Monday, 12 December 2016

Sharing your research process

How do you share your  research?

I have recently joined my local (Gwynedd) family history society. I have no ancestor research in the area but it gives me a chance to share with others.

I already use ways of sharing my research online as a blogger and a participant in groups on Google+ and Facebook.

Tonight we have a members evening and I am sharing something from my research.

I have converted my post from July in to a presentation and will take it with me to the meeting.

Face to face discussions can help both the person sharing the research and the audience.
The audience may help with suggestions for further research. The methods used by the presenter may help others to use them for their research.

On line discussion with Hangouts on Air such as Mondays with Myrt are a new way of creating discussion amongst researchers across the globe.
With all the emigration over the years this international discussion is proving to be extremely helpful.

We discussed what I am presenting in the hangout today so if you want to see what I mean go to the link above and view the video.

Just because you do not have research in your local area does not mean you cannot benefit from joining the local group.

Genealogy research can be a lonely process but we all need to learn how to do it if we want to do it right.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

One is the Loneliest Number

 When it comes to Family Trees, Backups, DNA and Research we need to take a "more is better" approach.

 Where do you keep your family tree? Are you an online tree, computer database or a file cabinet/binder person?
Personally, I use all 3 methods. I have my family tree on,,, and
 My tree is also in a database on my computer. I use Legacy Family Tree to store my ancestor's information, pictures, and documents.
Each family has a file in my cabinets to store original documents and other important information.
 Binders for each surname contain copies of pertinent information and are put together so that others can pick them up and look through them to discover their family's story.
 Why not just one online tree? Having my family included in the   databases available will help me connect with more people.  Perhaps the person who has the information on my Great Great Grandmother has uploaded their tree to one and not the other.
 By not spreading my tree around, I am limiting my cousin connections.
  Why have other storage methods if I have my tree on so many places on the web?  Simply to ensure I can always access it.
 Have you ever tried to pull up one of your trees and the site is down, or your internet is having issues and isn't working?
 My Legacy program functions as my working database as I research and find evidence about my ancestors. I can write as I go in the notes section and make sure I have followed the correct steps in finding the answers to my questions before I attach someone to an online tree. It also is a backup in case my internet goes out.
Filing cabinets serve as storage for originals and information that I haven't processed yet and the binders put it all together for those who would rather have a book to flip through.

 While my files and binders and online trees serve as a type of backup, they are not always up to date. They are not a substitute for making sure everything - pictures, documents, and data downloaded to my computer files or added to my Legacy Family Tree program- is protected from a computer crash.
 Trying to cover all my bases, I use, and to send all my genealogy and other data to the cloud. If I experience a crash or loss of information, it can easily be restored. When buying a new computer everything can be reinstalled while I am busy doing something else.
 An external hard drive is updated on the first of the month, Genealogy Back Up Day, and kept in a safe place. Thumb drives, while not as stable, store my important files too. I keep one on my keychain. Just in case.
These fulfill the advice of having the information in at least 3 different places to avoid data loss.

Have you taken a DNA test? Again, this is another area where one is not the best solution to connecting with family members.
There is no way of knowing where others have tested and if the if the matches you need can be found on one particular site. Each company has a different database of testers.
 Spreading your DNA around to other places will put your information out there for a better chance of finding those matches. is a free way to upload your raw DNA from any of the testing companies and add your results to a greater variety of people.

One can also be a lonely number when it comes to our research. Often we tend to work by ourselves and not take advantage of networking with other genealogists. From Genealogy Societies to Social Media, there are those who can help us with our brick walls, transcription of a hard to read document or use as a sounding board as we work through the research process.
 The best is having someone to share those 'happy dance' moments when we need those who understand to celebrate with us.

When it comes to protecting our information and reaching the greatest potential of connections, one is the loneliest number.
Get out there and spread it around!


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Genealogy--30,000+ Ancestors in One Family Tree, Twelve Trees, What's Next?

After five exciting years of  working on the genealogy of my family, a period of time small in comparison to the work of so many researchers, I had found myself thrilled with discovering more than 30,000 ancestors with connections to the Jamestowne Colony, the Mayflower, the American Revolution and Continental Congress, the Civil War,  presidents, royalty, thieves and police-- yet wondering what might be next?  What else would spark the passion and interest I'd found in discovering ancestors?  Then I took a dna test on Ancestry, and my brother took one on FTDNA (Family Tree DNA), one cousin did both, and then he got four other cousins to participate and test!  I got two other cousins from different branches to test also!  Oh my gracious, a whole new world of genealogical research opened for us!   Only this time, our research was backed up by proof, not just from documents like censuses and marriage records, but from DNA!  

