By Mike JonesAssociated PressAdvertisement
Tried-and-true research techniques and the latest high-tech DNA technology were among the subjects covered by the recent "Branching Out in Genealogy" seminar at the Lake Charles Civic Center.
The event drew participants from all over Louisiana and Texas with nationally known speakers. Among them were John A. Sellers of Sulphur Springs, Texas, who spoke on "History's Role in Your Genealogical Pursuit;" Bennett Greenspan of Houston, who talked about "The Use of DNA in One's Genealogical Search," and "Tricks of the Trade: Tried and True Research Techniques" discussed by Richard Hooverson of Belton, Texas.
"You can't be a good genealogical researcher without a lot of history," Sellers said during the seminar, which was held on Oct. 27. He said researchers can find a lot of clues about their individual families by simply knowing what was going on in the specific time period they are researching.
Sellers said it is important to know such basics as when a state was admitted to the Union and when a county or parish was officially created. Such clues can help determine when and where to search for ancestors.
"Never limit yourself to what you think your ancestor did," he said.
Sellers noted that the Internet is a great resource for background research, and records such marriage, birth and death records, land records and military records can all provide excellent, documented information.
He said Louisiana succession records are particularly valuable because they are the only wills in the nation to give the maiden name of the wife - thanks to the civil-code legal tradition of this state.
Greenspan said he got interested in using DNA technology for genealogy because he found it could help him overcome inevitable road blocks in family history research. He said not only did it lead him to discovering his own family relations all over the world, but also inspired him to found a company that provides DNA research exclusively for individuals tracing their family trees.
The company is called Family Tree DNA. Since its founding in 2000, the company has established the largest database in the world for genealogical research, Greenspan said.
The company was selected by National Geographic Magazine to manage the public participation side of its DNA testing program, the Genographic Project, which was launched in 2005.
Greenspan said the Y-chromosome DNA, which is the male DNA, can be used to trace a direct line of male ancestors back hundreds of years and help establish relationships between distant cousins.
Greenspan said it can also be used to determine the general geographic area a person's ancestors came from, such as the British Isles, the Middle East and Africa.
The company's Internet site is http://www.familytreedna.com
Hooverson said "tried and true" research techniques are still invaluable for anyone who want to trace ancestry. He recommended backtracking ancestors with information regarding ethnic group, religion, surname history, settlement patterns and routes of immigration.
One method that is often overlooked, he said, is the "cluster theory of migration." By that, he said he meant prior to 1849 it was common for pioneers to move with groups of family members and neighbors, rather than as individuals.
He said by studying census and other records of those who lived near family members, it can be a great help in locating where they moved to later.
Hooverson said researchers should also be aware that county or parish boundary lines were sometimes changed in between census periods. A family may be found in a different county from one census to the other without having physically moved.
The event was sponsored by the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Library, Libraries Southwest, Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Society and Friends of the Calcasieu Parish Library.
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