National DNA Day is April 25 (but being celebrated on Friday, April 24). I admit that my technical knowledge of DNA is very limited, so I’ll leave the scientific discussions to those more qualified. Instead I will tell you a personal story concerning DNA and genealogy. It began when I read a blog article by a genealogist who often writes on the topic of DNA. I like her DNA articles because they are informative but not too scientific for a lay people to understand. In one post she lamented that she kept putting off the DNA testing of a cousin, who then unfortunately died prematurely before a DNA test was administered. Because the cousin was childless, the genetic heritage died with her.
This story inspired me to order DNA kits for my uncle, who was the last of my mother’s siblings and the last male of her family. None of my mother’s brothers had children, so the Y-DNA (passed only from fathers to sons) would be lost when my Uncle Jimmy died. Fortunately, he was interested and willing to take the tests. I ordered two kits, an autosomal and a Y-DNA. I visited him soon after receiving the kits, and brought them along with me. When I arrived I excitedly mentioned that I had brought them along, and that we could take the samples, but he replied, “Next time you come.” I was very disappointed, but let it go. During the rest of the visit he recited all the usual family stories and we had a pleasant visit. (I feel the need to mention that I recorded his family tales over the years, and they form a significant piece of family history.) As I was leaving, I thought about that blog article and how procrastination led to the other genealogist’s missed opportunity. It gave me the courage to try again. I said, “Jimmy, I have the tests with me. If you don’t take them now, I’ll have to bring them back again. Let’s get it over with.” He thought for a moment and then agreed, and in a matter of minutes all the tests were completed and ready to be mailed back. The next day I got a phone call from my brother informing me that my uncle had suddenly died that morning. It seemed incredibly eerie that I had his DNA in envelopes sitting on top of my piano waiting to be mailed.
About a month or two later I received the test results. It was a melancholy moment because I didn’t have my uncle to share the results with. I admit that the tests have not led to any great genealogical discoveries, but maybe one day they will. This being National DNA Day I wanted to share my DNA story, and the thought that we should not put off preserving family stories, memories, or DNA, because we never know what tomorrow brings. If you would like to learn more about DNA testing for family research, here are a few of links that can explain the details better than I:
If you are researching a Lutheran family in America, you might be interested in checking out the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940, added last week to Ancestry.com. The collection consists of an index and images of baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burial records from 2, 000 Evangelical Lutheran Churches throughout the country. Some of the churches of local interest are: Bethany Lutheran Church (72nd Street, Brooklyn), Zion Lutheran (Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn), Trinity Lutheran (46th Street, Brooklyn), and Our Savior’s (Manhattan). Keep in mind that only records housed at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives in Illinois are included. Many more Lutheran churches, especially still active ones, have retained their records and you will need to contact them directly for information.
Join us this Tuesday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. for a genealogy program about deeds. This program is free and open to all.
I learned from Laura DeGrazia, who spoke at our library last week, that Familysearch.org has recently added indexes to New York City vital records. You probably already know that for quite some time indexes to New York vital records are available at Italiangen.org, germangenealogygroup.com, Ancestry.com and stephenmorse.org. What makes the familysearch.org indexes a welcome addition is that they provide additional identifying information, such as parent names, and in the case of death certificates often the burial place. I can see this being useful not for just narrowing a search, but also in finding records on indirect relatives (For example, discovering sibling marriages using parent names) or just knowing where someone was buried without having to send for the certificate. However, what information is included in a record varies and there are occasional transcription mistakes (it isn’t always easy to interpret handwriting on some certificates). The indexes also give you the FHL film number with the link you can click on, which if you have a familysearch.org account makes ordering the microfilm easier. Here are the indexes that were added to familysearch.org on 20 March 2015:
New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909; 2,795,113 indexed records, no images
New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1866-1938; 1,740,063 indexed records, no images
New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949; 6,192,370 indexed records, no images,
Join us on Wednesday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. for the program Spanning the Great New York Abyss: Connecting Generations When No Vital Records Exist. Laura DeGrazia, genealogist and former editor of The Record (New York Biographical and Genealogical Society publication), will discuss the research strategies and alternative sources that will help locate and link your ancestors who lived in New York before 1880. This program is free and open to all.
With today being St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a checklist for those of you having trouble finding out what county in Ireland your ancestors were from. These are not the only records to check, but I think they are a very good place to start. Ádhmór ort! (Good luck to you!) Irish American Genealogy Checklist
HeritageQuest Online just sent me the following information: “Tomorrow morning, the switch to the new version of HeritageQuest Online will occur automatically. All existing authentication methods will remain in place and intact. When your patrons log-in to HeritageQuest Online, they’ll soon experience the brand new interface – powered by Ancestry! If they’ve used Ancestry in the past, this interface will have a similar look and feel. From the user-friendly home page to cool and helpful features such as new Research Aids and interactive Census Maps, it’s a whole new, refreshing experience…and it’s just the beginning. Even more improvements will be added in the coming months! “
For those of us who were unable to attend RootsTech 2015, we can view some of the sessions by going to the webpage http://www.rootstech.org/?lang=eng. The program videos are free and require no registration to watch.
Another tidbit of news is that new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? (the television show that explores the genealogy of celebrities) will be aired on TLC starting Sunday, March 8 at 10:00 p.m. The featured celebrities this season will be Julie Chen, Angie Harmon, Sean Hayes and Bill Paxton.
The Under-utilized Resources at the National Archives program scheduled for tomorrow evening (February 12) has been canceled by the speaker due to weather and travel concerns. We will try to reschedule the event at a later date.
If you discover that a relative’s cause of death was described as being an accident, you might want to check the newspapers to see if there was an article about the incident. New York newspapers back in the 19th and early 20th centuries seem to have reported such local news more often than today’s newspapers do, although I admit to having no statistics to back-up that claim. Of course the reason you should bother searching for a news story is because it could shed light on the incident or provide more information about the deceased. If searching by just the person’s name is unsuccessful, I suggest you examine the death certificate for more ideas on useful keywords for your search. That is because the certificate might give an exact location of death, nature of the accident, or the date of the incident and of course of the death. These facts might have been mentioned in an article, and if used as keywords can lead to successfully narrowing the search. Do keep in mind when searching newspaper databases, that you often need to be persistent and creative and try many different keyword combinations. I have attached an example of a successful search using Old Fulton Postcards for an article on a fatal drowning accident. Example