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Are you drowning in a mountain of inherited genealogy? Do you have photos to scan and organize? Would you like to write histories of all your ancestors? Are there brick walls to break down? Do you have a life outside of family history and genealogy? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be feeling overwhelmed with all you need to do. I recently discovered David Allen’s book, Getting Things done: the art of stress-free productivity and for the next few months am going to share with you applications from the book for how to get your family history under control. (The links to the book are affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a commission. Thank you for your support!)

I admit it, I’m a bit of a productivity junkie. I’ve adopted several techniques over the years to use my time more wisely and become better organized. I’ve written about freeing up family history time, and using tools such as Google Keep, but there is always improvement to be made.

When a friend recommended Getting Things Done and even gave me a copy, I spent the next several weeks carefully reading the book and implementing the processes described by Allen in my work. Systems for accomplishing tasks as a professional genealogist, author, speaker, and podcaster are set up and running smoothly.

What is not running so smoothly are my personal family history and genealogy projects. I set up a fabulous paper filing system based on locality when I started my research in 2003 but I haven’t yet scanned the contents and uploaded to my digital filing system. My mother has given me more genealogy and paper to sort through and I have a list of projects to tackle. I also have empty spaces on my pedigree chart, and did I mention DNA? I have a few thousand DNA matches to sort through.

I realized it was time to return to Getting Things Done this time with a focus on productivity for my personal family history and genealogy. Working through the book again, I’ll write several articles capturing the ideas from the book and give them a family history application. If you’d like to follow along, I’d welcome your company in the journey.

Let’s begin with an overview of Allen’s system. I like to know what I’m getting into before I fully commit and you might be the same. Chapter 1 of Getting Things Done gives three key objectives that guide the entire approach. (1)

Capturing all the things that might need to get done or have usefulness for you – now, later, someday, big, little, or in between – in a logical and trusted system outside your and head and off your mind.

Directing yourself to make front-end decisions about all of the “inputs” you let into your life so that you will always have a workable inventory of “next actions”.

Curating and coordinating all of that content, utilizing the recognition of the multiple levels of commitments with yourself and others you will have at play, at any point in time.

Let’s take a look at each of these objectives and how they apply to our family history.

Capturing

I know that sometimes just thinking of all I need to do overwhelms me and so I don’t do anything. The first thing to do then is to get all of our projects and “to do” items out of our head and recorded somewhere. This could be a physical notebook or an electronic document. What could this include? Here is a small sampling from my list and you might have similar items.

– Revisit my earlier research writing a report/history for each ancestor and verifying the generational links.

– Convert my paper files to digital files.

– Use DNA Painter to paint my DNA matches and identify a common ancestor.

– Finish the research on Benjamin Cox to solidify him as my 5th great grandfather.

Clarifying

Clarifying what to do with all those things and making decisions about what needs to happen next in any given project at any given time is the next step. We can’t do all of our projects at once, which is why we need to clarify an order of importance. We need to decide when and how we’ll get to our projects. If you’re planning a two-week trip to Europe in the next month, now would not be the time to get started on a huge filing project. But maybe you could squeeze in a mini research project working 30 minutes a day to figure out something that’s been nagging at you.

I work well with deadlines, so if I want to get a finished product completed, I often decide to use that as a gift. For example, I decided to create a photo book of a memorable family reunion and knew if I tied it to a Christmas gift for my mother, I’d actually get it done.

Part of the process is clarifying our intentions by deciding on the next action. How often have you procrastinated starting a filing project because you don’t have a file box or cabinet? The next action would be to buy a file box or cabinet and some file folders. Once that is done, your next action would be to create a filing system, then to tackle the pile of papers.

Thinking of projects in terms of next actions has been revolutionary in my professional work. Often the next action is simply to send an email to a client or choose a design for a PowerPoint presentation. Once that step is taken, I can move forward and make progress.

Rather than letting feelings of “too much to do” overwhelm us, we can clarify and prioritize our projects and determine next actions.

Organize

Finally, we need to create some organizing systems that make sense for us and learn to manage our time so we can tackle our projects without disrupting our entire life.

