google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: March 2010

Creating a Quick, Easy and FREE Family History Book

A few weeks back, I blogged about creating a family history e-book, a digital book in a PDF format. This week we are going to explore a new feature at myheritage.com – A digital family history book.

First, if you are not familiar with My Heritage, then let me quickly introduce you to this unique website. They offer a portal where you can create your own family history website that enables families to meet, communicate, share and preserve their heritage. A basic subscription offers you the capability to create a family history tree up to 250 people, with a storage capacity of 250 MB enabling you to upload pictures. If you would like to go big, then subscribe to their Premium membership. For $4.38 a month (currently a 30% discount) billed annually, you can increase the size of your tree to 2500 people and 500 MB of storage, which are about 500 photos. This premium membership also offers you the new feature of the Timeline. If you would like to go grander, then try the Premium Plus membership, with unlimited tree size and storage capacity. For $9.95 a month, you will also have the Timeline feature and the Timebook feature. Two new options I have yet to explore. You can upload a gedcom file for a quick transfer of your tree to this site.

For the purposes of this post, I would like to focus on the Digital Family History Book.

If you are already a member of My Heritage, then you are a few simple clicks of the mouse away from creating a digital family history book in a couple of minutes delivered to your inbox. From there you are free to save it to your computer for printing or simply viewing in its digital format through acrobat. You can easily email to family members for sharing.

Your family history book at myheritage.com is beautiful digital book summarizing your tree, ancestor and descendants of any person in your family. Just tell it which person in your tree you wish to be the primary position and the book will be styled from that perspective. Your family book content may include all of the following, or you have the option of selecting only the content you wish to see in your book. The content includes photos and may include ancestors, descendants, direct relations, indirect relations, family trees, notes, sources, index of places, index of dates and an index of individuals.

Three Clicks to Creating a Book

1.Simply insert the name of the individual you wish to be the primary focus of the book
2. Check off the content you want included in the book from the list
3. Click 'generate book.'





           You can create as many different books as you like by changing the primary person and personalizing the contents of the book. Once created you can view the PDF from the website, want to change it, delete it and start again. Once you have created your family history book, My Heritage delivers it to your inbox for downloading.

The book is created in a PDF format; once acrobat opens, it to view you can print it or save it to your computer.

Although it is somewhat limiting in terms layout, and graphics, I still believe for the money, did I mention it’s FREE, this is a very nice, clean program to quickly and painlessly put together a family history book. Of course, in terms of printing, the capabilities are limited to your home printer, which may be quite satisfactory for some, but if you are looking for a more professional printed and bound book then you will be limited.
You however could take your pdf to a print shop or print on demand website and have it professionally bound and printed at a price, of course.

My Heritage is using a program called The Complete Genealogy Reporter, copyright 2010 by Nigel Bufton Software. If you want to increase your options then I encourage you to check out the full version of this software for generating this book with a long list of features not provided with the myheritage.com version. The full version of The Complete Genealogy Reporter can be purchased for $34.95, The Complete Genealogy Builder for $34.95 or as a bundle for $48.92.

However, for those of us looking to keep it simple and free then your Family History Book is just a few clicks away at myheritage.com.

Related Reading
How to Create A Family History E-book 

Monday Madness - Are We Overcoming the Genealogy Stereotype?

I would really like to see the stereotype of genealogists being crusty old farts with nothing better to do but look at dusty documents dismissed (since I consider myself neither old nor crusty). Tell a teenager that genealogy is about old documents, history, geography and old people and you will have turned them off completely. However, tell them genealogy is about unsolved mysteries, investigation, puzzles, foreign lands and dead people and you just might get a different response. Add in the element of the internet, and we may have a new audience.

There is something happening in my home, a shift of sorts. For the last 4 weeks, I have been sitting down to watch Who Do You Think You Are? Since there is rarely anything interesting on Friday evenings, and genealogy television trumps in my home, my dominance of the channel changer, on Friday nights for now remains unchallenged.

The executives at NBC would be happy to hear that they have a captured the attention of my 14-year-old daughter and my husband. Up until 4 weeks ago, the only TV show we uniformly sat down to watch together is LOST. When week 3 rolled around and my daughter was reminding me that WDYTYA? was starting in 15 minutes, I knew something was happening. I have quietly been sitting back and watching this shift in my household. My husband certainly will not plan his week around the show, but knowing we are sitting down to watch, he will join us and does enjoy the show.

Awhile, back I remember reading an article by Thomas at Geneabloggers about drawing in the younger set to genealogy. He remarked that the approach of the CSI shows, and how genealogy has many similar characteristics, could possibly be the angle that needs to be taken to draw in the younger generation to family history. I remember reading the article and agreeing completely.

