Understand our ancestors; Possibly understand ourselves

Understanding our ancestors may help us understand who we are.  To gain this understanding, our genealogy research should go beyond the names, dates, family trees, and documents that are standard talking points in genealogy discussions. Review the facts and events that you find about your ancestors and ask Why? How? Where? When? You may not find the answers, but exploring their options may give you a better insight into the character of your ancestors. Review carefully the challenges that your ancestors faced and how it may have affected them.  Remember that some points of their character may have filtered down to you through the generations.

For my grandmother, I tried to envision her early days in Poland. I sought accounts of what happened around her village during World War I. What fears and challenges did she face during her immigration to America. What did she find after she arrived to live with her brother? How did she react and overcome the challenge of an arranged marriage and making a new life in America in a town where she knew no one.

My grandmother had a significant influence on me. When I was able to relate the challenges in her life to the points of character that I saw in her, I was able to understand how her accomplishments had silently influenced my character.

Try this process for one of your ancestors and you may be amazed by what happens.

Book Launch

I revised my book “Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors”. The revised edition includes more countries and more details. You can find more details about this new edition by clicking on the Book Launch tab in the above toolbar.

Cover 2

Get your Genealogy Organized

The focus of organizing your genealogy research should be to make it easy to find your information when you need it. Most people interpret this to mean you need a fantastic filing system for your papers. I have a different viewpoint and believe my system makes my research more efficient.

My system is based on compiling the information found on documents into summaries for individual direct ancestors which require one summary per direct ancestor. I generally try to download electronic copies of documents and scans of the paper documents that I find.  These electronic images are then embedded into my summaries in order to have them available if I need to double check the information at a later time.  This places all the information for each individual in one place and makes it faster to look up the information that I need for  the next search.

All of my information and images of documents are saved on my laptop. I only print copies for ring-binders when they are needed for family gatherings to allow family members to read. The ring binders are not part of my research efforts and their only purpose is to share my results with the family.

There are more details for my system but you will find that creating electronic summaries and saving electronic images of the documents will make your research more successful.  I strongly recommend that you create a summary for a few of your ancestors to see how simple and easy this system is.

New Genealogy Series – Follow Your Past

I have just started watching a new TV series on the Travel Channel called ” Follow Your Past”. It is a great example of “putting meat onto the bones” of your ancestors.

In each episode, the host meets the guests and then identifies at least two ancestors from their family history.  The next step goes beyond telling the story, but they have to live it. Guests have been asked to sleep overnight in a cave to experience where their ancestor lived after they first arrived. Another quest had to skydive to experience some of the fears their grandfather had when he was a paratrooper during the D-Day invasion. What better way to know your ancestor then to try to experience what they did.

It may be hard for some of us to physically actually have the same experiences. Try to read detailed accounts that cover critical events similar experiences and then ask yourself questions that they may have had and describe what they may have seen. This will help make their lives come alive.

Watch a few episodes and then try to envision what your ancestors felt at critical events in their history.

Comparing My Autosmal DNA Test Results

fer from the Y-DNA and mtDNA because it analyzes all of our DNA and it can be taken by both males and females. The results will not be as specific as the Y-DNA and mtDNA but the results try to project the geographic origins of our ancestors and provide matches with possible cousins.

The projections for our origins are based on studies of DNA samples over large populations from all over the world. The research tries to find markers on specific DNA segments that are unique to people in specific parts of the world and ethnic populations. The ads marketing this test promise to scientifically identify our origins. I am very dissatisfied with the apparent inaccuracies in my results. This seems to be a developing science because the  results for the origins of my ancestors differed significantly between the three companies – Ancestry, 23and Me and FamilytreeDNA.

Below is a chart showing my Autosomal DNA results from the three different companies.

  Ancestry 23andme FamilyTreeDNA Estimate from Family Tree Research
     European 99.9%        99.8 %     99.0% 100%
·     British & Irish 40.0%        12.7%       24.0% 0.0%
·     French & German 14.0%       10.4%         6.0% 12 to 20%
·    Northern European 9.0%        36.2%        31.0% 50.0%
·     Eastern European 35.0%        30.6%        38.0% 30 to 38%
·     Broadly European            9.9%   0.0%
      Other 2.0%           .2%         1.0% 0.0%
 

The composition shown above is difficult to interpret for my ancestry. The European lines (Northern, Eastern and Broadly) seem to represent my Polish and Hungarian ancestors which should be about 75 percent.  FamilyTreeDNA at 69% and 23andMe at 77% seems to be more accurate than Ancestry at 58 percent. The French and German portion can be explained by my grandfather Erwin’s German father  and this section should be from 10 to 15 percent and the results from Ancestry at 14% and 23andMe 10% fall within that range although FamilyTreeDNA at 6% is slightly out of this range.

However, the British and Irish portion of the chart is very difficult for me to understand. I have found no documents that identify any British or Irish ancestors. One explanation for the British and Irish section in my results may be due to mutations that were inherited from the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain early in history and may be found in  my ancestors due to marriages and migrations of Germanic people into Poland and Hungary. Although this explanation may sound probable, I’m disappointed with all three companies and their inability to properly classify these DNA markers. Also, the Ancestry.com results seem to be very questionable for my DNA because at 40% for the British Isles, they are a significant  portion of my DNA and point to an origin that should not be part of my DNA.

I downloaded and compared the raw data from each of the samples that I submitted to the three companies and they matched 100%. This means that the origins shown above were based on how each company interpreted the data and not differences in the samples. Each interpretation was based on historical data that the companies have collected from various studies and research. However, the variations in my results show me that the companies need to refine their reference databases to provide better accuracy of the results that companies sell to us.

 

Insure the accuracy of your information

Compiling your family history is very important to you. It should also be important that the information should be accurate for your children and grandchildren to read. Following a process to ensure accuracy should not be ominous and  it should not detract from the fun of finding your family history.

Analyze and evaluate your documents for accuracy and relevance. Determine if your sources are original or derivative documents. Do they contain primary or secondary information?  Always try to obtain a copy of the original document. Document your sources to ensure you can properly analyze your information.

The credibility of each piece of information needs to be determined because some records may contain confusing and misleading information. Resolve any conflicts in the information. The conclusions you use in your family history should represent the best possible scenario based on the evidence you have after a thorough and exhaustive search. If your conclusion does not give a definitive answer, you should state in some way that more research is needed. Someone reviewing your work in the future should be able to benefit from your work if you clearly state the information that you find and accurately state your sources.

More on Family TreeMaker

Ancestry.com has discontinued Family TreeMaker. We cannot control what Ancestry does. However, we control how much money we spend on subscriptions to genealogy companies and where we spend that money.

  1. We all want access to the databases on Ancestry but do we need an annual subscription?
  2. Will an occasional one month or periodic six-month subscription work for some of us?
  3. Paying for one, two or six months worth of subscriptions totals less than the annual fee.

 

With a subscription, FTM allows the download and merging of documents and citations, but this will cease in 2017. Without the merging function of FTM, there is no reason to have an Ancestry subscription to manage your Ancestry documents offline. If we have to attach manually documents to our offline software, research at your local library using Ancestry Library Edition can be used and costs us far less.

 

I have online trees on Ancestry but prefer to control my trees with offline software. I never used the sync function of FTM because I felt I would lose control of private information. I also felt that the offline software had better navigation, and the reports were easier to read than Ancestry’s online trees. I used my online trees only as a billboard to attract other researchers to exchange information. I also love downloading and merging information from Ancestry to my FTM trees. I have had annual subscriptions the last three years but will now change back to connecting to Ancestry using occasional monthly subscriptions.

 

I am sure that the above logic was not considered by Ancestry management when they made their decision to discontinue FTM. I am also sure that Ancestry will lose some subscription revenue because of their decision.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.