A lot of you know exactly what I have experienced because you have been doing it also!  I know, because in the last year or two , since testing my DNA, I have met something like  200 cousins I never knew I had!  Can you believe it, two hundred people I am actually related to that I never knew before!  I have even discovered that I am related to about half of the people on my street, people who were strangers to me ten years ago, now I know that we share ancestors some as long ago as the 1600’s and 1700’s!  How incredible is that to be talking with someone who is descended from your 9th great  grandparents also!  Can you imagine our ninth great grandchildren meeting and finding out that they are also kin to each other?  Amazing!

Facebook has become an extended family to me.  I have joined groups of people with ancestors in certain areas where mine came from, like the mountains of southwest Virginia.  I’ve joined groups of common surnames, and groups of historical societies, all are full of cousins!  My sense of roots, and my sense of “family” has exploded!  

So what would be next?  What would be as exciting and challenging? Suddenly, there it was--adoption--who am I really?  Who were my birth parents?  What is my true background? Those are the types of questions many adoptees ask, even when happy with their adopted families.  One day this new emphasis in my research was born--it just happened-- one person contacted me and said their dna matched mine, indicating we were fourth cousins.  They then told me that they had been adopted, and had not a single biological surname that they knew!  They found my match, looked at my tree and all the people, and wondered if I might help. “Yes!  Yes, of course! But I am a beginner at DNA myself. The will and passion is there, but not the knowledge.  You might be better off with someone more experienced, but I’ll be glad to help if I can.”  Remember, this person was related to me by DNA, we were already cousins--family!  Here was an adventure like none I’d experienced, a whole new way to be of help, to serve, and to use my genealogical skills as well.  

I started a crash course in at least beginning DNA research, and met some experienced people in the field of adoption.  I knew I was an amateur.  But my heart was all in--into the search and trying to help!  I became immersed in blog posts and journals and personal stories.  
And I worked with my new cousin who was the most highly motivated to find her family!  As it turns out, I felt called to help this person.  And surely enough, very soon a second person reached out with a similar situation, then  another,and before long, two years had passed,and I had helped eight people find their birth parents.  Can you believe it?  From knowing nothing, to knowing their roots!  We found the birth mother of one woman, alive and anxious to reunite just before Mother’s Day last year!  It still warms my heart to think I helped  even a little with that reunion.  

I thought some of you might like to know where to begin to look for birth parents--at least, where and how we began.  In this first case, we were fourth cousins, the first person a lady and I. Fourth cousins share a third great grandparent! Of course, we each have 32 third great grandparents, but that is one of thirty two, when an adoptee had been looking out at the world and thinking that they’d never find their biological family in all those millions! The adoptee had to be willing to share a lot with me, starting with their DNA so that I could have free access to it. Ancestry makes it easy to share DNA.  Then I created a tree for us to connect to their DNA. This would be a research tree, meant for us to use for experiments as we searched for family.(Some call this a mirror tree.)  Therefore, we kept it private on ancestry, because we didn’t want to mislead others when we said this person was a parent, when that might not even be true. We planned to take the tree public when relationships were proved.

If we were lucky, the adoptee had closer cousins with their DNA than me.  Remember, a first cousin is the child of an Aunt or Uncle, the sibling of their mother or father!  First cousins share grandparents. A second cousin shares great grandparents, a third cousin shares 2nd great grandparents, and a 4th cousin as we said, shares 3rd great grandparents.  So, if we had some possible matches, we might make her tree start with her and two “private” or “unknown” parents, even grandparents or great grandparents.  But as soon as we could ,we would put in possible names, right or wrong.  

Taking your DNA raw data to sites like Gedmatch also helps.  Not only do you get matches there, but there are many applications which help you understand just how many generations there might be to your common ancestor with your match.  Also, you get centimorgans there.

“The genetic genealogy testing companies 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA use centiMorgans to denote the size of matching DNA segments in autosomal DNA tests. Segments which share a large number of centiMorgans in common are more likely to be of significance and to indicate a common ancestor within a genealogical timeframe.
The centiMorgan was named in honor of geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan by his student Alfred Henry Sturtevant. Note that the parent unit of the centiMorgan, the Morgan, is rarely used today.”--Wikipedia,

Armed with the number of cM’s of your match, you can use a chart like the one below to also learn what level of cousin you are, first, second, third or so on, so that you might know what ancestor you share. I love this chart, first shared with me on facebook by a member of the ”DNA Detectives” Group.

As you work, you will find common surnames and grandparents and fill in possible names in the research tree. For example, one of your third great grandparents is a Miller,and your cousin adoptee thinks that might sound familiar. You put your 3rd great grandparent Miller in place in your research tree. Then you search all of your adoptee cousin's dna surname matches for Miller. If you find a line of Millers which is the same as your 3rd great grandparent Miller, then you have got his third great grandparents for sure! The second great grandparents are going to be one of their children,and should be matched by one of their third cousin matches. Soon you will have both second and third great grandparents and even great grandparents if there are second cousin matches!

You also need to keep checking Ancestry DNA for shared matches and or placement in a circle which will confirm that you have indeed found ancestors matching the adoptee’s dna.  Also, once you find a great grandparent possibility, it helps to find an obituary that might name children, who might even be living and won’t be identified elsewhere.  I find sites like and especially helpful in the search for obituaries.

I have been very impressed by the attitude of all of the adoptees with whom I have worked who are trying to find their birth families.  Most of them love their adoptive families and respect them. They are simply trying to find out about their true origin, and perhaps reconnect with biological relatives.  One 40 year old woman told me I was the very first biological relative she had ever spoken with!  Wow, that was incredible to consider.  But she and others say things like, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, or to interrupt their family. I am not angry, I do not need money, I just want information, and a relationship if they also want one.  I have been so impressed with the kindness of the cousin adoptees I’ve met, that I admire them greatly, and think that their families are missing an opportunity to know a very nice person.  This is important.  I am all for reuniting  biological relatives, but only if all are willing and able without harming the other.

Once you have some possible living people names, you can begin looking for them. If they have done DNA testing, write to them on Ancestry or wherever they did their testing, and hope they write back!  Otherwise,  you might find them on facebook, or on LinkedIn, or other social media sites, giving you a chance to send them a message privately  in hopes of contacting family. At this point, some decide to write letters to biological siblings or parents identified, some opt for a phone call.  There is no guarantee as to what will happen upon contact, and already I have seen varied outcomes you must be prepared for psychologically.  First, they may ignore you and refuse to even answer, acknowledge, or respond in any way.  That is their right of course, maybe motivated by fear, shame, or a million other reasons.  The adoptee must be ready to cope with outright rejection, or with no response.  There are also deceased parents, more often the case it seems than finding living ones.  Occasionally there is a half sibling, hard to predict how they might react. But you will get cousins, I can promise you that--there are enough people matching your DNA once you do it that you will have biological family members, maybe not immediate family, but as many as you might like extended!  Fun!

One note, if an adoptee writes to you, please at least respond. You can say you don’t know anything, you don’t want to meet-- anything is better than being ignored and left in  limbo.However, if you can bring yourself, ask what the person wants, and see if you can at least give information if not a relationship.

Another important step, if possible, the adoptee might offer to pay for a DNA test to be sure this is their true parent.  You do so much research, why not be absolutely sure--for you both.

Of my own experiences:

The best result so far--was with an adoptee raised in New York, adopted from Pennsylvania, is living in California.  After finding  distant grandparents, her living family was identified through obituaries, found on facebook, and soon phone calls ensued!  Mom lived in Oregon, and a Mother’s Day reunion went very well.

Other results were not so great-- we found one parent, and got in touch with half-sisters.  They said not to contact the parent who would be too ashamed and hurt!  They blocked all phone calls and kept this individual from knowing the truth of the birth parent’s reaction--acceptance or not.

Some adoptees are still looking--it can be a lengthy process.

One of the worst-- after identifying a probable birth father, deceased, the adoptee requested military records trying to get a picture. With the records, he learned of extensive criminal history including rape convictions, leading to the conclusion that, considering this new information  in conjunction with a story a family member had heard, that his deceased mother had probably been raped by his deceased father, and that he was the child of that rape. OMG, a nightmare for any of us.  He had been smart however, when he first learned he was not the child of the deceased parents he’d been raised by, he sought professional counseling to help him cope, and now he really needed all the support he could get.

This is the human experience-- agony and ecstasy, love and hate, joy and sadness.  Remember, joy can come in a million ways, don’t let the denial of ones who should love you ruin your life, reach out to the ones who will love and support you.  One of the joys of DNA testing and genealogical research, is finding family, especially cousins, friendly, loving, supportive cousins who are dying to meet you and know you. Enjoy the adventure!

