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Monday, September 16, 2013
Can Your DNA Reveal Where Your Ancestors Came From?
Posted by Diane
One of the caveats of genetic genealogy testing has been that you
get only a general idea of where in the world your roots are, such
as "British Isles," "Scandinavian" or "West African." (Labels and
specificity vary with the testing company and the test you choose.)
And the ethnicity estimates you do get can have a significant margin of
That could be changing. "The AncestryDNA science team is looking
toward a future where we could reveal, in the absence of a family
tree, the most probable locations where one’s ancestors lived,"
writes population geneticist Julie Granka on
AncestryDNA's Tech Roots blog.
About 6,000 AncestryDNA customers received
last week of a new ethnicity estimate that more-accurately
calculates the person's ethnicity based on 26 reference populations
around the world. (The new, finer-resolution estimate works
with a customer's existing results, so no new testing is needed.)
Granka's post reveals one example of the more-specific analysis: Her
team has been able to separate
ancestry from West Africa into six population groups based on
Previously, someone with African-American ancestry might learn they
have genetic origins somewhere within the green bubble on the left (this image is from the Tech Roots blog, and used with permission).
The new analysis can narrow those roots to one of the six colored
bubbles on the right.
Those new ethnicity regions of West Africa are Senegal, Mali, Ivory
Coast/Ghana, Benin/Togo, Nigeria, and Cameroon/Congo, each of which
has a distinct set of tribal affiliations.
West Africa was the main source of the slave trade to America. This
finding provides a new genealogy research path for African-Americans
who've been unable to find records of enslaved ancestors.
Here's another example of the ethnicity estimate update:On the Genetic Genealogist blog, Blaine Bettinger shows you a
comparison of his old and new AncestryDNA estimates.
You'll know you're one of the lucky 6,000 AncestryDNA customers if you see an orange button that says "New! Ethnicity
estimate preview" on your DNA results page. AncestryDNA will
roll out the new ethnicity estimate to remaining customers over
the next few months.
Bettinger recently presented our Intro
to DNA Crash Course webinar to help you figure out how to use
genetic genealogy to uncover your family history and get over
research brick walls. Check
out the webinar in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Ancestry.com | Genetic Genealogy | Webinars
Monday, September 16, 2013 10:42:34 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, September 13, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Sept. 9-13
Posted by Diane
- Researching today (Sept. 13) or Monday at the US National
Archives? This notice just appeared on
the Archives' facebook page:
"The 3:30 records pull for today
(September 13) has been canceled due to significant staffing
issues stemming from a problem relating to payroll activities
at 22 Federal agencies nationwide.
While we are making every effort to contain these problems,
there is some possibility the afternoon pull scheduled for
Monday, September 16, may be affected. We will advise you of
the situation as we receive information."
- More (and happier) National Archives news: If you happen to be
in the Washington, DC, area this month, maybe you can catch one
of the National Archives' free genealogy workshops. Sessions
include the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act (Sept.
17), Gold Star Mothers (Sept. 18), Using National Archives
Online Resources (Sept. 19), Anti-Tax Petitions from the Civil
War to the New Deal (Sept. 21), and more. For more information,
go to NARA's
DC-area events page and scroll down.
- Still more National Archives news: NARA is opening the David
M. Rubenstein Gallery "Records
of Rights" exhibition on Nov. 8, and invites you to help
select the first original landmark document to be featured in
the exhibit. You can vote online for one of five documents by
visiting the Records of
Rights Vote web page.
- Ancestry.com has released Family Tree
Maker 2014 for Windows. Updates include a new family view,
improved TreeSync (which synchronizes your tree int eh software
with your online Ancestry Member Tree), organizational tools
that let you sort children by birth order and view people by
location, more options for charts and reports, the ability to
export a single branch of your tree, more editing options, and
You can download Family
Tree Maker 2014 or get it on CD. (PS: Family Tree
Magazine is not affiliated with Family Tree Maker software
or with Ancestry.com. We hear this question often, so I just
wanted to answer it for you in case you were about to ask.)
- This week, FamilySearch added more than 352,000 indexed
records to the free collections at FamilySearch.org. Records
come from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the United
States, and include Czech Republic censuses, Hungary civil
registrations, Polish Catholic church records and the US Social
Security Death Index. View the full list
of updates and click through to search these collections here.
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy Software | Libraries and Archives | NARA
Friday, September 13, 2013 2:54:13 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, September 12, 2013
What Genealogists Love About the Virtual Genealogy Conference
Posted by Diane
Trying to decide whether to register for the Fall 2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference taking place this weekend?
Maybe these folks can help:
The Fall 2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference starts Friday, Sept. 13, at 9 a.m. ET and goes until 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Register now!
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events
Thursday, September 12, 2013 4:46:10 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
What Will You Learn at the Virtual Genealogy Conference, Sept. 13-15?
Posted by Diane
2013 Virtual Genealogy Conference is just two days away! Here
are two minutes of a few of the genealogy lessons in store for
See the Virtual
Genealogy Conference program of video classes and live chats
here. It all happens this weekend, Sept. 13-15, on a computer near
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Videos
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 2:18:04 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
'WDYTYA?" Will Return to TLC in 2014
Posted by Diane
"Who Do You Think You Are?" watchers, rejoice—the
genealogy series has been renewed for a second season TLC. The
network has ordered 10 episodes, an increase over this season's
The celebrities haven't been announced. Which celebrities would you like to see on "Who Do You
Think You Are?" in 2014?
Last night's WDYTYA? season finale showed "Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons' search for his French roots in Louisiana and in
France. Among his ancestors were a Medical College of
Louisiana-trained physician and an architect to King Louis XV.
Don't be sad—your genealogy TV-watching isn't over for the year. We
still have four
episodes of the new series "Genealogy Roadshow" coming up on
PBS, starting Monday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. It'll explore
noncelebrities' family history claims and reveal the answers before
a live audience.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 10:59:26 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Jim Parsons on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Surname Meanings and Origins
Posted by Diane
Last night on "Who Do
You Think You Are?", Jim Parsons (that's him on the right) learned that his
great-grandmother's Hacker surname is French.
Hacker is on the Acadian
Memorial Archive's list of common Creole surnames. I kind of
wish the genealogist at the Louisiana
Historical Center in New Orleans had gone into the surname
etymology a few seconds more. Ancestry.com's last name meaning search (which provides
definitions from the
Dictionary of American Family Names by Oxford University
Hacker is German, Dutch or Jewish.
My guess (after finding a bunch of online articles about computer
hacking in France) is that the name is variant of Hacher,
from the French word for "chop"—perhaps an occupational surname for
We at Family Tree Magazine get a fair number of questions about
"Where does my last name come from?" and the answer isn't always
You can hear some surnames and know immediately they're German (take
my Depenbrocks) or Italian (such as Fiorelli) or whatever, but
others are more ambiguous. And it could be that your surname is a
variant of the original name, or an Americanized spelling your
immigrant ancestor adopted after arriving here. Our contributing
editor Nancy Hendrickson gives her Shore family name as an example:
She always thought it was English, but it's actually a variation
of a Swiss name, Schorr.
Want to know where your last name comes from? See
our seven surname research tips on FamilyTreeMagazine.com
Also check out ShopFamilyTree.com
surname resources such as the book American
Surnames by Elsdon Coles Smith or The
Surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands.
You can improve your online genealogy searching for ancestors' names with
Louise Cooke's Google Surname Search Secrets video class.
the full "Who Do You Think You Are?" episode with "Big Bang
Theory" star Jim Parsons on the show's website.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots | Research Tips
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 10:32:21 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Ends the Season With a "Big Bang"
Posted by Diane
Tonight, TLC's "Who Do
You Think You Are?" ends its TV season with a bang—a Big Bang,
that is, in an episode featuring "Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons (see what I did there?). He plays Sheldon Cooper, a portrayal often credited for the
In this preview of tonight's WDYTYA?, Parsons sounds like any other getting-started family historian. He
says he wants to learn more about his genealogy to honor the memory
of his father, and that someone—he can't remember who—told him the
family has French roots and a Louisiana connection.
You can watch Parsons on WDYTYA? tonight on TLC at 9/8 Central.
Update: See my post-watching post about Jim Parsons' "Who Do You Think You Are?" epsiode here.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 12:43:26 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, September 06, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Sept. 2-6
Posted by Diane
FamilySearch has added 260,000 genealogy records and images from
Guatemala, Italy, New Zealand and the United States to the free collections at
FamilySearch.org. You can see the list of updated collections
and click through to each one here. (If there's a 0 in the Indexed
Records column for the collection you need, that set isn't
searchable. Instead, you'll have to browse to find records for your
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | UK and Irish roots
Friday, September 06, 2013 2:12:03 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
FamilySearch, Ancestry.com Team Up To Put 1 Billion International Genealogy Records Online
Posted by Diane
Ancestry.com and FamilySearch have announced a new
long-term strategic agreement that'll bring you a billion
international genealogical records.
According to the announcement, "The two services will work together
with the archive community over the next five years to digitize,
index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault. ...
Ancestry.com expects to invest more than $60 million over the next
five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer
efforts facilitated by FamilySearch."
(FamilySearch's Granite Mountain Records Vault is the storage facility for master copies of records the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has microfilmed over the years.)
It sounds like Ancestry.com will put up the necessary funds, and
FamilySearch will provide volunteers for digitizing and/or indexing. It makes sense to me: As Ancestry.com tries to expand its global reach, it can utilize the record-duplication work that's already been done. And FamilySearch can speed up its project to digitize its 2.4 million rolls of microfilm.
The announcement was short on details such what record collections
would be digitized first or how and where the records and indexes would be
Past Ancestry.com/FamilySearch partnerships have resulted in
varying arrangements. For example, in
2003 the organizations integrated FamilySearch's free 1880 census
index with record images at Ancestry.com. Today, you can
search free indexes at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.
FamilySearch's results link to record images at Ancestry.com (the
1880 census images are currently free on Ancestry.com, which as far
as I can tell wasn't part of the
2008 agreement to exchange FamilySearch's high-quality images
for select US censuses and Ancestry.com's indexes for those censuses
resulted in free indexes on FamilySearch.org, which link to record
images on Ancestry.com. The images are viewable to Ancestry.com
subscribers and on FamilySearch Center computers.
the full announcement about this new agreement on Ancestry.com.
We'll keep you updated on related developments.
Update: Here's an announcement from FamilySearch about the partnership with Ancestry.com. It links to a Q&A that addresses such issues as "what's in it for FamilySearch volunteers" and "will there be a fee to see indexed records."
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry | International Genealogy
Friday, September 06, 2013 9:54:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, September 05, 2013
Finding the *Right* Ancestor: Tips From the Virtual Genealogy Conference, Sept. 13-15
Posted by Diane
So, there's just over a week left until the start of our Family
Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference, taking place
Sept. 13-15, and I'd hate for you to miss your chance to register!
The 16 video classes, six live chats and lively message board
discussions are aimed at helping you research more efficiently and
accurately, find "problem" ancestors, and discover your ethnic
For example, take D. Joshua Taylor's presentation "Same Name, Same
Place: How to Tell It’s Your Ancestor." He'll show you how to use
strategies and tips such as:
- List all the spelling variations of an ancestor's name. You
could record the birth (or baptismal) name as the "official"
name, then use an alternate information or notes section of your
software or charts to record the other names.
- If two same-named men live in a town and you're not sure
which records are your ancestor's, set up a table to compare the men's
identifying information—birth, death and marriage dates and
places; family members' names; occupations; addresses; etc.
- Create a timeline of all the records you've found for an
ancestor. You might note, for example, that he hadn't yet
arrived in the United States to be listed in the 1850 census, so
those records probably aren't for the same guy.
- Land and tax records can help you sort out two people of the
same name, because both won't own the same property or be taxed
on the same things.
the program of video classes and chats on our Virtual Genealogy
- Female ancestor red flag: Some names were so common (hello,
Mary and Anna!) that a man might've had two spouses with the
same first name, leaving future family historians to assume they
were one woman. If you notice a large gap in children's ages, a
wife giving birth at an unlikely age, or her age and other
details suddenly changing in records, look for evidence of a
previous or subsequent marriage for her husband.
I love that you can attend this conference from home—forget about
travel expenses, hotel stays, missing work and packing your sensible
You'll view classes and network on the message boards (folks
ask and answer research questions, post their surnames, share
favorite ancestors and more) whenever it's convenient over the
Live chats are scheduled, though attendees who miss one can still
get the transcript. AND you get a swag bag of genealogy freebies
here to learn more and register for the Virtual Genealogy
Conference. I hope to "see" you there!
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Research Tips
Thursday, September 05, 2013 10:37:31 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)