Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, May 25, 2019

American Ancestors Expands Its Online Family Tree American AncesTREES

The New England Historic Genealogical Society website American Ancestors implemented an online family tree feature some time ago. For those of us that have ancestors from New England, the addition of another online family tree program with record hints from the Society's records seems like a really good idea. However, when I logged in with my "free" FamilySearch Partner Account and uploaded part of my family tree, I get the following notice:
This tree is Locked
We're sorry - your tree has been locked. You have 6.0 gigabytes of media in your trees, which is more than the maximum allowed media storage for this plan. To unlock your tree, either remove some of the media from your trees, or upgrade to a PRO plan by clicking on your user name in the upper-right corner, then on Account.
Obviously, as an active genealogist with ancestors from New England and some who came on the Mayflower, I will have an extensive family tree. Interestingly, I have my complete file in the program and it takes only 10.9 MB, far less than the 6 GB mentioned in the notice. It is likely that the difference is in media items since by American Ancestors family tree came from However, I only have about 190 people in American Ancestors family tree and I have 5883 people in my file. Of course, I have no idea how many people I have in my part of the Family Tree, probably hundreds of thousands.

I guess before I can comment on the new hint sources from American Ancestors, I will have to think about "upgrading" my subscription to a "real" account.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Three
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
You may think that Google Search is something that you just use to find something, but the program is really more complicated and sophisticated than merely answering simple questions. When I am helping people with their family history questions, I often get a comment asking, "How did you find that?" The answer to that question involves quite a bit of explanation which I usually avoid discussing. 

The first step in understanding how Google Search works is to do a lot of searches. On most days when I am working on my computer online, I do hundreds of searches. I may also modify a single search is a variety of ways. I wrote about this process in detail back in 2017. Here are the posts:

If you go back and read these four posts, you will have a lot of good examples of how to think about searches. 

The most important things to understand about searching are the following:

#1 Using Google Search is a learned skill and an art and mastery requires extensive practice. 

In short, you have to do a lot of searches before you begin to get better at finding things. 

#2 You have to assume that what you are looking for is out there somewhere

When your search does not return the information you want, you have to assume that the reason is that you didn't use the correct search terms. You have re-word your search and do it over and then repeat that process over and over again. 

#3 Using Boolean algebraic symbols and other fancy "search tools" is generally a waste of time. 

I can do a dozen searches with variations before anyone can design a custom search using "search tricks." Also, I can't remember all the search tricks and I would waste even more time looking for search tricks. There are a few very basic things you do need to know. For example, putting a phrase in quotes tells Google you are looking for exactly that string of characters and not all the iterations of the string. Another example is that + is assumed by Google Search so you don't have to use it at all. Also, I find that using a minus sign, -, is mostly a waste of time. 

#4 Every search you do gives you information you can use in subsequent searches. 

If you don't find what you are looking for, you now know that the search you did was not productive. This means you have to try again with some different or additional tools. For example, if you are looking for a specific person using his or her "specific" name and you do not find anything, you now know that if that person is somewhere to be found, you will have to vary the name or add additional information. To get an example of this, try searching for your own name and see if you can find yourself on the internet. Then try adding other descriptive terms such as places, occupations, etc. To start, put your complete name in quotes and then vary the content of the quotes. 

#5 Do the same searches over and over.

Guess what? Google will give you different information every time you do a search even if you do the same search over again. Google limits the time spent on doing any search, so repeating the search will usually bring up a different set of responses. 

There is a lot more to learn about searching online but if I were to give you more rules, they wouldn't mean anything to you unless you started searching intensively for an extended period of time. Just remember, the quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.
Oh, by the way, Google has an extensive online explanation about how and why their search engine works. You can search for "Google Search" to begin to read everything there is to learn.

Stay tuned for the next installment from the list at the beginning of this post. 

See the other posts in this series:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

FamilySearch Online for Twenty Years

I went back in my Journal to 1999 to see if I made any mention of the FamilySearch website, but apparently, I was too busy with a new job, family, and my church activities to pay much attention to what was going on online. The first records on were mainly the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index. I remember when FamilySearch set up the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site, the first site with digitized records from the microfilm digitization project back in 2008. The website was consolidated in 2010 with the old program which was introduced beginning in 2007 and was fully available in November of 2009. The FamilySearch Family Tree was added in 2013. Once the website and the microfilm digitization project got moving, billions of records have been digitized and in 2017 FamilySearch discontinued the international and national distribution of physical copies of the microfilmed records. In May of 2018, FamilySearch added the 2 billionth image to See "FamilySearch Adds 2 Billionth Image of Genealogy Records." There are an estimated 7.01 billion searchable names in the Historical Record Collections.

Here is the content of the latest announcement from an email sent to me:
Salt Lake City, Utah, (23 May 2019)-- Twenty years ago, global nonprofit FamilySearch launched an innovative new website, a free internet genealogy service. Two decades later, FamilySearch is a leader in the rising tide of popular ancestry-related services online. During that time, FamilySearch has expanded and evolved its free mix of online offerings, holding true to its purpose to provide economical access to the world’s genealogical records and create fun family history discoveries for everyone. (Find and share this news release online in the FamilySearch Newsroom). 
On May 24, 1999, took the online genealogy world by storm, offering free access to hundreds of millions of historical records online—a treasure for those seeking to make family history connections. For perspective, online broadcast news, e-trading, and downloadable music services were the rage at the time. Google, ranked 93rd of top websites, was still an up-and-coming service that was attempting to redefine the role of a search engine by indexing the web to make results junk free and more consumer relevant. 
At, searching historical records for new discoveries continues to be a big interest for site visitors. Millions of new customers grace its portal each year, looking for new family connections. And for good reason. The site now boasts over 7 billion searchable names and over 3 billion searchable images of historical records. And it adds more than 300 million new historical records and images yearly from archives worldwide. 
The website has expanded its free offerings since its grand opening two decades ago. Patrons have added 1.4 billion ancestors to the site's robust, collaborative family tree. And the tree is integrated with two powerful mobile apps. You can preserve family photos and create audio files that help tell your family’s stories. The website also features an impressive inventory of very useful help services, like how to make sense of DNA test results, and it’s all still free. 
Randy Bryson, now retired, was a FamilySearch IT director when the site was launched in 1999. He fondly recalls the big day. He said that the site was so wildly successful that it constituted 10 percent of all internet traffic at the time and was a top 10 website based on the amount of data it was hosting (20 terabytes). “Traffic on the site was so extreme at the time of the launch that we had to limit user access to 30 minutes at a time,” said Bryson. “The amazing thing was that people didn’t go away. When they were timed out, they would just log right back in to finish their search.” 
Today the site is nimble and quick. Bryson said he was moved by the amazing gratitude of the site’s users. “It was very overwhelming, emotional, and gratifying” to see people able to easily access records of their ancestors conveniently online from their homes. 
Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO, is not surprised by the continued popularity of the website. He said, “When individuals discover more about their family history or make new family connections, it changes them. They see and treat each other differently.” Rockwood said that future services under development on the website will create more of these fun discovery experiences worldwide for site visitors. continues to enjoy impressive growth today, adding over 50,000 new subscribers weekly and hundreds of millions of new family photos, documents, stories, and historical records yearly from contributors and archives around the world. 
See what has changed and make new family connections in your family tree for free at

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Memorial Day: MyHeritage Gives Free Access to Military Records

Memorial Day: Free Access to Military Records
Quoting from a blog post entitled, "Memorial Day: Free Access to Military Records."
Next week marks Memorial Day in the U.S., a day to honor fallen soldiers who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 
Memorial Day has many traditions, including spending time with family and sharing memories of relatives who served in the military. Do you have relatives who served their country? Have you discovered new information about their military history? 
To help you learn more about your heroic ancestors and the sacrifices they made in service of their country, we’re offering free access to all of our military records in SuperSearch™, over 47 million records. The collections can be searched for FREE from May 22–28, 2019. 
Search our military records for free at for fascinating new information about your ancestors and relatives who served in the military. Let us know what you discover.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Gravestone Cleaning Kits from BillionGraves

Here is an email from about gravestone cleaning kits. We get involved in cleaning gravestones from time to time and I appreciate both the idea and the method.
Gravestone cleaning can turn back the wheels of time to make your ancestor’s final resting place nearly as beautiful as the day their family members gathered there to wish them farewell. 
Time has been hard on gravestones that were originally considered nearly permanent. Weathering, erosion, neglect, and vandalism have all taken their toll.
BillionGraves has recently partnered with the gravestone preservation company Save Your Stones to provide you with the best tools for cleaning your family headstones. Cleaners used on gravestones should be the gentlest possible choice to get the job done. D/2 is a gentle biocide and very effective for headstones covered in biological growth – lichen, moss, fungi, algae, and plants. 
 D/2 Biological Solution was designed by conservators for conservators. It was successfully tested in a 6-year study. Finally, it was recognized as the official cleaner of the Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration and specified to be used on U.S. military gravestones. 
We’re excited to announce that BillionGraves now has gravestone cleaning kits and D/2 available for you to purchase! 
The D/2 comes in a quart spray bottle, easy to use and enough to clean 12 medium size headstones! These kits contain all of the tools you need to safely and carefully clean all types of gravestones: D/2 Biological Solution, soft-bristled brushes, inscription picks and more.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Two

  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
It is time to start looking at the rest of the gold in the Google Goldmine starting with Google Help. The first impression you get from Google Help is the extensive number of "apps" available from Google. Not all of these are "free" the business apps are usually only available if you subscribe to Google's G Suite. But some of the apps in G Suite are still available for free to non-business users. Some of the apps are also restricted to certain operating systems or browsers. The list above is a selection of the apps that I find useful in working with writing and research and which can be used to your advantage for genealogical research. I will post the list at the beginning of each of my blog posts in this series and highlight in bold the ones in the post you are looking at.

