OGS 2016 Toronto

Wow! Going to a Genealogy Conference sure does make ones furnace burn bright with the fires of impetus, drive and determination!

Grandma’s Genes is at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2016 in Toronto this weekend (June 2016). We participated in a workshop on running a genealogy business where we learned great strategies for moving Grandma’s Genes into the stratosphere of our niche market (Genetic Genealogy – General, Adoption and First Nations Peoples). It’s Amazing to have this kind of a workshop available to us this weekend and furthers our desire to offer insights and resources to our clients and to the genealogical community as a whole.

Even before we got here, our drive to Toronto from our home base in Ottawa, was incredibly productive. It’s good for Marc and I to be able to banter, talk and formulate ideas to further our vision (without annoying our spousal units and family). From the beginning (since Marc said to me while shoveling over 2 feet of snow from the laneway – driveway for those who don’t speak Canadian – “So I hear you are into Genealogy?!”) we have had a pretty singular vision. But, attending a conference together gives us an opportunity to sharpen that view and reinforce for us that our vision is correct.

From the colorful, the energetic and shameless self-promoting Thomas MacEntee to Maurice Gleeson and his wonderfully self-deprecating presentation of DNA, surnames and one name studies to Dr. Judy Russell’s playground metaphors for the rules we should all follow as genealogists (and everyone else really) to…well we still have another day to go.

Networking with like-minded people is great too. There are other bloggers and hobbyists and Genetic Genealogists, and legal Genealogists and Passionate Genealogists and a more than a few organizers and roving help people, in their green shirts, who are fun to talk to as they scurry from one help request to the next. We have had elevator talks which have lasted a few seconds, we have had break talks that have lasted for a few minutes, we have had late afternoon social talks that have lasted for half an hour. Like the talk Marc and I had with former Speaker of the House, the Right Honorable, Peter Milliken, PC OC FRSC (so many post-nominals – don’t ask me to explain what they mean). Everywhere you turn there is learning and sharing going on – from professional to professional, hobbyist to professional, hobbyist to hobbyist and most definitely from Organizer to all of us.

My favorite time at conferences like this, though, is the time I spend early in the mornings, lining up with my fellow attendees for a breakfast (this morning the line was 20 long at Starbucks). There are so many others with so many great stories to tell about their search for ancestors, and in the case of genetic genealogy, their search for descendants. Spending that time chatting together, hearing personal stories and ending up spread across a few tables engaged in 3 or 4 conversations at once? It’s the best time for me.


Oh it is good to be a part of this great world-wide community. I have heard a lot of the speakers this weekend talk about how we as genealogists, since the advent of the internet age, have welcomed the ability to collaborate and share. We have certainly seen it –  all the that collaboration, learning and laughing and growth.

Thank you OGS for putting on such a great event!

Shamless plug of our own…Your next opportunity to see Grandma’s Genes is coming up June 18th at the Ottawa Stake Family History Center, 1017 Prince of Wales Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Phone: 613-800-4250. Mags will be presenting, “WikiTree and Family Search, Oh, The Connections You’ll Make”. Please call the Ottawa Ottawa Stake Family History Center, at 613-800-4250 for more information.

Down The Rabbit Hole Again

I just had a great chuckle. I downloaded the Ontario Genealogical Society 2016 Conference App. from Google Play. Listed underneath the application, as the top download also downloaded by others who downloaded the OGS Conference 2016 App? Addiction Biology.

Oh I have seen all the comics about how we Genealogists/Family Historians are up to all hours hunched over our computer keyboards, how we are neglectful of our significant others, how our homes fall down around us from that same neglect…it goes on and on. We do have a singular passion. We are almost driven to find the answers to all our Family mysteries. But is it really an addiction?

If so, I have turned my addiction into a business. Is that ok? Can I blame the extra hours I am doing Genealogy on my business now? “I can’t come to bed right now…I know I haven’t been to bed in three nights…but I am WORKING!” If so? Oh, how clever of me to hide my addiction behind the guise of work!


This from typing “addiction definition” into a Google Search.

Enslavement? Really?

I don’t think I am enslaved to my family history….I am quite devoted to it for sure. Do I depend on it? Well, it does “pay the bills”. Is it a habit? Well, not as good a habit as I would like – there are so many Rubbermaid containers full of things yet to digitize in my basement and if I could get into a good habit of working on them, then they would be done…I could place the Rubbermaid Containers in the bedroom so I had to climb over them to get up every day. Oh, oh, that sounds a bit obsessive doesn’t it? I am sure “obsessive” is in the definition of addiction somewhere.

When I go deep into something for hours or even days, I call it “going down the Rabbit hole.” Like what I did just now, stopping everything I am doing to write a blog about Genealogy and addiction. Down the rabbit hole again.

Haplogroups Most Recent Common Ancestor

Recently on WikiTree someone asked me ‘Dumb question, What is a Haplogroup?’

Thinking it was not a dumb question at all I gave the following answer.

A haplogroup is a grouping of common  patrilineal or matrilineal lines who share a common ancestor.  The main haplogroups are divided by letter, and smaller sub-divisions by letter and number.  For example H is a very large group, H1 is a subgroup of H, H1a is a subgroup of H1, and so on.   The further you narrow it down the closer in years the common ancestor is.

There are small parts of our DNA that do not change much over time.  Geneticists have used these parts to identify population groupings, where they live, and their movement through human history.   Certain haplogroups occur with greater frequency in certain areas which is what leads to them be categorized as African, European, Asian, Native American etc.

Males have a paternal and a maternal haplogroup.  Their paternal haplogroup is inherited along a direct paternal line – your father’s father’s father’s, etc.. The maternal haplogroup is inherited from your direct maternal line.  Females only have a maternal haplogroup.

Here is a mapping of maternal haplogroups: migration_map_wfn1http://www.worldfamilies.net/files/image/migration_map_wfn(1).gif

You can see from this map what part of the world the groups are associated with.    If you get into the details of the haplogroups it will show how the groups branch out from one another. Mitochondrial Haplogroup L is the mother of all other groups. On a long enough timeline everyone’s ancestry goes back to Africa (more than 75,000 years ago).  But these haplogroups identify ancestry in more recent times (within the last 50,000 years) when new haplogroups M and N were emerging.

For example my mother is haplogroup H.   This is the biggest group for Europeans.  It is estimated that the common ancestor of this group is a woman who lived in the Caucasus/SW Asia between 33,000 and 26,000 years ago.   Depending on the test you take you can get more detail.  H is a daughter group to N which branched of as much as 75,000 years ago, which is a daughter group to L – going back 200,000 years in Africa.

My mother did an mtDNA test that further narrowed her haplogroup to H1as.   Certain lineages of H1 are thought to have been introduced by hunter-gather women in Europe about 18,000 to 22,500 years ago.    H1as is one of at least 65 current subdivisions of H1.    As is it stands very little is know about H1as.

Keep in mind that the understanding of these groups changes over time as people learn more.  New groups are being discovered as time goes on.

Cluster Genealogy – 2 DNA & Geography

CW, as stated in the first post about Cluster Genealogy, has had every possible DNA test one could have. So one of the first things I did was look at his surname DNA project and his results as compared to others who match him closely.

For those who need a little help to find DNA projects, simply type the Surname you are interested in into a search engine, “Smith DNA Project”, and if there is a DNA project for the surname it will pop up. Oh! What we did before the internet! Editorial comments aside, it’s pretty easy to find. One note of caution, do not copy and post information directly from the DNA project to anywhere public.

So in looking at CW’s DNA Surname Project I found several entries for “W” in the spread sheet who share CW’s Haplogroup, R-M269. In just looking at the people listed in the same Haplogroup, I see:

Samuel, b. 1643, Portsmith, New Hampshire, d. 1718
Ichabod, 1610, England
Thomas, 1787, Buckfastliegh, Devon (alternate surname spelling) This fella is also listed in this subclade but also in two other subclades.
No Name Unknown Origin
No Name Unknown Origin
William, b. 1750 – 1795, United Kingdom
Charles, b. 1769 Unknown – 1850 Alabama
Levi, 1780 – 1849 Unknown Origin
Levi, 1780 – 1849 Unknown Origin
No Name Unknown Origin
Samuel H., b. 1803, Cornish, ME, USA  <— this is CW’s ancestor
William, b.1800 d.aft 1880, Unknown Origin
Levi, B. 1780 and d. 1849, Unknown Origin
William (completely different surname) b 1860 d 1910 Unknown Origin

All of these entries are listed with the note, “R1b-M343 Backbone SNP Pack”, so it appears that FTDNA thinks these fella’s are all connected to some point in time (could be thousands of years).

So I now have a list of possible family members for CW, that I will need to research to see if they “fit”.

I have already had an opportunity to look into Levi, 1780-1849 as a fellow WikiTreer has Levi of SC associated with what he believes is CW’s Maine line (he had all of the children of this family located in Maine, then the one Child, Levi, in SC, an anomaly worth looking into for sure). Researching this Levi of SC gives us a man who was born in South Carolina, lived in South Carolina and died in South Carolina. There is no apparent connection, in the genealogical time frame, to CW’s family in Maine. I did find another Levi who lived in Maine at the right time and the right place to possibly be Levi who is the Levi of Maine and the one connected to CW..

So new questions arise, were the DNA tests associated with Levi of SC, actually for the Levi of Maine? The only way to find out is to search for the testers and find out what information they have for the paper trail. Then we can see which of the Levi’s in the DNA Project belong to Levi of Maine and which belong to the Levi of SC.

Off to find some paper trails for the rest and to find some testers to help with identifying the right Levi’s!

Cluster Genealogy – 1 – Geography

I am working with CW on a Paternal line brickwall – SW (Samuel). To help break down this brick wall CW has taken DNA tests – all of them. The Autosomal DNA Results information is a good place to look at relationships back to any of his 64, 4th great grandparents (we all have 64, 4th Great grands).

Using WikiTree’s Relationship Finder gives us CW’s relationship Trail to his brickwall:

Relationship Trail

1. CW is the son of TW
2. TW is the son of EW
3. EW is the son of EW, Jr.
4. EW, Jr. is the son of EW, Sr.
5. EW, Sr. is the son of Samuel W.
6. Samuel W. is the son of Samuel W.

This trail tells us that Samuel is the fourth great grandfather of CW. Which places this Brickwall squarely in the range where we can use Autosomal tests to help determine the possible siblings and cousins of Samuel. But to find his father we will need to look at CW’s y-DNA test information.

We know that he is haplogroup (“A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line – ISOGG ) R1b1b2 (from 23andMe) or R-M269 (FamilyTree DNA) which is a very common Western European haplogroup. Since we know his haplogroup we can look to see if there is a “W” DNA project by doing a google search. To our surprise, we not only find a “W” DNA Project but CW has already joined this project.

Scrolling down the Project Results spreadsheet, we find CW in the list of Project Kits. We see also, adjacent to CW, others who are listed in the same Haplogroup with very close connections to CW and his brickwall. They are, Levi, b. 1780 and William, b. abt. 1800. How do we know they are close? It’s in the numbers – they are grouped together in the DNA Project spreadsheet because they share mutations (“A permanent structural alteration or change in the DNA sequence. Mutations in the sperm or egg are called germline mutations. Germline mutations in the Y chromosome of the male are passed on to all of his male-line descendants. Mutations that occur after conception are called somatic mutations; these mutations may be found in different tissues of the body and they are not passed on to offspring” – ISOGG).

CW has information that shows his brickwall Samuel was most probably born and lived in Maine. His birthplace is listed as Cornish Maine in his son’s Death Certificate. This may or may not be correct considering this information was given by his son’s wife. Did his son tell his wife where his father was born? Did she remember it correctly? Did her father-in-Law tell her this? We have no way of knowing for sure.

Samuel lived in Waldo County, Maine, in the 1850 and 1860 Census Records and in Somerset County, Maine in the 1870 Census with his son Albion. Looking on the map Waldo and Somerset Counties are next to each other, but Cornish is in York County which is not connected to Waldo or Somerset County, lying about 124 miles away. It’s not unusual for younger children in a family to move away from the family’s area – their birth area – in search of land and opportunity. Plus in a quick review of the early history of Cornish, the village was very close to the confluence of three important Native American trails. These trails were often the routes that future roads followed.

So we now have some places to start looking for Samuel, and we are going to have to employ a process called Cluster Genealogy, “Cluster genealogy is a research technique employed by genealogists to learn more about an ancestor by examining records left by the ancestor’s cluster. A person’s cluster consists of the extended family, friends, neighbors, and other associates such as business partners. Researching the lives of an ancestor’s cluster leads to a more complete and more accurate picture of the ancestor’s life.” – WikiPedia

Determining the geography of an ancestor will help us to further the research we need to do in order to chip away at CW’s Brick Wall. Hopefully while we chip away, we will also find Levi and William’s paper connection to CW’s family.

Grandma(s) On Tour!

Not on a grand scale, but certainly a day trip in our own city. Marc (yes he is a Grandma too) and I headed out at 9am to meet and talk with Librarians and Archivists in Ottawa. A little too early as the first one on our list didn’t open until ten. We ended up sipping our Bridgehead coffees, chatting and watching the neighborhood kids play near the door of the Rosemont Branch (18 Roesmont Ave.) of the OPL (Ottawa Public Library). Amazing how a bike stand can turn into a jungle gym for anyone 3 or younger! We introduced ourselves to the Librarians and chatted briefly with them. This is not one of the OPL designated Genealogy Centers, but still has local information and of course access to online Genealogy programs like WikiTree, Ancestry and others.

Our second stop was at the downtown, Main Library (120 Metcalfe St.) Branch. We met with a Genealogy Specialist and member of the OPL Genealogy Team. She gave us a tour of the Ottawa Room and discussed the Library’s Genealogical services. They have gone to a team approach to Genealogy to meet the needs of increased demand and interest in Genealogy. Currently they have several Genealogical Service Center’s around the city located at Library Branches. You can book an appointment with a Genealogy Specialists to have a one-one consultation here: Library’s Genealogical Services Website.

At the Nepean Centrepoint OPL Branch (101 Centrepointe Dr.) we met with another of the OPL Genealogy Specialists and saw one of the Genealogy Centers. We discussed the changes the library has undertaken to take this particular branch from a holding of one row of shelves to a well organized Genealogical area within the library. Obvious that OPL is taking Genealogy seriously and making research and help “available”. Nepean Centerpoint OPL Website

The Location of the other OPL Genealogy Centers are:
Beaverbrook, 2500 Campeau, Beaverbrook OPL Website
Cumberland, 1599 Tenth Line, Cumberland OPL Website
Greenboro, 363 Lorry Greenburg, Greenboro OPL Website

The Library Archives Canada (395 Wellington Street), introduced us to a short but needed security check and the issuance of a Researcher Card, identifying us and allowing access on visits to LAC for the next two years. We also had to check our bags into a locker, though we could bring our computer and notebooks up. The Archivist we spoke to explained upcoming changes to the Genealogy Room, was friendly and helpful to us and busy as well, helping others. LAC Website.

Next was a stop at the Ottawa City Archives, James K. Bartleman Centre (100 Tallwood Dr.). This is a beautiful new LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building where local OGS (Ottawa Branch Ontario Genealogical Society), BIFHSGO (British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa) and other group meetings are held. We talked to two City Archivists about their collections and the building. Ottawa City Archive Website

Finding the LDS Ottawa Stake Family History Center (1017 Prince of Wales Drive) was a bit of a surprise as Marc and I have driven past it, cycled past it and lived near it for years. We were introduced to several of the Volunteers who people the center Tuesday through Saturday at various times. Despite the increase in the Family Search online offerings, this center is well suited to providing research opportunities with a room full of Microfilm machines, another with computers, and access to local and international information. Ottawa Ontario Stake Family History Center Website.

The theme of many of our discussions today seemed to be focused around Cluster Genealogy – “a research technique employed by genealogists to learn more about an ancestor by examining records left by the ancestor’s cluster. A person’s cluster consists of the extended family, friends, neighbors, and other associates such as business partners. Researching the lives of an ancestor’s cluster leads to a more complete and more accurate picture of the ancestor’s life.” – WikiPedia

Which is, interestingly enough, the title of another blog post I have on the go. Kismet, I think. Happy Roots Digging!