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Understanding AncestryDNA

Why is DNA research so difficult to understand? Simple, it is a very complex topic.

You first learned about DNA in high school biology. You probably then did your best to forget about DNA until about a decade ago when DNA testing became a reality as an affordable, relatively speaking, individual identifier and tool for tracking one’s family history. Now every genealogist is a DNA expert. Right? Of course not. The language and process of DNA testing is still a science with words that belong to scientists. In addition, there have been so many recent books and articles on the subject it can be easy to get confused over all the types of tests, let alone just trying to get a general understanding of the whole practice.

Understanding AncestryDNAHowever, there is a much simpler way to grow your understanding of this complex topic. Diahan Southard has produced a series of six, colorful, laminated guides that outline all the basics one needs to understand DNA for genealogists. Her guides include:

Each guide follows the popular standard as four laminated pages in a single center folded guide measuring 8.5 x 11 inches.

Understanding AncestryDNA specifically explains Ancestry’s DNA testing and its major components. The guide will help you understand the test itself and what you can expect to gain from your test.

Here is a contents list based on specific headers in the guide:

  • Best Matches
  • First- Link Your Pedigree
    • Simple Pedigree
  • Why DNA Circles?
    • So Who is Invited?
  • Deciphering DNA Circles
  • Using the Main Match Page
  • One to One Matching
  • Genetic Tools
  • Try This!
  • What Next?

Diahan Southard holds a degree in Microbiology and has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.


Order copies of Understanding AncestryDNA from Family Roots Publishing.

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The Portable Genealogist: Applying to Lineage Societies

The Portable Genealogist: Applying To Lineage SocietiesAcross the country, and the globe, there are thousands of genealogical societies ready to welcome both new and experienced genealogists into their midst. Over the years I have had the opportunity to lecture and teach classes to many such groups and have observed the bonds of friendship and family that grow among various members. I have also seen some unique bonds develop among friends when they discover they are related; call them cousin connections. No matter how many generations separate cousins, genealogist just seem to seem to get all giddy over discovering a shared ancestry. Perhaps this is why some societies form around specific family lines or a common heritage centered on historical events.

Joining a lineage-based society is not always as simple as joining a local genealogical society. Usually, these types of organizations require a formalized application process. A recently published guide, The Portable Genealogist: Applying to Lineage Societies, focuses on helping genealogists apply for membership in just this type of organization. The introduction from this New England Historic Genealogical Society published guide explains further:

“A lineage or hereditary society is a member-based group that is organized around a common ancestor or ancestors of historical importance. For example, members of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants can trace their lineage to one of the original passengers from the Mayflower. These societies aim to preserve the memory of their common ancestry, participate in historical conversations and eduction, and may provide original scholarship or a specialized facility to aid family historians.

Although no society is the same, each provides and environment for members to share their common ancestry. This Portable Genealogist provides information on a number of lineage societies, the general application process, and tips for completing your application.”

All “Portable” guides are two-color, four-page, three-hole-punched laminated guide, folded to 8.5″ x 11″. This guide covers four topic areas:

  • Popular hereditary societies
  • Application process
  • Locating vital records
  • Dos and don’ts

The most obvious requirement in the application process is to establish your ancestral line. Some may think they are too new or inexperienced, or simply lack the necessary research, to apply for membership in a lineage-based society; however, having a better understanding of general requirements and the membership process common to many such organizations may help you better make note and prepare for the day when your research has proven a valid shared ancestral connection.

The third section of this guide specifically covers vital records research, an important source for verification of ancestral data. Just the information your application will require.

The guide ends, as most of these guides do, with a list of recommended resources to further your understanding of the topics covered. Also, don’t forget to read the NEHGS tips in this, and other Portable Genealogist guides.

