Testing my DNA

I finally pulled the trigger and bought a DNA testing kit. I took advantage of a sale at AncestryDNA and gave them my spit. It took about a month to get the results. It was very exciting.

The results themselves were not at all surprising. I am pretty darn white, and my DNA reflects that. Also, having learned about European history, and how different parts of your DNA can come from pretty far back, nothing in the tests came as a surprise, even the 'trace regions'.

What I was most excited about, however, was the DNA matches. This is really the best part of doing the Ancestry test. It says I have 90 people that are 4th cousins or closer who have all taken the test. That is awesome! 4th cousins still share enough DNA for the test to be fairly reliable, which means most (if not all) of those people are actually related.

One of those people is my 1st cousin, so I know right off that we are related without having to do any research. Most of the people who use AncestryDNA have at least a small family tree online for you to look through and find matching names. I love seeing how you are related to other people.
I haven't contacted anyone yet, but I am slowly going through my list and trying to find how we are related. I am trying to be as thorough as possible, since some aren't as obvious at first.

Also, now that I have done the AncestryDNA test, I am going to try and transfer the results to Family Tree DNA to find where I fit over there. So far, the transfer thing isn't working for me (i've heard it's because AncestryDNA recently changed up their test and FTDNA hasn't caught up with it yet), but I am hopeful they will fix the problem soon. My dad took their test years ago, so I have access to his information, and it's pretty interesting how they separate the groups and find common ancestors.

The next time my husband is home for R&R I will have him take a test, I am really curious to see if he has any matches on Ancestry.

For more information on DNA and genealogy I recommend you go to The Genetic Genealogist, and the International Society of Genetic Genealogy

My First Trip to the Family History Library

My family went on a big roadtrip for almost 3 weeks. Along the way we stopped by 2 different cities my ancestors lived, and I got 6 hours at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My kids weren't as interested in doing genealogy on vacation, but they did like walking around the cemetery at little. And while I was in the library, they went with their father to see temple square and things, so they were sufficiently entertained while I worked.

Anyway, it was my very first time going into the Family History Library. Some things I think I did right, and others I didn't. Here is a summary of my trip, which is hopefully helpful for your first trip there as well.

What I did right:

1. I had a plan. I knew exactly who and what I was looking for, which information I wanted to fill in, and approximately where to find it. I was focusing on my husband's family, which were all in one country, and I knew the records were all in microfilm (thanks to the British, there were pretty good records).

2. I wrote down the film numbers. I had a list of microfilm numbers, and what was in them, so I could go straight to the film and start researching. It's pretty easy to look at the catalog online from home and make a list. You can write down your own list, or make a 'catalog print list' right on the FamilySearch website and simply press print when your ready. Luckily my research was all on one floor of the building, no need to move around too much.

3. I brought my computer, notebook, and cell phone. I was able to take a quick cell phone shot of the indexes for the records (for reference while looking for the record itself), write things down, and even input things directly into my computer genealogy software. It's great to have access to technology while you are there, and to be able to record things in multiple ways. I happen to have a backpack with a place for my laptop, so it wasn't a big deal to carry it all in.

What did wrong:

1. didn't pay attention to where exactly the microfilm was located. Some was in the regular files, some was in the high density stacks (needing a worker to go get it for me), some was restricted (needing me to surrender my drivers license to view it), and some was in the Granite Vaults (needing to be ordered ahead of time). 
For the Fijian records I was looking at, most of the indexes were in the regular files, so I could go and look up people and find record numbers or dates. But then, the records themselves were in the Granite Vault, so I couldn't access it that day (and didn't have another day to come back). I also had a long list of restricted film to look through, but it requires you to give them your drivers license or ID before they go get it for you. I only had time for 2 rolls, and hope to be able to go back some day and see the rest.
If I had been a little more diligent in my prep before hand I could have had the Granite Vault films ordered and waiting for me when I got there.

2. Not giving enough time. 6 hours may seem like a lot, but when you are elbow deep in microfilm and research, is there ever really enough time? We were visiting friends and family in the area, so I wasn't able to carve out any more time, but next time I will try to wrangle a second day out of the trip.

Overall the trip was a success. I know I can order the granite vault films to be delivered to my local genealogy library ($7 per film), so I'm not too bummed that I didn't get to see it there. I loved being there in the library surrounded by so many other genealogists doing work, and even better, finally seeing more people my own age and younger doing genealogy (I am often the odd man out in the age department).
Can't wait until I make time to go back!

Kids Family History Activities

Getting kids involved with genealogy can be a tough sell. My kids humor me when I want to hang out in a cemetery, but I don't think they'd ever suggest going to one on their own. For our local Family History Fair I made a display with some ideas of activities you could do your kids to get them more with family history. I hope you like some of the ideas.

Activities for Kids
Share stories from your family history, or your own history
Learn what your names and surnames mean
Make or color a family tree
Learn a few words and phrases in your ancestral language
Create a timeline for either your family or an ancestor’s life
Record family stories
Fill out a family group sheet or detailed pedigree
Fill out a “My Family” booklet
Interview and older family member
Visit ancestral places, live or virtually
Watch the Tigger Movie
“Guess Who” game with old family photos
Genealogy Bingo
Make photo ornaments to hang on a “Family Tree”
Turn a family photo into a puzzle (DIY or through an online service)
Make a family cookbook. Make the foods and take photos for your book.
Map your family history, use a paper map or online
Cemetery Scavenger Hunt
Illustrate a family history story (comic book style works too)
Fill out notebooking pages about family history (examples Here and Here)

Activities for older kids and teens
Learn to use FamilySearch (or Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast...): 
     o     Add sources to someone on your tree
     o     Search for records or use the record hints
     o     Add a photo in FamilySearch
Use Puzzilla.org to find cousins
Use social media to find living relatives
Photograph headstones in a cemetery, or transcribe photographs of others
Give indexing a try

Cemetery Research

I have always liked going to cemeteries (when an actual funeral isn't involved). I like the peacefulness, and the quiet, and the scenery. I like reading the headstones and the inscriptions. I like when families are buried together for generations. When going to a cemetery for genealogy research, you should know where you are going, who you are looking for, and how to photograph the grave once you get there.

First let me start off by saying DO NOT clean the headstone with anything other than a soft brush and plain water. DO NOT use chalk, shaving cream, or other harsh things to make it easier to read.
The BEST thing to do is use a light spritz of water or light at different angles to make it readable.

Shining light at an angle can really help. Photo from wikihow

Wetting the stone can bring out the letters. Photo from rootsweb

A free website with information on cemeteries and gravesites.

Each person has a memorial page with information such as who they are, when they lived, links to who their family is, and where they are buried. Some people have more information listed, such as an obituary or other biography.

You can save the memorial pages into your own personal ‘virtual cemetery’ to keep your relatives easy to find later.

If there is a memorial without a grave photo, you can make a request and a local volunteer will try and take that photo and upload it for you. You can become a volunteer and take headstone photos for others as well.

A free website (with a paid option) to look up headstone photos from around the world. Volunteers use smartphones to take GPS tagged photos of headstones, which are then uploaded to the website and transcribed by other volunteers for easy online searches.

When you go to a cemetery with the BillionGraves app on your phone, you can find the exact location of the grave you are looking for within the cemetery. Anyone can join, download the app and take photos or transcribe photos of headstones.

Picturing Your Ancestral Village

When I do genealogy research, I often wonder what peoples lives were like, and what the places they lived were like. I made a display for our local Family History Fair about this very subject.

What Was There
WhatWasThere is a photo/map pinning site. On this site there are basically just two tags for a photo, the location and the date taken. While the focus is historic photos, there are current photos as well (since someday even they will be historic). The goal is to "weave together a photographic history of the world" Some of the photos can be overlaid onto Google street view.

HistoryPin is a website where people can pin historic photos to a map where it was taken. They don't just have individual people posting photos, they have libraries, archives and museums posting as well.

They take a Goggle map, and pin photos to it. They even have some location photos overlaid right into a Google Street View photo. Some of the photos are historical, some are current photos of landmarks and historical plaques and monuments.

How to use HistoryPin
When you click on a photo it gives you a few options. First, is the basic information about the photo, where it is from, who posted it, and tags. You can click on the tags and find related photos.

The next tab on the photo page is 'Comments and Suggestions'. Here you can post your own comment, put additional information about the photo if you have any, ask questions, anything you want.

The App
Then comes 'repeats'. It's modern photo replicas of historic photos. These can be taken with the HistoryPin app. If you know where a photo was taken, you can go there and take a modern photo of the same place. It's kind of neat to see how things have changed over the years. And the last tab has copyright information.

Flickr is a photo sharing site that anyone can upload photos to, including libraries, museums, and archives like the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, even Getty images.

There are lots of cool genealogy related groups. Some are families, some are places, some more general. You can join lots of groups and post to any or all of them, or just look through what others have posted. For example, there is a group for West Virginia Cemeteries. So if I have photos of my ancestors headstones buried in WV, I can post to that group. Or I can find other more artistic photos of the cemetery and monuments.

Many photos are also geotagged, so you can search a location on a map and find photos taken there.

How to Use Google Earth for Genealogy
Using geographic information found in deeds and addresses from sources such as census data, property where ancestors and neighbors once lived may be marked on historical maps, which can then be overlaid on modern Google maps. 
Geographic features mentioned in property descriptions such as rivers and creeks will appear on topographical maps and in Google’s satellite imagery. 
Using this information, it is possible to locate a family homestead on an historical map and compare the changes to those locations that have occurred over time as the area developed. In some instances, the old home may still be there or a family cemetery.

The Google Earth Library includes items from places like these:
Historic Topos
Geoname – geographical database of 8 million place names
Historic state boundaries
National register of historic places
Rumsey map collection
Us county polygons
Us statehood time animation
USGS topographic maps
World country borders

Make sharable presentations about your ancestors
Create Placemarks for each event or media item
Make folders to organize your placemarks (e.g. a folder for each surname)
Insert your own images, scans of your family photos and documents
Use online sources in the library to add historic maps and photos
Search the BLM website to find land patents and then find their location on the maps
Add personal touches like video recordings, or plotting out a family’s migration
Share your creations with your family to help bring the old homestead to life

Also check out Genealogy Through Google Earth for more information on how to use it.

Photo Restoration

I have been using Photoshop and other photo editors for many years. Recently I have been using it to restore some old photos. As part of our local Family History Fair I have made a display with some basic photo restoration tips and tricks.

Scanning your photos
At least 600 dpi
If you scan a negative, you’ll want to Invert the colors in a photo editing program
Save original scans separately from the edits, in different folders. Don’t forget to back-up the photos in a second location or online.

Start with Global Edits (edits that affect the entire photo at once), then move on to local edits (like scratches and tears).

Black and White Photo - global edits
If the photo is discolored/yellowed, return to black and white with an adjustment layer
Adjustments > Hue/Saturation > reduce the Saturation to -100

If the photo was sepia, you can click “Colorize” and set the Hue to 47 and Saturation to 20 to return it to a soft sepia tone.

To add contrast and correct fading:
Duplicate main layer, set to “Multiply” (adds shadow/more blacks)
Duplicate main layer, set to “Screen” (adds light/more white)
Duplicate main layer, set to “Soft Light” (adds contrast)
Each of those layers can be toned down by reducing the opacity

If you are familiar with Photoshop, you can also use the curves or levels adjustments to boost the contrast and tone.

Vintage color photos (global edits)
To adjust color, you can use the Levels adjustment layer and fix each color channel individually (red, green and blue, as well as the RGB overall brightness)
While adjusting each color, it might look worse, but once you have adjusted all 3 colors it should look much better.
In each color’s level panel, move the outer arrows inward to where the color registers on the graph

For stains, if the photo is in black and white, you can use the Dodge tool to lighten it up to match the rest of the photo. If the photo is in color, you can use a Levels adjustment layer to fix the color and adjust the layer’s mask to apply the color change just to the stained area.

Fixing faded edges
Local/masked contrast adjustment for faded edges
Duplicate the main layer, set to Multiply, add circular gradient to keep the added contrast just to the edges (black in the middle fading to white on the edges)

Fixing Dust and Scratches
Apply the Dust and Scratches filter if you have a lot of dust specks
Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches
Radius- Don’t put it too high or you blur out the details (I keep it around 2px)
Threshold- the lower the number, the more is included and you might lose some of the detail. I keep it between 15 and 25 for most vintage photos. Use the preview to check that you aren’t losing too many details while still reducing the dust

Use the Spot Heal and Healing tools to eliminate dust, scratches, and artifacts. Don’t forget to adjust the size of the brush.
The Healing brush allows you to select the source that will cover the scratch/speck. This is good for fixing a scratch that goes over two different tones (e.g. the edge of a face)

If you have a large tear or fold in an open area (like the sky or other blank background), you can use the Patch tool to eliminate it. You can select an area as the source of ‘clean’ data, then copy it over the damaged area. Photoshop blends it in for you. 

The Clone Stamp tool works much the same way, but the source and destination are the size of your brush.

For tears in a detailed part of the photo, use all the healing tools as needed and work slowly to keep as much detail as possible. Be mindful of edges.

Family History Fair

After Christmas I took a little break from doing genealogy as actively. It's been a nice break, but now it's time to get back to work. I am a family history consultant for our local genealogy center in an LDS chapel. At the end of the month we are having a community Family History Fair.

I have been doing some displays for the fair, and informational handouts (and I made the above flyer).

I thought I'd share here on the blog some of the things being displayed at the fair.

Post fair update:
Here are some pictures from the fair, before people arrived. We only did one actual class, and the rest of the fair was just open for people to come and go. We had displays set up in different rooms, a photo area, a photo/document scanning area, a room for recording memories (audio and/or visual interviewing), and had a few computers set up for people to use Relative Finder and see if they are related to anyone famous.
It was a small event, but we had people come and go pretty steadily throughout the day. Being the first time any of us had ever done an event like this, it was a learning experience, but great fun. I look forward to doing it again next year and be even more prepared and have lots of ideas of things to improve upon. Hopefully we keep getting bigger and better each year.

Mobile bulletin board that was in the church foyer for a couple weeks advertising the event

Photo booth area

Kids room. There were coloring pages and old timey style games

We had little stickers people could put on the map to show where their family was from

Research Goals: The Follow-up

Last year I worked on going over my genealogy with the "Genealogy Do Over". In particular I liked listing out my research goals. Well, here I am a year later, and have done a lot of work on my goals.
I finished up the genealogy photobook for my mother, and did a lot of research for it. Here is a photo of my spreadsheet at the beginning of last year:

And here is a more recent shot of it:

As you can see I have filled in some more of the squares. While there are still more empty spaces than I'd like, it's nice to see how far I've come.

View the photobooks I made!