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<2007 November>

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# Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part Two
Posted by Grace

If you remember reading my first post in the Family Tree Firsts series, you may recall I was excited for the next visit with my dad's parents so I could pick their brains. My trip back up to Cleveland for Thanksgiving did not disappoint.

Showing my grandma and grandpa the WWII draft cards, passenger records and census schedules I found were enough to get them talking about their parents and grandparents. I got a lot of names, dates and other interesting information, which I typed as fast as I could on my laptop, and when it ran out of batteries, I switched to a notebook.

My grandma told me her father, Stanley, was sad he couldn't go back home to visit his mother because he had ran away from the Russian army. He had only an elementary school education, so my grandma would teach him spelling and writing and give him tests. My grandmother's grandmother's first husband, whom she had her children with, died while they were still in Europe, and she married again when she got to the US. (Her second husband, Edmund, is on the far right in the picture at right, next to my grandmother during her first communion. Her father, Stanley, is on the left.)

My grandfather never knew his grandparents, but he could tell me a little about his parents. (That's them, Tanka and Wasyl, in the picture at right.) Wasyl's brother came to the US, but he had two sisters who continued on to Argentina and were never heard from again. I'll be interested to see what I can find out about that. I also never knew before last week that my grandfather was a twin; his sister died when she was just a baby.

After my grandmother accused me of using unethical interrogation techniques (totally untrue), she had me help her get some photo albums from the closet. They were in practically pristine condition, and my mom and I took them home so we could scan some into the computer. (For more on scanning, see our January issue's story on photo digitization.)

What I'm most thankful for is having had so much time with my grandparents. Being 25, I'm probably in the minority having all four still around. I'm pretty surprised how much information about my family's past I was able to get in a conversation over Chinese takeout. (Having read our March 2008 issue's story on oral history helped!)

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 28 November 2007 15:50:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Family History-Themed Gift Ideas
Posted by Diane

Wondering what to give your son, daughter, brother or mother-in-law for the holidays? Everyone loves a warm-and-fuzzy tribute to family history. Let these present ideas set your gift-giving gears spinning:
  • Digital photo frames are ubiquitous this year, and more affordable than in the past. Load the memory card with images, and keep them coming all year. They start as low as $70, and you can get digital photo keychains and tiny desktop frames for less than that. Check big retailers and electronics stores for these.
  • Make copies of your family’s favorite vintage photos and put them in a mini-album (available from scrapbooking and crafts stores) or a collage frame.
  • Order decorative family tree wall charts from a site such as The Family History Store, or find one free online (Martha Stewart has a nice fan chart). Then polish up your penmanship and fill out a tree for everyone. You also may be able to produce wall-worthy charts using your genealogy software.
  • Put together a family story-and-photo book using AncestryPress. You can print it yourself for free and put it in a binder, or have it spiral-bound at a copy shop. Or, order a hardbound copy through AncestryPress for around $30 and up.
  • For parents or grandparents, how about one of those fill-in-the-blank memory books that encourages them to share thoughts and stories in writing? One is Memories for My Grandchild by Annie Decker and Nicole Stephenson (Chronicle Books, $19.95). The family cook might enjoy a recipe journal such as Cook's Recipe Collection by Iona Hoyle (Ryland Peters & Small, $19.95).
  • If you have a lot of relatives on your list, make a CD of photos and give everyone a copy. You can dress it up (but you don't have to) by designing a nice insert.
Are you giving family history-themed gifts this year? Or have you gotten a great one in the past? Click comment and tell us about it—you just might help someone finish his gift list.

Celebrating your heritage
Wednesday, 28 November 2007 15:27:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
Research Your Tree in Just-Updated PERSI
Posted by Diane

The Allen County (Ind.) Public Library genealogy staff has beefed up its Periodical Source Index (PERSI) with references to another 132,000 history and genealogy articles published in journals and magazines during 2006 and 2007.

HeritageQuest Online, the genealogy database you can search free in many public libraries, has included the updates in its searchable version of PERSI.

That brings PERSI's total article citations to more than 2 million. They reference 6,600-plus periodicals published in the United States, Canada and abroad since 1800. It’s the most extensive periodical index available for local history and genealogy research.

You can search the updated PERSI at libraries offering HeritageQuest Online and at Allen County, Ind., public libraries. The subscription site offers an older version of PERSI, dating from 1985.

Search PERSI on a name, place or subject, and you’ll get citations for journal and magazine articles that mention your term. Then, request the full article from your library, borrow it through interlibrary loan or order copies from the Allen County library ($7.50 for up to six articles, plus the cost of photocopies).

Read more about the formation of PERSI and about the Allen County library on

Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Wednesday, 28 November 2007 09:17:06 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 27 November 2007
NY Times Asks "How Helpful is Ethnic DNA Testing?"
Posted by Diane

Did everyone read the article on ethnic genetic genealogy testing in Sunday’s New York Times?

It was somewhat critical of the industry with regard to DNA tests for African origins. Reporter Ron Nixon said test results are often conflicting and confusing, and testing companies focus more on marketing than on communicating the limitations of ethnic DNA testing.

Nixon sent his own DNA to five companies for a mitochondrial (mt) DNA test and got strikingly different results: Reports named from two to 12 ethnic groups, for a total of 25 possibilities.

Nixon also interviewed representatives of several test companies, as well as Harvard historian and "African-American Lives" host Henry Louis Gates. Gates’ first mtDNA test in 2000 reported Egyptian roots; one from another company in 2005 concluded he had European, not Egyptian, ancestry.

One reason for mixed results is testing companies’ proprietary comparison databases of DNA profiles from modern people. Databases may be skewed toward particular ethnic groups and not represent other groups.

Furthermore, people have been moving around Africa for eons. Your DNA could match someone who lives in a particular area today, but whose ancestors came from elsewhere.

Another issue is that there’s still so much to learn. In our November 2007 Family Tree Magazine African-American research guide, Roots Project director Bruce Jackson, PhD, said “We have a poor understanding of the genetics of African groups ... Identical genetic markers or signatures (called haplotypes) are found among different African ethnic groups for reasons that are not clear.”

Jackson went on to note scientists have studied only 1 percent of African ethnic groups, which doesn’t even include all those who were sources of the slave trade to North America.

Gates is attempting to address these issues by partnering with FamilyTreeDNA on AfricanDNA, a project offering DNA tests paired with genealogy research services for $888 to $1,077.

If that's not in your budget, do this: Research "on paper" as much as you can before turning to DNA. More African-American resources are out there than many people realize. (See our online toolkit and updates on this blog for tips.)

Then decide what you want DNA testing to tell you and carefully research your options to pick the best test. Make sure you understand the limitations of DNA testing: As you see here, results can be inconclusive, and you don’t learn where specific ancestors came from. If you don’t understand your results, ask your testing company for help and consult sources such as Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Rodale, $16.95).

Share your thoughts on the Times' article in the Hot Topics Forum.

African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 27 November 2007 12:16:37 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 26 November 2007
First Retail DNA Paternity Test on Shelves
Posted by Diane

Sorenson Genomics has come out with the first retail DNA paternity kit, and it yields results in three to five days.

The Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit is on sale at Rite-Aid stores in California, Oregon and Washington for $29.99 plus a $119 lab processing fee. That beats the $245 price tag for a paternity test through Identigene’s Web site.

Customers send in cheek swabs from the alleged father and child with the lab fee, and can get their results online, by fax or mail. It sounds a lot easier than being on one of Maury Povich’s “Who’s your daddy?” shows.

For genealogical purposes, this test could be handy in cases of adoption or “nonpaternity events.” You need DNA samples from both parties, and it can only tell you whether a parent-child relationship exists—not whether the two are related in another way (tests for other relationships are available through Identigene and other labs).

We’re interested in future implications, though: Can a retail genetic genealogy test be far behind?

Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 26 November 2007 12:20:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Museum Displays Hair Mementos
Posted by Diane

Happy Thanksgiving! Over the holiday I got a whole bunch of hair cut off and mailed it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which makes wigs for women undergoing chemotherapy.

If I were around a couple of centuries or so ago, I would’ve used the hair to create mementos for loved ones. In this once-popular practice, women wove locks into elaborate wreaths and jewelry, sometimes with beads, embroidery floss and photographs.

You can see more than 400 hair wreaths and 2,000 pieces of hairwork jewelry (rings, bracelets, watch chains, brooches, etc.) at a museum in two rooms of an Independence, Mo., cosmetology school. Read more about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Photo Detective blogger Maureen A. Taylor says hair was a common remembrance of friends and deceased relatives. In the August 2002 Family Tree Magazine, she wrote about the 19th-cetury hair clipping-and-autograph album belonging to Helen Marion Adams of Fairhaven, Vt. “Very simply, hair does not decompose; thus the friendship lasts beyond the grave,” Taylor says.

People can get creeped out by the thought of hair locks separated from their owner. The hair museum’s owner says some visitors can’t complete their tours.

I’m not sentimental about my own trimmed ponytails, but keeping hair for a memento doesn’t seem odd to me. As a baby, my dad had beautiful curls my grandma couldn’t bear to cut. When my grandfather finally prodded her into it, she saved every last curl in a shoebox we still have.

Museums | Social History
Monday, 26 November 2007 11:20:30 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Forget Black Friday: Our CDs now on sale!
Posted by Grace

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you can be sure that we're now barreling towards shopping season. Personally, I avoid malls like the plague on Black Friday. (Though I do indulge in a little Cyber Monday action.)

If you've got some genealogy buffs on your list (or if you've got yourself on your list), you have to check out our new 2006 and 2007 CDs! Every single page of Family Tree Magazine has been turned into a fully searchable, easily navigable and totally hotlinked product that you can take with you wherever you go. You will never have to type another URL again!

The 2007 CD includes all issues from this year, with articles including how to master the US census, the best family history tools ever, and guides to tracing Civil War and WWI ancestors. Also on the 2007 CD are our exclusive state research guides for Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. (We threw in some extras, too!)

The 2006 CD includes articles on 365 ways to trace your roots, 89 family history freebies, five ways to save time online and genetic genealogy explained in plain English. The 2006 issues include our exclusive state research guides for Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas.

The files on the CDs are enhanced PDFs, which you can view with the free program Adobe Reader. (If you don't already have Reader, it's available for download here.)

We editors here at Family Tree Magazine put a lot of sweat into making these CDs, and we think you'll find them as handy as we do! Click here to browse our CDs and order online! (If you prefer not to buy online, we do have alternative shopping options.)

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Software
Wednesday, 21 November 2007 10:27:56 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 20 November 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, 20 November 2007 13:33:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 19 November 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 for more about Berkeley Plantation and the real first Thanksgiving, and for a dash of Thanksgiving genealogy.

Celebrating your heritage
Monday, 19 November 2007 09:37:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 16 November 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, 16 November 2007 16:13:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]