Order The Portable Genealogist: Applying to Lineage Societies and many other popular laminated guides from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $6.81

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100 Year Old Missouri Time Capsule Opened

The following excerpt is from the June 18, 2015 edition of

The contents of the Capitol’s 100-year-old time capsule were removed Thursday by conservators from the Missouri State Archives. Courtesy of the Office of Administration

The contents of the Capitol’s 100-year-old time capsule were removed Thursday by conservators from the Missouri State Archives. Courtesy of the Office of Administration

Missouri state workers donned masks and blue gloves with the care of surgeons to cut open the Capitol’s 100-year-old time capsule Thursday, revealing relics such as a Bible, photos of the Capitol’s groundbreaking ceremony and yellowed newspapers.

The box — placed inside the Capitol’s cornerstone June 24, 1915 — was opened in preparation for a ceremony marking the building’s 100th anniversary.

“This has been preserved incredibly well,” Cathy Brown, the Office of Administration’s facilities management, design and construction director, said as the box was opened.

OA staff did not invite members of the media or the general public to the unveiling, citing cramped quarters and concern for the aged items from the time capsule.

But in a move telling of advances in technology since the box was sealed, hundreds watched through the new live-streaming app for smartphones called Periscope as the century-old keepsakes delicately were lifted from the copper box.

Read the full article.

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Texas Legislature Increased Appropriation of the State Library & Archives Commission by $7.6M for 2016-2017

The following teaser is from the June 25, 2015 edition of

The 84th Texas Legislature has increased the appropriation of the State Library and Archives Commission by $7.6M for the 2016-2017 biennium. The new funding includes resources to launch the Texas Digital Archive to preserve and make available electronic archives of state government as well as $6M to offer Texans greater access to online information via the popular TexShare and TexQuest programs. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission also gained funds in the new state budget to address salary needs and to implement a new automated accounting and payroll system.

Read the full article.

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White Woman, 72, thought She Was Black for Most of Her Life


The crazy Rachel Dolezal story had many of us puzzling over why anyone would go to so much risk and effort to make themselves appear to be something they were not. Now comes the story of Verda Byrd, who was told as a child that she was black, and went throughout her life believing a lie. Following is an excerpt from an article posted at

Verda Byrd is a 72-year-old white woman who thought she was black for most of her life.

…Byrd says she had no clue about her white ancestry growing up.

A foster kid since age 2, Byrd was raised in Missouri by her black foster parents, Ray and Edwina Wagoner, who were only able to adopt her because officials at the time thought her mom was white.

In 2013, after uncovering her adoption papers many years after her parents’ deaths, Byrd found out she was white and also learned that she had three biological sisters, who are also white.

Read the full article.

Here’s another article at

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FindMyPast Library Edition Now Available in United States Libraries

The following news release is from FindMyPast:


  • Findmypast, a global leader in family history, announces the availability of a library edition within the United States
  • Provides access for libraries, archives, and other organizations to billions of records from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States
  • Free, no obligation, 90-day trial available

Salt Lake City – June 25, 2015Findmypast, a global leader in family history, announced today the official release of their product for libraries and organizations in the United States. The Findmypast Library Edition gives library access to billions of records from Findmypast’s wide array of collections from the United States, Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, and other areas of the world. Collection highlights include:

Amongst the billions of records now available to library patrons is the new PERiodical Source Index (PERSI). PERSI, a popular tool used by genealogists, includes more than 2.5 million indexed entries from thousands of genealogical and local history publications. For the first time, images of articles have been included in the collection – with more being added on a regular basis.

“We are delighted to bring the best resource for British and Irish family history to America’s library market,” said Annelies van den Belt, CEO of Findmypast.

The Library Edition provides tools for patrons to work in tandem with a library’s subscription and at home. Individual user accounts allow patrons to build their own family tree, save records from the library’s subscription, and continue working on their family tree. Library patrons will also have access to Findmypast’s Hints, which aids in the discovery of records from their own family tree.

Librarians can contact for further information, pricing, and to start a free 90-day free trial of the product.

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Family History Library Announces Free Webinar Classes for July 2015

The following is from FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Logo 2014

These classes and workshops are designed to help individuals and families find their ancestors and teach others family history techniques.

July 2 – 7:00 P.M. Danish Church Records: Feast Days Webinar.

July 9 – 6:00 P.M. United States Naturalization Webinar.

July 13-17 – Wales Research Series Webinars will be held Monday through Friday at 1:00 P.M. Classes include: “Welsh Naming Patterns,” “Wales Maps and Gazetteers,” “Wales Online Websites,” “Wales Anglican and Nonconformist Church Records,” and “Wales Probate Records.”

July 18 – 9:15 A.M.–12:15 P.M. Danish Research Series Webinars. Classes include: “Danish Probate Record Research,” “Accessing Danish Probate Records: Online and Microfilm,” and “Probate Records: Extracting Genealogical Information.”

10:00 A.M. Boy Scout Genealogy Merit Badge (1½ hours) To register, call 1-801-240-4673 at least one week prior to the workshop to find out which requirements should be completed before attending.

1:00 P.M. Fuentes en FamilySearch Webinar.

July 23 – 6:00 P.M. Beginning LDS Research Webinar.

Webinars can be accessed by going to; click Search; select Wiki. Type Family History Library and choose the top entry. Click on 2.2 Live Online Classes for details; scroll to find desired classes.

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Salt Lake Christmas Tour 2015 Classes & Speakers

The 2015 Salt Lake Christmas Tour is coming together very nicely. I am taking this opportunity to bring everyone up to date.

Most of the classes are scheduled for the 2015 Christmas Tour. A few are still to be announced, but about 2/3 are in place. Thomas MacEntee alone will be giving 10 classes between Monday and Friday. Check out the 2015 Schedule for class titles.

The following speakers are scheduled: Thomas MacEntee, Leland K Meitzler, Lisa Alzo, Kevan Hansen, Dwight Radford, Loni Gardner, Maureen MacDonald, Arlene Eakle, Linda Brinkerhoff, Bruce Buzbee, Mark Olsen, and Anna Swayne. Others will most likely be added.

Paul Nauta, from FamilySearch, will be our dinner-speaker again this year. It’s been three years since he was last with us. He’ll give us an update of what’s new and exciting at FamilySearch.

It’s going to be an exciting year. If you want to come, I’d recommend registering asap, as registrations have been coming in steadily. We may have rooms available right up until the first of December – but then again, it’s always possible that we’ll max out, and cut off registrations.

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TLC Announces Summer Season Celebrities for “Who Do You Think You Are?”


I happen to love TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” They have now announced who the celebs will be for the Summer Season 2015. I will be writing a lot more about this as time goes on. The following was received from The Learning Channel:

Series returns Sunday, July 26 at 9/8c

The two-time Emmy nominated series WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this summer to share more fascinating stories, and shed light on surprising revelations, of the real life family history of celebrities. Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the new season premieres Sunday, July 26 at 9/8c.

The contributors featured in the upcoming season include:

  • Tom Bergeron, who is aware of his French Canadian roots on his paternal side, but wants to know what brought his ancestors to North America. He goes as far back as his 10x great grandmother to find the answer.
  • Bryan Cranston, who comes to discover an unfortunate pattern amongst the men in his family.
  • Ginnifer Goodwin, who sets out to learn about her mysterious paternal great grandparents, whom her father, regretfully, does not know much about either.
  • Alfre Woodard, who strives to find out more about the paternal side of her family, and explores how her surname came to be.
  • Additionally, TLC will air the U.S. premiere of J.K. Rowling’s episode of the series, where the best-selling author sets off to uncover her maternal French roots. She finds that a family war story might not be what she thought when military records reveal a surprising twist.

Ancestry, the leading family history company, is teaming up again with TLC as a sponsor of the upcoming season. As part of the show sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research on each of the featured celebrities to help make discoveries possible and build out the story of each episode.

The series is produced for TLC by Shed Media and Is or Isn’t Entertainment, and is based on an original format created by Wall to Wall Media and Alex Graham. For Shed Media Executive Producers are Stephanie Schwam and Pam Healey. More information can be found at ‘Like’ Who Do You Think You Are? on and follow @WDYTYA on Twitter.

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PBS Pulls “Finding Your Roots” After Ben Affleck Debacle

PBS has pulled “Finding Your Roots.” I’m guessing they didn’t like all the lousy publicity that they received over the seeming “cover-up” of Ben Affleck’s ancestry. So Season Three is ending before it gets started. That’s too bad, for over all, it was a good program.

Ben Affleck-200pw

The following teaser is from an article written by Sarah Kaplan, published in the June 25, 2015 edition of the Washington Post:

When Ben Affleck volunteered to be featured on the PBS genealogy program “Finding Your Roots” last year, he was hoping to find “the roots of his family’s interest in social justice.”

Researchers did turn up plenty for the actor-cum-activist to be pleased about: a mother who was a member of the Freedom Riders, an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War.

But they also found Benjamin Cole, a great-great-great grandparent on his mother’s side…

An attempt to cover up that unwanted detail has led PBS to suspend the show, citing Affleck’s “improper influence” on programming.

“Finding Your Roots,” which was due to start its third season, is a typically PBS show. Executive produced by Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., it’s understated, bookish, set to a gentle soundtrack of twanging acoustic guitars and lightly probing in a way that’s neither too harsh nor provocative…

Read the full article.

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Savannah, Georgia Digital Images Now Available Online


The Blog of the Digital Library of Georgia has announced that the City of Savannah, Research Library and Municipal Archives, through its online Digital Image Catalog, has made public all kinds of historic Savannah, Georgia digital images. Following is a teaser from an article on the blog:

The City of Savannah, Research Library and Municipal Archives has recently made a new collection available through its online Digital Image Catalog: Public Information Office–Photographs, 1948-2000.

This collection contains digitized photographs, slides, negatives, and manuscript material maintained by the city of Savannah’s Public Information Office, and document city-sponsored services, programs, and significant city events. There are also photographs of politicians and employees of city bureaus.

Images in the collection were used in both internal publications that included reports, newsletters, and identification materials, and promotional materials that advertised city services and programs…

Read the full article.

Search the the City of Savannah Research Library and Municipal Archives site.

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for the heads-up.

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Cyndi’s List – 20 Years and Still Growing


On the first day of Summer, 2015, Cyndi Howells set about writing a blog about “how it all began” – Cyndi’s List that is. The popular genealogy link site evolved into what Cyndi has made it today over a period of 20 years. If you’re looking for genealogy-related information, it’s still the go-to website. Cyndi has been my friend for most of those 20 years, and lives only a few miles from me here in Pierce County, Washington. She got her start with the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society – the same group of people who nurtured my early attempts at building my family tree. Following is a short teaser from Cyndi’s article. I recommend you take ad few minutes and read the full thing. It’s quite a story. Congratulations on 20 years, Cyndi.

I do not have the exact date, but twenty years ago this summer I bought a new desktop computer. It came with a screaming fast 9600-baud modem and free America Online software already installed. I went online for the first time.

I was delighted to find that America Online had a genealogy forum. I started participating in the groups and chats there and exploring the file libraries. I recall being intrigued by this thing that existed outside of AOL. It was called the Internet. I bought a book that explained exactly what that was, how it worked, and about the history behind it. I like to know how things work and what makes them tick. This helps me to understand how to make the best use of them. I started exploring the Internet and figuring out how and where to find information that helped my genealogical research.

Read the full article.

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23andMe – DNA Tests That Are Being Using For Far More Than Just Ancestry

Discover 23andMe & find out what your DNA says about you & your family! Buy one, get 20% off each ad

I ordered a 23andMe DNA test yesterday. Yes – I’ve taken one from Sorenson’s, and later AncestryDNA, but I’d like to see how the test done by 23andMe matches up to the earlier tests. I’m also fascinated by all the non-family history research that 23andMe does with our DNA – lots of health-related stuff. One of their areas of research deals with Lupus. When I registered my test, I was given the opportunity to fill out questionnaires that were to help advance their health-related research projects. I found it fascinating, and was pleased that I could be involved in a project that would help others. Click on the illustration to learn more about 23andMe.

DNA testing can also have a sociological side to it. A fascinating article was written by Carl Zimmer and posted at the New York Times website December 24, 2014. It was titled White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier. In the article he explains how 23andMe data was used to study how the ancestral makeup of self-identified African Americans, Latinos and European Americans differs by region-and why. I don’t remember reading this article when it was posted, but was prompted to do so by an email from 23andMe after I registered my test. Following is a teaser:

In 1924, the State of Virginia attempted to define what it means to be white.

The state’s Racial Integrity Act, which barred marriages between whites and people of other races, defined whites as people “whose blood is entirely white, having no known, demonstrable or ascertainable admixture of the blood of another race.”

There was just one problem. As originally written, the law would have classified many of Virginia’s most prominent families as not white, because they claimed to be descended from Pocahontas.

So the Virginia legislature revised the act, establishing what came to be known as the “Pocahontas exception.” Virginians could be up to one-sixteenth Native American and still be white in the eyes of the law.

People who were one-sixteenth black, on the other hand, were still black.

In the United States, there is a long tradition of trying to draw sharp lines between ethnic groups, but our ancestry is a fluid and complex matter. In recent years geneticists have been uncovering new evidence about our shared heritage, and last week a team of scientists published the biggest genetic profile of the United States to date, based on a study of 160,000 people.

Read the full article.

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The Portable Genealogist: Editorial Stylesheet

The Portable Genealogist: Editorial StylesheetThe New England Historic Genealogical Society continues to release new publications under their laminate guide series The Portable Genealogists. Leland recently returned from the SCGS Jamboree with several of these guides. He already posted a review on The Portable Genealogist – Using DNA in Genealogy. There are several more guides we will review on this site, including the subject of this blog: The Portable Genealogist: Editorial Stylesheet.

All “Portable” guides are two-color, four-page, three-hole-punched laminated guide, folded to 8.5″ x 11″. This guide covers four topic areas:

  • Basic guidelines
  • Register-style format
  • Ahnentafel format
  • Specific style guidelines

The Editorial Stylesheet guide examines “conventions for presentation of genealogical information.” The guide will help you work on presentation of your research, referencing people and places, and implementing an overall style, while working on traditional grammatical elements like punctuation.

Essentially, when presenting genealogical data in either Register or ahnentafel style/format, consideration should be given to standards or conventions in presentation. This guide covers the basics of those standards.  This guide will help you get started or it can serve as a reminder as your work.

Don’t forget to read the NEHGS tips in this, and other, Portable Genealogist guides.

Order The Portable Genealogist: Editorial Stylesheet. and many other popular laminated guides from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $6.81

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The Portable Genealogist: Indexing

Portable Genealogist: IndexingThe New England Historic Genealogical Society continues to release new publications under their laminate guide series The Portable Genealogist. Leland recently returned from the SCGS Jamboree with several of these guides. He already posted a review on The Portable Genealogist – Using DNA in Genealogy. There are several more guides we will review on this site, including the subject of this blog: The Portable Genealogist: Indexing.

All “Portable” guides are two-color, four-page, three-hole-punched laminated guide, folded to 8.5″ x 11″. This guide covers four topic areas:

  • Indexing names and places
  • Creating an index
  • Formatting your index
  • Using Word for indexing

The last page in this guide provides a “sample index with formatting suggestions;” plus, a short list of additional resources.

Indexing name and places covers items that include, surnames, dealing with ambiguity, indexing married women (multiple surnames), alternate spellings, etc.

The using Word section covers tagging names in the text and building an index. The sample page offers clear suggestions for form and layout, something most just assume will be easy, but trust me when I say it can be most difficult to get right and make legible; especially, for complex indexes. There are also four “NEHGS Tips” in this guide.

Order The Portable Genealogist: Indexing and many other popular laminated guides from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $6.81

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