Genealogy Calculators

Julian Calendar and Heliocentric system of date calculations.How often in genealogy do you need to know the difference between two dates? Or the age of the person at death? Or calculate a birth date?

Do you wonder which day of the week was the wedding or birth? There is a reference to Easter 1879 and you need to know that date. And what about figuring out exactly when those calendar dates shifted and changed?

Do you often calculate the relationships between relatives or figure out how many times grand a specific grandparent is to another person?

These are the times when genealogy calculators save us. Let’s explore a few.

Date and Age Calculators

Ancestor Search - Estimating birth and death datesAs mentioned above, calculating dates in genealogy is a daily process. We need to estimate birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, migration dates, and so much more.

Most date calculators are on sites that feature other tools as well.

Ancestor Search offers a variety of date and age calculators:

Other date and age calculators include:

While not helpful for investigating the dead, GenealogySearch offers an Exact Age Finder to tell you precisely, down to the seconds, how old someone is based upon their birth date and birth time. It’s fun, especially for working with children.’s Date Duration Calendar is more helpful is estimating lengths of time.

The Census Day

1820 US Federal Census exampleA challenge that faces all genealogists is called “The Census Day,” the date that the census is mandated. As explained by genealogist William Dollarhide on GenealogyBlog, from 1790 to 1820, Census Day was the first Monday in August, the day when all the statistics for the census were collected – not the day the census taker arrived at a household to collect data on the residents there. The data was collected over weeks or months prior to that August Monday, thus any children born between when the census data was collected and that Monday would not be in the census. Makes sense, but this has confused family historians for a couple hundred years.

The Golden Egg Genealogist has a downloadable spreadsheet to help you narrow the dates in and around Census Day to help estimate the birth of children born within that gap.

Roman Numerals

Online Calculator for converting to and from Roman Numerals.Many legal documents and records include dates in Roman numerals, resembling a form of code if you aren’t familiar with the system.

The RapidTables Roman numerals date converter does more than convert years. It coverts dates in Roman numerals. For example, 9 Feb 1777 would be II.IX.MDCCLXXVII.

Julian to Gregorian Calendar

When working with ancestors back in the 1500-1700s, you have to deal with the switch from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, a calendar correction that lost 10 days to adjust the calendar and compensate the lack of a strict 365 days to a year. It’s actually 365.25 days. Every country switched in a different year spread out over 300 years, ranging from as early as 1582 for Belgium to Estonia in 1918 and all dates in between.

To understand how complicated this is, consider these examples.

As countries switched, the calendar dates were…confusing. By the Julian calendar, it would be 28 Jan 1752, but by the Gregorian, 8 Feb 1752. To make things even more complicated, 31 Dec 1749 would be followed by 1 Jan 1749. Yes, the same year. Don’t ask why, just go with it. And 24 Mar 1749 was 25 Mar 1750 as a new year was started on 25 March to “catch up” with the lost days with the Julian calendar. Yes, very confusing.

Let’s make it even more crazy making. Italy, home of Pope Gregory, made the switch in 1582. Greece made the switch to Gregorian calendar in 1916. So much for being nice neighbors.

In France, the then strongly Catholic country embraced the change in 1582, but the area of Alsace waited until 1648, and Strasbourg in 1682. Researching in those areas, you have to know when the switch happened to help convert the dates to something familiar.

The United States, England, and Canada made the switch official in 1752, so you will find many a record date transcribed in different ways to accommodate the oddball rearranging of the dates.

There are many other examples, but luckily, you don’t have to do much work other than to know when the country in which you are researching made the switch. The rest may be helped with one of the Julian to Gregorian calendar converters.

The Change from Julian to the Gregorian Calender by Ancestors Search tool is exceptionally helpful. For a good explanation, check out the FamilySearch Wiki’s article on the switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars. If you wish to understand how the calculations work for yourself, check out this quick guide on ho to calculate with the Gregorian calendar.

Why stress over this? Use technology. The Keisan Online Calculator for Julian and Gregorian Calendar Calculator is ideal. Enter a date and pick a calendar and hit Execute. It displays the date in Julian and Gregorian calendars, and displays a graph comparing the two dates.

Scroll down and you will find excellent examples people have added to explain how they’ve used the tool. One person used it to translate a Julian date from a Sumerian tablet in the 4th millennium BCE, and other was trying to work out the contemporary date for the assassination of William Rufus on 2 Aug 1100 CE.

While on the Keisan Online Calculator, check out the other calendars they offer including Hijri, Iranian, Hebrew, and Mayan calendars and converters and age, date duration, how many days, day of the week, week numbers, and other date calendars.

Screenshot_2021-02-08 Julian and Gregorian Calendar Calculator

Why should you care about all these calendars? When you are transcribing and recording the dates in your research, it helps to match apples with apples. Converting the dates to a consistent form as you analyze events throughout 1752 and 1753, it helps to have them literally be consistent.

Other Julian and Gregorian Calendar converters and calculators include:

Relationship Calculators

Stephen Morse One Step Genealogy Relationship CalculatorWho is related to whom is one of the challenges we face, but counting the steps between greats and cousins can be head cracking.

Stephen Morse offers a One Step Relationship Calculator that helps you trace the confusing tangle of family connections. Each time you click one of the 12 family choices in the box, it drills down through the relationships. For example, my father’s parent’s brother’s child would be my 1st cousin once removed (blood relative).

Ancestor Search’s Cousin Relationship Calculator displays a relationship chart based upon one person’s relationship to another of the same ancestor.

Abueling’s Genealogy Calculators includes a generation calculator. Place the birth year of an ancestor and the birth year of the next person, or yourself, and it offers a rough calculation of the number of generations between the two.’s Cousin Calculator can be used online or downloaded.

