Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Henry Louis Gates finds his Ancestry thru DNA

Q&A: Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the Mysteries of His Genome

The Harvard professor and PBS host reveals his ancestry

Photograph by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African & American Studies, used genetic analysis to explore his ancestry—and those of Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, and others—for the PBS television series African American Lives. In March he returns to the subject with a new series called Finding Your Roots, which features such celebrities as Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, and Robert Downey Jr. As I did for a feature in this week’s issue, Gates had his own genome sequenced. Here he discusses his unexpected heritage, his health, and how genetic data made him cry.

Why did you have your genome sequenced?
Ever since I watched Roots, I’ve dreamed of tracing my African ancestry and helping other people do the same. I was also trying to solve the mystery of why my father’s father looked so white that we called him “Casper” behind his back, because he looked like a ghost.

Was genome sequencing your first foray into genealogy?
No, I’ve been able to trace my genealogy with paper records back into the 18th century. It turns out one of my ancestors fought in the Continental Army, so I was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution. I’ve used a company called African Ancestry to try to identify what part of Africa my people came from. And I’ve had analyses from 23andMe.com and FamilyTree.com that look for signature sequences in your DNA, called haplotypes, which can pinpoint what part of the world your distant ancestors come from.

So what did you find?
It turns out that I’m descended on my mother’s side from a white woman who was impregnated by a black slave, and on my father’s side from an Irishman who conceived with a black woman named Jane Gates. I have an Irish haplotype called Ui Neill that goes back to some fifth century king. I was searching for African roots, and they led to an African kingdom called the United Kingdom.

What did your genome sequencing add to that?
My father and I made genetics history. We were the first African-Americans and the first father and son anywhere to have their genomes sequenced. You get half of your genome from each of your parents, so [Harvard genetics professor George Church] subtracted out my father’s DNA, and that gave us a partial reconstruction for the genome of my mother, who died in 1987 at the age of 70. You might ask, What could be so emotional about seeing a bunch of colors on a bar graph? But it was like seeing my mother recreated in a most intimate way. My father cried and I was moved to tears as well.

What did you learn about your health?
I didn’t find anything alarming. My father lived to be 97 and played bridge every day up to the end, so I’ve got a 50 percent chance of living a long life like him.

Lauerman is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Since 1790 to the year 2010, the United States Government has collected census information every 10 years to document the people residing in the country at the time of the enumeration.

However, there is a 72 year privacy act so currently census records are only available until 1930 but the 1940 census will be released on April 2, 2012.

In genealogy, these records are a valuable resource for reconstructing the lives of your ancestors. The reason why is that each census schedule represents a point in time or chapter in the lives of the people listed on the schedules. Each record tells a story about the person(s), where they were and to a great extent who they were.

While the early census schedules only listed the head of household, subsequent ones also list the other members of the household.

It is important to point out that census records from 1790 to 1860 only listed free persons. Hence, most African Americans unless they were free persons of color were not listed in the Southern states. Most were not enumerated until 1870 census, 5 years after slavery ended. However, if you are African American, you should always check the prior census  records anyway since your ancestors may have been a free person of color or non-black person.  Also, for certain Northeast states such as Vermont, freedom came early as 1777 for African Americans so again it is important determine when slavery ended in the state where your ancestors resided.

So what can these records tell you? A whole lot. There is a wealth of history hidden in these records.

You can learn the paternity of known ancestors will may enable you to locate different branches of your family. You can also find out when your ancestors were born, where and some census records give the birth places of their parents. The names of their spouse and children, their ages and  their birth order are also provided on most census records.

You can also learn the occupations of the members of the household and whether they were educated.  The location where your family was living and whether or not the Head of Household owned or rented property is documented on most census records.

Again, census records are like a snapshot of your ancestors lives at a particular point in time. By locating them on multiple census  records over the span of their lives, you can follow the progression  and changes that occur over time with their family structure. Review of a series of records on a particular family can reveal a newly married couple, a growing family with a few children, a household full of children, the children leaving home to start their own family, empty nesters and finally widowed spouses.

Below is excerpt from a census schedule:

Hence, if you are interested in finding out about your family history, census records are a good place to start. These records are available on a variety of websites including ancestry.comgenealogy.com and familysearch.org.

Karen Burney

Latest Videos « Good Day Sacramento


Tuesday, February 21, 2012



Genealogy Databases
The Sacramento Public Library subscribes to the following genealogy database:Ancestry Library EditionThe Ancestry Library Edition database is available for in-library use only at any Sacramento Public Library location. You can access it by clicking on the "Research Tools" link on the library's online catalog page, and going to the "Do It Yourself" section.  It is free to access and the first 5 pages are free to print at ALL county libraries.

At the heart of Central Library’s genealogy programming is an extensive collection of non-circulating genealogy books and periodicals, covering a wide range of family history subjects. The materials in this collection, mostly belonging to the Genealogical Association of Sacramento, are available for use during library open hours on the 2nd floor in the Genealogy Center.

In support of this collection, Central Library offers the following services:

Upcoming Genealogy Events
Book a Genealogist
Beginning Genealogy Classes Genealogy Computer Classes
Spring Genealogy Lecture Programs
Lectures Given by Genealogy Specialists.
Central Library is pleased to offer ten free genealogy lectures throughout the year, given by genealogy specialists from Northern California. These 1 ½ hour programs are held on Sundays during the months of January, May and September, with a beginning genealogy program held in February. Registration for these programs is preferred, by calling the library at 916-264-2920 or visiting the “Events” section of the library’s website at www.saclibrary.org

The Book a Genealogist Program
Central Library’s volunteer genealogist is available to
meet with you individually at the library to help you get started on or resolve problems with your family history research. Registration is required for these 45-minute appointments. To reserve your appointment time, please call the library at 916-264-2920, visit any branch of the Sacramento Public Library, or go the “Events” section at www.saclibrary.org.

Genealogy Computer ClassesThese classes are offered periodically by library staff in the 3rd floor Technology Lab at Central Library. Current topics for these classes include “Introduction to Online Genealogy,” “Introduction to Ancestry Library Edition Database,” and “Social Networking for Genealogists.” For more information or to register for these classes, please call the library at 916-264-2920, or visit the “Events” section at www.saclibrary.org.

Online Genealogy Research Guide
The Online Genealogy Research Guide lists websites and contact information for archives, societies and other resources that will help you in your genealogy research.
Sacramento Newspapers on MicrofilmThe Central Library is also the home of a collection of archived newspapers that are relevant to the Sacramento area, including the Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento Union. Issues of these two newspapers dating back to the 1850s are available on microfilm at the 3rd floor Periodicals desk at the Central Library.

The Sacramento Room
The Sacramento Room, located on the 2nd floor of the Central Library, offers resources to genealogists doing Sacramento and California research. Sacramento Room collection highlights include Sacramento city and county histories, city directories, school yearbooks, maps, photographs and books by local authors.

If you have questions about Central Library's genealogy programs, please contact the library by calling 916-264-2920, or send an e-mail message to


Sacramento Regional Family History Center

 2745 Eastern Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95821

HOURS: M 10-4pm, T 10-9pm, W 10-6:30, TH 10-9:00pm, F 10-4:00 pm

The Center has free online access to the following subscription websites:

Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com, 19th Century British Library Newspapers Digital Archive, Newspaper Archives, Alexander Street Press – American Civil War Research Data, FindMyPast, Fold3 (formerly Footnote), The Genealogist, Genline Family Finder
Godfrey Memorial Library, Heritage Quest Online, Historic Map Works Library Edition
Paper Trail, World Vital Records and more.

Cost of printing is only ten cents a copy OR bring a flashdrive to save research

ORDER Microfilm

Family History Research Classes are conducted on Wednesday afternoons at 2:00pm-3:30 pm and Wednesday evenings 7:00pm-8:00pm. You can register at the Center or call 487-2090.

The Center conducts a “Writers Workshop” at 5:00 pm on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. You can register at the Center or call 487-2090.

The Sacramento German Genealogical Society provides research assistance with tracing German ancestors every Thursday from 1:00pm-5:00pm in the Center.

For more information, go to the following link: http://www.familyhistorycenter.info/

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Here are 50 genealogy websites for you to explore your roots. Most are free but some are paid. Combined, they provide a vast variety of research databases. Happy hunting!

1.   AccessGenealogy.com – Millions of names in 250,000 pages, along with links to free data; especially useful for Native American information, and some data.

2.     Afrigeneas.com- African American research site with various records and resources

3.   AmericanAncestors.org $ – (New) The new name for the NEHGS website and their 3,000 databases. 

4.   AncestorHunt.com – Free genealogy search engine linking to free data.

5.   Ancestry.com $ - Ancestry.com is the leading genealogical data site, and includes articles, instruction, and reference help.

6.   AncientFaces.com - Share genealogy research, community pages, family photos & records more for free.

7.   Archives.com $ – A major new subscription data site, launched in July 2009 and already with more than a billion names.  

8.   CensusFinder.com - Links to free census records.

9.   CousinConnect.com - A large free queries website.

10. CyndisList.com – The best subject catalog of genealogy webpage links. 

11.DAR.org  - Site of the largest lineage society; includes their library catalog and 32 million name index.

12. DeathIndexes.com - Lists of links to United States death records, by state.

13. DistantCousin.com - An online archive of genealogy records and images of historical documents.

14. EllisIsland.org - Database of 24 million New York passenger arrivals that is free to search. Actual passenger list images can be printed or purchased.

15. FamilyHistory101.com - Less than four years old and full of instruction and guidance for genealogists.

16. FamilyLink.com $ - One of the most popular FaceBook applications helps people identify and network with their family and search billions of records.

17. FamilySearch.org - This major data website sponsored by the LDS Church includes the IGI, census records, the library’s catalog and a growing collection of historical records from throughout the world, along with instruction and reference help.

18. FamilyTreeDNA.com - DNA testing service focused upon family history test types.

19. FamilyTreeMagazine.com  – (New) Website for popular magazine that includes shopping, links, and research tools.

20. FamilyTreeMaker.com - Homepage for Ancestry.com's genealogical software.

21.FindAGrave.com - This database of 57 million cemetery inscriptions adds about a million per month and often includes tombstone photos.

22.FindMyPast.co.uk$ - (Back in) 650 million British records of many types [formerly FindMyPast.com].

23.Footnote.com $ - In conjunction with the U.S. National Archives, Footnote offers data, original records images, and more.

24.Genealogy.com $ - A major data site, includes family trees, instruction and reference help.

25.GenealogyBank.com $ - 1 billion exclusive records from 4500 newspapers and historical books.

26.GenealogyBuff.com – A free genealogy search site with hundreds of data sources.

27.GenealogyLinks.net – 50,000 links to free sites, arranged by state and county.

28.GenealogyToday.com - Includes instruction, reference articles, and some unique data collections.

29.GenealogyTrails.com - Five year old site with free U.S. data contributed by volunteers.

30.Geneanet.org  - (Back in) A European collection of 400 million names in family trees, community, and submitted records.  

31.GeneBase.com - A DNA ancestry cataloguing project with 675,000 users.

32.Geni.com – Free, with the world’s largest collaborative family.

33. Genuki.org.uk-- Large collection of genealogical information pages for England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

34.HeritageQuestOnline.com $ - Census, PERSI (the periodical index), books, all free to you at many libraries

35.KindredKonnections.com $ - Grassroots created data site with compiled family trees, and some extracted records. (29>22>19)

36.Linkpendium.com – Nine million genealogy links organized by state/county and surname.

37.MyFamily.com - Hosts family websites for sharing photos, genealogy, and more.  

38.MyHeritage.com - Focuses on genealogy community building and networking.

39.NewspaperObituaries.net – (New) A directory of obituary databases and archives on the web.

40. ObitLinksPage.com- State-by-state directory of obituaries and obituary resources.

41.OneGreatFamily.com$ - A family tree sharing and collaboration website.

42.PoliticalGraveyard.com - Comprehensive source of U.S. political biography that tells where many dead politicians are buried.

43.RootsChat.com – (New) Free family history messaging forum with almost 3 million mostly UK messages.

44.RootsWeb.com – One of the largest, free, user-contributed data sites, includes 575 million names in family trees, also instruction and reference help.

45.SearchForAncestors.com - Interactive directory of free genealogy websites and data.

46.ThePeerage.com – A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe.

47.TribalPages.com - Family trees hosting with 300,000 members and 80 million names.

48.USGennet.org  - Historical and genealogical web hosting service.

49.USGWArchives.net – A large collection of free data, arranged by state and searchable across the entire collection.

50.WorldVitalRecords.com $ - The data collection provided by Family Link, with over a billion records, as well as instruction and reference help.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


The United States Colored Troops (USCT) were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were comprised of African-American soldiers, mostly former slaves.

The U.S. Congress passed a confiscation act in July 1862 that freed slaves of owners in rebellion against the United States, i.e. those states in the South that had seceded from the Union. A militia act was subsequently passed that empowered the President to use freed slaves in any capacity in the army.

In September 1862, Lincoln issued his preliminary proclamation that all slaves in rebellious states would be free as of January 1, 1863. Recruitment of colored regiments began in full force following the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863.

The United States War Department issued a General Order Number 143 on May 22, 1863, establishing a "Bureau of Colored Troops" to facilitate the recruitment of African-American soldiers to fight for the Union Army comprised of many regiments, including infantry, cavalry, light artillery, and heavy artillery units.

Former slaves and freed blacks rushed to sign up to secure the promise of freedom and deliverance from the life of bondage and oppression that so many knew. They were recruited from all states of the Union and became known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Approximately 175 regiments of over 178,000 free blacks and freed slaves served during the last two years of the war, and bolstered the Union war effort at a critical time. By war's end, the USCT were approximately a tenth of all Union troops. There were 2,751 USCT combat casualties during the war, and 68,178 losses from all causes.

The reason I am writing about and remembering these brave men is because Ancestry.com has a database that you can use to search for the names of your ancestors and other relatives who may have served. However, it does not stop there. A lot of the original documents contain personal information like who their former owners were, who to contact in case of an emergency, promotions, whether they were wounded, hospitalized or died. It is a virtual diary of their military experience. As such, I urge you to explore it and see what you come up with.

These were true American heroes. These men put their lives on the lines not just for themselves but for the millions of other African Americans formerly enslaved and the countless number of future generations of African Americans in this country.

Over the years, the contribution of these men to this country has in many cases been mimimized, concealed and lost to even their own descendants and relatives. They received few accolades after the war due in part to the fact that many returned home to the bitter South that was still "pining" over the loss of the war.  Most of these Southerners did not care to hear about the heroics of blacks responsible for their sudden change in lifestyle. Hence, many former soldiers kept their service and value under "wraps" for fear of being lynched or worse. Therefore, you would not have seen too many former soldiers marching around town in Union war uniforms or bearing medals. As well, there were no monuments in the South following the war commemorating United States Colored Troops.

As a result, the legacy of who they were and the sacrafices that they made for their country has to a great extent became hidden even from their own descendants. However, I feel that they are worthy of being remembered, revered, saluted and honored for an eternity because of their priceless contribution.

The African-American Civil War Memorial – The Spirit Of Freedom National Monument in Washington, DC is a memorial to all the USCT who served in the Civil War. It features a ten foot tall Spirit of Freedom sculpture at the center of a granite-paved plaza. The memorial is encircled on three sides by a Wall of Honor on which is inscribed the names of 209,145 members (including officers) of the USCT. The sculpture features uniformed black soldiers and a sailor, as well as images of women, children and elders, who represent the soldiers families and source of strength. It was designed by Ed Hamilton, who also designed the Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry monument.

To search for your ancestors or names of the men who served, you can do so on Ancestry.com. The database is entitled, "U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861-1865."

Here is the link:


I would like to send a personal message and Tribute to these heroes as follows :

To all the men of the US Colored Troops who have all now passed on to Glory, I want to thank you for your sacrifice and war efforts which have allowed so many to enjoy the freedoms that many of you early on were denied. Thank you for your willingness to lay down your lives for the benefit of countless others. You would be happy to know that your efforts were not in vain. Many are still reaping the benefits of your selfless acts. May you enjoy the peace and freedom in heaven that you fought so hard to bring about for your fellow brothers and sisters on Earth.

Eternally Grateful, Karen Burney, The Roots Exchange and Education Society.


Last month I did a class on the 1940 census to prepare people for its long-awaited release.  Here is some information that I shared during my presentation:

  When will it be available for public assess?

a)    Sunday, April 1, 2012 (72 year privacy act expires)

b)    Monday, April 2, 2012 (Actual Release date)

1940 Census Different From Past Census
a)    Statistical Data to Be Used for Government and Business Planning-
b)    Agricultural/Housing Data Schedules (no longer exist burned in 1949)
c)    Goal of accuracy and full inclusion of All citizens
d)    Employed more census takers than previous years and provided more training and guidelines (123,069 enumerators)

What territories were covered? 

    Continental United States (48 states), Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, military and consulaservices abroad, and naval services abroad or in American waters, but not at a fixed station

  Where can you assess it? Digitally not Microfilm
a)    National Archives Online Public Assess (Free searchable database) http://www.archives.gov/
b)    Ancestry.com (Free until 2013)
c)    FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/1940Census)
   How to Search the 1940 Census
a)    Unindexed-Advantage-You might find people you weren’t looking for
b)  Enumeration Districts

  Tips for Searching the Census
a)    Prepare a list of people you plan to search for
b)    Check 1930 census and directory for approximate location they were before
c)   NARA Enumeration District maps- Search the 1940 Census Maps for Enumeration District Numbers