Sunday, April 30, 2017

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference
Rootstech! NGS! FGS!

We've all heard of the big conferences and how wonderful they are for genealogists, but what about your local genealogical society conferences? If you haven't attended one yet, you might be surprised at what they have to offer.

1. Small vs. large

I love large events. I attend a particular fandom convention that is going on 6000+ attendees a year! But the sights, shows, and panels can get overwhelming. Getting through almost 10 rooms designated as the "Artist's Alley" and "Dealer's Den" is like navigating a maze. Sometimes there is too much going on and I just can't do everything I want to do, or decide which panel out of the twenty available all at the same time I would rather attend.

A smaller event might be more comfortable for you for a number of reasons. First, if you don't like large crowds, it could be less daunting.

Second, you're less likely to run into the "Five sessions that I want to attend all being held at the same time" dilemma.

But what if there are two sessions you would like to attend that are scheduled for the same time slot? If you choose one, odds are you have a better chance of getting some one-on-one discussion time with the person who led the other one, since you have less people to contend with. So maybe you can get any handouts or educational material from the session you did not have the opportunity to attend, or ask for any particular tips they shared in their presentation. Presenters are more accessible in a smaller conference setting.

The syllabus might also be more detailed than you expect and cover the topics within a session you don't attend, if you're stuck choosing between two at the same time.

2. Locally-focused sessions

The Nebraska State Genealogical Society's annual conference was last weekend and naturally the main focus of the conference was Nebraska genealogy. If you live elsewhere in the United States, but have ancestors from a particular area, "going home" to that state for their local genealogical society's conference may be more valuable to your research interests than larger conferences with broad appeal.

Topics will mostly likely focus on how to use certain local resources, as well as larger Federal resources pertinent to the state or geographical area. So if you need to pick and choose which conferences to attend, take a closer look at those local to where your ancestors lived. You might find it's both a better value and more focused content.

3. But the broad appeal is there too...

I am a New Englander who just happens to live in Nebraska. I have no North American ancestry outside of the New England states, North Carolina, Virginia, or Nova Scotia.

However, the Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference was still valuable to me because they offered broader topics on researching genealogy in general, learning how to find records for certain ethnicities, and using DNA as a research tool.

4. Additional benefits

Lunch was included both days of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference. There were vendors, but not so many that it was overwhelming. The opportunity to win door prizes and raffles was also an unexpected and fun surprise.

I also met probable cousins with shared New England ancestry because the whole reason to attend a conference is to not just learn, but network. In fact, it was easier to meet those people, because I already knew from the syllabus who had New England connections and it was easy to track those people down just to introduce myself to them.

So even without having Nebraska roots, I learned a lot, met great people, and had a fantastic time.

And if, like me, you don't live near home/where your ancestors settled in America, then visiting a conference back in that locality could also turn into a research trip.

5. Inspiration

Reading blogs, watching webinars and livestreams of larger conferences, and more is great.

But there is something invigorating about being in a room full of people who are there with a shared interest and purpose. Even if you are hearing a speaker present something you thought you knew enough about, a new perspective can often get the wheels turning in your mind and help you see things in a new light.

Now that I'm home and full of fresh ideas from my local genealogy conference, I'm ready to delve back into the syllabus and the notes I took from the conference, and put some new ideas into practice.

New England Genealogy: 5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Ways to Make Connections With DNA Matches

National DNA Day - #DNADay17
Happy National DNA Day!

I've been fascinated with DNA since the first tests were available to the general public. Back in 2006 I had my mtDNA (Haplogroup H for me) tested by Family Tree DNA. It was my first foray into using DNA for genealogical purposes. 

In the years that followed, I had my ex-husband tested with both his mtDNA (Haplogroup A, to our surprise) and Y-DNA (in hopes of finding his surname's origins). Then I added the Family Finder test to widen my results to autosomal DNA in 2013, excited to try it. Finally, I added the Family Finder to my ex-husband's testing just last week.

Of course, I am excited for the results. But there is one thing I have yet to really delve into with my own Family Finder matches.

How do I make connections with my DNA matches?

There are a few ways.

1. Filter your matches

  • Match Date - probably not very useful in making connections, but nice to know
  • Relationship Range - an estimate about how you are related, i.e. "2nd - 4th cousin"
  • Shared centiMorgans - the sum of autosomal DNA, measured in centiMorgans (cM), that you and yoru genetic match share
  • Longest Block - the longest segment of autosomal DNA, in centiMorgans (cM), shared by you and your genetic match
  • X-Match - displayed only if you and your genetic relative match on the X chromosome

With Family Tree DNA, you can filter the Family Finder/autosomal matches in a variety of ways, including by:
In your matches view, you can also see whether or not you've linked someone to your tree yet and the surnames listed on their profile.

So what does all of this mean? I'm going to simplify the heck out of it.

Relationship Range can be a good way to narrow down how you are connected to a particular match, but don't take it at face value. The one person I have been able to connect with and link to my family tree was listed as a "2nd cousin - 4th cousin." Together we proved we are 3rd cousins, 3 times removed. So keep in mind it's not a precise guess and best used as a loose guideline in figuring out the connection.

Shared centiMorgans and the longest block let you know just how much DNA you share with a person. Because the way DNA is handed down (randomly!) this, again, won't necessarily help you determine a shared ancestor, but it can give you an idea of how closely related you are.

My strongest match in this regard shows that we share 77 cMs and the longest block is 40. She is also an X-Match with me (more on that in a moment). Unfortunately, she has not shared surnames or a family tree, so I need to reach out to her and see if I can make contact to determine a relationship.

X-Match is about whether or not you share an X chromosome handed down by a female ancestor, but this doesn't mean you share an easy-to-figure-out maternal relationship. This post explains how to use the X-Match, but I find so many DNA posts are full of hard-to-understand lingo, that my eyes glaze over. Suffice it to say, understanding how an X-Match figures into your family tree will, like the shared centiMorgans, require some digging your part.

2. Chart your matches

Looking directly on the website can be a little frustrating, so try the option to download your matches into an Excel spreadsheet. It might make it easier to work from the spreadsheet side-by-side with your email or family tree, and to come up with your own system for notating who you've contacted, matches you've made an ancestral connection with, etc. I always like to note the date I emailed a person and any responses.

3. Enhance your charting when you make a connection

There are several templates out there such as this one that allow you to enter DNA information, so you can have a way to see those genetic connections visually.

4. Check every match out, person by person, and start emailing

This is best if you're delving into Y-DNA matches or autosomal/Family Finder matches. I don't recommend it for mtDNA matches. As we all know, mtDNA is "deeper" and any matches probably go back more generations than you can count.

Don't be discouraged if people don't email you back. It's like reaching out to the point-of-contact on many online family trees. Most won't write back. But some will, so it is worth trying, documenting your attempts to make contact and charting those you are able to identify on your family tree.

5. Make sure YOU are easy to find

If you have taken a DNA test, attach your family tree to it. You don't necessarily have to import an entire GEDCOM, but taking the time to enter at least 5 or more generations and basic information on ancestors makes it easier for matches to locate you.

Add several generations of surnames to your profile. Yes, this takes time, but usually the whole point of DNA testing is to see if there is some fantastic mystery relative who shares your genes and might hold some kind of special key to family secrets. So it's worth the time to maximize your profile for discoverability.

5 Ways to Make Connections With DNA Matches

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

I've been using Legacy since the Best Buy in Dover, Delaware opened. I discovered Legacy Family Tree by accident when I was browsing the software in the store back in 2002 or 2003.

Prior to that, I used Generations and then Family Tree Maker. I wasn't keen on either of them, but they got the job done. So when I saw a 2-pack with Legacy 4.0 and scrapbooking software for far less than half the cost of updating my Family Tree Maker, I figured I would give it a try.

Ever since, I've been a big fan of Legacy. I stayed with 4.0 for a while, then went to 7.5, and now I've upgraded to 9.0 thanks to the features Randy Seaver listed in his post.

Since it was an upgrade, I got to pay the lower upgrade price. I also used the 15% off code offered by Thomas MacEntee.

Now, on to the software!

First, I like the family view better. It looks tidier to me. But this is my favorite part of that view:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

How cool is that? Half-siblings and their other parent's name are listed right there! It's much easier to navigate to them now. It also has more room for siblings, so if you have more than 12 siblings, you don't have to scroll down to see them.

Second, how well does the Find-A-Grave integration work? Pretty darn well when I test it on someone I know has a Find-A-Grave listing. So I tried it someone I've never searched on Find-A-Grave, like Rhoda (Delano) Winsor:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

I just clicked the Find-A-Grave button and voila!

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

So what about some of the other features listed in the upgrade? I was most interested in the Hinting, so I checked it out.

There's nothing explicitly listed as "Hinting" on the toolbars, Fortunately, Randy Seaver deconstructs how to turn on tips in this post at GeneaMusings. I checked and hinting was already enabled for MyHeritage. You can also add hinting for FamilySearch (requires your login), FindMyPast and GenealogyBank.

It took Legacy about 12 to 24 hours to generate hints for me, but when I opened the program the next day, there they were - a little orange circle with a number in it:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

Just click the circle and a pop-up shows you where the hints were generated from:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

Then you can click the blue box to be taken to the site and see the results. I found that the hints didn't improve anything for me thus far, but I'm glad to see these sites integrated with Legacy. You just never know what someone might put out there that you will miss. Legacy can pretty much search for relevant hits for you even as you sleep!

Those are just a few of the new features in Legacy 9.0. As always, Legacy continues to offer powerful software that doesn't break the bank. I'm sure I haven't even delved into all that it is capable of, but I hope to in the near future.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Favorite Plymouth County, Massachusetts Research Resources

Plymouth County, Massachusetts Genealogy Resources
There are many go-to research resources for New England, such as the wonderful holdings at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Their databases are well worth the price of membership. Family Search also has many fantastic resources.

But sometimes there are hidden gems we don't know exist, until we happen upon them in a Google search. When I realize I've stumbled upon a treasure, I try to make sure I save the link for future reference. Here are some of my favorite, perhaps lesser-consulted, research resources for Plymouth County, Massachusetts:

1. Alden Kindred of America - this lineage society also includes an 8-generation database. If you descend from John Alden, you might find your family in it.

2. Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth Project - this is a transcription of the book by William T. Davis. If you have any family in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the 1800s or prior, it is well worth searching the index for their surname(s) and reading the entries.

3. Middleborough Public Library - the Digital Library at the Middleborough Public Library is a fantastic resource if you have ancestors from the area. The Digital Library includes a Middleborough Gazette Index, a Vital Records Index, Cemeteries, Historic Homes, and much more.

4. The Plymouth Colony Archives Project - this is another multi-faceted collection that includes a wide variety of records from the 1600s, including wills, probates, court records, and biographies. If your ancestors were part of Plymouth Colony, it is well worth checking out this website.

5. Wareham Vital Records from Town Books 1 and 2 - if you have ancestors who lived in Wareham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, this site is fantastic. It has births, deaths and marriages for Wareham.

You can also find all of these linked on my Genealogy Resources page for Massachusetts.

Plymouth County, Massachusetts Genealogy Resources

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Annie Florence Haley

Annie Florence Haley - A Middleborough, Massachusetts mystery
Annie Florence Haley was born 27 February 1876 in Plympton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. She was the eldest child of Edward Marshall Haley, Jr. and Catherine "Katie" Murphy.

Annie was one of two children. Her brother was Charles Edward Haley, born 5 September 1880 in Plympton. Charles married Helen Cushman Ryder on 12 March 1905 in Middleborough and died after 26 April 1942, at which time he resided in Middleborough. Helen passed away 11 September 1976 in Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

It is peculiar to note that there are only two other references to Annie after her birth. The first is the 1880 census, at which time she was 4 years old and residing with her parents in Plympton.

The second and most intriguing is the birth of her unnamed daughter on 9 October 1892 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. After that, I have found nothing about Annie or her child - no reference in the 1900 census, no marriage, and no death record.

Annie is not mentioned in her father's 1905 obituary, nor are any grandchildren mentioned. Here is the text of the obituary:

Edward Haley died at the home of his sister, Mrs. David Thompson, Crossman Avenue, Wednesday morning. His death was due to an accident sustained about two months ago when, in a fall from a carriage, his head struck up on the tire of the wheel, causing partial paralysis, which developed later into meningitis of the brain.
 He was 62 years old, and a native of Plympton, but most of his active life was spent in Middleboro. The deceased was a veteran of the Civil War, and was in the service for 3 years, 1861-1864. He enlisted from Plympton in Co. H 18th Mass. Regt., and participate in several of the ___est engagements of the war - at the second battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg among others. A son, Charles E. Haley, who resides in town, survives him.

It seems odd that an unwed young lady - Annie was 16 when her daughter was born - would simply drop off the face of the earth and not be mentioned in her father's obituary, unless she pre-deceased him. Even in such circumstances, there should still be a record of what happened to Annie.

Naturally, I am very curious to know if Annie got married and had more children, or if her daughter went on to have descendants. I've tried to align various Annies in the 1900 census with my distant cousin Annie, to no avail. As I have limited my search to Plymouth County, I think it's very likely that Annie moved - or was forced to live - elsewhere with her illegitimate daughter.

So what became of Annie Florence Haley?

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Organizing Vital Records

New England Genealogy - Organizing Vital Records
Vital records are one of my favorite things to collect. Organizing vital records, as well as other paper records, is important if you want to be able to put your hands on something quickly. There are various methods out there and this is just one.

Mine is probably the most simple way to organize and index records. It only requires basic office supplies and word processing software. To organize my vital records, I simply used two binders and page protectors to store the certificates of birth, marriage, and death, among a few other records. The binders I use have a plastic cover on the front and back, so I can slip my indexes in as cover pages.

Organizing the Binders

1. Alphabetize all documents by surname. Women are organized by maiden name. Marriages are organized by male/husband's surname.

2. Index all documents by surname. I simply created my index in Word, using the following format:
Livingston, Mary Ann   Death   June 11, 1886   Brockton, MA
New England Genealogy - Organizing Vital Records - Index
When it comes to marriages, I list them under the male/husband's name, but I also list the wife by maiden name. Next to her name I cross-reference it back to the husband, i.e. "See Shaw, Harrison."

That's all there is to it. Volume 1 has so many records in it, that the index is two pages long, so page 1 appears on both the front and and page 2 is in the back of the binder.

In addition to birth, marriage and death records, I also include obituaries, passports, probate and estate records. This keeps all records created at a town or county level in one place and organized for easy reference.

Do you have a method of organizing paper vital records? 

Organizing Vital Records

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan