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# Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Simple Steps to Solve Your Genealogy Research Problems
Posted by Diane



A cousin I met online (one who attended my grandparents’ wedding as a child!) asked me to look at a research problem on a line we don’t share.

Her great-aunt Elizabeth Schalk was born April 4, 1893, married Wesley Thomas in 1910, and became a widow two years later.  Then she disappeared.

Was Elizabeth “lost” under a second husband’s surname? That’s not an uncommon situation with female relatives. In a similar scenario, you might know an ancestor by a spouse's name, and have trouble discovering her maiden name so you can find her parents.

Our Problem-Solving Bootcamp for Genealogists, happening online Oct. 3-9, will help you formulate strategies to research this and other genealogy problems: unknown immigration, mysterious places of origin, missing from the census, your usual appeared-from-nowhere or dropped-off-the-face-of-the-Earth ancestors.

The workshop will show you how to use some of the same principles that led us to Elizabeth:

1. Develop a theory that could explain what happened: Elizabeth remarried, began using her new husband's name, and possibly moved away. This might involve doing research into what was going on in the particular time and place.

2. Determine what type of record would provide information about your theory. Local research guides can help here. In this case, a marriage record such as a certificate, license, bann or newspaper announcement showing an Elizabeth Thomas getting married after 1912.

3. Look for the records. Major genealogy database sites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage are good places to start. But don't overlook lesser-known sites, such as the local historical or genealogical society website, or resources you can find through the USGenWeb county site.

I came up empty on big genealogy sites, but the Hamilton County (Ohio) Genealogical Society website had an indexed 1915 marriage bann for an Elizabeth Thomas marrying Herman J. Bley.

You might need to look offline for published indexes, or if you have a narrow enough time frame, browse original records at a repository or on microfilm. 

4. Find additional evidence. Elizabeth Bley's census listings and Social Security Death Index record were consistent with what we knew about Elizabeth Thomas. My cousin ordered Elizabeth Bley's 1981 death certificate, which put the nail in the coffin of this brick wall, so to speak, with the right maiden name and parents' names.

The Problem-Solving Bootcamp for Genealogists starts Monday, Oct. 3, and includes seven video sessions (which you can download for viewing whenever you want), written material, exercises to apply to your own research, and an exclusive workshop message board to exchange questions and ideas with other attendees.

Find out more about this genealogy learning opportunity at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
 



Tuesday, 27 September 2016 12:41:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 26 September 2016
Quick Tip: Sifting Through DNA Matches
Posted by Diane

If you’ve taken an autosomal DNA test at 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA, you likely have a long list of genetic cousins. After sequencing portions of your DNA, the testing company compares your results to the results of other test-takers in its database. If you share enough DNA with another test-taker in the database, you’ll see that person in your list of matches.

The company evaluates how close you might be to another test-taker based on the amount of shared DNA. See the image for a sample list of AncestryDNA matches (with usernames blurred for privacy).

In this guest post, Blaine Bettinger, DNA expert and author of The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, shares a quick tip for identifying your DNA matches with the best chance of aiding your research.

For test-takers with ancestry in well-represented areas (such as Europe), the list of genetic matches may be thousands of people long. A few of those matches might be close, but most will be distant matches who share just a small segment of DNA. How should you process all those matches? Which ones should you focus on to attempt to find your common ancestry?

Focus on your closest matches first to increase your chances of finding family members and learning more about your family tree. If you’re lucky enough to have a predicted second cousin or closer, review that match’s family tree (if the match has provided one) for familiar names or places from your own family tree. Since the relationship is so close, you may only need to build his or her tree out for a couple of generations.

If the match doesn’t have a family tree, you might be able to build one for them or contact the match and ask for one.

What do I mean by your "closest" matches? Simple: The ones with whom you have an estimated relationship of fourth cousins or closer. You have a pretty good chance of finding common ancestry (such as a great-grandparent) with second cousins or closer, and a decent chance of doing the same (i.e., finding a shared second or third great-grandparent) with predicted third and fourth cousins. Beyond predicted fourth cousins, however, you'll have difficulty finding a common ancestor. In most cases, you'll only want to pursue these more distant matches if you have additional concrete evidence that you share ancestors.

Learn more about analyzing DNA matches and using test results in your research in The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, available in both print and e-book versions at ShopFamilyTree.com.

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Genealogy books | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 26 September 2016 11:38:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 19 September 2016
How to Handle Surprises in Your DNA
Posted by Diane

DNA testing is a powerful new tool for genealogists. And just like any other genealogical record, it's capable of revealing secrets.

For example, the results of a DNA test can reveal relationships that were either long-forgotten, or were long-held family secrets. Knowing this, what should you do when you discover a secret in your family?

Genetic genealogy expert and author of the new book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy Blaine Bettinger shares some tips for handling surprises in your DNA findings:

You can follow a few important steps before testing that will help prepare you and the test-taker for potential surprises:
  1.  Explain to prospective test-takers that you may discover family secrets and unknown relationships through a DNA test. The test-taker can then make an informed decision about whether or not to test, and will be better prepared for possible outcomes.

  2. You can also ask the test-taker—again, before testing—whether he or she would even like to know any surprises or unexpected findings that are uncovered. Some family members may decide that they'd rather not know, and that decision will guide how you respond to any discovery you make.
And what should you do if you find something unexpected in your research? If you uncover an unknown relationship or family secret, break the discovery to the affected relatives slowly and carefully. Are you absolutely certain about your conclusion, or is there room for other interpretations? What can you do to confirm the result before sharing information that might not be correct?

Once you’re sure you’ve discovered an unknown relationship or family secret, you must then decide what to do with that information. Even if the relationship you've found is hundreds of years old, it will likely have an impact on living individuals and thus must be considered carefully. If the family member involved has indicated that she wants to know about any uncovered surprises, you can thoughtfully and gently share the new information with her, keeping the emotional impact of the discovery in mind. If the family member has indicated that he'd rather not know, you have a responsibility not to share that information with him. For thousands of people, the discovery of family secrets is an inevitable part of genetic genealogy—but that doesn't mean those secrets should always be divulged.

Learn more about the ethics of DNA testing—as well as the Genetic Genealogy Standards that guide ethical DNA testing and research—in The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, available in both print and e-book versions at ShopFamilyTree.com.


Genealogy books | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 19 September 2016 11:10:17 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Tuesday, 13 September 2016
3 Tips for Choosing a DNA Relative to Test
Posted by Diane


Average Amount of Autosomal DNA Shared With Relatives

Genetic genealogy, using DNA to study ethnicity and identify genetic cousins, is becoming an essential part of doing genealogy. If you’ve tested yourself and want to explore DNA tests for family, which relative should you ask to take a DNA test? Are some cousins or relatives better to test?

Here are some tips from guest blogger and DNA expert Blaine T. Bettinger, author of the new book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, for finding the right relative to help you break through that brick wall with DNA:
  1. Test the oldest generation first. Testing the oldest generation available is often the best course of action. The members of this generation might not be available to test in the future, so it's important to get a DNA sample with an older relative's permission as soon as possible.

    Additionally, this generation is often genetically closer to your research questions, meaning older ancestors may have more autosomal DNA (atDNA) from the ancestor of interest.

  2. Test relatives likely to share DNA with you. As you can see in the image above (red boxes indicate what percentage of atDNA you share, on average, with each relative), second cousins and closer always share at least some DNA, but many third cousins do not. If possible, test relatives who are most likely to share DNA with you. But if your genealogical question relates to an ancestor further back in time, you might have to test distant cousins to get the evidence you need.

  3. Test relatives who can provide the proper type of DNA. Genetic genealogy has no exact rules, but you'll want to remember some key principles as you identify people to test: While atDNA (the kind of DNA most tests examine) is usually inherited from each parent equally, other types of DNA follow different inheritance patterns.

    For example, children receive their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from their mothers, and males inherit their Y-chromosomal DNA (Y-DNA) from their fathers. If you’re researching an ancestor in your Y-DNA line, you'll likely want to obtain DNA from a male relative in that same Y-DNA line (e.g., your brother, your father, your father's brothers, your paternal grandfather).

    Similarly, if you’re researching an ancestor in your mtDNA line, you'll probably start with DNA from a relative in that same mtDNA line (e.g., your siblings, your mother or her siblings, your maternal grandmother). Testing multiple types of DNA may provide you with even more information to help you attack your question!

Blaine provides more tips and hints for identifying the best person to test in his new book, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. You can find both print and e-book versions of the book online at ShopFamilyTree.com.


Genealogy books | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 13 September 2016 10:37:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 06 September 2016
9 Tips For a Terrific Fall 2016 Virtual Genealogy Conference
Posted by Diane



Our Fall 2016 Virtual Conference is coming right up Sept. 16-18, with online genealogy learning opportunities in video classes on genetic genealogy and DNA, using Ancestry.com, identifying old mystery photos and more; plus live chats; our exclusive conference message boards and more.

Now, you can save $25 on Virtual Conference registration when you enter coupon code FTMSEPT25 at checkout. Register at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.

Watch this quick video tour for an idea how the conference works, and take in these tips for making the most of this genealogy event.

1. Once you complete your registration, you'll receive an email with instructions on logging in to participate. Read through the email (if you have any questions, feel free to email Family Tree University), and be sure to save it. You'll also get reminders as the conference gets closer.

2. The welcome page has helpful hints about getting around the conference, viewing classes and using the message boards, so check it out.

3. The video classes are recorded, so you can watch them whenever you want during the conference, and download them to your computer to watch later. It's helpful to watch any you're especially interested in early in the conference so you have plenty of time to ask questions on the mesage boards.

4. Live chats are scheduled. Be sure to account for time zones when you're planning your weekend. We post transcripts on the message boards for anyone who missed them (and so chat participants don't have to frantically take notes).

5. If any live chat topics have inspired related questions, you can get them ready in a Word document before the chat so you can just copy and paste into the chat window.

6. If you have kids, have some independent activities to keep them occupied and snacks ready to grab. 

7. Have your favorite genealogy snacks and drinks ready, too. It'll be pretzel crisps and coffee for me.

8. Three topic threads to look for in the message boards:
  • The introduction board: Tell us who you are, where you're from, what you hope to get out of the conference and anything else you want to share.
  • The surname board: Post the surnames you're researching and the place those relatives lived.
  • The tech questions board: We'll be checking this one throughout the conference for any tech issues that come up.
Of course, there'll also be other threads relating to the video classes, research brick walls, old family recipes and lots more.

9. When responding to someone's comment in a busy live chat, it helps to start with their name: "Diane, I hear passport records are..." Other comments will appear between the original comment and your response, so this helps connect the two.

Check out the Fall 2016 Virtual Conference program and register now at FamilyTreeUniversity.com!


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Family Tree University | Genealogy Events
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 09:55:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]