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 http://hdhdata.org/hoggdna.html.  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!  
-GedMatch.com 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 GEDMATCH.com 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 Ancestry.com

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!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Updates for Those Who Use FamilySearch

It has been a while since I have updated about the newest in FamilySearch. The developers and product managers have been moving so fast lately it has been hard to keep up.

They have a FamilySearch Channel on YouTube that keeps people abreast of changes and dreams for the website.

The other big changes have been on the Wiki.  They have done a series of upgrades. If you used to be a Wiki contributor, you may have to request editing rights.  There is a form on the pages to fill out if needed.  The FamilySearch Wiki is up to 84, 488 articles now. So much help is found here. put in a search term and see how many articles there are. FamilySearch has several pages on the Wiki of how to use FamilySearch. This is one such article on FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.
They use the Wiki to give instruction and tips on using Family Tree also. This is an example of the articles, it says "Attaching FamilySearch (FS) Records to Family Tree Using the Source Linker" but it is so much more. Click on the title to view.

A personal favorite is the FamilySearch.org/blog.  Just as we have a Worldwide collaborative genealogy blog, they have many guest posts who write about many different aspects of FamilySearch from Roots Tech (which by the way has opened registration for next February 2017. )  to what is the latest changes, Indexing, or someone's stories.
From the blog you can explore everything. I put a red square, or arrow where you can join in. The Search drop down will give you the Wiki. 
If you have not tried all aspects of FamilySearch then, please, jump right in and join the rest of us. There is laughter at stories on the Tree, tears and frustration learning to work hands on with others in the Tree, and shouts of joy at the new discoveries in the FamilySearch collections that are added faster than the indexers can keep up with. I have had many who have tried the Wiki and discovered a place to look for an ancestor which led to a break through.

FamilySearch is my passion, I hope you will love it too.