Monday, 23 February 2015

My First AncestryDNA Tree Hint

Last week I noticed one of those leaves.  You know the sort - the little 'hints' that appear on  Ancestry, to indicate that they have identified an item in their records, or in someone else's pedigree, which the company's search tools suggest could possibly relate to someone in my own pedigree.  When I first put my tree online, there were over 1000 of these and some of the suggestions seemed so ridiculous to me that I soon decided to ignore the little leaves.

But not this one.

This one was on my DNA account.  That's the same pedigree for me, but being matched to a specific group of people as comparisons, people already identified by Ancestry as connected to me through shared DNA. 

Excitedly, I checked my match's details.  A private tree.  Never mind, send a message - and wait.  (Did they receive the message?  How long should I wait before sending another, 'just in case' the first went astray?  Oh, aren't we genealogists so impatient at times!)

I receive a reply. Hurrah!

And, yes, we do appear to have a common ancestor.  Or, more correctly, a common ancestral couple.  Thomas DOWDING (b. 1768 d. 1857) and Ann WHATLEY  (d. 1861), living in Donhead St Andrew.  I descend from their son, George , who married Mary COLLINS and my match descends from their daughter Jane, who married a John HOWELL.  I show the family on my "DNA Tree" at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/im.griffiths/parryfamilyhistory/personaldnatree.htm (search the page for "Whatley" to find them, as I haven't yet added links to specific families).

The research for this family was mainly carried out by my mother, and it is part of my "Genealogy Do-Over" goals to check her work during this year.  But, at the death of Ann DOWDING, the widow of Thomas DOWDING, the informant was a John HOWELL, and I have found some look-ups I did for Mum on Ancestry, back in 2005, relating to the John HOWELL, so we were definitely considering that family as another descendant branch.

John HOWELL appears to have first been married to a Mary (HO107/1175/5/ED8/F22/P6) and had at least four children by 1841.  There is a possible death for Mary in March 1849 and, based on the 1851 census, John and Mary had, had further children by then (HO107/1849/62/24).  John then marries Jane DOWDING* and has at least three children, Emma J, Georgina and Abigail.

My DNA match is descended from Emma Jane HOWELL.

The Ancestry relationship prediction is that we are 5th-8th cousins.  From the genealogical relationships, we are 4th cousins , once removed.

Unfortunately, at Ancestry there is no chromosome browser, so we cannot see where we share DNA.  If we could, it would enable us to each identify our other matches over the same area.  If those matches then matched both of us there, this would mean we all shared the same common ancestry somewhere on the lines through Thomas or Ann (either their descendants, or, as descendants of one of their ancestors).  Thus it would potentially help us find our connection to these other people, who might not have sufficient detail in their pedigrees for us to spot the link from the pedigrees alone.

Also, currently, even though the two of us have found common ancestors, it does not necessarily follow that the shared DNA definitely comes through them - so, finding other matches who share the same DNA segments with both of us would enable us to see whether their pedigrees have the potential to link to this same ancestral couple, which would help to confirm where the DNA actually came from.

I wonder if my match might be willing to upload their data to Gedmatch, so that we can actually compare DNA - currently, transferring the data elsewhere is the only way to make up for the deficiency in the Ancestry provision.

So, there is still a lot to confirm, but at least this 'shaking leaf' does seem to be a hint in the right direction. 

[*Jane appears to have been married before as well - a Jane DOWDING marrying an Elias DUNFORD in 1842, with Elias dying in 1843, and a 'Jane DUNFORD' then marrying John HOWELL in 1849.  These details do still need confirming.]

Genealogy Do-Over Week 5

The Genealogy Do-Over Week 5 tasks were:
1) Building a Research Toolbox and
2) Citing Sources

Thomas MacEntee is clearly keen on the idea of every researcher having a "consolidated research toolbox filled with various tools such as historical value of money calculators, links to historical newspaper sites, etc".  And I can see the advantages of increasing one's efficiency by being able to go straight to a particular "tool", (ie website), rather than having to spend time looking for a suitable one, and risking being sidetracked by all the other possibilities found en route, or becoming frustrated by not finding a suitable resource.

I know my mother had such a research toolbox, as I was going through some paperwork recently and found it.  She wrote information and useful websites into an address book:

But I must admit to being somewhat ambivalent about the idea of maintaining such a toolbox myself.  Whilst I used to bookmark particularly helpful, or unusual/interesting, web sites, these days I can usually find what I want using Google in less time than it takes me to even remember I have such a site bookmarked, yet alone remember where I listed it! 

Would things be better if I made sure my list was organised?  Perhaps, but I don't believe in reinventing the wheel and, with the existence of sites such as Cyndi's List at http://www.cyndislist.com/ , there seems little point in trying to produce a list myself.  

Maybe my view would be different if I was only researching my own family, and therefore concentrating on a particular region, or regularly returning to the same records.  But, with the one-name study, research could lead in any direction, so I am unlikely to have been able to anticipate which tools I need before a particular need arises.

