RootsTech 2020: Day 1 – My Sessions, Announcements & Friends

Rootstech entrance

RootsTech’s 10th anniversary conference opened with a bang, or in this case, a bag.

Rootstech 2020 bag

The place is packed. At the speaker reception, they told us that there are just under 15K registered guests for the entire conference, plus another 24K registered for Saturday. That doesn’t count people watching at least some of the sessions via Livestream (here) or virtual passes sold.

Rootstech 2020 Roberta

Yesterday was my really long day, with two sessions, separated only by lunch. I think they were really well received. It’s so energizing to see so many people interested in genetic genealogy and how to use it, at all, and more effectively. I asked in the second session how many people had NOT tested and I think there were six in a room of maybe 300 people or so.

Rootstech 2020 kicking

In the first session, I asked who had tested and a sea of hands went up. That session was being recorded for the virtual pass holders, the room was huge, as you can kind of see above, and I didn’t ask who had NOT tested, because I wouldn’t have been able to see. My “Kick DNA up a Notch to UnMask Unknown Ancestors” was billed as intermediate to advanced, so I wouldn’t expect people who hadn’t yet tested to be in that session.

The other big news is that RootsTech London will happen this year, November 5-7. I wondered last year if having a second RootsTech in London would decrease attendance at this conference in Salt Lake, and it appears not, based on the attendance numbers.

Rootstech 2020 show floor

click to enlarge

Today, I’ll be in the Speaker Meetup area, number 4 above, 11-11:30 for the Meet the ToolMakers meetup with Jonny Perl, creator of DNAPainter, Dana Leeds who devised the Leeds clustering method and Rob Warthen, the man behind DNAGedcom. Come talk and ask questions if you’re at RootsTech.

RootsTech 2020 summary schedule

Here’s the rest of my schedule and you can see the corresponding locations on the map, above.

Photos From Yesterday

I’m grabbing some pictures from yesterday. Many were taken by other people and posted to my Facebook feed. Thank you one and all.

I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is to catchup with old friends, make new friends (like the two amazing young and talented Native American women and meet people I’ve only known online.

RootsTech 2020 Native women

Michelle Franzoni Thorley (an amazing artist) and Nassari Alvarez Everett. These amazing women are the up and coming next generation. It’s up to us to welcome them and facilitate their path. We are discussing how to accomplish just that!

Rootstech Tierra Cotton-Kellow

My friend Tierra Cotton-Kellow you might know as #Pressingmyway. I normally find her at the FHL, but I missed here there this year. She wasn’t camped in her normal seat.

Rootstech 2020 Tierra tree

I’m always interested to see what the session attendees post about my sessions. This, from Tierra’s social media feed. Indeed, I did say exactly that:)

I also said, three times, and asked the attendees to repeat after me, “Ethnicity is only an estimate,” as many people reported on Twitter. Hope everyone heard that!

RootsTech 2020 Janet

Long-time blog follower Janet Seegmiller. We met two years ago in person and caught up again this year. I’m so grateful when people come up and introduce themselves and I hope no one gets offended at hugs.

Rootstech 2020 Wendell

I was so pleased to finally get to meet Wendell. We corresponded a great deal a few years ago working on a particular project as part of a group. So nice to put a face with a name.

You know what the common theme is in all of these pictures. Everyone is smiling to beat the band. Genuine happiness is everyplace with hugs all around. Everyone hugs and it’s not obligatory – everyone means it! So much love everyplace.

LOVE

Speaking of love, Lara Diamond was gifted with a quilt. The fabrics are a combination of Jewish themes and math, given that Lara is both a mathematician and an amazing genetic genealogist whose life was saved by her health test informing her that she has a genetic propensity for breast cancer. She found that cancer in her 30s thanks to that test and is with us at RootsTech today because that test literally woke her up and saved her life. Lara wants everyone to know that if you have cancer in your family, that these consumer tests only test a few of many markers, and to have medical genetic testing done through your physician.

Consumer tests can be the canary in the coalmine though and let you know that you need to have a discussion with your doctor. Thank you Lara for being so brave and sharing your journey with us, publicly.

rootstech 2020 Lara quilt

RootsTech 2020 Lara quilt 2

Rootstech 2020 Lara quilt 3

If anyone thinks for one minute that we are not a community and a family of heart, they’d be sorely mistaken. Don’t ever forget, we are all related – it’s just a matter of how long ago.

That’s it for now. Gotta run. Sorry this is a bit rough.

Rootstech 2020 chalk drawing

Dear Dave: You’re Featured in a Book – 52 Ancestors #274

Dave and I for blog

My Dearest Brother, Dave.

You’re either famous or infamous, or both. That’s not news to you though! You’d be pleased about both, or either.

Yep, Libby Copeland tells our story today, including the secret you never knew, in an article published in the Washington Post. I wish you were here to read it with me, but I’m guessing you’re getting a good chuckle right about now from over yonder.

Miss you, love you,

Sis

Libby’s article offers a different perspective on DNA testing and family. DNA giveth, but for me, DNA could never, ever, taketh away.

Dave walks with me and makes me brave, something I need especially on days like today when I prepare to speak to thousands of people over the next few days at RootsTech with cameras rolling. He is still with me, always beside me. Sometimes laughing at me, forever protecting me. He left a hollow place in my heart that can never be filled.

Libby Copeland did a masterful job of telling our story in her book, The Lost Family, and I am forever grateful. Her book (which you can order here) includes stories from other genealogists that I’ve written about as well, including my friend, Rosario, here.

Today’s Washington Post article is found here. Kleenex warning!

If you want to read more about Dave’s amazing story and our journey, my earlier articles are here, here and here.

The Road to RootsTech 2020

I know that several of you enjoy coming along to conferences and other DNA and genealogy activities, so I’m sharing my first couple days in Salt Lake City preparing for RootsTech.

The activities and planning begin long before the conference starts.

I flew in on Sunday. The weather was sunny and beautiful, albeit cold.

RootsTech 2020 air

The heartland was covered in white dressing with its frozen rivers snaking across the landscape.

I was distracted for most of the flight, because author Libby Copeland sent me a pre-release copy of her new book, The Lost Family due to be released March 3rd. Libby wasn’t just being nice, I’m in the book, or more precisely, me, my “brother” Dave and my Dad.

RootsTech 2020 Libby Copeland

Here’s the page I opened to see my name. I knew I was in the book of course, after several interviews months ago, but there’s still somewhat of a shock factor. My story is interwoven with many others, beautifully. If you follow the genetic genealogy topic on Facebook, you’ll probably recognize at least some of the people in the storyline. I’ve written about at least one in earlier stories as well.

Let us just say I am sobbing my way through this book. It’s AMAZING. My seatmate on the plane sobbed her way through the movie Harriett, so we made quite the pair.

You can pre-order The Lost Family, now, here if you want. It’s about family lost, and found, DNA and genealogy and you really don’t want to miss it. It’s so well-written that it would be interesting for non-genealogists too.

RootsTech 2020 mountains

The mountains ringing Salt Lake City were utterly stunning on approach.

Ironically, I’ve never been any further outside SLC other than the airport and quilt shop.

Yes, quilt shop, but that’s Monday, not Sunday.

After arrival in Salt Lake City (SLC) and checking into my hotel, I walked to the local market. Never go to the market hungry, because groceries are HEAVY. What seemed like an easy 4 or 5 block walk TO the store felt much longer on the way back and those groceries got heavier block by block. I would have ordered delivery, but walking on this lovely bright winter day seemed like a great idea.

RootsTech 2020 shop

Other than the grocery, the only other shop open in SLC was a souvenir shop. Don’t count on finding much open. SLC reminds me of where I grew up as a kid – buttoned up tight on Sunday.

RootsTech 2020 Nordstrom

My room overlooks the Nordstrom’s next door, which, let me tell you, has the single most expensive eye liner pencil in history. Well, had, because I bought it out of desperation. You can see the mountains in the distance from almost everyplace in SLC.

RootsTech 2020 temple pano

Looking across the roof of Nordstrom, you can see the LDS church and temple in the distance. That building is beautiful. At the far left, the Plaza Hotel which stands right beside the Family History Library (FHL).

RootsTech 2020 temple night

Later in the evening, I took a photo of the temple illuminated at night. My friend Pat told me that you can visit a building across from the temple and take pictures from the 10th floor of the temple, day or evening, from windows between two restaurants.

Monday

Monday morning dawned bright and beautiful, much like Sunday, but colder. I wished I had brought my gloves.

The first genealogist I ran into (in Starbucks) was Daniel Horowitz, genealogist extraordinaire with MyHeritage. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see good friends again.

Which also reminds me to tell you that MyHeritage is running a DNA test special for only $39 with free shipping on orders of 2 or more. This is an incredible price, so if you’re interested, now’s the time, so click here. I doubt this price will last long.

After a brief visit with Daniel, it was time to head for the Family History Library (FHL), located just a block or so from both the hotel and the Salt Palace Convention Center where RootsTech is held.

Pat Richley-Erickson, known in the genealogy world as Dear Myrtle, and who writes at DearMYRTLE on Facebook, was interviewing bloggers, otherwise known as GeneaBloggers, beginning at 10AM. When I said that Pat writes, she does, but she’s also known for her live Monday broadcasts that you can find at Monday’s With Myrt. If you don’t catch the broadcasts live, you can view them a couple days later when Pat renders the videos and posts them.

The Monday before RootsTech is rich with many excited bloggers congregating. I think there were probably at least 20 on the interview list, milling about outside the studio, sharing animated stories and catching up in general.

RootsTech 2020 Myrt Interview 2

Russ Worthington took this photo of Sylvia Valentine, also a RootsTech speaker, Pat (Myrt) and me during our interview.

Of course, genealogists would be the first to notice my “family tree” vest.

RootsTech 2020 vest

Thanks Russ, for snapping a picture of this too, and letting me share with my readers.

RootsTech 2020 vest front

Of course, I’m talking with my hands too. Maybe I am part Italian after all😊

And then, there’s serendipity.

Waiting my turn on camera with Myrt, I met two lovely ladies with the most charming accents, Lilian and Jennie. Turns out that they live in Sydney, Australia, where I was visiting literally a month ago today. Not only that, but they met here, in SLC, a couple years ago, at RootsTech.

Jennie and I quickly figured out that we have an amazing amount in common. Shockingly so. Here’s our selfie outside the FHL.

RootsTech 2020 Jennie and me

It’s odd how fast something can become a “tradition?” Last year, I was at the FHL on Monday telling myself that I was going to focus on research. I had great intentions, right up until I got recruited. I saw several of my genealogy friends and went over to say hello. Little did I know that they were waiting their turn to be interviewed by Myrt. They graciously encouraged me to join them and worked me in.

Then they invited me along to lunch. I was very “green” about SLC and was oh so very grateful to be included. At lunch, I discovered a new cousin among my table-mates.

This year, it’s tradition. Yep, I showed up to interview with Myrt (thanks Pat), enjoyed the company of my fellow bloggers, hugs all around when someone new arrived, and then many of us went to lunch. I didn’t even bother to tell myself that I was going to research this year. Nope. I knew better.

We walked as a group to the LDS office building cafeteria. Not only is the food great, it’s inexpensive AND they can accommodate all of us.

RootsTech 2020 hope

Even the walk was interesting. I’m calling this picture “hope,” because it gives me hope that the winter just might be over soon.

RootsTech 2020 courage

And this one “courage” because its companions were all looking pretty wilty. It’s below freezing here today. My quilter’s heart loves color.

RootsTech 2020 waterfall

I’m not sure what this building is, but the waterfall emanates from within the building itself.

RootsTech 2020 sign

We made our way to the LDS cafeteria and stopped a stranger, asking him to take our photo. He kindly obliged.

RootsTech 2020 lunch

Breaking bread is a wonderful way to get to know people. I discovered that the two people to my left live about 25 miles away from me. Small world.

RootsTech 2020 temple

RootsTech 2020 temple close

RootsTech 2020 temple pool

After lunch, we made our way back to the Plaza Hotel, past the temple, where Pat’s vehicles were parked.

Pat had oh-so-kindly offered to take Lilian, Jennie and me on a quilt shop adventure to visit her favorite quilt shop in the afternoon, given that we all 4 are crazy quilters in addition to crazy genealogists.

RootsTech 2020 mountains distance

I’m sure the people who live here no longer even “see” the mountains, but for a flat-lander, they are magnificent.

RootsTech 2020 quilt shop

Jennie, Pat and Lilian. I hope the shop is prepared for us! This shop is actually a collection of rooms and buildings, along with more across the street. It’s grown a bit in its 30+ years.

RootsTech 2020 Dragon Quilt

Just stunning!

RootsTech 2020 almost star

I bought this pattern thinking it would make a great pattern for care quilts.

Pat’s extremely patient husband, Gordon, known affectionately as “Mr. Myrt” was kind enough to drive a truckful of chattering genealogist quilters back to the city and dropped us off at our hotels. I suspect he probably drove home with new appreciation for silence.

RootsTech 2020 mountains flag

I know this picture is crooked, but if I straighten it, the flag gets cropped. The flag blowing in the wind is part of what I really like about this photo.

Tomorrow, I really AM going to go to the FHL and get at least some research done. Yes, really.

Then beginning at 4, the official conference events begin with the speaker’s reception where we receive our badges, instructions and have our official pictures taken.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, the conference opens. I teach two classes plus the AMA (Ask Me Anything) event in the Family Tree DNA booth beginning at 5:45. You might not hear from me for a couple days, but I promise, I will come up for air!

If you’re on Facebook, I’ll try to add photos as I can to my DNAexplain page. It’s a lot easier to spontaneously upload to Facebook than to write and prep a blog article. Here’s the link. Be sure to like and follow the page to receive occasional notifications when I post something.

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Optimizing Your Tree at Ancestry for More Hints & DNA ThruLines

Optimizing ancestors. I know that sounds strange, but hear me out, because I’ve spent some time during the first few weeks of the year setting myself up for success. So far, my approach has generated several more hints and additional ThruLines.

I still need help with several ancestors, so I’ve devised a methodology for hopefully attracting people who might have done research or have information about specific difficult ancestors. I’m using this same approach at MyHeritage too and I’ll be writing a corresponding article with instructions for MyHeritage after RootsTech.

Direct Line Ancestors AND Their Spouses and Children

Back in the dark ages before DNA, I only had a direct line tree on Ancestry. My complete tree that I’ve worked on for years is both huge and in places, incorrect. I have no sources for some very old information – as in – I don’t even remember where it came from, let alone a source citation. That was in the days before the internet. Yes, I know, I’m dating myself.

I’m not uploading that tree for obvious reasons. Or at least, I assume they are obvious in that I do not want to add to the “problem tree” problem.

However, today, in order to receive green document leaf hints, potential parent hints as well as DNA hints such as ThruLines, we need to provide vendors’ systems with enough information so that they can connect the dots is a somewhat reliable way. In order to do that, we need to add as much information for each ancestor as possible, including:

  • birth and death dates
  • birth and death locations
  • all spouses, not just the one we descend from
  • children and their spouses

I’d like to extend the children down another generation, minimally, but I haven’t done that yet for every ancestor. Every generation added gives Ancestry software fodder to use to “connect the dots.”

Review and Accept or Reject Hints

You’ll quickly find that your tree is spouting a whole springtime full of those green leafy hints.

Ancestry tree leaf hints.png

I added all of my ancestors’ known siblings and children for the couples above, and every single one of them sprouted leaves. I also have some potential parents to sort through.

Some leaf hints will be productive and others will leave you shaking your head. That’s why they are “hints.”

For example, many census records will be spot on – but then there is that English church baptism record from decades AFTER my ancestor by a similar name died.

Fortunately, the first option is to review or ignore the hint.

Ancestry review.png

You can also switch on “Quick Compare” which sometimes shows additional information.

Never, EVER, blindly accept hints, and never, ever ASSUME!

Believe me, I’m the queen of having to redo – so just don’t. When I began doing genealogy, we accepted a lot of information on faith – specifically faith that the older generations spoke gospel. Today, we often have more information at our disposal than they even dreamed possible – and we’ve come to realize that their information might have been wrong.

When reviewing a hint, in addition to yes and no, there’s a “maybe” button that deposits a hint into an Undecided folder if you don’t know or can’t decide. I do keep my leaves cleaned up on my tree so that I can immediately see by looking at my tree when I have a new hint.

Ancestry record match.png

You can review and change your mind later, for all hints.

Ancestry undecided.png

I always “ignore” the Ancestry Member Trees. That’s NOT to say I don’t use them, because I do. They just live in the Undecided bucket, and I know they are always there for each ancestor.

I review the trees and look for documentation and hints that I don’t have. I certainly don’t want to accept those hints and have “Ancestry Member Trees” listed as a source on my tree. Those trees are NOT sources in and of themselves, they serve as hints for places for me to do research, or perhaps messages to send.

Ancestry ignored.png

I know that some hints for each ancestor will always be in the ignored file. I review those periodically too and sometimes find things I discarded before I had additional information that makes that hint relevant.

Fertilizing ThruLines

ThruLines are calculated for a maximum of 7 generations counting your parents as generation 1. You can see the dividing line clearly below.

Ancestry Thruline tree

click to enlarge

By clicking the little DNA icon on the left, pointed to by the red arrow, the DNA icon that indicates ThruLines appears on each ancestor for whom the system has generated a ThruLine.

There are three absolute requirements for ThruLines:

  1. You must have a tree
  2. You must have connected your DNA test to a person in that tree
  3. You must have DNA matches to other people with that same ancestor in their tree

Family by family, I entered the names of the spouses and children of all the generations eligible for ThruLines so that ThruLines would (hopefully) be generated for every eligible ancestor that I’ve identified.

Two Kinds of Green Leafy Hints

The leaf hints showing on your tree are record hints, not to be confused with the leave on your DNA match page, which are ThruLines hints.

Ancestry record hints.png

The tabs for both trees and DNA are at the top of your Ancestry account page.

Ancestry tree tab.png

When you click on DNA, you’ll see several options, but if you click on matches, you’ll see some matches with green leaves that indicate a common ancestor – translated, that means a ThruLine has been generated.

Ancestry common ancestors.png

At the top of your matches page, you can sort and filter in a number of ways. If you click on “Common Ancestors,” you’ll see only the people with whom you have green leaf DNA hints.

Ancestry common ancestor leaf.png

Everything except the information in the red box is generated by Ancestry. Information in the red box, notes and group match dots, is up to the user.

Groups

By clicking on the +, you can add or edit self-identified colored groups.

For my first match, I have identified the common ancestor. It’s Hiram Ferverda (and his wife.) I’ve added that information in the notes field, and used the appropriate grouping, shown below.

Ancestry group tags.png

Initially, I had grand ideas about how to use these groups, but there are only 24 and that’s not nearly enough, so now I check “ancestor identified” and enter the ancestor’s name in the notes field. If Ancestry adds the capability for more groups, I’ll need to rethink my strategy.

Other group designations that I use, other than a few ancestors, are:

  • Messaged
  • Multiple lines
  • Private (meaning I can’t see their tree)
  • Speculative, akin to bait
  • Ancestor probably identified, which is more certain than speculative
  • Working, tough nut to crack
  • Starred matches are those that I had prior to Ancestry’s big change in May of 2016

Spruce Up Your Tree’s Curb Appeal

If you want people to look at your tree, which means interacting with cousins and maybe, just maybe, attracting the right person to help, you will need to do a few things to make your tree attractive.

Ancestry member trees are displayed in the order of the trees that Ancestry judges to be “most complete” or “best” first, meaning the highest number of sources and sometimes the ones with profile images.

Ancestry member trees.png

The “best” Ancestry member tree, to the left of mine, has 5 sources and 4 records attached.

The first thing I do when I’m viewing member trees is to scan down the list and see who has photos, because photos might, just might be of my ancestor, their home or tombstone.

The next thing I do is to view the sources and records.

So, the message here is that in order to attract people, IMAGES ARE KEY.

Pictures and Images

People are drawn to pictures. It’s as simple as that.

You have two places to make an impression.

First, your own photo on your profile is the first thing people see first on the DNA match list.

Ancestry profile photo.png

Notice what your eye sees first – my picture.

The rest are the same, no photos.

Upload a photo to your profile on your tree.

Note that there seems to be an Ancestry bug that does NOT show photos of some matches when they actually do have their photo in their tree. It might also be their privacy settings preclude their photo showing.

However, the other place you can attract people is to your ancestors in your tree.

Ancestry abbreviated tree.png

This is my matches abbreviated view of my tree, and below is the full view of the same part of my tree.

Ancestry full tree.png

Notice how much more attractive this tree is (with images) than the mini tree below that I quickly assembled for illustration purposes.

Would you be looking at those faces to see if they might be your ancestors? Or would you want to look at the pink and blue placeholders below?

Ancestry example tree.png

Make Your Tree Fish for YOU 24x7x365

Now that you’ve attracted people to your tree, what do you want to accomplish?

First let me say that I immediately “ignore” all DNA icon picture hints. These icons are used by people for themselves, which is fine, to identify ancestors who are related to them genetically in their tree or whose DNA they carry. However, those images are then “suggested” to everyone else as a photo of that ancestor. That’s a wasted opportunity for both them and you.

Here’s an example in the tree of one of my matches.

Ancestry helix profile.png

Use groups or tree tags, or both, if you want to designate ancestor’s whose DNA you carry.

DNA images don’t convey anything to someone viewing your tree. You will attract people by providing something THEY will find interesting, or conveys a targeted message.

Here’s how I organize my profile images and decide what to display, in order, for each ancestor:

  • The ancestor themselves, preferable in color if possible
  • Their gravestone or cemetery
  • Their home
  • Their land
  • A document from their life, preferably with their signature
  • Something in their town or area from the timeframe they lived there
  • Map of where they lived
  • Flag or crest of where they were born or died – smallest area to largest area. For example, if I know the town where they lived, I’ll use the town crest, but if I only know the state or country, I’ll use those in that order.

By using images, not only can someone viewing my tree see something relevant, I can too.

Use images to YOUR advantage.

Bait Ancestors

What about ancestors that you’ve added to your tree as “bait,” meaning those that you’re unsure about. I add them with a group tag of “speculative” in the hope that hints or ThruLines will appear.

I need to say that a ThruLine does NOT confirm that specific ancestor. You and everyone else can all have the name “John Smith” for that ancestor, and you can either be referencing different John Smiths, or you can all be wrong, together. Your ancestor might be Ben Johnson but you all think it’s John Smith and have him in your tree. Mind you, your DNA does match, but it could also be because of an unknown common ancestor someplace ELSE in your tree.

I don’t know if these “bait people” in my tree ARE actually ancestors, so I certainly don’t want to post information about a person, or an image for them, that is not relevant to my tree. I don’t want to mislead anyone else either.

Up until now, I’ve left those speculative ancestor profiles with the generic pink and blue icons, but that doesn’t convey anything to anyone else who will likely just presume you haven’t uploaded anything.

Ancestry bait.png

You could use a BAIT icon, like this image from the now-defunct site openclipart, which would convey that you are fishing with this ancestor in your tree. That would hopefully accomplish two things:

  • Discourage someone else from adding that ancestor to their tree just because you have that ancestor in your tree, even if ThruLines have been formed.
  • Encourage anyone who sees this image to contact you if they can offer assistance with this ancestor.

Remember, these images will (may) be offered to other researchers as hints, so you might get lucky and someone will have something to offer.

Asking for Help

What about those brick wall ancestors for whom you really want and need help? These aren’t people tacked onto the end of a branch for bait, but people whose identity you not only don’t know, you don’t have a clue or theory.

In my case, I know the names of the children of William Crumley and his wife. I know her mitochondrial haplogroup, H2a1, and her rough birth and death years based on the ages of her children, but I don’t know her name. In some cases, I know a first name but not a surname.

To alert people that I’m seeking help with that ancestor, I’ve chosen to upload a question mark image. I named it “Need Help With This Person,” so that’s what people will see in their hints. The question mark itself consists of puzzle pieces. I found this image at the now defunct openclipart website as well, where all images were copyright-free and contributed. You can find images at Pixabay and other free sites, but be careful that you don’t get in copyright trouble, or wind up on sites that will download malware onto your system. Pixabay is my “go-to” site now.

You can also use the images from this article.

Uploading images to any profile is drag and drop.

Ancestry unknown.png

On the ancestor’s profile, click on Gallery, then on “upload media.”

Ancestry profile upload.png

Drag the photo into place or click to upload, then select the image you wish to make their profile photo. Done to exit.

To select an image already uploaded for the profile, just click on the image. It will open and you will see the “Linked to” field.

Make a Statement

In a couple of cases, I’ve made a custom profile picture using Snagit – especially when I’ve disproven something and erroneous information is being widely disseminated like wildfire by copying and pasting of trees.

Ancestry not Cripe.png

I had to use this icon twice, because both the father and son were named Stephen, and both of their wives were named Elizabeth. While the Elizabeth married to Stephen born about 1720 is the one who is supposed to be the Cripe, anglicized from the German Greib – that information gets attached to both women willy-nilly – and both incorrectly.

Ancestry tree not Cripe.png

If people want to check further after seeing this icon, there’s a link attached to both Elizabeths in my tree so that they can read my research in my 52 Ancestors articles about the Elizabeths.

Notice that Ancestry suggests potential parents for Elizabeth born about 1725. You guessed it, the potential father suggested by Ancestry, which is NOT a function of DNA matching, but only of tree popularity, is for a Greib father extracted from other users’ trees.

Leaves in your tree don’t mean DNA matches, just document or record hints. Leaves on your DNA match page mean a common ancestor has been identified in the tree of your DNA match.

Comments

Another way you can help yourself is to add a comment about what kind of help you are seeking and how to contact you. Ancestry messaging doesn’t reliably work.

Ancestry edit pencil.png

You’ll notice that I’ve selected 3 tree tags for this ancestor. I know she’s my ancestor because I’ve triangulated segments to this couple (elsewhere, not on Ancestry due to no chromosome browser) and confirmed my ancestor with her sisters using mitochondrial DNA. She’s a direct ancestor in my tree, and she’s also a huge brick wall.

By clicking on the little edit pencil, a panel the right will open displaying the Comments tab, among others.

Note that Notes are only visible to you and anyone you give edit permission on your tree.

But Comments are visible to others.

Ancestry notes.png

Ancestry has had long-standing chronic issues with messages not being delivered, so I always include my e-mail address. I also track with group dots which matches I’ve messaged previously. You can sort by group, and therefore I can check who I messaged and when, and try again.

Beauty

I just can’t help myself. After all this work, I really enjoy looking at my DNA ThruLines page.

Ancestry Thrulines profiles.png

Ancestry displays ThruLines in generational order. Here are my 8 great-grandparents, assembled together. By flying over each one, I can see how many DNA matches I have for that particular ancestor’s ThruLine

This also makes it easy to track in a spreadsheet over time, if you’re so inclined.

My 4th great-grandparents are the first generation where I encounter brick walls. I’ve added that question mark for William Crumley’s wife. In that same generation, I also find James Mann and Mary Cantrell. I have information about THEM, but what I don’t have is a document link to Nancy Mann, who I know positively is my ancestor. Unfortunately, even though I have 6 DNA matches to James Mann, they are all through Nancy Mann, which proves exactly nothing other than we all have him in our tree and we might well all be wrong together.

Ancestry Thrulines profiles 2.png

I think I’ll upload the bait icon for James Mann and his wife, Mary Cantrell.

Does It Work?

I had multiple goals, of course, but hints were being generated literally as I worked through my tree performing these housekeeping tasks.

It’s difficult to tell exactly why I’m receiving more hints and ThruLines given that I’ve performed several housekeeping tasks, but I doubt that they are all coincidence or solely the result of new testers. After all, I’ve given the Ancestry software a healthy dose of fertilizer to work with.

Like anything else, to get results, you have to feed the machine. Computers do their best work with more, rather than less, information.

I’m hopeful to achieve the following goals:

  • I would like to find people who can take Y and mitochondrial DNA tests at FamilyTreeDNA to represent my missing lines.
  • I’d like to confirm additional ancestors by multiple DNA matches through different children of the ancestor.
  • And of course, I desperately want to break down those pesky brick walls.

I realize that some people cringe at the idea of “giving” information away to other people, but I look at it just the opposite. If what I’ve “given” in my tree in terms of already invested work, photos and images paves the way for one photo of an ancestor that I’ve never seen, finds one person to take a Y or mitochondrial DNA test that breaks down a brick wall that will never fall any other way – then everything I contributed was well worthwhile.

After all, that money and time is already spent – sharing it means that it might pay off a second time. The absolutely worse thing that could happen is that it helps someone else who doesn’t reciprocate.

However, I prefer to think positively and pay goodness forward. I have been truly gifted so many times that I want to do the same.

Collaboration truly is the key to success, especially in genetic genealogy.

What can you do to spruce up your tree to obtain better results?

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

News: Nebula Genomics Whole Genome, MyHeritage Photos Go Viral & Upcoming Publication Schedule

“It never rains but it pours.”

Let’s just say I’m a tad bit overwhelmed right now for numerous reasons. Never, ever even whisper to yourself, “what else could go wrong?” Because you know what happens next, right!

Right now, I need to focus on what needs to be done for RootsTech and on some unexpected matters.

Translated, this means that my blog article publication schedule is slipping, and here’s what to expect.

There won’t be any 52 Ancestors articles for at least two weeks, and perhaps a tad longer. There’s a lot of research and prep that goes into each one, and I just don’t have the cycles right now.

I will *try* to get my regular technical article out this week. I did have a couple queued before RootsTech, but they aren’t finalized. Fingers crossed.

I will try to get at least a short RootsTech article out next week while I’m there. If I manage to do that, the photos will be uncropped and it will be “rough” and brief compared to my normal articles. Think of it as embedded reporting – I’m your correspondent on the ground:)

I do have a couple very interesting newsy items to share with you today.

Nebula Genomics Introduces 30X Whole Genome Sequence, Partners with Family Tree DNA

Nebula.png

I just received an e-mail from Nebula Genomics announcing that they are offering a whole genome 30X (30 scan coverage) sequence (WGS) for $299, plus a subscription to maintain access to updates in their research library. The idea is to sequence once and update your data forever, meaning that medical and other information will be at your fingertips as it becomes available. You can read their FAQ, here and the announcement here.

For this price, the DNA is sequenced in Hong Kong, not mainland China (a situation you can read about here,) but by BGI, renamed from Bejing Genomics Institute, a Chinese government-owned firm. This gives me significant pause due to the Chinese political regime and oppression of the Uighur population using genetic data. Nebula states that they are looking to move their processing onshore in the near future. I will be much more comfortable as soon as that happens.

However, there’s more news. Nebula has partnered with Family Tree DNA.

Hey, Family Tree DNA has a world-class lab, GenebyGene. Perhaps Nebula can move their processing there. I would even pay more to *NOT* send my DNA to a Chinese firm.

Nebula FTDNA.png

Beginning in Q2, you’ll be able to transfer at least some of your information from Nebula Genomics to Family Tree DNA’s Y and mitochondrial databases. This appears to be a direct company to company transfer, much easier than a download/upload, assures accuracy and provides enhanced security.

I don’t see details, and it’s not Q2 yet of course, but I would expect this transfer to function similar to others where the transfer and perhaps some basic tools are free, but for advanced tools, an unlock fee at Family Tree DNA would probably be required. I also don’t know if all data would be transferred, or what happens if you’ve already taken a lower level test, or if coverage isn’t sufficient. Lots to work out moving forward.

Unlike the other WGS products that I’ve considered, Nebula provides a genomic browser and available files for download. In other words, you don’t just receive your sequenced file on a disc and wonder what to do next, and how.

I do have questions about this new offering, but for the $299 price, anyone thinking about whole genome sequencing and is OK with BGI should consider Nebula, especially with the possibility of transferring Y and mitochondrial DNA directly.

As far as I’m concerned, whole genome sequencing become a viable option when:

  • It’s reasonably priced
  • The coverage is adequate, at least 30X
  • My data is secure (meaning not BGI or China)
  • I can easily transfer portions elsewhere (without having to use third party tools to extract the data) and utilize the Y, mitochondrial and autosomal files as uploads in other locations
  • The vendor provides tools or a subscription so I can reap continuing value

When Nebula processing moves onshore, or at least to a western-world lab, I’ll be all in!

My Heritage Colorized Photos Go Viral

I’m pleased to tell you that MyHeritage reports that people have colorized more than a million photos in the first 5 days since they first announced their new photo colorization tool. That means sharing with family and other people getting excited about genealogy.

I’m observing family members on social media realizing they have “long lost” pictures and sharing them when they see the new colorized photos posted. As genealogists, this is EXACTLY what we want to see.

Look at some of these amazing photos in the MyHeritage blog article, here.

Remember, if you’re not a MyHeritage subscriber, you can colorize 10 photos for free and then you can set up a free trial subscription account. When you colorize the photos, MyHeritage saves them beside the original in your MyHeritage account for you. I love this service.

If you’re having problems with older photos, try rescanning the original at the highest scan resolution possible.

I’ve also discovered that this tool doesn’t just colorize photos of people – but of buildings, landscapes and pets too. I’ve found the best results are with something that has a natural green, like leaves, because the software seems to calibrate itself by finding something it can identify.

Fluffy.png

Fluffy color.png

You’ll forgive me if I go and have a good cry now.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

RootsTech 2020 – Sessions, Meetups and a Surprise!

RootsTech 2020 speaker

Rootstech is going to be here before you know it! I’m excited about speaking and all of the surrounding activities. There’s so much going on.

I want to share some of my tips about how to plan and manage your schedule plus RootsTech survival tips. If you can’t attend in person, there’s still something for you too.

I’d like to invite you to attend my presentations and other appearances. Many speakers make cameo appearances in places other than their official RootsTech classes – and I’m no exception. I hope that you’ll attend my sessions and other activities where I can meet you. I’ll be bringing my ribbons along too, so be sure to get one to add to your “ribbon chain” collection.

2019 DNAexplain ribbon

My Scheduled Appearances

I’m presenting two official RootsTech sessions that I think you’re going to love, plus an open Q&A, attending a “Meet the DNA ToolMakers” meetup, giving two 15-minute booth sessions and….drum roll…an announcement of a new collaborative science initiative.

RootsTech 2020 summary schedule.png

Here’s my quick schedule summary with details and a map below:

  1. Kicking DNA Up a Notch to UnMask Unknown Ancestors – Wednesday at 11, Emerald Room – Are you just confirming known ancestors – or are you using available tools to unmask previously unknown ancestors? This intermediate to advanced session covers one-of-a-kind tools available from FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, 23andMe, GedMatch, Genetic Affairs, DNAGedcom and DNAPainter. By the time you leave, you will be able to understand the unique aspects of each tool and how to combine them with genealogical resources such as Geni and WikiTree to obtain clues about breaking down those elusive brick walls.
  2. Native American DNA: Confirming those Stories – Wednesday at 1:30, Room 255D – In this intermediate level class, I’ll introduce you to some lesser-known resources available to researchers searching for Native American ancestors. Understanding history helps researchers understand why we need different approaches for Native research. Verification of Native American heritage can come from a variety of DNA tools provided by different vendors. Ethnicity can provide a hint, or not, but what next? Learn how to utilize Native American segment identification from 23andMe, segment painting from DNAPainter and other tools such as Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA from FamilyTreeDNA to find and confirm your Native ancestor(s).
  3. Ask Me Anything (AMA, about DNA anyway) – Wednesday 5:45, Family Tree DNA booth #1117 – I’ll be in the Family Tree DNA booth after the RootsTech opening session on Wednesday beginning at 5:45. I’ll be available to answer questions related to Y DNA, mitochondrial or autosomal DNA. Of course, we can’t find your ancestors in 45 minutes (don’t I wish), but if you have a DNA related question that you’ve been wondering about, come on over. Besides that, I’d love to meet you! I’ll be there at least until 6:30 or as long as there are people with questions or the hall closes, whichever comes first. Stop in and say “hey.”
  4. Meet the DNA ToolMakers – Thursday at 11 AM, Speaker Meetup area in the Expo Hall – The DNA testing vendors are wonderful, but the independent add-on tools take our results to the next level. Have you ever wanted to meet the DNA toolmakers – the people behind those tools – maybe to take selfies, share ideas or ask a question? Now’s your chance! Along with Rob Warthen of DNAGedcom and Jonny Perl of DNAPainter, I’ll be in the speaker meetup area in the Expo Hall from 11:00-11:30 on Thursday. Come on by and noodle with some of the greatest minds in our business. Everyone is welcome!
  5. Incorporating 52 Ancestors into WikiTree – Friday 3:45, WikiTree booth #1311 – Join me for this 15-minute session where I’ll share research strategies using WikiTree to both write and then leverage my 52 Ancestors article series. Make WikiTree work for you both before and after. Those 52 Ancestor’s stories make the BEST cousin bait.
  6. The Million Mito Project: Tracing the Family Tree of Womankind – Saturday 10:20, Demo Center in the Expo Hall – You’ll definately want to be present for this 15 minute session in the Demo Theater (with couches as seats) to learn about this history-making initiative that will change the matrilineal genetic landscape as we know it. I can’t tell you any more just yet. Yes, it’s a secret – but trust me, you don’t want to miss out. Come be a part of history unfolding. (PS – There’s a drawing at the end and some lucky person is going to win a full mitochondrial sequence test.)
  7. The Million Mito Project: Tracing the Family Tree of Womankind – Saturday 12:10, FamilyTreeDNA booth #1117 – Can’t make the Million Mito Project announcement Saturday morning in the Demo Theater? No problem. I’m presenting again in the FamilyTreeDNA booth.

The Lay of the Land

I’ve marked the locations where I’ll be on the Expo Hall map below with the red star numbers corresponding to the appearances, above.

Rootstech 2020 show floor

click to enlarge

The Emerald Room is located THROUGH the Expo Hall, through the doors at the rear. Room 255D is located on the second-floor mezzanine, in front of the Expo Hall. You can’t see those rooms here, but you will when you’re standing there.

Can’t Attend RootsTech in Person?

Did you know that 21 sessions, including the keynotes, will be livestreamed and available to watch for free? The livestream schedule is here.

In addition, another 30 classes will be recorded and available to watch online 2 or 3 weeks after the close of Rootstech for Virtual Pass holders. Here’s the list of included classes and yes, my session, “Kicking DNA up a Notch to Unmask Unknown Ancestors” is included in that group. All recorded sessions will be available for 12 months and the cost is $129 if you aren’t attending RootsTech.

RootsTech Survival and Planning Strategies

Someone recently asked how to plan for RootsTech since there are so many wonderful sessions to choose from, and many are running concurrently. The first survival hint involves the Virtual Pass.

  • If you are attending RootsTech 2020, but you want to see sessions whose times conflict with each other, you can purchase an add-on virtual pass for $79 which allows you to watch those sessions later. You don’t have to decide now, as you can still purchase after the conference until September 1st, but if you know you’re going to purchase the Virtual Pass, then you may plan your time at the show differently.
  • It’s important to use the downloadable RootsTech conference phone app that includes the ability to search and view classes by day and by speaker. However, the most important part for me is the “My Schedule” portion which allows me to easily click on the class I want and put it on my conference schedule in the app. I can also add personal things to the calendar like appointments.
  • Another aspect of Rootstech to consider is when the show floor, called the Expo Hall, is open, and when it isn’t. On Wednesday during the day, the Expo Hall is not open until after the main session. Then, the Expo Hall with exhibitors is open for the evening and there are no competing sessions.
  • Many of the vendors have demo areas in their booths and do short classes – generally 15 minutes or so – a few longer. That’s free education, especially if you like their product and would like to learn more – or you want to see a demonstration. To be honest with you, the Expo Hall is one of my favorite aspects of the show. It’s wonderful to see “all things genealogy” in one place and to get to meet the vendors in person.
  • When you arrive, you’ll see vendor brochures in your goodie bag. Look through the bag for booth event schedules and add things you want to attend in the conference app on your schedule. (Not all booth events are listed on the pre-printed schedule, so check out the booth of any vendor that interests you.) Many conference speakers make appearances as guest speakers in vendor booths to share the love. I’ll be in the Family Tree DNA booth and the WikiTree booth making presentations, as noted on my schedule above.
  • Look at a map of the facility and figure out where you are going before you need to get there. There’s a facility map in the RootsTech phone app under “RootsTech documents.”
  • The Demo Theater isn’t mentioned much in advance, but it’s an area in the Exhibit Hall where vendors can sign up for 15-minute slots to give mini-sessions about products or live demonstrations. Check out that schedule after arriving.

Rootstech demo theater

Demo Theater sessions are free, seat about 100 people ON COUCHES (your feet and back will thank RootsTech), first come, first serve and generally there’s a drawing for something from that vendor at the end of each session. Often, the vendors make announcements or you’ll hear about their latest and greatest feature. Please note that I’m appearing in the Demo Theater on Saturday morning at 10:20 to tell you all about The Million Mito Project.

  • Speaking of the Expo Hall, Saturday is the busiest day of the show for two reasons. Local people who work during the week attend on Saturday, plus the Family Day Discovery pass for Saturday is free for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You can compare the various Rootstech passes here, including the one day passes.
  • Stuff gets heavy – the convention center is HUGE, and anything you’re carrying will become VERY heavy over the course of the day. Minimize. Consider a cross-body small purse that will hold your cell and credit cards and leave everything else in your hotel room. You’ll receive a lightweight conference bag to put treasures in, so utilize that. I bring a laminated nametag made into a luggage tag to put on my conference bag since they all look alike. There is no place, other than the coat check, to leave anything, and you don’t want to leave anything other than your coat there, if that.
  • Plan for food and water. Many food vendors are available in the conference center, but you may want to eat off-hours. At 12 noon, the lines are quite long. Plan accordingly and be prepared to stand and wait. I’ve been known to purchase my meal in the morning, assuming it’s something like a wrap, put it in my bag and have a picnic later someplace.
  • Wear your most comfortable, supportive shoes. Yes, seriously. This is not the time to worry about fashion. Be prepared for snow and cold – it’s winter – although they generally do a great job of snow-removal.
  • I Uber or Lyft using the apps on my phone. I gave up renting cars, navigating and worrying about parking in strange cities years ago. Note that there is construction at the convention center this year. There is also bus service from the airport, but I’ve never used it.
  • Don’t forget that the Family History Library is down the street just a couple blocks. There are few evening activities at RootsTech, but the Expo Hall is open. The FHL often has extended show hours. Plan what you’re going to do before you go by using the FamilySearch search application and focus on the catalog.

Rootstech FamilySearch catalog.png

  • In addition, I constantly use the FamilySearch wiki to figure out what is available from the location I need to research. If you show up at the FHL without a plan, it’s kind of like being in the library of Alexandria without a roadmap. The volunteers at the FHL are very kind and extremely helpful – and don’t worry about unsolicited religious pressure – there is absolutely none. (I’ve been visiting Family History Centers for more than 30 years, do not attend that church, and there has never been any pressure or even discussion unless I asked a question.)
  • RootsTech has published their own survival guide here.

I have so much to do to get ready yet. Hope to see you there!!!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Down Under: Tasmania – 52 Ancestors #273

This is part 2 of a multi-part series about my trip down under to Australia and New Zealand. You can read part one about my adventures in Sydney, outside Melbourne and in the Blue Mountains of Australia, here.

This trip was very different from past journeys, in part because we traveled over the holidays. We discussed this with family members first, but the kids are grown and the cruise line, Viking, included free airfare, but on just this one departure date. Clearly, lots of people hesitate to be gone for the holidays and Viking wanted to fill the cabins. For us, the free airfare made the trip affordable and our adult children were incredibly flexible. It also meant that we would spend New Year’s Eve someplace very unique😊

In this article, I’ll be sharing an unexpected New Year’s Eve treat, the absolutely amazing UnZoo, the penal colony at Port Arthur and a stunning drive along the Tasmanian coastline.

And of course, because it’s me, we had a crisis.

Come on along…

Tasmania

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. Separated from the mainland during the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. Tasmania is mostly volcanic – and beautiful.

Tasmania map.png

We departed from Melbourne and would be putting into the port of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania after a day at sea.

Tasmania aerial.png

From Hobart, we traveled by bus to the Tasmanian Devil UnZoo and on to Port Arthur, the site of one of the original Penal Colonies.

But before reaching Tasmania, we celebrated New Year’s Eve!!!

New Year’s Eve

This was a New Year’s Eve like no other, in more ways than one.

Jim and I had been anticipating New Year’s Eve shipboard. We’re not big celebrators at home, and we knew, just knew, that Viking would host a bang-up party.

What we didn’t know, of course, is how rough the seas would be.

I don’t do well with motion, and the remedy for that is to take Dramamine and go to bed.

The remedy does not involve either food or alcohol. And NEVER alcohol in combination with Dramamine. Not only that, but alcohol makes normally stable people unstable, and with the ship rocking to and fro, I needed every shred of stability I could muster.

Additionally, I was still affected by jet lag. It gets better gradually over a few days, but for me, jet lag means I’m sleepy just about all the time that I’m supposed to be awake, and wide awake when I’m supposed to be asleep. My body just screams, “I’m confused.”

Indeed, Viking scheduled a New Year’s Eve party from 9 – 12:15. Yes, you read that right. It ended at 12:15. Fifteen minutes after midnight.

I had to laugh, because Viking does attract many retired people, but really, we’re not THAT old. Why I remember New Year’s Eve’s that I was only getting started at 12:15, but I digress.

While Jim and I were trying to decide if we were going to sleep or going to party, the Cruise Director invited passengers to the atrium to a Chocolate Tasting.

OK, there’s no question. I’m going to that – rolling seas and Dramamine or not! Chocolate is going to be the death of me yet. I already tripped and fell once in the pursuit of chocolate and ancestors, but I was NOT going to miss this event.

Tasmania Chocolate Tasting.png

Believe me, the title “Chocolate Tasting” was significantly understated.

The chefs had outdone themselves and created an entire edible chocolate art display, plus buffet.

This event was so popular that they had to rope off the area and a line formed quite some time before the grand opening, or in this case, grand un-roping.

It seems that everyone loves chocolate.

Chocolate

Tasmania chocolate table.png

I slipped in while they were setting up to grab a few shots. This was before the serving trays arrived that held the beautifully decorated and arranged goodies for the guests.

Tasmania musicians.png

Musicians were scattered throughout the public areas of the ship. Music may calm wild beasts but I’m not so sure about people being restrained from chocolate.

When they *finally* opened the Chocolate Tasting buffet, it was immediately swamped with eager guests.

Tasmania chocolate served.png

It seems that everyone wanted a photo before the trays were empty. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you eat twice, first with your eyes. Truth! And this was a smorgasbord.

Tasmania chocolate variety.png

There an amazing variety of delectable goodies. I learned that those pastel cookies are French macaroons. Who knew?

Tasmania barrier reef.png

Isn’t this just beautiful?

Tasmania chocolate fountain.png

There were two very popular chocolate dipping fountains, off to the side, one white chocolate (yes, I know that’s not really a thing) and one “regular” chocolate. As you can see, the tray was empty but held fruit and marshmallows. Nothing remained empty very long.

Tasmania edible decorations.png

The decorations like the “plants” and that loopy ribbon-looking artistic expression on the left are edible.

Tasmania chocolate theme.png

The theme was Australia, of course. Just look at those native flowers and pots with “bark.”

Tasmania chocolate fish.png

The “barrier reef” with the chocolate fish. Everything was edible, but no one could bring themselves to eat the display itself.

Tasmania chocolate fires.png

The bushfires were present on everyone’s mind.

Tasmania chocolate tree.png

This chocolate Christmas tree looks like laser-cut scrollwork. I wonder how they did that.

Tasmania chocolate buffet.png

Very pastel for chocolate. Look at those beautiful lacy butterflies. I bet they worked all day on this. I wonder if the chefs were disappointed that people didn’t eat the decorations themselves, of if they would have been hurt if they had. Maybe that was the crews treat later.

Tasmania New Year's Eve sunset.png

After falling into a chocolate food coma, we went to our cabin and watched the sun set.

Tomorrow would be an early morning, waking up in Hobart, capitol city of Tasmania.

I probably don’t need to tell you that we never made it to the party.

Never make the mistake of laying down on a cruise ship. The motion will rock you right to sleep.

Tasmania

New Year’s Day dawned bright and beautiful. Happy 2020! I had never welcomed a new year in another country, let alone another hemisphere on a landmass half way around the world.

Tasmania Harbour

click to enlarge

After docking, we climbed aboard the bus to head for the UnZoo, and then on to the Penal Colony, first driving through the city of Hobart.

Tasmania is known for its wool production and exports, both historically and today.

Tasmania woolstore.png

One of my favorite things about cruising is that you’re always by the sea.

Tasmania coast

click to enlarge

The entire journey today would be along the beautiful Tasmanian coastline in the golden rays of sunshine.

Tasmania coast bay 2.png

Before long, we arrived at the UnZoo.

The UnZoo

That the heck is an Unzoo? Well, it’s the reverse of a zoo.

The animals aren’t caged for human entertainment. The animals live in their natural habitat, without fences, and the humans are guided through that habitat and (minimally) restricted for everyone’s protection, when necessary. Kind of an immersion experience in a native botanical garden that the animals enjoy too.

I have always been very concerned about the ethical aspects of zoos – and I absolutely love not only the concept of an UnZoo, but the UnZoo itself.

We visited the Tasmanian Devil UnZoo whose mission is to save the Tasmania Devils. The Tasmanian Devil, a carnivorous marsupial, was named by the original colonists due to its ferocious voice and aggressive nature. They may be small, but they don’t know it, or sound small. Extinct on the Australian mainland today, they are found only on Tasmania, and may become extinct there soon.

You can hear and see the Devils in a YouTube video here. That voice!

Additionally, the UnZoo serves as a wildlife sanctuary, hospital and preserve for other native Tasmanian species as well.

Tasmania UnZoo save Devil.png

You may have heard that the Tasmanian Devils are urgently threatened with a rare form of facial cancer, DFTD or Devil Facial Tumour Disease, a fatal, transmittable cancer.

The bad news is that DFTD is one of only three forms of contagious cancers in the world and more than 80% of the Devils are infected today. The good news is that the location of the UnZoo has allowed a fence to be built across the neck of the peninsula to protect the Devils on the peninsula, none of whom are infected. In other words, the cancer has not spread there – yet.

Tasmania UnZoo map.png

To give you an idea of the lay of the land, Hobart is on the left, above, the UnZoo is the red pin, and the fence spans the small neck of land at Dunalley pointed to by the red arrow. If this fence and alarm system fails, the Tasmanian Devil will likely become extinct.

The UnZoo admissions provide funding for building and alarming the fence along with caring for the animals. You can contribute, here.

The guides at the UnZoo are extremely committed to the animals under their stewardship.

Tasmania UnZoo guide.png

The animals come to know the guides quite well. As a retired wildlife rehabilitator, I can assure you that even though we attempt not to form bonds with the critters, we do – and they do with us as well.

Tasmania UnZoo parrot.png

While the birds in the aviary at Healesville, outside Melbourne, had been reclusive, that’s not the case here for these unconfined birds.

Tasmania UnZoo parrots in trees.png

Look up! Birds are everyplace.

Tasmania UnZoo parrot me.png

A little birdseed helped encourage this friendly parrot.

Tasmania UnZoo parrot Jim head.png

Jim was quite taken by surprise. There was no birdseed on his head, so the attraction must have been something else. You can see both Jim and the bird are quite pleased.

Tasmania UnZoo Tasmanian Devil Education.png

Educational signs are posted in many places, helping visitors get to know the animals, along with discussing the history, challenges and surrounding habitat.

Tasmania UnZoo Tasmanian Devil habitat.png

People walk along the paths. This border is not to keep the Tasmanian Devil in, but to keep the people out of the Devil’s habitat and to keep everyone safe.

Tasmania UnZoo Tasmanian Devil.png

I had a difficult time getting a good picture of that Devil.

Tasmania UnZoo Tasmanian Devil closeup.png

In another area, the boardwalk is separated from the animal’s area by plexiglass. This little Devil came right up and took a look at us.

Tasmania UnZoo Tasmanian Devil top.png

As it turned out, he was a bottle raised orphan after his mother was killed on the road.

Tasmanis UnZoo Tasmanian Devil eating.png

After reaching adulthood, he failed in the breeding program. Let’s just say he got too excited and accidentally hurt the females, so he is experiencing an early retirement, at least from planned breeding anyway. What goes on in the bush stays in the bush though – and he’s not telling.

Lots of human imprinting means he’s quite docile, at least for a Tazmanian Devil, and although he isn’t confined in any way, it’s unlikely he’ll ever leave the general area. As a rehabilitator, I had wild, released, animals that hung around nearby for years, without being fed or encouraged. One swan even came and pecked on the sliding glass door with his beak to get help once when his mate was injured.

One of the UnZoo initiatives, aside from preventing the spread of disease is to care for orphaned animals, help the injured recover and sustain a wild breeding Devil population.

Sadly, sometimes they pass on.

Tasmania UnZoo Devil Cemetery.png

Devils that have died at the UnZoo are buried here.

Tasmania UnZoo Devil Cemetery 2.png

If you look at their “tombstones,” you’ll notice that some of them appear to have lived quite long lives. Freddie, for example, 1991-2007. These may be fictitious dates, because Devils typically don’t live more than 7 years in the wild, although it’s well-known that captive animals with care often live longer than wild animals.

Tasmania UnZoo Erpol.png

I have to wonder what is special about Erpol’s genetics. I’m suspecting that it might have something to do with the facial tumors. I sent the UnZoo a query about this but haven’t heard back from the right person.

Interestingly, there is little genetic diversity in the remaining Devils due to various past population bottlenecks where few Devils were left alive. Unfortunately, the immune system of the Devils today can’t recognize the tumor cells as foreign due to a mutation shared by all known Devils.

Devils aren’t the only animals at the UnZoo.

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This Wallaby hopped across the path in front of us.

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These particular Wallabies are called Pademelons. Numbering in the millions, they live in the scrub and eat grass. There are no fences, so these critters are free to come and go.

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Umm, excuse me….

The person had no idea these hopeful birds were creeping up behind him.

Next, it was my turn to be surprised. The guide told us that if we walked into this field, stood very quietly, and did not approach any of the animals, that the kangaroos might, just might, come out to see us.

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A group of kangaroos is called a mob, and they tend to be quite skittish. A gust of wind that startles one of them precipitates a mass high speed exit of the entire mob.

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You have no idea how thrilled I was. Note the joey in the pouch of the Mom in the middle.

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Kangaroos are extremely powerful creatures. When fighting during breeding season, males kick to kill each other and can disembowel with their back legs and claws. Notice the length of their claws in the following pictures.

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“Hey, hi, who are you?”

Tasmania kangaroo

This doesn’t look very comfortable for either mom or baby, but it clearly works and keeps the baby safe. The guide mentioned that for the mother, especially when it’s desperately hot, like the days when it rose to 122 degrees, the Joey is like a hot water bottle up against her abdomen. The Joey probably feels the same way too.

Joey’s stay in the pouch entirely for about 9 months and continue to nurse for about 18 months, much like human children, well except for the pouch. The mother can have 3 dependent Joeys at once. One as an embryo developing, one in the pouch like this guy, and one still suckling outside the pouch. You can read more, here.

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Our guide explained we were not to approach any animals, but that IF a kangaroo approached you, that you could slowly reach out and scratch its head. If the kangaroo liked that, and approved of you, it might expose its chest to you as well, which they enjoy having scratched. Kind of like dogs.

They also enjoy kangaroo kibble.

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Jim said this was literally the highlight of his trip.

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“Wait, wait, I wasn’t finished…”

The kangaroo literally reached out and gently pulled Jim’s hand back towards her – like our cats do at home.

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“Hey, no one’s looking are they??? Shhhh, don’t tell”

This kangaroo stealthily snuck up behind the guide and oh so quietly slipped its head into the bucket pilfering a snack.

Tasmania UnZoo mom and joey.png

I was standing off to the side when the Mama kangaroo with the Joey hopped up to me. I was very surprised since mothers are typically very reserved when their young are involved. I didn’t have any food in my hand either, at least not yet.

I offered to pet and scratch her, although I fully expected her to retreat. She didn’t and scratching seemed to be exactly what she wanted. She seemed a bit shy around more than one person at a time.

Tasmania UnZoo petting mom and Joey.png

Look at the length of those toenails. Just sayin’!!!

We had quite the scratch-fest. Not only did Mama let me scratch her head, then her chest, she twisted around so I could scratch her back, AND THEN SHE RAISED UP AND LET ME PET HER JOEY!!!

Tasmania UnZoo me petting Joey.png

The Joey seems to love his little Joey-sized scratches too.

This might well have been the highlight of my trip – although there were so many amazing experiences.

Just call me the kangaroo whisperer.

Tasmania UnZoo mom kangaroo.png

Surprisingly, Mama wasn’t interested in food though. Nursing an older Joey requires lots of calories.

Tasmania UnZoo me feeding kangaroos.png

As soon as they realized I had treats, the other kangaroos wanted snacks.

Tasmania UnZoo mom eating.png

Then Mama changed her mind. I could have stayed right here all day.

Sadly, it was time to head for the gift shop and to say goodbye to the animals at the UnZoo.

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This shy Devil watched from a distance as we arrived, and he watched us leave too. I think he’s the unofficial guard.

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Tasmanian Devils at the UnZoo even create art. I would have purchased this if it had been for sale in the gift shop, but it was hanging in the gardens. It looks like batik fabric and where else could you find something this unique?

Tasmania UnZoo devil tile

Even the floor in the gift shop is devilishly cute.

Next, we headed for the penal colony at Port Arthur.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur was the harshest of the penal colonies in Australia. I have to tell you that this was difficult for me. The buildings are beautiful, but the history is dark, horribly dark. I give the Tasmanians a lot of credit for not sweeping it under the proverbial carpet and instead, using this location and history as a learning experience.

While whalers had been using the Tasmania’s islands since 1798, it wasn’t until 1803 that a military outpost of 49 people was established here. Of those 49, many were convicts; 21 males and 3 females.

Eventually, 75,000 convicts would arrive in Tasmania, one fourth of the total sent to Australia from the British Isles. Many of their crimes were menial.

A database of 132,000 of the known 160,000 convicts transported to Australia can be found here. Tasmanian convict records are online in several locations. Check your surnames, even if you don’t have Australian ancestors. You never know who you might find, or from where. The key to solving a long family mystery might be waiting in the convict records.

A New Zealand cousin was responsible for breaking down our Speaks family brick wall, allowing us to find the location in England. Don’t make assumptions that Australian and New Zealand records or DNA matches are irrelevant to you. They may be exactly what you need!

Non-convict settlers began arriving near Port Arthur in about 1820, lured by land and free convict labor.

Tasmania Port Arthur convict labor.png

Using convict labor meant that convicted men, not animals, pulled plows. Generally convict women were servants.

Established in 1830, from 1833 to 1853, the Port Arthur penal colony was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals – secondary offenders, rebellious people from other penal colonies and sadly, those with mental health issues.

Tasmania Port Arthur pano

Click to enlarge, photo By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5185333

Surrounded almost entirely by (supposedly) shark-infested waters, escape was not possible. One man tried, disguising himself in a kangaroo skin, up until the hungry guards attempted to shoot the kangaroo for extra rations. Luckily for him, they were poor shots. He threw off the kangaroo skin and surrendered.

The isthmus of Eaglehawk, the only possible escape route was fenced, guarded by soldiers, man-traps and literally, intentionally half-starved dogs chained every few feet as sentinels.

Let us just say that not only was the most severe physical punishment and torture used on the convicts, but the concept of psychological punishment and torture was developed and perfected here.

Some men murdered others simply to be put out of their eternal misery; confinement under horrific circumstances with no hope of reprieve or release – ever.

I found the cruelty terribly disturbing, with inmates being whipped long past becoming unconscious, repeatedly, then hooded and confined in total darkness and silence for days and weeks on end. It’s no wonder that beside the prison, a building known simply as “the asylum” was built because the minds of many did not survive the incessant torture. They were literally “driven mad.”

You’ll forgive me if I simply could not take a picture of that building.

The 1646 or more convicts who died here were interred on the Isle of the Dead, right off shore in the bay, but only 180 graves of prison staff or military personnel are marked. The prisoners are interred in anonymous burials, graves dug by other convicts that would, soon enough, sleep there themselves – probably much more peacefully than they lived. For most of them, death was probably a welcome release.

Port Arthur was closed in 1877, the buildings abandoned.

All of these buildings were built with the labor of the men who were confined in them, including, ironically, the church.

I’ll not say more.

I will let these photos speak for themselves in silence – beginning with our arrival.

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Tasmania Port Arthur church

By D. Gordon E. Robertson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9752214

Tasmania Port Arthur fence.png

Tasmania Port Arthur Isle of the Dead.png

Tasmania Port Arthur cemetery

By Star reborn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9653430

Lunch in The Asylum

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Lunch that day was served in “The Asylum,” of all places, and included a Tasmanian beer if you were interested. I drink very little, but this is very good beer and was quite welcome, as I was more than a little uncomfortable in The Asylum. I could literally feel the agony of those long-forgotten people. Not surprisingly, Port Arthur and The Asylum are reported to be heavily haunted with ghost tours reporting screams still emanating from cells, and more.

Thank goodness, I found a beautiful flower to focus on, and not the brutality that had occurred in the recesses of this building for many decades. How many lives lost? How many minds lost? What kind of human could inflict that level of torture on another sentient being? Death would have been far more humane.

Why is it that humans feel that torture of other humans, or animals for that matter, is ever justified or acceptable? As the guide said, all of this was meant to grind you down into submission and subservience, and to deter others, but sometimes the cogs ground too far.

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Color and beauty, for me, is always a welcome salve.

The Coastline

I was grateful to leave, something many of the convicts were never able to do.

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Heading back towards Hobart, the coastline was beautiful and relaxing.

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We stopped for a short walk and to take pictures of this stunning vista.

I know these are weeds of some sort, but I prefer to think of them as wildflowers. A weed is a flower growing in a place where you didn’t plant it and don’t want it to grow.

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Our trip back towards Hobart took us through a farm that I believe incorporated a golf course with a “country” lodge.

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These ranches are massive, mostly free-range farms encompassing thousands to tens of thousands of acres supporting sheep, goats and cattle, and in this case, a golf course too. The mountains, seen in the distance, are never far.

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This tractor looks familiar and reminds me of growing up.

I can’t tell you how many times I walked to the house because the tractor got mired down someplace in the mud or ran out of fuel. My Dad would just look at me as I walked from the field to the barn, shake his head and chuckle, surveying the scene over my shoulder to determine just how much trouble it was going to be to retrieve the tractor this time😊

Some things seem to be the same world over.

Tasmania ship

click to enlarge

Look, I do believe that’s our ship, waiting for us.

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On the waterfront in the dock area, near the passenger terminal today, the IXL Jams building stands as testament to a company of that name formed in 1891, specializing in jams, of course. The local legend says that someone told the founder to name the building, so he decided on IXL, as in “I excel.” Is that true? I couldn’t confirm, but it’s a cute story.

Inside the terminal, we found a maker’s market, although they were getting ready to close for the day.

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We were just in time and I thoroughly enjoyed perusing these goods. No fabric though, or t-shirts.

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I bought beautiful zippered change purses with helixes. What, you don’t think that those decorations are really helixes?

Kami and Joey approve!

Rough Seas

Now might be a good time to mention that the seas around Tasmania and New Zealand’s South Island are considered to be some of the roughest in the world. We had two sea days between Tasmania and our next port, Dunedin, in New Zealand.

Had I known those seas had that reputation, I would not have booked this cruise. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know, because I survived, and the cruise was amazing. But it was not without challenges.

It’s also a good thing I had unlimited amounts of Dramamine and Viking has room service for food.

So, what do you do on a ship at sea for 2 days?

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At our age, you eat.

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You find food that looks like state shapes. Think of this as adult I-spy. This is the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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You drink. In my case, coffee and tea. Adult beverages flowed freely.

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You find more food art on the ship.

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This looks good enough to eat.

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OK, now I’m hungry. That’s no problem, because there’s food everyplace.

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The cafeteria is open for all meals, but theme restaurants, like Manfredi’s Italian restaurant require reservations but there is no extra cost. This is the BEST tiramisu I’ve EVER eaten, and their steak is legendary.

Jim went to a cooking class with the chef where he learned how to make the Tiramusu and received the recipe. I’d share with you, except that would be copyright violation, I’m sure.

Can’t make up your mind about dessert? No problem. Have 3😊

You can also swim or immerse yourself in the hot tub, go to the spa, sit poolside for high tea, watch movies in your room or in the outside theater, attend a wide variety of cultural talks – or all of the above.

As a special treat, you can go to the Viking Orion’s 3D planetarium, don 3D glasses and enjoy specially filmed movies about sea life, space or the aurora borealis. We enjoyed all three, but then we’re space and science geeks.

You cannot be bored.

You can, however, have a crisis.

The Crisis

By this time, we were about a week into the trip of a lifetime. We departed on Christmas Day and this was New Year’s, a week later.

When I pack, I make lists.

The most important things on that list are my meds, phone, credit cards, and my technology if I’m presenting. If I’m going overseas, add passport and visa to that. Everything else can be replaced if need be.

You know what’s coming next don’t you.

I obviously have my passport and Visa, or I wouldn’t have been IN Australia. I had my phone or you would have already heard about that, and I’ve already mentioned my computer. I would gladly use Jim’s credit cards if mine were missing😊

That only leaves one thing.

Yep, meds.

I use a 7-day reminder pill box. When I went to refill for the 2nd week, I had every med in the Rx vials, except one.

OMG HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Not that how mattered at that point, because the issue was the same regardless.

I only take 2 meds that I can’t do without – and the one missing was, of course, one of those.

I had a full-fledged crisis on my hands.

I asked my daughter back home to check, and sure enough, the vial was sitting right on the counter, so it wasn’t buried in the luggage or lost someplace – although by that time I had already frantically torn everything apart.

Maybe, just maybe, the ship’s medical department had something that would work.

Nope – but they contacted “someone” on shore. We were dealing with a US prescription, that I couldn’t prove was prescribed for me, a Norwegian ship, New Zealand laws and a ship’s medical staff from ??? licensed in ???.

What are the chances this is going to work out well?

The nurse told me that at the next port, Dunedin, I might have to go to the doctor to get a prescription written by a physician IN New Zealand. They didn’t know for sure, but they were contacting the proper people onshore and would let me know soon.

The hours dragged by.

No news.

I worried. I worked on my computer and wrote a blog post. Thank goodness for wonderful wifi.

Fortunately, I had a couple spare doses in my purse, so I wasn’t out entirely, but would be in another 2 days.

The Viking shore agent was working with pharmacies to try to get my meds.

Finally, news came that the agent “thought” they would have my meds the morning we got into port at Dunedin. If not, then I’d get to visit the doctor instead of going on a shore excursion, which is not the adventure I intended to have. Regardless, I was grateful for any resolution to this problem.

I was so MAD AT MYSELF, not to mention my husband who assured me he put the vials in the bag, multiple times. I could kick myself for not checking.

However, at least there was a solution and the rest of the trip would be just fine.

I took Dramamine and went to bed. The seas were rougher than ever. I just wanted to go to sleep. Something, probably the deck furniture, crashed into the railing on the neighbor cabin’s balcony, jarring me awake. It was going to be a long night.

By the time we woke up in the morning, we should be docked in Dunedin.

NOT Dunedin

I went to bed feeling much better about the situation. One way or another, everything would work out.

I woke up, anxious for docking so I could stop worrying about the medication. We should already have been in port, but sometimes schedules are beyond the control of the captain. Mother Nature has a mind of her own and interferes, as do port schedules and berth availability. I could feel the ship rocking, being tossed around roughly. We weren’t in port.

I slid the door open and stepped outside on the small balcony.

The ship was still sailing and port was nowhere in sight. I turned on the TV to see how much further we had to go on the map. It appeared that we were beyond the port – but those maps aren’t exact by any means. We interpreted this to mean that we would be in port shortly.

We got dressed and headed to the cafeteria for breakfast, ready to leave for shore excursions, or the doctor, whichever our aadventure for the day turned out to be, as soon as we docked.

During breakfast, the Captain began speaking over the intercom and informed us that, indeed, we were NOT going to Dunedin after all, because the seas were too rough and the ship couldn’t dock safely.

Rats!

Wait!

OH NOOOOooooo – my meds are supposed to be waiting in Dunedin!!!!

Now what?

Back to medical, but the door of the medical department was closed and locked. Uh-oh.

Bless those customer service agents on the ship, because they are amazing.

After several phone calls, the word was that Viking would “try” to have the med shipped from Dunedin to Christchurch – but the problem was that we were only to be in Christchurch for a day. The meds would likely arrive after we left. This wasn’t going to work, and unless we got meds in Christchurch, I would be out entirely.

To make matters worse, we were now relaying messages between me, the customer service agent(s) including a supervisor, the medical department personnel and two port agents in two different locations. Not to mention a pharmacy and who knows who else was involved.

Lord have Mercy – this is never going to work. Disaster is written all over this scenario.

The customer service agent told me that “someone” would call me in my room as soon as they knew something. There were a lot of anonymous someones and somethings in this equation.

Passengers were informed that the ship would be docking that evening in Lyttleton, the more distant of two ports where cruise ships dock whose passengers are headed for Christchurch – not in Christchurch itself, further complicating an already complex Rubik’s Cube.

So off I went to deal with another rough day at sea, worrying and waiting for a phone call.

Minutes stretched to hours.

No news.

Maybe I have new MyHeritage triangulated segments or SmartMatches.

No news.

Maybe I have new bucketed matches at Family Tree DNA.

Still no news.

Maybe I have new shakey leaf hints. Nope.

Is that phone EVER going to ring???

I spent the day writing and reviewing a business plan with a jeweler I had met with in Melbourne, Australia to discuss a DNA jewelry line. (No, I didn’t mention that little detail😊)

Tasmania sea.png

The seas were still rough and the sky was grey. I was feeling blue.

Would we even be able to dock? Lyttleton was said to be as difficult as Dunedin, snugged into a U-shaped bowl of mountains.

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Yay!!! Docked at Lyttleton

I have never been so glad to see land!

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We’re here! What a relief!

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Lyttleton is beautifully tucked into a lovely harbor, but at that moment, I was pretty much oblivious to the beauty and awash in relief.

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What I really cared about is that we had indeed managed to thread that needle and were moored to the dock.

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I did manage to notice this very unusual tower as we sailed into the harbor. That ball would drop at a specific time, allowing navigators on ships docked in the harbour to set their clocks appropriately. Hence, the saying, “you’re on the ball.”

It’s now called Timeball Station, originally constructed in 1876 but rebuilt in 2018.

You can see the tower on the hill just above the point of the bow of the ship in the photo above.

Where Are the Meds?

Not wanting to be a pest, I had *only* called customer service 3 times that day at sea. They were supposed to let me know something about the plan, but I never heard back.

I was trying my best not to be “that person” any more than I already was. After all, they were trying to help me.

It might be possible to see a physician that evening, if I had to, so that I didn’t miss the following day at Christchurch. Fingers crossed!

The very minute we docked, I was standing at the customer service desk. The customer service agent took one look at me, knew what I wanted and called the nurse’s cell phone, who said that she was literally in line to be the first off the boat to retrieve the med from the port agent who was waiting at the end of the gangplank.

GLORY BE!!!!!

Five minutes later, I had my meds in my hot little hands.

I need to say this right here and now.

Viking and the staff was amazing!!!

The nurse and the customer service agents went WAY, WAY above and beyond to help me. Never, not once did they make me feel as stupid as I was already feeling.

And yes, it did cost something – but only $45 for the port agent’s efforts which included the cost of the med, which is far, far less than a medical emergency or ruined vacation. I was completely at their mercy.

I am eternally grateful. I LOVE VIKING! They did not have to make my problem their problem, but they did and solved it.

Viking Love.png

I learned a valuable lesson.

Never, ever again will I leave without physically checking my meds one last time myself. That’s probably a good precaution anyway – four eyes are better than two. We were actually very fortunate, all things considered. All it takes is one misstep to cause an awful mess.

After 3 rough days at sea, a missed port and a crisis averted, we were finally connected to solid land and looking forward to touring wonderful New Zealand. Trust me, we wouldn’t be disappointed.

New Zealand Lyttleton sunset.png

Tomorrow promises to be a GREAT day!

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

MyHeritage In Color – Just in Time for Valentine’s Day Gifting

Be still my heart.

MyHeritage just introduced a new tool to colorize black and white photos. You can colorize several photos for free, but you’ll be promoted to either sign in to your account or sign up for a free account.

Their blog article explaining the details is here.

If you are a MyHeritage subscriber with photos attached to your tree already, you can sign in, click on Family Tree, then on Photos. Your photos will display. You can then click on any photo, or enter the “colorize photos” function directly.

color toolbar

As a subscriber any photos you colorize will automatically be stored here for you.

I just clicked on a photo to select it, then on the colorize button.

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When you click to colorize the displayed black and white photo, your original will remain unchanged.

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This is my mother and the colorized version looks very much like her in life. Just kind of took my breath away. What a difference.

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If you’re not a MyHeritage subscriber and want to try for free, or want to jump right in, the direct link to colorize a photo is here.

This is SOOOO easy.

color target

Just upload or drag and drop the photo onto the target area of the page, and that’s IT.

CAUTION – DO NOT OVERWRITE THE ORIGINAL PICTURE ON YOUR SYSTEM WHEN DOWNLOADING AND SAVING THE COLORIZED VERSION.

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Then…..it’s just a few second as you wait for your photo to come to life.

Either move the line with the slider arrows or click on the color icon in the top right of the photo.

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Are you ready? Pull back the curtain!

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You can click right beside the photo to share.

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Of course, I posted this to Facebook and tagged my family members. They knew my Mom and will enjoy this immensely, I’m sure.

Valentine’s Day

It’s two days before Valentine’s Day. Just think what you can do!

How about colorizing a “first baby photo” of a family member with their mother?

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Home from the hospital. This photo was taken to send to Dad in service.

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How sweet is this? A first time Mom and her baby boy.

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Now fast forward in time 18 years.

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That’s baby boy’s wedding. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. Even black and white that’s supposed to be “black and white” looks much improved with skin tones.

But there could be more.

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How about that baby boy’s grandfather.

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And his Mom’s dancing photos!

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Here he is at Christmas, on the far right. I’m the baby😊 Who knew my dress was that pretty? My brother is giving me the side eye, but nothing like my cousin on the left who seems thoroughly disgusted with the entire picture taking thing.

color Lazarus black and white.png

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Or how about ancestors who were born in 1847 and 1848! His hair is kind of wild and no, I have no idea what that is on or by his nose. Maybe a flaw in the photo?

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Here’s the same couple, a couple decades older. They died more than a hundred years ago, yet we can see them in loving, er, I mean living color, today.

Their son was a photographer, traveling to family reunions to take pictures, so I’m guessing that these photos were taken between 1895, or so, when the son would have become an adult, and 1918 when both ancestors passed away, just a few months apart. Wouldn’t he be amazed today!

color laz on chair

Lazarus Estes (1848-1918) and Elizabeth Vannoy (1847-1918)

Look, you can even see the dirt on his work pants. It looks like you could just reach out and touch these people.

The opportunities are endless and the results are AMAZING.

I may never get anything else done.

What series of photos can you bring to life and create a colored collage through time? What a great gift, if not for someone else, for yourself.

Try it out!

Thank you, thank you, MyHeritage!!!!!!

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

DNA Testing Sales Decline: Reason and Reasons

If you’re involved in genetic genealogy, you’ve probably noticed the recent announcements by both 23andMe and Ancestry relative to workforce layoffs as a result of declining sales.

Layoffs

In January, 23andMe announced that it was laying off 100 people which equated to 14% of its staff.

Following suit, Ancestry this week announced that they are laying off 100 people, 6% of their work force. They discuss their way forward, here.

One shift of this type can be a blip, but two tends to attract attention because it *could* indicate a trend. Accordingly, several articles have been written about possible reasons why this might be occurring. You can read what TechCrunch says here, Business Insider here, and The Verge, here.

Depending on who you talk to and that person’s perspective, the downturn is being attributed to:

  • Market Saturation
  • No Repeat Sales
  • Privacy Concerns
  • FAD Over

Ok, So What’s Happening?

Between Ancestry and 23andMe alone, more than 26 million DNA tests have been sold, without counting the original DNA testing company, FamilyTreeDNA along with MyHeritage who probably have another 4 or 5 million between them.

Let’s say that’s a total of 30 million people in DNA databases that offer matching. The total population of the US is estimated to be about 329 million, including children, which means that one person in 10 or 11 people in the US has now tested. Of course, DNA testing reaches worldwide, but it’s an interesting comparison indicating how widespread DNA testing has become overall.

This slowing of new sales shouldn’t really surprise anyone. In July 2019, Illumina, the chip maker who supplies equipment and supplies to the majority of the consumer DNA testing industry said that the market was softening after a drop in their 2019 second quarter revenue.

Also last year, Ancestry and MyHeritage both announced health products, a move which would potentially generate a repeat sale from someone who has already tested their DNA for genealogy purposes. I suspected at the time this might be either a pre-emptive strike, or in response to slowed sales.

In November 2019, Family Tree DNA announced an extensive high-end health test through Tovana which tests the entire Exome, the portion of our DNA useful for medical and health analysis.

In a sense, this health focus too is trendy, but moves away from genealogy into an untapped area.

23andMe who, according to their website, has obtained $791 million in venture capital or equity funding has always been focused on medical research. In July of 2018 GlaxoSmithKline infused $300 million into 23andMe in exchange for access to DNA results of their 5 million customers who have opted-in to medical research, according to Genengnews. If you divide the 300 million investment by 5 million opted-in customers, 23andMe received $60 per DNA kit.

That 5 million number is low though, based on other statements by 23andMe which suggests they have 10 million total customers, 80% of which opt-in for medical research. That would be a total of 8 million DNA results available to investors.

Divide $791 million by 8 million kits and 23andMe, over the years, has received roughly $99 for each customer who has opted in to research.

We know who Ancestry has partnered with for research, but not how much Ancestry has received.

There’s very big money, huge money, in collaborating with Big Pharma and others. Given the revenue potential, it’s amazing that the other two vendors, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage, haven’t followed suit, but they haven’t.

Additionally, in January, 23andMe sold the rights to a new drug it developed in-house as a potential treatment for inflammatory diseases for a reported (but unconfirmed by 23andMe) $5 million.

It’s ironic that two companies who just announced layoffs are the two who have partnered to sell access to their opted-in customers’ DNA results.

My Thoughts

I’ve been asked several times about my thoughts on this shift within the industry. I have refrained from saying much, because I think there has been way too much “hair on fire” clickbait reporting that is fanning the flames of fear, not only in the customer base, but in general.

I am sharing my thoughts, and while they are not entirely positive, in that there is clearly room for improvement, I want to emphasize that I am very upbeat about this industry as a whole, and this article ends very positively with suggestions for exactly that – so please read through.

Regardless of why, fewer new people are testing which of course results in fewer sales, and fewer new matches for us.

My suspicion is that each of the 4 reasons given above is accurate to some extent, and the cumulative effect plus a couple of other factors is the reason we’re seeing the downturn.

Let’s take a look at each one.

Market Saturation

Indeed, we’ve come a very long way from the time when DNA was a verboten topic on the old RootsWeb mailing lists and boards.

Early DNA adopters back then were accused of “cheating,” and worse. Our posts were deleted immediately. How times have changed!

As the technology matured, 23andMe began offering autosomal testing accompanied by cousin matching.

Ancestry initially stepped into the market with Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, but ultimately destroyed that database which included Y and mitochondrial DNA results from Relative Genetics, a company they had previously acquired. People in those databases, as well as who had irreplaceable samples in Sorenson, which Ancestry also purchased and subsequently took offline permanently have never forgotten.

Those genealogists have probably since tested at Ancestry, but they may be more inclined to test the rest of their family at places like Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage who have chromosome browsers and tools that support more serious researchers.

I think a contributing factor is that fewer “serious genealogists” are coming up in the ranks. The perception that all you need to do is enter a couple of generations and click on a few leaves, and you’re “done” misleads people as to the complexity and work involved in genealogical research. Not to mention how many of those hints are inaccurate and require analysis.

Having said that, I view each one of these people who are encouraged for the first time by an ad, even if it is misleading in its simplicity, as a potential candidate. We were all baby genealogists once, and some of us stayed for reasons known only to us. Maybe we have the genealogy gene😊

But yes, I would agree that the majority, by far, of serious genealogists have already tested someplace. What they have not done universally is transferred from 23andMe and Ancestry to the other companies that can help them, such as MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch. If they had, the customer numbers at those companies would be higher. We all need to fish in every pond.

Advertising and Ethnicity

The DNA ads over the last few years have focused almost exclusively on ethnicity – the least reliable aspect of genetic genealogy – but also the “easiest” to understand if a customer takes their ethnicity percentages at face value. And of course, every consumer that purchases a test as a result of one of these ads does exactly that – spits or swabs, mails and opens their results to see what they “are” – full of excited anticipation.

Many people have absolutely no idea there’s more, like cousin matching – and many probably wouldn’t care.

The buying public who purchases due to these ads are clearly not early adopters, and most likely are not genealogists. One can hope that at least a few of them get hooked as a result, or at least enter a minimal tree.

Unfortunately, of the two companies experiencing layoffs, only Ancestry supports trees. Genealogy revolves around trees, pure and simple.

23andMe has literally had years to do so and has refused to natively support trees. Their FamilySearch link is not the same as supporting trees and tree matching. Their attempt at creating a genetic tree is laudable and has potential, but it’s not something that can be translated into a genealogical benefit for most people. I’m guessing that there aren’t any genealogists working for 23andMe, or they aren’t “heard” amid the vervre surrounding medical research.

All told, I’m not surprised that the two companies who are experiencing the layoffs are the two companies whose ads we saw most often focused on ethnicity, especially Ancestry. Who can forget the infamous kilt/leiderhosen ad that Ancestry ran? I still cringe.

Many people who test for ethnicity never sign on again – especially if they are unhappy with the results.

Ancestry and 23andMe spent a lot on ad campaigns, ramped up for the resulting sales, but now the ads are less effective, so not being run as much or at all. Sales are down. Who’s to say which came first, the chicken (fewer ads) or the egg (lower sales.)

This leads us to the next topic, add on sales.

No Repeat Sales

DNA testing, unless you have something else to offer customers is being positioned as a “one and done” sale, meaning that it’s a single purchase with no potential for additional revenue. While that’s offered as a reason for the downturn, it’s not exactly true for DNA test sales.

Ancestry clearly encourages customers to subscribe to their records database by withholding access to some DNA features without a subscription. For Ancestry, DNA is the bait for a yearly repeat sale of a subscription. Genealogists subscribe, of course, but people who aren’t genealogists don’t see the benefit.

Ancestry does not allow transfers into their database, which would provide for additional revenue opportunity. I suspect the reason is twofold. First, they want the direct testing revenue, but perhaps more importantly, in order to sell their customer’s DNA who have agreed to participate in research, or partner with research firms, those customers need to have tested on Ancestry’s custom chip. This holds true for 23andMe as well.

Through the 23andMe financial information in the earlier section, it’s clear that while the consumer only pays a one time fee to test, multiple research companies will pay over and over for access to that compiled consumer information.

Ancestry and 23andMe have the product, your opted-in DNA test that you paid for, and they can sell it over and over again. Hopefully, this revenue stream helps to fund development of genetic genealogical tools.

MyHeritage also provides access to advanced DNA tools by selling a subscription to their records database after a free trial. MyHeritage has integrated their DNA testing with genealogical records to provide their advanced Theories of Family Relativity tool, a huge boon to genealogists.

While Family Tree DNA doesn’t have a genealogical records database like Ancestry and MyHeritage, they provide Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing, in addition to the autosomal Family Finder test. If more people tested Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, more genealogical walls would fall due to the unique inheritance path and the fact that neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA is admixed with DNA from the other parent.

Generally, only genealogists know about and are going to order Y DNA and mtDNA tests, or sponsor others to take them to learn more about their ancestral lines. These tests don’t provide yearly revenue like an ongoing subscription, but at least the fact that Family Tree DNA offers three different tests does provide the potential for at least some additional sales.

Both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA encourage uploads, and neither sell, lease or share your DNA for medical testing. You can find upload instructions, here.

In summary of this section, all of the DNA testing companies do have some sort of additional (potential) revenue stream from DNA testing, so it’s not exactly “one and done.”

Health Testing Products

As for health testing, 23andMe has always offered some level of health information for their customers. Health and research has always been their primary focus. Health and genealogy was originally bundled into one test. Today, DNA ancestry tests with the health option at 23andMe cost more than a genealogy-only test and are two separate products.

MyHeritage also offers a genealogy only DNA test and a genealogy plus health DNA test.

In 2019, both Ancestry and MyHeritage added health testing to their menu as upgrades for existing customers.

In November 2019, FamilyTreeDNA announced an alliance with Tovana for their customers to order a full exome grade medical test and accompanying report. I recently received mine and am still reviewing the results – they are extensive.

It’s clear that all four companies see at least some level of consumer interest in health and traits as a lucrative next step.

Medical Research and DNA Sales

Both Ancestry and 23andMe are pursuing and have invested in relationships with research institutions or Big Pharma. I have concerns with how this is handled. You may not.

I’m supportive of medical research, but I’m concerned that most people have no idea of the magnitude and scope of the contracts between Ancestry and 23andMe with Big Pharma and others, in part, because the details are not public. Customers may also not be aware of exactly what they are opting in to, what it means or where their DNA/DNA results are going.

As a consumer, I want to know where my DNA is, who is using it, and for what purpose. I don’t want my DNA to wind up being used for a nefarious purpose or something I don’t approve of. Think Uighurs in China by way of example. BGI Genetics, headquartered in China but with an Americas division and facilities in Silicon Valley has been a major research institute for years. I want to know what my DNA is being used for, and by whom. The fact that the companies won’t provide their customers with that information makes me makes me immediately wonder why not.

I would like to be able to opt-in for specific studies, not blindly for every use that is profitable to the company involved, all without my knowledge. No blank checks. For example, I opted out of 23andMe research when they patented the technology for designer babies.

Furthermore, I feel that if someone is going to profit from my DNA, it should be me since I paid for the sequencing. At minimum, a person whose DNA is used in these studies should receive some guarantee that they will be provided with any drug in which their DNA is used for development, in particular if their insurance doesn’t pay and they cannot afford the drug.

Drug prices have risen exponentially in the US recently, with many people no longer able to afford their medications. For example, the price of insulin has tripled over the last decade, causing people to ration or cut back on their insulin, if not go without altogether. It would be the greatest of ironies if the very people whose DNA was sold and used to create a drug had no access to it.

Of course, Ancestry and 23andMe are not required to inform consumers of which studies their DNA or DNA results are used for, so we don’t know. Always read all of the terms and conditions, and all links when authorizing anything.

Both companies indicate that your DNA results are anonymized before being shared, but we now know that’s not really possible anymore, because it’s relatively easy to re-identify someone. This is exactly how adoptees identify their biological parents through genetic matches. Dr. Yaniv Erlich reported in the journal Science November 2018 that more than 60% of Europeans could be reidentified through a genealogy database of only 1.28 million individuals.

I think greater transparency and a change in policy favoring the consumer would go a long way to instilling more confidence in the outside research relationships that both Ancestry and 23andMe pursue and maintain. It would probably increase their participation level as well if people could select the research initiatives to which they want to contribute their DNA.

Privacy Concerns

The news has been full of articles about genetic privacy, especially in the months since the Golden State Killer case was solved. That was only April 2018, but it seems like eons ago.

Unfortunately, much of what has been widely reported is inaccurate. For example, no company has ever thrown the data base open for the FBI or anyone to rummage through like a closet full of clothes. However, headlines and commentary like that attract outrage and hundreds of thousands of clicks. In the news and media industry, “it’s all about eyeballs.”

In one case, an article I interviewed for extensively in an educational capacity was written accurately, but the headline was awful. The journalist in question replied that the editors write the headlines, not the reporters.

One instance of this type of issue would be pretty insignificant, but the news in this vein hasn’t abated, always simmering just below the surface waiting for something to fan the flames. Outrage sells.

For the most part, those within the genealogy community at least attempt to sort out what is accurate reporting and what is not, but those people are the ones who have already tested.

People outside the genealogy community just know that they’ve now seen repeated headlines reporting that their genetic privacy either has been, could be or might be breached, and they are suspicious and leery. I would be too. They have no idea what that actually means, what is actually occurring, where, or that they are probably far more at risk on social media sites.

These people are not genealogists, and now they look at ads and think to themselves, “yes, I’d like to do that, but…”

And they never go any further.

People are frightened and simply disconnect from the topic – without testing.

If, as a consumer, you see several articles or posts saying that <fill in car model> is really bad, when you consider a purchase, even if you initially like that model, you’ll remember all of those negative messages. You may never realize that the source was the competition which would cause you to interpret those negative comments in a completely different light.

I think that some of the well-intentioned statements made by companies to reassure their existing and potential customers have actually done more harm than good by reinforcing that there’s a widespread issue. “You’re safe with us” can easily be interpreted as, “there’s something to be afraid of.”

Added to that is the sensitive topic of adoptee and unknown parent searches.

Reunion stories are wonderfully touching, and we all love them, but you seldom see the other side of the coin. Not every story has a happy ending, and many don’t. Not every parent wants to be found for a variety of reasons. If you’re the child and don’t want to find your parents, don’t test, but it doesn’t work the other way around. A parent can often be identified by their relatives’ DNA matches to their child.

While most news coverage reflects positive adoptee reunion outcomes, that’s not universal, and almost every family has a few lurking skeletons. People know that. Some people are fearful of what they might discover about themselves or family members and are correspondingly resistant to DNA testing. Realizing you might discover that your father isn’t your biological father if you DNA test gives people pause. It’s a devastating discovery and some folks decide they’d rather not take that chance, even though they believe it’s not possible.

The genealogical search techniques for identifying unknown parents or close relatives and the technique used by law enforcement to identify unknown people, either bodies or perpetrators is exactly the same. If you are in one of the databases, who you match can provide a very big hint to someone hunting for the identify of an unknown person.

People who are not genealogists, adoptees or parents seeking to find children placed for adoption may be becoming less comfortable with this idea in general.

Of course, the ability for law enforcement to upload kits to GedMatch/Verogen and Family Tree DNA, under specific controlled conditions, has itself been an explosive and divisive topic within and outside of the genealogy community since April 2018.

These law enforcement kits are either cold case remains of victims, known as “Does,” or body fluids from the scenes of violent crimes, such as rape, murder and potentially child abduction and aggravated assault. To date, since the Golden State Killer identification, numerous cases have produced a “solve.” ISOGG, a volunteer organization, maintains a page of known cases solved, here.

GEDmatch encourages people to opt-in for law-enforcement matching, meaning that their kit can be seen as a match to kits uploaded by law enforcement agencies or companies working on behalf of law enforcement agencies. If a customer doesn’t opt-in, their kit can’t be seen as a match to a law enforcement kit.

Family Tree DNA initially opted-out all EU kits from law enforcement matching, due to GDPR, and provides the option for their customers to opt-out of law-enforcement matching.

Neither MyHeritage, Ancestry nor 23andMe cooperate with law enforcment under any circumstances and have stated that they will actively resist all subpoenaes in court.

ISOGG provides a FAQ on Investigative Genetic Genealogy, here.

The two sides of the argument have rather publicly waged war on each other in an ongoing battle to convince people of the merits of their side of the equation, including working with news organizations.

Unfortunately, this topic is akin to arguing over politics. No one changes their mind, and everyone winds up mad.

Notice I’m not linking any articles here, not even my own. I do not want to fan these flames, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the topic of law enforcement usage itself, the on-going public genetic genealogy community war and resulting media coverage together have very probably contributed to the lagging sales. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that while a great division of opinion exists, and many people are opposed, there are also many people who are extremely supportive.

All of this, combined, intentionally or not, has introduced FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt – a very old disinformation “sales technique.”

In a sense, for consumers, this has been like watching pigs mud-wrestle.

As my dad used to say, “Never mud-wrestle with a pig. The pig enjoys it, you get muddy and the spectators can’t tell the difference.” The spectators in this case vote with their lack of spending and no one is a winner.

DNA Testing Was A FAD

Another theory is that genealogy DNA testing was just a FAD whose time has come and gone. I think the FAD was ethnicity testing, and that chicken has come home to roost.

Both 23andMe and Ancestry clearly geared up for testers attracted by their very successful ads. I was just recently on a cruise, and multiple times I heard people at another table discussing their ethnicity results from some unnamed company. They introduced the topic by saying, “I did my DNA.”

The discussion was almost always the same. Someone said that they thought their ethnicity was pretty accurate, someone else said theirs was awful, and the discussion went from there. Not one time did anyone ever mention a company name, DNA matching or any other functionality. I’m not even sure they understood there are different DNA testing companies.

If I was a novice listening-in, based on that discussion, I would have learned to doubt the accuracy of “doing my DNA.”

If most of the people who purchased ethnicity tests understood in advance that ethnicity testing truly is “just an estimate,” they probably wouldn’t have purchased in the first place. If they understood the limitations and had properly set expectations, perhaps they would not have been as unhappy and disenchanted with their results. I realize that’s not very good marketing, but I think that chicken coming home to roost is a very big part of what we’re seeing now.

The media has played this up too, with stories about how the ethnicity of identical twins doesn’t match. If people bother to read more than the headline, and IF it’s a reasonably accurate article, they’ll come to understand why and how that might occur. If not, what they’ll take away is that DNA testing is wrong and unreliable. So don’t bother.

Furthermore, most people don’t understand that ethnicity testing and cousin matching are two entirely different aspects of a DNA test. The “accuracy” of ethnicity is not related to the accuracy of cousin matching, but once someone questions the credibility of DNA testing – their lack of confidence is universal.

I would agree, the FAD is over – meaning lots of people testing primarily for ethnicity. I think the marketing challenge going forward is to show people that DNA testing can be useful for other things – and to make that easy.

Ethnicity was the low hanging fruit and it’s been picked.

Slowed Growth – Not Dead in the Water

The rate of growth has slowed. This does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that genetic genealogy or DNA testing is dead in the water. DNA fishes for us 365x24x7.

For example, just today, I received a message from 23andMe that 75 new relatives have joined 23andMe. I also received match notifications from Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage.  Hey – calorie-free treats!!!

These new matches are nothing to sneeze at. I remember when I was thrilled over ONE new match.

I have well over 100,000 matches if you combine my matches at the four vendors.

Without advanced tools like triangulation, Phased Family Matching, Theories of Family Relativity, ThruLines, DNAPainter, DNAgedcom and Genetic Affairs, I’d have absolutely no prayer of grouping and processing this number of matches for genealogy.

Even if I received no new matches for the next year, I’d still not be finished analyzing the autosomal matches I already have.

This Too Shall Pass

At least I hope it will.

I think people will still test, but the market has corrected. This level of testing is probably the “new normal.”

Neither Ancestry or 23andMe are spending the big ad dollars – or at least not as big.

In order for DNA testing companies to entice customers into purchasing subscriptions or add-on products, tools need to be developed or enhanced that encourage customers to return to the site over and over. This could come in the form of additional results or functionality calculated on their behalf.

That “on their behalf” point is important. Vendors need to focus on making DNA fun, and productive, not work. New tools, especially in the last year or two, have taken a big step in that direction. Make the customer wonder every day what gift is waiting for him or her that wasn’t there yesterday. Make DNA useful and fun!

I would call this “DNA crack.” 😊

Cooking Up DNA Crack!

In order to assist the vendors, I’ve compiled one general suggestion plus what I would consider to be the “Big 3 Wish List” for each of their DNA products in term of features or improvements that would encourage customers to either use or return to their sites. (You’re welcome.)

I don’t want this to appear negative, so I’ve also included the things I like most about each vendor.

If you have something to add, please feel free to comment in a positive fashion.

Family Tree DNA

I Love: Y and Mitochondrial DNA, Phased Family Matching, and DNA projects

General Suggestion – Fix chronic site loading issues which discourage customers

  • Tree Matching – fix the current issues with trees and implement tree matching for DNA matches
  • Triangulation – including by match group and segment
  • Clustering – some form of genetic networks

MyHeritage

I Love: Theories of Family Relativity, triangulation, wide variety of filters, SmartMatches and Record Matches

General – Clarify confusing subscription options in comparative grid format

  • Triangulation by group and segment
  • View DNA matches by ancestor
  • Improved Ethnicity

Ancestry

I Love: Database size, ThruLines, record and DNA hints (green leaves)

General – Focus on the customers’ needs and repeated requests

  • Accept uploads
  • Chromosome Browser (yes, I know this is a dead horse, but that doesn’t change the need)
  • Triangulation (dead horse’s brother)

23andMe

I Love: Triangulation, Ethnicity quality, ethnicity segments identified, painted and available for download

General – Focus on genealogy tools if you’re going to sell a genealogy test

  • Implement individual customer trees – not Family Search
  • Remove 2000 match limit (which is functionally less after 23andMe hides the people not opted into matching)
  • DNA + Tree Matching

Summary

In summary, we, as consumers need to maintain our composure, assuring others that no one’s hair is on fire and the sky really is not falling. We need to calmly educate as opposed to frighten.

Just the facts.

Other approaches don’t serve us in the end. Frightening people away may “win” the argumentative battle of the day, but we all lose the war if people are no longer willing to test.

This is much like a lifeboat – we all succeed together, or we all lose.

Everybody row!

As genealogists, we need to:

  • Focus on verifying ancestors and solving genealogy challenges
  • Sharing those victories with others, including family members
  • Encourage our relatives to test, and transfer so that their testing investment provides as much benefit as possible
  • Offer to help relatives with the various options on each vendor’s platform
  • Share the joy

People share exciting good news with others, especially on Facebook and social media platforms, and feel personally invested when you share new results with them. Collaboration bonds people.

A positive attitude, balanced perspective and excitement about common ancestors goes a very, very long was in terms of encouraging others.

We have more matches now than ever before, along with more and better tools. Matches are still rolling in, every single day.

New announcements are expected at Rootstech in a couple short weeks.

There’s so much opportunity and work to do.

The sky is not falling. It rained a bit.

The seas may have been stormy, but as a genealogist, the sun is out and a rising tide lifts us all.

Rising tide

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Down Under: Australia- 52 Ancestors #272

What, you might be thinking – this doesn’t LOOK like a 52 Ancestors article. That’s because this one is somewhat different. I’m writing it for you, and for my descendants. Plus, Mom does make a cameo appearance is a rather unorthodox way.

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Recently, I visited both Australia and New Zealand.

Both locations are important to the genealogy of people in the Americas. How’s that possible, you ask? I’ll be telling you shortly in another article, but for purposes of this article, let’s just say that Australia and New Zealand were both settled by Europeans, in part, by convicts shipped overseas to sparsely populated Australia by the British Government beginning in the early 1800s.

These outbacks were a great place to get rid of people, given that Europe was overpopulated at the time.

My recent adventure served multiple purposes, but for now, I just want to share the lovely experience with you. I’ll be writing 3 articles, one about Australia, one for Tasmania and another for New Zealand.

Australia has recently been ravaged by fires. I arrived in the midst of the worst of the wildfires. Roads were closed surrounding Sydney. We took 4 boxes of masks with us, as just a couple days before our departure, we saw photos of intense smoke in Sydney Harbor.

I reached out to my genealogy colleagues in Australia for an update, debating whether we should cancel or not. We didn’t. One way or another, we knew it would be an adventure of a lifetime.

I wasn’t wrong!

We were embarking on a cruise, so if the going got rough, so to speak, passengers could just get on the ship and sail out to sea. The residents and the animals, so horrifically devastated, could not escape in the same manner. Especially not the animals. Those who did survive face the challenge of finding food in a destroyed habitat. My heart breaks for them.

In spite of those issues, the trip was wonderful and educational.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and come along. Yes, there’s DNA interwoven because there’s DNA interwoven everyplace, literally, and in every aspect of my life.

Food

I realize that food is not a normal place to start, but this is absolutely critical information for anyone planning to travel “down under” who is either hypoglycemic or diabetic and may need to eat something specific in-between meals. By “need,” I’m referring to a medical need. Knowing how to regulate your blood sugar with food, but then suddenly being without the food you need is terrifying.

Australia and New Zealand have very strict biosecurity laws that regulate the importation of food and biological items. This means ANY KIND OF FOOD. From anyplace outside of Australia or New Zealand, depending on which place you are visiting – including planes and cruise ships.

They are concerned about the introduction of invasive species, including seeds and insects, a phenomenon they have already experienced with rats and other non-native species that have devastated the ground-nesting bird population, nearly to extinction.

You cannot take that apple or snack off of the plane. You cannot bring anything from home. I had pre-packaged tea bags and protein bars in my suitcase, which I did declare, and they decided were fine but “plant products” are included on the banned list. If you have something to declare, you need to go through a separate entry line.

We did see entire suitcases confiscated. They are not kidding about this.

Once on the ship, we could NOT take any food off the ship for tours with the exception of processed foods. Thankfully, my protein bars that I had brought for the purpose of maintaining my blood sugar were allowed, as was prepackaged chocolate, but not nuts.

Typically, I make a cheese sandwich on crackers or a croissant and put it in my purse for a snack later, but neither bread products nor cheese were allowed to be removed the ship, so my typical “go-to” was gone.

They are dead serious about this. There are agents at the exits to inspect bags, including backpacks – and they do. There are lovely beagles trained to sniff out food items.
And there is an immediate $400 fine – plus you don’t get to keep the food.

When you are on a tour, you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to purchase anything before you need it. Be aware so you can be prepared.

Speaking of Food

I’m somewhat of a foodie, but I promise not to inundate you with photos of food. However, I found this food art just lovely. Look closely.

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These are all hand-made. Art is everyplace, including framed art pieces on the ship.

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Tapas anyone?

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Seafood? This looks like so much fun!

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Not to be outdone, the chefs carved watermelon art.

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A honeydew mandala.

Australia melon 3.png

If you think this is something, just wait until you see the New Year’s Eve stunning chocolate buffet.

Australia

Australia map.png

Before undertaking this trip, I really gave no thought to how large Australia actually is. In essence, it’s roughly the size of the US, with most of the population living along the coasts, with the interior being fairly inhospitable desert.

Australia aerial.png

The recent fires burned the ring of the coastline where mountains sport forests that sustain both life and fuel for fire. Global warming has contributed to increasingly devastating fire seasons, with 2019/2020 being the worst on record. Australia had gone months with no rain. That combined with temperatures as high as 122 degrees and violent winds fanning the flames wrought havoc.

Australia fires.png

To put things in perspective for you, this map shows where the fires were burning about the time we left, with Sydney being right in the midst of the worst part on the southeast coast.

Sydney

It seemed odd to arrive at the holidays in a location that was sunny and warm. Does not compute!

Australia landing.png

Welcome to Australia.

The sunrises and sunsets were utterly stunning, caused by particulate matter in the air, of course. Our plane, after a 20+ hour journey, landed at dawn. Yes, I slept in my clothes. I was surely glad to get to the ship and take a shower and change clothes – but that wasn’t going to happen for another several hours.

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We were greeted at the airport by an Aussie Christmas tree. This all seemed surreal to me – both because I actually WAS in the southern hemisphere, on the land mass just north of Antartica – and because I was so sleep deprived that my mind was pretty foggy.

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And a sand-carved Santa.

We found our bus and headed into Sydney. What a beautiful city.

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Reminders of Australia’s English roots are everyplace. All cities have a St. Mary’s Cathedral, right?

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Our cruise ship would not be ready until later in the day, so we made our way down to the harbor where we enjoyed the warm weather, historic buildings mixed with art deco and Christmas decorations.

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Plus art – art is everyplace.

Croissants, pastries, coffee and tea were waiting for us at the lovely Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay. Bless Viking!

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We strolled along enjoying the warmth after leaving the frigid winter and darkness of the winter solstice behind.

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At the bottom of a historic street, a vista opened up to our weary eyes that included a panoramic view of the harbor including the legendary Sydney Opera House and bridge.

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Meet Kami the Koala and Joey the Kangaroo who accompanied us on our adventures. Yes, I rescued them from a convenience store where they were being held for ransom😊

At this godforsaken hour of the morning, a convenience store was the ONLY thing that was open – trust me.

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I was pleased to note in both Australia and New Zealand that the Aboriginal people, the  Gadigal people here, were honored as the original inhabitants of the land.

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Standing outside the Opera House, we could see tiny people on the TOP of that bridge. Yes, you can pay to participate in the “Bridge Climb,” or you can stay on the ground for free. Guess which one I did!

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Rounding the end of the Opera House peninsula, the bay is beautiful. I’d bet that property on the point cost a pretty penny.

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Continuing around the Opera House, in the distance, you can see the islands that once held penal colonies. Today, having a penal colony ancestor gives Aussies bragging rights and is a source of pride. Those convicts were tough-as-nails survivors.

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The Opera House was amazing of course, but we were actually too close to see it very well. This area is packed with walkers and tourists later in the day, but it was still VERY early when we were here.

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The Royal Botanic Gardens cover several acres behind the Opera House.

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Let’s take a walk!

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You know I’m a sucker for flowers and plants, and I was anxious to see the native flora and fauna. Plus, the temperature was rising. Shade was becoming alluring.

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Is now a good time to mention that indeed, it was hotter than Hades in Australia, with the temperature reaching 110 one of the days we visited? 100 on this day was just the warmup act. Yes, that’s the Devil, which I found extremely ironic.

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Some of these trees were hundreds of years old, stately, massive and stunning. I see why Lord of the Rings was filmed down under.

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Inviting benches were scattered liberally. Yes, we walked pulling our hand luggage. The hotel offered to hold it for us, but we saw the line of suitcases in the hallway being “held” for folks, and we realized how easy it would be for something that looked like a laptop bag to walk away. Whoever invented wheels for suitcases was a genius.

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Color for the weary soul was everyplace. These Agapanthus are considered weeds because they grow everyplace in Australia and New Zealand, unbidden. They were music for me.

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Even the ducks wanted a cold drink of water. It was HOT and getting hotter by the minute!

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Splashes of color are to be found everyplace.

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Some garden areas are quite formal, and others not so much. You can see the haze from the smoke in many of the pictures.

Our eyes and sometimes our throats burned much of the time were in Australia, but it wasn’t terrible unless the wind shifted. People who live there just went about their business because there was little else they could do. Life goes on.

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The Kookaburra bird wanted a drink in this fountain. This guy was such a ham and put on a show for us, taking a bath to cool off. If you’ve never heard a Kookaburra bird, here’s a YouTube video.

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Of course, there was a rose garden. I had a terrible time selecting just one picture to share with you.

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Ok, two, maybe two. 😊

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I can see the bridge in the distance. We walked for maybe 5 or 6 hours, tired and hot, pulling luggage and backpacks, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. After leaving the cold northern hemisphere, this was heaven.

I loved our impromptu tour of the Opera House area and gardens, but I was glad when it was time to board the bus again for our ship.

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Boarding our ship at the terminal and finding our room, we were afforded a lovely panoramic view of the city.

Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise

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We didn’t remain on board for long though, because we had scheduled a harbor dinner cruise.

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At this point, we weren’t at all sure we’d be able to see much if any of Australia due to the encroaching fires, so we wanted to take full advantage of every opportunity possible – despite being incredibly jet lagged.

It looked dusky almost all of the time. Sunset was still a few hours away.

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When sunset did arrive, it was indeed spectacular.

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The Sydney skyline is truly beautiful at night.

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Unfortunately, my pictures just don’t do this justice. The smoke, the light, the water was rough and I don’t have a wonderful camera or the requisite skill. If you want to see some stunning scenes, just google “Sydney skyline at night.” There’s even a quilt panel.

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The Opera House.

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The bridge actually goes uphill a bit.

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You can’t see the boardwalk amusement park from this perspective, but there is one near the base of the bridge.

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We docked near the amusement park beneath the bridge and walked along the boardwalk.

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No, I didn’t ride the ferris wheel. By this time, I just wanted to go to bed.

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The Opera House beneath the bridge.

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The next morning, we would wake up to discover whether or not the roads out of Sydney were open towards the Blue Mountains, if it was safe, and if there was anything left to see.

We hoped so, not for us, but for the residents, firefighters and animals.

The Blue Mountains

While Sydney was founded on the harbor, the Blue Mountains ring Sydney and are stunningly beautiful. It’s surprising to me the unique character of mountain ranges.

The day was smokey most of the time. Our driver and guide used their discretion in modifying the planned agenda somewhat to keep us safe and out of as much smoke as possible.

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I love driving through the countryside – any countryside.

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I always wonder what abandoned buildings would say if they could talk. What stories would they tell?

The city quickly gave way to roads rising uphill towards the mountains.

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And then to the mountains themselves.

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We couldn’t see the valley floor through the smoke. However, this is the first we saw of the lovely rainforest forest.

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The ferns grown to gargantuan size here, and absolutely every plant is somehow drought and heat resistant, or it doesn’t survive.

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The bench at this overlook is an acknowledgement of the Aboriginal culture.

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The beautiful Blue Mountains themselves. That’s not mist or fog, it’s smoke from the fires. I must admin, the smoke add an etherial, unworldly feeling and is incredibly beautiful.

A few hours later, you couldn’t see these rock formations at all. We were very fortunate to visit when we did.

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Yes, there was really a valley out there, someplace.

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Turning around.

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This must be what “forever” looks like.

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I did my best to get a panorama. This scene was literally about 270 degrees. We were standing on a point of land.

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In case you wanted to sent a postcard saying “Wish you were here.”

Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights, and cable cars. Well, guess what, I just got over myself and DID this at Scenic World, near the overlook.

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This cable car had a glass floor. I told myself I didn’t have to look, and I didn’t have to climb aboard if I changed mymind. I recall my mother hyperventilating as she was about to board a similar cable car that crossed the Niagara River Gorge above the angry swirling muddy whirlpools. She couldn’t do it, and neither did I.

Would this time be different?

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Hey, when you’re this far up, you’ll die immediately if you fall, so no sweat! I climbed aboard and forced myself to keep my eyes open. Eyes open or closed didn’t matter at all to my safety, but mattered a great deal to the experience.

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The view was superb, making me forget about any perceived danger.

I still can’t believe I did what’s coming next.

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This is the glass bottom of the cable car. Not only did I stand on that glass – that’s my white shoes – I looked straight down at the rainforest canopy, hundreds of feet below. You can see the creek winding through the bottom of the valley.

And if that wasn’t enough daredevil for one day, next I rode on the incline train that went STRAIGHT DOWN, and, I was in the front seat. Go big or stay home.

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And yes, I did keep my eyes open. I also filmed this for posterity. I’ll spare you. But in case you were wondering, I was NOT screaming.

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This railway was original constructed for miners as transportation to the mines.

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The old coal mines aren’t safe now and weren’t safe then. Now coal mining is done by strip mining so no one is underground.

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We hiked through the verdant green forest. This is the land of huge trees and massive vines.

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Some vines grow so large as to be the size of trees.

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As odd as this sounds, this is a rainforest, even though they haven’t had rain in weeks.

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I can only imagine clearing this land. The Aboriginal people lived in harmony with the environment. They understood fire and how to deal with it.

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The smoke was moving in, so we needed to move on.

Leura and Lunch

Next, we spent time in the lovely village of Leura.

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The Australians have incorporated art into just about everything, everyplace.

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Greeting us was the Wisteria Place Café, covered in, you guessed it, Wisteria.

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Is this inviting, or what? Tea and scones are staples here.

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As luck would have it, just a block from where the bus dropped us off, I spied a quilt shop!!! I can literally smell these!

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Trust me, I’ll be making an Aussie quilt with this lovely Australian fabric plus some that I’ve been saving for something special.

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The shop owner told me that the fires and resulting smoke had negatively affected her business and she was literally in tears over the sale.

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Kami and Joey approve! Theyjust might get little quilts too.

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In many ways, the Australian towns remind me of time-worn out-of-the-way western towns in the US.

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Quaint shops, including an antique shop and bookstore line the main street in town.

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Our guide has rearranged our schedule because the fires, wind and smoke were predicted to be worse by afternoon, so lunch was quite late, but well worth waiting for.

Lunch and tea were served at the lovely restored Carrington Hotel in neighboring Katoomba. In Australia, a 100-year old building is old and colonial. Here, a 250 year old building is colonial. In Europe, 350 is just approaching old.

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The interior was lovely.

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I’m not sure exactly what this was originally. Today, they’ve used it for Christmas decorations and as part of a seating arrangement, but the original wooden object reminds me of something you’d find in a church.

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Here’s a view of the back. It also looks German to me. Whatever it is, it’s large and stunning.

After lunch, we returned through the smokey haze to our ship in the Sydney Harbour.

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A few hours later, we set sail for the day long journey to Melbourne.

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How does one form an affection for a place in two days? I can’t answer that question, but I did and I wasn’t ready to leave.

As we sailed along the coastline, we passed by several islands.

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The beauty of the islands was remarkable, enhanced of course by the stunning painterly sunsets.

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Melbourne

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Good morning Melbourne. The land where everything even remotely old is a designated historical site, like these buoys in the harbor. No, I don’t know why.

This day dawned sunny and beautiful.

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Beaches line the waterfront, with the Spirit of Tasmania ferry docked, ready for the crossing to the island of Tasmania, an Australia State.

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Never let it be said that Australians don’t have a sense of humor. All of Santa’s reindeer want to stay here and go to the bakery. Can we please stop????

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This iconic old building was “Tea Central” when teas were rare and imported.

I’m sure you realize that I’ve taken many of these photos through a bus window. I managed to avoid people most of the time, but blurred the guides face in this photo.

Photos from a moving vehicle window are very hit or miss – so no judgement please:)

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The old and very new, mixed into one eclectic city that sports both history and high tech. Many shiny high rise buildings grace the city with technology names you’d recognize. However, the historic or unusual structures were much more interesting to me.

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The clocktower on Melbourne’s old city hall building.

The hills surrounding Melbourne were engulfed in flames in several directions. Fortunately, Melbourne itself was not threatened.

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The smoke in the distance looked like mist or fog, but it was much more deadly.

Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary

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Unfortunately, in Melbourne, we were unable to do what had originally been planned which involved mountains and a winery, so instead we chose to go to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary to support the wildfire relief efforts.

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Melbourne is surrounded by vineyards. Australian wines are quite dry.

The Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary provides care for injured and orphaned wildlife, which as you might imagine, was arriving in droves. If you would like to contribute to the emergency fund, you can do so directly, here. They are still in need and will be for months to come.

Rest assured that I’m not going to be showing you any injured animals in these photos, so you don’t need to be concerned about that. I am going to share with you the wonders of nature and critters from down under – nothing like we have here.

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The Sanctuary strives to provide a supportive recovery environment similar to the animal’s natural habitat, and an area where they can be released but still receive nourishment and assistance if they can’t quite make it on their own.

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To that end, the visitor’s entry fees support the animals. The center of this flower is just lovely and looks to be waving a tiny star.

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Some opportunists decide to hang around forever – like this guy. In fact, he’s famous, or infamous.

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Judging from the sign, this Ibis’s reputation and tricks are well known!

I couldn’t wait – we headed straight for the Koala area.

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This Koala enclosure recreates their natural habitat, plus a sun shelter and a water mister. Ok, so there’s no water mister in the forest.

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This sleepy Koala may never leave!

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Pathways within the Sanctuary were marked by beautiful carvings.

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The animals sought shelter from the oppressive heat. Some were difficult to see.

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I’m not sure what this is, but it’s native and beautiful.

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A sad testimony to the brushfires which have always occurred in Australia, just never to the degree and with the intensity that they do today. Development in areas without firebreaks, in addition to global warming, contribute to the devastation being experienced today.

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These sprinklers offer an artistic touch.

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This Wallaby is looking for something good to eat.

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Entrance to the Platypus exhibit.

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Unfortunately, my platypus pictures failed miserably. Fast-moving water creature in low light.

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By Klaus – Flickr: Wild Platypus 4, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32551315

This photo from wiki is much better. Someone once said that the Platypus is proof positive that God has a sense of humor.

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This Emu was as curious about us as we were about it.

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The pelicans were some of my favorites.

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Not only are they amazing, they’re incredibly photogenic. I think this guy was hoping for flying fish.

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This sleeping wombat was hot and burrowed into the coolest place possible, the dirt in the shade.

The Wombat wasn’t the only creature that was hot and miserable.  This tarp sheltered a playground. I love how they worked the raptor into the canopy.

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There were lots of educational exhibits scattered throughout, along with some colorful play areas for kids. I wonder what kind of a toad or frog this is!

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Education, kindness and conservation is the central theme everyplace.

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Hey, do you think we could get DNA out of this tooth?

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That huge reptile carving illustrates extinct animals! I don’t want to run into him in the dark, that’s for sure.

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I don’t know what these are and no one we asked knew either – but they grow wild everyplace in Australia. They are so uniquitous that I don’t think people even notice them anymore.

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The Sanctuary sports a large aviary.

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Tropical birds abound, but they were mostly quiet and hidden in the mid-day heat.

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The carvings were just so incredible.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see a Dingo carving, but there is definately a Dingo area.

Settlers and farmers have been attempting to exterminate the Dingo since the 1800s. The Dingo Fence, began in 1880 and completed 5 years later, was an attempt to prevent Dingoes from entering an area where they had largely been eradicated.

The fence stretched nearly from sea to sea.

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Dingos, both revered and maligned were known as the “Sly Yella Dog.”

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In 1980, a two month-old child, Azaria Chamberlain, disappeared at Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock. Her parents reported that the child had been stolen from their tent by a Dingo, which began a firestorm of accusations, litigation and 5 separate coroners’ inquests into the child’s disappearance and presumed death.

Her mother was initially convicted, until a chance discovery six years later of a piece of the child’s clothing in an area inhabited by Dingoes triggered the release of her mother.
Was the Dingo a victim, a villain, or simply acting like a canine? Or maybe all of the above.

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Dingoes are distinct from dogs, unless they have interbred.

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Dingoes were adopted as pets by the Aboriginal people, although others believed they conferred bad luck.

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Dingoes just look like dogs, don’t they. But there are differences.

Dogs bark and dingoes howl. You can hear two dingoes howling here, or an entire eerie dingo chorus here, where each Dingo has an identifiable voice.

You can learn more about the Dingo, here.

Time for lunch and something cool to drink!

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Lunch was purchased in the cafeteria that helps to fund the center. You can’t miss it, just find this huge carved bird!

After lunch, we visited the gift shop hoping to find a t-shirt or other merchandise to leave some additional money in Healesville.

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This gentlemen in the gift shop was playing a sacred Aboriginal instrument known as a didgeridoo, made from termite hollowed tree trunks, dating back some 40,000 years. You can hear one here.

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I hope to find some fabric incorporating Australian flowers.

The Spiritual Heartland

Another area at Healesville, The Spiritual Heartland, spoke to me, heart to heart.

Being descended from Native American ancestors, raised attending Native cultural events and hearing our ancestral stories, I connect through the heartline with other aboriginal cultures, especially those displaced and attempting to retain their heritage.

Traditionally, the Australian Aboriginal people moved from place to place across the land, driven by the seasons.

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The Gunyah is a traditional Aboriginal shelter. As the Europeans settled on the Aboriginal land, beginning in the 1830s, these structures were eventually replaced by more traditional colonial structures, as was the traditional clothing of possum-skin cloaks.

The Aboriginal nomadic lifestyle changed with the arrival of Europeans who perceived that their failure to put down roots in one place meant that the land was unclaimed and available for the taking.

By 1859, less than 2,000 of the original 60,000 Aboriginal people remained. The toll had been heavy with 58,000 people succumbing in only three decades.

Wonga, their leader, petitioned the government for land they could call home, permanently. Finally, after being ignored for years, in 1863, Coranderrk Station was established as a refuge for Aboriginal people who believed that the land had been given to them in perpetuity.

Coranderrk Station was a successful, independent aboriginal village, but created in the image of the colonial settler, not the Aboriginal people. Their traditional lifestyle was replaced by farming.

Many times the Aboriginal women would gather in the “new-fangled” clapboard houses, pull the curtains and pretend to say prayers, all the while quietly speaking their own language.

In 1923, all “half-cast” men were ordered off the land, freeing the land for colonists who viewed this land as too valuable to remain in the hands of Aboriginal people. This eviction fractured Aboriginal families, exactly as it was intended to do.

Today, the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary is the steward of a small portion of that original Aboriginal land.

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These circles mark the last remnant of Coranderrk Station, 80 hectares of land purchased in 1998 and returned to the Wurundjeri people, along with an additional 142 hectares from another source, remnants of Yarra Bushland.

Today, Coranderrk is the spiritual heart and homeland of many.

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I stand here in unity with all Native people around the world. We walk together.

Not only does Healesville heal animals, they heal hearts too.

You can donate to support the work of the Healesville Sanctuary, here.

Headed Home

It was time to head back to Melbourne, to our temporary floating home.

For several days, I had noticed signs for “Pokies” everyplace. And I mean literally everyplace. This one is outside a gas station. I saw signs outside restaurants, groceries, and more.

Care to guess?

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Pokies are slot machines.

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And you know what this is, I’m sure. I had no idea they traded under any other name than the immediately recognizable McDonald’s.

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I’m not sure what to think of this balcony drive-in hotel though!

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Passing through an Australian small town. I can hear John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” in my mind.

Entering the outskirts of Melbourne again, I noticed a lot of graffiti art.

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I know this might sound strange, but I find this quite interesting. I realize that some people find graffiti art a bit of an oxymoron.

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Is graffiti vandalism, or is it art? And when?

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You have to admit, some of these grafitti artists are quite talented. Some cities invite graffiti artists to have contests.

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Much of art versus vandalism is in the eye of the beholder. Or the eye of the property owner. And frankly, in the quality of the grafitti art itself.

Some of these buildings seem to be an ongoing art competition canvas.

A few of the original colonial buildings remain in Melbourne, closer to the waterfront.

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Colonial buildings can be recognized by their original iron railings, mostly gone today.

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The guide explained that many iron railings were melted down years ago, but a few have escaped.

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These fortunate few remain.

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I love the old colonial sections of towns. This brickwork is remarkable. Notice that the neighbor’s house has decorative brickwork of some type too. I’d bet this was the signature style of a particular brickmason.

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To me, this looks very Spanish and Caribbean.

It feels odd moving from the colonial era to the Olympics within a block or two, but that’s exactly the cultural shift one makes. I suspect that many early buildings were removed to make room for the stadium.

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These Olympic rings are found in front of Melbourne Stadium known as the MCG, or Melbourne Cricket Ground. The cricket games played during the 2000 Summer Olympics were held in Melbourne at the ANZ Stadium, and are Aussies ever PROUD of that. Cricket is an Aussie obsession – one which they don’t even attempt to explain to outsiders. If you want to know more about cricket, here you go, and good luck.

It was time to board the ship again.

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The harbor was beautiful sailing away. But things can change rapidly. And did.

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An hour or so later, the smoke drifted over the water, causing a very red sun that was not setting.

A few hours later, the sun actually did begin to set, looking like a painter’s palette.

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The sunset over the Bass Strait sailing into the Tasman Sea.

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Viking Cruise Lines always attempts to reflect the art of the locations where their voyages journey. As I pondered these footsteps, I can’t help but think of the footprints of man, of mankind, trekking out of Africa, forging paths across the globe – to you and me today. Songlines of a different type, perhaps.

We are indeed, all related.

I think I feel a quilt coming on.

Mom’s Birthday – January 30th

The next day was bittersweet.

It saddens me every year when Mom’s birthday rolls around, in part because what used to be a joyful celebratory occasion marks the anniversary of the birth of someone I can never see again.

Never hear her voice.

Never tell her stories about my adventures.

How she loved to hear those.

Well, at least the ones I selectively shared with her😊

On this particular birthday, what would have been her 98th, we sailed through some EXTREMELY rough waters in the Tasman Sea, between Australia and Tasmania. The captain would have turned on the fasten seat belt signs if he could have. Everyone was staggering around like drunken sailors, except they were stone cold sober.

Thank goodness for great wifi. Starting on Mom’s birthday and for the duration of our two day sea crossing to reach our next port, I pretty much stayed in my cabin and worked on Mom’s genealogy while popping out onto the balcony from time to time to soak up some sunshine and take a picture.

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Or two.

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I probably wouldn’t have told Mom about how rough these seas were, although they did calm down towards evening.

But given that she’s on the other side, I’m guessing she already knows. I can hear her now, “Can’t you just behave?”

In a word, Mom, “no.” I can’t and never could.

Wanting to do something to honor her birthday, I found Mom’s graduation picture in one of my blog articles, decorated it with a Christmas wreath, and posted it as my profile picture on Facebook.

And then, I cried when I saw the result on my phone.

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After it posted, I realized that her beautiful photo is juxtaposed against me, in a lab jacket, at the GenebyGene lab this past June when filming the Lost Colony episode.

Oh, the irony.

Mom’s parents wouldn’t allow her to further her education, because they had already spent money on dance lessons because of her heart condition, and they had already put her brother through college.

Not exactly comparable expenditures, but what was Mom to do?

How different Mom’s life would have been had she been allowed to attend college. There weren’t student loans then, and 17-year-old females in 1940 could do little without their parent’s consent, and in this case, assistance.

While they were willing to scrimp and sacrifice to send her brother to college –  sacrifices she endured too – they were not willing to make that same investment in Mom. Instead, the brother got a master’s degree and she got married. That’s what “good girls” did back then.

As I looked at those two photos together, taken 79 years apart, I realized just how much things have changed. I went to college and received advanced degrees three decades after Mom’s pleas were cast aside. Yes, I earned my way, but I COULD earn my way – an opportunity she was never afforded.

The lab I was visiting is directed by a female PhD, Dr. Connie Bormans.

I, along with other women have been so blessed with hope and opportunities never possible or even imagined by my mother’s generation.

I know, retrospectively, that mother would be popping-buttons proud of me, even through she was not cracked up about some of the decisions I made along the way to arrive at this place in my life. Like moving away, for example. She wished, fervently sometimes, that I would just “stay home and behave myself,” for what she perceived as my own good.

Well Mom, that just wasn’t in the cards, or my DNA.

Of course, she knows that, because she contributed half of my genetic material and selected my father for his devilishly handsome bad-boy rebel tendencies. He contributed the other half of my DNA. She, of ALL people, shouldn’t be surprised about where life’s path has taken me, with a few pushes, shoves and mid-course corrections along the way.

So, here I am on her birthday😊!!!

Staggering around on an artificial floating island half-way around the world in the very rough Tasman Sea, seeking to solve life’s mysteries using DNA. Something only discovered 2 years before my birth and that Mom had probably never heard of at that time. Yet she herself would take DNA tests that I still utilize today. Genetics would profoundly mold and transform the life of her daughter half a century later.

Happy Birthday Mom, from your gleefully misbehaving daughter sailing the Tasman Sea.

I’ll see you overhome.

Australia Mom birthday sunset

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