For whatever reason in the last few weeks, I’ve dove straight into everything related to WikiTree. Once I started looking at all of the things that were possible with a huge, helpful, friendly community of users and a system that allows a lot of interconnectedness, I was able to find the power in the site. I’ve always used the site, but I picked up a bunch more responsibility with it recently.
Not only have I started up the Zalewski Name Study project on the site, I also started one up for the next largest surname in my tree, the Thielke Name Study. Those are still in their infancy, with the Zalewski one being a bit further. The Thielke one only has two lines on it so far, but it’s a start.
Recently, I saw someone post about visualizing their DNA match network. They were doing this as a service. You would order a visualization and they would build one for you and send it to you for a nominal fee. It sounded and looked awesome. I noticed they were using an open source program, so I thought to myself, if they can do it, so can I. So, that’s what I did…for the most part.
The open source program is called Gephi and it’s described as the leading visualization and exploration software for all kinds of graphs and networks. And first glance it can seem scary and overwhelming, and it is in some respects. In my job and on my own time, I’ve worked a lot with sets of data; organizing them, analyzing them, morphing them to work in another way, etc. This seemed like something I could do.
Finding the Data
The first issue was figuring out how to get my match data into a format that the software needed. I first tried to get all of my match data exported from Genome Mate Pro, which I was able to do. I just don’t know how to massage it into what I need, yet, at least not without a lot of manual work. So, then I looked at some of the files that are created when I run DNAGedcom to get my match info for GMP. The Ancestry DNA files looked good. They had mostly what I needed. I had to do some minor changes to the files, but overall it worked.
After a bit of a learning curve and some Googling, I was able to get a pretty decent looking network visualization of (most of) my Ancestry DNA matches. I say most since I’m not completely sure if I have all of the connections included. Here is the final visualization, without the names.
Here is a quick overview. The size of the circles are based on how many centimorgans (cMs) I share with my match and it also shows how closely related we are. This graph only includes matches with more than 20 cMs, so about 4th cousins or so. I color-coded a few of the major lines that I knew based on the match. I am the large white circle in the center. My mother is the large yellow circle at the bottom.
The purple-ish group at the top is from my Corrigan line as the larger one is my father’s cousin. The red group at the left, I think, is a collection of Polish matches. The small teal group under the red is my Thielke line as the larger teal circle is my mom’s cousin. The pinkish group under that one is my Van Price/Van Parijs Dutch side. The green and orange on the bottom right is mainly my mother’s French-Canadian matches. There are a lot of descendants from those original French immigrants as you can see by all of the inter-matching between them. The single pink circle above me is my one and only Zalewski match. You can see why that line is difficult to research. The rest of the randomly colored and white circles are either one-off matches or matches I have yet to organize.
My next steps are to not only analyze this graph to see if any odd connections pop out, but also to try to do this with my other data including 23andMe and/or Family Tree DNA. I am also going to try to do it with my Genome Mate Pro data as that has everything in one place, including GedMatch matches. Seeing the software take all of these matches, which are at first in one big blob, and organizing it into the graph above is cool to see as it moves around like it’s alive until it settles.
I spent some time these last few days updating a lot of my ancestor’s profiles on WikiTree. WikiTree is constantly an amazing source for genealogy information. They consistently add really helpful new features and trying to make one big family tree is a big project. Features like the DNA connections, the genealogical relationships, and especially the community and the hundreds of helpful groups. It’s like one big family working on creating one big family.
One of the really cool parts of the WikiTree profiles is the biography area. By default, it just adds a little sentence to a profile when you add it, nothing too helpful. I did a bit with the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” projects over the years (I know, I need to get back to it this year.) I thought to myself, why not copy some of those posts over to my WikiTree profiles as biographies. I could interlink everything and source a lot of it and it would definitely help people who are not aware of my site. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. For example, the profile of my 3rd-great-grandfather, Johann Last. I’ve also done a lot of work, though not only recently, on my other great-great-grandfather Frank Zalewski’s profile over the years.
I’m still working my way through my 2014 52 Ancestors posts and as I post more for 2017’s project, I will try to add those. If you’re not using WikiTree, you really should look into it.
I ran across a helpful site recently called draw.io that allows you to build flow charts and other diagrams pretty easily. It also ties in nicely with Google Drive and Dropbox so you can get your designs anywhere. I ended up using the site to visualize some of my DNA matches, specifically matches on certain lines in my family tree. It worked nicely and allowed me to see how exactly we’re connected and what information may be gleaned from those matches (i.e., Y-DNA lines, etc.)
Here are my three designs, in the following order. I visualized my Zalewski cousin tests, my Corrigan cousin tests, my Thielke cousin tests, and my Last cousin tests. The last two are on my maternal side and sort of overlap. I have some other lines to do, yet. Click the images for a larger version.
NOTE: This post was originally from 2011. I have since updated it as of April 2017. Some of the previous ones are now no longer streaming, but I did find some decent replacements.
I’ve been a customer of Netflix for many years now. Back when I first signed up, it was only DVDs by mail. Now you get instantly streaming shows and movies into your living room through a PC or an Xbox or a smartphone and it’s glorious.
I’ve run across a bunch of different history and genealogy related instant streaming options and I thought I’d share them with you. Though, these are not all specifically genealogy-related, some may be about the areas your ancestors once lived. Also, these videos are obviously more related to my ancestry than just general ancestry. If you have a Netflix account, these links should link you right to the video info page. If you don’t have a Netflix account, I will try to find another informational page for you to view. There are a lot more if you also count DVD versions, though you’ll need to wait for those. Instant ones you can watch right now.
For no specific reason this week, I decided to do some more research of my paternal French lines. I decided to start with my gateway French ancestor, Claude-FranĂ§oise QUINET, or as she is mostly known, Frances (Quinet) THOMPSON. She is my 4th-great-grandmother and probably the most distant ancestor that I have a photo.
I started at the FamilySearch wiki, which is always a good place to start when researching a new location. It has great articles on the best resources and where to find them. Much to my surprise, France has digitized and made available all of the civil and church records, at least from the Department I needed, Haute-SaĂ´ne. The website was very easy to use once I was able to determine the locations I needed, even if it was in French.
I had a lot of the information for Frances and many generations back, but just the information, no sources or proof. This was probably entered back when I just found info and entered it like a rabid accountant. Fortunately, finding the actual records was made a bit easier as I had dates to work from. Most of them lined up perfectly and I was able to confirm and source dozens of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. I was even able to add one new generation back. I started my search in the early 1800s, but I was able to find records back to the late 1600s available on the site. Those were more hit-and-miss as I wasn’t able to find any of my ancestors in them.
Early on in my research, the records were in French, so just memorizing important genealogical words (i.e., baptism, marriage) and numbers was very helpful. At some point in the 1700s, everything switch over to Latin, which is a bit different to read (see the record above.)
I’m not completely finished digging through for the missing records and I have yet to see if any of my other possible French ancestors can be found in these digitized records. If you have French ancestors, make sure to look at the FamilySearch wiki.
There is a site out there that a lot of you may not be using for genealogy and/or history, reddit.com. Reddit usually does lean a bit toward the younger audience and I think it may sometimes get a bad rap in the mainstream media due to some of it’s more shady users, but it has a lot of helpful potential if you know what to look for.
This post isn’t for explaining the basics of Reddit or as a beginner’s guide, other people do a better job of that. Reddit is sometimes described as the “front page of the Internet.” Down to its core, Reddit is “a message board wherein users submit links. What differentiates it from a real-time information network like Twitter is that the stream of content is curated by the community” according to the article I linked previously.
Reddit itself is nothing without what they call subreddits. These are basically forums split up by category, but they are much more than that. More than likely, if you’re looking mostly for genealogy and history, the “main” subreddits you see by default won’t interest you as much. The power of Reddit comes in when you find that one subreddit for that one specific topic that you’re passionate about. Here you will find many other passionate users who you can interact with and share knowledge. And believe me, they probably have a subreddit for every niche you can think of.
Here are some of the most interesting subreddits (in no particular order) that I subscribe to for genealogy and/or history. FYI: You do not need an account on Reddit to view content (in most cases) but you need one to subscribe to subreddits, comment, upvote, or save things.
/r/genealogy – this one is self-explanatory. A lot of helpful people here sometimes doing lookups, doing transcriptions, asking interesting questions, sharing brick wall stories, etc. A good place to start.
/r/100yearsago - a subreddit for interesting things that happened 100 years ago to the day, every day.
/r/1920s - Images, video, and articles from and about the 1920s.
/r/1950s – Images, video, and articles from and about the 1950s.
/r/CemeteryPorn – I know that it has that word in the title, but don’t worry. They use it to mean exciting images from that specific topic. In this case, cemeteries. I’ve always loved photos from old, beautiful cemeteries.
/r/ColorizedHistory – Old, historic photos that have been manually colorized by very talented people. Changes the way you see certain historical events and people.
/r/23andme – Posts about testing at 23andme.com. Questions, comments, finding matches, etc.
/r/AncientMigrations – If you’re interested in your deep, deep ancestry, this subreddit involves ancient human migration, genetic genealogy and DNA ancestry.
/r/history – Everything and anything about historical events or people. It has some really interesting posts and conversation.
/r/AskHistorians – A place where users ask questions about history and historical events and get answers from experts in that area. Sometimes fascinating.
/r/historynetwork – This subreddit is sort of a aggregation of many different history related subreddits.
/r/TheWayWeWere – Described as “What was normal everyday life like for people living 50, 100, or more years ago?” Neat pictures of normal things in the past.
I am slowly entering the realm of using video for genealogy. I literally just started my genealogy YouTube channel yesterday. I have two videos up there now, but they are just an old home movie and a slideshow I made awhile back.
The old home movie is a collection of clips from the 1940s of my Corrigan family. It’s probably not super exciting to non-family members, but it is a neat look into that time period in video format. Though, there is no audio except for some music. I did try to do some stabilization to the original video as it gets hard to watch sometimes. Those 1940s video cameras didn’t really have stabilization technology.
The slideshow video is the same one I have posted of this site before that I made for my grandmother’s funeral in 2011. Though, since some of the music I used is copyright, it had some issues on YouTube. I had to remove the flagged songs from that version, so it just wasn’t the same. I have since re-uploaded the video with some royalty-free music. You can still view the un-edited original here on this site using my local video player.
My long-term plan is to do some more videos about my family, how-tos, etc. I have some ideas, but I need to figure out the logistics of getting them done, especially with two small children at home and not a very good recording setup. I get inspiration from channels like Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems channel.
I do feel that YouTube and video are going to be the next leap in terms of genealogy. There is a lot that can be done with video that is tough to do with text or pictures only. Wish me luck.
I’ve been playing with an open source tool called Timeline JS that builds a visually-rich, interactive timeline based on whatever data I tell it to use.
One of the options it has is to use data from a Google Docs spreadsheet. Add that ability along with their option to embed one right from their site and almost anyone can set one up. I personally like to host the scripts on my own site and do more advanced things, so I did it differently, but I am still using a Google Docs spreadsheet.
After watching some of stuff from RootsTech 2012 last year, I told myself I was going to go to RootsTech 2013. Both of my passions, genealogy and technology, are joined together from March 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah. They even have a “Developer Day” there now.
I knew that If I put aside some money throughout the year I’d easily be able to take myself there. I even talked it over with my wife and she said it’d be fine. Well, things don’t always go to plan, do they?
The first big wrench that was thrown into the gears was the birth of my son. I love him to bits, but his timing was just a bit off. I didn’t want to leave my wife with two kids under 3 for a few days, eight hours is probably enough during work days. The other wrench was that my wife will actually be out of town during those days, too and I need to watch my daughter. So, my plan is to hopefully hit up RootsTech 2014 next March or April. (Right, honey?)
Fortunately, in this digital age, RootsTech is streaming many of their presentations online and if it’s anything like last year they will be available on-demand after that. You can still access the videos from RootsTech 2012 which are still extremely interesting. (Warning: auto-playing video)
For all of you that are going to RootsTech 2013, have a great time and I hope to see you next year!
If you’re a visitor to social networks of any kind, you’ve probably already heard about Google+ (or Google Plus.) Though, maybe as I have noticed, you seem to hear mostly negative things about it, usually on Facebook. I’ve read posts about how it’s a wasteland or “none of my friends are on it.” I’d like to say now that at least one of those is completely false. Your friends probably aren’t on it.
The problem there is that people are comparing it to Twitter and Facebook when it’s like comparing apples to kiwis . To paraphrase something I read, Facebook is for your existing friends (close friends, grandma, etc), Twitter is for sharing information on current events, and Google+ is for your passions. That’s the key.
I, like almost everyone else, signed into Google+ when it first appeared and found it boring and quiet. I admit that this was before they added a lot of the features that make it what it is today. It’s actually pretty true that not many of my friends are on it, but the ones that are on it aren’t the reason I enjoy it. I find it much more useful for interacting with like-minded people. I’ve collaborated and chatted more about my passions on Google+ in the last few months than on Facebook and Twitter combined over their lifetimes.
So far, the key for me has been the Google+ communities. Browse around and find one that interests you. I’ve joined unrelated communities from Genetic Genealogy to Doctor Who to jQuery to SimCity. I even set up a community myself for the purpose of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Genealogy (self promo!) and it’s already creating some good discussion and contacts.
So, my point is, don’t believe random Facebook commentors (trust them as much as YouTube commentors) and look around Google+ for your passions and start interacting. You’ll be surprised.