Preserving My Grandfather’s Voice

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Noah and Shirl Rodeback

My grandpa and his first son, Shirl

For more than 30 years, a certain cassette tape has moved with me to dormitories, apartments, and homes in two different time zones. It contains the original copy of an interview with a long-deceased ancestor, which makes it precious. For decades I have procrastinated doing anything useful with it, which makes me . . . well, human, I suppose. In case you are human in the same way, I am documenting the recent end of my procrastination in some technical detail.

My paternal grandfather, Noah Rodeback, passed away in May 1983. A year or two before that — no one remembers exactly which year — he visited my family in Moreland, Idaho. I don’t remember whose idea it was to sit him down with a tape recorder, but that’s what we did. I supplied the tape recorder and the tape — nothing fancy in either case — and the tape remained in my possession, so it may have been my idea. In any case, he was a good sport about it, and we got him talking about his childhood, his memories of my father and the rest of the family, and other topics for more than an hour.

We never planned to distribute the tape, just transcribe it. I started that once but never finished. It was slow work, because the recording is of fairly low quality,  like the recorder itself, the microphone, and the cassette — which, just to make things worse, I was reusing. I’ve been careful not to lose the tape through several moves, but that’s about all the good I can say.

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Finding My People in the US Census

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Just past a very small Idaho city called Arco (of some international scientific fame), but not all the way to a hamlet called Moore, is a place the locals call Lost River. It’s probably called that because the Big Lost River flows through. It’s actually not a big river, and sometimes it doesn’t even flow to, let alone through, the little valley. When it does, it gets lost out in the desert somewhere downstream, between Arco and Idaho Falls. It just flows into the ground.

My mother’s people in Lost River are more constant than the river. So I thought I’d try looking them up in the US Censuses at WorldVitalRecords.com.

In the 1930 Census

First, I found them in the 1930 Census. In the image below, in household #8, Ross O. Babcock is my mother’s father. Bertha A. Babcock is her mother. Agnes J. and “Baby” Babcock are her older sister and brother, respectively. My mother isn’t there, because she was born in 1931. Read more »

Check Out the New Digs

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The MyHeritage Utah office, which houses the WorldVitalRecords team, moved last week from Provo to Lehi. We’re growing, as is the whole company, but the change is less about space than about moving to a location that will help us recruit top talent from a larger area; the Salt Lake Valley is literally a few minutes away. This, in turn, will help us to provide more and more valuable family history data and an even better experience to our growing subscriber base.

We thought you might like to see the new office and its environs and learn a bit about the area, too.

(To see a higher-resolution version of any photo in this post, click on it.)

The company name and logo on the front door, backed by art on the receptionist's wall

Our Habitat: The Wasatch Front

Utah’s Wasatch Front consists of the Salt Lake City metro area, Utah Valley (the Provo-Orem area) to the south, and the Ogden area to the north. Over two million people — roughly 80 percent of Utah’s population — live along the Wasatch Front.

On a normal day you can drive from one end of this concentration of people to the other in less than an hour and a half. In light traffic, and at the prevailing speed on Interstate 15 — at least 10 mph above the legal speed limit — you can do it in an hour, assuming you’re not pulled over.

The Wasatch Mountains, renowned for their skiing, run north and south just east of the cities and valleys; hence the term Wasatch Front. To the west are the smaller Oquirrh Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

Local leaders like to call the Wasatch Front “Silicon Slopes,” and it’s not just hype. This is now one of the top ten concentrations of the high tech industry in the United States. High tech and financial companies whose names you would recognize just keep moving in, and new start-ups you will someday recognize just keep, well, starting up.

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News: 1790-1940 US Censuses at WorldVitalRecords!

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WorldVitalRecords is pleased to announce the release of US Federal Census indexes and images from 1790 to 1930, about 520 million names in all. Add these censuses to our 1940 US Federal Census index and images, and subscribers can now search the largest and most important set of US genealogical records with ease at WorldVitalRecords.com.

Census records document almost everyone who lived in a country when the census was taken. They often include names, ages, addresses, birthplaces, occupation, literacy, and other information. This information can open the door to many additional discoveries about your ancestors.

For more information about the US Censuses, see “What’s in a US Census?” at the WorldVitalRecords blog.

Search the US Censuses at WorldVitalRecords

What’s in a US Census?

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If you are looking for ancestors who were born in or emigrated to the United States, US Census records are one of your most valuable tools. They don’t provide precise records of births, marriages, or deaths, but they offer a wealth of clues to these events and valuable information as to where and how ancestors lived.

Every 10 years since 1790, the US government has conducted a nationwide census. Officially, the census’s purpose is to insure each state, based on its population, an equitable allocation of seats in the US House of Representatives (US Constitution, Article I, Section 2). But the census does more than just count heads. The government also gathers other information from each person and household — in fact, a slightly different set of information in each census. This data facilitates various types of research by government, businesses, and other entities. Family historians use it to find ancestors, discover where they lived and when, and to gather clues for further research.

The US Census Bureau publishes many different kinds of information, based on the latest census, but, to protect privacy, the actual census records are not released until 72 years after the census. So the 1940 US Census was released in 2012. (This 72-year rule has not always been in place; see below.)

Here’s a quick survey of the US Censuses which are already available, with notes about what was asked; the reported population; a few morsels of history, politics, and technology; and one big fire.

To see notes about a particular census, skip the proper heading below; they’re in chronological order. To see how the census evolved, start with 1790. If what you really want to do right now is search the censuses for your ancestors, follow this link to the WorldVitalRecords US Census collection.

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Is DNA Right for You?

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Anyone who has watched television in the past two decades knows the value of DNA evidence. Comparing two samples of DNA is a great way to convict or exonerate a suspect or to identify a victim. If two samples of human deoxyribonucleic acid are identical, they came from the same person, because DNA encodes all of a person’s genetic information, and no two people have exactly the same DNA. It’s better than fingerprints. DNA can also show relationships between two people, because relatives have similar (but not identical) DNA.

The idea of using DNA for genealogy inspires images of digging up old grave sites to procure a sample. But you won’t need a shovel. You yourself are a walking record of your ancestors. Some pieces of your genetic makeup have come from recent ancestors; others have been handed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years.

DNA Double Helix

Your DNA determines the characteristics you inherit from your parents. For genealogy testing, specific markers (snippets of genetic code) on the last chromosome pair have been identified as the most stable markers, that is, they remain most consistent over time. Some of your inherited traits may be obvious; you may have your father’s nose and your grandmother’s toes. But your DNA also contains less obvious traits which come down to you from more distant generations.

This means that your DNA includes a record of long-forgotten ancestors.

There are three main types of DNA tests used in genealogy.

Y-DNA

We all inherit an X chromosome from our mother. Males also receive a Y chromosome from their father.

Testing of the male line includes looking at shared markers on the Y chromosome. Depending on how much detail you want, you may look at 12, 37, or 67 markers.  Because the Y chromosome is only passed through the paternal line, Y-DNA testing can only be administered to a male. The results provide insight into the male ancestors of that individual’s paternal line, including identifying the haplogroup — essentially, your place in the genetic tree of the world.

mtDNA

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is contained in the cytoplasm of the cell, rather than the nucleus. This type of DNA is passed by a mother to both male and female offspring without any mixing, so your mtDNA is the same as your mother’s mtDNA, which is the same as her mother’s mtDNA. mtDNA changes very slowly, so it cannot determine close relationships as well as it can determine general relatedness. If two people have an exact match in their mtDNA, then they share a common maternal ancestor, but it is hard to determine if this is a recent ancestor or one who lived hundreds of years ago. It is important to keep in mind with this test that a male’s mtDNA comes only from his mother and is not passed on to his offspring. Your maternal line haplogroup is identified with an mtDNA test.

The DNA tests that identified the bodies of the Romanovs, the Russian imperial family, utilized mtDNA from a sample provided by Prince Philip, who shares the same maternal line from Queen Victoria.

Autosomal

The newest form of DNA testing for genealogy is called Autosomal testing. Over 700,000 locations on the DNA are tested to identify any shared ancestor within the last five generations. You also will gain insight into your ethnic makeup. If you’ve reached a dead end in your research, to the point that you don’t even know where to look, autosomal DNA testing can give you some direction. It will also help you to connect with living relatives whose DNA is on file for comparison.

At the St George Family History Expo this month, I listened to a wonderful talk given by a representative of The Genetic Genealogy Consultant. She shared a story of connections her own autosomal test results made possible. Getting in touch with a matched relative allowed her family to reconnect with a distant cousin who spent hours and hours with her father in their childhood but had since lost touch.

Picking a test

DNA testing can be both exciting and overwhelming. Whether you are looking for new insights into your existing pedigree, a place to start, or ways to connect with living relatives, there is information in your DNA that will unlock resources and leads for your research.

If you are like me, you don’t readily spend your hard-earned money on the latest, greatest technology. I have yet to switch over to a smart phone, much to my colleagues’ amusement,

Choose a DNA test based on which line you want to explore.

because every year there is something better. In the past much of the benefit of DNA testing was to add to the research and development of the field. In order for results to be meaningful, they must be compared with known markers. Family Tree DNA has the largest database, including DNA information on over 400,000 people. The field of genealogical DNA testing has arrived. It has become a dependable treasure trove of information to expand your traditional research efforts, and it will only get better.

To choose which kit or kits are right for you, look at your pedigree and decide what you would like to find out. For example, I’m stuck in the 1800s on my grandfather’s father’s line. I’m told there is German blood, but the surname is Scottish. The best thing for me to do in this case is to find the oldest living descendant in that line and test their paternal line with a Y-DNA test. If I am interested in my mother’s mother’s Irish roots, I need to administer an mtDNA test to my Mother or a female descendant of that line.  All it takes is a simple and painless cheek swab. (Watch this tutorial.)

Know What to Expect

It is important to know what to expect from your results. The report you receive can be very technical. Don’t despair if your high school biology is a bit rusty. There are many wonderful help articles to help you through the details. For example, this one at the Blair DNA Project gives insight into what a DNA test can do for you. Here is a good list they give of insights you can gain from your results:

1)      Identification that you and another participant share a common ancestor.

2)      Y-DNA and mtDNA results give you an idea of how far back a common ancestor lived and the migration path of that ancestral line through the identification of the maternal or paternal haplogroup.

3)      Evidence of a suspected connection between yourself and another participant.

4)      Prove that the test taker is not related to an individual or family.

5)      Autosomal test results provide an amazing detailed description of your ethnic makeup.

Finally, remember that DNA testing alone is not as meaningful as DNA testing paired with traditional research. To get the most out of your DNA test results, use the information as you would any new development in your search. It will open doors and suggest new connections. Ask for help from a professional, if you are not sure how the results can expand your tree.

Relating to the Unrelated

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Let’s be completely honest up front. I am not a professional genealogist. Most of the time, I’m not even a hobby genealogist. Every once in a while, when I find interest, I will dabble a little here and dabble a little there. But I always seem to get distracted when looking at my family lines. I get lost in the stories of what was happening in the times and places where my ancestors lived.

William Hyde

William Hyde, my ancestor in the Mormon Battalion

I have never been one who enjoys fiction. Real stories of real people, and getting a picture of how they really lived, always entice me much more. I am very lucky to have rich genealogical records passed down to me. Many of them are filled with the stories of my ancestors, not just their names and dates. From these I begin to assemble the larger stories of the places where they lived and visited, and the people they knew. So my question for you is, Are you just gathering names? Or are you attempting to relate to them by understanding who they really were, based on where they lived, how they lived, and who lived around them?

When we find names, we find more than just names. We find time periods and places where people lived. If we rush on to the next name, we never learn who they were and how they became who they were. If we look further, we find the occupations, politics, and religions of the people there, and even the illnesses they suffered. In the end we better understand how we became who we are.

Not long ago, my husband and I were sitting at home, reading books about our separate family lines. My mother was from Canada and Beverly Hills. My father was a Jew from Manhattan. I had always made fun of my husband for being born and raised in American Fork, Utah. (I said it “Fark,” like some of the natives.) I loved to poke at him because of his family’s provincial Utah background. But on that night, as I was reading the Journal of William Hyde, who spent many years working away from his family and even marched across the West with the Mormon Battalion, I ran across some names that appeared to be very . . . familiar. I started to blush, and I tried to hide what I was reading.

He saw me shifting nervously. “Clare, what’s that you are reading?” he asked.

“Nothing you would be interested in,” I responded. “Just family history stuff.”

“Why do you look so uncomfortable? Let me read what you are reading! It must be heavy stuff.”

I had forgotten for a moment that he is a huge history buff. I tried to keep the book from him, but he quickly pulled it out of my hand, and like a schoolboy, held it just out of my reach.

He opened the book. “Huh,” he said, and turned the page. “Huh.” Another page. “Oh reeeeallllly?”

He had found it: The part of my family history I will never live down, after teasing him for years.

Our families were nearly next-door neighbors in — where else? — American Faark.

Russ and Clare

My husband, Russ, and I

We looked further and were stunned. Our ancestors had come across the plains in the same groups of pioneers. They fought in the same battalions. They lived in the same cities. They owned land next to each other in multiple states. They were active in politics and served in the judiciary in the same places.

They were not only friends, but business partners. They were neighbors. They attended the same church services. They had children who died of the same diseases along the same pioneer trail.

We always said that the angels must have helped get us together, because we’re “a match made in heaven.” We never realized our paths started to cross almost two centuries ago.

I learned that night to love to relate to the unrelated. Any name we find, related or otherwise, could mean more to us than we ever imagined.

DNA Testing now available from WorldVitalRecords

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Family Finder DNA Kits

Family Finder DNA Kits - Click to Zoom

WorldVitalRecords DNA Testing

At WorldVitalRecords we are excited to offer DNA Testing to help you take advantage of this revolutionary technology for advancing your family history research.  We are offering DNA testing at very affordable prices for a limited time.  Get more information HERE.

Your ancestors left clues to your family history in you and in other descendants, and you can unlock these clues by testing your DNA.

With our simple cheek swab test you can:

  • Discover previously unknown relatives via DNA matches
  • Uncover the ethnic and geographical origins of your ancestors
  • Prove or disprove whether you and another person are related through a common ancestor
  • Break through “brick walls” encountered during your family history research Read more »

Nine Ways to Make Family History a Habit

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Are you into family history for the fun of it? Okay, I agree, we need a stronger word than fun. May I try that again?

Are you into family history for the joy of it?

That’s reason enough, but there are other possibilities. You may feel a duty to your ancestors, to help them live on in their descendants’ memories. You may feel a sense of obligation to your posterity, to help them understand who they are and whence they came. For some, it’s a religious duty. Or perhaps you’re driven by a more personal desire, to figure out who you are and whence you came. All of these are perfectly good motives.

I don’t claim that you even need a motive, or that you should report it to me or anyone else. But, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that you have some discernible reason for engaging in family history.

Let’s also assume that your own involvement is important to you, not just your work product. If only the result matters — if family history to you is like cleaning the oven, replacing the broken sewer line, or having your gall bladder removed — you might hire a professional genealogist and let him or her worry about it. That’s fine; professional genealogists have to eat, too. But this post is for people who want to be involved, not just have the work done. Read more »

Making Memories into Quilts.

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I love family history activities that culminate in something tangible, especially quilting. You can turn just about anything you can wear into a memory quilt.

I first encountered a memory quilt at my friend Katie’s house, when I was eight years old. Her guestroom had a bedspread like none I had ever seen. It looked like someone had sewn a blue satin dress right onto the bed. It was covered in sequins and beads, with streams of blue and purple radiating out from the waist. I was enchanted. I remarked that it looked like something a queen would wear. Katie answered, “Yes, my mom used to be a queen, and this is what she wore.” Katie proved it by showing me a large picture of her mom, in the dress, on the wall downstairs. I was a amazed. A real, live queen lived just across the street from me, and she had the bedspread to prove it!

Persona Quilt

Persona Quilt

A year or so later, I learned that Katie’s mom had been a beauty queen. The dress on the bedspread was the one she wore in the evening gown portion of the Miss Texas pageant. Later, she had made it into a quilt to commemorate the event. Since then I have seen many other memory quilts. They tend to fall into three categories.

Persona Quilt

This type of quilt is usually made as a gift or a means of self expression. It is meant to reflect who a person is. The photo here is one my mom made for my dad. Like this one, persona quilts often include a lot of novelty fabrics, each chosen because it has some special significance for that person. Here some of the squares represent his Eagle Scout award, the universities he attended (Brigham Young University and the University of Utah), and some of his favorite foods (suckers, BBQ, and hot sauce).

Event Quilt

Event Quilt

Event Quilts

These are made to commemorate an event or a series of events. My neighbor’s pageant dress bedspread is in this category. Such a quilt might be made from a wedding dress or race t-shirts. Annette, the wife of one of our engineers at MyHeritage, made this one to commemorate her daughter’s accomplishments in high school band. It includes a lot of embroidery and appliqué.

Classic Memory Quilt

These are the most popular memory quilts. They are made from the fabrics that we most associate with a person, usually their clothing. I have seen them made from baby clothes, old jeans, and even neckties. They are usually made in memory of a period of life that is already past (like baby clothes) or, as in this example, in memory of a person who has passed away.

Classic Memory Quilt

Classic Memory Quilt

My friend Heather Lott was commissioned to make a set of three quilts for a woman whose mother had passed away. The daughter went through her mother’s clothes and pulled out anything that reminded her of her mom. These were mostly things that she wore often, but also things she wore for special events. Heather transformed them into three lovely quilts, one for each of the deceased woman’s children. Now, whenever the children and grandchildren see the fabrics in that quilt, they remember Grandma.

Quilt 1, Quilt 2, Quilt 3

These quilts may be cozy and even beautiful. But what makes them a piece of family history is the story. Who wore this dress? When did that happen? How is this person related to me? I love the idea of putting together a little bit of my family history that is tangible and functional. I imagine myself wrapping up my kids in the blanket someday, pointing to each square and telling them where it came from and why I love it — thus turning a warm, comfy quilt into a bit of history.

I have a little stack of baby clothes, and I plan to make a blanket with them. I sat down the other day to get started so I could share it in this post. My kids are still young, and I cherish those little onesies and jackets. I sat there with my scissors in hand, before a pile of my sons’ old clothes, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut them up. What if I want the baby to wear this? (That’s not likely, since she is a girl and these are boy clothes.) What if my kids want their children to wear this? (I know this possibility is even more remote.) I actually got misty-eyed, sitting there. I know that the whole point of making the quilt is to preserve those memories, but I was unprepared for the emotions. So my step-by-step instructions don’t yet lead to my own finished product.

Select and prepare clothesStep 1: Select and Prepare

Be sure to select items that are meaningful. Remember that, depending on the size of the squares, you may be able to get multiple square from one garment. Cut the clothes along enough seams to make the fabric lie down flat.

InterfacingStep 2: Interfacing

This is the crucial step. When we sew a quilt, we want even squares, but many of the fabrics you use may be stretchy, like a t-shirt. This can make the squares uneven after they are cut. Buy some lightweight fusible interfacing. Cut that into squares a little larger than your final square size.Then iron it onto the back of the clothing.

 Cut Your SquaresStep 3: Cut Your Squares

Make sure you cut all your squares the same size. The easiest way to do this is with a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and ruler. If you don’t have these, you can get good results with a square cardboard template and sharp scissors.

Arrange and SewStep 4: Arrange and Sew.

Once all your squares are cut, lay them out on the floor and arrange them any way you like. If you are short a few squares, add in some generic fabric squares where needed. Then sew them together as you would any other quilt. Sew one row at a time, then sew each row to the next.

FinishStep 5: Finish

Finish the quilt in the usual ways. Add a layer of quilt batting and a fabric backing. Then either tie the quilt or have it quilted professionally.

Enjoy the memories.