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# Tuesday, November 20, 2007
23andMe Profiles Your Genome
Posted by Diane

A new DNA testing Web site with financial backing from Google purports to “help you understand your DNA.” It’s called 23andMe, a name that refers to the 23 pairs of chromosomes making up your genome.

The site’s test examines all your DNA (rather than focusing on the X or Y chromosome) for SNPs (pronounced snips), which are variations that can show relationships between people. You have about 500,000 SNPs linked to everything from health issues to whether you like Brussels sprouts.

To use 23andMe, you order a kit, send in a cheek swab and later log on to get your DNA profile. It provides information on your phenotypes, or observable traits resulting from interactions between your genes and the environment. Your phenotypes can tell you about your ancestry and about how your genes may affect your health.

The site's Gene Journal helps you understand your results with tools including an Odds Calculator (plug in variables such as age, ethnicity and genetic information to see what medical conditions you should be concerned about), a glossary and research article archive.

You can use ancestry tools such as a Global Similarity Map that compares your genome to people around the world, which can shed light on where your ancestors came from. You also can consult a Maternal Ancestry Tree to learn about your family’s ancient roots.

The test is pricey at $999 per kit. What you can learn is more about health than genealogy, and it’s bound to be controversial as non-doctors try to absorb medical information. So of course, after you use all the cool tools, you’ll want share your findings with your doctor.


Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 1:33:57 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 19, 2007
The FIRST First Thanksgiving
Posted by Diane

We hate to disappoint you, but the very first Thanksgiving in the New World wasn’t the Pilgrims’ legendary feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Nope, the first Thanksgiving was Dec. 4, 1619—a year and 17 days before the Pilgrims even left England—at Berkeley Plantation, when Capt. John Woodlief and 37 other settlers held a short religious service the day they ended their two-and-a-half-month voyage from Bristol, England.

Now, don’t go getting your drumsticks all in a bunch: Not a morsel of food was involved in that first first Thanksgiving. Makes you kinda glad the one we celebrate is the second first one—even though the Pilgrims, lacking sugar and ovens, didn’t have sweet cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. (They didn’t wear those black hats with big buckles, either, rendering inaccurate the Thanksgiving art projects of second-graders everywhere.)

See FamilyTreeMagazine.com for more about Berkeley Plantation and the real first Thanksgiving, and for a dash of Thanksgiving genealogy.


Celebrating your heritage
Monday, November 19, 2007 9:37:48 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 16, 2007
AfricanDNA Testing and Research Service Launches
Posted by Diane

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who hosted PBS’ “African-American Lives” series, is partnering with genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA to launch AfricanDNA. The new service will provide provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.

The genealogy part is important, says Gates, because of the limits of genetic testing. “The available DNA data are not by any means complete, and these tests will not yield the names of any of the individuals on our distant family trees—just the general geographic areas in which our ancestors lived.  Sometimes the tests yield multiple exact tribal matches, making it necessary for historians to interpret the most plausible result.”  

AfricanDNA offers mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA tests for $189 each ($378 for both). Results are compared to FamilyTreeDNA’s database of DNA profiles from around the world. A board of scholars from institutions such as Emory University and Boston University will help interpret customers’ results.

Test takers can opt for the Genealogy Package ($888 for one test or $1,077 for both), which includes a documented lineage as far back as records permit.


African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, November 16, 2007 4:13:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 15, 2007
Project to send data to the moon
Posted by Grace

Archivists and tech guys alike recommend using offsite data backup when creating copies of important records. But a new preservation project's storage location takes the cake.

For a donation of $10, Lunar Legacy will send your story and photo to the moon. That's right, they will send pictures of your dog, your Nana or the Grand Canyon to the celestial body orbiting the earth.

The project is backed by the Google Lunar X Prize, which challenges private companies to send a robot rover to the moon. A $20 million prize will go to the first team to complete a set of objectives including sending video, images and data back to Earth by the end of 2012.

The photos and messages uploaded to www.lunarlegacy.org will be stored on every vehicle that attempts to make the voyage. You can see what people have uploaded so far by clicking here.


Family Heirlooms | Genealogy fun
Thursday, November 15, 2007 1:34:57 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Map Chicago Ancestors on Interactive Site
Posted by Diane

Chicago's Newberry Library has created a Web site to help you with place-based research of your Windy City ancestors.

ChicagoAncestors.org is a searchable interactive mapping site. Type in an address, and you’ll get a map showing the location, along with nearby churches, sites of crimes and more. Roll over the map markers for each place to see data such as addresses, date and type of crime, associated library resources or links to online images. (The data come from sites such as Homicide in Chicago and Jazz Age Chicago.)

There's also a keyword search box, Type in St. Thomas, and you’ll see locations of churches with that name.

You’ll want to read the search tips. You need to use address conversion tools for addresses before 1909, and leave off street descriptors such as Ave. or Rd. For example, I entered 137 DeKoven St., which is where Mrs. O’Leary (whose cow did not start the Chicago Fire) lived in 1871, and got nothing. But after downloading the 1909 street number conversion book (under Tools) as a large PDF, I looked up the address, searched on 558 Dekoven, and got my map.

Wondering if Mrs. O’Leary might’ve attended nearby St. Wenceslaus church, I clicked on its name and got its years in organization and a list of its available records at the Family History Library.

Registered ChicagoAncestors.org users can click to add their own comments to map points or map their own genealogical information and save it to their profile.

Click Tools to get street guides, more maps and other useful links; and click What’s New for updates from the Webmasters.



Here, Mrs. O'Leary's address is the blue star, and the yellow dot is the site of nearby criminal activity.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 5:33:56 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Just-Discovered Slave Records Go To Pennsylvania Museum
Posted by Diane

A county recorder of deeds discovered historical slavery-era papers in old Allegheny County, Pa., deed books. (Allegheny County is home to Pittsburgh.)

Read in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette how a county employee found the papers.

The office transferred handwritten documents recording the legal status of 56 African-American slaves to the Senator John Heinz History Center. The oldest papers date to 1792, the year Peter Cosco purchased his freedom from John McKee for 100 pounds.

The history center will make the papers available to researchers in its library and online.

You can find tips and resources for researching African-American ancestors in FamilyTreeMagazine.com's online toolkit.


African-American roots | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 9:10:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
MacFamilyTree 5 Released
Posted by Diane

Synium software has released MacFamilyTree 5, promising a speedier database engine and redesigned user interface. It also integrates a Web hosting service so registered customers can upload their family trees in HTML format for free.

The program is compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and 10.5 (Leopard). Download it for $49 or pay $25 to upgrade.

Symium offered MacFamilyTree in beta starting Oct. 1. We review version 4.5, released in July, in the January 2008 Family Tree Magazine.


Genealogy Software
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 9:03:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 12, 2007
World Vital Records Offers Digitization Services
Posted by Diane

The subscription genealogy database site World Vital Records has expanded its services to include digitally preserving your family mementos. Its new Preservation Packages include
  • converting 8mm, 16mm, miniDVs and VHS tapes to DVD
  • scanning photos and documents
  • digitizing slides and negatives
  • storing digitized images on a secure server
In a World Vital Records user panel survey, 91 percent of members said they were concerned about preserving photos, videos, and/or documents.

Exact pricing isn’t available; Word Vital Records says rates are 50 to 70 percent less than retail value. Call the company toll-free (888) 377-0588 for details.

For information on several batch photo-scanning services and do-it-yourself tips, see the January 2008 Family Tree Magazine and our blog post


Family Heirlooms | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, November 12, 2007 5:53:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Report Urges Opening Adoptees' Birth Records
Posted by Diane

A report released today could help change how—and whether—adopted people can search for their family trees.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute examined whether adopted people, once they become adults, should have access to their original birth information.

The report’s conclusion is "yes," and it urges all states to follow the eight (Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Tennessee) that already allow adults who were adopted to access their original birth records. The institute found that in states with open records, “most birthparents and adoptees handle any contact with maturity and respect.”

You can read the report online and learn about the controversy surrounding opening birth records for adopted individuals at CNN.com.

For many genealogists, an adopted parent or grandparent presents a research brick wall. According to the report, some states have restored access more narrowly, “typically to individuals who were adopted prior to the state's law sealing this information.”

You can get help researching ancestral adoptions in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine. Also see these links:

Family Tree Magazine articles | Public Records
Monday, November 12, 2007 4:47:54 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 09, 2007
High School Posts and Preserves WWII Letters
Posted by Diane

Over on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum, mdrogers posted a message about a project at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Va., to collect WWII letters, photos and diaries. The Research and Technology class transcribes the letters, archivally preserves them, and posts the text online at It Took a War.

Each letter is accompanied by a little background about the writer. You also can view photos from the front and read or watch interviews with service members.

“My father was a very patriotic man,” says Rose Young, an Army nurse who was at the Battle of the Bulge. “My brother enlisted in service first, and [my father] was proud to have a son, but how many men had a daughter that went away? So he puffed his chest all the time about the fact that he had a daughter in service.”

What a great way for students to learn about history and research, and what a great site for you to peruse.


Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Friday, November 09, 2007 4:43:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]