Reflecting on 2023 and gearing up for 2024

It’s been a busy year in genetic genealogy! I’m getting a head start on reviewing the year as I plan for 2024.

You can still find me as a coach over at Your DNA Guide. Through that opportunity, I’ve connected with many people learning how powerful DNA can be to support their understanding of their family and themselves.

In addition to creating course content and coaching people at Your DNA Guide, I’ve worked with clients who are surfacing their family’s involvement in slavery. It’s an honour and privilege to support efforts to face history. Much of this work is on WikiTree as part of the US Black Heritage Project.

I’ve also enjoyed many great educational opportunities such as the 15th Annual Conference on Genetic Genealogy and the National Genealogical Society’s course on Empowering Genealogists with AI.

I’ve also provided educational opportunities for WikiTree, the Linked Descendants group at Coming to the Table, and the Indiana African American Genealogy Group. I am doing one more presentation this year for the Virtual Genealogical Association.

Next year, I’m looking forward to revamping this website, offering a hands-on course for people getting started with their DNA, and being part of an instructor team at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh for a course coordinated by my teammate at Your DNA Guide, Kelli Bergheimer. I’ll be coaching participants in all of the Your DNA Guide courses and supporting other Academy Offerings. As part of the Your DNA Guide team, I will be attending RootsTech. I’ll be speaking for a couple of genealogy societies and expect to have a chance to work with others as the year unfolds.

Working on my own genealogy has included moving more of my family to WikiTree. This includes the ancestors of my grandchildren, which has given me an opportunity to work with more DNA testers and explore records in new geographic areas! I continue to make slow progress on some of my own DNA puzzles.

Thanks for following me on this journey!

The year 2022 in blogging

It’s that time of year when people look back to reflect and look forward to wonder. I began the year 2022 with an internal pledge to blog regularly. I set up an every-other-week reminder within my task-management software, Omnifocus for Mac (based on Getting Things Done by David Allen). I exceeded my goal and published 33 blogs here in 2022. I focused on the things I care about:

  • History and Identity
  • Impacts
  • Genetic Genealogy
  • Documentary Research
  • My Family History

In my first post of 2022 I wrote:

I study family history because it forms the foundation of who I am and how I think and act. An understanding of where I come from gives me strength and gives me pause. I have discovered inspiring stories and tragic ones. I have marvelled at the steps my ancestors took (literally) that led to my presence and wondered at their inhumanity. Curiosity and the quest for meaning shape my journey. And sometimes that meaning requires action. The action can be reporting on what I’ve discovered or taking steps to address historical wrongs.

The blog that most clearly captures that theme is this one from February. I expect to continue uncovering and facing my family’s past and sharing it here and on WikiTree.

Throughout the year, there are blog posts telling about new tools, reminders about tried-and-true research approaches, and touching stories encountered during research.

In September I embarked on several journeys. One I wrote about here. I volunteered as a peer group leader for Family Locket’s Research Like a Pro Study Group. Genealogy is good for your brain (another theme of my first blog entry of 2022), and one way I do that is through continuing education. As a peer group leader, I read many other people’s research as well as working on my own. And as is more common than not, it will take several phases of research until I consider the project “done.” (Done in a genealogical sense, meaning that new evidence could lead to a reassessment and new conclusions.)

Another journey took me on a new path. I was invited to join the team at Your DNA Guide. This launched an intense period of getting to know all the amazing offerings at Your DNA Guide and figuring out how I could support the mission: “Strengthening personal identity so people can connect to their families and communities.” I’ve contributed a couple of blog entries (you can find those here and here.) I’ve started coaching students in Your DNA Guide courses. And I’ve taken on project management for the Academy courses. It’s an exciting time in a growing company whose mission I care deeply about.

A third journey is one of friendship. A genealogy joy of 2022 is an ongoing relationship with two genetic genealogy buddies. We have plans. We have dreams. And we have real lives. Some of our plans may come to be, who knows?

So what does all this mean for 2023? I think I’m going to pause that reminder on blogging. I want to write when I feel moved to write. One recent blog was inspired by a new client who is enthusiastic about learning genealogy to face their own family’s history. I continue to be drawn to and repelled by my family’s contribution to colonization and slavery. I expect to continue to share what I learn about that here and on WikiTree. And when new and exciting things come around, I might be inspired to write. But as a task, I don’t think blogging serves me well.

Thanks for being here. And doing what feeds your soul.

Learning more about genealogy research

The internet continues to excel at what it was designed to do: Share information. For family history researchers, the free sharing of methods and resources has transformed a pastime that was once championed by the elite eager to prove descendancy from royalty to a hobby that proves we are one family.

I’ve compiled a list of free resources and learning opportunities for people who are just getting started or want to make sure their documentary genealogy research is on a firm foundation.

FamilySearch: FamilySearch is the largest database of free genealogy records and guidance on how to do genealogy. The FamilySearch Wiki is one of the first places I turn when starting a new project.

  • Research Resources: This part of the Wiki includes a section on Beginning Genealogy with a section on the research process, tips on choosing software, how to use the Wiki and research tools. There is more information on this page than any one genealogist knows.
  • Guided Research: This feature of the Wiki will walk you through how to research birth, marriage and death records in many localities around the world. Use the map to identify the locality you want and follow the links.
  • Main Wiki Page: From the main page, you can find the resources available for any locality, down to the county level in the US.

National Genealogical Society: This membership group has been around for over 100 years and publishes the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the most prestigious genealogy publication. Recent diversity and inclusion efforts are encouraging.

African American Research: The continued efforts to share records related to African American history and the legacy of enslavement has meant more is possible than ever. Because of systematic attempts to hide the reality of slavery, records can be hard to find. African American research does require a great deal of persistence and unique approaches to discovering ancestors.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars presents genealogists talking about what they do best. Members have access to the full library of recordings, and many recordings are free for the first week.

  • Register here for free live webinars and check out other pre-recorded webinars on the same page.

Family History Research Companies all have free resources, often as a blog or as a series of videos. Taking the time to learn from their experts can make your research more efficient.

I set aside time every week to continue to learn more about family history research. I’m grateful there are free resources for researchers of all experience levels.

Fun with Time Travel, AI style

Genealogy can be serious work. Searching for unknown parents, trying to untangle twisted bits of information, and checking everywhere a reasonable genealogist would check for evidence…it all takes time and dedication.

For a diversion, I recently used MyHeritage’s AI Time MachineTM to imagine myself in other places and times. The program asks you to upload as many as 25 photos of yourself: portrait, profile, upper body and full body. Tip: Hats seem to throw if off, so upload your photos of yourself without hats! I am almost always wearing a baseball cap when outdoors, and ended up with some distorted images. I wear glasses and did have a recent passport photo of me without glasses which seemed helpful. In some images there are ghosts of my glasses. I did use the photo program on my Mac to clean up a few with weird blotches that were ghosts from either my long hair or my glasses. The program takes some time and uses Artificial Intelligence (that’s the AI part). More about the technology here. When the program is ready, you then choose various places and times and have yourself placed in the style and clothing of that era.

Here are some of my favourites starting with the furthest back in time:

16th Century Royalty

The fact that so many of the choices provided in the AI Time MachineTM involve royalty reminded me of this quote from the movie, Bull Durham: “How come in former lifetimes, everybody is someone famous? How come nobody ever says they were Joe Schmo?” –Crash Davis

I’m pretty sure my family were serfs.

18th Century France

This one from 18th Century France was kind of fun. This would be the last part of the 18th Century when hairstyles were tall and exotic. The hairstyles of the day sometimes made political statements or included a ship model. If you decide you want do your hair like this, here’s a tutorial.

US, Civil War Era

By the time we get to the Civil War Era, it’s possible that photos of our own families have survived. I do have a copy of a photo of my 2x great-grandfather, Jesse Workman, in his Civil War uniform. He served in the 119th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry. There are also photos of some of my 2x great-grandmother, Sarah Jane (Ellis) Davis around this time period.


By the time we get to the 1920’s, I have more family photos. It’s fun to see some family resemblances start to come through. The MyHeritage models were much better off financially than most of my ancestors, though!

And since it is a Time Machine, we can go forward into the future. My husband and I often talk about the fact that we really thought space travel would be common in our lifetime. Here is my fantasy future:

Future Me

If you aren’t on MyHeritage, consider giving it a try, not just for the fun AI Time MachineTM but for all the other benefits. You may find additional DNA matches (especially from Europe), helpful genetic communities, great DNA tools, and additional records you might not find anywhere else. And do have fun imagining yourself throughout history!

Research Like a Pro Week 10: Productivity and Further Education

This is the final week that I am serving as a peer group leader for Family Locket and the Research Like a Pro Study group. It’s been fun, useful and I’ve made progress on my Stoker family project! The focus for the last week was on productivity and further education.

I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach for several years now. I was introduced to it at work. I use Omnifocus for Mac to help me stay organized. It is designed around the Getting Things Done approach. I really don’t know how I would keep track of different client projects, my own work and even household reminders if I didn’t have Omnifocus.

I began keeping a yearly education plan when I was in ProGen 46 almost 3 years ago. My study buddy from ProGen and I update our plans yearly and give each other feedback. My plan focuses on genetic genealogy. New tools keep the field lively! I also continue to gain skills and experience in African American research. I have reminders in Omnifocus for weekly webinars on a range of topics. Most of the webinars I attend are sponsored by Legacy Family Tree, American Ancestors, the Virtual Genealogical Association or ICAPGen’s great YouTube channel. I have tentative plans to attend RootsTech in March of 2023.

I hope that sharing my experience with the Research Like a Pro Study group has encouraged you! It’s a big time commitment and worth the effort.