Posted in Ancestor Stories

My Favorite Picture

Choosing my favorite picture is like choosing my favorite dessert.  There are just way too many choices!  Instead of trying to pick just one photograph, I decided to instead think about what I wanted to write.  I figured that would guide me to the perfect picture.

I decided on this one, which is of me and my papa (Richard Burns).  We are in the basement of my grandparent’s condo, putting together our annual talent show.  The talent show was just me and him doing a variety of random things.  There was usually a little singing and dancing, maybe a fashion show, but it was always guaranteed to be full of laughter.  We would set up shop in the living room and put on a full production for the rest of the family.

Arthur Amanda (9)

Some of my best memories growing up were with my papa.  He was the best playmate and the one always getting me into a little bit of trouble with my grandmother.  We had a special bond that nobody could really explain.  The amazing part is that my papa and I share no DNA.  That’s right, my papa and grandmother were married just two years before I was born.  It was a second marriage for both of them.


I am always fascinated by the nature versus nurture debate.  My relationship with my papa proves that nurture has a big impact on how someone grows up.  I never looked at my papa as someone I didn’t share DNA with.  He was, and still is, as much of a part of me as anyone who shares my DNA.


I think it’s important to remember these connections when we talk about our personal family history.  As genealogist, we become so focused on DNA matches and our direct lines, that we forget the importance of those who are related to us in a different way.  Sure, these connections may not help us break brick walls or get us into a lineage society, but to say they don’t make us who we are would be a mistake.


Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update (Weekday Version)

Hello Everybody!

I just wanted to give everyone an update on some exciting things coming this month in case you haven’t already heard!

Baking With My Ancestors


This new monthly series will feature recipes from around the world as well as their significance to their particular culture. I’ll actually be baking these goodies and sharing the “how-to” so you can enjoy it at home!

The Unknown Heroes of the Revolutionary War


This monthly series will feature some of the lesser-known folks who either fought in or supported the cause of the Patriots during the Revolutionary War.  I’ll be featuring both men and women (because women were awesome during this time in history!) and how they helped to shape the world we live in!

Summer DNA Basics Class


In July, I’ll be teaching a class via IGTV or YouTube all about the basics of DNA testing.  I’ll be going over the why you should do it, the science behind it, and how DNA testing can make the world a better place!  Also, there will be a super special giveaway!

New Monthly Newsletter



Make sure to sign up for the new monthly newsletter!  In the newsletter, you’ll get a sneak peak on upcoming blog features as well as tips & tricks for your own genealogy research.  I’ll also give you an update on what I’m currently researching and the tools I’m using to do so!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Hanging Out With The Cool Kids In The Irish DNA Group

If you’ve ever searched for genealogy groups on Facebook you know there are oodles of them.  It seems that every area of the world has their own page designated to their specific area.  Some are awesome…and some are not…but I’m here to tell you about some cool kids that I’ve met.

I stumbled on the Irish DNA Group by accident.  I had hit a brick wall while researching my Grandfather’s family and was desperate to find a crack in the wall.  I did a search and found the Irish DNA Group.  I quickly read through the “about” section and realized this could be what I’ve been looking for!

The purpose of the Irish DNA Group is assist those with potential Irish DNA.  To connect users with possible cousins and others who are doing research in a given area of Ireland.  To get started, all you need is to have taken a DNA test and have uploaded that DNA to GedMatch.  When you click join, you will answer a short questionnaire.  Once approved by the moderators, you will be then able to run Matchbox Tool.  This is where you will find your matches.  Matches are pulled from other members of the Irish DNA Group.

Below is an example of some of my matches…


You will find that just because you match some in the Irish DNA Group, it does not necessarily mean that you share Irish ancestry.  I was able to connect with a cousin where both of our ancestors were from Tennessee.  The great thing about DNA is that you never know what you’ll find!

Go and check out the Irish DNA Group.  They have a ton of information on how to get started and what to do with your results.  You can find a link to the group below!

The Irish DNA Group

Posted in Genealogy 101

What Is GedMatch and How Do I Use It?

If you’ve been around Genealogy DNA for a bit, you’ve more than likely heard of the site GedMatch.  GedMatch is a great (and free!) tool you can use to dive deeper into your DNA results. In simple terms, GedMatch is a catch-all for all DNA testers.  No matter the test (with some exceptions) you can find all your DNA matches in one place. In today’s post, I’m going to go into the basics of GedMatch and how you can benefit from using it.

Step One: Upload Your DNA


The first step in using GedMatch is uploading your Raw DNA file.  To find this file, you will need to go to the site of the kit that you used.  For example, if you took the AncestryDNA test, the Raw DNA download can be found under “settings” on your DNA results page.  Once downloaded, you can upload this file to GedMatch.

Step Two: Get Your GedMatch Number


Once your Raw DNA is uploaded, you will receive a GedMatch number (you can see mine in the above picture).  This number will be what you use to run your matches, compare your DNA to specific matches, and as a reference when contacting your matches.  If you notice, my number starts with the letter “A”.  This is in reference in what company I used to take my DNA test.  You will find that GedMatch numbers that start with an “A” used AncestyDNA, “M” is for 23andMe, and “T” is for FamilyTreeDNA.  This will help direct you on where to possibly find a family tree that your match may have posted.

Step Three: Run the “One to Many” Report

Capture2.PNG The “One-to-Many” report will give you all the users that you match on GedMatch.  This can be an unbelievably large number of matches!


This report will give you all the information you need on comparing matches and how to contact the matches (I’ve blacked out names on my results).  The above picture just shows a snippet of my matches.  Believe me the list goes on and on.

What do you do with these matches?  If you find a match that shares a common surname that either you have, or that you’re researching, you can contact that match and share with them what you are researching.  Another option is to select a few matches, run a comparison, and see if you can essentially connect the matches.  This is a long process and the key is to be patient!  I’ve been working with DNA for a while and still have no idea how some of my matches fit.  Personally, I’ve found making my own spreadsheet with specific information helps me keep track of everything. (An example of which you can see below.)


There is so much more that GedMatch can do, but I’ll go into more details in a later blog.  I just wanted today to talk about the basics.

If this all sounds like a bunch of gibberish, that’s okay.  I promise the more you use DNA the easier it gets!  Also, if you ever have any questions about how to read matches or what to do with your DNA results, send me an email…I’d love to help you!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Am I On the Maury Show?!

I remember whenever I stayed home sick in high school, I would spend my day on the couch watching daytime television.  One of my favorite guilty pleasures was the Maury Povich show and the best episodes were always the one with paternity tests.  Talk about drama! To a sixteen year old girl, this was television gold.


I blame Maury for skewing my ideals of DNA tests when they were first introduced into genealogy.  I find that my thoughts then are what many are now…

“If I know my parents, why do I need to take a DNA test?”

First, let’s talk about the who of DNA testing.


There are a multitude of genealogy companies who offer DNA testing.  There are too many for me to go into detail here.  The most popular of the DNA tests is AncestryDNA administer by  For that reason, I suggest anyone looking to take a DNA test for the first time to start with the Ancestry test.  Ancestry gives a great overview of your ancestral makeup as well as DNA matches.  Since AncestryDNA is so popular, you have better odds of matching with a long lost cousin.

Other companies who sell DNA tests include 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage.  Each test has it’s pros and cons.  If you’re looking for more information on specific tests, I recommend attending my Facebook DNA online class on Wednesday where I’ll be able to go more in depth about each company.

Next, let’s talk about the what of DNA testing.


What is DNA testing?  Genealogy DNA testing takes your DNA, compares it with other test takers around the world, and with that information, gives your general ethnic makeup as well as potential new family members.  Some DNA tests give you a bit more information.  In particular, 23andMe gives you some medical information.  While 23andMe does not substitute seeing a medical professional, it does give you some indicators of some things you may be more prone to.

There are two ways that companies collect your DNA.  Some test require you to spit in a tube.  Other companies have you scrape the inside of your cheek.  Either way that the DNA is collected, it is all used for the same purpose…to open the gateway to your past.

Lastly, let’s talk about the safety of DNA testing.


After being asked which DNA test to take, safety is usually the second question I get.  Is DNA testing safe….yes.  All companies have a disclosure of how they use your information.  This information is included with your DNA testing kit.  I know there has been some issues lately with DNA testing being used to crack cold cases.  While this is still relatively new, the ability to use your DNA for these purposes is covered in the disclosure by the company.

DNA is complicated, that is a fact, but is also a fascinating journey.  It has many twists and turns but if you’re patient it can unleash a wealth of information.


Posted in Seminars/Conferences

Preview: DNA Week

DNA Week is coming and so are classes, stories, and giveaways!  Below is the schedule for DNA Week.  I’ll be posting soon on how to win an AncestryDNA kit and a free 30-minute consultation! I hope to “see” everyone there!

  • Monday – “Am I On the Maury Show?!”
    • The Who, What, and Safety of DNA
  • Tuesday – “What is GedMatch and How Do I Use It?”
  • Wednesday – DNA Class
  • Thursday – “Hanging Out With the Cool Kids at the Irish DNA Group”
  • “DNA and Brick Walls”


Posted in Seminars/Conferences

FB Class: DNA & Why You Should Care

Hey everyone!  The Facebook DNA class is up on the Cool Girl Facebook page.  The class will be on Aug 22nd from 7-8pm (Central).  If you can’t make it “live” that’s okay!  I’ll keep the class open for a few extra days, so feel free to stop by!  Make sure to go to the Facebook page and click “going” so you don’t miss anything!  I can’t wait to “see” you there! 🙂

You can find the event by clicking the link below!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Should I Care?!

The most popular question I get when I say I’m a genealogist, besides “will you do my genealogy”, is “why should I care about my genealogy?”  It’s at this moment that I have to remind myself that not everyone is a big nerd like me.  Haha!  Anyways, with this post I’m going to do my best to convince you why you should care about your genealogy.

Knowing Who You Are

Okay, so your genealogy isn’t going to tell you what you’re destined to do in life, but sometimes it can help shed a light on one of you passions.  When you start looking into your ancestors’ occupations or hobbies, sometimes you find that you have something in common.  Take music for instance.  Maybe you like to play the guitar and everyone in your immediate family can’t understand why.  When you start digging into your genealogy, you find a great-grandfather who played guitar and his father played guitar and so on.  You instantly find a connection to your past and realize your passion is part of your history and your future.

Ownership in History

While in school we all had to memorize important dates and historical facts, without really understanding what the point was.  What if, when researching your ancestors, you find someone who had their hand in making history?  That might make that historical fact a bit more important to you, right?  For example, my research specialty is the Revolutionary War era.  Researching my ancestors during this time in history has not only provided me with many great stories, but it has also given me a new sense of pride during holidays such as the 4th of July.  When history becomes personal through your ancestors, you gain a new perspective on what those who lived it actually went though.



Now this reason I’ll go into a little more in-depth h in a later post because there is so much to talk about!  On the surface, DNA can tell you most of your genetic makeup.  It can break it down and really tell you what nationalities you are.  I know what you’re thinking, you already know that your family came from Ireland and everyone in your tree is Irish.  Think again!  There is a video that has been making the rounds about genealogy and DNA.  They talked to a lady from France and asked if she would like to take a DNA test.  She said sure, but she could already tell everyone that she was French, her parents were French, and her grandparents were French.  Imagine her surprise when her DNA test came back and she had absolutely no French DNA ancestry!  She was actually British!


Answering the Unanswered Questions

This one can be a bit tricky and can sometimes backfire on a reason why you should be interested in your genealogy.  We all have those stories in our family tree that are basically family folklore.  Some stories are good and some are bad, but we all have a part of us that wants to know the truth.  Genealogy research allows us to be our own family detectives.  To follow where the paper trail goes and answer the questions that have been plaguing our past.  While family trees don’t always have perfect branches, it is a combination of all the stories that have shaped not only our families, but our own lives.


I could keep going on and on about why you should care about your genealogy, but lucky for you, I don’t have the time!  While finding your ancestors may be no easy task, the rewards it gives you can be bountiful.  So the next time you wonder why you like something, or why you do something a certain way, the answer just might be with your ancestors.