Monday, October 20, 2014

New Find A Grave Upload and Transcribe Beta Available

From the Blog

We just launched a new Upload and Transcribe beta at Find A Grave. With this new feature, you can upload a whole trips worth of cemetery headstone photos and transcribe them in either new memorials, or attach the photos easily to existing memorials.

Upload Multiple Photos At Once

Add a group of headstone photos to Find A Grave using a new upload tool available on the cemetery page. Preview, rotate, and delete images from the photos you upload.

Quick Tip: Make sure “Location Services” is turned on in your smartphone camera when you take pictures, and when you upload photos through the beta, they’ll appear correctly on the photo map after uploaded! This works for both Android and iOS phones.

Easily Transcribe Uploaded Photos

You can turn your uploaded photos in to new memorials, or quickly attach them to preexisting memorials, using our new transcription tool. Find your photos to transcribe on your Contributor Tools page or on the cemetery page.

Get Help, Help Others

Photos that have been uploaded through this new feature, but haven’t yet been transcribed, will be opened to the community after 7 days. The photographer will still manage any new memorials created, and special attribution will be given to the transcriber. You can find community photos to transcribe at your friends profile page, any cemetery page, or on our home page.

Provide Feedback

We are constantly trying to improve Find A Grave, so please consider giving us your feedback. You can reach out to us through our online feedback form, and don’t forget to follow us on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Update: AncestryDNA What is Coming Next? Not! It's a Google Chrome Add-On.

Thanks to Adriana Gerard on Ancestry's Facebook page, the mystery of Crista's extra Ancestry DNA tools has been solved. Turns out it wasn't from Ancestry but the extra tools actually part of a Google Chrome Add-On for AncestryDNA that you can see and download at Oh, did I mention that the Add-On is "Free?"

Thanks Adriana for the heads up.


After I posted last night to this blog about the updated matching coming to AncestryDNA I remembered a video I viewed back on June 19, 2014, presented by Crista Cowan, The Barefoot Genealogist. She does the learning videos for Ancestry online.

In this particular video, "AncestryDNA: The Search for Biological Family" Crista in the first part of the video was teaching us how to link your online Ancestry tree to your DNA results if you hadn't already.

What grabbed my attention at the time, but I put on the shelve was what her DNA page screens looked like compared to mine. They are definitely different and I wonder if this is what is coming to the rest of us common folk in the near future.

For instance, here is my current screen (click on any of the images below to enlarge):

And now here is that same screen in Crista's DNA account.

OK Ancestry and Crista, what is "Scan," "Download Matches" and "Download Ancestors of Matches" functions?  I don't have these features on my DNA match pages. How about an explanation for the rest of us and when do we get to see these neat tools?

Then there is even a more mystic and cryptic second screen. Here is Crista's page with her matches:

And here is what my screen looks like:

What is missing on mine that she has is that little brownish looking icon on the right.

What that appears to be is two people connected together type of icon? Is this the long promised new collaboration tool that will be better than the chromosome browser mentioned at the last RootsTech?

So what do we really have here and when will the rest of us see this on our DNA match pages?

I think I will post a link of this post here on the blog to the Ancestry Facebook page. Maybe I will get an answer, or be totally ignored which is usually the case with me an Ancestry. ;-)

I will post more when I hear something. Good genealogy hunting today to all.

Friday, August 1, 2014

AncestryDNA to Improve Cousin Matching

While this may or may not be the DNA research tools mentioned at the RootsTech conference earlier this year, Ancestry has just made a major announcement regarding an upgrade to how the system displays match results of their autosomal DNA test to the end users (that is us).

All AncestryDNA customers to some extent, but especially Jewish and Hispanic customers, have been getting false cousin matches (nice of them to let us know about this now).

If you were of Jewish or Hispanic ancestry, most AncestryDNA autosomal testers received matches which seemingly would indicate they're cousins with everyone else of the same ethnicity.'s DNA team explains in an August 1, 2014,  announcement why these false matches can happen.

All humans are genetically 99 percent identical, so there are two reasons that two people might have identical DNA. As I explained last Spring in our TCCC DNA class, your DNA chromosome matches can be the result of either an IDB or IDS chromosome match.

     IDB: The autosomal DNA is "Identical By Descent," meaning the two people it belongs to are related

     IDS: The autosomal DNA is "Identical By State," meaning that the two people it belongs to are simply of the same ethnicity or are at a minimum both human (duh!).

It can be difficult to ferret out the DNA segments that are IDB from those that are IDS, but according to this announcement by the AncestryDNA team they have developed a new way to analyze results that can tell the difference.

According to this informational release, in the coming months, "all customers will see increased accuracy of their DNA matches, and significantly fewer 'false' matches." Existing customers will receive an email when their new matches which are more accurate are ready for review.

You can read more about this coming feature on the blog at
AncestryDNA to Improve Cousin Matching

I hope to have more information on this very soon, and will probably be discussing this in more detail in my class starting on August 21 on the TCCC Main campus in Peachtree, North Carolina. If you are interested signing up for for that class, seats are filling fast, so contact the director of community enrichment class, Lisa Long at (828) 835-4241 to reserve your seat.

Fall TCCC Genealogy Classes on the Horizon

Well we are less than a month away from starting our fall genealogy classes at Tri-County Community College. Boy is this summer flying by fast.

So in case you didn't get a catalog from TCCC, here is the class list and descriptions of the three classes I will be teaching this fall. I strongly encourage you to get a hold of Lisa Long (828) 835-4241 and sign up as soon as possible so we can be assured that these classes will make.

If you are aware of anyone that is getting started or new to genealogy be sure to point out our beginner/intermediate class. If you haven't been in the classroom in some time, this class may also be for you. It is a good opportunity to get some good refresher genealogy training and learn some new techniques/record sources that we teach in that class.

Genealogy – Introduction to Family History

This course introduces the student to the basics of genealogy by exploring the heart of family history research - basic records and sources used in the pursuit of ancestor hunting. Some of the records and sources that the student will be taught include home and compiled records, vital records, census, church records, court, military, land and property, probate, and tax records. The course will also touch on the latest technology including Internet record resources and DNA testing. If you want to learn how to do genealogy research the right way or need a refresher on the latest techniques and sources then this course is for you. This course is a prerequisite for advanced genealogy courses offered at TCCC. 30 hrs.

August 19 – November 4 Tuesday Evening 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Cost $65

Genealogy – Introduction to
This course will cover in-depth one of the world’s most popular genealogy websites – With more than six billion historical records, in excess of 20 million family trees available, and over 400,000 people that have DNA tested, is the world’s largest genealogical database and research website. Have you explored what has to offer? Or are you needing guidance in navigating the website? If you want to get more out of your experience, then this course is for you. Topics that will be explored include the website layout, family trees: construction and use in research, the “new” Ancestry search engine, the AncestryDNA autosomal test and the site’s DNA research tools, and how to make effective use of their community collaboration tools. A paid subscription to the site is not necessary, but a good basic knowledge of genealogy research principles is a must. 17.5 hrs.

August 21 – October 2 Thursday Evening 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Cost $39

Genealogy: DNA – Using Genetic Genealogy in Family History Research
Science can help you with your genealogy research, but you will have to take a test first. This course will cover the new and expanding field of genetic genealogy basics and is designed for DNA Newbies. Some of the topics to be covered include an introduction to DNA testing and technical terms, the different types of DNA tests available and their applications, how DNA testing will help your genealogy research, and what are your ethnic origins and how to interpret your results. Special emphasis will be given to autosomal DNA testing. If you want to demystify genetic genealogy and use this new and exciting research tool in your family history study, then this course is for you. 12.5 hrs.

October 9 – November 6 Thursday Evening 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Cost $29

As always I look forward to seeing each of you in class, sharing your genealogy adventures and helping you to Find Your Family Roots.

More Ancestry Tree Insanity

There are times I wish I could scope up all the genealogist of the world and make it mandatory that they go to my classes before they ever post or click on an Ancestry tree. While working some DNA results this afternoon and cleaning out some links, I found this little bit of genealogical insanity below.

That is a pretty good trick for Daniel Jennings b. 1816 to have a daughter Elizabeth Jennings born in 1676. Come on folks, this isn't a clicking contest here. We are suppose to be doing genealogy research not having a contest to see who can "run up the most number of people in my family tree." 
Bad part about above, more than a dozen "researchers" (sic) clicked and picked up the same data in their trees. Nuff said, I'm off my gen soapbox (for now).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Update: Ancestry DNA - Are they adding some new tools this weekend?

Update: Well as it turns out the tech I talked to at Ancestry didn't understand what I was asking him and was not correct about the lack of DNA surname search capability. It was, in fact, some major issues (it was broke). As of this afternoon it appears to be working again so the new Ancestry DNA tool watch continues. Hopefully they will get on this soon as I will be teaching this stuff starting next month at the college.

Original Post (7/19): There maybe some changes in the wind at AncestryDNA. The surname search module has been disabled from use (confirmed by phone call to their tech support) all day today. When I asked the tech, who spoke in broken English if they were bringing online the new tools promised at Rootstech earlier this year, the reply was yes (hope he understood what I was asking him). If these are in fact the changes I have been expecting, we may see some major changes tomorrow or more than likely Monday. This is the usual scenario I see at AncestryDNA when they are doing a major upgrade to the DNA tools so we maybe on the verge of getting some pretty unique genealogical genetic tools to help us all in our research. Fingers are crossed and some toes also.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

DNA testing eyed for graves exhumed from historic Waco cemetery

By J.B. SMITH Waco Tribune-Herald
The committee tasked with planning the reburial of some 300 human remains unearthed from the old First Street Cemetery are hoping to enlist DNA technology in a quest to identify them.
The First Street Cemetery Memorial Advisory Committee has asked Baylor University forensic anthropologist Lori Baker to extract bone samples from each set of remains before the reburial, which is expected in 2015.

The city of Waco discovered the unmarked graves during a construction project behind the Texas Rangers Museum in 2007 and determined they were part of the city’s historic First Street Cemetery, established in 1852.

But so far, none of the remains has been identified.

So the committee this spring turned to Baker, who is known nationally for her work in mitochondrial DNA testing on subjects ranging from prehistoric Americans to migrants who perished in the Southwest desert.

Baker volunteered to collect bone samples that ultimately could be analyzed to establish kinship with living descendants or with other family members in the cemetery.

Do you have someone buried in the Waco, Texas, old First Street Cemetery. Read more at


FamilySearch Trees - Don't waste your time

While I give the nice folks at FamilySearch an A for effort in attempting to put together a one world family tree, their latest attempt at trees gets an F for failure to execute a viable system.

In my humble opinion this latest nuance (previous attempts by the LDS church were known as ancestral file, pedigree resource, etc) is probably the worse yet, this time not only is the computer system at Familysearch making changes to your trees that are flat wrong, much like the insanity of the old Ancestral File, but now you have even in some cases unknown individuals inserting wrong information , names, places and dates into your tree, after you have inputted your correct, source data. Then you are suppose to have discussions with these folks about who is wrong or right.

The flag I just threw and whistle I just blew means time out and a penalty. Hey FamilySearch I do not have the time, energy, or inclination to keep changing my stuff back to right, have a discussion with people who pull stuff they call genealogy from God knows where, and spending an enormous amount of time constantly correcting my files only to have your computer or someone think they are smarter and changing it to something else again. Then the cycle repeats itself in an endless loop.

This is suppose to aid in my research, not hinder it. I haven't spent one single minute of my time at FamilySearch and their new trees learning anything new about my family. Instead I have spent my time correcting bad info from everyone except me. But hey don't take my word for this. Let's take a look at only a tip of the iceberg illustrated in the screen capture I made this morning from my, uh their, uh the FS community tree. Let's just see how many of you catch the problems I captured in one instance in the image below from "my" FS tree (click on image to enlarge).


The second image below really show you dramatically what I'm talking about. I put the info in about John H. Mallory and his two parents. The rest came from so called cousins and the FS computer system who think they are smarter than me. I do not have the time to address the dozens of issues in this lineage and corrections needed to make it correct (and then have the whole things wiped out in a week or two) by their computer or others.
Wonder how many reader can spot all the problems in this chart and nothing past the second generation was created by me.  The "computer and other cousins" created it all and it is now attached to my tree!!!
The worse of the abuses above was Lucinda Paynes b. 1718 whose mother was identified as Lucinda Pynes, born in . . . 1718. Really??? As my son would say when he was a little guy, "Are you Kidding." Sad really, really sad.
The bottom line in all this as far as my personal research is concerned, I will no longer participate in this madness. If I could take my data out at this point, I would so I can wash my hands of the whole thing. I didn't get much of a response from FamilySearch when I attempted to address the issue. They wanted me to me to watch a brief video telling me how this is all done. I guess they figured I was uninformed how this was all suppose to work.
So if you take any of my classes are doing so in order for me to explain how to do FamilySearch trees, don't bother. I will not be covering anything in regards to FamilySearch's trees. I will also be sending a link of this in feedback to FamilySearch. You folks can reach me via email at familyhistorian  at  frontier  dot com. I will also be happy to discuss this on the phone with them, but please do not patronize me by telling me I need to watch a video so I can better understand how to do your trees.
Bottom line, this whole thing is extremely labor intensive to input, update and maintain; very frustrating to use; and definitely not an aid to genealogy research. Oh yea, you won't be seeing any of my pictures of other electronic research records either.
PS - (That means post script for all you common core students). I attempted to provide feedback with a link to this post to FamilySearch and guess what, it didn't work (the send button did not work). I got a message saying I need to update my Internet Explorer to then latest version (I'm using version IE 11) or switch to another browser such a Chrome. I did switch to Chrome and the send button and you guessed it the send button still didn't work. Does anything at FamilySearch work at all????

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ancestry Issues Continue

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time know that I have a love hate relationship with In the nearly 14 years I have been a member it seems like things run along well then ... boom ... all hell breaks loose. While I am well aware of the DDOS issues that recently hit Ancestry, this isn't part of that problem. This has been a long term issue that I have repeatedly addressed and have heard nothing, nada, not even a peep. So I filed another feedback this afternoon and promised them I would also be posting it here so let's see if I hear back (bet you a dozen Georgia lottery tickets I won't).

From my feedback to Ancestry -

I have seen this before your DDOS issues so I am confident that your recent DDOS attack has nothing to do with this feedback. It has never been fully explained how initiating a surname and location search from the DNA match page is suppose to work and I have asked this question before with no one at Ancestry being able or willing to answer. But if I use both the surname and location searches to narrow things down (e.g. Smith, Virginia USA), here lately after doing such a search and looking at a match or two, I consistently get the message "Trees unavailable" message when I go back to the match page with both surname and location still selected. This is very very frustrating and its does it regardless of the browser I use (IE11 compatibility on/off, Firefox or Chrome). If I clear the search parameters and return to the matches pages the trees come back and display as normal. Initiate another search such as surname only and it also works fine. Initiate surname and location and after viewing a match or two the error message mentioned above comes back. So can someone at Ancestry please address this. Exactly how is the surname/location search function on the DNA matches page work and is it in fact broken? Is the surname/location search function together an AND/OR function or are they in fact separate? I will be posting this to my general genealogy blog so I really expect someone to provide and answer about what is really going on here."

We shall see what we shall see. I will let my readers know if I here anything.

Friday, June 6, 2014 to Retire Five "Old" Genealogy Services announced yesterday that it will "retire" five of its services as of 5 Sep 2014.'s executive vice president of products, Eric Shoup, said that ending these services will allow to focus on its core products and mission.

"We’re always looking to focus our efforts in a way that provide the most impact, while also delivering the best service and best product experience to users," said Shoup. "To that end, we’ve decided to retire some of our services."

The services that will be retired include:
Subscribers and active users of each service will receive an email with details on any refunds (if applicable) and how to retrieve their content. The links I have included above for each site will send you to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages for that service and each site will also have a retirement landing page.

I want to emphasize that the AncestryDNA (autosomal) test is not affected by the retirement of the company Legacy Y-DNA and mtDNA testing. AncestryDNA autosomal testing will continue to be available as Ancestry continues to invest in this new technology. Only the y-DNA and mtDNA tests will be retired.

If you did do a Y-DNA/mtDNA test with Ancestry, after September 5, 2014, you will no longer be able to view your Y-DNA and mtDNA results on the website, but you can download your raw DNA data prior to that time by visiting and logging in to begin the download process of that raw data. Your raw DNA data will be exported into a .csv file format, and that can be uploaded to other Y-chromosome and mtDNA testing services, and online databases.

As far as the and its older GenForum messages databases, these will remain in the read-only mode. Shoup noted, "We're pleased to announce that GenForum message boards, Family Tree Maker homepages, and the most popular articles will continue to be available in a read-only format on the site." This means you will be allowed to view the older messages and articles, but they cannot be changed or edited.

The following areas at will be retired: All member log-in functionality will be retired, and the following pages will no longer be accessible after September 5, 2014 -- MyAccount, MyGenealogy, My Home Pages, HeritageQuest (ProQuest) content; Virtual Cemetery; Outdated and less popular help articles; and Shop.

If you had any data or content that you created on the sites closing above, you will have the ability to print or export My Trees and manually print or save additional content you've uploaded until September 5, 2014. To preserve the information you've added, you will have to log in to your account to export, print, or save your information.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

From the what were they thinking department!

Death is never a funny matter but some tombstones can be. From the what were they thinking department, I present to you . . .

Another Ancestry Tree Faux Pau

As one of my favorite western actors Chill Wills said in the movie McLintock -- People, People, People!!!

Ah come on folks. Please use a bit of sense. You can't be the parents of a child if you weren't yet born. Case in point is this sad Ancestry tree below (and all the ones who have picked up this same stuff on a click through).

I have purposely left off the name of the tree involving the Debnam, Townley and Gyrmes families so as to not totally embarrass the person who owns it. Sad part is there are a "big bunch" of people who have this same lineage in their Ancestry trees.

So to my genealogy students who follow the blog, and anyone one else who is just tagging along for the ride, what is wrong with the lineage above?

Here is another one that is even worse to illustrate my point.

This one is even sadder. Look closely at the third generation for the couple who had a child at age 9 for both parents.

If you can't see the graphic click on it and it will blow it up. Sorta like I just did on these rotten lineages above.

"Drago break out that hog leg and get me some attention."

Monday, June 2, 2014

What can you use to clean gravestones?

It is a very common query I get from my genealogy students out at Tri-County Community College, "How do you clean tombstones." My answer has always been carefully and gently.

Well I have heard of the product that Dick Eastman mentioned in his newsletter over the weekend, but haven't used it yet, but I will.

Without further ado, I will let Dick explain this in his own words from his column at (

"Genealogists and anyone else interested in preserving cemetery tombstones and other objects exposed to the weather should become familiar with D/2 Biological Solution. It is useful for cleaning tombstones without causing any damage to the stone.

"The solution is safe for use and does not harm the tombstone. Even the highly-respected Association for Gravestone Studies recommends the product in the organization’s FAQs (Frequently-Asked Questions) at

“Treat a wet gravestone with D/2 Biological Solution, scrub into a lather using a plastic bristle brush, and smooth the lather into the inscription to make the letters more readable. Afterward, rinse the stone thoroughly.”

"Further details may be obtained from A Graveyard Preservation Primer, 1st Edition, by Lynette Strangstad and published by the Association for Gravestone Studies at

"D/2 Biological Solution is even used to clean the outside of the White House and also recently won a Veterans Administration contract to supply cleaner for over 3.5 million headstones and another contract to clean Civil War monuments at the Chickamauga battlefield. (Details may be found at

"D/2 Biological Solution is a biodegradable, easy-to-use liquid that removes stains due to mold, algae, mildew, lichens and air pollutants. It is effective not only on tombstones, but also on marble, granite, limestone, brownstone, travertine, masonry, terra cotta, concrete, stucco, wood, and other architectural surfaces, including monuments and sculptures.

"D/2 Biological Solution is easy to use. Apply it to the surface to be cleaned, preferably by using a soft-bristle brush. Wait 10 to 15 minutes, and then scrub the surface to be cleaned, again by using a soft nylon or natural bristle brush to loosen most biological and air pollutant staining. Never use a stiff brush or anything abrasive on a tombstone or other stone surface! Be sure to bring a watering can or other water source along so that you can rinse the solution off the cleaned surface when you’re done.

D/2 Biological Solution:
  • is biodegradable
  • will not harm plants, stone, animals or people
  • contains no acids, salts, or chlorine
  • is pH neutral
  • will not etch metals or glass
  • is not a hazardous material and requires no special handling or protection
  • is used full strength with no in-field mixing required
  • contains no carcinogenic compounds as defined by NTP, IARC, or OSHA
  • is considered essentially non-toxic by swallowing
  • requires no special ventilation during use
  • has a shelf life of 5 years
"D/2 Biological Solution is available in 1-gallon and 5-gallon containers and 55-gallon drums.

"All in all, I’d suggest this is a good product used to clean many surfaces, including tombstones. You can learn more about D/2 Biological Solution at It can be ordered from a number of distributors with a list available at I also found it available in 1-gallon containers from Amazon at"

Thanks Dick for sharing that with the rest of us. I have a tombstone in New Orleans that could use this stuff (see below).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

An AncestryDNA Research Tip Revisited

So you have taken the AncestryDNA autosomal DNA test (over 400,000 of us have), and you now have one of the most useful genealogy tools ever invented since the microfilm reader.

But, and you know there is always a but to these things, sometimes you get the dreaded . . .

Private tree graphic

And what is even worse is this . . .

Leaf match in a private tree graphic

Then things take a turn for the worse when you write the match via Ancestry and never get an answer from them about who the identity of the MRCA ancestors are.

Down page from here in this blog I wrote a detailed research tip on clicking on the profile of your match and see if they have some public trees listed in their profile.

Based on my research about 25% to 30% of the private trees on my DNA pages have public trees listed on their profile page. More than likely this is just a issue of your match not knowing that they should link their DNA results to their public tree or they didn't have a tree when they took the test, but they do not or haven't remembered to attach that tree to their DNA results (or do not know how to do it).

When I get one of these profile tree results, I will send them and Ancestrymail message letting them know I am willing to help them link their tree to their DNA results. It has paid off.

But, another item that I should mention is that Ancestry has admitted that they have some occasional issues with their Ancestrymail system. I have no less than a dozen different times when my cousins indicated they did not get a notification from Ancestry that they had mail from me. In one case this was a leaf match in a private tree and after three months, a couple of emails and a feedback report to Ancestry my match finally got back to me.

While this whole AncestryDNA thing is not perfect, I much prefer working with my AncestryDNA results than my FTDNA Family Finder. That site is much more labor intensive and about the only thing I use it for is their advanced tools for matches such as the chromosome browser, etc.

Bottom line dear blog reader, if you get either of these two graphics below be sure to check that match's profile page. You may still get the info you seek for that DNA match.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Online site for death records and indexes is a must visit for genealogists

I'm a firm believer in using vital records and their substitutes whenever you can find them in your genealogy research. In fact, they are so important that several years ago I compiled a guide that I handed out to my students that was a comprehensive listing by state of online vital record links. Many found that guide useful in digging out obscure and important vital records in their research.

The death certificate is the most commonly used record to record the death event. This is the death certificate issued by the city of New Orleans in 1905 for my 3rd great grandfather, Captain Thaddeus Damascus Van Horn, CSA Cavalry. It contains a wealth of genealogical information.

Like anything else in our lives, mine got real busy and I haven't had a chance to update that guide in quite some time.

An example of another type of death record, the obituary. This one is for my great-great aunt Belle Randolph Van Horn (one of my all time favorite relatives).
But I had in my list a really cool little hidden genealogy gem for death indexes and records online at It is still there and active. Since the death event is such an important part of our research, I highly recommend you save this site for future use in your research. There are a lot of death records and their substitutes and I have put some of them here in the post to illustrate some things you should looking for.

And who knows maybe that vital record research guide may pop up here in the blog someday in the near future.

Another death record substitute is the tombstone. This is my Van Horn family tomb in Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the Big Easy - New Orleans, Louisiana. There are eight members of my family buried in this one family tomb. Due to its unique gothic architecture, this tomb and the one next to it have been seen in various Hollywood movies and are also featured in the tours conducted in this cemetery.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Genealogy Tip: Sourcing

I could not have said this any better.
Courtesy of Twisted Twigs On Gnarled Branches

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

AncestryDNA Database Exceeds 400,000 Genotyped Members

Blog Editor Note: From first-hand experience I can tell you the best move I have made in my genealogy research in recent years was taking this particular autosomal DNA test. I highly encourage anyone who has not to take it. It will change the way we do genealogy in the future.

From the Blog: Developed by a team of genetic scientists, bioinformaticists and data scientists, the AncestryDNA test provides users with a personalized genetic ethnicity estimate from 26 global regions and also connects them to a growing network of genetic cousins and their family histories.

AncestryDNA kit
The test analyzes a person’s genome at over 700,000 marker locations and provides customers with an easy and affordable way to help explore their ancestral background and discover their family’s past. AncestryDNA also cross-references an extensive worldwide database of DNA samples with documented family histories. This reference collection, acquired by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, includes samples from more than 100 countries on six continents, which enables new levels of discovery about people’s family backgrounds.

The growing database and network effect has enabled AncestryDNA to begin constructing a genetic graph of the US population. To date, the Company has identified more than 15 million cousin relationships across the 400,000 members. This includes 3 million relationships where a distant shared ancestor has been identified.

For example, the grandfather of Senator Henry Clay who ran for President twice and negotiated the treaty of Ghent, is the shared common ancestor of more than 280 AncestryDNA members. This genetic graph is expected to be a unique and valuable resource that will become the cornerstone of future product developments and differentiation for AncestryDNA in the market.


  • Tim Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of ”We’re excited with the growth of AncestryDNA. In less than two years we have built a database of 400,000 customer samples, and with that scale and growing network effect, we’ve created a product that is really valuable to our existing subscribers while also providing new users a fast and easy way to start learning about their family history. AncestryDNA is emerging as an essential part of our core value proposition and an incredibly engaging new way for us to deliver on our mission to help everyone discover, preserve, and share their family history.”
  • Tim Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of “While we’re thrilled with our early success with AncestryDNA, we’re even more excited about how we anticipate advancing and improving this service going forward. We’re at the very beginning of a revolution in personal genomics, and we think that AncestryDNA can become one of the more interesting consumer genomics applications worldwide.”
For more information about AncestryDNA, or to join the 400,000 customers that have taken the test and made discoveries about themselves, visit

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Guess You Just Can't Fix Stupid in the Oklahoma State Legislature!

Politicians! In my book they rank right up there some where between a used car salesman and hookers. Oops - I guess I just gave used car salesmen and hookers a bad name.

If I had a politician in my family tree, I might be forced to commit "Seppuku" (a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment). Talk about black sheep, while they make them look good.

In that light, what the rest of us in this country would like to know, "Hey Oklahoma, where the hell do you get all your stupid state politicians from?"  I have determined that I don't want to go there, live there, or associate with anyone from there for fear some of that stupid might rub off.

The home of state legislators who do not read bills -- Oklahoma State Capitol
Now for some background. I wrote back on March 16 (FRB Genealogy Editorial) about the state law in Oklahoma that made it into law that the only person who can request a death certificate from the state of Oklahoma is . . . wait for it . . . the dead person listed on the death certificate.

This is now a rarity for OK state researchers. Only the dead person listed in the certificate can get one.
I know you folks are probably laughing falling out of your chairs right now, but this is actually sort of serious. So I'll take the genealogy hobby slant out of this and be practical. How are estate administrators and executors able to do business if they can't get a death certificate for the deceased they are handling the probate process for. The ban on obtaining a death certificate for ANY period of time prevents heirs from claiming any kind of death benefits. The way we read it, under that law even a probate judge can't order the release of that death certificate. They even made it a felony for state employees to release a death cert to anyone but the deceased.

But never fear our faithful state servants from the Boomer Sooner state were determined to fix stupid they wrote in the first bill. They would pass a new law that would take care of everything wrong in the old law they passed. R-i-g-h-t!

So now I will continue this saga courtesy of this little piece from my good friend Dick Eastman and his newsletter (if you don't subscribe and you call yourself a genealogist you should subscribe). I'll quote this directly from Dick's article so there is no confusion in the reporting.

Oklahoma SB 1448 Signed Into Law By Governor Mary Fallin

"You may remember the controversy surrounding a recently-enacted law in Oklahoma that restricts access to vital records for many years. Amongst other provisions, the law requires copies of death certificates to be issued only to the person who is listed on the certificate. That’s right, for the first 75 years following a death, you can’t order a death certificate unless you are dead!

"Now the state legislature had a chance to fix the problem, but failed to do so. The following was received from Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies’ Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

"Oklahoma SB 1448 was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on April 30, 2014. It becomes effective November 1, 2014. The bill was supposed to correct the legislation enacted several years ago that addressed vital records. Last year when a professional genealogist tried to obtain a copy of a death record it was found out that the law only permitted the named person-the deceased to request their own death record. The law also made it a felony if a Department of Health Services employee provided the death certificate to anyone other the named person. Instead of “fixing” the glitch, the state incorporated the Model Vital Records Act provisions which closes records for 125 years for births, death records for 75 years, and marriage and divorce records for 100 years. Unfortunately, the new law retained the same language – permitting only the “named person” to obtain the record during the embargo period. Therefore, for death records only the deceased may request their own records within the 75 years from date of death. The Oklahoma Genealogy Society decided that this was better than never having any access as was included in the original law from several years ago. To read the enrolled version see:
"HB 3028 which was reported upon earlier and would merge the Oklahoma Historical Society into the Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs has had no further action—heard in House Government Modernization Committee in early March. However, as the legislature does not adjourn until May 30, it is always possible that it may be appended into another bill. The genealogical community will continue to monitor."

My, my what fools they grow in Oklahoma. The whole thing has to be the dumbest damn thing I have ever heard of. Maybe it is a failure of the Oklahoma state education system. They just didn't teach any of their legislators in their schools to read and reason with any sort of intelligence. Let me say this slowly so the Okies can understand it, "Y-o-u  a-r-e  s-u-p-p-o-s-e  t-o  r-e-a-d  t-h-e  b-I-l-l-s  b-e-f-o-r-e  y-o-u v-o-t-e  o-n  t-h-e-m!"

So this all leads to another logical question that I have to ask (that means with common sense for those of you who live in Oklahoma City). What good reason would any of the Oklahoma state law makers in good old Sooner land have for sealing a marriage or divorce record for 100 hundred years. Have you ever heard of a public record? Have you ever seen a marriage event published in the newspaper? Divorce proceedings published in the newspaper? Are divorce hearings now conducted in a private court setting? Are marriage ceremonies now considered private? What now wedding crashers?

And for you guys who have attended my genealogy classes, I have changed my mind. Oklahoma is now the worse state in the United States for genealogy research. It now has overshadowed the previous worse state of South Carolina. We have a new genealogy looserville.

So my message to my friends and family in Oklahoma is simple:-

Does anyone in Oklahoma get this? I guess not!

Woman Claims She’s the Virgin Mary’s Cousin 65 Times Removed

Oh, you know I can't resist this one. This sorta thing falls along the same lines as the "I have traced my genealogy back to Adams and Eve" type of claim.

From Dick Eastman's April 18 newsletter: Woman Claims She’s the Virgin Mary’s Cousin 65 Times Removed

"A Pennsylvania woman claims she is the 64th great-granddaughter of Saint Joseph Ben Matthat Arimathaea, who was the paternal uncle to the Virgin Mary. Ashlie Hardway of WTAE Television reports that Mary Beth Webb, of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, said she began searching her ancestry in 2010 after years of “communicating” with her deceased mother, father and brother. While doing the research on over a two-year period, Webb discovered the connection to Saint Joseph."

Dick wouldn't offer any opinion about the accuracy of this article, but I certainly will. Here is another case of a name, date and place collector. She just got started in 2010 doing genealogy on (can you say a trees only researcher), is certainly is NOT a real genealogist, and I would love to see her source citations. Oh my, I sure hope she and me are not DNA matches!

Bottom line, this is just another example of some of the poor research being done under the umbrella of genealogy within many of the trees posted at and yes, even FamilySearch.

But heck you can decide for yourself after reading the article and watching the video at

AncestryDNA Research Tip - The Leaf and the Private Tree

If you are an AncestryDNA autosomal tester then I bet the graphic above looks familiar. Yes, you want to review that leaf match but the match's tree is private. Right now I hear your frustration level rising.

It is one of the most frustrating aspects of researching your AncestryDNA autosomal results -- you have a leaf indicating a MRCA (most recent common ancestor) match, but the tree is private and you won't be able to even see the MRCA results. Then you send Ancestrymail to your match and hear nada. Now you are really frustrated.

So what can you do besides questioning the heritage of your DNA match (don't go there Al Swint)? ;-)

While this won't work in every instance, you may find that the tree may be hidden in almost plain sight.

Click on the graphic above to expand the view

So let's take a look at my match header above as viewed from my dad's DNA page. See my name up there at the top. If you click on it that will take you to my Ancestry profile. If you view that page you will see a list of all the public trees I have attached to my account.

In what I can only describe as a "weird computer thing" (that is a cool computer geek term), even though the tree linked to the DNA test is private, some of those trees are in fact public on the match profile page. I have found that about 25% of the private tree matches I have looked at have a public tree link on the profile page.

Case in point, in the example I have posted below, I was doing a search for the family surname Witt and I got a match with a DNA cousin with a private tree. When I opened her profile page up I found this.

Click on the graphic above to expand the view

If you look below the graphics there is a header that says "Ancestry Public Member Trees" and a link to the Ruhlands family tree. Now I can exam her tree and see if we have a MRCA match.

As I indicated above, this technique doesn't work every time, but something is better than nothing.

Bottom line, slow down, take your time and examine each AncestryDNA match closely. Looking at your match's profile page for clues is just a good genealogy research technique.

If there is a tree attached you should not only check out the list of surnames you have in common, closely looking at locations and dates (think cluster genealogy), but look down the entire list of your match's ancestor surnames and see if any other surnames look familiar. There may be some smoke in this list that could lead to fire.

Well over half my fruitful MRCA matches did not have a leaf, but I recognized a surname or two from the match's surname list and was able to connect us that way. Again, you should be thinking cluster genealogy! If it works on the paper side of genealogy research, it will also work on the DNA side of things.

Also you need to orient your thinking in terms that each of your DNA matches is a genealogical record. If you got a new paper record for your ancestor (i.e., census, vital, etc) would you not take your time and look at each element of that record and mine it for genealogical information you can use in your research?

You should doing same thing with each of your DNA matches. You are looking at a genealogy record that has no equal. You need to dig inside the information that your DNA match has on their page, in their tree and in their Ancestry member profile. Just because there is no leaf doesn't mean you cast that match aside. Think cluster genealogy just like you do on the paper side an dig into those results.

There is fire there because you both are a DNA match. Now you have to take the time and make it part of your genealogy research to go look for that fire!