Until we meet again, I am wishing you well,  Helen Y. Holshouser

Friday, 25 November 2016

Commemorating Your U.S. World War II Ancestor

On 11 November we in the United States celebrated Veterans Day, which was originally called Armistice Day. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed 11 November 1919 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day when he said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with great gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..." The U.S. Congress created Armistice Day as a national holiday on 4 June 1926. The name of the day of commemoration was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

One way to commemorate the service of an ancestor who served in one of the United States military services during World War II is to create entries for them in the World War II Registry maintained by the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

World War II Memorial in Washington, District of Columbia; courtesy of

The World War II Registry maintained by World War II Memorial seeks to preserve the memory of the service of the men and women who contributed to the war effort at home and abroad. The Registry consists of four databases -- three official and one unofficial:
  1. American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) burials in overseas military cemeteries
  2. Names memorialized on ABMC Tablets of the Missing
  3. Listed on War and Navy Department Killed in Service rosters held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  4. The Registry of Remembrance is a compilation of public acknowledgements honoring those who helped win the war
Entries in the Registry of Remembrance maybe created by anyone. They are not checked for accuracy by any organization and may only be edited by the person who created it.

Registry Entry of Peter Charles Dagutis (1918-1991), my
father-in-law; personal collection

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans was originally founded in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum by the late author and historian, Stephen E. Ambrose, PhD, and has been designated by Congress as the official World War II museum.

National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana; courtesy of the
National World War II Museum

In order to honor your World War II ancestor, you must first become a member of the museum. There are several membership options, beginning at $50. One of the many benefits of membership is the ability to contribute to the name of your World War II ancestor to the Honor Roll of Charter Members.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Apologies and Reporting

I have been absent as of late. Not because I have lost my love and zeal for genealogy and blogging, rather, I have not learned to balance family and genealogy research.  It seems for me it is almost an all or nothing activity. I will share with you the past few months of my life. 
I worked with the Preserve the War of 1812 Pensions campaign for 3 years.  I loved the purpose and the activity of searching the files and finding living descendants.  When the funding was accomplished, my activity there was little needed, and I turned to other projects.
At the same time, my children decided they and their children needed equal time with me and this is a bit of my journey into creating family history with my grandchildren and as I have written about before, bridging the generations.
During the summer, we had our first family reunion.  This was important for those who could go because family had not gathered as a unit since my husband, their father, died in 2008.  All but two of 6 children could make it. The single son who was working and a daughter who was pregnant and expecting her 4th child any minute.  There were 28 plus myself, who made it. Two grandchildren were working and could not attend. Since no one other than myself had ever visited the California family’s home, that was the focus. They planned 4 days of activities for the children and I was excited that they included some time for themselves. 
The trip started with my 20-year-old grandson and I leaving Texas and driving to Salt Lake to meet the Idaho family whose father was flying in. They needed to send one child with me as their car only seated 7 and they had 8 with dad. The connecting 3 different groups at the Salt Lake terminal was a story. The trip from Salt Lake to California and then back to Idaho was an awesome memory for my three grandchildren and me.

In California, we went to the Sequoia Forest, the beach, and learned about railroads going over the mountain grades. The young and new grandchildren were able to create relationships with the older ones. These are a couple of pictures from that family activity.

Once back at home, the two daughters in Texas decided since I had taken time from my genealogy activities for this, I must be up for grabs for activities at home. The Idaho daughter not to be out done scheduled every Monday in September for a Skype class on World War II ending in a lesson and stories about their great grandfather who served and I have written stories about him here.
The classes were successful, and one Texas grandson sat in on a lesson.  At the time I was not sure who was listening, but as the months go by, questions and statement tell me they were. One of the grandson’s chose to be his great grandfather for Halloween, dressed up like a WWII army soldier.  Cool right. History and family stories passed down two generations. I also helped with the Black Watch Costume and made the sporan for that grandchild. One is Pipi Longstocking and one is a Nerd... they LOVE reading. 

I went with another daughter to see the preview for Christmas lights at the Houston Zoo.  We took one of my other daughter’s children with us. There was fun, sharing, and memories made with young and old.

This week I went to a Civil War reenactment at the TexasLiendo plantation that served first as a Confederate headquarters, then when it fell, as a Union prison camp.
My grandson, who is 10, began trying to sort in his mind who and what generation of his family served in the Civil War. We had fun talking about both sides of the war and how he had those that served on both sides and one in the Confederacy that died in Savannah. His 3th great grandfather from Michigan served in the Michigan 3rd Cavalry Regiment from 03 Oct 1861. He was promoted to Full Qtr Master Serg on 19 Jan 1864 and mustered out on 12 Feb 1866 at San Antonio, TX.

