Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A New Partnership – DNA Research and Traditional Genealogy

In the September 2014 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, editors Melinde Lutz Bryne and Thomas W. Jones conceded that while traditional genealogists have worked with sources and documents that have been available for decades, a new resource for research has been evolving in the past decade – DNA. 

Over the past few years, NGSQ has been steadily publishing articles that use DNA AND traditional genealogy methods to show relationships. They even withheld publication of an article earlier this year that indicated DNA evidence was needed to support the author’s conclusion.[1] 

In addition this year, the Board of Certified Genealogists revamped their Genealogy Standards with a 50th Anniversary Edition. Several standards were rewritten to include DNA and genetic evidence as viable methods of meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard. DNA research and genetic genealogy are ready to shake up the field of traditional genealogy in the twenty-first century.

So how does DNA research work with traditional genealogy? Generally, they work side by side and help fill in the gaps when the other is lacking. Currently there are three major types of DNA tests available, and each provides a different kind of information for genealogists. All three types can be used with traditional genealogy to solve brick walls or to confirm probable relationships when the paper trail is weak.

Three Major Types of DNA

  1. Y-DNA is used to trace the paternal line – the father’s father’s father’s family. A genealogist might have an excellent paper trail that follows this line for several generations and then…nothing. Migrations of families can cause havoc with paper trails, especially with common surnames. Using Y-DNA can help separate one family of Joneses from another. This type of DNA typically has few mutations and can be used to trace many generations back in time.
  2. Autosomal DNA is used to test all 22 chromosome pairs, as well as the X chromosome (in some cases). When trying to find a closer relationship, within 5-7 generations, autosomal DNA is the best choice. This type of DNA test has been used effectively to solve adoption puzzles or to confirm closer family relationships. However, after 5-7 generations, cousins tend to fall off the genetic family tree. This is due to the process of gene recombination.

  3. Mitochondrial DNA is used to trace the maternal line – the mother’s mother’s mother’s family. In research where a women’s maiden name is unknown, mitochondrial DNA can be an effective tool. In 2013, the body of Richard III, found under a car park in Leicester, was identified using this type of DNA. Like Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA has few mutations, and in the case of Richard III, can be used to trace lineages hundreds of years.
Knowing which type of DNA to use to solve a traditional genealogical puzzle can be daunting process, and an expensive mistake if the wrong test is taken. Analyzing test results and making the most out of the information in combination with traditional genealogy methods can be confusing or completely overwhelming at times. The professional genealogists at Genealogists.com work together with industry-leading DNA experts to test and analyze DNA while applying traditional research methods to break down those proverbial bricks walls or jump start stalled research.


by Deborah Sweeney © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved



[1] Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones, “Genealogical Scholarship and DNA Test Results,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 102 (September 2014): Editors’ Corner.


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Press Release: Genealogists.com Expands Services to Include DNA Testing and Analysis

