We’re having a virtual funeral….and you’re invited. In fact, this might be a first….the first virtual funeral ever – and you can be part of this groundbreaking event. It’s a testament to how the electronic, internet, Facebook, DNA age has changed our lives.
Aleda passed away more than a week ago, on January 26th. Sometimes things don’t always go exactly as we would like, and suffice it to say, Aleda is being buried tomorrow, Friday, February 7, at 2:30, alone. Well, not entirely alone, the man who mowed her yard since he was a child, and his wife, will be there, and the backhoe operator, of course.
She has a world of online friends and cousins who she met through DNA testing, so, we’re giving Aleda a virtual funeral. Her favorite reading was the 23rd Psalm, so we’re inviting everyone to participate at 2:30 by reading or reciting the 23rd Psalm, for Aleda, to lift her spirit to the Heavens. Let’s send her off with a chorus of voices. Aleda won’t be alone. We’ll all be sending her home. And that’s it. Nothing else for you to do, so it’s very easy to participate.
By the way, I’m being a bit vague about her name and location because of her family’s concerns about the security of her property, which is why there has been no obituary, etc.
Genealogy, and in this case, genetic genealogy changes lives. In my recent article, “Finding Family the New-Fashioned Way,” I included a poll asking three questions:
Have you become close to someone met through traditional genealogy research.
43% – Yes, somewhat close, we’re friends
42% – Yes, very close, like family.
14% – No
Have you become close to someone you met through DNA?
43% – Yes, somewhat close, we’re friends.
40% – No
16% – Yes, very close, like family.
Have you met in person the people you’ve discovered during genealogy of DNA research?
62% – Yes
23% – No
14% – No, but have plans to.
Well, I can tell you how Aleda answered those questions, and although the polls are anonymous, I’m sure she answered because she was the consummate contributor and participant. Aleda would have answered yes to all of the above.
Aleda was a joiner. In High School, she was a member of several clubs, the editor of the newspaper, and she loved science, especially chemistry. It’s no surprise then, how quickly she embraced DNA testing decades later when it became available as a genealogy tool. She was a pioneer, one of the first.
Aleda became interested in genealogy early in life and spent 50 years researching her family history. She became active in the DAR as well and I believe was a 47 year member.
By the time I met Aleda, in 2006, congestive heart failure had already set in, but that didn’t slow her down much, and it certainly didn’t stop her. Aleda volunteered to help staff a table for the Lost Colony Research Group in Manteo, NC. She had to walk slowly, due to the oppressive heat and her health, but walk she did, and she stayed with us all day, talking to people interested in the Lost Colony – or more particular, in figuring out if they descend from Lost Colony survivors. She was a founding member of The Lost Colony Research Group.
Her family, at least part of it, was from the South, the colonial South, the early South, the South that enslaved Indians and Africans, and she was descended from some combination of all of those people. Aleda’s DNA, you see, held secrets that would only be divulged when her brother took his first DNA test.
To say Aleda was shocked is an understatement. But she was also thrilled. The bad news – it would be 5 long years before her brother would have a DNA match. Five years is a very long time to wait. But Aleda didn’t just wait, and she never, once, complained. Instead, she recruited people. She researched, she found other people she thought might be related. She told them of their wonderfully interesting and colorful family history. And she and her brother took every test they could take. Aleda was determined to learn everything she could learn by embracing this new technology.
Her brother’s Y DNA is very distinctive. When he has a match, there is no question that it’s a match. Aleda gathered her brother’s matches into a research group.
When autosomal DNA became available, she was one of the first to embrace that technology as well, and autosomal matches opened up a whole new world of cousins for Aleda.
As her health deteriorated, it seemed that she worked harder and harder, and began teaching others what she knew. She had apprentices and taught her research group about file organization, about computers, about DNA and how to research. She knew her time was limited. She had come to love them all.
She embraced all things new. Aleda never had children, but she was a born teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education as well as a second Masters in Liberal Arts from John Hopkins. It’s no wonder that she always thought innovatively, outside of the box.
