genetic citations, DNA

Genetic Citations for Genealogists

As Elizabeth Mills explains at the outset of her latest laminated research aid, Citing Genetic sources for History Research Evidence Style, “Genetic tests are used today in non-scientific fields to help: (1) resolve questions of identity; and (2) determine the correct family unit to which a person belongs. Researchers who integrate genetic testing with traditional document research include biographers, genealogists, and historians; forensic genealogists working with legal firms and court systems; MIA-identification specialists working with governmental agencies to repatriate unidentified remains of military personnel; and unknown parentage specialists.”

Researchers—both professional and hobbyist—who work with genetic data will frequently find themselves reporting their results in online “trees” posted at genetic-testing sites, online databases focusing on a surname or ethnicity, and other reportorial venues. Common terms used in genetic studies include alleles, haplogroups, markers, triangulation, and more.

Besides explaining genetic citations for genealogists, or how to properly cite your genetic findings in a variety of situations, bonus features of Ms. Mills’ new Quicksheet, Citing Genetic sources for History Research Evidence Style include a brief glossary of terms common to DNA research, explanations of the different forms of genetic testing, and the standards for using genetic information itself.

To make the job of citing sources simpler, the author provides a template which shows exactly how you should identify source list entries and reference notes. Ms. Mills also provides examples, or models, of common source types, showing how to use them in a source list entry, in a full reference note, and in a short reference note. On this complicated subject, nothing could be easier to use.

Image Credit:

too many books, genealogy books, Collegiate records

Too Many Books!

Editor’s Note: The following post is by Joe Roop Brickey, a familiar face in the Genealogical Publishing Company’s booth at national conferences. She is a former board member of the Federation of Genealogical Societies [FGS] and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland. She resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Please read her other work on this blog. 

It began innocently enough. I attended the NGS Diamond Jubilee and bought a copy of Val Greenwood’s Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. Six thousand books and an addition of a room to the house later, there are too many books in my collection. I have intruded into the dining room, now known as the library annex.

The question is how do I thin the collection? What do I chose to remove? How do I part with a book that was a “must have” when I bought it? Faced with books two deep on some shelves and piled on the floor, it is well past time to address the overcrowding.

The rules for new books don’t work like the rules for new clothes (if not worn in two years let it go) because you might work on a line for some time, then find that you need the books when you tackle that family again. So how to decide?

To begin, ask yourself questions about the books you are considering for removal.

  • When did you use this book last?
  • Have you ever used this book? Is the book an old edition?
  • Is it falling apart?
  • Is the content of the book still valid or has the material become outdated?
  •  How does this book contribute to the research you are doing?
  • Can you copy a few pages from the book and have everything that is needed from it?
  • Is the book still in print, or is it old or rare?
  • Is this source available on CD? Online?
  • Why did you buy it in the first place? Was it because it was a good deal, the title was intriguing, or do you really think that you can use it in your research? We who love books don’t always have to have a logical reason for acquiring a book. To keep the book when space has become scarce requires evaluating those impulse purchases.

Save six, set one aside – I go through my shelves slowly. Some books are in use fairly often, others have not been opened since they were first purchased. Have I ever really used this book? But I might need it some day! Choices are both easy and hard. The third edition of a book now in its eighth edition is fairly easy to say goodbye to, but the county history for a neighboring county to the one my ancestors lived in is harder. Slowly the pile of discards grows larger.

One way to make this process easier is to insure that the books you remove will have a good home. Donating books to your local library or genealogical society collection is a less painful way to say goodbye. If you should need them again – even though you haven’t for the past eight years – they are nearby. If the library or society is a nonprofit, you should be able to take a tax deduction.

You might have a used bookstore in your community that will buy history or genealogy books. While you usually do not recover what you paid for a book, at least it is money to put towards attending a conference where you can buy new books!

Some people advertise on genealogy blogs that they will give books to anyone willing to pay the postage and handling. Others share with members of their local genealogical society. Does the retirement home in your community have a genealogy club and a place to house a genealogy collection?

It does not hurt to check to see if a book is still in print, or how rare it might be, before letting it go. The Genealogical Publishing Company identifies both the books that are in print as well as those that are temporarily out-of-print on its website, Other book publishers have similar formats. There are a number of sites, such as, that give prices for out-of-print books. You might be surprised how little, or how much, an out-of-print book might be worth.

Whatever you decide, it is never easy, at least for me, to say goodbye to a book. Once I have decided, I try to get the books out of the house and to their new destination fairly quickly. That way I do not go through them again and decide to keep one for just a bit longer.

Done thoughtfully and deliberately, sorting through your books, whether you have 100 or 6,000, it is a way of reconnecting with your collection. You will discover books you forgot that you had, find a second copy of a book, remember an old favorite, and hopefully clear some space for future additions to the collection.

Weeding the collection is a bit painful (the sore muscles from shifting all those tomes), somewhat bittersweet (the expensive book that never helped you), and a bit nostalgic (remembering all the great finds the book holds). Whatever you decide to let go of, the newly gained space is sure to fill up again. Such is the joy of the bibliophile – there are always new ones to tempt us!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



William the Conqueror

Did Your Ancestors Come with William the Conqueror?

There is no greater challenge in British-American genealogy than establishing a connection to William the Conqueror. After all, in the year 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, William, Duke of Normandy, was the last person to conquer England. All subsequent British history is an outgrowth of the amalgamation of the victorious Norman and the vanquished Anglo-Saxon cultures. They don’t make milestones much bigger than this!

So, if you are on the track of William and his companions, where do you start? We’ve pulled together some resources – some new and some originally printed in the 1800s – to help you in your search.

Perhaps the best place to start looking for where your history ties to William the Conqueror is the powerful little book, My Ancestors Came with the Conqueror, by Anthony Camp, former Director of the Society of Genealogists (London). This book contains a consolidated list of the companions of William the Conqueror. Preceding Mr. Camp’s list are the most important essays of the last century concerning this subject and, in particular, the list of companions named in the famous Battle Abbey Roll.

Mr. Camp also references those companions of the Conqueror whose names appear in the Domesday Book of 1086, that remarkable “quasi-census” of William’s domain taken 20 years following the conquest. Mr. Camp cross-references them to Lewis Loyd’s, The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families among others (both of these publications are discussed in more detail below). In the end, as he states in the subtitle to the work, Mr. Camp has come up with a fascinating list of “those who did and some of those who probably did not” come with the Conqueror.

As mentioned, tracking down less famous companions of William can be incredibly helpful. Used in addition to the information in My Ancestors Came with the ConquerorThe Roll of Battle Abbey contains the names of several hundred of the noble companions of the Conqueror. It is considered a cornerstone in feudal English genealogy as well as an extremely interesting and controversial record. This version, a compilation by John Bernard Burke, is a heavily annotated list of the companions of the Conqueror. These annotations provide an account of the origins of each companion and his relationship to William, a description of his baronies and estates, an assessment of his position in the feudal hierarchy, and a concise history of his life and times.

The Falaise Roll, an additional resource we recommend when trying to trace your lineage to William the Conquerer and those closest to him, is a list of 315 names engraved on the bronze memorial erected in 1931 in the chapel of the castle of Falaise in Normandy. These individuals were chosen because of the probability of their having fought in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Most of the work consists of biographies of those recorded on the roll. Additional biographies are given for other companions chosen from among many names for whom participation at Hastings has been specifically claimed.

Straddling the same time period and geographic regions, The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families deals with the Norman origins of several hundred families and related individuals, primarily those who settled in England between 1066 and 1205. The work contains two indexes – one of the families’ names and places, and the other of Norman overlords and their under tenants in England.

Mentioned earlier, the Domesday Book is the true starting point of English genealogy. In A General Introduction to Domesday Book (2 Vols.), Sir Henry Ellis’ work is designed to throw light upon the holdings of lands as well as instances of the hereditary descent of land from those who had possession in Saxon times. By far the greatest achievement of the work is the three indexes which comprise alphabetical lists of the names of all landowners and tenants, instancing the counties wherein they held land, the location of the original citation in Domesday Book, and details of their properties, marriages, and heirs.

Do you have another great resource that has helped you find your link to William the Conqueror? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image credit: A late-1800s engraving shows William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings, By Unknown engraver [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.



Hard to find Ancestors, Irish Immigrants

Hard to Find Ancestors – Maybe They Took a Detour?

If you’re frustrated on the trail your hard to find ancestors, you may have to consider – did your immigrant ancestors detour on their way here?

The Canadian port of St. John, New Brunswick, was a magnet for Irish immigration during the 1840s, the decade that culminated in the Great Famine. A majority of these Irish immigrants eventually relocated to Boston or elsewhere in New England to rejoin other family members. Since many of the aforementioned Irish arrived in Canada in a destitute or infirm condition, however, they were required to take temporary refuge in the alms and work houses, hospitals, and asylums of St. John. (See the publication, Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of St. John, New Brunswick,1841 to 1849 for additional information. A number of records of these institutions have survived and now serve as a surrogate record of these persons “missing” from the official passenger lists. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of St. John, New Brunswick,1841 to 1849 identifies some 7,000 persons of Irish birth from the records of alms houses, hospitals, parish houses, etc.)

As in the case of the Irish to St. John, an immigrant’s stopover could last a generation. For example, a number of the 17th-century pioneers of Long Island, New York, actually came from Connecticut, not directly from Great Britain. You should not assume that immigrant ancestors who lived in one place necessarily came there directly from their birth country, especially if no record of the immigrants can be found among the records of the state or colony you associate with them. Continue reading…

crash course in genealogy, genealogy research trip planning

Need a Crash Course in Genealogy?

Did you know that you might be able to find your ancestor listed in an 18th-century newspaper broadside or in other obscure sources? Have you ever located one of your family members in a book, only to discover that the name had been transcribed incorrectly from the original record? Are you looking for your 19th-century Irish ancestors in passenger lists for Liverpool – where most of them embarked?

Can you, like the weekend golfer whose smooth swing has deserted him, use a crash course in genealogy? If any of the aforementioned scenarios strikes a familiar chord, you’re certain to benefit from reading Judith Jacobson’s book, A Genealogist’s Refresher Course.

A Genealogist’s Refresher Course is less a how-to book than a collection of first-hand experiences, do’s and don’ts, and privileged information. Mrs. Jacobson, a museum curator, librarian, and the author of four previous Clearfield publications dealing with New England, Long Island, Great Lakes, and Mississippi-Alabama ancestors reminds us at the outset that success in genealogy is not an overnight experience, and roadblocks and dead-ends along the way are part of the process. She emphasizes the importance of verifying our findings against the original (primary) sources and not relying on secondary, or published, accounts as the foundation for our genealogies.

One of the most valuable chapters in the book contains a list of nearly 100 different kinds of sources of genealogical information, including anniversary announcements, bank statements, business licenses, memorial cards, health records, medals, newspaper clippings, subpoenas, and many other record categories that genealogists may fail to consult. Still other chapters discuss how to acquire rare or used books, what to examine among the records housed in museums, coping with the derivations and changes in names, understanding the meanings of the obscure or ancient diseases our ancestors succumbed to, and when and how to hire a professional genealogist.

All in all, Mrs. Jacobson has written a fresh guidebook that the intermediate or advanced genealogist can use as a crash course in genealogy, to hone his/her skills or double-check his/her methods. It may just be the crash course or refresher course you’re looking for.

Image credit: By Anna (Flickr: records) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons