DNA and Genealogy – Now’s the Time to Learn

By Carolyn L Barkley

I’ve been happily doing genealogical research for over twenty years. As time has progressed, my learning curve, sizeable in the beginning, has flattened somewhat, increasing as I encounter a new location or resource. Recently, however, it has leapt to new heights as I begin a new role as the DNA surname project administrator for Clan Barclay International.

It was probably the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995 that first made me aware of DNA findings. I became aware of its applications to genealogical research, particularly in terms of understanding one’s family medical history, although I had no experience within my own research. After beginning to work with the Barclay DNA project, however, I realize how much there is to learn, even at the most elementary level. It has been a good reminder that it is always important to do thoughtful research before leaping into leadership or participation in a project. Luckily, resources abound:

  • Cyndislist is a good place to start to identify online resources on the topic. My search under the heading “Genetics, DNA & Family Healthâ€? resulted in eleven pages of sites. Under general resource sites is an article by Donn Devine entitled “Solving the Mystery: DNA Tests for Your Researchâ€? (at ancestry.com’s Ancestry Magazine Archives, 1 September 2000) as well as Chris Pomery’s DNA Portal page (2002) entitled, “DNA & the Family Historian,â€?described as “a primer on DNA testing and genetics for family historians” (to access this article google Chris Pomery’s DNA Portal). My second Cyndislist search, under the heading “Surname DNA Studies and Projects,â€? resulted in twenty-seven pages of sites including general resource sites, mailing lists, newsgroups and chat opportunities, as well as listings of established DNA projects. Be thorough in investigating such lists. While the alphabetical listing of DNA projects does not include my Barclay project, a check under “General Resource Sites/Family Tree DNA – Surname Projectsâ€? did locate my specific project.
  • Periodicals provide many opportunities to learn more about DNA and its genealogical applications. Search PERSI [Periodical Source Index], available through heritagequest.com and your local public library, to discover what journal articles have been written on the topic. A search for “DNAâ€? resulted in 316 journal and newsletter articles. Ask your librarian to help you identify other periodical and newspaper indices that can help you identify information in publications in other disciplines, and then request interlibrary loan copies of those not available at your library. Be sure to check your own subscriptions. For example, the April 2008 issue of Family Chronicle features an article by Susan C. Meates entitled “Adding DNA to Your Family Tree.â€?
  • Books will provide information in more depth. Several titles to look for include:
    Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Rodale, 2004).
    DNA and Genealogy by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Andrew Yeiser (Rice Book Press, 2005)
    Family Diseases: Are You At Risk? By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (Clearfield, 1989, 1998)
    Unlocking Your Genetic History: a Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering Your Family’s Medical and Genetic Heritage by Thomas H. Shawker (National Genealogical Society Guide #6, 2004)
    Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes (Norton, 2000)
    The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA by Edward Ball (Simon & Schuster, 2007)
    Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project by Spencer Wells (National Geographic, 2006)
    Saxons, Vikings and Celts: the Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland by Bryan Sykes (Norton, reprinted 2007)
  • Attend conferences, whether at the local, state, or national levels. For example, on Saturday at next week’s NGS Conference in the States in Kansas City (May 13-17), an entire lecture track is devoted to DNA, featuring three lectures by Thomas H. Shawker (see Unlocking Your Genetic Heritage above) entitled “Compiling Your Family Health History,â€? “DNA Testing: The Very, Very Basicsâ€? and “Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry: Genetic Genealogy; DNA Testing.â€? Other DNA programs at the conference include “The Nuts and Bolts of Using DNA Testingâ€? by Buford Joseph Suffridge, D. D. S., “DNA Testing for Genealogy: A Surname Project and Resultsâ€? by Robert McLaren; and “What DNA Can Show: Case Studies of Five Practical Applications to Genealogyâ€? by Donn Devine. I also know of a Virginia genealogical society that devoted its annual seminar to this topic.

Finally, after you have acquired a comfortable level of knowledge about genetic genealogy, consider being tested. First, be sure to research the various companies and organizations that provide DNA testing services. Cyndislist.com, under “Professional Services & DNA Testing� lists over a dozen. Appendix B in Smolenyak’s book (see Trace Your Roots with DNA above) is an excellent starting point as it provides contact and other basic information for eleven DNA testing companies. Her inclusion of available products and company-specific services and resources is particularly helpful. Among the questions you should consider: Does the company provide the type of test most useful for my research? Does the company already offer a project for my surname or will I have to participate on my own? If a project is available, how will I be able to communicate about possible matches with others in the study? Are there products available such as charts, newsletters, or accessible databases that will be helpful to me? What does the company web-site look like? Is it easy to use? Is it updated regularly? What is the cost of my test and what reports will I receive?

Faith of Our Fathers – Church Records in Virginia

By Carolyn L. Barkley

Martha McCartney, author of Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, shared the following brief article which she wrote for a recent issue of Hickory Neck Nuggets, the monthly newsletter of Hickory Neck Episcopal Church in Toano, Virginia.

“On October 16, 1776, when the State of Virginia’s legislature convened for the first time, the delegates received a petition, asking for the disestablishment of the Church of England and for religious equality. This 125-page document, signed by an estimated 10,000 citizens, publicly initiated the debate over the relationship between church and state. Afterward, the legislature deliberated whether it was appropriate to levy taxes to support teachers of the Christian faith. James Madison circulated his “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,� which received widespread support. Finally, in its 1785-1786 session, the General Assembly passed the Statute of Religious Freedom, which abolished the State Church, denied it the right of general taxation, and allowed abandoned parish-owned real estate to revert to the Commonwealth of Virginia. With that vote, separation between church and state was achieved.
Protestant Episcopal (formerly Anglican) churches that were in continuous use were not threatened by the new law, although church-owned real estate, such as a parish glebe, was to be sold as soon as the incumbent clergyman died or vacated the property. The funds generated by such sales were to be given to county Overseers of the Poor, the local officials deemed responsible for public welfare. During this transitional period, many Anglican churches came into the hands of other denominations or simply fell into disrepair. At Hickory Neck, worship services seem to have come to an end in 1780, a few months before the Allied Army began using the church as a military hospital.�

Martha’s article prompted me to think about the impact of religion on early Virginia and our ability to research successfully (even in burned counties) because of the records created by the early church. British colonists had, in fact grown up with an official, national church, supported by the Crown. Virginia’s colonists, in particular, brought that church with them, unlike many of their northern neighbors, who came to America to escape the established church.

Although Virginia developed a plantation system that was considerably different from English village life and although Virginians thwarted the establishment of an Anglican bishopric in their midst, the Anglican Church vestry, nonetheless, served as the focal point of local governance for Virginia counties. The General Assembly formally established fixed boundaries for each Anglican parish. Parish boundaries coincide with the boundaries of one or more Virginia counties.

The vestry’s interests were wide-ranging and included education, morality, social welfare, and in many cases, the creation and administration of laws, virtually taking care of the individual from cradle to grave. Vestry records provide a fascinating glimpse into aspects of every-day life and thus describe the context of our ancestors’ lives. For this reason, knowledge of available parish, or vestry, records is essential to successful research in colonial Virginia.

The following example, while from North Carolina, illustrates the value of these records. I have for many years researched George Barkley who lived in Isle of Wight County, Virginia in the 1750s, and who died in Northampton County, North Carolina in 1788. Other than several deeds and a will, I had never been able to document his life from original records. Research in Northampton County records, however, identified the parish vestry’s Minutes and Accounts, Wardens of the Poor (1773-1814) and from them I learned that George was a sextant in the parish. In the detailed accounting of warden meetings, he was mentioned several times, including a report outlining the financial support provided to him and his wife in their final years. Without consulting vestry records, I would never have learned this information. The same example could easily have been experienced in Virginia vestry records.

Research in parish vestry records is particularly important in the twenty-two Virginia “burnt� counties, jurisdictions whose civil records have been destroyed for the colonial time period. In such cases, vestry records often provide the only documentation for the time periods represented by these lost records. An excellent example is Nansemond County in which all records are lost prior to 1866, but for which two vestry books have been published. Not all such records are extant, nor are have they all been published. However, a First Search keyword search for “Vestry Virginia� yielded 294 entries, including 237 books, forty-five archival records, and ten Internet files. Your local public library can help you identify these titles and facilitate interlibrary loan if necessary.

Heritage Books of Westminster, Maryland has published a number of records of early parishes, including Henrico, Kingston, Alexandria and Fairfax Cities, Cople, Loudoun, Dettingen, Southam, St. Peter’s, Christ Church and South Farnham. Of these parishes, several are from burnt counties.

The following titles dealing with Virginia parish records may be found on genealogical.com (for those marked as out of print, please select the “Notify Me� button on the title’s page on genealogical.com and be notified by e-mail when it returns to print):

Make it a Special Mother’s Day

By Carolyn L Barkley

As it’s only 35º outside my window this morning, it’s hard to believe that Mother’s Day is a little more than three weeks away. It will be here before we know it, however, and it has made me think about how to make it a special day for the women in our families – the mothers, grandmothers, and perhaps great-grandmothers – who we celebrate on that day. These women connect us to earlier generations in the family and can share with us factual, but more importantly, anecdotal information to support our genealogical research. Here are a few activities you can do with them, and for them, to further your understanding of the people and history of your family.

1. Does your mother or grandmother live close by? (If they live at some distance away, plan to meet for a special occasion – like Mother’s Day.) Pick a day to get together to look at family pictures and other documents. Perhaps make it an afternoon tea and invite others to attend – aunts, children, grandchildren, etc. Select someone to make labels for each picture or document listing names, dates and locations. Have someone else take notes or record the conversation and stories that are told. If the owner of the pictures or documents agrees, consider scanning them not only to preserve them, but also to make the copies available to more people in the family.

2. Reread Joe Brickey’s article in this blog (“Putting Walls Around Memories,” March 21, 2008). Consider using this approach in a Mother’s Day discussion to prompt recollections and stories.

3. Purchase a notebook and give it as a Mother’s Day gift. Ask your relative to keep it close at hand throughout the year and to write down family stories as they come to mind, perhaps placing pictures or documents that relate to the story with the pertinent pages. I gave one to my mother several years ago thinking that she would do just that. Instead, she was far more formal about it, noting specific individuals in the family and writing about them extensively before moving on to another person. I read stories that I had never heard before and in the process greatly enriched the story of my family. Had I not made this gift, these stories would have gone untold.

4. Use the information from these family get-togethers and your own research to complete a family tree to give as a gift. While genealogical software programs will generate a tree, you may want a more decorative version. Several websites offer family tree chart services, including generationmaps.com, Master Genealogist’s chart printing service, ancestryprinting.com, and in the UK, familytreeprinter. You may also want to look at books of decorative family tree charts such as Tony Matthews’ Paper Trees – Genealogical Clip-Art or, Treets: A Feast of Family Trees.

 5.  Are you a scrapbooker? You may want to design and compile a scrapbook for your family using scanned photos and documents, as well as journaling the stories that are told at family get-togethers like the one described above. Ancestry.com sells a scrapbook kit. In addition, Creative Memories (http://www.creativememories.com/), your local hobby store, and genealogy conference vendors supply scrapbooking supplies and often provide training programs to help you create your book. Tony Matthews’ Memory Trees – Family Trees for the Scrapbooker, and Creativitree: Design Ideas for Family Trees provide ideas for using family trees in scrapbook projects. This latter title is temporarily out of print, but you can select the “Notify Me” button on its page on genealogical.com and be notified by e-mail when it returns to print. In the meantime, you can look at Bev Kirschner Braun’s Crafting Your Own Heritage Album (Betterway Books, 2000), among other titles available on the topic.

I hope that you will take the opportunity to plan a fun and interesting family get-together to look at the historical items in your family; identify the people, dates and locations within them; and to hear the stories behind them. Preserve, organize, create a lasting record, and share it with others. Make this a special Mother’s Day and tell us here at Genealogyandfamilyhistory.com of your success.

1752 – A Very Important Date

By Carolyn L. Barkley

I recently edited a book for a family history author whose text stated that an individual was born 8 February 1722. His footnote, however, in citing the source for the date, included the notation “second month 8th 1722.� This notation, when applied, meant that the birth date for this individual was actually 8 April 1722. This error in date translation made me think that we could all benefit from a refresher in the change from the old calendar (Julian) to the new (Gregorian) so that we date our ancestors correctly. The following information is adapted from a January 2006 Genealogical Pointers article written by William Dollarhide.

Genealogically, dates are critical in confirming when a person was born, married, died, and participated in events. If a date cannot be trusted, the genealogical event may not be valid. If you have evidence that a man had died ten months before a certain child was born, it would seem to exclude that man as the potential father of that child. If the calendar dates, however, had changed during the man’s life, it would be necessary to be very precise in determining the exact date of death. He might qualify as the potential father after all. The ability to make these precise date determinations relies on an understanding of the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian.

The English government, by an act of Parliament, adopted the Gregorian calendar effective September 1752 (to confuse things for British Isles researchers, the Scots had adopted the new calendar as of 1 January 1600, so between then and 1752 when it was 18 May in Scotland, it was only 7 May in England) and the change was implemented in all of the British colonies in North America. The British were one of the last of the European countries to adopt the calendar change, which had been in place in most of Europe since 1582, the year that Pope Gregory XIII decreed a new calendar that was adopted by the Catholic countries of Europe.

Three significant changes took place as a result of Pope Gregory XIII’s decree:

  • 1. Ten days were dropped from October 1582 to realign the vernal equinox with March 21st and to correct an annual error in dating the equinox in the Julian calendar from its inception under Julius Caesar in 45 BC.
  • 2. Reduction in the number of possible leap years. The Julian calendar included a leap year every four years. By reducing this number, the realignment with the vernal equinox became more closely aligned over the centuries. The change called for leap years for years ending in “00,â€? but only if the number could be divided evenly by 400.
  • 3. Change the first day of the year from March 25th to January 1st. This change was the most dramatic and the one that causes researchers the most problems.

By the time the English finally adopted the new calendar in 1752, the correction needed to bring the vernal equinox into alignment was eleven days. Parliament chose to drop eleven days from the month of September 1752, eliminating days three to thirteen. Thus, the first week in September 1752 jumped from Wednesday the 2nd to Thursday the 14th. In addition, they declared that the first day of 1753 would be January 1st, making the English year of 1752 it’s shortest in history, only 280 days long.

Right after this change took place, people began writing dates between January 1st and March 25th so that they reflected the old style – O.S. – and the new style – N.S. For example, George Washington, writing a letter after 1752, would have referred to his birthday as February 22, 1731/2. Any date a genealogist finds in old records before 1752, and between January 1st and March 24th inclusive, should be expressed as a double date.

A rule of thumb for genealogists researching British North American records prior to 1752 is that any date found on a document and dated January 1st through March 24th is one year off. For example: You find a will for your great-great-great-grandfather dated 12 March 1734, and then find a codicil dated 27 March 1735. It might appear that your ancestor died about a year after he wrote the first document. Actually, the two documents were written fifteen days apart. The 12 March 1734 document was written prior to the first of the new year which occurred on March 25th. March 27th, then, was in 1735, only fifteen days after March 12th. To put it more clearly, in the Julian calendar, March 24, 1734, was followed by March 25, 1735.

March was also identified as the first month, so a date may be expressed in records before 1752 in various ways such as 1st-3-1734, 3-1st-1734, or even 3-7ber-1734, or 3-8ber-1734 for September and October. The Latin names for some months relate to their position in the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian. Thus October, which is a word based on the Latin for the number eight (octo), makes sense in the Julian calendar, but not in the Gregorian where October is the tenth month.

Think you’ve got it? Well, there are always exceptions. Some groups in early America may have adopted the Gregorian calendar before 1752, even in British-controlled territory. When a Reformed Church record in a German settlement in America is used for genealogical research, the date needs to be confirmed – were those Germans using the Gregorian or the Julian calendar? Dutch settlers along the Hudson River in New York and northern New Jersey were already using the Gregorian calendar when they came to America. After 1660, when the English took over the Dutch settlements, the civil and church recorders in Dutch towns continued the use of the Gregorian calendar despite the British government and its use of the Julian calendar for almost an additional one hundred years.

If you would like even more information about the “great change of 1752,� you may want to look at Kenneth L. Smith’s Genealogical Dates: a User-Friendly Guide (Picton Press, 1994) or check out the following websites:

http://www.norbyhus.dk/calendar.html This site includes a table with a long list of countries and the last date of the Julian and first date of the Gregorian calendar for each. Not all revolve around the 1582 or 1752 dates. Croatia’s last Julian calendar date is 30 September 1923 and their first Gregorian calendar date is 14 October 1923.

www.tngenweb.org/sullivan/pcalendar.htm. This site is a quick converter for dates from the Julian into the Gregorian calendar and vice versa.

Planning to Publish…the Easy Way

By Ann Hege Hughes

Gateway Press, an offshoot of Genealogical.com, specializes in helping people publish family history books. If you’re working on a family history project – even if it’s still years from completion – here are some simple things you can do NOW to make publishing your book later far easier.

1. Start looking at other people’s family history books. For the time period that you’re researching, take notice of the features you like about other people’s books.

a. What ways of organizing information do you like? What mix of facts and narrative do you prefer?

b. What about the book size? What appeals to you? What book size do you think will best fit YOUR material? (If you have a lot of large charts and documents, you may want to use the larger 8 ½ x 11 book size.)

c. Notice how people lay out their text. Do you like a particular style or size of type? Do you like a heading across the top of each page? Where do you prefer to find page numbers? Do they use bold type for key names? Do they space between sections? Are paragraphs indented or double-spaced? What about generations? Are they indented or handled some other way? How is the index formatted? How are footnotes handled? Chapter headings? Subheadings? Long quotes?

d. How have other authors treated illustrations? Do you have an illustration you’d like to use opposite the title page, as a frontispiece? A coat of arms? Is there a need for color illustrations? How will you arrange charts, documents and photographs? Scattered throughout the text, on separate photograph or chart pages, or in photo or chart sections? How many illustrations are “too many?� How many are “just right?� What treatment works well for photo captions? Would you prefer a book without illustrations?

e. Do you have a personal preference for hardback or paperback binding? Do you want a dust jacket?

TIP: At some point, you or your typist will need to make decisions like these about your book layout. If you have ideas ahead of time about your preferences, it will be helpful. One way to keep track of your choices is to make a photocopy of pages you like and keep them in a file marked “book pages I like.�

2. Gather free general information about the publishing process and read it. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t take long to read and it will give you an overview of what is to come. Gateway has two free brochures that you can order at any time, without any obligation. The first gives an overview about how the publication process works – what comes first, what comes next, what are the standard book sizes, printing and binding choices, what you will need to be thinking about when. Our second brochure, “The Roadmap,� gives technical information about how to prepare your files for publication. Be sure to order “The Roadmap,� before you begin to lay out your final pages.

3. Ideally BEFORE you get started with your final formatting, I’d like to talk to you on the telephone. It’s easier to discuss things such as the right book size, which printing method to use, and how many copies to order on the phone, as there are a lot of factors that go into those decisions.

a. The first issue to settle is the issue of book size. Which size is the best choice for your particular project? The four standard sizes are 8 ½ x 11, 7 x 10, 6 x 9, and 5 ½ x 8 ½. I can price several options and advise you after I know a little more about your particular project.

b. Once your book size is selected, we can discuss typing area and layout. I always like to review sample pages before you get started. Often I can point out inconsistencies you may have overlooked.

c. I can also answer technical questions if you’re using software with which we’re familiar. (MS Word is acceptable software.)

d. You will need to decide if you will do the final preparation work yourself – or if you would prefer to use a professional person. We can recommend several excellent editors, typesetters and indexers who are expert in working with family history authors.

For more free information, please check our website: http://gatewaypress.com/. You can also order our free brochures by e-mailing me at ahughes@gatewaypress.com or calling me at 800-296-6687, extension 204.

Ann Hege Hughes runs Gateway Press, Inc. Since 1975, she has helped thousands of first-time and repeat authors publish their family histories. Ann lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and exhibits at the annual National Genealogical Society (NGS) and Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conferences.