Voter’s Registrations

I’ll admit it. Voter’s registrations are one of those records that I don’t use too often–not nearly as often as I should.

Having looked at some late 19th century ones online recently for Chicago, Illinois; California; and New Mexico, some things stood out. They can provide the age of the registrant, their nativity (probably only as specific as the country or state), whether native born or naturalized (possibly providing the court where the naturalization occurred), and perhaps the time they have lived in the district where they are registered to vote.

All of these things can be helpful clues–especially for that time period where the essentially non-extant 1890 census is a problem and the person of interest was an immigrant.

These are typically county-level records in the United States.

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A Different View of Shared Matches

A recent new match in my AncestryDNA test results struck my curiosity. Of course the match had no attached tree but we had several shared matches. That’s where the confusion began.

I have determined the most recent common ancestors for almost thirty of my closest DNA matches at AncestryDNA and have a significant number of the next fifty or so determined as well.

This match was one with whom I shared 72 cM of DNA and I was curious to see if I could get an idea of where in my genealogy this match likely fit. Often I can get an idea by looking at the shared matches. This time it was a little more confusing. We’ll refer to this match as “MR.”

The closest shared match I had with MR was a first cousin of my father. But when I looked down the list of shared matches there were no other members of that first cousin’s family. Most of the known other shared matches were related to my father as well. Except for the one who was a descendant of two sets of maternal ancestors.

I had an idea of what was going on, but decided instead of making a spreadsheet to use a pedigree chart to plot out the results in a slightly different way.

I circled the most recent common ancestors I had with each match I shared with MR. Color coding these seemed helpful as well. Only nine of these shared matches have been included in the chart.

Based upon the chart and what I already knew about my family, I was reasonably certain how this match was connected to me.

My Grandma Neill

None of the shared matches except one was a descendant of my grandmother’s parents–George and Ida Trautvetter. I have one shared match who is also a descendant of this couple and at least thirty who are descendants of at least two of George and Ida’s grandparents. Since this was the only one, I decided that the fact the match was shared with MR was very likely due to them having a genealogical relationship with each other that they did not share with me.

My Granddad Ufkes

One of the shared matches with MR was a known descendant of two sets of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors. That match (KS–with whom I share 99 cM of DNA) actually shares three separate sets of “most recent common ancestors” with me. The maternal connection I share with KS does not appear to be connection I share with MR. KS was the only shared match with MR that was also a known descendant of the two maternal ancestral couples of mine as shown on the chart. No other determined shared matches descended from either of these couples. Both of those couples have numerous known descendants who are shared DNA matches of mine at AncestryDNA–but this match is the only one MR and I share. That also suggests that MR has a connection to KS that they do not share with me.

My Grandpa Neill

Looking at the pedigree locations of the known shared matches with MR, it seemed that the connection was actually through my Grandpa Neill.

Two of the matches shared with MR were descendants of all four of my Grandpa Neill’s grandparents, but were not descendants of my Grandpa Neill’s parents. That’s because a sibling of my great-grandpa Neill married a sibling of my great-grandma Neill and the matches descend from that marriage.

There are approximately fifteen of my DNA matches who are connected to me through Samuel and Anna (Murphy) Neill that are not descendants of the Rampley family. None of those Neill matches of mine are shared matches with MR.

Based on the picture I created and the number of shared matches who were descendants of Riley and Nancy (Newman) Rampley, I’ve decided that is where this person likely connects to me. AncestryDNA suggests the person is a 4th to 6th cousin.

Using the pedigree chart was a nice visual. There are a few ways I would improve it in the next iteration, but it was easier to view the connections than if I had simply put the information in a table or spreadsheet.

Reminders:

  • Pedigree charts can serve a variety of purposes.
  • Individuals can be related to you and each other in different ways.
  • Working up all your matches–even ones on the families you are not interested in–will help in your analysis of DNA test results.

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Genealogy for Passwords?

I don’t know about anyone else, but remembering all the various passwords I have is crazy. And making up new ones always is a pain as well. This is especially true for sites that do not allow you to reuse passwords for a set amount of time. I’ve revamped my password approach as I’m tired of arbitrary ones that I cannot remember and I don’t want to use anything too easy.

So I went back to genealogy.

Sample “Grandma” was Helen Elizabeth Henry born in 1903. There are several passwords I could create from Grandma’s name:

  • heh1903
  • helen1903
  • helenelizabeth1903
  • helenhenry1903

I can even add the occasional character, ?, !,$, etc. in the same place (helen!henry1903) if that is a necessity. The same thing applies to upper-case letters (Helen!Henry1903).

I go through various ancestors—not just Grandma using a similar approach. I do alter the naming scheme from one show here. If the site asks me for a number only, I either use birthdates of ancestors, old phone numbers, or other things that would be hard to guess. If Grandma Jones’ old number was 231-456-7890, my password could be grandma4567890.

I particularly like to do this on those sites where I can give myself a password “hint.”

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AncestryDNA Removing Matches Less than 8 cM

This is a bit of off-the-cuff opinion that I posted in response to AncestryDNA’s decision to removed DNA matches from a user’s shared match list where the shared DNA is less than 8 cM. You can find more about the decision and how to preserve the shared matches at the low level here. I’m not saving mine for reasons outlined below.

People are apparently in a tizzy that AncestryDNA is going to remove matches from your results that have less than 8 cM of shared DNA. A few quick comments.

1) AncestryDNA will do what they want to do. Cry all the tears you want, gnash whatever teeth you have left, hollar all y’all want, etc. All you will get are dry eyes, nubs to eat with, and a sore throat.

2) I’ve never used my matches less than 8 cM. That’s because they are distant matches (if they are even TRUE matches) and determining the relationship is difficult.

3) I have so many double/triple/quadruple cousins on my maternal side that analysis at a small shared cM level is just about impossible. That’s on top of the endogamy issue I have there (and it is a separate issue). My paternal side has a fair number of double matches as well. Sorting out the small matches is not always worth the effort.

4) Life is short. There are original records on my 3rd, 4th, and 5th greats that sit unaccessed and unanalyzed. I’d rather spend my time transcribing 17th century records, etc. and learning something about their life than parsing out the teeny amounts of DNA–but that’s just me.

5) Don’t like their decision? Cancel your subscription.

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Is It Always Possible to Find That Reason?

One clue to learning more about your ancestor is determining why he moved from one point to another. Sometimes the reasons are clear after a little study of local history if the reason he moved was because of the destination–called the pull factor. If you don’t know where the ancestor was from, it may be more difficult to determine the reason why he left–called the push factor. It is difficult to read relevant local histories when you are unaware of where the ancestor was from.

Reasons might not always be stated in local histories. Your ancestor might have migrated because of family connections, the fact that a former neighbor had settled in the area, or that there was some type of employment that he could easily obtain. Sometimes the “connection” will be impossible to find. Generally genealogists are advised to research associates of the ancestor in his earlier days of residence in an area to get an idea of individuals he might have known “back home.” Sometimes that is easier said than done.

And if you ancestor didn’t move—there’s a reason for that as well.

If you speculate on why an ancestor moved (or didn’t) clearly indicate that your speculation is speculation. And remember, that many of our conclusions are speculation. Very few of our ancestors left behind detailed records explaining why they did what they did.

Often, we look at the records they left behind, use generalities gleaned from history, economics, and known social behavior, and weave a story. Sometimes that story is correct, but sometimes it is not. After all, ancestors leave behind pieces of themselves and when we use those records to tell their story, we often weave some of ourselves into the tapestry we create.

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That 1924 Land Purchase in Modern Terms

I took the big financial dive and purchased a copy of How Much Is That In Real Money? by John J. McCusker and published by the American Antiquarian Society in 1992. I’m hoping to use it to analyze some amounts from estate inventories and deeds. I’ll do so keeping in mind that any such analysis is fraught with complications.

One area of interest is the current value of a valued item (farm, estate inventory item, monthly wage, rent, etc.) in today’s economic climate. While I fully understand the concept of the time value of money, present values of lump sums, future values of lump sums, inflation, etc., I sometimes have difficulty with those websites that allow someone to enter in an amount from 1850 and convert it into 2020 terms.

Using the present value/future value calculator at www.wolframalpha.com, I came up with some values for the worth of a farm purchased by my great-grandfather in 1924 from his father’s estate. The range of current values ($8000-$10000 per acre) was converted to the value range in 1924 ($521-$652). Great-grandfather paid $200 an acre for the property in 1924 as per the terms of his father’s will.

According to the present value, great-grandfather got a bargain as he did not even pay half of the 1924 value of today’s value. One could even say he got it for a song.

Not so fast.

Great-grandpa was not dropping an amount into a savings account in 1924 to leave it hanging around for me to cash out in 2020. He was purchasing a farm in 1924. To see if the price he paid in 1924 was low, high, or reasonable in 1924 I need to compare the price he paid with the price paid for similar pieces of property in 1924. To date, I’ve not done that yet, but I have a difficult time believing that the price he paid to his siblings was only a fraction of it’s relative value at the time. I need to do that.

At this point all I have is a quote from my Grandfather when I told him what his Dad had to pay for the farm in 1924. “That was a lot of money. No wonder they had a hard time for quite a few years.” Granddad may be correct–or he may not be correct. But contemporary prices of land are what I need to make my comparison to–at least in my opinion. That’s going to require some contemporary research.

On a side note a piece of cropland today that was owned by your relative in 1850 that’s highly valuable may be valuable partially because in 1880 a new owner finished clearing off most of the trees and brush and because in 2016 the present landowner made a significant investment in tiling that property. Because of those improvements that property today may be worth more than neighboring pieces of property than it was in 1850.

Great-grandfather did not purchase that piece of property in 2020. He purchased it in 1924. That value needs to be analyzed in that context.

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NEHGS and Absolute Certainty

According to an email I received from NEHGS (New England Historic Genealogical Society) today, they will let you know “with absolute certainty” if a lineage is correct. They will not check your entire tree for the $500 fee, but they will check one line of descent.

Many genealogical conclusions, particularly ones involving individuals born before the mid-19th century, can potentially be subject to revision. I’ll let readers decide how they feel about “absolute certainty.” I do understand the desire to have someone else look over your research. But I suspect if someone is willing to drop $500 to “check” a lineage there are possibly some conclusions in that lineage that are “solid.”

I’m not certain how I feel about “absolute certainty.” I’m leaning towards the fact that it doesn’t exist.

But if I’ve got an extra $500 to spend on my research, I’ll probably either spend that money to get some records I need or hire someone I know to work on a specific project for me–perhaps do some more work on that connection in the lineage I’m not too certain about.

That might be money better spent than having someone review my research on the entire lineage–chances are there’s just one link that’s the real problem.

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ThruLines Does Part of the Work

It is important to constantly remember when using AncestryDNA’s ThruLines that it only does part of the work and that “work” is partially based on user-submitted trees. Those are trees over which you have no control.

I’m not going to even dip my toe into a discussion of the programming that probably takes place to create this analysis–largely because that seemingly occasionally changes. Situations like this (where I know something about the family) are the main reason why I strongly suggest that users of ThruLines (or any analytical tool that is automated) completely review what it says for families whose genealogical relationships are well-document and pretty clearly established. Just in case the reasons for this are not clear, working with ThruLines on a “known” family helps you to understand:

  • how the system works,
  • what idiosyncrasies are in the system,
  • ways to work around any issues,
  • again–how it works.

I was reminded of this while analyzing some DNA matches that are connected to me through my ancestor Mary Dingman and her husband Clark Sargent. ThruLines found three of my DNA matches that also have Mary in their tree–through two of Mary’s other children, Charlotte and Emmar. ThruLines correctly shows that Charlotte is my half-aunt (because Clark Sargent was not her father).

But there’s more. There’s another descendant of Mary’s daughter Emmar who has done a DNA test. This match was one that did not show up on the ThruLines for Mary Dingman–even thought Emmar’s showing as Mary’s daughter. This DNA match (according to ThruLines) is also a descendant of Thomas Pollard (1859-1904)–as is one of the DNA matches in the first chart.

When I viewed the ThruLines for Clark Sargent, both of these DNA matches who had Emmar Sargent in their tree showed up. They are both descendants of Mary Dingman as well.

My suspicion is that the “big tree” does not have everyone tied to Clark and Mary’s marriage as children correctly. That’s my guess.

But I’m not really interested in correcting the big tree as that’s created from all those user-submitted trees at Ancestry and I do not have the time nor do I have the interest in trying to get all those submitters to correct their trees.

What I am interested in is my own research and analyzing my DNA matches. ThruLines helps me to some of that analysis faster.

Some of that analysis. Nowhere close to all of it. Frankly, ThruLines helps me to sort out the matches who have a name in their connection to the big tree that I have in my tree.

I still need to do the work.

And this little exercise reminded me that for a husband and wife, I need to look at the ThruLines separately. Part of the potential problem here is that Mary Dingman was married twice and had children and descendants with both husbands. The other part (which I’m speculating about) is that some of those trees don’t have Mary, Clark, and Asa Landon (Mary’s second husband) all tied completely accurately to their children.

A little more knowledge to help me analyze the ThruLines results where less is known about the family.

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