It occurs to me that the research log, which I am (supposed to be J  ) keeping, will list all the sites that I have searched - so there's a sense that, as long as the log is completed as I research, and it is easily searchable, then it will meet the need of enabling me to re-find that really useful site I remember coming across.  And one of my intentions for my new ONS web site is to have a list of sources, with their general citation details and some information regarding the reliability (or otherwise) of the source, a bit like a bibliography but with added notes.  So this would also build up to become a form of toolbox.

And so I am not going to specifically create a toolbox now, but perhaps one will develop over time, and I shall then be able to see how useful it becomes.

I am quite "late" posting this, as I wanted to make sure I had actually carried out the part 2 activity, which was to read Chapters 1 and 2 of "Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace".  I bought a download of this book last year, and had started to read it but decided a refresher of those chapters would be a good idea.  Anyone who has studied to a reasonably high level, and carried out research projects, will know the importance of citing sources.  Some people doing the Do-Over seem to have been quite stressed about the 'correct' construction of citations - but there are several different formats in general use, depending on what type of research one is doing, or where it is being published.  So, rather than worrying about all the little nuances, I find it easiest to just remember the main point - that the citation should enable anyone else to find the documents I used for my research.  

Hopefully, that should be sufficient while I am getting into the habit of always quoting the sources for everything I do, and I can refine how I am actually writing them once I get more proficient at remembering to add them in the first place!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Ancestor Score as at Valentine’s Day 2015

I am so pleased that genealogists like sharing what they do – and encourage others to copy it, by asking how the rest of us compare to them!

Cathy Meder-Dempsey posted her “Ancestor Score” today, at https://openingdoorsinbrickwalls.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/my-ancestor-score-as-of-valentines-day-2015/, copying an idea that she’d seen on another blog the previous year.  What a good way of measuring one form of progress in our research.

So here’s my ancestor score, based on the research carried out by my parents:

I have added an extra column to those used by Cathy, so that I can also record the number of DNA matches where I know the common ancestral couple.

Now seems a very appropriate time to “take stock” like this, given that I will soon be working through my parents’ research as part of my "Genealogy Do-Over".  Hopefully, by this time next year, I will not only have confirmed all of these ancestors but also added a few more – and, perhaps, also managed to identify a few more common ancestors with the thousands of DNA matches that I have.

Friday, 13 February 2015

DNA, Family Trees and collateral branches

A change from the Do-Over topics – having had my DNA tested several years ago, it has always been my intention to write about genetic genealogy and how the results of DNA testing were helping me (or not!) with my own family history.  There are several very informative bloggers who write about the “wider picture” of using DNA for genealogy, so my concentration was going to be just about my own personal experiences.  Since I have now started this blog for my family history, there seems little point in having a separate DNA blog, so I shall be including the DNA-related posts here.

Genetic genealogy should not be seen as a separate discipline from traditional genealogical research – the two methods go hand in hand.  DNA testing can identify that there is a common ancestry between two people but it is only through the traditional research techniques that the shared ancestors can then be identified. 

Fundamentally important to the process of identifying the DNA connections is having a pedigree available for one’s DNA matches to view and compare against their own family information.  I do have a public tree on Ancestry, based on the research carried out by my parents, but I thought it might be useful to have a tree on here as well.   This is just a small image of the tree, as I have also created a separate page of the blog (see tabs above) with a larger image on. 

The tree is based on the “horizontal style”, as advocated in the post on the "Analytic Genealogy" blog at http://analyticgenealogy.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/genetic-genealogy-needs-horizontal.html .  Although I haven't yet started to work through the records to confirm the research that my parents carried out, I do believe it is fairly reliable – more likely to be missing additional supporting records, than to contain incorrect connections.  As my “Do-Over” proceeds, it will involve checking my parents’ research, and I will update the tree as necessary.  Hopefully, that will also enable me to fill in many of the blanks on the tree - laying the pedigree out like this seems to show up the “unknown ancestors” much more effectively than the usual trees produced by the family tree programs.

Of course, for DNA matching purposes, what one really needs is a tree that shows, not just all of one’s ancestors, but also all of the other descendants of those ancestors – right down to the various “living cousin” levels of one’s DNA matches. Otherwise a descendant of those collateral branches might easily miss their connection to me, just because they haven’t researched far enough back to arrive at our common ancestor.

I have been working on a pedigree that might meet this need – it is currently on my web page at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/im.griffiths/parryfamilyhistory/personaldnatree.htm , as I still need to work out how to add that much styling information to a page on blogger.

And, as might be expected, it has even more gaps in it than the tree here does!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A long week or a short cut? (Genealogy Do-Over week 2..&3…&4……)

It’s strange how things work out – there was me, finishing my last post with “So now I just need to work out how to use OneNote effectively….” And along came an essential [non-genealogy] task that had to take priority over the Do-Over and has taken up several weeks of my time.  L

However, as part of this task involved identifying errors in a document that had been posted to me, I suddenly realised I could actually use OneNote for this and so get in some practice with it. I scanned the document and created a pdf from it, which I then imported into OneNote.  Next I annotated the pages, adding highlighting and text comment boxes, with arrows drawn to indicate relevant links between my comments and the original text.  Finally I exported the annotated version back to a pdf, ready to send off to where it needed to go. Along the way, I learnt a bit about printing from OneNote [It is advisable to set the page size before import of a document, if you know you’ll need to print it, otherwise you don’t get what you expect when you hit print!] [And, even after doing that, if you try cramming too much on the page, without paying attention to the margins, exporting to a pdf will still result in overflowing pages and additional pages being added to your exported document. L]

I also discovered that it is useful to ensure the image to be annotated is an appropriate size before highlighting anything, as resizing the image leaves the highlighting at random points on the page! [Perhaps there is a way to group the drawn items with the original image, as there is in Word, so that it all moves together - must look into that.] 

So, where did that side-track leave me with regard to my Do-Over progress? 

Well, after my last post, I had made a start on watching some educational videos – some about OneNote, Evernote, and several by Thomas MacEntee regarding the Do-Over, his Excel Research Log, and his Project management log.  I also watched one entitled “Genealogy on the Go with iPads and Tablets” by Lisa Louise Cooke, which looked like it could be useful (and it was).  Any notes I made during these, I tried to lay out in a “mind-map” format – which seemed to help me to focus and not write too many details down, a longstanding failing of mine when taking notes at lectures.  J

So far, so good - all part of deciding on the procedures to use to research, an aim of week 1. 

And perhaps that’s where I am really still at – although it seems like I might have now managed to deal with several weeks all together.  Week 2’s topics were 1) Setting Research Goals, 2) Conducting Self Interview, and 3) Conducting Family Interviews.  Thomas said that the reason for including 2) and 3) was to provide the data for 1), since many people had put aside their old research.  But as I am continuing to carry out research for my One-Name Study, I have more than enough items I could be setting research goals for.  I am also not yet ready to start on my own family history research at the moment.  So the “interview” sections of week 2 were put to one side until later.

Week 3’s topics were
1) Tracking Research and
2) Conducting Research,

And Week 4’s were
1) Managing Projects and Tasks, and
2) Tracking Searches

In week 1, I said I need to focus on the whole process of research, from start to finish, and that one of my principles would be to “Track all work”.  Now, maybe it’s just how I think, but it seems to me that the topics of week 4 are the top (“summary”) and bottom (“detailed”) levels of the practical side of that “whole process”, with items from weeks 2 and 3 fitting in-between them, like the first four stages in this: 

So I have been concentrating on how I am going to process all of those aspects in a way that fits smoothly together – and also takes account of the systems I have already that I believe do work (eg my correspondence log, which often serves as a “starting point” from which research projects develop.)  Having come across David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system in one of the videos, and knowing that I have other projects in life that could do with better tracking, I have set up one notebook for organisation.  This includes a tab for “project management” in which I have embedded a modified copy of Thomas MacEntee’s excel project management spreadsheet.  Projects will then be allocated to the specific notebook they relate to (eg Personal Family History, Parry One-Name Study, or one of my other activities) as appropriate.

Both the Personal Family History Notebook and the Parry ONS Notebook are set up with sections based on the different sheets from Thomas MacEntee’s Research Log.  Within the sections I can then add pages of research plans & individual search logs.  That should enable me to have embedded excel sheets as summary documents in each notebook, whilst still maintaining a more narrative style for the actual plans and the detailed search logs.  At the moment, I have left in most of the columns from the original spreadsheets, but there’s likely to be modifications as I use the system and refine where my preferred balance is, between spreadsheet and narrative forms of recording.  Unfortunately, I have already had to remove the “drop down lists”, which were set up to limit certain column entries just to the relevant categories from Evidence Evaluation, as it appears OneNote cannot import a spreadsheet with them still in, but I am sure I shall soon learn to use the right terminology. 

I do want to give credit where it’s due so I will add here that inspiration for the various sheets I have used, and some of the modifications I have made so far, come from the files provided by Miriam J. Robbins (http://ancestories1.blogspot.co.uk), Christine Sisko Svircev, and Linda Debe Hodges, in particular (as well as Thomas MacEntee, of course).  These can be found either on their own blogs, or under the Files section of the Facebook Do-Over group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/genealogydoover/ .  I have also now added a “Do-Over Tools page” to this blog, with a few comments about the items I am finding particularly useful (or will be exploring soon).  I shall continue to add to this as my Do-Over continues (and as I continue to learn how to set Blogger up!)

So, what do you think - have I found a short cut to get to week 5 of the Genealogy Do-Over, or am I still at week 2, since I haven’t actually done any specific research yet?