Monday, June 30, 2014

The Writing Life Blog Hop June 30, 2014

Image Credit: ID 1223590

Fellow genealogist, Shannon Combs Bennett, asked me to participate in a writing life blog hop. It sounded interesting because it allows the reader to get into the head of various writers so I agreed. You can see who next week’s featured writer is at the end of this post. 

So here goes.

What writing am I working on?

Right now I’m primarily working on blog posts for my personal blog, The Turning of Generations and The In-Depth Genealogist as well as articles for Going In-Depth, the digital magazine published at The In-Depth Genealogist. I also have two articles in the works for publication in other magazines. A future project I plan to begin working on is publishing my grandfather’s World War I letters. Since I want to include historical background, this project will include quite a bit of research.

I am also regularly asked to give presentations on various family history topics. It seems like I get one talk developed and almost immediately begin working on another. The process to develop a talk is similar to writing. The end product is just slightly different since it’s comprised of a Power Point presentation and spoken words instead of written words. You can see my presentation topics on the "Presentations & Workshops" tab of this blog. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Since my interests are eclectic, my writing reflects this.

Why do I write what I do?
There are a number of reasons why I write what I do. First and foremost, I write about topics I enjoy and know something about which for the most part is family history and genealogy. But there are other reasons I write too:

  • I write to learn. The process of writing about a subject causes me to learn more about it. 
  • I write to share what I’ve learned with others. It’s a way of giving back. I’ve learned from reading others writings so it makes sense to help others. Blogging is perfect for this. 
  •  I write to get my research in order. The process of writing up a genealogical research problem or question, shows where the holes are in my research are which I can then work to fill.
  • Finally, I write to preserve the stories and lives of my family and ancestors. It only take a couple of generations before they are lost if they are not written down and shared!
How does my writing process work?
My writing usually begins with some sort of brainstorming session using a mind map or an outline. I use an old fashioned composition book as a combination planner, to do list and writing organizer so my outlines and mind maps usually begin there. Sometimes my “outline” is a list. Other times it’s a full blown outline. It just depends on the project.

Once I begin actually writing, I move over to either Word or Scrivener depending on the project. If the writing project has a major research component, Scrivener is an excellent tool because I can pull documents and notes into the project for quick reference.

Now let's meet next week’s featured author.

William Leverne Smith aka "Dr. Bill"
William Leverne Smith aka "Dr. Bill" is an author, writer, creator of "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga historical fiction stories, and an avid reader, as well. His fiction is published in novels, novella, ebooks, and short stories on multiple media platforms. 

Dr. Bill is an active blogger at Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories  and non-fiction writer, as well. He has published five family history related books and writes a monthly column as The Heritage Tourist in The In-Depth Genealogist; he was an original contributor to this digi-mag. 

One of his blogs, The Kinnick Project records the daily transcriptions of his mother's diaries, 75 years ago today.

Blog Hop History
This particular blog hop started in April 2014 by Ellen Barone on The Internal Traveler.   If you follow the links backwards you will see a wide variety of writing genres represented.  If you Google “Blog Hop Ellen Barone” you can see a sampling of what I am talking about.  Also, you can read the post Shannon wrote on her blog and the other writers she featured there too!

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Poster - Part 4

This is the fourth and final post in a series about my experiences with rehumidifying and flattening oversize documents and photographs based on Denise Levenick's, "Photo Tutorial: How to Relax and Rehumidity Old Rolled Photographs and Documents."

The last item I flattened is an old panorama poster circa 1920s-1930s. So like the previous photographs I flattened, it's long but this poster is on heavy paper.

This item is a little longer than the photograph from Part 3. Since my experience with the bathtub didn't work so well, I decided to stick with the "humidifying chamber" and drape the partially unrolled poster over the edges of the rack, like I did with the second picture in Part 3. This was a bit nerve wracking because the poster was just long enough that it might droop into the water at the bottom of the chamber. I decided to try it anyway.

