google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: July 2013

Finding the Backdoor to Your Ancestor's Neighbourhood

When you head out on a family history road trip there is enormous opportunity to connect with the locals and look beyond the documents and microfilms that we are all so desperately seeking. With a little preparation, you can get up close and personal in the spaces and places where your ancestors walked. With a little legwork, you can seek out the history and culture of the area and bring your heritage travels to a new level. 

1.       Connect With the Local Archives Ahead of Time
Seek out the local archives you plan to visit well in advance. Email or call them and find out the hours of operation so you are sure to arrive in proper time and allow yourself plenty of time to complete your research. Ask about their fees for visiting and what resources they have available. Let the volunteers know when you will be arriving, they may offer to pull some information for you in advance or if it is a larger archive, you may need to have notify them in advance to pull certain documents. Remember in most archives manpower is limited and volunteer so the more information and time you can give them in advance the greater your chance of finding success.  Ask about their scanning and photocopy policies. A little inquiry ahead of time goes a long way to being prepared to maximize your visit and for conferring with the volunteers who are going to be your new best friends.

2.       Seek Out the Local Tourist Organization
 Every town has one, a tourist organization there to help you make the most of your visit.  While these groups may not be versed in the local archives and have knowledge in genealogy, they are generally well educated in the local history. They can load you up with local maps and direct you to historic monuments, fairs and festivals, local food establishments and lodging. Most local tourist organizations are now available online. Connect with them ahead of time, plan to take scenic drives of the area, take in any historical sites and plan this into your day. While the archives can be quite valuable, don’t dismiss the value of walking in your ancestors footsteps and getting out in the surrounding and local tourist organizations can help get you quickly acquainted with the area.

3.       Living with the Locals
 If you plan an overnight trip then consider where you wish to stay in advance.  After a long day in the archives, you don’t want to stumble about trying to find a room.  Again, the internet is a great tool to search out local accommodations. If available, I would highly recommend a Bed and Breakfast. They are normally reasonable in price, your breakfast is included and generally, B and B’s are located in older homes that can offer some perspective on the history of the area. As well, local families who are immersed in the area sometimes for many years run B and B’s. They can be a valuable resource in learning about local history, events in the area along with great local places to eat. Owners of B and B’s pride themselves on being knowledgeable and available to their clientele. They are usually very social and willing to enrich your stay in any way they can. B and B’s are a great choice for the family historian who is looking for a backdoor experience. 

4.     Eating Where the Locals Eat
 While you don’t necessarily have to choose an eating establishment in advance, it’s always good to get the lay of the land ahead time. Scope out the local restaurants in advance and have a short list of places that interest you, save them in your phone, when you’re ready you won’t be driving around in circles. When you call, the archives and B & B’s ahead of time, ask for their recommendations. If there is one or two that show up on both lists then chances are that's going to be a great recommendation. Stay away from the fast food joints and franchise establishments, think local. Smaller family run establishments offer reasonable priced fresh product at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes, they are run by families with deep history in the area and can often contain local history within their four walls. Local restaurants will take the time to get to know their customers and if you’re a new face in the crowd, the wait staff is more likely to strike up a conversation. Who knows where it may lead.

With a little pre-travel planning, you can take your next family history trip and turn it into a backdoor adventure, getting up close and personal in the neighbourhood of your ancestors. 

Be sure to join us on Our Facebook page and enter a photo of your family history road trip in The Out of My Armchair Summer Adventure. Enter your picture by Sunday August 4th, and receive a chance to win a 1-year subscription to It's easy to enter.  Show us your family history adventures. 

The Family History Road Trip!

 This week it's all about those family history road trips. Summer is the perfect time to get out on the open
road and take in those specials places that can bring insight to your family history stories.

Family history road trips come in all shapes and sizes.Your road trip might be a tour of a cemetery or an afternoon at the local archives. Maybe you spent a weekend touring an ancestral hometown or you took a summer vacation and explored the country of your ancestors.

Regardless of the size of your trip,  family history excursions can be incredible opportunities to advance your research and gather family history stories. A road can rejuvenate both the body and the mind.

Today begins week 2 in our Out of My Armchair Summer Adventure Contest. This week, we encourage you to share a picture of a past family history road trip. Post your photo on our Facebook Page and you could win a 1-year subscription to  You have until Sunday midnight to upload your favourite photo. Fill free to share a few words about your photo. At the end of the week,  one lucky person will be chosen through a random draw.

Today we will announce our Week 1 winner! Stay tuned.

Family Reunion Planning

Anyone who has organized a family reunion can attest to the hard work that goes into planning a successful reunion. Despite all this work, most of us reunion organizers wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Many wonderful memories come from attending a family reunion. It is also a great opportunity to capture those family history stories. In today's post, I've rounded up for you some past articles that can help with your future family reunion planning. I've been on several family reunion committees over the years and I've captured some of that information in the following posts. I hope you find them helpful.

Family Reunion Planning 101

Family Reunion - Tips, Tricks and Tons of Fun

Family Reunions - Fundraising and Genealogy 

Be sure to join us on Our Facebook page for our Photo Contest - Out of My Armchair Summer Adventure.

This week share a family reunion photo and win a chance for a 1-year subscription to It's easy to join. Show us your family reunion fun!

Win a Subscription to!

The Out of My Armchair Summer Adventure Contest Begins Today! 

Week 1 Is Now Open For Entries -This week's photo theme is Family Reunion Summer Fun. 

Family reunions are a great summer time activity that enables family historians the opportunity to gather family together to capture stories, travel to ancestral hometowns and reconnect with family. Share your family history summer adventure in the form of a photo of a recent or past family reunion. Tell us briefly about your photo. Open for entries from Monday July 22nd 8 am EST, closed at 12pm Sunday July 28th EST. On Monday morning July 29th Week 2, photo theme will be announced for another chance to win.

Head over to our Contest Page on Facebook and submit your family reunion photo now!  One entry, per person, per week. One winner will be randomly drawn each week and will receive a 1-year subscription to On Monday July 29th we will announce another photo theme for week 2 and you'll have another chance to win! 

Week 1- July 22nd 8am - July 28th midnight EST - Family Reunion Summer Adventure 
Week 2- July 29th 8am- Aug 4th midnight EST. 
Week 3 - Aug 5th 8am- Aug 11th midnight EST.

Open to U.S. and Canadian residents. One entry per person per week. Check the Contest Rules for all the details. 

You can also post your photo using Twitter or Instagram use hashtag #outofmyarmchair 

We're Kicking Up A Little Summer Fun!

Great genealogy research includes getting out of your armchair from time to time, pushing away the computer and discovering your family history offline. The summer months are wonderful opportunities for family history adventures including road trips to ancestral hometowns, archives and cemeteries. It’s also a great chance to connect with family and collect information through family reunions.  To help you celebrate your summer research adventures, Find My Past and The Armchair Genealogist are teaming up for the Out of My Armchair Summer Adventure Contest.  

 Over the next 3 weeks, you’ll have a chance to share some of your summer genealogy fun and finds on our Facebook page in the form of a photo contest. Each week in a Monday morning blog post, here at The Armchair Genealogist, I’ll tell give you a photo theme for an opportunity to win a one-year subscription to Find My Each week share a different photo fitting to the announced theme. Your name will then be entered into a random draw to win a 1-year subscription to valued at $200.00.  You’ll get three chances to win as we bring you a new theme each week simply by sharing pictures of your summer family history adventures.

When the summer is over and your ready to settle back in your armchair and behind your computer is going to be right there to help you with your online discoveries.

The contest schedule is outlined below and a different photo theme will be announced from this blog and added to the Facebook Contest Tab at The Armchair Genealogist each Monday morning. One winner will be announced at the end of each week. 

Week 1- July 22nd 8am - July 28th midnight EST. 
Week 2- July 29th 8am- Aug 4th midnight EST. 
Week 3 - Aug 5th 8am- Aug 11th midnight EST.

Contest rules will go live on The Armchair Genealogist Facebook Page on Monday morning 8am EST along with the first theme and you can begin submitting your photos at that time. You can also submit via Twitter and Instagram. Open to all residents of US and Canada. One entry per person each week. 

We will see you here Monday morning and ;et's show the world the fun you can have when genealogy summer research takes to the open road.  Be sure to share using the hashtags #outofmyarmchair #armchairgenealogist.  


I did it; I’ve finally dipped my toe into the waters of the DNA testing pool. I've been holding out for some time, not because I don’t understand the value in DNA testing and how it can help your research, in fact, I encourage it.  However I'm just not sure a DNA test is going to reveal any new insights for my personal situation. You might be in this same state.On the other hand, it doesn’t dismiss my desire to have that proof, as characteristic of any good genealogist.

 However, with so many companies and tests on the market these days it’s hard to know where to start. It all can be a little overwhelming and so typical of me when faced with a decision, I’ve done nothing.

However, recently, I was approached by a new DNA company known as DNA-me. They offered to send me their test kit (free) as an opportunity to try out their services. I have to admit the idea of getting my feet wet for free was incentive. Now it seems like the perfect time to tell you about this new company and reveal my huhhummmm....complete lack of DNA knowledge and experience.

 I understand the very basics of DNA testing and I mean basics! If I have any questions about it I generally head over to The Legal Genealogist by Judy Russell, she helps me sort it out in uncomplicated terms. I need a lot of hand-holding when it gets into DNA testing, as my lack of action in the matter is a clear indication. If you’re in the same boat, you’re in good company and feel free to flounder around with me, we will wade through this together.  I apologize now for my less than scientific explanation in the remainder of this post and any further references to swimming and DNA. 

First off, the DNA-me website is very easy to understand for us who are green. It was very clear to me exactly what I could expect from their test. Clearly laid out for beginners, the FAQ  answered all my general questions and DNA 101 and Genetic Genealogy 101 offered clear and easy to read information for those of us on a steep learning curve.

At DNA-me there is one DNA kit. This kit includes the Y-chromosomes test -from fathers to sons, the mt-DNA -from mothers to sons and daughters, and autosomal DNA –transmitted from both parents to sons and daughters.  Therefore, to get the full results of my testing I had my brother take the test because as a female I would not be able to complete the Y-chromosome portion of this test.  The website shows you a demo of the test so you can see exactly what to expect from your own test.

There are no big mysteries when it comes to my ancestry.  I’m confident I know how my deep ancestry roots are going to look (this is where I'll be completely proven wrong). In fact, my brother and I made a little wager. We each wrote down our predictions on how it we think it will all shake out.  I will fill you in on that when the results return in a follow-up post. 

DNA-me makes it very clear, they do not test STRs.  STRs are a mutation in the DNA. I seriously didn't know what they were before this post, and not to be confused with STDs when googling. They (STRs) have a quicker mutation rate and are used to connect family members within a few generations. The DNA-me test deals with ancient mutations. Are you still with me?

Their test will define your Haplotype (your tribe) and relate you to a specific clan. It will give you a percentage of homology (similarity between species resulting from shared ancestry) between your DNA and various markers known to be present in specific region of the world. Their test will define your deep ancestry. 

DNA-me does not keep your DNA, they won't clone you or use it in a paternity suit against you, just in case that was a concern. They do not keep a database in order to find your distant cousins, there are plenty of other companies that offer those options and they are very upfront about this component.

The kit is a reasonable $85.00 very comparable to others on the market. My test arrived on July 3rd and I quickly returned the test to get the process started.  The kit contains two cheek swaps, simple to follow instructions and a return envelope. The entire process takes just a few minutes to complete. I returned swaps in the envelope provided at a cost to me of $3.00 in shipping charges. Now I wait 4-6 weeks for the results, which will be available to me online.  I also received a code to login online and follow the journey of my DNA test.

DNA-me is a UK based company fully prepared to embrace the North American market.  DNA-me in a green effort distributes from a US address if you are in North America. This also certainly helps to keep shipping costs and waiting times down for its customers. My test kit came from and was returned to a US address and they use a Canadian based firm for their DNA testing.

If you’re ordering from Canada on the US site, you’ll pay a flat $5.00 shipping charge. So far the process with DNA-me has been smooth and uncomplicated, I look forward to the results and will keep you posted. If your hesitating like myself on joining the DNA testing pool, come on in, the water is fine! 

Are you a newbie like me and not sure where to start with your DNA testing?  Have you resisted jumping in the DNA testing pool? What’s holding you back? 

Discover Your Ancestors - Inside the July Issue

 The July issue of the UK digital magazine Discover YourAncestors is now available. I took some time over this long holiday weekend to read the many social history articles in this edition. I will admit to being a little bias because I have an interview in this edition. Make sure you check it out. Discover Your Ancestors is a valuable magazine if you have UK ancestors in your tree, filled with research help and social history articles that will prove enlightening.  

Here's  a summary of what’s available in the July issue and for about  $1.50 a month you can have it delivered directly to your inbox.

Thinking Outside the Pox
Every family would have been affected by smallpox. Sue Wilkes explores the history of vaccination and the marks it left in the archives

Get Your Research Back on Track
From the mid-19th century onwards the railways employed many people in a wide variety of roles – now many of their work records are going online

Far From Home
 Were your forebears among the British Home Children sent abroad? Emma Jolly explains how to trace them in both Britain and Canada

Interview- Take to Your Pen
I share some of my personal genealogy journey with readers and share some advice to help you get your family history down on paper.

The public fumes
This year London celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Tube – but early users weren’t always so keen, as this exclusive extract from a new book on its history by Stephen Halliday reveals

Lucky Dip
A large and eclectic collection of name-based data has gone online – is your ancestor in there?

Place in Focus: Dorset
Did your ancestors come from Dorset? Don’t miss this issue.

Break the Brick Walls: Marriage Certificates
Useful tips for tracking down elusive ancestors by Jenny Jones

The August issue will include articles on researching school records, history of department stores and transatlantic liners among many other informative articles. Visit Discover Your Ancestors today to subscribe.