Let me start with a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose that you are driving a car or truck on a long trip across the United States (or some other location in the world). What do you need to make your trip successful? How many of the things that you need for your trip are actually carried with you in your car or truck? How many will you have to purchase along the way? How many of the things you are carrying are things that you usually need all the time? How many of the things are specific for a trip across the United States? How many are specific to this particular trip?

I could keep asking more questions indefinitely since that is what I did for a living for many years. What is the point? Well, when we think of what we need to do genealogical research, we generally start thinking about websites or libraries or whatever. But in reality, we need a lot more than just those things that are directly related to genealogical research. For example, going back to my hypothetical journey across the country, you might need a car jack to help to replace a flat tire. If you were like me and you were to drive where I often drive, you would have had several flat tires over the years. Oh, and of course, a spare tire (or two).

In this same way, there are tools and such that will help us on our genealogical research journey that might not be obvious or something you would normally think about.

Google Help will link you to all of their named apps and websites, including all those listed above although some are not directly linked but require you to start clicking on other websites that appear when you click on a link to an app.

NOTE: You should be careful when looking at any of the listed apps to make sure that the app or website is still actively supported by Google. For example, the list on Google Help includes a link to Picassa, a program that has been discontinued for some years but may still be on some computers.

By the way, Google Help is not the most helpful place or the only place to get help about Google and Google products. But it is a good place to start. Let me give you an example of what I mean by this statement.

Back to my hypothetical situations. Let's suppose that you are working with Google Docs and you have a question about that app or program. Here is a Google Docs screen:

Where do you go for help? You click on the icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen on what is commonly called a "hamburger icon." (Question: does this icon look like a hamburger to you?)

Hmm. So what do you get when you click on this icon?

You get a pull-down menu with a link to "Help & Feedback."

Here is what you get from the link:

Eventually, if you keep clicking or typing in questions, you might get an answer. But if you click on the "Browse all Articles" option you go directly to Google Help for Docs. Like this:

Further clicking gets you this?

Now you have a chance to get an answer to your question. But what would I suggest? I suggest entering a short explanation of your question into a regular Google Search, like this:

Sometimes it is helpful to use other Google tools to help with some of the apps and tools. Now if you find yourself with a question about how to find something on Google, just try asking it in the question bar. Also, note the small microphone (mic) image. You can click on that and just ask your question.

Stay tuned for more Google Gold.

See the first post in this series:

Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test

Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test

It is probably inevitable that the large online genealogy companies such as would see the advantage of providing additional information from their large DNA testing databases. Here is an announcement from about the new health-related DNA services being added to their DNA tests. Quoting from a blog post entitled, "Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test."
We’re excited to announce the launch of the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test, which offers new dimensions of genetic insight to enrich your life, enlighten you about your health, and help you make informed lifestyle choices. As a major expansion of our DNA product line, the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test includes dozens of personalized and easy-to-understand health reports. It also includes all of the features of the current MyHeritage DNA test (to be referred to from now on as the MyHeritage DNA Ancestry-Only test), including matching to relatives based on shared DNA, ethnicity estimates, a chromosome browser, and others. 
With the new Health + Ancestry test, you’ll learn how your genes can affect your health. Your results include reports for conditions caused by single genes, such as hereditary breast cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and late-onset Parkinson’s disease; conditions caused by multiple variants, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and female breast cancer; and carrier status reports on conditions that can be passed down from a couple to their children, such as Tay-Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis. Altogether, the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test covers one of the most extensive ranges of conditions offered by an at-home DNA test, and we are working on adding many more conditions immediately following the launch and going forward. 
To order your kit, visit the MyHeritage DNA website. You’ll be able to choose between the Ancestry-Only kit and the new Health + Ancestry kit.
 Click on the link to the image below for more information.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The History of the Development of Genealogical DNA: Part Seven: The Complete Genome

A draft genome of the wheat rust pathogen ...
As the tools of scientific investigation became more and more sophisticated and exact, those people involved in investigating the internal structure of living cells were able to discern smaller and smaller discrete cell structures. Once the technology had advanced to the point that the internal structure of cells was discovered, the scientific community began trying to understand the relationship between the physical structure of the cell and the processes that were taking place within the cells.

The genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. Technically, a genome is the haploid set of chromosomes in a gamete or microorganism or in each cell of a multicellular organism. In a real sense, the genome is the set of instructions necessary to create an organism. The genome was made up of genes. Genes are a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, the order of which determines the order of monomers in a polypeptide or nucleic acid molecule which a cell (or virus) may synthesize. Genes are made up of strings of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) with the exception of some viruses that are made up of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The DNA molecule is composed of two chains of nucleotides in the form of a double helix.

