PUSH/PULL factors in Immigration

In the last half of the 1800s and the early years of the 1900s, the forces motivating immigrants to leave their homeland can be divided into “Push” factors and “Pull” factors.

Push factors were forces that drove them out of their home countries such as:

  • poverty
  • a shortage of land
  • the military draft
  • political or cultural repression
  • religious discrimination

Pull factors were:

  • the promise of jobs in the new lands
  • cheap farmland in America and Canada
  • the magnetic pull of “chain “

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.

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

Autosomal DNA tests differ 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, 23andme, 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.

FTM Users: Move your files now or later?

Family TreeMaker (FTM) will no longer be sold after December 2015.  Support for FTM will end on December 31, 2016.

What does this mean for users of FTM?

In 2016, FTM users will see no change when they open up their FTM files.

In 2017, the FTM software will continue to function, but support for the product will cease. However, I believe the link to Ancestry.com will be turned off, and users will lose their ability to download and merge information, documents and source citations automatically.

At some point in the future, updates to user’s computer operating systems will degrade the functionality of FTM and force the user to buy new software from another manufacturer. The timing of the switch to a different lineage software should be considered carefully because of what the user may lose in the transfer of their files. FTM saves its files in a format that will not be compatible with most lineage software, and the transfer of family data has to be done using the GED format.  Users of FTM 2012 and FTM 2014 will be able to export their media files along with their tree information to the GEDCOM file, and the transfer will be relatively painless if all goes well. However users of older FTM versions will not be able to export the media data, and the most important part of your research has to be added manually to your new software.

Waiting may help this problem if apps can be developed to extract the media files from FTM 2011 (and older) versions. However, waiting too long may cause you to lose your work because your operating system updates may cause FTM to turn off and not allow you to save you files in a transferable format.

Christmas Memories – Be sure to include in your family history

How did your Grandparents celebrate Christmas? Here in America and in the old country?

This could be an important part of your family history. Celebrating holidays and special events gave the  people an overall rhythm to their lives during the year and most immigrants tried to continue this in their new homes.

 We all love Christmas because of its magical atmosphere. It is a special time when people forget all their problems and try to be together. Christmas helps people transform themselves from the cold dark realities of winter into a better mind by enjoying the festive celebrations surrounding Christmas. Family, relatives, friends, neighbors and complete strangers become kind, friendly and generous.

What are your memories?

Do you remember the Christmas tree at your grandparent’s house? What were the decorations like? Were they homemade of paper and foil or did they splurge and buy the colorful glass ornaments?

My early memories are of a fir tree in a corner of the living room filled with an array of wooden and paper figures that were mixed in with glistening glass globes. Shiny foil garlands were wrapped around the tree and silver tinsel hung on the tree and this gave it a festive look. I believe that this was the Americanized version of the Christmas tree that my mother who was born here had developed. My grandmother told me that in her village in Poland her father had hung the tree from the ceiling and the family decorated it with walnuts wrapped in silver and gold foil, bright red apples, gingerbread in fancy shapes, and chains made of glossy colored paper. A manger was set up near the tree. She and her brothers and sisters had made many of the decorations, but the manger and some of the foil decorations had been made by other generations and saved over the years.


My memories of Christmas eve and Christmas day start with Midnight mass and afterward being shuttled off to bed with a promise that Santa would come only after I was asleep. Morning brought cheer with the opening of presents with my parents and grandparents and then a large breakfast.

Are your memories? Did your family gather on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? What were the dishes that were served? My family had a ham as the main dish. Was ham on your grandmother’s table or did she serve turkey?  What were the desserts?

These are the memories that will make your family history come alive. Capture them now while your memories are still sharp. Add the memories of your brothers, sisters and cousins to capture as many details as possible. Also, remember to enjoy the spirit of Christmas today.

Merry Christmas