Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ancestry Launches Largest Online Collection of Wills and Probate Records in United States

Just remember where you heard about this first, here on the Family Roots and Branches blog on Monday. ;-) Operations Inc Press Release. 8:30 am EDT

PROVO, UT--(Marketwired - September 02, 2015) - More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.
Until now, these records have only been available offline. Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records. The documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.

"Ancestry has worked hard over the past decade, to make available a variety of collections that can help the most seasoned family history expert and novices alike learn more about their ancestors," said Todd Godfrey, Vice President of Global Content. "Ancestry's vast collection of billions of unique historic records makes it the only place online that can give people such a comprehensive view into their family's unique history."

Today, state and federal census records are the most commonly searched collections in family history research, offering a variety of information that is important for building out your family tree. Wills however are one of the most desired types of records, as they can be a treasure trove of information that provides insight into your ancestors' lives, loves, land, and possessions.

"Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors, going beyond names and dates, and providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more," said Godfrey. "Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived."

There is something for everyone in the new U.S. Wills and Probate collection on Ancestry, whether you are an experienced family historian or new to the pursuit. Some examples of what can be found in the collection include:
  • Rich Stories -- A deeper level of understanding is possible when you learn about the more intricate details of your ancestors' lives through their eyes; details that can tell new or more compelling stories of their everyday existence, and perhaps, shed light on their character and personality, as well as important subtext that can reflect the type of lifestyle, education, and status an ancestor may have had through language or possessions.
  • New Discoveries -- Whether valuable heirlooms, sizable estates, or meager but treasured belongings to pass down, the riches of your ancestor's lives can be found in a will. Family research can be fun when you "follow the money" and see who wound up with what or even, to which charities or organizations a person's estate was entrusted.
  • Friends and Family Members -- Many additional names can be found in a will in addition to the deceased. Wills can reveal new family members you didn't know about, and identify new connections, and tell more about the relationships between people mentioned in the will. Intriguing controversies can be seen as you read about those close to them who were included in the will, and those who were cut out.
With a collection that begins with wills from the mid 17th century running through the early 21st, last wishes and estates of notables citizens that helped shape the nation over the past three hundred years can be found in this new collection of Wills and Probates, including past Presidents, businessmen, entrepreneurs, sports legends, famous entertainers, artists and writers, scientists, and much, much more.

Here are the records available as of today:

Alabama, Wills and Probate Records, 1753-1999
Alaska, Wills and Probate Records, 1883-1978
Arizona, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1995
Arkansas, Wills and Probate Records, 1783-1998
California, Wills and Probate Records, 1782-1999
Colorado, Wills and Probate Records, 1875-1974
Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 
Delaware, Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971  
Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974
Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992  
Hawaii, Wills and Probate Records, 1822-1962  
Idaho, Wills and Probate Records, 1857-1989
Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999
Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999
Iowa, Wills and Probate Records, 1758-1997
Kansas, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1987
Kentucky, Wills and Probate Records, 1774-1989
Louisiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1756-1984
Maine, Wills and Probate Records, 1584-1999
Maryland, Wills and Probate Records, 1604-1878
Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991
Michigan, Wills and Probate Records, 1784-1980
Minnesota, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1999
Mississippi, Wills and Probate Records, 1780-1982
Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, 1766-1988
Montana, Wills and Probate Records, 1831-1952
Nebraska, Wills and Probate Records, 1806-1989
Nevada, Wills and Probate Records, 1906-1925
New Hampshire, Wills and Probate Records, 1643-1982
New Jersey, Wills and Probate Records, 1656-1999
New Mexico, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1993
New York County, New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1658-1880 (NYSA) 
New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999
North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
North Dakota and South Dakota, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1985
Oklahoma, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-2008
Oregon, Wills and Probate Records, 1833-1963
Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993
Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932
South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1670-1980
Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008
Texas, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-2000
Utah, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1985
Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999
Washington, D.C., Wills and Probate Records, 1737-1952
Washington, Wills and Probate Records, 1807-1997
West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1978
Wisconsin, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1987
To celebrate the launch of the new U.S. Wills and Probates collection on Ancestry, the collection along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, will be available to explore for FREE, September 2 (12pm MT) through September 7 (10pm MT).

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ancestry Releasing a Treasure Trove of Probate Records This Week


At the 2013 Rootstech in Salt Lake, Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan announced that and FamilySearch will work together to capture 140 million pages of U.S. probate records. That would include images and indexes. It would create a national registry of wills, letters of administration and other probate records that would span from 1800-1930. It was announced that it would be a 3 year project.

Fast forward to this morning and I heard a commercial on the news-talk radio station in Washington DC - WMAL, for a free availability starting Wednesday of Ancestry's new probate collection.

I am reporting on this all that I can find on the subject (nothing yet on any of the Ancestry websites I can find) indicates that they will be releasing more than 170 million name-searchable images of probate and wills records. The most comprehensive collections of its kind, these records will provide access to almost all wills probated in the United States from the mid 19th century to 2000 – an unprecedented treasure trove of information.

I have been waiting for this release for a long time. Those of you who have taken my beginner classes know the emphasis I place on finding and using these important genealogical records, especially when you are researching in "dark territory" (you would have to attend a class to get the full meaning of that Larry-ism term). This is some pretty exciting stuff.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

AncestryDNA FINALLY introduces new "In Common With" feature, SHARED MATCHES

I opened up my AncestryDNA pages this morning and found a new feature that I have not seen before -- Shared Matches Tool.

Instead of wasting some time here typing something up (I have to teach tonight and work up my weekly genealogy columns today). I will defer to the Ancestry blog announcement at

There is a secondary article on this by TL Dixon on the Roots and Recombination blog at I have also posted the introductory video by Anne Gillespie Mitchell to a post below this one on this blog.

Introducing AncestryDNA New 'Shared Matches' Feature

Monday, August 24, 2015

What is wrong with all these pictures?

Oh boy, He is at it again. Picking on those poor people at Ancestry and FamilySearch. Ah heck, why not. Need to do a good rant every now and then. Besides I start my Fall genealogy classes tomorrow night and I want my students to have something to talk about before I arrive in class.

First, let me say I have over the years discovered trees at that have some darn good stuff -- well put together and well sourced. Then there are . . . well let me illustrate.

This is a test. What is wrong with the screen capture below? Unfortunately over half of the trees at Ancestry for the family below had this configuration.

Unfortunately, IMHO opinion, trees are even worse. In the case of FamilySearch not only are the participants doing this type of stuff, but the computers at FamilySearch make these types of changes all on their own, no prompting, they just do it.

At least at Ancestry, I have the option to ignore this insanity and I control my own tree. At FamilySearch, not only do some of the "genealogists" think they are smarter than me and my research, the computer thinks it is smarter than all of us and just makes changes even after I put correct sourced information into "MY TREE."

For the folks at FamilySearch, that is why I refuse to spend even one more millisecond messing around within your trees, and I refuse to teach my genealogy students your tree system.

And when you approach these people in Salt Lake about these issues, they say they do not have a problem or when confronted with evidence they ignore you and will not answer queries. I get an airdale salute (you Navy guys know what that is)!

This new trees system is every bit the mess you had with the Ancestral File and other tree ventures you have tried in the past. When is someone at FS going to figure out that the computer can't be trusted to take control and link up people in these online trees.

But enough of my ramblings I just pulled just three examples from my "tree" at FamilySearch. There are many, many more I assure you.

In each of these examples these are entries to "MY TREE" I did not even make. I do not have the time to sit here and go through their convoluted menu system to get this stuff out. Even if I did have then, it still continues to come back unannounced anyway.

In this first case, when the computer inserted Mary Mason I took her out of my tree as it has been positive proven she was not Elizabeth Dancy's mother (child birth at age 9) and the computer came back and inserted her back in again this time without a date of her birth. (click on image to enlarge).

In the screen shot below, I put none of these people in my tree. Didn't ask for them to be put in there. In fact, I have not even gotten that far out in the tree. Again the computer decided what was best for my tree, not me. (click on image to enlarge)

In another random act of genealogy this third example shows why this system is no better than the trees at Ancestry (at least I have control over that one).

Please notice the families on the far left and compare then closely with the rest of the chart. Again I wasn't this far out in building the tree, didn't enter these people and the computer system at FS has messed this tree up entirely.

I could keep this up for the rest of the day but to what point? They won't listen to legitimate concerns out at Salt Lake and I don't have time to keep correcting the record only to have some computer system come back and make more changes I did not ask for or want.

Genealogy trees you either love'em or hate them. But I would suggest a third alternative and you can do what I do. Nothing goes to my online tree unless the preponderance of the evidence says I am right. You can use trees but verify the information.

Bottom line, once that genie is out of the bottle, if it isn't right, good luck getting it back in the bottle.

To bad I can't get some of these Ancestry tree people, including the FamilySearch tree people in Salt Lake in some of my classes. We would have to spend some time realigning their thinking. ;-)

I'm posting this piece to my main genealogy blog as well, maybe this will get some attention, especially out at FamilySearch. Are you folks listening or will this fall on deaf ears like everything relating to this computerized tree system. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More DNA Testing in the VH Household

Well, surprise, surprise, I just ordered another DNA test kit. As most my students know I am eaten up by all this DNA stuff.  More about that kit in a minute.

So let's review what we have here. I started things when I ordered my first test, a 37-marker Y DNA test in January 2007 from FTDNA. I later upgraded that to a 67-marker Y-DNA test at FTDNA in Feb 2012.

In June 2012 I ordered and took a HSV1 mtDNA test from FTDNA.

In the meantime Gayle ordered and took a HSV2 mtDNA test in Feb 2012. In April 2012 we had Gayle's 2nd cousin take a 37-marker Y-DNA at FTDNA. Three months later we had his nephew also take a 37-marker test to verify and support the test taken by Gayle's cousin.

In May 2012, I was honored to be one of the original AncestryDNA autosomal Beta testers. On the heels of my test I had Gayle also take an AncestryDNA autosomal test. When AncestryDNA test raw results were finally released for download in June 2013 I sent both Gayle and my results to FTDNA and their atDNA database (much cheaper than taking two more test at their site).