We also visited a blacksmith tent and that gave us the opportunity to talk about his great great grandfather who was a blacksmith and we have his anvil.

So there you go, while I am AWOL occasionally, I am keeping the dream alive trying to share with the generations following, so the story is not forgotten.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Discovering Missing or Elusive Ancestors and Siblings with new Indexes

How do I identify missing siblings?

I am sure that by now most of you will be aware of the new indexes made available just over a week ago by HM Passport Office aka General Register Office for England and Wales. 
These now contain important additions.  

  • the age at death for early years 1837 until 1865 is now included  
  • the maiden name of the mother is included on the births 1837-1915, previously the mother's maiden name had only been included in the index from the third quarter 1911. 
This addition will make it easier to find the correct birth and death for those years. I say easier for reasons I shall explain later.

There are no marriages in these new indexes and the Births and Deaths only cover a limited time span.

At the same time as launching the new indexes it was announced that a PDF pilot would start on 9th November 2016. 

This is the information from their website

I like many others have used this as an opportunity to look for members of family who may not have shown up on the census or have remained elusive.

Family legend from a now deceased aunt was that there had been a child who had died. I was uncertain as to whether this was a sibling of my father or paternal grandfather. Looking at the indexes and the years of birth it was more likely to be a missing great aunt or uncle but my great grandfather had several brothers.
However given the new information this is what I found.

I have ordered a copy using the new pdf service and assuming the details match I have also found a likely death in the same quarter of a child without first names recorded.

I have also ordered 3 more birth certificates with different reasons.
One of my 2xgt grandmother's was christened in 1845 in Lyndhurst, Hampshire. This is in the New Forest registration district and I have not been able to find a birth registration for anyone with her first name. 

see second entry Selina daughter of Edward and Ann Grant

The above is a copy of the christening record and she is recorded on the census records as Selina.
Below is the only entry for that same year with the maiden name of her mother. All the other children with this mother's maiden name are her siblings, including another registered as Alice Mary, I am now almost certain I have the correct registration but am awaiting the documentary proof.

The other 2 birth certificates were for children missing from the census that had been highlighted by the 1911 census. (If my first certificate is correct then my gt grandparents had forgotten to include their deceased son when they completed this census form.)
My husband's maternal gt grandparents had said that 2 of their children were deceased on the census but I had not seen them on the 1901 census and they had married on Christmas day 1891. In 1901 they had only had 1 child living with them and by 1911 all the other children were with them having been born in the intervening years. This meant that it was highly likely that the children had been born between 1891 and 1899 when their surviving sibling had been born. I had been trying to find them since I found this in the 1911 census but with a surname of WARD ruling out those still living and cross referencing with the corresponding deaths was slow going.

These are the 2 I have ordered. The one for Lilian arrived in my inbox yesterday and the names of the parents match. It also revealed another address for them.

These few I have been certain are correct but even with the mother's maiden name we may still not discover the correct person for our family.
Only this morning I was looking for possible siblings for an ancestor with the surname SMITH whose mother had the maiden name CHAMBERL(A)IN born in the Lutterworth district. A search with the maiden name included brought up several children I had not seen for the family. I decided to look for one of them born just before the 1871 census. I found her with her parents living in another village in the same registration district.
Don't think this is only true for common surnames. My husband has an ancestor with the surname CROWSON the maiden name of her mother was SPEED she was born in 1872 in the Oakham registration district. Her father had a brother who married her mother's sister both couples stayed in the district and named their daughter born in 1872 with the same first name.

So shall I say this you will find the new indexes helpful but you cannot rely on them alone to determine you have the correct individual. Hopefully others have found some missing or elusive family now that we have more information.

I have others to look for including missing siblings in a family of 22.

Please leave comments I would love to know how others have used the new indexes and the slightly cheaper copies of registrations.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

It Takes a Village--or Fun with Family and Genealogical Groups on Facebook

I’ve only been working on genealogy for about 5 or 6  years. At age 67 now, my interest in genealogy started late in life. However, I quickly fell in love with the ancestor hunt.   Every time I added a generation, I could feel my roots deepening, and my sense of belonging to this global society increasing.  

As I worked, several things happened unexpectedly. I met cousins I never knew existed, who were working on their own family trees.  In fact, before long I’d met a hundred new friends and cousins! Then we took our DNA tests, and more worlds opened for us--more connections!  What an amazing experience and unexpected pleasure for late in life. Having always been an outgoing person before I became disabled with heart disease, unable to drive anymore, and pretty much confined to home--having been a therapist even, one who loved facilitating groups--I naturally gravitated towards forming groups.  Without thinking, it seemed the natural thing to do. As I met more and more people researching the same family lines, I thought to dovetail with what was then this new thing called “social media”--Facebook especially, and form groups of like minded people!   It has been wonderful! I started out forming a group of family members for whom we were planning a reunion, what a great way to communicate. Then I discovered that several in the group were interested in genealogy, and what fun we had finding relatives and sharing the results!  This incorporated most of the direct ancestral lines on my mother’s side of the family, including the surnames Kearse, Houchins, Langhorne, Spangler, Steptoe, Callaway, Stovall, Burton, Turner and many more! This group has grown to 75 members!  What a joy! Overwhelmingly this is a group of English, Irish, Italian, and French heritage, with several other national origins represented as well of course.

Many of this group's ancestors settled in the mountains of South West Virginia soon after coming to America, I was interested in joining and later helping admin a group called Mountain Top Families which explored the heritage of people with ancestors from that area of Virginia including the counties of Patrick, Franklin, Floyd, Henry, Roanoke and some others. Thanks to the founders of this group, it has remained a thriving, active, and informative group who shares pictures, tells stories, and cooperates in genealogical research. I have to thank Beverly Belcher Woody, Patty Lawson Kiser, and Jenzy Fay McPeak Ryan for their incredible efforts in founding and leading this vibrant group of 703 at this point! Many of us have discovered we are related to each other in one way or another!  A lot of us have now taken our dna tests, and have been so excited by all we have learned and need to learn, that we started a spin-off group called the Patrick, Franklin, Floyd, and Henry County, Virginia GEDmatches and Ancestry DNA Posting Group!  It has been a wonderful place to learn, get help, compare matches, and again, meet new family members!

Since I was the group person and the genealogy addict of our family, I decided to start a Facebook group for my husband’s family, his paternal line, as well!  Like the others, it has swelled to 99 members, and we have met people from all over the country, making friends of cousins! We talk history, we correct inaccuracies, and we get to know each other better.

Next I decided to do the same for my own paternal lines, Youngblood, Hogue, Vance, Spear, Van Winkle, Vreeland, and many more! As it turned out however, I had a lot of Hogue dna cousins!  So many that I started a group just for our Scottish side--my father’s maternal line.  We now have 46 in our Youngblood group, and 61 in the Hogue family group.  Of course, some of those people are members of both groups. The Youngbloods and Spears are mostly of German and Dutch ancestry.

The Hogue group of Scottish ancestral heritage, included Hogg, Ogg, Jacksons, Pattersons, Fultons, Boyds, McNair, McWilliams, Church, Hillis, Hillhouse, and many other surnames. This became my hardest working group, working-- as in research working. So many of us were into genealogy, that the focus of the group stayed right there.  It helped that we had members who had been researching this family for 20 or 30 years of course!  We even met a wonderfully talented professional genealogist who lived in Scotland who volunteered to help us in our efforts to fill out our family trees and make our connections, Mr. Douglas Moncrieff.  We have also gotten involved in DNA, and the International Hogg Family DNA Project admined by Dr. Henry Dwight Hogge, PhD.  You can find information about this project at  With a team effort, our group is close to knocking down a brick wall that has haunted us for a long time! I would never have made this kind of progress without this family group to support, help, and encourage!   

With the advent of popular DNA testing, many people have discovered that they are not their parent’s biological child.  I have formed one group for a person who wrote to me and had just discovered a kinship to some other family members.  So we started an immediate family group to introduce them to each other,and to encourage the exchange of photographs, stories,and the building of relationships! It has been a wonderful experience.

Of course, there are a multitude of Genealogy and DNA groups on Facebook,and I belong to many, but far from all. If you belong to a group that you find especially helpful, I wish you would comment about it in the comments section of this blog post.  Some of the groups I belong to but had nothing to do with starting, are still my extended family groups, some are historical or society groups, and some are DNA or Genealogical Research Groups, here is a listing of those I belong to: (alphabetical order) Many of these groups are not public per se, they are for people with ancestors by the surname being searched, or for people actively engaged in genealogical research. Check out their requirements for joining.

