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Researching Your Freemason Ancestors

Researching Your Freemason Ancestors

The Freemasons have a reputation for being a very secretive an secluded organisation, but depending on the locations/lodge there can actually be a lot of information available on its past members. Generally speaking a lodge is unlikely to offer up any information relating to an Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft Mason but would be able to offer information on a Master Mason.

Before getting in to Freemason research its good to read up on how the freemasons actually work and what they do. Members of a lodge are known as “Accepted Masons” this means they have been accepted in to the lodge by its members. Freemasons in general have three degrees of Masonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellow of the Craft and Master Masons.

1 – Freemason Collections on Ancestry

The records Ancestry offers include over 1.7 Million Names transcribed in both the English and Irish collections. This can help you find out what order or jurisdiction your ancestor was a part of. Finding out this information will be the most helpful data you can have on them as it will open doors to the types of records that could be available to you.

2 – The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

“Library and Museum is the repository for the archives of the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body of English freemasonry. Information about individual members is based on Annual Returns of members compiled by individual lodges and sent to Grand Lodge. The earliest such Returns date from the 1750s. These were used to create registers of members. Members are listed in the Registers under their lodge and according to their date of initiation or joining.”

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry offers three centuries worth of freemasonry records and artefacts. The staff here can help you search for your ancestor by name in thier digitised records but can also search outside of the digitised records pre-1750s or post-1921. There is a fee payable for staff searches in which the lodge is not known however if it is, then it is usually free.

3 – Find and Contact the Local Lodge your Ancestor was part of.

If you know where your Ancestor lived and you suspect they might have been a Freemason then you can use google to find out what the local lodges in the area were or still are. Each lodge should have some contact details somewhere either on their own site or on the site of the Grand Lodge that they would be a part of. Each Lodge usually has a secretary that can help with any enquiries and as each lodge is relatively independent then prices could vary between them.

If you still cannot find anything, you might find that contacting the Grand Lodge will yield some answers. There are Grand Lodges in varying jurisdictions. For example in the US There are Grand Lodges in each State. However in England there is the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).



4 – County Record Offices in the UK

The various County Record Offices in the UK hold a lot of local Freemason records, the reason for this due to the persecution of Freemasonry which in turn resulted in the Unlawful Societies Act which was effective from 1799 to 1965. Although in it’s final years it fell in to disuse. This act forced Freemasons to register their organisations and also the names of the members within them to the Clerk of the Peace and the Local Quarter Sessions. Which whilst unfortunate for the members of the Freemasons at this time, it is massively helpful to Genealogists in the modern day. These records can include: Names, ages, addresses, occupations and age and date of joining the lodge and sometimes date of leaving. Just find your local Record Office and take a look through the records available. If in doubt email them!

How To Find Out About A British WWI Veteran In Your Tree

How To Find Out About A British WWI Veteran In Your Tree

Almost everyone will have someone in their tree that fought during the First World War (Or Great War). Naturally people we love finding these ancestors as it tends to fill us with a massive sense of national pride. Especially on Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom. Finding more out about these ancestors can be challenging but if you know the right places to look you can get a lot of information if you’re lucky.


Service Records

(National Archives Link & Ancestry Link)Joseph Thompson Service Records

The first place you will want to look is either on a paid service such as Ancestry or FindMyPast for their service records or directly in the National Archives First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ collection. Unfortunately approximately two thirds of these were destroyed or damaged during the Blitz in World War Two. If you are lucky enough to find their service records then it can be an absolute gold mine with regards to information about family as well as where they were stationed and what campaigns they were involved in.


Pension Claims

(National Archives Link & Ancestry Link)William Cane Pensions Record

If you haven’t had much luck with Service Records another place you can look is the Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims Collection at the National Archives. This is a particularly good source if your ancestor was injured during the First World War. The collection consists of microfilm copies of service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for war service between 1914 and 1920 and did not re-enlist prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The records are unlikely to contain information on individuals who did not claim a war pension.


Medal Index Cards

(National Archives Link & Ancestry Link)John William Barber Medal Card

This collection contains microfiche copies produced at the Army Medal Office, Droitwich, of that office’s alphabetical card indexes to recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Medal, the 1914 Star (also known as the Mons Star), the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal, the Allied Victory Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Silver War Badge for Services Rendered, the Territorial Force War Medal and the Allied Subjects Medal. Also included are indexes to mentions in dispatches and women’s services’ awards.

On the subject of Injured ancestors, The Silver War Badge is one that might help if they were discharged due to their injuries. The Silver War Badge for Services Rendered was authorised on 12 September 1916 for officers and men of HM Forces who had been retired or discharged on account of wounds or sickness caused by war service, at home or abroad from 4 August 1914. The regulations were extended on several later dates to include wider categories, including women.


 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

cwgc

“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. We care for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in 154 countries. Our values and aims, laid out in 1917, are as relevant now as they were almost 100 years ago.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a great website if you want to know about an ancestor that died during a war. It has an easy to use search feature and is completely free to use. The results you get can list family members as well as the usual name and rank. It also contains civilian deaths, so a lot of people who died during the Blitz for example can be found in this database.






The Long Long TrailThe Long Long Trail Header

If you know the regiment your ancestor served in then The Long Long Trail can tell you a lot about what they did and which battles and campaigns they were involved in. While it is rare unless you have a particularly prominent ancestor such as a high ranking officer then you wont find much on individuals on this site. It does help paint a picture of what you ancestor might have experienced though.


Prisoners of WarPrisoners Of War Header

Your ancestor might have been a prisoner of war, in which case the Red Cross has a database dedicated to the soldiers that were held captive. It is fully searchable and the potential information available includes: The Reference number of the original letter sent by the family, First and Last name, Service Number, Missing circumstances and The address of the family. Whilst it isn’t a very large database comparatively, it still might be of use.

Guide To Researching French Records

Guide To Researching French Records

The further you go back in your tree and the more branches you find, chances are you’ll find a French ancestor. Unfortunately with French research you need to know the exact place that person was born (Or get very lucky with a unique surname) to be sure you’re looking at the correct person.

French records are indexed by town (Archives de la ville de ____) and/or Departement (Archives Departementales de ____) Plus modernised versions i.e. Rouen incorporated adjacent towns so some records are in the Archives Municipales (Old Rouen), some are in the Mairie de Sotteville or Grand Quevilly or Petit Quevilly, some are in the Seine Maritime Archives. The key is that there is no National Register like the UK BMD.

Cordier Birthplace

Often finding the starting point is the hardest thing. In my research almost all records that I have linked to a French ancestor have simply listed a birth place as “France” which might as well say “Born on Earth”. If you’re reading this though, chances are you have a rough idea or exact location in France the person is from. Finding that missing record that gives an exact location is what will open the door to your French branches.

GeoPatronyme

One really useful website if you don’t know where exactly in France a person is from is GeoPatronyme. It plots where a certain surname is popular and when used on quite unique names, it can narrow down locations massively. Using the French name I have been researching the picture below shows where the majority of people with the Cordier surname live.

Cordier Distribution
Genealogie.com

Genealogie.com is probably the most popular French Genealogy website currently and although it is a paid site it can be manipulated in such a way that allows you to get the basic information you’ll need to search the relevant archive for the actual records. An example I came across that will help demonstrate this was when researching “Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier”. All I knew about him came from English Records and luckily one census listed his birth place as Vendee, France.

Genealogie

On Genealogie you can do a free search but can’t view records and they are vague about the year i.e they’ll show 1900-1925 for any year between them. In this case, I searched ‘nom’ as Cordier, ‘prénom’ as ‘Pierre Oscar’ and then on the results page, under ‘Initiale du prénom’ chose ‘O’ to pick up the ‘Oscar’. Straight away, at the top of the list is a Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier born sometime between 1850 and 1875 in La Roche-sur-Yon. Narrowing it down by going back and searching again using exact years each time i.e searching 1850, 1851, 1852 etc and putting in ‘Cordier’, shows this man was born 1842.

(Edit: This particular search doesn’t work now but a similar one can be found for his marriage which leads to the same conclusions)Pierre Cordier Search

You can then choose to either pay for the record and get it straight away with no fuss or head over to the Vendée archives and try to pick it up on their free Etat civil database. If you want to learn more about French records and plan to do a lot more French research it’s worth using this method as you’ll get used to using and reading French Records.

Unfortunately most district archive sites don’t make it easy to directly link, but a quick check of the index for 1842 (at the back of the births section, not right at the back) shows me he’s there, number 192 (image 92 of 357).

Battle of Waterloo 1815



French Military Records

If the person you are looking for was in the French Military there are a few different avenues you can persue in order to find the sources you need.

The French military records, held at the Service historique de la Défense in Vincennes, have in the past been difficult to access until recently with a change of leadership, things are getting slightly easier. This however will require a trip to the archives either by you or a local researcher.

Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier

Gallica.bnf & Google Books

Another way is by looking at official documents, gallica.bnf has loads of searchable records that can be viewed for free, so is definitely worth a look. One way I’ve found particularly fruitful is using Google Books to search for French Military results. One good way to find sources relating to a member of the military is by searching for the surname followed by first names. For example searching for an ancestor called “Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier” in Google books should be done “Cordier Jean Baptiste Alexandre” as well as trying abbreviations of each, like bte or bapt in place of baptiste as well as using initials only.

Ste Helene Medal

The Ste Helene Medal was given to soldiers that fought for Napoleon and we’re still alive in 1857. If the person you are researching falls in to this date range then this can be a very valuable resource. The Ste Helene website not only has documents and translations but also portraits of many of the higher ranking officers.

Ste Helene Medal

What To Do Once You Have Your DNA Test Results.

What To Do Once You Have Your DNA Test Results.

So you’ve just received your chosen DNA Tests results. Now what? A lot of people don’t realise that you can do a lot more with the raw test results than what is shown on any of the sites that test DNA.

Your raw results come in the form of a file that can be easily uploaded to a number of other sites. To top it off almost all of these sites and tools are free!

promethease

1 – Promethease ($5)

“Promethease is a literature retrieval system that builds a personal DNA report based on connecting a file of DNA genotypes to the scientific findings cited in SNPedia.”

Promethease costs $5 and basically uses freely available data on SNPedia to generate a report outlining all of the health related information your DNA holds. This is particularly useful for anyone that has tested using AncestryDNA or FamilyTreeDNA and does not have any health results to go with their ancestral results. Something worth noting is that FamilyTreeDNA specifically removes some health related SNP’s so this won’t be of much use to people that have used this service. But for $5 it hardly breaks the bank if you’ve just forked out 20x that on the test in the first place.

Either way this is definitely worth it if you are interested in learning what your DNA means for your health. Don’t do this if you are a hypochondriac!

gedmatch

2 – Gedmatch (Free or $10 for Extras) 

Gedmatch allows you to upload your raw DNA results from: 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, WeGene and GENETIConcept, then once they have been processed you can match with anyone else from any site that has uploaded their results to Gedmatch too. This is a good way to get around having to buy kits on each site.

The site also contains tools you can use to analyse your DNA such as: Various admixture tools that can break down where parts of your DNA are likely to have originated, Eye colour predictions which look at various SNP’s thought to affect eye colour, Kit-Kit comparisons which allow you to compare two kits and see exactly what parts of your DNA you share with someone and a few more other cool tools. It’s free to use and runs off of donations as well as a newly implemented tier system which gives you access to more tools for a $10 Donation. 



3 –  23++ Chrome Extension and Ancestry Helper Chrome Extension. (Free) 

“23++ is an extension for the Google Chrome Browser that adds additional functionality to 23andMe and makes the site a little nicer to use.”

“The extension helps with analyzing and comparing your AncestryDNA test results. The automated scanner, accessible using the Full Scan and Resume Scan buttons added to your DNA Home Page, will go through your list of DNA matches and open each one to scan their pedigree charts.”

These tools help make their related sites easier to use and add features such as enhancing the way DNA matches look and the ability to download matches for future reference.

davepike

4 – Dave Pike’s DNA Analysis Tools (Free) 

Dave Pike is a professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and has developed a load of useful tools that can be used to gain further insight in to your DNA.

They are particularly useful if you have very close relatives that have also tested as you can do things like phase children’s DNA with parents to see exactly which alleles (One half of an SNP, one is inherited from each parent) were inherited from which parent or searching for Discordant SNP’s, these are SNP’s that differ from the parents, possibly meaning the SNP has mutated.

jameslick

5 –  James Lick’s mtDNA Haplogroup Analysis Tool (Free) 

This tool is useful if you’re interested in your direct maternal line. It can more accurately plot where on the mtDNA Human tree your maternal Haplogroup is found. For example my 23andMe mtDNA result came back as “k1a10” wheras James Lick’s tool narrowed it down to “k1a10a” not a massive difference in my case but it could have narrowed it much further by looking at genetic markers 23andMe’s algorithm doesn’t look at. The tool also tells you similar Haplogroups and which markers you are missing. This is still not a replacement for getting a dedicated mtDNA Test from FamilyTreeDNA as it only looks at around 19.7% of the entire mtDNA so a dedicated test would be much more accurate.

Uploading your results to all of the tools above will not only give you more information on your genome but you’ll also end up understanding the way DNA Tests work much more clearly.

An Easy Guide to Commercial Genealogical DNA Tests

An Easy Guide to Commercial Genealogical DNA Tests

DNA Tests have become a staple of Genealogy in recent years and as they are getting cheaper and cheaper a lot more amateur genealogists are becoming much more interested in unlocking the secrets kept within their DNA. The main question is which one to get.

DNA Tests can help in a number of ways including:

  • Verifying research – For example if you think someone is your great grandfather but aren’t 100% sure and you match with people who have him in their tree too you use this to confirm that he is related to you.
  • Surname Variants – Surnames are not always passed down exactly as they were originally so using Y-DNA to match with other people with the same and similar surnames can prove that surnames are related. For example in my tree I have the Pynn surname written as: Pynn, Pymm, Pin and Pinn.
  • Locations – You might end up matching with lots of people that all live in the same area. This could open up new avenues of research.
  • Ancestral Homeland – Some people like the fact that samples can be compared to “Ancient” samples. This can often show where some portion of your DNA likely originated. Most tests also give you a breakdown of this.
  • Discover Living Relatives – One of the most important features for people that take a DNA test is the fact that you are matched with people within the same database.
  • Confirm or Disprove Family Secrets – Take for example someone who does not know their grandfather but has been told he was in the army during the war and had a fling with the grandmother. This might be broken down by having living descendants of the real grandfather who might turn out to live right around the corner.





There are three main types of DNA Tests used within Family history.

  • Y-DNA, which is used to find out more about direct paternal lines.
  • mitochondrial DNA, is used for direct maternal lines.
  • Autosomal DNA is all the nuclear DNA in your cells that is not on a sex chromosome (X or Y chromosome). This is used in matching all lines.

The most popular of these test are the autosomal tests. These are usually the cheapest and offer the most information.


Autosome

Autosomal Tests

Autosomal DNA tests look at the numbered chromosomes. We have 22 (numbered 1-22) Pairs of Chromosomes and two sex chromosomes (X and Y). An autosomal test can be used to estimate relationships between two people, this is the reason that it is the most common type of genealogical test.


23andme banner

1 – 23andMe

Price: £125.

Method: Saliva Sample (About 1 cc).

Contacting others: Contact may be made after seeing your list of matches in DNA Relatives or Ancestry Finder; the matches must be willing to share genomes with you if you are to see what segments you share with your matches.

Number of People in the Database: 1,200,000.

Medical Data: Yes.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: Ancestry Composition, Ancestry Finder, Neanderthal Ancestry, Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry tool, Y and mtDNA haplogroups provided for people you are sharing with.


ancestrydna logo

2. Ancestry DNA

Price: £79.

Method: Saliva Sample (About 1/2 cc).

Contacting others: Contact can be made through Ancestry.com’s messaging system.

Number of People in the Database: 2,000,000.

Medical Data: Yes.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: Comparison of overlap of ancestral origins between matches and automatic identification of common ancestors, surnames and birth places between matches’ family trees.


ftdna family finder

3 – Family Tree DNA (Family Finder Test)

Price: £65.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting others: Email Addresses of all matches are available.

Number of People in the Database: 250,000.

Medical Data: Yes, not as many as 23andme.

Online Community: Yes.


natgeo

4 – National Geographic Project Geno 2.0

Price: £127.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting others: No, but stories about one’s Y patrilineal and matrilineal ancestry can be posted on the web site for others to view, so add your contact information to them.

Number of People in the Database: 230,000.

Medical Data: Yes, not as many as 23andme.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: There are approximately 75,000 Ancestry Informative Markers from about 450 populations around the world that are included on the test. About 10,000 of the Y chromosome SNPs included on the test have not previously been tested in large populations. Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestral percentages are provided.


ftdna-ytest

Y-DNA Tests

These tests are primarily used in Surname Studies. i.e Do two or more males with the “Pynn” surname share a common patriarchal ancestor? They also provide you with your Y-Haplogroup which is the branch on the human DNA tree your Y chromosome sits on.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers three types of Y-DNA test. Each of these tests for a different number of genetic markers on the Y Chromosome. The 37 Marker test will allow you to confirm close relationships and the 67/111 tests will let you narrow down matches even further. With Y-DNA it’s all about what you can afford. If you can afford the 111 STR test then do that one!

Price: 37 STRs $169, 67 STRs $268, 111 STRs $359.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting Others: Public FTDNA Forums.

Number of People in the Database: 568,000+


ftdnammtDNA Tests

mtDNA Tests look at the mitochondrial DNA that is present in everyone. It is passed from mother to child so Males and Females can be tested for this however males will not pass this on to their children. Much like how the Y-DNA test looks at the fathers direct line, the mtDNA test looks at the mothers direct female line. This also gives the mtDNA Haplogroup which again shows where the mtDNA fits in to the human DNA Tree.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers an Entire mtDNA genome (HVR1, HVR2 + coding region = 16569 bases) test. This is the only one worth getting if you want to get in depth information about your mtDNA. It is by far the cheapest of it’s kind. 23andme and some other autosomal tests will tell you about your mtDNA but it will not be anywhere near as informative as an Family Tree DNA test.

Price: $199.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting Others: Public FTDNA Forums.

Number of People in the Database: 200,000.

Tips for Researching Dutch Ancestors.

Tips for Researching Dutch Ancestors.

It’s often daunting when looking at records from another country, in a different language to what you are accustom to. Dutch records are definitely no exception. We often take for granted in the UK how easy it is to obtain Birth/Marriage/Death certificates and how little effort it takes to find them.

WieWasWie Logo

WieWasWie

When it comes to Dutch records, looking around in forums or using a search engine will usually bring you to the site “WieWasWie”. Since WieWasWie is a paid website it is often overlooked by people only looking for one or two distant ancestors a couple of hundred years ago. It does contain a lot of information which is almost exclusively Baptism, Marriage and Burial records (Doop, Trouw, Begraven).

Open Archives Logo




Openarch

There is however usually the same information and sources available elsewhere on the internet. One such site is Open Archives which uses the Open Source data supplied by the Dutch Archives, it is free to use and has more records.

National Archief

GaHetNa

If you are looking for Military or VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, Otherwise known as the Dutch East India Company) records. Then GaHetNa is the website you need. It is the Dutch National Archives website and is the number one stop if you’re ancestor was in the Dutch Military.

Militieregisters Logo

Militieregisters

Another useful Military site is militieregisters.nl. This site contains thousands of military service records and has an incredible simple easy to use search menu. Although viewing scans is not free you can earn free scans by indexing various projects on velehanden.nl which also helps bring new searchable projects and source collections on to the internet.

Ministerie Van Defence

Archieven (Dutch Ministry of Defense)

The Dutch Ministry of Defense has repositories that contain the names of dutch citizens within Napoleons armies. These records contain not only basic information and their military unit but also nearly always contain the Mother and Father of the person in question which can massively help with the research in to a family.

Geneaknowhow

Geneaknowhow

Indexes for different areas in The Netherlands can be found at Geneaknowhow.net. The site does have an English mirror but it is not updated along with the dutch version. It’s not particularly user friendly but does the job and can be very useful if you know what you want.

Zoekakten Logo

Zoekakten

Zoekakten is another not so easy to use site. It does tend to have a massive repository of data though if you can work out how to use it. It usually has Christening/Marriage/Burial records that are missing from other sites online.

Local Sources

If you know exactly where your ancestors are from then your best bet is to look for the local archive for that region as they will have the most in depth records available. They can be found easily by searching for “[placename] archief genealogie”.

How to Sort Ancestry Hints by Collection.

How to Sort Ancestry Hints by Collection.


One feature of Ancestry that puts it at the top of it’s field is it’s hint feature. However most users don’t know that you can actually sort these hints in to the collections that they are part of. Sorting by collection can be beneficial in a number of ways, I find that the most useful thing about it is that I am not distracted by other types of sources. I can search for one type of source and blitz through all of the hints in my tree and know that I have seen, for example all of the hints in the “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966” collection and no longer have to worry (as much) about that particular source.

This style of searching can be very beneficial if you are quite particular about the way in which you organise your documents, as the most common downfall in my experience when researching a Family Tree is not having a direction or goal in mind. When you first start researching you will go off in tangents and discover brand new ancestors but when you already have a reasonably well populated tree you might find that you spend hours looking at random people and sources and not really progressing at all. Setting small goals helps to make the most of your time. For example you could decide you want to research all of the descendants of a particular person, or you might want to find all of your ancestors that served in the military. Let’s do that latter!


Step 1: Find the unique number related to the tree you are searching.

Tree Address

This can be found by going to the tree view and looking in the address bar at the URL. Just after the “/tree/” part of the URL is where you can find this number. My tree is number 72266092.


Step 2: Find the record collection you want to search by.

There are a few ways you can find the collection you want, the easiest way is to go to the Card Catalog on Ancestry and use the search criteria to find the one you’re after.

Ancestry Card Catalogue

Another way is to go to a source you have already linked to your tree and click the link underneath the person’s name that it is linked to or you have searched for.

Ancestry Source Page


Step 3: Finding the Unique Database ID for the collection.

Once you have found the collection you are after you need to check the address bar again for the “dbid” This is the unique number that corresponds to it. This is what we use to narrow down the search to only those sources. You can find this at the end of the URL.

Collection URL

So for the above URL I have chosen the “British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920” collection which has the database ID of “1262”


Step 4: Finally use a template URL to stitch together the Unique identifiers to find all the hints for one Collection in a certain Tree.

Paste in this template Link in to your address bar (Note that this is a .co.uk link, if you are using the .com or another ancestry site then change that too)

http://hints.ancestry.co.uk/tree/72266092/hints?hf=record&hs=last&hdbid=1262

Change the country code to the site you use, the unique numbers to your own tree and record collection and hit enter!

You will then be presented with the “All Hints” page populated with only the hints tat relate to that collection.

Ancestry All Hints Page

And that’s all there is to it! A simple way to find all of the hints in a single collection on any Ancestry site.