OK, that said, the major issue is identifying the identity and function of the components of the code. Detecting the order and arrangement of the nucleotides was a highly technical process. I have found a good short description of the discovery process in an article from the National Institute of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine entitled, "The sequence of sequencers: The history of sequencing DNA" by James M. Heather and Benjamin Chain. Here is a quote of the abstract of the article,
Determining the order of nucleic acid residues in biological samples is an integral component of a wide variety of research applications. Over the last fifty years large numbers of researchers have applied themselves to the production of techniques and technologies to facilitate this feat, sequencing DNA and RNA molecules. This time-scale has witnessed tremendous changes, moving from sequencing short oligonucleotides to millions of bases, from struggling towards the deduction of the coding sequence of a single gene to rapid and widely available whole genome sequencing. This article traverses those years, iterating through the different generations of sequencing technology, highlighting some of the key discoveries, researchers, and sequences along the way.
Heather, James M, and Benjamin Chain. “The sequence of sequencers: The history of sequencing DNA.Genomics vol. 107,1 (2016): 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2015.11.003

The concept that was necessary for DNA testing to become useful to genealogists takes essentially the same path as that of using DNA testing or matching to determine who committed a crime. To thoroughly understand genealogical DNA testing it is really necessary to go back in history and learn about the ways the criminal investigation system has relied upon to identify criminals. This study is called forensic science. Why is forensic science pertinent to genealogical DNA testing? Both rely on physical evidence to establish relationships and are used to identify individuals.

Going back in history, we find that as early as 221 to 206 BC the Chinese used handprints for burglary investigations. Jumping forward, there is a book from the 14th Century about using fingerprints for identification called "Jaamehol-Tawarikh" attributed to Khajeh Rashiduddin Fazlollah Hamadani (1247-1318). See Wikipedia: Rashid-al-Din Hamadani.

The first modern use of fingerprints for forensic identification was suggested in about 1863 by a French professor, Paul-Jean Coulier. In the United States, American microscopist Thomas Taylor proposed that finger and palm prints left on any object might be used to solve crimes in an article published in the July 1877 issue of The American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science. See "The History of Fingerprints." The first fingerprint files were created by an Argentine Police Official named Juan Vucetich in 1891. Based on Vucetich's ideas, an Argentine inspector, Eduardo Alvarez, made the first criminal fingerprint identification in 1892 by identifying Francisca Rojas, who had murdered her two sons but denied that she was responsible for the deaths and was identified by a bloody print on a door. See "A case for the Fingerprints Department."

Sir Francis Galton, a half-cousin of Charles Darwin, and a pioneer in eugenics published the following book, usually mentioned as the first on fingerprints.

Galton, Francis, and R. G. Poole Lansdown. 1892. Finger prints. London: Macmillan.

The first criminal trial in the United States that went to an appeal on the issue of using fingerprints as evidence was the People v. Jennings, 252 Ill. 534, 96 N.E. 1077 (1911). See also, "Admissibility of Fingerprint Evidence and Constitutional Objections to Fingerprinting Raised in Criminal and Civil Cases." Here is the citation to that same article:

Andre A. Moenssens, Admissibility of Fingerprint Evidence and Constitutional Objections to Fingerprinting Raised in Criminal and Civil Cases, 40 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 85 (1963).
Available at:

The main issues regarding the use of fingerprint evidence were laid down in the case of the People v. Roach, 215 N.Y. 592, 109 N.E. 618 (1915) where the court held that fingerprint evidence,
when competent, relevant, and material, is admissible to prove the identity of the accused.

In order for DNA testing to take the same path as fingerprints, it was necessary to establish the unique nature of DNA and develop forensic procedures that would stand the rigors of cross-examination in a court of law.

I do not intend to write an exhaustive history of the use of DNA in criminal prosecutions. There are possibly hundreds of articles, books and other publications about the subject. Here is a selected list of books about the forensic use of DNA tests out of thousands available.

Abbondante, Serena Felicia, Australian Federal Police, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and University of Canberra. “The Effect of Radioactive Materials on Forensic DNA Evidence: Procedures and Interpretation,” 2009.

American Bar Association, and Criminal Justice Standards Committee. ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: DNA Evidence. Washington, D.C.: American Bar Association, 2007.

Balding, David J, and Christopher D Steele. Weight-of-Evidence for Forensic DNA Profiles. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

Buckleton, John S. Forensic DNA Evidence Methods and Interpretation. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2004.

Buckleton, John S, Jo-Anne Bright, and Duncan Taylor. “Forensic DNA Evidence Interpretation,” 2016.

———. Forensic DNA Evidence Interpretation. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC Press, 2018.

Butler, John M. Forensic DNA Typing: Biology, Technology, and Genetics of STR Markers. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier Academic Press, 2005.

Butler, John M, and John M Butler. Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing. Amsterdam; Boston: Academic Press/Elsevier, 2010.

Campbell, Andrea. Forensic Science: Evidence, Clues, and Investigation. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.

Canada, and Criminal and Social Policy Sector. Obtaining and banking DNA forensic evidence: consultation paper. Ottawa: Dept. of Justice Canada, 1994. Forensic DNA examiner, FBI, 2016.;3924217.

Clarke, George. Justice and Science: Trials and Triumphs of DNA Evidence. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Cooper, Christopher. Forensic Science. New York, N.Y.: DK Publishing, 2008.

Elkins, Kelly M. Forensic DNA Biology: A Laboratory Manual. Kidlington, Oxford; Waltham, MA: Academic Press, 2013.

Exonerated by DNA: Issues and Case Profiles in the Use of Exculpatory DNA Evidence, 2015.

Farley, Mark A, and James J Harrington. Forensic DNA Technology. Chelsea, Mich.: Lewis Publishers, 1991.

Goddard, Lowell, Margaret Lawton, New Zealand Law Society, and Bank of New Zealand. DNA Evidence. Wellington, N.Z.: The Society, 1992.

Grace, Victoria, Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll, Gerald Midgley, and Johanna Veth. Forensic DNA Evidence on Trial: Science and Uncertainty in the Courtroom. Arizona: Emergent Publications, 2011.

Hindmarsh, R. A, and Barbara Prainsack. Genetic Suspects: Global Governance of Forensic DNA Profiling and Databasing. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Jamieson, Allan, and Scott Bader. A Guide to Forensic DNA Profiling, 2016.

Jennings, Cecilia. DNA Evidence: The Proof Is in the Genes, 2018.

Kobilinsky, Lawrence F, Thomas F Liotti, and Jamel Oeser-Sweat. DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley-Interscience, 2005.

Levine, Louis. Attorney’s Guide to Forensic DNA Evidence. New York? L. Levine, 2004.

Marzilli, Alan. DNA Evidence. New York: Chelsea House, 2012.

Nardo, Don. DNA Evidence. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2008.

National Institute of Justice (U.S.). Report to the Attorney General on Delays in Forensic DNA Analysis. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, 2003.

National Research Council (U.S.). The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence: Prepublication Copy. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996.

National Research Council (U.S.), Committee on DNA Forensic Science: an Update, Norman Grossblatt, National Research Council (U.S.), Commission on DNA Forensic Science: an Update, and National Research Council (U.S.). The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington: National Academy Press, 1996.

National Research Council (U.S.), Committee on DNA Forensic Science: an Update, National Research Council (U.S.), and Commission on DNA Forensic Science: an Update. The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998.

Newton, David E. DNA Evidence and Forensic Science. New York: Facts On File, 2008.

Pfefferli, Peter, TotalBoox, and TBX. Forensic Evidence Field Guide. Elsevier Science, 2015.

Rudin, Norah, and Keith Inman. An Introduction to Forensic DNA Analysis. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2002.

Sallavaci, Oriola. The Impact of Scientific Evidence on the Criminal Trial: The Case of DNA Evidence, 2014.

Semikhodskii, Andrei. Dealing with DNA Evidence a Legal Guide. New York: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007.

Shelton, Donald E. Forensic Science Evidence: Can the Law Keep up with Science? El Paso: LFB Scholarly Pub. LLC, 2012.

Shewale, Jaiprakash G, and Ray H Liu. Forensic DNA Analysis: Current Practices and Emerging Technologies. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.

The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996.

United States, Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, and Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. Justice for Sexual Assault Victims: Using DNA Evidence to Combat Crime : Hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Seventh Congress, Second Session, May 14, 2002. Washington: U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O. [Congressional Sales Office, 2003.

United States, Department of Justice, President’s DNA Initiative (U.S.), National Institute of Justice (U.S.), United States, and Office of Justice Programs. Principles of Forensic DNA for Officers of the Court, 2006.

Wyatt, S. K, Justice Institute of British Columbia, British Columbia, Training Ministry of Advanced Education and Technology, and Transfer and Technology Centre for Curriculum. Forensic DNA Evidence: Investigative Procedures for Law Enforcement. Victoria, B.C.: The Ministry, 2001.

Stay tuned, still more to come

See these previous posts:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:
Part Five:
Part Six:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Findmypast adds European and Latin American Collections
Quoting from the blog entitled, "Over 100 Million New European Records Now Online:"
Over 114 million new European births, baptisms, marriages, banns, deaths and burials are now available to search and explore on Findmypast. The new additions consist of transcripts sourced from the International Genealogical Index, a database compiled from a variety of sources from around the world. The span nearly five centuries (1502 to 1960) of history and cover 20 European nations, including: 
The Netherlands
Czech Republic
The release marks the latest step in our efforts to provide more opportunities for discovery around the world. Since January 2019, over 67 million records from Central America have been added to our collections and a further 20 million + records from South America, Asia and the Middle East will be added to the site in the near future.
This marks a substantial addition to the greater genealogical community. is well known for its huge collection of records from the British Islands and these new records indicate that they are decisively moving growing their international presence. has over 9 billion records and over 1 billion of these are not available anywhere else online. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

3rd Annual Conference of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage
Quoting from the website of the Sons and Daughters of The Middle Passage,
The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa were shipped to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade. “The triangular trade system was so named because of the route it took.  The ships embarked from European ports, and stopped in Africa to gather captives.  After this, they set out for the “New World” (North America, South America, and the Caribbean) to deliver their kidnapped victims, and then returned to the point of origin. The transport conditions were horrendous and millions of enslaved people died on these voyages.  
Here is a short explanation of the mission of the organization:
Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP) is a lineage society dedicated to the memory of our freed and enslaved ancestors and to the education and historic preservation of the artifacts and landmarks of slavery in the United States of America and its economic, psychological, and cultural impact on today’s society. Lest we forget.  SDUSMP is a non-profit, charitable 501(c)3 organization. 
This year's conference is part of the 400 Year Commemoration (1619-2019) of the first Africans arriving to British Colonial America. You only have a short time left to get the Early Bird pricing. Here is the information about the cost of the tickets.
Our theme for 2019 is the 400-year commemoration of the first documented arrival of Africans in British Colonial America. For more information about the conference, please see our website. The conference is co-sponsored by the New Jersey Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society. Early Bird Pricing will be available until May 20, 2019. Hotel discounts extended to May 14, 2019. Buy tickets here. Ticket prices start at only $50.00. Use code LEGACY2019 for a $2.00 discount. AAGHS members use AAHGS2019 and Sons & Daughters members use SDUSMP2019 (subject to verification).
You can click on any one of the links to find out more information.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The History of the Development of Genealogical DNA: Part Six: What do You Need to Know?

Once we, as genealogists, start getting into the nitty-gritty of understanding genealogical DNA testing and learning about its history and development, the question arises about how much of the technical, detailed scientific side of DNA testing do we really need to know to do genealogical research. Notwithstanding the fact that every class or presentation I have seen included some level of an explanation of these details. For example, I presently have well over a thousand DNA match results from and 8,151 DNA matches from None of the close matches are surprising or helpful. What do I do with close to 10,000 DNA matches? How will knowing the scientific details of genetics help me?

Many of those who are teaching genealogists about DNA seem duty-bound to explain some level of DNA. After studying the history of genetics and reading everything from the comic book version to textbooks on the discovery and development of DNA, I am still wondering how much of what I have learned actually helps me do genealogy. Well, I have decided that more history won't hurt. So here I go with the development of genetics in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the big deal was the eugenics movement. I have already written about this movement but it is part of the story that needs to be repeated. Here is a quote from the timeline in an article entitled "1900s - The Eugenics Movement."
This was an immensely popular movement in the first quarter of the 20th century and was presented as a mathematical science, which could predict the traits and characteristics of human beings. 
The darker side of the movement arose when researchers became interested in controlling the breeding of human beings, so that only the people with the best genes could reproduce and improve the species. It was often used as a sort of 'scientific' racism, to convince people that certain 'racial stock' was superior to others in terms of cleanliness, intelligence etc. It shows the dangers that come with practicing science without a true respect for humanity as a whole. 
Many people could see that the discipline was riddled with inaccuracies, assumptions and inconsistencies, as well as encouraging discrimination and racial hatred. However, in 1924 it gained political backing when the Immigration Act was passed by a majority in the U.S. House and Senate. The Act introduced strict quotas on immigration from countries believed by eugenicists to have 'inferior' stock such as Southern Europe and Asia. When political gain and convenient science combine forces we are left even further from truth and a society that respects those within in. This is not too dissimilar from the tobacco industries of the 80’s and the sugar industries of the current decade.
The horrific culmination of this movement was the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis before and during World War II. Remnants of the movement still survive to this day.

It is convenient that the science of genetics began to develop right after the turn of the century. Archibald Edward Garrod, a physician in England, was the first person to connect a human disorder with Mendel's Laws of Inheritance. His findings published in 1902 were the first to attribute a biochemical basis for the part genes played in inheritance. Here is a citation to a republication of his article.

Garrod, A E. “The incidence of alkaptonuria: a study in chemical individuality. 1902.” Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.) vol. 2,3 (1996): 274-82.

Progress continued during the early part of the Century as shown by the quote from Wikipedia: History of genetics.
In 1910, Thomas Hunt Morgan showed that genes reside on specific chromosomes. He later showed that genes occupy specific locations on the chromosome. With this knowledge, Morgan and his students began the first chromosomal map of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In 1928, Frederick Griffith showed that genes could be transferred. In what is now known as Griffith's experiment, injections into a mouse of a deadly strain of bacteria that had been heat-killed transferred genetic information to a safe strain of the same bacteria, killing the mouse.
It was not until 1944 that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was identified as the substance responsible for the genes transforming ability rather than a protein. This discovery was made by Oswald T. Avery (1877-1955), Maclyn McCarty (1911- 2005) and Colin MacLeod (1909-1972). As with many great scientific discoveries, the involvement of DNA in genes was not readily accepted by the scientific community. The discovery of the helical form of DNA was one important factor in the acceptance of DNA as the basis for inheritance. This discovery of the helical nature of the DNA molecules is the real beginning of what we know about DNA today. The double helix structure of DNA was made possible by using X-ray diffraction microscopes and the mathematics of helix transformation was first published by Francis Crick and James D. Watson. Here is the citation to their publication:

Watson, James D., and Francis Crick. 1953. "Molecular structure of nucleic acids: a structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid". Nature. 171 (4356): 737-738.

The modern study of genetics at the level of DNA is known as molecular genetics. See Wikipedia: History of genetics. From the use of X-ray diffraction in the discovery of DNA, we can see that there is a parallel development of electronic technology and advances in molecular genetics. In 1972, Walter Fiers and his team at the University of Ghent were the first to determine the sequence of a gene: the gene for bacteriophage MS2 coat protein.

Gene sequencing is the process of determining the order of nucleic acid residues in biological samples. Here is where we get into the process of understanding the significance of all those strings of the letters ATGC associated with the present-day complex work being done with entire genome sequencing. Here is a good short summary from Wikipedia: Human genome. (By the way, I use Wikipedia for a very simple reason: it is a safe way to avoid claims of copyright infringement).
The human genome is the complete set of nucleic acid sequences for humans, encoded as DNA within the 23 chromosome pairs in cell nuclei and in a small DNA molecule found within individual mitochondria. These are usually treated separately as the nuclear genome, and the mitochondrial genome. Human genomes include both protein-coding DNA genes and noncoding DNA. Haploid human genomes, which are contained in germ cells (the egg and sperm gamete cells created in the meiosis phase of sexual reproduction before fertilization creates a zygote) consist of three billion DNA base pairs, while diploid genomes (found in somatic cells) have twice the DNA content. While there are significant differences among the genomes of human individuals (on the order of 0.1%), these are considerably smaller than the differences between humans and their closest living relatives, the chimpanzees (approximately 4%) and bonobos. 
The first human genome sequences were published in nearly complete draft form in February 2001 by the Human Genome Project and Celera Corporation. Completion of the Human Genome Project Sequence was published in 2004. The human genome was the first of all vertebrates to be completely sequenced. As of 2012, thousands of human genomes have been completely sequenced, and many more have been mapped at lower levels of resolution. This data is used worldwide in biomedical science, anthropology, forensics and other branches of science. There is a widely held expectation that genomic studies will lead to advances in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and to new insights in many fields of biology, including human evolution.
None of this would have been possible without high-speed computers with massive amounts of memory. Here is a graphical representation of the idealized human diploid karyotype, showing the organization of the genome into chromosomes. This drawing shows both the female (XX) and male (XY) versions of the 23rd chromosome pair. Chromosomes are shown aligned at their centromeres. The mitochondrial DNA is not shown.

By Courtesy: National Human Genome Research Institute - Modified from Human Genome ProjectFrom en: with same file name, contributor: en:User:TedE, Public Domain,
What parts of all this are presently being used for genealogical purposes? Why do we have to keep repeating all of this scientific jargon that seems to get more and more impenetrable as time goes on? Again, how does all this help me sort out thousands of potential relatives?

Stay tuned, this isn't over yet.

See these previous posts:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:
Part Five:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part One

My most popular video has always been "Using the Google Goldmine for Genealogy." In that video, I talked about several of the Google apps that are helpful to genealogists. But that video was published back in 2016 and I have continued to develop and use more Google apps and added in quite a few from Google's Chrome browser. So it is time to update both the list of beneficial and free apps, but also add another video with the additional golden benefits from Google.

The "Using the Google Goldmine for Genealogy" video is hosted on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel where we have continued to add videos. At the time of this post, there are 427 videos posted. That number continues to increase every week. But in addition to the posting my videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel, I have reactivated my own YouTube Channel. I am also helping to produce the Show Me videos for The Family History Guide.
I am just getting started posting videos on my own channel, but I would appreciate any views on that Channel and if you like, you can subscribe. 

OK, so here we are in 2019 and I am going to update and add to the Google Goldmine for Genealogists. 

In the 2016 video, I highlighted the following Google apps:
  • Google Books
  • Google Play
  • Google Image Search
  • YouTube
  • Google Scholar
  • Google+
  • Google Translate
  • Blogger and Blog Search
  • Google Maps
  • Google Earth
I also mentioned Wikipedia which is not owned or operated by Google. Since I made that original 2016 video, Google+ has been discontinued by Google. 

But there are still more apps from Google that turn out to be tremendously helpful to genealogists and practically everyone else. One important area that I did not mention in the first video is the entire world of Chrome and Chrome extensions. So here is the new list:
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
One thing you do need to know about Google is the G Suite, the paywall version of the Google apps for businesses. Many of the advanced Google apps and features are only available for this version. There is a free version for non-profit corporations, but otherwise, the features are available on a fee per user basis. 

This is Part One to a series on each of these apps. By the way, there are hundreds of Chrome extensions and I will only highlight a very few. Stay tuned. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

The History of the Development of Genealogical DNA: Part Five: Discovering the Gene

From ancient times, familial resemblance and hybridization have been the basis for speculation concerning the method of transmission of the information from a parent organism to its child. Aristotle realized that there had to be some method of transferring the traits (information) from the parent but he assumed, as did all those who followed him, that the transmission occurred due to nutrient substances that targeted different parts of the body and were diverted to a reproductive path. This Aristotelian theory is often referred to as "spontaneous generation" and was taught and accepted well into the 19th Century.
By Chiswick Chap - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
A response to this theory that attempted to reconcile religious beliefs about the creation with the slowly developing science, held that all of the individual humans since the creation were alive as an almost infinite number of tiny homunculi in the sperm, like an infinite series of Russian dolls. With this view, every newly born child was a special creation dating back to Adam. See Wikipedia: Homunculus. The homunculus theory also made the assumption that humans were unique in their method of transmitting information from generation to generation.

The idea that physical traits could be altered by selection was ingrained in the world's cultures. For example, there is the story in the Bible of Jacob and sheep in Genesis 30:25-43. The fact that we eat corn on the cob is also an example of selective breeding or artificial selection as opposed to "natural" selection.

Even Darwin and his contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace who also elaborated on the concept of natural selection, were unable to contribute much in the way of an explanation about how physical traits were transferred or the mechanism of transfer from one generation to another. The causative factor in initiating the changes or natural selection was an idea developed originally by the ancient Greeks and is usually identified by the phrase "survival of the fittest." Darwin got the mechanism for transmittal wrong. His theory was that the changes were made through a process called "pangenesis." Here is a short explanation from, "What Darwin Got Right (and Wrong) About Evolution."
According to Darwin’s pangenesis, however, “gemmules” were the seeds of cells, supplied by each parent during conception. Gemmules were produced by all the organs and other structures in the body of each parent. The gemmules from the mother and the father would mix with one another in the fertilized egg. If there were enough of these seed cells and if they developed in the proper way, the offspring would be healthy and viable. Birth defects, such as an underdeveloped organ, resulted either from a lack of gemmules provided by that same organ in the parents’ bodies or from a linkup between the wrong gemmules to build that organ. Darwin also posited that children bore a stronger resemblance to one parent than to the other because the gemmules coming from one parent may be stronger, better adapted, or more numerous than those coming from the other parent.
Gregor Mendel's observations put him on the right track, but his findings were universally ignored for many years. His observations and those of subsequent researchers mandated a more sophisticated view of the mechanism for the transmission of inherited traits initiated with the re-discovery of Mendel's work in 1900. Discoveries and modifications of what was known as genetics began to appear almost constantly and accelerated in step with the advent of generally available computer technology.

 At this juncture, from the standpoint of a genealogist rather than a microbiologist or geneticist, I need to confront the issue of the complex technical scientific structure of genetics and its relationship to the genealogical DNA experience. I am not particularly interested in becoming a geneticist so the question arises about exactly how much do I need to know about genetics to use DNA testing for genealogical research?

When I think about an answer to this question, I think about my recent driving trips across the United States. We drove a total of about 10,000 miles from Utah back and forth and while living on the East Coast. During that entire time, not once did I have to worry about how my car operated. As a matter of fact, I do know a considerable amount about the workings of internal combustion engines and have spent a great deal of time replacing parts etc. But what did I really need to know about my car while I was driving across the country? How to put in gas. When to get the oil changed and tires checked. The most complicated thing I did on the trip was to have a battery replaced, change two air filters and replace the windshield wipers. Oh, I also got the car washed.

What does this have to do with genealogy and DNA? What do I need to know about DNA to use it for genealogical research? Hmm, I just repeated my question. Maybe the answer is really in the question. I think the answer is not a whole lot. All the parts of DNA testing that have to do with genes, X chromosomes, Y chromosomes, mitochondria, and so forth are in the category of nice to know.  The DNA testing companies provide me with the information I need to do my research. When I have my own research in a family tree and the companies give me a list of people I am "related" to, it is entirely up to me as to how I go about using that data. But you are essentially telling me that I have to know how to overhaul an engine to drive across the country to tell me I have to be a geneticist to do genealogical research.

I am not through with what we do need to know. One thing that the history of genetics helps all of us to understand is that humans are all humans. We all belong to the same species. The fact that we can demonstrate genealogical relationships with DNA tests should indicate that we all share the same DNA. So what do we need to know? I will presently try to answer that question as I continue this series.

See these previous posts:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four: