Learning About Tribal Research

Reflection on my journey …..

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy is over …. sigh

Leaving Salt Lake City after an incredible, intense, really fun week at SLIG – Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy.  I took the course “Exploring Native American Research”. Learning about the records of the Native tribes of the United States was so interesting, varied and we learned at depth.  We each received a different person to research, based on our personal request about learning about a particular tribe.  I had a very interesting man, Edgar L. Powell, a Choctaw man who was a long-time Methodist minister in Indian Territory.  Three marriages, five children (at least that I found) and frequently moving to serve congregations that asked him to come.

What was the best about the research on Edgar, and the Choctaw, was that the same or very similar records exist for my Lakota family.  My Métis family in Québec have different records and some the same so I’ll look into some of that later, but in the meantime, while I was at the Family History Library, I took advantage of the time to also look into some of the Lakota records.  Interesting, impactful and fun!

We had to write a short report on the person we researched, and we received some instructions from one of our instructors, Rick Fogarty (he was a great teacher!!), apparently none of us heard them!!!  LOL!  Rick said that we were all over-achievers because we went well beyond what he asked of us.  Too funny ….. the challenge of working with, teaching a group of skilled researchers who are used to doing client work and having the professional passion to do anything we do with the same attention to detail that we give to our clients.  LOL! 

Rick and fellow teacher/researcher/mom Billie Fogarty gave us SO much to think about!  Sharing about record groups, examples of ways to analyze the records, information about the kinds of records that were created for the various ways that the government and tribe would document the people.  We heard from Paula Stuart Warren about her many years of research and work in the Native/tribal research area (she had been one of my first teachers at lectures I attended back in the 1990s!), sharing many examples from a wide variety of tribes including her experiences working with tribal enrollment offices. 

Last night was the final banquet with awards, door prizes (wish I would have won!), and a really great keynote by Dr. Tom Jones, one of the early teachers that I learned from back in the 1990s.  I had the privilege of learning from him at my first institute last summer – GRIP:  Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.  I took at documentation/citations course from him to improve my ability to cite my research.

Classmates from SLIG 2019 – Native Research at the Family History Library, ready to finalize our homework; from our course with Rick and Billie Fogarty, Melissa Johnson, Paula Stuart-Warren & Paul Graham

All in all, it was both overwhelming, exciting, hard, challenging and engaging.  We had the “challenge” of a really cold room so we all were drinking hot beverages, wearing layers.  The hotel eventually figured it out and the room finally was better on Thursday and Friday.  I was so impressed with SLIG!  I really want to attend again – not sure about next year, although there are always DNA courses so that may be what I sign up for.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from such high-quality, nationally-recognized speakers. Such a memorable week!! The work of Lineage Journeys, the content that I provide to my clients will be better thanks to these great instructors – Rick and Billie Fogarty, Paula Stuart-Warren, Melissa Johnson, and Paul Graham! In the Lakota language, wopila – thank you.

Goodbye, Salt Lake City!!!!!

Ethnicity, Race and Pie Charts

Yes, it’s the new year … and how many DNA testing kits did you get as a gift? Yes, it’s a current fad and yes, it is also fun. But let me help to frame some of the issues with DNA, genealogy, testing, ethnicity vs. race and those pretty pie charts.

First, I’m a genealogist AND a scientist. I have two degrees that stress the importance of data, replication as a tool of quality and refinement, and control groups and more. And I value documentation, and proof – more than one document that provides information confirming or refuting what another document says, and a “reasonably exhaustive search” – a standard of utilizing everything that we can access to prove/disprove facts.

Second, let’s be clear – DNA testing is in its early stages. Yes, it has come a VERY long way from the 1980s when it was first used with genealogical information, and tools now available to us is far more extensive, detailed, scientifically-based that ever.

And third, there is NO biological basis for “race”. From a chemical, DNA, or cellular level, we are all 99% the same and we share chemistry, DNA and cellular structures with bananas, trees and other living things. We are carbon-based organisms that have evolved over millenium. To state, because of DNA data, that we are a particular race is just wrong – scientifically, genetically, socially and otherwise. There are plenty of research-based studies and writings that trace every human living on the planet back to Africa…..thousands and thousands of years ago. AND those pretty pie charts – with percentages and lovely colors – stating this or that percentage of DNA from Western Europe or the Iberian peninsula or wherever …. that information is based on a testing database of samples that place the same or similar DNA in a particular geography at a point in time (most of the DNA sites will offer that this ancestral DNA is from approximately a 500 to 800 year old time frame).

So, to keep it simple, if you decide to use the DNA test kits (please at least be sure to use the companies that work very hard to maintain scientific standards, privacy rights, testing protocols and ethics – these are Ancestry, 23 and Me, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and FindMyPast), there are some things to consider: 1) Please know that virtually everyone will get a surprise from their results. It may be as simple as “I didn’t know we had Scandinavian ancestors!” to as emotional as “My dad isn’t my dad??!!!” Yours truly is working her way through what a really big revelation means, so don’t take this lightly. 2) The pie chart is the LEAST of it! The database that is used for the testing is always growing and changing, refining and developing. I’ve already seen as least two updates that have changed my results – in the first one, I was Ashkenazi Jewish, then from the Iberian peninsula, and now it’s Scandinavian. The Scandinavian one actually makes sense as I know that my ancestors (from the years of doing research in the paper trails my ancestors left) were from Normandy – a region of France heavily impacted by Norman or Viking invasions … hence “Scandinavian”. THE most important part of your results is the COUSIN matching!! You will find people related to you through the DNA that you didn’t know about (I found someone a half hour from my home!) and you will have a really fun time getting to know them! Trust me – the COUSIN CONNECTION is the BEST part of DNA testing. 3) Follow the instructions. It’s easy, and perhaps a bit yucky, but it’s important. The science is built on a clean sample and your results will make sense. 4) AND know that there is a paper trail that will help you to sort it all out, with lots of helpful people to show you how to look at what you find in your results.

And don’t let anyone tell you what RACE you are – because they can’t! The results can tell you a bit about where geographically your ancestors traveled through on their way to where you are today. It will tell you a bit about ethnicity – the culture of our families, such as customs, favorite foods, holidays, dances and music, clothing styles, and possibly eye and hair colors. The testing information is based in finding clusters, clumps of DNA that reappear over and over again in a particular region, geography, locality in people in that area. I know, for instance, that on my mom’s side, our people were Native, French-Canadian, and Scottish because – and this is important – others with our similar DNA were from these identified groups because of records, documentation, and more. But it doesn’t tell me WHICH tribe, or WHERE in France or Scotland, or that level of detail. At least yet …. as more and more people are tested and can document specifics about these ancestors, we can begin to narrow down migratory trails, immigration routes and track back into time.

So please look beyond the pretty pie charts. Take time to look for the paper trail that your ancestors left to find out about their lives …. their religion, foods, homes, jobs and what made their lives worth living. You are the product of pairs of people who had a relationship that created a child …. I was going to say “pairs of people who loved” but I know that many children were born of affairs, rape and incest. In the context of their lives, the child lived and had children ….. down to you. Think about the blessing of two parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and more going back into time. Learn about that and don’t worry about whether they wore kilts or lederhosen, a sari or animal skins … find a cousin and learn about your common ancestors’ lives and the courage, stamina, and strength that helped them to thrive. Let me know if I can help ….

Amazing Speakers, Content in RootsTech 2019

Stage image

There is A LOT that is fun at RootsTech beyond the genealogy research, learning and cousin-connections happening …. it’s ALL fun, right? But the general sessions take it up a notch with some content that is inspiring, with music, prizes, and lots of enthusiasm.

A really great feature of the RootsTech website and team is that they produce a bunch of great videos that share about aspects of the conference. Here is one about the plans for the keynotes/speakers and entertainment that will be happening:
RootsTech 2019 video. As an overview, on Wednesday, Steve Rockwood (CEO of FamilySearch) will start things off with updates, what’s coming and the opening of the vendor hall. Thursday, Patricia Heaton, star from Everybody Loves Raymond, will be sharing about being a “real life” mom and a book she has written about family, motherhood and her experiences. Friday could be really emotional as star Saroo Brierley, from the movie Lion (have you seen in?? Boy becomes lost from family, is taken in by another family, later in life seeks out his birth family … very cool film!), will offer his perspective on family, belonging and connecting. Friday night is a special evening event that includes dancer Derek Hough, who will encourage everyone to get on their feet and learn some dances (…. lots of music, motion and fun!). Saturday’s closing general session will feature Jake Shimabukuro, an incredible Hawaiian ukulele artist who is fun, entertaining and VERY skilled (can you imagine Bohemian Rhapsody on ukulele!?!!!).

I was SOOOO wowed by the content of these general sessions that the energy carried me through long days. The excitement of it all is infectious and, if you are going, you will SOOO want to be in the room. They are moving these to 11 a.m. this year – so that there are workshops before these keynotes and then you go out for more after. Really great stuff! Are you coming? Let’s meet up – Lineage Journeys are gearing up!!!!

Count Down to RootsTech 2019!!!

Count Down to RootsTech 2019 has begun!

Every day begins with Keynote Speakers, excitement, music, contests and more!!!

It’s just before Thanksgiving and I’m beginning to get SOOOO excited about the upcoming RootsTech 2019!!  Maybe you are thinking about going, or maybe (if you can’t go) you are wondering if there is livestreaming, or workshops that you can look at after …… YES, YES, and YES!!  You can STILL register – click here for Registration!!  

And there is SOOO much to do when you get there – here’s just one picture of the vendors’ area …. demos, speakers, things to buy, networking, learning, and so much more.  Food, a place to sit and catch or breath, meet up with newly-found cousins!

The vendors are friendly, helpful, offer demos and speakers, and SOOO much to buy – LOTS of discounted merchandise!  DNA kits are on sale (very special prices!) and every kind of book, jewelry, t-shirts, etc. than you could imagine!!

SOOOO more to come!  In the coming weeks, I’ll give you some idea about who the BIG speakers will be, and about my workshops (YES – I’m a speaker), and if you want me to get you something from the vendors, we can make arrangements (starting thinking about DNA kits?)!
MORE TO COME!!   Join me at RootsTech 2019???

The Sandhills Are Alive With Music!

“The hills are alive with the sound” of Sandhill cranes!!  It’s obviously fall … and I did the best that I could on the pictures as I had to grab my cell phone FAST to rush outside.  Wow … the sound was deafening and there were HUNDREDS of Sandhill cranes, all squawking at once, getting into formation.  There were multiple “V” patterns, and birds flying to catch up.  As I stood on the porch snapping what I could, I could hear more coming and more in a farm field nearby …. VERY loud but eerie, surreal, primordial …. special.

When I hear, see such wonderful creatures, I think about the migratory journey they have ahead as they eat up what corn, grains they can from the surrounding farm fields.  I’ve always loved these beautiful and large birds and wanted to study them when we realized that they were so numerous here in our new home.

Wondering what to write about today, as I wanted to keep Lineage Journeys readers up on more than just the upcoming conferences and events that I’m doing, the sandhills provided a great way to break from writing, researching and keeping up with the business end of the work.  I wanted therefore to share a great book I found that has tremendously beautiful photographs AND tells the story of the struggles that sandhill cranes have with habitat encroachment, pesticides, and more.  On Ancient Wings:  The Sandhill Cranes of North America by Michael Forsberg is the book that gave me a perspective that increased my joy of them all the more, as I’d like to see what I can do locally to help them.   The book is linked here and in the title above as I found the book on Amazon (there are other great field guide-type of books too!)  if you might be interested in learning.

The reason that I am thinking about this, writing about this?  Maybe because I’m a genealogist or because I’m such a nature-lover, these birds are a fascination to me.  As a genealogist, I wonder whether my ancestors had the opportunity to witness such a spectacle, if their farms had these graceful birds feeding there before setting off for the south.  My Québec ancestors were farmers almost entirely (some were woodworkers) so I think about what I just saw and how ancient these birds are (I think I read somewhere they they are millions of years old, from fossil evidence!), wondering if they were part of the lives of my people in Québec.  With the St. Lawrence and other waterways in the region that my families’ farms were located (most recently, my ancestors are from Maskinongé, Québec and around both Québec City, Montréal and back into Acadia), it is certainly likely.  What did they think?  Did they stop from their farming just as I stopped from my work to look UP?

As I think about and work to write the stories of my ancestors, I want to include content about their day-to-day lives like the sounds of the sandhill cranes or the weather patterns (like the very severe rains that we’ve been having this year!) that impacted their survival.  It’s not about the dates for me – births, marriages, deaths – but it’s about what they DID, who they were friends with, the music and foods that were important, and the struggles and joys they experienced.

I hope they experienced the sound I heard this morning – the sandhills’ music of life.