Review: Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook

Genealogy educator Thomas MacEntee reviews the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook – a “must have” reference for every Ancestry subscriber!

Review: Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook – A How-to Manual for Tracing Your Family Tree on the #1 Genealogy Website

[Editor’s Note: Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook – A How-to Manual for Tracing Your Family Tree on the #1 Genealogy Website is available in print (click here) as well as in e-book format (click here). PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS17 at checkout, you’ll save 10%!]

Hendrickson, Nancy. Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook – A How-to Manual for Tracing Your Family Tree on the #1 Genealogy Website, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2017, 192 pages.

As genealogists, many of us seem to have a “love-hate relationship” with the #1 genealogy website, Ancestry.com. I’ve been an Ancestry subscriber for many years and as a genealogy educator I know for certain the cause of such angst: lack of education on how to effectively use the Ancestry website. This is why the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook by Nancy Hendrickson should be required reading for all Ancestry users.

Mastering Ancestry.com’s Search Function

In my opinion the best chapter in Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook is the first chapter and it covers all the aspects of Ancestry’s search functions. I know how important it is for Ancestry users to master all the features of General Search. Too many times have I heard exasperated users complain that they can’t find anything on their ancestors, mainly due to improper searching.

And hurray for the author covering in detail the Ancestry Card Catalog! As an experienced researcher, I know that the best way to find anything on Ancestry is to go directly to a record set. The Card Catalog is often neglected as a search resource by users and the author deftly explains how to unlock its powerful features.

Useful Exercises for Skill Building

Another great feature of Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook is the exercises listed after each chapter. Example: the Finding a Photo exercise challenges the reader to start using these Ancestry Search skills to locate photos.

Teaching This Old Dog New Tricks

How do you know what you don’t know? Especially when it comes to being more productive at the Ancestry.com website . . . that is why the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook is useful, even for an “experienced” user like me.

For example: Ancestry Quick Links. How did I not know about this? Quick Links are like bookmarks or favorites for Ancestry. You can build a quick “research toolbox” by using this powerful feature. And who knew that Ancestry had shortcut keys? Well the author does and she wants to make sure you take advantage of them!

Records and More at Ancestry.com

Hendrickson does a great job at covering other aspects of the Ancestry.com website including US Federal Census Records, Birth/Marriage/Death Records, Military Records, Immigration Records, as well as Social History and Ancestry DNA. However, there are some useful Ancestry.com features that are NOT covered in this workbook and I’m not certain why they’ve been omitted: the Ancestry Message Boards, as well as the Trees posted by Ancestry.com members.

There are several appendices at the end of the workbook, the most useful being a series of worksheets and templates:

  • Ancestry.com Search Worksheet
  • Five-Generation Ancestor Chart
  • Family Group Sheet
  • Research Checklist for US Ancestors (as well as Canadian and UK Ancestors)
  • Records Checklist – Birth Information
  • Records Checklist – Marriage Information
  • Records Checklist – Death Information
  • Census Abstract Forms for each US Federal Census

What’s Inside

The Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook features:

  • Introductions on how to use the seven most important record groups on Ancestry.com, plus how to navigate AncestryDNA and use test results in your research
  • Detailed step-by-step case studies showing how to use Ancestry.com to find ancestors and solve research problems
  • Fillable worksheets and forms that let you apply the book’s techniques to your own research

Excerpt: Sample Tips

Here are some tips you’ll find in the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook[i]:

  • Identify specific record collections that you want to search. With more than a billion records organized into tens of thousands of collections, Ancestry.com can be overwhelming to navigate, and using the general search form can sometimes give you too many results to sort through. Use the Card Catalog to find specific collections that cover the appropriate time and place (as well as the kind of record you’re looking for) to give yourself the best chance of finding a specific record.
  • Play with search options. Ancestry.com’s search forms and Card Catalog have a number of filters you can use to narrow down your results. Different combinations of titles, keywords, record types and date ranges will yield different results. Learn what each option does, and make careful use of them in your search.
  • Prioritize close DNA matches. DNA testing is an amazing new research technique, but it can provide you with an overwhelming amount of data. When reviewing your DNA matches, begin by searching only those who are projected to be third cousins or closer, as estimates or more distant relationships tend to be less accurate (and thus studying them is probably a less efficient use of your research time).

Conclusion

Even if you consider yourself a pretty savvy Ancestry.com user, you will find many ways to improve your productivity on the site and get the most out of your Ancestry subscription. Hendrickson has put together an extremely useful manual for the most popular genealogy website and I’m certain that I’ll be referring to the workbook quite often. I highly recommend any genealogist, from beginner to expert, to add the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook to their library.

About The Author: Nancy Hendrickson

Nancy Hendrickson is a genealogy author, blogger and instructor at Ancestor News, a site dedicated to finding and preserving family stories. A contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, Nancy writes almost exclusively about Internet genealogy, research and American history. She’s a member of Western Writers of America and a long-time photography buff. Nancy is active on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Her e-mail is genealogyteach@gmail.com.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

[i] Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/unofficial-ancestry-workbook, accessed 15 January 2017), used by permission of F&W Media.

Is Scanning Enough? Introducing StoryScans™ Talking Images

Therese McGinnes Austin and John Ralph Austin, abt 1950

Therese McGinnes Austin and John Ralph Austin, abt 1950 – Click to listen to the story behind this photo!

Is Scanning Enough? Introducing StoryScans™ Talking Images

The photo above, of my great-grandparents Therese McGinnes Austin and John Ralph Austin is one of my favorites since it brings back so many memories and family stories. Not only did these two amazing people help raise me in upstate New York, but they encouraged me to trace my family history including records, photos and stories.

So what do you see above? A sunny summer day, an older couple enjoying each other’s company – perhaps taking a break from gardening or doing repair work at home?

What I know about this photo and you don’t, and only because I’ve preserved the family stories both in writing and in my memory, is this:

  • The house is their retirement home in Grahamsville, NY, about 100 miles north of Manhattan where they lived up until the late 1940s.
  • They helped raise 12 grandchildren, including my mother, at this summer place. My mother saw the house, which was built in 1840, and all its outbuildings as a refuge from the craziness of New York City.
  • There used to be a porch over that door in the background . . . until a large stampeding herd of dairy cows came running down the hill and tore it off one afternoon!

Have you ever wished that a photo – digital or print – could just start talking and tell stories? Well now you have that chance with StoryScans talking images with the Flip-Pal mobile scanner. Click the image above (or here) and you can listen to a short recorded narration about the photo.

Some StoryScans Talking Images Examples

What about a beloved family recipe written in your grandmother’s handwriting on a recipe card? You know there just has to be a story about the recipe . . . so why not record that story and include it with the scan ? (Click image to play)

StoryScans Recipe Example

“Granny Nina makes the best Cotechino in the world. One Sunday we went to her house for dinner and got there early enough to help her make it. Whenever we go see her, I always bring my Flip-Pal with me, just in case. The first thing I did was use my Flip-Pal to scan Grandma’s recipe. I then used my smart phone to record Grandma talking about her recipe. Whenever my family is in the mood for Italian food, I find Granny’s recipe on my tablet, play back the audio from that afternoon and just smile as I make it myself. It feels like she’s right there in my kitchen making it with me.”

Want to see StoryScans talking images in action? Click here for several examples of photos scanned using the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner using the StoryScans feature.

FREE StoryScans Webinar!

storyscans webinar

What sparked the idea for scanned images that talk? What are some examples? What are the nuts-and-bolts on how to create talking images, and what tools are available?  What should you buy for your particular type of computer or mobile device? Gordon Nuttall, the inventor of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner, discusses these questions and more in this 12 minute webinar. Click here to view!

SPECIAL DEAL Flip-Pal® mobile scanner! Get the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner, deluxe carrying case, and a Story Scans Activation Key PLUS a free PDF copy of Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories by Thomas MacEntee, normally $199.97, now just $174.97 PLUS FREE SHIPPING in the continental US! Click here for more information - via Flip-Pal® mobile scanner.

SPECIAL DEAL Flip-Pal® mobile scanner PLUS FREE SHIPPING

Get the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner, deluxe carrying case, and a Story Scans Activation Key PLUS a free PDF copy of Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories by Thomas MacEntee, normally $199.97, now just $174.97 PLUS FREE SHIPPING in the continental US! Click here for more information. OFFER EXPIRES October 31st!

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy – everything you ever wanted to know about DNA and genetic genealogy but were afraid to ask!

Review: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

[Editor’s Note: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy workbook is available in paperback format and right now you can get it at a 35% savings, for only $22.99 PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS16 at checkout, you’ll save an additional 15%, making the price just $19.54!]

Bettinger, Blaine T. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2016, 240 pages.

Why Another DNA Genealogy Book?

When The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy was published and the cover caught my attention, I was curious since there seem to be so many quick sheets and books about DNA on the market. But after reading it, I can tell you that what the author has created is way different than what I’ve encountered in the past. 

The “guide” is comprehensive and will help every genealogist no matter what the level of DNA knowledge. From an overview of Genetic Genealogy Basics to advice on select the right test, Bettinger covers all the questions I had about DNA and genealogy.

And if you’ve already tested your DNA or that of a relative, the Analyzing and Applying Test Results section offers invaluable information such as Third-Party Autosomal-DNA Tools for interpreting results, to Ethnicity Estimates to Analyzing Complex Questions with DNA.

What’s Inside

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy features:

  • Colorful diagrams and expert definitions that explain key DNA terms and concepts such as haplogroups and DNA inheritance patterns
  • Detailed guides to each of the major kinds of DNA tests and which tests can solve which family mysteries, with case studies showing how each can be useful
  • Information about third-party tools you can use to more thoroughly analyze your test results once you’ve received them
  • Test comparison guides and research forms to help you select the most appropriate DNA test and organize your results and research

A Sneak Peak . . .

Here are some tips you’ll find in The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy[i]:

  1. Learn about your ancestors—both those who gave you DNA and those who didn’t. Genealogists study ancestors of all sorts, but not all of your genealogical ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.) are also genetic ancestors who passed down DNA to you. DNA testing can only give you information about your genetic family tree: the ancestors who contributed to your genetic makeup.
  2. Think more broadly when looking for testing candidates. If you’re struggling to find someone who can take a DNA test that will help you learn about a particular ancestor, look for any more distant relatives (such as second or third cousins) to test. While you might not have a living relative willing to take a DNA test on your branch of the family tree, your ancestor may have had a descendant through another family line that has the DNA you need to study.
  3. Don’t accept your ethnicity estimates as absolute fact. While the ethnicity estimates provided by testing companies can be interesting and somewhat informative, they’re just that: estimates that should be taken with a grain of salt. The ethnicity percentages in your results can be flawed due to a number of factors, including the size and distribution of the sample size for each continent or country. Furthermore, they likely won’t represent the ethnicity of all your genealogical ancestors, as the test only estimates the rough geographical background of ancestors who gave you a detectable amount of DNA.
  4. Download and analyze your raw data. Testing companies can provide you with interesting and important insights, but tools from many other websites and organizations can help you interpret your DNA results. Get your raw DNA data from the testing company, then look for third-party tools in which you can upload for data and receive a more detailed, multifaceted analysis.

The Perfect DNA Genealogy Book?

The author, Blaine T. Bettinger, begins The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by relating how he became “hooked” on genealogy as a child and then later on in college, with DNA testing and results interpretation. Bettinger’s journey is not unlike my own, or in fact that of many genealogists currently working to solve family history mysteries. As I continued reading, I knew that the author was someone I could relate to and his easy-to-understand description of complicated DNA terms would serve me well.

In fact, Bettinger makes it clear from the outset that The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy is intended for many different audiences from beginners to those who have dabbled in DNA testing (that’s me!) to more advanced genealogists looking to better understand their test results.

So far, I’ve used this “guide” to understand what I’ve done wrong in the past in terms of my DNA research and what I need to do in terms of testing others in my family in order to solve some of my family history mysteries. 

There are very few titles on my book shelf in my genealogy office that I refer to constantly. I know that The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy will be one of those titles for years to come. I don’t think I could have made some of my recent progress in my research without the valuable information provided by a knowledgeable DNA like Blaine Bettinger.

About The Author: Blaine T. Bettinger

Blaine Bettinger Ph.D. (biochemistry), J.D. is an intellectual property attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC in Syracuse, New York, by day, and a genealogy educator and blogger by night. In 2007, he created The Genetic Genealogist, one of the first blogs devoted to genetic genealogy and personal genomics.

Blaine has written numerous DNA-related articles for the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, Family Tree Magazine, and other publications. He has been an instructor at the inaugural genetic genealogy courses at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research, Family Tree University, and Excelsior College (Albany, NY). He is a former editor of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy, and a co-coordinator of the ad hoc Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee. In 2015, he became an alumnus of ProGen Study Group 21 and was elected to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s Board of Trustees.

Blaine was born and raised in Ellisburg, NY, where his ancestors have lived for more than two hundred years, and is the father of two boys. You can find Blaine on his website and on Twitter (@blaine_5).

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Blog Post Description: Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger – everything you ever wanted to know about DNA and genetic genealogy but were afraid to ask!

[i] The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/guide-to-dna-testing-and-genetic-genealogy, accessed 15 September 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.