30 May 2023

These DNA Sites Expand Your Tree in New Directions

Ten years ago I asked my parents to take a DNA test. I told them it would help me see whether my matches were on mom's side or dad's side. I even uploaded our 3 DNA tests (plus my husband's) to other DNA websites.

I must admit I've spent very little time looking at their DNA matches. Instead, I've analyzed the daylights out of my matches. I've categorized them, added notes, and grouped them with colorful dots.

Then on Friday, DNA expert Diahan Southard gave another insightful webinar. She recommended two things I've overlooked:

  1. My parents are one generation closer to their ancestors than I am. So they will have some matches I don't have.
  2. AncestryDNA has the most tests by far, but they ship to a limited number of countries. (See the full list.) Other websites, like MyHeritage, have a more global collection of DNA testers.

After hearing that second point, I was eager to see our matches on MyHeritage. Sure enough, I'm seeing matches that aren't on AncestryDNA. They're from:

  • Italy
  • Brazil
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • Venezuela
  • Slovakia
  • New Zealand
  • plus the USA and Canada
I didn't realize how AncestryDNA limits my international pool of matches.
I didn't realize how AncestryDNA limits my international pool of matches.

You can do this for free, same as I did. Create a free account on www.myheritage.com, go to the DNA menu, and choose Upload DNA data. (See your testing site for instructions on how to download your DNA data file.)

I'll bet you'll have much better matches than I do. For some reason, my number of matches is very low compared to other people. On AncestryDNA, I have 5,554 matches. I've seen other people with 50,000 matches. What the heck? On MyHeritage, I have 554 matches—but 90% of them are people not on AncestryDNA.

I spent a whole day looking at the family trees of DNA matches for my parents and myself on MyHeritage. The most exciting result is that many of them are from my mother's ancestral hometowns in Italy. Those towns have almost no matches on AncestryDNA!

Don't overlook the free resource that offers you a host of new international DNA matches.
Don't overlook the free resource that offers you a host of new international DNA matches.

I recognize most of the last names in these matches' family trees. I dug through my downloaded collection of vital records from the towns. I built out families and placed my new DNA matches in my family tree. Sometimes our connection was an in-law connection, not a cousin connection. That means I need to piece together more ancestors.

While my number of international DNA matches is low, they give me a lot more families to explore. I'm excited to have a new project on my list. Yes, I'm still winding up a cleanup project to add source citations to some document images in my family tree. But I can wrap that up in three solid days. And I'm still working through my maternal grandfather's hometown, adding people to my tree. And I'm even still renaming lots of my downloaded vital records to make them searchable.

But that doesn't mean I'm not excited by the next big project! Thanks to my international DNA matches, I can expand my reach into my "underserved" towns:

  • Sant'Angelo a Cupolo
  • Apice
  • Pescolamazza
  • Santa Paolina
  • Tufo

I'm also revisiting the DNA kit I uploaded to familytreedna.com. That match list (only 321 people) has even more names I haven't seen on AncestryDNA. Very few of them have uploaded a tree, so I may not get very much out of this list. But again, I'll bet you will.

I'm eager to add as many people from my underserved towns as possible. My family tree is full to the brim with ancestors from my grandfathers' hometowns. But my grandmothers' lines need work. Now I can expand their families further!

If your family hasn't been in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand for several hundred years, don't ignore the power of MyHeritage. And if you're managing DNA kits for your close relatives, explore their unique matches. Go ahead. Dip your toes in the international gene pool.

Remember these 2 key points when it comes to your DNA test.

23 May 2023

Make a To-Do List with FTM's Media Usage Report

When I told you I'd finished cleaning up all the source citations in my family tree, I left something out. I didn't want to get into it because it may not apply to many people. But there is something I should share with you.

I wound up with about 2,000 vital records attached to people but not to a source citation. Let's say Angelo Bianco has a birth record attached to him in my family tree. He has his name, birth and baptism dates, and his parents' names and ages. But somehow, there is no citation. All the information I need is there, but the last step remains undone. I don't know how this happened.

I started to fix them by paging through all the vital records in the Media tab of Family Tree Maker. I have 8,533 vital records! I was looking for those attached to a person but missing a citation. When I found one, I'd go to the person and create the source citation. But I had no clue how many of these there were.

After doing that for a couple of days, I wondered if there was a better way. There is. It's called the Media Usage Report. To find it in Family Tree Maker, go to the Publish tab and choose Media Reports under Publication Types. You'll see the Media Usage Report. Click the Create Report button and you'll see a bunch of options you can change.

FTM's Media Usage Report helped me find and fix a long list of missing citations in my family tree.
FTM's Media Usage Report helped me find and fix a long list of missing citations in my family tree.

By the way, I opened my tree in RootsMagic 8, complete with media items, and it has nothing like this report. You can view media items one at a time, but you can't even double click to go to the person or citation attached to it. I'd never looked at FTM's Media Usage Report before, and it turns out to have some great uses.

In my case, all the images missing a citation use an obsolete URL from the Antenati website. (See "How to Make the Best of the New Antenati Website.") I wanted to be able to see the description for each image because it contains the obsolete URL. Here's what I did to create my Media Usage Report:

  • Select All individuals in the Individuals to include section.
  • Select Show description in the Items to include section.
  • Select Show person media in the Filter media by section.

To save a report, click the Share button in the top right corner of FTM and export to the format of your choice. I chose to export to CSV to create a spreadsheet. That way, I can simply delete each entry once it's fixed. And now I can do a search in Excel to count how many obsolete Antenati URLs I need to update. I can see my progress and estimate how long it'll take me to finish.

Here are some other Media Usage Report options that may suit your needs.

Options in the "Items to include" section:

  • To include media items you've marked private, be sure to select Include private media. I made all my photographs private to keep them off of Ancestry.com. They won't show up in my report unless I make this selection.
  • To find media that's missing a date, select Show date. I always put the date of the document in the image's details. If I forget, I'll see the file's creation timestamp instead of a proper date.
  • To find media that's missing a category, select Show categories. It's helpful to assign a category to your media so you can find the one you need fast. FTM comes with several built-in categories, but you can create your own, too.
  • If you keep details in the image's Notes field (not the Description field), select Show notes to see them.

Options in the "Filter media by" section:

  • Once upon a time, I was attaching media to a fact, rather than to the citation attached to a fact. I thought that was what I needed to do. Selecting Show fact media lets me find those and fix them. (See the image to better understand.)
    When I discovered I could add a media item directly to a fact, I did. But attaching them to the citation is much better.
    When I discovered I could add a media item directly to a fact, I did. But attaching them to the citation is much better.
  • Show person media displays all the media in your family tree that's attached to anyone. This is the most important choice to make.
  • To find media that isn't attached to anyone, select Show unlinked media. If you save this report, you can work through them and either attach or delete them from your family tree.

For me, choosing to show source, citation, and relationship media shows nothing. Try them and see if you have any results.

Before closing my FTM file, I exported a GEDCOM file with media links. I opened that file in Family Tree Analyzer, and I didn't see any report that makes use of media. But I did find an unusual error in my tree. When I looked at a list of all the occupations in my tree, I found 11 blank occupations. That meant I'd created an occupation fact, but forgot to enter the occupation itself. I fixed them one-by-one in my tree. Three of them were actually death dates recorded as occupation facts. What happened there?

You never know what you'll find while doing quality assurance on your family tree. That's why you've go to do it!

16 May 2023

Who Did You Inherit Your Traits From?

Can you inherit your bright-eyed optimism from your ancestors? Popular shows like "Finding Your Roots" and "Who Do You Think You Are?" tell stories about celebrities learning their ancestor shared their personality traits. But are you really a musician because your 3rd great grandfather was?

Science says you can inherit a personality trait *if* there's a physical component to it. You can inherit perfect pitch because it's a physical trait—a physical ability. You can inherit your optimism because it's tied to the oxytocin receptors in your brain.

You can also inherit traits you saw your family members modelling. I tend to react to another driver cutting me off in exactly the same way as my father. I think that's more about watching him drive than inheriting a gene. But you didn't see your 3rd great grandfather modelling his musical skills.

You may be familiar with how DNA works, but have you examined which traits and features you inherited from whom?
You may be familiar with how DNA works, but have you examined which traits and features you inherited from whom?

The Science of Inheritance

I remember learning about trait inheritance in 9th grade biology class. We all have 2 genes for each physical trait, and we pass only one to each child. If dad's genes carry both the dominant brown-eyed trait and the recessive blue-eyed trait, and mom's genes carry only the recessive blue-eyed trait, what are the chances they'll have a blue-eyed child? Do the math to see there's a 50% chance.

Let's take my blue-eyed Mom as an example. Her mother had brown eyes and her father had blue eyes. But she and her 2 siblings did not get brown eyes. That means Grandma passed down the recessive gene she inherited from her blue-eyed father.

It would be nice to think that my entrepreneurial son Chris inherited his skills from his 2nd great grandfather, Giovanni. Giovanni came to America without any type of skilled trade. But somehow, he quickly became the owner of a building with 4 apartments and retail space.

This equation shows how slim the chances were for my sons to be anything but blonde-haired and blue-eyed.
This equation shows how slim the chances were for my sons to be anything but blonde-haired and blue-eyed.

In reality, Chris probably observed his father's attempts to be an entrepreneur, and my years of working as a successful independent contractor. Chris was always determined to never work for someone else. And he's stubborn enough to make it a reality.

My other son, Joe, has long been my clone. He has a strong gene for laziness that I don't have, but he's smart enough to overcome it. He prefers to work alone without asking for help, which is something my father and I share. Many times I see Joe expressing exactly my thoughts on a range of topics. I tend to think that's from his upbringing.

Inheritance in Your Family Tree

Here's an exercise that can be a fun way to raise your family's interest in genealogy. Certain physical traits are dominant while others are recessive, like the brown eyes and blue eyes mentioned above. How many of your family members inherited recessive genes? Who do you think those genes came from?

Trait Dominant Recessive
Earlobes Unattached Attached
Tongue rolling Can do it Can't do it
Dimples Have them Don't have them
Handedness Right-handed Left-handed
Hair Curly Straight
Freckles Have them Don't have them
Toe length 2nd toe longest Big toe longest
Nose width Broad Narrow
Lip width Broad Thin
Eyelashes Long Short

In my case, I inherited a lot of recessive genes and one big dominant one for my curly hair. I don't know which ancestor gave me my left-handedness, but not long ago people discouraged that trait. Ringo Starr's grandmother forced him to act like he was right-handed, but he isn't. He says that's why his style of drumming is so unique. He's playing backwards!

Where do you think your physical traits came from? How about your personality traits?

Want to learn more? See: