Wednesday, May 20, 2015

NEHGS Announces FREE Access to AmericanAncestors.org Databases to Commemorate Memorial Day

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has announced free access to military databases in this announcement:



NEHGS Commemorates Memorial Day with FREE Access to Important Military Databases on AmericanAncestors.org

Family Historians May “Honor the Fallen” by Searching FREE on AmericanAncestors.org for Patriots on the Family Tree Who Served in Colonial Times

May 20, 2015—Boston, Massachusetts—In the spirit of Memorial Day and to make ancestral research even more productive this holiday weekend, AmericanAncestors.org and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) have made several online military databases accessible FREE to all who wish to search for patriots in early American colonial wars.



Colonial Soldiers and Officers in New England, 1620-1775 is accessible FREE this week through next Wednesday, May 27. Prior to the American Revolution, many men served in the militia and fought against Native Americans, the French, and other opponents. Many of these battles were extensions of European wars. This database contains more than 35,000 records of service for individuals in Massachusetts and other New England states who served from the seventeenth century to the Battle of Lexington and Concord. These records, originally published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society with support from the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, were compiled from many different sources to create as comprehensive a list as possible.

Massachusetts Revolutionary War Pensioners’ Receipts 1799-1807 and Massachusetts Revolutionary War Pensioners’ Receipts 1829-1837 are also accessible through Wednesday, May 27. Many of the soldiers who served during the Revolutionary War were given pensions from the federal government for their service. These manuscript collections at NEHGS contain a number of original receipts with the soldiers’ signatures, acknowledging the receipt of their pension funds. These two searchable databases contain images of these receipts, including the original signatures or marks of the pensioners.

Registration at AmericanAncestors.org is required as a FREE Guest Member to gain access to these valuable resources. Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of AmericanAncestors.org databases and access web content such as making purchases from the online store. Unlimited access to all 450+ million records and other benefits is through membership at NEHGS.

Family historians may start their search for their ancestors who bravely served in our country’s colonial times at this site:  AmericanAncestors.org/memorialday.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Serendipity and Why I love Footnotes

I am currently reading a nonfiction book called Soldier Engraver Forger: Richard Brunton's Life on the Fringe in America's New Republic by Deborah M. Child. The timing is coincidentally perfect. I just finished an historical fiction book called The Schoolmaster's Daughter by John Smolens. Both books focus on the American Revolution and start with the siege of Boston. They also both feature a British soldier who has deserted the British Army.

I love to read fiction because it's fun and enjoyable but it's even better to follow it up with a nonfiction book that gives me a sense of what it was really like during the same time period.

As a side note, I should mention, though perhaps obvious, that it's always beneficial to read multiple books on the same topic. You get different perspectives from different authors and they each have their own focus. This provides for a much broader and deeper understanding of an historical event. (On that note, if anyone can recommend any books, fiction or nonfiction, that take place during the siege of Boston I would greatly appreciate it. I would love to read more on the subject.)

Soldier Engraver Forger takes a look at the life of Richard Brunton, a British Solider who did not leave an abundant trail of records for future researchers to find. Author Deborah Child recreates his story through examples of materials culture (such as engravings, bookplates, portraits, etc) and by placing Brunton in historical context by taking a deep look at the social history of the times.

There is much to love about this book (which I will report in greater detail in a review when I'm done) but the thing that is endlessly pleasing me at the moment is the footnotes. As genealogists, we are all a bit enamored with footnotes. We may hate to write them but we sure to do love to find them.

Let me give you two examples from the book:

"Again, in 1771, Milne advertised Gordon as a runaway indentured servant, this time traveling with a wife, Mary, whom he described as "much addicted to drink and a great liar." (pages 31-32, footnote 69)  The quote itself is just wonderful and colorful and transports us back into the lives of  Revolutionary Era Americans. The footnote reveals that this comes from an article in the Pennsylvania Gazette. A good reminder that we should always be doing newspaper research even in the colonial time period.

The second quote immediately follows that last sentence - "In July 1773, Gordon, his wife, and their son James arrived in Boston from Philadelphia. (page 32, footnote 70) That may not look like much of an interesting sentence but I couldn't help wondering "how does the author know Gordon arrived then in Boston?" Thanks to the footnote I was able to find out.

It turns out that this very slight bit of information comes from a book (via one of the co-authors) called Robert Love's Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston by Cornelia H. Dayton and Sharon V. Salinger (2014, UPenn Press). I have long had an interest in the Warning Out Records of early New England. I have also never heard of this book before. I'm a little disappointed that this book was published and didn't hit my radar but I'm absolutely delighted to have found out about it in the footnotes of Soldier Engraver Forger.

That is the wonderful, magical aspect of footnotes. They will lead you to further essential resources that will help with your research. Do you ever ask yourself, when reading a book, "how does the author know that?" I do it all the time and love it when a footnote will answer the question.

The book also has a number of references to articles by Don Hagist in the online publication the Journal of the American Revolution as well as articles from JL Bell's blog Boston 1775. That's a good reminder that there are some tremendous historical resources available no further than our keyboard and the internet.

If you'd like to read some more of my thoughts footnotes, particularly as they relate to genealogical research, you can see a previous blog post The #1 Things that Impacted My Research in 2010.



Friday, May 15, 2015

New Frontiers: Online Access is not Enough

Just like nearly all Americans, I have immigrant ancestors. Some arrived as early as the 1630s and some as late as 1893. I can find ancestors arriving from Europe in every century from the 1600s to the 1800s.

James Quayle Dealey


Because most of my ancestors have been in the United States for quite awhile I've had the luxury of focusing on my American ancestry. I could go so far as to say that it has allowed me to ignore my German, English, Scottish, Dutch and Irish ancestors.

Well, no more. I am headed for a new frontier!

I have just gotten a subscription to FindMyPast.com, the site which predominantly focuses on British research (or at least that's my impression). This is definitely new territory for me.

I have decided to focus on my Dealey ancestors who left England for Galveston, Texas in 1870. I'm focusing on them because they are more recent immigrants and because our family knows really as much as we need to know about them in the United States considering they only go back four generations.

About ten years ago I did dabble in British research. I learned just enough to be dangerous without really understanding what I was doing and without going too in-depth.

When logging in to FindMyPast.com for the first time I wasn't really sure where to start. But then I noticed that, similar to Ancestry.com, they provide an option of having an online tree. While I have mixed feelings about online trees, they are a perfect place to start when you don't know where you are going. And of course, that's the danger of it.

I started my online tree with my Dealey Family. I admit I am still figuring out how to work the FindMyPast.com online tree since it's a bit different that the Ancestry.com tree. But it is very helpful in providing me with links to document hints.

The problem I'm finding, however, is that FindMyPast.com (just like Ancestry.com) can point me to the records, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily sure what to do with them.

Let me clarify right here that this is not the problem of FindMyPast.com. It's not their job to make me an expert in British records. I need to take the time to figure that out myself.

But what I can see as a fundamental problem in online research is that having access to online records is not enough. You must know what to do with the records once you have found them. I think the disconnect for many new researchers is not knowing where to go to find the background information to understand the records, time period and location they are researching.

For instance, My great grandfather, James Quayle Dealey, is found in the England & Wales Births 1837-2006 record set on FindMyPast.com. This is a register (index), not the original birth records. To their credit, FindMyPast provides a section called About England & Wales births 1837-2006. This is helpful in that it talks about the index but it doesn't really provide information about where to go next, or where to find the records I'm looking for.

James Quayle Dealey's 1861 birth as found in
the England & Wales Births 1837-2006 record set on FindMyPast.com


Ironically, this whole process is quite fun for me because it's allowing me to experience what a brand new genealogist in 2015 experiences when they start their journey.

While I know from past experience that there are resources for learning about British research, I wonder what the new researcher will think when the ask themselves "Now where do I find that birth record?"

I'm going to assume the records I need are not on FindMyPast because they don't appear when I search for the surname Dealey. (Admittedly, I haven't gotten as far as figuring out whether they have un-indexed collections similar to FamilySearch.org but I'm assuming they don't.)

Part of this new journey and experiment is going to be re-creating the experience of new genealogists so I can understand what challenges and obstacles they face. So instead of going straight to resources that I know exist or to experts that I know can help me, I going to put myself in the position of someone who has no connection with the genealogical community or background in research.

The next logical step for me as I try to determine where to find the original birth records is visiting the FindMyPast.com "Help" section of the website.

That will be the discussion of our next post...


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Deep Links on Cyndi's List

While taking my morning walk today I listened to the most recent episode of the Genealogy Guys podcast. Half of the episode featured an interview with Cyndi of Cyndi's List that was recorded during the recent Ohio Genealogical Society 2015 conference.

What really caught my attention during this interview was a discussion about deep linking. Cyndi explained that Google doesn't do deep linking which is the concept of linking to parts of websites that are buried deep within a site. In the example she gave, Cyndi explained that she will dive into a university special collections site and then add links to specific databases to Cyndi's List.

Cyndi also suggested searching using the categories feature on Cyndi's List rather than the search feature because it will allow you to discover related topics that you weren't specifically searching for.

Intrigued by this new discovery of deep linking, I wanted to put Cyndi's List to the test. The subject I know best is Massachusetts genealogy so I want to check that out on Cyndi's List in hopes of finding links to resources of which I wasn't aware. There must be many deep linked resources that I haven't stumbled across.

From the categories link, I drilled down to United States which had visible subcategories (without clicking) for each state. I selected the one for Massachusetts. This presented me with 31 subcategories including things like cemeteries & funeral homes, directories, newspapers, occupations, prisons, prisoners & outlaws, and societies & Groups.

I opted for the Wills & Probate category. It provided links to Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Nothing new for me there. I went back and this time I chose Libraries, Archives and Museums which is probably more likely to have deep links. This is where I started to see some of the magic that Cyndi was talking about. I was pleasantly surprised not only to see deep linking but to see the information displayed in a hierarchy so that it is very clear to see that the different links are subsections of the main website. (see image below)



For instance, under Boston Public Library, not only do we see the main site but a sublink for Research Services and further sublinks for Genealogy, the Microtext Department and the Newspaper Room. Occasionally you will find a link that is broken but that is understandable considering the monumental task it must be to maintain over 400,000 links when webmasters are constantly making changes to their sites.

One of the resources presented on Cyndi's List is the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. According to the Van Gorden-William Library sublink, it holds one of the most comprehensive collections on American Masonry in the world. I'm going to have to put that museum on my to-do list this summer!

Try searching for yourself on Cyndi's list and see if you can find some deep links that you weren't familiar with. The libraries and archives subsections will probably provide the most worthwhile searches.

And while you're at it be sure to listen to the interview with Kris Rzepczynski in the first half of the show where they talk about resources at Seeking Michigan and the Michigan State Archives.

I hope you make lots of brand new discoveries!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Are We Wrong About Preserving Old Photos?

William Setchel Learned, about 1900


I think we can all agree that preserving old photos is a good thing. But it takes a lot of effort to preserve individual photos. What's the best way to preserve them? How will we know they will still be accessible in the future?

Scanning


When I first got interested in the idea of preserving old family photos my attention and efforts were focused on scanning individual photos. I scanned each photo as both a tif and a jpg file format. The tif is used to archive the photo at a high resolution and the jpg makes the image a reasonable size that can be shared via email or on the web.

I organized my photos with file names that attempted to identify the people, place and/or date of the photos. I also saved the photos to directories with relevant names. I didn't, however, create descriptions for the photos or add meta tag information to the photos.

It was quite a bit of work getting this far!

Digitizing the photos meant that the old family photos were much easier to share. I could share individual photos via email or on Facebook. I could also put a whole directory of photos on a CD or thumb drive to quickly share everything with family.

Printing


Soon I realized that simply scanning photos would not be enough to preserve them. And so I entered into the printing phase. As many of you already know, to this day the Library of Congress only accepts printed copies of books. With good reason! A printed book can last hundreds of years. A digital one will become obsolete quickly as file formats change and improve.

Thus the idea of printing photos came along in order to preserve them longer. I admit I never really caught on to the idea of printing all my old family photos. It's just not practical.

My extended family has digitally shared hundreds of old family photos. First there's the cost of printing that many photos, though admittedly these days it's fairly inexpensive. Another, perhaps more important consideration, is that your local pharmacy is now digitally printing them on a laser scanner rather than the photos being processed like in the old days. Laser printed photos don't last as long. And then there is the issue of organizing and storing all the printed copies.

Some of you are very good about spending the time to organize photos into boxes or albums. I am not. And, of course, let's add on the cost of buying archival quality boxes and albums. Yes, it is our family heritage we're preserving but I don't have lots of extra money lying around to spend on stuff like this.

Lastly, I just can't display 800+ photos in my house. I have room for maybe twenty ancestral photos to be displayed on walls and shelves. Any more than that is not an option.

So while I agree that printing is important, it just didn't happen for me.

Cataloging


The thing that has been on my mind lately has been cataloging. I'm starting to think that this is the best way to handle old family photos.

The idea is to create a catalog - a list - that contains the following information (if known): date of photos,  people in photo, location, file name, file formats (jpg and/or tif), description, name of owner of the original copy of the photo, date scanned. I think a file numbering system for the photos would also be appropriate. Photo type and size of photo would be nice too but that might be too much to ask if lots of different people are scanning their own collections.

Then I would print the catalog. I would put the catalog information in the front section and a copy of each image in the back section identified by the file number (this is simply for the sake of formatting and saving space. Photos would take up too much space if interspersed amongst the text.) The catalog would be printed as a book and shared with all family members. [Just to clarify, the catalog would contain the images. And not thumbnails. In some cases they could be full images but if the images are very large they could be reduced to about the 4x6 range.]

I like the idea of a catalog, while not as pretty as albums, because it lets everyone know what photos exist, when they were last scanned and who owns them. Then if an original photo disappears a search can be made from a more logical starting point. The durability of a book means it will last for a long time and we will know that all these photos existed at the time of printing.

A catalog also lets people determine whether they have a digital copy or not, based on the catalog. If they don't, they can then seek it out. People can pick and choose which photos they would like to print and display in their homes or use for other purposes.

What I don't know is whether any photo organization programs, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, has the ability to print a catalog such as this. I was thinking of creating a catalog in Excel and then formatting the photos myself. Then I would combine the two into a pdf document that can be printed. If the capability were already available in existing photo that might save time.


I asked my friend Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective  about her thoughts on the best way family historians can preserve their photos when they have limited time and money. Here's what she said:
"Preserving and organizing family photographs doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. It’s all about planning and work flow. Scan, label, and file are the key steps to caring for pictures. Free organizing software like Picasa, money-saving apps like Snip Snap and making use of programs you already have (like Excel) can manage money and minutes. I create an excel spreadsheet when sorting a collection, scan at 600 dpi, upload images to Picasa on my computer and then file everything in acid and lignin free boxes. Take small steps to avoid being overwhelmed and don’t be afraid to ask relatives to help."
More tips from Maureen can be found in her books Photo Organizing Practices and Preserving Family Photographs.

How do you preserve your family photos? Do you like the idea of creating a catalog or would you rather use archival boxes and albums? And if you know of an easier way that I can create my catalog please let me know!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Finding Charlotte

I have been searching for Charlotte for years. I have this irrational emotional attachment to her that some of us genealogists get about our ancestors. I am very protective of her. She died at age 33, a young wife and mother of two daughters. I guess what always bothered me was that she was alone. Her husband and daughters moved away after her death and she was alone in a cemetery without any family nearby.

Charlotte Hill Learned is my great, great grandmother. And one of my brick walls. She died in 1862 and appeared on only one census record with her husband and two very young daughters.

When I first started researching Charlotte some 10 plus years ago all I had was her name, Charlotte Hill, the information about her husband and children and nothing else. That was information that my mother had collected. Other than the 1860 Federal census I had no idea how my mother came up with the rest.

There was a note that Charlotte was from Delhi. I'm thinking "India?" Turns out that was a typo. It should have said Delphi. So now I'm thinking "Greece?"  Turns out that is just one of the many colorful names that New York gives to its towns along with Cicero, Cuba and Painted Post.

I discovered that Delphi Falls is a town in Onondaga County, New York. Associated with Delphi, and just to complete my international tour, is a place called Pompey. At this point I know that in the 1860s one was a village inside the other but I'm still not really sure which was which. Today they are both very small rural places.

I had thought that I could stroll in, use my sharp genealogical skills, and easily connect Charlotte to her family. The genealogy Gods laughed in my face. I found a Hill family in the 1850 US Federal census for Pompey, New York. There was a Charlotte of the right age in the family. The intrigue of unusual names continued with the discovery of a father named Orange, a brother named Erasmus and a later discovery of grandfather named Ensign. What a cast of characters! There must be a story there. The only thing was that I couldn't prove that this was my Charlotte.

I put the research away for many years, frustrated that I couldn't make any headway.

Then one year I was contacted by a 2nd cousin, Barb, who was also descended not only from Charlotte but from the same daughter, Clara Learned. Barb mentioned that she had the diary of William Chandler Learned, Charlotte's husband. I was thrilled to make the connection and to learn of the diary! But Barb had never read the diary so she couldn't tell me much about it. And with it being all the way on the west coast and me here in Boston, there was no chance I could get a peek at it.

Spring forward to August 2014 when Barb notifies me that she and her husband are coming to Massachusetts. She also revealed that she was going to loan me the diary so that I could read it and share its contents with the family. I was over the moon!

We had a very small reunion of Learned descendants which was wonderful in itself. Then I got a peek at the diary. The diary, unfortunately, started in 1866, four years after Charlotte's death.  Luckily, it was not a typical diary of the time with just two line entries describing the weather and what was planted. William Chandler Learned was a teacher and then a Baptist minister. His diary was long form text and he described his feelings and why he made certain decisions in life. A truly extraordinary document that covers the years from 1866 to 1908.

The diary does provide enough information to tie Charlotte Hill to her family in Delphi, New York but I'll save that story for another day. What still gnawed at me was the location of Charlotte's burial. Did she die and was buried in Alden, Erie County, New York, the location of the 1860 census entry? It seemed like the most logical place to me. Unfortunately, without being able to go in person I could not confirm this and there were many cemeteries in the small town of Alden.

The answer came in the form of diary entry. William, now in his 70s and living in Chicago, made a "final tour" of the old places in New York where he used to live. One of the places he visited was Charlotte's grave in Alden.

Here's the diary entry:

Charlotte Hill Learned's Grave as described in William Chandler Learned's diary
Click to enlarge
The entry (dated July 1901) reads:

"                                                            I 
visited Charlotte's grave. I was thankful
that friends had cared for the grave in
straightening up the headstone and
keeping the grass in good order. I was 
pleased to see that one who was Anne
Milne to me was buried by her side.
They were lovely in their lives and in
their death not-separated"
This confirmed for me that Charlotte was buried in the town of Alden, New York! But where? I had the added benefit of learning that she was buried next to her good friend, Anne Milne.

There was no entry for Charlotte or Anne on FindaGrave.com. Nor were there mentions of their graves in the limited transcriptions for gravestones of cemeteries in Alden found on other genealogy websites.

I turned to local sources and found the Alden Historical Society website. I sent an email to the society asking if they had information about Charlotte's gravesite location. Societies often have unpublished transcriptions of their local cemeteries and this is what I was hoping for. I did not expect a reply quickly, knowing that societies have limited hours and are often short staffed.

Imagine my surprise when Alden Town Historian, Karen Muchow replied within a half hour. Regrettably, she had nothing on Charlotte in her records. I decided to try again. I researched Anne Milne, learning that she was the daughter of a Baptist clergyman. She was born in 1841, married a man named Orin Munger in 1862 and then died in 1864. I asked Karen to search for Anne since their graves were side by side.

It took a bit of work on Karen's part but she found them! Charlotte was buried under her maiden name of Hill rather than Learned. Karen was able to identify for me that both Charlotte and Anne are buried in Alden Evergreen Cemetery.

I finally felt at peace. Those of you who are genealogists will understand how I feel. The rest of you will just think I'm crazy. Knowing Charlotte's burial place has connected her to our family. Some day I hope to be able to make the trip to Alden to visit her grave so that she will know that she has not been forgotten.



Monday, January 20, 2014

What triggers your connection to family and the past?

This morning I had the pleasure of interviewing Israel Pickholtz via telephone for the Genealogy Professional podcast.  Israel was born in the United States, Pittsburgh specifically, and then settled in Israel.

I wasn't quite sure what I would encounter when interviewing Israel. I knew he spoke English but I wasn't sure how he would sound or whether he would have an Israeli accent. I went to high school with a boy from Israel so I was familiar with at least one type of Israeli accent.

My mother and her family come from Pittsburgh so I have strong connections, both sentimental and otherwise, with the area. Israel was raised there but left forty years ago.  But I knew the shared Pittsburgh connection would be a good starting point for us.

Imagine my surprise when I heard Israel's voice and it transported right back to my family gatherings. Israel has, whether he knows it or not (now he does!), a Pittsburgh accent when he speaks English.  His speech sounds exactly like that of my Uncle Bud.

I couldn't help but smile to myself the entire time during the interview. I had to wait until the end to let Israel in on my secret.

The surprising thing to me was how relaxed and comforted I found the sound of Israel's voice, the voice of a stranger. My Uncle Bud is someone I love dearly and thinking of him triggers all sorts of family memories for me. The sound of his voice transports me to family events full of laughter and being bear-hugged and twirled upside down as a kid by his strong arms. It makes me feel loved. Israel's voice took me right back to those memories, both recent and long ago in the past.

I don't live near Pittsburgh, and I suppose the accent probably changes with each generation so Pittsburghers today probably sound different. The Pittsburgh accent my uncle has is probably very common for people of his age. Yet for me it is something I associate specifically with him.

It's funny how something that could be fairly common like that can evoke such a strong response even when I hear the accent from a different source.  This was my very first time talking to and getting to know Israel and yet I had an immediate affinity for him because of the way he spoke. I find it powerful that just his accent could be comforting to me and have such a strong impact on me.

There are many triggers that remind of us of our families. Besides language, it could be triggers from photographs, shared membership in a club or organization, a smell, a sound.

Have you ever experienced being transported sentimentally by a trigger like this where you found comfort, calm or a sense of peace, even though logically without the trigger it would not normally happen?

I would love to hear your stories of how you have been transported back. In the mean time, I am going to spend a few more minutes enjoying the moment and the happiness that comes with remembering family memories.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Critical steps BEFORE choosing a blog or website name

This past weekend I participated in a panel about blogging for a genealogical society. I also had a friend visiting who wanted to reserve a domain name for a blog/website.  This really got me thinking about how to choose a name for a blog, a topic I have written about previously.

The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized that a lot or work has to be done before you can reserve your blog or domain name.  This follows whether you are setting up a Blogger or WordPress.com blog or whether you are setting up your own domain.

Here are some things you should consider:

1. How unique is the name you've selected?

You can answer this question easily by Googling your chosen blog name and seeing how many hits come up.  Are there other genealogists already using that name?  Are the words too common and appear in thousands of search results?  Are there one or more businesses in other industries already using the same name?  You want your blog name to be as unique as possible so that when your audience searches for you, your site will appear at the top of search engine results. If there are too many occurrences or variations of your blog name then you might want to consider picking a different one.

2. Is the Facebook page already taken?

People get all excited when they choose a blog name and find that the name is available either in Blogger or as a .com domain.  Unfortunately, they are disheartened after they reserve the name of their choice only to learn that the Facebook page vanity url has been taken by somebody else.  Check Facebook before you finalize your name in Blogger or purchase a domain! You can do this easily by typing the url directly - www.Facebook.com/yourchosenname.  Obviously, replace your chose name with the name you have picked out.  All is not lost if the name is taken. You can do variations with hyphens or abbreviations but you will always have to deal with the issue that your audience might go to the other page instead of yours.

3. Is your name too long for Twitter?

If your chosen blog name is lengthy or has multiple words then it may be too long to use the entire name for Twitter. The Twitter username or handle, the word following the @ symbol, is limited to 15 characters. You have two options on Twitter - your username and your real name.  My username is @marianpl and my real name is Marian Pierre-Louis. Real names can be up to 20 characters.  When I set up a Twitter account for my Fieldstone Common show I had to make a decision because it exceeded the 15 character username limit.  I chose to use @FieldstoneComm for the username and Fieldstone Common for the real name. In my profile I link back to my @marianpl profile. It is not as essential that you use your full blog name as your username on Twitter but you will still want to give some thought to make sure you select the best option possible.

4. Test across all social media

Are you using other social media sites such as Tumblr, Instagram or other sites?  You will want to check those sites as well to see if your blog name is free.  Checking across all possible social media sites before reserving your domain name will help you ensure you have the most unique and easy to find name.

Good luck selecting your blog name! Do the up front work but also have fun. And let me know if you have come across any other considerations that should be checked before reserving your blog name.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Where Did My British Ancestry Go?

I was alerted by a post on Facebook from Megan Smolenyak that the Ancestry DNA results had been updated and refined.  I had done the DNA test in the last year or so and I was anxious to see what new details came to light.

Imagine my shock when I see the new details virtually erased my British ancestry!  (see before and after image)  In the first round of DNA testing Ancestry said I had 71% British ancestry. That fits pretty well with what I know about my ancestors.  In round 2 Ancestry relegates my ancestry from "Great Britain" to less than 1%. 

I can see that they are now separating out Ireland from Great Britain. I have one great grandparent with ties to Ireland. All the rest of my British ties come from England, Wales or Scotland.  The increase to 19% Irish seems very high. 

Also, my Scandinavian ancestry, of which I have no verification whatsoever from my own research, increased from 12% to 25%.  The only thing I can imagine is that I had long time ago Scandinavian ancestors who settled in Scotland.

Or maybe I'm looking at this all wrong.  After all I really don't understand the ins and outs of autosomal DNA.  Perhaps the testing represents what I've been given from my ancestors passed down through autosomal DNA instead of an even spread of DNA from all my ancestors.  Someone more knowledgeable will have to advise me on this.

At this point I am left with more questions about what Ancestry's DNA testing represents than I am with answers about my ancestry.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Voices from the Past

In 1989 My Mom headed to western Pennyslvania to visit her aunts and uncle and to collect some family history. My mom always brought family group sheets whenever she visited family but this time she also brought a tape recorder. My mom spent over an hour recording stories with her family.

A large hour-long file can be a bit unwieldly to listen to or share with others. If you use an audio editor you can edit down large files into small manageable bits. A file that is 1-5 minutes in length is perfect for sharing. Emailing to your family members or share them on your blog (but keep the files small so you don't run amiss of the hosts TOS).

Small audio tidbits such as this could be just the trick to get family members interested in hearing more!

Here you can listen to a sample of my mom's recording as she talks to her uncle about making wine.
family history.