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My 2019 Jamboree Roundup

Another wonderful Jamboree, the 50th birthday celebration, is over. This is my favorite conference not just because of the great weather and outdoor bar but also for the manageable size and a day for just DNA, not to mention the high quality of the presenters. So I was very sad to hear that it will not happen next year; they are reinventing themselves for 2020 – click here for the announcement on their blog.

Ask the DNA Experts: Brad Larkin, Kitty Cooper, Tim Janzen, Angie Bush, Dave Dowell, moderator Alice Fairhurst photo credit: Ann Schumacher

The DNA Experts Panel this year went particularly well. However when looking at one attendee’s evaluation form I saw that they had taken notes on their form (including my “read my blog!” refrain); so I include that image without the ratings (all good, yes we read what you say!) at the end of this post in case they did not make another copy.

My plan at a genealogy conference is always to attend a maximum of 2-3 talks a day (more is information overload for me) and otherwise hang out in the exhibit hall looking at what’s new from my favorite vendors. Plus spend time with friends over lunch and in the bar when the day is done. Thank you all for the glasses of wine!

When I get home after the conference, I like to watch some of the presentations that were streamed, particularly the early morning ones that I was not awake yet for. The genealogy ones are free online, thanks to Ancestry‘s sponsorship, until July 31. Go to https://webcastandbeyond.com/streaming/jamboree/ to get a login id.

Thomas MacEntee of Abundant Genealogy starting his streamed talk – screenshot from that archive

I really loved listening to Thomas MacEntee explaining how to you can do genealogy in 15 minute chunks. Like you, I said to myself, “No way!” But his presentation taught me a great deal about keeping track of my research, staying organized, and how not to chase those bright shiny objects (BSOs – this latter is my biggest failing!) by adding them to my to do list.

There is always news at these conferences.
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My Grandfather’s Letter

Try to imagine starting over in a different county whose language you barely speak at the age of 50 when at the height of a successful career. That is what my grandfather, my “Opa,” had to do. He was a distinguished German medical doctor and scientist, a university professor and famed diagnostician. The University at Freiburg had constructed a clinic for him to entice him to head up their internal medicine department at their Medical School. But only a few years after his move to Freiburg came the dismissal of all jewish professors as part of Hitler’s new policies.

Opa teaching during rounds in the clinic in Frieburg, he is all the way to the left

My Catholic grandmother “Oma” urged him to leave Germany and accept one of the offers he had from various universities in America and Turkey. My Opa thought the antisemitism would pass as it had in the past, after all he had an iron cross for his bravery in World War I and a flourishing private practice. She eventually convinced him it would be better for their three daughters if they left until it blew over. They never returned.

Oma and Opa on the boat to America

I had not realized how difficult this move must have been for him nor understood why he never went back to Germany even for a visit. However recently I read a translation of a letter he wrote in 1946 to his former colleagues when he was invited to return. This is thanks to my cousin’s son Sam Sherman, an artist living in New York City, who has been travelling in Germany doing research as part of his MFA graduate studies at CUNY Hunter College. When in Freiburg he found much of interest in the University archives, including this letter.

These words my Opa wrote really struck me:I cannot return, the wound is too deep, it will never heal. The disappointment of my trust in the good in German people, in the honesty of my friends was too great. The years that I can still work productively belong to the country that took me in during my deepest anguish and supported me.”

The letter includes poignant descriptions of leaving Germany and of learning new ways of teaching and approaching medical research in America.

All of the following italicized words are from his letter of 1946:

Leaving Germany

“ The train that my family and I would take to the ship gasped in the Freiburg train station. Hundreds of schoolchildren surrounded my three girls, and women, including wives of my former faculty colleagues, brought my wife to the car compartment. Few men were present. They had avoided seeing and greeting me for months. I was alone. “Must I leave, must I then leave the city,” the schoolchildren sang. I believed the world was sinking under my feet. Everything I did, what I loved, my wonderful clinic that I was allowed to build, my friends – everything was lost.”

[UPDATE from my brother] In those days it took 15 minutes for a steam engine to get ready to go (build up a head of steam) so it was customary to see important people or loved ones off at the train station. Thus the fact that the men were not there was a big snub. Also the folk song Muss i’denn is about a young man leaving his beloved one home forever due to larger events in the world beyond his control. So the choice of the women to sing this harmless folk song is perhaps a veiled criticism of the Nazi regime.
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Preserving your Family History on a World Tree

A heartbreaking moment for any family historian is when you discover that your late genealogist cousin’s wife has shredded all his papers. This actually happened in my family. I can only hope that all the genealogical information was passed on to his children first. I think he had long since given me copies of most of it.

Please don’t let this happen to your work. A good preservation solution is to contribute your research to at least one of the online collaborative world trees.

Several years ago I did a blog post on the advantages of using these world trees (click here) and created a comparison sheet of the big three world trees (updated version at the end of this article): FamilySearch.org, GENI.com and WIKItree.com

I also did a Rootstech talk on this topic (click here for those slides). There have been a few changes since then, mainly around DNA and whether or not you can upload a GEDcom.

DNA connections

DNA features abound at WIKItree.com – you can connect your WIKItree profiles to GEDmatch by putting their kit numbers in. This causes the GEDmatch one-to-many tool to display the blue word Wiki which links to your compact tree. So even though it is the smallest of the three world trees, it may be best for genetic genealogists. Another WIKItree feature is that you do not need to login to see trees and profiles so it is great for sending tree links to new cousins. Plus it shows X and Y descendancy pathways.

GENI can link to DNA profiles at family tree DNA and will even display haplogroups on the person’s page. When you and your DNA matches have your family trees on GENI, you can quickly see how you are related. Click here for the blog post I did on how to link your ftDNA reults to GENI.

example of DNA display at GENI

FamilySearch does not have any DNA features yet but surely they will eventually incorporate something.

Adding GEDCOMs

The big news is that GENI now has a GEDcom uploading capability again. Whereas WIKItree has dialed back on the GEDcom uploads but still has good functionality.
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Ancestry Improves the Potential Parent Box

Have you seen those boxes with green silhouette images in your tree titled Potential Father and Potential Mother? This feature has recently been greatly improved.

When you click on one of these boxes, Ancestry tells you that it has perhaps found that parent, like the image to the right, and it offers you two buttons, one to review the details and another to add this person manually. Clicking Add Manually just pops up a box with empty slots for you to add that person.

Review Details used to only show you the family information for the person that Ancestry had found, but not where it was from. Sometimes, if it looked accurate, I would click the “Yes” green button to add it for a quick and dirty (Q&D) tree I was making to search for an adoptee’s family. Sometimes it was easy to reject when the family information did not match. However mainly I would go to the hints for that person from their profile in my tree to see if I could figure out the possible parent from there. All in all, the Potential Parent box was only a little bit useful.

So how have they improved this?

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Finding Matilda

Matilda Andersen Munson, Jeanie’s great grandmother

When my cousins do DNA tests at my request, I reward them with a family tree that goes back several hundred years. Of course one line (mine) is already done! This has been great fun for me as I have learned much about early America by researching my relatives’ ancestors (I have no colonial ancestry of my own).

However Norway, my father’s ancestral land, is my area of expertise. Many Norwegian records are online in their free archives and many localities have local history books or farm books, available at a few genealogy libraries like the one in Salt Lake City. Called “bygdebøker,” these books include the genealogy information for the people on each farm. Click here for the family search wiki entry about “Norwegian Farm Books.” UPDATE: Come hear me talk about this at my talk on Norwegian research for SCGS Jamboree.

There is also a fabulous Norwegian genealogy group on FaceBook with many helpers who speak Norwegian. Plus there is an online OCR program for Norwegian that works well for turning those farm book entries into text so google can translate them; click here for my blog post on using it.

Christan Severis Munson, Jeanie’s great grandfather

My second cousin once removed, Jeanie, is descended from one of my grandad’s older brothers, Christian Munson, a midwestern minister, and his wife Matilda Anderson, She is a maternal line ancestor (think mtDNA) who was the mystery to solve. Matilda’s story is sad in that she had some sort of breakdown after her last baby died of encephalitis (yes I looked at the death record) and she was institutionalized for the rest of her life. They were living in Brooklyn at the time so there are many records both online and at the municipal archives which I visit twice a year (along with my NYC based grandchildren).

With a name like Matilda Anderson, I expected it to be difficult to find her ancestors, but luckily I found a marriage record on Ancestry for her and Christian Munson in the Lutheran church records. Church marriage records are wonderful because they have the names of the two fathers, if you can read the script.
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