Thursday, April 30, 2015

Autosomal DNA and the Genealogist

If you have seen Who Do You Think You Are you have seen what you can learn from Autosomal DNA testing. What comes to mind is Vanessa Williams and the fact that she has Italian DNA.

The genes that are tested are not the same ones that are used in other tests but if you are curious about what your ethnic makeup is, this test can give you a lot of information. One thing that is curious in this test is that siblings may be quite different in their results. My brothers and I certainly are. They are much more Irish than me and I am more Northern European.

I am not sure if I understand it correctly but to my way of thinking it is how your actual ethnicity plays out in you. I have brown hair and brown eyes and my brothers have blue eyes and dark blond hair. We obviously did not get all the same genetic makeup.

There are several different companies who offer this test and they will also tell you who among their database is related to you and an estimate of the degree of relationship. If you are looking for family connection this can be a big help.

I did this more for the entertainment value and it definitely has provided that. If you have always wondered if you really have Native American blood or if those stories in your family are true, this is one way you may be able to answer those questions. 

But having said that, my Mito is Native American and the only thing remotely odd in my Autosomal DNA is less than 1 percent Finnish /Western Russian. My brother has the Caucasus so I am not quite sure what to make of that. He also has Greek and Italian which is missing from me.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review on Monday: What Exactly is a Primary Source

It is very important for every genealogist to understand the difference between a primary and a secondary source. 

If you find a birth certificate issued by the government, this is a primary source. The information for the certificate was given by the parents of the child and the hospital in most cases. The same is true for marriage certificates. Death certificates are not totally primary sources however since the person giving the information about parents is not the deceased but rather a family member. 

A primary source should be created at about the same time as the event being recorded. This in a death certificate, the date of death is a primary source but the other information is a secondary source.

A family bible with entries that were created at the time they occurred can be considered a primary source but events not recorded at the time they occurred are secondary. 

Censuses provide great information but since until 1940 we don't know who is providing the information, they must be considered secondary sources. A will is often a great primary source. 

When it comes to accepting dates and information, a primary source can be accepted but always try to have at least two secondary sources for anything you want to accept as truth. That this is not always possible, which is one of the things that makes genealogy so difficult. 

When in doubt, try to figure out who provided the information and that will let you know how close to the truth it actually is. 

Primary sources:

  • Birth certificates
  • Baptism certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Death Certificates
  • Census information after 1940
  • Family bible (if the entries were made at the time the event occurred)
  • Will or inventory
  • Military record
  • Naturalization documents 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

World War I Draft Cards

In genealogical research, occasionally you will find a gem that you never thought could help you. One of those gems is the World War I draft cards.  

Why you ask would I want to look at World War I Draft Cards? They contain some really fascinating information. They were done in all 48 states, the District of Columbia  and the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

According to the National Archives "During World War I there were three registrations. The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. (A supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918, for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918. This was included in the second registration.) The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45.

Included on these cards are full name, address,  date and place of birth, race, citizenship, occupation, a physical description (eye color, hair color, height and build) and their signature.

You can look at these for all the members of your family who might have been within the ages of 21-45 at the time of the First World War. I found it very helpful to see eye color in particular since most old photos are black and white or sepia. 

Also, that so illusive place of birth is included here so that may possibly be of help to you. Even if it isn't going to answer any major questions, give it a look it is fascinating. 

This is basically what they look like and all the information they can provide. This is a case of adding meat to the bones of your genealogy.

In my particular case, I was able to answer a question that has plagued me most of my life, why I have brown eyes in a blue eyed family. By looking at my grandfather's draft registration and that of his brothers I was given an answer. While he and one brother had hazel eyes, one other brother had blue and one had brown. Quite the mix. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NERGC 2017

Okay folks, you have two years to plan for this. The next NERGC Conference will take place in Springfield, Mass. 

I am sure that the NERGC website will have the actual dates soon but it will be located at the Marriott and the Sheraton Hotel most likely since this is how it was done the last time they were there. 

I have been attending the conference since 1997 which will make 2017 my 20th anniversary. It is an exciting time and we always learn a lot too so why not consider joining us next time? 

If you sign up now, you will receive the E-zines to tell you when you can register and what speakers they are expecting. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

DNA and Genealogy

Let me give a disclaimer first, I am not a DNA expert, I am a believer. I can't tell you a lot of technical things but I can tell you that it is very interesting to understand who you really are. It may be shocking or it may be exactly what you expect but either way, it is fascinating stuff.

I first had my DNA analyzed years ago. In those days all women could do was mitochondrial DNA. This is what you inherit from your mother and her mother and her mother back to your deep ancestors. If you never have, I suggest you read The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes. It is fascinating. It breaks down  modern Europeans into seven groups, the mitochondrial haplogroups. These groups have female names Ursula (U), Xenia (X), Helena (H), Velda (V), Tara (T), Katrine (K)and Jasmine (J). I so wanted to be in Helena's group.

My friends know exactly what I did find. I am none of the above. The good news is, my husband is an H so he descends from Helena. I on the other hand am a C haplogroup, C maybe for Cochise. I am a Native American. I know strange isn't it. Actually I am less than 1% Native American going by my Autosomal DNA but that is for another post.

 In short, mitochondrial DNA is how they identified both Tsar Nicholas and King Richard III. It is good for telling you your deep ancestry. But, sons only carry this from their mother for one generation and they do not pass it on to their children, only mothers pass it on. So, it might be worthwhile to do this test.

For men, Y testing is very accurate and it can help identify which branch of a family you are descended from. I was able to determine that we are the Royal Donahue's which is not a bad thing to know, lol. I had my nephew do this test for me.

This is just a very little bit of information about DNA and how it can help you with your genealogy. It does not however take the place of research, it just is a tool that can help rule something in or out.

Unless you are only interested in your nationality, don't purchase autosomal first, you can always get it later like I did.There are several places to purchase these kits. I can't recommend a place for the Mito or Y since I had mine done by Sorensen and they no longer are doing tests and have been acquired by

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I am at the NERGC

View from one of our windows
I am in Providence,  Rhode Island for the NERGC. Our lectures today begin at 12:15. We won't be attending the opening session as we have attended many of these conferences. We picked up our syllabus yesterday so that we could look over the lectures and decided what we want to take. Lots of good options. 

There is still time to join us even if it is just for a day. Saturday will be jam packed and you can buy just one day at the conference. I will be away from my blog much of the time. If I have time I may make a post but if not, it will be Monday before I have anything new to say. I will rerun some of my older posts in the mean time as a refresher course.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Never Assume Anything

I know, what does that mean, never assume? It means just because someone is in the right place at the right time doesn't make them the right person. I know that sounds crazy. If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, isn't it a duck? The best answer I can give is it might be a duck but then again it might not. 

Example: For years I thought I was descended from Digory Sargent. His son Daniel was kidnapped and carried to Canada in 1703/04. He was taken to Montreal and I did often wonder how we got the long way up the river to Cap St Ignace. Well it seems, he didn't. DNA has proven that he isn't our ancestor. It needs a few more tests to really be proven but it seems obvious now that all the things that didn't quite fit, actually didn't fit at all. Someone assumed wrong. So, yes it wasn't actually a duck. 

DNA has made it easier to verify assumptions but not fool proof. So, when you find something that you can't prove, assume it might be correct and save all the information but don't stop looking for the truth. Unfortunately, our ancestors weren't interested in making sure they made their information clear and easy to follow and often our trail is very twisted as wee strive to arrive at the truth. 

#neverassume  #verifyfacts

Monday, April 13, 2015

A look at the 1940 census

The most recent census to be released is the 1940 census. This is an important census for several reasons. First of all, for most of us, it will include our parents or grandparents and that is the first step in seeing our family in the records as a group. It will cause a feeling of excitement to actually see your family in a record of this type. 

In the United states, there is a 72 year rule about releasing the census to the public. The 1940 census was released on April 2, 2012. Of course just being released isn't much good to most of us unless you live in a tiny village, Until the information is indexed, it has to be  viewed one line at a time. If your family is from a city or town, this can take an immense amount of time. Imagine looking through the records for New York or Chicago, line by line.

We are now 3 years out and the census has been indexed. I have found the indexing to be problematical. I think that there was such a rush to make it available that there are many errors in transcription. You may not be able to find your family and most likely it will be because the last name is just wrong. It took me forever to find my husbands family in New York because of this very reason. I just kept looking for all the individual members of the family and eventually in a soundex search was able to find it. Of course this will only work if the begin of the last name is correct. 

What new information is on the 1940 census? One of the most interesting pieces of information is where did you live in 1935. If your family moves around a lot this can help follow them. We also know who provided the information to the census taker, this is one of the biggest issues with earlier censuses, who actually gave the information.  It makes the 1940 census a primary source.

I will continue with this census in my next post.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Flashback Saturday: The importance of sourcing

Before we go any further I need to stress emphatically that every piece of information that you find and every word, date or quote needs to be sourced. The more detailed your sourcing is, the more valuable it will be to you in the future. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking you will remember where you heard something or found something. You may today but in 5 years chances are you will still be working on your genealogy and you won't have a clue where you found that piece of information unless you write it down. 

Write down the page, the book, the location of the book or the website exactly. If you hear family stories, write down who told them to you or who they are quoting. These stories are important but trying to identify them later when the source may no longer be with us can be frustrating.

You will want to try to find primary sources as often as possible. In my next post I will define what a primary source is and the importance of finding and verifying all sources. 

I know you are probably ready to get started but a few minutes spent preparing and learning about how to make sure what you find is valid will save you hours of frustration later on. Just bear with me for now, it will be worth the effort.

#sourcing  #genealogy  #genealogyresearch

Friday, April 10, 2015

NERGC Next Week

It is still not too late to attend the NERGC in Providence, RI. We received our syllabus this week so that we know the schedule. You can always come just for one day if the entire conference would be too much.

They are offering some special lectures for those who are new to genealogy and there are also plenty of information being offered for the more experienced genealogist. We all look forward to the vendors and the society fair.

I hope to see you there but if not, I will try to bring back some new information to share. I hope you have been using the information I am sharing to at least take a stab at doing your own genealogy. I am on a high right now from my new information finds and that will keep me enthusiastic for quite some time.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What genealogists live for

I really wanted to share this with my fellow genealogists because it is what makes it all worthwhile. I broke down one of my brick walls today. For at least 20 years I have been looking for the ship that brought my grandmother to America. 

I know the year, it was 1891. That is the year before Ellis Island opened. What that means is the record should be at Castle Garden. Well it isn't. It is so frustrating. This is my grandmother not some distant ancestor. 

Today I was searching for things relating to my grandmothers brother George. I have a picture of him in a military uniform so I knew he was in the service. I found the record of his service from 1900 to 1903 on ancestry. I decided to just search his name in the immigration records to see if maybe I could find the family that way. 

Half way down the page, there is was, George Huns 1891 from Liverpool on the Teutonic. I look at the record and there found his father John Huns, John Huns 12, George Huns 11 and Edith 9. I can't tell you how exciting it was. The name was spelled incorrectly, it is really Hunns but it is obviously them.

This is actually taken in Liverpool

The Teutonic was a White Star steam ship built in Belfast in 1889. It was the same line that built the Titanic. They crossed the ocean in just 7 days leaving Liverpool on April 22, stopping in Queenstown Ireland on the 23 and arriving in New York on the 29th. I was even able to find a picture of the Teutonic.I read about the ship and I am sure they were in 3rd class but there were rooms with bunks for families so I am pretty sure that is what they would have had.

What changed as far as finding this information? Even knowing the name of the ship and the date I still can't find them on the immigration records of New York where I did find them was the departure information for England which has been updated.

Lesson to be learned, always keep looking for information even from sites you have visited before. Information gets added, things get updated and it can change so look again.

#genealogy #genealogyresearch #brickwalls

Monday, April 6, 2015

Using Newspapers in Genealogy Research

By this time, if you have been following my general outline you have interviewed your family members, gone to the town hall and plowed through the public records and been looking through the censuses. You have searched on and pulled up some information and now you are asking yourself what next. 

That will be determined by just how much information you have found. I am going to send you in search  of a little meat for your bare bones genealogy. Hopefully you have some sort of a genealogy program. Most of these have spots where you can write quite lengthy comments. This is where you will put in the family stories and perhaps some information you will find in the newspaper. 

First you need to figure our where your ancestor was living. It is not always easy if they are not city people to find out which newspapers were being printed at the time. I was lucky, I still lived in the general area where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived. Obituaries 100 years ago were often filled with flowery language and lots of information. 

What can you find in an obit:
  1. Place of birth
  2. Names of parents and siblings
  3. Cause of death
  4. Occupation
  5. Religious affiliations/church
  6. Clubs and organizations they belonged to
  7. Names of other relative and connections (pall bearers)
  8. Where buried
While you may not find all of these, you may find some or most. It really depends on the year and in some cases the nationality. In the 1880s in our area, Irish obits were one paragraph. By 1916 they were as detailed as you could ever hope for. Things change and ethnic groups become part of the general population as newer immigrants move in. 

Social news:
  1. Wedding
  2. Visits from friends
  3. Going to visit family and friends
  4. Births 
  5. Engagements
  6. Parties
  7. Military service and action
If you think your family did not have enough social standing to be  mentioned you may be correct but maybe not. In quiet areas everything was news and without TV and radio, most any news was printed. 

  1. Wills
  2. Bankruptcies
  3. Divorce
  4. Disputes
  5. Arrests
  6. Legal proceedings 
You will also learn a lot about the community your ancestors lived in by reading the newspapers. You can go to with a subscription and try to find a local newspaper. You can also try the local library or a genealogy library in your area. 

You may find a lot of information and you may find very little. There are some people who did manage to stay under the radar so to speak but even if you don't find a lot of specific things, you will still get to know the lives and times of your ancestors in their area much better.

#genealogy  #newspapers  #genealogy research

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Flashback Saturday Beginning your genealogy journey

If you are a new genealogist or if it has been a while since you worked on your family tree, you may feel a little lost. It can seem like you have an insurmountable task before you. Relax, let me give you a hand and get you started on what will be one of the most amazing journeys of your life, discovering who you are. 

Basic tools:

  • Steno pad
  • Pencils
  • Loose leaf notebook filled with clear plastic sheets
  • Plenty of change
  • Any type of recording device

You are going to be taking lots of notes. You can use any kind of a pad but I like a steno pad. Pencils are preferred in many libraries, I always use automatic ones. The loose leaf note book is where you are going to store any certificates or copies that you make. The change you will need to pay for copies etc. depending on where you are working. 

You will use the recording device when you interview family members. It is not absolutely required but this way if you don't write every word you can go back and listen to the interview again. 

Having a computer and a genealogy program are also helpful but not absolutely required. 

Gather together everything you need to begin your journey and join me back here and I will take you on the next step. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dispelling myths about Irish genealogy

I have to admit that I am now a Joe Buggy groupie! I attended all four of his lectures at the genealogy conference in Virginia and I will share some of the things that learned from him in later posts but for this posts I think everyone needs to realize that there are some myths out there that may be hampering your research. These myths were dispelled by Joe. 

All the records were destroyed

This is not true. While the explosion at Four Courts was very unfortunate, it did not destroy all records.  I have to admit that when I saw what was included on the 1841 census, I could have cried because it would have been such an amazing resource for all of us but there is no point in dwelling on it. 

We lost the O when my ancestors took the soup

This is not true, many names were Anglicized over the years beginning as early as the 1600s when Protestants led by Cromwell devastated the population and enforced Penal Laws. 

They changed the spelling of our name at Ellis Island

This is another fallacy. I can show that the spelling of my own ancestor Geoffrey Donoghoe is spelled differently on several of the baptisms of his children in Ireland. Since it became Donahue in our particular family and no ancestor came through Ellis Island, I guess that dispels that!!

Keep in mind that many of our ancestors didn't read and write and would not have known how to spell their name. Whoever wrote it down, would have spelled it the way it sounded to them with a distinctive Irish accent. 

When it comes to the records that exist, Parish Records, Tithe Applotment and Griffith Valuation are the most readily available and offer a place to begin. 

I hope this gives you just a little more hope that Irish genealogy while difficult, is not impossible.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

1790 United States Census

The law that created the first United States Census was signed by  President George Washington, Vice President John Adams and Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg on March 1, 1790. On August 2, 1790 all the households in the 13 states were supposed to be visited and the information recorded to create the record. Who was included on this census?
  • Free white males of 16 years and upward (to assess the country's industrial and military potential)
  • Free white males under16 years
  • Free white females
  • All other free persons
  • Slaves

It ended up taking more than 9 months to do the visits and record that information and in the meantime, Vermont had become a state so really it is a census of 14 states and some territories including what became the state of Tennessee

Information was gather in  Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Not all the records have survived, North Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia and Delaware were lost but some of them have been reconstructed using other records. 

Slightly less than four million people are included on that census. If your family goes back to that time period, where can you find these records. If you have a membership at they are available there. Family Search has an index to the records.

While this early census is not for everyone, it can be used in conjunction with some of the later ones to see where your family was living at the time and to develop a migration pattern.