Therefore, I have to wonder with my daughter’s interest in WDYTYA? perhaps that change is occurring -and by the way, she is a huge fan of the CSI shows.

Would she have found this show on her own if her mother had not been controlling the remote? If this show were up against shows that are more popular, would it hold its own? I doubt not. For now, it is doing very well in its Friday night time slot, and I believe offering up some family viewing that has been lacking lately in television.

However, I’m not assuming this change in my daughter is happening based purely on a passing interest in this recent TV show. She has shown some prior interest, particularly when it comes to tombstone hunting. I have two teenage daughters and they have both accompanied me to cemeteries, they love the mystery of looking for the tombstones (remember investigation, mystery and dead people). I believe this offers more evidence that an interest in genealogy, does lie beneath the surface.

A few weeks before the start of this show, I was discussing our family history book, and how many  booksI needed to order when it goes to print next month. I suggested that maybe I would purchase one for each of my daughters. My youngest was taken back, why would she want one of these books? - That along with the roll of her eyes convinced me she wasn’t about to take up my passion anytime soon.

A few weeks later the show started, and two weeks after that when I pulled out the book to proof read she picked it up. She sat quietly on the couch for 30 minutes, slowly turning every page. This book is full of graphics, pictures, and timelines, it is full colour and very appealing to the eye, and therefore draws you in (but that is a completely different post). Her interest in the family history book was another indication that she was turning toward the light.

What next, how do I keep this change happening? How do I keep her engaged? I think since technology and the computer is of utmost importance in keeping a teenager interested, I will introduce her to Ancestry.com. Since I already have a subscription, I can invite her to share mine and perhaps give her an ancestor to research along with some basic instruction to get her started. Is genealogy slowly creeping up on her and taking hold?

I realize perhaps WDYTYA? is not a show going after the young teenage demographic and this younger set is not in the position to purchase subscriptions to Ancestry.com, a sponsor of the show. Nevertheless, I hazard to suggest that at the very least genealogy is starting to look cool to one such teenager. The dust has been shaken off; the experts on the show are not so crusty after all and perhaps the stereotype is falling away.

Imagine if the teenage population attached themselves to this show. Like other things teenagers touch, it most certainly will go viral. Perhaps if the WDYTYA? gets picked up for a second season, they may wish to consider a younger celebrity, say a Miley Cyrus, or one of those vampires, imagine the viewership, and what that could do for genealogy.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Were You Gobsmacked?

This week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featured Matthew Broderick tracing the lives of his grandfather and great-great grandfather.

First, I was quite excited when his sister pulled out the trunk. I must admit, the site of a trunk overflowing with pictures and documents makes me a little giddy (probably nerdy as well.) However, again this re-inforces the fact that all research begins at home.

I loved that Matthew was worried his research might find something embarrassing and it was great that he recognized, that what little he knew of his family had not been recorded and was slipping away.

Certainly, the story of his grandfather in WWI in France, his job as medic on the front line, the wounds he suffered and his medals for gallantry had me tearing up already. I don’t think I’ve gotten through a story yet without shedding a tear. I am always moved, by how much the celebrities are affected upon learning their history. For Matthew’s grandfather to be a war hero and no one knew it was quite surprising.

The second half of the story was incredible. Following his great grandfather through the civil war, Gettysburg and to his unmarked grave was in Matthew’s words “gobsmacked.” (I looked it up – shocking). Matthew was able to solve a mystery and now an unmarked grave can have a proper headstone.
Like all the other celebrities and like most of us, our history, our ancestors lives are out there for us to discover however in this story Matthew’s journey changed history. His discovery allowed an unmarked grave to be identified and a mystery to be solved. I thought this was an incredible story and certainly one any family historian would love to have in their history book.

In this episode, we saw a variety of resources including ancestry.com, the national archives, state archives, census records, civil war records, coroner’s records. This story did a great job at linking the information learned from the documents and revealing the next step in the process.

A couple of things impressed me. Oh, my gosh, those census books, the civil war records, going into the vault, how amazing to be sitting in front of those records, something internet genealogy cannot re-enact and dare I say far more romantic then seeing a digital version on a computer screen.

And did you notice Matthew was carrying his camera. The sign of truly interested and invested family historian.

Therefore, four weeks in, Who Do You Think You Are? continues to surprise and entertain me, motivate me and yes, I am gobsmacked.

Follow Friday - Genealogy DNA - Pre-Launch of Family Finder DNA Test

Family Tree DNA is about to launch its new Family Finder Test. I was invited to join the pre-launch; unfortunately, I only have until March 28th to cough up $249.00 (the introductory price) for this new DNA test.

The Family Finder test will look at all your ancestral lines up to 6 generations. These results will be compared against the Family Finder database. To me this is the important part because as I stated in a previous post on Family Tree DNA if other distant cousins have not taken the test and are not in this database then this test maybe all for not. However, with that being said Family Tree DNA claims that as of March 26th, 2010 they have 287,296 records in their database. They have 5824 surname projects, 178,620 Y-DNA records and 108,676 mtDNA records.

What still remains unclear to me, is that these tests specifically say they will be matched against the Family Finder database not Family Tree DNA database and therefore with this being a new test I have to wonder how large a database this could be? If you purchase one of the tests below in conjunction with the Family Finder Test, then you get the advantage of having your test compared to either the mtDNA database or the Y-DNA37 database increasing your odds of finding cousins, but of course, that comes at a higher price.

When I follow the link to the page where I can order the pre-launch Family Finder DNA test I was given several options:

Family Finder Test $249.00

Family Finder + mtDNAPlus $389.00

Family Finder + Y-DNA37 $389.00

Comprensive Genome Test $797.00

If you wish to take advantage of the pre-launch tests, I suggest going to the Family Tree DNA website sign up for the newsletter on the family finder test and you most likely will get an invite or you can order here. I remain on the fence and welcome to hear about other family historian's experiences with Genealogy DNA tests. I will not be taking the Family Finder test at this time for two reasons, the price and my concerns regarding the database. If you do happen to order the tests, please email me or share your experience in comments.

Related Reading

Genealogy DNA Testing with Family Tree DNA

Genealogy DNA Testing -Is it Worth the Money?

Follow Friday - Roots Television is Real Genealogy Televison

In honour of Roots Television deciding to stay on the air, I am reposting this Follow Friday from a few months ago.

With genealogy television at an all time high, many of us have been sitting back and watching some famous and not so famous individuals reveal their family history for the world to see. Faces of America, Ancestors in the Attic, The Generations Project, and now NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, round-out the options for genealogy television viewers.


However, many of us in the family history field do not really feel we need to have famous people to make for a great genealogy story. A famous person certainly is a great draw but it is the stories behind these individuals that make great television, and it is their stories that draw us to watch and keep us coming back.

Have you considered that maybe your story is worth telling? Perhaps there are no famous actors, comedians, chefs or royalty in your family tree, however, every family has its share of famous individuals. I believe not only will the newest rage of television shows encourage people to become their own family historians it perhaps will encourage individuals to consider a slightly different approach to recording your family history...through digital video.

Although family history books are still very much popular, the digital video is a great alternative to preserving your family history. Telling your family history on video presents the unique opportunity to really bring to life your ancestors story.

Not sure what part of your family history is worthy of the big screen, consider these possible options.

1. Planning on taking a genealogy vacation and visiting your ancestral village, then pack your video camera and consider taping your journey.
2. Consider following the path of one of your prominent ancestors from their birth to death.
3. Re-enact the journey of an immigrant relative from their homeland to the new world.
4. Follow the life of an ancestor from poverty to prosperity.
5. Meeting with newly realized cousins or discovering relatives in your ancestral village makes for a very moving television moment.
6. Consider videotaping the oral history of a current family member.

These are just a few of the many ways you could bring your family history to video tape. Once you have made your own genealogy television program then consider having a viewing party in your home, or prepare a screening at your next family reunion or a presentation to your local historical society or submit your production to Roots Television.

This brings me to the Follow Friday portion of this post – Roots Television

I have been following Roots Television and been envious of the many who are contributing their family history and genealogy knowledge and sharing it with the rest of us. However, I soon realized these individuals are no different then you and I, and there should be nothing stopping us from submitting content to the Roots Tube Channel. I have outlined below Roots Television stipulations for submitting, however it appears very clear to me that they are very much opened to anyone who may be bringing something new, creative and exciting to the table.

If you’d like to be considered as a vlogger or as talent on one of their shows or would like to share a sample of your own family documentary then pull out your camcorder submit a non-returnable MiniDV sample video to:

Roots Television, LLC
Wells Fargo Center
89 N. University Ave., 4th Floor
Provo, UT 84601

Or alternatively, you can upload a sample to Google Video or YouTube and email them a link.
They prefer submissions that are:

• 30 seconds to 5 minutes in length (although longer ones may be considered)
• in QT, MOV or AVI formats
• less than 50MB in size
• without profanity and otherwise objectionable material

Go to Roots Tube and learn how you can be on Roots TV.

How to Create a Family History eBook

An eBook is a document saved in an electronic format, a file saved on your computer. It can be sent via email, or stored on a website ready to be downloaded. The finished e-book can be sent out in two versions; a PDF read only copy or the original copy that can be edited.

Sending a read only copy gives you control over later edits and additions or sending out the original allows family members to edit and add to their copy of the e-book, later as the family make-up changes or more history is uncovered.

Adobe Acrobat Professional 9Microsoft Word 2007Although an eBook can take various forms, the most common is simply a word-processed document converted to a PDF. The Portable Document Format is the most widely recognized format for creating an eBook. In my opinion, you have two choices, Adobe Acrobat Professional that created the PDF, or Microsoft Word 2007 that converts any document to a PDF very easily.

Today we are going to review how to create an e-book in Microsoft Word 2007.

Steps in Creating an eBook with Microsoft Word 2007

• Using Microsoft Word 2007 write and compile your family history including photos, timelines, maps and documents.

• Review the finished file size. If the file is large because you have used many photos then you can reduce the size. Microsoft Word 2007 makes reducing the size of pictures very easy by clicking on any photo and then ‘picture tools’ and then on ‘compress’ picture. You may apply the compression settings to all pictures or just one.

Choices include:

Print- 220 ppi – a good quality for most printers or screens
Screen -150ppi – a good quality for web pages and projectors
Email – 96ppi – minimizes the document for sharing

• You are now ready to convert the document to a PDF. Simply choose “save as” and then choose         “PDF”

Seriously, it is that simple. The most labour intensive part of this process is compiling and writing the word document, your family history. However, for most of us that is a labour of love.

Distributing Your Family History eBook

Remember that not all family members are as Internet-savvy as you. Prepare a quick 'how to' guide to accompany the family history eBook, explaining how the file can be used.

Most family members appreciate having a family history that they can edit/add to as they wish, as well as the original PDF file to take to the printer. Older family members, however, would probably prefer to have the final printed copy sent to them, especially if they have never used a computer in their lives! This is the beauty of the eBook, you can send the digital copy to your relatives, send the pdf file to a print-on -demand publisher or take the pdf to a copy store or print it on your own computer. The choice is yours or you can leave that choice up to the discretion of your relatives and their individual preference.

However, remember it will be the younger generation that will be carry forward the family history. So as much as we are sensitive to the limitations of our elders keep in mind that providing a Family History E-book is a great alternative to ensuring that your family history keeps up with present.

Related Reading

Creating a Family History Book - Great Reasons to Consider an Ebook

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Family History Book

Roots Television Will Continue to Serve Family Historians!

I for one, could not be more happy to hear the news this morning that Roots Television will continue to operate under the leadership of Megan Smolenyak. In all fairness, I posted her letter discussing her reasons for closing Roots Television, therefore it is with great pleasure I am sharing with you her letter for why she has chosen to keep Roots Television operating in hopes that we will all continue to support Megan in every way that we individually can.

Dear RootsTelevision.com Viewer,


OK, you convinced me! After getting inundated with emails, tweets, and Facebook postings and messages about the closing of RootsTelevision.com (RTV), I've decided to keep it going. I honestly had no clue how valued it was by the genealogical community, and I agree with the many of you who pointed out that it serves a somewhat different purpose than the prime time programming that's on TV at present (much as I've been enjoying that!). At the same time, I think many had not realized that RTV is a one-person company, but one that's not inexpensive to provide.

Thanks very much to all you who reached out to share your thoughts and experiences. Although I haven't been able to respond to all of you, I hope you realize that your comments made all the difference in the world. Thanks also to the more than 20 individuals, organizations and companies that contacted me to explore the notion of adopting RTV. It's refreshing to know how many were willing to step in and help. I also need to thank Brightcove, the video platform used by RTV, for working with me to find viable solutions.

I should probably clarify one point of confusion. Many were under the impression that even if RootsTelevision.com closed down, the video archive would remain. Quite a few also wrote asking me to send DVDs of the videos, but with more than 700 videos on the site, popping them on a DVD is not an alternative. Hosting and streaming this wide array of videos is one of the most costly aspects, and there are rights issues involved as well, so if RTV had gone, so would have all the videos.

That's why I surveyed genealogists on Twitter and Facebook, asking whether you would be willing to tolerate commercials if it would help preserve RootsTelevision.com. I was beyond relieved how lopsided the response was! So please be aware that I will be adding commercials to help pay the bills. Unfortunately, I don't have the resources to customize them, but I'll experiment with ways to make them as painless as possible. I'd also greatly appreciate it if you let me know of any people, companies or organizations that would be interested in running banners ads on RTV. Boston University and Family Tree DNA have both helped support RTV in the past by sponsoring ads, and more of the same would help ensure that the doors of RTV stay open in the future!

Og and I are going to do a little tinkering under the hood at RTV, so you'll see fewer new videos for a while, but please use that time to explore the hundreds of videos that are already there. Please also consider uploading your own videos (podcasters welcome!) through RootsTube (http://rootstelevision.com/submit_rootstube.php) and let us know of any great genealogical videos you come across in your online travels. If we see something we like, we'll do our best to secure permission to share the video on RootsTelevision.com, so you can have the widest, high quality viewing selection possible all in one place.

And finally, I would ask that you spread the word to your friends, relatives, libraries, and genealogical societies that the lights are still on at RootsTelevision.com! The more viewers, the better – so watch often!

Thanks again,

Megan

P.S. Be sure to follow us online for new videos, announcements and special events:

Megan on Twitter - http://twitter.com/megansmolenyak

Megan on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/megansmolenyak

RTV on Twitter - http://twitter.com/rootstelevision

RTV on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/rootstv

Creating a Family History Book - Great Reasons to Consider the E-book Option

Most of us have seen the typical family history book of the past, photocopied pages of text with the occasional poorly scanned photograph, cheaply bound only to fall apart within a couple of years. I don’t think anyone starts out with the intention of making a crappy family history book. However, costs usually are a large factor when deciding between the crappy version and the coffee table book.

These days with print-on-demand easily available to anyone who wants to make a book, it is a wonder more people are still not creating family history books. You can go to any number of websites who will quickly make a beautiful coffee table style book from your family history. However, upon investigation it becomes clear that even print-on-demand has some issues.

One of problems with print on demand options is they are great if your book is not big. If you have a large family and your book is going to be a substantial size then you will pay the price. If you have a lot of genealogy, you wish to convey to your relatives, documents, a picture etc. than size becomes an issue. Often as the family historian, we are confronted with what we can include and what we must leave out of our books. Often a genealogist when confronted with this option will choose to get as much information as possible to their relatives at the risk of creating a cheaper book.

However, there is now another option. A Family History E-book may solve the dilemma of size over quality and should seriously be a contender when looking at your family history book options.

Adobe Acrobat Professional 91. It is affordable. You can create an e-book at minimal costs, the size and the number of copies has no effect on the price. You may wish to purchase a program but there are many reasonable price products on the market and the cost can easily be covered in the sale of the e-book. Perhaps you already have a program such as Adobe Acrobat then you are already on your way. The e-book is not only low cost for you to create; in turn, it becomes more affordable to your relatives. This gives you a greater reach, getting it into the hands of more relatives.

2. It appeals to a younger audience. We are often looking for ways to encourage the youth in our family to take an interest in genealogy. A family history in an e-book format just might be the innovative way to get this to happen. It is in a format they can relate to and a price that is easy on their pocketbook.

3. Environmentally friendly – It goes without saying you’re saving a few trees and everybody young and old is all about that.

4. Easy editing for an ever-changing family. You can easily update an e-book without reprinting costs and send out updates to family members. Alternatively, they could make insert their own family notes in their own copy of the e-book.

The e-book option is so easy to do you can offer both a printed version for those that want to pay the price and have the coffee table style book and the e-book version for those who want the family history without another book on the shelf.

I have no doubt books will never disappear from the shelf, but an e-book option is an affordable alternative to your hardcover book.

(Watch for Post 2- How to Create a Family History e-book)

Related Reading
The Ultimate Guide to  Writing Your Family History

Who Do You Think You Are? - Watch Online Now!

Miss the show last night, you can still catch it, in full online. Then come back and add your comments on Sarah Jessica Parker's genealogy journey.
http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/video/

A Review of Who Do You Think You Are?

Last night the newest genealogy television show Who Do You Think You Are? premiered on NBC. Here are my thoughts from where I was sitting.
First, I thought they did a great job of showing how all family historians should start their genealogy. They started at home, with Sarah Jessica Parker’s mother. I enjoyed her conversation with her brother, prior to the journey, we all have had that conversation or heard it from others, who have dismissed any possibility that their family could have any great stories, or importance in history.

They made a good effort at showing what records family historians pull from for their information, we saw documents such census records, obits, and of course the wonderful resource of ancestry.com.

I loved that Sarah Jessica Parker was hands on. I realize there was plenty of support behind the cameras but she was taking this journey, reading the documents, asking the questions and putting the pieces together.

We saw how Sarah Jessica experienced finding answers only to be confronted with more questions and thus her intrigued and quest began cycles again. I loved how she became personally, emotionally and physically affected by what she was finding. She became very much invested in their lives and what happened to them. She felt what we have all felt as family historians, that it changes everything about how you see your family and our place in it.

I loved that we were introduced to all the people behind the scenes and how they are there to help everyone, whether it is a professional genealogist, a librarian an archivist or an historian all are valuable members of the genealogy community.

The creators off the show did are great job at building the excitement and the suspense of unravelling the mystery. I was excited for her as she found each new piece of information.

I loved that it became very personal for her, that she became invested in her ancestor’s lives and what happened to them. She got what we as family historians already knew, it changes everything about how you see yourself, how you see genealogy, and until you have succumbed to the journey do you truly understand the thrill.

Although it is not realistic that we get to travel around the country to every town and archive, and if we do get the opportunity this spans over years but of course, that is the magic of television.

I loved that she now was excited to share the stories with her mother; we all know the feeling of wanting to share our latest find with our families.

One other thing I noticed, the powers that be, did a good job at making Sarah Jessica Parker a very real accessible person. I didn’t find Sarah Jessica overly made up, she wasn’t polished and coifed. At times her nose was shiny her hair messy. I could relate to her, she was one of us another person with a passion to find some piece of information to link her to her ancestors and connect with their stories.

Although it is not realistic that we get to travel around the country to every town and archive, and if we do get the opportunity this spans over years but of course, that is the magic of television.

And finally and this is my favourite, Sarah Jessica wanted to be sure it was written down and recorded for her children and their children so they would all know their history and the history of their ancestors.

    In my opinion, Episode One of Who Do You Think You Are?
gets 5 out 5 stars

         What do you think?

Follow Friday - Genealogy DNA Testing with Family Tree DNA

I am no DNA expert. I don’t quite understand all the perimeters and my lack of knowledge makes me sceptical. However, I don’t think I am alone. I think like most I have a very loose understanding of DNA. However, where there are gaps in my knowledge creeps in scepticism. Will the results reveal anything about my genealogy and therefore providing little value in them for the heavy price tag?

My interest was renewed this week when watching Faces of America (see yesterday’s post- Genealogy DNA Testing – Is It Worth the Money?) but I can’t say my faith in these tests were restored. I’m still on the fence.

One such company I have been following is Family Tree DNA. Earlier in February, Family Tree DNA announced they would release a new test called the Family Finder Test. The Family Finder test is going to be able to trace all your ancestral lines in order to identify relationships up to five generations with confidence (their words not mine).

The Family Finder test will allow you to compare autosomal DNA between project members. While surname projects only seeks to document the Y chromosome DNA of males with a common surname, the Family Finder Project is focused on tracing the DNA of all descendents of a single ancestor or a single ancestral couple.

When talking with family historians who have taken a DNA test, I have come to realize that those that who have had the most success are those that use their DNA in conjunction with a surname project.

A Surname Project traces members of a family that share a common surname. Since surnames are passed down from father to son like the Y-chromosome, this test is for males taking Y-DNA tests. Females do not carry their father’s Y-DNA, so the tested individual must be a male that wants to check his direct paternal line.

The Family Finder test will be able to detect your near and distant cousins. If two people share identical segments of DNA then they may share a recent ancestor.

However, it appears to me that the Family Finder test must work in conjunction with the Y-DNA and the mtDNA test and be part of a surname project? Does that mean that you would have to purchase three tests or will they be combined into one test, one price? Still questions to be answered when the test is released later this month. I have also not seen a price on their website for this test yet. Therefore, we will have to discuss price later.

Family Tree is claiming the Family Finder test will extend the power of genetic genealogy to all of your ancestors. You can discover connections to descendants of all sixteen of your great-great grandparents. I’m still not sure this is going to advance my genealogy personally. I am fully aware of all of my great-great grandparents, I have managed thus far to trace back to my fifth great-grandparents on most of my family lines. I have also managed to grow my line wide, which exposes many distant cousins. So will the Family Finder test help me?

There is one situation that it could help me. My great grandfather migrated from Poland in 1905. In Poland, he left behind two sisters and a brother; I would like to uncover their descendants. But of course through these tests that is only going to happen if their descendants have also engaged in taking the Family Finder test and are in my surname project. So as you can see many variables are out of my control.

Yet Family Tree DNA says they place you in control but let’s be real, your test results are compared against their database. Is the price going to warrant sitting on a list in hopes a long lost cousin engages in the same. I want to believe in the tests I really do.

Should you win the lottery and get a match, email addresses are shared with permission and you will be able to share research easily with connected cousins.

If you haven’t noticed by now I am a glass half empty kinda of girl when it comes to DNA testing. A trait I inherited from my father, and I didn’t need a DNA test to tell me that. Therefore, the only recommendation I would make at this time is to investigate Family Tree DNA, and follow along. This website makes understanding DNA for us non-scientists a little bit easier, and then based on your specific genealogy circumstances and your pocketbook, only then can you determine whether the Family Finder test or any other DNA test is right for you.

If you have used Family Tree DNA or any other company please feel free to post your experience or guest posts are welcome on the subject. Your knowledge shared would be valuable to those of us still sitting on the fence.

Genealogy DNA Testing - Is It Worth the Money?

Faces of America concluded last night with a good portion of the show discussing DNA. The guests participated in several DNA tests. However, one particular test had the genealogy community buzzing last night in the Geneabloggers chat room, the genome test.

Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates turned to the company Knome/ Know Thyself to have his entire genome sequence analyzed. Most of us were in awe of this test and knew from our limited knowledge of DNA this had to be a very expensive procedure.

What is a Genome?A genome is the entire DNA that is inside a cell. This includes the DNA in the mitochondria and the chromosomes inside the nucleus of the cell. The DNA transmits instructions to build and maintain the cells that comprise each person. The complete set of instructions is called the genome.

The company Knome is the first personal genomics company to offer commercially a complete genome and comprehensive gene sequencing and analysis service to private individuals.

What does that mean?
After taking a sample of your blood, you are assigned a complete team of leading geneticists and clinicians to determine the sequencing information of your DNA and produce a complete analysis of traits and disease associations. In addition, you would be one of the first individuals in history to be sequenced; I believe they mentioned last night that there have been 50 to date. Once your DNA has been sequenced, you will be able to stay current on future genetic discoveries as they become available.

What is the Price?
KnomeCOMPLETE is priced at $68,500
KnomeSELECT is priced at $24,500 for individuals or $19,500 per person for couples and families
(The latter, tests only 20,000 genes working out to a very budget friendly cost of less than $1.00 per gene, a sort of Dollar Store for the rich and famous)

Ok I can here you rolling on the floor laughing as you read this. This certainly would explain why there are only 50 people in the world who have jumped at this prestigious test.

However, for the price, you received a GenomeKey, a fully encrypted portable storage device of your genetic information. Still not enough to make you pull out your chequebook?

Nowhere on their website or in the Faces of America program last night did I see how all of this was going to help my genealogy research? I get that it will tell me if I am predisposed to certain diseases and it certainly is fascinating and interesting science. And it was amazing that they could realize Henry Louis Gates mother's DNA even though she is deceased. But the average person will not be turning to this test for genealogy purposes. Even Faces of America only completed the test on Henry Louis Gates and his father for the purposes of the show. The other guests were limited to more practical tests.

Clearly, this is not a DNA test that is even remotely affordable to the average person. Instead, if you are really interested in learning more about your DNA or having a DNA test done for genealogy purposes, I would suggest a more practical and economical approach such as Family Tree DNA

What I took from last nights chatroom after the show was that there was a mixed bag of views when it comes to Genealogy DNA testing. Some have participated and it was clear have received some interesting information,  others didn't feel they benefited, and there were still many of us like myself who are still sitting on the fence as to the value for the money, and some are still waiting for the prices to come down. Where do you stand on DNA testing for genealogy research?

Check in tomorrow for Part 2- We will take a closer look at Family Tree DNA and more specifically their newest test Family Finder.

Who Do You Think You Are? -News Flash - Episode Schedule and Oprah!

The excitement is building with only two days left until the premier of Who Do You Think You Are? The genealogy industry is hoping for a big impact. The UK show has resulted in more than 5 million viewers during the last season. Nearly 12,000 attended the live conference in February of 2009. Of those, 84 percent say they started researching since 2004. Whether the U.S. version will have the same impact has yet to be seen, but I do believe the time is right. The show will be featured on Oprah, that certainly couldn't hurt. Check out the schedule below of upcoming episodes.

Episode Schedule

Here is the current schedule according to NBC:
• March 5 - Sarah Jessica Parker
• March 12 - Emmitt Smith
• March 19 - Lisa Kudrow
• March 26 - Matthew Broderick
• April 2 - Brooke Shields
• April 9 - Susan Sarandon
• April 23 - Spike Lee

Who Do You Think You Are? in the News

In the coming weeks, Who Do You Think You Are? is going to be spotlighted in several major media outlets. Among them, Oprah will designate an entire hour to family history next Tuesday!
Here's a list of a few shows to watch for (all dates/times are subject to change):

•Wednesday, March 3 - Today Show (NBC) 8-9 am; The View (ABC - check your local TV listings); The Joy Behar Show (HLN - Headline News) 9 pm ET
•Friday, March 5 - Today Show (NBC) 10-11 am
•Monday, March 8 - Martha Stewart (check your local TV listings)
•Tuesday, March 9 - Oprah (check your local TV listings);Craig Ferguson (CBS late night)
•Friday, March 19 - Bonnie Hunt (check your local TV listings)

Sneak Peek at Who Do You Think You Are?

This Friday, Who Do You Think You Are? will air on NBC. The network has just released this peek at the episode airing this Friday with Sarah Jessica Parker and her connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Enjoy!

Monday Madness: My Love Hate Relationship with the Microfilm Reader?


Last week, I had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with a microfilm reader. I've shared with you in previous posts that as an 'armchair genealogist,' I am the product of internet genealogy. Having discovered genealogy via online technology, and having been able to collect a large portion of my documents via online databases or through family, I have managed up until now to avoid the ominous microfilm reader.

However, I had approached a fork in the road, I either sit and wait for more records to come online or seek them out via the archives and microfilms. I bowed to less advanced technology and ordered three microfilms reels, two from the Ontario Archives and, one from Family History Library in Salt Lake City; I was ready to face the challenge head on.

I headed to my local library to read the microfilm of Ontario Marriages Reel 248 1841-1856. I was looking for the marriage certificate of my fourth Great Grandfather James Stapleton and his wife Ellen Phelan. My hope was to find the document which would indicate his parent’s names and give me another generation and extend my research into Ireland.

My daughter a little bored and home from college for reading week, I invited her along. In the back of my mind, I was thinking safety in numbers, or two brains are better than one, but I offered it up as a new learning experience and she took the bait.

Arriving at the library, they handed me the microfilm and we were left to our own devices. I realize most libraries are understaffed, or maybe they just assumed I knew what I was doing, they would be wrong. We headed up to the genealogy room.  There they sat, 5 of them, lined up like military men waiting for an impending battle.

At the time, another fellow genealogist was engaging in a little grumbling with her microfilm reader that refused to advance the film. Great, I thought, here we go.

My daughter and I began feeding the film into the reader; I was very appreciative of the instructions posted on the front of the machine. Took us a few minutes to figure out how to feed the image, move the image, adjust the focus but we soon felt confident in what we were doing. I was grateful it required a very short learning curve and I only moved the film the wrong way twice, unravelling the film from the reader.

We began scrolling through the index at the start of the film, a little bewildered when we came to the end of the index, and we didn’t find what we were looking for, my heart sank. Until we read that, the rest of the index was at the back of the film. Huhh! Why? So we began to scroll through the entire film.

My first mistake at this point was letting my daughter control the cranky thingy to turn the film, that was the moment I began to feel like I was spinning in one of those teacups at the amusement park. My vertigo kicked into high gear and the image or rather blur of the microfilm pages rushing by made me want to throw up. I had to walk away from the reader as my daughter continued; I was breaking out in a sweat.

When she arrived at the end, I attempted to sit down beside her and focus on the names in front of me, we skimmed through but by then I could have seriously laid down on the filthy floor to stop the room from spinning. I should’ve had a half a dozen martinis prior to my little excursion it would have come to the same conclusion. I refused to look at the screen anymore. I withdrew and we went home. I vowed to return to fight another day.  I could tell my daughter was quite happy to call it quits early she was so over the microfilm reader.

The following week another film arrived at the library so this was my opportunity to redeem myself. This time I scored the machine with the superior technology; it advanced the film with a press of the button and printed out copies. What a concept! I improved on my loading time and I was off. My second attempt with the microfilm reader was a much more pleasant experience not only was I able to keep my lunch intact, I brought home with me a copy of my fourth Great Grandfathers last will and testament.

A couple days later, I headed to my Family History Centre to try my hand at reading some German documents. Oh.... but that is another post.

So what did I learn in all of this about microfilms and microfilm readers, they are still a necessary evil in the search for your family history, but I absolutely do prefer digitized documents.

A side note, I did revisit the microfilm of marriages, however, it proved to be a dead end.