Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Introduction to Genealogy

This article was written by Dick Eastman on June 2, 2016, and posted to his online blog ( and newsletter. Permission was granted by the author to repost it here with full credit, of course. If you repost this to any newsletters, newspaper articles or anyplace else that you feel might be appropriate, full credit must be given to Dick Eastman and the Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter.

Do you have a curiosity about your family tree? Many people do. Some may have their interest piqued because of an heirloom, an old picture, or perhaps an unresolved family mystery. The reasons people get hooked on genealogy are many and varied, but each person’s search is unique. After all, the search for your ancestors really is a search for yourself.
If you think that family history research requires hours of rummaging through libraries, trekking through cemeteries, and writing letters to government bureaus, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Finding your family tree is simpler than what many people imagine. To be sure, you may encounter some intriguing obstacles. However, most of them can be overcome.
As with so many hobbies today, using a computer can simplify some of the tasks of searching and recording. However, a computer is not necessary. Americans have been recording their ancestry for two centuries or more without digital tools, and you can do the same. All you need is a starting point and a direction, and maybe a few tips.
In the beginning … there’s you!

Starting a family tree search is very simple: begin with what you know about yourself, and then work backwards, one generation at a time. Linking back from yourself through the generations helps to ensure that the people you research actually belong in your family tree and don’t simply have the same name as one of your ancestors. The unfortunate souls who try to skip a generation may well find themselves perched in the wrong family tree.
Write down the information that you already know. A basic pedigree chart will help. You can find these at genealogy societies and at most libraries, as well as on a number of Web sites. You can find such charts at and at and at (where it is called an “Ancestral Form.”)
Place yourself in the first position on the chart, and fill in the vital information: your name, the date and place of your birth, as well as the date and place of any marriages you have had. Next, move back one generation, and fill in the same information for both of your parents: name, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, and date and place of death, if deceased.
Continue working back even further, to grandparents and great-grandparents, if possible. Very few beginning genealogists can fill in the basic facts on even three generations, let alone four. Simply fill in what you already know, and leave the remaining facts as blank spaces. You can fill them in later as you uncover clues.
Once you exhaust your own memory, a family fact-finding expedition is a great way to gather more information. Pick the brains of your family members, especially older family members. Take along a notebook, and write down the events they remember. Ask around for photos, letters, newspaper clippings, and so on. The memorabilia you find will surprise and delight you.
So far, you’ve relied on people’s recollections to add to your history. We all know, however, that memories are not always exact. Next, you will need to confirm the date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, name of spouse, date and place of death, names of parents and children, for as many individuals as possible. You will be surprised how easy it is to find birth certificates and marriage records, especially in the United States. Our country has a long tradition of recording and preserving these vital records.
Now you are ready to set an achievable target from the myriad facts you have accumulated. Pick an ancestor, perhaps one with a few blanks on the chart. Next, choose a question you would like to answer, such as the town where he or she was born. Then decide where you will start hunting.
A birth certificate is an obvious objective. However, you may also need to look in a wide range of places to find out more about that person’s life. When the location of birth is not easily found, you can look for other records that will help identify the person’s origins. Some of the places you can look are census records, military records and pensions, land records, schooling, occupation, electoral rolls, sporting clubs, newspaper reports – in fact, the list of places where you may find clues is almost endless.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to search through indexes and compiled records that are available on the internet at the beginning of your family tree discovery tour. Always keep in mind that not all the genealogy information is available online!
Even if you don’t own a computer, many libraries today provide computers with internet access for just such purposes. One of the greatest resources available is that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, usually referred to as the Mormons. This church has microfilmed millions of records from all over the world, and indexes to these microfilms are available on their Web site, The Mormons gather records from all faiths and all ethnic groups and make these records available to everyone, regardless of religious orientation. Best of all, you can reserve and view the microfilms at a local Mormon Family History Center near where you live. The films ship straight from Salt Lake City to your local Center, where volunteers can help you with the microfilm readers. While there, you will not be given any religious materials or lectures (unless you ask). You can find the Family History Center closest to your location if you start at
Wherever you turn up information about your ancestors, always check the “facts” that you find. Many times you will obtain a piece of information that later turns out to be inaccurate. Never believe anything until you can verify it! You need to treat all verbal information — as well as most of the genealogy information on the internet — as “clues to what might be true.” Then, armed with this newly-found information, seek out an original record of the event that corroborates what you found earlier.
Once your tree starts bearing fruit, you will probably find that a computer can be a tremendous help in keeping track of all your people, events, and dates. Today’s computers and software are priced to fit most any budget, and they can save weeks and even months of work. If you decide to use a computer, it’s a good idea to choose a genealogy program sooner rather than later — even if you have collected only a few family details. These programs help to organize information about individual ancestors, as well as their relationships to others in the family tree. These programs will make it much easier for you to visualize the connections between people through their capability to automatically generate charts and even point out potential discrepancies.
Information about many genealogy programs may be found by starting at A list of Macintosh genealogy programs may be found at Genealogy Apps for Android and Chromebooks may be found at
A search for your family tree can be one of the most fascinating and rewarding pursuits of your life.
Who knows what you will find? Nobility? Heroes? Or horse thieves? Most of us can find all three in our ancestry. Who is lurking in your family tree?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

More adventures with AncestryDNA NADs - NADs Up/NADs Down - Update

This is starting to get real old, real quick. I understand that science moves forward and as we continue to research things will change. Lord only knows I have lived through three versions of AncestryDNA updates and a couple at FTDNA. But Ancestry should be ashamed of this NADs fiasco. To unleash the barrage of NADs on the heels of the v3 update without truly testing how the v3 would effect those NADs is nothing short of irresponsible.

How can I say that you ask?

I am one of those lucky folks to have tested both parents so in theory I should benefit from Ancestry phasing our autoomal DNA test. I'm not uncomfortable at this point with the v3 update although I still have high confidence false positives.

But those NADs I was hanging around five NADs before the update. When the NAD update hit that number jumped to 17. But the rub was only nine of them were shared by my parents. Eight of them were false postives. I immediately sent a support message to Ancestry. and now the big update again, I'm down to seven and my parents have all those NADs.

So here is the fallout of the bouncing NADs - pre v3 update - v3 update - current: 

My test                    5-17-7
My father              10-35-8
My mother              4-14-5
My wife                17-28-15
Wife's 2nd cousin 18-33-18
My 2nd cousin        9-14-4

My original article on the false NADs posted on my family blog at

Let's hope this is the last update for awhile at Ancestry, but I fear we have at least one more coming (that is the rumor I am hearing).

Come on folks I need a chance to catch up my documentation and I am tired of adding columns to my spreadsheet documenting your ups and downs. Please give this a rest for a while.

Here is Ancestry's response to my Facebook post on their FB page:

"Hi Larry, we apologize for any frustration you may have experienced with the New Ancestor Discoveries. In order to determine New Ancestor Discoveries, we created an algorithm with criteria that connects people to DNA Circles based on their DNA matches. This algorithm was created last year when we launched New Ancestor Discoveries and with the rapid growth of the DNA database, we are finding it needs to be updated.

"As DNA Circles get larger and more DNA matches are delivered, more people are connecting into the DNA Circles, which results in more New Ancestor Discoveries, but with a decrease in accuracy. So, we are updating the criteria to make it more conservative and increase the accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries. This means you’ll need more connections into a DNA Circle to get a New Ancestor Discovery.

"These updates will result in a significant decrease in the number New Ancestor Discoveries, but with an increase in accuracy. We will continue to monitor and adjust this as necessary to ensure these provide meaningful discoveries for our members."

And then there is this explanation from Anna Swayne of Ancestry DNA:

"Previously, you needed to match at least 2 members of a known DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. Now, users must match at least 3 members of a small (15 members or less) DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For larger DNA Circles (16+ members), users must match 20% of that Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For example, if there is a DNA Circle of 10 people, you will need to match at least 3 people to get a New Ancestor Discovery. And if there is a DNA Circle of 30 people you will now need to match 6 people instead of 2."