The widespread availability of genealogical DNA kits in genealogy circles is leading to some interesting scenarios. There are always the big surprises, such as learning one has been adopted or finding an unexpected sibling. But more often, genealogy fans are given the opportunity to connect with distant cousins and learn more about the bigger picture of their family’s journey. Consider the case of siblings that immigrated to the US, and then headed for different parts of the country. Today, descendants of one family could be spread throughout Massachusetts, North Carolina, Utah, and Oregon. Despite sharing a surname and exciting family history, known relationships no longer exist between these distant branches of the family tree. Genealogical DNA research and databases are helping to change that.
What is genealogical DNA?
Genealogical DNA kits typically involve a small package that gets mailed to a recipient. You collect a small amount of DNA through a method such as swabbing the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip. That material is then sent back to the lab and your DNA is decoded. From a genealogical perspective, information is often presented in two ways. The first is a general ethnicity breakdown. For example, a sample client might learn that she or he has English, German, and Japanese ancestry as well as the rough percentages of those breakdowns.
Users can also elect to include their information in a database. If you opt to participate in those databases, you’ll be shown individuals in the database with shared ancestry and roughly how you’re related. Often you’re provided with a range, as well as whatever information the person has chosen to make public. A typical entry might include, “John Smith lives in Boston, MA. His family surnames include Smith and Jones. He is your distant cousin, between 3rd and 5th.”
Where to go from there?
If you’ve signed up for DNA test, received your results, and put your information into the database, you’ve opened up a new avenue for potential research and collaboration. Here are some tips – and cautionary notes – to help you make the most out of this opportunity.
Fill out your profile: You’ll have the opportunity to provide base information about yourself, such as name, location, known ethnicities, geographies your family resided, surnames, and a short bio. Each provider’s options are a little different. Share as much as you feel comfortable, but remember that it’s wise to protect your personal information in public forums.
Do you want the ability to be contacted by people who share your DNA? Most systems have the capability to set your profile as invisible, to allow people to send you a message, or to request more information.
Often systems allow two users to share their core DNA. From a genealogical perspective, it may help you determine in what way you’re related to someone. However, there are a variety of reasons that individuals would want to be cautious about sharing their DNA with strangers, so think carefully before doing so and examine different levels of sharing available through the service you’ve used to determine how you want to protect your information.
If the database indicates that you have a relative, it may be interesting to reach out. Whether you’re just saying hello or you’re striking up a conversation with a specific question in mind, keep your first interactions brief. Introduce yourself, provide a little background, and clarify your hopes for a conversation. Allow an adequate amount of time for a reply, as people don’t always check their mailboxes on these sites with the same frequency they check email.
One of the most exciting outcomes of using a system like this is the ability to develop collaborative research relationships. For example, if you connect with the descendants of someone on your extended family tree you may have the potential to learn more about their lines and research. Finding extended family that shares your passion for genealogy can open up entirely new avenues for inquiry and enjoyment.
Are you interested in learning more about how a professional genealogist can help with your genealogy project? Contact us today to arrange for a professional consultation to discuss research projects, genealogical DNA, and more.
Do you have Swedish ancestral roots? If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that approximately 1.2 million people emigrated from Sweden to the United States between the Civil War and the stock market crash of 1929. A wide variety of factors contributed to encouraging immigration, including limited land, agricultural troubles, and rising rates of unemployment in the homeland. Immigrants arrived through New York and other ports in the Eastern United States, as well as coming through Canada and then crossing into the US. If you’re interested in learning more about your Swedish ancestors but you’re daunted by the language barrier, here’s what you need to know.
Understanding Swedish Names
One helpful starting point for researchers navigating Swedish records is understanding how surnames worked. Approximately 90% of individuals were named via a patronymic naming system. For example, if a father’s name was Johan Albinsson, he is “Johan, son of Albin.” When Johan has children, they would be Sven Johansson (for a boy, Sven the son of Johan) and Alva Johansdotter (for girls, Alva the daughter of Johan) respectively. Swedish members of the clergy generally have Latinized names such as Lars Eriksson becoming Laurentius Erici and may also include their birthplace such as Lauentius Erici Wattrangious (Wattranfius for Vattrang). Some individuals took place names as their surnames or received names based on traits or regimens in the military to help differentiate between individuals with similar names. Women also often kept their own names upon marriage. Keep these conventions in mind when reviewing records.
Parish Information is Critical
For tracing your ancestors in Sweden, knowing their place of birth and where they lived is absolutely vital. This is true no matter what nationality your ancestors are, but it’s the key to finding the right records in Sweden. Most of the records collected were actually kept and managed by the Lutheran Church at the local parish level. There is no centralized Index to Swedish historical records even when national records exist, and civil officials didn’t start registering the information that they collected until the 1950s.
Lutheran Church Records
The Lutheran Church has been the dominant religious force in Sweden since the 16th century. Records kept by the church (known as kyrkoböcker) span from the 1500s onward. Often this information recorded births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, household surveys that list individual members, and who moved in and out of the parish. The cleric’s notes may have also included details about church accounts, disciplinary actions, and much more. Accessing these records begins with understanding what parish your ancestor was born in or lived in during his or her life.
The best way to learn more about your Swedish ancestors is to start with the present and work backwards. Many Swedish immigrants ultimately headed west to settle in areas such as Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. The settlers were drawn by the promise of land for homesteaders and higher wages. Passenger manifests from Sweden – usually departing from Gothenburg – often contain information about an immigrant’s birthplace. The census and naturalization details of your ancestors may also have that data. Another helpful source is looking to see if your ancestor joined a parish of the Lutheran Church here in the United States; often they recorded detailed information about where members emigrated from.
There are numerous collections of digitized records online for genealogical researchers interested in Sweden. One of the best places to start is the Swensen Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College.
If you’re interested in learning more about your Swedish heritage and are struggling with the language barrier or other issues, a professional genealogist can help. Contact us today to arrange for a personalized consultation and to discuss how our services can help you find your Swedish ancestral roots.
Uncovering genealogical records for young children that died can be a difficult part of the genealogical process. During earlier time periods – including as recently as within the last century – infant and child mortality rates were much higher than today. In part, that’s why many families had so many children; it was not uncommon for a family with six children to only see two or three thrive enough to reach adulthood. Common childhood illnesses, more serious infections and communicable diseases, accidents, birth injuries, and more drove up the rates of childhood deaths. What information can a genealogist expect to find in the case of a family member who passed away early in his or her life?
Understanding the range of scenarios
One of the first things that is important to understand is the wide range of scenarios that could have occurred. Different scenarios would likely have impacted families in unique ways, and also be reflected differently in the genealogical records. A child that was stillborn or died within moments of birth would have left minimal records, and in some case, no records. An infant that passed within his or her first few months of life was potentially baptized, depending upon the era.
Others may have died later in childhood, but left more information about his or her short life. What’s important for the modern researcher to remember is that if you’re finding information about many children dying in a family, what you’re discovering is a tragic but not uncommon occurrence from certain historical periods. From there, you can move forward to determine what happened and develop theories on how it may have impacted the rest of the family’s story.
Beginning with family and traditional records
The best source of finding information about young children that died is following the traditional research path. Birth and death records can be particularly helpful. One important fact of note: if a baby died shortly after his or her birth, the child may not have been given a first name. As such, they may be listed in records as “Child Smith” “Baby Smith” “Daughter Smith” and so forth. If a family experienced the misfortune of losing multiple children, you may find reference to that in the way individuals are referred to by number, such as “Baby Smith 2 – deceased.” Census records can also be helpful, particularly during periods where mothers were asked how many children they had total as well as how many were still living.
Family bibles, when they exists, also often record information regarding the birth and death of a young child. Other records that may prove fruitful include church records, such as baptismal notices and the local equivalent of parish rosters where the minister or priest may have taken note of births, deaths, and other details of changes in the congregation. Finally, it’s sometimes possible to find information about a child that has passed away by beginning with their final resting place. Permits for burial and the sexton’s or overseer’s records for family and church cemeteries may contain information on children that are buried – either on their own or in the plot of a family member, as was sometimes common.
Learning about the realities of child mortality in your own family can be heartbreaking. But it’s part of piecing together the story of the generations that came before you. Finding documentation of these young lives isn’t always easy. If you’re running into challenges, consider hiring a professional genealogist to help with uncovering genealogical records. Price & Associates is an experienced team of genealogists ready to help you reveal your family tree.
Does your family lore include tales of Native American roots? Whether you’re part of a tribe and looking for more information or want to track down a distant ancestor who may have been a Native American, there’s good news. There are a number of different resources and strategies that can help you verify whether you had a native ancestor and learn more details about their life. While it’s one of the more complex areas to research, with a bit of planning and knowledge it’s often possible to gain some insights. Here are some tips on how to get started.
Collect lore and available documents
For many, the search for Native American ancestors begins with a family story or legend. It may be that the ancestor in question was far back in history and may be best connected with through documents. However, it’s also possible that he or she lived more recently. Start with what is known. Interview your relatives and collect as many details as possible. In particular, focus on gathering information that will help you determine tribal affiliations.
Tribal affiliations are particularly helpful for tracking down records, and learning more about the life your ancestor may have lived. It’s important to remember that Native American groups have had a complicated and sometimes volatile history since colonists arrived, up to and including the forced removal of entire nations. Your research may take you further afield than you expect. Starting with details, documents, and insights you already have can help greatly focus and simplify the research process.
Once you’ve determined what tribe your ancestor may have been affiliated with, it’s time to develop an understanding for the context of the tribe’s history. What geographic areas did they live in, and during what time period? Some groups were nomadic. Others migrated as a result of colonization or were relocated due to government actions. A tribe’s location in 1700 might be vastly different than in 1900. The more you learn about the history, the more effectively you’ll be able to find and vet records. Another helpful source may be groups that interacted with specific tribes– missionaries, trappers, settlers, and Indian agents, among others. Historical context can help you ferret out these more elusive sources.
Finding an individual ancestor
Your best chance for finding records of your specific ancestor will be determining where their lives may have intersected with government records or church records. Did he or she marry within a church? Attend a government school? Take part in some other element of broader society? A number of obstacles may prevent you from finding detailed records: native tribes didn’t keep written records for much of their history. Records have been lost or damaged. Some Native Americans didn’t identify themselves as Indian for any number of reasons, or belonged to tribes that were too small or remote to be dealt with by the federal government.
There are a number of good resources that can help you learn more about specific tribes. Look for research centers at nearby universities and information maintained by modern tribal members. Access Genealogy’s Native American History and Genealogy can be a helpful starting point. Ancestry.com also has a large Native American Collection. The United States Indian Census Rolls and Dawes Commission Records may provide another resource.
Are you interested in learning more about your heritage? Contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation. Learn more about how our experienced team of professional genealogists can help you find information about your Native American roots.
Many genealogical researchers are looking for ways to share their love of family history with their families during the holiday season. Whether you’re trying to kindle the spark of interest in family members or looking for creative ways to satisfy their curiosity, there are a number of avenues to consider. Here’s a closer look at some of our favorite strategies for sharing your work with loved ones during the holiday season.
Human beings are visual creatures. Even people who are overwhelmed with dates or a pile of documents will often show interest in family photographs. Images of your ancestors can be interesting for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they look like your current family members; or perhaps the antiquated clothing and context opens up interesting avenues of discussion. Many genealogists choose to celebrate the holiday by creating ornaments for loved ones that showcase photographs. Displaying photographs during family events or even making copies for everyone is also a thoughtful gesture.
If you’re in possession of family heirlooms, you’re very lucky. These could be books, such as a family bible; jewelry that might include wedding rings or period items like mourning jewelry; or even practical items like farm tools. Family heirlooms have the benefit of being tactile and physical reminders of the people that came before us. Sharing these items – by talking about their provenance or simply putting them on display during a family get-together over the holidays – can encourage your relatives’ interest.
Many people associate genealogical research with traditional family trees. While a great deal more goes into fleshing out the story of how your ancestors lived and worked, a family tree is an easy place to start the discussion. If you share your entire family tree or even just a specific branch, a copy of the family tree can be a treasured gift that’s shared for generations to come.
Heirloom inspired gifts
Sometimes, genealogical researchers uncover bits of heirlooms that at first seem unusable: a wedding dress that’s beyond repair, for example, or some broken china. Today, crafty researchers are finding ways to remake these items into usable jewelry or other items. A wedding dress is encased in a glass necklace; broken china easily becomes stylish cufflinks. These gifts can be appreciated for their beauty, and enjoyed for their greater significance and connection to the past.
Family history presentation
If you’re sharing your family history with a larger group, consider hiring a genealogist to prepare a family history presentation. A presentation might focus on an overview of your ethnic history; an exploration of specific events from your ancestors’ lives; or even talking more about the time periods and locations that are of interest. Each presentation can be customized to your specific needs, and conducted during a family gathering such as a reunion.
Sharing your family history research is a wonderful gift to give to your loved ones; it can be done in numerous ways. Think about what resources you have on hand and explore different ways to use them to engage your family. Contact Price and Associates today to learn more about how a professional genealogical researcher can help in your family history quest. They can even help you by finding the meaning and origin of family surnames.