I use DNA every day of my life. Not only do I use it personally, but I utilize it for my clients. I love what it can do for us – but DNA is only a tool. A tool on a path – a path to your ancestors. But ancestors lead us to cousins. DNA is about cousins, finding them, getting to know them and then, yes, loving them. I know, you guys are all cringing now about the L-word and searching for the little X to close this screen. But it’s true – it’s about people – connecting to other people – both dead and alive.
My immediate family is small. I didn’t know my father’s family growing up and my mother had only one sibling. My own siblings are gone and the few children they had are scattered to the winds. It’s hard enough to keep up with my own kids. Many people are too busy to be interested in family, often until it’s too late. As one old woman in my family so succinctly once said, “If you can’t bother to come and see me while I’m alive, don’t bother when I’m dead.”
Maybe I discovered early the value of cousins since my own immediate family was so small. To connect, I had to reach out. I’ve been so very fortunate.
This past month, on a trip made possible by DNA (which I will be writing about shortly), here I am in the churchyard in England where our Speak ancestor’s family lived in the 1600s, with my cousin Mary. I love her, dearly.
And this is my cousin, Daryl, my sister of heart and my research travel companion. I met her through genealogy too, about a decade ago. Here, we’re wading in the creek descending from the Cumberland Gap, running through the Dodson ancestral land, on a very hot summer day during a research trip. DNA has taken us on an amazing journey that we never expected. We connect through the Dodson line.
And here in a slightly out of focus picture are my cousins Los, his beautiful daughter Landrii, and our cousin, Denise, of whom I’m extremely proud. Just look how happy we are. We were giddy with delight that day when we finally met.
This photo was taken in June 2011 at the Cumberland Gap Homecoming, coordinated by the Cumberland Gap DNA project members. Our Herrell family lived near the Cumberland Gap where we met face to face for the first time. A wonderful event, and Los drove from Louisiana alone with two toddlers to be able to attend. Bless his heart. (That’s the southern in me coming out.) Denise flew in from the west coast. Unfortunately, we live far apart but I can keep up with Los, his beautiful kids, and Denise electronically and via Facebook.
And this is only the beginning of the “I Love My Cousins” list – it goes on – and I meet new cousins almost every day now. I’m amazed at how many people I’m related to, how large my extended family really is. Fortunately, love isn’t a limited commodity!
Indeed, I’m grateful every single day for genealogy and DNA which connected me, and connects me, with my cousins. They pop up in the most unexpected places. Just this week, for example, I discovered when doing a DNA report for a client that I’m related to them, not once, but twice. My quilt group, related to 2 of 5 people. Someone I worked with on a special project a couple years ago, we recently DNA matched and discovered that we share a common Lemmert line out of Germany. And Yvette Hoitink, the Dutch professional genealogist I hired to help me with the Dutch records, yep, we’re related genetically on our mother’s sides. Reach out – you’ll find cousins too! You never know who just might be one.