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.”