Saturday, March 12, 2016

Family History and My DNA

A couple years ago I dove head first into the DNA pool.  I had no idea what I was doing and can honestly still say the whole thing confuses me, but I am slowly learning.  How did I think DNA would help me in my family history search?  I envisioned all these people matching up with my family genes and answering many of my questions.  Well, that has not happened but lots of other fun things have.  I have had two cool connections that recently came from my DNA results.

One was a young lady who was adopted.  She is trying to find out some of her family background.  Our match was one of the first hints about her ancestry.  Now, mind you, it is pretty far back in the line, but it was my MTDNA so we know it came from one of the women on my mother's side of the family.

Another connection was a young man who was looking for information on his mother's side of the family and we had a close match.  I was able to send him some information on my 3rd Great Grandmother. He was so appreciative for the information.  Little pieces of the proverbial jigsaw puzzle I talked about in a previous blog, Jigsaw Puzzles and Genealogy.  A piece here, a piece there and a picture starts to form.  It may not be clear right away, but another piece appears and you get a little closer look as to what it really looks like.

For Father's Day, a couple years ago, my brother's and I gave my dad a DNA test kit.  He has been one of my greatest cheerleaders when it comes to finding out more about our family history, so we thought this might be another way to help move the process along.  After getting his results, I signed him up in the Hatch DNA Project website.  Not much has come from that, in the way of finding a direct line, yet. More and more people are getting tested every day, so that could change.

This week, I stumbled upon a Moore County, North Carolina, family website, which also had a DNA project.  Knowing that some of my dad's family had lived in Moore County, I decided to join that project.  The administrator sent a link to his family history site and I was so surprised.  I had been on that very site, the day before, looking for family members.  As it turns out, we have common ancestors.  My dad's 2nd Great Grandfather, Nathaniel Green Smith Marley, was married to one of his relatives.  I only found this out because of the DNA test.  This website is really well done and you can tell a lot of research has gone into it.  Check it out here.  Catherine Hunsucker is the family name that connects us.  She was married to Nathaniel Marley.

After getting dad to do his test, I sent in mine and talked my brother into doing his too.  We are still looking for our elusive 3rd Great Grandfather on our mother's side.  We have joined the Garrison DNA project, in hopes that as time goes by, we will get some information on who he was.

DNA testing for genealogy is still catching on but as I mentioned earlier, more and more people are getting tested which will increase the odds of finding other family members.  If you are thinking of testing, I would check into first.  Test with them and then you can transfer your results to other sites, such as Family Tree DNA, which will increase your possible matches.  I did not do that but wish I had.  I did encourage my brother to submit his through Ancestry first, which he did.

Every day I get emails about possible matches.  Most are so far out that they are hard to identify who the connection is, but every once in awhile, one will come in that is super close.  Those are the ones that will get your heart pumping.  If you have had your DNA tested, let me know what results you have found.  Who knows, we might find out we are related somehow!

Want a little better understanding of how DNA works?  Diahan Southard is the DNA Guide for Lisa Louise Cooke's website, Genealogy Gems.  She has many articles on DNA that you can find here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Working with the Census in Family History

One of my favorite sources, when researching my family history, is the United States Census. Each year, starting in 1790, stats have been compiled every 10 years, for the main purpose of finding out the number of people in each state so they could determine the amount of representation they would have in Congress. Other entities used the info to be able to collect taxes and put together demographics of their area.

There is a lot of information to be found in these documents if you know how and where to look. Many years the census takers acquired different kinds of information. Besides the obvious, name, address, age and whether married or not, other information such as birthplace, employment, whether attended school, could they read, write, etc. Some years asked if the person was a veteran and if so, which war.

In 1930, one of the questions asked was whether or not you had a radio set? What? That seemed strange to me so I looked up why they would put that on the form. I found an explanation on the Census History website taken from a book by Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity. "The 1930 census reflected the emerging values of early twentieth-century America, in particular the growing influence of consumerism and mass culture. The 1930 census included for the first time a question regarding a consumer item. Respondents were asked whether they owned a "Radio set," a luxury that had become increasingly common in the 1920s. As historian Roland Marchand has argued, in the early decades of the twentieth century, American business and political leaders viewed radio as a source of cultural "uplift" for the population as well as a valuable medium for advertisement of mass-produced goods. The inclusion of a question on radio ownership reflected this new interest in the possibilities of consumer items and methods of mass communication."

Even though the census started in 1790, it was not until 1850 that they listed all members of the family. Up to that point, just the head of the household was listed and then tick marks for the others living there, divided by male, female and age groups. I have found the 1850 to 1940 forms are the most helpful because it does list all the family members.

If you were born after the first half of 1940, you won't see your name listed on a census... yet. The 1940 census came out in April 2012. A census can not be released until 72 years after it was taken We won't see the 1950 until sometime in 2022. I won't be able to see my name on a form until 2032. Because they were only taken every 10 years, if someone was born in 1922 and died in 1926, you will not have a record of them in a census.

When you find a person from your family tree, in a census form, it makes their lives so much more real. You get to know a little bit more about them, what their life was like, where they came from, who their neighbors were, just to name a few. I find that in the older forms, the neighbors are typically other names you will find in your lineage. People tended to marry those that lived close by.

Some census forms can be very entertaining too. The census takers probably grew bored of asking the same things, over and over again. Some of their feelings about that come out in the comments on their listings. For example, on Lisa Louise Cook's website, a listener sent her information on an 1875 Kansas State Census (different than the US) where Frank Wilkeson, the census taker, wrote that one of the people he reported on was a "loafer". Another one was a "blow hard". He didn't think much of them, did he?

Another site, RootsChat, listed the mother as "in childbirth" at the time the census was taken. Yet another one listed the head of the household and then a woman's name with mistress after it, instead of the typical entry of wife. Each of the children were listed as the son or daughter of the mistress. Another listed the lady of the house as a concubine.

These are just a few of the interesting things you will find in the census records. Take some time and look for some of your relatives. You never know what little fun facts you might uncover.

1Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940 (1985), p. 171