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# Friday, 27 July 2007
Learning Your Ethnic Heritage Through DNA
Posted by Diane

Q What's the best source for DNA testing for all ethnic groups?

A It sounds like you’re looking for a DNA test that shows your ethnic heritage, rather than whether you’re related to someone. Several types of tests accomplish this to some degree.

Biogeographical tests
Tests such as DNA Print Genomics’ AncestryByDNA evaluate autosomal DNA, which makes up all your genetic material except for what’s on the XX and XY chromosomes.

AncestryByDNA looks for markers that are characteristic of various groups to estimate your percentages of heritage from four populations: Native American, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African (areas south of the Sahara Desert) and Indo-European (Europe, Middle East, North Africa, Western Asia). The EuroDNA 1 and 2 tests further break down Indo-European heritage.

These tests won’t tell you what country your ancestors came from. Also, there’s a margin of error—most show that in the form of a bar graph with your most likely percentages along with other possible percentages.

Haplogroup tests
Most genetic genealogy laboratories, such as Oxford Ancestry, can test your mitochondrial DNA and assign you to a haplogroup—the genetic group your ancient ancestors (10,000 to 60,000 years ago) belonged to. The haplogroup R1b, for example, is common to Western Europeans.

That’s great to know, but not super-helpful for genealogical purposes because records identifying your ancestors don’t go back 10,000 years. Also, haplogroup information comes from a small section of your tree because you get your mitochondrial DNA from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s (I could go on) mother.

Population comparison tests
Some companies test your DNA and compare certain markers to proprietary databases of DNA results from various populations. You get a report showing which populations your DNA most closely matched. DNAConsulting’s DNA Fingerprint test, for example, compares your sample to a database called Omnipop. You get a list of strongest and "medium-strong" matches, and people with European heritage can get a list of likely country matches.

African Ancestry performs similar comparisons to its database of DNA from African tribes.

Keep in mind the accuracy of these tests is limited by the DNA samples in the comparison database. Not all the world’s diverse populations have been sampled, so your best match may not be a close match at all.

And due to migrations of populations and national boundaries, your DNA could be similar to that of a modern resident of a particular country, but not to that area’s historical population. Since these DNA databases are growing, though, a good match may pop up down the road.

The best genetic genealogy company for you depends on what you want to know, and what you think your ethnicity is (since different companies’ comparison databases may be stronger in different areas). Genetic genealogy experts recognize DNA science is in its infancy, and urge you to back up test results with traditional research. So if a test shows you have DNA markers consistent with American Indians, you wouldn’t consider those results ironclad until you find genealogical records of American Indian ancestors.

For our layperson’s guide to using DNA in your genealogy research, along with DNA testing company contact information, see the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine.

genetic genealogy
Friday, 27 July 2007 14:17:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Kids' School Projects: Interviewing a Grandparent
Posted by Diane

Q My daughter has to interview her grandparents for a school project. Do you have any suggestions for questions she can ask?

A Not only do assignments such as this one bring families closer, they’re also a great way for kids (and their parents!) to learn about their family history and history in general.

Scott Kelly, who conducts oral histories through his company Oral Family Histories, offers these questions to get you started:
  1. When and where were you born?
  2. What were your parents’ names?
  3. What is your happiest memory of your father? Your mother?
  4. What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
  5. What are the names of your grandparents?
  6. What is your happiest memory of your grandfather? Grandmother?
  7. Where did you grow up?
  8. What did you do for fun as a child?
  9. How did you like school?
  10. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  11. Tell me about your first date.
  12. How did you meet Grandma/Grandpa?
  13. Tell me about the day my mom/dad was born.
  14. What advice would you give to new parents?
  15. What jobs have you had?
  16. What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?
  17. What would be your recipe for happiness?
You and your daughter can edit the list together based on the length of the interview, what your daughter wants to ask about, and any project requirements (for example, her teacher may want her to focus on a particular topic such as military service).

Your daughter may want to jot down significant historical events that occurred during her grandparents’ lives, such as the Great Depression or the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Then she can ask about them with a question such as, “What’s your most vivid memory of growing up during the Great Depression?”

If she’s been learning about the Great Depression in school, she’ll see how it affected everyday people and maybe even find herself an answer to that perennial question, “Why do we have to learn this?”

She also might be interested in how her grandparents’ childhoods compare to her own: Did they have similar hobbies? What chores did they have to do around the house? How did they like their brothers and sisters?

Kelly suggests interviewers use a question list as a guide, not a rigid framework. It’s OK if the conversation leads your daughter to ask questions not on the list, or her grandparents to tell stories not related to a particular question. Looking at old family photos may spark her grandparents' memories, too. (Find more oral history interviewing tips on

Make sure you record the interview for posterity (and in case your daughter needs it for a report) using a digital voice recorder or a videocamera (get pro’s tips for filming interviews in the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine).

If filling in a family tree chart is part of the homework, use the free downloadable forms on Your daughter's grandparents would probably love to see the finished project.

Oral history interviews | Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Tuesday, 17 July 2007 17:13:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 09 July 2007
Converting Your Genealogy Files From PC to Mac
Posted by Diane

Q I’ve used Family Tree Maker software for several years on my PC. Now I’m switching over to a Mac. What software can I get that will let my data transfer to the new computer without having to buy new software and re-enter everything?

A Since Family Tree Maker software doesn't come in a Mac-compatible version, you'll need to either download software that lets you run Windows programs on a Mac, or you can get Mac-compatible software.

If your Mac runs on the OSX Tiger operating system, you can download a beta program called Boot Camp 1.3 that lets you install and run Windows alongside OSX Tiger. Then you can install and use Family Tree Maker on your Mac. (Macs with the soon-to-be-released OSX Leopard will come with Boot Camp.)

In that case, you can avoid retyping everything by using the Family Tree Maker on your PC to backup your family file, then installing that version of the program on your Mac and restoring the backup file. Follow the instructions in Family Tree Maker’s Help Center to do this.

If you want to buy new, Mac-compatible genealogy software, learn about your options at MacGenealogy. You still won’t have to retype everything. Transfer your data by exporting a GEDCOM from Family Tree Maker and importing it into the new program.

Family Tree Maker GEDCOMS don't save links to images and multimedia, though, so you'll have to re-link all those on your new computer. (A new version of Family Tree Maker comes out in August—maybe its owner, The Generations Network, will have pity on us and fix this.)

In either case, you might want to keep the old computer around until you can compare the two databases and make sure everything transferred correctly.

Monday, 09 July 2007 17:08:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 04 July 2007
July 4th Quiz Answers
Posted by Diane

Here are the correct answers for the quick Fourth of July quiz linked in the July 3, 2008, Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter. (We back-dated this post so it wouldn't appear on the blog's front page—we're sneaky like that.)

Quick—if you just stumbled upon this post, click here to test your knowledge.

1. When did most Continental Congressional delegates sign the Declaration of Independence?

Aug. 2. The only person to sign July 4 was John Hancock. Most delegates signed the declaration Aug. 2, 1776, and some delegates weren’t present and had to wait even longer. New delegates also were allowed to sign later.

2. How many delegates eventually signed the declaration?

(Learn more about the signers on the National Archives and Records Administration Web site.)

3. The original, handwritten Declaration of Independence survives.

False. The original, document has never been found. The oldest surviving copies are 25 Dunlap Broadsides, copies printer John Dunlap made the night of July 4, 1776.

July 19, 1776, Congress ordered an engrossed (neatly handwritten on parchment) copy, which the delegated signed. The National Archives has this document, now badly faded. In 1823, John Quincy Adams had printer William J. Stone make an engraving of the document, which is the one shown below and most often reproduced today.

4. How many lanterns were hung in the steeple of the Old North Church, April 18, 1775?

Two. Paul Revere told three Boston patriots to hang two lanterns in the steeple, which warned those across the Charles River in Charlestown that the British were arriving by sea.

5. Which other guy rode around the same night as Paul Revere, warning colonists that the British were coming?

Both Dawes and Prescott. William Dawes rode separately from Boston, Mass., to Lexington to tell John Hancock and John Adams they were in danger of arrest by British soldiers marching into the countryside. He and Paul Revere met there and both rode toward Concord; Samuel Prescott joined them along the way. The men were stopped by British soldiers and split up, after which Dawes’ horse bucked him and he had to walk back to Lexington. Revere was detained  and escorted back to Lexington.

Prescott is the only one of the three to reach Concord, and he kept going to warn others. Paul Revere is the one who made the history books, perhaps because his name worked best in Longfellow’s poem.

Wednesday, 04 July 2007 15:46:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]