13 July 2012

Native American DNA - or Lack thereof in Population Databases

I hope this post doesn't generate a lot of controversy. I can sympathize with Native Americans not wanting to be taken advantage of while also regretting the paucity of Native American DNA in the population databases used to measure ethnicity. Dienekes has an interesting discussion on this in his "Petty identity politics indeed, or, holding a grudge is no excuse for anti-science" post.1

In my DNA presentations I state that testers should not rely too much on the predictions of ethnicity percentages for two main reasons.
  • One, you are only seeing a percentage of how much you match the other populations represented in the database. If your ethnicity isn't represented the percentages will not be accurate. Until we have databases with more samples from all population groups we won't have the full picture.
  • Two, approximately half of the autosomal DNA (atDNA) of any progenitor is lost in each new generation born. It is a roll of the dice as to whether you still have atDNA from any particular ancestor whose ethnicity you are trying to prove. And your percentage of DNA from any particular ancestor can be different from that of your sibling or cousins.

As of today, you can really only use DNA to prove Native American ancestry if it is on your Y-DNA line (passed from father to son and represented by the top line on a left-to-right pedigree chart) or your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) line (passed from mother to child and represented by the bottom line on a left-to-right pedigree chart).

pedigree chart

1. Dienekes Pontikos, "Petty identity politics indeed, or, holding a grudge is no excuse for anti-science," Dienekes Anthropology Blog, posted 13 July 2012 (http://dienekes.blogspot.com/ : accessed 13 July 2012).

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Native American DNA - or Lack thereof in Population Databases," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 13 July 2012 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved

12 July 2012

Understanding Historical Spanish Documents in the U.S.

Need help understanding Spanish language documents in your historical research?

In recent years I've compiled quite a collection of books and articles related to the law, using laws for genealogical research, and interpreting historical documents. I'm reviewing my collection and updating my notes in preparation for the "Statutes and Story: Laws and Social History in Family Research" workshop next week at the Angelina College Genealogy Conference. One of those books in my collection is a must have for any genealogist working in the areas of the U.S. once claimed by Spain and Mexico. Whether studying the laws or anything else in any locale where Spain once ruled this book is useful:

J. Villasana Haggard, Handbook for Translators of Spanish Historical Documents (Austin: University of Texas, 1941).

Haggard describes his reason for compiling the book. It is one that I suspect leads to many of our most useful how-to books: he needed to do something and couldn't find a book already published that explained how to do it well. So he compiled one, with help from his colleagues who were also subject matter experts. He made notes during a decade or more of work and then documented what he learned to help others. He points out that even an expert in a language needs to know more when translating historical documents. He had the same problems genealogists encounter during research: different paleography, faded ink, crumbling paper, long sentences with no punctuation, and understanding the different way of looking at things hundreds of years ago.1

Especially important is Haggard's statement:
One must not mistake verbatim translations, paraphrases, imitations, parodies, or any other thinly veiled approximation for the serious work of translation. A verbatim version of an original cannot properly be called a translation, for a translation should be first and foremost a faithful rendition of the substance as well as the form of the original.2

A good reminder that we shouldn't rely heavily on machine "translations" of our historical documents. We need additional analysis by someone knowledgeable both with the history of an area, the culture, and the language.

Haggard planned to update the handbook and publish a later edition.3 I haven't been able to find one. If anyone knows of a later version please let me know. This 1941 version is obviously typed on a typewriter and may look quaint to modern eyes. But the information is invaluable. Twenty pages of bibliography. Nine pages showing letter forms used in different centuries. Many document samples with translations. Symbols and abbreviations used. A short history of the development of language and writing in Spain. And so much more including a procedure that starts with reading the document twice before anything else is done.

By the way, even though Google is my go-to source for a lot of things, when looking for electronic copies of books I don't go first to Google Books. The PDF files on Google Books do not allow searching within the text after the PDF is downloaded to my computer. The citation below leads to a searchable PDF version at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Many other sites also provide searchable versions. I download the PDF from Google Books only when I can't find any other option. Yes, I know I can find tools to make the PDF searchable. But if someone else has already done so, I see no need to repeat their work.

1. J. Villasana Haggard, Handbook for Translators of Spanish Historical Documents (Austin: University of Texas, 1941), iv-v; Digitized Books, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (http://libsysdigi.library.illinois.edu/oca/Books2008-09/handbookfortrans00hagg/ : accessed 30 January 2009).
2. Ibid., 1.
3. Ibid., iii.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Understanding Historical Spanish Documents in the U.S.," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 12 July 2012 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved

10 July 2012

Google and the Genealogical Proof Standard

How do you apply the Genealogical Proof Standard1 to an online search?

A reasonably exhaustive search could take years if you just type a name into Google and try to review millions of hits. Search for samuel christopher johnson. As of today, Google gives about 16,700,000 hits. Advanced search engine features can focus your results on the best matches to solve research problems. Add quotes around the name and narrow the number of hits to 54. But don't forget there may be lots more information on this person in pages not indexed by the search engine—what is called the Deep Web.

Other advanced search engine features can narrow the focus to even more pertinent hits. Using the time limitation tools can display only those pages added or changed since the last time you did this same search (assuming you keep a research log so you know when you last searched for samuel). Restricting a search to a specific USGenWeb site (using the site option in Google) is helpful when I want something from a specific county, but that county site doesn't include a good search tool. Using a minus sign to eliminate some words is helpful when searching a surname that is also a generic word like Lake or Carpenter. Parentheses and the OR modifier help when several words or phrases might be found in pertinent sources.

Some of the most useful Google modifiers are covered in John Tedesco's blog post "How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques."2 Tedesco's article lists several of the advanced Google search terms every genealogical researcher should know. Tedesco learned about these in a presentation by Daniel Russell who studies search techniques for Google. Russell's SearchReSearch blog is one of my favorites. Tedesco's post links to this challenge on Russell's blog:

"Where are you?" posts a challenge to the researcher with solutions entered in the comments sections by readers.3 "Answer: where are you?" is Russell's solution.4 Any genealogist who has ever tried to glean family information from a photo will be interested in the search techniques presented here.

Two of Russell's "Search lessons" in his answer apply to everything we do in genealogy. Every time we analyze the information in a source we should remember:

— Sometimes clues can be misleading.

— Sometimes clues are hidden in the details.

Adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) reduces the chances of clues leading us down the wrong trail. These are just some of the things to think of when doing online research:

A reasonably exhaustive search lets us find other evidence that will help us determine which is the misleading clue. Using the right search terms and tools help make that search reasonable and not just exhausting.

Carefully citing our sources lets us and others know what we have searched—even if it has been years since we worked on this problem and we can't remember where the information came from without that citation. For online searches the citation should also include where we did the search and what search terms we used.

Careful analysis and correlation of those details and information about the source can eliminate the misleading clues. Analysis also tells us which sources are more reliable and should be given more weight. It is especially important to include an evaluation of online sources. Are the findings from an undocumented site put up by a cousin who is guessing about things? Or do they come from a trustworthy archive site that is making digital copies of their holdings available online? Has the entire collection been placed online or is it still a work in process with some documents not yet available?

Resolving conflicts logically lends credence to our proposed solution. Not being able to resolve a conflict may indicate the need for more research or let us know we've been misled and need to rethink the proposed solution. Many times this will indicate a need to do research in original records that aren't online yet. Those records may not even be microfilmed requiring us to visit the courthouse or repository holding the paper records.

Putting the results of that analytic process to ink and paper helps us see what we did right and wrong. It shows whether there is more we need to do as we see holes in our theory and possible sources to fill that hole.

And don't forget you can learn more about using Google from Dan Lynch's Google Your Family Tree.5

1. Christine Rose, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 3d ed. (San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2009).

2. John Tedesco, "How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques," John Tedesco blog, posted 21 June 2012, (http://www.johntedesco.net/blog/2012/06/21/how-to-solve-impossible-problems-daniel-russells-awesome-google-search-techniques/ : accessed 10 July 2012).

3. Daniel Russell, "Wednesday search challenge (Feb 1, 2011 [sic): Where are you?," SearchReSearch blog, posted 1 February 2012
(http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/2012/02/wednesday-search-challenge-feb-1-2011.html : accessed 10 July 2012).

4. Daniel Russell, "Answer: Where are you?" SearchReSearchblog, posted 2 February 2012 (http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/2012/02/answer-where-are-you.html : accessed 10 July 2012).

5. Daniel M. Lynch, Google Your Family Tree: Unlock the Hidden Power of Google (Provo, Utah: FamilyLink.com, 2008).

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Google and the Genealogical Proof Standard," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 10 July 2012 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved

09 July 2012

Sizzling Summer Sale - Family Tree DNA

If you've been waiting for a good sale to buy a DNA test or order an upgraded test - NOW is the time. Feel free to forward this information to others.

Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is offering a Sizzling Summer Sale.

As Texas State Genealogical Society (TSGS) DNA Project Administrator, I'd like you to order through the TSGS / TxStateGS links. DNA information and a link to the order page is available at http://debbiewayne.com/tsgs_dna/ or go directly to the TxStateGS Project at FTDNA to order at these great prices:

Orders must be in and paid for by 11:59PM on Sunday July 15th, to receive this offer.

Special Summer Prices

--------- — SALE PRICE
Y-DNA 12 — $59
Y-DNA 37 — $129
Y-DNA 67 — $199

Family Finder — $199

mtFullSequence (FMS)— $219

Combined tests
FF+ Y-DNA 37 — $328
FF + mtDNAPlus — $328

Comprehensive (FF + FMS + Y-DNA 67)— $617

SuperDNA — $428


--------- — SALE PRICE
12 to 37 — $70
25 to 37 — $35
25 to 67 — $114
37 to 67 — $79
37 to 111 — $188
67 to 111 — $109

mtHVR1 to Mega — $209
mtHVR2 to Mega — $199

If you want to order directly from Family Tree DNA instead of through TSGS, go to http://www.familytreedna.com/products.aspx. Descriptions of all the offerings are also available on this page to help you decide which test to order.

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved