Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recently announced that it will be retiring five of its products including

Aside from being disappointment that Ancestry is giving up on; I wish they would have at least tried to sell the site, however this whole process is a learning opportunity. I have learned not to take for granted sites like these. What I mean by this, is I have learned that I needed to be saving all the goodies that all my distant genealogy cousins had been submitting to the website. I took for granted that I could always go to this website and find what I wanted when I wanted it.

Now, states that you can export the data and yes it can take a few days to generate that download, but do you know what you get? A total mess. You end up with a zip folder of all your photos, or in my case, 417 photos with useless names like 000a0d3a-0033-0000-0000-000000000000. Plus it did not do anything with all the documents that are stored in the file cabinet. There is a lot of important information there too!

So after I download and extracted the zip folder, I decided I would go through the Photos from MyFamily and rename all the ones in my extracted folder. Then I created an Excel spreadsheet to record all the valuable information such as file name, who submitted it, date it was submitted, date of photo, description and such. I must admit that the extracted file folder is easier to handle than me trying to save each photo individually through MyFamily. I have the open on the left of the screen and my extracted folder open on the right. I rename the file and then open my excel file on the right and key in the file name and all the fields from that belong to the picture. This is taking me a little while, but when I am done, I will know who the people are in the photos and who submitted the photo to the website.

Lesson learned, I should have been doing this from the very beginning and I would not have had to spend the last three days going through all these photos. I probably have at least two more days of photo renaming and then I need to go through the file cabinet (all 48 pages) and see what I want to save. I just have to right click and it saves the document. Again, many days of work.  Finally I will need to save the list members of the website, so I don't lose contact with all these valuable people. Many haven't been on the site in months and I hope they also know that MyFamily is going away.

My personal family haven't decided what they plan to use instead of MyFamily and I don't know if they will use anything to replace this. I know the main administrator has put in a lot of work into this website. I was even thinking of letting everyone know that I have renamed all the files and created this excel spreadsheet and I could send it to them as a zip folder. I will see how big the folder gets, otherwise I might have to make CD's and send them via snail mail. I hope to be able to send the documents too.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Another Merging Disaster

Well, it happened again, another merging disaster. I had a member of my society come into the library yesterday when I was volunteering. She was a little confused on the subject of Trees, Family Tree Maker Trees and the trees she access through her iPad using the app.

She kept talking about them being different trees. Since she uses Family Tree Maker version 2014 and has her tree linked to, I explained that they are one and the same tree. Well, sort of. The problem is that she had many “similar” trees on Ancestry. For Example; (I have changed the names to protect her identity) She had one tree called “My Tree”, then another called “My Tree(1), another called My Trees and then she had a few other trees that were just portions of her original tree.

My friend explained that previous to having FTM 2014, she had FTM version 8. Then she received an iPAD and started exploring and merging records she found into her tree. But since she was using FTM Version 8 on her laptop, this was not synced to her tree. She still was doing separate things on her laptop. OUCH! She realized the error of her ways and then purchased FTM 2014 which I helped installed on her laptop. I thought at that time, I moved her tree back to her laptop with version FTM2014 since we decided she had done way more stuff on this tree than the one she previously had on her laptop. That was back in late February.

So fast forward to yesterday and now I find she basically is using two trees, My Tree and My Tree(1). To make things even more confusing, My Tree on her laptop was tied to My Tree(1) on and My Tree(1) on her laptop was tied to her My Tree on She told me that the tree she has been using lately on her iPad is showing “living” people. When I say “living” I mean the person’s names are living as in viewing other people’s trees. I have a feeling she was merging other people’s trees into her own and thus creating “living” people in her tree.

She wanted to merge these two trees into one new tree, I advised against it for several reasons. 1st of all, it would take forever to merge two such huge trees into one. 2nd it may take a while to sort through all the matches to verify that in fact they are the same person. 3rd, I don’t have much luck when merging such similar trees into one and since these were not my trees, I was scared.

So I decided to look at the trees and the people in them. They were almost the same size with almost the same number of people, a difference of about 9 people. Also, I found that she was correct that one tree had “living” people in it. The other tree had the same people, however, with their names. I suggested that we save the tree that had people’s names in it. She agreed, yeah! Then I suggested that we remove all the trees from and start over. Again, she agreed. I explained that she might lose some facts or people because at this point and time, we don’t know what is in this tree. Again, she agreed and continued. I offered to save the trees from Ancestry to her computer in a separate folder but she said she didn’t want to deal with them. I deleted the trees from Then I went into her computer and removed all but the tree we decided to keep from her computer along with all the backups, new and old.

I re-linked the tree back to, showed her how to make a backup to a flash drive and turned her tree syncing into a Manual operation.

She has decided to take the advice of a friend of hers, from her DAR chapter to never, ever merge from Ancestry but instead manually key it into her Family Tree Maker program. This way she would decide what she is exactly merging in. I agree with her DAR chapter friend.  I told her that I like using the iPad Ancestry app as my lookup screen with my laptop. I will follow the leaf suggestions and see them on my iPad but record them into my laptop (no merging). I find this easier than switching screens on my laptop. I still have Ancestry open on my laptop, so that I can save the source, but switching for the saving is simple task.

I noticed that she duplicated some of her people and I did show her why this might have happened. I proceeded to try to merge one person to a suggested shaking leaf. I clicked merge and showed her the section that shows who could get merged or added to her tree. I showed how when you get to the other people it found in the source that you can ignore, add, or merge into an existing person and perhaps she was “adding” instead of merging into an existing person. I cancelled the merge and explained this is why it is sometimes better to just manually record the information into your tree.  

Fingers crossed, I am hoping she will be fine for now, that her tree isn't too far gone and that she can recover from this little disaster.  Now I probably should start to practice what I preach, but I must admit that sometimes I use the “merge” source facts for my co-lateral lines instead of typing all that information myself. I do this in spite of the fact that I don’t like how Ancestry creates my source citations and it saves the media to my media folder, but I don’t have a copy of it in my organized folders. I know I can look up the media attached to the source, but sometimes I am looking at a printed document of my tree and what to bring up the source and not have to open my program to do it. So note to myself: go back and fix your files and do your research the right way for the beginning.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reverse Genealogy

Last week, I finished teaching a Reverse Genealogy Class to my genealogy society and one of my students came into the library today for some help.

Just a little background. Genealogy is working from the present to the past one generation at a time. While reverse genealogy is working from the past to the present one generation at a time. I took the class material from FTU (Family Tree University) reverse genealogy material. I created PowerPoints for the reading material and we went over the quizes as a group and I assigned the Exercises to them as homework.

The last exercise was to take what we learned and apply it to a lost ancestor (non-living) or to a lost relative (living). There were great worksheets to use. However, my student did not bring that with him. I will have to dig out the worksheet when he comes back.

Anyway, the delimina: Find the parents of his friend's father. The father told his friend that he was adopted and didn't know who his parents were and made up his birthdate. So the student came with the father's name, birthdate, wife's name, marriage date, social security number, death date and such.

Using I tried to find the mother and father in the first Census record after their marriage, and I found that. We printed it out. Because Ancestry offers suggestions of more possible records, I was hoping It would give me more clues. It didn't that way but it did give me hits under the Records tab after I put in my search critieria. I found him in the 1930 Census and I found his first marriage record but it listed no parents. I found a possible him living in 1920 as a 8 year old with parents. Then I found his marriage record with the friends mother. This record was found using and it listed his parents as the people from the 1920 Census. Of course this doesn't answer the qustion if these are truely his parents or adopted parents. I tracked the people forward to the 1930 census and no son but this time a daughter is living with them and she is 17. My first question, if this is their daughter, then where was she living in 1920 because she wasn't on the census with her parents. Perhaps she was adopted between 1920 and 1930. Or perhaps she was living somewhere else? Then I found the grandparents in 1910 living with his widowed mother. The 1920 Census staed that the grandmother of the friend had one child born to her and the living box was blank. What does this mean?

I went back to FamilySearch, and this time I typed in the friends grandparents names and I found their marriage record. It listed both sets of parents. The mother of the grandfather matched the 1910 census. I then switched gears and tried to find the daughter. I found her marriage certificate and based on this information I found her living in 1940, married but the husband wasn't there, but two children and two boarders.

This took 2 to 3 hours to find this information. We were unable to find a birth certificate for the father on-line and were unsure how to obtain one in-person since we didn't know exactly where he was born in Virginia. At this point I wanted to record this information onto a pedigree chart to keep the facts more clear. I was becoming frustrated with my searches and knew I needed a break. I sent the information home with him and stated that we needed to come up with some future goals.

The student's friends might not find out if her father was truely adopted by papermeans, but if she had her DNA tested and found the aunts descendants and they tested their DNA, they might answer if they are blood related. If not, either one or both of the siblings might have been adopted. Next would be to use reverse genealogy and try to find the grandparent's siblings descendants and have thier DNA tested and see if they match. If they match, then he wasn't adopted, but if they didn't match, this might prove the story he was adopted. This might be the reason he doesn't have contact with his parents starting with the 1930 Census, where I find him as a boarder in another state as his parents.

All in all, this as very interesting, and more traditional research needs to be done to locate living relatives.

Monday, February 24, 2014

To Merge or Not to Merge...

Last week at my local genealogical library I was helping a member of the society with her genealogical software program. She is using Legacy and to be honest, I don’t know Legacy. When I tried using it in the past, I found it to be difficult and not the way my brain works. With that said, I do know that many people LOVE Legacy and would not use anything else.

Because I didn't know how to use Legacy, I struggled a little but one major challenge I had was that many years ago, this member started a merge. She was trying to merge another database into her database and for whatever reason postponed the merge. Now when she opens her database, it prompts her about this merge, however she just keeps postponing the merge. Personally, I don’t think this was the correct move. I know in Family Tree Maker, if you start a merge and finish it, you do have a small window of opportunity to undo the merge and go back to the way things were.

So I had to tell this member that would not be an option for her because she has done too many changes, updates or whatever to her database. I also explained that I would just bite the bullet and continue the merge. She proceeded to say that she didn't want to continue the merge, could she just cancel it. I wasn't sure if that was an option either, because of all the changes that took place between then and now. She then stated that she wanted to view her database as it was merging. I explained that might not be an option either. She explained that is what another person told her she could do. I explained that she would have two copies of the database open at the same time, and one copy would be changing. I then asked her "What copy would be saved when she closed both databases?"

Now I am only speaking based on my programming background and perhaps Legacy works different. But my thought here is she would have one “original” database open and then a duplicate copy of the database open. When the merge was done on the “original” database, she can close it and it would save.  Then when she closed the other database, one of three things might happen. 1.) It would close and do nothing since nothing was changed on that second open database. 2.) It would close and save as a duplicate copy of the “original” perhaps with a (2) behind the file name. 3.) It would save over the existing database and she would lose all her merge changes.

Well I managed to convince her to continue with the merge. At first I liked the feature that identified the two similar people as child of the other one. However, my question is why even show us, if you know that the one on the left is the child of the one on the right. Just skip it. To me, it is a waste of my time and confusing to say the least. Second, when I did find to similar people who were the same but the death date was off. It looked like on the left we had Aug 9th and on the right we had Sept 8th. So someone put the date in wrong. But the option was to pick one. My question is what happens to the other one? In FTM, I can choose a preferred fact, let us say the left one, and keep the other as an alternate fact or I could discard the other fact. I did not find that option with Legacy. Again, perhaps what I was choosing was the “Preferred fact” and perhaps it would make the other fact an alternate fact but the member didn't want to chance it and kept both people as separate people.

When all was said and done, I advise her to never merge someone else’s database into her own. My reasons are many.  First; many times you end up with extra non-relative people to you in your database. Second, clearing up duplicate people can be confusing, may cause numerous alternate facts to events such as five different birth facts.  I have found that the other person’s sources get added to your file and appear to be sources you used when in fact you have never examined these sources. When you merge someone else’s tree into yours, all their facts and people that get added to your database should be sourced back to their tree, not to their sources.

My recommendation, even though it does take longer, is to manually enter each new person or fact/event. This way you control what is being entered into your database. You are able to source the new information properly back to the person who gave it to you. If you have their database opened on the right and your database on the left, you can even review their sources and perhaps track them down and evaluate them.  

I speak from personal experience; all it took was merging in one family member’s tree into my own tree and resulted in my whole file to be royally messed up.  I never was able to clean that file, but luckily I created a backup before I started. I did not undo the merge, but reverted back to my backup. But I wasted so much time on the merge and on trying to merge duplicate individuals. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to find living relatives?

A woman came into the Genealogy Library today looking for help with her Ukrainian ancestry. I explained to her that my research has been limited to my American ancestors. She went on to say that she wants to find living relatives and wants to find out how to use Facebook to find living relatives. She stated that her parents were the first generation immigrant.

Well, I tried to explain to her that Facebook was designed for you to connect to people you know, not to people you don’t know. I explained that Google+ is designed for you to connect to people you don’t know but might share common interest. So she asked how to use Google+ to connect to people with the same surname as her genealogy interest lies. I explained to her that perhaps she doesn’t want to use Google+ for this purpose because these people might not be interested in Genealogy. She asked then why are they using Google+. I tried once again to explain that all kinds of people with all kinds of interest use Google+ to connect with people who have their same interest. Not all people’s interest is genealogy.

I decided to explain it this way. Remember back in the 70’s and 80’s when those surname books were coming out that claimed to have all the answers to your genealogy? When in fact those books were just generic text about how people moved or migrated from you ancestor’s homeland to America and then they included all the addresses of people with the same surname in American, Canada and sometimes other countries. I explained how my maiden name had such a book that my parents purchased and I wrote to all 136 names in that book. I requested basic genealogical information from them and included a self-addressed stamped envelope. I even offered to share what I found with them. I received 3 replies.

I further explained that in this digital age, when people received friend request or emails from strangers, they will just simply press the delete button.

I explained that perhaps she might want to start by using Ancestry’s trees. She could find others who are also searching her desired surname and contact them with her information and offer to exchange information. I stated she might have better success since these people are already showing an interest in Genealogy by having these trees on-line.

She also told me that she has written foreign vital records offices and asked for all the information they have on living people with one surname. I tried to tell her that is too board of a request and how was the clerk going to know who is still alive. She promptly told me “those that don’t have a death certificate.” I asked, if she really expected someone to look for a person’s death certificate every year between their birth and today’s date and then how was the clerk going to know this person’s contact information? I explained that she might really want to hire a professional genealogist to do some research in the foreign country.
She also explained that she has contacted an elderly cousin but due to communication problems, she hasn’t been able to get must from her. I wonder if she ever asked this woman if she had a list of people who are still alive in the family and their addresses. Or maybe this was too obvious.

Well when she left I wondered if she was as flustered as I.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Roots Tech 2014

Well the talk of the week is Roots Tech 2014. I wish I could have been there, but lack of money and other commitments kept me away. This is something I have added to my bucket list and I definitely will find a way to get there in near future. I better start saving money now and I should be set for next year or the year after.
But for those of us who didn’t make it to Roots Tech still can take advantage of some of the classes they offered. I even managed to view a few live as they were happening.

I saw Thursday presentation with Ron Tanner for FamilySearch Family Tree: What’s New and What’s Next.  I had recently viewed the Roots Tech 2013 presentation on the same subject and yes some was similar but Ron is such a good speaker you don’t even notice. My goal was to learn more about FamilySearch Family Tree.

I am one of those he spoke about that have a hard time sharing. In my case, my actual tree, I must have a control issue because I need full control over my tree. Really my problem is what I call “Looky Lou’s” who look at my tree, take my information and never share what they have on their branch. How am I supposed to grow my tree this way? So I have a private tree on Ancestry and if you want my information, the secret is to tell me how we are related or how you are related to the person in my tree. Quite simple and you are then given access to my tree!

However, I see the value in FamilySearch Family Tree. I look at it as a place to record my proven facts about my ancestors. Facts that I can source and thus others can see the value in the information. There are a few downfalls but there are in any tree you have on the internet. I explained mine with using Ancestry. I know I am duplicating my recording of this information on FamilySearch along with Ancestry which is linked to my Family Tree Maker software. The advantage I see by this duplication is that I can make sure that my information is properly sourced in my software package. I plan on having it as my reference point when I am adding people into FamilySearch FamilyTree.  Okay this is going to take a while, but as the saying goes “Nothing worth having comes easy!”

The next presentation that I saw was James Rader’s Intro to DNA for Genealogist.  Another great speaker and the time went by so fast because he was very easy on the ears. I just received my DNA results back from Ancestry and James shared his results from four major companies. Each came back slightly different. What I really took away from this talk was how testing siblings is not a waste of money because we are all unique and we get different percentages of DNA from each parent along with slightly different DNA. Once he said that, I was like “duh!” because he stated the obvious and of course I didn’t think of it myself! He explained the different types of test which I kind of knew the differences but he made it so much clearer. I loved his diagram on ways to find people with the Y-DNA you are in search of.

Finally I found time to watch Genealogy in the Cloud with Randy Hoffman. This was one of those talks that I was really interested in learning more about. I am a tech geek but I like to learn other ways of explaining things to people. I don’t want to come across too critical but I could not stand hearing him say “Umm”. He was saying “umm” so many times that it was distracting to me and took away from me learning anything from his talk. I end up turning it off after 15 minutes but I know I will need to go back and finish the talk. Hopefully he has less “umms” in the remaining minutes of the talk. So Randy, I am no expert or experience talker, however, you need to practice your speech and have someone listen and every time you say “umm” they should hit a buzzer, throw paper at you or something so that you become more aware of saying it and stop doing it.

Well, I see the remainder of the videos are now on like and I am ready to learn more!

Thank you Roots Tech for offering these videos for people like me!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My DNA Ancestor

I had been waiting with anticipation for my test results and here they are.

They are a bit of a surprise. I knew I was Irish and had some English but I never dreamed Scandinavia. Also, I thought my German ancestry would have shown up.

On my father’s side there is Irish and a little bit German.

My surname immigrant (my 2nd great grandfather) came from Ireland to the United States in 1848. He married in the US to another Irish Immigrant. Their son married the daughter of a German Immigrant couple. Their Son is my grandfather and thus I figured he would have been 50% German and 50% Irish.

Now on my paternal grandmother’s side, looks 75% Irish and 25% English.

So my Dad would be 62.5% Irish, 12.5 percent English and 25% German. So shouldn’t I be half of this and have 31.25% Irish, 6.25 English and 12.5 German and then the rest from my mother’s side?

On my mother’s side there is German, Irish, English and perhaps Polish. My mother was adopted by her step-father and all I know about her biological father is from her non-identifying adoption papers that state her father was Polish. However, this information didn’t come from her father but from her mother. Plus my mother wasn’t adopted until she was 18 years old and my grandmother was giving information on what she knew about him, 18+ years after meeting him. See the flaws?

Plus, my maternal grandmother’s side has been in the US since the 1700’s. So breaking down the percentages is a little more difficult, especially since I don’t know who the mothers are for many of the generations.

However, if the DNA percentages are accurate, I would have gotten 24.75% Irish and 6.25% English from my mother. I don’t know who I received the 23% of Scandinavia from. Perhaps this came from my mother’s biological father’s side? Perhaps this came from my maternal grandmother’s side from all those unknown female branches. But the big question is where did the 12.5% German that I should have received from my father’s side go? Where?

All this DNA stuff is so interesting but also very confusing. However, I do have a very unique family. I have six half siblings that we share DNA on our mother’s side. So if I have their DNA tested and no Scandinavia shows up, then it came from my father’s side. Also, my mother has one living half-sister and if I have her DNA tested and she doesn’t have Scandinavia but my half-siblings do, then the Scandinavia comes from my mother’s biological father. However, if my aunt also has Scandinavia then perhaps it comes from unknown branches on my maternal grandmother’s side.

So in typical genealogy fashion, I get one question answered and have many new ones to find answers for.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Well another year has ended and a new year has started. Now that I am older, each new year feels like the first day of school. Remember those days, getting new school supplies, having all those blank pages in our new notebooks. Thinking of all the possibilities of what might occur in the next school year.

Well, this first day of the new year brings those same feelings my way. I think of all the possibilities of what might occur in this year. However, my "A" personality makes me want to make list. List of goals or projects that I want to accomplish this next year, such as getting that scanning project done of all those photo albums that my sister lent to me that she received from our Aunt. I better start it if I want to finish it before this summer.

I think about all the classes that I have scheduled for this coming year and the PowerPoint presentations that need to be completed. At least I have started those projects, but now I need to get more of them completed, so my next step is to start giving myself some serious deadlines.

I also have some projects that I am doing for my genealogy society, such as getting them more exposure on the World Wide Web through blogging and twitter. They have had a Facebook page for a few years, and I have also created a Google+ presence. I am trying to introduce some special interest groups into the society besides our general share session that we do. My main goal here is to get some other members to step forward and take responsibility for these groups. I try to let them know that I do not nor am I willing to do everything (in spite what some of the older members might think). I do not want to take over the society but to share my talents with them and to get new members to join.

Finally, I should not forget that I want to squeeze research time into this mix. Of course the scanning will result in research time, however I have many other research opportunities and goals that I want to accomplish.

So HAPPY NEW YEAR and have fun filling in all those empty squares on your calendars with all the possibilities that get accomplished in the coming year!