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