A Genealogical Thanksgiving

I’m thinking of a Genealogical Thanksgiving and wondering why I’m only now, today, thinking of it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 NIV Bible

 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—

1 Timothy 2:1 NIV Bible

 

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV Bible

Sarah Hale wrote to five presidents seeking to have a day of Thanksgiving recognized by all citizens of all states of the United States on the same day.  Here is part of her letter.

“You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”[i]

Abraham Lincoln received her letter in the middle of a war threatening to tear the union apart.  He established our tradition of a national holiday for giving thanks in 1863.  (The Confederate States waited until 1870 to join the fun!)  We’ve been, since then, celebrating the fourth Thursday of November as this singular national day of giving thanks in America.

I wonder why we feel the need to choose one day or why we feel we have to “order” proper behavior.  But, that’s another discussion for another day.

The fact is, it is more consistent with the teachings of the Bible and healthier to be thankful every day.  And genealogists and family historians have much to be thankful for every day.  Here are a few reminders, some things for which I am thankful as a family historian.

  1. A rich and varied family history with which I never bore. I’m about to begin my 4th year of research in my family history.  (I know; it seems like forever for some of my poor living family members.)  I’ve discovered the men and women in both of our family lines were all here before the Revolution.  All of my ancestral lines where in America 100 years before Lincoln “ordered” thankfulness — and some earlier.   Their stories illustrate the very fiber of this nation and are revealed one fact at a time.  Simple, common things fire my imagination.  I found my great-great-grandfather Riggs in the 1860 Federal Census from Denton County, Texas.  His occupation is “Master Cabinet Maker”.  His immediate neighbor’s occupation is given as “Cabinet Maker” and no doubt was my relative’s apprentice.  Stephen Riggs’ name appears in a recent book on early influential Texas furniture makers.  I know it’s crazy but uncovering these simple details still excites me and for such a rich family history, I am thankful.
  2. Family research facilities. There are sections of libraries and a growing number of stand-alone facilities for researching family history.  These include national, state and local centers.  Billions of clues and facts about families can’t be found online.  They are more available and accessible now than ever.  I am thankful.
  3. Friendly staff in county courthouses. If you’re going to research your family, you’ll need to be in county courthouses.  I always appreciate it when I meet courteous and helpful clerks.  I’ve met a bunch of them over the past three years, but the best example so for are the ladies in the county clerks’ office in Lamar County, Texas.  When I meet people like these folks, I am thankful.
  4. The Internet. You can’t do all of your research online but you can do more now than ever.  And you can do it in your pajamas!  (Only if you’re at home.  Don’t do it when you’re using the computers in a library or research facility.)  Family Search, Ancestry and a growing number of business minded companies are offering services to family researchers that can be accessed from home.  Add to this the Internet Archives and the millions of pages of others’ research now available online and you see why I’m thankful.
  5. Genealogical Proof Standards. The practice of these standards by family researchers is what keeps the sanity in the genealogical universe.  It also helps me know I’m on the right “trail” as I backtrack the common.  I am thankful.
  6. Helpful fellow researchers. They’re everywhere in the genealogical community.  Their clues are invaluable and their information is sometimes right!  I am thankful.
  7. DNA testing is available and cheap. The use of DNA for genealogical purposes is exploding.  The testing is simple.  The results and the software to help you understand and keep track of your results are improving.  You can now find cousins without doing the hard work of building an accurate family tree.  I don’t recommend it.  You’ll get much more out of your DNA results if you’ll build a five generation deep pedigree chart and then have your DNA tested.  I am thankful.
  8. I am thankful for all of the new cousins I’ve found through research and DNA. If you’re one of them, I want you to know I’m thankful!
  9. I’m thankful for my wife Dee who supports and assists me in my research.  We’ve been traveling together now for over 40 years and I am thankful.

Have a great Thanksgiving everybody!

[i] Sarah Hale’s original letter to President Lincoln is in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

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A Peek at My DNA Results

I sent my DNA samples off to Ancestry and Family Tree for autosomal testing in January.  While waiting for my results I hastily built a “cousin catching” online tree at Ancestry.  I received my results in March and enjoy the benefits to this day!

I plan to write a couple of full posts on DNA in the near future.  For now I want to highlight one benefit.

Autosomal DNA testing is a “family connections” type of testing.  That’s one way I think of it.  I’m told it allows you to find accurate connections to a maximum of 5 to 6 generations.  It allows you to connect on both your male and female sides.  The larger the test pool (total number of DNA contributors in any database), the more accurate the results.  I chose the two services with the largest and fastest growing databases.

My results give me a range or approximate amount of DNA compared to the known samples.  Both companies’ results were similar as you would hope they would be.  Here’s a broad overview.

I’m 99% European.  It breaks down with these approximate ranges:

  • Great Britain – Range 33% – 95% estimated at 65%
  • Scandinavia – Range 0% – 37% estimated at 16%
  • Ireland – Range 0% – 21% estimated at 9%
  • Europe West – Range 0% – 19% estimated at 6%
  • Italy/Greece – Range 0% – 4% estimated at 1%
  • Europe East – Range 0% – 5% estimated at 1%
  • European Jewish – Range 0% – 2% estimated at less than 1%
  • Caucasus Region – Range 0% – 3% estimated at less than 1%

Meaning

There’s nothing exciting here.  I’m about as white and European as you can get.  For generations now my ancestors have found and married others with genetic links to the same general part of the world.  Boring?  Those are the DNA facts and as you know in genealogy facts are good.

My DNA test results answers questions.

  • Who was my grandfather’s father?
  • Do I have Native American blood?
  • Am I related to a particular group of families?

My DNA test results help me make connections.

Some of the best fun and most productive genealogical results from DNA testing has been “meeting” so many wonderful new cousins.  They continue to add to my tree and my life.

One thing I would do different.

If I were doing it over, I would build a “cousin catching” tree on Family Tree like I did on Ancestry.  I encourage you to build a tree online and then order your DNA test.

A pleasant surprise

I wondered where my western European DNA originated and I think I found it!  I knew by the “paper trail” I’m related to the Nichols of Williamson County, Tennessee and Kerr County, Texas.   My Grandmother Emma Lee Ingram Roberts’ mother was a Nichols by birth.   I did not know until last week that through them I’m kin to the Schaffer family of South Carolina.  I found my newest and so far only sets of 5th generation great grandparents!  The paper trail clearly leads to:

Frederick Schaffer (1720 – 1786) and Maria E. Schaffer (1734 – 1787)

Johan G. Eichelberger (1729 – 1805) and Elizabeth C. Eichelberger 1740 – 1784)

The pleasant surprise?  All four were born in Germany.  Why is this pleasant to me?  Dee and I have two wonderful daughter-in-laws with clear and close German heritages (Katie and Katy).  In August we’ll add our third (Elizabeth)!  Well ladies, your husbands have always had the DNA in them.  And, by the way, 5 x great grandmother Eichelberger’s full name was Elizabeth Catherine Eichelberger!  I’m a proud great grandson and a proud father-in-law.

Thinking about DNA testing?  Build that simple pedigree tree.  Research your options.  Stay tuned.  Consider following this blog and signing up for updates.  I’ll post more on DNA in the future.

Happy hunting.