Saturday, July 3, 2021

An Overview of Online Learning Sites


I love online learning websites. Not surprising considering I work for one. Here's my wrap-up of some of the sites out there.
LinkedIn Learning (formerly
This was my first online site. I've been using it for at least 10 years. Originally it focused on software for creatives such as the Adobe software suite. When LinkedIn took it over it became much more broad. There is still a heavy supply of content for creatives (the photography and video classes are great) but now you can find office based learning such as Microsoft software etc. They also branched out into fuzzier topics like how to be more productive and how to manage people and projects. They try to stay trendy as well with topics for YouTube and other social media sites. Completely worthwhile site if you have something specific to learn or you want to go deep on a particular topic. Easily accessible for free through larger libraries, universities and perhaps large employers otherwise it can be pretty pricey for individual memberships (but worth it if you take advantage of all that is offered).
Their model is to show the live broadcast for free and after you pay for the class or you can buy a subscription. The classes run for hours and sometimes even multiple days so it's not always realistic to catch it all live. Tagline "The go-to for 10+ million creators" Focused on creative or entrepreneurial topics. I bought Power Your Podcast with Storytelling by Alex Blumberg (the founder of Gimlet) years ago. It is very good. Currently available for $19 which is a very reasonable price for a single class. I haven't liked everything on the site. My strategy is to catch at least part of the live broadcast to see if it's worth purchasing. That will tell you whether you like the instructor and/or the content. The reviews of classes also seem very honest so that is another good indicator before you purchase.
This is the newest online site for me. They have very famous people teaching very high level stuff. They cover a lot of different topics. Cost is "$15/month billed annually." I was skeptical about this site but I tried a few classes. The class on documentary film making by Ken Burns is alone worth the price of admission. Ken hit a home run with his class. At least for me. He was high level and yet also nitty gritty in the details. I learned so much. Currently I'm taking a class on writing by Margaret Atwood. I took it kind of as a joke because I'm not willing to read (yet) her dystopian books. The joke is on me. She is absolutely phenomenal. I have learned so much from her and she is quirky and funny. My son took a class on creating music which he said he really enjoyed. I'm not convinced that everything on the site is great. I was so looking forward to the class by photographer Annie Liebovitz but I just couldn't get into it. I think it helps if the instructor is more of a natural educator or storyteller. That said I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this site - exceeded my expectations.
This site is based on the premise that everyone has something to teach. That may be true but not everyone can do it well. Subscription - $139 year. I found little value in this site. I feel like the instructors are more focused on putting out lots of light classes to make a buck instead of delivering meaningful helpful content. There may be good content on this site but I didn't find it worth my time.
Another site where instructors can upload their classes. Wide range of classes and some big names. I haven't been on this site in a long time but when I was I generally had a favorable impression of the quality. Purchase individual classes which from what I saw ranged from $14.99 to $199. Here's a helpful review about the site. 
Adding this just for fun. Very niche. This is where I happily spend my working hours each week. If you like genealogy and want to improve your skills this is the place to go. Only $49 a year for 1500+ classes and if you watch a free live webinar you can get a 10% off coupon for new memberships. 🙂 
What's your experience with online sites? Any favorites or ones not listed here?

Monday, July 23, 2018

An Early Genealogist

It's always a joy to come across another who shares your passion for genealogy. It's more rare to stumble across one from the 1800s. Here's one of the most delightful headstones. It memorializes Abner Morse of Holliston, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, fellow genealogist.

No Night There

In Filial Remembrance
Rev. Abner Morse.
Born at
Medway. Sept. 5, 1793.
Graduated at
Brown University. 1816.
Asleep in Jesus. May 16, 1865

A CHRISTIAN humble and devout, his Piety sincere and habitual.
Trembling yet trustful, beloved to lean upon the Master's bosom.
a PREACHER, earnest, plain, practical.
Adorning the Doctrine he professed by simplicity, purity, and truth.
As a PASTOR, discreet, faithful, affectionate.
of Geology an ardent Student, of Genealogical research
A zealous Promoter.
As HUSBAND, FATHER, FRIEND, beloved, honored, lamented.
Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believest thou this.

Gravestone in the Central Burying Ground, Holliston, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Photos by Marian Pierre-Louis.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Comparing My DNA results to My Dad's

Last time I discussed the comparison of my DNA results from three different testing companies. Now I take a close look at my DNA in comparison to my Dad.

What I did first what to analyze my ancestry based on my genealogical research. Based on the origins of my immigrant ancestors I calculated basic ethnic percentages. I broke this down between my Mom's side of the family and my Dad's. Next I took my Dad's ancestry and broke it down into ethnicities as well.

The fun starts when you compare your genealogical ancestry to your genetic ancestry! I think the results are often unexpected or off the mark. I took a look at both my dna results and my Dad's compared to our genealogy. Lastly I compared my dna and my Dad's dna results side by side. I am definitely his daughter even if I can't fully explain some of the ethnicities listed!

Have you tested your DNA to your parents'? Did it come out as expected or were there some surprises?  Let me know!

Click to view video
Direct link:

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”.