Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Forensic Genealogy and Posting a Blog with My Mind

It’s really too bad that I cannot blog directly from my mind, since this typing business takes up time. That’s just how busy I am and each day gets busier. I am learning so many new things, doing so many new things, and meeting so many interesting people that I couldn’t be happier...except for the fact that I still have to find time to do laundry, to sleep, and o do all those other time-consuming things that take away from my genealogy work. Thus, to me, just thinking mentally, “Post Blog” and it would be written and posted sounds awesome. Realistically, the typos alone would get me into oceans of trouble, so I am better off typing away on my computer.

So what have I been doing that’s kept me busy enough to dream of mental word-processing? Well, today, I updated the Birk & Bond Research website ( and among the many other, boring tasks that websites require, I also created a link to this blog from the website. So if you can’t remember this blog’s address, just go to Birk & Bond’s website and you can find your way here.

I agree that’s not much, but going backward in time, I also attended a pair of institutes last week in Dallas, presented by the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) - and I finished both with certificates to prove it! I really wanted to blog from the institutes, but they kept us far too busy to let out thoughts stray from the material that we were learning.

The first institute, “Foundations in Forensic Genealogy” lasted three days where we were studying nearly everything that you could think of that has to do with genealogy and much, much more. As it turns out, Forensic Genealogy is not for the under-educated, nor it is for those without a bit of stamina, because the folks at the CAFG believe that you can never learn enough and they fed my brain non-stop. We learned about forensic genealogy’s part in real estate and right-of-way cases; in probate and guardianship cases; plus we learned about natural resources, land issues,  and aspects of legal rights involving things, both above and below ground. I’m glad that I was a geology rock hound from birth because that background paid off. 

Okay, you must be wondering how genealogy and rocks are related - right?  It is not about your grandmother’s crazy brother, Uncle Harry, even though Grandpa said that Harry had rocks in his head.  What we learned is about people and ownership of land, mineral rights,including almost anything that can legally be found above or below ground, and how the legal aspects . That’s what ties these areas together. Genealogy is always about people, such as the tracing of missing or unknown heirs (but not like one of those “Heir-tracing firms that want a contingency fee) to properties or estates and connecting the real people and discounting the “wanna-be’s” who come out of the walls trying to get a piece of the pie. The same people who appear claiming to be your long-lost cousin when you win the lottery...lucky for me, those people never show up because I never win anything!

We learned new, inventive ways to help adoptees find their families and of course about DNA’s role in it. ( I was so grateful that I have spent the last six months studying Genetics and all aspects of genetic inheritance as it is not an easy subject if you do not have the background to grasp it. Oh, and then every night we had homework. Real cases to solve, document and report. That was just the “Foundations” institute!

The first one finished and we were right back at it again. The second institute, “Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis” was more interesting to me because I’ve been at this business for nearly two decades. Granted, everyone can brush up on the basics and I certainly need to be more organized, but the “Advanced” institute got me excited. After all, who else can say that they spent hours with the Deputy Director of the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover (Delaware) AFB, James J. Canik? Me, that’s who!

Did you know the the United States is the most dedicated country in the world when it comes to finding, identifying, and repatriating service men (and women) who are missing and presumed dead reaching back to the Civil War? Their work is simply amazing and they continue to become more efficient and to develop new techniques all the time to locate and identify our missing veterans so that their families can finally find peace. Of course, locating families and tracing DNA is a daunting task, calling for - did you guess? Genealogical experts in forensic genealogy. Quite a fascinating area of work.

However, the folks running this little shindig, think nothing of hard work. So if you didn’t guess what I’m about to say next, you aren’t paying enough attention - and that would get you into trouble at either institute because the amount of information that I am sharing here is nothing compared to all the things that the CAFG taught us. And yes, what I meant was that there w-a-y more that we were taught.

My heart belongs to genetic genealogy and the Advanced session brought forth more dealing with genetic genealogy. I was so grateful that I spent so much time on it as it was fast-paced, in-depth, and fascinating. 

We also learned about document analysis, translations and certified translations and how to find a real, educated translator (some languages are not easy to get certified in, so you need to know how to evaluate and find someone who has a serious educational background with a degree in the language, but a degree that includes in-depth knowledge of the culture, regional dialects, the history,  the customs and sociology of the place, etc., plus a background in international affairs or business so that the legal aspects can handled properly when, for example, you are applying for dual citizenship. Why would anyone want this? Many reasons? Ease of visiting family, such as your children, if they live abroad. Ease of travel within a certain country or countries is popular as is connecting with ancestral family, a potential place for retirement, business opportunities, and many more things. The list is long. The simplest places to attain dual citizenship are currently in Ireland and in Italy. We at Birk & Bond are already up-to-date and involved in dual citizenship work in Italy, but now are looking forward to adding more countries. Overall, the 7+ billion citizens of earth are quickly becoming one, big, global family and we want to connect in person, not just by way of the internet.

But back to the institutes as I have not finished telling you the rest of the story. We also covered working for the court system as a Expert Witness, and how the legal system utilizes forensic genealogists. The possibilities are vast, from criminal cases, to finding heirs for many things, to oil / mineral / environmental cases, to locating the families of unclaimed persons or even finding the next-of-kin to deliver ashes, also known as “cremains”, left uncollected at funeral homes and crematoriums.

One of the things that I have done, but that we really did not cover in either institute is research to determine unknown medical genealogies and histories in families. Perhaps that is already in the plans for a future CAFG institute? Time will tell.

Since this was typed and not mentally written and magically posted, I have to move on to the next thing on my list. However, I hope to be bogging again soon from Salt Lake City as I dive into the world-renown Family History Library. I’ll be blogging at you soon!