A New Leaf

Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. It is second only to adult content searches regarding internet search terms. As family history interest passes from just being about family lore and delves further into the science realm with DNA the field is only going to continue to grow in popularity.

As interest in family history continues to grow the resources dedicated to the industry are becoming more visible. NBC has premiered a new show “A New Leaf” hosted by Daisy Fuentes and presented by Ancesty.com. The show airs on Saturday morning and is available free on demand on the network’s website.

I took a moment to review the premier episode and thought I would provide my thoughts on this show. The show is only 30 minutes in run time and that is with commercials. Actual airtime is closer to 20 minutes. I found the program enjoyable.

This episode is about a young woman, Nadia, and her mother Stephanie. Nadia is trying to learn more about her mother’s unknown father so she can learn more about that unknown side of her family. One thing that is unfortunate about the show is they skip over the process of how they identified the identity of Stephanie’s father. This was a good opportunity for the program to delve into the process of genetic genealogy but honestly in a 30-minute time slot, for an early morning weekend audience, this was probably the wisest choice.

Most of the show is about the reaction of Nadia and Stephanie as they learn about this unknown branch of their family tree. The researchers were able to locate records and photos of several of their ancestors including a very interesting interview from Stephanie’s great-great-grandmother, Martha Patton, who was 91 years old when interviewed for the Slave Narrative project 1936-1938.

Compared to a more research detailed show such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” this show is more of a feel-good show for the person with casual interest in family history. There is a lot of general history education dotted in through the program that relates to the story being researched but not as much on the actual research process.

Overall, I loved the show

I think it is a great concept that can help the average person understand the things genealogical research can reveal without getting bogged down in the detail of how it is done. I would recommend this program for anyone looking for a lighthearted program that can provide interesting educational tidbits without being too technical to appeal to a wide audience.

Have you had a chance to check out this show? Take a moment to let me know what you thought of the premier in the comments!

Research Tip of the Week

Always look at records or images of records whenever possible

It is convenient to take the quick route and take information from the transcription of a record. This is a mistake. The actual document often has information that is not available on the transcription.

When I pull a document to source a fact, I look at the entire document. I have found valuable clues in looking at the neighbors listed on census records and witnesses listed on marriage or death records just to name a couple places you can locate valuable information that might not be on a document transcription.

Search Angels

Doing Genealogy Good Deeds

Lately I have been dedicating a great deal of my time on working on genealogy cases for others and less on my own. I discovered genetic genealogy and I fell down a wonderful rabbit hole of exciting new tools and uses for my love of genealogy and research.

Purely by happenstance I discovered the power of genetic genealogy while assisting an individual who showed up on ancestryDNA matches. Through messaging with a mutual cousin, I discovered this cousin was an adoptee in search of his biological family.

I love a good puzzle so I couldn’t resist jumping headlong into this challenge

It took me a couple weeks to crack the mystery. It was a long and winding road that involved not just this cousin’s adoption but also the fact that his father was the child of an adoption like process also. Once I put together the scientific puzzle, I discovered a newspaper article that helped fill in further pieces and finally one of the older generation relatives revealed information that had been a poorly kept family secret for decades.

Victory!

The cousin was happy to have someone finally tell him the truth about his parentage and I was overjoyed to have assisted in bringing him that information. I had a mission.

Shortly after the conclusion of this case I sent off an inquiry to join a non-profit organization called Search Angels and have now been spending my spare time assisting adoptees or estranged individuals use DNA and genealogical research to reunite them with their ancestral heritage.

Are you the product of an adoption confused by the process of figuring out who your biological family is? Consider search angels or a similar organization to help navigate the complex analysis of genetic information. You might even get me working on your case!

Research Tip of the Week

Exhaust free resources!

It is easy to see commercials for one of the major genealogy sites and assume that joining a subscription site is the only way to find the information available. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While paid subscription sites can make navigating research easier, there are countless resources for free genealogy research. Some of the best information can be found on free sites it is just a matter of doing the legwork to locate them.

DNA Tools

Using DNA with genealogy can be both a powerful and an intimidating prospect. When I first did my testing, I looked at my results and felt very overwhelmed. You get this list of tens of thousands of matches and it’s hard to fathom how to even approach organizing them or if you even want to bother. I thought it might be helpful for others if I shared some of the things I found useful in my journey into genetic genealogy.

I did my testing on ancestry. Ancestry has the biggest database of people who have taken the DNA test. Ancestry also has some serious limitations to their DNA side of the site. The estimated relationships on ancestry are very vague compared to other sites. They also lack a chromosome browser using instead what can be misleading “shared matches” only.

Despite the limitations of ancestry’s DNA tools, there is a lot of great information that can be pulled from ancestry. To get the most out of the matches on ancestry without going through each tree all at once I use a Leed’s Spreadsheet. I create a list of all matches down to about 50 cm’s. For simplicity, I start at the first match that is below 500cm’s. I start with the first match and color all the shared matches with that match the same color. I then move onto the next match that I didn’t assign to the first group, choose a new color, and mark all the shared matches creating a second group. I go on to the next match not in groups 1 or 2 and create group 3. I continue until I have created groups of all my matches. This will usually sort the matches out into several family lines.

Smaller groups are much easier to compare to see who the shared family lines are between the various matches.

Here is a helpful and more in-depth guide to using the Leeds Method.

It didn’t take me long to get frustrated with the limitations of ancestry’s DNA site. I started looking for more ways to get the most out of my information. Enter DNA Painter.

DNA Painter is a site with most of the features free. DNA painter has several tools that are amazing for helping process DNA data. I’ll start with the “What are the Odds?” tool. This tool allows you to take matches from ancestry and input the shared cm’s creating a basic tree for how you think a match connects. This allows you to test a hypothesis and tell you if you are on the right track. It is very useful for ruling out wrong relationships and narrowing down possible connections.

Another tool on DNA painter is the “Shared CM Tool.” This tool can take vague relationships of ancestry and refine them into more detailed explanations.  It provides an odds breakdown of each of the possible relationships. This can be useful for trying to determine where to put shared matches on the “What are the Odds?” tree.

The last tool that I find useful on DNA Painter is useless with ancestry due to the lack of a chromosome browser but there is a work around to obtain your chromosome information if you do testing on ancestry. This last tool is the ability to create a genetic profile. Using a site that gives you the shared chromosomes of DNA matches DNA painter gives you the ability to “paint” your matches. This tool is powerful for grouping up matches based on actual shared genetics.

To obtain chromosome information using ancestry test results I recommend downloading your raw DNA data from ancestry and uploading it to Gedmatch Genesis.

This site is free but there is a pay option for some of the more technical tools.

This blog by the DNA Geek will help you transfer your data from ancestry to Gedmatch Genesis.

Genetic Genealogy

Recently I took the plunge into genetic genealogy. I have a few persistent brick walls in my family tree that I just cannot nail down with certainty unless I add this additional tool to my skill set.

Here is a great beginner’s guide on using GEDmatch (now Gedmatch Genesis) and the vast possibilities it offers for manipulating the scientific data to assist genealogical research by Jared Smith.

Genetic Genealogy using GEDmatch

My Gedmatch kit# is WR9116127. Are we a match? Drop me a note and let me know.

Adams Family Update

Who can resist a skunk farming lawyer?

That was the thought on my mind when I originally set out to research my great great great grandfather Daniel E Adams. All the information I found on his life indicated he was a larger than life type of man and his story screamed to be shared.

As I was researching Daniel E Adams for my blog about him, a distant cousin contacted me. This cousin, Frank Poss III, had in his possession several old family photos of shared relations.

This brings me to my Adams family update. I received copies of photos that previously I had never seen.

Photography was a popular profession not just among the Adams family but also among the Hamilton family. Siblings, Daniel and Emma Adams, married siblings, Daniel and Rachel Hamilton. Daniel and Emma Adams Hamilton would spend a lifetime operating Hamilton photo studios and many of their photographs are still in existence. Several of these photos bear the mark of Hamilton studios.


Adams brothers
The 5 Adams brothers: Calvin, Daniel, Dexter, Eli, and Plumer. Photo taken sometime prior to 1889.

This photograph is of the five Adams brothers. I suspect it was taken sometime after the end of the Civil War, perhaps as late as when their father, Erwin Adams, died in Lapeer County, Michigan. The fifth brother, Plumer Adams, is not labeled in the photo.



The Family Matriarch

charlotte murray adams.jpg

This photo is of Charlotte Murray Adams, the mother of the Adams brothers. She died in 1890 and was buried in Mt Hope Cemetery in Lapeer County, Michigan next to her husband.

I will be adding further updates to this line as I continue researching the Adams family and trying to track them as they moved from Connecticut, to Vermont, onto Canada, out west to Iowa, split into separate fractions with some going west to establish Utah while others eventually settled for generations in Michigan. Stay tuned.

Remembering the Korean War

It seems that after over sixty-fives years of war the Korean War may finally be ending.  Many of our combat veterans from the era of active fighting on the Korean peninsula have already passed away. My Grandfather was a Korea combat veteran. He died before they actually achieved peace.

At this momentous time in world history, it seems an appropriate moment to remember one of the Korean War dead from my own family tree.

My maternal grandfather’s family was from an isolated community in the mountains of West Virginia. Coal mining was the predominate form of employment of the region and many of his immediate family, including his father and older brothers, worked in the mines. Military service was the most common way young men avoided going into the mines. Statistically a man had greater odds of getting hurt in the coalmines than he did in the military even during World War II.

My Grandfather’s first cousin, Andrew Calvin Shuck, joined the military. He enlisted in the Army on 8 July 1948. He was twenty years old.

andrew c shuck kia korea service pic credit michael shuck
Photo Credit Michael Shuck

Andrew C. Shuck was born 12 Jan 1928 in Lawton, West Virginia. He was the son of Landon Lawson Shuck and Pina Propps. He was unmarried.  Andrew C. Shuck was assigned to Company F, 5th Calvary Regiment, 1st Calvary Division. When combat broke out on the Korean Peninsula, his unit was one of the early ones to see action.

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Photo Credit FAG

Andrew C. Shuck was also one of the first combat casualties of the Korea War. He was killed 25 July 1950. He recieved the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

andrew c shuck obit killed in korea

It took over a year before Andrew C. Shuck was laid to rest in his home state of West Virginia. By the time they held his memorial in the At the End of the Trail Cemetery several of Andrew’s relatives had already signed up to go to Korea. My grandfather, his brothers, and cousins all flocked to sign up for duty.

piccollage14

The Korean Armistice was signed on 27 July 1953 effectively ending active hostilities between North and South Korea in a stalemate. My Grandfather died in 2011 without even seeing an end to the conflict that resulted in his cousin’s death. I hope that in 2018, with the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration, peace can finally come between the two Korean nations.

By the numbers:

Active War: 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (3 years, 1 month, and 2 days)

Total American Casualties of the Conflict: 36,516

Sources:

United States Military Casualties of War Wikipedia

Korean War

Andrew Calvin Shuck Find a Grave

 

 

Photograph Mysteries

Inevitably, anyone who studies genealogy will find themselves feeling like they need to be a jack of all trades in all things historical. Photographic history, military history, immigration history, clothing history, even transportation history at some point in time will come into play when doing research. Our ancestors were just one small cog in the world they lived in. Understanding the time they lived in helps drive effective research by knowing where to look and what records may exist.

Photographs are often one of the greater genealogical mysteries researchers face. For me they can be my greatest challenge and my greatest joy. I love seeing faces from generations ago and spotting resemblances to modern relations. Often times it seems the identity of the subject in the photographs have been lost to the sands of time. We are left trying to ponder and decipher clues that may help us eventually identify the faces with the names and times that belong to them.

A relative of mine has the originals of several photos which even years later manage to frustrate me. I can loosely speculate the origins of the photos but a definite identification may be lost.

group a close up
I estimate this photo to be before 1920. The gentlemen in the back with the dark coat has ears and a hairline which remind me of my great grandfather, Moman Harold Fulkerson. What do you think?

mysterygroup
This photo looks to be around a decade after the earlier photo. The dark haired lady in the back row looks like she could be the same younger woman in the front of the previous photo.

These photos may never be identified. They are from an album that belonged to my great grandparents, Moman Harold Fulkerson and Lillie Mae Weatherspoon. Many of the photographs predate their marriage and some of them are of the family of his first wife. I would estimate most of the photos to be from around 1920 to 1940. These three photographs have stumped me. I suspect they are either members of the Fulkerson family from the Owensboro, Kentucky area or the Sublett family from the same region.

Close ups of two photos. The one on the left is a known photograph of Moman Harold Fulkerson at age 39. The one on the right has similar head shape and ears. What do you think?

Close up photos of the dark haired lady. They both have similar builds and would likely be of the same age. What do you think? For today this is a mystery that remains unsolved.

Family Recipe Friday Peanut Butter Cookies

It is Friday so as promised I am doing another family recipe for family recipe Friday. So far, in my series I have done a simple sauce recipe that my paternal grandmother, Loree, used on meat. I have also done a family favorite casserole that my maternal grandmother, Sally, made often while I was growing up. Today my own grandchildren will be here to visit for the night so I dug deep into the old wooden recipe box that belonged to my great grandmother, Lillie Mae, and found a favorite recipe of my own…Peanut Butter Cookies.

frf pb cookies recipe

I do not have many memories of my Great Grandmother in the kitchen growing up. She was an insulin dependent diabetic and living alone from the time I was only a toddler so most of her meals were delivered by meals on wheels. Baking for the residents at a local nursing home was one exception to that. Every holiday season she and some of her church friends would bake dozens of cookies, and loaf after loaf of various breads all wrapped in neat little packages and left on her back porch until it was time to go visit the lonely people at the “home.”

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This is a basic cookie recipe and I find it to be one of the most forgiving. I typically always have the ingredients needed on hand and we whip up several dozen of these a year. The fact that they have peanut butter makes me feel better about giving them to the kids. Peanut butter cookies are almost a health food right?

frf pb cookie ingredients

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. The recipe calls for

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup Crisco (I’m using margarine because I have extra on hand)

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter

2 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

frf pb cookie mixed

The directions indicate to “Put in small balls and pat down with fork”

They also indicate that “grease cookie tin the first time only and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool before taking them off the cookie sheet. Makes about 5 dozen.”

frf pb cookie done

MMM Yummy!