If you want to do some of this manually, check out the relationship charts on FamilySearch.

Stephen Morse One Step Ahnentalfel CalculatorStephen Morse’s Ahnentafel Numbers in One Step is a calculator tool that helps you automatically number your relationships according to the Ahnentafel numbering system which numbers you, the start of the tree, as number one, your father as number 2, and mother as 3. Your father’s father would then be 4, double the number of his son, and your father’s mother would be double plus 1, thus 5. Your mother’s father and mother would be 6 and 7, double your mother’s numbers, and so up up the tree. This system is commonly used when numbering in a direct simple ancestral tree as it doesn’t take into consideration siblings. It can be confusing the further the tree goes back. Most genealogy software programs calculate this automatically, but on the rare chance you are doing this manually, this calculator would help.

Luckily, most genealogy software does these relationship calculations for us. Trying to remember them in your head can bend the mind as you figure out the relationship of your grandmother’s mother’s sister’s granddaughter from her third marriage.

How Far is It?

An experienced genealogist knows that people traveled and lived together, often moving across the planet together. Working with FANs (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) and clusters, we make new discoveries all the time.

A key process is identifying proximity. How far away did they live from each other? Maps help.

Google Maps tracing the journey and travel time.

Google Maps can help you to locate your ancestors and their FAN club easily. Take it a step further to estimate how long it would have taken them to move from location to location. Google Maps calculates the distance by travel time – based upon today’s transportation options and road conditions. Want to determine how long it would take in the 1700s or earlier? Switch the transportation to walking or bicycles for a better estimate. Just remember that the roads we have now might not be the same as the roads they had available to them then, though many highways were built over old roadways.

Indies Unlimited publishing blog describes in detail how long it would take to get from one place to the next for writers exploring new worlds and historical fiction based upon real-world estimates. These are good suggestions as our ancestors often traveled with luggage, supplies, weapons, and through various terrain. Also, one would need to take into consideration the health and age of the person traveling? Young? Old? Athletic? Traveling alone or with others?

Here are some estimates for travel times, based on averages:

  • Walking: 4 miles (6 km) per hour; about 20 miles (30 km) a day.
  • Horses: 30 miles (30-40 km) a day at an average pace.
  • Wagons: Depending on the terrain and weather, and amount of weight and number of horses, estimate 15 miles (20 km) a day, maybe more with two or more horses.
  • Trains: Average speed for trains about 1900 was 20-25 mph (32-40 kph) with few straight lines with no obstacles moving past 40 or 50 mph (64-80 kph).

Here are some distance calculators to experiment with:

Inflation Calculators

As you pour through probate record inventories, put taxes, property values, and income into perspective, it helps to use an inflation calculator that shows you how the value of money has changed, and what common objects like food and transportation would cost compared to today’s values.Westegg Inflation CalculatorWestEgg’s Inflation Calculator has you enter the amount of money, the initial and final year between 1800 and 2020, and it displays an estimate. It reported that in 1800, USD $100 would cost $1,543 in 2020.

The Ancestor Search Inflation Calculator is similar, but ads the percentage of change. It also covers only from 1913 to 2015. USD $100 in 1913 would be valued in 2015 at $2171 with an inflation ind3x of 22.7%, a percentage change of 2171.7%.

The Official Data inflation calculator by Ian Webster includes the UK, Canada, Australia, Europe, and other countries. While the initial year form goes back to year zero, the calculator only estimates inflation after 1750.

The Bank of England Inflation Calculator dates back to 1209. It estimates that 100 GBP in 1209 would be equivalent to 208,278 GBP at a 0.9% average inflation percentage a year, a conservative average.

I Am Kate Historical UK Inflation Calculator goes back to 1751 and has a great chart to show you inflation changes. Of note, in 1755, the inflation rate was -6%. In 1757, it was 21.8%, a dramatic shift in the economy. In 1970, it was 6.4%, but by 1975 it was 24%. A fascinating look at the financial struggles your ancestors may have faced even recently.

Measuring Worth is a free site that explores the issues of inflation and economics in more detail. It compares annualized growth rates, relative values in US, UK, Australia, and Spain monies, stock growth rates, and of the most interest to genealogists, purchasing power today in the US and UK over the centuries.

In US dollars, in 1799, $100 has a relative income worth of about $44,000 to $75,500, give or take based upon the level of skill of the worker from Unskilled Worker to Production Worker. Dig deeper by clicking the link to get more details and you would earn that $100 in 1799 would be work about $2,185 in 2020 dollars.

The Daily Meal isn’t a calculator but an article that explores what food a dollar could by you from 1937 to 2000, reminding us that penny candy used to cost a penny.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics broke food prices down over the past 100 years, citing bread in 1913 costing about 5 or 6 cents, today USD $1.42 for the cheap stuff. The smallest price changes were found in flour and sugar. In 1913, flour was about 3 cents per pound we assume, and today, 52 cents. Sugar went from 6 cents to 68 cents. Compare that to coffee that went from 30 cents to almost $6.

There are many other inflation calculators out there. There used to be some wonderful online calculators that would list prices of food, homes, and other products and services in that time period compared to today’s money, but my favorites are no longer supported. If you find a good one that helps us compare the value of base money with what it would buy at that time, please share it with us.

Historical Wages and Costs

When you discover your ancestors made $10 a day or $50 a month, what does that mean in today’s dollars. Here are some charts and calculators to help you put those numbers into perspective.

GoBankingRates Minimum Wages from 1938 to 2020. These numbers are based upon state averages and the federal guidelines.

While not covering an extensive time range, BusinessInsider offers a look at the value of USD $100 in 1920 to 2015. Make Change offers similar information looking back at how far a dollar would go 100 years ago.

Timeline and Event Calculators

While not specifically a calculator, the process of retrieving data from a database based upon a date or date range is a cool tool to keep in your genealogy toolbox.

Irrelevant to the purpose of the site and used to just draw in visitors, Scope System’s AnyDay in History tool is worth bookmarking. Enter a month and day and it generates major events on that day throughout history. It features famous birth dates, deaths, military POWs missing in action, holidays, religious history and observances, and general historical notes, some famous, some infamous.

Scopes AnyDay for September 11On the day we chose, September 11, Henry Hudson landed on Manhattan Island in 1609. D.H. Lawrence was born in England on that day in 1885, as was designer Valentino in 1932. Nikita Khrushchev died of a heart attack in 1971, ad did Luis Alvarez, noted physicist and Nobel Prize winner in 1988. In 1789, Alexander Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the US Treasury, and the Boston Red Sox eat the Chicago Cubs in the 15th World Series in 1918. In 1927 on this date, Babe Ruth hit is 50th of 60 home runs in baseball.

Scopeys AnyDay Custom Peer List.OurTimeLine’s Peers and Contemporaries offers a similar perspective by highlighting those alive during the same time as your ancestors, at least those who left their mark of influence.

They also offer OurTimeLine timeline creation tool. Enter in significant dates for your ancestor and it highlights historical events during that time period, putting your ancestors into the context of history.

Timeline for James Acy Knapp.

I tested it with my ancestor, James Acey Knapp (1836-1877). During his childhood, Michigan entered the US Union in 1837, and a depression and panic with massive inflation hit the US and other parts of the world. The Opium war between China and the English would have been front page news through much of his early childhood, with China ceding Hong Kong to the English at age 6. The first telegraph line message went from Washington DC to New York when he was 8, and Texas entered the Union at age 9, followed the next year by Iowa. He grew up in Illinois and/or Wisconsin we believe, and Wisconsin joined the Union when he was 12.

The third cholera pandemic ranged across North America from age 16 to 23, and likely he lost friends and family. At the time he would have been more than eligible for war, the Apache war started when he was 25, the same year Lincoln became president, followed by the start of the Civil War. If he fought n the Civil War, and we’re still researching that, he would have been 27 during the Battle of Gettysburg.

The dMarie Time Capsule by Ancestor Search is a favorite. Enter the date and it displays a custom page that lists consumer prices from that year, Academy Award winners, newspaper headlines, the music they listened to, and other news to help put your ancestors in the context of their time. It covers the years from 1800 to 2005.

DMarie Time Capsule for April 20 1937

It’s a fun journey through the years which might help you see the relevance of current events within the lifetime of an ancestor.

Genealogy Calculator Collections

One of the biggest collection of genealogy calculators is Ancestor Search, home of that time line generator above. This is a first stop for many genealogists wrangling dates and numbers.

The Age Calculator calculates the difference between any two dates and offers the age in the process.

The Perpetual Calendar allows you to enter the month and the year from 0000 to 9999 to display a calendar for that month.

The Day of the Week Calculator displays the day of the week for the date entered.

Parallax View offers a wide range of measurement tools and calculators that may help genealogists including a date formatting tool, conversion for lengths and weights, counting the days between two dates, calculating dates and lengths of time, calculation of possible birth dates given a specific age, and analyzing the overlap between multiple date ranges.

The Calculator Family History uses names and places to tap into their database and display information associated with that information. Skip the “Search for your family members” and type in a surname in the “Family Origin” section. It displays a map, usually of North America, that shows you the most areas where that surname was found. Use the timeline button below the map to show the change over the years. Scroll down and see occupations, then potential records. It’s a sales tool for, but it’s a helpful general information tool.

Ethnicity Calculator from GEDSite calculates the cultural ethnicity of the person researched. Genetic ethnicity is the DNA research. This is the national origin, tribe, or cultural ethnicity, the “group” your ancestors claimed heritage and association. For instance, my grandfather claimed more of his Norwegian heritage than American even though he was several generations from their immigration from Norway. To use this form, enter in the cultural ethnicity of any person in the form and it will calculate an estimate of the percentage of cultural ethnicity. It’s a fascinating way to explore heritage.

Share Your Favorite Online Genealogy Calculators

Well, that is just the tip of the genealogy calculator examples that are out there. Now it is your turn to share some goodies with us. What have you found?

The Loss of Social Media

An article by the Conversation on how your Internet data is rotting continues to stay with me. Did you know many MySpace users were heartbroken to learn that the platform lost over 50 million files uploaded between 2003 and 2015. Google keeps hinting that they are going to soon limit storage space for photos, potentially deleting billions of photographs from users over the limits, and turn on the paywall for Gmail accounts, potentially causing a loss of emails.

Data loses, purposefully or unintentionally, is a loss of information, of artifacts, of digital letters and correspondence, of visual treasures whose absence in our history, specifically our family’s history, is incalculable and very heartbreaking.

The article reminds us that acid-free paper may last 500 years or longer if preserved properly. Magnetic media like hard drives last three to five years.

Then there is also a problem of software preservation: How can people today or in the future interpret those WordPerfect or WordStar files from the 1980s, when the original software companies have stopped supporting them or gone out of business?

A nonprofit startup called The Internet Archive is preserving snapshots of the web on an ongoing basis, but mostly this is for top-level public HTML webpages such as The New York Times website and Facebook, not for underlying content files. As of last fall, its Wayback Machine held over 450 billion pages in 25 petabytes of data. This would represent .0003% of the total internet.

Universities, governments and scientific societies are struggling to preserve scientific data in a hodgepodge of archives, such as the U.K.‘s Digital Preservation Coalition, MetaArchive, or the now-disbanded collaborative Digital Preservation Network. Preservation is hard and expensive in time, money and equipment. To be most useful, it not only has to be stored, but hosted in a form that is accessible and available for future reuse.

Did you know that the very first website in the world published 30 April 1993 by CERN and Tim Berners-Lee’s team was lost. Considered insignificant to preserve? In 2013 CERN undertook a mission to restore that first web page, an important part of our legacy in this new era of online computing.

Thanks to the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, along with the work of archives and other digital preservation projects, data is being stored, but I would guess that barely 5 percent, likely much less, is preserved, especially when it comes to our personal family history online. I’m just guessing, but the thought can keep one up at night.

Begin by backing up your data, especially your genealogy research, in multiple places and methods. Ensure at least one solid copy is backed up and off-site.

Then, consider donating to the causes protecting and preserving our digital data. Yes, we need to have a right to privacy, but we also need to ensure that our digital heritage is preserved for future generations to understand how we lived, why we did what we did, and learn from our mistakes and success.

Donate to Wikipedia, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and the archives, museums, and programs saving our digital heritage.

Has Twitter Declared You Dead?

Has Twitter declared you dead?

I’ve several ancestors with stories that reports of their death was not just greatly exaggerated but definitely premature. Have you?

The above linked article from 2019 on Lexology warned of death hoaxes on social media. Just are rumors start in the real world and quickly get out of control, rumors on social media move even faster. There have been many celebrities and politicians reported dead long before their death dates.

This idea interests me from a genealogical perspective in a couple ways.

First, this isn’t new. So why should we be so surprised to find out that it is not just true in social media today, but true in the past.

When was the last time you doubted an obituary, newspaper article, or letter reporting the death of an ancestor and took it as truth? Seriously.

I have and found out that they hadn’t died, though most died a few days later according to the death records.

Still, after a couple experiences, I learned not to trust the newspapers and non-official resources until I could corroborate the facts with official, verified sources.

Second, what does it say about us as a society that we would hook into such misinformation and run with it?

Just as we shouldn’t trust information from the past to be the absolute truth as we rummage through records covering the life of our ancestors and reveal the stories they told, the little white lies and the big red ones, we shouldn’t trust the information coming to us through social media, newspapers, and other sources, including our government, especially if their…shall I say “reliability” and “motives” are suspect to begin with?

The concept of Yellow Journalism focused on sensationalism and exaggeration to sell papers. The famous sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor from a mysterious explosion became fodder for Hearst in 1898 to declare this was an enemy attack, allowing Hearst to sell more newspapers that pushed public opinion to believe the US was justified in starting the Spanish-American War. It worked, helping to make Hearst very rich as he continued to twist innocent events into sinister plots.

War propaganda fills history with lies and exaggerations that didn’t stop at newspapers but reveled in the world of cinema and political theater. The Red Scare promoted by Senator Joseph McCarthy with a passion for anti-Communist hysteria and intrigue, pitting friends, families, and co-workers against each other with suspicion. The Vietnam War. Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. Clinton and the intern. Brexit. Pizzagate. And today. Well, every day seems to be a new conspiracy theory that is dividing up the United States and leaking into other countries, sowing seeds of doubt and mistrust everywhere. Just last week, Trump made at least 50 false claims, lies, about the whistleblower reporting on his phone call with the president of Ukraine asking him to rewrite history and find evidence of on Hunter Biden to damage his father running for US president. According to the article, his 50 false claims were “the fourth-lowest total for the 17 weeks” CNN fact-checked, like that is a badge of honor.

This isn’t about politics, but about understanding the nature of humans to embrace falsehoods due to their sensationalism or because they sound better than the truth. As we dig through history, we encounter many ancestors who lied or exaggerated their wealth and status, marriage(s), children, occupations, etc. Our family trees are filled with lies about dates of birth and ages to allow many to marry, join the military, or gain something by being older or younger than they really were. We need to embrace those lies and work to prove them wrong, or admit that we might never know the reasons behind them, and recognize them as questionable evidence and proof.

We need to teach ourselves, our families, friends, and others to be discerning when it comes to misinformation and outrageous stories. It’s not just about someone falsely being reported as dead. We need to develop a habit of checking the facts.

Luckily, today we have the tools to test the information before we share it. Read reputable news sources. Stay away from news sources that exaggerate or take sides. Use these sites to verify the facts before you share tweets, emails, etc. with others. Some of these sites also check historical data.

Also check out Wikipedia’s listing of fact-checking websites covering global sites.

As you write/rewrite your own history, think twice about whatever misinformation you might be slipping into your own history or family tree.

Here are some other articles that might be of interest on this subject.

Best DNA Kits in 2019

CNet’s Best DNA Tests for 2019 highlights some recommendations with good testing criteria to help you decide.

As with all DNA tests, check the regions and coverage they specialize in. After taking 5 tests, I found five answers, though most of the tests overlapped. Still, there were differences. When I dove into the regions and comparison tests they took to evaluate your DNA history, that explained the differences. So check.

Remember, this isn’t a one-test-final-answer process. At great expense we did my father’s DNA test in 2006. All these years later, the information has updated and the evaluations have improved, providing more pin-point information and improved regional findings. Same applies to my own DNA tests. They keep working on it and we keep finding new discoveries.

News continues to come out about privacy concerns and solving crimes based upon DNA and the fears associated with that, but in truth, DNA opens up one of the most fascinating doors to your family tree and heritage, answering questions and introducing new ones at the same time. Don’t hold back. Go for it.

FBI Records Vault Reveals Bigfoot

The FBI looked into Bigfoot legend, and the documents are now online. What does this have to do with Life in the Past Lane and genealogy?

This is one of the many documents from the FBI Records Vault now available to the general public, and your ancestors, or maybe recent family, may be included in the thousands of scanned documents covering wild theories, investigations, and reports on everything from the Roswell UFO incident to investigations of top business people.

The documents on Bigfoot’s investigation covers 1976 and 1977, involving many agents and time to resolve this long-standing mystery. They even went so far as to analyze hairs and tissues, making me wonder if they have done DNA tests on them since then. Likely not as the hairs and tissues were found to be deer, but we remain hopeful.

The Vault covers a wide range of FBI information released in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, and are worth exploring to see if you find relatives in there. Check out the Foreign Counterintelligence, Gangster Era, Fugitives, or maybe Public Corruption.

My father always said it was more fun to find the bad guys in our family tree than it was to find the normal people. Good luck with your search for the bad guys.

17 Year Old Preservationist Wins Award for Lifetime of Protection

Townsville cameraman Paul Lyons awarded for rescuing historical film archive for saving decades of north Queensland, Australia, media history from the trash. The award came from the State Library of Queensland.

Lyons was working as a videotape operator for QTV in 1992 when he discovered these lost treasures. Age 17, he would watch them on his breaks. Knowing these were at risk of destruction, he would hide them away in the “quiet corners of the building to try to preserve them.” Later, he and some co-workers kept up the practice, even to the point of smuggling out old historic films destined for the dump. Today, among the miles and miles of footage saved, only 10 percent have been digitized and the work continues, though finding is scarce.

As I manage my own small historical archive of family media and treasures, I worry about what might be in your basement, your attic, your garage, and what might be lost to time if someone doesn’t take a chance to help you preserve it for the future. I’m doing my part, without an award. Let’s do our part to ensure our own legacy of 8mm films, VHS, video footage, photographs, negatives, and all the visual and audible media we own is digitized and preserved.

FamilySearch Adds New Map and Time Line Features

FamilySearch recently launched a events details feature that allows you to see contextually the history of your ancestor in new ways.

The new features include a Time Line that includes historical events (if enabled), along with the details of your ancestor’s life.

Howard West Sr FamilySearch Timeline feature

It also features a map option that you may switch on that adds pins to a map of the life events of your ancestor along with where historical events near the area and time frame were located.

Howard West Sr FamilySearch Timeline feature

Any time you can view your family’s history in a few perspective, fresh discoveries are likely to be found. Play with it. There is room for improvement, but it’s a start in the right direction. Let me know what you think.

Brazil National Museum Surprises Salvaged

So thrilled when BBC News carried the story that the Brazil National Museum was able to save “little surprises” from the ashes from the fire last September.

Many Brazilians wept after their 200-year-old National Museum was destroyed in a devastating fire last September. Twenty million objects, many of them irreplaceable, were thought to have been lost. But eight months later, staff have salvaged more treasures than they expected, and there are hopes that one of the great museums of the world can be brought back to life.

I especially was delighted with this encouraging sentiment from Pedro Luiz von Seehausen, archaeologist:

“We have a moral obligation to collect the pieces, even if they are broken in a million pieces,” he says. “Some days I am pretty sad and I feel that I am just dragging myself to work here. But then I usually find one piece is in good condition and I am like, ‘Well, it’s worth it.'”

The technology to recover burned pages and artifacts is better than ever, and getting better with every opportunity to help recover and restore damaged artifacts and heirlooms. Eager to follow along with this adventure with renewed hope.

Altspace Genealogy Family History Meetup Notes – 8 Oct 2018

This meetup is an introduction to DNA testing for family history research. This is an incredibly vast topic and we will be sharing more on how this all works in the future, but for this event, we kept things very simple and concentrated specifically on:

  1. Choosing a DNA testing company.
  2. What to do while waiting for the test results.
  3. What to do after you receive the test results.

Choosing a DNA Testing Company

DNA tests are not the answer to every family history brickwall nor genealogical question. DNA tests are just one of many tools in your genealogy tool box.

DNA tests show you where on Earth people who share your DNA are most like to be today, not necessarily where they were in the past. Combined with historical references and the data in your family tree on the DNA testing site, the results are assumptions of where your ancestors may have been in the past.

We recommend that you test across multiple companies to get a more fair view of your ethnicity, ancestry, and answers to your genealogy questions.

Test yourself and your oldest living relatives in your direct line, and your cousins’ lines such as a great aunt or uncle. The more tests you have, and the more you share the information from your tests, the easier it is to answer your DNA and genealogical questions.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to know?
    • Answers to health and medical concerns?
    • Discover your ethnic roots?
    • Find matches to other people, living or dead?
      • Answer genealogical questions?
      • Have adoption or unknown parentage questions?
      • Support your family history research?
    • Identify geographic regions your ancestors came from?
    • And do you like surprises?

Answers to these questions will narrow down the decision on which tests, and which companies, to start with.

The most popular consumer DNA testing companies with a focus on family history are:

DNA Test Types

There are three common DNA test types for family history research, beyond the scope of medical and health tests. All of these tests will generate matches with people who’ve also tested. If these matches also offer public or accessible family tree data, it makes the process easier to understand your familial matches and expand your family tree data.

Y-Chromosomal DNA Tests: This test explores the father-to-son or paternal line of your ancestors. If you are specifically researching surnames or identification of male direct line ancestors, this is an appropriate test. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe are the most popular testing companies for this test.

mtDNA – Mitochondrial DNA Tests: This test explores the maternal line, the mother-to-daughter pedigree. If you wish to identify the direct line female ancestors, your mother, your maternal grandmother, your maternal grandmother’s grandmother, this is the test for you. It may also help to narrow down or identify hard-to-find females in your family tree if your matches have well-documented family trees. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe are the most popular testing companies for this test.

Autosomal DNA Tests: This test explores both the male and female pedigrees based upon speculative maternal and paternal lines. Using sophisticated chromosomal matching techniques against reference DNA groups and individuals as well as those who’ve taken the same test, it helps to identify what is called “cousin matches.” While it make identify siblings, parentage, and other closer relationships, more often it identifies cousins to multiple degrees of separation such as first, second, third, and so on cousins, or cousins once or twice or more removed. This is the most common test available to the general public. All consumer DNA testing companies offer this test including Family Tree DNA, 23andMe,, MyHeritage, and Living DNA Ancestry.

The following chart is a simple assessment of the five most popular DNA testing companies and their options.

Simple comparison chart of DNA testing companies Oct 2018The average price of a DNA test as of October 2018 ranges from $49-99 USD and up, depending upon the specialty and options of the tests. Look for upcoming holiday and Black Friday sales and discounts for even better prices.

What to Do While Waiting for DNA Test Results

We’ve gathered some anecdotal data and found that the waiting times for DNA results, including ordering and shipping, taking and mailing the test, and waiting for the results, to be an estimated total wait time of 4-12 weeks. So there is plenty of time to prepare and improve your DNA results by researching your ancestors and building your family tree.

The better the information in your public family tree, the better the results for DNA companies with family trees.

  1. Build your family tree on the DNA testing service. Ensure it is public (and the living are marked living to hide their identities).
    1. Start with what you know.
    2. Support what you know with fact-based evidence and records.
    3. Identify the missing pieces.
    4. Research, find, and document the answers.
  2. Learn more about family history research.

The more you learn about family history research by studying online, reading books, reading blogs, joining family history groups online, attending conferences and workshops, and joining local genealogy societies and attending meetings, the easier and better your research and the more you will improve the odds of finding valuate information in your DNA results.

What do Do When You Get the DNA Results

It is exciting for many when notification by email comes in regarding the results of your DNA test. Many are nervous, others eager for answers. Remember, your expectations and hopes may not meet the reality of the information you receive, so be ready for disappointments, confusion, and surprises, just in case. Otherwise, expect to have fun with this.

We say this because some people have found out, at 70 years old, that they were adopted and no one in the family alive today knew anything about it. Or find out that the family story of your ancestors being from Spain or Portugal is revealed to be actually Northern Africa or the Middle East, hidden from the descendants for some reason. Discovering a new ancestor may reveal that they were a criminal, adulterer, or some other surprise. Most people find out their family history is normal, and their expectations are met, but many find a variety of surprises, good and bad.

When you get your DNA results, explore your diversity. Find your tribe. Research them. The more you learn about the groups your ancestors are associated with, the better for everyone, especially with your family when you share this story.

Identify the locations of your ancestors. This expands the areas you may wish to research and find records and documents about their lives. It may also inspire you for your next vacation destination.

This is an opportunity to not only find living cousins but expand the data in your family tree through the open and public family trees of those who match. This is great for planning your next family reunion with new additions to the family.

Most importantly, if you have genealogical questions, like who were the parents of your grandmother, or what were the names of your grandmother’s sister’s children and what happened to them, this is where you may find the answers. currently offers the most visual, easy-to-understand maps and charts regarding your family’s DNA and ancestral information.

Be ready for anything. And make it fun. This is fun. Family history research can be hard work, involve a wide variety of research plans, but it is mostly fun. Even the surprises can be fun. At the very least, the information adds to your family’s stories. The visual maps and charts hook into historical references for massive migration moments in history and big events to help put your family history in context of the times.

MyHeritage offers similar features but they are new to the consumer DNA market and expect to see changes and improvements over time. This applies to all DNA testing companies. just updated their algorithms and many were unhappy with the changes. Expect them as the technology improves.

Once you have had fun looking at all the charts and information, shared them with friends and family, and contacted some living cousins for more information and answers to your questions, expand your reach.

In addition to taking more DNA tests and getting as many older family members to test, you can export the raw DNA data from most companies and share it with others as well as upload it to other third-party DNA tools and services. This not only gets you more bang for your DNA buck, so to speak, it helps you expand the potential for matches and help others do the same.

Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage allow for uploads of tests from other companies to create cross-reference data points.

GEDMatch and DNAGedcom allow you to upload the DNA test data from most of the other popular companies to their services so you may use their free tools to analyze your DNA or compare it to other DNA tests. You also become a larger part of the DNA reference pool, increasing the odds of finding more matches and family history data.

For more information on DNA testing and choosing and using DNA tests, see:

Upcoming Events

We highly recommend you become involved with your local genealogy and family history society or group. Check out a list of them from the US Federation of Genealogy Societies (FGS), FamilySearch Wiki’s List of US Genealogy Societies, and your state and providence historical societies and governments. Also consider joining the Virtual Genealogical Association, a new society based on the web and irrespective of geographic locale.

Rootstech LogoRootsTech has announced two conferences this coming year, one in Salt Lake City, Feb 27-March 2, 2019, and a new one in London, England, Oct 24-26, 2019. The Salt Lake City conference opens registration September 20.

2018 Virtual Genealogy Fair with US Archives.The Annual Free Virtual Genealogy Fair with the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is Wednesday, October 24, 2018, from 10AM – 4PM EDT. We will be Live Streaming the day-long event in Altspace, so please join us. Desktop/2D access is recommended.

For information about local and international genealogy and family history events, chek out ConferenceKeeper and their calendar.

Q&A and Things to Know

As this was our first meeting, much of the meeting was spent discussion the future of this meetup.

Please note that because we will have speakers over time as well as educational and informative events, it is good to know that there are two free ways to access Altspace.

  1. Virtual Reality: Using a headset such as Samsung Gear, Oculus Go, Rift, or another, you may participate in 3D, which means your eyes will be covered and it is a challenge to take notes.
  2. 2D/Desktop: Altspace installs directly to your computer or phone as an independent program or app. Once installed, you may enter Altspace in 2D on your Windows or Mac machine, using your mouse and keyboard to navigate, or your phone with the option “without headset.” Both methods are “eyes-free,” meaning your hands are free to type or take notes during the meetup.

Future topics were suggested and included:

  • 3D Tools and Modeling
  • AR Tools and Apps
  • Certification
  • Digitization
  • DNA
  • Genealogy Technology
  • Guest Speakers
  • Industry News
  • Regional Research
  • Research Techniques
  • Society Issues and Challenges
  • Study/Research Groups
  • VR Applications
  • Watch Webinars

Much thanks also goes to my assistant, Darrell Gulstrom, professional genealogist.

The next meeting is 22 Oct 2018 at 6PM PDT. Hope to see you there!

Altspace Genealogy Family History Meetup Notes – 24 Sep 2018

Our first Genealogy Family History VR Meetup in Altspace was a success, believed to be the first genealogy meetup in virtual reality. Today is “episode two” in our Altspace Genealogy Family History VR Meetup.

Due to popular demand at the last meeting, I and my team of volunteers have been asked to offer some some workshops at this and the next few meetups on the basics of family history research. Many have recently purchased DNA tests and wish to know more about the process of researching their genealogy, so here is the first of these Basic Family History workshops.

Family History Basics

We played two family history games during this meetup, Interviewing Yourself and How Many Records, two ways to begin to think about the process of family history research.

The simple basics of family history research are:

  1. Plan
  2. Research
  3. Analyze
  4. Document
  5. Share

At this meetup, we focused on the first step: Plan.

The Research Plan: Interviews

To begin any family history research, you begin with making a plan. When planning for an event, activity, or project in life or work, we tend to list everything we need to do to get it done. In family history, we’ve learned that this can quickly overwhelm a researcher, new or advanced. So we work with simple questions, research questions, that begin with:

  1. What do I know?
  2. What don’t I know?
  3. What do I want to know?
  4. Where will I find answers?

As with all family history research, you should start with the living and move onto the dead. Ask yourself the above questions of all living people in your family, then move on to ask them to help you answer these questions about their lives.

Many family history researchers focus on the BMD, the Birth, Marriage, Death events of a person’s life. Just as there is more to your life than these three events, there is more to everyone in your family tree. It is critical to gather as much information about the story of a life.

The Interview Yourself Game

To demonstrate this process, we introduced the “Interviewing Yourself” game. By starting the interview process with yourself, it is easier to apply to other living members of your family or others researching their family tree.

Signs with template fill-in-the-blanks paragraphs were posted around the room and participants were invited to gather in pairs under each sign. They had 3 minutes to complete the template paragraph without discussion, just nudges of help if necessary. Then participants moved to the next sign, and so on until all six signs were completed.

The template paragraphs were:

  • Birth: I was born ___________. My parents were __________. I was ___________.
  • Childhood: My earliest childhood memories are _____________.
  • School: I was _____________ in school. My favorite subjects were ___________. My least favorite were ______________.
  • Work: My career started with ______________ then ____________. I succeeded with ______. I struggled with __________.
  • Relationships: I started dating when I was _________. Significant experiences included __________. I am now ________________.
  • Life in General: Regrets: __________. Wishes: ____________. Happiest Moments: _________. Want people to know: _______________.

This is a fun activity, formal or informally presented, at reunions and family history meetups and meetings. Other topics could have included Family Life (childhood and adulthood), Health, Finances, Mental Health, Family Details (great grandparents, parents, siblings, children, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.), and so on, but we decided to keep it brief for this first round as an example.

We then discussed some discoveries and how we would apply this to other family members to start our research.

Moving onto developing a research plan, we briefly tackled the concept of Where to find the answers?

How Many Records Game

Before playing the game, “How Many Records,” we discussed two of the three types of evidence found in researching family trees.

  1. Direct Evidence: Information that answers the question directly.
  2. Indirect Evidence: Information that infers an answer but isn’t the answer.

Using the example research question, “When did Martha Bell marry Todd Edlestein?,” we listed examples of the two types of evidence:

  • Direct Evidence:
    • Marriage Certificate
    • Marriage Records
    • Newspaper Article(s)
    • Living Witness
  • Indirect Evidence:
    • Scrapbook
    • Wedding Invitations
    • Diaries
    • Photographs
    • Living Witness

Comparing the two, a marriage certificate or record and newspaper article are created after the event as verification of the event. The first two are typically signed by or list the participates, officials, and witnesses to the event, and the newspaper article(s) contain information supplied by witnesses and easily corroborated evidence. These are direct evidence of the event taking place.

A wedding invitation is indirect evidence. Why? Because the marriage might not have happened. Same with other types of records such as marriage applications, intentions, and bonds. They are pledges and agreements that a marriage is to take place, but we don’t know if there was follow-through.

Scrapbooks, diaries, and photographs are evidence of a marriage, with photographs of the ceremony and participants, but sometimes the information in these are vague. If specific, listing the date and including copies of the marriage certificate would transfer these to the direct evidence column, but often they contain information such as “A June Wedding” or “Marriage August 1965” with no other information about the actual date, location, or other relevant information that answers the research question.

Notice that “Living Witness” is on both lists. This is where we learn about the quality of the evidence. In genealogy, we measure the quality of the evidence of living witnesses (or testimonials by now deceased individuals) by their direct involvement in the event, their relationship to the parties involved and the event, the distance in time between the event and the testimony or record creation, and other details.

“I was there,” isn’t good enough any more. While it lends credibility, the family history detective must find collaborating evidence to support their testimony. Once the quality of their testimony about the event is collaborated, then it could be direct evidence or indirect (“I’m sure it was sometime in May 1965.”).

We don’t judge the evidence as good or bad. We analyze and evaluate it. We collaborate it. Part of the Genealogical Proof Standard of ethics and practices genealogists live by states that “complete and accurate source citations” or evidence must come from at least two separate, verifiable, informants. In other words, two witnesses, so to speak.

For example, to determine my grandfather’s birth date, a man raised for many years in an orphanage in Portland, Oregon, who knew his parents, I have no birth certificate, but dozens of records indicating he was born on Sept. 29 or 30th, 1903, 1904, or 1906 in Michigan, Washington, or Canada, or somewhere in between. After years of research, I could’ve concluded he was born on 29 Sep 1904 based on the quantity of answers. Then I realized that he provided information for every record. He was the informant. Someone must have told him that these were his birth days, and he played around with the birth year for gain, lying to get into the military at an older age, pensions collected early, etc. We may never know, but in analyzing the information, I learned more about my grandfather and his relationship to his birth.

Onto the game, “How Many Records,” we asked participants to come up with as many record sources to answer the research question:

What is the birth date of Sally Smith born in the US in the 1960s?

My team came up with almost 50 answers, so it was fun to see how many the group thought of.

  1. Baptismal Records
  2. Birth Certificates
  3. Birth Records
  4. Cemetery (tombstones)
  5. Census, Federal
  6. Chancery Court Records
  7. Church newsletters
  8. Church records
  9. Compiled Genealogies
  10. Confirmation Records
  11. Consent Papers
  12. Court Records
  13. Criminal Records
  14. Death Certificates
  15. Divorce Certificates
  16. Divorce Papers
  17. Draft Records
  18. Driver’s License
  19. Employment Records
  20. Family Bible Records
  21. Family Pedigree Books
  22. Funeral Home Records
  23. Funeral Records
  24. Hospital Records (Archives)
  25. International Genealogical Index
  26. Land/Property Records
  27. Marriage Applications
  28. Marriage License
  29. Marriage Records
  30. Memberships
  31. Military Records
  32. Newspapers (birth)
  33. Newspapers (death)
  34. Newspapers (marriage)
  35. Obituary
  36. Online Family Trees
  37. Parish Records
  38. Passports
  39. Pension Files
  40. Personal Letters/Papers/Diaries
  41. Photo Albums/Scrapbooks
  42. Photographs
  43. Probate Records
  44. Returns and Registers
  45. Social Security Death Index
  46. Tax Records
  47. Town Histories
  48. Yearbooks
  49. Ask the living

Again, these may offer either direct or indirect evidence to answer the question.

When you start any family history research plan, this is the process to go through. You create a very specific research question, list all the sources that may provide an answer, then make a plan to find each of the records until you have enough information to draw a well-formed conclusion on the answer.

Upcoming Events

We highly recommend you become involved with your local genealogy and family history society or group. Check out a list of them from the US Federation of Genealogy Societies (FGS), FamilySearch Wiki’s List of US Genealogy Societies, and your state and providence historical societies and governments. Also consider joining the Virtual Genealogical Association, a new society based on the web and irrespective of geographic locale.

Rootstech LogoRootsTech has announced two conferences this coming year, one in Salt Lake City, Feb 27-March 2, 2019, and a new one in London, England, Oct 24-26, 2019. The Salt Lake City conference opens registration September 20.

2018 Virtual Genealogy Fair with US Archives.The Annual Free Virtual Genealogy Fair with the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is Wednesday, October 24, 2018, from 10AM – 4PM EDT. We will be Live Streaming the day-long event in Altspace, so please join us. Desktop/2D access is recommended.

For information about local and international genealogy and family history events, check out ConferenceKeeper and their calendar.

Q&A and Things to Know

As this was our first meeting, much of the meeting was spent discussion the future of this meetup.

Please note that because we will have speakers over time as well as educational and informative events, it is good to know that there are two free ways to access Altspace.

  1. Virtual Reality: Using a headset, such as Samsung Gear, Oculus Go, Rift, or another, means your eyes will be covered, making it a challenge to take notes.
  2. 2D/Desktop: Altspace installs directly to your computer or phone as an independent program or app. Once installed, you may enter Altspace in 2D on your Windows or Mac machine, using your mouse and keyboard to navigate, or your phone with the option “without headset.” Both methods are “eyes-free,” meaning your hands are free to type or take notes during the meetup.

We will be continuing with these basic family history workshops for the next month or so. We are also working on presenting and bringing in guest speakers on the following topics per your feedback (keep it coming):

  • 3D Tools and Modeling
  • AR Tools and Apps
  • Certification
  • Digitization
  • DNA
  • Genealogy Technology
  • Research Organization
  • Industry News
  • Regional Research
  • Research Techniques
  • Society Issues and Challenges
  • Study/Research Groups
  • VR Applications
  • Genealogy Software and Applications
  • Genealogy Mobile Apps

Much thanks also goes to my assistants, Darrell Gulstrom (“Darrell”), professional genealogist, and Kelly P. Leonard (“Kelly”), teacher and family historian.

If you would like to volunteer to help or present on a family history topic, please let us know. I am “Relle” in Altspace or you may also use the contact form on this site to connect with us.

The next meeting is 8 Oct 2018 at 6PM PDT. Hope to see you there!