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.

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Dealing with Death Certificates

I love death certificates.  I sort of collect death certificates, well, at least for family history purposes.  They’re a wealth of information – and some of it is good!

Like all documents, the information contained on a death certificate is only as good as the informant. If the informant knows the correct dates, names or spellings, the document MAY be correct IF the document transcriber records it correctly.  As I wrote in an earlier post, good genealogists are good skeptics.

What can we learn about our ancestors from their death certificates?  What is the most valuable information found in these documents?  How should we approach them?  What cautions should we consider?

Consider the certificates of three brothers, three of my great grand uncles.

William F. Ashlock died 12 October 1922 in Wise County, Texas.  These facts and the cause of death are the most reliable facts on a death certificate.  Why?  Because they are the facts provided by an attending physician who is aware of the date, time and place of this event.  This information is found on the right side of the three samples we see here. We look here at only the left side of these samples.

1922 Ashlock, William F. Death Certificate

  • Place of death:  Decatur, Wise County, Texas
  • Name:  William F. Ashlock
  • Sex:  Male
  • Race:  White
  • Marital Status:  Widower
  • Date of birth:  March 18, 1837
  • Age:  85 yrs. 7 mo. 25 days
  • Occupation:  Farmer
  • Birthplace:  Illinois
  • Name of Father:  Joe Ashlock
  • Father’s birthplace:  Kentucky
  • Name of Mother:  Miss Elizabeth Norman
  • Mother’s birthplace:  Kentucky
  • Informant:  W. H. Ashlock
  • Address:  Decatur, Texas
  • File date and official who filed it:  November 6, 1922 by Carla Faith

Joshua Middleton Ashlock died 17 March 1923 in Wizard Wells, Jack County, Texas.

  • 1923 Ashlock, Joshua M. Death CertificatePlace of death:  Wizard Wells, Jack County, Texas.
  • Sex:  Male
  • Race:  White
  • Marital Status:  Married
  • Birth date:  March 27, 1848
  • Age at death:  74 yrs 11 mo 19 days
  • Occupation:  Farmer and Carpenter
  • Place of birth:  Dallas County, Texas
  • Father’s name:  Josiah Ashlock
  • Father’s birthplace:  Illinois
  • Mother’s name:  Elizabeth Nobles
  • Mother’s birthplace:  Illinois
  • Informant:  Mrs. Dora Crabb of Jean, Texas
  • Information recorded by Hattie E. Worley (I think.) on March 28, 1923

James Wesley Ashlock died July 23, 1936 in Wise County, Texas.

  • 1936 Ashlock, J Wesley death certificatePlace of death:  Wise County, Texas
  • Sex:  Male
  • Race:  White
  • Marital Status:  Married
  • Date of birth:  July 31, 1850
  • Age at death:  85 yrs 11 mo 22 days
  • Occupation:  Farmer, Retired
  • Date he last worked:  Dec. 1926
  • Years he worked at this occupation:  50
  • Birthplace:  Dallas, Texas
  • Father’s name:  Josiah Ashlock
  • Father’s birthplace:  Unknown
  • Mother’s name:  Elizabeth Norman
  • Mother’s birthplace:  Unknown
  • Informant:  G. C. Ashlock
  • Burial place and date:  Anneville Cemetery on July 24, 1936
  • Undertaker:  O.L. Christian of Decatur, Texas.
  • Filed July 28, 1936 by J.A. Chandler

Josiah Ashlock was born in 1814 in Anderson County, Tennessee.  He married my great, great grandmother Elizabeth Norman in Greene County Illinois in 1833.  She was born in Kentucky.  They began their family in 1834 with the birth of their daughter Nancy.  Their oldest son William F. arrived in 1837 followed by two daughters and a son. They arrived in Texas in about 1844 as part of the Peters Colony and settled on land along both sides of the Denton and Dallas County lines.  The original grant would be mostly north of the President George Bush Freeway east of where it intersects with with Stemmons Freeway (I – 35).  Joshua Middleton was the first of this Ashlock family to be born in Texas in 1849.  His younger brother James Wesley was born in July of 1850 also in Dallas County.  Josiah would die around 1852.  Elizabeth Norman Ashlock married my great, great grandfather Stephen Riggs.  He also had Peters Colony land surveyed in southeastern Denton County.  His first wife had died sometime before 1850.  My great grandmother Rachel Marinda Riggs would be born in Denton County in 1855.

