Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Contributor
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There is one help in genealogy that we all seem to ignore. Not much is said about it although I have seen some articles about it in the past. After seeing one by Paula Stewart Warren in the April 2005 Family Tree Magazine, I thought it would be a timely topic for this newsletter. Some of us ignore this source because we are not aware of it, while others just seem to put it in the back of their mind and then promptly forget about it. These are records compiled by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and renamed Works Projects Administration in the 1939.
The WPA came into being under the direction of Franklin D. Roosevelt as a way to help those who were jobless after the crash in 1929 of the financial markets. It helped those who were out of work to earn a wage and still do some useful work. They did everything from repairing roads, painting murals, sewing clothes, planting trees and the like. One area that was covered was historical records. That project, called the Historical Records Survey (HRS) was to make a survey of all kinds of historical items and record where these were held.
Among the people who worked on this particular project were librarians, archivists, and historians. These people compiled lists of various kinds of public records in courthouses, libraries, town offices and even historical societies. A vast majority of these were not published but their manuscripts have been preserved. The LDS church has microfilmed many of them. These can be viewed on microfilm which can be rented and seen at the many Family History Centers (FHC) throughout this country. .
A sister project to the Historical Records Survey was the Federal Writers Project. On this project writers interviewed many people from various walks in life and took oral histories. The Library of Congress has posted two of these collections on its American Memory Web site. These can be found here.
Because the WPA ended with World War II, the HRS ended too, with many projects incomplete and unpublished. Not all of their work survived, but there is still a goodly amount in existence today. These are not all in one repository so one has to look for them. You might want to use as keywords in your online search of various repositories works progress administration, works projects administration, and historical records survey as the keyword or author. Another combination to try would be county archives inventory or cemetery survey as search subjects.
Check your major repositories (libraries) for these as well. Remember also that while the people working on this were trained to a certain degree, they still had to interpret handwriting and what was in the records. As we all know, that can and does lead to errors; so just be aware of that too.Recommended Reading
Good Works by Pamela Stewart Warren in the April 2005 issue of Family Tree Magazine (ISSN 1529-0298) published bimonthly by F+W Publications Inc., 4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236, Copyright © 2005, F+W Publications, Vol. 6, No. 2, April 2005.
June 7th was the start of the Family Link Network online conference on DNA and Genealogy. The conference goes through July 7th, and contains several sessions you can listen to and print out the presentation handout.
The first session I went to was by Karen Clifford, AG, one of the organizers of the conference. It was titled: DNA from A Genealogists Perspective. She points out you néed a goal before undertaking a DNA search, and to clarify the terms used so you know what they are talking about and how it will benefit your research.
Introduction to Genetic Genealogy, A Guide to Using Genetics in your Genealogical Research was the next session I tried. This session gives the reasons why genealogists are using DNA more and more to help with their research. DNA can verify relationships, confirm relatedness of people with the same surnames, prove or disprove their research, and solve family mysteries. It then went on to define the major testing, using the Y chromosome, the direct paternal line, mitochondrial DNA the direct maternal line, extended family testing, and Ancestral Origins. Ancestral Origins can prove you are not related to the Native American princess as your family has always believed. It also shows how to collect samples from inside your cheek, and how easy it is to collect the sample for testing.
The next session was on Deep Ancestral origins. This tells about finding to which group you are related — Asian, European, Native American or African. This test will show where your ancestors first came from. It gives you an estimate on how much you are related to each of the four groups listed above.
I then chose to watch Why the Y. It was on the Y chromosome paternal line testing. Because the Y chromosome is passed unchanged from father to son, it is the most popular DNA test. It is used to prove or disprove your paternal line.
Mitochondrial DNA was the next session I tried. In it they showed how this sample was collected from the cells, and how it is used to follow your maternal line.
The last session was Unraveling the Code, or what do the tests show. They test 26 areas or markers for one person, and compare it with those of others, so a perfect match is 26 of 26, but 25 of 26 or 24 of 26 could also be a match. The second step is to calculate Most Recent Common Ancestor or the MRCA, and then apply that to your research. It can tell you which ancestor you have in common with the others tested. Did this confirm your research? Do you néed to do more research?