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<2017 May>

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# Tuesday, 30 May 2017
MyHeritage DNA Releases New & Improved Ethnicity Estimate Reports
Posted by Diane

MyHeritage DNA today releases its new and improved Ethnicity Estimate reporting, which provides your percentages of origins from 42 ethnic regions around the world—more than what's available with other tests. 

These regions are based in part on MyHeritage's Founder Populations Project, which analyzed the DNA of 5,000 individuals whose MyHeritage family trees showed ancestry in the same areas for many generations.

Video results
Uniquely, the ethnicity estimate comes with a short, shareable video presentation enhanced by music that's based on the culture of the ethnicities represented. Here's an example provided by MyHeritage:

MyHeritage DNA’s new Ethnicity Estimate experience from MyHeritage on Vimeo.

42 world regions
But here's a more-important unique feature: According to its announcement, MyHeritage DNA estimates tease apart ethnicities that are grouped together in other companies' DNA tests. The 42 ethnicities include "Balkan, Baltic, Eskimo and Inuit, Japanese, Kenyan, Sierra Leonean, Somali, four major Jewish groups (Ethiopian, Yemenite, Sephardic from North Africa and Mizrahi from Iran and Iraq), Indigenous Amazonian, Papuan and many others."

MyHeritage, headquartered in Israel, is known for its international member base. It'll be interesting to see how my report looks: My Ancestry DNA test reported me at 28 percent Italy/Greece and 4 percent Middle Eastern. I have no known ancestry in Italy or Greece, but my great-grandparents were Lebanese.

Free for those who've uploaded results
The Ethnicity Estimate is free to users who have already uploaded their DNA data to MyHeritage from other services, or who upload it in the coming months. (This offer helps MyHeritage build its DNA results database, important when more-established competitors at Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe already have large databases.)

Another benefit of uploading is free DNA matching to others in the MyHeritage DNA database. Note that different companies test different locations on the autosomal DNA, and they "impute" (or estimate) the DNA values for locations that don't overlap with another company's test. MyHeritage takes the imputed values into account when making matches, so your match list will look different here than it does at the service where you tested.

MyHeritage Chief Science Officer Yaniv Erlich called the ethnicity reporting "an appetizer." "There are excellent installments on the way, and users can prepare for a feast! We have detailed plans to increase accuracy, extend our Founder Populations project further, and improve the resolution for ethnicities of great interest to our users from highly diverse origins."

Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage
Tuesday, 30 May 2017 11:29:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Three New Ways to Learn About Your Ancestor's Military Service
Posted by Diane

On Memorial Day, Americans traditionally place flowers on the graves of those who died in military service (read how this holiday, originally called Decoration Day began). Canadians observe Memorial Day on July 1. 

Library of Congress

Another way to honor your ancestors who served in the armed forces is to learn about their wartime experiences and preserve those stories by writing them down. If it was years ago when you last learned about the wars your ancestors served in, it might be time to give it another go—technology offers new ways to explore historic wars through maps, apps and videos.

Library of Congress

If you can learn the military unit and battles your relative served in (this military research guide can help), military maps let you trace his movements and even where he would've been during battles. The Library of Congress has a Military Battles and Campaigns map collection, which you can search by keyword using the search field at the top of the page. The one above is from a series showing the 12th Army Group from D-Day through July 26, 1945, in World War II.

The David Rumsey Map Collection has digitized military maps and military atlases you can search or browse using the filters on the left side of the page.

For the Civil War and American Revolution, explore the animated and historical maps at the Civil War Trust website. They include overviews of the entire war and for individual battles.

Your smart device can help you access military history information wherever you are. Try searching your device's app store for "military history," "[name of war] history" or "[name of battle] history." A few I found include:
  • Civil War Today ($2.99, iOS): This History Channel app shows you a daily newspaper article about the war.

  • Civil War Trust Battle Apps (free, iOS and Android): These let you virtually tour Civil War battlefields for major battles like Chancellorsville and Antietam, and they're good companions if you're visiting the battlefield. 

  • Military History (.99, iOS): This reference has 1,200 entries for  important military events; search by date and keyword. It also has a "this day in history" feature.

  • 20th Century Military Uniforms (about $4, iOS and Android): View uniforms used by various countries throughout the 20th century.
The Civil War Trust comes through again with educational videos from history experts, including a Civil War In4 series that delves into a topic in four minutes or less.

The National Archives' YouTube channel has playlists including WWI Films, Tuskeegee Airmen and D-Day. The Library of Congress has a YouTube playlist on the Spanish-American War. YouTube also has videos from Ken Burns' documentaries about the Civil War and World War II.

And here's the only known Allied color footage from World War II.

More Genealogy Resources for Military Ancestors
Find websites for researching your ancestors who served in the US Armed Forces in this list of websites and get research tips in our free podcast on military records

In, check out our downloadable, complete guides to research in military service records and military pension records.

Maps | Military records
Tuesday, 23 May 2017 12:44:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 03 May 2017
Overlooked Genealogy Resource Alert! 9 Tips to Research at Heritage Museums
Posted by Diane

You’ve searched and FamilySearch, gone to the library and maybe even taken a DNA test to discover your family's immigrant origins. But for a genealogist, just knowing the country or region is rarely enough.

To find records in your family's homeland, you need their town or village. And you probably want to understand how your ancestors lived, what they did for work, what they wore and ate.

Heritage museums give you a look at that culture’s history and people. Many have research centers (an overlooked genealogy resource!) with records such as foreign-language newspapers, maps, photos, histories and more. Staff often can help with research and translation.

Whether your ancestors hail from Germany, Ireland, Eastern Europe, Japan, Africa, Mexico or elsewhere, there’s probably a museum for that—including Family Tree Magazine's roundup of 11 Must-Visit Heritage Museums.

National Hispanic Cultural Center library, Albuquerque

These tips will help you do your best genealogy research at a heritage museum:
  • Scan the museum website to understand its library holdings and geographic focus. The National Hispanic Cultural Center library in Albuquerque, NM, for example, is a great research destination for those with deep Southwest roots. It has more than 12,500 titles, and an archive with rare books, photos, maps and manuscripts.

  • Search the online catalog (if there is one) for materials you'll want to use.  
  • Call ahead to verify hours and any fees (including acceptable forms of payment), ask about special services such as translation or research consultations. Make an appointment with research center staff if needed.
  • Check the museum's events calendar in case you want to time your visit for a family history workshop or cultural festival (such as Historic Huguenot Street's annual Gathering).
  • Find out about research room rules. For example, you may need to request materials ahead of time so they can be pulled for you, or use only pencils for note-taking.
  • Bring a pedigree chart with as much information as you know. Summarize what you’ve learned about immigrant relatives, even if all you have is stories. “If your family talks about your great-grandfather who always went to the river to catch fish, that can be a clue to a geographic area,” says Karile Vaitikute of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago.
  • Bring good-quality, full-color copies or high-resolution digital images of any records needing translation.
  • Consider becoming a museum member or making a donation, especially if the research center charges minimal fees. Send a thank-you note to acknowledge help you received.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i Tokioka Heritage Resource Center, Honolulu

See Family Tree Magazine's list of 11 Must-Visit Heritage Museums here.

To find museums focusing on your family's heritage, search online for the country or ethnicity plus the words heritage, history or cultural and museum. Add the name of a city or town to narrow results to places in that area.

Libraries and Archives | Museums
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 12:35:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Monday, 24 April 2017
National DNA Day 2017: What It Is & Genetic Genealogy Sales To Look For
Posted by Diane

National Human Genome Research Institute

If you follow genealogy folks on Facebook, Twitter or blogs, you might've seen mention DNA Day. What, you wonder, is DNA Day?

National DNA Day is April 25. It commemorates two landmark events in human genetic research that happened in April:
The US Senate and House of Representatives officially proclaimed April 25, 2003, DNA Day. No formal proclamation has taken place since, but the National Human Genome Research Institute organizes annual DNA Day commemorations.

In, we're having a sale on our webinar, DNA and the Paper Trail: Putting It All Together, on Tuesday, April 25. Use coupon code DNADAY10 to save $10 on your registration, and learn how to combine DNA testing with traditional genealogy research to discover your ancestors.

You also can save 81% on our Genetic Genealogy Mega Collection, which gathers educational tools like our Family Tree Guide to Genetic Genealogy and DNA Testing book, our Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries video download and many more.

You'll also find sales at DNA testing companies, too. Here's a roundup of DNA testing sales for DNA Day 2017.

Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 24 April 2017 13:29:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Find Ancestors in Free Probate Records on AmericanAncestors!
Posted by Diane, the database website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is offering you free access to 32 of its probate records-related databases through next Tuesday, April 25.

You must register as a free guest member with in order to access the probate databases, which mostly come from New York and New England.

Click here to start searching.

Probate records, which relate to the distribution of a deceased person's estate, may include wills, estate inventories, guardianship papers and more. They often identify heirs and provide clues to family relationships—especially valuable in the time before birth and death records.

To help you decipher unfamiliar terms in your ancestor's probate records, here's our free Will & Probate glossary on

You can get help researching and understanding your ancestors' probate records in our on-demand video class Using Probate Records, available in

court records
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 15:13:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Q&A With Randy Majors, Creator of Online Map & Search Tools Genealogists Love
Posted by Diane

Randy Majors is the inventor of the Historical US County Boundary Maps tool genealogists use to trace their ancestors' county boundary changes (we at Family Tree Magazine think it's so useful that we made it one of our 101 Best Websites for 2016).

AncestorSearch, which lets you run genealogy-specific advanced Google searches, is another one of his creations. Our intrepid reporter Sunny Morton tracked him down to ask a few questions about maps and genealogy.

Q. What inspired you to develop the county boundaries tool and AncestorSearch?
A. Both were born out of my own genealogy research: thinking there have got to be better, quicker, more efficient ways of performing tasks I do repeatedly.

Q. What’s your professional background?
A. In college, I got degrees in geography and GIS (geographic information systems) just as that technology was moving mainstream. I spent much of my early career developing interactive, computerized mapping tools for the energy industry. When I became interested in family history more than 10 years ago, I just applied my skill sets and interests in mapping and programming.

Q. So you love maps?
I’ve been interested in maps forever. You know how other kids have lemonade stands? I had a map stand in third grade.

Q. Have you had personal research success success using your tools for genealogy?
The county boundaries tool has mainly helped me overcome mistakes. How many of us have discovered we haven’t found something because we were looking in the wrong place?

With AncestorSearch, I’ve taken six or seven family lines back at least another generation. Despite how much is available on the big genealogy websites, it’s funny how often something is buried on a site you don’t expect. And a lot of people have messaged me about people they’ve found using AncestorSearch, including living lost cousins.

Q. What’s the Let’sWalkTo tool on your site?
That one is not related to genealogy. It’s literally just another example of something I was interested in. My wife and I like to walk everywhere. When we go out to dinner we rarely drive, either where we used to live in Manhattan, NY, or now in Denver, Colo.

When I’m traveling, I use this tool, too. You enter your preferred walking distance and the address, and get a list of restaurants and bars to click on. You can filter for a specific type of food or entertainment and by price point. This is just a mash-up of walking distances and restaurant information on Google Maps, but it’s so useful.

Q. Tell us about a map hanging on your wall right now.
Manhattan in 1836. Only the southern tip was populated and there was only forest land where Central Park is. I can see that a building that’s now several blocks in from the water was actually on the shoreline; so many of the old rivers are now partly filled in. This map reminds me how this island has been so hugely transformed.


Randy and Sunny teamed up on a May/June 2017 Family Tree Magazine article about using old maps to solve genealogy research problems. Get your copy of this issue today in It's available both as a PDF download or a print magazine!

5 Questions Plus | Genealogy Web Sites | Maps
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 14:44:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 11 April 2017
23andMe Authorized to Provide 10 New Genetic Health Reports to DNA Customers
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy and health testing company 23andMe announced that the FDA has authorized the company to issue 10 new genetic health risk reports to customers. Those include Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Hereditary Thrombophilia, Celiac Disease and others (see the rest of the authorized report and a description of each condition in this 23andMe blog post).

The FDA in 2013 ordered 23andMe to stop offering its health analysis, which informed test-takers about their risks for 254 diseases and conditions, because the company hadn't proven its tests were "analytically or clinically validated." After negotiations with the FDA, 23andMe began offering more-limited health-related reports in 2015.

To obtain the FDA's authorization for the new reports, 23andMe "conducted extensive validation studies for accuracy and user comprehension that met FDA standards," according to its blog. The FDA also established a new authorization pathway for future 23andMe reports that are "substantially equivalent" to those already approved, which should facilitate reports on additional conditions.

The company will release the new set of genetic health risk reports in April. New customers will receive the reports when they're available. Customers who've already tested should look for an email from 23andMe about their eligibility to receive the new reports (this has to do with your geographic location and the genotyping "chip" used for your original test). See more details on the 23andMe blog.

Learn how to use DNA testing in your genealogy research from our guidebook, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy.

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 11 April 2017 11:15:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 05 April 2017
6 Records to Trace Ancestors Who Served in World War I
Posted by Diane

The United States declared war on Germany 100 years ago this month, on April 6, 1917, joining the side of the Allies in the Great War. See all the countries caught up in the conflict in our timeline of World War I war declarations.

More than 650,000 from Canada and Newfoundland and about 4 million from the United States served in the military. These are two of the US Expeditionary Force soldiers in my family:


On the left is Joe Seeger, who enlisted September 1917; and on the right is his brother Norbert (with their father), who enlisted July 1918.

Loss of WWI Service Records in NPRC Fire
When you go to research your WWI ancestors' military service, you'll make a sad discovery: More than 80 percent of US Army service records for those discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960 (which includes WWI soldiers) were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the National Archives' National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. (You can request surviving WWI service records following these instructions.)

But there are other ways to trace your ancestor's WWI service, including:

1. Draft Registration Cards
More than 24 million men (including immigrants who hadn't naturalized) registered for the draft in 1917 and 1918, although not all of them served. These are widely available on genealogy websites like and FamilySearch.

2. State Adjutant General Rosters
Most states issued a roster of soldiers in World War I. Both Joe and Norbert are listed in The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the World War, 1917-18, on as Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918. 

3. WWI Transport Service Records
Fold3 just published this collection of passenger lists of military transport ships. Norbert was listed with Supply Co. 336, leaving New York City Oct 27, 1918, and arriving in Liverpool Nov. 8. I had to scroll through the records to find a page with a date and ports.

He was on another ship Nov. 11, but I can't find a page noting where it took him. His last transport took him home: The USS Orizaba departed Brest, France, July 29, 1919, and arrived at Newport News, Va., Aug. 6.

4. Discharge Papers
Most discharged service members registered with their local courthouses on return to their communities. I can't find my WWI servicemen among the veteran discharges in FamilySearch's records for Hamilton County, Ohio, so here's the record for another man:

5. Veterans Surveys
Many communities asked local veterans to complete surveys about their service in the World War. My cousin three times removed Louis E. Thoss filled out this one for the Kentucky Council of Defense (it's now part of the Kenton County Public Library's genealogy database).

The US Army Military History Institute also has a collection of WWI veterans questionnaires completed in the late 1970s, along with photos, letters, memoirs and other materials.

6. Military Headstone Application
When Joe died in 1941, his sister applied for a military headstone based on his WWI service. These are on National Archives microfilm, and digitized on

You'll find more ways to research your World War I ancestors in these articles:
SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave | FamilySearch | Fold3 | Military records | World War One Genealogy
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 14:54:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [13]
# Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Social History & Noah Wyle's Civil War Ancestry on "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Posted by Diane

I remember Noah Wyle from his days portraying a wide-eyed medical student on "ER." Last night on "Who Do You Think You Are?" we saw him tracking down his third-great-grandfather J.H. Mills, who served the Confederacy in the Civil War and fought in the bloody Battle of Shiloh.

Later, in Mississippi, newspaper articles show J.H. was a prominent, well-liked citizen. But he killed himself when he couldn't make a premium payment for his life insurance policy, which under a then-common "deferred dividend" scheme, meant that he would lose his entire life savings. His suicide before the policy lapsed allowed his family to receive benefits.

Unfortunately, Wyle's third-great-grandmother, Mary Emily, still became destitute and had to rely on J.H.'s meager military pension. She died in 1928 in a home for soldiers and widows at Beauvoir, the former home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Something that struck me in this episode was how the experts' social history knowledge enhanced the story. Wyle learned the backstory of the Crescent regiment that J.H. joined in New Orleans—mostly comprised of the city's educated elite, who would've been neophytes in battle.

Another historian shared information on J.H.'s deferred dividend life insurance policy (called a "tontine"—read about it here), a practice that was outlawed after the Armstrong investigation in 1905. In light of her explanation, we gain insight into J.H.'s motivation for taking his own life.

Here's  list of 10 free social history websites where you can start exploring the places and times your ancestors lived in.

And exploring social history to learn more about your family is the whole idea behind Family Tree Magazine's History Matters column, which you'll find collected in our Best of History Matters e-book. You also might find our How to Research Your Ancestor's Daily Life Online video class helpful as you search for details on everyday lives of your forbears.

Noah Wyle's "Who Do You Think You Are?" episode is online but "locked," so you have to log in with a TV subscription to watch it (I've missed a couple of episodes so far for that reason).

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Civil War | Social History
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 07:54:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Family Tree Maker 2017 Introduces FamilySync, Ditches TreeSync
Posted by Diane

Time to Sync Your Family Tree Maker and Ancestry Trees
Important news for Family Tree Maker software users: Software MacKiev, the company that acquired Family Tree Maker from early last year, will release Family Tree Maker 2017 on March 31.

Previous versions of Family Tree Maker used something called TreeSync to sync your software with your tree on Family Tree Maker 2017 will use something else, called FamilySync, to sync your trees. As of March 29, Ancestry will no longer support TreeSync.

If you use Family Tree Maker and don't plan to upgrade to 2017, you should open the software and sync your trees before March 29. You still can use your old Family Tree Maker after that, but your trees will no longer sync.

(Note that Family Tree Maker is not afilliated with Family Tree Magazine, which hosts this blog.)

Upgrading to Family Tree Maker 2017
If you bought Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev since March 1, 2016, you're eligible to upgrade to 2017 for free. Discounted upgrades are available for some folks who received Family Tree Maker 2014.1 or Mac3.1. Visit the Software MacKiev website and sign up for the company's newsletter for full details.

Sneak Peek at RootsMagic 7 TreeShare
Many of you have been anxiously waiting for RootsMagic software to start syncing with Ancestry trees. RootsMagic posted on its blog earlier this month that RootsMagic 7 will use technology called TreeShare to do the syncing. The new version will also add research hints from records to its WebHints feature (which also offers hints from FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage).

The post also shares RootsMagic 7 screenshots and asks for folks to be testers.

Have you switched to RootsMagic? Ready to learn the ins and out of your RootsMagic software? Take our Mastering RootsMagic online course, starting March 27, with RootsMagic expert Diana Smith.

Genealogy Software
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:14:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]