So how did our three death certificate informants do at the death of these three Ashlock brothers?

The informant for William F. Ashlock was W. H. Ashlock.  I’m not sure who he was.  He may be a son or a grandson.  He knows his family.  He gets William’s birth date, birthplace, mother’s name and birthplace all correct.  He names William’s dad as “Joe” Ashlock.  While I can understand the 1820’s use of this name, I doubt I’ll ever find it in any official documents related to Josiah Ashlock.  He missed the place of William’s father’s birth.  All-in-all it’s not a bad performance.

The informant for Joshua M. Ashlock was Dora Crabb.  I’m not sure who she was. She gets Joshua’s name, place of birth, and father’s name correct.  She misses by one year the correct birth date.  She is also incorrect about Joshua’s father and mother’s birthplaces.  She also gives the wrong maiden name for Elizabeth.  This might confuse a well intended family historian.

The informant  for James Wesley was his son G.C. Ashlock (That’s Grover Cleveland).  He’s right about his father’s birth date, birthplace and name.  He gets his mother’s name correct.  He doesn’t know his father or his mother’s birthplace and he doesn’t guess.  He doesn’t know everything but he won’t confuse you with what he doesn’t know.

What do we learn from these death certificate examples and how we can use death certificates in our genealogy research?

  1. Death certificates are very reliable for the date and cause of death.  I will take this date of death over what is on a headstone or in a family bible.  Why?  Think about it.  Use the comment section.
  2. If the date on a death index is different from a death certificate, I’ll give more weight to the certificate.
  3. The information on any document is only as good as the informant and as reliable as the transcriber.  I like the information from an attending physician and treat everything else with less weight.
  4. What do we do with the other information on a death certificate?  Use it to corroborate other information you have.  Use it as clues on where to research next.

I love death certificates and what they provide family researchers!  I’m just a little skeptical and you should be as well.

Happy Hunting!

Something for my grandchildren and a reminder for my fellow family historians

It happened on April 23, 1973.  Forty two years ago today Dee and I had our first date.  We refer to it as “the deal”.  We’ve had many dates since that day but never another one just like the first one.  I’ll explain in a minute.100_6530

I thought about that first date Tuesday night.  We had tickets to attend a classical piano concert at the Bob Bullock State History Museum in beautiful uptown Austin, Texas near the University of Texas campus.  The concert was part of the Texas Art and Culture Series.  Renowned Texas pianist and director of the Round Top Festival Institute James Dick performed.  Dick is a graduate of the University, winner of the Texas Medal of Arts, the Chevalier des Arts et Letters, and an Honorary Associate of London’s Royal Academy of Music.  He played several classical pieces from French composers in honor of the Museum’s new La Belle exhibit.  Dee and I particularly enjoyed the pieces composed by Claude Debussy.

Earlier in the evening we took advantage of our museum membership, parked in the parking garage and walked to dinner.  El Mercado provided the perfect fix for a couple who had a taste for Tex-Mex.  After dinner we strolled by beautiful old homes and gardens in the early cool of the evening.  We eventually found ourselves seated under the giant Star of Texas in front of the museum, talking while waiting to go inside.  I think she mentioned the approaching anniversary of our first date and it raised a question in my mind.  How many times had I taken her to a classical music concert?  She said this would be the first.  Surprised, I asked if she were sure.  (I think our memories are a little faulty these days.)  But I agreed it could have been me and the girls at those Stephen F. Austin concerts.  (No, wait a minute, I’m sure our whole family went to at least once.)  Well, it’s a good thing her favorite music’s not classical!

I thought about how much I enjoyed our conversation and how much I always do.  We spend more time together now than we ever have and would not want it any other way.   We enjoy being together and never have to force ourselves to find something about which to talk.  I’m glad.

Now about that first date.

I was a senior in high school in Denton, Texas.  Dee was a freshman at Texas Women’s University.  We met through friends at church.  I never really gave her much thought because she was “so much” older than me.  But one night she pulled me aside at the

Yes, those are the same two people.
Yes, those are the same two people.

Christian Student Center and asked if she could ask my advice.  That conversation, hearing her heart, opened my heart to hers that night and boy did I take notice!  About two weeks later, while working on a class project, I decided to use it as an excuse to ask her out.  I told her I would make a deal with her.  Help me on my project and I’ll take you out for pizza.  I’ve been asking her ever since and she’s been saying, “Yes”.  But, I’ve never asked her to help me on a high school project.  That was a one of a kind date.

We saw each other almost every day for four months and then I was off to school.  We would spend very little time together the next two years.  We were both very busy.  We “dated” long distance which I think helped my grades but wasn’t nearly as much fun.

Less than a week after my 20th birthday and at a time of the year when we were the same age, we were married.  It hasn’t always been easy or fun but it’s been a lot more fun than it’s been uneasy.  I think we would start it all over again today.  Who knows, with a little bit of experience, it could be even better.

Now, you’re wondering, why this story?  Why all the detail?  Well it’s like this.  As a family historian I’m sure some of you have regretted not asking you grandparents more questions or listening to their long-winded details?  My hope is that when one of my grandchildren ask the questions, I wonder where Pop and Memaw met or I wonder what they did on their first date, they will find this firsthand account.  What I would give for some firsthand accounts.  How about you?

 

Ten Genealogical Lessons I Learned the Hard Way – New FREE webinar available for a LIMITED TIME

Here’s another great Legacy Family Tree seminar.  It’s FREE for a limited time.  Genealogist Warren Bittner shares his years of experience by sharing some of his mistakes as a researcher and how you can avoid them.  Humorous and Helpful.

Click on the link and press the “Watch Video” button.  Enjoy!

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Hurry! Two FREE online webinars for a very limited time. Check out these free resources.

Legacy Family Tree offers free weibnars for non-subscribers on an almost weekly basis. There are presently two FREE seminars for your viewing.  Check these out.  Simply click the view button.

American Revolution Genealogy (Until the 15th)

The War of Independence changed history; our history; our families’ history. It’s a story about which we want to know more. Did my ancestor help? …even a little? There’s much to be learned about our ancestors’ roles in this moment in history. In this class, we’ll discover where to start, what the best resources are, and how to tackle the research. So, let’s go in search of answers using the soldiers’ service and pension records and unit narratives.

http://www.familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=260

Hookers, Crooks, and Kooks – Aunt Merle Didn’t Run a Boarding House (Until the 17th)

Each of us wants to ignore that scalawag, that counterfeiter, or that madam in our family, but the black sheep may prove the most interesting of all. Learn to examine clues in unusual and also common sources. Learn how they lead to locating more records.

http://www.familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=262

Tip #6: Decide to find the facts and not just fill in the blanks.

The internet enables incredible research and collaboration with others on your family’s history.  It’s also fraught with potential traps and misdirection.  A research mistake by you or others is multiplied.  In the past, a person took a blank family tree chart or family group sheet and filled in the blanks on paper as they researched their family.  It was a simple way to keep track of the “facts” they uncovered in their research.  If they were wrong, if they made a mistake in their research, very few people knew or were affected.  That’s not true today.

Family history is not a competition.  We may use games to teach our family history but the research we do is not a game.  When we fail in our due diligence and rush to fill in as many blanks as possible on an online family tree, we confuse and potentially misdirect others.  We may leave behind lies rather than facts for our families to follow.

This is NOT a call to abandon or stop posting online family trees.  I would never do that.  The collaborative aspect is much too valuable.  I’m appealing for accuracy in our research before we post and when we’re not sure about our conclusion to be very clear about our uncertainty.  And there lies the problem with family trees.  They are made up of names, dates and lines connecting those names and dates.  They create blanks for us to fill in and discourage uncertainty.  Family trees are not theses or dissertations.  They’re a simplified expression of that kind of research and thought.

It’s OK to leave blanks on family trees when we’re not reasonably certain what should go in those blanks.  It’s OK for others to question what we have put in our blanks.  We should welcome this.  It’s OK to change the information in our blanks.  It’s OK to use “abt” or “ca” or “unknown”.  Doing so may be better for you and others.

Here’s the bottom line.  You have to decide.  As the genealogist/family historian are you going to focus on finding the facts or filling in the blanks as fast as you can?  Will it be a competition or competent research?  If it’s competent research, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks with confidence.

What do you see?

I wrote in an earlier post about the importance of skepticism when doing genealogy/family history research.  Here’s a good example.  This is a death certificate I found yesterday while doing some research for a new cousin.  What do you see recorded as the full name for the subject of this official death certificate?  How would you transcribe this name?

1901 Drury, Edith Victoria death certificate

The indexer for this collection saw this name as “Edith Van Connie Drury”.  What did you see?  Here’s what the indexer should have seen and recorded:   Edith Victoria Drury.

Be cautious and tenacious when doing your research.  A future fellow researcher will rise up and call you “blessed!”

Tip #5: Good Genealogists Are Skeptics

Good Monday morning!  Here’s your Backtracking the Common tip for today.  Enjoy!

All good genealogists are skeptics. They have to be. Grandpa Jones “improved” the family’s history. Aunt Sally miss-remembered. Aunt Polly covered up the date of a child’s birth to better match a wedding date. Paw Paw embellished his military record. And the beat goes on. The wrong information was recorded on records at the local, state and/or federal levels. Names are misspelled. Handwritten copies are inaccurate copies. Census takers wrote it down wrong. Informants on census records told it wrong. Informants on death records didn’t know the correct answer. How could they possibly provide it? And the beat goes on…

“I read it on the internet. It must be true.” That’s supposed to be a joke and everyone’s supposed to already know it. But I see many new (and some not so new) would be genealogists/family historians who don’t seem to get it. It’s as if we want to control the narrative of our family’s history instead of uncovering, recording, and reporting it.

To be a good genealogist we have to be truth seekers. We know we’re not bound by the past, so we’re not afraid to reveal it. We may not want to repeat it, but we look for tactful, compassionate ways to tell the true family story. We have to decide. Do we want to be myth tellers or historians?

Good genealogists are skeptics.
Collect all of the family stories you can. Be respectful of family members but be skeptical. The facts have to support the stories or they’re only stories.
• In your skepticism, remember, some stories will prove to be completely accurate and almost all stories have clues in them you need to follow.
Don’t be afraid of conflicting information. Determine to know the truth.
• Use multiple sources and work toward a preponderance of evidence.
• Once you have settled the issue in your own mind, be prepared to change it. Be open to reconsidering old and new facts.
Don’t “break up” with others over a difference of opinion.

Happy hunting!

Doing Genealogical Research in North Texas: a surprise, the status quo and a gem

If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you.  These resources will make your research more productive.

Dee and I recently used the genealogical sections of three North Texas libraries.  One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem.  Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.

The Surprise

We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price.  Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him.  It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s.  It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time.   I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave.  That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters.  They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name.  They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.

W. Walworth Harrison Public Library   

#1 Lou Finney LaneW. Walworth Harrison Library

Greenville, Texas 75401

Hunt County

903-457-2992

Hours:  Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursdays, 12 pm – 8pm and closed Sundays.

I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place.  I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room.  The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research.  The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared.  You may have to provide for yourself. (see below).   We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it.  We did however find several other useful facts about other family members.  If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.

The Status Quo

We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records.  When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846).  I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death.   I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences.   It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington.  (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)

Roy & Helen Hall Memorial Library

101 East Hunt St.

McKinney, Texas 75069

Collin County

972-547-7323

Hours:  Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm

This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye.  The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties.  There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came.  The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games.  There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions.  This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd.  The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers.  It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.

The Gem

And then you find that special place with special people.  I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas.  I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there.  The basement?  Sounds rather dark and damp.  I assure you it’s neither.

Haggard Center emblem
Click for more details

Haggard Library       

2501 Coit Rd.

Plano, Texas 75075

Collin County

972-769-4250

Hours:  Monday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm, Fri. 9am – 6pm, Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, Sun. 1pm – 5 pm

The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement.  It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed.  I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another.  You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another.  There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian.  And then there’s the staff.  They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate.  Considerate?  Yes.  When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat.  I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request.  Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude.  I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library.  And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith.  She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families.  She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County.  Thanks Cheryl!  I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!

My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area.  Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated.  This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.

Preparing to research a library:

  • Have research goals.  What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
  • Know before you go.  What is available?  What is allowed?  What are the hours?  Where is it located?
  • Search the online catalog.  Have your titles and call numbers ready.  What questions do you have for the staff?  Prepare your research log in advance.
  • Don’t forget your equipment.  Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier

When you’re there:

  • Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others.  Allow them to do their work.  Don’t distract others around you.
  • Follow the library’s protocols.  Don’t reshelf the books.  Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided.  Know how to use the equipment and properly use it.  Ask for help if you don’t.

Happy Hunting!