Bring back the interactive map, please!

There are a few sites that, to a genealogist, are simply indispensable.

If The Legal Genealogist absolutely had to, I could live without some of the sites that are in my genealogy toolbar, or my key bookmarks list.

But very high on the list of sites I can not do without is the interactive map of historical county boundaries at Chicago’s Newberry Library.

When you have families, like mine, that migrated during the early days of the Revolutionary War to Rowan County, North Carolina, and then lived in Burke County, Yancey County and Mitchell County — but never moved after arriving in North Carolina — you really need the interactive map database at the Newberry Library.

It’s the easiest, most complete, site to track county boundaries. As the site says, it has “(m)aps and text covering the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county, and unsuccessful county proposal from the creation of the first county through 31 December 2000.”1

You can “(c)hoose a date (day, month, and year) to view historical county configurations against the modern county network. Use the toolbar to zoom, pan, measure, view descriptions and citations, or print a desired map.”2

Well, you could do all those things, that is… until now.


As you can see, right now, if you go to the Newberry Library website and go to the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries page, you get a message right at the top.

One that makes my heart stop dead in its tracks.

Please note: the interactive map portion of this site is temporarily unavailable.

And, underneath that, a box for data entry with the comment “Enter email address to receive notification when this functionality has been restored.”

Now any time you see a message like this, you know that the most likely situation is that there’s some sort of technical glitch that will take some serious resources to fix… and that those serious resources won’t be committed unless and until the site has evidence that the missing functionality is important to the site’s users.

In other words, if we don’t tell the Newberry Library that we really really want and need this functionality back, we may well lose it forever.

So you know what we need to do, right?

You got it: head right over to the Newberry Library website, to the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries page, and add your email address to the list of those that need to be notified “when this functionality has been restored.”

When, not if.


Please, dear Newberry… please…


  1. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries,” entry for New Jersey, Newberry Library ( : accessed 20 July 2015).
  2. Ibid.
Posted in General, Resources | 9 Comments

The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

So… it’s GRIP week again.

The Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) has two sessions, one in June and, now, this week in July.

Last Will and TestamentAnd you know what that means, right?

Yeah, The Legal Genealogist is on the road again.

Rick Sayre and I are co-coordinating the Law School for Genealogists course where a classroom full of eager students will hear about federal and state courts, resources like the U.S. Serial Set, tips for understanding records of our female ancestors, and so much more.

But even though time, this week, will be at a premium, there are still questions to be answered, including the one Charmaine Riley Holley hit me with last night just before dinner:

Just what’s the difference, in a will, between the statement that something is bequeathed and the statement that something is devised?

In the will Charmaine was reading, the deceased was leaving things to a number of relatives and the terminology used wasn’t the same for all. To some, the will used the language “I bequeath and devise” and to others the language was just “I bequeath.”

Why, Charmaine wanted to know, would there be a difference?

Great question, because — even though today we basically use both words any time we give anything to anyone in a will and often say “I give, bequeath and devise” (just to cover all the bases) — historically, there really was a difference between the two terms.

To bequeath something meant to “give personal property by will to another.”1

To devise something meant to make a “gift of real property by will.”2

And the difference between personal and real property, of course, is that personal property is “property of a personal or movable nature, as opposed to property of a local or immovable character, (such as land or houses), the latter being called ‘real property.’”3

So the decedent in Charmaine’s case bequeathed his personal property, and he devised his real property — his land.


  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 129, “bequeath.”
  2. Ibid., 364, “devise.”
  3. Ibid., 893, “personal property.”
Posted in Legal definitions | Leave a comment

Test them all!

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that understanding DNA testing and the way it can be used in genealogy is tough stuff.

siblingsWe have to understand what kinds of DNA tests there are.

We have to understand what those tests can and can’t show.

And we have to understand who to test to get the most from what the tests offer.

Compared to that, understanding those tick marks on an early census record seems easy!

And it’s that complexity that’s tripping up reader Gail as she tries to figure out who to test right now — herself or her brother.

“I am still wondering,” she wrote, “if I want the most complete results -– would it be better to test my brother versus myself as a female? Although I am reading it makes no difference it did make a difference with National Geographic since we got the female line only with myself and had to test my brother which resulted in duplication of the female with the addition of the male. Also, since the male or female DNA results showed only the direct line, will that change for the DNA tests from the other sources?”

Clearly some confusion going on here, so let’s go back to the basics and review the three basic types of DNA tests.

First, we have YDNA — the kind of DNA found in the male gender-determinative Y chromosome that only men have.1 It gets passed from a man only to his sons and from his sons only to his grandsons and from his grandsons only to his great grandsons, with few changes down the generations.2

That’s the test Gail’s brother has already taken with National Geographic, and that gave him what she refers to as “male DNA” results. That tells her and her brother only about their direct paternal line: their father’s father’s father and so on (plus all of the sons and grandsons of those men) share the same YDNA.

What does that type of test tell us? It can help us answer a key question: am I descended from — or at least related to — that one man? So it’s an excellent test for genealogists, but for this test they have to have a male candidate to test.

Second, we have mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA — the kind of DNA we all have that serves as the energy producer for the cells in our bodies.3 It gets passed from a mother to all of her children — male and female — but only her daughters can pass it on to her grandchildren.4

That’s the test that Gail and her brother have both taken with National Geographic that she’s referring to as the female line because it tells them about their direct maternal line: their mother’s mother’s mother and so on (plus all of the children of all of the women in a direct line of descent) share the same mtDNA.

What does that type of test tell us? It can help us answer a key question: am I descended from — or at least related to — that one woman? It’s a tougher test to figure out because of the inheritance pattern: you can test a son if you’re looking for information about his mother’s mother’s mother’s line, but you can’t test that son’s children since they have the mtDNA of their mother, not their father. So it’s an excellent test for genealogists, but only if they have the right candidates — male or female — to test.

Third, we have autosomal DNA — the kind of DNA we all inherit from both of our parents5 in a mix that changes, in a random pattern, from generation to generation in a process called recombination.6

That’s the test that Gail is really asking about right now, and wondering whether she or her brother would be better to test — and whether it makes any difference who gets tested.

What does that type of test tell us? It tells us about all of our ancestors back within four or five generations, to help us answer the question: am I descended from — or at least related to — that couple? So it’s really most useful for finding cousins who share some portion of DNA with us with whom we can then share research efforts.7

And because that recombination bit happens every single time a child is conceived both Gail and her brother should be tested. Recombination is purely random, so Gail could well have inherited some fairly substantial chunks of DNA that her brother did not inherit — and vice versa.

And to be sure of getting the most from autosomal testing, not only should Gail and her brother both test, but they also want to test everyone else in the family — parents or grandparents still living, other siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins — that they can convince to test.

Each family member will have cousin matches in the DNA testing databases that the others won’t have — and some of those individual matches may provide the keys to some enduring family history mysteries.

Bottom line: when it comes to autosomal testing, test everybody you can afford to test!


  1. ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome,” rev. 18 Jan 2015.
  2. Ibid., “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 27 Nov 2014.
  3. What is mitochondrial DNA?,” Genetics Home Reference Handbook, National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health ( : accessed 18 July 2015).
  4. ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 15 May 2015.
  5. ISOGG Wiki (, “Autosomal DNA,” rev. 30 June 2015.
  6. ISOGG Wiki (, “Recombination,” rev. 14 June 2015.
  7. See Judy G. Russell, “Autosomal DNA testing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, October-December 2011, 38-43.
Posted in DNA | 8 Comments


No, no, no, no.

Just no.

The Legal Genealogist can’t handle this on a rainy nasty Saturday morning.


Not-ElizabethMy fifth great grandmother was Elizabeth (Pettypool) Jones. She was born around 1750, and died in September 1818. She is buried at Sandy Run Baptist Cemetery in Cleveland County, North Carolina.1

You can see a photograph of her tombstone there on Find A Grave: the inscription reads “In memory of Elizabeth Jones Consort of John Jones Who died Septr 25 1818 Aged 6(8?) years.”2

And you can find there another photograph. The one that’s illustrating this blog post.

A photograph purportedly of Elizabeth (Pettypool) Jones.


Let me repeat something here.

Elizabeth (Pettypool) Jones was born around 1750, and died in September 1818.

And the very first permanent photograph, of anything, ever known to have been created was created by a Frenchman, Nicéphore Niépce, in 1826.3

Niépce and another Frenchman named Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre teamed up three years later — in 1829 — to try to perfect the photographic process. But it wasn’t until 1839 that the details of the first commercially practical photographic process, the daguerreotype, were announced in public.4

That same year, 1839, is when an Englishman named William Henry Fox Talbot announced his process for what he called photogenic drawing — combining negatives and light-sensitive papers to produce images.5

You’re getting the drift, right?

There is no way that a process that didn’t even begin until 1826 could possibly have been used to create an image of a woman who died in 1818.


No, no, no, no.

Just no.


  1. W.D. Floyd, “Cleveland County Cemeteries,” Website On Disks, CD-ROM (Forest City, NC : Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County, 2007), entry for Elizabeth Jones, Sandy Run Baptist Cemetery.
  2. Sandy Run Baptist Cemetery, Cleveland County, North Carolina, Elizabeth Jones marker; digital image, Find A Grave ( : accessed 18 July 2015), photo added by Sharon, Find A Grave member #46808067.
  3. Timeline,” History of Photography, PBS ( : accessed 18 July 2015).
  4. Helmut Erich Robert Gernsheim, “History of Photography,” Encyclopedia Britannica ( : accessed 18 July 2015).
  5. Ibid.
Posted in My family | 35 Comments

Have you bookmarked JSTOR Daily yet?

Back in October 2014, The Legal Genealogist discovered something all genealogists have to add to their reading list.

It’s called JSTOR Daily, it’s irresistable — and it’s packed with great information.1

Including information written specifically for our community.

By a member of our community.

Jstor.dailyEvery single post on JSTOR Daily is well-written and points towards some terrific information.

That by itself would make JSTOR Daily worth reading.

But, since April, genealogists have had an even better reason for reading JSTOR Daily: it now features articles pretty nearly every week by genealogy’s own D. Joshua Taylor — articles focused on using JSTOR’s deep resources for family history research.

Now JSTOR, in case you’re not familiar with it, is:

a not-for-profit organization, founded to help academic libraries and publishers.

JSTOR is a shared digital library created in 1995 to help university and college libraries free up space on their shelves, save costs, and provide greater levels of access to more content than ever before. More generally, by digitizing content to high standards and supporting its long-term preservation, we also aim to help libraries and academic publishers transition their activities from print to digital operations. Our aim is to expand access to scholarly content around the world and to preserve it for future generations. We provide access to some or all of the content free of charge when we believe we can do so while still meeting our long-term obligations.

JSTOR currently includes more than 2,000 academic journals, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs and other materials relevant for education. We have digitized more than 50 million pages and continue to digitize approximately 3 million pages annually. Our activities, our fee structure, and the way we manage the service and its resources reflect our historical commitment to serve colleges and universities as a trusted digital archive, and our responsibility to publishers as stewards of their content. This underlying philosophy at JSTOR remains the core of our service even as we continue to seek ways to expand access to people beyond academic institutions.2

If you have access to JSTOR through your community or academic library, JSTOR has extremely rich and deep content in categories ranging from world culture to law. If you don’t, then as individuals, we can access some free offerings from JSTOR, with an ability to save a very small number at a time of articles to a personal library. And there’s a paid option called JPASS, for $19.50 a month or $199 a year, with unlimited access to about 85% of the journals JSTOR has.3 And JPASS is often on sale at genealogical conferences.

Okay… so JSTOR is cool — but it can be overwhelming. That’s where JSTOR Daily and Josh’s guidance to its resources come into play. Because every article is documented with links to JSTOR content that may give us some ideas of where to go to find out more — and Josh’s articles are geared to our particular interests as genealogists.

Right now, Josh’s articles at JSTOR Daily include (in reverse chronological order):

• “Unlocking Your Ancestor’s Political Leanings,” an overview of using JSTOR to get more information about the political positions taken by our ancestors4 — with links to articles by others about abolition, voting patterns and even political involvement by our female ancestors.

• “The American Revolution and Genealogy Research,” a guide to researching those patriot ancestors — and Loyalists too — with a special look at how religious beliefs may have influenced loyalties at the time.5

• “The History of Graduation Ceremonies and Other School Rituals,” an article that begins with this question: “What was school like for our parents, grandparents, and the rest of our ancestors?” and goes on to provide some answers.6

• “Population Studies for the Genealogist,” a look at how genealogists could use methods employed by those studying historical populations to gain a deeper understanding of our ancestors’ lives.7 — with links to articles by others abour abolition, voting patterns and even political involvement by our female ancestors.

• “Our Farming Ancestors,” a look at the traditions of the family farm — and what life was like for a farmer and his family in the past.8

• “The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and Your Ancestors,” an examination of the flu epidemic believed to have killed 40-50 million people around the world — and that impacted every one of our families.9

• “The Genealogy Factor: Graveyards & Gravestones,” a look at the art of the gravestone — what some of the symbolism means, for example — as well as at the way an archeologist looks at a burial ground, and what we can learn from that.10

All of these articles — and all of the JSTOR Daily posts in all categories — are full of links deep into JSTOR content that is relevant to the topic … and useful in our research.

JSTOR Daily is for our personal use only — the site’s terms of use provide that readers may “display and print for your personal, non-commercial use portions of content from JSTOR Daily. You may not otherwise alter or use any of the content without … prior written consent nor may you undertake any activity such as computer programs that automatically download or export JSTOR Daily content …. You may use a hypertext link … to our content so long as the link does not state or imply any sponsorship or endorsement of your site by us or any other affiliation with JSTOR Daily.”11

This is nice stuff — with some good ideas about where to go for more information. And you can get JSTOR Daily (all of it, Josh’s articles and much more) delivered by email through the JSTOR Newsletter.

Highly recommended.


  1. Judy G. Russell, “JSTOR Daily,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 2 Oct 2014 ( : accessed 17 July 2015).
  2. About JSTOR,” JSTOR ( : accessed 17 July 2015).
  3. The JPASS Collection,” JSTOR ( : accessed 17 July 2015).
  4. D Joshua Taylor, “Unlocking Your Ancestor’s Political Leanings,” JSTOR Daily, posted 16 July 2015 ( : accessed 17 July 2015).
  5. Ibid., “The American Revolution and Genealogy Research,” JSTOR Daily, posted 2 July 2015.
  6. Ibid., “The History of Graduation Ceremonies and Other School Rituals,” JSTOR Daily, posted 18 June 2015.
  7. Ibid., “Population Studies for the Genealogist,” JSTOR Daily, posted 3 June 2015.
  8. Ibid., “Our Farming Ancestors,” JSTOR Daily, posted 21 May 2015.
  9. Ibid., “The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and Your Ancestors,” JSTOR Daily, posted 7 May 2015.
  10. Ibid., “The Genealogy Factor: Graveyards & Gravestones,” JSTOR Daily, posted 23 April 2015.
  11. Terms and Conditions of Use,” JSTOR Daily ( : accessed 17 July 2015).
Posted in General, Resources | 12 Comments

AncestryDNA hits the million mark

No, actually, it isn’t Sunday, when The Legal Genealogist usually writes about DNA.

One million speed limitBut today’s announcement from AncestryDNA1 really shouldn’t wait.

Not the part of the announcement that talks about AncestryHealth.

Frankly, I have some concerns about that — the data collection and aggregation of health information linked to family trees, and particularly to living family members who are not Ancestry customers and who have not given their consent, raises privacy concerns that need to be addressed.2

But the other part of the announcement.

The part that gives an astonishing number.

One million.

That’s the number of autosomal DNA tests AncestryDNA has processed — the number of people whose DNA data is in the AncestryDNA database.

AncestryDNA isn’t the first company to hit that mark. 23andMe announced last month that it had genotyped its one millionth customer as well.3 But a huge number of 23andMe customers tested for health reasons, not for genealogical research. So you often match people on 23andMe who have no interest in family history and so don’t respond to sharing requests.

Ancestry customers, by contrast, all tested because of some level of curiosity about their family history. They may not all have the degree of knowledge of their family trees that we’d like to see, but they’re all there in that database because of some shared interest in our shared ancestry.

And as that database grows — as the number of people who have taken a genetic genealogy test increases — so too does the likelihood of making a breakthrough in our own family history research by working collaboratively with those we discover are our genetic kin.

It really is just because of this database size that anyone serious about finding genetic matches to work with on family history mysteries needs to test with AncestryDNA.

Yes, I’m still disappointed with AncestryDNA’s refusal to provide tools to analyze our DNA results — the lack of a chromosome browser, for example, to see precisely where our DNA and a match’s DNA line up.4

But the simple fact is, database size matters. The more people we match, the more people we can connect with who may just have that photo of Great Granddad that no-one else has seen — or information about where Great Grandma was buried — or… or…

So even with the fact that AncestryDNA doesn’t give us everything we want, it’s still worth testing there and ponying up the $49 annual fee (for non-Ancestry subscribers) to get access to all of the match information that is available.

We don’t want to stop there, of course. Those who test with AncestryDNA should also immediately transfer their raw data to Family Tree DNA in order to take advantage of its database and its vastly superior set of analytical tools. The transfer fee is $39, and is waived for those who get at least four others to transfer their data. And then when finances allow serious genealogists should also test with 23andMe to get into that database too.5

And yes, actually, I have tested with all three… and I’d love to have more cousins test everywhere too.

I’m looking for every genetic cousin I can find to help break down our family’s brickwalls…


  1. Ancestry Launches AncestryHealth,” Press Releases,, posted 16 July 2015 ( : accessed 16 July 2015).
  2. And that, because of its complexity, will have to wait for a Sunday down the road.
  3. Power of One Million,” 23andMe Blog, posted 18 June 2015 ( : accessed 16 July 2015).
  4. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Transfer time,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 2 Nov 2014 ( : accessed date).
  5. See generally ibid., “2015: Most bang for the DNA buck,” posted 2 Feb 2015.
Posted in DNA | 14 Comments

Protecting yourself from it

It’s a sad day when even genealogists are affected by hackers.

The Legal Genealogist opened her email accounts this morning and there at the top of the inbox was an email from a genealogist friend.

“Incoming Google drive document awaiting you,” it read. “Just click here…”

Internet security concept hacker reading the word password on aIt was signed with the friend’s genealogy sign-off information, including — irony of ironies here — the statement that “As a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists …, I support and adhere to the APG’s Code of Ethics …”

And, of course, the email wasn’t from my genealogist friend at all.

Her email account had been hacked, and it appeared that the Google Drive account of a charitable organization had also been hacked, both by some unknown group trying to distribute what is almost undoubtedly malware: software that will do very bad things to a computer if anyone clicks on the link and downloads the file.


How do we protect ourselves from hackers — and even us lowly why-would-anybody-hack-us genealogists need to protect ourselves from hackers!

Some suggestions:

1. Don’t, don’t, don’t, do not ever click on a link in an email if it isn’t abundantly clear that the link is a good one and safe one. In other words, unless you’ve got good reason to believe the link is completely safe (you’ve been expecting it, the person talks to you about it in advance, etc.), don’t even think about clicking on it.

2. Read up about the security options your email provider offers — and use them. At a minimum, make sure you’ve set up options to recover your account if it does get hacked.

3. Use a strong password — a combination upper and lower case letters and numbers and some punctuation character ending up with something that’s at least 10 characters long and that isn’t a word in your language.

4. Change your password every so often. Some experts say every six months.

5. Don’t use the same password for every account you have. All that does is give the hackers access to everything if they get access to anything.

6. If your system calls for a challenge question (such as “what’s your mother’s maiden name?”), for heaven’s sake don’t use one like “what’s your mother’s maiden name?” Use something nobody else will know and something nobody else can find out by, say, Googling your family tree on the internet! If you have to use “what’s your mother’s maiden name?” as a question, then you’re better off making something up as the answer.

7. Make sure you have up-to-date security programs running on your computer: anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall programs at a minimum.

A couple of resources for prevention:

• Robert Siciliano, “11 Ways to Prevent Your Email From Getting Hacked,” Huffington Post blog, posted 20 December 2013.

• “How to Protect Your Email Account from Hackers,”

And a couple of resources for cure:

• Adam Levin, “9 Things You Need to Do When Your Email is Hacked,” ABC News, posted 21 July 2013.

• Sharon Profis, “What to do if your email gets hacked (and how to prevent it),” c|net, posted 25 June 2014.

Sigh… a royal PITA to be sure… but an unfortunate fact of modern life.

Posted in General | 16 Comments

Draft ages in World War II

Reader Sarah is struggling to track some key dates that may well be important for folks who want to research the young men of their families in the World War II era.

tlc0090She writes:

I’m trying to find exact dates for the different draft age changes during WWII. Everywhere I look, the information is not very detailed or contradictory. I know the original age at the start of the draft was 21, but I’m trying to find when it was lowered to 20, and then to 18. For the age 18 I keep seeing the date of June 1942, but then FDR’s Fireside chat where he mentions lowering the draft age from 20 to 18 isn’t until October 1942. Congress approves it November 11th, and I’ve seen December 5th as the age change to 18 as well. It’s quite a frustrating conundrum and I would love your help in solving this perplexing issue.

Great question… and one that requires reference to two key sources of federal reference materials that all genealogists should be familiar with. And it requires an understanding of the World War II draft registration system as well.

The first source to look to whenever a question like this arises will be the federal statutes: the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President (or enacted over his veto). These will provide the basic structure or framework that governed a federal issue like this one. And you can find historical federal statutes online in three basic locations:

Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, part of the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. This fabulous free website is chock full of federal statutory materials, including the Statutes at Large (the printed volumes of federal laws in roughly chronological order from the first Congress after adoption of the Constitution through to the first major federal code, the Revised Code of 1875. For any statutory research up to about 1875, this should be your first stop.

• For public laws from 1875 forward through at least 1950, the Complete Collection of United States Statutes at Large of the Constitution Society is your best bet. There are individual downloadable PDF files for each volume of the public Statutes at Large from volume 1 through volume 128 (2013). The website doesn’t have private laws (affecting individuals or families personally) after about 1875.

• For modern federal statutes, from 1951 through to 2011, the Government Publishing Office’s Federal Digital System has the United States Statutes at Large with PDFs of each volume of the Statutes at Large from volume 65 (82nd Congress, 1st Session, 1951) through volume 125 (112th Congress, 1st Session, 2011).

• And for modern statutes right up to today, the House of Representatives’ Office of the Law Revision Counsel has the entire United States Code — all existing federal statutes — from 1994 to the present.

So… what were the draft laws affecting our young men in World War II?

Leading up to and during World War II, there were three key draft statutes that made men of various ages subject to being conscripted:

• The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, enacted into law on 16 September 1940, provided that “every male citizen of the United States, and every male alien residing in the United States who has declared his intention to become such a citizen, between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-six at the time fixed for his registration, shall be liable for training and service in the land or naval forces of the United States.”1 So the first group that could be drafted were those aged 21-35, and any young man could enlist at age 18.2

• An amendment to the Selective Training and Service Act was adopted by the Act of 20 December 1941: “every male citizen of the United States, and every other male person residing in the United States, who is between the ages of twenty and forty-five at the time fixed for his registration, or who attains the age of twenty after having been required to register pursuant to section 2 of this Act, shall be liable for training and service in the land or naval forces of the United States.”3 So as of the start of the war, the age range was 20-44, but young men had to register for the draft at age 18.4

• A final amendment to the elective Training and Service Act was adopted by the Act of 13 November 1942: “every male citizen of the United States, and every other male person residing in the United States, who is between the ages of eighteen and forty-five at the time fixed for his registration, shall be liable for training and service in the land or naval forces of the United States.”5 So as of the end of 1942, the age range for the draft was 18-44.

But what about those other dates Sarah kept finding? Like the December 1942 date? That requires us to look at another reference source: the Executive Orders of the President. That’s where policy can be set that limits or impacts the statutory system. And on 5 December 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did issue an executive order, Executive Order 9279, transferring draft authority to a newly-created War Manpower Commission.6

That Executive Order didn’t change the draft age. Instead, it provided that all men 18-37 who were subject to the draft couldn’t enlist voluntarily but had to be inducted into the military “under provisions of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, as amended.”7 So that December order really pushed young men into the draft system, rather than the enlistment system.

And what about that June 1942 date Sarah keeps seeing? That’s where the understanding of the draft registration system comes into play. Because some of the dates you’ll come across when looking at the World War II draft system are dates when different registration rules took effect and different groups of people had to register for the draft.

There were, in all, seven draft registrations during World War II — and there’s a good overview of these registrations free online at gives us these bits of information:

First Registration – October 16, 1940: “over 16 million men between the ages of 21 and 36, registered at local draft boards around the country.”

Second Registration – July 1, 1941: “men who had reached the age of 21 since the first registration.”

Third Registration – February 16, 1942: “For men 20-21 and 35-44 years (born on or after February 17, 1897 and on or before December 31, 1921).”

Fourth Registration, “Old Man’s Draft” – April 27, 1942: “men who were 45 to 64 years old at the time.”

Fifth Registration – June 30, 1942: “Men 18-20 years.”

Sixth registration – December 10-31, 1942: “Men who had reached the age of 18 years after June 30, 1942.”

“Extra Registration” – November 16-December 31, 1943: “American men living abroad, 18-44 years old.”8

So the law said who could be drafted, and who had to register. The Executive Order limited whether those who might be drafted could enlist. And the draft registration system created the records when those who were subject to the laws actually had to register for the draft.


Image: James Montgomery Flagg, World War I recruiting poster, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

  1. Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 885 (16 Sep 1940).
  2. Ibid.
  3. “An Act To amend the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 by providing for the extension of liability for military service and for the registration of the manpower of the Nation, and for other purposes,” 55 Stat. 844 (20 Dec 1941).
  4. Ibid., §2.
  5. “An Act To amend the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 by providing for the extension of liability,” 56 Stat. 1018 (13 Nov 1942).
  6. Executive Order 9279, 5 Dec 1942; The American Presidency Project, University of California at Santa Barbara ( : accessed 13 July 2015).
  7. Ibid., §4.
  8. WWII Draft Registration Cards,” ( : accessed 13 July 2015).
Posted in Resources, Statutes | 11 Comments

Admiralty and maritime

During Friday’s webinar for Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscribers on federal court records, one of the attendees asked a great question about a particular phrase in the United States Constitution.

pirateRemember that the powers of federal courts are limited by the section of the Constitution that spells out what it calls the “judicial power of the United States.”1 There are nine specific types of cases to which the judicial power extends, one of which is “to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.”2

So… what’s the difference between “admiralty” and “maritime”?

Not a whole lot, really, but by using both terms the writers of the Constitution made sure to include everything that happened on the navigable waters of the United States.

Admiralty, by definition, is a “court exercising jurisdiction over maritime causes, both civil and criminal, and marine affairs, commerce and navigation, controversies arising out of acts done upon or relating to the sea, and over questions of prize. Also, the system of jurisprudence relating to and growing out of the jurisdiction and practice of the admiralty courts.”3 And, in American law, the term refers to a “tribunal exercising jurisdiction overall maritime contracts, torts, injuries, or offenses.”4

Maritime, by definition, means “pertaining to the sea or ocean or the navigation thereof; or to commerce conducted by navigation of the sea or (in America) of the great lakes and rivers.”5 And maritime jurisdiction is defined as jurisdiction “in maritime causes; such jurisdiction as belongs to a court of admiralty…”6

The key difference between the two — to the extent that a difference was ever really important — comes when you look at the definition of maritime law or maritime cause. That’s when it becomes clear that the focus of maritime law is on the business of shipping, while the focus of admiralty is on everything that happens on navigable waters.

Maritime law is defined as:

That system of law which particularly relates to commerce and navigation, to business transacted at sea or relating to navigation, to ships and shipping, to seamen, to the transportation of persons and property by sea, and to marine affairs generally.

The law relating to harbors, ships, and seamen. An important branch of the commercial law of maritime nations; divided into a variety of departments, such as those about harbors, property of ships, duties and rights of masters and seamen, contracts of affreightment, average, salvage, etc.7

And a maritime cause is a “cause of action originating on the high seas, or growing out of a maritime contract,”8 a cause “arising from maritime contracts, whether made at sea or on land, that is, such as relate to the commerce, business or navigation of the sea; as, charter parties, affreightments, marine loans, hypothecations, contracts for maritime service in building, repairing, supplying and navigating ships, contracts and quasi contracts respecting averages, contributions and jettisons; contracts relating to marine insurance, and those between owners of ships”.9

Admiralty, by contrast, includes all of those maritime business issues — and more. Such as piracy and prize cases and actions by sailors for their wages and when they’re injured on board ship.

So admiralty and maritime jurisdiction is the whole shooting match when it comes to what happens on navigable waterways — and the Constitution gives power over all of it to the federal courts.

Great question…


Image:, user liftarn.

  1. United States Constitution, Article III, §1.
  2. Ibid., §2.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 41, “admiralty.”
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 754, “maritime.”
  6. Ibid., 754-755, “maritime jurisdiction.”
  7. Ibid., 755, “maritime law.”
  8. Ibid., 754, “maritime cause.”
  9. John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and of the Several States of the American Union, rev. 6th ed. (1856); HTML reprint, The Constitution Society ( : accessed 12 July 2015), “maritime cause.”
Posted in Legal definitions | 4 Comments

Continental level information

We all know by now … or we should know by now … that the admixture percentages reported by the genealogy DNA testing companies are really rather awful at the level where we really want the information: the country level.

AfricanThe simple fact is, no test today can accurately tell us that we are, say, 46% German, 22% Irish, 20% English and 12% Italian. The similarities among the European populations are just too great to allow for that degree of specificity — at least not if we want to be sure about it.1

But what about at a broader level? At the continental level? Can DNA testing give us accurate information about our ancestral origins as between, say, European and African and Asian?

Reader Shirl poses this question in her own family: “I have reason to believe that my maternal ancestry includes an African-American who started passing as white in the late 1700′s in New England; the documented ancestry is all British Isles and German. Would an autosomal DNA test be able to determine if this is true?”

And the answer is:

(Drum roll, please…)

It depends.

Yes, European and African and Asian DNA shows very distinct patterns. At the continental level, autosomal DNA can tell us a lot about our deep ancestry.

But here’s the rub when we try to use it.

Each of us inherits 50% of our autosomal DNA from the father and 50% from the mother. So the odds of showing our ancestral origins if either parent was 100% European or 100% Asian or 100% African are essentially 100%: the child’s autosomal DNA should show roughly 50% of each parent’s ancestral origins.

But let’s say each parent was a 50-50 mix: one parent was 50% European and 50% African, and the other was 50% European and 50% Asian. On average, each child of this couple would end up showing roughly 50% European, 25% African and 25% Asian. Still a high percentage, still clearly detectable.

But now watch the average percentages inherited as we go down the generations:

From a parent: 50%
From a grandparent: 25%
From a great grandparent: 12.5%
From a second great grandparent: 6.25%
From a third great grandparent: 3.125%
From a fourth great grandparent: 1.5625%
From a fifth great grandparent: 0.78125%
From a sixth great grandparent: 0.390625%
From a seventh great grandparent: 0.1953125%2

Remember: these are averages, not set-in-stone numbers. Autosomal DNA changes — a lot! — with each and every generation because of a process called recombination. That’s a process where all of the pieces of autosomal DNA we inherited from our parents — what’s in each pair of chromosomes we have — gets mixed and jumbled before half (and only half) of those pieces gets passed on to the next generation. Because of this jumbling, the range of DNA we might inherit is pretty broad — it could be higher or lower than the average percentage shown.3

Now if we figure an average of 25 years per generation, for someone who is — say — 50 years old today, here’s how this translates into time frames:

Born around 1940: 50%
Born around 1915: 25%
Born around 1890: 12.5%
Born around 1865: 6.25
Born around 1840: 3.125
Born around 1815: 1.5625
Born around 1790: 0.78125
Born around 1765: 0.390625
Born around 1740: 0.1953125

If Shirl’s ancestor was already passing for white in the late 1700s, we’re probably talking about a racial mix in the sixth or seventh great grandparent generation: the first generation where African and European ancestry came together.

In other words, if the family story is true, Shirl’s African ancestry is likely to represent not more than about 0.2% of her autosomal DNA. Again, some people will have a higher percentage from an ancestor that far back, and some will have a lower percentage, in both cases by pure random chance. It’s a matter of whether or not Shirl won the genetic lottery and actually had that African DNA passed on to her.

Now if Shirl did win the genetic lottery, she could have that 0.2%. So… is 0.2% detectable?

It can be. At 23andMe, for example, my own results show 0.2% sub-Saharan African at both the standard and the speculative levels of confidence. Once I go to the conservative confidence level (a level where the scientists think they’re 90% sure4), however, my African ancestry fades into the background.

And not every company reads our DNA the same way. At AncestryDNA, my results still indicate less than one percent African, but there it’s shown as Africa North, rather than sub-Saharan Africa. And at Family Tree DNA, my results don’t show African at all; they show some from Asia Minor instead.

So do I have African ancestry in a generation born around 1740 or so? Maybe. Maybe not. And maybe, because of random chance, it could be from much farther back — so far back that it really does fade into the background.5

That’s our first problem: if we do find detectable African DNA, it won’t tell us, by itself, how far back in time the DNA comes from. It can give us some hints, pointing us to a general time frame where we can start looking at the paper trail, but by itself it can’t prove when our African ancestor lived.

And there’s another problem: autosomal DNA can’t disprove any particular ancestral origin when we’re dealing with those very small percentages. Shirl may very well have African-American ancestry back in the late 1700s but, by that random force of recombination, may just not have inherited the DNA that could show it. The ancestor is still in Shirl’s family tree, but may not have made it into her genetic family tree.6

So it’s worth doing autosomal testing to look for this small an amount of possible African ancestry. What’s critical is understanding that finding it won’t tell us how far back in time it came from, and not finding it doesn’t prove we don’t have African ancestry.


  1. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Admixture: not soup yet,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 18 May 2014 ( : accessed 11 July 2015). Also, ibid., “Making the best of what’s not so good,” posted 22 Feb 2015.
  2. See generally ISOGG Wiki (, “Autosomal DNA statistics,” rev. 4 July 2015.
  3. See ISOGG Wiki (, “Recombination,” rev. 14 June 2015.
  4. See 23andMe Customer Care, “Confidence thresholds in Ancestry Composition,” 23andMe ( : accessed 11 July 2015).
  5. See generally Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kasia Bryc, “How Long Ago Did African Ancestry Enter My Family Tree?,” The Root, posted 10 July 2015 ( : accessed 11 July 2015).
  6. See Blaine Bettinger, “Q&A: Everyone Has Two Family Trees – A Genealogical Tree and a Genetic Tree,” The Genetic Genealogist, posted 10 Nov 2009 ( : accessed 11 July 2015).
Posted in DNA | 9 Comments