In short order I also had my Dad, Mother and my Dad's 1st Cousin test at Ancestry and Gayle had her 2nd cousin also take an AncestryDNA test. All those results were also uploaded to GEDMatch (another large database with a chromosome browser capability).

So I admit that I have been a very busy guy managing all these test, but recently got a nifty great idea. Since neither Gayle or I have tested at 23andMe, the third major atDNA test site/database, we are going to have our son test there to get our DNA in their database with only one test for $99. Of course, I will upload his results to GEDMatch and phase his test with ours to see who gave him the most DNA.

That will get our autosomal DNA across all three major atDNA databases. So I hope that before my Fall DNA class a TCCC is over, I can provide a report to my students on how our 23andMe experience has been.

All this testing has been a wonderful tool in genealogy research. Some brick walls have fallen, leads have been pursued, and ancestral paper research lines have verified.  We maximized our testing by doing our initial test at Ancestry and uploading results to FTDNA and GEDMatch. We have truly gotten the most bang for the buck.

It has been a lot of fun working with our DNA test results and everyday is a new adventure thanks to it our genetic genealogy research.

If you have not tested and you are working on your family history, you are missing the boat. I especially encourage those who have parents living (or in their place siblings of those parents) to test them as well and soon before they are gone. You don't want to lose that precious resource and family genealogy record.

Bottom line, each of us has a genetic genealogy history book inside us and now we have the ability to read that book. It is time for you to turn those pages and discover your family history.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Are All Cousins says Elizabeth Shown Mills

One of my favorite authors and genealogy persons Elizabeth Shown Mills discusses how people are connected in surprising ways. Lot's of food for thought here and worth the 5:37 to watch it. Elizabeth is arguably the most influential genealogist of our time.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Don't Confuse AncestryByDNA with AncestryDNA Autosomal Test

From Richard Hill, DNA Testing Advisor and his blog/Facebook page:

"Buyer Beware. Something came up in the discussion of my last post that needs to be made clear. There are two DNA tests with similar names that are not at all similar. The AncestryByDNA test is an old technology test that checks less than 200 locations in your DNA. The AncestryDNA test, on the other hand, checks about 700,000. Furthermore, AncestryByDNA does not report matches with other users, so it has no genealogical value. Finally, only AncestryDNA results can be transferred to Family Finder or uploaded to GEDmatch."

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Fall 2015 Genealogy Classes at Tri-County Community College

Registration for genealogy classes at Tri-County Community College during the Fall 2015 semester is now open. We are offering a wide variety of genealogy classes on either Tuesday night (short courses) or our most popular course on doing genealogy on the Internet (Thursday nights). You can get more details by calling Lisa Long at TCCC at 828-835-4241 during normal business hours.
Genealogy: How to Research Your Family History on the Internet

The Internet offers a wonderful array of databases, records, and other resources for researching your family tree online. Knowing how and where to search online is a must for any genealogist using the Internet. In the past few years there have been major changes to nearly all the major online genealogy research websites and record repositories. This course will teach you how to search like a pro, find genealogy databases, and discover your family history on the Web. All the top sites such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, Fold3, GenealogyBank, National Archives, Google, Mocavo and many more will be covered. Students will learn tips and tricks on using these resources, and how to put them to use in their family research plans. While our beginner genealogy class is not required to take this course, a basic understanding of genealogy research principles is strongly recommended. We also recommend a laptop or tablet capable of wireless internet access to be brought to this class. This is the most popular genealogy class available at TCCC and seating for this class is limited.

August 27 - November 19          6:30pm - 9:00pm      Thursday, 13 weeks


Genealogy: DNA - Using Genetic DNA Testing in Family History Research

Science can help you with your genealogy research, but you will have to take a test first. That test is a low cost autosomal DNA test available at Ancestry, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe. This course will cover the new and expanding field of genetic genealogy basics and is designed for DNA newbies and advanced genetic genealogists who want to get the most from their DNA testing. Some of the topics to be covered include an introduction to DNA testing and technical terms, the different types of autosomal DNA tests available, how DNA testing will help your genealogy research, what are your ethnic origins and how to interpret and document your results. Special emphasis will be given to the AncestryDNA autosomal test. If you want to demystify genetic genealogy, and you want to use this new and exciting research tool in your family history study, then this course is for you.

August 25 - September 22       6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m            Tuesday, 4 weeks


Genealogy: Cemetery Research - Introduction to Cemetery Research

Digging up family history isn't always easy, but the key to making a breakthrough may be as close as your ancestor's final resting place. This new genealogy course will cover the fascinating practice of cemetery research. You will learn to determine where and when a person died, locate the cemetery where they are interred, how to analyze headstones and markers, and a whole lot more. In this course you discover a whole new way to unearth your family history in the cemetery.

September 29 - October 13     6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.           Tuesday, 3 weeks


Genealogy: Using Probate Records in Genealogy Research

The passing of a loved one is a trying time in any family, but the death of that ancestor can provide a wealth of valuable information to the family historian. Probate records exist in places and for time periods when few other records are available. These records are essential for research genealogy research because they often pre-date the birth and death records kept by civil authorities. Even if your ancestor didn't leave a will, he or she may have been a beneficiary, witness or trustee in someone else's will. In this new genealogy course we will cover where to find probate records, what records should you be looking for, what is included in the probate package, the steps involved in probate, and estate inventories -  how to use them. This course will help you uncover genealogy information in these potentially intimidating (and often, underused) records.

