AncestryDNA announced last week that it has been able to identify six unique historic populations in West Africa. It’s a breakthrough they call a “finer-resolution genetic ethnicity estimate for individuals with West African ancestry.” They have even used this technology to start connecting the dots between those groups and millions of African-Americans whose ancestral paper trail was annihilated during the era of slavery.
For this latter development, the AncestryDNA team uses the “cluster genealogy” approach: the concept that people from the same location often migrated to the same areas. Of course, slavery forced apart families and other natural migration groups, both in Africa before the crossing and in the U.S. or other destinations. And the few records that remain of many of these folks and their enslaved descendants don’t include full names, place of origin or other data we rely on to make family connections. (Learn more about how to research African-American roots in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 159 with Dr. Deborah Abbott.)
It’s encouraging to read that AncestryDNA has had some success hooking up regional groups of African-Americans with specific areas of Africa. “Though this project is still in its infancy, the science team has made some progress,” AncestryDNA reports. “First, we looked at the birth locations of individuals in the trees of all African Americans. Then, we looked for locations where, relative to all African Americans, there appeared to be an over-representation of birth locations in trees of individuals with a particular West African ancestry. For individuals with Senegalese genetic ethnicity, we found what seems to be an over-representation of birth locations in South Carolina and Georgia in the 1700’s and 1800’s.”
It’s hard to keep up with the content constantly being added online at FamilySearch! If you (like me) spent the past month squeezing the last bit of travel and sun from the summer, you may have missed some great new content. Here’s a recap:
This month, over a half million indexed records and images have already shown up from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Guatemala, Italy, New Zealand and the United States. Highlights include updates to the United States Social Security Death Index, images from the Czech Republic, Censuses, 1843–1921, collection, indexed records from the Hungary, Civil Registration, 1895–1980, collection, images from the new U.S., Indiana, Naturalization Records and Indexes, 1848-1992, collection and the Italy, Mantova, Mantova, Censuses (Comune), 1750-1900, collection, and indexed records from the U.S., Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957, collection.
In August, FamilySearch.org added more than 45 million indexed records and images from BillionGraves and from Italy, the U.S., England, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, Jamaica, Chile, Honduras and more. Notable U.S. additions are updates to the New Orleans Passenger Lists and newly-indexed war collections, including: the United States, World War II Prisoners of War of the Japanese, 1941-1945, collection, the United States, Korean War Battle Deaths, 1950-1957, collection, and the United States, Casualties of the Vietnam War, 1956-1998, collection.
A few more cool additions include:
- More than a half million images to a growing collection of Italy’s Civil Registrations;
- Nearly a million indexed Jamaican and a quarter million Chilean civil registrations;
- More than 2.5 million indexed recods from New Zealand passenger lists (1855-1973);
- Nearly a half-million indexed names from Boston passenger lists (1820-1891);
- Over 41 million indexed names added to the U.S. Public Record Index.
Search these and 3.5 billion more records at FamilySearch.org. Records are always free to search here, thanks both to the organization itself and thousands of volunteers around the world who index records. Join the effort here!
The biggest family history library in the world just got a new boss! Diane Loosle is the new Director of the flagship Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the first woman to hold this job. She has exciting ambitions for the FHL and I look forward to seeing how they unfold.
Diane mentions three specific goals she’ll focus on between now and the end of 2014:
- “Become more family and youth-oriented through providing interactive, discovery experiences.
- Enhance the services of the library through new collaborative research areas and better access to research staff.
- Engage more patrons from the geographic community surrounding the library.”
As an example of the first objective, a FamilySearch press release says Loosle wants to “study the role of the Family History Library and 4,700 satellite branches worldwide…and how to make them discovery centers for people of all ages, not just a research facility.”
“Our centers are great places to do genealogical research,” Loosle says. “[But] we need to figure out how to balance the needs of researchers while increasing appeal to those with other family history interests. You can’t attract a younger audience and offer the same experiences. We need to offer fun experiences and activities for the entire family that will increase love, appreciation, and understanding of their ancestors.”
I admit I’ve wondered about the future of satellite family history centers as increasingly folks stay home to research online. So I look forward to seeing how she will reinvent these community resources to serve today’s (and tomorrow’s) genealogical researchers.
Loosle comes to this job with great credentials. She is an accredited genealogist who has been with FamilySearch for 19 years, where she championed new customer service initiatives. She also has an MBA, strong business and leadership skills. She is described by a senior executive at FamilySearch as “one of the most qualified and capable to ever serve in this position.”
Congratulations, Diane! We look forward to seeing what’s coming next.
In celebration of National Preparedness Month in the United States, I’m running a four-part post on securing your family history archive and research against disasters. Last week I talked about assessing and prioritizing your original family artifacts, photographs and documents. This week’s tip:
DUPLICATE THE PAST. There’s no true substitute for an original family Bible, but if it’s lost, you at least want to have a copy. Scan your original photos, documents, and other flat artifacts—including the important pages of that Bible. While you could carefully use a flatbed scanner, consider a portable scanner or a mobile scanning app like Genius Scan or Scanner Pro.
Next, photograph dimensional family artifacts like artwork, handicrafts, clothing, military and school memorabilia, etc. Use a regular digital camera or the camera on your phone or tablet/iPad. Make sure you label the photos by using the metadata fields in digital files or by printing them out and captioning them in an album. Consider using the Heirloom Inventory Kit developed by the folks at Family Tree Magazine to create an archival record of your artifacts with images, stories and more.
Next week, we’ll tackle a third topic: preserving original documents, photos and heirlooms.
Ancestry.com and FamilySearch International, the two largest online providers of genealogy data, just announced an agreement that’s expected to put a billion more historical records from around the world within reach online.
A billion is a LOT of records. If you wanted to count to a billion, it would take you 95 years.
According to an Ancestry.com press release, the organizations will partner “with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.”
“The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as Ancestry.com continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide,” continues the release. “Ancestry.com expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.”
This kind of collaboration (rather than competition) between these two enormous organizations will likely mean fabulous fruits for the genealogist. I love that the emphasis is on worldwide records, too. Though people in certain international markets may be the ones using their records, the ancestors of those folks have come from all parts of the world. As always, stay tuned to Genealogy Gems to hear news like this and for updates as these records start becoming available.