If you’ve done genealogy for any length of time, you’ve encountered endogamy. It’s the practice of marrying within the same community one generation after another. That community is often a geographic one, but it can be also ethnic, socio-economic, religious, etc. And there can be overlap as geographic communities often share a common ethnicity and religious heritage as well.

My maternal ancestors were Ostfriesen immigrants to a two-county area of the United States. For the first three generations in the United States, they married other members of that community–they had a shared culture and religious heritage. We’re all related to each other in more than one way which is what happens when small villages of populations under 500 people move to new areas of about the same size.

My Kentucky families who migrated to Indiana, and eventually Illinois married into other families from the same general area. The pool of potential marriage partners was somewhat larger, but the concept was the same.

And I’ve got a group of families who started out on the Virginia coast in the late 1600s and generally moved together into Orange County, then Amherst County, and eventually into Bourbon County, Kentucky. The same last names appear as neighbors in most of their documents over a one hundred and fifty year time span.


Why A Woman?

During that time period when women had fewer legal rights, if I encounter a woman being appointed a guardian or providing testimony in a case or trial, I ask myself “Why?”

Not because I don’t think women can do these things. They can. I ask that because it was unusual during the time period and a woman’s appearance in certain records when few women did is usually a clue in itself. And genealogists need to take any clues they can get?

  • Why did a female become guardian for her children in Illinois in 1855? Likely because there were no other relatives nearby who were of the male persuasion and who were willing and able to perform the duties of that position.
  • Why did a female become guardian for her child in Kentucky in 1815? Same reason.
  • Why did a female (other than the widow) provide testimony in a Revolutionary War widow’s pension case? Because the widow was trying to prove her year of marriage and the daughter was the oldest child and testified to that fact in her deposition.
  • Why did a woman become a naturalized citizen in South Dakota before women had the right to vote and when very few women bothered to naturalize on their own? So she could obtain a homestead in her own right (and you had to be a citizen to do that).

When it’s unusual for a person to do what they are doing, it’s important for the genealogist to ask why. The fact that they are doing it is a clue–sometimes a bigger one than we think.


Printed US Census Schedules

The United States government did not provide census takers with printed schedules until the 1830 enumeration. As a result, censuses before that date were taken on forms created by the enumerator. This results in handwritten forms, column headings that are often not written in, and (occasionally) additional information being requested of enumerees.


Records at All Levels

Genealogists tend to focus on records at the local level (typically county or town in the United States) because that’s often where vital records, property, and court records are located. Family history researchers are also are pretty good at using the most well-known federal record: the census. But there may be other records at the federal level (particularly military, military pension, and federal land acquisition records) that could have referenced your ancestor as well.

State-level records may be helpful as well. There may have been state census records, military enlistment records, petitions to the state legislature, prisoner pardons, etc. Some of these are indexed and some are not. The state archives or other appropriate agency is the place to start looking for these types of records as many inventories are available online.

In 1821, a group of family members in Virginia, who referred to themselves in their petition as “being destitute of any education or advisors” petitioned to have the state of Virginia vacate an escheatment of their late father’s farm due to an inheritance issue. This was a family who I never dreamed would appear in a legislative petition. They probably never thought they’d be petitioning the state either. You never know.


Download Your Data

This is your periodic reminder to download your data from those cloud-based subscription services you have. Don’t assume images on any site will be there forever. Save it while it is on your screen. Keep images on your own media in accounts/locations you have control over and can access.


AncestryDNA August 2019 Edition Webinar Available

This presentation has been recorded and is available for immediate download. If you ordered and did not receive, please email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com and I’ll take care of it.

In this presentation, we will discuss new and not-so-new features of AncestryDNA matches, including:

  • Groups
  • Notes
  • ThruLines
  • Starred matches
  • Filters
  • Searches

Our focus will be on practical, straight-forward applications of these features with particular attention paid to problem-solving and documentation of your analytical process.  Also discussed will be the creation of a customized spreadsheet to track your work and to assist in planning your analysis. Our goal is not to confuse you with how complicated we can make things, but to help you actually use the new tools at AncestryDNA to make the most of them.

And to do that—we’ll also discuss the drawbacks and potential pitfalls of approaches that are discussed.

This presentation has already been held. If you registered or pre-ordered and did not receive your download links–email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com. This presentation (handout and presentation) can be ordered for immediate download via our secure ordering platform.

Attendees should have a basic understand of autosomal DNA matches.


How Complete is that Database?

We’ve mentioned it before, but reminders never hurt.

Before you spend hours searching an online database, determine how complete the database is. Some sets of data include all records in a specific series. Others may be in progress, only including part of the time span the title covers. The webpage title may say the materials are from 1850 to 1950, with 1850-1855, 1870-1880, and 1940-1950 being included. Always read the details.


Work Out the Ones You Know

Many genealogists start work on their DNA matches trying to figure out their “brick wall.” While that’s definitely a long-term goal, it may not be the best way to start.

If you are new to DNA analysis, it might be good to work on your matches for those families where you think “you know everything” already. It’s a great way to build up your skills and learn about DNA methodology. There will be “less to learn” since you already have the family worked up. And you will be better prepared for working on those “brick walls.”

You may also discover that you don’t know as much about the “already done” family as you thought you did.


Shared Looks Evidence of…

“”Through DNA analysis, I was able to determine the grandparents of a relative whose biological father was unknown. There’s no way at this point to determine which of their sons was the father of the child in question, but it’s clear that one of them was.

And a photo of a first cousin of that relative indicated they shared facial features. The similarities between their faces was a nice addition to my DNA evidence, but it really is not considered any sort of evidence itself. We have all seen siblings who bear little physical resemblance to each other and as the relationship becomes more distance the similarities can become even fewer.

But distant relatives can share some common facial features or looks. But it’s not the sort of information that can be considered proof of a relationship because passage of “looks” through the generations is partially just the luck of the genetic draw.

While travelling recently, I was told by someone ” that guy over there looks like you.” And sure enough he did–although the lack of hair helped.