Press Release

Genealogists.com expands premiere research services to include DNA technologies

COMPANY LEADERS ADD EXPERTISE OF CELEBRATED DNA CONSULTANT DIAHAN SOUTHARD TO THEIR PREMIERE PROFESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICES.
DNA Testing and Analysis
September 24, 2014: As part of their focus on creating “dream teams” of experts to overcome genealogical roadblocks and mysteries, Genealogists.com recently added DNA Technologies to their genealogical services.  “DNA results greatly adds to our access to our customers’ ancestry,” explained Jim Heddell, co-founder and CEO.
In order to head up the task of DNA testing and consulting, Genealogists.com has added DNA professional Diahan Southard to their team. Diahan is a celebrated DNA consultant, Lab Technologist, lecturer and educator with 14 years of DNA experience.  Her career coincides with the first appearances of the field of DNA.
Diahan began her career at BYU helping Dr. Scott Woodward extract DNA from Egyptian mummies to determine their origins. This project led to the creation of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) in 1999, where Diahan assisted the transition through her expert fieldwork and education, giving lectures all across the United States while collecting DNA samples from volunteers.
When SMGF launched their for-profit arm, Relative Genetics, Diahan led the design of effective lab procedures, created visual designs for displaying DNA information, and trained the executive team on DNA issues. She continued her DNA lectures and began a new project creating special DNA reports for world leaders detailing their personal genetic history.
Diahan eventually started her own DNA consulting business, and has helped hundreds of people through DNA services. Diahan saw new possibilities, however. “Because genetics are only one part of the larger genealogical puzzle, many of those I speak with still need additional help finding their ancestors, even after successful DNA testing. My favorite thing about Genealogists.com is their ‘boots-on-the-ground’ approach to genealogy;  they have expert eyes and ears in the places most of us can’t get to. I am excited about how our combined expertise will help make the most of all aspects of a modern genealogical search.”
DNA will be an integral part of the new research packages at Genealogists.com, including the discovery packages - which emphasize the stories of the past - and the Ancestral Bloodline Authentication package, geared to assist those looking for Native American connections or documentation of early American Patriot connections for connecting to lineage and heritage societies.

To celebrate this union of DNA with professional research, Genealogists.com is running a limited time promotion on all DNA packages. Genealogists.com DNA packages include personal DNA consultation with Diahan herself, and testing options of all DNA tests including Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA.


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Friday, August 15, 2014

Brick Walls. Is it All Over? Have I Gone As Far As I Can?

Brick Walls. At some stage when you are researching your family tree, I think we all sort of find ourselves at that point where we reach a stage where we wonder if perhaps we will actually be able to research back any further. Maybe it is because we are researching one of our grandmothers and we have been unable to find a document that lists her maiden name, or perhaps we just can't find that elusive certificate that we need to locate that vital bit of information that is going to help us to trace back further. Maybe it is that our ancestor had a really common name, or moved around a lot, so we never know  quite where to find them. Or maybe, it is that we just haven't been able to seem to locate the information that we would need to hopefully try to research back beyond the start of civil registration (as in the case of the UK records before 1837). 

Whatever the case though, I think that it does happen, or will probably happen to all of us at some stage in our research.  However, I promise that you don't have to give up hope altogether. There absolutely could still be a way to continue with your research and it is a lesson that I have actually only just been taught again recently myself, when I was so happy to find a reference for one of my grandmothers that I had been searching for years. It turned out, that although her name was Lucy, she had been registered as Louisa, and so you really do seem to find all sorts of funny things that crop up that are unexpected in your research. 

But it got me to thinking about Brick Walls recently and about some of the best tips that I have learnt over the time of studying family history.  So, I thought that I would share a few of the things that have helped me, in the hopes that they might possibly also help with your Brick Walls. I hope that they bring you lots of luck. Happy Searching! 

1. Speak to relatives again. Ask as many questions as you possibly can and try to speak to as many relatives as possible. You might be surprised to find that one little clue that could help you with your research.

2. Try widening your search - work until the date ranges become impossible.

3. Try looking for marriages after children were born and births before marriages.

4. Try looking for children born under their mother’s maiden names.

5. Try wildcard searches for all possible spelling variations of surnames.

6. Try to say the surname out loud and spell it as it sounds and then search for it that way. 

7. If the name that you are searching is very common, try searching for other family members, such as siblings who may have had less common names and who will therefore be easier to find in the records, but will still be listed with your ancestor.

8. Try to look at witnesses on marriage certificates - they may be relatives.

9. Always look at the places of birth for all of the children on census returns, as this will give clues as to where to also search for possible documents relating to the family.

10. Always look at the neighbours in census returns and check the surrounding streets and neighbourhood for other possible relatives.

Tina Alsford is an English born professional genealogist and probate researcher, who now lives in Australia. Tina has a particular interest in nineteenth century England and specialises in London family history research. She is currently also a start-up blogger for Samara Magazine (an Australian online magazine for women in business).


by Tina Alsford © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Doing a Moonlight Flit

If your ancestors were anything at all like so many of mine, and in particular if they were living in London in the nineteenth century, I am sure that you might probably also have found that they seemed to move around an incredible amount of times, and may have had completely different addresses recorded within the census returns, in parish record books, or on their certificates. I know for example, that I have one particular lot of ancestors who seem to have been living at a different address for each and every piece of information that I have been able to find that was recorded about them. 

But I wonder if you have ever wondered like I had when I initially started researching my family tree, just why our ancestors, and particularly our London ancestors, really did seem to move around so much.

Looking back at London in the nineteenth century in particular, and if you are able to have the chance to read anything that has been written about what London was like in during those times, I think that what immediately really seems to stand out, is about just how genuinely overcrowded London was, and how cramped and crowded the living conditions would have been for our ancestors, with there often being a couple of families crowded in to what were essentially, just tiny little homes. And so, you immediately begin to understand that maybe then, if our ancestors did have the chance to move to perhaps a slightly larger home, or a home in a nicer part of the city, that they would have absolutely taken it. 

But there is another possibility to consider too and that is that they may have really been struggling financially and unable to pay their rent, and so therefore, may have been forced to leave their homes or flee their homes, to avoid having had to pay their rent, and may have had to flee in the middle of the night, which is often referred to as 'Doing a moonlight flit'. Something that was incredibly common during those times and that was so common in fact, that it was even written about in the famous London song, 'My Old Man (Said Follow That Van)' that was written in 1919 and sung by Marie Lloyd.

The lyrics of that song are as follows:

We had to move away 'cause the rent we couldn't pay
The moving van came round just after dark
There was me and my Old Man shoving things inside the van
Which we'd often done before, let me remark

We packed all we could pack in the van, and that's a fact
And we got inside all we could get inside
Then we packed all we could pack on the tailboard at the back
'til there wasn't any room for me to ride

So, my Old Man said follow the van
And don't dilly dally on the way
Off went the cart with the home packed in it
And I walked behind with me old cock linnet

But I dillied and dallied, I dallied and dillied
I lost the van and don't know where to roam
Cause I just stopped in for a little spot of gin
And I can't find my way home

My Old Man said follow the van
And don't dilly dally on the way
Off went the cart with the home packed in it
I walked behind with me old cock linnet

But, I dillied and dallied, dallied and dillied
I lost me way and don't know where to roam
You can't trust the "specials" like the old-time coppers
When you can't find your way back home

My Old Man said follow the van
And don't dilly dally on the way
Off went the cart with the home packed in it
I walked behind with me old cock linnet

But, I dillied and dallied, dallied and I dillied
I lost me way and don't know where to roam
And if someone could get me in it I'd be in there with me linnet
But I can't find my way home.

This is a video from the BBC documentary Miss Marie Lloyd, Queen of the Music Hall with the Eastenders actress Jessie Wallace playing Marie Lloyd and singing the song.

Tina Alsford is an English born professional genealogist and probate researcher, who now lives in Australia. Tina has a particular interest in nineteenth century England and specialises in London family history research. She is currently also a start-up blogger for Samara Magazine (an Australian online magazine for women in business).


by Tina Alsford © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Country Life vs. City Life

I recently wrote an article for Genealogists.com about my love of all things 'country' and about my genuine happiness and gratitude at learning that so many of my ancestors were 'country folk', but it got me to thinking about what life would have been like for so many of our ancestors who did live quite rurally, and what the contrast would then have been in making the move to 'the city' - London.

Though quite complex, the answer to that is really quite amazing. 

Looking at some of the documents that I have that relate to my own family, I have found quite a lot of rural occupations listed. I have a grandfather who was a shepherd, and another whose occupation was listed as a hay and straw dealer, but the majority of my country ancestors (like so many other people's family members) were listed as agricultural labourers - an occupation that at one stage employed up to approximately 50% of the population of England. 

So what was life like for our agricultural labourers and what would their days have been like? 

I have read some fantastic articles about 'ag labs' over the years, which have helped so much to learn about what their lives might have been like, but my very favourite was published in a family history magazine several years ago, where the magazine described a typical day in an agricultural labourers life. The article explained that the agricultural industry was both labour intensive and seasonal. Not all of those employed had a secure job and many had to supplement their incomes by becoming involved in cottage industries, like straw plaiting or lace making.

Life for agricultural labourers was not at all easy. Most would have lived in tiny little 'two up two down' rented or tied cottages, and families often had upwards of nine or ten children, so the farmer and his wife would often sleep with the younger children in one of the bedrooms, while the older children would sleep in the other. In some cases though, children would also sleep downstairs, or were boarded out with elderly relatives, or people in the village. Downstairs in the cottage was a parlour, which would have been the hub of the home, and the centre of all of the family's activities, and then to the rear there would have been a workroom for keeping tools. Most cottages also had a small allotment attached too, where the family could grow some vegetables. 

An agricultural labourers day might begin at about 5am, often with breakfast and then a 2-3 mile walk to the farm, where work would begin at about 6am, with all of the workers gathering in the courtyard to be instructed by the farmer on the days work. 

Most labourers were employed on an annual basis, but some were lucky enough to stay with the same farm, or estate, for a few years. Those who were employed on an annual basis though, were regular visitors at hiring fairs, in order to find work for the next year, and often wore an emblem on their clothing representing their skills, so that farmers knew their specialties. If they did not find work though, they would invariably find themselves in receipt of parish relief and inevitably have to move around to try to find casual work as a general labourer.

By contrast, life in the city was fast paced and a hive of activity. With the coming of the railways London saw an influx of people travelling in to the capital and a new wave of people - of families - hoping to make their livings and their lives there. It was exciting and the opportunities were plentiful, but with the dramatic increase in the population also came an enormous amount of hardship, poverty and filth, with many of the parts of London being extremely poverty stricken. 

Health issues too, were of particular concern, where illnesses like tuberculosis were almost spreading at pandemic proportions - some estimating that in Victorian England alone, almost a third of the population died of tuberculosis. 

Sadly these times too would have most likely meant that that each and every one of our ancestors would have have faced the possibility of losing a child. Infant mortality especially, was at an all time high, where 15% or so of children would die within the first few weeks of life, and 30% or more would have lost their lives by the age of 15.

It is almost too much to bear thinking about, so it is incredible really to think that our ancestors actually lived through that and that they raised their families in those conditions.

If you are interested in reading anything additionally about what life in Victorian England, or in Victorian London in particular was like, there are some amazing resources now available, but one of the very best websites that I can highly recommend taking a look at is The Dictionary of Victorian London.

Tina Alsford is an English born professional genealogist and probate researcher, who now lives in Australia. Tina has a particular interest in nineteenth century England and specialises in London family history research. She is currently also a start-up blogger for Samara Magazine (an Australian online magazine for women in business).

by Tina Alsford © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Genealogists.com Launches New Service


Genealogists.com is pleased to offer a new service called "Handwriting Analysis".  In a nutshell, we now analyze handwriting in order to give people an understanding of their ancestors’ personalities.

We can tell you about your ancestor's innate and learned personality traits as well as about their emotional and physical state at the time of the writing.  To name just a few, we analyze letters, diaries, journals, recipe cards, writing on the back of old photos, and of course, signatures. 

The response to this new service has been amazing; people are eager and excited to receive "real person" additional information about their relatives.  It truly brings their ancestors to life and adds a valuable dimension to family history research.

Handwriting analysis has been around a very long time and is classified as a science, just like psychology, by the Library of Congress; you may be interested to learn that handwriting analysis is admissible as evidence in a court of law in the U.S..  The first book about handwriting analysis was written in the 1500s by an Italian.  Since then, much research has been conducted over the centuries and currently, the science is widely used in Europe for numerous purposes, such as employment verification, credit checks, etc.

Here's a quote from a recent client whose grandmother's writing we analyzed last week:

"Thank you so much for your analysis.  I knew and remember my grandmother clearly and you really hit it right on the nose.  I can't tell you how pleased I was with your analysis. Now that my tenure has closed with the Grand Jury, I hope to have time to go through my possessions and send you new letters...I also recommended your service to our Program Director, who said she would be contacting you.  I spout the praises of your firm every opportunity I get...Thank you, once again.  Just delighted with your analysis!"

The above response is very typical, and it is gratifying to help people truly understand who their relatives really were.  Sometimes traits are handed down from generation to generation, and handwriting analysis is a unique and enlightening way to help you discover yourself in your family’s past.

Handwriting analysis can lead to amazing discoveries

If you have any records with your ancestors’ handwriting — perhaps just a signature on a certificate, a brief note on a postcard, or correspondence of any sort — we would love to analyze the records for you.  Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.  We look forward to helping you learn more about your ancestors and strengthening your relationship with them.

Act now and save.  Special introductory pricing until end of July 2014.

  • Full analysis (mental, emotional, physical, and personality traits) only $30 (save $10 per record)
  • Partial analysis (20 significant traits) only $15 (save $5 per record.)

Click to submit a record for analysis today.


by Nancy Douglas and Jim Heddell © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why We Trace Our Family History

I think I have always been in love with the country and with 'country life' really. When I was about 18 months old, my parents moved from the town that we were living in, to a little country village in England and I truly have some of the happiest memories from living there and of just of how beautiful I remember it being. It probably sounds so silly, but it honestly really was almost like that kind of storybook/picture postcard/photographs-on-chocolate-boxes pretty — just picture-perfect scenery — and it truly was such a wonderful place to live.

We lived there until I was five and I just have the most amazingly lovely memories of so many little 'country' things... of fields full of wild flowers and horses grazing in the meadows, of the little country lanes to go walking and exploring down, of my first school — which was the cutest little stone country cottagey building — and so many other things, and I can remember going blackberry picking with my mum, and my mum then baking and making treats like jam at home.

We moved to Australia when I was five, but I was lucky enough, that just by coincidence, all of the school camps that I seemed to go on always seemed to be to country properties or farm stays, and so I managed to still have a little bit of the country in my life growing up, which I loved.

Then, when I was nineteen, one of my very best friends moved to a little country town in Victoria, Australia and I think that that is when my love of all things country was really cemented for me. I still remember going to visit her there for the first time and seeing her new 'old' home and falling completely in love with it. Over the next six years that I visited her while she was living there, each time that I visited felt a little bit like coming home, and some of the best memories of my life are from times spent there. I have funny memories, even of just sitting and having a cup of tea on the back verandah and watching the neighbour’s chickens run by.

I think it all just made me realise that the country is definitely a big part of me, and where I feel the happiest, and so for me, when I then started researching my family tree and learnt that so many of my ancestors were people who were 'country folk' and did live and work in the countryside (like so many of our ancestors did), it made me feel like I could understand myself maybe even that little bit more. It's an indescribable feeling really, but it made me so happy. I thought, 'See, the country is just a part of me', and I guess it was always going to be, but I love that.

I have often heard people question why people want to trace their family trees and I think that you only have to watch television programs like “Who Do You Think You Are?” to realise or understand that for everyone, there is always going to be a slightly different reason. That everyone will have something that is personal to them, but I think that ultimately, there is a genuine natural curiosity in us all to learn about where we come from and also to see whether we can find that little bit of ourselves in that. To learn maybe why we love the things that we do, or maybe why we are drawn to the things that we are, and when you find those things...well... it feels lovely.

Tina Alsford is an English born professional genealogist with Genealogists.com, who now lives in Australia. Tina has a particular interest in 19th century England and specializes in London family history research.

by Tina Alsford © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved

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