28 December 2011

Review: Debbie Kennett's DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-first Century

Book review:

Debbie Kennett, DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-first Century (Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2011).

I highly recommend this book to all of my genealogy friends. This book will be available in print in the U.S. next spring. It is available now from History Press, Amazon UK (allow several weeks for U.S. delivery), and in a Kindle edition which is what I read. (My first reading of a Kindle book on my husband's Kindle 3. Because the Kindle edition does not include page numbers, the review below will refer to chapters only.)

Disclosure: I have not met Debbie Kennett in person although we have corresponded electronically a few times. I have learned from her postings on DNA mail lists we both subscribe to. I will refer to her formally using her surname "Kennett" so there will be no confusion over our shared given name. I like this book because it confirms many of the statements and opinions I express during presentations on using DNA for genealogical purposes. It's always nice to have recognized experts in the field support your opinions.

The most-used books on genetic genealogy were published over five years ago. During that time great advancements have been made in our knowledge of DNA. Those five year old books rarely even mention autosomal DNA (atDNA) testing, much less discuss how to use it. There are a lot of articles, websites, and blogs that discuss autosomal DNA and the advancements in Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), but no book I have seen has compiled current information into one print publication. Debbie Kennett's book fills that need for beginners and provides many links to additional information for more advanced genetic genealogists.

Combining DNA and social networking topics in one book may seem odd, but social networking sites have become a must-use tool for active genealogists. The social networking section of this book covers the basics of social media and gives tips on finding and approaching potential family members for the purpose of DNA testing or genealogy connections. For the non-techie genealogist, this book is a great introduction not only to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but also covers blogs, Wikis, and other electronic means of communication. Even if you don't plan to use social media, this book will help you understand what is meant when others discuss these tools.

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable both on DNA and technology. I learned some things about both subjects as I read this book. While there is an understandable slight bias for the UK in the websites listed, most of this book will be indispensable to American and other genealogists as well. Major U.S. sites are covered as well as UK and Irish sites.

The foreword is by Chris Pomeroy who is the author of DNA and Family History (2004) and Family History in the Genes (2007), articles, podcasts, and blog posts, all linked from his DNA and Family History website. In the foreword Chris states:
Genetic testing increasingly looks set to become an integral part of everyday genealogical research in the years ahead. A decade ago, a DNA test was seen as something exotic and tangential to the main work of the genealogist, which was visiting archives and transcribing the data in them. Today it's possible to run a parallel DNA project and to use the DNA results to confirm we have identified the correct people within each line and tree.
In an easy to read and understand manner, Kennett leads the genealogist through the steps necessary to use DNA results to confirm our paper trail. She has been involved with genetic genealogy since 2006 when many genealogists did not yet know DNA could be used for genealogical purposes. Enough background is given to help the reader understand the current state of genealogical testing and how far we have come in a decade of genetic genealogy. Kennett divides the book into two sections that help the lay person understand the science of DNA for family history and the technical tools genealogists use today.

Section one describes "The Genetic Genealogy Revolution" with chapters:
  1. The basic principles — covering the basics of DNA testing of all types, the limitations of using DNA, how to determine who to test, how to choose a testing company, and the mechanics of taking a DNA sample.
  2. Surnames and the paternal line — covering Y-DNA tests and surname projects including a section on the possible reasons a mismatch may be seen when a DNA match was expected, geographical projects, adoptions, recommendations on how many markers to test, how to understand the test results using both tools from the testing companies and tools genetic genealogists have made freely available online, and public Y-DNA databases.
  3. Before surnames: haplogroups and deep ancestry — covering the DNA tests and results that tell you about your ancestors before a genealogical timeframe, tens of thousands of years ago. Some of the tests described here may not help today with genealogy, but the information being discovered could contribute more than we realize to both genealogy and an understanding of the history of humans. Each researcher should understand these tests so she knows how the results can be used and the limitations.
  4. The maternal line: mitochondrial DNA tests — covering how to use mtDNA for genealogical purposes, mtDNA projects, understanding your test results, deep ancestry of the maternal line, and public mtDNA databases.
  5. Cousins reunited: autosomal DNA tests [my favorite section] — covering atDNA which can be used to research all of our ancestral lines, not just the paternal and maternal lines on our pedigree charts. This is one of the first books on how to use the atDNA test results for genealogy. Kennett also covers the X-chromosome in this section with simple charts showing the ancestors from whom a male and female child might have inherited an X chromosome. This understanding of DNA inheritance patterns is critical to using DNA results for genealogical purposes. Kennett uses examples from both companies that have been offering atDNA tests for some years: 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. She also explains the process each company uses to allow contact between DNA matches.
  6. Setting up and running a DNA project — covering information a DNA project manager needs to know about starting, marketing, and managing a project.

Section two describes "The Social Networking Revolution" with intro and chapters:

Introduction — covering interesting statistics on the use of social media and subjects that should be considered by users of these tools.
  1. Traditional genealogical networking methods — covering family history societies, mail lists, message boards, forums, and other tools most genealogists have probably used. The section on mail list etiquette should be periodically reviewed by all computer users to remind us of good e-manners and how to get the best responses to our queries.
  2. Genealogy social networking web sites — covering the history and pros and cons of Genes Reunited, several online tree building sites, GenealogyWise, and Lost Cousins.
  3. General social networking web sites — covering the history and pros and cons of non-genealogical networking sites such as Friends Reunited, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo, and Google+.
  4. Blogs — covering what a blog is, how to find one, RSS feeds to make blog reading easier, and writing your own blog. There is a long, useful list of interesting blogs and blog tools.
  5. Wikis — covering how wikis work, Wikipedia, genealogy wikis, the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG) Wiki, family tree wikis, and research wikis. Even tech-savvy genealogists may find a few links never before clicked on.
  6. Multimedia — covering photographic and video sites, podcasts, webcasts, and webinars.
  7. Collaborative tools — covering tools a genealogist can use for research and when communicating with other researchers.
End matter includes a glossary and bibliography and appendixes:
  1. DNA websites — listing MANY links to sites to help a person understand genetic genealogy.
  2. Testing companies — listing the DNA testing companies with brief descriptions.
  3. DNA projects — listing several types of DNA projects.
  4. Surname resources — listing links for surname resources.

Other reviews of this book can be found at:

CeCe Moore, "Debbie Kennett's 'DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the 21st Century', article, 8 November 2011 Your Genetic Genealogist blog (http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2011/11/debbie-kennetts-dna-and-social.html : accessed 28 November 2011).

Emily Aulicino, "DNA and Social Networking by Debbie Kennett," article, 9 November 2011, dna - genealem's genetic genealogy blog (http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.com/ : accessed 28 November 2011).

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

22 December 2011

Portal to Texas History News

I just got my current copy of Beyond the Bytes, digital newsletter of the Portal to Texas History at the University of North Texas (UNT). You can read the entire newsletter online.

Highlights include digitization of:
  • the O. Henry Project in a collaboration of the Austin History Center, the Texas General Land Office, and the Texas State Preservation Board;
  • Gillespie County Historical Society photographs;
  • Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary records;
  • addition of the Texas Jewish Post, Southern Mercury, and El Regidor to the newspaper archive collection; and
  • Civil War Papers.

The newsletter includes links to subscribe and to join the Portal to Texas History on Facebook.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

DNA Access Policy Changes Bad for Genealogists

Warning: Personal opinions included below.
CeCe Moore's Your Genetic Genealogist is one of my must-read DNA blogs. Yesterday she wrote "23andMe changes terms for expired PGS subscription customers." If you have tested at 23andMe this is a must-read for you, too.

23andMe was formed to do DNA testing primarily to study medical issues. They discovered genealogists were also interested in the data. Two years ago 23andMe ran a good sale and many genealogists, myself included, had tests done. We were interested in autosomal DNA as well as Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests offered at that time by companies doing DNA testing for genealogical purposes.

After the sale 23andMe pricing was a little steep for many genealogists. The company then offered a low initial price with the addition of a monthly maintenance fee. You can see in CeCe's blog what the company told her about how a tester could retain access to their data even if they stopped paying the monthly fee. Apparently the policy of 23andMe is changing and may leave many customers in the lurch.

The section in my DNA presentations where I caution a potential tester to understand what they are paying for will certainly change to reflect these new problems. The section where I tell people to download their raw data will now be emphasized more.

I tell testers to download their raw DNA data as soon as it is available. This protects you somewhat from changing company policies and companies that go out of business. A person would still have to know how to interpret the raw data—or find someone who can do so. But at least you have a copy of the data no matter what changes there are in company policy afterwards. If a company adds data to your profile you may need to download an updated copy of the raw data. But always, always keep a copy of your current raw data in your possession.

Like others, I am no longer comfortable recommending 23andMe for DNA testing for genealogical purposes. I understand that sometimes changing environments and regulations can cause a company to change policies. But to make such drastic changes without first notifying customers is a customer relations no-no. And for some time now Family Tree DNA, a company formed for and by genealogists, has been offering an autosomal test to go along with the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests they pioneered.

Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) has one of the best reputations in the field for customer service. The owners, Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfield, cheerfully invite customers to contact them with any questions, suggestions, or comments. They listen to what their customers say and enhancements the project administrators ask for. As far as I know, no other genealogical testing company has the loyal following that FTDNA has. And the company invests heavily in scientists and equipment that allow new discoveries in the usefulness of DNA for genealogical purposes. Do a search for the "Walking the Y" project on the Family Tree DNA website to learn about one project they invest in.

Ancestry.com is also offering DNA tests now. They have not been doing so long enough to build a reputation yet. In the opinion of many genetic genealogists, Ancestry misrepresents the number of markers they test by individually counting each section of multi-value markers. It takes a long time to build a DNA database, for it to be large enough to make meaningful comparisons, for a company to have knowledgeable customer service representatives to answer DNA questions, and to get a reputation that encourages others to recommend your company.

No other company has a larger database than Family Tree DNA. For genealogy the most important part of DNA testing is to be able to compare your results to many others to find potential family members. With facts like these it's difficult not to recommend Family Tree DNA over the others for genetic genealogy tests. But even at FTDNA, I download and save a copy of my raw data so I always have it on my computer. If you haven't saved your raw data after DNA testing, go do it now. There should be a link on your personal page at the DNA testing company that allows you to download raw data. If you can't find it contact customer service for help.

12-22-2011 afternoon update:

I just saw an update on CeCe's blog — 23andMe has created a place for customers to voice their concerns - see http://bit.ly/uk6xqk. The title on this Google Docs page linked to is "PGS Subscription Feedback." PGS stands for Personal Genome Service. If you go directly to this comment page there is no indication whatsoever this is for comments to 23andMe. You'd think 23andMe would make sure you know that is who the comments are going to in case you don't know what "PGS Subscription" stands for.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

20 December 2011

TSLAC Genealogy After Dark - January 20, 2012

The following announcement was received from Diana Houston, Assistant Director, Information Services, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission will host a Genealogy After Dark event on Friday, January 20, from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Registration is limited to 30 participants.

The State Library will close at 5:00 p.m. and open at 6:00 p.m. for Genealogy After Dark participants. The building will be locked at 7:00 p.m. and no participants will be admitted after that time.

Parking is usually available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto, one block to the east of the Zavala Building. There is no charge for visitors who arrive after 5:00 p.m.

  • 6:00 — Sign-in
  • 6:15 — Countdown to April 2: Getting Ready for the 1940 Census Release! program
  • 7:15 — Light refreshments
  • 7:30 — Texas Family Heritage Research Center and the Reference and Information Center open for research; Orientation: Requesting and Using Materials in the Texas State Archives (required for anyone planning to use archival materials during the event)
  • 7:45 — Texas State Archives open for research
  • 9:45 — Microfilm and photocopy rooms close; Texas State Archives close
  • 10:00 — Building secured
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at geninfo@tsl.state.tx.us or 512-463-5455.

I traveled to Austin from East Texas just to attend an earlier Genealogy After Dark program and highly recommend it. You have immediate access to enthusiastic archivists who are giving up their evening to assist you with your research and teach you about the records they preserve. Take advantage of this and tell your legislative representatives how important TSLAC is to historians and genealogists.

I couldn't locate the registration form online. Maybe they don't post it since the attendance is limited to 30. But you can call or contact them using the information above and find out if slots are still available.

You can find a list of their genealogical resources online here. Don't miss the old-fashioned card catalog in the Archives section if you attend. Many of the names in historic documents have been indexed in the card-catalog which is not available online. You may find an ancestor indexed in a document you never knew they were named in.

(Their new website is displayed off-center by Google chrome, but works. It displays properly in Firefox. I never use Internet explorer so can't tell you how it displays.)

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

Henry Everett Johnson (1871-1923) - East Texas Road Builder?

Yesterday I wrote about the online exhibit on the construction of Texas highways at Texas State Library and Archives Commission. I mentioned my great-great-grandfather who built roads according to family stories my grandmother told me in the early 1990s.
... my grandmother told me her grandfather built roads in East Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and that he died while working on a road in Arkansas when a snake spooked his horse. Grandpa fell and was killed, perhaps from a broken neck, when the horse reared in panic. My grandmother was only seven when this happened so I am not sure how much she remembered or how often her memory may have been refreshed by discussions at family gatherings after she grew up. Her memories of getting soaked while traveling from Dallas to Smackover, Arkansas, in an open-top vehicle in a rain storm in August 1923 seemed pretty vivid.
I have an old 1910–1923 photograph of this great-great-grandfather with family and crew members standing in a wet, muddy, grassless area surrounded by trees. This looks like it could be a road building crew of the time or maybe they are just pulling felled trees to the railroad line for transport. It's hard to tell from the image.

The crewmen are each holding a team with yokes around their necks and ropes and chains leading to the ground where there are large squared-off timbers—maybe to grade a dirt road. I'd love to hear from anyone who knows the history of road building or logging who can identify what these rigs may have been used for. The squared off timber argues they are not pulling felled trees for transport.

Here's a closeup of great-great-grandpa Henry Everett Johnson (1871–1923) and his wife Emma Eugenia Ryan Johnson (1868–1950) cropped from the image above. It is so strange to see I am several years older than the 52 years of age Henry was when he died. We tend to think of our ancestors as being older than us and often forget they were once children themselves.

Henry's life span dates are documented on his tall Woodsmen of the World headstone at Ryan Chapel near Diboll, Angelina County, Texas. Emma's are documented on her Texas death certificate, number 6051 (1950), available from the Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, and now in several places online. Emma is buried next to Henry, but the only marker on her grave is a small, flat stone barely big enough for the initials "E. J." inscribed on it. If you visit the cemetery when the grass is high or when there is snow you'll miss her stone.

Emma is not named in the compiled list of persons buried in the cemetery; the list only includes those with names on stones. Maybe her tiny stone with initials was missed when the cemetery was surveyed or the compilers didn't list stones with initials only. Somehow cemetery records were lost or not carefully kept and when the cemetery association was formed in the 1960s apparently no one knew she was buried there. One of my remote cousins was active in the cemetery association for many years and she did not know where Emma was buried in the cemetery the cousin spent much of her life preserving.

The photograph of what I think is the road crew is in my possession since I saved it from the trash bin. After my grandmother's death my Mom and her sisters started to throw away about 200 of my grandmother's photos they couldn't identify.

Lessons learned:
  1. Talk more about the family history to your relatives while they are still here on this earth. Once they are gone you can't get answer to your questions.
  2. Tell everyone to ALWAYS give you any photos instead of throwing them out without you seeing them. In addition to the road crew photo I rescued, I have identified over half of the people in the other 200 photos my Mom and aunts were going to trash. Several were images of my great-grandmother as a child and other treasures.
  3. Pay attention to every small detail in those old photos. They tell you things.
  4. Just because someone isn't listed in the cemetery book or you can't find a headstone doesn't mean they aren't buried there. Look in all seasons and right after the cemetery has been mowed. Who knew "reasonably exhaustive" research might mean visiting the cemetery in winter when the grass is dead and there's no snow on the ground?
  5. Consider the entire life of your ancestor—the childhood, the teenage years, young adulthood, and the middle and later years. Grandma and Grandpa weren't always the white-haired elders we most remember. What was their life like when they were young?

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

19 December 2011

History of Highway Construction in Texas - TSLAC Exhibit

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has a new online exhibit. One of many freely offered on their website.
"Put the Money Under the Rubber: The Texas Highway Department Transforms Texas 1917-1968" is a new online history exhibit from the Texas State Library and Archives. Historians have called the construction of the Texas highway system one of the greatest building projects in world history. Now history lovers, engineering buffs, and travelers alike can discover this epic story with TSLAC's extensive new online exhibit. Dozens of vintage photographs and documents from TSLAC's collection of Texas Highway Department project files tell the story of Texas's journey from frontier backwater to transportation power player.
The exhibit has interesting photographs from rural areas and small towns as well as big cities. It also has biographies of the state engineers and a lot of history. One page has a great Dallas map and indicates:
In developing this 1943 map, planners used a ratio of one car for every three Dallas residents, creating a plan to accommodate between 190,000 and 222,000 vehicles by 1970. The actual number proved to be closer to 367,000. Also note the estimated "possible limits of future urbanization."
Having lived in Dallas for my first thirty years and visited almost every year thereafter, I can tell you that by the early 1960s Dallas had exceeded the estimated possible limit of future urbanization. By 1970 urbanization would have been off the map (no pun intended, but I'll take it). I can estimate where my childhood homes were situated using the roads and waterways illustrated on the map even though residential streets are not shown.

My original interest in this exhibit (and in other road building history and records) was because my grandmother told me her grandfather built roads in East Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and that he died while working on a road in Arkansas when a snake spooked his horse. Grandpa fell and was killed, perhaps from a broken neck, when the horse reared in panic. My grandmother was only seven when this happened so I am not sure how much she remembered or how often her memory may have been refreshed by discussions at family gatherings after she grew up. Her memories of getting soaked while traveling from Dallas to Smackover, Arkansas, in an open-top vehicle in a rain storm in August 1923 seemed pretty vivid.

One of my back-burner to-dos is to find out more about who this grandpa worked for and try to find records about this work. Many of the family members worked for timber companies in this piney woods area of East Texas where they lived most of the time. I've never known if Grandpa built roads for the timber companies or for county or state governments or maybe even other companies.

I am thankful for all of the historical and genealogical societies, archives, university and public libraries, GenWeb volunteers, and other good people who place information and records online freely available to all. Think of this the next time your state government is cutting the budget for the groups that support historical preservation. Some of my reasons to be thankful:
  1. While viewing the exhibit I received clues of several sets of records I can now search.
  2. While viewing the exhibit I learned general history and background information that helps me understand my family history better.
  3. Viewing something like this exhibit with your older relatives at a holiday gathering may generate some wonderful family stories. When I saw a photo of the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike it reminded me of my uncle who would speed down the road then pull over and wait. When the toll booth clocked his arrival time they could not tell he had driven well in excess of the speed limit between the toll booths. We were always told you could get ticketed for speeding based on the timestamps at the beginning and ending toll booths. I'm not sure if that was true, but obviously my uncle believed it was. I wonder when we'll discover the gene that makes some people incapable of driving at the posted speeds?
Thanks to TSLAC I have more interesting reminiscences to add to my family narrative before I forget again and I have potentially productive record sets to add to my to-do list.

Update 20 Dec 2011: See "Henry Everett Johnson (1871-1923) - East Texas Road Builder?" for more on Grandpa Henry and photos of what I think is his road crew.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

13 December 2011

Books Cannot be Replaced Yet by Tech Alone

While I was away from my computer having fun with visiting family, a crisis in the genealogy world has been averted, or so it seems.

For some unfathomable reason the RootsTech planners decided they would not allow book vendors in the exhibit hall even though they had actively solicited those vendors a few months ago. Very bad form—unfair to the book publishers and to the thousands of us who buy those books.

Leland Meitzler of Family Roots Publishing Company posted about this decision on December 10th. He added an update on December 12th that RootsTech had changed their mind and will allow some book sellers. Also check out Amy Coffin's We Tree RootsTech by the Book and Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers My Genealogy is Rooted in Books articles on this subject. All have many interesting comments following the initial posts.

I certainly hope RootsTech allows all of the book publishers to exhibit. If they are not going to allow book publishers now and in the future, RootsTech will not be on my must-visit list of conferences. Most of us can't afford to attend every conference. We have to pick and choose. In addition to the location, speakers, and the learning experience, the exhibit hall is an important part of my considerations. I tend to buy a lot of books when I drive to the conference. Even when I don't buy a lot of books at the conference, I get a chance to look at the books and place an order later knowing what I will be getting. This hands-on experience is especially important when there are multiple books on the same topic and I can only afford one of them.

I am not a technophobe who resists changes in technology. In my previous "life" I was a computer engineer. Even in that life most of my learning was done from books and technical papers written by experts. Books are an important adjunct to hearing a good speaker teach. I've tried an e-book reader and love PDFs for some things. Using the PDF search feature on a reference book like Evidence Explained is a life saver. Being able to take lots of recreational reading in a Kindle on a trip sure saves on luggage weight. But often I want a printed book I can easily fan the pages on to see what is there and what I might need that I don't know is there until I see it. Browsing is NOT easily done on an e-book reader and don't even think about looking at the endnotes—it's even more frustrating than it is when having to use two bookmarks in a printed book, one for the text and one for the endnotes.

I won't be registering for RootsTech 2013 until I know what their plans are for exhibitors. But I definitely will be going to FGS 2012 in Birmingham and NGS 2013 in Las Vegas. I'll be driving to both so have lots of space in the car for books.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

06 December 2011

Google - Unhelpful Changes and Helpful AROUND(n)

I recently blogged about my love-hate relationship with a genealogical subscription service. I have the same relationship nowadays with Google. I have loved Google since I first saw it back in the days before most people had ever heard of the World Wide Web. Working in a computer engineering and design center gave exposure to a lot of technology before the general public learned about it. Google was so much better than the directory structure Yahoo offered at the time (mid-1990s). Google is still better, but, like so many organizations today, Google seems to be working to attract more non-tech users at the expense of attracting highly technical users by offering unique and customize-able tools.

Today Google can frustrate tech-savvy users as it forces changes that are more useful to the non-tech-savvy and drops tools we have come to depend on. I am a long-time user of Google Desktop Search now looking for a replacement that is better than the built-in search in Windows. Yes, I know Windows 7 search is better than prior versions, but it still lacks features I need. I am also evaluating continued use of other tools from Google, Mozilla, and commercial vendors.

FreeCommander has been my file management tool of choice for several years and is quickly becoming my desktop search tool of choice, too. The disk search and dual file display in NoteTab Pro is also useful. For those of us into geeky features, both offer search and file comparison features as well as some options useful to programmers (support for regular expressions and easy implementation of tools like Perl). For years I have said the $20 I spent on NoteTab Pro is the best $20 I ever spent on software. Both NoteTab and FreeCommander offer free versions with small costs to access more feature-rich versions. More on those tools in a future blog post.

Some of Google's new search settings and selection menus make it harder to access the options that made Google more useful than other sites. YouTube is way down on my list of priorities, but is on the first menu of offerings in Gmail's new pop-up menu design. Reader, Calendar, Books, Scholar—my most-used tools—now require several additional clicks to get to. Don't get me wrong. I love that Google still offers these tools. I hate that they are harder to get to now except when I use my own personal link list instead of using Google's menus.

How can we can convince Google the big, giant, black box drop-down is NOT an improvement over the nice, clean display screen that has always been Google's trademark? What were they thinking?

On the plus side for Google, I learned about another useful search option today: AROUND(n). I'm not sure how I missed this feature for so long. AROUND (which must be entered in capital letters) instructs Google to search for two terms within n words of each other. For example,
dna AROUND(5) genealogy
searches for the words "dna" and "genealogy" within five words of each other in a document. This can be especially useful when you remember seeing a phrase, but can't remember the exact wording. For technical searches, more control is better. The hit list for the above search is similar to a search for "dna genealogy" without the AROUND option, but is sorted differently.

I learned about AROUND(n) while reading the Law Librarian blog which also pointed me to the Google Guide website which looks very useful. Thanks, Law Librarian.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

17 November 2011

Ancestry Survey Missing a Critical Question

I just completed a survey from Ancestry.com after receiving an e-mail message from them. I was excited for a brief moment thinking they really wanted comments on what would make me a satisfied customer. The first paragraph of the message was:
Just like every family tree, every Ancestry.com member is unique. And that’s why, in 2012, we’ll be making your Ancestry.com experience match your preferences, your family history goals and the way you use the site, better than ever before.
Most of the questions seemed aimed at someone who thinks putting all of her data on an Ancestry tree is the be-all and end-all of research. The rest were aimed at finding out how many would then access those trees on a mobile device.

Right now I have a love-hate relationship with Ancestry. I love that so many records are available digitally—that makes me keep paying my annual subscription. I hate that they make it so hard to find what I am looking for in the haystack of records. And, I'm sorry, my jaw clenches every time I hear, "You don't have to know what you're looking for. You just have to start looking." I know what I am looking for and want it to be easier to find it! That could make Ancestry work well for me and for the people who want to enter some data in a tree and wait for a leaf to start shaking to get their attention.

Ancestry's tools seem geared toward giving an inexperienced user so many hits they think they are getting lots of good information. It is an illusion. Some new researchers have no idea how to weed through the multiple hits of a person with the same or similar name who is the right age, more or less, and in the right place, more or less. Experienced users learn to mow through the close-but-no-cigar hits, but it isn't easy. It takes a lot of time.

Ancestry has added some features in recent years to help users isolate hits to those of interest. These tools are still woefully inadequate. I want advanced search features like those that were offered almost a decade ago by FamilySearch on their 1880 U.S. census CD set. Ancestry's keyword search is a start, but needs to give more control to the user of which field contains the keyword. I want to be able to search for a person who has a spouse with a specific name. That is essential when the name you are searching is a common one.

Also, I want to be able to sort the hits based on the field of my choosing. Sometimes I can see that if I keep paging through what Ancestry displays I might eventually find what I am looking for on the 30th or 40th page or 90th page of hits. I set Ancestry to display 50 hits per page. The 40th page is 2,000 hits in to the list. If I could choose the sort field or tell Ancestry to eliminate certain "pseudo-matches" I might find the information I am looking for within the first 10 pages and save hours. And yes, I've played with all the advanced search options and still find them lacking.

This frustration with Ancestry made me take heart when Footnote.com was started. Then Ancestry bought Footnote. Competition is good for companies. Too much of a monopoly allows a company to coast without implementing major improvements.

I'd much rather see Ancestry investing in better and more specific search tools than re-inventing the wheel with new advanced viewers. I can use the viewer of my choice once I download an image. But I have to be able to find and download the image first.

The missing critical question on the survey—a comment block where I could enter comments that weren't related to any specific question on the survey. You know, the block that makes you think they really care what you have to say, not just whether or not you'd pay more for a mobile app that lets you access the site. I get frustrated enough on a large monitor. I don't need to be more frustrated trying to slog through on a tiny screen.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

15 November 2011

Family Tree DNA 2011 Year End Sale

Family Tree DNA just notified project administrators about the current sale which runs through the end of this year. Place orders through a DNA project you are part of. Or join a project to get these great prices.

Kits must be ordered through a project. To order a new kit through the Texas State Genealogical Society project, where a small portion of the price will go to preserve genealogical records in Texas, please click on the spinning DNA strand at the bottom of the page at (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txsgs/). If you are already a customer of Family Tree DNA, you can join the Texas State Genealogical Society project by joining the group TXStateGS.

The message from Family Tree DNA reads:

As we approach the holiday season, we feel having one BIG promotion for a sufficient amount of time best supports our volunteer Administrators, in their effort to recruit new members. Current members will also benefit by having simultaneously reduced prices for upgrades.

Effective immediately this promotion will end on December 31, 2011.

We hope that this will give a big boost to your projects!

Y-DNA 37 $149 $119
Y-DNA 67 $239 $199
mtFullSequence $299 $239
SuperDNA (Y-DNA67 and FMS)    $518 $438
Family Finder $289 $199
Family Finder + mtPlus $438 $318
Family Finder + FMS $559 $439
Family Finder+ Y-DNA37 $438 $318
Comprehensive (FF + FMS + Y-67)    $797 $627
12-25 Marker $49 $35
12-37 Marker $99 $69
12-67 Marker $189 $148
25-37 Marker $49 $35
25-67 Marker $148 $114
37-67 Marker $99 $79
Family Finder $289 $199
mtHVR1toMega $269 $229
mtHVR2toMega $239 $209



© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

Slavery and the Law

Those specializing in African American genealogical research may be interested in the latest issue of the American Society for Legal History's Law and History Review, a special issue on "Law, Slavery, and Justice." Cambridge Journals Online provides access. Some publications on the site are freely available and some are behind a fee wall. The site allows short-term (48 hour) subscription access as well as full subscriptions for multiple publications. This issue of Law and History Review was freely available on November 15, 2011.

Here is the Table of Contents for Law and History Review, Volume 29, Issue 04:

  • Law, Slavery, and Justice: A Special Issue, Introduction by David S. Tanenhaus
  • Slavery and the Law in Atlantic Perspective: Jurisdiction, Jurisprudence, and Justice by Rebecca J. Scott
  • Judges, Masters, Diviners: Slaves’ Experience of Criminal Justice in Colonial Suriname by Natalie Zemon Davis
  • Prosecuting Torture: The Strategic Ethics of Slavery in Pre-Revolutionary Saint-Domingue (Haiti) by Malick W. Ghachem
  • Time, Space, and Jurisdiction in Atlantic World Slavery: The Volunbrun Household in Gradual Emancipation New York by Martha S. Jones
  • Paper Thin: Freedom and Re-enslavement in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution by Rebecca J. Scott
  • Resetting the Legal History of Slavery: Divination, Torture, Poisoning, Murder, Revolution, Emancipation, and Re-enslavement by Walter Johnson

Even though you may not find an ancestor's name in these article, the background history is invaluable. Many of the hundreds of footnotes have links to Google Books and/or Google Scholar for easy access to preview text and reviews.

Thanks to Legal History Blog for alerting me to this issue. I love the way the Internet and blogs make cross-discipline studies so much easier than when we had to travel to university libraries to find specialized journals. But all of the recommendations make my "to buy or read" list grow endlessly and never get any smaller.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

12 November 2011

Enhancing Genealogy with Teacher Resources

A lot of websites designed to help history teachers are also useful to genealogists who want to add social context to the story of their ancestor. Richard Byrne added a new post titled "9 Sources for Historical Images, Documents, Videos, and Audio" to his Free Technology for Teachers blog. Techie genealogists are probably familiar with some of these sites. He mentions a few of my favorites:

  • Yale University's Avalon Project—documenting laws from ancient BCE times to the 21st century—and with a chronology of American history through the included documents

  • The Commons on Flickr—where I have found some great copyright-free images to use in my Powerpoint presentations (check out some of the dance images to represent the genealogy happy dance)

  • Google Books—where I can find full text copies of old legal reporters and digests (descriptions of cases your ancestors may have been involved in)

Check out "9 Sources for Historical Images, Documents, Videos, and Audio" and see if he has a site you haven't used yet.

What other great history sites have you used that are not on his list?

I often use the East Texas Research Center at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. A list of their collections and digital exhibits is here.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

11 November 2011

Veterans Day

Thank you to all the veterans who fight to preserve our way of life.

Vietnam, James C Wayne on the USS Enterprise, 1968

World War II, Cecil Glenn Richards (1917-1987) with his mother Emma Everette (Johnson) Richards (1894-1964), before deploying to the South Pacific

World War II, Foy Edmond Hodnett [Sr.] (1915-1993), US Navy

World War I, Benjamin Woodson Johnson (1895-1947)

Photographs in the collection of Debbie Parker Wayne.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

10 November 2011

Notes from 2011 Family Tree DNA Project Administrator's Conference

Some of the other bloggers who attended the 2011 Family Tree DNA Project Administrator's Conference are faster at posting notes than I am. So instead of reinventing the wheel I'll link to those blogs.

CeCe Moore of Your Genetic Genealogist has posts on Day One and Day Two.

Emily Aulicino of Genealem's Genetic Genealogy has posts part one and part two.

Dave Dowell of Dr D Digs Up Ancestors posted here.

And I wrote about one aspect of the conference that particularly intrigued me Citizen Scientists.

As I find more posts I will add them to this article to keep all the links in one place.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

08 November 2011

Hat Tip to Citizen Scientists / Genetic Genealogists

When I teach DNA classes for genealogists I recommend they test as much as they can afford as soon as they can. My reasons for this advice are:
  • You never know when you will lose a person whose DNA holds the solution to your current genealogical problem or a genealogical problem you will encounter on a line you haven't worked yet. My mother-in-law died this year. I kick myself every time I realize I missed getting her tested. It's not like I should have been surprised. She was ninety-one years old. Even healthy people her age may not have long left on this earth.
  • Genetic genealogy is one of those areas, like backyard astronomy, where non-scientists are making contributions to the scientific knowledge. The amount of a research grant may limit an academic to testing fewer DNA markers and fewer people than we do in a genetic genealogy project. Genetic genealogists are only restricted by our own pocketbooks or how good we are at begging finding an interested benefactor who is interested in the same lineage. We can pool our resources in ways academics can't.
  • Genetic genealogy is just COOL. How often do you get to participate in cutting-edge science?

At the Family Tree DNA conference, held this past weekend in Houston, Texas, two renowned scientists referred to genetic genealogists as "citizen scientists." I like that term. I'm going to add it to my presentation slides.

Dr. Spencer Wells is an Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Project and Director of the Genographic Project found online at https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/index.html. He is also the author of The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (Random House, 2002), Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project: The Landmark DNA Quest to Decipher Our Distant Past (National Geographic, 2006), and his latest book, Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization (Random House, 2010). Dr. Wells acknowledged that citizen science has been critical to his field of study. The public participation segment of the Genographic Project has provided the scientists with lots of data. That data allows the scientists to identify differences that show up at a low but detectable level when many DNA samples are compared. Genetic genealogists have also been able to identify and answer questions that scientists may not have thought of yet.

Dr. Michael F. Hammer is an Associate Professor and Research Scientist at The Hammer Lab at the University of Arizona found online at http://hammerlab.biosci.arizona.edu/. He is also the Chief Scientist for Family Tree DNA and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board. During his presentation to the assembled Project Administrators at the Family Tree DNA conference, Dr. Hammer told us that he and the other scientists had been able to easily answer questions from the group during the first few conferences, but ... The implication being the knowledge level of genetic genealogists is growing and our questions are becoming more difficult to answer easily.

Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, the founders and owners of Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), told us we are pushing academia. Although genetic genealogists include some with a biology or genetics background, most of us wouldn't know nearly as much as we do about DNA without the help we have received from FTDNA. This was the 7th Annual Family Tree DNA Conference for Project Administrators where the company brought scientists and project administrators from all over the world together. The FTDNA website has a wealth of resources available via links and FAQs. Max and Bennett project a genuine friendship and appreciation for their customers. The staff at FTDNA goes above and beyond what any other testing company offers.

Those contributions by citizen scientists are likely due to having a different perspective than the academics do. In many cases we have more data to work with—more markers tested per person and more people tested in a project or a family. Many genetic genealogists compulsively study areas that have significance to our personal ancestral quest, but may not have reached a level of major importance for the academics. We have documentary evidence for relationships the academics lack. We can see instances where the data doesn't exactly fit the statistical model.

A hat tip to all of the citizen scientist genetic genealogists and those who support us seems to be in order. Congratulations to us! I hope we keep pushing academia as more genealogists test and as we learn more about using the data we collect to further our ancestral history goals.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

19 October 2011

Research, Proof Standards, and DNA Testing

As genealogists, we devote most of our reading time to genealogical and historical sources. We can forget how much we can learn from other disciplines. With the use of DNA testing in genealogy, science and medical sources are of interest even to genealogists who didn't devour Scientific American and enjoy biology class as a teenager.

On the discussion list of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG), Debbie Kennett, author of DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century, posted about the book, Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Health Care, second edition, by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton, Iain Chalmers, and Paul Glasziou (London: Pinter and Martin Ltd., 2011). The foreword of the book is written by Ben Goldacre, author of the book Bad Science (New York: Faber and Faber, 2010; several other editons and publishers also available) and his blog of the same name.

The Testing Treatments website has links for ordering the print version of the book. It includes a link allowing the full version to be downloaded as a PDF. After perusing the PDF, I expect to order the print version I can hold in my hands for a leisurely read on the sofa.

How does this relate to genealogy? Through common research processes and my interest in using DNA for genealogical purposes.

In genealogy, we often discuss the links between genealogical and historical research. This book shows similarities between all kinds of research:
  • The very first sentence of the foreword includes a question that is critical to genealogical research as well as the subject of the book and any other kind of research:
    Medicine shouldn't be about authority, and the most important question anyone can ask on any claim is simple: ‘how do you know?’
  • Throughout the book there are discussions of systematic review and looking at the totality of evidence.
  • Discussion of assessing all the relevant, reliable evidence (emphasis added) begins on page 94.
  • Discussion on how to recognize "vested interests and spin in systematic reviews" begins on page 98.
The medical research proof standard is a lot like the GPS as defined in Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 3rd edition revised, by Christine Rose (San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2009):
  • "a reasonably exhaustive search for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question"
  • where we provide "a complete, accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information"
  • then "analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence"
  • resolve conflicts
  • and "arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion."
I was first drawn to Testing Treatments so I could better understand the position of the medical community as it relates to Direct To Consumer (DTC) DNA testing. I am adamant about preserving the right to access my genetic data without going through a gatekeeper specified by government regulation. Along with other ISOGG members, I'm keeping an eye on what the international, U.S., and state legislatures and parliaments are doing as far as hearings and legislation related to DNA testing. I don't want ancestral DNA testing getting caught up in the same kind of legislation that is leading to many states closing access to vital records because they have erroneously been convinced it is a main cause of identity theft.

The portions of chapter four related to genetic tests offer some sensible cautions. We don't yet fully understand all of the interactions between our genes and our environment. But if we don't do DNA testing and analysis we won't ever understand those interactions. Maybe knowledge of genetic predispositions would make some people more fearful. I would suggest that person shouldn't have the test done. But I don't think I should be restricted from spending my own money on a test of my choosing because some other person "might" not take the time to learn what the test results may or may not mean with the knowledge we have. So many people today tout how the free market can cure all the economic ills of the world and all government regulations should be abolished. While I don't agree with that sentiment, I also don't think unnecessarily restrictive regulations should be enacted. We need to find the middle ground this country used to be proud of—striking a balance as discussed on page 48 of Testing Treatments—enough regulation to keep charlatans from abusing the uninformed public without restricting the rights of informed parties to as much information as they wish about their own bodies and genetic makeup.

In addition to seeing the similarities in genealogical, medical, and other kinds of research, I learned a lot from Testing Treatments about medicine and modern pharmaceuticals that will help me make better decisions as I am inevitably confronted by problems of aging. This book is worth your time reading for many reasons.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

29 September 2011

U.S. FDA Hearings on Direct to Consumer DNA Tests

Last summer the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Henry Waxman, held hearings on Direct to Consumer (DTC) Genetic Testing. Many bloggers posted about the meetings and their opinions on the availability of DTC tests, including those we use for determining ancestry using DNA. Last week in San Fransisco the FDA held a town hall on the same topic. The DTC Watch blog includes the full text of the speech made at this meeting by Glenn Hammonds:


There are sure to be more blog postings on this and future hearings soon. We all need to keep up with government activities related to DTC genomic testing and be ready to contact our congressmen and senators to let them know how we feel. Last summer I contacted all of the congressional representatives on Rep. Waxman's committee to let them know, among other things:

In a free society each person has an absolute right to information about her own genome from a source of her own choosing. Please help preserve our individual right to this information by avoiding any unnecessary regulation.

Do you know who your state and national representatives are and how to submit your opinions to them? If not, look it up and keep the information handy. After all, they are supposed to be public servants, serving the people, not serving their own interest or the interests of the richest lobby. When notice of a hearing or a bill comes up that might affect DTC genomic testing, be ready to let your elected representatives know how you feel. For those of us who have in the past and who will in the future break through a genealogical brick wall using DNA tests, the right to our own genetic data is important.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

27 September 2011

Family Tree DNA Sale, ends today

All the good messages seem to come in when I'm traveling or too busy to read e-mail. This is short notice as the sale ends today at 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time. If you want to take a DNA test for genealogical purposes or upgrade to a more complete test, here is an announcement of Family Tree DNA's current sale:

Thank you for helping us reach 15,000 LIKES on our Facebook page! To show how much we like you too, we're offering a 36-HOUR SALE!

START: Monday, September 26 (TODAY) at 12:00pm CDT
END: Tuesday, September 27 at 11:59pm CDT

For NEW customers:
Y-DNA 12 . . . $59 (was $99)
mtDNA . . . $59 (was $99)

Y-DNA 37 . . . $129 (was $149)
Family Finder . . . $199 (was $289)
mtFullSequence (FGS) . . . $229 (was $299)

Y-DNA 12 + mtDNA . . . $118 (was $179)
Family Finder + Y-DNA 12 . . . $248 (was $339)
Family Finder + mtDNA . . . $248 (was $339)
Family Finder + Y-DNA 37 . . . $328 (was $438)
Family Finder + mtFullSequence . . . $398 (was $559)
Comprehensive Genome (Family Finder + mtFullSequence + Y-DNA67) . . . $597 (was $797)

Upgrades & Add-Ons:
mtDNA add-on $59 . . . (was $89)
mtFullSequence upgrade (HVR1 to Mega) . . . $199 (was $269)
mtFullSequence upgrade (HVR2 to Mega) . . . $199 (was $239)
mtFullSequence add-on . . . $219 (was $289)
Family Finder add-on . . . $199 (was $289)

Prices will be automatically adjusted on the Family Tree DNA website -- no coupon code needed! Important: Promotional orders need to be paid for by the end of this sale. Visit us at http://www.familytreedna.com to order now.

- - - -

I hope everyone who is interested gets the word in time. If you don't, make your decision now as to what test you want to have done and be ready to pounce when the next sale starts. The knowledge we have gained from DNA results has exploded many brick walls and will make a bigger bang in the coming years as we learn more. Help both your family research and the genealogy world by participating in this exciting endeavor.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

19 September 2011

Save Texas History Symposium: Texas Revolution at 175

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is hosting the second Save Texas History Symposium on October 1 at the AT&T Executive Education Center located at 1900 University Avenue, Austin, TX 78705. Speakers and activities include:
  • Dr. Gene Smith—Manifest Destiny Comes to Texas
  • James P. Bevill—Financing the Texas Revolution
  • Dr. Stephen Hardin—Texians in Revolt
  • Dr. Gregg Dimmick—The Mexican Retreat from San Jacinto
  • Dr. Alwyn Barr—moderating a panel discussion: Untold Stories of the Texas Revolution: Not a Soldier's Tale
  • break out sessions include VIP tours of the GLO or Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, surveying 101 at the University of Texas, Texas History Educator's workshop, and a genealogy workshop with presentations on DNA and Genealogical Research (Debbie Parker Wayne, Certified Genealogist) Genealogical Resources at the County Level (Christy Moilanen, Travis County Archivist), Genealogical Resources at the GLO (James Harkins, Director of Public Services, Texas GLO), and Genealogical Resources at the National Archives (Aaron Holt, National Archives and Records Administration - Southwest Branch)

See http://www.glo.texas.gov/save-texas-history/ for more information. There will be many interesting vendors in the exhibit hall. Don't miss it.

Full disclosure: I will receive an honorarium for speaking at this conference, but I also recommended it last year when I wasn't speaking.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

17 September 2011

More Information Freely Available Online - JSTOR Early Journal Content

I used to read because I enjoyed it. Anya Seton, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Herman Wouk, Ken Follett, Nelson DeMille—teenage favorites and some I learned to love later in life.

As I became more obsessed with genealogy and family history my favorite authors became David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer, Jean A. Stuntz, Lawrence Friedman, and pretty much anyone published by Heritage Books or Genealogical Publishing.

Then I discovered the information in scholarly journals—often focused on a specific location where my ancestors had lived or on a topic directly related to some event in an ancestor's life. These are the details needed to add "meat to the bones" of my family tree. When I learned I could access JSTOR through the Houston Public Library system I spent hoursperusing what was available and wishing there were more hours in the day to study.

JSTOR provides access to scholarly journals through universities and institutions like large libraries. This is great if you are attending classes at a school that provides access or have access through a local library. As Google began to index the content of journals in JSTOR it could be a frustrating experience to see a link to an article that contained exactly the information you needed, only to find out it was behind a pay wall and you couldn't read the article. Some of those frustrations will disappear now.

JSTOR recently announced open access to material in their collection that is out of copyright. There are some terms and conditions for use so check the full text in the FAQ and the documents it links to.

PDF files listing the included journals by title and by discipline are available. These are just a few of the journals anyone can now access by going to jstor.org and clicking on the link for "Early Journal Content":
  • The Journal of African American History — 1916–1922
  • The Illustrated Wood Worker — 1879–1879
  • California History — 1922–1922
  • Indiana Magazine of History — 1905–1922
  • The Georgia Historical Quarterly — 1917–1922
  • The Journal of American History — 1914–1922
  • The South Carolina Historical Magazine — 1900–1922
  • The Southwestern Historical Quarterly — 1897–1922
  • The William and Mary Quarterly — 1892–1922
  • The Hispanic American Historical Review — 1918–1922
  • California Law Review — 1912–1922
  • Columbia Law Review — 1901–1922
  • Harvard Law Review — 1887–1922
  • Virginia Law Review — 1913–1922
  • The Journal of Religion — 1882–1922

For more information see this Chronicle.com article by Jennifer Howard and the announcement from JSTOR.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

12 September 2011

9/11 Memorials Remind Us of Earlier Records of Memories

Like many Americans, I spent too much time yesterday watching TV memorials of 9/11. Even though I know what is about to happen, it is hard to pull myself away from the video. No matter how many times I see it, there is an involuntary, rushing intake of breath when I see the towers begin to fall.

Last night I saw, what was to me, a new take on the events of 9/11: a documentary with candid video taken of firefighters in the months leading up to, during, and after the horrific events of 9/11. Seeing the unscripted stories of those caught up in monumental history gives more personal meaning to the feelings we have from that day. If you didn't see 9/11: Ten Years Later on CBS last night, check out the citation below for links to view the documentary.1

Films like this and audio recordings can be a great boon to future genealogists, providing personal details about an ancestor's life, thoughts, and physical characteristics. Most of us are more easily moved by images and sound than by words on paper. Remember how you felt when watching the Ken Burns Civil War series on PBS? I wondered if there are other historical images and documentaries out there that might be useful to genealogists. A few internet searches with terms like "historic documentaries" turned up some interesting possibilities. Even if your ancestor wasn't interviewed I'll bet you can find an interview of someone with similar experiences you can draw on to speculate about your ancestor's life.

Archive.org is one of my favorite sites for finding old books. It also has audio and video items I've never explored. Their blog post Then and Now has links to some videos made during the Depression, the Great Depression in the 1920s and 1930s, not the current one. Browsing the "Ephemeral Films collection" I found Shaping San Francisco with footage from 1906, 1917, 1934, and more modern times. The "Vintage Educational Films" include And So They Lived showing the strong family bonds of "poorly educated mountain people" of the Appalachians, Valley Town - A Study of Machines and Men showing workers in the 1920s and 1930s mill towns being displaced by automation, and Wildcat "follows two Oklahoma wildcatters" in Garfield County. There are others on the site.

The East Texas Research Center (ETRC) at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) in Nacodgoches has as oral history collection covering East Texas and the effects of world-wide events on those in the area. Many of these interviews were made by Dr. Bobby H. Johnson, a well-known Texas historian and former professor at SFASU. The ETRC is digitizing the interviews and adding them to the Digital Archives as time allows. Many of the interviews cover life in the lumber industry and oil fields of Texas.

The Panola College (Carthage, Texas) Oral Histories collection includes interviews about living through the Great Depression and the first two World Wars as well as local history and family reminiscences. Death customs, home brew, sharecropping, flour sack clothes, and working for the WPA and the CCC are described. Some of the interviews are online as MP3 files and are "[f]ree for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction." Many interviews of elderly African Americans in East Texas are included as PDF transcripts, not audio files. The usage rights are stated as "[c]opying and or printing of this publication is allowed for non-commercial use as long as acknowledgement or due credit is provided for its use." Be sure you check the rights and use the information appropriately.

Baylor University, Institute for Oral History has transcribed and made PDFs available for many of the 1,800 oral history interviews in the collection. You can browse or search the collection by subject, category, or project. Subjects are the traditional ones used by libraries to catalog items. Categories include Family Life and Community History, Texas Baptist Project, Waco Tornado 1953, and more. Projects include African American Women, German Texans Between World Wars, South Texas Children's Home, Texas Cotton Farmers, and more. Apparently you can only access the PDF files directly if you are in the Baylor Library or have a login to their system. But there is a request form that can be submitted to request access to the PDF transcripts. It isn't clear if they consider family history an acceptable use or if they restrict access to academic scholars.

Historic Video Archives has a collection of "Vintage and Historic Documentaries – Too Original or Unique to Classify." They have color newsreels with science, technology and new products of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s; black-and-white newsreels from 1929 through 1959; a 1926 silent film on sight-seeing in Newark, New Jersey; and more. Even if your ancestors aren't shown in the film, the information may show how your ancestors were living. Especially intriguing to a Southerner is a film that is said to include home movies from the 1920s and 1930s with scenes from Asheville, North Carolina; Athens, Georgia; Nanctucket, Massachusetts; with scenes of picking cotton and a chain gang. I'm tempted to order this just to see whose home movies these are.

TexasHistory.com has a video called Pioneer Life in Texas: A Recreation showing "family life in a log cabin to farming, plowing, blacksmithing, hunting and working with cattle." A two-volume set is titled The Home front: Life in Texas During the Civil War. The marketing blurb indicates the documentary, "features historical re-enactments, present-day footage of historical sites, as well as thousands of pictures, paintings, maps, drawings, documents and graphics from archives across the state. Key analysis of events and insight are provided by the top Civil War experts in Texas: Ralph Wooster, Jerry Don Thompson, Mike Campbell, Charles Spurlin, Danny Sessums and Robert Schaadt, among others."

A search in your own area will likely turn up treasures at local universities and historical societies. Don't overlook these resources.

de Niro, Robert, host. 9/11: Ten Years Later. Jules Naudet, Gédéon Naudet, James Hanlon, executive producers and directors. N.p.: Goldfish Pictures, Inc., 2011. Broadcast on CBS Television, September 11, 2011. Available on iTunes (http://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/9-11-the-filmmakers-commemorative/id461900937) and CBS.com (http://www.cbs.com/shows/ten_years_later/): both accessed 12 September 2011.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

07 September 2011

Saving Private Ryan ... and Parker and Johnson and ...

"The fire is moving this way. You have 30 minutes to evacuate." What does a genealogist grab to take with you as you run out the door? Probably the same things a non-genealogist grabs.

Let me quickly assure my friends we are not in this position, at least not yet and hopefully not ever. But many Texans have been these last weeks, more will be in the coming weeks. Some have lost their homes, some have lost their lives. My heart aches as I listen to news reporters interview the newly homeless and grieving. Some of these live less than ten miles from our house. They just live south of the place where the fire started and we live north. Wind direction and velocity have a major impact on the path of a fire.

I've often watched news footage of wild fires in far away desert locations like Arizona and California and West Texas, worrying about those who live near the fire. Now it's happening here in the heavy pine forests of East Texas. Now it hits harder as I watch the smoke drifts lingering above the trees a few miles away. And the smell of smoke seeps in even where the fire doesn't.

The extended drought has left the forests so dry it doesn't take much to start a fire. I saw a cigarette butt in the road near my mailbox a few days ago. How can anyone be so stupid as to toss a cigarette butt out of a car window anytime, much less in these dangerous, dry conditions?

Some people, without understanding this rural environment, make suggestions on how to stop the fire. I saw one blog comment telling people just to water their lawns so the grass was less likely to catch fire. This isn't the big city. This is an area where we don't really have lawns; we have the same stuff growing in the "yard" as what grows in the pasture on the other side of the fence. We don't have city water coming up the street in a pipe; in our back yards we have wells with pumps. Some of those wells have already gone dry due to the drought. Its hard to truck in enough water from Kroger and Walmart to keep several acres from going up in flames if the fire moves toward it. And if you do pump that much water out of the ground you may be causing another neighbor's well to go dry so they have no drinking water.

So I watch the leaves falling from the trees looking like it is months further into autumn than it is now. I watch my beautiful Southern Magnolia start to look more like a weeping willow. I look at my bedding plants and think I may be starting all over next spring - or the next spring where rain finally falls.

What do I grab to take with me in case we do have to evacuate quickly? Well, yesterday I staged boxes with the irreplaceable photographs (including Ryan, Parker, Johnson, and Richards men who served in twentieth century wars), my grandmother's wedding rings, the rhinestone watch my father gave my mother on the day I was born (the one that hasn't kept time for over fifty years and is missing stones, but still makes my eyes water when I see it), and a few of my husband's favorite trinkets (because he won't think of anything except life-saving essentials). He did pack his medicines. My laptop and one backup disk are packed in my briefcase ready to grab. My phone and charger are in my purse along with cash and credit cards. Two suitcases are conveniently located so they can be filled with clothes if there is enough time, otherwise we can shop for clothes later. The car's gas tank is full. We know where we will meet if we get separated during an evacuation. I walk through the house with a camera taking photographs of possessions for the insurance claim, if that becomes necessary. (I did this about six years ago, but possessions have changed since then. We need new photos.)

What gets left behind? Have you ever stood and stared at your belongings and asked yourself, "what can be replaced and what can't? What can be loaded up in one or two trips to the car?" Some of my favorite photos get left behind because family members have copies. I stare at the shelves of books I love. Even if I had enough boxes to pack them up, they'd take way too much time to load. They are replaceable, even the treasured copy of Professional Genealogy with signatures of both Elizabeth Shown Mills and Helen F. M. Leary. There's just no way to justify packing and moving the dishes given me by my grandmother or my mother-in-law or the Christmas decorations the kids have made over the years.

I've been careful about scanning most of my research for the last four or five years so that is on my backup disk. But the file cabinets have lots of older stuff not digitized yet. Why hasn't that moved higher up in my priority list before now, along with scanning all the old photos and snapshots? Its been on my to-do someday list for years. It just moved closer to the top of the list.

I'm torn between thinking I am worrying for nothing if we don't have to evacuate and thinking how sorry I will be if the fire comes this way. I convince myself that as long as Jim and I get out with our lives the rest doesn't really matter. I've been hearing that all week now from those who made it out and were able to talk to the journalists.

The genealogical takeaway from this: you probably know what you should do to preserve your research and artifacts. Make yourself do it now. When it's too late, it's too late.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

31 August 2011

Educational Opportunities in Houston in November: TSGS Annual Conference and FTDNA Project Administrator's Conference

I hate it when two events I really want to attend happen at the same time. But two great conferences will be held in Houston during the first weekend of November. The Texas State Genealogical Society (TSGS) Annual Conference and the Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) Project Administrator's Conference.

The TSGS conference starts on Thursday, November 3, with a writing workshop by Paula Stuart-Warren, CGSM, sessions at Clayton Library on using FamilySearch.org, and an ice cream social. Free to the public, the vendor hall will be open on Thursday evening with many booths of interest to genealogists and historians: book vendors like Maia's Books, the Texas General Land Office, and many others. Three different tracks of sessions are offered on Friday covering many topics, including one I will present on DNA and genetic genealogy. It will cover basics of Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA testing. Other sessions on Friday include Civil War, Hispanic research, African American research, school records, the Texas General Land Office, artifacts, foreign records, immigration, and special collections of the Houston Public Library system including Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research.

Paula Stuart-Warren, CGSM, is the featured speaker on Saturday covering WPA records, Southern deeds, railroad records, and finding and using manuscripts. Paula is the author of Your Guide to the Family History Library, Minnesota Genealogical Reference Guide, Paula's Genealogical Eclectica blog, and the FGS Conference News Blog. She specializes in Midwestern research, unique resources, major United States repositories, and Midwest and Plains Indians

Lone Star Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) will be offering free one-on-one consultations on Friday to help solve your genealogical problems. You can come prepared for a consultation by reading about the process and bringing a form with you, or get a form at the Lone Star Chapter of APG booth after you arrive. Appointments are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

Online registration for the TSGS conference is available at txsgs.org and a PDF copy of the brochure can be found at the main TSGS website.

The Family Tree DNA Project Administrator's Conference begins with a reception on Friday evening. Topics are not published yet, but the featured speakers on Saturday and Sunday include:
  • Spencer Wells, PhD (author of The Journey of Man and featured in the PBS series of the same name, geneticist for the National Genographic Project )
  • Stephen P. Morse, PhD (known to genealogists as the author of the One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse and to technologists as the father of the Intel 8086 microprocessor)
  • Bruce Durie, PhD (founder of the Genealogical Studies program at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, and a member of APG)
  • Michael Hammer, PhD (FTDNA's Chief Scientist, and member of the Scientific Advisory Board)
  • Bruce Walsh, PhD (FTDNA's Chief Population Geneticist and member of the Scientific Advisory Board)
  • Doron Behar, MD, PhD (FTDNA's Chief mtDNA Scientist and member of the Scientific Advisory Board)
  • Jessica L. Roberts, JD (University of Houston Law Center, Health Law and Policy Institute

The FTDNA conference is open to project administrators and guests. The registration page is available through the Group Administrator Pages.

Certified Genealogist (CG) is a registered Service MarkSM conferred by the Board for Certification of Genealogists® to associates who meet rigorous ethical and competency standards in accord with peer-reviewed evaluations every five years. The Board was founded in 1964 to promote excellence in genealogical research, teaching, writing, publishing, and librarianship. http://www.bcgcertification.org/

Full disclosure: I am the DNA project administrator of the TSGS TXStateGS project at FTDNA and the president of the Lone Star Chapter of APG. Some expenses related to the TSGS conference may be reimbursed by TSGS or Lone Star Chapter of APG.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

19 August 2011

Another Good Reason to be in Boston

In addition to the Boston University, Certificate Program in Genealogical Research, here's another great reason to appreciate living near Boston. The Boston Early American History Seminar is open to the public and free (unless you pay the reasonable fee of $25 to receive advance copies of the papers to be discussed and to support the buffet supper served after meetings). This forum for early American history has several sessions of particular interest to genealogists. Also notable is the interest of these professors in both history and genealogy.

6 December 2011, 5:15 p.m.
Abigail Chandler, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and Ruth Wallis Herndon, Bowling Green State University
Panel Discussion on Colonial Family Law
Comment: Cornelia Hughes Dayton, University of Connecticut

Chandler's faculty page has bare details, but her thesis is online and looks very interesting: Herndon's faculty page lists several interesting books and projects:
  • Unwelcome Americans: Living on the Margin in Early New England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)
  • Children Bound to Labor: Pauper Apprenticeship in Early America (Cornell University Press, 2009), co-edited with John E. Murray
  • "collaborating with Dr. Ella Wilcox Sekatau, medicine woman, ethnohistorian and genealogist of the Narragansett Tribe, on a project to re-tell New England history using both Euro-American and Narragansett sources"
  • "Children of Misfortune: The Fates of Boston’s Poor Apprentices," a study that traces the lives of children bound out from the Boston almshouse in the eighteenth century

6 March 2012, 5:15 p.m.
Karin Wulf, College of William and Mary
Ancestry as Social Practice in Eighteenth-Century New England: The Origins of Early Republic Genealogical Vogue
Comment: Laurel Ulrich, Harvard University

Wulf's faculty page lists several interesting books and projects:
  • Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: A Commonplace Book from Revolutionary America (Penn State, 1997), with Catherine Blecki
  • The Diary of Hannah Callender, 1758-1788 (forthcoming), with Susan Klepp
  • Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia (Cornell University Press, 2000)
  • a study of the relationship between genealogical practices and political culture: “Lineage: The Politics and Poetics of Genealogy in British America, 1680-1820”

Thanks to Legal History Blog for a heads up on the seminar

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

12 August 2011

Texas Genealogy Event, 21 October 2011

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) will host a Genealogy After Dark event on Friday, October 21, from 6:30 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. At the same time, the West Waco Library Genealogy Lock-In will be held. Attendees in Waco will have access to resources in the state library and those in Austin will have access to resources in Waco. The Lone Star Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) will be providing free consultations during the event. A test is now being performed to see if the professional genealogists in one location can offer consultations to attendees in the other location using tools like Skype. It should be an interesting event.

According to this Central Texas Genealogical Society page the event there will include "the traditional training and informational resources of past years. All the computers in the library will access the genealogical sites and there will be ample help from volunteers and staff for research all evening."

You can sign up for e-mail notifications from the Texas State Library at this page to learn about events even before the forms are posted on their website. I attended the Genealogy After Dark event in February and it was wonderful to have access to all of the library and archive resources with one-on-one help available from the librarians and archivists who stayed after hours just to serve the patrons.

For more information on the Lone Star Chapter of APG and chapter events such as the Ancestor Roadshow consultations see this page. The chapter provides the free consultations as a community outreach program to assist researchers in furthering genealogical research.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

11 August 2011

Law and Kinship: 1211 vs. 2011

History-Net has a review by Arlene Sindelar (University of British Columbia) of
Sam Worby, Law and Kinship in Thirteenth-Century England (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Royal Historical Society/Boydell Press, 2010); 198 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-86193-305-1.
The Amazon link is here. A Google search on the book title turns up some other interesting reviews and comments. And I am very thankful for previews on Google Books.

My first response was that this was pricey for my personal library since I haven't traced any ancestors back to medieval England yet. But the reviews and the preview on Google Books make it very enticing. The nearest library with a copy, according to WorldCat, is 120 miles away in a location where I don't have anything else to do. My recent studies have focused on Spanish influences in historical Texas laws. Hmm, maybe reward points will bring this down to a price I can justify because I need to learn more about canon and English common law.

Any book that discusses kinship in this way will likely be useful to genealogists:
Kinship is many-layered. This book will descend through layers from the formal and written to the practised (p. 3)
an informal pattern of kinship knowledge existed beneath the laws (p. 4)
a way of thinking about and narrating bonds between people in terms of a recognised biological connection or analogy with biological connection. The term 'recognised' is used here because, for example, not all children are biologically related to both of their 'parents' (p. 5)
A particularly dangerous term in any exploration of medieval kinship is the word cousin since it can be used both specifically and vaguely to encompass a general sense of relatedness ... Cousin could be used as a word for almost any kinsman, but could also be a term of art (p. 6).
Its sounds like the theories and analysis presented in the book apply to kinship research today as well as in the thirteenth century and all the times in between. Aside from the introduction, conclusion, and a ten page bibliography that will probably cause more items to be added to my book wish list, the chapter and appendix titles are:
    Chapter 1: Canon Law Kinship Structures
  • Chapter 2: Common Law Kinship Structures
  • Chapter 3: The Dominance of Canon Law Kinship Ideas
  • Chapter 4: Kinship Laws in Practice
  • Chapter 5: Trends Underlying Legal Kinship Structures
  • Appendix 1: Raymón of Penyafort's Quia tractare intendimus
  • Appendix 2: The historical introduction to Sciendum est
  • Appendix 3: Common law adaptations of canon law treatises Quibus modis
  • Appendix 4: Common law adaptations of canon law treatises Triplex est
Maybe I'll write a review from a genealogist's point of view after I read the book.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved