Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DNA Bargains

DNA Sales for National DNA DAY and Mother's Day.

Family Tree DNA.
   All DNA test are on sale.
   Sale ends on April 27 at 11:59pm CST 

Ancestry DNA.
   DNA test kit is on sale for $79 (regularly $99)
   Sale ends on April 26 at 11:59 ET.

23 and Me. 
   Basic Ancestry kit is 20% off at $79 with free shipping through Amazon Prime.
   (This kit can be ordered through both sites.)
   The Health and Ancestry kit is now $179.
   Sale ends May 14. (Mother's Day). 

DNA testing is the gift that keeps on giving. As more people are tested, the database grows everyday. I have found so many matches in the last few months. One word of advice - I treat every match as a clue and confirm each one with additional research.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I wonder how my grandmother felt when she first saw the Statue of Liberty

I have never been hit so hard as I was in the second episode of Who Do You Think You Are. I know from years of research that there are times when genealogy can hit a nerve and you feel guilt or sadness or fear. But on Sunday I really understood this.

My mother would tell me stories about how much fear my grandmother lived with during World War I. My mom would have been about 12 years old when this happened. People would come to my grandmother's house to check on her. I thought this was rather strange, but I never saw it as something that would scare a person. 

Then as I watched Julie Bowen research her great grandfather on WDYTYA it started to make sense. And the more I learned the more upset I became until finally I became extremely angry. I was so upset that someone could do this to my grandmother. I never met her but from hearing my mom talk about Grandma Gussie I felt like I knew her and I have always felt close to her. It is still hard to describe the emotions I feel about this time in her life. And then I think about what my mom must have gone thru being only 12 years old. My mom was extremely close to her mother.
It was 100 years ago. 1917. World War I. The year the United States decided to join the war. 

My grandmother, Augusta Friedricks, came to America at the age of 5 with her parents. She was born in Germany. She eventually became a citizen when her father was naturalized. She married and created a home for her husband and children. She worked as a seamstress. Then World War I broke out in Europe and her life must have completely changed.

I say "must have completely changed" because I wasn't there. I only heard the stories, but after Sunday night I can now understand the HELL she must have gone through. 

Julie Bowen discovered during her family research that her great grandfather, Charles Fry was associated with an organization called the American Protective League. These were ordinary American citizens who kept tabs on anyone in the United States who was born in Germany. My grandmother came from Prussia and this made her a possible enemy alien, a German radical. It appears that as a German born American she would have had to register during the war.

This group of German born citizens were told where the could live and work. They were spied on by fellow co-workers. Their bank accounts were inspected. Phones were tapped. In the case of Grandma Gussie, men came to her house many times and interrogated her. I remember my mom telling me how terrified she was by this. And many were placed in camps where they lived until the end of the war. In 1919 after the war around 10,000 aliens were released from these camps. 

The citizens who belonged to this group thought they were doing their part to protect America. I suppose you could buy into this if you never knew of a grandparent who was subjected to this horrible treatment. I find it hard to believe that this could happen in this country. Or do I?

I wonder how my grandmother and her parents felt when they saw the Statue of Liberty for the very first time.  


Saturday, March 11, 2017

History Lesson on WDYTYA

I don't know what to say about the first episode of the new season of Who Do You Think You Are. It was a great history lesson and I am sure Courteney Cox learned a lot about her family. I am not sure I learned anything about English genealogy research from this episode as it relates to my family. Even though my DNA is almost 50% English I have yet to find a king or queen. 

It took me a while to figure out what kind of genealogical research skills apply to this episode. I guess I am not used to jumping from Alabama to medieval England in an hour. 

However, one thing was pointed out - where your ancestors landed in the new world is a clue as to who they were and what they wanted. Those who landed in New England were looking for religious freedom. Those who landed in Virginia were looking for land and wealth. The makes sense on a very simple scale. I am sure there are variations. Indentured servants for one. They came to the middle colonies to serve those who came to the colonies to attain wealth. 

But to get back to Courteney Cox, her family history brings up one important aspect of family research. You need to know the history that surrounded your family. What was happening that might have influenced your family. It could be anything. Weather, politics, war, to name a few. 

Courteney Cox needed to know the politics in her family to understand where to look for records that would affect her family. Fortunately for her, Ancestry did it for her. Now this is not a put-down. This is advanced genealogy. And this is what we all strive for.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I got my favorite fuzzy throw and camped out on the couch for an afternoon of Who Do You Think You Are. The temperature was in the upper 50 range so I opened the front door and windows to let some fresh air into my house. I had my clipboard ready for notes. Sean Hayes was the first guest and I watched the next 3 episodes as a novice. 

I decided to watch with my mother's family in mind since this is the family of brick walls and covered tracks. (My father's family practically smacks you in the face with the information you are looking for. They wrote the book on serendipity.

This is what I, the novice, learned from these past 4 episodes:
*Start with what you know about your family. Check with family members for anything you don't know about.
*Go to something called Ancestry.com. Search. Find family.
*Hire a genealogist, historian or archivist to research you family.
*Travel to another city or fly to Europe for further research. (Note: all documents will be translated.)
*Pretty easy. I can do this. No problem.

I do believe that the earliest episodes were more basic. It is possible that WDYTYA has grown from novice to intermediate to advanced in order to maintain its audience. So if you are totally confused by the information in this season's opening, I would recommend that you go back  and view some of the earlier seasons

What did I learn as a "novice"? I have overlooked immigration records for my mother's family and that is a big mistake on my part. It could be the key to breaking down those brick walls. I did get this pounded into my head from watching the Sean Hayes episode. This is now #1 on my To Do List and it is getting more exciting every day (more about this later).

I think if I were indeed a novice watching this season I would have been discouraged. The things I found missing were education. Online tutorials. genealogy societies. Genealogy conferences. There is nothing that tells viewers how to do the research themselves. I would suggest that WDYTYA needs to include a statement at the end of each episode that tells viewers how to find local genealogical societies. 

Don't get me wrong, I love Who Do You Think You Are. I look forward to each new season. I just don't want viewers to think it is all about huge foreboding repositories. It is about people. The people who shaped out lives.  


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Through The Eyes of a Novice

It would appear that Queen Victoria is sharing the television line up on Sunday with another English monarch. If you cannot record tv programs for later viewing (like me) you will have to figure out how to watch Who Do You Think You Are and Victoria on Masterpiece tomorrow night. (And let's not forget Finding Jesus and Hamilton's America. I'm not even going to go there.) I might have to call Time Warner or Spectrum or who ever is controlling the media at my house.

Those of us who have been faithfully watching Victoria on Masterpiece do not want to miss the Finale of the First Season. She will be exposing her dirty laundry on your local PBS station from 9-10:30pm and later from 12-1:30am. This means she will be overlapping a former English monarch for a half hour no matter when you watch. 

Who Do You Think You Are will be slaying an English monarch on TLC who happens to be an ancestor of Couteney Cox and a predecessor of Miss Vicky from 10-11pm and again from 1:06-2:06am. Confusing? Yes. Impossible? No. Unless you fall asleep! 

Tomorrow I will be setting aside my WDYTYA Bingo Card and all of my years of genealogy knowledge. Instead of laughing at the squares on the cards and rolling my eyes at the instant information I will be watching the new episode with the eyes and mind of a complete novice. This won't be easy. I will have to completely shut down the sarcastic side of my brain.

The reason I am doing this is because I am participating in Thomas McEntee's  Genealogy Do-Over. I have completely purged my ancestor files with some necessary exceptions and I am starting over.  I know it sounds strange but so far I have made some amazing discoveries. It became apparent early in the game that my records were more of a family landfill and I brought home a lot of conference leftovers. 

So I will sit down tomorrow night with my bowl of popcorn and watch Courteney Cox discover her family. I hope to learn a few new ideas; maybe take a new look at a record; discover something I have always overlooked. Who knows? This year in genealogy is the year of renewal. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Family tree or family landfill?

The genealogy do-over has showed me how I need to go back and take another look at my research. How much garbage have I allowed to be dumped into my family landfill (as opposed to my family tree)? I have spent a few days trying to figure out how this happened. My conclusion: lack of a research plan.

We have all done it. You are sitting at your computer after paying all of your bills when you think "ancestry"! So you throw yourself into search mode and flit from one thing to another. Be honest. We have all done this. If you never been guilty of doing this, I applaud you, but I doubt my hands will be sore from clapping.

I found so many little pieces of paper with notes. And then lets not forget the duplicate records. I have to admit that I did find a few things I had over looked. I have a new clue for my maternal great grandmother that needs my attention and I am so tempted right now to just start a search on Ancestry. But I am not going to fall into that rabbit hole. I have resolved to create a research plan! 

(Oh, by the way, you have probably figured out by now that I love actual paper filing systems. It is just me. I shop at Office Max like most people shop at Dillard's.

All of my individual family files are now purged, but in cleaning out my office I discovered another problem -- that doggy bag of genealogy conference leftovers. You know, all of that stuff that you bring home from a conference. It is worse than my family files. I have picked up a lot of it in the exhibit halls. Some of it was included in my conference packets. Maps. Restaurants. Area attractions. Lineage societies. Local societies. Handouts for everything you can possibly imagine. It needs to go, so I will be back in a couple of days to let you know how that worked for me. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Where Have All The Genealogists Gone?

During 2016 I noticed that genealogy just wasn't there for me anymore. At first I attributed it to burnout from being involved in to many activities. So I slowly cut back on everything I was doing, but it still just wasn't restoring my motivation. So I thought well eventually after 60 years of research you just reach your limit and it is time to stop. That was when I decided that this is the reason so many genealogy groups are losing members. They just wear out!!

And then Thomas MacEntee appeared with the solution. A Genealogy Do-Over. I am not sure where I first learned about this idea but it really got my attention. And apparently it got the attention of many others too. My Facebook page is now filled with more genealogy posts than political rants. (A rather unexpected benefit.)

The concept of this year long project is to completely purge your files and start from scratch. Now you don't throw all those notes away. No. You pack them up in boxes and totally clean up your research. Then you put them in the back of the closet and stack other boxes on top of them so it will be way too labor intensive to get to them. I chose Christmas boxes that I will not need until December.

What a great feeling! Have you ever downsized. I did; when my husband died. Mainly because there was only one person living in my house now and I really didn't need a lot of stuff. I mean how many coffee cups can I use in a week. How many frying pans? Huge bowls? I don't think so.

As I went thru my files (by the way I love paper, so they were real files with folders) I found so much garbage and duplicates. Plus I found stuff I had no idea where it came from. I am sure this came from the advent of genealogy by computer. I began to realize what was bogging me down. All this paper had become overwhelming and pretty much zapped my genealogy motivation. I had been trying to prove to several lineage societies but I was working with a disorganized mess. 

I am now beginning to wonder if this is something that is happening to most genealogists and that is why they are disappearing. They are losing interest in this exciting hobby. We have been on overload because of all the information out there. It is hard to focus and you just bounce from one thing to another. 

If you want to reboot your research I would highly recommend that you check out this website http://www.geneabloggers.com/genealogy-returns-2017/

It will tell you how to get started, buy the workbook and connect with others who are enjoying this year long adventure. Don't worry if you are a couple of months behind. I started in January and in a few days was hit with the tragic loss of a newborn grandson. That pretty much knocked me out for over a month. But I am back at it now and making adjustments in the program in order to catch up with everyone.

In my next post I will talk about a fun idea I am going to do with Who Do You Think You Are. The new season starts on March 5 and I have decided to approach it with the mindset of a beginning genealogist.

Oh! I Would Love to Live in That Old House. Really?

We've all done it. Bought a ticket to that Historic Home Tour and traveled back in time. We step onto the floor of that beautiful porch and imagine ourselves sitting in that magnificent wicker rocker with a cup of tea, contemplating the day before us. 

As we drift back in time we imagine how romantic our lives would be. We each see ourselves as we float up the stairs, don our beautiful Victorian gowns, arrange our hair in a typically perfect pouf with flowers expertly placed in all the right places. Then we carefully place a charming bonnet on our perfectly charming hair, tie the ribbon in a perfectly charming bow and pose on our perfectly charming front porch as we wait for Mr. Right. 

POOF. Mr. Wright appears as our host for the home tour. He is the owner of the home and he is very proud of his restoration projects.  He is not what we expected. He does not look like Christopher Reeves, but then, we don't look like Jane Seymour and unfortunately we are not Somewhere in Time. We are back in 2017. In a house that has been lovingly restored.

We are in a home that was built around 100 -175 years ago. It was created as a place where a family could comfortably live. More than likely a large family. It needed a few parlors, a kitchen, a summer kitchen, bedrooms and unless you had indoor plumbing, an outhouse somewhere in the back yard. It served a purpose; it was not a museum. It was a home where families were born and died. Where ownership exchanged hands. 

That home on the river that was always known as the Carter home became the Perkins home. And later on, the Brown's home and then the house on the hill that became an eyesore and everyone complained about. But then one day Mr. Wright came along and fell in love with the house. He wanted to restore it to its original beauty.

And now we are waiting patiently to  admire Mr. Wright's home. He shows us all the ways he and his wife have restored this home. Authentic this, that and the next thing. If he had his way there would be no electricity. Seriously? And how does your wife feel about that? No electricity, you say? The first thing that comes to my mind is washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator, air conditioning, TV, hair dryer, computer, microwave. Ouch! 

But the next thing that comes to mind is ---this was at one time someone's home. It was a place where the bride was carried across the threshold. Children were born and loved and hugged and made to feel so special. Mothers gave birth and cried for children that died. Fathers were strong and held the family together.

The circle of life continued. Modern improvements were made. Indoor plumbing! Electricity. Telephones, remember those party lines. Radio was so awesome. Soap operas. Measles. Polio. Cable TV. Computers. Cell phones.

On June 17, 2017, in Waterville, Ohio, you will have a chance to go back in time and dream. See how your ancestors might have lived. Enjoy the beauty of a beautifully restored Victorian home. Maybe see a ghost or two peeking at you from behind a door. Use your imagination!

Waterville, Ohio, is located on the Maumee River south of Toledo. The Historic Homes of Waterville tour will be from 10am - 4pm on Saturday, 17 June 2017. More information will be published on the Waterville Historical Society website during the next few months http://www.watervillehistory.org/ 

Hope to see you there. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What if . . . . . . .?

This past week my family had to deal with a lot of "what ifs". My grandson came into this world with his angel wings on January 5. Each of us have had moments when we asked ourselves, each other and the hospital staff "what if we/I had done this or that"? The answer was always the same -- It wouldn't have changed things. Really?

I got to thinking about this "text book" answer that I assume is supposed to make you feel better and, of course, the genealogy lobe of my brain took over. Not only could I see that it might not really be true, but it gave me a whole new research concept.

What If. . . . . . . . . .? 

As I sat all alone in my living room I thought about what had just happened and I slowly realized that there was a time when the end result of pregnancy was not a given. Mothers died. Babies died. Mothers appeared and disappeared in the census records. Other women took their place and then they were gone. Widowers married sister-in-laws and widows just to be able to to maintain the household and take care of the surviving children. Yes, surviving! Birth was not a free ticket to adulthood.

And then it dawned on me. What if my sister would not have been stillborn. I am sure my life would have been a lot different. I would not be an only child. I would have nieces and nephews. Or maybe I wouldn't even be here at all.

What if my grandmother would not have immigrated from Germany. None of us would be here. What if they would not have left Russia? Let's not go there.

What if my grandmother would not have fallen out of the hayloft, suffered a miscarriage and died that afternoon? My dad might have stayed in Clermont County and never would have met my mom. 

What if. . . . . . .?

So how does this become a genealogy tool? Well! Let's think about those brick walls. What if there was a "what if"? What if this had not happened where would my ancestor be? What if something happened that created a fork in the road? Maybe you took the wrong fork in your research. Maybe you didn't know there was another fork. 

What if there was a war? What if your ancestor was looking for religious freedom? What if there was no way across that mountain? What if there was gold in California? What if your ancestor killed someone and headed west to disappear? What if your ancestor had to return to the Old Country to take care of family members? What if your ancestor just went on vacation for a few years!?

"What ifs" create detours in genealogy research. Maybe you missed that right turn. Think about what was going on that might have created a "what if". Look at your genealogy problem from a different angle.

Unfortunately  in our case we have already experienced the "what if" and no amount of wishful thinking will bring our littlest angel back. The "what ifs" have already happened and that chapter in our family tree has been written.