Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Comparing DNA Results from 3 Testing Companies

I've tested my ancestral DNA at 3 different testing companies - AncestryDNA, MyHeritage DNA and Family Tree DNA. Should the results all be similar or different? Join me as I explore the results of the 3 companies side by side.

I also point you to the ISOGG Wiki which is a great source for further information on ancestral DNA and genetic genealogy.

Direct link to the video embedded above:

AncestryDNA -
MyHeritage DNA -
Family Tree DNA -

ISOG Wiki -
ISOG Wiki - Autosomal DNA testing comparison chart -

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NEHGS Announces DNA Day in Worcester, Mass.

Just starting to think about what DNA can do for you? Or maybe you can't get enough of DNA testing? There will be a special DNA Day for genealogists in New England courtesy of the New England Historic Genealogical Society to be held in Worcester, Massachusetts on Saturday, October 22, 2016. Details are below.

Saturday, October 22, 2016 
is DNA Day
at DCU Center 
in Worcester, Massachusetts

Everything You Need to Know 
about Genetic Testing
for Genealogy 
to Be Presented in a Seminar
by American Ancestors (NEHGS) in Partnership with AncestryDNA

Bill Griffeth, Author of Best-Selling The Stranger in My Genes,
to Deliver Keynote Address and Appear at Luncheon Forum

September 27, 2016—Boston, Massachusetts--DNA tests can break down genealogical brick walls, connect distant cousins, unlock mysteries, and even reveal long kept family secrets. But accurately deciphering results is not without its challenges. Experts from American Ancestors of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and AncestryDNA will present a full-day seminar on how to interpret DNA findings and apply that knowledge to your own family history research at a DNA Day on Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. In a keynote address marking his first public appearance since the publication of the best-selling book The Stranger in My Genes, author Bill Griffeth, co-anchor of Closing Bell on CNBC, will discuss how his own genetic findings altered his sense of identity and his family tree.

Beyond lectures, participants will have the opportunity to chat with genealogists and DNA experts, acquire select publications, purchase a DNA kit from AncestryDNA, attend website demonstrations, take advantage of special discounts, and interact with other family historians. The author Bill Griffeth will be available to sign copies of The Stranger in My Genes and will participate in a luncheon forum on the story behind his new book.

Program Agenda

9:00 AM   Registration and check-in opens at DCU Center
  9:30 AM   Opening remarks
  9:40 AM   Keynote address: Bill Griffeth, author of The Stranger in My Genes
10:15 AM   Lecture: The Possibilities of Genetic Testing, Christopher C. Child (NEHGS)
11:15 AM   Lecture: DNA Testing: From Start to Finish, Anna Swayne (AncestryDNA)
12:15 PM   Lunch; separate registration for lunch with author Bill Griffeth
  1:30 PM   Lecture: Using Genetic Evidence in your Family Tree, Anna Swayne (AncestryDNA)
  2:30 PM   Break; Book signing by author for The Stranger in My Genes
  3:00 PM   Lecture: Sharing Your Results, Christopher C. Child (NEHGS)
  4:00 PM   Prize drawing


Christopher C. Child, Senior Researcher of Newbury Street Press at New England Historic Genealogical Society, is the editor of the Genetics and Genealogy column in American Ancestors magazine and editor of the Mayflower Descendant. He has written several articles for a number of scholarly journals and is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton, co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts, and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts. His areas of expertise include southern New England, especially Connecticut; New York; ancestry of notable figures, especially presidents; genetics and genealogy; African-American and Native-American genealogy, 19th and 20th Century research, westward migrations out of New England, and applying to hereditary societies.

Bill Griffeth, author of The Stranger in My Genes, is one of the country's longest serving and most respected financial journalists on TV. He began covering Wall Street in 1981 on the Financial News Network (FNN). In 1991 he joined CNBC where he has anchored a number of programs, most recently Closing Bell from the New York Stock Exchange. Since 2003, his hobby has been genealogy, and he has traveled tens of thousands of miles in the U.S. and Europe researching his and his wife's family histories. He currently serves as a Trustee of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston.

Anna Swayne of AncestryDNA has ten years of experience in the DNA Genealogy world. Her focus is educating on the power of DNA and the story it can unlock for each of us. She enjoys teaching beginner and intermediate classes at national and local conferences on DNA and how it can answer ancestral questions or assist with genealogical roadblocks.

Registration and information: or call 617-226-1226
Date and time:
Saturday, October 22, 2016
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
The DCU Center
50 Foster Street
Worcester, Mass. 01608

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Big Prizes in FindMyPast Tree Challenge

From May 23-30, 2016 FindMyPast is hosting a Tree Challenge.  If you upload a family tree, the hints you get on ancestors will be completely free during this week and will be added permanently to your tree.

FindMyPast Tree Challenge

To encourage you to try this out, FindMyPast is giving away some prizes. If you share any discoveries you make on your tree via social media with the hashtag #TreeChallenge then you have a chance of winning an expert bundle worth $1000. This includes a a 64 GB Ipad mini4, a three TB hard drive and a 12 month subscription to Family Tree (UK) magazine.  They will also be giving away a 12 month world subscription on their social media channels each day during the challenge.

Uploading a Tree

In order to test this out I created a free, non-subcriber account on FindMyPast.  I then uploaded a gedcom file with one branch of my family. It took less than a minute to upload the gedcom file. Sometimes, when there is a lot of traffic the process can be slower.

Watch how I uploaded my gedcom in this YouTube video:


Reviewing and Adding Hints

 Next I waited for ancestor hints.  Once I started to get ancestor hints I reviewed them to see if they matched my relative.  In the example in the next video I found one matching ancestor hint and rejected two. You can watch how I did that.

What is great about this particular promotion is that the hints and corresponding transcriptions and images are accessible for free during this promotion. Any hints that you add to your tree will remain permanently in your tree even after the promotion is over. I had a few surprizes during my adventure and that turned out to be a great learning experience for getting to know how FindMyPast works.

So give it a try. You may find some records for your ancestors that you don't find on other large database sites.  And if you don't have any database subscriptions this is a great opportunity for you to do some research!


If you need to know how to do anything else on FindMyPast, let me know and I will create another video!

Disclosure: I'm a FindMyPast ambassador which means they give me a free subscription to play around with their site. I did NOT use that to create these videos. Instead, I opened a new, free, non-subscription site so that I could exactly replicate what the experience would be like for new, non-subscription users. That is what you see in the videos.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Using AncestryDNA as Research Guidance

Even though I tested at AncestryDNA in 2012, I didn't get excited about DNA until this year when my uncle and my father tested as well. With more close family in the pool it became more obvious to me how to use the results.

Then last week I watched a webinar "Watch Geoff Live: DNA" where host Geoff Rasmussen revealed DNA results live in the webinar with the help of DNA expert Diahan Southard.  This webinar was very helpful as Diahan went through what everything meant (ie how to interpret the results). Geoff was also very lucky because the results he was sharing belonged to his grandmother, who is a few generations closer to his more distant ancestors than he is.

I learned many new tricks but there was one in particular that stood out for me.

[The webinar, by the way, is still available to watch for free through Sunday, May 1, 2016. If you have tested with AncestryDNA you will definitely want to watch this.]

Filtering Your Matches

Diahan showed how we can use the filters to maximize the benefit of our DNA matches. In the webinar Geoff was actually able to prove (with Diahan's help) that two people he suspected belonged to his Brown family actually did belong because they were DNA matches for his grandmother. He was able to prove this because he had done quite a bit of previous research identifying these individuals. So he knew they existed before the DNA test was done. He just needed to prove they were connected.

In my case, I have a brick wall, Magdalena Roemer, who is my 2nd great grandmother. She was born in what is now Baerenthal, Moselle, Lorraine, France.  Many genealogists refer to the larger region as simply Alsace-Lorraine.

Unlike Geoff, I don't have any "suspect" relative matches.

But I can still use Diahan's trick to my benefit.
I went into AncestryDNA and brought up my matches. Next I clicked on Search Matches button.

Next I entered a surname, in this case, Roemer. You also have the option to add a location but I opted to skip that so as not to narrow down the results.

What happens next is that AncestryDNA searches all the trees of your DNA matches for the same surname and returns those results to you.

Before learning this trick I was clicking into every DNA match individually and trying to figure out how they connected to me. With 101 4th cousins or closer matches, this was a slow process!

Remember, I didn't have any potential relatives for Magdalena Roemer before this search but afterwards I did!  I am basically starting from scratch. But identifying potential ancestral relatives is half the battle. AncestryDNA pointed me in the right direction and now it's up to me to do some good old fashioned genealogy research to see if I can connect the two on paper with documents. In other words, AncestryDNA is acting as research guidance!

After finding the surname match my objective was to find out as much as possible about the match. My number one goal was to find naturalization paperwork so that I could identify whether the match came from Baerenthal just like my ancestor. That would make for a very strong case for them being family!

Some Important Considerations

In order for this trick to work you need to have a public family tree associated with your AncestryDNA account AND your matches also need to have a public family tree. If they have no tree or a private tree their shared surnames will not return in the results.

The other thing to consider is that even though you have a DNA connection with a potential match, unless the match is definitive, in other words you can identify exactly which ancestor you share in common, then you might actually be connected through a different ancestor than the "shared surname." For instance, if a DNA match doesn't have a very complete tree or if there are errors in their family then that might lead you in the wrong direction.

Watch Me Walk You Through the Process!

I created a video showing you exactly what I did and how. You can watch it here!

Try using the Search Matches filter for yourself and see what kind of results you find!  And let me know if you have any tricks of your own!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

American Ancestors offers Free Week of Access to All Databases

In an unprecedented move,, the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is providing free access to all of it's online records. This is over one billion free records. Free access will be available April 6-13, 2016. See full press release below for further details.

American Ancestors by NEHGS Announces an Unprecedented, Historic Event for Genealogists: A BILLION Records FREE!
April 6, 2016—Boston, Massachusetts America’s oldest and largest genealogical society announces a historic event for family historians around the world. From April 6 to April 13, American Ancestors by New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is offering FREE access to all of its online records on More than one billion records covering 18 countries— including the most important family history research materials for early America created by the experts and scholars at NEHGS—and all are open to anyone who registers for a free account.  Start searching now at
To assist family historians of all levels in locating more pieces of the family tree puzzle, NEHGS is granting this unprecedented free access to its entire collection of genealogical databases from Wednesday, April 6, 2016, at 12:00 a.m. (EDT) through Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). Free accounts on ordinarily allow visitors only a sample of the vast offerings that NEHGS provides family historians of all levels. This unprecedented free access promotion by NEHGS from April 6 through April 13 offers the Society’s entire collection of online content for eight full days to anyone who registers for a free account.
About American Ancestors and NEHGS
Holding the largest collection of original family history materials in the country, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845, is the nation’s oldest and largest genealogical society. Our website,, offers access to more than 1 billion searchable records and leading scholarly resources to help you advance your family history research. Our expert staff helps researchers of all levels explore their past and their families’ unique place in history. Located in Boston, our research center houses millions of manuscripts, books, and original items to preserve the stories of families in America and beyond.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

10 Million Irish Catholic Parish Records Free Forever To Search Online

This record collection is too good not to talk about! If you have Irish ancestry be sure out the new Irish Catholic Parish Registers from FindMyPast.  They're FREE! And they're going to stay that way!

In addition, to celebrate the release of this essential collection, Findmypast is also making its entire archive of over 110 million Irish records, the largest available anywhere online, FREE from 9am Tuesday 1st March to 9am on Tuesday 8th March.

Here's the release from FindMyPast 
 Dublin, 1 March 2016

 Leading family history site, Findmypast, has announced today the online release of over 10 million Irish Catholic Parish Registers as part of their ongoing commitment to making Irish family history easier and more accessible than ever before. Fully indexed for the first time, the registers form one of the most important record collections for Irish family history and are free to search forever. 

Spanning over 200 years of Ireland’s history from 1671-1900, the Irish Catholic Parish Registers contain over 40 million names from over 1,000 parishes and cover 97% of the entire island of Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. 

This is the first time that National Library of Ireland’s collection of Irish Catholic Registers has been fully indexed with images to the original documents linked online. The records can now be searched by name, year and place, allowing relatives and historians the opportunity to make all important links between generations with the baptism records and between families with the marriage registers. 

The indexing of these important documents also allows researchers to witness the devastating effects of the Great Famine (1845-1852) first hand. Using the records to examine baptism rates in pre and post Famine Ireland has revealed that the number of children baptised across the whole of Ireland dropped by more 50% in the decade that followed. Across all 32 counties, 2,408,694 baptisms were recorded from 1835-1844, while 1,109,062 baptisms were recorded between 1851 and 1860, a difference of more than 1,299,000 baptisms. The records also reveal the worst affected regions, with counties Limerick, Wexford, Roscommon and Kilkenny seeing the most dramatic drops in baptism rates. To celebrate the release of this essential collection, Findmypast is also making its entire archive of over 110 million Irish records, the largest available anywhere online, FREE from 9am Tuesday 1st March to 9am on Tuesday 8th March. Findmypast is home to the most comprehensive online collection of Irish family history records with millions of exclusive records, published in partnership with The National Archives of Ireland, The National Archives UK, and a host of other local, county and national archives. 

Brian Donovan, Irish records expert at Findmypast said: 

“This important publication marks a further step in Findmypast’s commitment to making Irish family history more accessible. In less than 5 years, we have made over 110 million records (with 300 million names) available online for the first time. Irish research has been transformed from the select pursuit of the few, to a fun and relatively easy hobby for the many. The Irish story of hardship, migration and opportunity is a global story, and in partnership with the cultural institutions around the world we are bringing the fragments of their lives within reach”. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

So Many Free Databases, So Little Free Time

The holiday season is bringing out the best in the paid subscription genealogy database providers! In celebration of Independence Day is providing free access to its Revolutionary War collection until July 15, 2015!

This includes Revolutionary War Pensions and Revolutionary War Muster Rolls among others.

You can access all the databases from the main page of their Revolutionary War Collections.

Have fun!

AncestryDNA Sale Ends Tonight

AncestryDNA is having a 20% of sale that ends tonight at 11:59pm Eastern (New York) time.  The last sale over Father's Day weekend was only 10% so this is a good discount. The regular price is $99 and with this sale it's $79.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What Keeps Us from Writing?

This morning I was thinking about blogging and what keeps us from writing. I was thinking about both blogging as a genealogist hobbyist and as a genealogy professional.

If you say to yourself that you want to blog, but you don't, what are the underlying reasons for why you're not blogging?

I want to be blogging more, especially on this blog but I haven't made it happen quite yet. So I am closely looking at my own motivations too.

Time Commitment

Many people say they want to blog but they don't have the time. I'm with the folks that say there is no such thing as too busy. It's like in personal relationships when you ask someone for help but they say they are too busy. What they are really saying is "You're not important enough for me to spend my time helping you." I so strongly believe that. (And we should think about our relationships the next time we are the ones who say that to someone.) We always make time for what we want to do most or for the people who mean the most to us.

When you say you are too busy to blog, you are really saying "I'm not disciplined enough to make a commitment" or "Blogging is not important enough to me to make the time in schedule."

This leads us to our next theme...


When you don't make a commitment to blogging you are saying "I don't really value blogging." So we need to understand what exactly we want to get from it and why we think we won't get that result.  Perhaps as hobbyists we are hoping to connect with distant cousins or as professionals we are trying to build our businesses or show our expertise. Perhaps we simply want to find a vibrant community of folks to interact with.

If we believe that we won't really benefit from our efforts then we definitely will not continue the effort to do the work.

How can we demonstrate to ourselves that blogging is worthwhile and valuable?


Maybe we our afraid of what will happen if we put ourselves out there. Maybe it is self-doubt that what we have to say is not interesting enough. Or fear that we will share too much.


I think this really ties back to the time commitment issue but what if we just get so distracted that we have a hard time staying focused? I think that discipline is one of my issues. I WANT to blog - so how come I'm not doing it every day?  If it's because I'm busy then how come I'm not reserving a specific hour every day to blog? Does life truly get in the way or do I let it get in the way?

Mood/Writer's Block

Sometimes I don't "feel" like writing and sometimes I feel like I can't NOT write! If I had better discipline I would force myself to write all the time. Sometimes it just doesn't happen.  Sometimes I just stare at a blank screen and no ideas come to me. If I could get over this aspect of myself I could probably write more frequently and more consistently.

What motivates you to blog? What are the true underlying reasons as to why you're not blogging? Have I left out anything in this discussion?  Let me know!

photo by Ramunas Geciauskas

Monday, June 29, 2015

FREE Access to Great Migration Databases for 4th of July Week!

Hopefully everyone will be getting at least one day off during the 4th of July holiday weekend. If you get the full week, all the better for doing more genealogy! You can celebrate by researching your very early ancestors thanks to the New England Historic Genealogical Society which will be offering one week of free access to the Great Migration databases. Full information and details are below.

NEHGS Salutes the Nation’s Anniversary with FREE Access to the Great Migration Databases on
Family Historians May Commemorate Independence Day by Searching FREE on for America’s Earliest Settlers, July 1 through July 8
June 29, 2015—Boston, Massachusetts—In a salute to the anniversary of our nation’s independence, New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is granting FREE access to all online searchable databases related to the Great Migration. A unique foundation of governance and religion was created by the 20,000 men, women, and    children who crossed the Atlantic between 1620 and 1640, seeking opportunity and relief in New England, in the period known as the Great Migration. These are the Mayflower names, the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and the families that delight and provide rich insights for genealogists and family historians.  Since 1988 NEHGS has  undertaken the Great Migration Study Project, directed by Robert Charles Anderson and scheduled for completion in 2016. The results are open to the public to research FREE during the first week of July 2015 on its data-rich website
A total of nine searchable databases comprise the Great Migration project on, consisting of thousands of records.  Some content highlights include:
1: The Great Migration Begins
The first phase of the Great Migration Study Project attempts to identify and describe all those Europeans who settled in New England prior to the end of 1633. The date was chosen because of the steep increase in migration beginning in 1634 and continuing for the rest of that decade (see Robert Charles Anderson, "A Note on the Pace of the Great Migration," The New England Quarterly 59 [1986]:406-07). As a rough estimate, about 15 percent of the immigrants to New England arrived in the fourteen years from 1620 to 1633, with the remaining 85 percent coming over in half as many years, from 1634 to 1640.
2: The Great Migration Newsletter
This database comprises Volumes 1 through 20 of the Great Migration Newsletter, published between 1990 and 2011. Each 32-page issue contains one or two feature articles, a column with editor's comments, and a review of recent literature on the Great Migration. Each issue also contains a section with detailed coverage of one of the towns settled during the Great Migration, or of a specific critical record, or group of records.
3: The Great Migration:  Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volumes I—VII, A-Y
(7 separate databases)
From 1620 to 1633, only a few hundred people stepped on the shores of New England in any given year. But all of a sudden in 1634 the trend surged upward and as many as 2,500 people immigrated in 1634 and again in 1635. In May 1634, the population of Massachusetts doubled in just one month, and when comparing immigration in 1634 and 1635 to immigration in 1633 and earlier, there was a tenfold jump in annual immigration.
These volumes covering surnames beginning with A through Y, complete a series documenting the watershed years of 1634 and 1635. They trace families and individuals immigrating to New England during those two years – a time of rapid migration and settlement.
Each alphabetical entry for a family or individual includes:
• Place of origin, if known
• Date and ship on which they arrived in New England, if known
• Earliest known record of the individual or family
• First residence and subsequent residences, when known
• Return trips to their country of origin, whether temporary or permanent
• Bibliographical information such as birth, death, marriage(s), children, and other important family relationships, church memberships, and civil and military offices held
The full introduction to these seven volumes is available for download as a pdf file. The introduction includes a description of the methodology used to create the sketches as well as thorough descriptions of the sources used.
The database provides an index to the sketches of 219 Great Migration individuals, and the 7,192 name, 2,040 place, and 249 ship name references contained within those sketches. The images of the original book pages are available from the search results pages.
These Great Migration databases from NEHGS will be open with FREE access to the public beginning Wednesday, July 1, through Wednesday, July 8. Registration at is required as a FREE Guest Member to gain access to these valuable resources. Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of databases and access web content such as making purchases from the online store. Unlimited access to all 450+ million records and other benefits is through membership at NEHGS.
Family historians may start their search for ancestors who came to the country as part of the Great Migration at this site: