Clayton Crier Quarterly Newsletter | April 2020

Clayton Crier

Navigating DNA - A Beginners Approach
The Reclaiming Our African Roots (R.O.A.R.) Project
Electronic Resources You May Have Overlooked

Navigating DNA – A Beginners Approach

by Franklin Smith

Are you frustrated trying to make sense of your massive list of DNA matches? If you answered no, it’s probably because you tested for and only looked at the ethnicity. Those responding yes know what a daunting and overwhelming challenge these matches can create. However, translating genetic numbers (DNA) into genealogical relationships is not beyond your reach. If you have the patience and desire to learn some basic DNA terms and concepts, you can be successful. Some test providers offer tools that will help with the process. In addition, some third-party sites have created great resources that help make sense of the numbers.  All testing companies provide a relationship range estimate for your matches.

There are a couple of things you can do to help navigate the process:

  1. Learn to translate the total DNA shared into genealogical relationships.
  2. Organize your matches into an understandable format (clusters) that can help identify your shared link. (Cluster- a group of matches that match you and each other.)

Translating your Numbers
From cM’s (centimorgans) to genealogical relationships.This section gives a basic overview of what the numbers mean and a tool that will deliver more precise estimates of the most probable relationships.

  • Total DNA shared – the DNA shared between two matches
    • Genetic relationships are measured in centimorgans.
    • Total number of centimorgans (total DNA shared) will translate to genealogical relationships.
    • The more DNA shared – the closer the genealogical relationship.The less DNA shared – the farther away the genealogical relationship and the wider the range of possible genealogical relationships.
    • There are charts that estimate the various relationships for different ranges of total shared DNA.
    • Best chart is Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project chart. Bettinger’s chart and other charts can be found on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki (ISOGG) under Autosomal DNA Statistics.
  • Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project Chart
    • Uses shared DNA to suggest possible genealogical relationships.
    • Covers most relationships except double cousins and endogamy.
    • Gives the minimum and maximum cM range for each relationship and averages.
    • You to take your shared DNA and find the closet average for relationships that best match.
  • DNA Painter-Shared cM Project Calculator
    • Jonny Perl creator of DNA Painter Mapping tool introduced a free automated version of Bettinger’s Shared cM project chart, which can be found under tools on the DNA Painter home page.
    • Uses total DNA shared to suggest the most likely genealogical relationships and groups relationships by percentage of likelihood.
    • Check out Jonny Perl’s “What Are the Odds?” tool for genetic genealogy.

Organizing and Analyzing Your Matches
Below are third party DNA tools to display your matches in clusters. The objective is to use the clusters to identify shared ancestor (s) or ancestral lines.

  • Leeds Color Coding Clustering Method by Dana Leeds
    • Manual procedure organizes 2nd and 3rd cousins into a color-coded diagram or spreadsheet.
    • Color coding helps organize matches into grandparent lines.
  • Automated tools for visualization and clustering
Third party tool for analyzing and comparing DNA that has free basic tools.

DNAGedcom by Don Worth
Use with Ancestry, 23andMe, FTDNA, and MYHeritage.

DNA Painter by Jonny Perl
A chromosome painter that works with test companies and chromosome browsers only.

Genetic Affairs by Evert-Jan Blom
Offers a cluster tool and several other tools. Works with FamilytreeDNA, Ancestry, and 23andme.

Shared Clustering by Jonathan Brecher
A free clustering tool for use with Ancestry only.

Hopefully, this approach will provide a path to your DNA journey. Using your clusters to find your shared ancestors is a challenge but with patience, persistence, and a basic understanding of DNA it can be done.

The Reclaiming Our African Roots (R.O.A.R.) Project
by Rodney Sam

R.O.A.R. is an acronym meaning “Reclaiming our African Roots.”  The R.O.A.R. project is part of a long-term initiative spearheaded by to collect millions of genealogical records relating to African-Americans and making them available on their website for researchers to use. To accomplish their goals, R.O.A.R. has partnered with African-American museums, genealogical societies, and university archives from all over the country. Volunteers can register with the R.O.A.R. project through the FamilySearch blog to help index historical documents, review indexed information, clean up tombstones, photograph or transcribe tombstones, research unmarked graves, and create social media posts.

R.O.A.R. is also working another ambitious project to collect and preserve the oral histories of Africans from different countries and ethnic groups. The goal of this project is to interview and collect genealogies from the leaders of African clans in villages and eventually make all the information online in digital family tree format for researchers to access through Any organizations and volunteers in contributing to the R.O.A.R. project can register through Check out the Houston Public Library's Genealogical Research Resources page. Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research has access to many restricted records on through being an affiliate library of the LDS Library in Salt Lake City. Let us help you get started reclaiming your roots, whether they are African or European.

Electronic Resources You May Have Overlooked
The Houston Public Library subscribes to nearly 150 online databases. It is our goal by reviewing some of these non-genealogy databases that your research will be expanded, you will discover new sources, understand the history your ancestors were part of, and offer background information that will help you write your family story.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History (OEMH) Database Review
by Sue Kaufman

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History (OEMH) is found in the Almanacs Resources section of the Houston Public Library Resources by Category page. The OEMH is available both inside the library and at home with an HPL MY Link library card. The OEMH is a reference database covering the entire history of seafaring, from ancient Egyptian shipbuilders to the nuclear submarines and supertankers of today placing maritime affairs in their larger historical context. Information can be found by searching subjects directly, or by keyword search. 

Searching by Keyword
The keyword “genealogy” returns five matches, including a list of maritime libraries in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, and the United States and information they hold. A bibliography is often listed for further reading, and related content can be found on the sidebar of the webpage article.

Searching Subjects Directly
The term “great lakes” returns over 4,000 matches. Searches can be narrowed down by specialization such as history, law, society and culture, by reference type such as dictionaries, timelines, overviews, also by subject, having illustrations, and more. Accounts can be created to save searches. Printing out and sharing by email or social media can also be done.

We invite you to explore this resource in your family history research. For help with the database contact a Clayton Library staff member.

Gale Courses Database Review
by Joy Oria

Sharing your family’s story can be made easier using the free online instructor-led courses found in Gale Courses, a CenGage Learning product that contains over 300 classes on many topics that can help you bring your family’s stories to life. Gale Courses is available both inside the library and at home with an HPL MY Link library card.

As much time as you’ve spent researching your family’s genealogy, hopefully you’ve also considered the legacy of your research. Future descendants and researchers may not understand research notes or piles of documents, or even be willing to decipher them, but everybody can appreciate a good story.

  • Tell the story of your ancestors' journey to this country.
  • Share anecdotes of your grandparents.
  • Point out the challenges your ancestors overcame.
  • Record the story of your own life.

Thanks to technology there are several ways to record and share your family’s story, whether it’s a traditional book, a family history blog, or an article for a genealogy periodical. Maybe you’ve thought about creating a website, a podcast, or sharing stories on social media. 

If writing or technology has frightened you away, fear not. Free online classes on these topics and more are accessible using your MY Link Houston Public Library card and Gale Courses. Improve your writing skills and learn how to distribute your writing through classes.

Free Online Writing Skills Classes
Courses are taught online, run six weeks long, and can be taken in the comfort of your own home. New sessions begin every month. Interact with instructors and fellow students on an online discussion board.

  • Writing Essentials
  • Write Your Life Story
  • Creating WordPress Websites
  • Creating Web Pages
  • Blogging and Podcasting for Beginners
  • Introduction to Microsoft Word
  • Introduction to Photoshop

Writing classes are not the only offerings. Among the wide variety of Gale Courses, you can learn to start your own business, speak Spanish, or ace the SAT. There is even a course called Genealogy Basics to help you find more about your ancestors to write about. With the availability of these free tools, you can get started sharing your family’s story. 

We invite you to explore this resource in your family history research. For help with the database contact a Clayton Library staff member.


Interested in taking a course in basic genealogy

Hello there. I’m interested in the Gale Courses for writing. Years ago, I was able to access information from university libraries. However, I have run into the problem of not knowing how to use the new tools for accessing information. As I have been earnestly trying to write my story as a 1) family history memoir or 2) my memoir encompassing our genealogy.

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