Public Library

The Chicopee Public Library at 449 Front Street in Chicopee, Massachusetts has been designated a Family History Center by the

Family History Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

Family History Center,         Salt Lake City, Utah

Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). These are the folks who bring us billions of genealogical records to research at their website Family Search and they do it for free!

On Thursday, 19 November 2015, representatives from LDS will be presenting the library with a very generous check to support the genealogical activities there. For example, along with 5 or 6 other genealogists, I’ve been volunteering to assist library patrons with their own family research. In addition, the library sponsors a variety of genealogy research classes, lectures and presentations. I’ve been invited to participate in the presentation ceremony. 

Keep an eye on my schedule of activities at Old Bones Genealogy of New England and click the “Workshops/Classes” tab. You might also take a look at “Useful Documents” where I post dozens and dozens of genealogy documents, charts, spreadsheets, lists of genealogically oriented Facebook pages and a list of good websites to take a look at.

I hope to get a few pictures to post!


Grammar? I went to school for that!

For the record, I didn’t attend a “grade” school.  I attended a “grammar” school where we learned, among a myriad of other subjects, grammar.  Anyone who writes anything may be confronted with issues of “grammar.” Since I have been known to write a thing or two, I felt compelled to watch these videos for a quick review. I found these little vignettes to be oddly entertaining.  Maybe I need other distractions!

See what you think… They’re all very short and to the point; you may be able to binge watch the entire season in a little over 10 minutes. That’s easier than taking the totality of “Game of Thrones!” She even talks about the implied diaeresis. And, by the way, that’s not an intestinal disorder!

Here’s the link: The Comma Queen, Series Premier

I hope she’ll cover commas and quotation marks in an upcoming video.  Do they go inside or outside?

More “exciting” news from Ancestry.com

Here’s a quick post regarding Loretta Gillespie’s blog, this time about Ancestry.com.

Are you a subscriber? I have been a “faithful” customer for over 10 years. Lately, they’re a little more difficult to keep track of. For example, their newest membership packages are a little confusing. We discussed it today on a Google Hangout (which all of you can participate in) called “Mondays with Myrt.” Click this link to Loretta Gillespie’s blog, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” It’s worth a look.

This was a large part of the discussion today on Monday’s with Myrt.  If you’re interested, it’s a great place to listen to all things genealogical.  Check out http://bit.ly/MyrtsNext. That link will take you to DearMYRT’s Google Community. All are invited to join the Hangout every Monday at noon eastern, 11 AM Central and 10 AM Mountain time. I’m on the “panel” nearly every week, but an unlimited number of people can watch through her Community page.

Old Bones Genealogy of New England

Old Bones Genealogy of New England


Sure, Ancestry.com wants to share my health report with everyone! Well, no thanks!

Ancestry Health? Yes, Ancestry Health

This is a little bit disturbing in my opinion.  Maybe even creepy.  But Ancestry.com is diving into the health data field which, on the surface, sounds a bit like what the FDA prevented 23andMe from doing, at least in its original form.  But that’s another story!I refer everyone to the most excellent DNA blog by scientist and genealogist, Roberta Estes.  If you have any interest in DNA whatsoever, her blog provides an excellent resource.  She speaks “English” in her blog rather than “Scientist.”  Well, she does for the most part!  Some of the entries get a little long and have a tendency to cause my eyes to glaze over, but I’m always able to get the gist of her knowledge and manage to read most of the information.  Then there’s the comments…hundreds of comments from researchers everywhere.

But I digress!  Here’s the link where she explains with reasonable clarity the ins and outs of the beta program: DNA-Explained which should be a heads-up for anyone who may be tempted to jump right into the Ancestry Health pool.

She also references Judy G Russell, a very accomplished genealogist who happens to be a lawyer, a former prosecutor in fact.  That’s another blog I would strongly recommend.  You can read and subscribe to her clever, informative, sometimes personal and often humorous words published daily at The Legal Genealogist.

Needless to say, I subscribe to both.  Some posts I have no interest in reading but most of the others and their comments are an education in and unto themselves.

Happy researching!

In closing, I had to share this Father’s Day “card” from my kids.  Matthew, Mark and Kimi collaboratively colored this cartoon for a long ago Father’s Day sometime around 1995.  They’re a prescient group as I recently discovered through 23andMe that I am, in fact, 3% Neanderthal!

neanderthal-dadThanks kids!


English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with gene...

English: Old print in Darłowo Castle with genealogical information about King Eric the Pomeranian of Scandinavia, as released by image creator Ristesson; Place: Darłowo, Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re all talking about NERGC here in the North East.  NERGC?  So what’s NERGC?  It’s the acronym for the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium.  NERGC orchestrates a biennial conference at strategic cities here in New England.   Now it’s not RootsTech..nowhere near the size.  I believe RT had approximately 30,000 registrants this year, give or take 10,000.

No, NERGC is quite a bit smaller but of no less significance or importance to the genealogical community here.  Speakers, sponsored luncheons and dinners, workshops, society meetings, exhibitor hall with unopposed exhibit hours, speakers with national, regional and local recognition… NERGC has it all.

I can tick off a list of reasons why I took 4 days out my own very busy schedule to attend.

First, the opportunity to network with people who I know well, but only via social media: Facebook, Google Communities, Webinars, Google Hangouts on Air, the whole spectrum! I can tell you that it’s one thing to communicate virtually, but there’s nothing like looking across the table with a genealogy friend and sharing a meal or just a cup of coffee.  It’s what I would call a mini-conference.  There were mini-conferences going on all day, every day.

Second, I’d have to count the sessions that were held on all aspects of genealogy, family research and technology.  As a matter of fact, the entire first day was devoted to librarians, teachers and technology.  Not a bad place to be on Wednesday!  And I know that those who attended would agree.

Next, I’d count the individual specialty programs such as the “Ancestor Road Show.” This program is well attended and by reservation only!  A busy time for the NERGC volunteers,

And on the subject of volunteers, there are dozens of devoted genealogists at all levels of knowledge and experience in every field, volunteers who spend hours and hours in the planning and execution of each conference.

The Exhibition Hall was jam packed with representatives from many vendors and societies. The

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry ...

The coat of arms of the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

genealogy website  MyHeritage was represented as well as the American-French Genealogical Society, Heritage Books, Lisa Louise’s Genealogy Gems, the Gravestone Girls, New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, New England Historic Genealogical Society, citation software vendor Evidentia, and many, many more.

So now we all have to wait until April of 2017 for the next NERGC conference which will be held at the MassMutual Center

in Springfield, Mass.

See you there!

Using the “FAN” Club—This one was too easy!

Here’s a short hint regarding a search I was having some difficulty with. The family name is “LISIEWISCZ” which, as I’m sure you can imagine, has a wide variety of spelling possibilities. After all, “speeiln duzn’t cownt” right?

So the point of the search was to find the obituary for a 1932 death. The obituary still needs to be found, but in the course of the search, I was able to figure out a few things. First, the family had immigrated in the early 1900’s. Since the family is still living in the general area, it was safe to think that they should have appeared in the 1940 census. Bingo! Off to Ancestry.com and there’s the widow (husband died in 1932) and her 4 children ranging in age from 21 down to 14. Since all of her neighbors reported that they lived in the same house in 1935, I thought there was a good chance they were also there in 1930. So, rather than look for yet another spelling variation, I did the FAN trick: Friends, Associates and Neighbors. The easiest was a neighbor.


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Typical census record, un-associated with this blog post.

All of the families on this page of the 1940 census were farmers. So the next assumption was that there had to be a neighbor listed on that street who might also have appeared in the 1930 census 2 years prior to the alleged death date of the husband and father in this family. And so it was! I didn’t have to guess about “similar spellings” or “similar meanings” of the Eastern European surname. I simply used “Reynolds.” a neighbor in 1940 and, as it turns out, also a neighbor in 1930!

I’m not done yet tracking the obituary. Here’s the part where we say, “It’s not all on the internet!” Tomorrow, I’ll be at the archives and I check city directories which should get me closer to the actual death date. From there I can go to the microfilm of the local newspaper (not digitized or published on any newspaper website) and sort this one out to a happy conclusion!

Heritage Quest – The New Version

English: Seal of the United States Census Bure...

English: Seal of the United States Census Bureau. The blazon is defined here as: On a shield an open book beneath which is a lamp of knowledge emitting rays above in base two crossed quills. Around the whole a wreath of single leaves, surrounded by an outer band bearing between two stars the words “U.S. Department of Commerce” in the upper portion and “Bureau of the Census” in the lower portion, the lettering concentric with an inner beaded rim and an outer dentilated rim. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll readily admit that I have not been a regular user of Heritage Quest.  As a matter of fact, I would avoid it.  Probably because I didn’t know how best to take advantage of it.  When I did go there, it was usually at the library where I volunteer and occasionally teach or lecture on genealogy research principles.Today, however, I watched a video that introduced me to the new version that has just been released.  I think they hit a home run with this one.  Maybe a grand slam!

The style echos what will be the newest version of Ancestry.com once they release the beta version which some of us have been able to “get friendly with” and provide feedback to Ancestry.  More on that in another post another day.  For now, I just want to encourage everyone to take a look at Heritage Quest and see all the new features.

First, it’s a little more pleasant of an atmosphere.  Maybe, for me, it’s just that it’s a refreshed website.  But the real meat of the upgrade is the collections that you will find there.

Brief rundown: The original 6 data sets are still available but PERSI and the US Serial Set will, for now, redirect you back to the original site.  Census records are now available to 1940 given the collaboration with Ancestry.com.  The census records and other sets will now display images in 256 grey scale or color rather than “bi-tonal” making them easier to read.  You will also be able to save them, download them or e-mail them in a image format.

In addition to US Census Population Schedules, images for US Territories, Military and Naval Forces records, US Indian Census Rolls 1885-1940, Mortality Schedules from 1850 to 1880, the 1880 schedules of Dependent, Delinquent and Defective classes and select Non-Population schedules from 1850 to 1880.

English: A collage of American Revolutionary W...

English: A collage of American Revolutionary War public domain images. Clockwise from top left: Battle of Bunker Hill, Death of Montgomery at Quebec, Battle of Cowpens, “Moonlight Battle”. Interlingua: Un collage de imagines in dominio public super le Guerra de Independentia del Statos Unite. Ab sinistra superior in senso horologic: Battalia de Bunker Hill, morte de Montgomery a Quebec, Battalia de Cowpens, Battalia de Capo St. Vincente. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The complete NARA M804 Revolutionary War pension and bounty land applications with “every name index” of pension apps and applicants. All NARA pension apps are included regardless of page count or genealogical value.

The image viewer appears in either basic of advanced view without the need for any special plug-ins.  Boolean operators are not allowed (AND, OR, AND NOT, etc.) but truncation and wildcards are (Eli?abeth or Sam*).  An exact match option appears when typing begins. You are also allowed to add life events or other family members to refine your search and use double quotation marks for specific phrases (“first edition”),

All documents are downloadable in PDF format.  The site includes several pages of tips and tricks for researchers.

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Map Guide to the US Census” has been moved to the new interactive MAPS

English: Map of US Census Bureau's geographica...

English: Map of US Census Bureau’s geographical regions Category:Census Bureau images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

section.  The maps have their own tabs, can be saved, printed or e-mailed using a right click for the option menu.

“The Census Book” by William Dollarhide is included in the MAPS section and includes blank census forms. You may be interested in other William Dollarhide books which include “American Migration Routes 1735-1815,” “New  York State Census & Substitutes,” or “Managing a Genealogical Project” among others.  They’re all available at Amazon.com.


I’m not familiar enough just yet to expound on the new features or any of the improvements to what has been available for a while.  But it’s certainly worth a look!

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