Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Researching Abroad Roadshow at Parramatta

The first day of the Sydney Unlock the Past Researching Abroad roadshow kicked off at the Parramatta RSL with Dirk Weissleder talking about German and European Research. Over the day he gave several talks with several useful messages.

Dirk started by acknowledging that German research is difficult,  even for Germans.  Archives are spread far and wide, and just one example is that there is not one National Library,  but two: one in Frankfurt am Main for the old West Germany, and the other in Leipzig for the old East Germany.
Dirk Weissleder

He made a very important point that needs to be kept in the forefront of your mind. Germany as a country only came into being in 1871. Before that it was several independent kingdoms and duchies. Then after World War II it was split into two separate countries: East Germany ans West Germany, and wasn't reunited as a single country until 1990. So when looking at or for something always ask yourself what country that place was part of at the time in question.

It is also important to bear in mind that there is a different mindset prevalent in Germany (and also in other European countries) than that in England or Australia. One example is that Germans all have to carry ID cards, and cannot understand how society can possibly function in the UK without them. There are also different perspectives throughout Europe over how easy or quick access to records should be and whether they should be available for free or only for a fee, and whether or not photography of records is allowed.

Another thing to be aware of is that throughout Germany graves are reused, often after 25 years, but as quickly as four years in Munich. Therefore if you go to a graveyard you will not be able to find the graves of your ancestors.

It is important to keep these different perspectives in mind, and research in advance what you are likely to find and what conditions will be attached to it.

The second day was a British Isles research day, with talks by Chris Paton. His first talk was a beginner's guide to British and Irish Genealogy.  Even for someone who was not a beginner I think there was much to gain from this talk, with some good advice about brick walls (try going around them, not through them), and the advice that we should question everything.
Chris Paton

His next talk was about Scottish Church Records.  In case you are not aware, there were many, many changes and factions within the history of the church in Scotland. Chris compares it to the Hokey Pokey (which appers to be called the Hokey Cokey in the UK) - They put the Bishops in, They took the Bishops out, Bishops in, Bishops out, shake it all about ....

Chris's website has a brief outline of the history of the Scottish Kirk here: http://www.scotlandsgreateststory.bravehost.com/scottishkirk.html

Chris's third talk was on Irish Family History resources online. This talk was a great illustration of the fact that while Irish Genealogy was difficult in the past, there is now a great deal online, making it a much easier undertaking.

Kerry Farmer
His final talk was about Discovering Irish Land Records.  For those not experienced in Irish research, one of the most difficult aspects can be understanding the various land divisions, like townlands, baronies and so on.  Consequently the first part of this talk was dedicated to describing these different boundaries. He then went on to explain how to find out where your ancestors were, where to find records of tenancy, ownership & valuation, and a few other points to help fill out our understanding of where our people lived.

The two day roadshow also had a few other presenters: Kerry Farmer did a talk on using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles, which was excellent (as Kerry's presentations always are); Heather Garnsey from the Society of Australian Genealogists did a couple of presentations on the holdings of the SAG for European research and for British Isles research; and Rosemary and Eric Kopittke each did a presentation on MyHeritage. These were really just info-mercials, but I guess that was what MyHeritage, who was a sponsor of the roadshow wanted, and it is something we have to accept from a sponsor, because this keeps the price down for the attendees.
Attendees watching a video from LivingDNA

Keep an eye on the Unlock the Past website for future events.

**Disclosure:  As a roadshow Ambassador I received free admission to this event

Sunday, August 6, 2017

International Speakers Coming for Australian Roadshow

It's always exciting when we get the chance to hear overseas speakers here in Australia.  And the Unlock the Past Roadshow is once again giving us just that opportunity.  Chris Paton and Dirk Weisleder are doing a series of talks around Australia, coinciding with National Family History Month.

The tour is entitled Researching Abroad: Finding European and British Isles Ancestors, and will be visiting Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.

The talks last for two days, but you can chose to attend just one day, or both. Each location has a slightly different program and some additional speakers, so check out the program for the location closest to you at http://www.unlockthepast.com.au/events/researching-abroad-finding-british-isles-and-european-ancestors

In Sydney, for example, the speakers also include Kerry Farmer, who is giving a talk on Using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles

Chris Paton is a professional genealogist based in Scotland, but born in Ireland. His business is called Scotland's Greatest Story https://scotlandsgreateststory.wordpress.com/. I have heard Chris speak on several different occasions and he is a knowledgeable and engaging speakers, and sometimes also a very humorous one.  I have never come away from one of his talks without having learnt something. 

Dirk Weissleder from Germany is the National Chairman of the Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände, the umbrella organisation of the genealogical and heraldic associations in Germany. He is also the coordinator of the German-Australian Genealogy Alliance and thee International German Genealogical Partnership. I have never heard Dirk speak, but Jill Ball interviewed him at Rootstech this year.

Why not think about coming to the roadshow this year. More details are available here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Definition Day: Reeve

This is the first of what will be an irregular series where I define terms that the genealogist might come across. This time I will explain the role of a reeve.

A reeve was a very important man in Feudal England.  The term originates back in Anglo-Saxon times, deriving from the Old English word ġerēfa.

In some manors the reeve was appointed by the lord of the manor, but in most he was elected on a yearly basis by the peasants from among their own number.

His job was three-fold: to represent the tenants in negotiations with the lord of the manor, to allocate and oversee the work that the peasants were obliged to perform for the lord on his land, and take responsibility for many aspects of the finances of the manor, like sale of produce, collection of revenues and payment of accounts.

Medieval illustration of a reeve directing serfs in their work

A special type of reeve was the "shire reeve", a term which over time evolved to become the word "sheriff". The shire reeve was appointed by the king to collect his revenues, supervise the county and make sure the local citizens performed their law enforcement functions correctly according to the frankpledge system. Under the frankpledge system groups of families formed together to protect each other and also to produce any man from amongst them suspected of committing a crime. The role of shire reeve later came to include the direct responsibility for apprehending people who had broken the law. It was a paid position, assisted by constables, and would not have been from the villain class.

The connection between what became two different roles lies in the original function of collecting revenues and in implementing the decisions of the lord of the manor, or in the case of the shire reeve, the common law.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

He wants to be found

I am being haunted.  Haunted by an unidentified soldier from the Australian Army in World War I.  I think he's haunting a genealogist because he wants to be found and given his name.

When I was at Rootstech two years ago I wandered past The In-Depth Genealogist's booth and my eye was caught by a picture of an unidentified Australian Soldier on the cover of one of their issues of "Going In-Depth".  There is no doubt that he was Australian as he had the rising sun badge on his collar.

It was most unusual to see an Australian on the front of a magazine, so he stood out.  But that wasn't the end of the story.  I got home to find that amongst the bookmarks I have picked up over the years was another copy of the same picture.

But it didn't stop there.  When I was visiting the Australian War Memorial the following month, I saw a book in the bookshop with him again.

And then he featured in a controversial ad campaign for a local supermarket chain. (They call themselves "The Fresh Food People" and this image was accompanied by the message "Fresh in our Memories".  The Australian people did not like the sacrifice of all those young men being turned into an advertising slogan).

I thought it had finished until I went to RootsTech again this year.  There he was, staring at me from the Family Tree Maker booth. Admittedly, they have reversed the image. Very annoying for any Australian who knows that the slouch hat is always worn with the turn-up on the left side.

And it turns out he is on the cover of the disk for the latest version of Family Tree Maker!

I think he must want to be found.  He has incredible eyes.  Anyone able to identify him? Below is a copy of the original photograph from the Australian War Memorial's Flickr Photostream.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Genetic Communities Results

Ancestry's new Genetic Communities has been released today.  Here is my take on my own results.

Firstly it's important to note that initially there are a finite number of communities included.  Todd Godfrey from Ancestry explained that these will be increasing over time.  Listen to my interview with him here.

From this initial group I have been placed into three communities.

There is a map that shows where these communities are located:

I can drill down on each of them in turn.  First, I looked at "English in the South West Peninsula".

So far so good. It's certainly south-west England. Looks like it covers Cornwall and Devon. I don't have any known Devon ancestry, but I have a g-g-grandfather from Cornwall.  But on the left hand side it gives information on the history of the area and emigration from that area, and it is all about London! Last time I looked, London wasn't in Devon or Cornwall.

I could also click on a "Connections" link to see further information

I can then click on the "View all Matches" for the people who matched me in this Genetic Community.

What about my other communities?  Here is the Munster Irish community.

Hmm. That's Munster AND Leinster.

If I look at the Stories/History section and click on one of the time frames you will see migration routes OUT of the area of the community at a certain time.  As an example I'm showing the migration in the time "1825-1850: Poverty Amidst Plenty".

Looks reasonable, but the earlier time frame "1775-1825: Home of Outlaws and Rebels" and it only shows migration to the US.  Yet during this period there were a large number of convicts sent to Australia. And rebels (from the 1798 rebellion). No mention of them though. Perhaps they'll fix this over time.

Now, what about the Scots Community?

I was pleased to see that included in my connections in this community was someone whom I know I am related to. We share a g-g-grandmother who came from Wigtownshire in Scotland. It doesn't have the new person or her brothers who match myself and my cousin above and whose ancestor has the same surname as ours and comes from the same part of the country. Maybe that's because they are more distant relatives?  Maybe there is a maximum number that is showing up at the moment? Maybe the connection to my 3rd cousin and I is not through that family? I don't know yet.

As I've said, this is a growing site. More communities will be coming on over time.  I can see it potentially being useful for narrowing down where a connection might have occurred.  But I'd like to see some of the problems being resolved. It's certainly a bit of fun, and is available to anyone who has tested with Ancestry without additional payment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Very Strange Results from LivingDNA

I just got my results from Living DNA. Not only are they different to the results from Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA, which are sort of similar, but the Living DNA ones don't match the paper trail AT ALL.  In fact, I'd be thinking that the results belonged to someone else, except they got my mtDNA haplogroup - H41a - correct, and that is a very rare subclade of a very common haplogroup.

Living DNA Ethnicity Estimate
Ancestry estimates

FamilyTreeDNA estimates

LivingDNA says I am 98.8% European, Ancestry says 99%, and FTDNA says 95%. OK, they are similar.  They break down differently though. LivingDNA says that European component is 95.5% Great Britian and Ireland and 3.3% Scandinavian.  Ancestry threw Iberian Peninsula, Jewish, Italy/Greece and Finland/Northwest Russia into the mix, While FTDNA had the Jewish component, a Southern Europe (which I guess is about the same as Italy/Greece) and an East Europe (Finland?) portion.  The percentages were quite different, but the mix is similar

But where it gets interesting is with the British results.  Now I'll start by saying that according to the paper trail I'm about half Irish, half English with a tiny bit of Scottish thrown in (and that is from Wigtownshire - the most southwesterly part of Scotland). According to LivingDNA my results are broken down as follows:

    Northwest England               31.1%
    Southeast England               17.8%
    Cornwall                               14.6%
    Cumbria                               13.7%
    South Central England       5.30%
    Northwest Scotland               5.2%
    Orkney                               2%
    South Yorkshire                       1.8%
    Aberdeenshire                       1.7%
    GB & Ireland unassigned          2.2%
    Scandinavia                       3.3%

The map indicates that Northwest England is Lancashire & Cheshire, Southeast England is Kent & Sussex. South Central England is Gloucestershire, Somerset & Wiltshire and that Northwest Scotland covers most of the Highlands, plus Antrim and Derry in Northern Ireland (two counties where I do NOT have ancestors).

My analysis of my ancestry is as follows:

    Protestant Irish            25%
    Irish                            21.09%
    Cumbria                    12.5%
    Cornwall                    6.25%
    Scotland                    6.25%
    GLS                            6.25%
    Notts/Derby                    6.25%
    Kent/Sussex            3.125%
    Warwickshire            3.125%
    Middlesex                    3.125%
    Wilts/Som                    3.125%
    Unknown (prob Irish)    3.125%
    Cheshire                    0.781%

Now, I fully understand that some of the smaller amounts might not have come to me by the miracle of recombination, as 3.125% represents a 3g-grandparent and all their ancestors, and 0.7181% a 5g-grandparent, but the differences are quite startling. I'm even happy to say that the 3.125% Middlesex probably came there from somwhere else. And even given that at least 2 lines of my Protestant Irish are known to have come from England (or Britain at least) in the 17th century, it's possible that all that 25% is really English or Scottish.  But what about that other 21-25% of Irish Catholics?

Putting my results into their categories we get

    Northwest England               31.1%          0.781%
    Southeast England               17.8%          3.125%
    Cornwall                               14.6%          6.25%
    Cumbria                               13.7%          12.5% (OK, this result is close)
    South Central England       5.30%          9.375%
    Northwest Scotland               5.2%            0%
    Orkney                               2%               0%
    South Yorkshire                       1.8%            0% (though I do have 0.049% West Yorkshire)
    Aberdeenshire                       1.7%            0%
    GB & Ireland unassigned          2.2%           0%
    Scandinavia                       3.3%            0%
    Unaccounted for                                            67.9%
       (Irish, Lowland Scotland, Notts/Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Middlesex, Probably Irish)

I really had higher hopes for these results, given that a lot of the data came from the People of the British Isles Study.  I'll just have to see how my husband's results compare to his paper trail.

Monday, February 13, 2017

RootsTech Expo Hall

Here are some photos from the Expo Hall at this year's #RootsTech.
The Expo Hall entrance

View of the Hall

Findmypast booth

Rear of findmypast booth

Book scanning by Family Search

One of the stands

Ancestry booth

Family Tree Maker Booth

Genealogy WallCharts booth

Heirloom Show & Tell

The area for media to record interviews

Discovery Zone from FamilySearch

Green screen in Discovery Zone where you could get your
photo on a background of your ancestral home

Record a message for a deceased ancestor

In the media hub

MyHeritage stand

Jill Ball interviewing Ron Tanner from FamilySearch

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Our genealogy is coming alive through our DNA

CeCe Moore is a professional Genetic Genealogist and one of the keynote speakers today at Rootstech. 

Genetic Genealogy – or DNA research – has boomed in the last few years, and the findings that are coming out of it would have been unimaginable even ten years ago.  The experiences of our forebears really do affect us in many ways.

People are now often taking DNA tests out of curiosity, and the results are leading them to try and follow up with the paper trail. One example of this was CeCe’s own brother-in-law. He had grown up with a strong oral tradition in his family that they had native American DNA.  So, hearing about the DNA tests that CeCe was working with, he thought he’d take one to try and prove this story.

But his test came back with 0% native American DNA and 6.6% African DNA. His mother was still alive so she got a test which came back indicating that she was 12.25% African. CeCe started to investigate her brother-in-law’s ancestry via the traditional paper trail.  She managed to trace him back to an illegitimate child of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings.

CeCe’s brother-in-law now knew he was the descendant of enslaved people.

According to the 1924 racial integrity act from the Virginia General Assembly, anyone with 1/32 or more African blood was declared to be black, with all the restrictions and discrimination that went along with that.  That corresponds to 3.25% of African blood, and CeCe’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned nieces and nephews would have been classed as black until that act was repealed in 1967.

Discovering slave ancestors has a profound effect on many people, and changes the way they view history.

But our DNA can affect us in other ways. Before he knew he was descended from Jefferson, CeCe’s brother had visited Jefferson’s house and felt an immediate connection with the place.  Coincidence? Maybe, but science is now showing that we CAN be affected by events which have happened to our ancestors.*

Through her work with adoptees, CeCe often sees the connection between biological relatives.  Reunited families often share personality traits and behaviours that adoptees did not share with their adopted families. The same car, the same hairstyle, the same clothes – none of these things are unusual. Epigenetic changes to our genes affect their expression and turn them on or off, resulting in a form of genetic memory. Once again our ancestors are affecting our lives.

CeCe is able to use genetic genealogy in the same way she does with adoptees to help a few high profile cases of people who don’t know who they are, like Paul Fronczak and Benjamin Kyle.

DNA testing is solving family mysteries old and new and changing peoples lives.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

LeVar Burton's session brings us all to tears

I just listened to an incredibly powerful, emotional and wonderful presentation. LeVar Burton was one of today’s keynotes at Rootstech. LeVar played Kunta Kinte in the 1977 version of Alex Haley’s Roots, starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation and for 23 years worked on Reading Rainbow.

He first spoke of his mother who introduced him to the magic of storytelling. She was always reading and always reading to him. She instilled in him the belief that he was able to triumph over any adversity.

He said that Gene Roddenberry was a fantastic storyteller. As a young boy it was rare for LeVar to see people on TV that looked like him. It was rare for him to see people like Clarence Williams III with his incredible Afro hair style on Mod Squad, and it was rare for him to see people like Diahann Carroll on Julia. So seeing Star Trek on TV was huge.  Seeing Nichelle Nichols gave him the message to him that there was a place for people like him in the world to come.

Star Trek inspired people in so many ways.  Seeing Captain Kirk flip open his communicator and say “Beam me up Scotty” must have been the inspiration for some engineer who later developed the flip-phone.  Uhura’s ear piece must have inspired the Bluetooth ear pieces we see now. Technology to bring sight to the blind like Geordi’s Visor is currently under development.

“Our superpower is our imagination”, he said. “It connects us to our birthright as storytellers.” Those stories provide the context for who we are, why we are here ad where we are going.

LeVar Burton spoke of the profound effect that Alex Haley had on his life in 1977. Roots helped shift the focus of the nation’s consciousness and showed the unvarnished truth of the country’s slave holding past. “There was an America before Roots, and an America after Roots, and they were not the same America.”  All this was accomplished by a program telling one family’s story which achieved record shattering viewing figures. 

He spoke eloquently and powerfully in his rich and expressive voice.  The host for the day, Nkoyo Iyamba returned to the stage as the audience gave LeVar a standing ovation. Her voice was cracking with emotion as she introduced Thom King from FamilySearch to give LeVar a special gift. They had researched his family tree.

Suddenly the eloquent man had gone, and a tearful and vulnerable man called out in an accent that was a throw-back to his youth “Is this what y’all do all day?”

Thom showed him the marriage certificate of his beloved grandmother Estelle Cain, who had always encouraged him and who was so proud to see him in Roots just before she died. Thom pointed out the signature of LeVar’s grandfather and the graceful man became even more emotional.

“We have managed to find two of your two-greats-grandparents and five of your three-greats-grandparents” said the giant Thom who towered over LeVar. He pointed out those who were born into slavery and witnessed emancipation.

“These are my people!” he cried out. Tears came from my eyes to join his and those of everyone in the hall.

That is what the impact of knowing your family does.

Rootstech Innovator Summit

Liz Wiseman
Wednesday, the first day of Rootstech, was the Innovator Summit Day. The keynote was Liz Wiseman from The Wiseman Group who talked about “Rookie Smarts”, the key message of which was that sometimes we are at our very best when we know the least. In that position we can often come up with unique ways to approach a problem because we don’t know how it has always been done. And sometimes that can lead to great successes.  She has written a book about this idea – Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work.

After her talk a few of us got to chat to her and much of the time was spent discussing some of the ideas from another of her books – Multipliers: How the Best Leaders MakeEveryone Smarter.

Her definition of a Multipliers are
leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go on; ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the leaders who inspire the people with whom they work to stretch themselves and surpass expectations. These leaders use their smarts to make everyone around them smarter and more capable.

In contrast, other managers are Diminishers, holding back their employees.

We then had the showdown for the semi-finalists for the Innovator Challenge.  The 10 semi-finalists were
  1. QromaTag – tags photos with all sorts of information which is stored in the metadata and is preserved forever with the photo. Not only can this include names and places, but it can also include voice recordings of people talking about the photo.
  2. JoyFLIPS – another photo program similar to the previous one. One aspect of this I loved was that you can scan the front and back of a photo and store them as a 2-sided digital copy. This program is freee, and can be run as a app on a phone or via a web interface
  3. Cuzins – this shows you what celebrities you are related to. It uses the data from the FamilySearch Family Tree to see the connections. It only runs on Android and there is a free version that lets you see how one celebrity is related to another, but you will have to pay to see how you are related to the celebs.
  4. CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing – this manages group indexing projects for family history societies, controlling the allocation of pages to be transcribed.
  5. Kindex – a free searchable archive that anyone can build and share with anyone else.
  6. Rootsfinder – makes genealogy easy by integrating with FamilySearch, Ancestry etc. It captures sources, screen shots and more
  7. Champollion 2.0 – a transcription tool with all sorts of ways to improve the quality of the original image and to link the image to the transcription
  8. emberall – a smart phone app that records a person’s life through questions asked of the person, capturing their voice and storing the results in the cloud
  9. Double Match Triangulator – a great tool for doing DNA Triangulation
  10. OldNews USA – a mobile app that does targeted searches in the newspapers included in Chronicling America by the Library of Congress
The finalists that were chosen were the Double Match Triangulator, emberall, kindex, OldNews USA and QromaTag.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The new Family Discovery Experience

Tuesday afternoon was so much fun. I was invited to a preview of the new Family Discovery Experience before it officially opens to the public the following morning, timed to coincide with RootsTech.

The Family Discovery Experience is located on the ground floor (or 1st floor for my American Friends – anyway, it’s the one you first walk into) of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The previous Family Discovery Center (note the slightly different name) in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building was so popular that they couldn’t accommodate all the people who wanted to come.

When you go in you get given a special iPad and you log into your FamilySearch account.  These accounts are free to create, and are needed if you are going to put your family tree onto the Family Search Family tree. You will get most from this experience if you have entered your tree.
You then go round each station and dock your iPad into the station so it can personalise the experience for you. Most of the stations consist of large touchscreen showing a particular facet of you and your heritage.
Docking Station for the iPad
Docked iPad

The first stop I made was Where I Come From which showed a map with the routes your ancestors took to get to where you were born. Since all mine came to Australia from England, Ireland or Scotland it was pretty self-evident. Interesting the different routes it seems to think they took to get there!

You can see a break down of where your ancestors came from, but that is only as accurate as your tree is complete. You can see that it says I have 9% Australian, but since I have no indigenous ancestors this represents people for whom I haven’t entered any parents.
You can see “vintage photos” of locations your ancestors may have come from. The only picture in the UK was one of London, though there were lots of European photos and American photos, but my family were never in those places.
One of the stations was My Time Machine which allowed you to select an ancestor from your tree on FamilySearch and see events in their life. Those events were mainly their births, deaths an births of children, but you could also see events that were happening in the world, like the introduction of disposable nappies (diapers), the start of World War I or the invention of penicillin. The final set of timeline events related to the church, such as the completion of the Tabernacle.

There was another section with a green screen where you could place yourself against a location in the world and have your photo taken.

There were booths for recording yourself or a group of people either telling a story or being interviewed, and the Picture my Heritage station similar to the one that had been in the previous centre. Here you could “put” your face on an image of a person from a different time.  It wouldn’t work for me, so here are some other people’s images that I have permission to use.

Amy Archibald

Myko Clelland from findmypast

Myko controlling the station

But for me the most fun part of the day was the My Famous Relatives station. Based on your tree it worked out who you were related to. For example, apparently I am a 13th cousin once removed of former US President Warren G Harding, an 11th cousin 3 times removed of Thomas Edison, and a 9th cousin 5 times removed of Joseph Smith (1st President of the LDS church).


But it also compared you to other people who had recently been in the center. A large number of those who came in knew each other and it was great fun to discover that I was related to some of the people I knew there.  Pat Richley-Erickson (aka DearMyrtle) and I are 12th cousins, Renee Zamora and I are 11th cousins once removed and Peggy Clements and I are 10th cousins once removed. Helen Smith and I are both related to President Harding and Philo T Farnsworth, but are not related to each other.
 More information about this can be found here and here.