This the time of year, the holidays, that makes us all wax sentimental. Hopefully, it causes each of us to take a few minutes to think about what we are grateful for.
Sometimes gratitude came come from odd places. In some instances, having to deal with its polar opposite, someone who is difficult, toxic or just plain hateful makes us realize just how lucky we are in the rest of our dealings with people. The fact that we can recognize them as such, and get out of Dodge, is a blessing as well. And sometimes, I’m just so thankful I’m not one of them….
That’s the old saying about how one can always serve as a bad example.
My husband always says that he’s grateful for those people because they make him look so good by comparison. Now that’s a fine example of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!
Of course, then there are those wonderful people, like newly discovered cousin Bill Hickerson. I’ve been very lucky to meet so many wonderful cousins over the years and genealogy, especially genetic genealogy gives us the opportunity to meet even more.
I’ve spent some time thinking about exactly what I’m grateful for this year.
When you start losing them you really start to appreciate them at a whole different level. The more you lose, the more you appreciate the ones that are left. Judy Russell wrote about this recently too. It’s the holidays – so we can’t help but think about those we hold close in our hearts, whether they are on this side or the other side now.
I have no parents, aunts, uncles or siblings left, so I’ve adopted a brother, John. Of course, this is my second brother John so now when I talk about John, or my brother John, everyone asks which brother John. Makes for wonderfully interesting conversations! I mean, how many people have two brothers with the same name?
It’s sometimes difficult to be the last one standing…so I guess that gets me elected as the family story-teller, the documenter. They may be gone, but it’s up to me to make them immortal. And, well, because they are there and I am here…I can tell any stories I want.
Chuckle. Tee hee…
Family of Choice
These are the people not stuck with me genetically, but who hang around by choice. Perhaps because I left the area where my family lived, and I had few and now have no living siblings, I’ve formed an adoptive family. We function just like other families, except no bickering. These people are extra special because they love me anyway!!! And they think coming over and playing in the mud together is fun.
NewFound and ReFound Cousins
Cousins – I didn’t grow up with any. We and they were scattered to the winds. I’ve remet some over the years and become particularly close to several. We’re still scattered to the winds, but e-mail and electronic communication makes it much easier to stay in touch on a much more regular basis. Cheryl, my cousin on my Mom’s side went to Holland with me in the spring.
Need I say more? We had SO much fun.
Daryl, my cousin on my Dad’s side has been my travel companion for years. She was the one trapped in the cemetery with me by the bull. Here we are wading in the creek at Cumberland Gap that fed the land owned by the Dodsons, our common ancestral line. It was a blistering hot day, but we had a great time together.
A group of cousins went back to England in 2013 to visit the Speak Family homeland. Here, we are together in the church where it all began…so to speak, pardon the pun.
I love my cousins. And no, I don’t mean I’m fond of them, I love them. You know who you are!!!
Mary and I in Lancashire in the churchyard where it all began for our ancestor. The infamous Pendle Hill, a local landmark, is in the background.
I’ve had such lovely adventures with my cousins. They have so enriched my life and I am so grateful for them….and for genealogy, or I would never have found them.
People who Share Freely
I’m incredibly grateful for people who do good work and share freely. Ok, who do sourced, good work and share freely.
For example, there is one Acadian researcher whose tree on Rootsweb I use as the “consummate reference.” She could refuse to share because it represents years of her hard work, and it undoubtedly does, but because she does share, it’s much more likely that there is good information being copy/pasted than bad. She has literally saved me years of research that I probably couldn’t have done with the language barrier involved.
Furthermore, it frees the rest of us to contribute in some other way instead of retreading the ground she has already dug up. Thank you Karen Theroit!
Another example – over the years I’ve been gifted with pictures of several ancestors that I didn’t have, nor even knew existed, among them Samuel Claxton in his Civil War uniform, Joseph “Dode” Bolton and John David Miller, shown below. All thanks to previously unknown cousins willing to share.
People Who DNA Test, Upload their Tree and Answer Queries
It makes life so very much easier when a family tree is attached to the DNA results. Bless these people.
People Who Indulge Me and Agree to DNA Test
…even though they aren’t nearly as interested as I am. Bless these people too. The cousins so often make THE difference in autosomal matching because we each carry different segments of our common ancestor – along with a few of the same segments, of course.
People who Give
….to others, unselfishly. Some people “give” to be in the spotlight – these aren’t the people I’m talking about. I’m referring to people have been unsung, and often unthanked, volunteers for years. I’ll list a few for whom I’m particularly grateful (in alpha order).
- Alice Fairhurst – ISOGG Y Tree Coordinator, for 9 years as the tree has avalanched
- Denny Brubaker who has compiled the Claiborne County Pioneer Project by indexing and entering into genealogy software over 108,000 individuals from the 1930 census and before who were documented to have lived in Claiborne County, TN
- Paul Le Blanc – an Acadian Museum Living Legend, founder and moderator of the Acadian Rootsweb list, my cousin over 100 ways and always willing to help
- David Powell – Estes Family Archivist and Historian – has compiled and maintains Estes family site for all descendants for nearly 15 years
- John Olsen and Curtis Rogers, creators of www.GedMatch.com
- Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, who writes an wonderful blog with a posting every single day
There are many more of these humble, selfless people in the genealogy community. Thank you one and all. Genealogy heroes, they serve as the best kind of example and inspiration.
Kind, Caring People with Integrity
For every jerk that we see, and unfortunately, they do stand out due to their jerkyness, there is an anonymous person who is quietly doing something caring and lovely for another being.
These are the people who stop to help the helpless; rescue a box of puppies, to save an injured duck who has been hit, to move turtles off the road or pulling someone out of a burning house or car. It’s acts like these that are the true measure of character and integrity.
Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking and when there is no possibility that the person or thing that you’re helping can ever return any type of favor.
Here’s a picture of someone who put their car in the ditch to miss the turtle in the road….and managed to save the turtle too.
I’m extremely proud to call this person…my daughter.
Here’s a picture my daughter’s rescue this week, now named Ellie, which was, of course, not the slightest bit convenient the week before Christmas. It may be a bit of an inconvenience for us, but it’s life-saving and life-altering for Ellie. And there is nothing in the world like the unconditional love of a puppy! I mean, who else can get so happy to see you they piddle all over the floor.
I’m equally as grateful for the services that my son provides to citizens daily.
I’m especially proud of my children, of course, but I’m extremely grateful for all of the people who make the world a better place for others.
Collaborators and Peers
Genealogy and genetic genealogy has brought so many wonderful people into my life in the form of new cousins, collaborators and peers. I can think of so many and more just keep popping into mind.
In genetic genealogy, we have to work collaboratively or we’ll get no-place fast. It’s a team sport.
Where would we be without our friends and peers who we can work with and bounce things off of from time to time? I started to make a list, but the list goes on and on and I’m afraid I’ll forget someone. I’m just so very thankful to have such a long list.
I am particularly grateful for my DNA project co-administrators as well as other project admins. It’s wonderful to have co-conspirators:) The more than 8000 DNA projects wouldn’t be able to function without the volunteers administrators, and projects are incredibly valuable to genealogists.
Visionaries Among Us – Citizen Scientists
I am so very grateful to be alive at the right time and in the right place to be able to participate in the birthing of new science – genetic genealogy. There isn’t a day that passes without learning something wonderful and new.
The entire genetic genealogy industry, and it is an industry today, was founded on regular people, citizen scientists, noticing something and pursuing that information.
Thankfully, no one was hateful, berating or condescending to those early pioneers because they had the audacity to speak up and push the edge of the envelope, or we surely would not have seen the advances in genetic genealogy that have occurred in the past 15 years.
It 1999, the idea of testing the Y chromosome of 2 men to see if they matched was what prompted Bennett Greenspan to contact Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona. This entire industry was founded on that relationship. Michael wasn’t initially thrilled, but had he adopted a negative attitude about or towards Bennett, there would be no genetic genealogy industry today. Giant oaks from tiny seedlings grow. I am forever grateful to both of these men. Bennett is shown above at the 2013 Conference and Michael, below at the 2014, tenth annual, International Conference on Genetic Genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA.
Many of today’s genetic genealogists won’t have known Leo Little, but he was the genetic genealogist who noticed something was “different” about a group of STR marker results in 2002, and was ultimately responsible for the research that lead to the discovery of a SNP that separated a particular branch of the Y tree. Today, with advent of next generation testing, we find new branches every day, but without Leo Little’s contribution of finding that first L SNP, we wouldn’t have the Y SNP sub-industry. Fittingly, the L SNPS are named in honor of Leo and that first SNP discovered at Family Tree DNA was, appropriately, L1.
I remember the discussions about 5 years ago in the citizen scientist community about haplogroup R1b perhaps not being present in Paleolithic Europe? Well, this year, at the Family Tree DNA conference, Michael Hammer presented evidence to that effect based on analysis of ancient remains, shown above.
Remember the days when it was stated that autosomal DNA would never be utilized in genetic genealogy? Many won’t remember those days, because it has been the power of autosomal testing that has brought the majority of the testers to the party. The 5th anniversary of the introduction of the first commercial autosomal DNA test was celebrated this past month.
I’m grateful for these visionary people who were brave enough to question the status quo and peer beyond the horizon. I hope the genetic genealogy community fosters an open and supportive scientific incubator environment where people feel they can safely come forward with their observations which may in fact turn out to be important discoveries.
Ability to do for Others
This means that I’m healthy enough to do for others, so every time I make one of the care quilts, write a blog posting or do something else, I’m always grateful for that opportunity.
I believe we are all enhanced and uplifted by giving. My ways of contributing are through my care quilts, my DNA blog, by Native Heritage Project blog at www.nativeheritageproject.com and my Victory Garden blog at www.victorygardendaybyday.com, inspired by my adopted brother John.
I’m very grateful for those who support my endeavors in all kinds of ways from hemming a quilt to encouragement in a rough patch or fixing dinner. There is very little in life that we can accomplish alone and it’s much more rewarding with companions.
Ying and yang. The ying is that it’s so much easier to have a conversation today, in many ways, which allows us access to online records and near-immediate answers – not to mention keeping up with family on Facebook and talking around the world on Skype.
The yang of course is that there is misinformation and social media brings with it its own version of unpleasantness. Prior to the last decade or so, immediate online group access, like Facebook, wasn’t available. It’s new to our generation and will simply be normal to the next.
Social media has opened up a world of opportunities, some positive, some negative. The positive aspects are that it’s easy to join groups of people with like interests, be they genetic genealogy or a specific ancestor or something entirely different, like quilting.
The flip side is that people aren’t always nice online and sometimes say things in a terribly negative way they might never do in person, although with some of these folks, I’m not at all sure that would make any difference.
The illusion of space between that person and their intended victim make it convenient to have a very visible online war where people tend to “show themselves in public” as my father would have put it.
When I see this happening I have to wonder if they have any idea how badly behaved they appear to others. It’s difficult sometimes to retain a level of professional and personal decorum under those circumstances, but that brings me to my last item of gratitude…something I NEVER thought I’d say.
Mamma, prepare to roll over in your grave!
My parents were not easy on me, nor was I an easy child to raise…not by a long shot. What might be perceived as tenacity, resilience and commitment today was sheer utter unrelenting mis-focused stubbornness as a teen. I prefer to think of it as “strong woman training wheels.” I’m sure my mother had other names for it, and probably for me as well.
However, not to be out-stubborned by me (genetic perhaps?), my mother continued, whether I wanted to hear the messages or not…to reinforce the lessons I needed to learn. Today, as I see people behaving poorly, I hear my mother’s voice saying things like this:
“It’s not so much what you say but how you say it.”
OMG, I cannot tell you how MANY times I rolled my eyes at this one. But, I got it. I didn’t want to get it…but somehow it soaked in in spite of my complete and utter resistance. She must have said this hundreds if not thousands of times – and I can still hear her voice saying it to this day. In fact, now I want to say it to other people!
My mother had this saying written on a piece of paper and taped to the mirror that we all shared in the bathroom – for years. I wanted to rip it down because when I most needed to read it, seeing it irritated me greatly.
Here’s another of her famous sayings.
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Did everyone’s mother say this? I thought she was an idiot.
And this one. Can you see my eyes rolling????
“You will never have to regret being a lady.”
A lady? Really? I mean, seriously??? I didn’t own a dress and lived in blue jeans. But that really wasn’t what she meant. I never understood that one at the time. But I surely do now. Bullying isn’t something new nor reserved for children and teens and neither is unbecoming behavior – and I see it regularly online and in the comments to my blog postings that don’t get approved. You would not believe some of those. I’ve even considered doing a humorous article utilizing those, but they are just too awful.
And here’s a last bit of wisdom from Mom, which I also didn’t comprehend at the time.
“When someone is hateful towards you, it says nothing about you and everything about them. Same goes for you when you’re hateful.”
You know, she always had to add that little zinger clincher type of thing at the end that was equivalent to “if the shoe fits”….darn her anyway.
And then she would smugly follow up by saying something like…
“If that makes you mad, then you obviously needed to hear it.”
My Mom was pretty “in your face” with her messages, often delivering them by pointing and shaking her index finger at you as she lectured. My brother was so tall that he got ordered to sit down before he got his lecture so she could shake her finger directly at him instead of up in his general direction. When he got told to “sit down,” he knew he was in a heap-o-trouble. But he unfailingly sat! I giggled. Then I got to sit too.
My step-Dad was more laid back and charismatic. I was more inclined to hear what he had to say, because it was often mixed with humor and much more subtle.
He had two saying that I’ve used over and over as an adult, and that in spite of their farm flavor, hold true everyplace. I particularly love this first one.
“Never mud wrestle with a pig.
You can’t win.
You get muddy.
The pig likes it.
The spectators can’t tell the difference.”
Some days I think this is my personal mantra.
And lastly, I’ll leave you with this one, except my Dad’s rendition was a little more, ahem, colorful:)
“Don’t be part of the herd. The only thing sheep see is the south end of the other sheep going north. If you don’t want to see a bunch of sheep butts, get out in front of the herd.”
I am so very, very thankful that my parents never raised me to be a sheep. I’m sure they wished many times they hadn’t been quite so successful and that I hadn’t pushed the edges of the envelope quite so hard.
And yes, being a sheep would be much easier, I’m sure….but I’ll never know. Therein lies the blessing and the curse.
So to my Mom and step-Dad, who for some ungodly reason signed on willingly, for their persistence and perseverance in the face of a defiant and ungrateful teen…..thank you. THANK YOU. And ……just so you know, somehow, in spite of myself, I heard you and I get it!!!
And I am really, REALLY, grateful.