Having just finished the genealogy presentation for the September Brown Bag Lecture Series, I think it would be a good idea to recap the major points of my talk so that they are available to everyone online. The talk was broken down into three major parts:
• Resources at the SLHC: published/unpublished records and unique documents
• Online genealogical research
• DNA and genealogy
In the introduction I tried to show how despite the enormous growth of genealogical research since the advent of the World Wide Web, it is important to use resources such as the SLHC because there is still vast amounts of genealogical information that is not available online and may never be online.
Genealogical research has exploded in the past twenty years or so. Since the dawn of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, hundreds (maybe even thousands) of websites dedicated to helping people uncover their family histories and share information have been created. Besides the huge growth of online research and information sharing provided by these websites, new DNA technology, also available online, has made proving one’s genetic ancestry possible. At the same time, libraries and archives have in their collections vast amounts of genealogical resources that have not been, and may never be, made available online and which can only be found offline. Contemporary genealogical research is then both traditional and innovative. In either case, claims of ancestry will always have to be proven with records and other documents, whether found in a library or online. DNA also has its limits. The facts in genealogical research have not changed, only the speed and efficiency of discovering some of them has.
Part I: Resources at the SLHC
Genealogical resources at the SLHC range from publications such as family histories and state archives that can be found in most good genealogical libraries to unique manuscripts from our collection which have never, and may never, be available to researchers other than those who visit our library. The general list of resources at the SLHC include: family histories, immigration records, newspapers, church records, census records, tax lists, military records (state archives, etc.), periodicals, directories, deeds, land drafts, family bibles, birth and baptismal certificates (taufscheins), wills and estate papers, diaries, funeral home records, scrapbooks, account books, research notes by other researchers, personal papers and correspondence
Part II: Online Genealogical Research
The immediate availability of information means that people can search for ancestors from the comfort of their own homes and avoid the prohibitive costs of travel and all the problems associated with researching in a library, especially when far from home. The benefits of online genealogical research include message boards dedicated to particular families or surnames that help researchers share information and even perhaps meet relatives they never imagined even existed; personal family websites allow people to upload their family history and news; unproven or unsourced claims can be scrutinized more easily since there is often more than one person researching a particular family. The downside of online research mostly is that not all information has been or may ever will be available. Also, despite saving money in travel costs, etc. there are still costs attached to many websites. Finally, you cannot believe everything you read online; claims of ancestry still need to have legitimate sources.
Part III: DNA and Genealogy
Every human cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes and these contain most of your DNA. Each chromosome of 22 pairs (or autosomes) comes from both mother and father. The 23rd chromosome determines sex: two X chromosomes = female; one X and one Y chromosome = male. Males inherit Y from father with no mixing from the mother. All of these chromosomes live in the nuclei of our cells. However, mitochondrial DNA lives outside cells’ nuclei and is passed on only from mother to child. What do DNA tests for genealogy determin?: determine if two people are related; determine if two people are descended from a common ancestor; help determine whether people with a common surname are related; give your basic ethnic makeup or origin. There are three kinds of DNA tests for genealogy: Mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA; Y DNA; Autosomal DNA.
For more information regarding this presentation or genealogical research in general, contact me, Hunt Schenkel, via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone: (215) 679-3103
Hunt Schenkel – Archivist