Write or Wrong of It

Keep it simple and we are all happy.  The most frequent complaint I hear in genealogy groups I belong to is that people do not respond back to inquires online. I try to respond when someone contacts me.  This week that was challenged, the correspondence I received was a hot mess. It hit all the high points of things that were drilled into my head not to do when contacting someone online, bless his heart.

The Overly Long Contact or Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That

I may have been able to read the Odyssey in less time. How many people will take the time to read long emails or messages? Almost none. They are not invested in your story. Most people have very busy lives and can’t take the time to read a short story, rather asking a simple question with a carrot for the recipient in an opening email or message is the best way to get a response. Let the person you are contacting be able to answer you. You want a dialog.

The Overly Complex

I am going to be gentle with my contact, I don’t want to steamroll someone with my enthusiasm. I tend to forget that not everyone has spent hours pouring over genetic genealogy textbooks and attending classes.  Many people do not understand their results beyond the basics. So starting out  with initial contact asking about centimorgans and mutual matches is probably going to lose someone. Rather ask about family names and locations, this is information most people know.

Suggesting an NPE

Suggesting an NPE (Non-Parental Event) within the first couple of emails is beyond a bad idea, trust me-even if you are certain. There are so many relationship factors that you might not be aware of that suggesting this within the first couple of emails is just plain bad form. Don’t do it-ever. You are not the NPE police so it’s not your job. Yes, this has happened. Let’s just say collateral family lines with at least 93 matches in the tree in question. Be exhaustive on this front and try to disprove your theory. When I solved my own this is what I did.

Carrots to Carrot Cake

If I believe I know where the person I am contacting fits into my tree I mention that I have been researching the family and would be willing to share the information with them. I can easily change out the family name for a region or town if I have information on that area that I believe they may be interested in.

Keep it simple, see what becomes of the contact. Understand that not everyone is at the same level, you can help but try not to harm.





Super what….

Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 6.37.34 PM.pngI’m thinking about the advice and tips I learned from those that came before me.  In genealogy it is about paths already taken. Sometimes those paths are straight and sometimes they twist and turn.  That basic classic advice however, that is pure gold.  Those are the tracks that play through my head when I log onto my accounts and do basic functions.


  1. Save your work to more than one place. Save it often. Do you want to feel absolutely ill? Don’t save your work and have everything you’ve work years on crash and burn.  It makes me ill just thinking about it.
  2. Screen Shot New Matches. Screen shoot them in context to other matches.  Especially if it is a close match I screen shoot the match, then I screen shoot them in context with the mutual matches.  Sometimes people have cold feet after test, they don’t understand how this works and then they delete their kit.  Screen shooting their match saves it for future reference.
  3. Screen Shoot Family Trees that have key information.  Someone may make the information private and you will lose that opportunity to have additional sources.  By screen shooting you can go back at your leisure and confirm the information.
  4. Verify Before Copying.  If this happened it would be happier mutual tree world.  I thought when I started that everyone verified details in their trees.  Well, that’s not the case.  It’s up to you to verify everything that goes into your tree.
  5. Find alternate methods to contact matches. Sometimes the messaging system works sometimes it doesn’t on Ancestry. I don’t know what the magic formula is.  Finding alternative methods is a great way to have actual contact with matches, but don’t freak them out. Facebook, email, even a phone call, or an old fashion letter may work.  I remember my Mom writing letters to relatives asking for research help back in the 70s, aw the smell of shag and penny stamps…

Listen to the advice of those that have come before you, they know what they are doing and want to help you.  If not for remembering their advice I would have lost valuable information more than once.

Migration Routes

Brothers and sisters in genealogy I am here today to speak to you about migration routes of our dearly departed ancestors. I don’t mean those big migrations like from England to the New World but smaller more concise ones.

Mid-Western Migration

  • Ohio River Valley Settlers
  • Great Lakes Early Settlers
  • New England and Eastern Great Lakes
  • Northwestern Germany and the Midwest

I selected some of the migrations featured through Ancestry.  Selecting this option can narrow the field of searching to a group and area to search within.  Narrowing the group and area allows for a direction in research.  Now I know that I may need to look for my family traveling from Michigan back East to New York.  If I look at the time line I can also make a guess at transportation means.  Was it possible that these people used the Erie Canal? Looking at records that surround those locations may provide answers.

  • Narrow time of migration
  • Look at transportation to new area for migration route
  • Did free or cheap land help in migration?
  • Did your ancestor receive land for military service?

Opportunity had to be seized, new territories had to be populated.  The easiest way was to lure settlers with free or cheap land, easy promises came with the land, forgeting to mention the backbraking work.  Look for land deeds of ancestors from the East. These are often the first documents found in a newly established territory. Soldiers were often awarded land for service, checking service records can confirm that an ancestor qualified for land and chose that land in newly opened territories.  The bonsus of service records can be that they contain more than just service information, they will contain much more-dependants, medical conditions, place of residence, and land grants are just some of the examples of other information available.

Reverse those migration routes.  Find those ancestors, they are waiting for you.


Census Records And Alternate Spellings


One of my neighbor’s that won’t make the census record

Census records: pretty straight forward right? Essential for finding relatives, establishing timeline, occupation, and determining who was living in the household.  What else is there? Some of the records record much more.  Take a look at all of the boxes to see what is recorded. Here are a few other facts you may find:

  • number of years a couple have been married
  • number of live births that a mother has had
  • year of immigration
  • whether they are living on a farm or in the city
  • did they attend school
  • were they employed for the last 12 months

Beyond these items looking outside the family record that is being researched to the neighbors. Often as the page of the census is delved further into other extended family members emerge.  Prior to the modern era socialization occurred much closer to home.  It is not uncommon to find ancestors next door or on farms close by.  They knew each other, they stuck together to make communities work.

What’s in a Name?

Your last name is Osbourne, always spelled with an e.  It’s never spelled without, ever! Except in the census record where the worker didn’t care that you always spelled it with an “e”.  That worker hated “e” on the ends of names so he didn’t put them on plus his hand hurt at the end of the day and just didn’t do it. Maybe the neighbor told the census taker about your ancestors, so now not only is the last name misspelled but so are the first names and they aren’t just misspelled, they are nicknames. So, what should I do?

  • be fluid with the spelling of first and last name
  • look for street addresses and locations to help confirm
  • try to find middle names, if they had one
  • look at multiple records to confirm

Using census records beyond just the family record and alternate spellings can find answers to hidden relatives and brick walls.  No research is easy or already done for you unless you’re the Queen of England and then you are married to your 2nd cousin but you do have a really cool castle in Scotland.

Back in the Saddle Again


Flying high above the other researchers searching records

I am a complete geek for museums. I lose myself in the displays and galleries imagining the lives that were lived by people and animals of the past.  It’s not such a great leap to understand why genealogy hooked me.  Trees and documents are just the pipelines to these well-organized displays. I am the curator charged with organizing the information.

In the midst of research like most it is easy to become overwhelmed with the trails that I have been following.  I have been so long under water that emerging feels as if I am bursting into daylight disoriented. I don’t know which end is up or some times what exactly I already have in my notes.

Brick walls are the nemesis of all genealogical researchers.  If research goes on long enough every genealogist will have at least one if not multiple.

What are some strategies to break brick walls?

  • Use whole census records
  • Use alternate spellings
  • Look at know migration routes
  • Use all forms of DNA-atDNA, YDNA, and MtDNA- Look for groupings in each for the family member you are researching
  • Join a One Name Project
  • Organization from known facts to speculation-research until you can turn the speculation to fact or disprove it

These are just a few of the techniques that can be used to break brick walls.  Over the next few weeks I will go into depth on each of these points and how I have used them.


Sloth Selfie in North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum

Memorial Sites & Historical Preservation

The National Genealogy Conference was large and impressive.  2,166 people attended in person and another 200+ online.  I posted regularly on my twitter account from the sessions I attended.  A wide variety of sessions offered almost something for everyone. There were some things I loved and some things that were not so much for me since this was my first time attending.

I started the conference with the Civil War Tour of Grand Rapids.  Like most Americans I have at least one relative that served during the Civil War.  My biological family as I have discovered is from Michigan and my three times Great Grandfather enlisted out of Kalamazoo into the Union Army.  Likewise, my husband Mark has a two times Great Grandfather who served in the Union Army also enlisted in Kalamazoo.  While my Grandfather died in the service Mark’s Grandfather survived the war and returned home to Michigan where he married and had children. IMG_6639.jpg

The tour was informative and highlighted the restoration projects that Grand Rapids has lovingly completed to preserve the memory of those who served the nation so that their sacrifice will not be forgot.  The large fountain downtown is a wonderful example of restoration and community involvement.  We even stopped at the memorial to the Spanish American War.  Why? Because, the sons of those Civil War soldiers served in the Spanish American War. They volunteered when they heard the call to remember the Maine!


Many of us imagine Theodore Roosevelt riding his horse, Texas onto Cuban soil but in reality many of the young men, like Mark’s Great Grandfather, George Smith, served in the Philippines.  He wrote home to his mother in Kalamazoo and she shared some of his letters with the local newspaper.  He survived the war but brought home something from the jungles that would end his life much quicker than he would ever guess, malaria.

Preserving memorials to those that have sacrificed.   We need to tell the stories that go with the memorials, to talk about why it happened, to understand our history and our responsibility in preserving memorials and documents.  I spend hours every week with old documents.  I know that most people don’t understand why I do it. There are important stories that aren’t being told often enough.  We all need to tell our stories and listen our neighbor’s


National Genealogical Society

I’m nervous and excited. I leave for the National Genealogical Society’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan tomorrow.  I’ve signed up for the civil war tour prior to the conference. As luck would have it I was able to visit my 3x great grandfather’s grave who served in the 12th Michigan during the Civil War this past week and it’s made me wonder about those brave relatives that served in that bloody war.

I am eager to find new ways to connect with the past and other genealogists. I feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop, where to start? I’m excited to hear from the New York genealogists, I need help tracing ancestors there. Don’t we all have that one spot that we are weak? I’m also excited to hear about the Irish immigration to Michigan.  My husband’s family immigrated to Michigan from Ireland so finding more information about his line and possible records would be helpful.  I can’t wait to possibly find little geeky genealogist items on the trade show floor. I noticed that one vendor is from La Porte Indiana. That’s just down the road from me.

I will be posting from the conference, sharing my enthusiasm for all things genealogy, digging my roots and my loved ones.



23 and Me Upload

Today only 04/25/2018 upload from Ancestry to 23 and Me.  This is a great chance to not wait.  Get your DNA over there.  Fish in the ponds.  Especially if you are looking for relatives, have a brick wall you are trying to break down or just want another perceptive.

Just an Edit to this. they are not allowing relative matching in the download not even for an upgrade fee.  You have to buy a kit, spit and send in.  So, if knowing your ethnic makeup from another source is important have at it.  I can see the advantage for 23 and Me- they have managed to increase there database for the promotions if they choose to use these new uploads in the total numbers of clients.

I uploaded my husband and his ethnicity was off and vague.  It lumped him in UK instead of a more refined Irish which we know through paper trail that he has a large percent. His direct paternal line is from Ireland (Confirmed with Y) as well as both of his maternal 2x Great  Grandparents immigrated from Ireland.


More Testing Sales

IMG_6432Your double helix should be mapped at a bargain price, at least that’s what the sales are saying. After I posted my original post about the sales going on 23 and Me decided to show up late to the party.  They came in with a sale on their Ancestry only kit which is normally $99 for $69, which is available through the 25th of April.

The big three have all chimed in, now that 23 and Me is at the table.  The Ancestry only test does not offer the limited health aspect of the full test they offer for $199, which is also on sale for $139. It does, however,  give relative matches, ancestry composition, maternal and paternal haplogroups, Neanderthal ancestry, and comparison of your DNA family.

Who doesn’t need to know how much Neanderthal is in their DNA? I could put it on my audition for a Geico commercial, right? Well, it is a novelty to say the least. If you are a female you will only receive your maternal haplogroup but men will get both, oh double helix why do you make me test my male relatives to find my haplogroup? The haplogroup groups are just general, to get an in-depth study of Y-DNA or mtDNA you will need to do a specific test like Family Tree DNA offers.

The data base here is smaller and there are not family trees but there are also not additional fees after the fact. The tests, however are only intended for use in the United States, in fact it’s stated at the bottom of the sale page.  They don’t have the international clients that many of the other companies have.  If you think that your relatives might be overseas this might not be the choice for you.

MyHeritageDNA is also on sale for $69. They do accept samples from other countries.  In addition to diversity in matches, MyHeritage has the option of building a family tree and researching records.  There is a fee if you want to join their service for complete access to all of their records for a year. They have a chromosome browser and ethnicity algorithm.

Comparatively I have 1050 matches on 23 and Me and over 4500 matches on MyHeritage.  I should point out that in the past MyHeritage has had issues with its matching algorithm. My top matches I can actually place in my tree and the centimorgans that I share with them are within an expected range for the relationship. I have not went into the depths of my distant matches. MyHeritage also has an option to transfer existing DNA.  If you are searching for a missing family member or trying to solve a mystery or NPE then uploading from another source is an economical way to not miss a DNA connection.

Ultimately DNA testing is a personal choice, the right test should reflect what you hope to achieve.   The results of a DNA test can be more than ethnicity, it can bring unexpected new relatives and shine a light on truths that have been hidden for far too long. Having more relatives is always a blessing.





Of Sales, Money, and Time

Sales, Sales, and More Sales. Yep, that’s right DNA testing kits are on sale!  It’s time to get kits to find long-lost relatives, find ethnicity, break down brickwalls in genealogy research, or just for the heck of it. Maybe this week is the time to get your DNA kit.IMG_6426

Which test is right for you? Well, let’s take a look at what’s onsale.


Ancestry has the largest database available among the DNA testing companies. Statistically a large base of potential relatives would be a good thing to start with right?  $59 dollars is a bargain price to test.   What your $59 will get you is a DNA kit that you complete at home by filling a tube with saliva. The saliva is then shipped to Ancestry’s processing center where your DNA will be extracted. Your 23 chromosomes will then be compared with that large database to determine relatives and ethnicity. Easy, peasey, lemon squeezey.

What doesn’t the $59 give you? Access to the genealogy information available through Ancestry or the family trees of your matches.  You have to pay extra for that.  Ancestry offers monthly fees for those options, which can be down right affordable. For $19.99 a month a subscription to the United States Discovery package is available.   If you are on a tight budget, many libraries have Ancestry available for research.  Reserve time and use the resource, plus they may have a full access package that may get you into 3-Fold (Military Records) also.

Not to be outdone, Family Tree DNA is running a sale beating Ancestry, for just $49 you can use their convenient swab test to find out your ancestry, ethnicity, and they have a chromosome browser to compare matches.  No extra charges after the fact, however, they don’t have genealogy records.

In addition to DNA testing kits Family Tree offers a free upload option for existing DNA kits.  If you have already tested at another company you can upload your result for free into their database. For an additional $19 you can open all of your matches and ethnicity, what a deal!  If that isn’t a sure enough sell, maybe using one of their maternal or paternal testing options might be? Using deep DNA testing can help with brick walls or simply be another way to extend your research. Y-DNA or mtDNA may be just the ticket to find your country of origin or unlock the mystery surrounding your 3x Great Grandfather or Grandmother.

Choosing a DNA test can seem overwhelming on the surface, however, with just a little research the choice becomes much clearer.  I didn’t have the benefit of a sale or research prior to testing.  I jumped in. I tested at Ancestry and transferred to Family Tree DNA. In retrospect I should have waited for a sale then weighed my options to see which was best for me. It would have saved me money, time, and frustration.