The short version is that after only a short time, I discovered one edge in the water! Panic! I removed the poster and quickly got it between the sheets of blotting paper and weight it down. I prayed the poster wasn't ruined. It didn't look like it was when I pulled it out. As you can see, everything is OK. If you look closely, you can see a slight water line along the right hand side of the poster.

I hope you've enjoyed this series and are encouraged to attempt to unroll some of your oversize documents and pictures. Just take heed of the mistakes and lessons I learned the hard way! As Denise said in her post, "For your first project, select a photo or document that is NOT a priceless heirloom."

Other posts in this series:
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 1
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 2
Relaxing and Rehumidifying Photographs - Part 3

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Relaxing and Rehumidifying Photographs - Part 3

This is the third post in a series about my experiences with rehumidifying and flattening oversize documents and photographs based on Denise Levenick's, "Photo Tutorial: How to Relax and Rehumidity Old Rolled Photographs and Documents." Also, reader Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana had some excellent observations in the comments section of Part 1 that you might want to read.

I had long narrow items that needed to be unrolled. One is a poster. The other a photograph. Both presented new challenges and provided me with the opportunity to commit errors. Hopefully you will learn from what I did wrong!

First the photograph. It went into the "humidification chamber," like the other items before it. After a bit, I was able to somewhat unroll it.

The next step is where I ran into trouble. The photograph is too long for the chamber. Denise suggested using a bathtub and closing up the room. So I gave it a try.

And this is where I ran into trouble and I only have myself to blame!

First, the document dried out. I just could not get that room to become humid. Period. Remember, I'm in Phoenix, Arizona. You've heard the saying, "But it's a dry heat." Well, heat or not, we live in a very dry climate. As I write this post in June 2014, the humidity outside is 3%. Let me rewrite that - three percent. When I did this little experiment in early spring, the humidity was double: 7%. If I were to do this experiment again. And I probably will. I'll wait until monsoon season so we at least have some humidity to work with from the get go.

Second, I think it would have been better to lay a flat surface on top of the racks. Then lay the picture on the flat surface. Again, my bad.

This was the result:

You see those little cracks along the bottom? I don't know if they were there to begin with but we are trying to avoid those.

So I tried another long photograph. It wasn't quite as long as the first one so, after making sure the ends wouldn't end up in the water, I went back to my original method I used with the documents. It worked beautifully.
After spending time under the blotting paper with weights on top, this photograph came out with no cracks.

Next I attempted to unroll what I'll call an old panorama poster. It was looong. Longer than any of the other items. And boy did I screw up!

Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 1
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 2
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Poster - Part 4

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 2

Denise Levenick wrote some excellent instructions for rehumidifying old photos and documents that have been rolled up so that they will lay flat. If you haven't read her post, "Photo Tutorial: How to Relax and Rehumidity Old Rolled Photographs and Documents," you should. Also, Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana had some excellent observations in the comments section of Part 1. I'll wait while you catch up and then we'll talk about my second experience with flattening an oversize document that spent many decades rolled up.

This is my great grandfather's college diploma from 1891 so there's no telling how long it spent in this condition. I'm pretty sure it's been like this since long before I was born. Because of this and it’s large size I was faced with a bigger challenge than with the last document.

There was no way I could unroll it inside the large plastic bin I was using. So I improvised which made me very nervous.  After it had begun to rehumidify, I unrolled the diploma just enough for it to hang over the edges of the rack it was sitting on. I was careful to be sure it didn’t touch the sides of the plastic bin. and that it wouldn’t droop low enough to dip into the water at the bottom of the bin.

Since I was nervous about the whole set up, I didn’t leave the diploma like that for very long at all. In the end, I definitely should have left it longer. This is what the diploma looks like right out of the rehumidification chamber.

This is what it looked like after a couple of weeks under the blotting paper.  Not bad but I can’t help but think the ends would have ended up flatter if I had just given it more time to rehumidify.

Next up are the long photographs and a poster. The results were mixed in part because of operator error (me) so you will definitely want to read the post. I hope you learn from my mistake!

Other posts in this series:
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 1
Relaxing and Rehumidifying Photographs - Part 3
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Poster - Part 4 

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Monday, June 23, 2014

Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 1

Back in July 2013, Denise Levenick, over at her blog, The Family Curator, wrote about flattening photos and documents that had been rolled up.

Since I have quite a few of those myself, I decided to give her instructions a try. You really should read her post. She does an excellent job of explaining the background and providing instructions. Head over and read it, then come back. I'll be waiting.

OK so now that you have a better understanding of what Denise did, here are my results.

First, I selected a smaller document that spent several decades being rolled up so it wasn't about to flatten out on its own.

Into the "humidification chamber" it went.

After about 8 hours, I was able to unroll it. I was surprised at how much the humidity changes the feel and flexibility of the paper.

After about another 10 hours I pulled the document from the chamber and placed it on the blotting paper.

Another layer of blogging paper was placed over the document. Then a bunch of the biggest, heaviest books I own were placed on top. I left town for a couple of weeks and forgot all about it.

Here's what it looked like upon my return. Pretty slick eh?

Note: The 8 hours and 10 hours is just how long I happened to leave the document in the humidification chamber. Maybe it could have been done in a shorter amount of time, maybe not. I also wonder how much the humidity in the surrounding environment affects this process. Here in Arizona, our humidity is pretty low. Sometimes it's almost non-existent. Seriously. It was 7% recently outside. Inside the house the humidity approached 20%. So maybe rehumidification takes longer? I don't know.

Next I tried an over sized document that had been rolled up much longer. This one proved to be more of a challenge. Check back tomorrow to see how that went.

Other posts in this series: 

Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 2
Relaxing and Rehumidifying Photographs - Part 3
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Poster - Part 4 

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jean Wilcox Hibben Presenting at FHSA Seminar March 15

There's still time to register. Details below.

The Family History Society of Arizona's Seminar being held March 15, 2014, features Jean Wilcox Hibben. A Board-Certified genealogist, Jean is the Director of the Corona California Family History Center and is also an occasional volunteer at the Pacific Region Facility of the National Archives in Riverside County. She was the lead researcher for the PBS television program Genealogy Roadshow. Jean is a national speaker known for her entertaining, as well as informative, presentations and is a frequent writer for various genealogy publications.
Time: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm with registration beginning at 8:00 am.
Date: March 15, 2014
Location: First United Methodist Church 5510 N Central, Phoenix, AZ 85012. Cost: $35.00 for FHSA members, $40 for non-members/walk-ins ($5 applied to $20 annual membership dues if you join). Includes a box lunch plus morning continental breakfast snacks. After March 1, everyone pays $40 (lunch not guaranteed).
Clue to Clue: Tracking a Family over Time and Miles
Deduction v. Induction in Genealogical Research: Applying Logic Theory to Family History
Bringing your Civil War Ancestor Back to Life: Songs & Stories of the War of the Rebellion
Researching German Records When You Live in America and Don't Speak German
For additional information, please visit

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Roots Tech - Three Things I Learned on Saturday

The only session I attended in person on Saturday was the Advanced Metadata Workshop given by Randy Whited.

For anyone not familiar with the concept of metadata, Randy had a great example. Metadata is simply data about data. So for a book (data) the title page is metadata. It's data about what's in the book. We usually think in terms of metadata and digital files which is what Randy's session primarily covered. Three things I learned:
  1. XnView is freeware that allows you to view, edit, batch process, batch rename and manage metadata (IPTC). I've had this program for eons but had forgotten how much I like it. Randy showed us how to resize the "canvas" your image is on and add text, such as a citation. XnView allows you to do this in batches. Perfect for adding citations to those land files I obtained at NARA in January.
  2. ExifToolGUI is another freeware that allows batch processing of your files. I was intrigued because you can see and work with the various standards for digital metadata (EXIF, IPTC and XMP).
  3. Windows Explorer allows you to add comments to the comments field and then view later on. It's good for people who are tabular in their thinking. I've been staring at that comments field for years and never gave much thought to doing anything with it.
One last tip. If you download an image from, copy their citation into the comments field in properties in your image file. It may not be in the format that you want but at least you have the citation information.

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

RootsTech Exhibit Hall Wanderings - Part 3

I've been asked which of the smaller vendors in the RoosTech Exhibit Hall really wowed me.  Here are 4 of my favorites. (Note: read all the way to the end for some fun.)

  1. Treelines. Winner of the 2013 RootsTech Developer Challenge, I first heard about this company during Blaine Bettingers presentation, Begging for Spit. Treelines is for recording family stories. Each page can contain an image and text. It looks like an excellent way to share photos and documents and the related information with other family members. Their website has public examples to peruse although you can also make your stories private.
  2. Family Chart Masters. Their custom family charts are a work of art. They also can make inexpensive working charts for you as well. One of these days, when my family tree is a little more filled in, I'm going to have one made. One of these days.
  3. Genealogy Gems. I'm a huge fan of Lisa Louise Cooke. She's partly responsible for the existence of this blog. And she literally changed my genealogical life through her Genealogy Gems podcast. During her Google Earth presentation in the Demo Theatre, I learned a couple of things to share with you.
    1. David Rumsey maps are now part of Google Earth and can be "snapped" onto a Google Earth view.
    2. Newberry County Boundary Maps can be downloaded into Google Earth.
  4. MagiCensus. This product caught my eye because I manually update Word tables with census research to analyze the data and see where the holes are. Apparently this product can do automatically what I have been doing manually. It definitely has me intrigued. 

Last but not least a little exhibit hall fun. FamilySearch had a booth where they were showing off the scanners that have been installed in many FamilySearch Centers. People can bring their photos and documents in, scan them, put them in their FamilySearch account and attach the digitized item to people in their trees.

The booth had a scrolling photo wall and computers with templates where you could take your picture, insert your face in the template and it would appear on the scrolling wall. You could also email the pictures to yourself. Here's my photo (well one of them...snicker...):

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I was not paid by nor have I received anything in compensation for writing about these products.

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

James Tanner Presenting at Sunland Springs Village February 22

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

RootsTech - Three Things I learned in Each Session on Friday

On Friday at RootsTech, I attended three sessions. Here are three things I learned in each session.

Image courtesy of Photokanok /
Begging for Spit – Blaine Bettinger
Is this a great title for a presentation or what?

1.     You will approach people differently depending on your purpose, whether or not they are a relative (well a close relative-you know what I mean) and whether you even know the individual. Examples of purposes for collecting DNA include:
o   Surname study (Y-DNA)
o   Chromosome mapping
o   Testing a specific hypothesis
2.     Engage your “relative” to generate interest in your project on their part. You can approach this in two ways:
a.       Show how the test will benefit them. For example, explain the test will provide information about their ethnicity. This appeals to genealogists and non-genealogists. It’s important to explain the limitations however.
b.      Show how the test will benefit others. If you are doing a chromosome mapping project, you could explain their participation will help complete as much of the chromosome map as possible.
c.       Bottom line: There is no formula. You need to step back and figure out the best way to communicate to and engage whoever it is you want to contribute DNA.
3.     Keep it simple. People are busy. Keep your communications and explanations short and simple.

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young
Will Your Family History Have Lasting Value? Tom Jones

1.     Make your top genealogical priority to do what future genealogists can’t by obtaining oral histories from living people, gathering and labeling family photographs, documents, artifacts, etc.
2.     Gather DNA. The only limit is how much you can afford to collect.
3.     Continually educate yourself to improve your research skills. Those starting their genealogical journey today have a huge advantage because there are so many educational opportunities available now.
Technology for Deciphering Foreign Language Records – Randy Whited
This is one of those sessions where I learned as much from the question and answer period as the presentation itself.
1.     Since most of the foreign language documents we are interested in are at least partially handwritten, it’s important get them into a machine readable program like Word. You may need a table with diacritic marks. Google “diacritic marks” or “character map.”
2.     Word can be set up to proof a document in the language you want to translate from.
3.     Then you can use Google Translate or another tool to perform a translation
Sounds easy eh? That’s only three things I learned.
Stay tuned for what I learned on Saturday.

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Saturday, February 8, 2014

RootsTech Exhibit Hall Wanderings Part 2

I've been spending a fair amount of time in the RootsTech exhibit hall this year. Instead of rushing off to a luncheon each day, I packed my own lunch and ate in the exhibit hall (usually while hanging around the demo area (see picture of awesome couches). Also, I traded going to one session each day with wandering around, talking to vendors and spending money. It worked out well in that I found myself re-energized because I had been moving around instead of sitting.

The soda counter has been much appreciated. Did I mention the sodas, lemonade, etc. is free? Also, they have water stations out in the halls. It's easy to get dehydrated in Salt Lake City with the low humidity and high altitude.

One thing I noticed is that when I make a purchase, the vast majority of the time, the receipt is emailed to me. No paper receipts to keep track of. Also, I don't feel the vendors are pushing as much paper in the way of brochures and fliers. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of brochures and cards to be picked up if you want but I'm finding that I have less paper at the end of the day than in years past and that is just fine by me.

I visited with the folks at and People Finders. Renewed subscriptions with GenealogyBank and Fold3. Gotta love the conference specials they offer. I also ended up getting a subscription with I'd been thinking about it for a while anyway. While I was chatting with Peter Drinkwater about my new subscription, he mentioned he was giving a demo in the demo theatre shortly. (See above picture of super comfy couches and you'll know where I headed next!)

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies also has a booth. I'd been contemplating signing up for some more classes and ended up buying another package. It turns out I'm not all that far from earning my PLCGS from them. So now I'm committed!

No genealogy conference is complete unless you visit Mia's Books and Family Roots Publishing. The later has a small booth this year and a large room over in the Plaza Hotel. On the way to the Family History Library. Yes, I bought a couple of books.

More soon...

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Friday, February 7, 2014

RoosTech - Exhibit Hall Wanderings - Part 1

The exhibit hall this year has doubled in size to accommodate more vendors and double the crowds. I spent quite a bit of time in there during lunch and in the afternoon. While it was busy, I never felt like it was overcrowded.

I'll write about my experiences as I get a few minutes here and there.

NGS (National Genealogical Society) - During a conversation with NGS President Jordan Jones and later during a presentation by Jordan and NGS Education Manager, Patricia Walls Stamm, I learned more about the revamping of theNGS Home Study course.

I knew they were rolling it out in pieces. What I didn't understand was that the two courses currently available at the NGS website, are part of what was formerly the Home Study Course. Those two courses are:

American Genealogical Studies: The Basics
American Genealogical Studies: Guide to Documentation & Source Citation - just released
The first several modules for American Genealogical Studies will roll out soon. Each one builds on the previous so you need to take them in order (think prerequisite).

By the way, the presentation was in the Backblaze Demo Theatre. I really appreciated the comfy chairs at the end of a long day!

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 © 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

RootsTech - Three Things I Learned in Each Session Today

It's been a long, exhilarating but also exhausting day. Before drifting off into dreamland, I want to share a few things I learned today in the sessions I attended at RootsTech. But first a plug for FamilySearch's indexing initiative for obituaries. Straight from the mouth of Jack Sparrow.

Dead men tell no tales... but their obituaries do!

I hope you help with the obituary indexing project.

Genetic Genealogy Demystified: Reading and Understanding Your Family Tree DNA Results - Elise Friedman

This was a computer lab session and was billed as intermediate. So if you know nothing about DNA, this might look like a foreign language to you.
  1. Mitochondrial DNA - I learned that CRS stands for Cambridge Reference Sequence. This is the first mitochondrial sequencing that was ever done. Everyone is compared to this and you are told where you differ.
  2. Mitochondrial DNA - RSRS stands for Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence. This is what has been reconstructed of early human sequencing. So your differences are compared to this.
  3. Family Finder - Population Finder - Some members of my family have a pretty high percentage of Orcadian ancestry. The Orkney Islands are off the north coast of Scotland. I thought this was rather odd. It turns out this is a catch all for western European ancestry.
Real World Cases from the Desk of a Genetic Genealogy Professional - CeCe Moore
  1. Each case CeCe presented had a similar theme. Start with a question, review what you know, decide the next DNA testing steps to take and the next research steps to take. Does this sound familiar? It's pretty much the same as the way we do plain 'ol genealogical research. The main difference is the DNA aspect.
  2. Most of the cases she discussed involved building out the suspected ancestor's family tree and building out the tree of the suspected match. It's a lot of work to get an answer. But then genealogical research is a lot of work too.
  3. I want to read the book, The Hemmingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

Electric FANS - Jennifer Dondero

FANS here refers to Friends, Associates and Neighbors.
  1. Pivot tables in Excel are great for keeping track of FANS. I need to relearn how to make and use a pivot table. It's been years.
  2. Mind mapping can be a good tool. Jennifer likes Mind Meister. This is something that probably would never have occurred to me.
  3. Word Processing software is good if you have a small project.
I'll be back with an exhibit hall post. For now, good night!

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Thursday, February 6, 2014

RootsTech 2014 Innovator Summit

This week is RootsTech. Care to guess where I am?

For a brief summary of the day, check out my post over at The In-Depth Genealogist, "RootsTech Day One."

More will follow both here and The In-Depth Genealogist so stay tuned...

© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Geeking Out on DNA at the APG Conference

Image courtesy of
cooldesign /

The Association of Professional Genealogists held their annual conference in Salt Lake City on January 10 and 11th. Since it was right before the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), it was the perfect excuse to spend a couple extra days in Genealogy Mecca. Saturday's schedule included a two hour workshop with CeCe Moore titled, "Advanced DNA for Professionals."

It. Was. Exactly. What. I. Needed. Now I'm no expert on DNA but I do understand the basics and need to learn how to use the tools to understand and analyze the results.

CeCe spent time primarily on autosomal DNA after briefly discussing Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA. She emphasized that what your goals are will define which DNA test to use. Then you must test the right people. In other words, target who you test.

The big takeaway for me was the explanation and demonstration of Don Worth's ADSA (Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer) Tool for use with ftDNA (FamilyTreeDNA). The tool had just become available and is pretty awesome because it will create a spreadsheet for you that will allow you to analyze your matches. Previously, you had to create your own spreadsheets which can take hours. You can learn more at

Another big takeaway is that you need to look to matches with strands that are say 20-30 centimorgans in common with you. This makes it more likely that you will have a common ancestor within reasonable time frame (say 300 years).

On Sunday, I sat down with Oldest Daughter who really understands the technicalities of DNA and went over my results. We came up with some questions that I was able to get answered by Angie Bush, who also helped with CeCe's presentation. Oldest Daughter wants to do DNA mapping. Yippee! She's interested in genealogy. Well, sort of. Anyway, we have a couple of family members we need to have tested in order to work on that project. Needless to say, I'm all over it.

Now if I can just figure out how to ask my "targets" for their DNA for my Ballinger project...Perhaps Blaine Bettinger's presentation at RootsTech called, "Begging for Spit" will help.

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum