Category Archives: Ancestry.com

A “Found” Patriot

Heritage. As a youngster, I always wondered of the heritage that resulted in me.  The culture at home was a simple one when it came down to family stories and history. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Well, I guess I won’t ask THAT question again!

What follows are a few descriptions of discoveries I’ve made since I began my genealogical journey.

My father, Henry Dunn Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 33567770), went into the Navy exactly 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor at the “insistence” of his maternal grandmother, Gilma Cecilia Robertson Dunn. She went so far as to have his birth record destroyed (there’s no record of his birth to this day!), falsify his age and ship him off at age 15!

My father and the previous 4 generations had lived in Alabama and Tennessee. As I discovered years later, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robertson/Robinson/Robison/Robrson (Find A Grave Memorial# 7048152), was a veteran or the War of 1812 having served with the East Tennessee Volunteers then settled in Limestone County, Alabama. There were a few Confederate ancestors who served in the “War of Northern  Aggression.” One of my 2nd great grandfathers died at the Rock Island Confederate POW camp in Rock Island, Illinois (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092694). During World War II,  while Henry was in the Caribbean, his mother divorced her husband and moved to Massachusetts.  As far as I can tell, this was the reason they wanted Henry out of the way. The short version here is the “Granny” lived with us in Springfield for a while until she entered a nursing home in the mid-60s where she died in 1970.

I never knew my paternal my grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092687), who remained and remarried in Alabama. I was only marginally aware of the fact that I even had a grandfather.  My father would make a 5- or 10-minute call “down south” around Christmas-time every year. I never saw “Papa Lee” nor did I ever speak with him. He died in 1964.  My first view of him was his obituary on the front page of the Anniston (Alabama) Star. While I shouldn’t have been surprised, he looked exactly like my father and it was a little unsettling.

My maternal grandfather, Clement Alexis Dickson (Find A Grave Memorial# 11132523), died when I was about 3 years old but my maternal grandmother lived until 1962. Of all of my grandparents, she’s the only one with whom I had ever had any semblance of a conversation.

The upshot is that my father didn’t care to talk about his side of the dysfunctional Robison family and my mother thought it best to hold the same line with regard to her side.

Now, enter the genealogist! I wouldn’t say that I was desperately seeking anything necessarily. But the lack of information led me to feel that we were all dropped off on earth by an alien spaceship back in the early 50s! Then, as I began researching for details, I was able to interview some of the prior generations of relatives: 3 aunts, 1 great-grandaunt and a couple of second cousins. If I only knew then what I know now!

In 2001, I got the bug to join a lineage society. If successful, that would “install” a heritage that was there all along but of which I was totally unaware. Maternal family lore stated that we descended from Pilgrims. Okay, but who, what, where, why, and when? There was a box of spoons that were allegedly made from the silver buckles of their shoes. Spoiler: hardly any pilgrims had silver buckles on their shoes! More on that some other time.

Paternal lore stated, well, nothing! But after a comparatively short period of time, I began to suspect that there was some validity to the Pilgrim story, underscore “some.” At the same time, I uncovered real evidence that my paternal lines stretched back to at least the War of 1812, as I mentioned earlier, and possibly the Revolutionary War.

So, here we go! Let’s join the Sons of the American Revolution. I downloaded an application and worked on it sporadically for about 15 years. Yes, not 5 or 10, but for 15 years, the application languished in my desk. In my defense, I was certainly busy with dozens of projects, nearly all of which involved genealogy. Then, in 2016, I was a co-chair for NERGC, a relatively large genealogy conference to be held in Springfield, Massachusetts in the spring of 2017. We normally brought in 2 featured speakers along with several dozen others. It was  my intent to solicit Kenyatta Berry, one of the very personable hosts of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.” It was to be filmed in Providence, Rhode Island. So off I went to Providence, Rhode Island. Short version, Kenyatta Berry became the third and very welcomed featured speaker. Score 1 for Dave.

In the meantime, many of my fellow genealogists were at the filming representing various clubs and societies in the vendor area of the venue. A friend of mine introduced me to the Registrar for a chapter of the DAR. I told her my story of profound procrastination with my SAR application. She eagerly said, “I can help!” OK, that’s great but I can’t join the DAR, I would qualify! She asked if I had a daughter which I most certainly do. As a result, my daughter is now a member of the Lexington Chapter of the DAR. For my purposes, I merely had to finish my SAR application, exclude my daughter’s generation and I could qualify.

But here, finally, is the most interesting part of the story: I have identified at least 24 ancestors who are age-appropriate to have served in the War, all would have been between their late teens to their early 40s. The specific ancestor we picked was a Patriot who had only most recently been identified as such. Timothy Blodgett’s (Find A Grave Memorial# 74484986) story involves mostly obscurity. He was a family man who, with his wife ran a small farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts while raising a small brood of 14 children. He was born in 1740 in Lexington, Massachusetts and was involved in the first battle of the War. The Lexington engagement occurred on 19 April 1775 then shortly thereafter came the battle at Concord. My ancestor was one of the registered Minute Men under Captain Charles Parker who confronted the British at Lexington, his hometown.

The singular reason that he was finally identified as a Patriot is that he lost his musket during the battle and petitioned for compensation at the Lexington Town Hall the following morning. The record of that petition was only discovered in 2012.

From www.wickedlocal.com:

     “Bill Poole, executive officer with the Minute Men, said he discovered Blodgett when he was researching local militia in the archives of Capt. Parker’s Company in Lexington. Blodgett had  moved to Shutesbury the year after the fateful morning on April 19, 1775 and his name was    never included on the official “muster roll.”

     But Poole said he found several documents confirming Blodgett’s post, noting he even           applied for a reimbursement from then selectmen for a firearm he lost on the Battle Green.     The young militia man lost the musket when he attempted to jump over a fence to while           fleeing from the Regulars, Poole said.”1

Here is the photo from the article clearly showing the addition of Timothy Blodgett’s name to the bottom of the second column:

Timothy Blodgett added to the Memorial at Lexington Green. Photo: http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington

The proof of my ancestor came fairly easy as I already had nearly every document necessary. We used the documentation first for my daughter’s DAR application, then for my own SAR application. Success with both apps!

But wait! There’s more! In early 2016, I was giving a presentation on genealogy to the East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Historical Society. It was a basic introduction to family research that was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. Apparently, the members of the East Longmeadow Historical Society are in the habit of showing up just a little late for their meetings. So at 6:58, I was “concerned” but not showing it. Then in walked our first guest. A delicate woman, a senior citizen, who I greeted with a smile. Her name is Ruth Washburn, my first guest that night. I smiled because I had at least one person for the audience. She said, “I’m so glad I could make it. I usually don’t drive at night.” I offered her a ride home as I was sure there would be someone there she knew but she turned me down, flat! As I walked her to the front of the room, I sat her in a seat that was directly in front of where I would be speaking. When I mentioned the SAR, I also mentioned that my Patriot Ancestor was Timothy Blodgett. At that moment Ruth gasped and covered her mouth. Naturally, I suspected that something was wrong. I stopped and asked if she was OK. With a tear in her eye (really…she teared up!) she said that she, too, was a descendant of Timothy Blodgett.

As it turns out, Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn is a very energetic 91-year-old cousin who, in her own right, is a well-established family historian.  She’s pictured here in front of the window that was in one of her cousin’s family’s home. When her cousin asked if there was anything in the house she would want, she said she’d love to have the window from her bedroom but knew it was impossible. She had spent a great deal of time at this house during the summers of her youth and remembered the happiness that the sunlight brought her when it came streaming through the multicolored window. The window is a real piece of art!

Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn

I’ve spent time with Ruth to hear her stories and learn more about the Blodgett line. She has an extensive database which she has been more than willing to share with me.  But more important to me than a database, she has extensive personal knowledge and a clear, sharp memory.

Now, if I ever have the time, I just might prove more Patriot ancestors from both my maternal and my paternal side.

And one more thing, I’ve found 4 direct Mayflower ancestors. All I need to do is prove those lines and I’ll have a unique way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the 1620 Mayflower landing in 2020.

  1. “Lexington Minute Men add new name to monument,” website, (http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington : accessed 18 July 2016).

Search to Failure

Wilbraham Public Library Session III

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been providing guidance in family research, both on- and off-line. For quite a while, I’ve advocated particular strategies that I find effective. Last night I spontaneously described it as “search to failure.” It just rolled off my tongue. Here’s why I think it’s a good strategy and a good description.

Just a few years ago, most genealogical search engines offered dozens of fields to be filled in so that you could locate the records of your ancestors. Early in my own research, I felt it necessary to offer up as much information as possible. After all, the fields were there waiting to be filled, right? Just like a job application or a mortgage application, the questions were there for a reason. But what I soon learned…or maybe not to soon…was that less is more. And the websites seemed to finally agree with me. Today, you’re offered far fewer fields to fill which, in my opinion, is a good thing.Let me explain the strategy that I teach.

Linnie Otto Peace Robison (1880-1954)

First, Grandma may have said that her grandfather was born on such-and-such a date, always used the name “Thomas” (for example) and he always, as far as Grandma knew lived in a certain town. My response is this: Well, Grandma, we love you but we don’t necessarily believe you! New researchers will go to great lengths to use exactly that information without deviation. Contrary to the “job application” strategy, I demonstrate my “search to failure” strategy using the name “Smith.” That’s it, just “Smith.” And I never ask for an exact spelling. As a matter of fact, in Ancestry.com for example, I ask for “Sounds like,” “Similar,” and “Soundex” in order to get every possible permutation. That’s the only field I fill and I use “Smith” because I already know the dramatic results. Tonight, I got 146,696,564 results. That makes me happy. Why? Because I know I’m on the right track. Be patient, I’ll get the results down to a manageable number and in a very short amount of time.

Now, I’ll ask the audience to give me any first name. It doesn’t matter what they give me, but let’s say someone says “Michael.” My response is “Do you know if it’s really Michael? Or perhaps it’s Mike, or just M or what if Michael was his middle name because he didn’t like his first name. How can we be sure?” The answer, of course, is that we can’t be sure about anything at this stage. But let’s use Michael, making sure we also use “sounds like,” “similar,” and “initials.”

Now we’re down to “only” 4,102,786. That’s significant even at the volume of returns. It’s only about 3% of what our original search brought. I explain here, that “Michael” is a filter and the filter, in this example, worked. Or so we think at least! Now I add another filter and then another. In literally no time, our 146 million number can be reduced to 6 or 8 results. But I want to end up with NO results. “Search to failure.” Why? I want to make sure that I’m using the most efficient filters. That last filter that wiped out all my results is not the end of the search, it’s the first “failure” that will force me to eliminate that filter then go back and refine, refine, refine what I’ve done so far. The point is this: I’m starting out my fishing in a big pond. If my first search includes so many filters that my first at-bat gives me nothing, what have I gained. But if I start out with huge results then whittle them down with one filter at a time until there are no results, I can by-pass Grandma’s data (without telling her, of course!) and hopefully come up with enough results that through principle #1 of the GPS, a thoroughly exhaustive search, I can determine which of the results is the target ancestor.

My point is “search to failure,” then begin to massage the filters in order to “search to success.”

NERGC? What’s a NERGC?

Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past

“Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium produces a conference every other year. Each NERGC conference is held in a city somewhere in New England. Past conferences have been in Hartford, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and this year, Springfield, Massachusetts. The event will kick off on 26 April 2017 with a specialty day devoted to Librarians, Professionals, Genealogical Society Management and Technology. During the following three days, you’ll have a chance to hear and learn from 70 genealogists of every level and in every aspect of genealogy and genealogical research. NERGC organizers have devoted quite a bit of time and space to DNA, a “hot topic” in today’s genealogy world.

The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield is the venue. Hotel accommodations are available within a block. Other than presentations, this year’s conference includes several workshops, banquets and a “private” tour of the archives at the Museum of Springfield History.

Our opening speaker is Mary Tedesco, a co-host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show. Speaking several times during the conference are 3 featured speakers, Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner and a third, another co-host of Genealogy Road Show, Kenyatta D Berry.

NERGC is supported by 23 genealogical from societies around New England, all of whom will be represented at the event. Volunteers from each will be busy making sure your experience is optimal. Stop and visit each of them in the Exhibit Hall and perhaps you can meet with a society near where you live.

Also in the Exhibit Hall, you’ll see a wide variety of vendors of genealogy products: Books, CD’s, old maps, clothing, and other genealogy-oriented products. Scheduled are genealogy companies such as Ancestry.com, Evidentia Software, FindMyPast and Geni.com to name a few.NERGC is worth a look! If you can’t make Springfield this year, the 2019 conference is scheduled for a return trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Family Tree Maker® – Goodbye Ancestry – Hello MacKiev

In 1998, I was wandering around Circuit City, a company that went out of business maybe 7 years ago or more. I really don’t remember what I was looking for. Stereos, cell phones, DVD’s, whatever. I had recently bought a desktop computer and eventually I walked down the software aisle.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had family history in mind. By “back of my mind” I mean a subconscious, little-explored avocation. It began in 1969 when I received a letter from someone who turned out to be a second cousin.

Now, by way of explanation, my maternal lines extend to the Mayflower and dozens of others who arrived during the Great Migration, settling in Plymouth Colony and, later, Massachusetts Bay Colony and finally, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I’ve since discovered some very surprising ancestors that I’ve written about over the years. It’s from this side, I researched one of my 18 or so Revolutionary War Patriot ancestors and was able to join the Sons of the American Revolution.

My paternal lines, on the other hand, had all settled in the American Southeast: Virginia/West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. And that’s where the letter came from. The writer had typewritten what I know now is a descendant chart beginning with an ancestor of mine who was born in 1849. I was so impressed with this information that I now knew an ancestor who was born over 120 years before the letter was written. So impressed, that I put away and didn’t open it again until around 1998, a few months before my foray into the software department at Circuit City.

You should know that I was brought up in an environment of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in anything family related. Until the moment the Family Tree Maker practically jumped off the shelf. It was the spark that lit up my desire, or rather my need to find out if “what you don’t know” included family. Who were they? Who am I?  Exactly how did I connect with someone born so long ago in 1849? That was my father’s side. Obviously, there must be a few folks I never knew or heard of on my mother’s side. So, I was off to the races.

In 1998, I began what has become my profession. Speaking, teaching, consulting, family research and literally anything to do with genealogy. And now DNA has entered the equation. With FTM eventually becoming an Ancestry.com property, it became a convenience to me since I was already an Ancestry subscriber.

Having branched out into client work, I usually would use FTM as one of the tools to keep my research in order. And as far as my own family, my continuing genealogical discoveries created a tree that just became increasingly bigger as I continued.

FTM was updated and upgraded over the years. I was always interested in having the “latest” whenever possible. Sometimes I’d jump in as early as possible and other times I’d wait a month or so as I had learned that getting the bugs out was an important part of software development. The integration with Ancestry that allowed full two-way synchronization was an amazing breakthrough for me as I had become accustomed to updated one and then, separately updating the other.  Wow, technology!

When MacKiev got into the picture, I read what some people were posting on Facebook and other social media. Some were in a state of sheer panic while others, like myself, took a wait and see attitude. It always seemed to me that FTM had so many adherents that it was hardly likely that it would just sail off over the horizon never to be seen again. Somebody was bound to take over the reins.

And so it happened. FTM didn’t dissolve at the end of 2016 as some had predicted. As a matter of fact, as 2016 was melting into 2017, rather than the whole thing falling apart, the news simply got better. I was reluctant to try to teach myself the ins and outs of Legacy or RootsMagic or any of the other programs that are on the market. Keeping my focus on FTM was a more acceptable way to go.

Now it gets interesting. When I received the link to the upgrade, I felt I was relatively safe. If a major defugalty came along, there certainly are alternatives. The download and installation processes were a smooth ride which allowed me to focus on some family research. There’s always an ancestor lurking that can be proven and added to the “big” file. That file now has 43,893 individuals and a proportionate amount of media. That’s a lot to lose!

Pedigree Chart of Abigail Chapin Wheelock. Her husband, Paul Wheelock is a half-first cousin of President John Adams. Note the number of individuals: 43,893. Click to enlarge.

In December of 2015, when Ancestry announced that they were going to discontinue FTM altogether, the leading family history software — just bury it in the backyard. Many were panicked. Two months later on February 2nd, Ancestry announced that they’d changed their minds and would instead sell this wonderful old brand to SoftwareMacKiev. And as the developer of the Mac versions of FTM for the six years before that, “MacKiev was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to take the wheel,” said Jack Minsky, President of Software MacKiev. They stepped forward the very next day. ” Lots of articles were written on alternatives and there was lots of handwringing from FTM faithful on what to do,” said Minsky.

Now during the waning days of December 2016, I began to experience some difficulty booting up the laptop, a relatively new Dell Inspiron running Windows 10 with 1T hybrid hard drive, 8G of ram and no outrageous peripherals. It had always run flawlessly with all the data I have stored which takes up less than half of the capacity. That problem went away until the day after New Years Day. All I could get was the image that displays on startup. Without boring you with all the details of 5 marathon sessions with Premium Support, I can summarize it by simply saying that after a few stop-gap measures, I was forced to undertake a thorough, clean factory re-install. Fortunately, I’ve been running cloud backups for several years. I’ve used Carbonite® and more recently BackBlaze® on all our computers here. I also maintain a redundant backup on an external 1.5T Seagate hard drive. So other than the process of dragging myself through all of this, it should have been a simple although lengthy operation.

The next day, the download was complete, the restore was complete and all that was left was to put everything away where it belonged and reinstall some applications. That part of the process included FTM 2014.1 which had been running flawlessly. In the meantime, I was made aware of an update to the upgrade. Update? OK…I’m in. Before the big meltdown, I had done some work in the “big” file with the upgrade but not with the update. I thought nothing of it. I should mention here that I reinstalled FTM 2014.1 from the thumb drive that I purchased just in case what just happened, happened!

But when I tried to open the “big” file, I got an error message. I tried to open several of the other family trees and they opened with no problem. I communicated with technical support through their chat application and had 2 differing solutions, neither of which worked.  Wallowing in my frustration, I put this project aside and went to read and respond to emails and check for messages on Facebook. Facebook, by the way, with over 10,000 genealogically oriented pages, has become an important part of my on-line research efforts. I noticed that the Family Tree Maker® Users Facebook page had some folks discussing the pros and cons of the upgrade. I’ll admit, I was a bit frustrated as I fired off my problem offering it to anyone who happened to be paying attention to that page.

To my initial surprise, one of the people paying attention was Jack Minsky, the president of Software MacKiev. He took the time to listen to the whole series of events and where I was at that point. Then, in no time, he nailed it! I had upgraded to 2014.1 then installed the update after which I worked on my personal file, the “big” one. Then the crash. Then the restore. Then I began re-installing software. My first re-install was the FTM 2014.1 program from the thumb drive. What could be easier? Then, to test it, I tried to open my own file. Nope! Wasn’t gonna happen. What Jack suspected that I had opened that file with the updated upgrade (does that make sense?) and the thumb drive installed the upgrade but not the update. He knew that the missing update was the problem. He sent me a link for the update as I couldn’t find it in any of the hundreds of emails I had collected by this time. I uninstalled the original thumb drive version (build 497?) then reinstalled it. The last step was to go to the update link (build 501?) and reinstall that.

Lo and behold! I’m very happy to report that everything is running as smooth as glass. I mentioned to Jack a few weeks ago, that someday we should get together in Boston the next time I’m out there or near there. This time I offered to buy the drinks!

Thank you, Jack Minsky! I don’t know when you sleep as I’ve communicated with you at all times of the day and night.  It’s encouraging to see that although we all have to get accustomed to a slightly different way to communicate with support technicians, in the end, it all seems to work out. When does the president of a company get that close to the little people and pitch in to help? Congratulations, Jack Minsky! You did good!  You’ve earned the trust of many in the FTM community with your pro-active approach. Now, what are you going to do for us next?

My message to any FTM user? Try it, you’ll like it!

 

Ancestry Defugalty??

Defugalty isn’t even a word unless somehow I manage to get it into our 21st-century American lexicon. Merriam-Webster is right here in Springfield, Massachusetts. I could stop in for a visit and offer them first dibs!

Now for the defugalty, maybe a few defugalties.  It’s an interesting interaction I had with the friendly folks at Ancestry.com tech support. I’ve always had good luck with them. They answer within a reasonable amount of time and are consistent with their friendly, knowledgeable assistance. Until yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, they were responsive but I managed to stump them.

It began with my Chapin family project. Someone asked to join my “Descendants of Deacon Samuel Chapin” Facebook page and I always check to make sure they are, in fact, a descendant of the Good Deacon.

chapin-deacon-samuel

Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598-1675) 9th Great Grandfather of Dave Robison

When I tried to double check whether the Deacon was my own 8th or 9th great grandfather, I discovered, much to my surprise, that he was a 6th cousin 4 times removed of the wife of…..and on and on.

Curious to see how that happened literally overnight, I checked my FTM database and there he was correctly indicated as the 9th great grandfather as he should be. What happened between the last sync and the thousands of sync’s I had done in the past.

Ancestry.com, I found out, doesn’t have a category for “divorced” as FTM does. In a tree that I’ve had running for 16 or 17 years, suddenly I could only indicate “other.” Since I’ve been a member since 31 Dec 1899 according to my profile (really…check yours out, too!) I can’t believe that I missed this. So, I changed the status of my first wife from whom I was divorced in the mid-90’s to “Other.” Then the relationships that had been correct for the past 16 or 17 years suddenly fell into place

Two things: 1) Ancestry doesn’t know why the relationships suddenly went berserk and 2) the tech support person who was assisting agreed completely that there should be a “Divorced” option in the relationship drop-down menu. After all, I told her, it’s not a new concept! She said she’d put it into customer feedback/suggestions or something like that… We’ll see what happens. At least I know that I am still the 9th great grandson of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598-1675) and I can continue to be a member of my own Facebook page!

Technology and the Ever Changing World of Genealogical Research Tools

It is easily said that I can sometimes be too quick while other times be very slow to adapt to new technologies, hardware, software, peripherals or other genealogical research tools. Tonight, of course, the old workhorse software program that I’ve “grown up with” is going away. Family Tree Maker®  is currently in its last iteration and support will only be available until 1 January 2017.

OK, that gives me plenty of time to to do one of three things:

Since I’ve already been unsuccessful trying to accustom myself to RootsMagic or Legacy…mostly due to a lack of perseverance…my choices are substantially limited. But, I’ve been here before.

Right now, I’m leaning toward abandoning all PC based software in favor of Ancestry. I’ve used Ancestry and FTM since the late 90’s and have become very comfortable of the simplicity of syncing one with the other. So I’m sorry to see that aspect go away.  The downside is reports, tables, pedigree charts and all the various data organizing products that are currently available in FTM.

Other than reports, using Ancestry.com exclusively isn’t such a bad thing. But then there’s the issue of worrying about Ancestry itself folding. This approach puts all the data I collect automatically “in the cloud.” After all, what is the cloud other than a remote server (not in the clouds!) that is a repository of data, all stored in 0’s and 1’s.

Pedigree Chart of Erskin Coleman Robison (1878-1942)

Speaking of reports, I’m not aware of any means to create any type of reports strictly out of Ancestry.com family trees. If I’m wrong, I’d happily be willing to find a way to produce the same type of reports that are currently available in FTM under “Publishing.” So that brings me back to Legacy or RootsMagic.

 

 

Now I, along with thousands of others, have some decisions to make. But as of yet, I don’t think we have enough data to even begin the process.

UPDATE: After posting this blog, I checked my email and found this link to RootsMagic. They certainly didn’t waste any time and I suspect they may have had this “in the wings” and ready to post at the appropriate time.

 

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!

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!

 

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!