-Akers - Hancock Group-founded by Raymond Nichols
-Ancestry-Gedmatch-FTDNA-23 and Me-Genealogy-DNA
-Birse Family Group-founded by Connie Sides Birse
-Callaway Kin
-Daughters of the American Revolution
-Descendants of the Huguenot Colonists
-DNA Detectives
-DNA for Genealogy
-GAA (Genealogy Addicts Anonymous)--they encourage and enable, they don’t ask you to quit! User Group
-Genea Bloggers-founded by Thomas MacEntee
-Genealogy and Newspapers
-Genealogy Bloggers, one of my favorite groups of bloggers and their blog posts, admined by Janice Webster Brown
-Genealogy Chit-Chat
-Genealogy TV Discussions
-Heirloom’s Lost, Found, & Returned--a wonderful group that encourages the return and tracking down of family who owns found photographs, journals, and other artifacts from attics and basements!  --founded by Christopher Hodge
-Hogg Clan
-Hogg DNA Project, founded by Henry Dwight Hogge, PhD
-Huguenot Heritage
-International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG)
-Irish Genealogy
-Italian Genealogy
-Jamestown Society
-Langhorne, Spangler, Kearse, Houchins Family Group
-Lineage Society of America
-Mayflower Society
-Mountain Top Families, founded by Beverly Belcher Woody, Jenzy Fay McPeak Ryan, and Patty Lawson Kiser
-New Jersey Genealogy
-North Carolina Genealogy
-Patrick County Virginia Genealogy
-Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness- RAOGK International
-Reynolds Family Association
-Scottish Clans and Families
-Scottish/British Names and Family Group
-Swedish Genealogy
-Technology for Genealogy
-The Irish Surname Registry
-The Organized Genealogist
-The Conner Green Nichols Family Room, founded by Raymond Nichols
-Uniting Relatives Through Gedmatch Numbers
-Virginia Genealogy Network
-WikiTree for Genealogists

There are many more groups on Facebook of which I am not a member, of course!  I find these groups generally full of caring people interested in genealogy and willing to guide and teach as well as share!  It takes a village to learn even half of what we need and want to learn. I encourage you to reach out, join, stretch, and improve your genealogical experiences in every way you can.  I’d love to hear what you like to do!  

Wishing you the best always, Helen Holshouser

Sunday, 25 September 2016

AncestryDNA for Newbies (Including Me)

So you have DNA tested with Ancestry. Now what?

My husband and I first had our DNA testing done in 2012 using an autosomal test offered by Ancestry. My two brothers and my 83-year-old mother tested the next year, which turned out to be the year before she died. Dad's dementia did not enable him to understand spitting into a vial. But earlier this year his 89-year-old brother tested. Currently, I administer the results of 11 DNA tests and another 6 are at the lab being processed. I still consider myself a DNA research rookie.

Several of the tests are first cousins on my maternal side. None of us know much about our grandfather, the family Gustav Lange (1888-1963), and more than half of my 11 Lange cousins are helping me in my research by agreeing to DNA test. I have uploaded Mom's raw DNA test results and a gedcom version of her tree to because there is a group of Society of German Genealogy in Eastern Europe (SGGEE) members who share DNA with Mom who understand chromosome matching. I do not. Therefore, this post is about how someone with a limited understanding of DNA can use Ancestry DNA-related tools to further their research.

And I will attest to the success I've had using DNA even with a limited understanding of the science. Some successes:
  1. Confirming my 4X great grandfather Samuel Beard, (1750-1814) was the brother of Capt. David Beard and the son of Adam Beard (1725-1777), which proved my previous research and enabled me to have him re-instated as a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) patriot.
  2. Identifying a new Beard cousin (descended through Capt. David Beard), whose uncle had written a book which described the family's wagon trip from Iowa to Colorado and California in the late 1890s.
  3. Learning about my previously unknown great great grandmother Barbara Ann Mitchell, who descended from Robert Mitchell "the Immigrant," who was alive and living in Londonderry, Northern Ireland during the Seige of Derry in 1688-1689.
  4. Having the opportunity to interview my first cousin once removed who was the son of Grandpa Lange's youngest brother about the family's experience during and between World War I and World War II
  5. Proving that I had correctly identified the siblings of my great grandmother, Caroline (Ludwig) Lange.
  6. Discovering a five times great grandfather was Robert Mitchell "the Elder" (1714-1799) and finding a book about one of his sons which included a personality profile about Robert Mitchell.
And more...

In order to take full advantage of what little I do understand about DNA, I needed to develop a process to follow when viewing, identifying, and managing the results of the tests as well as how I communicate with the people who have so graciously spit into the tube for me! I thought for my bi-monthly Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration, I would detail my DNA process. 

I maintain a master DNA spreadsheet in which I record matches, common shared ancestors, pedigree charts and ethnicity information. 

On the ethnicity worksheet, I have the people who have taken the test arrayed on rows and the global regions Ancestry uses to categorize ethnicity are arrayed in columns.

Column A = Name of person who DNA tested (not shown)
Column B = Relationship to me
Columns C through AB = Ancestry's 26 global regions (some are not shown)

Ethnicity worksheet in my Master DNA spreadsheet; created using
Microsoft Excel

I find that the people who have tested for me are most interested in their ethnicity. I can make their eyes glaze over when I talk genealogy. So I usually send them a copy of the information Ancestry includes about each region when I send them their ethnicity results.

The pedigree charts look like the example below. I include them as I know many of my relatives will be unfamiliar with the names of some of their direct ancestors.

Example of a pedigree chart I create for each person whose DNA test I
administer; created using Microsoft Excel

I annotate the chart to include whether the information was new to me based on DNA testing and which lines have been proven using DNA testing. My relatives enjoy seeing how their DNA tests have helped further my research into our shared family history.

The "meat" of my spreadsheet is the worksheet where I capture information about DNA matches. I organize the information in the following manner:
  • Column A = the name of the DNA match (not shown): Sometimes I cannot determine their name, but note them as Daughter [Surname] for example. Frequently, if one of their parents are deceased I can locate an obituary online and determine the name of the DNA match.
  • Column B = M/F (not shown): This is the sex of the person who took the DNA test
  • Column C = the name of the DNA test (not shown): This will be an Ancestry username unless it is a test of a third person administered by an Ancestry member. In that case, I enter the initials in this column.
  • Column D = the username of the test administrator (not shown): If the test was taken by an Ancestry member, it will be the Ancestry user name. In my case "sdagutis." Using my mother's test as an example, the name of which is D. J. (administered by sdagutis), I enter DJ in Column C and sdagutis in this column.
  • Column E = the surname of the common shared ancestor (not shown). This column was added for sorting purposes.
  • Column F = name of the common shared ancestor. This is the person from which the DNA match and the test I administer descend. I use the name of the male as frequently we descend from children of different wives. I've learned wives are complicated! ;)
  • Column G = birth year of common shared ancestor. I use red font if it is an estimate.
  • Column H = death year of common shared ancestor. I use red font if it is an estimate.
  • Column I = relationship of common shared ancestor to me. If this column is blank the row is related to a DNA test to a by-marriage relative who is not related to me by genetics or blood and this information is included in a different column for only those non-relatives.
  • Columns J through whatever = the names of the people whose DNA test I administer and their relationship to me. I have tested some by marriage ancestors who were curious about their family history so their columns are organized at the far right and are not shown.
A snippet from my DNA matches worksheet; created using Microsoft Excel

When I'm working with new DNA matches I usually sort the spreadsheet by the Test Administrator column. This enables me to insert a new row alphabetically by the Ancestry username. When I am analyzing the DNA matches I sort by the common shared ancestor columns. I have observed that while my brothers and I share many DNA matches there a few that unique to one sibling and those seem to fall into particular surnames. One brother has more matches where the common shared ancestor's surname was Beard for example.

I always research the ancestry of the DNA match. Occasionally, I find, especially when dealing with U.S. Colonial-era ancestors that the research can be incorrect. Often, I can make what I believe to be the correct amendments and I will note that on the DNA match itself. I also use this field to indicate who the person is and a link to their facts page in my tree.

An example of how I use the Note field on the DNA match page; courtesy
of Ancestry

As I complete my process for each match, I click the star to the left of the image so I know I have worked on this match and know who the common shared ancestor was even if Ancestry did not identify one. I also note the DNA match on the two relevant fact pages in my tree using the DNA Markers fact option.

The fact about Uncle Marvin's DNA match on my facts page; courtesy of
Corresponding fact about our match on Uncle Marvin's fact page;
courtesy of

I will mention that I am not generally a fan of using icons on my tree but have found it extraordinarily helpful when working with DNA. I create an icon for each person who has tested and as I resolve each match, I associate that person to the icon in my relative's gallery.

When I solve a match, especially one without a known shared common ancestor, I will click the Shared Matches button to see which other matches are shared between the person who took the DNA test for me and the match on which I am working. Usually, I can figure those out as well, using the research I just completed on the current match.

Buttons that appear on every DNA match detail pages; courtesy of

I'll talk about DNA Circles another day!