Monday, September 22, 2014

I Can't Read Anything ... Oh, Now I Can

Please Note: I am not an expert and I do not claim to be one. What I present here is what I know and what I have experienced.

Nothing done to tombstone.
A while before planning our August road trip tombstone reading methods became a hot topic. What to do and what not to do. One alternative that was mentioned I had not heard of before. No one else from my local genealogy groups had heard of it either. Aluminum Foil Impressions.

So for our recent road trip, I brought along with me some lightweight aluminum foil and a clean, soft, fluffy makeup brush to give this method a try.

And you know what? It works, most of the time.
Nothing done to tombstone.

Cautions to Remember First

Of course, the best thing to do is as little as possible to a tombstone. Remember, DO NO HARM.

So if you have a troublesome tombstone, first try reading/taking a picture at different angles or at different times of day. (I know sometimes that one isn't possible.) You can also try bouncing light or shining light onto the carving while taking pictures.

If the "no touch" methods don't work, try plain water sprayed onto the carving. Plain water will do no damage. Take a photo just after wetting the stone and a while later when it is partially dried. Using just water often does the trick.

Plain water sprayed onto carving. Almost readable in this case.
Oh, if the stone is dirty use a lot of care and caution if you clean it. Do not scrub! Lightly, gently brush with a soft cloth or a soft (natural or poly) brush. Never use a metal brush or abrasive material. Never scrub hard. You can lightly brush off loose material but do not scrub live lichen off -- you may accidentally take a chunk of stone off with it.

Use just water and a light touch to remove splatters from birds, bugs, etc. Never use cleaning chemicals. Though it seems solid, stone is porous -- some more than others. Cleaning chemicals are more than likely to be acidic and will, if not immediately, eventually damage the stone. I know there are some commercial solutions that have been mentioned as okay for use with tombstones because they are pH neutral. But remember, you likely need to have the cemetery's permission to use these.

Old methods used in the past that you often hear about are: shaving cream, flour, cornstarch, powder, charcoal/chalk. BUT ALL OF THESE CAN DO DAMAGE AND SHOULD NOT BE USED. Shaving cream is acidic; flour/cornstarch contain starch that converts to sugar and feeds the lichen and "what nots" encouraging further growth; and charcoal/chalk does not clean off well and can stain the stone permanently.

So if doing nothing or plain water and/or light has not helped ... AND if the stone of the tombstone is not flaking or deteriorating then you can try an aluminum foil impression. Two caveats though. One, old tombstones made of slate are really, really fragile and it is best not to do any kind of impression/rubbing on them. Two, be aware some cemeteries and localities have banned tombstone rubbings to protect fragile tombstones. Do your research to keep yourself out of trouble.

So how is it done?

An aluminum foil impression is done by placing a sheet of foil on the carved surface. Since the foil can be bent around the surface, most often no tape, rubber bands or string is needed to secure it to the stone. (Have an extra pair of hands around in case the wind is not in your favor.) Then a clean, soft, fluffy brush (like a makeup brush) is used to gently impress the carving onto the foil. Usually, this puts less stress on the surface of the tombstone than a traditional wax rubbing because far less pressure is needed to make the impression. The downside is that a foil rubbing is fragile and saving it for posterity can be difficult. But viewing/photographing the foil on the tombstone at different angles and even shining/bouncing light at different angles against the foil while taking pictures can greatly aid in reading the carvings. So it is worth trying if the tombstone is not in danger and if you have the okay,

An Aluminum Foil Impression -- Now I can read it!
And without the caretaker's help we would never
have located this very small Quaker stone.
I don't know how many times we walked past it.
Thank you, Thank you.
Light and angles also aid reading.
This was a cloudy day with stone facing up.

As you can see from the photos sometimes the foil was not quite wide enough. In a couple cases, I did have to use more than one strip of foil on a tombstone. The wider-width aluminum foil is more often than not made of a heavier thickness foil and I have not yet tried it on a tombstone to see if it gives similar results.

Does it always work?

