Genealogy (the study of family descent and the recorded history of a person’s ancestry) has made significant strides in recent years as the result of the Internet and advancements in genetic science. It wasn’t long ago that the only tools available to the genealogist were libraries, court houses, the family bible, scrapbooks and possibly some personal vital records that were kept in a lock box that generally were only relevant for a generation or two. Any meaningful research had to be conducted in person by traveling to libraries to access historical clues and where they hopefully had access to micro-film census records and possibly archived newspaper articles (listing birth, marriage and death announcements). Then it was on to court houses located in the geographical areas where ancestors once lived to try to obtain copies of birth, marriage, death, and land records. Lastly, it also meant trips to various cemeteries to research family head stones to obtain vital information. Short of that one must write letters of inquiries to various state and federal agencies or county genealogy societies in an attempt to obtain information on a particular relative. All of this activity was expensive and time consuming.
Then came the Internet and the World-Wide-Web which slowly but surely evolved into an excellent vehicle to research family history in the comfort of your home. There you could access various databases and historical archives, and genealogy websites as they came on line, accessible with a simple click of a mouse, not to mention the information was free. Many had message boards that allowed family researchers to post messages in an effort to find family connections. Then genealogical entrepreneurial companies like Ancestry.com began selling genealogy software and various records that you could buy at a price. It was such a successful enterprise that the company aligned itself with various unfunded genealogical websites and eventually absorbed them or at minimum ensured that they contained links to the mother website. Now, for the most part they have a monopoly on the industry and family data can only be obtained via subscription. Few reliable alternatives exist other that the L.D.S. Family Search.org and USGenWeb sites or reverting back to using conventional libraries and court houses to conduct family history research.
Then modern science entered genealogy in the form of genealogical genetics, and an entirely new set of tools became available to the family historian. In 2002 John Walden posted a genealogy website focused on genetic Y-DNA studies of ‘Adams’ surname individuals that had been tested. One of the original goals was to determine whether or not a person was genetically related to the ‘Adams’ Presidents. Perhaps the more significant goal was to create a database of tested individuals and in time (as the database became populated) determine which families were related to each other. The name of his website remains the ‘Adams Surname Y-DNA Project’ and currently has hundreds of individuals listed that groups related families together. Our Adams family group is identified in the database as Family 033 and contains 11 families to date.
As I watched the database grow, I felt the need to capture and organize the information relative to our own family group. The goal was:
- Contact a representative for each family in Family 33.
- Invite each family representative to provide a condensed pedigree of their most distant known Adams ancestors.
- Encourage each family to conduct research to try and make a connection using the combined data.
- Create a living (updated) document that would be shared with each respective family on an ongoing basis.
The Adams Chronicles is a product of those four goals. Lastly, to eventually create an on-line website that would serve not only as an information archive, but would allow the creation of various special features that would help the entire group become better acquainted with their distant Adams cousins. Our own David Scifres has volunteered to create and manage a dedicated website for that very purpose and the website is under construction. We are also fortunate to have Dr. Gerald Adams with a PhD in microbiology in our group who has volunteered to help ‘crunch’ and interpret test results and answer questions. We owe many thanks to both David and Gerry for their dedication and support to our Adams family project. Thanks to everyone in our group for their cooperation and support of the Adams DNA project.
Unfortunately, genetic genealogy is not a panacea. It may certify that families are related and even provide insights into our ancestral origins but good old fashion family history research is still required to find common ancestors from one related family to another. I think that many if not all of us have been conducting family research for decades searching for our ancestors and without exception have run into the proverbial ‘brick wall’. To that end, when we became aware of advancements in genetic science that provided a means to definitively prove or disprove relationships, it became our next best hope but again it is not a where-with-all remedy just another tool in the genealogist’s arsenal. Perhaps initially we were expecting more than what has been delivered thus far. In truth and in a non-anticipated way it has provided a portal to additional family information we may have never found without the help of our new extended family. In trying to find our common ancestors within the group we now have new leads into finding our own ancestors, in addition to our common ancestors. The search is narrowing and we will eventually succeed in completing our search.
The science of genetics is a bit complex for the average lay person and therefore he or she may have little interest in it (or its research potential) beyond simply helping to find relatives. The initial Y-DNA tests started with 12 markers and then grew to 25, 37 and 43. Now the number of markers tested has increased to 67 and up to 111. Each increase has its advantages in confirming relationships and narrowing the estimate of genetic distance or time frame a shared ancestor lived therefore giving the genealogist a more accurate target to find common ancestors. The increase in markers tested also has other benefits in determining ancient ancestral origins. It is recommended that each family consider upgrading to a minimum of 67 markers which will provide a more accurate (oranges to oranges) comparison for each family to the others in the group. Obviously, there is a cost associated with an upgrade so one must weigh the cost versus the benefit. Overall…in the long run, relative to our total investment (software, time and effort and initial testing) to family history the additional expense may be a wise investment.
We all need to become better educated in the science of genetic genealogy. As with most science specialties, genetics has its own terminology so I have included a glossary of terms taken from the FTDNA website that will aide comprehension. I also added other resources that will help in conducting family research.
I Have a Dream
We are not Martin Luther King but we have our own dreams. We share one dream in common and that is to know from whence we came, and most of all to understand our Adams heritage and this has brought us together as a group. Perhaps the greatest goal is to appreciate our legacy or what we inherited from our ancestors and I don’t mean in a material sense. Many of us have moved or relocated in our jobs from one state to another in the U.S.A. and we know how difficult it is to tear out our established roots to make the transition and live in a strange place, make new friends and make a new home. Just think of what our ancestors must have experienced coming to this country from Europe. Leaving not only their homeland but to journey across the sea to an unknown place, and in most cases leaving some or most of their families behind to seek new opportunities. And when they arrived having to homestead, clear the land, build a shelter, dig a well, plant a garden, hunt game, chop wood and on and on for there were no country stores at the end of the block. This took a tremendous amount of courage and resolve, not to mention that most fought not only the frontier elements to survive but human foes as well. Our ancestors had strong values, convictions, a determined spirit, and hope for a better life for their family. For this they made tremendous sacrifices. This and many other qualities… good qualities they left to us and that spirit runs through our veins and dwells deep within our genes and we should be very proud of our ‘Adams’ heritage. This may sound a bit too Pollyannaish because we may not recognize some of these virtues in ourselves or our relatives but they are there we simply express them in different ways in different times. You may not realize it, but you are your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents and to know them is to know yourself, and that is what this family history journey is all about.
“Kinfolks, the Adams Chronicles”
I realize that having an “extended” family with multiple new cousins may have little practical meaning until we can make specific connections. We only know each other through e-mail or an occasional telephone call so I’ve added a section for each family to introduce themselves hence we can become better acquainted.
It has become evident by the increase in e-mails shared by the group and filled with new information that we need a place to document this new research. Therefore, I’ve added a new ‘note’ section to the journal to accommodate this data. As previously mentioned, one goal for the summary was to serve as a living document designed to ‘chronicle’ our progress in the search to find our common ancestors. Hopefully, it will also serve as a research archive so we don’t have to comb through multiple saved e-mail to find what we are looking for.
Finally, as time permits I will work on adding additional generations to the pedigree outline in the summary. This may include some living relatives as is the case with a few families. Our siblings and children are all grown adults so there is little risk in someone using the data for nefarious reasons. However, I will not publish the names of living minor children or grandchildren. Almost all of the data contained in this document is public information but is presented in a condensed format so please use good judgment in sharing the information with others outside of the family.
Please review your family information and let me know if there are any errors or the need for corrections, additions or deletions.
I hope this new journal format is an improvement over previous editions and as always I welcome your comments and suggestions.