Monday, October 22, 2012

Questions About Transitional Genealogists, Middle Eastern Ethnicity and Census Forms

Public Service Announcement: I am going through the National Genealogical Society's Home Study Course. I am doing it as a refresher/skills updater but also so that I will know enough about the course to be able to review/recommend it. So far I am enjoying it immensely.

Mo asks:
"You have mentioned the Transitional Genealogists mailing list that is for hobbyists wanting to maybe become professionals. Is that list open to anyone?"

Yes it is. You can sign up at Transitional Genealogists Forum.

Question from Kayla:
"Recently, I came across the following article. In here, it goes on to explain how she found that the Ramey family originally came from Egypt and she indeed found she had Egyptian DNA following a test. My question is, I am also a Ramey, from the same family, as they are in my family tree. If she says that a test has proved that her Ramey DNA was top world match Egyptian, what are the chances that I as well could have Egyptian DNA as well, since I am part of her Ramey family?

A DNA test won't tell you if you have Egyptian ancestors specifically but rather it will tell you that you have Middle Eastern ethnicity (assuming that you do). DNA tests can't tell you what country your ancestors lived in, only what their ethnic group is. For example, even if I was born in Egypt and lived there my entire life my DNA would still show that I am 52% British Isles, 43% Central European, and 5% Native American.

You need to look at this person's family tree and identify common DIRECT LINE ancestors and go from there. If the direct line ancestor is Middle Eastern in ethnicity, then you would also have this in your DNA. The percentage depends on how far back this ancestor is and how many direct line ancestors you have that are also Middle Eastern.

Don asks:
"Do you write out your census information by hand on blank census forms?"

No. I save a copy of the actual census page to my computer and then I do an extract and put that in my file. Here is an extract from the 1850 federal census in Pike County, Alabama:

John McMichael, age 23, male, farmer, born in GA
Elisabeth McMichael, age 21, female, born in GA
John McMichael, age 3, male, born in AL
Phebe McMichael, age 1, female, born in AL

Here is one from the 1830 federal census in Burke County, Georgia. In this one you can see how I add who I think each person is:

Samuel Seegar
2 free white males age 5 to under 10 [sons Solomon and Samuel]
1 free white male age 30 to under 40 [Samuel]
3 free white females under age 5 [daughter Mary and two unknowns]
1 free white female age 5 to under 10 [daughter Charlotta]
1 free white female age 20 to under 30 [wife Nancy]

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I'd add one provision to your DNA response.

    Everyone gets half their DNA from their mother, and half from their father. Neither mother nor father pass on all of their DNA. Theoretically, you could have none of the DNA of one paternal grandparent and one maternal grandparent, if each parent passed on solely the DNA of one of their parents. The odds of this are miniscule.

    However, it is equally unlikely that in every generation, an exact proportional division of DNA from your varied ancestors were passed on.
    Therefore, if we're talking several generations back, it is quite possible that two distant cousins share a common ancestral heritage, but only one of them has any DNA from those ancestors.

  2. Yes and no. The type of DNA test done for genealogical purposes is different than what you think of as a DNA test (like what they do for paternity or criminals). They are only testing a specific component. yDNA is passed on as is from father to son with very little variation through the generations. mDNA is passed down from daughter to daughter with very little variation. Men also have their mother's mDNA but they do not pass it it at all. You can't use the information alone, you have to use accurate family trees to map it all out. I don't explain this as well as Ugo Perego does. He is the ultimate DNA expert. You can watch two webinars that Ugo did on DNA free of charge. The first one is The Power of DNA in Unlocking Family Relationships and it is at and the second one is DNA Research for Genealogists: Beyond the Basics and you can see this one at Please let me know what you think about the videos!