Living the Life You Only Hoped For

Thanksgiving is hard for some folks.  Life didn’t turn out exactly as they hoped or planned.

It’s easy for me to sometimes get tied up in the melancholy.  Thanksgiving when I was younger was a festive time on the farm.  The kitchen was overflowing onto tables in the living room. Aunts, uncles, siblings, lots of kids, sometimes foster children, boyfriends, girlfriends…the house was full. Mom and I were cooking and everyone brought a dish to pass.  It never occurred to me that one day those times would only be a memory.

It’s not like that now.  All of those people are gone, including my siblings.  In fact there are only a handful of people alive now who experienced those days and most of them are scattered to the winds.

So, I have to actively think of things to be thankful for at Thanksgiving.  Obviously, I’m thankful for my family, my children, their spouses, grandchildren and grandpuppies who do live close by.  And I’m really thankful that my husband likes to cook – and so are my kids!!!

Then, last night, on Facebook, I saw this inspirational saying by


That is just spot on.  I have never thought about things quite like this before.

And of course, my thoughts immediately turned to genetic genealogy.

Twenty years ago, DNA testing didn’t exist nor did we have any clue that it might.

Fifteen years ago, Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld were just starting Family Tree DNA.  They are today the only one of the early testing companies still in business and the only one to offer a full complement of DNA tests for genealogy.  Am I ever thankful for them and their success.

Ten years ago, we thought we had come a long way because we could test males Y chromosomes to 25 or 37 markers and the female line mitochondrial DNA.  I don’t recall whether we were doing full sequence testing yet a decade ago.

Five years ago, autosomal DNA testing had just been introduced and we were ecstatic.  Little did we know it would open the floodgates.

And today, the genetic genealogy world is one I couldn’t even have dreamed of.  I wonder what the next 5 years holds.

Indeed, times have changed dramatically, and for all we’ve lost through the natural processes of life, we’ve gained incredibly.  Not only have we gained new relatives and immediate family through birth and marriage and birth…but we’ve gained the tools to get to know our distant relatives.

By distant, I mean both in terms of miles and ancient.  The new relatives who live distantly we now get to know through social media like Facebook.  One of the ways we find those new relatives is through genealogy and sometimes, DNA testing.  I’ve become very close to some of the people I’ve met through genealogy.

But I also mean distant as in distant or ancient ancestors, my great-great-great-great-great grandfather Estes.  My most distant Estes ancestor was Nicholas Ewstas born in 1495 in Deal, Kent, England.  Today, through the magic of DNA testing, I know what his entire Y chromosome looked like, through his descendants.  I know that many of us today probably share small portions of his autosomal DNA.  I know how to identify his descendants by matching them to his Y chromosome results.  I know where in the world he came from, before Kent.  I know how his ancestors got from Africa to Europe and then to England, at least roughly.

Furthermore, the more people who test, the more direct Y and mtDNA relatives I can find to complete my DNA pedigree chart.  The more I can learn about these distant ancestors, by meeting more of my distant relatives in this lifetime.  The more people who test, the more ancestors available for all of us to find!!!

My biggest regret is that I didn’t know about DNA testing back in the day – that I can’t go back and swab those aunts and uncles.  I wouldn’t make that mistake today.  I now carry swab kits in my purse.  And yes, those of you who know me know I’m dead serious.  I would test all of them for autosomal DNA, Y and mtDNA if those lines had not already been tested and posted publicly for other descendants to find.

Indeed, I am extremely fortunate to find myself living in a time of miracles I didn’t even know enough to hope for.  I am very thankful.

thankful 2



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18 thoughts on “Living the Life You Only Hoped For

  1. I love what you have written. And I love what you do to bring the data to us in more accessible form. Thank you.
    And time has had a way of accelerating with all the new knowledge and gadgets. Who would ever have thought we would have lived in such a rich, almost magical time.

  2. This is a wonderful post.
    I am going to the SLIG Beginning DNA course in January, and I am still someone who has only a loose grip on DNA. But the most astonishing genealogical discovery I have made in 81/2 years of work came from a DNA test–I was able to figure out how that person was related to me and that my father and her grandmother were first cousins (and we are in Minnesota and they were in California but I had met her grandparents there and when they visited here), We met a couple of months after we connected, and she brought scans of a photograph album that her great grandmother, my grandmother’s sister, had created starting in 1900. There was lots of information new to me and photographs of people I could never have dreamed would come into my possession. It was all I could do not to sob.
    I had connected with several relatives in that line and shared the photos. There was quite literally rejoicing throughout the land.
    I am so grateful for what I know and hopeful that I will learn much much more. And so many people in the genealogical community are so kind and generous.

  3. I have an 81 one year old uncle visiting our region for the Thanksgiving Holiday. He’s the last surviving male in my great-grandfather’s lineage. Already a participant in Ancestry’s atDNA program, he’s agreed to also take a male Y-DNA test. We’ll be swabbing his cheek on Saturday. This is going to bring great joy to many female cousins I’ve met through family genealogy research. Think about DNA test results as a treasured heirloom to leave behind to your family. Happy Holidays to all.

    • Each child inherits half of each parent’s autosomal DNA, but not the same half. So each sibling will carry some of their parents DNA that another sibling doesn’t. This means they have different ancestor’s DNA and so different people will match them.

    • I’ve successfully used a male Y-DNA test once before to solve a specific lineage mystery. In this particular case, we’ve hit a roadblock in the lineage of our great-grandfather. Many public records were loss during a tragic fire around the time of his birth. Since male Y-DNA typically follows a particular surname, we’re hoping a male Y-DNA test will provide clues to discover more direct line ancestors, and how they settled in America.

    • More potential matches is another reason to have aunts and uncles take Ancestry’s atDNA test. Ancestry’s atDNA test only lists your matches up to the 10th person in your lineage, or your 7th great-grandparents. Your aunt and uncle’s 10th person is now your 11th person or, your 8th great-grandparents. Since my mother’s been long deceased, her brother has agreed to participate in the testing process. Myself and other family researchers will be forever grateful for my uncle agreeing to be tested. He’s a good egg.

  4. We are very thankful for you and all the research you have done. Today, I am thankful that we met, courtesy of Miss Mary Evelyn Parkey, I believe, many years ago! My life has been enriched from learning about you!

  5. Dear Roberta,  This Thanksgiving I am thankful for your blogs.  I find you the best person to explain in simple terms the complex changing study of DNA.  Keep up the great work you are doing. Bob Bury

  6. I, too, am so thankful for you, Roberta, and your helpful blogs. Life changes, but some parts, at least, are for the better. I’m enjoying my DNA family history hunt, even as I try to get better at organizing all the info I already have. At times I feel I’m drowning in paper! : )

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