03 December 2012

DNA Testing for my Family History

I am using a new tool for genealogy - DNA testing! It can show ethnic origins, confirm relationships (or prove that two people cannot be related), and put family historians in contact with others who share the same ancestry.

My 91-year-old uncle agreed to be tested, so I took advantage of the sale at Family Tree DNA, an established, respected company recommended by genealogists who are experts in this field. Family Tree DNA will match my uncle's test results against their database (the largest of its kind in the world) and let me contact anyone whose results show that they are somehow related to us. The database is growing rapidly as more people are tested, so I log in regularly to check for new matches.

I started by ordering the FamilyFinder test, which uses autosomal DNA inherited from mother, father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. This has the potential to identify descendants of any ancestral lines within about the last six generations. Those descendants may have vital information, or photographs or letters from my direct ancestors.

Part of a document held by Joe Hudson
I am a great believer in researching all siblings. Some of my most exciting discoveries were a direct result of contacting distant cousins. The image above shows part of a family document held by Joe HUDSON. It confirmed that a baptism I'd found was for the right William HUDSON. (The baptism register for Bossall, North Yorkshire, gave a birth date and named the child's maternal grandparents!) Joe also sent me a copy of a letter written in 1879 by my great-great-grandfather.

The FamilyFinder autosomal DNA test is available to men and women, so I could have been tested myself. However it made more sense to test my uncle (my late father's only surviving sibling) because I am currently more interested in my father's ancestors than my mother's. The autosomal test may help me to confirm and expand the paper trail for various families including BUTLER, CAMPBELL, GIBLETT, HARLEY, NICHOLSON, PORTER and SHEPPARD (on the WEBSTER side) and AGAR, ASHTON, BARBER, BIRKS, CLARK, HUGILL, MATTHEW and PEACOCK (on the HUDSON side).

Our FamilyFinder test results arrived just before Christmas. My budget for genealogy is limited, so I am hoping that interested relatives will contribute a small sum towards the cost of ordering two additional tests. A mitochondrial DNA test could get us back beyond Mary PEACOCK nee HUGILL (born about 1813); and a Y-DNA test might help to confirm the story that our WEBSTER family in Surrey and Middlesex originally came from Aberdeen in Scotland.

If you want to know more about using DNA for genealogy, I recommend the series of four easy-to-read articles by CeCe Moore. The summary in part 4 explains how to decide which DNA test is right for you.

Postscript no.1:  Kerry Farmer has just reminded me of two important points that I forgot (thanks, Kerry!)  'Another good reason for testing your uncle's DNA is that it gets you a generation further back to looking for ancestors in common. And Family Tree DNA will hold DNA samples for 25 years, so your uncle's DNA will still be available for testing should a subsequent test become available in the future.'

Postscript no.2:  I have started contacting people who match with autosomal DNA, and I send them a list of all names (except living people), not just a pedigree chart - because the name they will recognise may not be my direct ancestor. As Gedmatch points out, "siblings (and descendants of siblings) of one family often turn up as 'spouses' (with no recorded ancestors) in another family." There is a diagram that illustrates this clearly.

Postscript no.3:  For good examples of what DNA tests do (and do not) tell you, see Combining Tools - Autosomal Plus Y-DNA, mtDNA and the X Chromosome.

13 July 2012

J is for Java

This week's 'Family History Through the Alphabet' challenge focuses on the letter 'J'.

J is for... Java

Monumental Inscriptions from Selected European Graves in Burial Grounds in Java 1700-1939, by Rhonda Kerr, has inscriptions in European languages other than Dutch. Dutch inscriptions are included only if the person was born outside Java or Holland.

This information is from my book Specialist Indexes in Australia: a Genealogist's Guide.

There is another 'J is for...' post in my Queensland Genealogy blog. More tips for family history are in my other articles in this A-Z series. If the information and advice is useful, have a look at this page.

04 July 2012

F is for Fires

Here is my contribution to 'F' in the 'Family History Through the Alphabet' series.

F is for... Fires.
  • Fires are usually reported in newspapers. For Australia, start by checking the National Library's digitised newspapers on Trove. Similar sites exist for other countries. Some of the overseas pay-to-view sites can be used free of charge at State Libraries, local Council libraries or family history society libraries.

  • A fire often resulted in financial difficulty for the business or individuals involved. There may be references to insolvency in newspapers or Government Gazettes, but the best information for family history purposes would be in insolvency files held by State Government archives.

  • The Australasian Insurance and Banking Record Fire Index 1886-1921 (at the John Oxley Library, Brisbane, Queensland) gives town, year, brief details of the fire, and the volume, year and page reference for the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record.

  • State Archives in Queensland, and presumably elsewhere, hold files for 'fire inquests', which are indexed by the name of the town. These files are about enquiries into fires that caused damage to a home, business, woolshed, barn, haystack etc. Hotels seem to have been particularly at risk. Fire inquest files usually give the place, date and supposed cause of the fire; details of damage (and injuries, if any); names of any suspected persons; and witness statements about the circumstances of the fire. Perhaps your ancestor was a neighbour or bystander who gave evidence at the enquiry!

  • The book Brisbane on Fire: a History of Firefighting 1860-1925 is a hardcover publication of 239 pages, with an index, bibliography, photographs and appendices. At a Lifeline Bookfest I bought a copy signed by the author (Ken Capell). I no longer need it, so I am willing to sell it and donate the proceeds to charity.

You will find more tips for family history in my other articles in this series. If the information and advice is useful, have a look at this page.

01 July 2012

B is for Birth Place

Continuing with the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge...

B is for Birth Place.

Sources from which I have discovered an exact place of birth (a town or parish) include:
  1. census records
  2. names of family houses or farms
  3. death certificates
  4. marriage certificates in Queensland, NSW or Victoria
  5. birth certificates of the subject's children born in Queensland, NSW or Victoria
  6. hospital admission registers
  7. benevolent asylum records
  8. mental asylum records
  9. military service records
  10. inquest files
  11. documents in Supreme Court probate files (see 10 Tips for Wills, Intestacies and Probate).
  12. newspaper notices (marriage, death, obituary etc.)
  13. newsletters / magazines published by clubs, churches, societies or occupational groups
  14. headstones
  15. memorial plaques in churches
  16. cemetery burial records
  17. church registers of baptism, marriage and burial
  18. Police Gazettes
  19. Police Station and Police Department records
  20. naturalisation records
  21. registers of teachers
  22. police staff files
  23. files on dentists who had difficulty being recognised by the Board
  24. immigration records (especially 20th century)
  25. personal family papers, diaries, letters, bibles etc
  26. any of the above records for the subject's brothers or sisters.

These are just the sources that I can think of right now. Some of these sources are online at FindMyPast (that link goes to a full list of their record sets worldwide).

Where else have you found a reference to the exact town or parish in which a person was born?

You will find more tips for family history in my other articles in this series. If the information and advice is useful, have a look at this page.

A is for Asylums, Arndell Index and Ashton

I'm sure Alona will forgive me for being late in joining the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.

A is for...
  • Asylums.  If someone in your family tree 'vanished', look in mental asylum records. Causes of depression and other forms of mental illness included childbirth, epilepsy, head injury, alcohol, syphilis, congenital defect, jealousy, bereavement and 'domestic troubles'. Many patients (and their relatives) had been in asylums in other States and/or other countries. My Web site lists thousands of names from my indexes to mental asylum records. Start by reading the article about asylum case books.

  • Arndell Index.  Originally on 48,000 cards, this index was compiled mainly from early parish registers for the Hawkesbury region of New South Wales, Australia. It is thought to contain complete indexes (1811-1971) for St. Matthew's, Windsor; St. John's, Wilberforce; St. James's, Pitt Town; St. Peter's, Richmond; and the Presbyterian Church, Ebenezer. The index is held by the Society of Australian Genealogists. (This information is from the book Specialist Indexes in Australia: a Genealogist's Guide, which is described on my Web site.)

  • ASHTON.  Catherine ('Kitty') ASHTON of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, England, married Peter MATTHEW or MATHEW of Crambe, North Yorkshire, in 1803. Census records imply that Kitty was born about 1777 at Swinton, Yorkshire. Was she related to James ASHTON and Thomas ASHTON who witnessed marriages at Kirby Misperton 1804-1807? If you are researching ASHTON of Swinton or Kirby Misperton, please contact me.

You may find some useful tips in my other articles in this series.

12 March 2012

Recommended Reading etc. (The Reader GeneaMeme)

I have been meaning to write about books that I recommend for family history, so when Jill (Geniaus) invited us all to take part in The Reader GeneaMeme, I decided to join in.
  1. Have you written any books? Yes - several editions of Tips for Queensland Research and also Specialist Indexes in Australia: a Genealogist's Guide (described on my Web site). In the 1980s I wrote a history of my Webster family. It was very plain - just typed, photocopied, bound by hand and distributed to relatives - but it had full source citations, an index and a bibliography.

  2. Have you published any books? As above, plus many indexes to Archives sources (also described on my Web site).

  3. Can you recommend an inspiring biography? Weevils in the Flour: an Oral Record of the 1930s Depression in Australia, by Wendy Lowenstein, is a fascinating and inspiring collection of people's memories. This should be on every family historian's must-read list.

  4. Do you keep a reading log? If yes, in what format? I had a notebook where I listed every book I read, but I rarely use it now. I do have a database where I keep track of genealogy books and CDs that I buy (so I don't double up).

  5. Are you a buyer or a borrower of books? I buy genealogy reference books that I need to consult frequently, but otherwise I borrow from a library. Sometimes I persuade my local library to buy a book that I can't afford, or I borrow it via interlibrary loan or buy a pre-loved copy.

  6. Where do you get reading recommendations? Family and friends; genealogy magazines; blogs; reviews and flyers in Qld FHS journals; librarian's suggestions; bookshop signs ('If you like Author.A you may also like Author.B').

  7. What is the one genealogy reference book you can't do without? There are two: Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber, and Google Your Family Tree by Daniel M. Lynch. I am looking forward to the second edition of Dan's book.

  8. Do you hoard books or do you discard them when you have finished? I hoard books that I really enjoyed, and give the others to a charity shop.

  9. How many books are in your genealogy library? Over four hundred.

  10. What's your favourite genealogy magazine or journal? For Australia: 'Inside History' magazine. For the UK: 'Who Do You Think You Are' magazine.

  11. Where are the bookshelves in your house? I have a 6'x6' pine bookcase in the study, a small one in my bedroom, and in the lounge and dining room I have two hand crafted beefwood bookcases that my father made from a tree on the grazing property where we lived.

  12. Do you read e-books? How? I have read a few PDF e-books on my computer.

  13. How many library cards do you have? Brisbane City Council libraries, State Library of Queensland and National Library of Australia, plus family history societies. (Check whether you have free access to Findmypast, Ancestry, Gale newspapers etc at your local Council library.)

  14. What was the last genealogy title you read? Sassy Jane's Guide to Organizing Your Genealogical Research Using Archival Principles by Nancy E. Loe, which I recommend. It has chapters on 'Top ten organizing ideas you can borrow from archivists', 'Controlled vocabulary', 'Organizing digital files', 'Managing paper files' and 'Citing records'. I downloaded it as a 40-page PDF e-book for just $5.

  15. What is your favourite bookshop? The Book Cafe, Garden City Shopping Centre, Upper Mount Gravatt, Brisbane.

  16. Do you have a traditional printed encyclopaedia in your house? Yes. It belonged to my parents. It's from the 1960s, but it often provides an answer faster than an online search would.

  17. Who are the authors in your family tree and what have they written? Best known = The Second Fleet: Britain's grim convict armada of 1790 by Michael Flynn, my sixth cousin (we are descendants of James Porter and his wife Catherine Harley). Most unusual = books on art and mathematics (combined!) by my fourth cousin Mike Field (our connection is through James Webster and Mary Giblett).

  18. Who is your favourite author? (Just one? Impossible!) For genealogy (in addition to those mentioned above): Michael Gandy, Elizabeth Shown Mills and Colin D. Rogers. For recreational reading: Douglas Adams, Lillian Beckwith, Jon Cleary, Jeffery Deaver, Martha Grimes, Ngaio Marsh.

  19. Where do you buy books? I buy lots of history, genealogy, reference and fiction books at the LifeLine Bookfest. I also buy direct from societies and Archives, and (if local businesses do not stock the title I want) from Gould Genealogy and History and The Book Depository.

  20. Can you nominate a must-read fiction title? The Hills is Lonely (Lillian Beckwith).

  21. How many books are in your personal library? About six hundred, plus genealogy books, but my personal collection needs to be culled because I have too many books stored in boxes.

  22. What is your dictionary of choice? Concise Oxford Dictionary.

  23. Where do you read? In my lounge, on the patio in the sun, and on planes.

  24. What was your favourite childhood book? Green Grass of Wyoming (Mary O'Hara).

  25. Do you have anything else to say about books and reading? (1) If you write a book, remember to send Legal Deposit copies. A friend of mine didn't, and he received a letter of demand. (2) A child who loves reading can look forward to a lifetime of never being bored.
My Web site has a select list of books that I recommend for family history.

08 January 2012

Paid Online Genealogy Tools (52 weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 2)

In 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, this year's series of weekly blogging prompts by Amy Coffin, we are invited to make others aware of genealogy resources, share our tips on their use, and show the providers that we appreciate them.

Week 2 - Paid Online Genealogy Tools.  Which paid genealogy tool do you appreciate the most? What special features put it at the top of your list? How can it help others with their genealogy research?

Last week's LostCousins newsletter referred to a 7-page article in which four family historians compared the four main subscription sites. Three of the four historians said that overall they preferred FindMyPast. I agree - partly because FindMyPast's transcriptions and indexes are the most accurate, and partly because my research is mainly in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

I suspect that many posts this week will be about the 'Big Four', so instead of dwelling on FindMyPast I want to highlight the smaller LostCousins. Its claim to fame is that it is the only web site that is virtually 100% accurate in identifying people who share the same ancestors. You do not waste time corresponding with people who are not related to you! The automated system also keeps your data hidden.

To use LostCousins you need to find your relatives in the census for England & Wales 1841, 1881 or 1911; Scotland 1881; United States 1880 (and USA 1940 has been added since I wrote this post); Canada 1881; or Ireland 1911. Then you enter the source/page details at LostCousins. Read the instructions carefully (see 'Information - Read this first') before gathering and entering data, as requirements for each census are different. If you prepare well, entering the data is a lot quicker. Be sure to include brothers and sisters of your direct ancestors, because it is their descendants who are the cousins you want to contact.

After entering your relatives' census references, click 'Search', and the system checks whether anyone else has already entered identical data. Remember to log in periodically, go to your 'My Ancestors' page and repeat the search.

I recommend subscribing to the free email newsletter, which is packed with useful information.

Although you can join LostCousins and enter data free of charge, I choose to pay a small annual subscription (currently just ten pounds) so that there are no delays in making contact when the system identifies my 'new relatives'.

The more people who enter census data for direct ancestors and their siblings, the greater the chances of finding our 'lost cousins'. Maybe you are my distant relative! I'm waiting to find you - so please... start using LostCousins today!
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(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/paid-online-genealogy-tools-52-weeks-of.html.)

Blogs (52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 1)

In 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, this year's series of weekly blogging prompts by Amy Coffin, we are invited to make others aware of genealogy resources, share our tips on their use, and show the providers that we appreciate them.

Week 1 - Blogs.  Blogging is a great way for genealogists to share information with family members, potential cousins and each other. For which blog are you most thankful? What is special about the blog and why should others read it?

For blogs, the word 'abundant' is an understatement. The Genealogy Blog Roll lists over 2,000 genealogy blogs, with more being added each week. In addition to genealogy blogs, I also look for those about the history of places, occupations, health, education, religion, clothing, food and so on. To understand our ancestors, we need to study them in the context of local, national and world history.

I follow many of the blogs recommended by others this week, but I want to highlight two that receive less attention than they deserve.

Sassy Jane Genealogy:

Practical advice from Nancy Loe, a family historian who is also a librarian and archivist, includes 'Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Preserve Your Family Papers', 'Step Away from the Laminator!' and 'Planning a Genealogical Research Trip'. Nancy's e-book, Sassy Jane’s Guide to Organizing Your Genealogical Research Using Archival Principles, is also very helpful.

London Roots Research:

Rosemary Morgan shares information and tips on research in the Greater London area in England. My favourite posts in London Roots Research include 'London Parish Records Uncovered' (parts 1 & 2), 'A Place in the Sun - using Fire Insurance Records for London Genealogy Research', 'New FamilySearch - Some Tips for UK Genealogists' and 'Spotlight On: The Parish of St George The Martyr, Southwark'.

I learn so much by reading blogs, and I appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing them. On a personal note, I would also like to thank Pauleen Cass for mentioning my blogs in her post Blogs to Inspire.
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This is my contribution to 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Week 1. Each week's topic will be listed on Geneabloggers.