Categories52 Ancestors in 52 WeeksTechnologyTips & Tricks

Updating The Single Family Tree

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.

CategoriesFeaturedHistoryTechnologyTips & Tricks

Looking for Genealogy on Netflix?

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.

Continue reading
CategoriesFamily TreeTechnologyTips & Tricks

Digital French

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-Françoise 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-Saône. 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.

Entry for the marriage of my 8th-great-grandparents, Claude Barbut (Claudius Barbu) & Jeanne Laurence Mignard (Joanna Laurentia Mignard) on 15 Jun 1716 in Contréglise.

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.

CategoriesTechnologyTips & Tricks

Reddit for Genealogy

RedditThere 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/VictorianEra - Images, video, and articles from the Victorian Era.
  • /r/earlyphotography – A place to post images from the early days of photography.
  • /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.
  • /r/TheWayWeWereOnVideo – A sister subreddit to the one above, but specializing in videos rather than photos.

I hope you find something interesting and amazing in those subreddits. Be aware, you may get lost in one and never return due to all of the neat things in it.

CategoriesPersonalTips & Tricks

Passing on the Stories

Now that my daughter is getting older and she now really enjoys reading and stories, I’ve been trying to think about a neat way to tell her about her ancestry. The things I may find interesting about my ancestry, besides the stories, like dates and history, are usually pretty boring for kids. I don’t want to bore her right off the bat and start off with an uphill battle. 

I’ve been thinking about ways to take the stories, and even the dates and history, and turn them into simple, short, interesting stories that my daughter can easily enjoy.

A soul is made of stories, not atoms. Everything that ever happened to us, people we love, people we lost, people we found again, against all the odds.

– The Doctor (Doctor Who)

I wouldn’t use full name information, probably just a first name, like Frank. In terms of Frank Zalewski, maybe I’d talk about how Frank and his family had trouble where they lived, so they decided one day to go on an adventure (probably not what they thought at the time) and travel to a new land to try to start a new life. Once she hears the story a few times, I’d tell her that the story is actually about her ancestors, her great-great-great grandfather.

There are also already some pre-made stories on her maternal side since she is (according to current research) descended from both Royal blood and William Bradford of Mayflower fame. Those she may be more excited about once she learns about them in school. I know I would’ve paid more attention in history class if I knew I had some sort of connection to it.

Have you introduced young children to their ancestry? Do you know of any useful resources?

CategoriesTechnologyTips & TricksZalewski

Frank’s Interactive Timeline

TimelineI’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.

It’s very cool. Take a look at how I transformed my Everything I Know About Frank Zalewski information using it. Feel free to contact me if you want to use it and need help with it.

CategoriesFeaturedGermanPolishTips & Tricks

How to Search Germany, Prussia, Pomerania Church Records

FamilySearch has a boatload of church records scanned and available online for Germany, Prussia, and Pomerania from 1544-1945, though I would estimate that most of them are in the middle of that range. Currently they’re not available for searching, but I did see them in the indexing software, so maybe they will be available for that soon. That means you must look through them by hand, like the good ol’ days.

It seems that a lot of families from this area of Wisconsin immigrated from that area, which is now mostly in Poland, so I’m in luck. I used this collection to find a few records so far. I found my 3rd-great-grandparent’s marriage record and my 3rd-great-grandfather’s baptism record (I’m pretty sure.) Keep in mind that the towns and parishes are not named the same as they were in the 1800s, so you can’t just go to Google Maps. Don’t worry, I’ve done some of the hard work for you and will show you how to find the records you need. Though, this won’t do all of the browsing record by record and trying to determine what someone wrote in German on old, ripped paper from 1840 for you, but maybe for a few bucks I can do that for you, too.

churchrecs
Some of the Pommern church records available.

The key in all of this is an amazing site called Kartenmeister. They describe themselves:

Welcome to the most comprehensive database of its kind in the world. It contains 93537 locations with over 38.691 name changes once, and 5,500 twice and more.  Included in this database are the following provinces: Eastprussia, including Memel, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. It currently list most towns or points, points being: Mills, some bridges, battlefields, named trees, cenotaphs etc.

Continue reading
CategoriesSocial NetworksTips & Tricks

Google Plus Your Passions

Google PlusIf 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.

While you’re there, look me up.

CategoriesGenetic GenealogyTips & Tricks

DNA: Autosomal DNA

This is Part 4 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Today we’re going to look into the last set of DNA that you can use in your research, Autosomal DNA. This is DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome). Each pair of autosomes is inherited the same way.

For each pair of autosomes, you received one from your mother and one from your father. Before the autosomes were sent to you, they were randomly jumbled in a process called recombination. Your parents also received their autosomes from their parents who also recombined them. So, your autosomes are random mixtures of all of your ancestors autosomes. All branches of your ancestry contribute to your Autosomal DNA. Obviously, the more distant the ancestor is, the less you share with them. Closer relatives will share larger fragments with you compared to distant relatives.

For example, this chart below shows, on average, how much autosomal DNA you share with specific relatives:

Public domain Image from Wikimedia Commons. Click for larger.
Public domain Image from Wikimedia Commons. Click for larger.

This is the DNA that most places use to match you up with potential cousins using Relative Finder from 23andMe or Family Finder from Family Tree DNA. If you have shared genomes with people on 23andMe, you can go to “Ancestry Labs” on the menu and choose “Family Inheritance: Advanced” to see which parts of your autosomal DNA you share, if any.

GEDMatch.com can also compare your Autosomal DNA and show you, in great detail, where you match with other individuals.

I hope you learned something. Remember, DNA testing is much more useful with an already sourced genealogy paper trail. Otherwise it will be very difficult to see how you relate to your DNA matches.

CategoriesGenetic GenealogyTips & Tricks

DNA: X Marks the Spot

This is Part 3 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1 or Part 2.

I had the YDNA and mtDNA down pretty good in my head. One is paternal, one is maternal, and so on. Then after I submitted my info to GEDMatch,  I saw the “Compare your X-chromosome FTDNA or 23andMe result with one other result in our database” option. Ok, so what exactly does the X Chromosome tell me and how do I inherit it?

The X Chromosome is passed down by both parents, though only daughters get it from their father as the father sends over the Y Chromosome to their son instead. This makes for a weird line of inheritance through your ancestry. A good way to figure this out is to use a fan chart. I was able to find a chart on this helpful post over at The Genetic Genealogist about the X Chromosome. Here is my chart, filled in with my ancestors, telling me where I could have inherited my X Chromosome:

Click for larger
Click for larger

The charts can be found over at The Genetic Genealogist, though I had to increase the image size a bit to make it easier to work with. There is also a chart showing the estimated percentage of the X Chromosome that you get from each ancestor.

I obviously don’t have all of the boxes filled in as I don’t have those ancestors figured out, yet. On my research over at GEDMatch, I see that I match a few people on my X Chromosome. So, in theory, these people would be related to me through those ancestors in the chart above (or beyond, in the same sequence.) My French-Canadian ancestry is included in the chart above, so I undoubtedly will have a lot of connections through there as I always do. It’s not a silver bullet by any means, but it does help you narrow down your search if you find a connection, especially along with other matches in other DNA areas or common surnames.

Again, there is another very quick and helpful video on the X Chromosome over at the University of Utah’s Molecular Genealogy page. I would definitely watch it.

Next time we will talk about the other 22 Chromosomes or the Autosomal DNA.

 

CategoriesGenetic GenealogyTechnologyTips & Tricks

DNA: X? Y? So Many Letters.

This is Part 2 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1.

There are four main types of DNA that can be used for genealogy purposes: Autosomal, X Chromosome, Y Chromosome, and Mitochondrial DNA. Each type of DNA is passed down from parents to children in different ways, allowing different patterns or different signs to help in your research. Here is a quick video that I found very useful explaining the four types:

My DNA lines
My DNA lines. Click for larger version.

Most people that have taken DNA tests are somewhat familiar with what seem to be the “big two”: Y Chromosome (YDNA) and Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). These are the two types of DNA that literally shoot out in opposite directions from you through your ancestry, though females can only trace mtDNA. They also give you the Haplogroups that you may have seen, one Maternal and one Paternal. Mine are H11a and R1a1a, respectively. They use this to determine where your deep ancestry hails from.

YDNA is passed down from from fathers to sons. The father is the one that determines the sex of a child by either giving an X Chromosome, for female, or a Y Chromosome, for male, which is why only males can use the YDNA information. The YDNA information traces your patrilineal line (or your surname line) back thousands of years since the Y Chromosome does not change very often as it is passed down.

mtDNA is passed down only from mother to all of her children. It works in a similar way to YDNA in that you can use it to trace your matrilineal line back thousands of years (your mother’s mother’s mother and so on.)

Here is another quick video explaining mtDNA. To view a similar video on YDNA, visit the Molecular Genealogy site at the University of Utah as I can’t find a version that I can embed.

View Part 3 for an overview of the X Chromosome and how to determine which ancestors you may get it from.