Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Contest for Free RootsTech Full Admission

You’ll recall that I get to give away a free pass for full 3-day admission to RootsWeb 2015 ($239 value). I solicited ideas for how to do so. I’m going to go with the suggestion from reader Larissa. (Thanks, Larissa.)

Write a short essay/article about how or assisted in an unusual find or a unique way to use a feature on one of the sites.

Additional Content Rules:

  1. Your submission must be submitted by email. Posting a comment to the blog does not count.
  2. The email title must contain the words “Contest for Free RootsTech Full Admission.”
  3. I must receive your email on 5 December 2014, Mountain Standard Time.
  4. By submitting an entry, you give permission for me to publish it, with any changes I see fit.
  5. I reserve the right to choose whichever submission I like, for any reason whatsoever. I might consider the following factors: well written, interesting, instructive, entertaining.

For more information about RootsTech, visit

David Archuleta and Studio C to perform at RootsTech 2015In other RootsTech news, RootsTech and FGS have announced that American Idol finalist David Archuleta and BYUtv’s Studio C will perform at the closing event of the FGS and RootsTech 2015 conferences. The two talents will be performing for the Closing Event at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Both will be featuring new original pieces for the event, including a new song written by David Archuleta and a never-before-seen comedy sketch by Studio C.

For more information or to register for one of these conferences, visit the FGS Conference website or the RootsTech website.

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech ambassador The Ancestry Insider is an official FGS Conferrence Ambassador

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

AncestryDNA and DNA Circles announced last week an improvement and an addition to its DNA product: enhanced DNA matching and a beta of DNA Circles.

Improved Matches improved DNA matching so that there are fewer distant, inaccurate relatives. says these distant cousins are 70 times as likely to be actual relatives. If I understand correctly, as the number of people who have taken an DNA test increases, the better can determine DNA segments that are common among a large number of people and are not useful in determining kinship.

The table below shows how the number of my results changed. The number of distant cousins dropped dramatically, from over 13,000 to over 3,000.

  New Number of Matches Old Number of Matches
Parent/Child 1 1
Close family 1 1
1st cousin 2 3
2nd cousin 5 4
3rd cousin 10 14
4th cousin 150 162
Distant cousin 3,150 13,018

If you are an existing customer, you will enjoy the improved matches immediately. Temporarily, you can download your old list of matches via the Settings tab on the DNA home page. The download is in the form of a spreadsheet.

DNA Circles has also added a feature called DNA Circles. A Circle contains all the AncestryDNA customers that has determined are descendants of a common ancestor. The group share DNA and share an ancestor in their Ancestry Member Trees.

AncestryDNA releases beta: DNA Circles

Before I go on, let me warn you that this feature is reserved for DNA customers who are also paying for an subscription. Businesses like annuity-type revenue. Microsoft would rather you buy a subscription to Microsoft Office and pay year-in and year-out, rather than buying a DVD every four or five years. I used to buy a CD of the Chicago Manual of Style. Now, to get electronic access I have to buy a subscription. Businesses like annuity-type revenue. And while is used to that for its website subscriptions, it hasn’t enjoyed that with its DNA offering. You pay for a kit once, and you’re done. With DNA circles, gets a chance for recurring revenues. But I digress… spokesperson, Anna Swayne, says “DNA Circles can potentially uncover new relatives that DNA matching alone would not have found.” I need someone to help me understand that. According to the AncestryDNA website,

Members of this group have a family tree that includes a direct ancestral line relationship to [the common ancestor].

If there is already a paper trail using Member Trees that shows a common ancestor, how do you uncover new relatives? Can’t you use shaky leaf tree hints to see all the trees that share a common ancestor? I’m guessing that Swayne is referencing future functionality, but I’ll ask and see what I can learn.

What is interesting with DNA circles is that some members of the circle are designated tree matches but not DNA matches. (See L.S. in the screen shot below.)

DNA Circle members don't have to match your DNA.

The AncestryDNA website states

Each DNA circle member shares DNA with at least one other member of the circle. These DNA connections create a network of related people and provides genetic evidence of shared ancestry.

For example, Kenny Freestone may share enough DNA segments with P.F. to solidify their kinship through William Grey. And while Kenny may not share matching segments with L.S., P.F. and L.S. may share enough to establish their kinship through William. (Remember that through the generations an ancestor’s autosomal DNA is gradually displaced and the particular portions are different in each child. See “#FGS2014 Conference: Autosomal DNA.”)

This presents an interesting scenario. AncestryDNA can build a bigger picture of William Grey’s DNA. Imagine one day an adoptee takes an AncestryDNA test and AncestryDNA tells him that William Grey is his great grandfather. No tree necessary.

That’s heady stuff. Now if they would only allow you to download the matching segment data…

For more information see

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch Family Tree Manual

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Last Monday I told you that I would inquire about the apparently retired FamilySearch Family Tree manual. Here’s my email exchange with product manager, Ron Tanner:

Dear Ron,

Are there any plans for a new Family Tree manual?

--- The Ancestry Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Not as far as I am aware. The manual is being split into various help articles that can be found through the help system.


Other readers also chimed in.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I believe the FS Powers that Be have decided to put a lot of the FT material into the well-hidden and difficult to use query system that has mostly replaced the Knowledge Document system for which there was no accessible table of contents. The query system results are largely lists of links which, if used, take one away from the main page. This system needs to be broadly revamped to have text right there on the page and arranged in sensible contents outlines instead of more or less randomly accessed by searches.


Dear Ancestry Insider,

I agree with Lucy Whitehead. The manual is very helpful and several of our patrons prefer using the manual compared with spending the time watching a video.

Thanks, Arleen

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Here are the steps to find the FamilySearch Family Tree Reference Guide

1. Sign-in to FamilySearch

2. Click on Get Help > FAQ

3. In the Frequently Asked Questions Box type “user guide” and click on the magnifying glass

4. Ciick on “Family Tree Reference Guide”

The query returns…

The FamilySearch Family Tree Reference guide can be found at:

Additional Information is given for Members (this only appears if the patron signs-in with an LDS Account username and password).

The Reference Guide hasn’t been update since 18 October 2013. The patron is generally better off searching for task specific knowledge articles which are maintained regularly.

Allen Forsyth

My thanks to all who helped.

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dumbfinding Census Enumerator

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

In 2000 the census showed that 12% of Chautauqua County, New York was Swedish. Fortunately, 93.0% of the county spoke English.1 The census enumerator wasn’t so lucky in 1870.2

Swedes Can't Talk and More Swedes Can't Talk

Obviously, the enumerator didn’t understand patronymics. The children of Swedes Can’t Talk should have had surname Swedeson and Swedesdotter. The neighbor’s children would have been Moreswedeson and Moreswedesdotter.

You are dumb if you can’t speak. You’re not dumb or dumb if you can’t speak another’s language. But if the enumerator finds you can’t speak his language, are you dumbfounded?

Darned dumbfinding enumerator.


     1.  Various authors, “Chautauqua County, New York,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (,_New_York&oldid=624976731 : 10 September 2014, 18:21).
     2. 1870 U.S. Census, Chautauqua County, population schedule, Busti, p. 36, dwellings 341-2, families 309-310; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2014), New York > Chautauqua > Busti > Image 36 of 48.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ancestry Insider Ketchup: 20 November 2014

Ancestry Insider KetchupLot’s of things to write about. No time to do it. Time to ketchup…

The MyHeritage Library Edition is now available for free at family history centers. See the announcement on the FamilySearch blog.

I love the full color records has started publishing on their website. Look at this example. I see nine different colors of penciling or ink on it. They can give lots of hints about how a record was processed. These are absolutely beautiful., you’re awesome.

A full color gravestone application on

For Veteran’s Day, republished a great infographic from Fold3. The posting said:

With Veteran’s Day approaching, it is a good time to take a look at your tree and identify those who served. Our infographic from Fold3 gives you a handy guide to for possible birth years of veterans and what wars they might have served in.


Last week, told me that they were releasing something new this week for AncestryDNA. Unfortunately, this week’s articles had to go “to press” before they released the information. Next week I’ll have to let you know what they said. Or check the DNA articles on the Blog.

Have you heard yet about the “Global Family Reunion” scheduled for 6 June 2015 in New York City? The founder, A. J. Jacobs, is coming to Salt Lake City as a keynote speaker at RootsTech and FGS 2015 conferences. Jacobs is a best-selling author, Esquire magazine editor, and an intelligent, laugh-out loud speaker. See the RootsTech website for more information.

I don’t generally deviate from my editorial focus of and FamilySearch. But I am drawn to free stuff. To see the latest free databases from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (, visit Included in the usual list are several databases available for free only temporarily:

FamilySearch has been making some significant changes at the Family History Library. Reference desks have been removed. In their place is a comfortable welcome area and space for consultation stations. FamilySearch will give those buzzer/pager thingies to users awaiting consultations. This allows users to continue their research while waiting for help. FamilySearch has also added Discovery Areas containing scanners, recording booths, and children's’ area (where you’re not supposed to leave your children :-).

New welcome area replaces reference desk

For more information, see “Exciting New Changes at the Family History Library” on the FamilySearch blog.

I’m out of time… Stay tuned…