DNA: The Results Are In!

This past Thursday I got the email from MyHeritage, saying that my DNA testing results were available. Excited, I logged in, clicked on “View Results” and waited for that little wheel to spin and bring up the page.

And there it was – my ethnicity estimate! This is my breakdown:

North & West Europe 50.9%

English 23.8%
North & Western European 17.4%
Scandinavian 9.7%

East Europe 49.1%

East European 46.4%
Baltic 2.7%

 

My Google Earth rendering of my ethnicity estimate.

Absolutely no surprises here (with the exception of no Irish or Scottish, but on paper, that is a small sliver of my heritage), this matches my paper trail, so I know I’ve been barking up the right trees, so to speak.

So do I match anyone in the MyHeritage DNA database? I had about 250 matches, all at about the fourth cousin or less level. (Some said first cousin twice removed or second cousin once removed, followed by “–fourth cousin”.) I filtered the matches by surname, and many that came up were my more common surnames — White, Williams, Scott, King. Most of the surnames went back to ancestors in the 1600s and 1700s, though! And nothing more recent than surnames of my great-great grandparents. Nothing in Poland or Lithuania yet (though I noticed in MyHeritage’s DNA Terms & Conditions that Poland might not be able to use MyHeritage DNA).

So my next step is to turn to GEDmatch. So far, I put my raw DNA in there, I just have to upload my gedcom. I’m hoping to find more relatives in that sandbox!

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U-Turn: Ellis Island Research Room

Remember how curious I was about the Ellis Island Research Room, but really didn’t know anything about it? Well, I finally emailed the folks at Ellis Island, and now I’m glad that I did not take the time to check out the Research Room.

It turns out that it is just access to the Passenger Search Database, which we can access from home. And the “consultations” are just people there who can assist you with your search. I’m sure there are some folks out there that might like this. However, I’m glad that I saved $7 and a block of time that was better spent in the museum itself.

So now we know.

MyHeritage/Legacy Acquisition: Works for Me

I, like much of the genealogy community, was quite surprised by the announcement that MyHeritage was in the process of acquiring Legacy Family Tree’s software and webinar offerings. (See press releases here and here.) Before we go any further: I am a customer of both companies; because of this I’ve been thinking about what the acquisition will mean for me. I really can’t talk about others’ experiences or opinions, so I won’t. I can only share how this situation may impact me.

MyHeritage

I’ve been a MyHeritage customer for about seven years now (since the time my interest in genealogy took off). I found it by searching for a place to keep track of my family tree for free. I knew nothing about offline software programs or even how to do genealogy the “right” way. I just knew I needed something and MyHeritage fit the bill. It wasn’t long before I outgrew the free 250-person level and I eventually became (and still am) a PremiumPlus member.

MyHeritage freebie from the Global Family Reunion! Author’s collection.

I enjoyed the few (at the time) SmartMatches that came up on my tree. I soon heart that MyHeritage’s SmartMatch technology was pretty accurate, compared to other sites’ hints and matches.

Back then, there were no record collections on MyHeritage. I think (and I may be wrong) that you could do some sort of a search that pointed you to other places that might have information on your ancestor, but it really was rudimentary. Also back in those days, there really wasn’t a way to cite your sources online (though the free software, Family Tree Builder, may have had a way). And speaking of Family Tree Builder, you originally could not sync back and forth between it and the online tree; you could only publish from FTB to the tree. Because of that, I didn’t use FTB until there was a two-way sync.

As time went on, MyHeritage made some great improvements: source citation spaces, improved SmartMatches, two-way syncing with Family Tree Builder, and RecordMatches with a newly-growing database of records (which I don’t subscribe to the paid portion, though the unpaid portion has proved to be a bit useful). Even an iPhone app had been developed, which is so handy! Ancestry it’s not, but today’s MyHeritage has come a long way from when I first used it.

Legacy

Even though I had finally downloaded Family Tree Builder, I wasn’t too crazy about it. I wanted more functionality in my desktop program, but wasn’t sure which software to go with. Then one day I was watching a Legacy Family Tree webinar about some topic, and Geoff Rassmussen did a demonstration of how to use Legacy in regard to that topic. I really liked what I saw! Finally on a Black Friday sale a few years ago, I took the plunge and bought Legacy Deluxe, version 8. I’ve been using it ever since.

I love the features of Legacy; it really fits the way my mind works. What’s made it even better is that there now an awesome Facebook group where you can discuss new features with the Legacy community and staff. The one problem I had that the Facebook group could not solve was quickly resolved by the support staff via its website.

This past year, Legacy has come out with a version 9, but I’d held off on upgrading, waiting for any bugs to be worked out and for the financial time to be right.  Meanwhile, I hadn’t used MyHeritage all that much, but had not wanted to give up on it just yet.

The Acquisition

So now we’ve received news of the acquisition. Like other recent changes in the genea-world (i.e., microfilm rental ceasing at FamilySearch, Ancestry no longer developing the Family Tree Maker software), there has been quite the emotional reaction online. My personal tendency is more towards: slice it, dice it and analyze it. The following is just my preliminary reaction.

First, I hear that eventually there will be a sync available between Legacy and MyHeritage. For me, that would be awesome! My online tree is getting pretty out-dated, so this would solve that problem. I still have logistical questions on how it would work, but there will be plenty of time for that to be worked out.

Second, I think MyHeritage could benefit greatly by the outstanding customer service that Legacy has demonstrated. In fact if I were to advise them, I would tell them: let the Legacy people do the customer service. They are that good.

Third, I love MyHeritage’s free app so much more than the outsourced “Families” app that works with Legacy (and which I paid good money for). It’s much prettier and more flexible.

Finally, Legacy Family Tree is now having a big sale to upgrade to or purchase version 9! My penny-pinching heart is so glad – my upgrade time has come!

* * *

There are still so many questions to be answered by both parties (such as, will Family Tree Builder go away? Or will it be the free Legacy Standard version?). And I’m sure there are future developments on the horizon that we haven’t even thought of yet. My attitude is: let’s see what will happen and take advantage of the best that is offered!

DNA: Taking the Plunge!

For years, I’ve been hearing about the continuing advances in DNA testing. I’ve participated in DNA chats at #genchat and watched as my co-workers got their DNA tested. People always asked me, “Why don’t you get your DNA tested?” For a long time, I really didn’t feel the need for it. After all, the paper trail has kept me pretty busy!

Still I’ve been keeping my eye on the testing companies, seeing what they may have to offer and what is unique about each company. And now MyHeritage has entered the DNA game. I’ve had my family tree on MyHeritage for years and have been impressed with the improvements they’ve continued to make. Would they, as DNA newbies, be able to build a significant base of testers? It seems that they are certainly getting there; not only that, but where their testers are located kind of sets them apart. MyHeritage has always been a highly used program in the non-US community, and that is proving to be the case with DNA as well. And from what I’ve seen around the internet, the ethnicity breakdown appears to be more detailed too.

For these reasons, I’m hoping that testing with MyHeritage might help me with my Polish & Lithuanian roots. At the very least, I will at least become more conversant about DNA as I add “centimorgans” and “segments” to my genea-vocabulary! Finally, the long-standing sale price for MyHeritage DNA testing will be going up after tomorrow, so I figure that it’s now or never. Let’s see where this leads!

Woman Scientist. , None. [Between 1909 and 1923] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/npc2007018584/. (Accessed July 23, 2017.)

How to Create a Find-a-Grave Virtual Cemetery

On Memorial Day, I tweeted a link to a virtual cemetery I created on Find-a-Grave to honor my military family members. Twitter friend Melanie McComb of The Shamrock Genealogist asked how I did this and I answered over the course of a few tweets. Then I realized that this would make a really good blog post. After all, others may want to create virtual cemeteries as well!

A virtual cemetery is simply a collection of Find-a-Grave memorials that you put together. It can be any theme you want (not just genealogy) and can include any memorials that are anywhere on Find-a-Grave. Some of my virtual cemeteries include: Direct Ancestors, Descendants of George & Emma Pleau, and Military Family.

All you need to create a virtual cemetery is a Find-a-Grave login. If you don’t have one, click here and follow the instructions on the screen.

Once you are signed in, click on your name in the upper right corner of the screen. This will bring you to a screen like this (the Contributor Tools tab):

Screenshot, findagrave.com

To start a new virtual cemetery, look at the “Customize” list in the lower left and click the “Edit” button after “My Virtual Cemeteries”. This will bring you to your personal Virtual Cemeteries page. (Once you’ve created a cemetery, you can get here from any Virtual Cemeteries link on the Contributor Tools and Profile tabs.)

 

Screenshot, findagrave.com

Click on the “Add New” link in the upper left of the screen. Give your cemetery a name and, if you want, a description. You can also choose to make this public or not (the default is public). Then click on the “Add This Virtual Cemetery” button on the bottom.

Screenshot, findagrave.com

Now the fun begins – adding the memorials! Go to a memorial you want to add to your cemetery. On the lower left side of the memorial, you’ll see a link that says “Edit Virtual Cemetery info”.

Screenshot, findagrave.com

Click on that, and you’ll see a page similar to this:

Screenshot, findagrave.com

Put a checkmark in the box of the virtual cemetery you want, click the “Save Changes” button, and you’re ready to add another memorial!

To log out of Find-a-Grave, just click on the “Log Out” link at the bottom of the actions column on the left.

Here is a link to the cemetery we’ve created today. I hope you enjoy creating your own virtual cemeteries!

Impressions from Ellis Island

I originally planned on writing more about my Randalls, but I was moved to write the following, while it was still fresh in my mind!

This past Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my second cousin and I made a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island. We were hoping to learn more about our common great-grandparents, whether specifically or experientially.

The Trip

Though it was mid-January, we were fortunate that the weather was sunny and somewhat mild. We had pre-purchased our ferry tickets, so all we had to do was go through security and get on board. It was a really quick trip to both places – you can see your destinations easily from the dock – so we were soon at Liberty Island.

Since we hadn’t bought tickets to tour inside the statue, we just walked the perimeter of the island itself. With the sunny skies, it was worth it! The statue was beautiful, especially with the sunlight shining on her face.

Lady Liberty, always welcoming!  Author's collection

Lady Liberty, always welcoming! Author’s collection

We boarded the next ferry for Ellis Island, which was just a few minutes up the harbor. We had a quick lunch at the cafeteria (which probably had way better food than our ancestors experienced!) and were ready to explore. There was a research room, which we contemplated visiting, but I said, let’s look at the exhibits first. (More about the research room later.)

Exploring Ellis Island

Author's collection.

Author’s collection.

Close-up of the building built in 1900.  Author's collection.

Close-up of the building built in 1900. Author’s collection.

 

Let me say that you would never know that there was any previous storm damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. So although many items are in storage and/or are being restored, still there are many exhibits in the main building (listed here), and we didn’t even see all of them. Basically, the exhibits covered different eras of immigration throughout American history, not just immigration through Ellis Island. There are audio components: one through listening to headsets at various stations, and others that activated by either standing near the audio station or by picking up a landline-style phone. Since I’m more of a visual person, I did more reading than listening; my cousin went for the complete experience!

I was really impressed by the breadth of what the exhibits covered. We went to the pre-Ellis Island immigration exhibit first. This covered everything from early European immigration to existing Native populations to the slave trade. And it wasn’t just your standard schoolbook Anglo-only immigration, but that of other countries as well (Sweden, Denmark and the West Indies, for example) and immigration into different parts of what would be the United States (like the Southwest, Alaska and Hawaii).

The biggest exhibit was for the Ellis Island era. Not only did it cover Ellis Island, but other ports of entry as well (like San Francisco). There were photographs, film clips and other media of the immigrants in their homeland, during their trips and what happened to them upon arrival in the US. One room was filled with “treasures from home”, which was ephemera from different family collections. This also included some family papers (not mine, though)! My cousin and I pondered what the immigrants must have thought of the panorama of different peoples and cultures that suddenly surrounded them.

Statue of Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island.  Author's collection.

Statue of Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island. Author’s collection.

There were also various rooms where immigrants were processed, medically examined or slept for the night. The most famous, which you often see in photographs, is the Registration Room, which is a large hall on the second floor. As I stood there, I thought of my other great-grandfather who arrived in 1907 (after the current building was built in 1900). I imagined him standing in line, perhaps talking to his brother. I wondered if he, like I was just then, looked at the sunshine streaming through the large windows.

Ellis Island Registration Room.  Author's collection.

Ellis Island Registration Room. Author’s collection.

Probably the most powerful impression, however, was present throughout most of the exhibits: the pro-immigrant vs. anti-immigrant sentiments. On the one hand, some Americans were proud of the fact that the country welcomed and provided opportunity to people from all over the world. On the other hand, some felt intruded upon and threatened by the arrival of so many strangers. It didn’t seem to matter at what point in history it was; both attitudes prevailed. I remarked to my cousin that things really haven’t changed over the years, have they?

As we rested our weary feet for a while, we talked one of the earlier exhibits about immigrant influences on music, particularly the banjo from Africa and how it made its way into blackface minstrel shows (which my great-great uncle Albert Pleau took part in). My cousin wondered why such a thing would be so popular. One of the things we came up with was that perhaps people who had been there for a while felt “smarter” and found it funny when they saw others were not so “smart” as themselves. Perhaps categorizing others as “dumber” gave one group a feeling of superiority. My cousin grew up in an area that had many French-Canadians, and the other citizens kind of looked down on them as well. This sentiment was (and is) prevalent all over the country with many different ethnic groups.

The Research Room

Because the museum was so big and there was so much to see, we never got the research room. There were signs there that stated a half-hour consultation was $7 (I didn’t know there were consultations!), and I like to get the biggest bang for my buck, so I felt I needed to be better prepared to use this service most effectively. Later on, I tried finding out more information online about this service, and I found nothing. What I really want to do is write to them for an explanation of their offerings and what to expect from a visit there, so I intend to email them for just that. I will be sure to write up their answer for all our benefit!

* * *

All in all, if you want to research any immigrant experience, regardless of time and place, Ellis Island is the place to go. You can opt to skip the Statue of Liberty, but it is right there anyway and it is something so many of our ancestors saw upon their arrival, so I say: go!

Back From Vacation! (And a Tip)

Yes, I took a little time off of everything, though I couldn’t totally get away from genealogy. As we visited my husband’s hometown and planned on seeing some of his ancestors’ graves, I got a little carried away on Find-a-Grave then proceeded to map out some good chunks of his own ancestry!

We also visited the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, where we were able to enter the research room (my favorite part, of course). This reminded me of my recent trip to Guilford, CT when we visited the Henry Whitfield House. They, too, had a research room, available by appointment. I have to wonder how many museums out there have research rooms or something similar. These rooms most likely will not be featured prominently on the museum website, if at all. So my tip is: ask! Find out if there is such a room, how it can be accessed and what its holdings might be. Who knows? You may find something you’ve been looking for.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum!  Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum! Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Next week, we’ll return to exploring my ancestors; I’ll be much more refreshed by then!