October 20 - October 27        6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.           Tuesday, 2 weeks


Genealogy: This Land Is Your Land - Introduction to Using Land Records in Genealogy Research

Do you have an ancestor's deed or land patent? Were your ancestors among the millions who claimed federal lands under the Homestead Act of 1862? Want to do find your ancestor's land records? In the real estate world they say it’s all about Location, Location, Location! And the same holds true in the world of genealogy. Location is a key element in understanding the context of our ancestor’s lives and obtaining coveted genealogical documents. To get closer to our ancestors, we need to get closer to their land. This is a new introductory course on land records and genealogy research that will cover locating documents of ownership in the courthouse or online, accurately interpreting and recording what you find, and use maps, atlases, and gazetteers to focus your efforts in the right area.

November 3 November 17      6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.           Tuesday, 3 weeks


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Another AncestryDNA Update - Testing Available in Australia

In a post earlier today, I mentioned that Ancestry has opened up AncestryDNA (autosomal) testing in Canada. Now that is extended to Australia. From a post on the Ancestry blog we have the following:

AncestryDNA is now available in Australia and Canada. The AncestryDNA database has grown to more than 850,000 people, and now that the test is available in Australia and Canada it will grow even faster, with new possibilities for discovering cousins on both sides of the world. Here are four reasons to be excited about these new international launches of AncestryDNA and what they can mean for you―even if you don’t live there.

Two more melting pots of connections. Both Canada and Australia have been destinations for millions of immigrants over the centuries. And those immigrants came from places far beyond the United Kingdom. Your link to Germany, Ireland, Italy, or even China may pass through Canada or Australia.
  1. Opportunities for more cousin connections. With this expansion to these additional countries for cousin matches, who knows where your research might lead you. Sometimes the paper trail gets lost on the shores of the Atlantic—or the Pacific. Maybe you haven’t been able to find the records that get you back to the old country, maybe they were destroyed, or maybe they never existed. But the genetic record that has continued in your family both here and there might allow you to pick up that trail again, give you new places to look, or connect you with someone who knows the story of the family.
  2. French Canadian Ancestry. As I mentioned earlier, your bridge across the Atlantic doesn’t have to reach back to Great Britain. If you’re among the millions of Americans with French Canadian or Acadian ancestry, you might have cousins—and family stories—waiting just over our northern borders.
  3. Have family in Canada or Australia? Now they can take advantage of all the insights that come from AncestryDNA. If you haven’t tested other family members yet because they live outside the U.S., now is the time to have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even cousins get their DNA tested to preserve that family information. Every family member is unique and carries different DNA, so testing as many family members as possible will help you capture your genetic heritage and make more connections.

Every new country opens a whole new pool of opportunity for DNA testing. Who knows, I might just find out a branch of the tree sprang up in the Land Down Under. I’ll share any new discoveries I have here, and if you find a cousin who helps you make a new discovery, share with us on Facebook or below in the comments. Connect to your cousins around the world now.

Ancestry Launches Autosomal DNA Testing Service in Canada

Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource, today launched AncestryDNA(their autosomal DNA test-LVH) in Canada. AncestryDNA allows individuals to learn about their genetic heritage and discover new family connections in Canada and around the world.

When coupled with Ancestry’s database of more than 16 billion historical records, AncestryDNA will enable family history enthusiasts and novices alike to discover even more about their own past, including the ability to find entire new cousin matches around the world.
“Historical records on provide an insight into one’s recent past, but usually go around 200-300 years, so it’s incredibly exciting to be able to offer DNA testing that takes your family history experience back many hundreds and even thousands of years,” said Christopher Labrecque, Country Manager for Ancestry Canada. “AncestryDNA enables users to learn more than ever about where they came from and discover new family lines and relatives. It really is the ultimate family history experience.”
AncestryDNA details the breakdown of one’s ethnic origins, predicting the likely locations of a person’s ancestors across 26 worldwide populations, providing a glimpse into one’s ancestral past that goes back to a time before historical records began to be kept.
The service also introduces users to new family members through DNA member matches which identifies unknown relatives pulled from more than 850,000 people who have previously taken the test. Many users can expect to be connected with 3rd and 4th cousins, allowing them to further grow their family trees and discover family members they may not have known existed.
In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of Canadians stated they would consider having their DNA tested to discover more about where their ancestors came from. Many said they know very little about their own family history, with 42 per cent indicating that they do not know where their grandparents were born, and 30 per cent stating they do not know where their ancestors lived before coming to Canada.
How AncestryDNA Works
The test uses microarray-based autosomal DNA testing to look at more than 700,000 locations across an individual’s entire genome through a simple saliva sample. The AncestryDNA approach provides a much more detailed look at one’s family history than other existing Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA tests that only look at specific branches of a person’s family tree.
AncestryDNA kits are now available for purchase for $149 plus shipping at
ABOUT ANCESTRY.CA was launched in January 2006 and is part of Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource with more than 2 million subscribers across all its websites. More than 16 billion records have been added to the sites and users have created more than 70 million family trees containing more than 6 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site, the company operates several global Ancestry international websites along with a suite of online family history brands, including,,, and offers the AncestryDNA product, sold by its subsidiary, Ancestry International DNA, LLC, all of which are designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

So You’re Related to Charlemagne? You and Every Other Living European…

Couldn't pass this one by posted by fellow ham radio operator Dick Eastman in his Daily Online Newsletter at Thanks for sharing Dick.

Adam Rutherford is a former geneticist, now a science writer and broadcaster. He is on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science, and his most recent book, Creation (Viking 2013), concerning the origin of life, and genetic engineering and synthetic biology.

Rutherford thinks a crystal ball might be just as good as direct-to-consumer genetic testing when it comes to the ‘genetic astrology’ of linking the DNA of modern humans to their famous ancestors.

He writes, “This is merely a numbers game. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. But this ancestral expansion is not borne back ceaselessly into the past. If it were, your family tree when Charlemagne was Le Grand Fromage would harbour more than a billion ancestors – more people than were alive then. What this means is that pedigrees begin to fold in on themselves a few generations back, and become less arboreal, and more web-like. In 2013, geneticists Peter Ralph and Graham Coop showed that all Europeans are descended from exactly the same people. Basically, everyone alive in the ninth century who left descendants is the ancestor of every living European today, including Charlemagne, Drogo, Pippin and Hugh. Quel dommage.”

Rutherford obviously doesn’t think much of DNA testing companies that claim to decode your ancestry back to ancient times. He writes, “The truth is that we all are a bit of everything, and we come from all over. If you’re white, you’re a bit Viking. And a bit Celt. And a bit Anglo-Saxon. And a bit Charlemagne.”

There is a lot more to this interesting article at

Friday, May 1, 2015

New Features to be released today at FTDNA?

Went to log in my FTDNA account at 10:00 a.m. EDT and received the following message:

"Our website is currently undergoing maintenance to introduce some exciting new updates. Please check back soon!"

Wow, wonder what the new features are going to be? Stay tuned and I may have something shortly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recognizing AncestryDNA Test Taken Outside the US

Well I thought I knew what the answer was going to be, but I did have to ask.

Question from the old chief:

"Now that Ancestry has opened up testing outside the US will we be able to see those matches here on the US system? If so will there be a way to distinguish those matches from US matches (i.e. US Flag, UK Flag, etc)?"

Crista Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist, got back to my FB query and here is her answer regarding my two part question:

"Larry - The AncestryDNA database is all one giant 850,000 genotyped members database. That means that regardless of where the individual happens to live, if they take the DNA test, they will show up in the database. And, if it turns out they are a match to you, they will show up on your match list. Use the SEARCH location feature to determine who in your match list has English ancestry."

So now you know the rest of the story.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ancestry DNA Test on Sale

The AncestryDNA test is now on sale for $79 thru April 27. This is one of the new technology autosomal DNA tests that I recommend.

By taking the this test you will find hundreds of genetic cousins, view family trees for most of them (if they aren't private), and get an idea of your overall ethnic ancestry.

AncestryDNA results can be transferred into the Family Finder database at Family Tree DNA for just $39. So this is the least expensive path to get into two of the big genetic genealogy databases.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries Feature Revisit and Update

Well as most of you who read this blog know recently I blasted the Ancestry DNA tool release of the "New Ancestor Discoveries" feature on this blog (see previous post). After taking some time to sort through the debris field of this new tool and getting a few more of these matches on two of my DNA testers pages I can now say that there "may" still be "some" hope for this new tool after all. Honestly one good set of matches out of 15 still doesn't give me a real warm and fuzzy feeling.

While I am still not a fan of this network centric DNA tool concept (read into this that I want a chromosome browser tool), out of all the mess that was the opening week for this new "tool," including what I consider the promotion of this new feature that bordered on false advertising, I have actually used it to bust wide open a very long standing ancestral female brick wall line. So while the initial promotion still gets a failing grade, the new tool gets a qualified "C-."

As it turns out and now Ancestry has admitted in some of their material these "New Ancestor Discoveries" are not necessarily "new ancestors" in your chart after all.

From one of their question mark menu's:

Possible New Ancestors & Relatives
Once you've taken your AncestryDNA test and received your results, keep an eye out for "New Ancestor Discoveries" on your results page. To find these new potential ancestors and relatives, we compare your DNA to that of other AncestryDNA members who have already built their family trees. And, New Ancestor Discoveries can happen all the time as more people use AncestryDNA. Clicking on the photo of your potential new ancestor or relative will lead you on the path to discovering amazing new details of your family story as you determine how they may fit into your family tree.
My fellow genetic genealogy blogger Roberta over at DNAeXplained has had a similar experience and her results are noted at this link:
So let's back up and look at what I got from my father's DNA testing page and this "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches tool.
Initially, there were only two of these "new ancestor discoveries" presented (which is what I based my initial criticism on -- Berryman Isom Jones and his wife Licenia Watkins. I crawled, dug around the net, banged my head against the wall, searched, analyzed, researched, banged my head against the wall again, and no matter how I cut it neither a crowbar or dynamite was going to fit this couple any where as ancestors in my tree. There was already at that possible generation indicated for these potential ancestors to much proven via existing DNA testing and a great supporting paper trail for these folks to even remotely fit.
A couple of days later, after much criticism Ancestry dropped their little bomb shell on their blog written by the man who did the introductory video to this new feature Mr. Kenny Freestone. I call this the dirty little truth revealed -- "these may not be ancestors" at all. Duh, hey Kenny, ya think?
You can read his post at, but let me pick a couple of the more notable passages.
"Last week we announced an exciting new AncestryDNA feature called “New Ancestor Discoveries.” The response to this feature launch has been very interesting to watch—we’ve received lots of feedback breathless with praise because we “proved” a relationship, and some feedback that dismisses the feature because it does not “prove” relationships. As we consider feedback from both of these extreme positions, it seems appropriate to explain more clearly what this feature is and is not."
Well it least I did not say "it does not “prove” relationships." I said it doesn't prove ancestors as you claimed in your promotional material including the video introducing this feature.
Still quoting from Mr. Freestone's blog post (italics/bold text are my doing).
What is a New Ancestor Discovery?
  • What it is: A New Ancestor Discovery is a suggestion that points you to a potential new ancestor or relative—someone that may not be in your family tree previously. This beta launch is our first step toward an entirely new way to make discoveries, and a way to expand how we do family history.
  • What it isn’t: This is not proof, or a guarantee, of a new ancestor. They’re called New Ancestor Discoveries, and many may be your actual ancestors. Some will be other relatives that fit somewhere on your family tree, and some will be people that you may not be directly related to.
  • It’s a starting point to further research. We’ll show you a New Ancestor Discovery if you share significant amounts of DNA with multiple members of a DNA Circle—which means you might also be related to the ancestor that the DNA Circle is built around. These hints can be a great starting point for your research and help you connect to other family members you didn’t know you had.
You know I wish you would have said that from the very beginning Mr. Freestone. It would have saved me and many others hours of research trying to figure out how to get those people in our family trees. So promotion of this new tool still gets an "F."
Now for the silver lining in all this. My father's DNA page has since picked up three more of these "new ancestor discoveries" people. The original couple and one of my dad's new ones still has not panned out to date.
But one couple did! Up front I will tell you that if I had not done some paper trail research on my one known ancestor (John Hurt) several years ago in the South Carolina state archives, this match might have gone unnoticed as well. No records available at Ancestry helped me uncover this until now missing wife of John Hurt, my 4th great grandmother. The initial research done in South Carolina made all the difference in the world. So with this DNA circle match and the paper research, it all ultimately let me knock down a long standing female ancestral brick wall.

The description given for John Lynch was my first good clue on where to look in my tree to see where he might fit.

"John Lynch was born on January 24, 1780, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was married in March 1806 in his hometown. He died on March 5, 1863, in Gainesville, Texas, having lived a long life of 83 years."

Given the range of relationship that the others in DNA circle had to him, I only had one line that runs through Spartanburg SC. I knew that we had to be dealing with a family associated with my John Hurt, a paternal 4th great grandfather. As it turns out these people above weren't ancestors, but in fact this Jhn Lynch was a 4th great grand uncle and his wife.

Once I opened up one of the trees to a match in the circle and I saw who John Lynch's mother was, alarm bells started to ring. I had seen that name before in the research I had done in South Carolina. That name was Margaret McCarter. As it turns out based on DNA testing and the paper trail she is my 5th great grandmother and her second husband - John Lynch is my 5th great grandfather.

Here is some of the info provided by the paper trail.

Taken from SPARTANBURG COUNTY/DISTRICT SOUTH CAROLINA DEED ABSTRACTS BOOKS A - T 1785 - 1827 ( 1752 - 1827) by Albert Bruce Pruitt.
BOOK K p. 344 Jun. 26, 1806

Margaret MCCARTER (Spartanburgh) to son-in-law John HURT (same); for love and affection give a Negro girl Nutty (or Mutty). Witness Alexander MCCARTER, Mary MCCARTER, and James VERNON. Signed Margaret MCCARTER's mark. Wit. oath Jun. 27, 1806 James VERNON, Alexander MCCARTER, and Mary MCCARTER to Isham FOSTER. Rec. Jul. 7, 1806

BOOK L p. 290 - 292 May 6, 1808
John HURT (Spartanburgh) to James VERNON (same); for $100 sold 50 ac on N fork of branch of Tygar R; border: S - Alexander MCCARTER, E - James VERNON, and N - line mentioned below; part of 160 ac grant to John ORR but presently owned by John HURT; except land between "head of pond" and a line to N fork of Tygar R. Witness William PERRIN, Andrew VERNON, and Moses RICHARDSON. Signed John HURT. Wit. oath May 7, 1808 William PERRIN to Isham FOSTER. Rec. Jun. 24, 1808 Dower renounced Ester HURT to Isham FOSTER May 7, 1808.

BOOK L p. 309 Jan. 12, 1808
Margaret MCCARTER (Spartanburgh) to Mary MCCARTER (Greenville Dist.); for $1 sold a Negro girl Fanny Witness William PERRIN and John HURT. Signed Margaret MCCARTER's mark. Wit. oath Jul. 4, 1808 John HURT to Danl WILBANKS. Rec. Aug. 8, 1808

BOOK N p. 98 - 99 Nov. 28, 1811
John HURT (Spartanburgh) to Andrew B. FLEMING (same); for $10 sold 140 ac on N side of S branch of N Tygar R; part of grant to John ORR; border: W - Alxr. MCCARTER, E & N - J JORDAN, and S - J VERNON. Witness Joseph HURT, Henry HUTCHESON, and James VERNON. Signed John HURT. Wit. oath Mar. 15, 1814 Henry HUTCHESON to John CHAPMAN. Rec. Apr. 6, 1812. Dower renounced Nov. 28, 1811 Ester HURT to Michl MILLER. BOOK N p. 157 - 159 Oct. 22, 1811
Once all the pieces were put into place, this pretty much was a slam dunk. So when you look at these "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches on your Ancestry DNA test page, do not look at them as ancestors only, but broaden that a bit to aunts/uncles or even close cousins. Pay attention to the others in the circle and see how they are related and that may help you place them on your family tree.

Bottom line, thank you Ancestry for helping me bust through a major brick wall. Now help me figure out who the other 13 "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches are!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries Feature - Grade "F" - Update

Update #1:

Well I'm not the only one blasting this new feature. Roberta over at the DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy blog did an excellent job presenting her case. You can read her comments and analysis at

Original Post:

With a bit of fanfare yesterday Ancestry rolled out it latest DNA tool/feature "New Ancestor Discoveries" and I will admit it is in Beta.

I first saw this new feature early yesterday afternoon and on first glance, my initial impression was that maybe this would be the genetic genealogy tool replace the tedious researched match digging I have been doing for the last 3 years.

Is this truly a ground breaking DNA research tool that could simplify finding long lost ancestors and knock down lineage brick walls?  Will this be Ancestry's answer and replacement to the long sought after chromosome browser that they refuse to make available to their DNA customers?

In short, no on both accounts. In fact, to be quite honest, I think this is one of the worse new features I have ever seen Ancestry roll out in the nearly 15 years I have been a member/subscriber of the site, and I have seen more than a few of their stinkers.

I manage six Ancestry DNA tests and work with a seventh test (a cousin who was adopted). I have two Ancestry "ancestor only" trees involved with these six tests and they are both very mature and well documented. The ancestral lines have been well proven using paper trails and various DNA testing techniques (autosomal/Y-DNA at Ancestry and FTDNA). All my results have been uploaded to GEDMatch and I use that site to verify and supplement the Ancestry/FTDNA testing results.

Of the six testers that I closely manage, four testers had these "New Ancestor Discoveries," and two in particular, my father and spouse," had hits using this new network genetic feature. The other two are cousins off one side of the family tree and since we have not proven all lines, their matches cannot be verified for accuracy.

I carefully studied the all of the "genetically networked" circle ancestors presented by Ancestry and did so in-depth since I am extremely familiar with my dad and spouse's lineage (35 years experience). Closely comparing the supposed new ancestor matches in trees of those in the circles to our trees and came to the conclusion that none of the "new ancestors—just by looking at your DNA" that Ancestry found for my testers can even remotely be associated with anyone in our trees during the time frames implied by the timelines of those ancestors and the relationships described to the matches in these networked Ancestry DNA circles.

I agree with several individuals and in particular Shannon Christmas who posted comments on the Ancestry Blog in regard to this rollout. Shannon's comments were particularly pointed and since she says it much more eloquently than I ever could, I have quoted her comments below from the Ancestry blog.

"...the gimmicky features AncestryDNA heralds as an alternative to a chromosome browser fail to meet the needs of genetic genealogists.

"From my experience and the testimony of many other customers, AncestryDNA’s attempts to automate discoveries do not clarify connections, but instead confuse them.
The problem at the core of these beautifully rendered but often dysfunctional features is the underlying methodology: genetic network theory.

"Genetic network theory has arguably less explanatory power than the segment triangulation methodology that genetic genealogists have employed for years. Genetic network theory claims that if a ring of people share DNA with at least one other person in the group and they claim descent from a common ancestral couple, then the known common ancestors are the source of the shared DNA. The flaw in the genetic network theory is that it fails to account for endogamy, pedigree collapse, and the possibility that the various members of a DNA Circle group share – and likely inherited their common DNA from – multiple family lines other than the one illustrated in the circle/discovery ecosystem. Segment triangulation, on the other hand, is a more precise methodology that alleges that in many cases a group of people all sharing the same DNA segment inherited that DNA segment from a common ancestor. Segment triangulation, while not flawless (some shared DNA segments are artifacts of ancient population bottlenecks and evolutionary changes in humans), seems far more logical than the genetic network theory AncestryDNA espouses.

"Even AncestryDNA staffer Dr. Julie Granka has conceded “The reality is that if you share DNA with members of a DNA Circle, it does not necessarily mean that you also share the DNA Circle ancestor. You could instead have another ancestor in common with the Circle members – for example, if the Circle ancestor is the sister of your great-grandmother. You could also share several different common ancestors with multiple members of the Circle – even if none of them are actually the ancestor of the Circle.” Segment triangulation with an onsite chromosome browser would permit customers in many cases to sidestep some of the imprecision that the genetic network theory-powered Circles and Discoveries engender. This would also provide, as customers of Family Tree DNA and 23andMe know, an extra layer of quality control, quality control that AncestryDNA desperately needs.

"However, despite Dr. Granka’s admission, AncestryDNA continues to deny customers the convenience of an onsite chromosome browser or even matching DNA segment data, preventing customers from employing more illuminating analysis on their site and almost forcing them to accept the questionable, if not erroneous claims their flawed systems all too often generate. This is not a breakthrough, but instead a clear backward step."

Shannon has it absolutely correct. What probably ticked me off more than anything was the fact that even though many of the posters commented about the lack of a chromosome browser tool, Anna Swayne a DNA spokesperson at Ancestry who was answering the comments on their blog for them deliberately ignored them all and answered the fluff comments instead. This is not the first time she has done this and to be honest she once removed some simple suggestive comments I made on the same blog regarding this same subject. I'm surprised that she hasn't purged any of these latest comments that do not put their product in a favorable light.

I'm not sure what hard headed individual is driving these decisions at Ancestry but this whole thing is starting to get a bit more frustrating than it has in the past. Ancestry's refusal to even acknowledge the obvious raises a lot of important questions regarding their service and commitment to their customers to provide a quality service. Glitz doesn't excitement me, accurate comprehensive genealogical research does.

My advice to my students is to continue to document your results as I have indicated in past classes and it would be best to ignore this new feature for the time being as I find it is a waste of time and energy. As I see it right now it has NO value or impact on your ongoing genetic genealogy research and I see no one in the future threatening Ancestry's patent on something that is this big of a big bust.

The Bottom line

From my Dad's DNA page ----

New Ancestor Discoveries BETA        
These are people who are not already in your family tree


We found you new ancestors—just by looking at your DNA.
Our latest scientific innovations make it possible to discover ancestors you never knew you had–just through your DNA. It's an entirely new path to finding your family story.

The reason they aren't in my dad's tree Ancestry is because . . . wait for it . . . they aren't my relatives and they never will be. I will give you an A- for the nice graphics (innovative programming for sure) but an "F" on everything else.
If you would have just poured your efforts into developing an eloquent and genetically effective DNA chromosome browser tool as you did with this genetic networking circle mess, you might have truly made a significant breakthrough that needed to be patented. I truly believe you really need to rethink this network circle mess you have just doubled down on and get some adult supervision in your DNA division of the company.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Google Books Reduces its Digitizing and Preservation of old Books while Internet Archive Increases its Efforts at the Same Thing

Courtesy of Dick Eastman and Eastman's Online Newsletter at

An article in The Message states that Google is reducing its efforts at digitizing old books. That certainly is a loss for genealogists, historians, and many others. In what appears to be an unrelated move, the Internet Archive is INCREASING its efforts at digitizing old books, adding 1,000 books to the online collection EACH DAY. Perhaps there is hope for genealogists after all.

In 2004, Google Books signaled the company’s intention to scan every known book, partnering with libraries and developing its own book scanner capable of digitizing 1,000 pages per hour. Since then, the company has digitized millions of old books, creating a valuable archive. Google Books is still online, but has curtailed its scanning efforts in recent years, likely discouraged by a decade of legal wrangling still in appeal. The Google Books Blog stopped updating in 2012 and the Twitter account has been dormant since February 2013.

In contrast, the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization, has created one of the world’s largest open collections of digitized books, over 6 million public domain books, and an open library catalog. The digitized books available from the Internet Archive also are available in many more formats than those from any other online service, including PDF, Kindle, EPUB, and more. Of course, you can also read any book simply by displaying it on your screen in a web browser.

The Internet Archive has also digitized 1.9 million videos, home movies, and 4,000 public-domain feature films. It has also added 2.3 million audio recordings, including over 74,000 radio broadcasts, 13,000 78rpm records, and 1.7 million Creative Commons-licensed audio recordings, more than 137,000 concert recordings, nearly 10,000 from the Grateful Dead alone. Other items added to the FREE online archives include more than 10,000 audiobooks from LibriVox, 668,000 news broadcasts with full-text search, and the largest collection of historical software in the world.

The Internet Archive also offers scanning services. The non-profit offers FREE and open access to scan complete print collections in 33 scanning centers, with 1,500 books scanned daily. Best of all, the scanning of books is performed in a non-destructive manner. That means there is no need to cut the bindings off the books before scanning. The Internet Archive either operates or partners with 33 scanning centers on 5 continents.

You can read more about the demise of Google Books and the rise of the Internet Archive at The Internet Archive may be found at Information about the Internet Archive book digitization efforts may be found at

My thanks to newsletter reader Doris Wheeler for telling me about the business shift in Google Books.

And my thanks to Dick Eastman for sharing.