Genetic genealogy - searching for family history utilizing DNA tools - is this decade's most fascinating innovation for family researchers.
MyHeritage recently partnered with FamilyTreeDNA, which has the largest DNA database of any of the companies in the field as as well as the most extensive DNA information, to help MyHeritage members learn more about their ancestors.
FamilyTreeDNA.com, whose founder and CEO Bennett Greenspan established this pioneer company, has enabled many people to find their genetic cousins and to unravel their unique family histories using the building blocks of life.
As some genealogists like to say: documents may be lost, papers may perpetuate myths, but blood doesn't lie.
If you match someone genetically, you are genetic cousins and have a common ancestor. The only thing to be determined is when your most recent common ancestor lived.
The basic tenet of DNA research for genealogical purposes is to test against the largest possible database to find genetic matches. Testing against a small database will find few if any matches, while testing against the largest database may find more than a few genetic cousins.
Genetic genealogy tests are not paternity or forensic tests, for those who might have questions. Those tests use different DNA components than those for genealogical testing.
Several types of tests are available, from the lowest resolution of 12-markers up to 67 markers for male Y-DNA and tests for female mtDNA. If two people match at 12 markers, they do match, but the common ancestor is deeper in time. If two people match at 67 markers, the common ancestor may well be within a within a contemporary time frame.
DNA helps to determine if different branches are connected, helps to avoid wild goose chases with lines that are not biologically connected, and also helps to determine the truth in history's mysteries.
Researchers often ask if everyone with a certain surname is related. Usually, this is not true, as surnames are relatively recent innovations in Western and Eastern Europe and were adopted fairly recently, some not adopted or required until the early 1800s. In Spain, however, surnames were common back in the 10th century.
In any case, there are various reasons why families with the same name are not related. These may be due a name based on geography, occupation or different type of name. People of different religions and occupations came from one town and took the town name as their surname when they moved elsewhere. Someone whose name meant shoemaker could have come from any town, but not that all shoemakers were or are related.
Working with genetic maps indicating areas of origin for those with different haplogroups (a method of genetic classification) helps researchers understand where his or her family originated.
If you've ever wondered who you are and what your origins may be, a genetic genealogy DNA test may provide some tantalizing answers ... and also raise more questions..
Have you had your DNA tested? Have you discovered genetic cousins or made an exciting discovery using DNA testing? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.
When was the last time you used a typewriter?
Technology crept into my life when I switched from my beloved black portable manual Remington typewriter to an IBM electric.
Just a few years ago - relatively speaking - personal computers were just appearing on the scene. We researched the old-fashioned way - handwriting letters, loading rolls of film in our cameras, visiting dusty archives and rolled microfilm in resource centers. It took hours of effort to search for family information.
Today we connect in ways we couldn't imagine only a short time ago. We communicate almost instantaneously with email and messaging, and we can access ever-expanding Internet resources for family history. Everyone is connected by computer, by cellphone, by technology.
Once upon a time, my technology arsenal consisted of an electric typewriter. Today, it includes an all-in-one scanner-copier-fax, a desktop PC with large flatscreen monitor, a regular laptop (now semi-retired), a new mini-notebook (for travel), digital camera, cellphone and other personal devices. I am not a techie, so each new device means some frustration and excitement until I learn how to use it.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites keep us connected, and there are genealogy pages and groups on those sites, as well as active forums and family websites here at MyHeritage. These advances help us find farflung relatives.
What can we expect tomorrow? What new equipment or software to help us connect with family members around the world?
While not all research can be done at home - glued to a computer monitor - in our pajamas and bunny slippers, every day more resources are online, making it easier.
More organizations with important archives understand that records and resources are more useful if more people can access them. Scanning and digitizing projects and website data collections are increasing, for free or for paid access.
Topping the list are expanding digitizing projects, better retrieval and search techniques, more mobile services, social media and next-generation web technologies, along with improved data collection and cataloging.
Innovation is the lifeblood of genealogy. Most genealogical conferences address the future, offering demonstrations of new equipment, software, techniques and tools, new projects and trends. Do you wonder what's coming next?
How about a single device, incorporating a handheld mobile device, touch screen, built-in camera, scanner, wifi, Google Map, Google Search, Image Search, all-in-one, on a small transparent screen.
Point it at a building and retrieve its history; see what businesses are on each floor. Point it at a house, retrieve its history, architect and builder, owners through the years. Visit a cemetery and learn all about it, see a burial plot plan with GPS locations and locate an ancestor's grave.
Would you believe a flat, flexible phone with similar functions that can be worn like a bracelet? It could do everything a PDA or phone can do, but right on your wrist?
For a larger version, visualize a flat digital wallet tablet with a pen and a touch screen? This would also combine a flexible portable display, personal reader, an ebook reader. Roll it up and put it in your pocket until needed again.
This is an exciting time to be a genealogist! What are your predictions for the future?
I'm looking forward to reading your comments.
It is now easier than ever for the more than 27 million worldwide MyHeritage members to discover, connect and communicate with their extended family network and research their family history.
We have just released the new Family Tree Builder 3.0 - available as a free download - with improved standard and premium features. Members can download the software, work online or offline at their convenience, and later upload information to their family pages at the website.
FTB 3.0 languages include Afrikaans, Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, EnglishUS/UK, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Portuguese-Brazil, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian and Yiddish.
While there are standard free features and the basic family website is free, there are also exciting premium features accessible through two fee plans based on numbers of individuals and online storage. One plan offers a special discounted price of less than $24 for the year for full functionality of all the premium features. Sign up through January 15 to take advantage of this plan, which covers up to 2,500 people in one online tree with 500MB of online storage.
NEW STANDARD FEATURES
Improved multilingual support: MyHeritage is multilingual in 34 languages for display and data entry; members can enter data in two languages at one time. Data can be displayed in one language (e.g. English) and also entered in two other languages (e.g. Spanish and Russian) at the same time. This can be a useful tool to involve younger generations in family history - they might not be as fluent in the main research language. The ability to share information in many languages enables improved family connectivity around the world, encouraging sharing and collaboration on family history projects by relatives in different countries.
Geographical Mapping: FTB 3.0 creates a list of relevant geographical place names for each tree. This feature remembers previously entered place names so users do not have to re-enter the same locations. For a better world view of where your family lived long ago and where relatives live today, go to the place name list, click on a location and go to its Google Map. In the new release, the feature is better integrated with the website to help members share and collaborate with family around the world.
Improved Publisher: FTB 3.0 has been improved so that members can now work on other tasks while the publisher works in the background. This can be a major time-saver for those publishing large family trees to the MyHeritage site.
Export/Import GedCom: GedCom (Genealogical Data Communication) is a standard format for transferring genealogical information from one program to another. Members do not have to re-enter all their data if they can export or import a Gedcom of their family tree, saving time and energy.
SmartMatch Merge compares your tree with all the trees in the MyHeritage database. This is open to everybody. This premium feature provides the ability to merge with one click - when you compare your tree and one with a match. The program checks not only the individual in question but his or her close family members (parents, children, siblings, spouses, etc.). Privacy settings are respected for living people, hiding information about people who do not match.
SmartResearch compares more than 110 (and growing) of the most important genealogical databases. Members can search for matches for only one individual or for all people on a single tree at one time. For subscription websites, SmartResearch will reveal results provided on a free search of that site (e.g. an index).
All-in-one tree presents, for one individual, everyone related to that person by blood or marriage. It provides a complete view - the big picture - of your family tree.
Video, Audio & Document Publishing allows members to upload videos, audio clips and documents to their family page at MyHeritage so the entire family can relive those great moments and learn about family history.
*The free basic plan is for an online tree with up to 500 people with up to 100MB online storage.
The Premium Plan is discounted through January 15, 2009: $1.95 per month (regularly $3.95 per month). Online tree of up to 2,500 people with up to 500MB storage. Includes accessibility to Smart Match Merge, Smart Research, All-in-One Chart, Publishing Videos and Documents, and Priority Support.
The PremiumPlus Plan offers an unlimited family tree and unlimited online storage and full functionality of premium features, for $9.95 per month.
For more details, click here to read the complete press release.
Do let me know if you've tried out the new release and your comments on the new features. I always look forward to hearing from readers.