17    May 20110 comments

Gen conferences: Information for all

Three genealogy conferences in two countries were on my schedule over the past 10 days.

Each conference provided food for thought, learning opportunities and practical information. Additionally, each event offered networking opportunities, and chances to meet others with the same interests.

On May 7, the Society of Genealogists (London, UK) held their Centenary Conference, a major event for this group founded in 1911. The world of family history and how we research hadn't changed much over the decades until rather recently.

Continue reading "Gen conferences: Information for all" »

17    Jan 20110 comments

Genealogy of Color: Resources Online

In the US, we celebrate famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as an official holiday on the third Monday in January.

This year it is today, January 17.

It is a fitting day to discuss the increasing number of family history resources available to African Americans searching for their roots, which can be difficult.

When the book "Roots"  was published and later screened as the most-watched television series of all time in the '70s, it offered people of all ethnicities the idea that it was possible to learn about their families. In the past few years, increasing numbers of resources have been made available.

For African Americans, it meant that more resources would be developed allowing the people of today to find out about their ancestors, whose history and even names had been hidden or erased. With today's DNA resources, many can now trace their families to areas in Africa.

Here is a round-up of resources - websites, blogs, DNA research - that will help you learn more about your family. Remember that each resource listed also offers even more links to additional information.

Continue reading "Genealogy of Color: Resources Online" »

16    Aug 20102 comments

A look back at this summer

Geneabloggers collect Jamboree ribbons!

Now that I'm back to my normal routine, I'm trying to review the great experiences from this summer.

Great times included four conferences in California, Washington State and Texas; visiting dear friends and family members; and meeting several relatives for the first time as we shared family history.

At all the conferences, I helped explain what we do at MyHeritage.com and how our tools and features make it easy for families to connect and communicate no matter where they live.

My suitcase now includes several new T-shirts from this year's events and some for 2011 events.

Here are some highlights:

Jamboree 2010

Some 50 geneabloggers attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree this year.

Some spoke on various topics, some participated in blogging panels, others just enjoyed the conference and meeting their readers. Continue reading "A look back at this summer" »

29    Oct 20091 comment

DNA: African tribal migration patterns

DNAFamilyTreeDNA.com is now cooperating with the Center for African American Genealogy Research (CAAGRI) and the Public Records and Archives Administration of Ghana (PRAAD) by testing several hundred members of the Nzema, Ga, Fante, Ewe and Asante tribes.

The results of the DNA tests will be part of a genealogy workshop to be held Friday, October 30 in Accra, Ghana. Led by CAAGRI director Paula Royster, the workshop is aimed at highlighting the importance of recording oral traditions by showing people how to record it.

The program will include the use of online databases to search for ancestors and descendants, preservation of songs and photographs, transcriptions of stories passed from generation to generation and forensic genealogy.

Ghana's participation in this effort is important as their archives house more than 4 million records. Many of them relate to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which affected people of African descent.

FamilyTreeDNAFamilyTreeDNA - founded in April 2000 - was the first company to develop the commercial application of DNA testing for genealogical purposes. Before then, it had only been available for academic and scientific research. The Houston, Texas-based company has a database with more than 265,000 individual records. This is the largest DNA database in genetic genealogy, and means that testing with FamilyTreeDNA and using its comparative database makes it a prime resource for anyone reseraching recent or distant family ties.

The non-profit Center for African American Genealogical Research provides genealogical resources and support at no cost to the community. It was established in 2004.

It is the only organization of its kind and offers unique on-site support services for the African-American researcher. Support includes research assistance, workshops and genealogy-mentor programs for low-income youth.

It has technical learning centers and continues to provde innovative ways to collect, preserve and interpret the past for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations.

For additional resources to help you to research your African American families:

-- Louisiana Division, New Orleans Public Library (Louisiana)

-- Afrigeneas.com

-- Genealogy.com - African American resources

-- African American Examiner

I'm interested in hearing your success stories and how these resources have helped. I look forward to reading your comments!

24    May 20090 comments

Genetic Genealogy: Persuading People to Participate

DNAWhile DNA testing for genealogical research is the best new tool that we have, it is sometimes hard to convince people to participate in a surname or geographic project.

My own DNA projects have experienced good participation with the exception of my own closest male cousins. This means I have representation from several branches (except my own) descended from my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. One of the mysteries is that some branches tell the story that one of his sons was an orphan left on the family's doorstep and brought up within the family - we don't know which son or even if the story is true. But I keep trying to convince them. Genealogy's mantra is "never give up!"

Traditionally, we researchers deal with paper documents (or online images of those documents) and follow the paper trail to our ancestors. This is kind of like the Yellow Brick Road to genealogical success. Put tooltip hereDocuments include birth, death and marriage certificates, wills, property deeds, census and voting records, obituary notices and other sources to either prove or reject a connection. Without documents, there may be a rather substantial thick brick wall. One way to open a door in that wall is with genetic genealogy DNA testing, which will tell us whether two people are descended from a common ancestor or not.

This post will focus on Y-DNA (male DNA) which is much more valuable for tracing lines within a historical framework, while mtDNA (female DNA), is more suited to anthropological resources as mutations are much slower. Instead of looking at 1000 years or less, mtDNA gives a window onto what happened tens of thousands of years ago. The results are interesting but difficult to use in a contemporary genealogical sense.

Y-DNA passes unchanged from father to son. Thus it is useful to see if two descendants of one man are related, no matter how far back in time. If both are direct male descendants of one man, their DNA should match. This makes it perfect for genealogical purposes and can link people even if surnames differ, as some family lines may have spread out to different areas before surnames were required.

Y-chromosome DNA markers used for genetic genealogy have nothing to do with certain diseases or hereditary traits. The markers used are described as "junk" genes and can't be used to determine paternity or possible disease markers.

Have you decided to get started with DNA testing to answer questions? Here are some hints to try to get your family branches involved.

The caveat is that DNA testing is also good to avoid wild goose chasing as it will rule out families that do not connect. And when a genetic match is made, researchers will then be able to go on from there and perhaps find clues and more information previously unavailable.

Approaching family you know and asking them to test is one thing, but how do you approach strangers and ask them to participate?

The reactions of strangers may be suspicion, hostility, misunderstanding, not knowing what genealogical genetic testing really is and what it can demonstrate. Of course, the person may just not care about family history research.

The process may be complicated and may take some time.

New Yorker Judy Simon is an administrator and co-administrator of a few family and geographical sites at FamilyTreeDNA.com (which partners with MyHeritage.com) and she offers some hints and tips that may help you.

She operates on the theory of creating curiosity and interest on the part of strangers (as well as friends and relatives).

If she can grab their interest, she hopes she can persuade them to order a DNA kit and join the family.

Her recommendations:
Continue reading "Genetic Genealogy: Persuading People to Participate" »

31    Jan 20090 comments

Perfect pair: FamilyTreeDNA & MyHeritage

Genealogical DNA tests

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..

For more information and to receive special prices, go to FamilyTreeDNA.com or click this MyHeritage link.

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.

28    Nov 20072 comments

DNA: Family Tree DNA conference

Put tooltip here

DNA is the latest tool for researchers trying to connect and learn about their ancestral roots. Genetic genealogy can confirm relationships for which the paper trail has disappeared, and it can also help researchers to avoid wild goose chases.

Family Tree DNA is the designated DNA-testing company for the five-year Genographic Project, led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells. Since the NGS/IBM project, the company has processed more than 200,000 Genographic Project DNA tests.

In 2006, I attended Family Tree DNA's 3rd International Conference on Genetic Genealogy and was amazed at the high level of knowledge and passion represented by the attendees, who are mainly lay administrators of surname and geographical projects, as well as the scientists whose presentations clarified normally difficult topics.

The annual meeting is aimed at administrators of Family Tree DNA projects from the US and Europe, who were the first to look at the full mtDNA (female DNA) sequences comparative database, which will, according to the company, make it possible for genealogists to make significant comparisons between individuals who share recent history.

Founded in April 2000, it was the first company to develop the commercial application of DNA testing for genealogical purposes. Today, its continually growing database exceeds 160,000 individual test records for Y-DNA (male) and mtDNA (female).

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the 2007 meeting, but I was happy to receive the post-event update, which included several major announcements:

- Launch of the first comparative database for Full Mitochondria Sequences.

- Introduction of MyMaps, the first personalized interactive genetic mapping system in the world.

- The A Walk Through the Y Chromosome test that allows participants to map genetic relationships through the male-inherited Y Chromosome.

Leading experts presented topics related to research, applications and challenges, and included:

- Dr. John M. Butler, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- Dr. Michael Hammer, renowned geneticist; director, Genomic Analysis and Technology Core facility at the University of Arizona
- Dr. Theodore G. Schurr, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
- Dr. David Soria of National Geographic
- Family Tree DNA Founder-President Bennett Greenspan

The company is the pioneer in the field of genetic genealogy and offers cutting-edge innovation connecting genetic testing science and genetic genealogy with computer technology.

Founder/president Bennett Greenspan unveiled MyMaps, an innovative genetic mapping system enabling individuals who don’t know where their European ancestors came from, to identify possible specific geographical origins. It is applicable to all of the company Y-DNA and mtDNA tests.

Dr. Butler - project leader of the NIST Human Identity DNA Measurements Group - addressed the challenge of the need for standardization in reporting genetic genealogical DNA results.

Dr. Hammer - Family Tree DNA's chief scientist - previewed highlights from his upcoming paper on the new phylogenetic tree (YCC or Y Chromosome Consortium).

Native American populations research was addressed by Dr. Schurr, while Dr. Soria presented an update on the National Geographic Genographic Project collection of genetic samples, results analysis and papers on modern humans' genetic roots and human migratory history.

Dr. Thomas Krahn - Family Tree DNA's Genomics Research Center director - presented A Walk thru the Y Chromosome and detailed a test to sequence vast sections of the Y chromosome.

There is a wealth of information at the website; click here.

Have you participated in the National Geographic Genome Project? Are you interested in setting up a surname or geographic project?

I look forward to reading your comments and questions.

1    Oct 20070 comments

Eye on DNA – an informative blog

If you've always wanted to know more about DNA, here's a blog for you.

DNA is a new tool in the genealogist's arsenal. It can help resolve issues where there is no paper documentation. It can confirm distant relative's family relationship and it can also save researchers from wild goose chases or barking up the wrong tree.

To learn more about DNA, check out a blog that focuses on this field. Eye on DNA is one of my favorites, and Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lee presents interesting topics, as well as excellent DNA graphics.

Recent posts include:

DNA Video: Extracting Human DNA At Home
DNA Quote of the Day: Dr. David Levin
Google Answers DNA - Chromosomes, Genes, and DNA
Wish List of Books about DNA and Genetics
Geeky DNA T-Shirts: Genetic Determinism
100 Facts About DNA
Eye on DNA Headlines for 18 August 2007
DNA Video: DIY DNA Extraction

Do take a look and let me know if you enjoy Hsien's blog as much as I do. I look forward to reading your comments and answering your questions.

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