Sunday, November 27, 2016

What is AncestryDNA Helper

Those of you who have read this blog for a while and have done a DNA test at AncestryDNA are probably wondering what AncestryDNA Helper is and if you should be using it.

Maybe. It's not for the faint of heart.

If you are comfortable working with spreadsheets, do look into it. If you have more than one DNA test that you manage at Ancestry, it definitely holds potential for you. If you are willing and able to dig deep into the data and follow advice from the online group and from me, then go for it.

The AncestryDNA Helper is an extension for the Chrome browser. When I first installed it, it had fairly major problems, so I uninstalled it. It came up on a blog I follow earlier in 2016 and so I tried it again. It still has problems, but with nine DNA tests in my account, I decided to work with it since I have the technical ability to deal with the data.

The Helper will scan all your matches and all the ancestors that you can are able to view in their trees. It puts all that information into a database on your computer. The data holds a lot of power and potential, but getting to it and using it is where you may become frustrated.

Assuming you want to check it out, install the Chrome browser if you have not done so. Then add the AncestryDNA Helper extension from the Chrome Store.

Once installed, when you bring up the DNA test results, you will see new buttons. Your main page will add the following section near the top. Before you can do anything with the data, it has to be scanned into the database. Expect to spend about an hour for every 20 pages of matches.

There is documentation at Before you do anything, do go read that page and download and read the PDF that is linked near the bottom of that page.

If you decide to explore this tool, be sure to join the Yahoo Group where the discussion of issues and solutions takes place. It's a moderated list and many of my messages seem to get dropped, probably due to ending up in the moderator's spam folder. If it happens to you, don't feel alone.

Let me know if you join the journey and have questions. I'll do my best to help.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting Wild with Mary and Her FAN Club

When last searching for Mary, we considered that facts such as a birth date could be misstated or misinterpreted. But what about her name? By limiting a search to exact spellings, it is possible that the creative spellings used in various records can be missed. It's important to use every trick in your toolbox to find those hidden records.

One extremely useful tool is the wildcard search. Both Ancestry and Family Search allow wildcard searches and many other sites do also. Be sure to read the help pages for wildcard searching and also review them every once in a while, as the rules change over time.

There are two wildcards you can use and there is one big "gotcha".

First the "gotcha". Both sites require three letters in addition to one or more wildcards. If you are searching for a short name such as Lou Day, then wildcards are not going to be of any help at all. There are a few other rules that you'll want to know, so do read the help pages.

For an example of the two wildcards, let's look at Mary Maddox Neff and her sister-in-law, a member of Mary's FAN club. The wildcard that is used makes a huge difference in these searches.
  • Mar? Madd?x
  • Mar* Ta*m*g*


The Question Mark

I'm not a fan of the question mark (?). It represents exactly one letter. So the first search will find Mary Maddox or Marg. Maddux, but not Maria Madox. There are so many creative spellings for names that limiting the matching to one exact letter seems wasteful to me, though you may find it useful in some situations.


The Asterisk

The second search is far more powerful, as the asterisk (*) represents zero, one or several letters. Searching for Mary's sister-in-law is tricky, as the surname is spelled several different ways, as is her first name, which is Mary on her tombstone and Maria on the marriage record. The family name is spelled as:
  • Tammage on the tombstones
  • Tallmadge in the 1850 census
  • Talmadge in 1860
  • Talmage in 1870
  • Tammadge on the 1853 marriage record of Maria and David Maddox
You can see how all these variations would match to a search of Mar* Ta*m*g*.

Here are examples of the many varied results from Ancestry and Family Search. You'll notice that some results, such as the first one, match the wildcards, but don't match the name you want. That's expected and you'll have to just ignore them. It's a case of seeing too many results rather than too few.

Ancestry Results

Family Search Results

Be sure to try out wildcards for yourself to look for those elusive ancestors.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Did My Grandparents Cheer for the Chicago Cubs?

One of my co-workers asked how an Arizona native living in the American South had become a fan of the Chicago Cubs. Of course, it's all tied to family.

Thinking about my family's Chicago roots led me to the realization that sports affiliations are not a part of my family history knowledge. I failed to ask about sports when I interviewed an elderly cousin some 16 years ago. Now he's gone -- the last of a generation who knew my grandparents and great-grandparents through the eyes of a teenager.

It's hard to think of all the questions we should ask of our family, so this is just a little reminder to ask about sports if it's something you'd like to know.

Reminiscing about our Chicago history, I realized that the 1907 and 1908 World Series wins by the Cubs would have been a part of the fabric of the lives of my grandparents and their families. They lived in neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago, a few miles north of Wrigley Field. In their championship seasons, the Cubs played at the West Side Grounds, which was further south, but they were still the hometown team.

My grandmother, Ruth McFarlane, was a girl of nine in 1907. Her father had been badly hurt in a work accident on the Chicago street car system and the family struggled through financial difficulties. Her schoolmates and church friends would no doubt have been excited about the accomplishments of the home team and perhaps she and her younger sister were also. Did her parents have the luxury of enjoying the wins for a brief moment? By 1910, Ruth had dropped out of school and gone to work to contribute to the family income. I imagine that baseball was, for her, a background thought of no consequence.

My grandfather, Oliver Ekstrom, was four years old in 1907, and lived a life of financial comfort in the Andersonville Swedish-American community. He was the youngest of five living siblings and would have shared the excitement of his siblings and friends when the team brought home the championships. Were his immigrant parents also caught up in the excitement? Did they rejoice at the wins?

Nine years later the Cubs moved to what is now Wrigley Field. I'd like to think that Oliver was able to attend some of the games with his brothers or with his brother-in-law, a Chicago policeman. After Oliver and Ruth married, they went to Central America as missionaries, weakening the strong Chicago ties. With their early deaths, their children grew up in boarding schools in other places.

By the time the Cubs suffered the Curse of the Billy Goat and lost the World Series in 1945, Ruth and her parents were dead, as were Oliver, his father and two siblings. Only Ruth's sister and Oliver's mother and two siblings remained in Chicago, along with three of Oliver's nieces and nephews. That extended family still has members who live in the Chicago area; however, Oliver's children scattered, with three brothers eventually landing in Arizona.

Regardless of Oliver's connection to the Cubs, many of his descendants have embraced the Cubs and have enjoyed visits to the historic ballpark. I've been to Wrigley Field only once, though I've seen the Cubs play at other ballparks. I celebrate their 2016 World Series win as I reflect on the history of my family and our Chicago roots.

Quick drop page and elements from Digital Scrapper's Liberty (2009) and  Sports Mad (2012) kits

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mary's Misleading Obituary

Printed and online obituaries can be full of wonderful family information. Unfortunately, they often contain errors, also.

Mary Maddox Neff's 1907 obituary is a good example of the types of mistakes that you might see. Taking the information in the obituary as entirely true could lead to bad assumptions and missed records.

Deconstructing the obituary, there were 19 facts.
  • Two were incorrect. 
  • One was unknown. 
  • Five were unknown, but probably true. 
  • One other key fact was missing. 
The overall analysis is 80 percent true and probably true. That's not too bad -- unless you were depending on the 20 percent of information that isn't true.

Always take obituaries as clues, rather than absolute truth.

For anyone researching this family, the analysis and obituary follow.

Fact Content Truth
Marriage Date 1851 * False
Number Children Four ** False
Child Name James ** Unknown
Child Name Christina ** MISSING
Birth County Pickaway County Probable
Burial Acasto, MO Probable
Church Member of Methodist Church Probable
Funeral M.E. Church in Mt Sterling, IA Probable
Spouse Birth 1831 Probable
Birth State Ohio True
Birth Year 1834 True
Child Location Ft Madison, IA (Cantril) True
Child Location Pueblo, CO (Schafer) True
Child Name Absolom True
Child Name Mrs George Schafer True
Child Name Mrs T N Cantril True
Name Mrs Mary Neff True
Spouse George Neff True
Spouse Death October 6, 1897 True
Survivors 2 children and 2 grandchildren True

*The Neff marriage was celebrated in Pickaway County, Ohio, on February 1, 1852. Reference book 4-255.
**The 1900 census showed that Mary had 5 children, 2 of whom were living. James was never on the census, but most likely would have been born between 1860 and 1863. Child Christina was the eldest in the census and was entirely omitted in the obituary in both child count and list of names.

Fort Madison (Iowa) Weekly Democrat, 11 September 1907, Page 2, Column 3

Friday, September 9, 2016

Filtering Mary, Part 3

(Not) Just the Facts

You've selected a type of record, carefully reviewed the indexed content and then set your filters appropriately. But you just cannot find that elusive person. You begin to think they just aren't in the record set.

Are the facts getting in the way? The facts as we perceive them today may not match the information at the time. Maybe there is missing or incorrect information and your filters are hiding the record. Maybe the indexer made a mistake when transcribing the record. Or maybe that elusive person gave an incorrect answer.

Age and date of birth are "facts" that are often inconsistent across the lifetime of those who were born before the age of birth certificates and drivers licenses. It's useful for filtering, but don't depend on it. If you are using a narrow range for a birth year, try increasing the range. It's easier to control the range on Family Search than on Ancestry.

Looking at Mary Maddox Neff, I found that she was very consistent in stating her own age and birth year. Her age was always within a one-year range which can be explained by the date of the census. However, her husband, George M Neff, seems to have taken an anti-aging tonic. He grew two years younger by the end of his life. Their daughter's age was so inconsistent that I'm still not positive whether Elizabeth Ann Neff Shafer had a sister Ann or just changed her name around.

Take a moment to think about that elusive person. Might they have made themselves older to marry, to join the military, to avoid a head tax or to draw a pension? Might they have shaved off some years to avoid the draft, to be younger than a husband or to participate in a program such as Social Security or Medicare?

One of my female ancestors married a man who was ten years younger. Yes indeed, she tried very hard to hide her age!

Do consider opening up the date of birth filter if you're not finding the record you are seeking.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Filtering Mary, Part 2

Pick Your Poison

My mother used to tell me to pick my poison when I had to choose between two things I didn't care for. No, we're not talking politics!

The search filters at both Ancestry and Family Search can hide records from you -- picking correctly is critical so your results are not poisoned. As we search, we grow our knowledge about an ancestor, but each record has only a tiny bit of the knowledge that we may have acquired. If we filter our search with everything we know, key records may be hidden. We're searching for the records, not the whole person.

Today we'll look at a search about Mary Maddox Neff's father done on Ancestry. I was astounded by how using very logical filters resulted in poor results.

Mary's father, Lazarus Maddox, was a single man of about 25 at the time of the War of 1812. He would have been a member of the Ohio Militia and I knew from a list that he had served in the war. What more could I learn from Ancestry?

Following past concepts, I started with his name, but not too exact, as it was spelled in various ways. The search was limited to the United States and, from the first result list, I clicked into the Military category.

From this focused category, I then refined the search. I selected people living in Ohio who served in the military starting 5 years before and ending 5 years after 1812. That would certainly cover the period of the War of 1812.

No matches! What do you mean no matches?!

Taking away the year filter and keeping the Ohio filter gives a result.

Are you as puzzled as I am? Why doesn't the Roster of Ohio soldiers in the War of 1812 meet the limits of both the year (1812) and the state (Ohio)? Clicking into the record, we see it's an image with a list of soldier names.

When the book was indexed by Ancestry, the dates of service were not included in the index even though they are included in the image. Because Ancestry didn't capture the dates, I can't search on them!

Returning to search filters, what else can I find? Removing the Ohio filter and adding the date filter, we get a different result.

Clicking into one of the records, I am now able to see what was indexed by Ancestry. Interestingly, the date of service was not indexed, but apparently the date of the entire record set was included. The Ohio company name was indexed, but there is no correlation that Lazarus lived in Ohio, which was the filter that I set.

Editing the search, I can set Ohio as a Keyword -- a word to be searched that might appear anywhere within the index. Requiring an Exact match on a Keyword is dangerous. I don't do that often, but within this record set, I wanted to see only the two Ohio records.

Now I see only the two records in which I am interested.

Frustrating? Definitely! Two entirely different record sets had information, but the filtering was not compatible with both.

Imagine facing this sort of a problem with a common name such as John Smith! What strategy can you use?

Start by picking the record set you want to search. Click into any record in the record set. Don't worry whether or not it is for your family member. Look through the text items -- not the image -- and see what information is indexed. Pick your search filters based only on what is indexed.

This strategy works on both Ancestry and Family Search. Searching on the indexed information within a single record set will reveal more and hide less.

A note for Maddox researchers: Captain Robert Bradshaw's company (first record set) was part of the Ohio 2nd Regiment. Both Colonel Robert Safford and Colonel James Renick were commanders in the 2nd Regiment.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Filtering Mary, Part 1

Search filters on Ancestry and Family Search could inspire a book. They can help you find a record, but can also hide records from you. I'll present thoughts in small bites. Today I just want to write about the Country filter.

Mary Maddox Neff was the wife of a farmer and laborer. It was very unlikely that she ever left the United States, so I can safely restrict my searches to this country and so avoid looking at record collections that just clutter my screen.

Think about the person you are searching. Were they an immigrant? Were they affluent enough to travel? Did their occupation require international travel? What countries might they have traveled to or through?

For example, my Swedish ancestors traveled through England on the way to New York. I need to search records from Sweden, England and the United States. Did they stop off in Barbados on the voyage? I'll want to search each country separately.

Setting the country filter is easy on Ancestry. Either on the main search screen or on the edit search screen, just use the little drop down arrow for Collection Focus. Pick the country or region of interest before clicking on Search.

On the first search page at Family Search, start typing in the country and it will try to match the name. Click on the country name that's right before you click on Search. The X at the top right of the location does not clear it out. You'll have to use your space bar if you want to clear it.

If you are already looking at search results on Family Search, it's a little harder to find this filter. You'll have to roll down to find the word Location on the left side.

Click on the word Location and the country box will appear. Start typing in the country and it will try to match the name. Click on the country name that's right before you click on Update. The X at the top right of the location does not clear it out. You'll have to use your space bar if you want to clear it.

Recapping, use the country filter to remove large numbers of irrelevant collections from your search results.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How Many Marys Can You Put On A Page?

Here's another quick tip about searching on Ancestry, Family Search and other sites. I'm putting on my technical hat for this idea.

Each time you advance a page or back up a page while reviewing search results, the records have to be looked up and the page has to be displayed. There is a delay as you go to each new page. The smaller the page, the more delays to get through the results that you are looking at.

On Ancestry, you can choose to see 10, 20 or 50 results on a page. The choice is made at the bottom of the page. Once you choose a number, that number is saved by Ancestry as your selection until you change it.

On Family Search, the choice is made at the top. You can choose to see 20, 50 or 75 results on each page.

I like more results on a page and fewer pages. You may prefer the opposite. You need to experiment and see what works best for you to speed through your search.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mary's FAN Club

In the last post, I was debating whether I was following the right family in my search for Mary Maddox Neff. However, Mary's FAN club was reinforcing my theory. Did you know that all of our ancestors have FAN clubs that may help us advance our research?

Elizabeth Shown Mills pioneered the acronym FAN club to stand for Friends, Associates and Neighbors. I prefer F to stand for Family.

Mary isn't my ancestor, but is actually in the FAN club of her brother, my ancestor. Researching all of the siblings is part of my research efforts. I've found that the more I learn about a family, the more I can learn about my ancestor. With today's DNA matching, broad family trees are even more important to facilitate connections.

Because I know a lot about the Maddox family, I noticed a very important clue in the 1860 census. The farmhand that was living in Mary's household was related to Mary through the marriage of yet another brother. It could have been coincidence, but it turned out that this clue helped keep me focused on the right family.

Learn about your ancestor's Family, Friends, Associates and Neighbors. Sometimes you can't find your ancestor, but you might find a member of their FAN club to lead you to the poorly written or badly indexed record of your ancestor.

Specific to researchers of the Maddox and Neff families of Pickaway County, Ohio, here's another look at the 1860 census for George M and Mary Maddox Neff.

Notice the farmhand, James A Talmadge. Mary's brother David married Mary Mariah Tammadge, the older sister of James. The spelling of the name varied between Tammadge and Talmadge, depending on the record. Based on the 1850 census, the two were siblings, children of Henry Talmadge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mary's Husband Served His Country

Continuing with search strategies, let's learn more about Mary. Today's tip is to collect every military record (and every record of any type) you can find on your subject and their immediate family. Each record provides different clues.

I was still looking for what happened to Mary Maddox Neff of Pickaway County, Ohio, after the 1860 census. I'd been looking for Mary for over 10 years, so knew more than names, but not enough. Some of the questions I pondered were:
  • Had I located the right family in the 1860 census? The names George and Mary Neff were not a unique combination.
  • Was she married to the George M Neff who served in Company G, 113th Infantry Regiment, Ohio, during the Civil War?
  • Did her George possibly die during or after the War?
  • If George died, did Mary remarry?
  • Did George or Mary collect a Civil War pension?
My next step was to research George M. Neff, the Civil War soldier.

Military records can be a gold mine of information and should always be collected when available. Pension files are frequently rich in genealogical information. By learning the available records, you'll know what to look for. I wanted to find any Civil War pensions for this couple.

Remember to use Ancestry Categories and Family Search Collections to go straight to military records. Fold 3, which is another Ancestry-owned site, has some military records that are not available elsewhere.

Searching on George M Neff who served from Ohio gives a reasonable number of Civil War records to review, but there were no pension files.

One of the problems with filters is that not every record set is tied to dates and locations. You can miss a record by setting the wrong filter. Experiment with filters to see what is returned with different settings.

In this case, limiting the Military service location to exactly Ohio was the wrong strategy. I had to change that filter to be broad, rather than exact. That basically removed the filter, but would prioritize Ohio records, if the location had been used.

By removing the Ohio limitation, there are 59 pension files of possible interest. These images are only index cards, but they are good clues. Clicking into the pensions, then adding a spouse with the name Mary prioritizes the search results.

The very first result happens to be the Ohio soldier I'm looking for, but the pension was filed from Iowa, an unexpected location. Here are some new clues. Now I know that the soldier George M Neff was indeed married to a woman named Mary. I still have to determine if it is the right Mary. Did my couple move to Iowa?

The card from Ancestry is hard to read. What could I learn at Fold 3? Is the complete pension file available? Remember to use every site you can to collect records. Fold 3 had a different view, but not the complete file.

What do these cards reveal? 

George M Neff applied for a pension from Iowa on May 22, 1890, and he was approved. He died on October 6, 1897. His widow, Mary M Neff applied in October, 1897, for a widow's pension and she was approved. Her death date is not recorded in the index, but would be in her pension file.

The Civil War pension index cards were the breakthrough in my search for Mary.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Correcting Mary's Family

Yesterday my friend Elizabeth shared her tale of search woe in the comments. She found the elusive census record after trying every trick she had. And I found my Mary Maddox Neff after trying a number of tricks, too. Having found those difficult records, we really need to leave breadcrumbs for the next searcher.

Ancestry and some other sites give us the ability to add corrections or additional information for some, but not all, of the information in a record. When we finish our happy dance, we need to take a few minutes to provide that correction. Our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins will appreciate the help when they are searching.

Today I'll show you how to view Ancestry corrections and how to make them yourself. I hope you already do that and can just ignore this post.

Let's return to Absalom Neff, born in Ohio, indexed in the 1870 census. Here are the two results.

Notice the pencil after Absolam Loff who is living in Van Buren County, Iowa. That shows that there is a correction or edit to the record that was indexed by Ancestry. Otherwise I'd be wondering how Loff related to Neff. I have to click into View Record (not the image) to see the correction and who made it.

The record was indexed by an Ancestry transcriber as Absolam Loff. Under that name the brackets show the correction (or additional information) is the name Absolam Neff. Click that name to see information about the correction.

I contributed this correction to the name, stating it was a transcription error. I see the trash can only because this is my correction and I can choose to delete it.

Truth be told, the record is nearly impossible to read. Thank goodness for Absalom!

When adding a correction, we can go beyond errors and add some clarifications. I had already added the surname correction, but I could certainly add clarity on the first names. These initials are not at all helpful. Let's fix up his older sister. Still in the text view for Absalom, I clicked on C J Loff, which is one line up.

From this page, I clicked on View/Add alternate info. It brought up a corrections window just like the one for Absalom, above.

I then clicked on the button "ADD YOUR OWN". Now I can add information for Christina.

In this case, I want to add a variation of her name. I use the drop down arrows to see my choices and variation was the best fit. I have to type in the name as it should be. The explanation is optional, but as this is not a transcription error, adding a brief explanation helps the Ancestry reviewer as well as future researchers.

After clicking on "SUBMIT ALTERNATE", one more window comes up because I changed her surname.

I am asked whether to apply the surname change to everyone in the household. You'll want to choose wisely between APPLY and Close when making such a change. When I first submitted the Neff surname last year as a transcription error, I used APPLY, as that specific transcription error does apply to everyone in the household.

In this case, I did not need to repeat the surname change and the information I added is specific to Christina. I clicked on Close.

I can see the corrections that I just made, but no one else can see them until they have been reviewed and accepted by someone at Ancestry. Here's a final look at how Christina's corrections appear.

Today I added a first name for each person in the household, except Absalom. I added brief additional information from the 1880 census and from George's military records to explain the variations for George M, Ann Elizabeth and Laura.

Mary and her family are now all corrected and augmented in the 1870 census index. I'll share more search strategy the next time.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mary Had a Little ... Child

Today I have another tip to help speed up searching for online genealogy records.

In yesterday's tip, I was searching for Mary Maddox Neff and used Ancestry Categories and Family Search Collections to focus the search.

Today I've narrowed the Ancestry search by filters, which is a topic for another day. Unfortunately even searching for Mary Neff, born in Ohio, there are over 100 results in the 1870 federal census, according to Ancestry.

I could add a birth year, but this family tended to be sloppy on ages. That's actually a common issue, but I would include it in the filtering to start. It wasn't helping with Mary.

What else do I know about Mary to help narrow the search? The 1860 census of Pickaway County, Ohio, shows her family members.

I know her husband is George M. How many results are there in the 1870 census for George Neff, born in Ohio?

A count of 44 is more workable. But what about the children? Ann is a very common name, but there are two other children.

The tip of the day is to search with the less common names in the family. Just because Mary Maddox Neff is the person I am searching for, I should not limit myself to searching for her name. This strategy works on Family Search as well as Ancestry and on many other sites.

Mary's children's names are the ones to search. Absalom is the obvious choice with two matches. Remember that names were fluid before birth certificates. If I were named Absalom, I would definitely drop that name at some point. He might have already started using another name by the age of 14.

Christina is also a good name to try. Since Christina was 6 in 1860, she would be about 16 in 1870, which is of marriageable age. She might be gone from the household, but it is worth looking at each of the four matches. 

I didn't find the family with this tip, though today you would do so. One of the two matches on Absalom is correct, but only because I submitted a correction after digging up the record.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

All About Mary

Every once in a while someone asks me how I found some information. That question came to me again recently and I wrote a rather lengthy reply to a newbie. My methods are not special, but they are deliberate. Today I share my single biggest secret.

A columnist -- online or paper -- once wrote that Ancestry is a scam. I wouldn't go that far, but it is important to know what they want from you: your data first and your money second. If you depend on their online service to store your family tree, they have achieved the first and are also doing well at keeping their hand in your pocket.

Web sites, not just Ancestry, want you to spend long periods of time on their sites. The longer you stay, the more ads you will see and the more money you will spend. So how do you spend less time at Ancestry and find more of what you are looking for? The strategy I'll show you also works for Family Search.

Where's Mary?

Last year I was searching for a woman named Mary Maddox Neff. I had last found her with her husband and children in the 1860 census in Pickaway County, Ohio. What happened to Mary Neff after 1860? Let's search both Ancestry and Family Search for this fairly common name.

Focus on Ancestry Categories

First let's do a wide-open search on Ancestry.

If you have not changed your default results method, this would be the view you get. 986 thousand results to dig through. I'd be on the Ancestry site the rest of my life looking for that 1870 census. Ka-ching!

Narrow the collection to United States only, since that is where Mary should be.

Now it's only 864 thousand results. I could continue to refine the filters, but there is a very fast way to focus. Choose Categories instead of Records at the top right. That's the trick. It's that simple.

Notice that the matching result count went up to over one million. That's strange, but now I don't care because I am not going to look at those matches. Having selected Categories, now my results will always return as Categories and I don't have to switch it unless I'm feeling masochistic.

Next I have to think about what I need to find. In this case I want the 1870 census. So I would click into the line that says "See all 114,048 results" that is under Census & Voter Lists. The 1870 census will be in that list and I will select that census and start working with filters to find what I want.

The downside to this method is that you have to think about the records you need to search. The upside is you will get to know the record types and be able to get to what you want much more quickly. So in the long run there is no real downside. And Ancestry may not keep you spending money quite so long.

Focus on Family Search Collections


Family Search works in a similar way. First the wide-open search returns 61 thousand results. Even on a free site, that's far too many records to look at.

On Family Search, click on the word Collections at the top of the results to break the results down by

Again, looking for the 1870 census, I need to click on "Show All 101" after the heading that says Census & Lists.

I didn't find Mary Neff in the 1870 census by these methods alone, but that's a tale for another day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ancestry DNA and the NADS

Yesterday, on the DNAeXplained blog, Roberta speculated on how the "New Ancestor Discoveries" at AncestryDNA could be of use. She calls them NADs and that's a great abbreviation. She also asked for input from her followers. This is my response.

How do I turn a NAD into an actual ancestor? First, here's a look at the progress in my genealogy journey. Ancestry has made a mess of my DNA match tracking, so this chart is a bit outdated. It shows dots where I have accumulated DNA matches. The red arrow points to James Childers, the topic of this post. Notice that I don't have parents for James.

The areas with large numbers of dots reflect the large numbers of matches who, like me, have tapped into published family genealogies. I'm sure I have many matches at the edges of all my non-Swedish lines, but I am stuck, have not researched, or have not found a published genealogy for those lines. James Childers is an ancestor that I have not researched, because I was not entirely positive that his daughter was my ancestor, until DNA matching added to the evidence.

James C. Childers was born about 1804 in South Carolina. He married in Madison County, Alabama, in 1828, and died between the Alabama census of 1855 and the federal census of 1860. He had ten known children: two sons and eight daughters.

Ancestry gave me a NAD named Robert Childers, who was born in South Carolina and died in Georgia. Sadly, Ancestry has since taken him away. Robert was a handful of years older than James and would likely have been a brother or cousin. According to a top match, Robert's father was Jacob Childers who died in York, South Carolina.  Aha, there's a South Carolina connection!

Faced with this hint, Roberta asks, what do I do with it?

I absolutely do not adopt Jacob Childers as my ancestor based on a DNA match to a few of Robert's descendants. For me, the hard work follows to do a Childers single-name study in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

My strategy is to take hints from my NADs, but use conventional genealogy to prove the line. DNA is a great tool, but it certainly doesn't replace good old-fashioned research.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Should I Use GEDMatch for My DNA?

Addie is an adoptee, looking for her birth parents. She tested her autosomal DNA with 23AndMe. Addie has a good match with some people who tested at FamilyTreeDNA and with some who tested at AncestryDNA. But there's a huge problem: how does she find those matches? Each company shows only matches from within their own customer base.

GEDMatch is the answer.

GEDMatch expands the playing field for all autosomal DNA testers and it provides the chromosome browser and triangulation tools that are missing from AncestryDNA. Fortunately for Addie, a number of her matches had uploaded their DNA results to GEDMatch.

My father, who tested at FTDNA, is second on Addie's match list at GEDMatch, while my brother, who tested at AncestryDNA, is first. Our first cousin is 13th, while my half-uncle and I don't match at all. Of course, there are many others on her match list. Several researchers now have a multi-way conversation going on to try and help with her search.

Along with the larger conversation, I have a one-on-one conversation going on with one man. We think that there is a relationship not only between his aunt Ethel and my dad, but also between my mom and Ethel. That is because my brother matches Ethel in other chromosome locations than my dad matches Ethel. If we were working only at AncestryDNA, we would never have known about that subtle nuance.

Jim Bartlett recently shared on his blog ten reasons to upload to GEDMatch (or FTDNA). Note that GEDMatch is entirely free, while FTDNA is not. In the comments on that blog post Jim explains just a bit about how to download and upload DNA results. Instructions are also available at GEDMatch once you register for an account.

The team at GEDMatch has made some changes since I last wrote about this fabulous website. The match list still shows the kit number, the Y-DNA haplogroup and MtDNA haplogroup and the matching segment totals, including matches on the X chromosome. The display of the email addresses and names of testers has been improved. One of the features that I most appreciate is the concise listing of matches. Both AncestryDNA and FTDNA require a lot of scrolling.

This is the top of my match list. My dad and daughter are 1 generation away from me, while my brother is 1.3 and other family members are 1.5 to 2 generations away. Beyond immediate family, the number of generations rapidly rises to 4 and beyond.

The first letter of the kit shows if the test was done at Ancestry (A), FTDNA (F) or 23AndMe (M).

17th on my match list is my third cousin once removed. When I click on the "A" in the Autosomal column, I can run the one-to-one chromosome comparison, with or without a graphical representation. I like to include the graphs, rather than numbers alone, because I can better visualize the match. Clicking on the X for an X-chromosome match works in a similar way.

I see that we have matching DNA on chromosomes 2, 4 and 18.

At the end of the compare are some statistics about the match.

     Largest segment = 20.4 cM
     Total of segments > 7 cM = 41.8 cM
     Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 4.2

I can use this information as part of mapping my chromosomes to ancestors. These segments probably came from our shared Mooney/Alexander ancestors. We still need to verify them against other Mooney and Alexander descendants.

I've also shared about the ethnicity models at GEDMatch and how I can run my family's DNA through different ethnicity models, depending on their known ethnicity. The result is a pie chart with a legend.

GEDMatch does all this for free. I choose to donate to help support the site, so I do have access to some other tools. Fellow DNA testers -- readers and cousins -- come along for the ride and enjoy the new discoveries that await you at GEDMatch.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My 2016 Genetic Genealogy Goal

Looking for descendants of Aaron Lake, born about 1775

  • Aaron Lake lived in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, at the time of the 1820 census.
  • Is he the same Aaron Lake who lived in Perry County, Indiana during the 1820 census?
  • Was he the man enumerated in Washington County, Pennsylvania in the 1800 census?
  • Did he pay taxes in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1800?
  • Did he marry and have children in Hunterdon County, New Jersey?
  • Was he the same Aaron Lake who died in Morgan County, Illinois, on July 6, 1835?
  • Which man, if any, is my ancestor?

Researchers have shared this tidbit online: Mary Ann Lake (daughter of Aaron Lake) was born about 1794, in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. She died in 1852, in Leopold, Perry County, Indiana, where she was buried in the St. Augustine's Catholic Church Cemetery. She married John Baptist Alvey on June 8, 1813, in Breckinridge County, Kentucky.

My ancestor, Lindsay Lake, was born in Breckinridge County on May 5, 1813. He named his eldest son Aaron. Lindsay died in Morgan County, Illinois on August 19, 1876. Lindsay has the dubious distinction of my ancestor who married the most times. His son said it had been seven times, though it may have been eight. Son Aaron, born in 1835, is my ancestor.

An Illinois neighbor, Israel Lake, provides additional clues. He was born in Pennsylvania about 1809 and married in Perry County, Indiana, in 1829. One of his descendants and I have an autosomal DNA match at the 5th-8th cousin level. Israel's death is unknown, but was after 1880 and most likely was in either Cass County or adjoining Morgan County, Illinois.

William Lake was born December, 1800, in Pennsylvania. He married in Perry County, Indiana, in 1824, and died in Vermillion County, Indiana, on Aug 27, 1868. His probate mentions Linzey Lake, likely my ancestor. I have a trace autosomal DNA match to a descendant of William Lake. William named his eldest son Aaron and another son Israel.

Lord Harrison Lake was born in Pennsylvania before 1800, married in Perry County, Indiana, in 1822, and died in Cass County, Illinois about 1846.

Both Y-DNA and autosomal DNA can help with this relationship puzzle. If you are a male Lake descendant, with all male Lake ancestors back to any of these men, please join the Lake surname project at FamilyTreeDNA. If, like me, your Lake ancestry wanders between males and females, your autosomal DNA can help. Consider testing with the FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder or with Ancestry DNA. Also be sure to upload the results to Let me know via a private comment here, if you do one of these tests. The more cousins who test and communicate, the more we can learn about the Lake family.

Lindsay Lake had a mix of step and natural children. Obviously, we need DNA from only his natural children. Fortunately for us, his heirs had a court battle over his estate. His named heirs, all believed to be natural children are: Aaron Lake, Cynthiana Lake Fanning, John L. Lake, Susan Lake, Josephine Lake, George B. Lake, and Isaac H. Lake. I have a 4th-6th cousin match with a descendant of Cynthiana.

The minor children of the Aaron Lake who died in Morgan County in 1835 were named in his probate:
  • Angeline married George Sibert
  • Rebecca married Edward Hardy

I look forward to hearing from Lake cousins near and far!