An Alternative to DNA Testing for Your Genealogical Research?

5881109656_b98490e439_o

Exciting news for genealogy enthusiasts interested in DNA research! The Washington Post recently reported that scientists think they may have discovered an emerging technological process that could one day easily complement DNA testing for genealogical researchers.

The new process centers around analyzing the sequencing of proteins in hair strands. Proteins in our bodies are created from “blueprints” or “recipies” embedded within our DNA.  Because everyone’s DNA is slightly different, it was proposed that everybody’s protein sequencing would also be unique.

According to researchers:

“This study demonstrates that quantifiable measures of identity discrimination and biogeographic background can be obtained from detecting genetically variant peptides in hair shaft protein, including hair from bioarchaeological contexts.”

This basically is saying that by analyzing the protein sequencing found in someone’s hair, you can figure out their identity.

The major discussion about what the impact this new discovery will have on society currently focuses on criminal investigation forensics (like on CSI). But does all this mean for genealogists and family historians? What impact will it have on us?  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Once we know more about this technology, we will hopefully discover that there is a correlation between being related and similarities in the protein sequencing of two people.
  2. If #1 proves true, protein sequencing analysis might be easier to use than traditional DNA testing because subject samples could me more abundant (you may have a lock of hair from a relative who died a hundred years ago that you couldn’t extract DNA  from, but it could be used for analyzing its protein sequence).  In fact, the study mentioned above used samples from the mid 1700s (very exciting). Getting DNA samples from relatives who lived several hundred years ago can be fairly difficult.
  3. We could now have another independent evidence that we could use along side DNA research to further prove/support our research or find relatives. It will give DNA testing a bit of competition, but I think the two technologies will coexist and complement each other.
  4. This technology could open up new opportunities in the genealogical industry. A whole new branch even!

This technology could  revolutionize how we do and prove things as genealogists. I’m optimistic and enthusiastic about the preliminary results. But that being said, there needs to be an understanding that this first study still needs to be verified and replicated by other scientists to show its validity with larger sample sizes. I anticipate hearing the results of such studies and will be following subsequent developments very closely.

You can read the research study methodology and results yourself here.

4 Things You Can Do at a FamilySearch Library


FamilySearch and the LDS church have many resources available to family historians and genealogists. There are three types  of facilities available to aid research: the “Family History Library” flagship facility in Salt Lake City, FamilySearch libraries, and satellite family history centers. 

Family history centers are the smallest of facilities (usually located in a church). FamilySearch libraries are generally physically larger, have a dedicated server (so the computers/internet should perform quicker) and have a larger local holding of materials.

Many people (in and out of the church) don’t really know all of the genealogical  resources they have available to them for free at FamilySearch libraries and Family History Centers.

Here are a few things available to the public:

  1. Use premium, subscription based, or other paid genealogy software or sites for free (Ancestry, Fold3, etc.). See a list of available software here.
  2. Order and view microfilm from FamilySearch’s massive record inventory (some of which hasn’t yet been indexed or digitized). You can actually save the microfilm digitally to a thumb drive or other storage medium.
  3. Get research help (often on a one on one basis) from library staff that have experience and training in family history and genealogy.
  4. Scan your old photographs, documents, etc. using library equipment.

There are hundreds of FamilySearch libraries and family history centers located throughout the world. Find a location near you at https://familysearch.org/locations.

So check out a FamilySearch library near you and see what they have to offer your research!

Finding Ancestors to Submit to the Temple

13933989150_7c0cc64876_z

In last week’s post we discussed a few common reasons many LDS members think that their genealogy has been done and why this is probably not true. This week, I wanted to discuss a tried and true method that I’ve used to find my own ancestors as well as help other members find their ancestors.

Many people want to start doing family history research, but don’t know how to start  — so they never do.  Or, it is so overwhelming to them they never try.  If you or your family come from pioneer stock, you might think all temple work has been done for your family — so you don’t think you can find names to take to the temple.  If you fall into anyone of these categories, this post is for you.  I’ll show you some simple steps you can follow to find relatives needing temple work and then take them to the temple.

As an introduction, I would like to compare finding relatives to submit for temple work to fishing. Good fisherman know very well how to (obviously) and where to catch fish. The really good fisherman have “secret fishing spots” where the fishing is ridiculously amazing. They don’t often tell everyone where these spots are for fear of ruining the spot.  The method I’m about to describe will show you where the “good fishing” is for family history work and how to have a productive fishing trip once you arrive.

The method that works for me is heavily based on “descendancy research.”  Most people starting out in genealogy start researching their direct ancestors (and families). With this more traditional type of research, you start with an individual and work back until you can’t research a line any further (and hit what genealogists affectionately call “brick walls”). Descendancy research is the exact opposite:  You start with an ancestor as far back as you can go (provided you have verified that the research is accurate and they are really related to you), and start researching their descendants until you can’t research anymore. 

Most of the large web-based genealogical sites (Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, etc.) have what is called a “descendancy view” to help researchers view the descendants of of an individual.  Another common site to use is Puzzilla.org. FamilySearch.org has an excellent demo about how descendancy research works on FamilySearch (using the site’s “descendancy view”): https://familysearch.org/campaign/reservationopportunity-vp?cid=ld-ht-2947

Here is my method of doing “descendancy research” to find relatives to take to the temple. 3/4 sides of my family came from Utah pioneers, so this has been helpful to me.

  1. Download or print out a fan chart from FamilySearch.org.  I like using importing my FamilySearch data (or using a Gedcom file from family history software) using TreeSeek (free).  I like TreeSeek because you can create larger fan charts (9 generations back instead of 5 with FamilySearch).  I usually get a “blueprint” sized version printed from a local print shop (I like to hang it up on the wall after), but 8.5 by 11” paper is fine too.  For this purpose, don’t spend a lot on expensive paper because we’re going to mark it up.
  2. For each side of your family, determine which ancestor was the first generation to join the church.  I highlight mine in yellow on the copy of the fan chart.  You will notice at this point that between you and this ancestor, there is a pretty good chance that all the temple work has been done for this line (direct ancestors and their children).fanchart
  3. For each ancestor you have that meets this criteria, you are going to want to make a list of their names, their siblings, their parents, and their parent’s siblings (along with their FamilySearch IDs).
  4. With each individual on your list:
  • Verify through sources, that the person is actually existed and is related to you.
  • Check for duplicates on FamilySearch and merge records if applicable.
  • Check the individual’s, temple work to see if it has been completed. If there is a legitimate need, reserve the temple work.
  • Go to the next name on the list you completed in #3 and repeat these steps in #4 until you run out of names.

You should find that you are able to find names of people born between the years of 1830 and 1906. You also need to know that FamilySearch will not have every descendant of your ancestor in its databases. There is no substitute for good old fashioned research to find relatives (in non-digitized or indexed records, paper records, etc.) that you likely will need to enter into FamilySearch to get the temple work done.

In conclusion, “descendancy research” is one of the more fruitful methods for finding relatives needing temple work. It allows LDS members to find, research, and discover things/people in their family trees that have been long forgotten.

For more information and a ton more resources about descendancy research, I would recommend downloading a syllabus to a RootsTech class that Mr. Ron Tanner of FamilySearch.org presented in 2015 entitled, “How to Find Your Cousins on FamilySearch.org.”  As a side note: if you ever get a chance to hear Mr. Tanner present, he’s a great presenter, knows his stuff, and is pretty entertaining.

3 Reasons Your Family History Isn’t Done Yet!

6505142891_f2984f67d7_b

I’ve heard it said more than few times and in a few different settings that a LDS member’s genealogy and family history has all been done. I kind of cringe a little bit inside when I hear this. This just can’t be true (no matter how strong you think your argument is)!  Read on and I’ll try to convince you…  The purpose of this article is to point out a few reasons why family history and genealogy is still important and relevant to all LDS members.  Here are a few common reasons people give me of why their family history and genealogy is done:

Reason #1: I have a genealogy enthusiast (or more likely a genealogy zealot in the form of a  distant “Great Aunt Francine”) for a relative and  assume that based on that person’s enthusiasm, it really all has been done.

The concern here is with the quality and accuracy of the research (no offense to Francine). How confident are you that the long held traditions of your family history are correct? Is your pedigree chart backed up with records, facts, and sources? Some people add names to their family tree (and even submit temple work) without verifying the relationship of the name to their family. Even worse, if something like this happened 50 or 75 years ago (and the wrong information has been taken as fact and copied over and over again all that time) — it is easy to think it is the truth. However, that doesn’t make that research true (now or then).

Also, not all researchers are equally prepared when they embark on this work. Family historians and genealogists  differ in experience, skill, and diligence in accurately documenting their work. Several genealogical organizations offer certification and professional industry standards that can be followed in your own research.

But why does it matter?  If one of the four pillars of the LDS Church’s mission is to “redeem the dead,” we really should take our work seriously and strive to be as accurate and professional as possible. Our ancestors deserve it. Our kids and other relatives deserve it too (so they can accurately and efficiency start where we leave off). It’s your family, so at the end of the day it’s your responsibility to make sure everything is as accurate as possible.

Another reason: New records have been and are currently being digitized and added to online databases. The records and resources we have today are exponentially more than great aunt Francine ever had. Important things (and people) may have been missed by past family historians.

Reason #2: My genealogy or family history is complete because  it appears that everywhere you look (most likely on Family Search), the temple work for all their direct relatives and families has been done.

I must disclose here that I really like FamilySearch.org and I think it’s pretty awesome. It has records other genealogy companies can only dream about and is completely free to anyone. However, it does have weaknesses and LDS researchers need to understand what they are:

  • Anyone can edit records on the FamilySearch Tree. The FamilySearch Tree is almost like the Wikipedia of the genealogy industry. I’m not arguing Wikipedia isn’t a very powerful resource — it’s just hard to take information at its word without additional research. It’s also really annoying when others change your changes (and it’s obvious it wasn’t fact based). FamilySearch has been attempting to get people to attach sources though — which has been helpful.
  • FamilySearch is only as good as the records entered into it. And from my own experience,  not all records of my family tree have been added in. It takes research outside of the system to verify all family members are accounted for in FamilySearch. It’s not the one stop family history shop or record repository.

Reason #3:  I’m Mormon, my family is Mormon, and we always have been Mormon. Mormons love genealogy and so there is no way that my genealogy is incomplete (or something like that).

Mormons definitely do not have the corner on family history and genealogy. It has been my experience that a person’s genealogy from the time a person’s ancestors enter the church to the present day has been done over and over and over. But, the generation before that and all of their descendants usually haven’t had their genealogies recorded or their temple work done (which could end up being thousands or tens of thousands of relatives). Mathematically, it’s nearly impossible all of your genealogy is done!

One more example: I heard an interesting experience at the 2016 roots tech conference (during a DNA class). A LDS member discovered (after getting his DNA tested) that his traditional Mormon pedigree was incorrect prior to his family arriving in the intermountain west. Apparently while traveling west, many parents died along the way and their small children left behind were adopted by other Mormon pioneer families (and records regarding what happened are now rare or not existent). How important it is to check your family’s traditional research using modern tools.

In conclusion, I hope this post has expanded your scope on how much can be done for your family history and genealogy and inspired you in some way. There is so much to do! As a start, I encourage you to take a look at your family tree to see what proof you have of what is listed in your genealogical database files.

Note: If you liked this post, please subscribe to my blog to keep informed of updates and new posts.