04 January 2014

Thoughts on genetic genealogy and health history

For the past couple months, I've had an increased interest in my family's health history.

I ordered a few death certificates to verify causes of death for grandparents or great grandparents. I've got one more to order before I'll have them for all my great grandparents. I've known their close genealogy for awhile, so wasn't motivated to order theses more recent certificates as genealogical sources. I finally paid out the $24 fees for a few certificates from Maryland (they're too recent to get from the state archives).

I even started to think about the potential benefits of testing with 23andMe for a report on my health history. Unfortunately, that was just about the time that the FDA ordered them to stop offering tests that were marketed as medical information. To comply with the order, their DNA tests no longer report on medical matters. See an 23andMe announcement about the change (click).

That is why I was interested when I read Roberta Estes' post about Promethease. (click)

Turns out there is a free version (available here).

I ran my file. I'm running a few of my immediate relatives raw autosomal data through it too. Many of the so called "good" or "bad" just balance each other out, but it is interesting. It met my needs and satisfied my curiosity without costing me any cash.

Random inspiration, when contemplating ancestral research

It is always remarkable to me, the moments of serendipity, when I'm pondering my family history. Through a mix of hard work and these events, over time I have come to know that I'm getting research help from the other side.

One simple instance of this happened today. Taken alone, it may not even seem noteworthy to the genealogical novice, but I knew it was a communication from the divine.

As I was sitting at my computer, wondering what genealogy lead or genealogy site to click on next, and while not following anything about the Schilling family, I had a very small thought that I should go to ProQuest and search the Baltimore Sun. I dismissed it for a moment as my own wishful thinking, but it seemed different than my own thinking so I then went to the page. I had the thought to type a certain string of words, and the name Schilling. There I found two articles that I do not recall ever seeing before about my great great grandparents Thomas and Margaret Schilling.

They were simple news articles. In one, Thomas told a pier diver that she must ask permission before jumping (he was a watchman at the pier). In the other, Margaret was named as the President of a local Women's Club. No big new genealogy finds, just a small glimpse into the lives of some of my most elusive ancestors.

I was happy that I followed the impression and felt peaceful about having found the articles.

Extract from one article:

The genealogy websites I subscribe to: wrapping up the list

See the first post in this series:
The genealogy websites I subscribe to: Ancestry.com's new World Explorer Plus Membership

I also carry current subscriptions to the following sites:

GenealogyBank.com, until 03/03/2014 (renews annually)
This site has proven valuable to what I do on a consistent basis, and will likely stay in my subscriptions for a long time. I wish the major historical Newspaper websites would buy each other up, so I could get everything I need in one place. This newspaper-specific site has proven the most useful though, for a wide range of localities. Other major newspaper sites include NewspaperArchive.com, Newspapers.com (part of World Explorer Plus), and ProQuest. If I needed to cut back, I would drop Newspapers.com first. I hope that carrying a subscription will help fund them to acquire more papers.

MyHeritage.com, data and site, until 03/1-2/2014
To be honest, I subscribed to this and never put enough time into it to even try getting my money's worth out of it. I do genealogy about every day, but just haven't had a compelling reason to use this website yet because there are not any services or collections that I need for my research. If I was a beginner, I'd seriously consider dropping the other subscriptions and going with just this one though.

Formerly, I've also subscribed to NewspaperArchive, Findmypast.com, and several people finder websites (I still subscribe to one of those, but you can pick any you like).

Actually, I hope you don't use my list to make up your mind about what to subscribe to. This has not been meant as a review, just a list of my subscriptions.

Sometimes I subscribe because there are records I need to search, and once-in-awhile I subscribe just to support the website and test it out for a year or two. I also do pay-per-view on RootsIreland.ie and ScotlandsPeople.com as well as other sites. A couple of the societies I belong to also have online content I can access as a paying member such as the Ulster Historical Foundation and the Maryland Genealogical Society. 

The websites I use the most are FamilySearch.org (free) and Ancestry.com. You can access Ancestry.com for free at Family History Centers and many libraries. The majority of my research for personal and business purposes is actually offline though. I do a lot of in-person paper and microfilm research, as well as requesting other genealogists to search records on site in far away locations. For the first few years of my research efforts, Ancestry.com helped me a ton to piece together my recent ancestry. It was well worth it, and I still need them enough to keep the subscription. These days though, all the census records and many others are free on FamilySearch.org and available under other conditions on many more websites.

The genealogy websites I subscribe to: Ancestry.com's new World Explorer Plus Membership

This morning I woke up early on a beautiful snowed-in Saturday in Chicago and remembered a post by my genealogy blogger friend Dick Eastman. Get well soon Dick.

You can read his post here: A New "World Explorer Plus Membership" on Ancestry.com?
This new deal, includes access to everything on Ancestry.com "World Explorer" and full-access to two of their other paid websites: Fold3.com and Newspapers.com.

I was a little hesitant to "upgrade" because I already had subscriptions to all 3 websites. It sure would be nice to save a little cash and a little trouble by combining the 3 bills into 1, I thought. The problem is that all my subscriptions would end at different times. My Fold 3 was up for renewal in February, but the others not until September and November. I decided to call them anyway and see what I could do.

They were so helpful! Turns out that they issue a "refund" for the remaining time on my "World Explorer" membership and then put any remaining days with the other two subscriptions on hold. Example from an email they sent me after I made the change:

"Hi Michael_McCormick,
Thank you for your purchase of an Ancestry.com World Explorer Plus Membership. Included in your recent purchase is continued access to your existing Fold3 All-Access Membership.
The remaining time of 28 days on your initial Fold3 Membership will be stored as a credit and will automatically be applied to your Fold3 Membership should you choose not to renew your Ancestry.com World Explorer Plus Membership in the future."
The price for the full year World Explorer Plus is a hefty $389, but when you use them as much as I do it is quite nice to consolidate them into one billing cycle. It is also more affordable to me than the typical person because it is partly a business expense.

They don't include Archives.com in this subscription, presumably because they want to market that website as a low-cost option that is not part of the expert bundle.

Well, perhaps I will turn this into a series of at least one more. 

Biggest AncestryDNA sale ever (order before the end of 5 January 2014)

This sale only lasts through the end of tomorrow (5 Jan 2014), so please give it some serious consideration. It is truly their best deal yet (especially with the coupon code added).

This is what you see when you go to Ancestry.com. Then you have to click one of those ads to get the price (or here) because if you use the normal button on the DNA homepage it will still charge you the full $99. I made that mistake, then called to cancel, and ordered at the sale price.

Thanks to my friend Cathi Becker Wiest Desmarais for the following tip:
If you want to play in Ancestry.com's DNA sandbox, now is a great time. The autosomal test is on sale for $79 (save $20), and you can get free shipping (save $10) by using the coupon code FREESHIPDNA. I just sent for my kit.

Before this sale, we had already bought tests for: both my grandmothers, both my parents, and myself. We just bought 3 more: For my two brothers who have some distinct Indian/African ancestry, and for my wife who is Mexican. It will be fun to see the differences all in my immediate family.

03 January 2014

New: Upload your own sources to FamilySearch Family Tree

Some of my blogging friends already did a good job sharing this feature, but it is so important that I wanted to say something about it here too.

You've been able to upload photos/documents to FamilySearch for months already, but just recently they've added this convenient way to turn those into sources.

Simply create a new source, and select that you want to attach a file:

Click to see full size
 In my grandfather's source list below you will see the source I uploaded myself indicated with a camera icon. The tree indicates source digitized by FamilySearch. The globe indicates links to other websites or a source with nothing attached.

Click to see full size
Have you uploaded and attached any of your own images as sources?

