Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Capturing All Involved Parties

I love the index at Fold3 because all names on a document are recorded.  Finding a mention of a person of interest in a document that you would have never found otherwise opens up so many possibilities.

My ancestor Stephen C Duryea worked as a government clerk in New York City in the 1840s until the 1870s.  His name appears on a few index cards for naturalizations in the City as a witness.  I am not sure if he witnessed the event in his capacity as a clerk.  I think that his name would appear on lots of naturalization documents if this were the case.  So this leads me to the next question:  Does Peter Stewart of England have a family tie to Stephen C Duryea?  Every bit of information creates more questions to explore.

Here is Stephen's entry in the New York City directory by Doggett for 1848.  Back in the day, I photocopied the city directories from microfilm at the New York Public Library.  Fold3 has digitized them and indexed the directories, so you may view them from your own home.

1848 Doggett City Directory for New York City.
Note the variant spellings Duryea/Duryee.  This is the same (growing) family.

I do not have to return to New York City to start gathering some information on Peter Stewart.  Here he is in the 1848 city directory.  Knowing his occupation, sailmaker, will help narrow him down in the sea of Stewarts.  We can look at the other Stewarts to discover that nobody else is listed at 223 Varick.  Someone in the sailing business may be more mobile than your average elusive inhabitant of the 1800s, so be prepared to search far and wide.

1848 Doggett City Directory for New York City at Fold3.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Family History, Adoption, and DNA

When you have a moment, please go over to the blog The Legal Genealogist and read Judy G Russell's article "Blown away with DNA."  This is a moving passage about a person who was adopted and is now using genetic analysis to find relatives.

Several of my genetic matches in the database at 23andMe were adopted.  The only genealogical information they can offer is their own date of birth and location, which does not help when you are looking at connections from the 1700s.  By triangulating and clustering my matches, I can usually provide a possible branch in my documented family tree where the common ancestor could be.  Seeing the names, locations, and dates of possible ancestors means so much to someone who had no family history before taking the DNA test.

I manage two DNA accounts for people with no family history.  One was formally adopted and the other was not.  I do not have results yet for the person who was formally adopted; they are pending through Ancestry.com's new autosomal DNA service.  The results of the person with no official adoption was through 23andMe's Roots into the Future program.  No very close matches were discovered yet, but seeing and exchanging information with distant genetic cousins provides a glimpse into her family's history.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Genetic Triangle

We have a promising genetic cousin match at 23andMe.  We'll call him J.D.  He matches both my father and my father's third cousin, which quite a few people do.  The difference is that the match, or the identical segment of DNA, is the same among J.D., my father, and our third cousin!  Perhaps triangulation describes this scenario?

Here is what the graph looks like:

The common ancestors shared by my father and his third cousin are their great great grandparents, Calvin Cook and Mary Neil.  They were born around 1830 and lived in Morris and Hudson Counties in New Jersey.  We do not know at this point if the shared DNA on chromosome 13 is from Cook or Neil.  We need to go back in time in both trees and we should find an ancestor in common with J.D.  We do not know how many generations back we must explore until we find a common ancestor.  All we know right now is that the match is through Calvin Cook's line or Mary Neil's line, which greatly narrows our search.

This illustrates why you need document-based genealogical research to help you with DNA genealogy.

Compare the above graph to this graph.  A. D. matches both my father and his third cousin, but on different chromosomes.  We cannot determine with this information if the double matching indicates a single common ancestor.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Genealogy Features at 23andMe

23andMe has launched some new features to assist in figuring out how it is that your matches match you.  You can type in your family tree.  This is a Beta version and is not cooperating with me for dates and locations.  I do not know if this will be a handy reference for your matches or if the site will somehow propose possible connections based on the comparisons of the trees.

You have always been able to list surnames in your profile.  Many a match has written to me that we can't be related because they don't recognize any surnames in my profile, and then cut off contact.  This is rather silly, especially when the person has only researched one or two generations of their own tree.  If everyone knew every ancestral surname on every line for the past 500 years, then genealogical research and DNA studies would not need to exist.

The next feature is a map with locations of your genetic cousins marked in purple.

Map of matches of my father

Map of matches of my mother
Compare the maps of my father versus my mother.  My mother has more matches, which we knew, but with a clear concentration in Eastern Europe that my father does not have.  The numbers represent how many people claim such a location, so the hidden numbers could be 1 or 20.  You have to zoom in to see.

Locations in the United States of my mother's closest matches
Manipulation of the degree of cousinship brought me to the New York area, the only location of my mother's closest cousins in the United States.  You can click on the little purple flag to reveal the relation and surprise!  All of these locations are for the same cousin.  The locations are any places mentioned in the profile, instead of a birthplace, which would have been more useful.

So onward to the next new feature:  shared surnames among the matches.

Shared surnames among genetic matches for my mother
I was not surprised to see Cohen as the most frequent surname among my mother's matches.  As with the place maps, the common surnames are not the name of the match, but rather any surname mentioned in the profile.  I am not sure what the enrichment value means.  I figure it is some measure of the degree of commonality of a surname in general.

Shared surnames among genetic matches of my maternal uncle
My mother's brother's matches revealed the Irish surnames.  The problem that I am having with these Irish names is that they are so common anyway.  Most of the Irish matches have at least one ancestral surname in common with us.

I turned to my father's common surname list next, putting my extensive research to the test.

Shared surnames among genetic matches of my father
I have Marsh and Strong in my paternal ancestral lines.  I have been seeing a lot of Adam.  Hall and Hickman are interesting because I am working on a possible Hale and Hickman connection from the Strong line.

These new genealogy tools will be useful and are a welcome addition at 23andMe.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Close Genetic Cousins

Finding close cousins through shared DNA at 23andMe is exciting but draining at the same time as we attempt fruitlessly to figure out the connections.

Take a look at the shared DNA between my father and his third cousin, who was known before the DNA studies.  (Third cousins share a pair of great great grandparents.)


My mother has several matches (excluding her brother and me) who share more genetic material than this.  Most do not respond to requests to exchange information, which is very disappointing.  The select few who have shared information with me can now be compared to one another.  The idea is that genetic cousins can be clustered together based on matching one another, forming a working family tree.  When I compared my mother's closest relations to one another, I was surprised to see quite a few of them matched each other even more closely.  The problem is that nobody knows how anybody else is related.  In theory, if we trace back to great great grandparents, we would be looking at identical trees in one branch.  This has not happened yet.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Indexing Project: New York City Death Ledgers

The Italian Genealogical Group is doing great work again by indexing the Death Ledgers of New York City.  Deaths were recorded in a list format in ledger books until about the year 1866, when death certificates were issued.  The entries in the index will not be linked to an image.  You can order a copy of the ledger page from the New York City Municipal Archives.  This will be a great finding aid, but remember to use any online index to locate the original record.

Page of ledger of deaths, New York City, 1824.
Note that several people were "unknown."
Also note the young ages, relative to today's longevity; death from Small Pox; and burial in Potter's Field.

An index is on the way!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prolific and Redundant

In researching the query posed in a previous blog post, "Royal Genealogy," what are the chances that people of today are descended from Charlemagne?  Quite good, it seems.

"Ancestry and Mathematics" is a very interesting article by Bruce Railsback and on point for the Charlemagne discussion.  Every time you travel back in your family tree, your ancestors double.  You have two parents, four great grandparents, eight great great grandparents, and so on.  Go back ten generations and you have 1,024 ancestors.  Go back twenty generations and you have over one million ancestors.  Go back thirty generations and you have over one billion ancestors.  The problem (aside from not being able to document so many people so far back in time) is that there were not that many people alive on the planet way back when.  The population of the planet did not reach one billion until around the year 1800 A.D.

So how can you have more ancestors than the population of the planet?  Many of your ancestors from different lines were the same people.  You are your own cousin.

What does this have to do with Charlemagne?  He lived about 1200 years ago.  If you use a conservative four generations per century, that's about 48 generations ago, when you should have billions of ancestors.  There were only about 300 million people on the planet at this time, though, which includes children and people who did not leave any descendants.  Charlemagne was one of those 300 million and he did leave descendants, so it is entirely possible that you are descended from Charlemagne.

Could this be why I have so many "genetic cousins" with no apparent connections when comparing family trees for a few hundred years?  If not Charlemagne, maybe another prolific ancestor?  I will keep this theme in mind for a future blog post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fold3 Beta Search

Fold3 sent me an invitation to review its new search capabilities.  The version is still in its Beta form.  Fold3 is a pay site that offers United States military records, some census records, and some city directories.  Among the current offerings, pension records from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War are helping me the most because of the detailed lineages required to collect a pension.  The Newark, New Jersey city directories are also fantastic.

Beta search at Fold3.
Using a soundex search for the first name Eliakem uncovered one result, whereas the original search turns up no matches.
At this time, searching for a location within a state is not useful.

Results using the currently available search engine.

The Beta search uncovered this document, a Revolutionary War Roll from 1776.
Eliakem Marsh was not on the page, though.
The "Marsh" was John Marsh.  The "Eliakem" was Eliakim Crane.

The new search results offer easier to view expanded categories, dates, and states.  I found the new format easier to navigate and sort the results.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Oprah Magazine Explores Ancestry's Free Trial

The August 2012 O, The Oprah Magazine features the article "Up A Tree" by Leslie Larson about genealogy!  I love to see our passion portrayed in a mainstream magazine.  Ms. Larson writes about her tense experience with Ancestry.com's free 14 day trial.  She sorted out a lot of the mystery behind her muddled ancestry, discovering that the stories of her inheritance did not align well with the documents she uncovered.

You can also sign up for a free trial.  As a tip, make sure that your schedule for those 14 days is relatively free of other commitments.  Every clue leads to more clues and the possibilities multiply exponentially.  You can easily spend hours and then days pursuing these avenues, forgoing sleep and non-essential activities, as detailed in the article.  Some have written to me that they are put-off by the requirement of a credit card for the free trial.  I have not heard any complaints that Ancestry charged people an unwanted subscription fee.  I think that it is silly to require a credit card for the free trial.  Ancestry can easily cut you off after 14 days and then ask for a credit card to continue.  You can maintain a free membership to Ancestry and access the free databases and indexes, but your ability to research will be very limited.  The larger libraries subscribe to Ancestry, so you may continue your research there, but you should not wear your pajamas in public.

Friday, July 13, 2012

1940 Federal Census

I have not written about the 1940 United States Federal Census that became available in April.  Frankly, I was waiting for an index.  Not waiting.  Working on other projects until an index was available.  The sites froze often in the beginning and my eyes tired quickly looking at page after page.  Volunteers are still indexing and I thank them for their work.

New Jersey is not indexed yet.  You can browse the images for free at FamilySearch.  I saw what I wanted to see from New Jersey (thank you J.D.I.) and will view the rest when the index is available.


The index as well as the images will be free to all through FamilySearch.  The index is free at Ancestry, but the images are not free.  Quivering leaves on my family tree indicated that New York's index is available, so I looked for some people.

1940 United States Federal Census
Lewisboro, Westchester County, New York

Ancestry has quite a few bells and whistles.  The person of interest is highlighted in yellow and the rest of the household is green.  You should always review the neighbors, and Ancestry makes this easy.

Ancestry provides a typed name as you scroll through neighbors,
and highlights the neighbor's line in peach.

As you stroll along the page, the names are still viewable in a typed format.
The highlights continue.
The names of columns are visible at the top.
This ensures that you gather information from the correct line.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hobby versus Career

Thomas MacEntee over at GeneaBloggers is posting several articles about money and genealogy. 

People have asked me and I have asked myself, "Why don't you do this professionally?"

I am not sure.  My day job as a nurse pays the bills, but it's not as glamorous as what you see on television.  People do not place a high monetary value on genealogical research.  They do not realize the time, effort, travel, and reading required to uncover a scattered or elusive lineage.  People also feel that the records should be of little or no cost, while we know that states charge upwards of $30 for a vital records certificate.  People often email me (often with misspellings and without providing their name) asking me, "Can I have all your research on this line?"  As if I didn't spend years crawling through cemeteries, sneezing over moldy record books, and straining my eyes deciphering grainy microfilm to reach the point where I am in my research.  If I wanted my research online for anyone to take and credit themselves, I would have already done that.

Did I digress?  Pardon me.

I am enjoying Mr. MacEntee's articles and encourage you all to read them as well.

Me (left) and my sister Danielle (right) in 2004
at Holy Cross Lutheran Cemetery
Bushkill Center, Northampton County, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DNA Testing Sale at FamilyTreeDNA

Hello Everyone.

As I mentioned in a comment to a post, I ordered DNA kits because of sales.  FamilyTreeDNA is having a sale.  Their autosomal testing kit, "Family Finder," is on sale for $199 through July 15, 2012.  Their usual price is $289.  In comparison, the autosomal test at 23andMe is $299.  This is a one-time fee.  FamilyTreeDNA offers additional tests that you can purchase later, if you so wish.

Autosomal testing will produce distant cousins who are descended from any one of your ancestors.  If you have been waiting to test, a sale is a great time to go ahead and order the kit.  You will naturally want to test yourself.  If your parents or grandparents are alive, test them.  If one parent is deceased or not available but the other is still living, test yourself and the living parent.  Cousins who match you but not the living parent are likely related through the untested parent.

Sale on autosomal DNA test