9 December 2009, Vol. 12, No. 12
Table of Contents
Using RootsWeb
Genealogy Tip
Connecting
Bottomless Mailbag:
Readers Write In
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What’s New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
The Darkroom
You Found It
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Using RootsWeb

By Joan Young

DNA and Genealogy -- Beyond the Paper Trail

Genealogical research has always been all about a paper trail. We research our family history using vital records, census lists, tax and land records, wills, pensions, church records, and any other clues and documents we can find to trace our lineage back one generation at a time.
 
Fairly recently in the scheme of things, a newer tool has been added to our arsenal to assist us in our search: DNA testing. Unlike documents and the conclusions we draw from them and the family trees we share with our cousins, our genes always tell the true story of our ancestry. We may be confident that the facts we've gathered and conclusions we've drawn from them are accurate and they often are, but DNA testing can add a new dimension to support, or possibly refute, the authenticity of our paper documentation.
 
Those of us who don't hold advanced degrees in the sciences often need some guidance to understand what can and can't be learned from DNA testing. Let's look at the most common DNA tests used for genealogical purposes.
 
Y-DNA tests and surname projects:

The most common test used today is for the Y chromosome.  Males are tested because only males inherit a Y chromosome. Y-DNA testing is surname-based with a specific surname (and variant spellings) included in a project. Surname projects will generally have a group of people whose results indicate that they share a common ancestor. The degree of the match helps to pinpoint the approximate number of generations separating a person from the shared ancestor. Common surnames may have many separate groups whose results indicate they descend from different ancestors. 
 
Although only males can be tested for Y-DNA, females can use a surrogate male relative, usually a brother, for testing purposes. The surrogate male must share the top line of the pedigree with the female relative, usually represented by the father's surname.  DNA tests, for genealogical purposes, must be taken from a living person.  Most tests are self administered by swabbing the inside of your cheek – no blood, no needles!

Y-DNA results (some information has been removed)

Mitochondrial (mtDNA) tests:

mtDNA testing is for everyone (male and female). All children inherit mtDNA from their mother. mtDNA isn't a chromosome like Y-DNA. It comes from the egg contributed by our mother. This type of test tells us about our straight maternal line -- the very bottom line of a pedigree form.  Finding a relative based on your mtDNA is quite rare.

mtDNA results 

Haplogroups:

Y-DNA and mtDNA tests will provide us with information about our paternal and maternal "haplogroup." Our haplogroup tells us about our deep ancestral origin.

Why test only Y-DNA and mtDNA for genealogical purposes?

These are the only portions of our DNA that are inherited "intact" from one parent or the other. This means they can be traced back to a specific ancestor and the results compared with others. DNA won't identify the common ancestor. That element is left to the paper records we've gathered in our traditional research. 
 
Keep in mind that Y and mtDNA tests only tell us about the very top and very bottom lines of our ancestry -- a tiny fraction of our overall ancestry. These tests will not tell us about our father's mother's, or our mother's father's, ancestors.  For another explanation, see the Ancestry blog entry: http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2009/10/30/dear-ancestry-com-dna/.

For more on DNA tests, see: http://dna.ancestry.com/welcome.aspx
 

Beyond Y-DNA and mtDNA:

Some of our DNA comes from our X chromosome. Males inherit only one copy of the X from their mother. Females inherit two X chromosomes -- one from each parent. The difficulty in using the X chromosome for genealogical purposes is that we can't accurately trace the X chromosome to a specific ancestor beyond our parents.

The remainder of our DNA (the largest percentage by far) is "autosomal" or non sex-linked DNA. It isn't easy to determine which parent contributed specific genes/mutations for our "autosomal" DNA.
 
Some companies test autosomal DNA.  Such tests can be useful for medical purposes and also for determining ethnic heritage and deep ancestry. For example, you may want to check out the family story of your father's mother's mother being a Native American. Y-DNA or mtDNA testing will tell you nothing about this line of your heritage, whereas testing of the whole genome, can do so.
 
