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Auto-clustering, Genetic Networks, and Kissing Cousins

Have you heard of auto-clustering for your autosomal DNA results? It's something you should try but is it going to help you or be another tool that drives you crazy? Turns out, it might depend who your ancestors were.

If you've read many posts on this blog, you know my ancestors are all southern. They aren't just southern, they're all from North Georgia. This is a nightmare when it comes to using DNA (although those of you with some of the most extreme endogamous populations, you have my sympathy, I know it could be worse).

Should you try auto-clustering for your DNA matches? | The Occasional Genealogist

Auto-clustering, Genetic Networks, and Kissing Cousins

Evernote for Occasional Genealogists

Have you realized what the biggest challenge for Occasional Genealogists is?

It's not a lack of research results. It's remembering what research you've done.

The solution to this problem is great organization.

That's not a very helpful answer, though.

Great genealogical organization involves several aspects.
These aspects include:

  • great note taking, 
  • a great filing/retrieval system, and 
  • great skills overall---like report/memo writing and analysis.

Genealogy Organization, Simplified

Occasional Genealogists need to write everything down, AND they need to be able to find it again.

Every genealogist can benefit from this, but if you get to research pretty often, you can rely on your memory (you shouldn't, but you can).

If you're familiar with Evernote, you probably know where I'm going with this.

Occasional Genealogists can't remember everything---Evernote's tagline is "Remember Everything." [note: that was the tagline this post was written] Evernote was designed to solve this Occasional Genealogist problem.

Evernote for Genealogy

Gifts for the Genealogist in the Making

Gifts for people who haven't fully succumbed to genealogyitis, just push them over the edge this Christmas. You know you love having one more genealogy friend!

This post contains affiliate links (I know you're shocked, a gift guide with affiliate links).
This is one of a series of gift guides for specific recipient types or gifters.
Some suggestions are reproduced rather than making you follow a series of links.

I think I make this recommendation in every gift guide. However, in this case, this might be why you have an "almost" genealogist you need to give a gift to. If not, it will probably drive them straight into genealogy's clingy, never releasing arms. My first recommendation is a DNA test (if you're surprised you need to read more of this blog).

I recommend getting your kit from FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA). Here's why.

  1. Cheapest everyday price on autosomal DNA tests (probably what you're ordering, called "Family Finder" at FTDNA).
  2. ONLY company offering the other two types of (currently) available genealogical DNA tests (Y and mt).
  3. Swab test. Some people can't manage the spit test required by AncestryDNA and 23 and Me. If this is a surprise (as many gifts are) this is probably the number one reason to go with FamilyTreeDNA.
  4. Excellent in-house analytical tools plus great third party tools, available.
  5. Phasing of results (if you've had multiple relatives tested) plus, options to connect testees to people in your tree.
You could get almost the same benefits (less #2) from MyHeritageDNA (and MyHeritage uses FTDNA's lab so it is super easy to add a YDNA or mtDNA test via FTDNA, there's even a button to do it, super easy).

How about starting genealogy the easy way, with stories!
StoryWorth is a service not just aimed at genealogists. Their core service is via email (with other options). This is a year-long gift. At the end of the year, the stories are bound as a book.

You could gift this for the genealogist-to-be to gather his/her own stories or so they could send it to a relative to gather the relative's stories. Think about newlyweds and new parents as well as older relatives with the family stories.

This year I was actually approached to see if  I would be willing to review a book to include in my gift guides. Wow! This is a beautiful book.

The book is Chicago Eternal and it's a coffee table book of pictures from Chicago cemeteries. I am not from the mid-west but I am a genealogist so I really enjoyed the variety of cemetery monuments (because it's so much more than tombstones). The pictures are really top notch. Normally with a product slightly outside my specialty, I wouldn't want a company to pay to have to ship me an item, I could review a digital item.

But this book is all about the pictures. We own a few coffee table books and at least one was mangled by the publisher (gorgeous photos but some were not reproduced as they should have been). So, I had to see the book before I'd recommend it. Well, here it is, in digital black and white.

Larry Broutman did a beautiful job of the photography. There is also some text, it isn't just pictures so if you are interested in Chicago history/genealogy even better.

Here's one other cool thing that almost threw me off. The back section is in 3D! So don't flip the book open from the back and think something went wrong (like I did one time when I picked it up). The glasses are in the front so you can enjoy an old-fashioned virtual tour of some of the monuments.

Everything Goes Media has provided a special coupon for my readers so you can get $10 off this book, use OCCGEN45 at (waited too long to order? You can also get this at Amazon with Prime, sorry no coupon, though---Chicago Eternal.)

Here are a few sample images from the book, I promise, if these look good on your monitor, they look better in print!

image from Chicago Eternal by Larry Broutman, used with permission

image from Chicago Eternal by Larry Broutman, used with permission

Of course, if your recipient's interests lie somewhere other than a cemetery or Chicago, there are many books of similar style but on different topics.

If you're looking for a "small" gift, don't forget about the "Images of America" series which covers many small towns and is often available in a local books store (or check Amazon if you're looking for a not-local-to-you location).

If you check out the comments, you'll see a suggestion from Emma to make sure you order anything in plenty of time plus a link to some AMAZING papercut family trees. These are gorgeous so I wanted to add a link in the post.

Family Tree Papercuts from Twenty Fingers. This is a UK company and I hadn't thought about adding this option initially so I haven't looked into options for people outside the UK (i.e. when shipping is prohibitively expensive).

In the U.S., the first place I would check is Etsy. This is a great place for genealogists to look for gifts for Christmas presents, wedding presents, family trees for a new baby, photo gifts for family reunions, or any other family tree gift or even family tree design ideas.

I'm a crafter so I love to create my own gifts using my genealogical research but if crafting or art is not your strong suit, there are lots of talented people out there who can create a personalized family tree or personalized family history gift. Check out Pinterest and Etsy for inspiration and then Google search for the type of product you want (that means it's not too early to start for Christmas, or wedding season, or any event as it may take a while to find what you want, have it personalized, and get it shipped to you or the recipient.).

See my other Genealogy Gift Guides (both from the genealogist):
DIY Gifts from the Crafty Genealogist
From the Genealogist to the Impossible to Please

Gift Guide | The Occasional Genealogist

My DNA Results Are Wrong. What Can I Do?

Have you gotten back your DNA test results and gone, "these are wrong!" but didn't know what you could do (or assumed you needed to pay for another test)?


I am all for people taking multiple DNA tests for genealogy, but usually when you do it because you believe your results are wrong, you're throwing away money.

Let me help you save some money or spend it wisely and figure out what you need to do.

What to Do If You Think Your DNA Results are Wrong.

Mini-Tips for U.S. Military Research

The veterans in your family tree are unique like every other ancestor and relative. So this year, instead of an attempt at a semi-comprehensive round-up of resources (covering the majority of the major U.S. conflicts) or a memorial post about the veterans in my family, I'm providing a post as unique to me as my ancestors.

You can think of this as a variety-pack of tips. It doesn't have a single focus. These are tips that might fall through the cracks because they're just a bit of information, not a full post.

Free Online Genealogy Tools

These tools weren't "born" yesterday. And that may mean you are missing out on their awesomeness simply because the buzz about them died a long time ago.

old-school free online family history tools

Keep reading to (quickly) learn about some of my favorite, free online tools for genealogy.

Make the Most of Back to Genealogy Season

Five ways to make this your best back to genealogy season, ever.

Not surprisingly, back to school season is also back to genealogy season. I'm sure it has to do with all those years we all spent going back to school in the fall. And also like back to school season, you can follow some best practices to make the most of back to genealogy season.

Here are five ways to start the genealogy season "right."
Make the most of back to genealogy season | The Occasional Genealogist

The 3 Ps of Genetic Genealogy

Want to use DNA for genealogy success? You'll need these three easy peasy, I mean three easy Ps.

This week I was reminded of some basics of genetic genealogy (that's using DNA for family history). Not basics like what a centimorgan is (cM, that's a unit of measurement) or how much DNA you should expect to share with a 2nd cousin (3.125% or about 212 cMs).

No, real basics, like how to get an unwilling relative to spit for you.

It doesn't get any more basic than getting someone to take a DNA test!

After all, it doesn't matter how many basic facts you know if you have no tests to use.

Turns out the basics of getting people to take a test for you can be condensed down to 3 Ps (hmmm, that sounds familiar somehow). Here are my 3 Ps of Genetic Genealogy.

How to Create an Email Template

Email templates are easy. Stop writing the same email to your DNA matches over and over again, create a simple template.

Creating an email template is much easier than it sounds. You may think you have to figure out technical details specific to your email program, but you don't (although for some programs, you could). Let's look at how easy it is to create an email template as well as some common reasons a genealogist might want to create one.

Make an Email Template

5-Minute Prep for Faster Online Research

Are you asking yourself, "how do I make my family history research faster?" Sadly, family history research (genealogy) takes time. Think how long it took to create! But, there are ways to be more efficient and efficient means faster.

One caveat. With genealogy, you want efficient, not just fast. Fast today can mean completely stuck tomorrow!

So, I have a genealogy hack for you that can make your future online genealogy research faster.

here's a genealogy hack for you if you're looking to speed up your online family history research

Spend some time as often as you can on this (daily would be great, weekly almost as good, but monthly is better than nothing).

Studying Genealogy Periodicals

Studying Genealogy Periodicals: Journals, Newsletters, and Magazines

An often underutilized source of self-education is the genealogical journal. Genealogical journals are one of the only ways to learn how to do quality genealogy by studying quality genealogy.
Studying Genealogy Periodicals | The Occasional Genealogist

Print to PDF for Genealogists

Are you fighting with your printer over another genealogy printing job? Maybe you need to go green and print to PDF.

Several years ago I published a post about printing to PDF. It was on my blog for my genealogy services website which I'm now retiring so I'm updating and republishing the article here.

You'll learn how simple it is to print to PDF and why genealogists, in particular, should love this option.

Summer Genealogy Inspiration

Does summer have you avoiding or missing out on genealogy? It might be the weather or maybe it's your summer schedule. No matter the reason, summer can either be a great time to accomplish some genealogy or a genealogical waste-land (that you often don't even understand).

Need some genealogy inspiration? Here are five ideas to break you out of your genealogy rut.

Here are some ideas to shake up your summer genealogy routine.

Genealogy Research Skills Improvement

This isn't my normal type of post. This is essentially a round-up of my own posts related to a specific topic. But a topic you can't easily find with a search or a label.

This post rounds-up my posts about improving your genealogy research skills. If your genealogy skills need a boost, you're in the right place. I hesitate to label these as intermediate skills or advanced skills because we all have different ideas about what is "intermediate" or "advanced" genealogy.

Let's just say these posts will help you improve your genealogy skills. Some people will call these beginning skills, some intermediate, and some will consider them advanced skills. It doesn't matter, your skills have to improve to continue researching your family history.

Evernote Form for Census Correlation
Census Comparisons Continued
Is Your Genealogy Knowledge "Fuzzy?"
"Burned" Counties aren't always "burned"
Success in "Burned Counties" --- easy techniques to start with
Find Every Clue in U.S. Census Records
Cousin Baiting: What is It, Should You Do It?
What's the Opposite of Genealogy?
More Reverse Genealogy
Finding Aids vs. Library Catalogs
Evaluating Evidence: Books
Finding Female Ancestors: The Importance of Siblings
Make Your Genealogy Skills Go Pro
The 3 Genealogy Mistakes You Have to Tame to Improve Your Skills
Genealogy FAN Club: What Is It? Plus What It Is Not.

(looking for something else? This list is for posts that don't have a convenient label. Try the links in the top right, or a label from the right menu to find more from The Occasional Genealogist).

Pick your own genealogy skill to improve from this round-up on The Occasional Genealogist #genealogy #familyhistory

Have You Found the Hidden Features at AncestryDNA?

I really hope this post teaches you nothing. I know, strange to say. But I'd be thrilled if you are already using these in-house autosomal DNA tools from AncestryDNA.

As I'm preparing my new course, Overcoming AncestryDNA Overwhelm, there are some basics I want to make sure are covered. I don't want to keep the information just for those taking the course.
Discover AncestryDNA's Hidden Featuers

In this post, I'll show you three features people treat like they're hidden, point out four "hidden in plain sight" features, make sure you're aware of the basic tools, and give you some hints for using the newly revealed information.

Don't worry, it's not an overwhelming amount of information. When we're done, you'll know where the hidden features are to make every visit to AncestryDNA more productive.

NOTE: AncestryDNA recently rolled out some visual updates which make some of this information less hidden. There have been so many updates lately, I'm not updating the images, yet. You'll see comments listing these changes, though.

How to Pick the Best DNA Test for Genealogy

So many choices!

Are you interested in using DNA to research your family history but don't have a clue where to start?

This post will give you some information to answer the question "what's the best DNA test for genealogy." I was going to also include "what happens after I test" but that is a subject for another post.
best DNA test for genealogy

What Is the Best DNA Test for Genealogy?

First, there are actually three types of tests you can take. If you know nothing about using DNA for genealogy (referred to as "genetic genealogy"), you are probably thinking about autosomal DNA. That is the type of test you see advertised on T.V.

If you're just getting started, here are my recommendations.

Three Genealogy Shortcuts That Aren't Cheats

There really aren't any shortcuts in genealogy.

Most of the "shortcuts" come in organizing, filing, and using technology--rather than record usage.

It's really about being efficient.

However, I've got three fantastic shortcuts that really can help you. Here are three suggestions to save time while still doing great genealogy.
map and vintage photo with text overlay three genealogy shortcuts that aren't cheats

If you haven't been doing some of the things mentioned (like creating a research plan and keeping a research log) because you're trying to save time, you're not taking a shortcut, you're cheating.

It'll come back to bite you in the end.

Genealogy FAN Club: What Is It? Plus What It Is Not.

If you got here because you Googled “genealogy FAN club,” you probably are embarking on a really fun stage of your genealogy research. At least I hope you are.
image of vintage fan with text overlay What is a Genealogy FAN Club?

A genealogy FAN club is not a “fan club” for people who are FANatical about genealogy. Although if you’re ready to learn about FAN clubs, you probably are a genealogy fanatic.

Can a Genealogy Checklist Help You?

Do you like the idea of a genealogy checklist? A handy little list you just follow and mark items off so you know where you are?
image of a clipboard and notepad with checklist, text overlay Can a Genealogy Checklist Help You?

I like that idea, too. It sounds much less intimidating than a research plan or doing analysis.

I still often yearn for a nice little checklist to walk me through my research.

But there's a problem. Using genealogy checklists are fraught with perils!

Yes, perils!!!

Finding Her Maiden Name: Develop the Skills to Bust a Brick Wall

free course of genealogy problem solving, brick wall busting

Sometimes I feel like the topic of finding a maiden name has been covered from one end to the other. As far as information being available, out there... somewhere in the world, it has been.

But every day, more people start their family tree for the very first time. They don't know where all that knowledge is. In fact, I think writing about finding a maiden name is probably more valid, simply because there are so many "new" genealogists out there.

So today, I'm launching the very first Occasional Genealogist mini-course. Specifically, it's about finding maiden names, but it's also designed to show you a methodology that can be adapted to any problem you label "impossible" (also called a "brick wall" in genealogy).

Organize Your Genealogy Education with Pinterest

Have you discovered there's a lot you need to learn about genealogy? I have heard that sentiment so many times from readers, lately.

image of a stack of old books with text overlay Organize Your Genealogy Education in Pinterest

Organize Genealogy Articles with Pinterest

So, in this post I want to show you an easy way to keep your (overwhelming amount of) genealogy education sources organized. If you're reading this, I'm guessing you read a lot of online material (that's the education sources I'm referring to). Maybe you read a lot of blog posts.

Genealogy Research Planning: A Recipe for the Chronically Rushed

image for how to eat an elephant with text overlay - recipe for elephant ala genealogy

How to Do Genealogy When You're Short on Time

Today I'm going to give you a recipe for Elephant ala Genealogy. If you don't get it, it's that old joke about "how do you eat an elephant?" The answer is "one bite at a time." It's the same way you plan genealogy research.

This is a bite-sized approach to doing genealogy planning, followed by research, and then the extremely important "reporting" step. This is not a recipe a professional genealogist would use for a client (it's for Occasional Genealogists) so I've adjusted the reporting step to make it easier to get started.

I've laid out this recipe for 15-minute sessions because it's likely you can squeeze that amount of time in somewhere. Research planning of this type is easier if you do it frequently.

You can also do this once a week for a longer time, just try and avoid redoing work each week because you don't remember where you left off. Figure out what you need to do so you know what to do next. That is a super valuable skill to learn so make it part of your process.

Organizing Your Genealogy: Identify Your Real Problem

Genealogists are notorious for their paper piles. Did you know your excessive amount of unfiled or unorganized material (paper or digital) might indicate a more serious genealogical problem?

Messy Desk or More Serious Genealogy Problem?

How to Organize Your Genealogy: Addressing Your Root Problem

Falling prey to this problem is so easy, I do it periodically. Recently I was reminded of what I should be doing. That simple reminder adjusted how I approach my in-progress client work. It was that important.

So today, I want to help you identify the difference between a simple problem with clutter and being disorganized, versus a more serious genealogical problem that IS affecting all your research.

The 3 Genealogy Mistakes You Have to Tame to Improve Your Skills

Do you want to further your genealogy skills so you can research better or faster? Have you run into a problem that seems too "difficult" for your current skill level?

Whatever reason you have for wanting to improve, there are three basic mistakes you have to tame before you can move "up."
There are three genealogy mistakes you must tame before your skills will improve. | The Occasional Genealogist #genealogy #familyhistory

Resource Library Links

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