I’m blogging early this weekend as I’ve got too many events scheduled! Next Saturday, my blog will be late. I’m blaming it on the time change.
There is nothing worse than trying to solve a brick wall for commonly named individuals. For years, I’ve not been able to go back further than the parents of my 3rd great-grandfather, Edward Adams. Actually, I still don’t know his parents’ names but I definitely know who his grandparents were!
I don’t use DNA much for my own family genealogy because my maternal side were fairly recent immigrants to the U.S. and few have matched me. On my paternal side, I seem to get most matches for my maiden name and I have no brick walls there, going back as far as I could with remaining French and German records. I have tremendous issues, though, with my paternal grandmother’s lines; I was always told she was Irish, English, Welsh, and Scottish. My DNA confirms those ethnicities but the names where I reach a dead end are Adams, Byrd, Cole, Dennis, and Morrison. Too many in the same place at the same time!
Last month, I was pleasantly surprised when I decided to take a look to see if I had any new matches. I had a hunch that I was related through the Sylvanus Adams line. Although it was just a hypothesis, it made sense as my Edward Adams, who had died intestate (why do all my people do this?!), left behind young children in rural Perry, Ohio in 1822. A man named Evi Adams settled the estate. Evi died soon after Edward. Evi was an interesting name to me so I poked around and found several in New Jersey where Edward’s wife had originated. Now New Jersey is not a small land a mass so I was even more intrigued when I learned the Evi’s were all in Sussex County, the same place as Edward’s wife.
I then made a tree from the youngest Evi I found living there in the late 1700s and based on birth years, it looked plausible that Sylvanus and Elizabeth Crowell Adams could be my 5th great-grandparents.
I attached Edward to one of their sons with a disclaimer that this was just a hypothesis. And there my mystery sat for years! Until February, when finally, along with 7 newfound “cousins” I indeed do link to Elizabeth Crowell and Sylvanus Adams.
But the man I guessed was Edward’s father was not correct. There were gaps in children so I suspected that was where my 4th great-grandfather had once been, perhaps dying young. I found Sylvanus’ will to see if there were additional children or grandchildren of deceased children named but nope, he even left out a known son Isaiah, who had left New Jersey for Ohio. Hmmm, not the same county where Edward was but I still tried to place him as my great-grandfather; it didn’t work.
I then found a further DNA match with an Ichabod and Sarah Sumner Crittenden. I’ve been trying to find which of their daughters married a son of Sylvanus and that’s where things got stopped again. The Crittenden’s were from Connecticut and had a daughter, Hannah, who married James Adams in Massachusetts. Could James be an unnamed son of Sylvanus? Possibly, but the James and Hannah Adams family remained in New England. That could explain why James was not listed in Sylvanus’ will as it appears that only children who were close by to him in New Jersey were named. Then I found a James Adams in Sussex, New Jersey in 1793 but he was married to a Sarah Dunn. Arghhh! But here it gets interesting because Sarah Dunn’s parents were also from Connecticut.
I am THRILLED that I have found Edward’s grandparents after all these years and even happier to know I was correct in guessing who they were. I just wish I could figure out who his parents were.
I want to pass on this tip if you find yourself stuck with a brick wall ancestor. While I was writing my John-Thomas Duer relationship analysis I used Ancestry’s ThruLines and created a chart to place in the paper as additional proof.
If you have DNA tested with Ancestry.com then ThruLines is available to you. To access, sign on and then click DNA on the ribbon. Click ThruLines.
Here’s where it’s advantageous to have a tree on Ancestry – for all the individuals that you’ve included in your tree for several generations, their information will appear on ThruLines in a white box by their relationship to you.
I know that I’m genetically related to both of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents from my DNA Matches on Ancestry and other sites so I scroll down the page and begin to investigate people I have placed in my tree but need further proof of lineage. Perhaps records are just not available or sketchy. Perhaps they are a brick wall.
For my example, I’m using a line I haven’t thoroughly researched. I have a hypothesis that Mary Whitlock and John Cole were my 5th great-grandparents. The ThruLine boxes for them appear at the bottom of the page:
Interestingly, I have NO DNA Matches for John Cole but 3 for who I thought his wife was, Mary Whitlock.
