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I’ve been an advocate for DNA testing from the moment it became affordable (to me) as a fabulous source for crowd-sourcing research, possibly confirming theories and outright conquering brick walls. And as I started presenting more, I’ve tried to remind people that you do have to be ready for what you find. While DNA can confirm your research, it can also completely undermine it.

My family has now confirmed that one of my close relatives is not the genetic child of the man that raised them. Needless to say, after working on these lines for 20+ years, this was a surprise. I can’t say I didn’t have an inkling that something was up (based on matches over the years—or lack thereof), but I assumed that any discrepancy was farther up the line. But now that a few more close relatives have tested, I’m starting to research a new line and luckily the relative with the “new” father seems to be taking it in stride. That whole experience—which really, we’re still working through—has put me in the middle of a lot of DNA discussions, found me attending every DNA related class/webinar/discussion I can squeeze in, and forced me to re-evaluate how I use my DNA results. In fact, this may just end up being a DNA focused year for me.

With that in mind if you’re in a similar position, just getting started with DNA testing, or have tests but don’t know what to do with the results, here’s a few things I’ve found and wanted to share—especially for Michigan area researchers:

I think it’s going to be a fascinating year!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Note: If you have DNA SIGS in your area, have go-to DNA resources people should know about, etc. Feel free to post to comments!

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Falling trees in the woods leading up to Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelanau State Park, Northport, Michigan 2017

So, I’ve been very quiet of late for a number of reasons. I’ve had the great honor to present around the state, I’ve taken time to work on my own education—attending wonderful seminars and webinars offered by the Michigan Genealogical Council, Western Michigan Genealogical Society, BCG and APG. I’ve enjoyed working with my area societies on new projects. And finally… I’ve been trying to figure out my next move after a research find that pulled the rug out from under my feet.

As I work through this new twist in my research journeys, I am reminded that whenever you find yourself skidding into a new brick wall, your best bet is to regroup and continue to do thorough and documented research. Applying the Genealogical Proof Standard (which you should be doing anyway!)—exhaustive research, thorough documentation, analyzing the evidence, resolving conflicting evidence and writing up reasoned and coherent conclusions—can help you work through almost any setback.

Conflicting evidence will sometimes knock you for a loop, what matters is getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting back to work. Yes, I’ve got sports on in the background.

So, I’m getting back to work.

Happy hunting,

Jessica

I’ll be presenting:

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“Scandalous Ancestors,” at Ionia County Genealogical Society, Saturday September 9th at 1 pm, at the Freight Station Museum in Lake Odessa.

“African American Genealogy Research,” at Lyon Township Public Library, September 14th at 6:30 pm.

 

“Scandalous Ancestors,” at Marshall District Library, September 19th at 7 pm.

“African American Genealogy Research” and “Cluster Genealogy: Are We Related to Everyone on the Block, at the Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County, October 22nd at 1:30 and 3:30 pm.

Happy hunting!

Jess

PS. I will NOT be wearing heels.

Wednesday was mostly a travel day for me but I did manage to make it to Pitt for FGS just in time to make the last two Focus on Societies Day sessions—both phenomenal! the society day programs are meant to help society members with ideas to build and revitalize our genealogical societies—sharing ideas for programming, advocacy, best practices, etc.

I went in with a couple of my societies in mind and found myself with pages of notes and a long list of ideas to share. The sessions I attended were on rethinking society outreach—which had fabulous programming ideas from the Kentucky Historical Society as well as encouraged groups to really embed in the community, getting out and involved—and one by Blaine Bettinger on considering DIGs (DNA interest groups) as both society education and outreach/marketing tools. DNA is so popular right now and so NOT intuitive. A DIG would offer a community educational opportunities and support as well as catch the eye of potential Society members. So… how about it Greater Lansing? Do we have a local DIG yet? Anyone interested?

Happy hunting,

Jess

So the summer got away from me—with major work projects, a career crossroads, and the follow-up from the eventual decision—I’ve been a bit stuck in my own head and not venturing out enough in the world or in my research…. However, I made it through and I’m on the road in Springfield, Illinois for FGS2016.

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Springfield, Illinois Sunset

Yesterday was Society Day at the Federation of  Genealogical Societies’s Conference and I spent a great deal of time soaking up ideas for encouraging society growth, creative programming, and all around building excitement for societies and institutions. And I am reminded that I have gotten so much help, training, and solid research assistance from most of the genealogical societies I have connected with, whether as a member or visitor. They are tremendous resources.

In my second start in genealogy in the late 1990s, I had the good fortune of stumbling into the Western Michigan Genealogical Society—an established, extremely active, and nationally involved (#ngs2018gen! woot!) society. They do so much right—they are forward thinking, very welcoming, and (again) so active! Over the years I have participated in annual seminars, informative monthly meetings, bus trips, indexing projects (yes, Sue, I owe you files still!). They work with their local library on history programs and lock-ins, they have a writers group, educational classes, and a DNA special interest group—If I lived locally I’d probably try to do everything. As it is, I travel an hour to get to meetings (not nearly as often as I’d like).

That said WMGS isn’t the only society I belong to. There are societies that I belong to because they cover areas I’m researching, or focus on ethnic groups that I’m working with, or they are a national society offering a great overview of the national scene—along with a fabulous journal.  I can’t belong to every society that I would like to but I shoot for as many as possible. Again, they are totally worth it. For example:

I know many societies are looking for more involvement and fresh ideas in hopes of rebuilding membership and gaining community notice—pretty much the theme of Society Day—but to all the hard-working officers and volunteers that have all but single-handedly dragged their societies along for years… good on you and thank you! It’s time for more of us to step up and make all of our societies more successful.

Happy hunting (joining and volunteering),

Jess