Tuesday, January 30, 2018

DNA Adventures- What a Week!

Is it "Time to Spit or Get Off the Pot" for you too?  This is one of the chapter headings in the book Swabbed and Found by Frank Billingsley, Chief Meterologist for KPRC Channel 2 in Houston.  We had a huge turnout for Frank's presentation to the Bay Area Genealogical Society last Saturday.  We got to meet Frank in person and hear his tale of "An Adopted Man's DNA Journey to Discover His Family Tree.

Frank explained how he wanted to use the double helix and the family tree as a metaphorical image of his process of discovery.  He showed his original hand drawn concept image in his slide show.  The cover art shows that the double helix is a ladder that enables you to climb your family tree.

I have been climbing the DNA ladder to my family tree too.  My Italian DNA matches have been especially intriguing.  Italian-Americans are becoming increasingly involved with DNA testing because of the high degree of difficulty in conducting genealogical research in Italian records. And it is not just Italian-Americans that are fueling the DNA rage. Frank Billingsley cited the fact that 1.5 million DNA kits were sold by Ancestry.com in advance of Christmas this year.  

Here is one of my favorite quotes from a December Wired magazine article about this DNA buying frenzy:

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, leading personal genomics company AncestryDNA sold about 1.5 million testing kits designed to provide insights into your ethnicity and familial connections. That’s like 2,000 gallons of saliva—enough to fill a modest above-ground swimming pool with the genetic history of every person in the city of Philadelphia.

I was part of that DNA gift giving as I purchased several kits to distribute to key members on our family tree.  I had to contact Ancestry.com this week because one of my relatives was having trouble producing saliva to fill the tube.  They offered the following tips on how to facilitate the process of obtaining the saliva sample:

  1. Find a food that is appealing or tempting and have the person look at it or smell it while attempting to salivate; 
  2. The appearance or smell of a lemon often works for others who have had this problem
  3. Place a small amount of white sugar on the tongue. 

DNA testing is only valuable when it is combined with conventional genealogical research.  You cannot fully evaluate the meaning of a DNA match without a family tree to compare to your own. I have been busy contacting my Italian DNA matches. I have been copying their information into my tree so I can figure out our connection.  I am especially interested in other family trees which appear to have precise birth dates for their Italian ancestors.  This is indicative of someone that has a useful source of information.  For example, I found a family tree which contained useful information on the Roccaforte family that was posted by a woman from Florida.  Here was her response when I contacted her:

Subject: Roccaforte Family
From: Louise 
Jan 20, 2018
Hello Nick,
I was surprised to receive your message. Yours is the first I've received through Ancestry.
My grandfather (my mother's father) was Francesco DiGiorgio and his mother, my great, great grandmother, was Salvatora Roccaforte who married Angelo DiGiorgio. Together they had 9 children.
It looks like Salvatora Roccaforte's father was Rosario Roccaforte and his wife is Alfia Grasso. So that would be my 3rd Great Grandparents and we may be related if this is your family. How are you related to Rosario & Alfia?
In my notes I show that Rosario & Alfia had 4 children. Salvatora female, Cirino male, Vincenza female and Giuseppa female.
I have more information with some birth dates and marriages. Its been a long time since I worked on my Ancestry, so I'm a bit rusty. One of my first cousins paid someone to work on the DiGiorgio lineage so I have a booklet that includes the information I wrote above. If you feel that this would be helpful, I could either make hard copies or scan and send to you.
You are welcome to respond to me directly at my personal email. Take care.

She emailed me copies of the research that was done and I was able to find birth, marriage and death records which substantiated what she told me.  I was also able to reveal the names of the parents of her ancestor and get one generation closer to discovering our common ancestors. But the thing that really struck me about her response was that I was the first person to contact her on Ancestry.

My correspondence with Louise has been very rewarding.  She shared her experience of growing up in Omaha and gave me details of her trip to Lentini and Carlentini a few years back.  I was able to use her information to create a virtual Roccaforte family reunion.  So the bottom line is make those contacts through Ancestry.com.  There is always more to the story and it will only be revealed if you make the contact.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ancestor #1 of 52- W.T. Newman

Have you heard about the 52 Ancestors Challenge?  Read this article by Amy Johnson Crow:

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

The basic idea is to write about one ancestor per week for 52 weeks.  If you use social media then use the hashtag: #52Ancestors

Did you know that you have 30 ancestors on a five generation pedigree chart?  Here are the stats: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and 16 second great-grandparents. That surely will give you a good start in identifying which ancestor to write about. 

While pondering my 5 generation pedigree chart, I was reminded that my fab find of the week was an obituary for my second great-grandfather, William Thomas Newman.

The maiden name of his wife was actually Louisa Joyce Fowler, daughter of John Fowler
and Catherine Nelson. Frank Mayher was the stepfather of Louisa J. Fowler.
I lost touch with Ella Mae Newman of Boulder City, Nevada and only have these two
photocopy images of William Thomas Newman and his wife, Louisa Joyce Fowler.
Here is the clipping from the newspaper that I found online:

Here is the transcript:

William Newman, aged 75, died at the home of his son-in-law, Joseph McCrory, in Jordan township, Wednesday morning May 6th. He went suddenly, having suffered a stroke of apoplexy. He was an old resident of Monona county and had a wide acquaintanceship. He was a brother of John Newman, and an uncle of C.O. Newman, a Ticonic merchant. The funeral was held at Ticonic today and the body laid to rest in the family cemetery lot at Smithland.  SOURCE: Onawa Weekly Democrat, May 14, 1914, Page 7, online paper at Onawa Public Library website.  http://www.onawa.lib.ia.us/

Have you found obituaries and pictures for everyone on your five generation pedigree chart?  I have most of mine but I am still searching for a few.  Check the websites of the public libraries in the vicinity of where your ancestor died.  Read the website and contact them to see what their policy is for providing obituaries. I have found most public libraries to be very helpful in providing obituaries and most do it for free! Perhaps you will get lucky and find that they have put their newspapers online like they did in Onawa, Iowa!

Now I have to make a pilgrimage to the Smithland Cemetery and pay my respects to my second great-grandfather, William Thomas Newman.

William Thomas Newman Gravemarker (1838-1914); Smithland, Woodbury County, Iowa; Ancestry.com user Mary Kay Bothwell, [username: tbothwell1] originally shared this on 20 Jun 2011

Happy Hunting for  #52Ancestors

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book: "Swabbed and Found" Fuels my Damn Nasty Addiction (DNA)

If you need inspiration or encouragement on your DNA journey, you should read Swabbed and Found by Houston TV Weatherman, Frank Billingsley. I read the book in anticipation of his upcoming visit to the Bay Area Genealogical Society.  The book and the presentation will provide us with many insights on the true meaning of family.

We set up a special meeting on Saturday, January 27 to accommodate Frank's broadcast schedule. He is busy at our normal Friday night meeting time performing his duties as Houston’s KPRC 2 Chief Meteorologist.  He will make a presentation, have books available and will autograph them at our special meeting on Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 2 pm at University Baptist Church, 16106 Middlebrook Drive, Houston, TX 77059 (Clear Lake City).  Check out the BAGS website or you can contact me for more details.

Frank always wondered if he got his personality, his bright blue eyes, or his love of people from his mother or his father. But he was adopted, so he never knew. Swabbed and Found is a fascinating story of how he combined cutting-edge DNA tests and genealogical programs in combination with his investigative skills to put the pieces of his Ancestor Puzzle together. You do not have to be adopted to appreciate this story of a lost and found identity.

As a teaser to get you to attend the presentation on January 27 and to encourage you to buy a copy of the book, here are some the passages that I found enlightening or amusing:

Page 24- A deck of playing cards is used to give a DNA lesson.

Page 55- "...you have to be a Hensley." This was intriguing as my wife has a Hensley ancestor.

Page 82- "Dogs are all adopted, and they don't wonder about their biological parents. Maybe I should take the hint."

Page 91  NPE is defined as a Non-paternal event. Later on in the book NPE is defined as "Hoosier Daddy."

Page 107 Frank wrote to the State of Arkansas to obtain a Non-Identifying Information Letter about his adoption.  I was amazed at both the useful facts and the confusing fictions contained in the letter.

Page 151 Frank asks himself this existential question: "How many parents can one man handle?"

Page 180 The acronym DNA actually stands for a "Damn Nasty Addiction."  🌝

I hope to see you on January 27 and please read the book either way.

Frank Billingley, KPRC 2 Chief Meteorologist