This means I need to check out Mary Whitlock further. Click on the name box and you will see a descending tree chart. I have a pic of my connection to one of the three DNA matches:
The above chart has been clipped – I’m not showing you the entire chart that Ancestry presents because I’m only going to look at one match at a time and start with the one that is closest to me. My Mary “Polly” Dennis married 5 times and had children with 3 of her husbands. I recognized in the chart above that Sarah Elder is my half 2nd great-grandaunt because Sarah’s dad was Owen Elder; my line descends from Edward Adams. Two other DNA Matches I didn’t clip Show descent from husband John Hodge. My relationship shows as half because both Catharine Adams and Sarah E Elder got half their DNA from Polly and the other half from their dads, who were not the same individual.
I’m not sure why Ancestry needs me to EVALUATE the information as I had that in my tree already and I thought they would recognize it. If you come across that, here’s how to get the chart looking complete:
Step 1. Click on the individual to EVALUATE. You must start at the top, with the oldest generation first. Once you click EVALUATE this page will appear:
As you can see in the picture, My Main Tree is an option and that’s my personal family tree. Why Ancestry didn’t automatically connect to it I don’t understand. You don’t need to make any decision on this page, just click Next at the bottom.
The next page looks like this:
Obviously, I’m going to click the button in front of Sarah A Elizabeth Elder in My Main Tree as that’s my tree. Once the button is clicked, on the bottom “Add” to the tree is shown. Click that.
You now need to make a decision as to who the spouse will be. This is important for the DNA process. Here are my options and it automatically defaults to the first marriage. I will be clicking the button in front of Mary Polly Dennis and Owen Elder:
You’ll get a message from Ancestry that looks like this if it worked correctly:
For a brief second a message displays stating “We’re adding (individual) to your (tree name).” When it’s processed it will display this message:
When you click “View Profile,” the individual will pop up as a page in your tree. But this is a problem as I already had the woman in my tree!
Next, you are going to have to merge the new information with your old information.
Click “Merge with duplicate” which is displayed right under 2nd great-grandaunt.
This page will display:
Ancestry recognizes I already had the same person in the tree so I just need to click ”Select.” If Ancestry doesn’t recognize the individual, type the individual exactly as you named them in your tree. For example, perhaps you entered Sarah as Sarah E. Elder instead of Sarah A. Elizabeth Elder. Type what you originally had and it will display the name, birth and death information for the person you typed. Compare and if you are sure you have selected the correct individual, click “Merge” as seen below:
Now, the new info is connected to the old and the person is one on your tree.
Within 24 hours, when you back to ThruLines, the individuals will be displayed just like your own data was so you can clip and use the chart as you like. Here’s what it will look like but you’ll have to go through and evaluate all of the individuals in descending order to get the chart complete.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year if you’re searching for DNA sales. Limited time offers are listed here:
Ancestry has a Black Friday sale that ends 11/28; a Cyber Sale for $49.00 that ends on 11/30 and a $100 off All Acess 6 month Membership which was advertised during the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving. Those deals are all through Groupon so click here to access. At the Ancestry site, they are still offering Free 14 day trials and 30% off World Explorer or All Access membership for AARP members – but you can only use those once! The specials are valid through 11/20/2021. Ancestry DNA kits are $49.00 (was $99.00) through midnight on 11/29.
MyHeritage also has specials through Groupon – up to 50% off DNA, free trials for 2 weeks and a free trial with no promo code – click here. Through the MyHeritage site, they are offering DNA testing for $39.00 (was $79.00) with free shipping on 2 or more kits on Cyber Monday. Click here to take advantage of the offer.
Family Tree DNA has the following offers: Family Finder + myDNA Wellness for $59.00, Family Finder $39.00 and discounts on Y-DNA and mtDNA through 11/30. Here’s the link.
23andMe is offering 50% off on one Health and Ancestry Kit and 60% off when you buy two kits. Offer ends 11/29.
Another option for mtDNA or Y-DNA is LivingDNA – a small but growing company that is offering kits for $59.00. Great Britain results are their largest reference samples. They also have Wellbeing Kits at $69.00 and Wellbeing/Ancestry Kits for $89.00.
Not sure which to select? I’ve tested mtDNA and autosomal through Ancestry. They have the largest samples but don’t support the mtDNA testing I first did. I’ve also tested with 23andMe because I wanted to know my percentage of Neandertal. If you have cave people jokes in your family that might be the option for you. I also tested with National Geographic but they are no longer doing DNA tests. I have purchased a MyHeritage test because they have a higher sample percentage of my particular eastern European ancestry. Next year I may test with FamilyTree DNA.
FamilyTree DNA and MyHeritage do allow you to upload your results from 23andMe and Ancestry so you can further connect with people who may have tested on other sites. Ancestry and 23andMe DO NOT allow uploads.
If your family member is worried about privacy, their results do not have to be shared. If you are interested in connecting family, then it’s advisable you will want to also add information for a rudimentary family tree on the site but that’s not necessary if you are only interested in determining ethnicity. Keep in mind, though, that the ethnicity estimates are only as strong as the sample that has tested so your results will change over time. I have been Jewish and then it was gone. I have been German and then it was gone. Now it’s French. I have been Irish but then it was gone and I became Scotts. You will probably discover, like me, you are a Mutt! Mutts are loveable and I’d much prefer there resistant genetic makeup than that of a purebred. Plus it’s more fun to research! Happy shopping.
This has been an unusual week for me. In August 2017 I emailed someone on Ancestry asking how they were related as the individual had no online tree. I suggested the match was for a particular surname.
This week, I got a reply. Yes, it was over 4 years after I sent the initial inquiry. Genealogy is a study in patience!
The woman had not gotten an email from Ancestry notifying her that I had messaged her. Recently, her sister had tested and she decided to go back on and see her matches. She had difficult logging on so contacted Ancestry. What a surprise she discovered when she finally saw her matches.
She was only 22% related to her sister and 21% percent related to someone she had gone to school with. Then she saw my message and discovered the schoolmate had the same surname I was asking her about.
Unfortunately, the schoolmate had died last year so she could not contact him. She found his obituary and discovered he had a brother and the name of his parents.
She was shaken to her core, understandably, as who she thought was her father was not biologically hers. She called her sister who responded by laughing. Her sister, only 2 and a half years older than her, had no idea and hadn’t even looked closely at her own Ancestry results.
The woman spoke with a counselor who told this was just a mistake. The woman didn’t believe it was. She messaged me and we spoke in detail. I was able to send her some personal photos I had of her grandparents as my grandfather had evidently attended their 50th anniversary party in the 1970’s.
She is coping extremely well; it’s difficult discovering a not expected parent when you get your DNA results back.
Now that she has some new family,here’s what I suggested she do as she would like to contact them:
DO NOT – Facebook Message/call/text or show up unexpectedly at their door
DO use either an unemotionally attached middleman or email/mail a letter
Here’s a template I recommend for adoptees that can be tailored to work for NEP’s:
I am (insert your name) and I understand that this note may come as a surprise to you. I don’t want to upset anyone but I am hoping to learn about my family’s medical history. I was adopted in (insert date). Recently, I had my DNA tested through (insert company). I have just been diagnosed with (insert illness) and I’m hoping to connect with my biological relatives who may help me better understand my genetic background. Please know I do not want to intrude. I am simply wanting knowledge about my family’s health. I can be reached at (insert phone) or at (insert email). Sincerely,
I also recommended she read, The Stranger in My Genes by Bill Griffeth. In her case, her mother is deceased so she may not ever discover what really happened. It’s likely the father who raised her had no idea but she did not look like her sibling and there was always a joke in the family that she was the daughter of the milkman. The father who raised her was a milkman. It’s unlikely he would have made that joke if he knew the truth.
Like so many others who discover the information, she reported she never felt connected to her family. I do believe we have an unexplainable sense of belongingness to those who share a genetic background with us. Maybe someday how that works will be understandable to us.
In the meantime, I say Welcome, cuz, to the family!
Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference! I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.
My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell. Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.
Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases. My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database. Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.
Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported. I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister.
For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother. The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it. Happy Hunting!
Ancestry.com has again updated their DNA Results Summary. Sure, it’s only as accurate as the number of people who have tested. What my latest results tell me is that Ancestry has had a whole lot more Swedish, German and Slavs testing and not many Balkans.
I know this because the updated results show I am 42% Eastern European and Russian and 41% Germanic Europe.
In Ancestry’s last update, I was considered French; today I am of German ancestry.
My paternal line would not have thought much of that finding; with a name like Leininger they would have accepted the Germanic Europe as fact. The truth is more complex – the ancestors that were forgotten most likely would have been livid with the designation as they considered themselves French. My two times great grandmother was christened as Marie Marguerite not the Germanic Maria Margarette. Her spouse was christened Jean Leininger and not Johan. They resided in the Palatinate, the region that flipped several time between what is now Germany and France. They wisely spoke both French and German. Funny that the land has stopped switching but the ethnicity indicators haven’t. Ancestry would be smart to have a Palatine region noted instead of moving ethnicity results every update.
Interestingly, the results do include 5% of an ethnicity estimate as French and the region is the Riviera, where my Lamphere’s (Landfairs) did reside in the 1600’s prior to fleeing France for London and then Ireland and then Virginia. It appears they intermarried with relatives and others who fled with them and that is somewhat supported in that I now have no Irish identified. Well, that’s not quite true, either…
My Irish is encompassed under my Scottish designation.
I also find it interesting that I have Welsh separated from England (which encompasses Northwestern Europe now). I am most definitely Welsh with my people moving to Cheshire for a time. That is shown in the map, along with the northwest section of France. That is also correct as I have some William the Conqueror folks originating in that French region.
My maternal line, though, would have my grandmother in requesting her money back.
Family stories shared by my grandmother say her side moved to the what is now the outskirts of Zagreb, Croatia around the time of Christ because of overpopulation on the island to the south where they once resided. That would most likely have been Kos Island, part of Greece today. The now defunct National Geographic project did route my ancestry on that trail. Grandma said my grandfather’s people had already been in the Zagreb region when her people arrived and they had been Gypsies. National Geographic’s results showed that, too. Using records, I can show that my maternal line was in the Zagreb region as far back as the 1600’s. Based on a title the family was awarded, I can show some were in the region as early as the 1100’s. For 900 years, they resided in a small area in what is now known as Croatia. According to Ancestry, I’m 3% Balkan.
Explaining to my grandmother how Ancestry obtains their results would have been maddening. I’m sure some of you are going to have to try with an older relative. I send you good thoughts in doing that!
I am quite impressed, though, with Ancestry and their Swedish results. Look above as I have shown how Southern Sweden is shown by region. I have worked very hard to get most of my husband’s Swedish lines identified and they are from the area Ancestry identified. I’m looking forward to someday seeing a trend like this for my other ethnicities.
Ancestry has also released a section called StoryScout. It’s housed under DNA and includes information that you may have provided in a tree. I didn’t spend much time on this but I did take a look and it reminded me of something that is important to do and I honestly fail at it.
The section is based on census and military records from the 20th century. Sure, I’ve saved those records to my ancestors 20 plus years ago. I know where they lived, who they lived with, blah blah blah. What gave me pause, however, was that it correctly showed my maternal grandfather and noted that his income was nearly twice that of an average man at the time. He made $1400.00 per year when the average was in the mid $700.00’s. Wow. This explained to me why my immigrant family could afford a car in the 1920’s, a phone in the 1930’s, travel to California in the 1940’s and to Europe in the ’60’s. Now I understand why grandma, when babysitting me, would drag me to the nice stores and dress shops and had her hair done each week. Duh! They never flaunted their wealth and dutifully shipped supplies several times a year back to the old country. Thanks, Ancestry, for taking one small data point in the census and giving me an insight I hadn’t he thought about. Try it, it might work for you, too.
Last week my blog was a whole lot longer than usual but I figured now that you’re housebound, you’ve got time to read. I have seven additional ideas to work on since you can’t run down to your local archive or call a library to access a record. Now is a wonderful opportunity to…
1. Review what you have on that brick wall ancestor. Take every scrap of evidence and spread it out on your workspace. Now arrange it in chronological order and study it. Next arrange it by connections, such as every document that has the spouse’s name, too. Do you see any missing time frames? Maybe there was a marriage certificate for 1842, a deed in the same county for 1852 but one of the individuals isn’t mentioned in the 1860 U.S. Federal census but shows up again in 1870. That’s a clue to figure out where the individual was in 1860 – maybe they were ill and placed in a sanitarium, perhaps they were visiting an adult child in another area, the person may have had to find work elsewhere or attend the funeral of a family member. Not sure where the person might have been? I recommend reading my last blog article and doing item 3. After you do that …
2. Take your time to synthesize the information. Don’t rush – we aren’t going anywhere for awhile. Let the information just percolate in your brain. Write down what you find odd or missing. Now it’s time to…
3. Do some exercise. Hubby and I now start our day with a beginner yoga video we found on youtube. Stretching and breathing will help your brain process the information so give it a try. The workout may have made you hungry so now think about…
4. Family recipes. My hubby’s birthday is coming up and I may have to dig up the family Depression Cake recipe because I don’t know what ingredients will be available at the grocery. That recipe makes me think of other recipes that got my family through difficult times. When my grandparents were quarantined with their young family because of a scarlet fever outbreak, she practiced social distancing by speaking with her neighbors through their open windows. Reminds me of the people singing together on the balconies in Italy or exercising in Spain. In my family’s case, grandma got a great spaghetti sauce recipe from the Italian neighbor and what we call corn meal mush, from the southern neighbor on the other side of her home. That was nearly 100 years ago. Think about the legacy you’re leaving your descendants…
5. Write down your experiences. I realize how spoiled and privileged we are. I miss going to restaurants the most. I only recall both sets of my grandparents going to a restaurant once. My maternal grandparents, my mother and I went with a neighbor to the Beach Café in Miller, Indiana when I was about 6 years old to get perch on a Friday night during Lent. Mr. Bauer had just become a widow and missed going to the café with his wife so my family joined him. I didn’t know then that he had been a character witness 20 years earlier for my grandparents so they could become citizens. My paternal grandparents, my parents and I went to a diner in Hobart, Indiana when I was about 3 years old. I have no idea why we only went once or why we went there but I recall there were other people with us so I suspect visiting relatives must have come to town. They ordered a large pizza and to me, it looked disgusting so I refused to eat it. I ended up getting the chicken drumstick child’s dinner. My dad bought me a plastic rocket that came apart in three pieces – it was the Cold War and we were going to beat those Russians. That was 60 years ago. Those are my memories of dining out – now write yours and if you get stuck…
6. Ask an older relative about their recollections. Now is the time to connect so give them a call, email, Skype or even write a snail mail letter. I wish I had thought to ask my grandparents about the 1919 Influenza pandemic. I know my grandfather and great grandfather both got it in January; my grandmother blamed their resistance being shot to working the night shift at U.S. Steel and riding their bikes home in the cold rain. My grandfather got over it quickly; my great grandfather died. He had been known to have asthma and epilepsy and the flu turned into pneumonia. I have the funeral photo with no social distancing practiced. I know how the family coped – my grandmother took in borders to help pay the bills now that half the money was gone. What I don’t know is how they prepared for the epidemic. Perhaps they never did. The family raised chickens and rabbits and canned their garden vegetables. I really wish I had asked more questions. If you aren’t able to connect with an older generation because you are the older generation then…
7. Reach out to those your DNA says are family. Sure, you tried that before but they didn’t respond. Well, try, try again because they’re probably home now, too, and just might have time to respond to you.
Remember, Shakespeare and Newton did their best work during a pandemic. Keep up your spirits by thinking about how your ancestors handled adversity. Let them serve as a model for you.
While you were partying away the holidays, you might have missed the announcement from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, that he has sold his business to Verogen, Inc.
What does this mean to you? Well, stay tuned as for now, not much but in the ever changing world of genealogy it could be something later.
I’m not surprised by the sale; GEDMatch was having a difficult time moving the company forward (ie. the website was early millenium when they started) and with policy, such as what constituted adherence to their guidelines ethically regarding privacy and usage by 3rd party sources. I’ve blogged about last year (The Dark Side of DNA) if you’d like details.
Personally, I’ve left my DNA open to view. This may be a naive decision but I think it’s the most ethical for the moment. I don’t care if I’m contacted by the police searching for a relative. No one is going to steal the limited DNA available and clone me (I have heard that claim from a few clients). On the contrary, I may connect with others who hold the answers to which I seek. And maybe not!
Like every decision we make daily, there are pros and cons. I’m taking a wait and see attitude with this sale and will keep you informed of any new developments.
The blog I write today was not the one I planned and I want to make clear this is my OPINION.
I blog about genealogy because it is my passion and I have found that it pairs wonderfully with my first interest, psychology. I often start the day reading the news and today was no different. Having just about finished my second cup of coffee, I was flipping through the stories on The Washington Post when I came across an article published yesterday, “The Dark Side of our Genealogy Craze” by Honor Sachs, an assistant history professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
I beg to differ with the author’s main premise. In paragraph 1, “…But the rise of genealogy may also, paradoxically, exacerbate the virulently anti-immigration fervor propelling President Trump’s policies and increase racial inequality…” As the thesis statement, the article continues to present the author’s justification of her views that researching one’s family history is dangerous for the future and the interest in learning this information is short-lived, per her word choice in the title. I strongly disagree.
To prove her point, the author cites the beginning of the growing interest in finding one’s lineage to Alex Haley’s Roots. The book and television series without a doubt, gave rise to genealogy in the late 20th century. Yes, the story was about an African American whose ancestors were enslaved and those of European ancestry did use the methods Haley outlined to begin their own research. I am one of them with two of my European lines entering through Ellis Island. I am also a Boomer.
How the author connected Roots, Boomers and Ellis Island to this statement, “The exploration of this heritage provided a language through which the baby boomer generation could safely distance themselves from the mandates of the Civil Rights era without sounding explicitly racist.” is unclear.
As a historian, I would think the author would know that the Boomers were deeply affected by the Civil Rights era since we were born in the 1950-60’s and were the product of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Boomers are of all races with many of us attending integrated schools as a result of the Supreme Court decision. While some of us are racist, most of us are not. Racism is not tied to a generation; it permeates all ages and races. Many Americans of European descent supported (and still do) Civil Rights. Some even died because of their involvement. Many Boomers raised children to be global citizens in integrated schools.
Racism today is not the result of the Boomers or any other generation of Americans with European ancestry interested in genealogy. Unfortunately, racism will not die with the Boomers but will continue to grow as youths buy into the propaganda they are reading online.
Here’s another problem I have with the Post’s article; the author states “While European immigrants faced significant historic struggles, their descendants mobilized such hardships to dilute the claims of historically persecuted groups that remained marginalized with their own narratives of past immigrant oppression.” She then goes on to cite Richard Nixon and his “coded language.” While I agree that Nixon’s word choice were coded for his base, so are every politician of every party in every nation. Generalizing that all descendants of Europeans who researched their heritage resulted in marginalizing persecuted groups and “resonates with our modern-day genealogical revival” is just wrong. Show me the data!
The author continues that although genealogy can benefit those members of historically persecuted groups, it can also “empower those who seek to divide, deny and disenfranchise.” DNA with the Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” debacle is mentioned, along with others of primarily European descent attempting to gain access to programs for underrepresented people. Let me be clear – it is wrong to try to gain entry to a privilege that was not established for you. In my genealogical experience, people who have taken DNA tests typically do not take them for the purpose of undermining the system. Most take them because they want to know who their birth parents were for health reasons, where their immigrant ancestor originated, or to compare their results with family members to determine which got what genetic material from each parent.
Knowing that information does not make me want to hold an indigenous group today responsible. It was wrong to steal children then, just as it’s wrong to separate children from their immigrant parents today. Learning this occurred in my family’s past makes me even more vehemently opposed to what is happening at our border. Understanding what my immigrant family members were fleeing in the old country makes me more empathetic with today’s people who are seeking asylum. Remembering that my grandparents were targeted by the KKK and my father’s WWII Army placementwas made due to his German sounding last name (DNA now shows more French then German but who knew back them because there was no DNA tests!) allows me to listen to the message from historically disenfranchised groups to gain their perspective.
Historian George Santayana got it right, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Correlating genealogy with racism is wrong. I know my family’s past because I am a genealogist. My ancestors made mistakes just like every human does every day. I strive to learn from their mistakes and follow their examples for what they did correctly.
No one inherited a racism gene. Racism’s root is fear of not being in power, of losing privilege status and therefore, of becoming indigent. My definition of poor has nothing to do with money; I define poor as those who lack a moral compass. I’ve met poor wealthy people and rich poor people, as I bet you have. Interesting that the fear of having no money sometimes results in those who have it in become overly controlling at the expense of others to keep it and those that don’t have it, trying to differentiate from another group to make themselves feel superior. Those kinds of people unite in their shared biased worldview and make it bad for all the rest of us. It leads to a closed mindset and a regression to what we see happening with leaders across the world – derogatory name calling, ostracizing, categorizing, and segregating. Communication ceases which only separates us further.
Please, let’s stop dividing ourselves by age, race, gender, place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, education level and career choice. The Human Genome Project showed that we all share humanness, we are all one. Our search for our ancestors isn’t the problem. Finding your family’s story and relating it to the world today to make for a better tomorrow is imperative.
Happy Dia Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This year, for Halloween, one of my family members created two glow in the dark pumpkins and a skull and dressed a skeleton to look like Disney’s Coco’s grandpa, Hector. Sneaky way to get little ones to learn about genealogy relationships! It was quite lifelike, or should I write, really dead looking? Two little girls burst into tears which was not my intention and I felt awful but the mom’s said they loved the movie. I had to show the girls that it wasn’t real. One little boy was so enamored he said he had questions for Hector and could he come inside. I told him Hector wasn’t talking tonight and would want the boy to enjoy his candy collecting. Ahh, children and genealogy, what an interesting mix. Their reaction is just like adults – some run when you start asking about family history and others want all the details.
Two weeks ago I wrote about DNA now being available from hair follicles. Right after reading that article, I found another story that I suspect relates to it though the articles purpose is to bring up a controversial side of DNA and genealogy. The Messy Consequences of the Golden State Killer Case by Sarah Zhang published in The Atlantic 1 October 2019 will give you a better understanding of why GedMatch and Family Tree Genealogy recently changed their policies.
As technology evolves, past policies must be rethought. I’ve blogged in the past about clients and colleagues mentioning that their returned DNA results were just plain wrong. We all understand that DNA is a Pandora’s box of family secrets but it never crossed my mind that medical procedures acquired as an adult could skew the results. When I read A Woman Found Her AncestryDNA Test Revealed a Medical Secret also written by Sarah Zhang and published in The Atlantic on 13 September 2019, I was shocked by the findings. I’m not going to give you a spoiler alert – you must read this article if you have DNA results that seem skewed. Who would have thought this?! Clearly not the specialists who first heard their patient’s stories.
Both articles are thought provoking whether you are a donor or are making the decision of sharing your DNA results.
The last DNA related article I’d like to share is a topic I’ve also blogged about in the past. Accepting the foibles of your family history can be difficult. Although the author, Ken Bradford, used DNA to build his tree, the old fashion research methods also provide the same results – acquiring the knowledge of the past sins of our forefathers. Look What the DNA Brought In published in Notre Dame Magazine Autumn 2019 can be helpful if your wrestling with the dark side of your family findings.
All of this is quite spooky, don’t you think? Happy Day of the Dead