Additional resources to learn more about DNA and genealogy:
RootsWeb offers many mailing lists that include discussion of DNA projects. Some lists are specifically devoted to this topic:
 
http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/index/other/DNA/GENEALOGY-DNA.html (A very active list with informative scientific discussion.)
 
http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/index/other/DNA/DNA-NEWBIE.html (A list for beginners and those who prefer DNA discussion in layman's terms.)
 
Many RootsWeb surname mailing lists permit some discussion of DNA research projects. Additionally, there are a number of specialized surname lists with names such as SURNAME-DNA as their title (change the generic word SURNAME to the actual surname). Look under surname lists for the specific surname to see if there is a specialized DNA list for your surname: http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/index/
 
RootsWeb/Ancestry message boards also provide forums for DNA announcements and research discussion.
http://boards.rootsweb.com/topics.dnaresearch/mb.ashx 

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Genealogy Tip

By Anna Fechter

Home for the Holidays

What comes to the top of your mind when you think of the holidays?  When I asked my co-worker this question she replied, “Family of course!”  Now this may be due to the fact that we work for a family oriented company but I would like to think that most people would have answered the same way.    During the holiday season generally families gather together so use this time to add to your family history research.

There are a few things that I like to have with me when we are attending family events,

  1. Camera
  2. Digital recorder or video recorder
  3. Pen and paper
  4. My research binder
  5. My laptop (if I can)

Here’s the why.

  1. If you have a camera on hand not only can you take pictures of family members but you can also take pictures of their pictures, or family belongings.  On one trip I took a picture of the front page of a family bible that contained a lot of great information.
  2. Having a digital or video recorder will allow you to record family stories and if the opportunity arises you can also conduct an interview with a family member.  This past summer we interviewed my husband’s grandfather who is now at a stage where he is not able to talk much – having the interview where he tells stories, sings songs and just talks about the past is priceless!
  3. It never fails that I wish I had Aunt Nancy’s email address or my cousin’s mailing address.  Bringing a pen and paper to events gives me a place to write these things down and I can also distribute my email address or contact information to them.
  4. My research binder contains a calendar, a recent copy of the family tree, my research log and the questions that I have not been able to answer.  When I am around family I inevitably can add a few names to the tree, cross a few items off my list of questions and I love having the calendar with me to record new additions to the family.
  5. My laptop is obviously a great resource for various reasons – and if I have it I don’t need many of the other items on my list.  The greatest benefit of having my laptop (other than not having to bring anything else) is being able to share all of the cool things I am working on – my family book, the online family tree, records I have located, etc – and not only have them look at these things but I can send them notes, or invite them to the tree right then and there.  I have found that when my family members realize that there is something to family history beyond sitting in dusty archives that they want to get involved and it gets them excited.

I hope you are as fortunate as I am and that you are able to visit with family over the next month.  Before you gather think of how they can help you with your research and what you could accomplish by bringing a few simple items along.

Happy Holidays!

Additional holiday reading: Five Ways to Celebrate Your Family History This Holiday Season
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Connecting
The Internet is a Wonderful Thing

I was interested in your article on social networking in last month's RootsWeb Review and thought I'd share my story with you.

My Mum died unexpectedly of tuberculosis just before my first birthday and I was brought up by my paternal grandparents.  As I aged, I became interested in genealogy and dug up a lot of family history about my father's side.  But I never really sought out my Mum's family, and having lost touch with them, things were at a standstill.

The internet of course provided some help in tracing certificates and census records, but only a few months ago I found on a family group message board a note from someone who seemed to mention a familiar name.  The author of the post had no linking e-mail address, but had used a joined forename and surname as a user name.  So I looked on Facebook and there was just one person with that name, living in Australia.  I dropped them an e-mail asking "Was your maiden name xxxx by any chance?"

"Yes" they replied.  "Do I know you?"

It was the daughter of one of my Mum's brothers.  She had the phone number of other siblings of my Mum, who lived about half an hour away from me.  I have had a great time meeting my newly discovered uncles and aunts.  My uncle even took me to my great-grandfather's grave which I'd never have found.

The final crunch.  I only had one studio portrait picture of my Mum, which I thought was the only photo in existence.  My newly found uncle had a picture of her holding me as a tiny baby, just before she died.  Not a dry eye in the house!

The internet is a wonderful thing.

George in England
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
A Phone Book Can Help

By the time I was old enough and interested, there was no one I could query about my origins.  All I knew was that my father was the youngest of several children, mostly female.  I also knew (I don’t remember how) that my grandfather had two sisters who had married the brothers of my grandmother!   Since my direct family line could provide me with no information, it occurred to me that those two great uncles should have descendents with a not common name.  To the Buffalo phone book I went and found seventeen probable descendents of those two brothers.  A letter with a return stamped postcard got one reply.  And it was from the unmarried spinster who used only her initial in the phone book!  She didn't know much but referred me to her niece, who knew the villages in Germany and Switzerland from which the ancestors migrated.  What a wonderful missing link my cousin Dorothy and her niece Mary turned out to be.

Thanks to Robert Wurtz in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Names Can Vary From One Census to Another

My grandfather, John Martin Southern, wrote the names and birth dates of his children (by both his wives) in the family Bible. The name he gives for his first son is Jabeth A.  When putting together a detailed family list, I found Uncle Jabe on two censuses, but couldn't find him on an early Census.  Frustrated, I asked the help of a friend who had been helpful in the past.

She found him... listed as A(xxxx) Jabeth Southern!  I am not giving the first name because my grandfather didn't give it in the family Bible.  I will leave it to you to come up with reasons for a man, who'd been called "Jabe" all his life, to give the census taker his first name.

I don't know the answer, but thought you might try the idea of reversing given names, if you're stuck on a family member whom you know was alive at the time, but is missing from a census.

Thanks to Odessa Southern Elliott

Correcting Census Transcriptions

When searching the census, using a first name, year of birth, or state of birth will often help narrow the search. I have even just done a search of the state, county, township which gives you everyone in the census for that area. This works better for smaller rural areas. Often the problem is in the interpretation of the written letters from the original census.

I always take the extra time to enter corrections when I am searching the census at Ancestry.com so that others will be able to find family more quickly.  I appreciate when I find a family member because someone else took the time to add correct information to the entry. I have always been impressed with how very helpful most genealogy researchers are.

Thanks to Mary Watkins

Have a story, question, genealogy resource, or tip you’d like to share with RootsWeb Review readers? Send it to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the editor or of RootsWeb.com.

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What’s New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
New User-contributed Databases at RootsWeb

None 

Submit Your Genealogical Data to a RootsWeb Database.

New/Updated Freepages by Individuals

None

If you have a new or substantially revised freepage at RootsWeb and would like to see it mentioned here, send the URL, the title, and a BRIEF description, including major surnames, to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

If your genealogy- or history-related site is located somewhere other than RootsWeb, you can add the link to RootsWeb here.

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

New/Updated Websites by Counties, States, and Historical Societies

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
USGW = United States GenWeb Project

U.S.A.

  • azpvdar — Paradise Valley (AZ) DAR
  • ctmanshs — Mansfield (CT) Historical Society
  • iafhs — Fairbank (IA) Historical Society
  • ilkc1812 — Kaskaskia Chapter (IL) US Daughters of 1812
  • inparbio — Parke County (IN) Biographies Project
  • insulbio — Sullivan County (IN) Biographies Project
  • kstchs — Trego County (KS) Historical Society
  • mochrcem — Christian County (MO) Cemetery Inscriptions
  • njogs — Ocean County (NJ) Genealogical Society
  • pascdcw — Susan Cook Tent 61 (PA) Daughters of Union Veterans of the
                                  Civil War
  • txerachc — Erath County (TX) Historical Commission
  • txjefcem — Jefferson and Orange County (TX) Cemetery Transcriptions
  • txmisca — Misenheimer (aka Cardwell) (TX) Cemetery Association
  • txstephm — Stephenville Museum (TX)
  • vadfp — Virginia Chapter, Daughters of Founders and Patriots of
                                  America
  • vapwrdar — Prince William Resolves Chapter (VA) DAR
  • wysuble2 — Sublette County (WY) USGW
  • wysweet2 — Sweetwater County (WY) USGW

International

  • engpadst — Padstow Parish (Cornwall) Online Parish Clerk Project
  • ukplscem — Friends of Poulton Cemeteries (Lancashire, UK)
  • wlsbfhs — Breconshire (Wales) Family History Society

Some of these Web pages might not be accessible yet. They are created by volunteers, so if one that interests you isn’t up yet, please check again in a few days or next week.
www.rootsweb.com/~xxxxxx

Note that the ~[tilde] before the Web account name is required.
For example, the Mansfield (CT) Historical Society is at
www.rootsweb.com/~ctmanshs/

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

 
New Mailing Lists

New Surname Mailing Lists

New Regional Mailing Lists

  • None

New Ethnic or Special Interest Mailing Lists

  • None

To find or subscribe to a mailing list, or to search archived posts to more than 30,000 RootsWeb-hosted genealogy mailing lists, go here.

Request a Mailing List.

The Darkroom
George Rahier Jr., trapper, who homesteaded in Effie, Minnesota in 1904, is pictured with wife Hattie and children. The picture was taken April 1910. Notice the wolf hides on wall and a wolf carcass on a stake in the right background. Old-timers in the area said trappers sometimes dried a carcass, padded it with cotton and put hide back on for a stuffed wolf. I asked Doris, the girl being held by the mother, about this in 1998 when she was 90 and she said "That might be true but dad did some strange things for no reason at all". Notice the homemade vise in front.  It is 3 ft. stump with a saw slot.  You would use it by putting wedges in the bottom and a bolt through holes to hold a saw or axe for sharpening.

Thanks to Len Knotts in Ben Lomond, California

For a chance to see your ancestor’s photo in the RootsWeb Review, send it to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com. Make sure to include your name and a brief description of the photograph.

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You Found It
A Soused? Grandma

As a young child in 1940 I recall being amazed that my mother, when reminiscing with her siblings would refer to one of her grandmothers as the bottle ganny.  I had visions of a soused old lady. But it turned out that the name was used to distinguish her from the Newburn ganny - the first ganny lived in Walbottle. (Northumberland, UK)

Thanks to Barbara Jackson
Pickles Galore

While researching my partner's LEE family of the Bucks./Beds. border region of England, I discovered that one of the family, Esther CARTER, had married a Pickles MYERS (born 1862 in Baildon in the Otley district of Yorks., the son of William MYERS and Mary nee PICKLES), in 1888 in the Burnley district of Yorkshire.  A son, registered in early 1889 was named William Pickles MYERS.

A presumed cousin of Pickles, also named Pickles MYERS, was born in 1864 in the Bradford district of Yorkshire, and died there in 1866 aged 2.

Not a bad middle name honouring one's mother or grandmother, but as a first name "Pickles" must have taken some living down.

I hope the elder Pickles used an alternate name at school and at work, but he married twice using his official name on each occasion and the Census entries all record him as Pickles.

Thanks to Jim and Heather in Victoria, Australia
A Mad Hatter

My great grandfather, Issac Smith, was known as "Hatter" Smith.  He was "interned" out to learn the hat making trade by his father in New York, New York. He then went on to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Even his obituary was in the name of "Hatter".

Thanks to Paul Baker
Inheriting a Rope

My mom and I went looking at wills in courthouses in New York and she found this entry.  We found it so unusual we had to make a copy.  Mr. Smith left his son-in-law 50 cents with which to purchase a good stout rope and hang himself.

Thanks to Joyce Allin in Ohio

Found a funny name or humorous tidbit in old records, or an amusing entry in census, parish, church, or other records? Send these and other genealogy-related humor/humour items to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

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