As genealogists, this could be where we decide what genealogy software we’ll use to track our research. We might need to choose a physical or digital filing systems. Perhaps we have tools we’re using that are outdated and we need to take a hard look at our processes. We all have different organizing needs and  approaches. The important thing is to take the time to choose the systems and processes that work for us.

The 1st Task: Capture

If you’d like to join me on this journey, your task for the next month is to capture the various family history and genealogy stuff that comes into your world. This is anything that you need or want to do in the future such as research projects, papers to organize, people to interview, education opportunities, books to write, etc. These can be short term or long term. Big or small. If it comes to mind, write it down. Capture every item on paper or digitally. Carry around a notebook. Leave yourself voice notes. Start a Google doc.

Determine one central place to gather your thoughts and get them recorded. Next up, I’ll give you ideas about clarifying and next actions.

Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!

(1) David Allen Getting Things done the art of stress-free productivity, revised ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2015), 4.

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This July 24 marks the 172nd anniversary of the arrival of the first Pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley! If you have ancestors who were early members of the Church, you’ve probably wondered what else you can find on those ancestors. You may have heard people say or even thought yourself, “All of the research on my Pioneer ancestors is done.” That’s not true! Many families have researched their Pioneer lines, but there are plenty of rich resources that you can use to learn new things.

Nauvoo Community Project

While I was a student at Brigham Young University, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant on the Nauvoo Community Project. The goal of this project is to identify all of the residents of Nauvoo, Illinois from 1839-1846 from birth to death. So far, over 18,000 people are in the database and more are added regularly! As the researchers find information and sources, they enter it in the Nauvoo Community Project database. The database is free, easy to use, and includes citations for all sources.

 

Try searching for one of your Nauvoo ancestors and see if you find any new information!

 

Utah Digital Newspapers

Another wonderful resource is the Utah Digital Newspapers collection. The library at the University of Utah has an extensive collection of historical Utah newspapers and is working to digitize all of their papers, and so far two million pages have been added to their online collection! You can search the name of your ancestor or browse papers by name or location. The project is ongoing, so check back if what you’re looking for isn’t available yet.

Newspapers are a great resource for genealogy because they can really give you a sense of what life was like for your ancestors. In newspapers, you can find obituaries, marriage announcements, criminal activity, business advertisements, and more! Since newspapers aren’t completely indexed, it can take some digging to find what you are looking for. The end result is worth it because you will likely find exciting details about the lives of your ancestors that can’t be found anywhere else.

 

Early Latter-day Saint Missionary Database

Missionaries have been serving in the Church since the 1830s. The Church History Department has created the Early Latter-day Saint Missionary database and has documented over 40,000 missionaries that served between 1830 and 1930. There are photographs, links to original sources, mission histories, and more. This video explains how to use the database and what kinds of information you can find.

I found my husband’s great-great grandmother in this database! He thought it was inspiring to learn that he had ancestors who were early missionaries of the Church.

——–

I hope that you learn something new about your Pioneer ancestors this month. Researching and sharing what you find to your family will strengthen the connection that you have to each other and to your ancestors. Good luck researching!

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Do you want to start a DNA research project to confirm an ancestral relationship? Have you been wanting to learn more about genetic genealogy but are not sure where to start? Maybe you’re interested in joining our Research Like a Pro with DNA study group in the fall and are curious about the prerequisites. Diana, Robin, and I have been talking about what basic DNA education would be helpful before doing a DNA research project. Some of our top choices include The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger and Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne. These books are a good way to learn when to use DNA evidence to help answer your research question, and how to do understand DNA test results.

We will be posting more information about our upcoming Research Like a Pro with DNA study group in the coming weeks, but in the meantime we wanted to post this list of resources for learning about genetic genealogy. You can sign up for our Research Like a Pro Study Group email list to get updates as soon as they are available by clicking here: Research Like a Pro Study Group Updates.

Books

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger – this is a comprehensive guide. An updated edition is coming out soon.

Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne – there are exercises for you to complete after reading each chapter.

Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies, edited by Debbie Parker Wayne – several case studies by various authors

The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long-Lost Family by Tamar Weinberg – good for those doing a lot of recent unknown parentage cases

Tracing Your Ancestors Using DNA: A Guide for Family Historians edited by Graham S. Holton – new British publication coming out on July 25, 2019

DNA Testing Company Help/Learning Centers

Each testing company has a help page or a learning center that can help you learn more about your DNA test, results, and how to use them. Some have educational videos in addition to the articles.

AncestryDNA Support

23and Me – Genetics 101

FamilyTree DNA Learning Center

MyHeritage Learning Center

Living DNA > Understanding Your Results

FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA and MT-DNA Projects – including Surname, Lineage and Geographical Projects – the Family Tree DNA group projects can be a good way to learn from others who are researching the same surname or lineages.

Websites

International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki (ISOGG Wiki) – the mission of the ISOGG Wiki is “to advocate for and educate about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research, and to promote a supportive network for genetic genealogists.” You will find many helpful articles about the different types of DNA tests, testing companies, technical terms, DNA projects and more. You can use the search box to type in what you want to learn about.

Learn. Genetics: Genetic Science Learning Center by the University of Utah – multimedia educational materials, including videos, activities for all ages and more.

Online Courses

Genetic Genealogy, Autosomal DNA by the National Genealogy Society (NGS) is an intermediate course that focuses primarily on concepts and techniques for genetic genealogy.

DNA-Central with Blaine Bettinger is a membership site where you can take online courses, watch webinars, and read articles. 

DNA Adoption classes – The classes at DNA Adoption are not just for those doing recent unknown parentage cases. These are helpful classes for learning about using DNA to solve family mysteries. There are several “first-look” classes which are free; as well as three paid courses: Intro to DNA, Applied Autosomal DNA, and Y-DNA Basics. The paid classes run for two-four weeks and include video lectures, articles, and a group forum.

Genetic Genealogy in Practice Study Groups – this is a Facebook group to coordinate study groups going over the material in Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne.

Conferences

Conferences provide lectures about all kinds of topics that attendees can choose from taught by a wide range of instructors.

International Genetic Genealogy Conference (I4GG) with Cece Moore and Tim Janzen, MD – you can purchase past recordings of lectures from the 2016, 2017, and 2018 conferenes

Genetic Genealogy Conference at SCGS Jamboree (under construction, will return in June 2021)

International Conference on Genetic Genealogy by FamilyTree DNA

Institutes

Institutes are like conferences, except they provide in-depth learning about one specific topic with the same set of instructors. Often institutes have homework to be completed each evening, feedback, and small class sizes. The course offerings vary from year to year. 

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) –  this year SLIG IS offering a virtual all DNA Advanced Evidence Analysis practicum with Angela McGhie in the fall; at SLIG in January there are two courses about DNA including Introduction to Genetic Genealogy with Paul Woodbury, Meeting Standards using DNA Evidence with Karen Stanbary; and at SLIG Academy there will be another course about genetic genealogy: DNA for the 21st-Century Professional with Angie Bush. If you are looking for something more beginner/intermediate level, there is a virtual course offered by SLIG called Intermediate Foundations which goes through different record types, including DNA. The next section of this course begins this fall.

Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) – to view the courses that will be offered for 2020-2022, view this planning sheet. The offerings include Genetics for Genealogists: Beginning DNA with Patti Lee Hobbs, Genetic Genealogy Tools & Techniques: Intermediate DNA for Genealogy with Karen Stanbary, and DNA as Genealogical Evidence (advanced course).

Genealogy Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) – the courses have been announced for June and July 2020, including Practical Genetic Genealogy with Blaine Bettinger, Chromosome Mapping with Karen Stanbary, Advanced DNA Evidence with Blaine Bettinger, and Who’s Your Daddy? Using DNA to Resolve Recent Unknown Identity with Angie Bush and Eva Goodwin. See the blog post and flyer here.

Blogs, Podcasts, and YouTube channels

Kitty Cooper’s Blog: Musings on Genealogy, Genetics, and Gardening – Kitty Cooper has been writing about genetic genealogy since 2012, and is a genetic genealogist, blogger, programmer, and lecturer

The DNA Geek: Mixing Science and Genealogy by Leah Larkin, Ph.D. – Leah Larkin has a Ph.D. in biology and has extensive experience applying research skills to solving genealogical questions using DNA. She helps adoptees and others of unknown parentage as part of the search angel community.

DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy: Discovering Your Ancestors – One Gene at a Time by Roberta Estes – Roberta is a professional scientist, genealogist, and business owner. Her company provides analysis of DNA results and genealogical assistance. She is extremely knowledgeable and shares her knowledge freely on her blog. 

Your DNA Guide: Together we can navigate your DNA by Diahan Southard – Diahan is a fun speaker and great writer. She teaches genetic genealogy in ways that are memorable and helpful.

CutOff Genes Podcast with Julie Dixon Jackson (also – the CutOff Genes Podcast Facebook group) – Julie Dixon Jackson found her biological parents using DNA and now has a podcast helping others learn how to do the same.

Family History Fanatics YouTube Channel – many free DNA videos by Andrew and Devon Lee

Facebook Groups

Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques with Blaine Bettinger

DNA Detectives with Cece More

DNA Painter User Group 

Genetic Affairs – User Group  with Evert-Jan Blom

DNAGedcom User Group

Network Graphs for Genetic Genealogy with Shelly Crawford

Articles

Many articles from the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, NGS Magazine, and more teach about genetic genealogy. See some ideas listed here: Genetic Genealogy Education at Board for Certification of Genealogists.

Articles in the National Genealogy Society Quarterly and other peer reviewed publications are a great resource. You can read about how genealogists have solved difficult cases – many of them using DNA evidence.

___________

We hope this list of resources is useful to you. Are we missing one of your favorite resources for learning about genetic genealogy? Please leave a comment below.

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Today’s episode of Research Like a Pro is about United States Homestead Records. Do you have anyone in your family who took advantage of the Homestead Law of 1862? It is estimated that 2 million individuals applied for up to 320 acres of free land and your ancestor might be among them. We talk about two applicants for 320 acres in New Mexico about 1906 and 1911 and the details we learned about their family from the case files obtained from the National Archives.

Links

BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy – conference website

Those Valuable Homestead Records article by Diana at Family Locket

United States Land and Property article at the FamilySearch Wiki

Rectangular Surveys article at the FamilySearch Wiki

BLM GLO Records Website – search for land patents at the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records website

Research Like a Pro eCourse

Study Group – more information and email list

Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide by Diana Elder with Nicole Dyer on Amazon.com

Thank you

Thanks for listening! We hope that you will share your thoughts about our podcast and help us out by doing the following:

Share an honest review on iTunes or Stitcher. You can easily write a review with Stitcher, without creating an account. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click “write a review.” You simply provide a nickname and an email address that will not be published. We value your feedback and your ratings really help this podcast reach others. If you leave a review, we will read it on the podcast and answer any questions that you bring up in your review. Thank you!

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Have you wondered how you can figure out which of your genetic cousins descend from a particular line on your family tree? Or maybe you have hit a brick wall in your genetic genealogy and are wondering what else you can try. In this post, I will explain the importance of identifying a familial cluster to solve your research objective and hopefully break through that brick wall. I will also continue the story of how I found my grandma’s biological father.

I hope that you are beginning to feel more comfortable with your DNA research skills By this point you should have your DNA results and have started a DNA research log, which I described in the last post. Be sure to check out my first post if you need more information about who to test.

After you have familiarized yourself with your DNA results and The Shared cM Project tool, the next step is to sort your DNA matches into groups based on their shared most recent common ancestor (MRCA).  Family Locket blogger, Robin Wirthlin, gave us ten ways to do this. Third-party tools like the ones she described even do a lot of the work for us! The most important step in this process in this is to have a solid research objective so that you can quickly identify which familial cluster(s) will answer that objective.

Let’s say that your research objective is to confirm your link to your great-grandfather. You notice a cluster of six matches, four of which have the same surname as your great-grandfather. When you compare your shared centiMorgans (cM’s) with the members of the cluster, you see that one of your predicted relationships is second cousins! One of the matches has uploaded a tree, and it shows that they are also descendants of your great-grandfather.

Remember, DNA evidence can’t stand on its own. You should find a paper trail that connects your matches to their stated ancestors. Online family trees are a great start, but there can still be errors. Take it slow, and be sure you have enough evidence before you make a conclusion.———–

When I researched my grandma’s case, I used the shared matches feature on Ancestry to identify my familial clusters. Thankfully, many of my family members had tested so it was easier for me to identify the clusters and who their MRCA was. Through process of elimination, I identified a cluster of three individuals that descended from my grandma’s paternal side which was exactly what I was looking for! One of the matches had no tree, one had a “stub tree”, and one had a very full tree.

I reached out to all of these matches and introduced myself. I briefly explained that I was searching for my grandma’s biological father and asked if they had any information. If you’ve never reached out to cousins on a genetic testing service, check out this blog post for some ideas on what to say. Especially in cases of adoption, it’s important to be respectful and sensitive to those you are messaging. None of the people I messaged had any information that was helpful in answering my research objective, but they seemed curious about our connection.

Next, I created a private tree on Ancestry for those matches and located their MRCA using the information on their trees and research in census and vital records to fill in the gaps. If you decide to create a tree on an online website such as Ancestry, be sure to set the tree as private since you will be dealing with guesses and living people. Do not use FamilySearch Family Tree or another crowd-sourced tree.

From there, I identified all of the children of the MRCA. There were eight children in the family, and each of my genetic matches descended from a different child. Then, I compared the number of shared cM’s with the estimates on the shared cM chart and concluded that one of the sons of the ancestral couple was my grandma’s father. My grandma was born in 1943, and all of the sons in the family were between the ages of 20-31 when my grandma was born, so the timing and ages fit well.

The family tree below shows the common ancestral couple, their children, and the DNA matches to my mother, and how my grandma fits in the tree.  Green boxes denote living persons whose names have been anonymized with the exception of myself and my mother. The gray box, “Father X,” is the hypothesized father of my grandma, and is one of the six sons in the family.

It can take a lot of work and careful analysis to find a cluster of matches that descend from your focus individual, but the end result is worth it! Once you reach this step, you are much closer to solving your research objective. You may even have enough information to start writing a proof summary for your objective! In my next post, I will share different strategies I used to determine which son was Jeanie’s father, and the surprise in my 23andMe results.

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Have you ever traipsed through a cemetery and wondered if you’re discovering all the clues for your ancestor? We are understandably most interested in the names and dates on the headstones, but what else should we be considering?

In part 1 of this series, you learned about the various types of U.S. cemeteries and how to find the cemetery for your ancestor’s burial. In part 2 you discovered a variety of cemetery records such as sexton’s records, plat maps, and cemetery deeds. This article will show you how to use all of the information on the headstone or memorial to find out more about your ancestor.

What is the difference between a memorial and a headstone? A memorial is designed to embellish a space and remind family members of a deceased loved one. It can take many shapes such as an urn, bench, statue, or other type of ornament. A plaque often accompanies the memorial with an inscription detailing names, dates, and relationships.  A headstone identifies the individual buried in a specific plot and also is inscribed with a variety of information.

The headstone of my 3rd great grandfather, Richard Frazier, provides an interesting example. I have researched Richard and his wife, Nancy Briscoe Frazier, reasonably well. But we know as genealogists and family historians, there is always more to the story. Sources for the life of Richard Frazier include the census from 1850-1910, Nancy’s widow’s pension application describing his Civil War service, and this cemetery marker. What can be gleaned from a careful examination of the headstone? We’ll look at the information, symbols, and epitaphs to discover more about Richard Frazier and his family.

Burneyville Cemetery, Burneyville, Love County, Oklahoma, headstone for R. Frazier 1840-1911, photographed 2009.

Evaluating the Cemetery Marker Information

An important step in our research is to thoroughly analyze each source and the information it holds. Then we use that information to provide evidence for our genealogical conclusions.

A headstone or memorial is an original source, generally created near the time of the event – a burial.  A period of time has elapsed between the death of the individual and the placing of the marker. This could be weeks, months, or even years. If a headstone looks fairly new, but marks the grave of an individual who died over 100 years before, this could mean that the family erected a new headstone to replace an old, crumbling stone, or to even place one for the first time. If you look carefully you might discover the original headstone still near the grave.

In the example of R. Frazier who died in 1911, the photograph taken nearly 100 years after his death reveals that the stone is weathered and was likely placed soon after his burial. Different types of stone were used throughout history and carefully examining the stone can give clues to when the headstone might have been placed. Granite, bronze, marble, limestone, sandstone, and slate have all been used to create headstones and memorials.

It is up to us to understand the source – in this case the cemetery marker. When did the cemetery begin burials? Would our ancestor have been buried in the cemetery originally or could the remains have been moved? Researching the history of the cemetery could help us to better analyze the information on the headstone.

Next, does the birth and death information correlate with other sources? Remember that the same family member could have given the details for the death certificate, the obituary, and the headstone. Analyzing each detail separately will help us notice inconsistencies and deal with conflicting information. In the case of my ancestor, Richard Frazier, another source for his death came from the widow’s pension application. Richard’s widow, Nancy, gave the same death date of 13 January 1911 which correlates with the headstone. No death certificate was issued for his death, so these two independent sources are strong evidence for the date of death.

Discovering the Symbolism

A headstone may have additional information besides the inscription in the form of symbols. For example, what do you make of the symbols at the top of the headstone for Richard Frazier? What symbols are present that might give clues to his life and his family?

Burneyville Cemetery, Burneyville, Love County, Oklahoma, headstone for R. Frazier 1840-1911, photographed 2009.

I detected several symbols and researching each one on the helpful website, Memorials.com, discovered the following meanings.

Arch: Victory of life; or victory of death

Doors & Gates: Passage into the afterlife; Heavenly entrance.

Dove: An important symbolic animal in Christianity representing the Holy Spirit.

Olive branch: Peace; symbol of safety which the dove brought to Noah after the flood

Five-pointed Star: Symbolic of the life of Christ and may also represent the five wounds of Christ.

I wasn’t sure of the religious affiliation of this ancestor, but researching the symbols and their meanings, it was evident that the Frazier family were of a Christian faith and believed in the afterlife. Other symbols might have given clues about military service, occupations, ethnicity, or fraternal organizations.

For another helpful resource see the PDF titled “Common Headstone Symbols and Their Meanings.” This list of symbols includes photographs of examples.

Epitaph Clues

A cemetery marker often includes a short saying or verse known as the epitaph. The family would have chosen the epitaph and it can reveal additional clues to the family’s religion or beliefs. The inscription and epitaph for Richard Frazier reads:

R. Frazier.

Born

Mar. 12. 1840.

Died Jan. 13. 1911.

The best, the dearest favored of

the sky. Must taste that cup

for man is born to die.

What can be learned from the epitaph? Doing a Google search, I discovered that the source for the verse was The Odyssey, Book III.  Would my family have searched out this couplet? More likely it was a common phrase of the era. The Google search identified two other headstones with the same inscription, that of W. F. Patton died 18 September 1911 (1) and buried in the Lystra Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery of Madison County, Georgia, and that of Bascom L. Ferguson died 15 August 1906, buried in the Veal Station Cemetery of Weatherford, Texas (2). It was likely that the engraver had a selection of quotes that could be chosen.

The length of the epitaph coupled with the elaborate engraving hints at the importance of this headstone to the family. Was the family wealthy? The 1910 census taken just a year before his death reveals Richard Frazier, age 70, occupation farmer. Richard was renting his farm and likely was not wealthy. However, at the time of his death in 1911, ten of his eleven children were alive and living in the area. The elaborate headstone was probably the result of the pooling of their resources. As the head of a large family, Richard was evidently revered by them and warranted this lovely memorial. Taking the time to analyze this headstone more fully, I added another piece to story of the Frazier family.

What clues await you in your cemetery research? Careful examination of the cemetery marker, inscription, and symbols could reveal more than you realized at first glance. If possible, visit the cemetery in person to discover the graves near your ancestor. Family members were generally buried near one another and if the surname was different, a search in the cemetery burial list might not reveal the connection.

Each cemetery is unique as are the records. Using the information in this three-part series on cemetery research, I hope you make many new discoveries.

Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!

(1) Christine Crumley Brown, “Lystra Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery,” inscription for W. F. Patton, Rootsweb  (https://sites.rootsweb.com/~gamadiso/Cemeteries/lystra/lystracem.htm : accessed 8 July 2019).

(2) “Bascom L. Ferguson – Veal Station Cemetery – Weatherford, TX, USA,” Waymarking (http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMY3TP_Bascom_L_Ferguson_Veal_Station_Cemetery_Weatherford_TX_USA : accessed 8 July 2019).

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As family historians we recognize the need to gather our family stories, but what happens when we uncover stories that were never discussed? What if we found our family was part of one of the most dramatic and disturbing eras of the 20th century – the Holocaust of World War II? In Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones we learn the remarkable story of her family’s survival as Polish Jews.

Georgia made the discovery of her family’s past when she was 14 years old. Like many of us, she was fulfilling a school assignment to research more about her family and in an interview with her grandmother learned of her deceased grandfather’s home town of Radom in Poland. He had been studying in Paris when the Nazis invaded Poland and he was not able to return home to his family. He eventually escaped Europe and made his way to Brazil where he wondered about the fate of his Jewish family in Poland for seven years. It wasn’t until the a year after the war ended that he was reunited with them through the Red Cross.

Wanting to know more, Georgia asked her grandmother for details, but her grandmother didn’t know much more about her in-laws. Then in 2000, a reunion of the Kurc family in the United States gave Georgia the opportunity to hear more of the story. She discovered that her grandfather’s siblings and parents all survived despite incredible odds. She would learn that of the 30,000 Jews in Radom, only about 300 survived. That her grandfather’s nuclear family came through the war intact was a miracle.

We Were the Lucky Ones is written as a novel, each chapter from the point of view of one of the family members. Georgia researched the family stories for years: gathering interviews from family members; traipsing across the world revisiting the many locations, researching the Holocaust, interviewing survivors, and locating records. A short historical account of the war prefaces each chapter, helping the reader to connect the personal stories with the broader view of the conflict. Set in the European theater of World War II, the true stories take us to Poland, France, Siberia, Africa, Italy, and Brazil.

If you’re interested in reading more about Georgia’s research, check out this article: Following the Footsteps of the Characters in We Were the Lucky Ones.” The article includes an interview with Georgia describes her research journey – just as fascinating to us as family historians as the book. She used a color-coded timeline to track the various family members through the war. That timeline became the outline for the book.  As we’re creating timelines for our own families, we might be prepping for our future book!

We Were the Lucky Ones reveals what is possible when we dig deeper into our family history. Each of our ancestors has a story and it is up to us to tell it.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a commission, but it doesn’t change the price of the item. Thank you!

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Today’s episode of Research Like a Pro is about what you should do with your autosomal DNA results. If you have a huge match list and no idea what to do with it, this episode is for you. We’ll go over four steps to help you get started with contacting cousins, noting your relationship, and preparing to use your DNA as evidence for future research projects.

Links

Understanding and Using Your DNA Results – 4 Simple Steps – by Robin at Family Locket; includes Robin’s template for contacting cousin matches

The Shared cM Project 

The Shared cM Project 3.0 tool v4 – link to the tool at DNA Painter

Jonny Perl (DNAPainter.com)

Blaine Bettinger (DNA-Central.com and TheGeneticGenealogist.com

Leah Larkin (The DNAGeek.com).

Research Like a Pro info:

Research Like a Pro eCourse

Study Group – more information and email list

Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide by Diana Elder with Nicole Dyer on Amazon.com

Thank you

Thanks for listening! We hope that you will share your thoughts about our podcast and help us out by doing the following:

Share an honest review on iTunes or Stitcher. You can easily write a review with Stitcher, without creating an account. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click “write a review.” You simply provide a nickname and an email address that will not be published. We value your feedback and your ratings really help this podcast reach others. If you leave a review, we will read it on the podcast and answer any questions that you bring up in your review. Thank you!

Leave a comment in the comment or question in the comment section below.

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Do you feel overwhelmed by your long list of genetic matches? How do you know how you’re related to them? In this post, I will explain the steps you should take after you receive the test results for the person that you decided to test, whether it is yourself or a family member, and how you can discover the relationships.

In my last post, I explained the first steps that you should take for a DNA research project. As a review, you should first make a research objective, decide which type of DNA test to use, and decide who the best person is to take the test. After you finish those steps and receive the results, then you’re ready to start researching and analyzing.

Most people take a DNA test to see their ethnicity estimates. While those can be fun and may even be helpful for certain DNA projects, we will be primarily interested in the “shared matches” – your genetic cousins! All the major testing companies have this type of feature, but the actual name varies on the company. Depending on how many of your biological relatives that you know and have taken DNA tests, you may already be able to identify some of the people on your DNA match list.

The screenshot below shows my matches from the Ancestry DNA website. The default order is closest genetic relation to furthest genetic relation, so you are more likely to recognize the names at the top than at the bottom.

You will notice the estimated relationship of the match and the number of centiMorgans (cM) next to the name of the match. Put simply, cMs are a unit of shared DNA, so if there are a high number of shared cMs there is likely a close genetic relationship. Since DNA inheritance is completely random, there is no formula to definitively conclude the relationship for most individuals using DNA results alone.

In order to help researchers discover the relationship between themselves and their genetic matches, Blaine Bettinger developed The Shared cM Project Tool. It is simple to use: enter the number of shared cMs between you and your genetic match, and the tool will highlight which relationships are possible and show percentages for which relationships are the most likely. Make sure that you are using version 4 as it includes the relationship probabilities. Here’s an example of using the tool with my results:

Notice the fourth genetic match on my list, 336cM (see image above). The estimated relationship according to Ancestry is 2nd-3rd cousin, but we can get a more complete estimate from The Shared cM Project.

There are a lot more relationship possibilities here than just 2nd or 3rd cousins! It seems a little overwhelming, but in the long run it is helpful to know all of the possibilities so that you can discover the accurate relationship. This match happens to be my second cousin, so we see that the tool is accurate in identifying possible relationships. Remember that just like the relationship estimates from Ancestry or other testing companies, these are also estimates. However, it is still very helpful in hypothesizing the relationships of your genetic matches. For adoption cases, this is key and will help you break through your brick walls. I will show you more of that in a later post.

After you receive your results, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the names you see on your shared match list. An essential part of the Research Like a Pro process is to keep a research log, and this includes DNA projects. Do you see any surnames that you recognize? Are there any close matches whose names you don’t recognize? Have they uploaded trees? All of this information should be recorded in a research log. If you contact any of your genetic matches, that should be recorded, too. The sample research log below was created by a family history professor at Brigham Young University, Karen Auman. Feel free to use whatever format or application works for you.

Are you ready to start organizing your DNA matches and get to know your genetic cousins? DNA research has helped me break through multiple brick walls in my family tree, and I know that with some work it will help you too!

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Today’s episode of Research Like a Pro is about is all about the different types of DNA tests. Robin Wirthlin, our genetic genealogist, tells about the basics of DNA testing, which tests might help answer certain questions, and how to know which company to test with. 

Links

Which DNA Test Should I Take? blog post by Robin at Family Locket

DNA-Recommended Testing Strategy blog post by Robin at Family Locket

The Shared cM Project 3.0 tool v4 at DNA Painter

Buy a DNA Test:

Ancestry DNA Test – affiliate link

23andMe DNA Test – affiliate link

How to Transfer DNA Tests:

Downloading AncestryDNA® Raw Data

23andMe – Accessing And Downloading Your Raw Data

How can I upload a DNA file to MyHeritage?

LivingDNA – What format does my file need to be in to successfully upload?

LivingDNA – How do I upload data via Find my past?

Learn More:

International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki

DNACentral – Blaine Bettinger’s learning materials

Information about Research Like a Pro:

Research Like a Pro eCourse

Study Group – more information and email list

Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide by Diana Elder with Nicole Dyer on Amazon.com

Thank you

Thanks for listening! We hope that you will share your thoughts about our podcast and help us out by doing the following:

Share an honest review on iTunes or Stitcher. You can easily write a review with Stitcher, without creating an account. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click “write a review.” You simply provide a nickname and an email address that will not be published. We value your feedback and your ratings really help this podcast reach others. If you leave a review, we will read it on the podcast and answer any questions that you bring up in your review. Thank you!

Leave a comment in the comment or question in the comment section below.

Share the episode on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive notifications of new episodes.

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