Ethical Genealogy

Have you heard of the new book by journalist Libby Copeland: The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are. American Ancestors and the Boston Public Library had an interview and Q & A with her this week, full of stories and insight.

I was struck by the advice from one of the "search angels" in her book, who says that she no longer tries to persuade people to DNA test. After hearing Judy Russell's webinar DNA Rights and Wrongs: The Ethical Side of Testing, I think I would have to agree. To our cousins or others we would like to test, we owe a complete description of what testing entails, and we need to offer them fine-grained choices such as:  whether their profile will have their name or an anonymised nickname,what email will be associated with a kit,whether or not they will allow sharing of the test results, and to whom,whether or not they want to access the test results,if there are unexpected results, do they want to know those results? and so much more.

How Do You Use DNA Results From Multiple Sites?

Why Use Multiple Sites?The most effective research advice is to focus your efforts by asking a question, and creating a plan to find the information you need to answer that question. No one site has all the sources, information, matches, or cousins. I'm going to quote here from Wikipedia:
The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is a guideline for establishing the reliability ("proof") of a genealogical conclusion with reasonable certainty. It is important within the genealogical community for clearly communicating the quality of research performed, such as by a professional genealogist. It is also useful for helping new genealogists understand what is needed to do high-quality research.It has five elements:
reasonably exhaustive research;complete and accurate source citations;analysis and correlation of the collected information;resolution of any conflicting evidence; anda soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.  - summarizing Board for Certification of Genealogists…

Spring Clean Your Family Tree

Cleaning is work! Why bother? It's your tree, after all, and you can build it any way you want! 

That's true, but most of us want to share our research with others and find cousins to collaborate with! And to do that successfully, we need to clear out duplicate people, extraneous relationships (such as step-parents who didn't raise the children), alternative facts (such as a vague "abt. 1882") when we have the precise date of birth, immigration, marriage, or death.

Having accurate, clear facts and sources make it possible to tell the story of our ancestors better. And if you are working in an online genealogy site, a clean tree will allow their matching algorithms to get you the best hints to more sources, and more cousin matches.
Best PracticesBe sure to list each woman with her birth surname; if you do not not know it, leave it blank. If you know only the married name, link her to a spouse with that surname and if you do not know his forename, leave it blank. No l…


A research plan can help you break through brick walls and keep you from chasing the proverbial BSO (Bright Shiny Object) down a rabbit hole. That is what happens when you suddenly realize it is 1:30 am and you have not found the obituary that you sat down to look for at 7:00 pm.
A research plan helps you organize your research. It may show you what records are most likely to answer your research question so you can search those first. If you need to travel to a repository, you can have a list of sources to be searched and their call numbers or other identifying information. You may even be able to email the repository before your visit and have your research sources pulled and ready for you. I emailed the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library a week or so before I planned to be there and when I signed in, the items I needed were waiting for me on a cart. Additionally, I learned that I would not have been able to just walk in, an appointment was required. It would have bee…

Fish in a British Pond

Recently, I've been doing some work in Lost Cousins, a site and idea that is unique. I get their newsletter and prompted by the "Free on Easter" section, started buffing up my listed relatives.

It is unusual in that it promises 100% accurate automatic matching between researchers who share the same ancestors - and it does without anyone else seeing your data!

It is free to create a profile, and if you have ancestry in England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Australia, Ireland or New Zealand this site can help you strike gold (cousins). As the home page explains,
 ... the best people to help you knock down your 'brick walls' are your cousins - indeed, one of your cousins may already have solved the problem that you're finding so challenging. The more relatives from the census you can enter on your My Ancestors page, the more cousins you'll find.How to find more lost cousinsIn the past research has tended to focu…

Love My Desk

by Winona I. Hahn Laird
The year was 1944 and our country was in the middle of World War II.  I was eight years old and lived in Denver, Colorado with my mother, father, sister and two brothers.  I remember the day my father went in to sign up for the Army.  My mother cried all day until he got home and she found out he was 4F.  They wouldn’t take him into the service because he had a heart murmur.  In those days a heart murmur was very serious.  They really wanted him in the Army because he was a doctor.
Since, my father couldn’t serve his country in the Army, he bought a Doctor’s practice in Casper, Wyoming.  Many things had to be taken care of in preparation for the move.  To purchase gas there were gas stamps, so they had to save up enough gas stamps to make the trip.  The move could only take one day while pulling a trailer behind the car with all of our belongings.  Many household items had to be sold; and yes, my desk had to be sold.  I loved that desk and cried when someone came…

“Batty Brock and the ‘Flu Pandemic 1918 - 1919”

by Katie Hanzeli
I’m sure you’ve heard more than you want of pandemic news.  That said, see my previous blog.  Did anyone note the timing of my missing marriage record?  Actually, I may not have given it, a huge oversight on my part!  Miscellaneous records pinpoint the date to somewhere between September 1918 and August 1919.
What happened during that time?  You guessed it - the Spanish ‘Flu Pandemic, which was caused by the H1N1 influenza virus, which also caused problems in 2009.  They called it  the “grippe” in 1918 and the “Swine ‘Flu” in 2009.  We are encouraged to not just gather dates and hard facts about events in our ancestors’ lives.  We should be understanding the times and places in which they lived.  For me and my marriage record, that means understanding the impact of the Spanish ‘Flu Pandemic on the citizens of Boston, which is where it appears the marriage took place.
Here are some of the basic facts as applied to Boston, Massachusetts.  The Spanish Flu was transmitte…