Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Scientific vs. Traditional Genealogy

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from last Saturday has created quite a stir among some regarding the validity of traditional genealogy (based on direct and indirect evidence found in a variety of source documents) when compared to scientific genealogy (based on DNA testing). In a comment to Randy's challenge, Tamura Jones stated:

I am disappointed that neither Randy nor any of his respondent gave the correct answer. It is so hard to leave the dogmas and misconceptions of traditional genealogy behind and become a scientific genealogist?

The scientific genealogy truth is simple: for most of you, your most recent unknown ancestors are your parents.

Neither family stories nor vital records constitute any proof of a biological relationship.  Only if a
DNA test confirmed who your biological parents are, does the MRU status move from your parents to your grandparents, etc.  It may be hard to face that fact, it may be an unpopular truth, but it is not less true because of that...

The Board of Certification for Genealogists provides the following definition and information about genealogy on its FAQ page (emphasis added):

Genealogy is the study of families in genetic and historical context. Within that framework, it is the study of the people who compose a family and the relationships among them. At the individual level, it is biography, because we must reconstruct each individual life in order to separate each person’s identity from that of others bearing the same name. Beyond this, many researchers also find that genealogy is a study of communities because kinship networks have long been the threads that create the fabric of each community’s social life, politics, and economy.

Good genealogists use every resource and tool available, emphasizing original records created by informants with firsthand information. Genealogists have long studied economics, geography, law, politics, religion, and society in order to properly interpret records, identify individuals and relationships correctly, and place their families in historical context. The modern field of genetics has added another valuable tool to their intellectual toolbox.

In thinking about this, I have concluded that I am, and will continue to be, a traditional genealogist. Why? Science only constitutes part of the study of genealogy.

DNA testing is a tool that genealogists can use to help solve genealogical problems. But it cannot answer every question we may have. And it certainly has no bearing on the relationships developed within a family unit.

In some cases, “blood” relationships are less a part of who we are than the relationships we have with those we consider our family. My son’s ties to his stepfather are much stronger than those to his father. My granddaughter feels a closer kinship to her adoptive mother’s parents and grandparents than to those of her birth mother.

I have had DNA testing done. If it were financially feasible, I would have my siblings, their children, my son, and my grandchildren all tested. But, even if that testing revealed that not one of them was related to me "scientifically," my family would still be my family!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sharing the Wealth - Genealogy Goodie Giveaway

Members of the Geneabloggers were given a Welcome Bag containing way cool stuff provided by vendors and others (thank you, thank you!). Having now had the opportunity to go through everything, there are a number of items that I am offering to members of the genealogical community. These include Legacy Family Tree CDs (I attended the seminars) and two AtAGlance research guides (on topics outside of my research areas).

I will be accepting requests for these items by email sent to: denisesgiveaway AT gmail DOT com. Please identify by name the item you would like. I will use the randomization tool at to determine who will receive each item and announce the winners in a blog post on June 30, 2011. I'll also individual emails to the winners. SPREAD THE WORD TO ALL YOUR GENEALOGY FRIENDS!

The items available are:

Webinar CDs:
Google for Genealogists by Thomas MacEntee
Sharing Genealogy Electronically by Geoff Rasmussen
Chasing Women: Finding Your Female Ancestors by Leland K. Meitzler
Blogging for Beginners by DearMYRTLE
More Blogging for Beginners by DearMYRTLE
Backing Up Your Genealogy Data by Thomas MacEntee
Mapping Software for Genealogists by Geoff Rasmussen
Building a Research Toolbox by Thomas MacEntee
Preserving Family Photographs by Maureen Taylor
Dropbox for Genealogists

Genealogy at a Glance guides:
African American Genealogy Research by Michael Hait
French-Canadian Genealogy Research by Denise R. Larson

ALSO: Geoff Rasmussen of Legacy Family Tree has created a special coupon code that you can use until June 30, 2011, for 20% off anything in Legacy's store. The code is: genblog20.

I'm looking forward to passing these items along to you!

Disclaimer: All Geneabloggers who indicated they would attend Jamboree received Welcome Bags. I have chosen to share these items through this giveaway. Although I am enrolled in the affiliate programs associated with the vendors who produced these items, I receive no compensation for writing about them on this blog.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

It's A Wrap! Final Thoughts on Jamboree 2011

It's been a little over a week since the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree 2011 ended. I've been suffering from genealogy information overload as the result of attending two major conferences in a month's time. So, finally, here is my final report on this year's Jamboree.

Nancy Loe, MA, MLS, author of the Sassy Jane Genealogy blog, gave a presentation on using archival materials to a packed house. I was excited to see so many people interested in using the kinds of original records that can be found in libraries and archives around the state and country.

Next up were two activities of the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists: the Board meeting at lunch time and the general meeting later in the afternoon. Plans are well under way for the Mini PMC (Professional Management Conference), an event designed to help members of the chapter enhance their professional skills. More information about membership and the Mini PMC is available at the chapter's website.

The Saturday evening banquet speaker was Curt Witcher, MA, FUGA, IGSF, of the Allen County Public Library. His presentation emphasized how the technology available today creates opportunities for us to touch others through family history research.

Sunday morning brought a presentation on California research with Cath Trindle, CG, exploring resources available in our golden state. Then it was on to a little big band music and Joel Weintraub, PhD, discussing the release of the 1940 census on April 2, 2012, and how to be prepared for it.

Lastly, I spent a couple of hours at the Ask An Expert table talking with attendees about their research and how they might move forward on some problem areas.

Kudos to the Southern California Genealogical Society, Jamboree chairmen Paula Hinkel and Leo Myers, and all the Jamboree volunteers for a fabulous time! Looking forward to next year!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fun Father's Day Facts from

Here are some fun Father's Day facts presented by

Create your family tree on Geni for free, and connect to the World Family Tree
to find out if you're related to any of our famous fathers.

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from for placing this graphic in my blog.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It’s Day 2 of Jamboree 2011!

I can’t believe it is already Saturday and the 2nd day of Jamboree. To recap what I’ve been doing:

The Family History Writers’ Conference on Thursday was outstanding. I attended all four sessions presented by John Colletta, Ph.D. His talks included information on how to assemble the documents and write a narrative family history, how to build historical context, principles of good writing and storytelling, and challenges and pitfalls to writing good narrative family histories. I learned a lot about the process and, although it is still a daunting task, I feel much more comfortable with tackling a writing project of this magnitude.

After my “field trip” yesterday with friend Corey Oiesen to Forest Lawn Memorial Park, I attended Gena Philibert Ortega’s talk on “The Secret Lives of Women: Examining Domestic Artifacts.” She focused on signature quilts, journals and diaries, and community cookbooks. Lots of great resources to explore, including The Quilt Index! One of her examples was a cookbook from Marysville, Ohio – I have to get the link for it because I have ancestors who were in that area!

Then it was on to the Land Platting workshop with Anne Miller, Ph.D., and David Armstrong, M.A. Learning how to plat parcels of land using the metes and bounds descriptions is not really as hard as it appears. Let’s see if I still feel that way in a week or so when I try it on my own at home!

First thing this morning I attended a session by Janis Martin on Unclaimed Persons, the volunteer organization that assists coroners and medical examiners around the country to find next-of-kin of unclaimed persons. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak founded the organization in 2008. The subtitle of Janis’s talk was “Every life is worth remembering.” This is truly a project worthy of a genealogist’s time.

So many interesting topics by knowledgeable presenters, so little time!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Friday, June 10, 2011


While attending the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree this week, my friend Corey and I made a trip to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Both of us have relatives buried at the cemetery. I took photos of the grave markers using the new BillionGraves app for I-phone and uploaded them to the BillionGraves website.

The goal of BillionGraves is to create a family history database with photos and information from cemeteries throughout the world. It's a pretty cool concept - check it out!

Myrtle A. Yawman
1878 - 1958

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Love Maps!

I don't know whether this is a trait I share with other genealogists, but I love maps! I like to take my old worn-out Rand McNally atlas of the United States and look at the maps. I enjoy finding all the little towns with strange names (strange to me, but probably made sense to someone!). Today I came across the BIG Map Blog - lots of great historical maps - I especially liked the Auto Club's map of Los Angeles and environs circa 1915. Check it out here!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

The Face of Genealogy

Yesterday, Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers posted about the LA Weekly's disparaging selection of a photo to use with the event information for the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. In response, here is one of my favorite photographs,  my grandparents' wedding picture taken in 1897 in Kansas:

William L. Yawman and Myrtle A. Snider Yawman were the parents of eight children and were married for 51 years. My grandfather died before I was born, and my grandmother died when I was only three years old, but they will live forever in my heart.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jamboree Preregistration Ends Tonight

Register TODAY for the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree! If you pre-register, you'll have some extra cash to spend on that genealogy book or product you see in the Exhibit Hall that you just can't live without.

Genealogy Jamboree Blog: Jamboree - LAST CALL for Preregistration

© 2011 Denise Spurlock