Unfortunately, there are tombstones that are too far gone and they still refuse to yield their stories. I had one where I only got a partial impression. At another cemetery, a very small tombstone's carving was completely erased by time. The aluminum foil impression did not even yield a single bump or divot in the stone.

So how does it compare to a traditional wax rubbing?

A wax rubbing involves placing a sheet of paper, cloth or Pellon interfacing (not the iron-on version) over the carved surface. Usually with this method the paper/material needs to be secured so it does not shift. Whatever method used should not damage the stone or leave residual matter that leads to damaging the stone. Sometimes just having another set of hands available to hold the material can solve the shifting problem.

Once the material is secure, colored wax is gently rubbed over the material sitting on top of the carved surface to transfer the impression. Some have used pencil lead or chalk/charcoal but both rub-off the material easily. (Test on a non-tombstone surface to ensure there is no bleed-through that damages the stone. If you plan to use fixative spray, do not spray the paper/material while on or near the tombstones. The spray overcast will be carried by the wind onto other tombstones and damage them.) Wax, be it a cake of tombstone wax or a child’s thick width crayon, is more durable. With this method you need to use a gentle touch and be sure not to leave any marks on the stone. Again, test on a non-tombstone surface to ensure the wax does not bleed through the paper/material you have chosen. Depending on the material used, this method is more easily preserved.

Muslin is a bit thin but can be used.
Interfacing, not too thin or thick, works great.

Parting Thoughts

I made the mistake of leaving home without the Pellon interfacing. I thought I would not have a problem finding some at one of those large grocery/home store. I forgot how far north I was traveling and the best I could find was muslin material. For me it was a little thin to use but it worked pretty well in a pinch. When we changed locations I was able to find a craft store and get some Pellon interfacing which I feel works really well. I don't get the thinnest nor the thickest version but at the moment I can't remember what weight I used.

Note: With regards to the tombstone for Seneca Rider, we have visited this tombstone several times since the mid-1990s. The crack has been worse and has been better. I have photographs of it when you could still piece together/make out, "Age 91 years." Between my photographs and now the rubbing, this stone will be preserved in one way or another.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Is it Done Yet? Our Experience with DNA Testing at and FamilyTree DNA

As noted in an earlier post,'s retirement of its Y-DNA and mtDNA testing at the beginning of June 2014 prompted us to get off our butts and actually perform and mail in the various DNA tests we had purchased that were still valid. (We had one Y-DNA and one mtDNA test from that had not been performed/processed at the time of the retirement announcement and these were refunded to us.)

At that time, I thought I would keep track of the tests' progress and give a run-down of what we experienced between the two companies involved -- and FamilyTree DNA -- since we performed and mailed in the tests at the same time. I delayed making this post a bit longer to include our experience with an autosomal transfer order.

So what tests did we do?
We had two AncestryDNA (autosomal) tests purchased prior to the retirement announcement. (Note: AncestryDNA, the autosomal test, was not retired by just the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests.) One test was purchased in 2013 and the other in 2014. I also had an mtDNA test purchased in March 2014 with an FamilyFinder (autosomal) upgrade purchased in June 2014. All of these tests were purchased on sale.

At the end of this August, I ordered one Autosomal Transfer from FamilyTree DNA. This allowed me to upload the raw DNA data from another company's compatible test (AncestryDNA in this case) to a FamilyTree DNA FamilyFinder test. Shockingly, I purchased this transfer at regular price and not at a sale price.

So from the time of purchase to the time of results this is what we experienced.

AncestryDNA (autosomal) the newer kit - Me 
Spit Tube with pre-paid box for return to Utah
AncestryDNA (autosomal) the older kit - Sister
Spit Tube with pre-paid padded envelope for return to Utah
FamilyTreeDNA (mtDNA and Autosomal Upgrade) - Mom
Swabs with padded envelope for return (not pre-paid) to Texas
Autosomal Transfer
from AncestryDNA to FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder - Sister
No physical test, just uploaded raw data that I downloaded from AncestryDNA
Purchased Test
April 27, 2014
Jan 6, 2013
Tues., April 1, 2014
Fri., August 29, 2014*
April 30, 2014
(3 days after order)
Jan 11, 2013
(5 days after order)
Wed., April 2, 2014
(1 day after order)
Purchased Upgrade (no test kit sent/uses swabs from first test)
Tues., June 17, 2014
Took Test
Tues., June 24, 2014
Tues., June 24, 2014
Tues., June 24, 2014
Activated Test Online
Wed., June 25, 2014
Wed., June 25, 2014
Postal Mailed Test
Wed., June 25, 2014
Wed., June 25, 2014
Wed., June 25, 2014 
Fri., August 29, 2014
(technically, I uploaded the data it was not postal mailed)
Received Test / Email Confirmation of Receipt
Thurs., July 3, 2014
(I saw by signing in)
Email: Thurs., July 3, 2014 3:30 p.m.
Expect results in 6-8 weeks
[est. Aug 14 – Aug 28]

(0 day – start counting
or 8 days from mailing)
Thurs., July 10, 2014

Email: Thurs., July 10, 2014 5:40 p.m.
Expect results in 6-8 weeks
[est. Aug 21 – Sep 4]

[Note: email received after I sent email at 4:36 p.m. regarding “missing test”]
(0 day – start counting
or 15 days from mailing)
Thurs., July 3, 2014
(I saw by signing in)
Email: Thurs., July 3, 2014 9 p.m.

(0 day – start counting
or 8 days from mailing)
No email received other than confirmation of sale email which had no directions on how to proceed next. 

Note: From a prior phone call to customer service in regards to a couple things, I learned that autosomal transfers results generally take 3-4 business days
Received by Lab
Wed., July 9, 2014
(6 days from test received
or 14 days from mailing)
Fri., August 29, 2014
Batch Assigned
Thurs., July 10, 2014

Family Finder 3-4 weeks
[est. July 31 – Aug 7]

mtDNA full seq.
(HVR1, HVR2, and mtDNA coding region) 6-8 weeks
[est. Aug 21 – Sep 4]

(0 day – start counting
or 7 days from test received
or 15 days from mailing)
Processing Test
Thurs., July 3, 2014 ?begun
Thurs., July 10, 2014 ?begun
Thurs., July 10, 2014

Mon., Sept. 1, 2014 (noticed 1:25 am) (technically said Sent)

(0 day – start counting
or 3 days from uploading)
Results Arrived
Fri., July 18, 2014 found results on My DNA Page at 10:38 p.m. (email found later was sent at 10:21 p.m.)


(16 days from test received
or 24 days from mailing)
[approx. 2 weeks + 2 days
or approx. 3 weeks + 3 days]
Mon., July 28, 2014 email found later was apparently sent at 5:27 p.m., found email about 6:45 p.m)


(19 days from test received
or 34 days from mailing)
[approx. 2 weeks + 5 days
or approx. weeks + 6 days]
Thurs., July 31, 2014 FamilyFinder
(found 2:35 p.m. by logging in)
[email arrived 9:11 p.m.]

Mon., Aug. 18, 2014 mtDNA
(found 9:40 p.m. by logging in)
[email arrived 10:44 p.m.]

(21 days from batching
or 28 days from receiving)
or 36 days from mailing)
[approx. 3 weeks
or approx. 4 weeks
or approx. 5 weeks + 1 day]

(39 days from batching
or 46 days from receiving)
or 54 days from mailing)
[approx. 5 weeks + 4 days

or approx. 6 weeks + 4 days
or approx. 7 weeks + 5 day]

Fri., Sept. 5, 2014
(noticed around 12 p.m.)
[email arrived 9:12 p.m.]

Autosomal Transfer
to FamilyFinder*
(4 days from “Sent” to process
or 7 days from uploading)

*Obviously, this was started late on the Friday before the holiday weekend so the time from uploading reflects this.

So how long did it take?
As far as the return postal mail time, based on two of the test kits (one from, one from FamilyTree DNA) there was no difference in mail time. I'm not sure if the delay with the older AncestryDNA test came from the post office's end or from's end with kit intake. (Ancestry changed its test kit packaging.) I never got an answer from's DNA customer service with regards to the delay. The results just magically appeared one hour after I sent in the query about the missing test.

As far as the time it took to receive results from when the company received/batched the test, despite the one AncestryDNA test going AWOL for one week both AncestryDNA test results were returned well before the 6 – 8 week estimate. The FamilyFinder test results from FamilyTree DNA also came in on time as did the mtDNA test results. Though both companies start their estimated time “clocks” when a test is received or batched, I have included the timing from mailing because I have a feeling that is how some will perceive the length of their wait for results.

With the autosomal transfer, there likely was a delay due to the time I ordered the transfer (late afternoon on a Friday) and that it was the start of a holiday weekend. Though the data was sent to processing by the wee hours of Monday morning (the holiday.) From that point it was 4 business days so I'm considering this delivered as promised.

Of course if there is a really a good sale and if a lot of those tests are performed and turned in promptly it may take longer than a company’s normal estimated time until results are received.

So what did I find out? 
I'll do a short post about my first look at the results next.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

RIP: Grandma Martha Dunham Rider

129 years ago today, on August 30, 1885 (it was a Sunday that year), my fourth great grandmother Martha Dunham Rider died.

In all the years that we have been placing red geraniums (sometimes pink) and white impatiens (lately petunias) on our ancestors' graves, we have never been able to do so for Grandma Martha. The reason why is that they left no death record for her and her resting place is unmarked.

We figure she is buried in one of two cemeteries near Capac in St. Clair County, Michigan. But both cemeteries lack records and what records they have are recreated based on existing tombstones.

So Grandma Martha here are some virtual flowers for you. Rest in Peace and know that you are remembered.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014: the 1st Anniversary of this Blog

Today is the First anniversary of this blog.

I did not set any specific goals when I started this. The closest I came to a goal was that I had hoped to post something at least once a month. I did not do too bad with that rather un-lofty goal. There were just three months without a post.

August 2013 - 2 posts
September 2013 - 2 posts
October 2013 - 1 posts
November 2013 - 0 posts (Illness prevented posting)
December 2013 - 0 (Illness prevented posting)
January 2014 - 3 posts
February 2014 - 1 posts
March 2014 - 3 posts
April 2014 - 3 posts
May 2014 - 0 posts (Schedule prevented posting)
June 2014 - 1 posts
July 2014 - 4 posts
August 2014 - 3 posts(so far)

I am not sure if I'll set a real goal for this second year either.  I have multiple things pulling me different ways and I want to keep this a pleasure to write not a chore. Maybe again I'll just hope to make at least one post each month.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy Birthday to my 4th Great Grandma Martha DUNHAM RIDER

It is August 17, 2014. And, today would have been her 217th Birthday. She was one of my fourth great grandmothers on my father's side. Her name was Martha DUNHAM

Martha and her family are currently the pile of bricks that I am remodeling from a wall into ... my family history. 

Granted one link is held together by circumstantial evidence but it is good reasoning and what evidence/non-evidence I have found that has helped me confirm what my gut has been saying to me for years. Of course, I still seek a record -- any original record -- that says what I have determined for this particular link.

Martha was born 17 August 1797 in Dutchess County, New York. When she was three and a half years old, her parents moved their large family to what was Upper Canada now Ontario, Canada. Eventually, she married Seneca RIDER.

That is all I can say at present, I am writing this family's story and I am hoping to submit it for publication. Not the whole family's ancestry (there are others working on that) just the details on her parents and their descendants which have not been told before.

So Happy Birthday, Grandma Martha!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I've Gone Researching ... More To Follow

Until I can write the post, you'll have to guess where I was today.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

AncestryDNA $49 Reduced Price Has Expired

Just before I signed into tonight, I thought to check on the reduced price webpage for an AncestryDNA test. It appears the reduced pricing of $49 is now over and the cost of an Ancestry DNA test is now back to $99.

If you missed it, I advise to checking the website often to keep an eye out for any future sales.