Enter the date and place for your FamilySearch Photos/Documents

I noticed this new feature today, now you can add the location and date for a photo or document you've uploaded. Of course, you could have listed this information in the title or description before, but there are certain advantages to this update.

I hope this will be used to improve the ability to search and filter through uploads. I'd also like to see an option that would ask you if you wanted to do anything with the date and place when you attach the image as a source. For example: Identify it as the birth or death fact, and have it merged into the Family Tree person as part of the source attachment process. Those are just some ideas of how keeping the date and place in a different box could be beneficial someday.

This is what it looks like:

Click for full size

02 January 2014

See photos on FamilySearch Family Tree view

A few of my blogging friends already posted about this a few days ago, but it is such a fun change so I wanted to share here too.

To see this view, go to Family Tree.
Then click that oblong shape in the upper left, and put it on "PORTRAIT."

Click the image to see it full-size

Must-read blogs for What's new with FamilySearch

If you've been here before, you probably know that I'm pretty big on following any kind of development at FamilySearch. This includes "What's new with FamilySearch?" or perhaps "What is coming eventually?" or even "What obscure thing can I reveal?"

You might wonder how I find websites that don't even have a link from the home page of FamilySearch.org, or how I know that something has changed when there has been no official announcement of the change.

One of my secrets is reading blogs.

The following blogs are must-reads if you want to know what FamilySearch is doing before anyone else knows:

FamilySearch Blog
There is a section called What's New on Family Tree?, but it leaves a lot out.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
This is quite possibly one of the most read genealogy blogs in the known universe, and with good reason.

A very well rounded blog with fun posts, reviews, and of course, news.

Genealogy's Star
A thoughtful and consistent blogger. His opinions are interesting, and his updates about FamilySearch are frequent.

The Ancestry Insider
You'll get some insider gems from this blog, as the author works for FamilySearch. I've been reading this blog longer than I've been blogging.

Larry Cragun Family and Genealogy Blog
This blog focuses a lot on what's new on FamilySearch.org, and has a nice LDS flavor as well.

Renee's Genealogy Blog
One of the first blogs I got hooked to reading, partially inspiring me to start my own. Renee works for RootsMagic. She often posts e-mails that FamilySearch sends to Family History Consultants. If you don't get those emails, this is a good way to get the content.

and of course the blog you're reading now.

Usually any time something interesting happens on FamilySearch.org (a new feature), one of us finds it and posts about it the same day. Some of us even post about things that haven't happened yet. Our sources there are a little more mysterious...

My most popular posts in 2013

  1. FamilySearch Obituaries, RootsTech 2014 preview 
  2. Introducing the New FamilySearch Indexing Tool, Ro... 
  3. FamilySearch Groups, child of FamilySearch Forums 
  4. My RootsTech 2013: Day 1 - FamilySearch reveals we... 
  5. RootsTech 2013: What might FamilySearch reveal? 
  6. FamilySearch Photos beta welcomes all LDS users
Did you have a favorite post?

Brainstorming my 2014 goals

Over the last few amounts of time, inside the corners of my mind, I've been pondering what directions to go, when to start, and how to know. It strikes me just now that a narrative would do, to write my thoughts out for review. And so I start...

This year should I wait until after RootsTech, when I've have time to get more inspiration, to put my goals into writing. Or rather, shall I write them now? What are some of my ideas?

Well, I've got to make some serious progress on Spanish. I've got to make some serious progress at work with all the things I do for business and research. I'm looking toward the future for my wife and I. I want to buckle down more seriously about genealogy credentials. I've set the goal before, but never gotten any genealogy-specific credentials. I'm interested in it for myself and my own learning, but now I've got to be more serious about supporting my family so credentials mean more job security for us.

I've got to take care of my body. I haven't been exercising enough. I know I like to walk and jogging makes me feel good. I've even got an inside elliptical machine that I play on sometimes, but need to be more consistent. I need to be more consistent in my private prayers and reading scriptures, meditating on the word. I always feel better when I do all those things with full purpose and meaning. Even when I'm not consistent God blesses our family infinitely. The prayer and reading is so that I have a closer connection with him, and let me tell you, it works!

I've had a lot of success in recent years with extending direct genealogical lines on my own ancestry, but I wonder if I should change that goal now. Rather than make a goal to extend lines, might I set a certain number of ancestors who I want to add (with documentation) to my tree this year (for example: descendency research)?

I've also been thinking about something my oldest brother told me a few months ago. He said I should start to give genealogical lectures. I've been teaching small groups of 1, 5, or 25 for years on and off, but never gave lectures to larger groups. I've given a speech to a group of perhaps 100. This past year I had the chance to teach small classes at a local LDS stake workshop, and help organize a family history fair that is happening sometime this year. Working on arranging speakers for the fair, and knowing others who speak at larger conferences, has given me more confidence to perhaps apply next time that a conference I will be attending is looking for speakers.

I've also been more interested in DNA towards the end of 2013. I read a lot more blog posts about it than before, and purchased tests for several relatives. Some of the tests will not be processed until February, but when they are finished I will review the results. I've also had a few professionals who thought that is what I study. When you tell someone you're a "genealogist" for a career, they sometimes think you mean DNA. That made me want to know more about DNA, in the context of genealogy of course. Perhaps someday I will know enough about genetic genealogy to speak on it in a small setting. I think I'll leave it to current experts to speak on that at larger conferences.

As far as education, I've been thinking about something a little different. I've been wanting a masters degree for awhile, but instead of going straight into that I am considering doing an associates in genealogy this year (even though I have a BSc in History already).

So these are some of my thoughts about goals this year. I think I'll wait a little more before making the list of goals to hold myself accountable to.

Report on my 2013 genealogy goals

In 2013 I had some great successes. I also struggled a little in setting realistic goals, that I would follow-through on. If this was a test, I'd have a B+ for last year's genealogy goals. Unless you accept extra credit... 

Prior updates:
My 2013 goals update: Q3
My 2013 goals update: Q2
My 2013 Genealogy Resolutions and Goals
Personal Tree Research: A
Find 10 or more end-of-line extensions
  1. Frederick Bewig (emigration 1853) ancestors through ~1678
  2. Henrietta Ehlers (emigration 1853) ancestors through ~1748
  3. Johannes Schneider (b.1754) ancestors through ~1610
  4. Christina Adler (daughter emigrated pre-1849) ancestors through ~1660
  5. Mary Reinhard (emigration pre-1854) ancestors through ~1703
  6. Margaret Hahn (emigration pre-1845) ancestors through ~1726
  7. Frank Dunkes (emigration pre-1851) ancestors through ~1692
  8. Maria Dorothea Schimpf (b.1781) ancestors through ~1703
  9. Agnes Liebbard (b.1755) ancestors through ~1700
  10. Barbara Maerkl (b.1766) ancestors through ~1700
  11.  Franz Xaver Doebl (b.~1767) ancestors through ~[in progress]
Personal Tree Organization and Sharing: D-
  1. 35% Complete Rosetta Stone Spanish
    This goal is moving into 2014. Now that I've got some Hispanic in my family tree, I need to take learning a language more seriously. Pray for me.
  2. 46% Transcribe or help share 200 items (family letters, documents etc.)
    My gauge for this goal is the number of stories I've uploaded to FamilySearch Stories.
  3. 100% Share photos and other media on FamilySearch Family Tree
    Photos: 1374
    Documents: 171
Career and Education: A
  1. Attend RootsTech 
  2. Teach a family history Sunday School 
  3. Help provide feedback and stay involved in social media 
  4. Continue as usual with work 
Thanks to my genealogy blogging friend Randy Seaver for his example of giving grades to annual genealogy goals. You can see one of his similar posts here: Assessing My 2012 Genealogy Goals and Objectives