Recent Genealogy Posts:

Cluster and Collateral Research

It never fails.  You break through one genealogy brick wall so you start down another branch of the family tree.  And, guess what?  Another brick wall!

I learned a thing or two in my seven year effort to break through my last brick wall.  I’m going to employ some of those lessons and hope they help me get a bit further, a bit faster.

After hearing a guest speaker at the library discuss various genealogy DNA testing options, I’ve decided to do another DNA test with  Why?  Because they have a large representation of the British Isles and may be able to help me pinpoint where some of my difficult-to-trace ancestors actually came from.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, DNA testing helped me finally figure out one section of my father’s side of the family.  I’m hoping lightening might strike twice – we’ll see what happens.

I’m also going to go straight to cluster and collateral research.

Cluster research involves researching the people with whom your ancestor interacted such as neighbors, fellow church-goers, and friends.

You most likely won’t get direct information about your ancestor but hopefully you will get ideas about his/her life that may give you new clues for your research.  For example, if you research your ancestor’s neighbors and discover they all came from the same town in Ireland, the odds are good your ancestor came from there too.  That gives you a useful starting point for research.

Collateral research may be more directly useful for genealogy.  Rather than just researching the branch of your family tree that relates to you, you expand your research to siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles.

The idea is that you will hopefully find records about your direct ancestor among those of your indirect ancestors.  It is a fair amount of work but it also adds to your overall understanding of your family so it is worth the time.  I will let you know if I have any luck!

During this holiday season don’t forget to ask genealogy questions of family members.  It is the ideal time to learn a bit more and move your research forward.  Happy research and happy Thanksgiving!


By |November 21st, 2018|Categories: Genealogy Blog|

Remember the ladies

Abigail Adams

This week I have been inputting the genealogy of my mother’s side of the family into my genealogy database.  I haven’t done this much before because so much research has already been done on that side of the family that I assumed there wasn’t anything left to do of interest and I preferred to do my research in unexplored areas.

It has been fascinating!  One of my great-aunts wrote a book about one branch of the family and it was a treasure trove of information.  Of particular interest to me were the stories she included about my ancestors, none of which I knew.  I immediately incorporated these into my records because they made my perspective about my ancestors so much richer.

That brings us to my first thought today:  just because someone has already done research on a family branch, do not assume that it won’t be useful or interesting to go back over the work already done.  You may discover stories, pictures, or dates that you didn’t have and every one of those things adds to your family history.

And, now my second genealogy thought for the day:  “remember the ladies”.  This quote comes from a letter dated March 31, 1776 from Abigail Adams to her husband Johns Adams.  The quote is as follows:

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.  Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could,” she wrote. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” 

I mention this quote because, as I was going through the history of my old, New England family and enjoying the stories about the men of that family, I started noticing the enormous lack of stories about the women in my family.  I realized that “back in the day” the stories about the women weren’t considered important because the perspective was that women didn’t matter and didn’t make history – men did.  Abigail was trying to get the opposite point across to her husband in her typical, forthright manner.

As a woman and a genealogist I would love to have the stories of the women in my family.  I’m sure they were fascinating.  Raising children in the wilderness, keeping everyone fed and healthy – I’m guessing those women would have had a LOT to say.  So, my goal for myself is to make sure I capture at least some of the stories of the women in my family so that future generations will know more about what our lives were like as women in today’s world.  I will make sure to “remember the ladies”.  Happy research!


By |August 10th, 2018|Categories: Genealogy Blog|

Genetic genealogy and crime solving

I’ve been reading with great interest about the police use of DNA and genealogy databases to solve cold cases.  I love the fact that old crimes can be solved but I also worry that this process might be abused fairly easily.

Therefore, I was intrigued to read Why using genetic genealogy to solve crimes could pose problems in Science News.  It very succinctly articulated the issues inherent in this process and made it clear that my worries are not unfounded.  Another good article titled Experts outline ethics issues with use of genealogy DNA to solve crimes can be found in Reuters news.

The other side of this story, meaning the positive potential of DNA to solve old, terrible crimes, can be gleaned from this article from NBC News:  “This is just the beginning: Using DNA and genealogy to crack years-old cold cases”.

Obviously there are important concerns on both sides of this discussion.  I think each genealogist will have to make up their own mind as to whether they are comfortable having their DNA (or their family members’ DNA) available in a public forum.

My perspective?  I am fine with giving my DNA to a company such as Ancestry or 23andMe because they have the appropriate requirements in place to maintain privacy at a level that works for me.  I am not as comfortable having my DNA available on an open website such as GEDmatch until I see that it has some systems in place to make sure my DNA data cannot be accessed inappropriately.  As I said, it is a personal decisions, but I think an important one for genealogists to consider and debate.

Happy research!



By |July 27th, 2018|Categories: Genealogy Blog|

MyHeritage Database Now Available for Free

Thanks to changes to the MARVEL! Statewide database, local genealogists can now get free access to the MyHeritage Library Edition genealogy database.  Even better, you can get that access at home as well as at Curtis Library!

To get to the database simply go to, scroll down until you see the Genealogy box.  Click on that, look on the left side for the MyHeritage box and click on that and follow the link.

I have not used MyHeritage much myself but there are a few points I can mention.  Their marketing says that it is “one of the largest, most internationally diverse genealogy databases of its kind” and it provides “access to billions of historical documents, millions of historical photos and other resources in thousands of databases that span the past five centuries.”

MyHeritage started as one of the more popular companies provide DNA testing. They have an impressive 7 billion records available for research but keep in mind that has over 16 billion.

I would not use MyHeritage as a replacement for Ancestry but I am always happy to have a new database to search that just might have a record that I have not seen yet.  Net, for new genealogists this seems to be a very good resource (many users note that the interface is very intuitive) and for more experienced genealogists…you never know what you might find.

MyHeritage also offers a teaching blog that is definitely worth a look.  You can find the blog at .  Most recently the blog has offered an entire series on “DNA Basics” as well as identifying new historical records that are being added to the website.  The site is, of course, marketing the MyHeritage DNA testing options, but the content seems to make ignoring the marketing work the effort!

Happy research!

By |July 16th, 2018|Categories: Curtis Library, Genealogy Blog|

Below are links to some genealogy resources – please note that HeritageQuest requires a Portland Public Library (PPL) card. For information on getting a PPL card (all Cumberland County residents are eligible), click here. Curtis Library has a card and can use it to get you access when you are in the library. Access to American Ancestors is through Curtis Library’s subscription and can only be used from inside the library.

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