Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pinterest & Family History

What's Pinterest

Pinterest is a essentially a digital bulletin board that allows you to "pin" images from various websites so you can return to them later. The beauty of Pinterest is that you can group these pins onto different boards like "Emma's birthday Party" or "Dream Trip to Paris." You can pin items directly from the web or from other pinners on Pinterest. Boards can be public (meaning anyone can see what you post) or secret (meaning only you can see what you post). I have a mixture of public and secret boards. In the former category are shoes and recipes; in the latter are article ideas for my blogs and present ideas for family members.

I don't use Pinterest for genealogy or family history, but many people do. They pin how-to articles, heritage crafts and recipes, links to favorite webpages and upload their own photos and stories. Read about how three pinners use Pinterst for family history here and read tips for how to do it here. Each article has links to genealogy pinners. You can also visit the boards maintained by Ancestry.com, Family Tree Magazine and Genealogy Girl Talks or go to Pinterest and search for '"genealogy."  

Happy Pinning!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What's In a Surname?


"History of Surnames" from Gens Video 

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to learn about surnames, this 35 minute video is a good place to start. It appears to be well-researched, doesn't say anything "weird," and has decent imagery. 

The video is divided into sections by surname type, e.g. patronymic, topographic, occupation. Most of the examples come from English, French, Italian, Spanish and German; but occasionally mentions names from Arabia, Russia, and Portugal, among other places. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Using Federal Documents at the National Archives: A Seminar in Cleveland

Making a Federal Case: Federal Land Records and Government Documents
Seminar Sponsored by the Genealogical Committee at the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH

Saturday, September 27, 2014
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Presented by Claire Bettag, CG, FUGA

Professional genealogist, Claire Bettag, offers four lectures focusing on lesser-used, but invaluable resources - specifically federal land records and "gov docs."

Lectures being presented are:
1. NARA at your Fingertips
2. Federal Land Records
3. Bounty-Land Records
4. Government documents and The U.S. Serial Set (published by the U.S. Government Printing Office)

For further information or to register online, e-mail Chris at chris@staatsofohio.com.

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Whether you are a genealogist, historian, or student, this series of talk will help you enhance your research skills, learn about new documents and how they can help your search, and may even help provide you with ideas and topics for everything from a family history to a PhD dissertation.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

rootstech 2014: Spencer Wells, DNA, and More

Brief Interview with Dr. Spencer Wells at rootstech 2014


I first learned of the work of Spencer Wells when his PBS series, The Journey of Manwas shown in the UK. I was fascinated by the way DNA could be used to tell the story of human migration. So, I was excited to see that his keynote address delivered at rootstech 2014 was available for viewing online. What I didn't realized that the video also included an opening sequence and a keynote talk by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist. You can watch it all here.

The animation sequence was well done and added a nice, profession touch. It is difficult to tell whether it represents several branches of one family or simply many families - it spans centuries, but the same red book is written in and held by all the immigrants portrayed. A discerning eye will notice that the first family is an English one who adopted the Protestant faith and left Europe to flee religious persecution. The next sequence is of a family travelling across a very stormy Atlantic. There is farming family and what seems to be a pioneer woman with a baby. There is a 20th century wedding. The final segment is of a worried looking couple with a young child on a train, possibly fleeing from their home. The sequence closed with the tag, "Every family has a story. What's Yours?"  I don't doubt that every family has a story; but the stories shown here, with the possible exception of the family on the train, are representative of only a few Northern European immigrant groups. In light of genealogy's early association with "whiteness" as discussed by Gregory Rodriguez, such a depiction of the American immigration story is disheartening.

I have met Judy Russell and enjoy listening to her speak. This talk, however, I did not really care for. It's a wide ranging keynote but the primary topics were the Genealogical Proof Standard and Oral History. She talks about "deliberately and accurately" handing down oral histories so that they can be preserved for future generations. Oh and then verified by using the Genealogical Proof Standard. But people only pass down what is important to them, what defines them as a people or a family. Where your grandfather learned to swim may not be important to anyone, so nobody talks about and it gets forgotten. However, other things may be remembered. She provides two examples of family histories that were deliberately passed down in her family. However, one of them probably wasn't. It had the sound of something that at worst had been created so that the family sounded authentically American or at best was badly researched. 

Spence Wells, Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic, gives an excellent introduction to population genetics, DNA research, and Deep Ancestry. If you don't know anything about them, this will get you up to speed in about 30 minutes. He speaks about the Genographic Project and the rates of public participation, which mirror the increasing interest in consumer DNA testing. He also discusses the grants given to indigenous people who are such an important part of the project. Since these groups have occupied the same territory, sometimes for centuries, they provide the geographic anchor to the Genographic Project.

The two speakers provide an interesting contrast. Judy Russell is concerned about losing snippets of family history, like what was your grandmothers favorite toy, in three generations. Spencer Wells is concerned with entire indigenous cultures and languages that face extinction within one or two generations.

You can view other talks from rootstech 2014 here. The only other one I've seen is the talk on iPads by Lisa Louis Cooke; it made me want an iPad even more than before.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Genes and Genealogy from Naked Genetics



In this edition of Naked Genetics from University of Cambridge listen to Professor Mark Jobling discuss how academic DNA sequencing intersects with genealogy research. While he understands that people want to know where their ancestors come from, the reality is that our ancestors didn't come from one specific location - they came from everywhere. The only ancestors we can trace with any confidence are those that passed down their Y chromosome and their mtDNA which represent only two individuals. This segment opens the program.

Then unless you are super keen on genetics, skip ahead to 18:07 to hear Dr. Turi King discuss her research on the Y-chromosome. She uses this chromosome in connection with surnames to trace Norse Viking migrations.

image credit: Zephyris
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