Her research group told me that when my blog articles were published, they had to hurry and read them right away, because Aleda would be calling shortly to discuss how to apply them to their research. They told me how much Aleda looked forward to my blogs. I never knew.
As Aleda became increasingly homebound, especially following a stroke a couple years ago, her world became her online friends and cousins with whom she communicated daily. Her last trip was in the fall of 2013, despite her health challenges, to visit Hancock County, Tennessee, tracking down those pesky ancestors.
She never gave up…not until the last day….not even the last day. The morning of her death, she was working on X chromosome clusters, and teaching, always sharing her knowledge with her research group.
Aleda loved her cousins. I don’t meant that lightly. She truly loved them. They became her family that she had never had. They spoke with her daily. She knew them better than anyone else, even if they were scattered to the winds across the US.
Unfortunately, the fact that we are so scattered, and that we are having an epic winter combined with age and health issues makes attending her burial impossible for her research group. So, a virtual funeral it is.
What would Aleda think of this virtual funeral?
I’ll let one of her research group cousins tell you:
My dear, dear friend would be so thrilled to think she was having a “virtual funeral.” She did so like “different things.”
Aleda was not just a friend. We talked most days and usually had a few projects going at the same time. She taught my little group of kin what little we know about DNA – and much of it by following whatever Roberta happened to be doing on her blogs. She spent 50 years in searching for her ancestors and jumped in with both feet when DNA became available. She said you just couldn’t do enough DNA research.
Because our brothers and my other male kin matched, we became Aleda’s project. Once I hopped on Aleda’s swiftly moving train, I didn’t get off again until her passing. She always had a project or two or three or more going at a time and was right in the middle of two big ones to do with the X Chromosome Charts.
She was one of a kind: bright, non-judgmental, generous, loving and forgiving. We lost a super friend, cousin and dedicated genealogist…the world lost a great lady. Roberta, she so loved your teachings and she in turn taught us.”
Rest in peace dear Aleda. I thank you for sharing so much of your vast knowledge with us and I really enjoyed our ride. Hopefully I can be as helpful to others as you were with everyone you knew.”
I think Aleda would love her virtual funeral, her “home-going,” and she would forgive us for not being able to attend in person because that’s how Aleda was. She always found the positive in everything and everyone.
Please join us at 2:30 Eastern time on Friday to repeat the 23rd Psalm for Aleda. Please “like” this article if you’ll be virtually attending.
And then, let’s all be a little bit Aleda. She made such a difference to so many who she reached out and touched through genetic genealogy. The science is simply a means to an end…and what matters in the end is family, however you come to define them.
Update – Aleda’s Virtual Funeral
Aleda had a beautiful virtual funeral. Thank you to all of the virtual attendees for being your sister’s keeper. Lots of people participated by reading the 23rd Psalm. This beautiful version was created and contributed by Donna based on the rose wreath foundation created by www.jaguarwoman.com.
Aleda’s virtual funeral included a piano, trumpets, bells tolling, songs and Psalms.
One gentleman in Texas played and sang this.
A lady in Kentucky played the piano and sang.
And in North Carolina, the reading was accompanied by this and bells tolling.
A balloon was released.
In West Virginia, a man took his heirloom family Bible and visited his family cemetery to read the 23rd Psalm.
In Tennessee, a man visited the cemetery that held his 4 great and 5 of his great-great-grandparents, walking from grave to grave as he read the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.
One woman was on an airplane, and several were attending the Rootstech conference in Utah and stole a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle. My husband was going to excuse himself from a meeting and go to the restroom, but instead, recruited his colleagues in the business meeting he was attending – and they all participated.
Another woman, in Maryland, asked for and received a few minutes relief from her job on the “front desk” in a library.
In fact, Aleda probably had more people at her virtual funeral than she would have been able to have in reality – when you consider the complications of distance and weather. The map below shows the locations of the people I’m aware of, and I know there were many more because the messages about her virtual funeral were shared over and over again.
This map shows the states where people were who participated. In Kentucky and Tennessee, there were literally hundreds, followed by Texas.
In addition, there were also several people from the UK, Japan, Israel, Finland and some of our military in Fort Apache, Afghanistan. It was an international event. Aleda would have been both surprised and pleased. I guess maybe this could be called the first virtual surprise “come as you are” funeral.
I’ve been surprised by how many people have told me of special blessings they received while participating in Aleda’s funeral. In my case, after I did the reading, outside in front of a huge drift in 8 degree, blustery, but sunny, weather, I realized that there was a half moon in the middle of the day, and the spring’s first robin had accompanied me. I’ve cropped the photo below to show both.
Aleda also had flowers. Three people sent arrangements with messages from the entire genealogy community. The florist’s husband attended the burial and took this photo for us, given that the florist had recently had knee surgery.
He said that the funeral home that is adjacent to the cemetery learned of our virtual funeral for Aleda and some of the staff attended in person too, so there were 4 people, plus the florist’s husband and the workers who doubled as her pall-bearers who participated as well. Everyone read the 23rd Psalm aloud for her.
One virtual participant added something to her reading, something that she felt Aleda wanted.
Psalm 30:11 – You have turned my mourning into dancing for me, you have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.
Rest in Peace our dear friend Aleda, we have truly sung you “over-home.”
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Thank you for sharing Roberta.. I think I remember Aleda from that Lost Colony Research event..
Aleda will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever… Pepetual Light Shine on Aleda, Lord..
Thank you for celebrating Alma’s life virtually. I imagine she’d be very pleased.
I am moved by your efforts and agree that Aleda would have loved this show of appreciation for herself and her life’s work. We all hope for such a legacy and appreciation from others.
Beautiful thought. I too lost someone I met virtually. Verla Morris died a few months ago at 101 years young. I was fortunate enough to have visited her in 2010 at the age of 99. She turned out to be my mothers double cousin and we were able to get to know one another.
I did not know Alma, but do know that she is at peace now and will live in the hearts of those who loved her. Roberta, you are a thoughtful and kind person to do this.
Roberta, thanks so much for your kind words about Aleda and I’ll be with all of you in spirit tomorrow during that special time. I feel very fortunate that I was a part of the Hancock cousin search. Aleda was special.
I also think this is a wonderful tribute that Aleda would certainly LOVE.. I’ll be there in spirit, reading the 23rd Psalm in her honor. She is now “touching the face of God”..
Roberta thanks beautiful! GJ
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2014 22:16:13 +0000 To: email@example.com
Thank You Roberta,
I could jump for joy that my beloved cousin and friend is getting a one of a kind first ever that we know off send off. This is something she would have enjoyed doing for someone else because she loved all things new (and old) and different. Rest in peace dear Aleda. I already miss our daily research sessions. My life was much better that you were a part of it.
Beautiful Roberta. Found myself in tears for your loss of a wonderful person. May all of her family and friends rest in the comforting arms of our Father who art in heaven as you mourn your loss and rejoice in Aleda’s gain.
I will be there Roberta. I love this idea. Donna
Wonderful idea, I’ll be “there”. Thank you for arranging this for her.
RIP Aleda. I’m hoping Aleda’s family don’t mind all this. Aleda’s brother was my first Y DNA match, and I believe I was his, that was back in the day of 12 marker tests, our haplogroup was E3a at the time. My prayers are with her family.
I will certainly be among the group reading 23th Psalms Friday at 2:30P Eastern Time. I think it will be fitting to take an old family Bible and head out to Hollywood Cemetery here in Chesterfield County, Virginia. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a “virtual” funeral than for each of us to be in our favorite “Family Cemetery”. My ggg grandfather marched here from Cherokee County, TX at the start of the Civil War and quickly died of typhoid fever, 1200 miles from his wife and 10 kids that he left back on the farm in Texas. He and I will attend Aleta’s virtual funeral together.
What a wonderful tribute Tom. Thank you so much.
I don’t live anyplace close to a family cemetery, so I’m going outside in my labyrinth, regardless of how many feet of snow I have to wade through to get there!
Thank you Roberta,
I was saddened to hear of Aleda’s passing. I had communicated with her about the several 4th cousin matches on Gedmatch and 23andMe between her family and mine. We were trying to find the connection. Sweet, bright and kind lady who generously left her DNA for others to continue the cousin project. May she rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon her. My condolences to her family (that are also my cousins).
Thank you Roberta for the kind remembrance of Aleda.
This is truly an awesome way to celebrate Aledas life! Rest in peace Dear lady
We have music now. One kind soul is going to sing for her during our “service” tomorrow. This is what he is doing for her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh7oMGew4rE
This is such a beautiful tribute for a remarkable person. I didn’t have the honor of knowing Aleda, but I will be there.
It is a singular honor to be invited to celebrate the life of Aleda, and participate in her “going home”….just for the sake of clarity how technically/technoligically does one sign on at 2:30 PM EST to attend ?
There is no signing on anyplace. Just do this privately, in your own way, wherever you are at that time.
I will be honoring the life of this wonderful lady as well. Can you just imagine the excitement she felt when she stepped into eternity and found her family!
What a wonderful life and person! And a great funeral too. Clearly she was loved.
For those folks who were able to participate in Aleda’s virtual funeral today, thank you for being your sister’s keeper. Please let me know where you were, which state or country, and I’ll add a map at the end of the blog posting with an update.
Taylor, Arizona USA
I couldn’t make it to downtown Richmond, VA to Hollywood Cemetery as planned so I opted for at Old Historic Trinity Church, here in Chesterfield County. It is currently home to the Chesterfield County Historical Society and their Genealogy Committee’s Library holdings. I think Aleda would have approved of and enjoyed the visit.
Church Hill, Hawkins County, Tennessee
Thanks Roberta, It’s nice to know that she touched so many lives both physically and in Cyber space. We truley are a global community thanks to the Net. A beautiful solemn tribute I was glad to take part in.
Queens, New York
I was in the Old Salem Cemetery in Washington County in Upper East TN. [Washington County is the “Mother” county of TN.] In that cemetery I have 4 g-grandparents and 5 g-g-grandparents, from both Momma’s and Daddy’s side of my family. I read the 23rd Psalm and sang The Lord’s Prayer as I walked from my Bright graves to my Snapp graves. It was a very special honor to be part of a tribute to a great lady! Thank you for inviting us!!! 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
I’ve added an update to the original article with info about today’s virtual funeral, complete with some photos. Photos, of a virtual funeral? Yep, take a look!
I loved the “rest of the story” and particularly the Scripture at the end.
This website for Aleda is just about the finest memorial I have ever seen.
What an awesome tribute! Well done, Roberta and all the Gap.
It was a great idea and a wonderful tribute. Even though I didn’t know Aleda, it brought tears to my eyes.
I am Aleda’s sister, and want to thank all of you for memorializing her virtually. It was our privilege as her immediate family to share in your thoughts and prayers, and it gave us comfort to experience the widespread family that she cultivated. Aleda, now forever dwells in the house of her Lord. I am thankful that she lived her life as she chose with only a brief time at the end when she was not able to sit in her chair and work on genealogy, or talk on the phone.
May her passing also serve as a reminder to us all that we cannot live forever in this house. Next of kin who must await their own passing into the house of the Lord, would be spared additional challenges as they grieve if we all left clear directives of our wishes beyond the health care powers of attorney.
At the time of death, many decisions fall to the immediate family, and we were at a complete loss without finding her directives. We spent days looking for those directives, after many hours of travel, and reached out to all those groups of Kin and Friends, neighbors, health care powers of attorney, etc. for their counsel. Our decision to hold her burial rather than cremation, was based upon that discussion, and we scrambled to get that arranged in a timely fashion. Travel, babies, school, health issues, work responsibilities, etc. limit us in our ability to get our immediate family together, and we plan for spring or summer. I want all her nieces, and nephews to come see her grave site, but also to spend some time together remembering our shared history, and to also celebrate her life, both here and in eternity with her Lord.
I respected her privacy perhaps a little too much and did not press her for her wishes. In the future, I will try to learn from that experience. I had sent her my own http://fivewishes.org/ document over a year ago, and she responded alluding to HCPOA having been placed with appropriate persons years ago. I assumed it to be my brothers, which it was not.
I am Aleda’s brother Snowden, the one she had to wait so long to get a match. Let me say how greatful my sister, brother and I are that you all held this virtual funeral for our sister Aleda. I must say that I have never heard of one before. So I might well be a first. I do know that Aleda would have been thrilled at thought.
From reading all the comments and Roberta’s fine narrative, I really see the length, breadth and depth of her friendships with all of you. Keep in mind that we felt that way about Aleda too. She will be in our hearts forever.
Let me clear up a mistaken impression or two in Roberta’s narrative. “The man who mowed her yard since he was a child” is a person my sister Aleda thought of as nearly being an adopted son. Bryan looked after my sister for many years. He helped her pick out her car. He helped her pick out the furniture on the front porch she loved so much. Bryan was instrumental in seeing that her porch was built well. I can go on and on about what Bryan and his wife Claire did for my sister over the years.
In fact, had Aleda lived and her health improved they had planned to go to England together, that is, Aleda, Bryan, Claire and their kids. So it wasn’t just anybody attending her funeral. It was someone she cherished, Bryan and Claire.
I am a little distressed at how this blog starts off and some other comments I have seen from some people who are part of the Bunch DNA project. My sister, brother, and I, along with her many nieces and nephews, are the ones truly grieving at her loss. We did not just heartlessly leave her to be buried alone. Further, being buried is just being put in the ground and having a formal service at that time is just a bunch of people getting together. What is important is the fond thoughts and memories about her we all share and some of which were presented in this blog. Perhaps I am not like those who expressed negative comments. My sister still lives in my heart, the hearts of those close family members, and in some of you. What little does it matter the exact circumstance of her burial and service! She still lives in us. That is what is truly important.
I am Aleda’s brother, Tillman. We, Valerie, Snowden, and I, were truly blessed to have such a wonderful sister. She will be missed and lovingly remembered. Thank you all for taking time to express your prayers and thoughts about our sister, Aleda.
Tillman, Valerie and Snowden,
I know how much Aleda’s family meant to her. Our thoughts are with you in your time of sorrow. Aleda will be greatly missed by her more distant relatives and family of heart as well. We were all blessed to be a part of her life and have her in ours.
I am so sorry for your loss. Aleda gave so much to so many. A sudden death can take us by surprise. How nice that your family can all gather at her gravesite when the time is right. Aleda’s enthusiasm will be missed.
Your California Cousin
I embrace with gladness this tribute to Aleda, my friend. I have worked with her many years and had actually talked to her on January 20th when we planned to get together for lunch when the weather changed. She was my friend and I did not know she had passed until someone reached out in an email to me. Aleda is a wonderful person and I will greatly miss her. Thank you Roberta for this tribute I was hoping I could get some clarity and this has served that purpose for me. My constant prayers will be for Tillman, Snowden and Valerie of whom she talked about much. Thank You
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I worked under Aleda for many years at SSA. I knew of her financial planning and genealogy interests. I remember what a modest woman she was. I did not know of her health issues.
Because of her native american blood, i asked her if she thought she might have been related to our ADP assistant Richard B.
I still miss her. She was a lovely lady.
I was drawn to Aleda when we were young students at St. Mary’s Seminary Jr. College in Maryland. I have always remembered her kind nature and her brilliant mind. We shared many hours together in Samadra, St. Mary’s drama club; and she was quite a good actress in whatever part she played. I enjoyed her quick wit and her lively ability to enjoy and create a ‘play on words’. We did share many puns while we rehearsed for plays. In our lives we meet many people and as time passes, the memory of them may fade; but I have never forgotten Aleda, and am so glad to have known her.
I worked for Aleda for many years. I was very surprised when I first learned of her death. How did she die? She always seemed so healthy and beautiful to me.
i would have considered dating her, but Cockesville was very far for me to drive with my weak eyes.