Pandemic Journal: The Influence of the Great Depression and How It’s Saving Us Right Now

The metamorphosis is now complete. I swear, I’ve now officially become my mother.

Mom doesn’t just “come out of my mouth” on occasion. No, I’ve become her – well except that I’ll never fit into her literal clothes. In spite of the fact that fudge was mother’s favorite food and she believed religiously in first, second and third dessert, she was rail thin. How is this fair?

My mother was a child of the “Great Depression,” except the only thing “great” about the Depression was its decade-long duration. Beginning with a stock market plummet in October of 1929, drought followed in 1930 throughout the agricultural heartland of America. Investors lost everything, jobs disappeared, farms were repossessed, banks failed and closed and people were terrified, with reason.

Depression migrant woman.jpg

This iconic 1936 photo taken by Dorothea Lange titled Migrant Mother shows a destitute pea picker in California. Florence Owens Thompson, age 32, mother of 7, hungry, dirty and not knowing where their next meal would come from represented the greatest fear that haunted all Americans. For many, it wasn’t just a fear, it was all too real.

The economic downturn which became the Depression began in the US, eventually encircling the globe. The Depression didn’t ease until the late 1930s and then was promptly followed by WWII which ushered in a slew of deprivations of its own including rationing.

1943 rationing poster

Mother was born in 1922 in a crossroads town in northern Indiana. She was all of 7 years old when the Depression hit. She, of course, couldn’t and wouldn’t understand all of the underpinnings. What she was acutely aware of was that her father lost the hardware business, her mother’s job, such as it was, was the only thing that stood between her family and abject poverty. Income was critically affected, almost non-existent, without enough for even essentials. Mom’s maternal grandmother, Eva Miller Ferverda, loaned her son, John Ferverda, money and forgave the debt upon her death in 1939.

To make matters worse, mother was critically in during that time with Rheumatic Fever. Her father and grandmother cared for her while her mother worked. There was just no other choice.

Money was tight, very tight – but unlike so many others, they did not lose their home, thanks primarily to Mom’s paternal grandmother. Mom and her parents didn’t live on a farm, but on the very edge of a small town, not even large enough for a stop light. The town stretched a couple blocks in either direction from the main crossroads of two state highways. Businesses consisted of my grandfather’s hardware store, before that business closed, and the Ford dealership which sold both vehicles and tractors. Mom’s father, John Ferverda, worked there after he lost the hardware store, until there were no sales so no need for a salesman.

I don’t think mother realized how much the Depression influenced her childhood and formed many of her personality traits. In turn, she passed them on to me – although I’ve struggled to break some of those ingrained habits for years. This past month, or really just the past couple of weeks, they’ve come roaring back with a vengeance – apparently having been lurking just below the surface.

Some of these “quirky behaviors” are actually quite useful. Others make me smile with nearly-forgotten memories. Perhaps you carry some of these hidden depression-era traits too.

Before Recycling Was a Thing

In the 1930s, there wasn’t “disposable” anything. Throwing something away was simply wasteful, heresy, and it was never, ever done – not until its original purpose and a few repurposed lives had been completed and there was literally, nothing left at all that was salvageable. Then, and only then, could it be thrown away. By then, “it” was unrecognizable.

Let’s take bread wrappers, for example – the disposable plastic bread bags that we take for granted today, throwing them away without even thinking, although I always have a twinge of guilt. That never happened at my house when I was growing up. We routinely saved plastic bread bags and reused them for storage.

When we had too many, Mom would crochet them into a rug to pad the floor standing at the kitchen sink or the ironing board. One year, Mom even found a pattern to crochet a Christmas wreath from bread bags. I kid you not.

This recycling before that word was even invented was normal in our house.

We seldom got new clothes. Most of our clothes were hand-me-downs from either someone directly or a second-hand store of some sort. Being gifted with new old clothes was wonderful and nothing to be ashamed of! After we initially acquired the clothes, they were “taken in” or “let out” to fit a child as they grew or were passed to another child in the family. The sign of a great piece of clothing was a HUGE SEAM ALLOWANCE.

When grocery items began to be sold in glass jars, those were never thrown away either. Jars sufficed for everything. In fact, I still have a glass jar upstairs with “old silverware” in it that belonged to Mom, and perhaps to her mother too. You never threw anything away because not only was it wasteful and irresponsible, you truly never knew when you or someone else would need that item. During the Depression, and after, you simply found a way to make do with what you had.

During that time, chickens, wild berry bushes and a large vegetable garden saved the family. Mother cleaned the chickens that were butchered and sold. She was paid a nickel for each clean chicken. For the entire rest of her life, she pretty much hated chicken, except for fried chicken, and she utterly despised cleaning the chicken. I think she viewed them as her murdered friends and not a commodity food source. I inherited that soft-hearted worldview too.

However, during the Depression, you ate whatever you were fortunate enough to have. Period. There was no expectation that you would actually LIKE what was served – that was a benefit. Today when I see kids refusing to eat something, I think to myself, “you have never truly been hungry.” That’s the blessing of course, as is having food at all.

At home, after clothes could no longer be salvaged and made into anything else, they were deposited into the “rag bag,” a coarse brown bag fashioned from rough upholstery material salvaged from an old couch. The rag bag hung on a hook on a door in the closet that led to the attic. Rags were quite useful – for cleaning, for turbans around your hair from time to time – and also to crochet into rugs. Yes, Mom made just about everything into rugs. It was the last salvage of the nearly unsalvageable.

If there was any cotton fabric in the rag bag that wasn’t entirely threadbare and had any color left in the fibers at all, it was a candidate to be used in a quilt. You could always tell the quilts from wealthier, meaning not poor, families because their quilts were actually planned with matching fabrics. Not ours. We had scrap quilts, made by patching things together, which I always loved and continue to love to this day. Scrap quilts are a storybook of history and we always talked about the “life story” of the piece of fabric we were sewing – the pieces of clothing the fabric used to be, who wore it, how it wound up in the rag bag and so forth. Some of those fabrics were decades and literally generations old. How I wish I had written those stories down – but they didn’t seem remarkable at the time. Everyone had a rag bag. We were just making small talk, after all.

Handkerchief quilt.jpg

This quilt, made originally during the Depression by my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch, used on my grandmother and then mother’s bed, has been patched now using my grandmother’s handkerchiefs. It had literal holes, but the thought of cutting that quilt traumatized my kids, so like my ancestors, I found a way to preserve it, one more time. By the time one of my granddaughters inherits it, such as it is, it will be connected through 6 generations over more than a century.

Depression Culture

The Depression wasn’t just a defining event, it formed the culture in which my mother grew up. Frugality was ingrained by some combination of fear and guilt-induced obligation.

Eventually, I inherited the rag bag and used the items in that bag, along with the rag rugs, the bread bag Christmas wreath which eventually deteriorated and fell apart, along with decades worth of glass jars and things too “good” to throw away or pass on to someone else just yet. Of course, part of the “problem” was that as the economy improved, the need to obtain hand-me-down items from someone else to “set up housekeeping” was greatly diminished. Looking back, I’m not convinced that was a good thing, because I still have items from my mother and grandmother’s houses gifted to me when I moved to my first apartment. They aren’t “used,” simply accepted as second rate undesirables, but were and are cherished treasures infused with memories of a time, place and people long gone now.

You can take the child out of the Depression, but you can never take the Depression out of the child.

Those behaviors become generational. If you are the child of someone who lived through the Depression, I’m sure you have stories of your own just like these.

And just like me, those legendary stories might all have come rushing back during these past couple of weeks.

I used to think to myself when Mom did one of her “Depression Era” things that I understood. While I understood the genesis of the behavior, never until these past few weeks did I understand the fear that accompanied the scarcity and subsequent rationing that occurred during WWII.

The Depression hit Mom’s family with the same suddenness that the pandemic has struck our generation. We don’t know, as they didn’t know, what’s coming. How bad is bad? What businesses will be left? What will happen to all of those people? Can we hold on? For how long? How will we eat?

And what about toilet paper?

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper at that time consisted of the Sears catalog located strategically in the outhouse. I’m beginning to size up the different kinds of junk mail for “texture.” Obviously, something glossy isn’t good and neither is stiff and crunchy. Thank goodness I saved those old phone books – they look just about right! Mother would be proud!

Just 14 weeks ago, when this pandemic was still an illness in China that no one had heard about anyplace else in the world, my husband and I were leaving for a trip to Australia and New Zealand in the midst of their searing heat and bush fires. We purchased and took 4 boxes of face masks with us to protect ourselves from the smoke. We opened one box and put a couple of masks in our backpacks, but we never used any of them. I wanted to bring the masks home, because I am my mother’s daughter and we might need them someday.

However, I had purchased fabric and my bag was both full and heavy. My husband convinced me to leave the masks in the cabin. I told myself that the crew might need them to protect themselves from the bush fire smoke. I certainly hope someone got some use out of them and they didn’t just get thrown away. It pains me to even think about that – especially NOW that I desperately want those face masks.

Do you know how valuable 4 boxes of face masks would be? Not just monetarily, but for the medical professionals and others. It’s amazing now how valuable TP and face masks have become. We would have been RICH!

Mom’s vindicated. I’m vindicated. My husband is wearing a cloth mask instead of a stylish blue paper mask that we left behind😊 – and hopefully a crew member someplace is safer for those masks.

Ironically, I’m not sweating TP, because as a result of being raised by a Depression Era mother, I have years worth of lone socks that, in a pinch, will suffice as TP sock-mits. Just wipe and deposit in the washing machine. And NO, you cannot JUST THROW THEM AWAY, because you have no idea how long you might need them.

Before saying “ewwww” too loudly, remember when we used cloth diapers on babies because pampers didn’t yet exist? We washed those diapers every day and thought nothing of it.

I’ve also stopped using paper towels because who knows how long they will be manufactured. We might need paper towels for TP, you know, before we break out those orphan socks that I knew, just knew, I’d find a use for eventually if I just kept them long enough.

Soon enough, lone stray socks will be just as valuable as TP. Find yours now wherever they’ve been congregating for years, waiting for their new purpose in life redeployed as TP sock-warriors.

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

I’ve been sorting through things in the closets and put several items with rips in a bag in the laundry room already, but I’m trying NOT to call it a rag bag. I may last another day or two before I give in on that one.

Of course, jeans with rips are quite popular right now, so I’m wearing those again and am now quite the fashionista:) I even patched one of the jeans, strategically, with matching fabric from a face mask. A coordinated pandemic outfit! Everyone is going to want one!

Not only that, but I’ve sewn phone pockets onto my PJs and leggings. I’m referring to them as holsters for face-mask sewing warriors instead of PJ pockets. It’s all in perspective and marketing, right???

Phone Holster.jpg

Mother and grandmother would BOTH be so proud, I’m telling you.

But that’s not all…

Food

Another thing that has changed immensely in the last month is food.

Everyone likes to eat. My grandmother worked first for a chicken hatchery and then for the welfare office. In both cases, unlike other women of her era, she was not “at home” to cook, so she relied heavily on meals she would either make in advance or quickly in the evening.

I’m not quite sure why my grandfather didn’t cook when he wasn’t working during the Depression, but he didn’t and neither did my uncle. Back then, cooking was probably considered woman’s work. Mom began cooking as soon as she could reach the stove even though she was the youngest family member.

All things considered, it’s no wonder my grandmother was perpetually exasperated. Her husband lost the hardware store through no fault of his own, they were in debt, he next lost a sales job at the Ford dealership. She worked to support the entire family, AND performed all of the traditional “woman’s work” too.

No wonder she was chronically unhappy. While it wasn’t anyone’s “fault,” per se, it was still a fact that these unfortunate events had happened and for a decade, followed by a war, there was no way out except for sheer perseverance. That economic situation lasted for 15 or 16 years in total, almost a full generation – by which time my mother was grown, married and my brother had been born.

depression cookbook.jpg

One of the favorite things that churchwomen did to liven up mealtime and to raise money for the church and charities was to publish a church cookbook.

Depression cookbook church.jpg

True to form, the Methodist Church where my grandparents lived published a book in 1953 or 1954, and my grandmother is represented.

Depression fudge.jpg

I think I might have found the source of my Mom’s favorite fudge!

Unlike the other women who contributed their “best recipe,” probably determined by how quickly it disappeared at pot-lucks or funeral lunches at the church – my grandmother’s recipe was how to make something called “Master Mix.”

Depression master mix

click recipe pages to enlarge

Think of this as an early form of Bisquick which you made up in advance, dry, and used it as the base to make several dishes such as cookies, dumplings, pudding, griddle cakes and waffles.

Depression master mix 2.jpg

All of a sudden, we too are suddenly stuck at home, without necessarily ready access to a grocery store – and if we can visit, they may likely be out of a large number of items.

We’re consigned to a type of “food challenge” which could reasonably be called Pandemic Cooking. You use whatever you have available, forgotten in the far corners of your pantry, and find some way to create something that results in an edible dish.

Everyone is getting quite creative.

I though it would be interesting to take a look at that cookbook published before I was born to see what my grandmother contributed. Hey, maybe something looks good. That cookbook was published before the days of exact measurements, which lends itself very well to “make do” cooking.

Next, I checked Mom’s recipe box where I knew goodies lurked.

Mom’s Recipe Box

Like all women of Mom’s generation, she had a recipe box that was a virtual goldmine of wonderful comfort-food with many recipes, finally committed to cards, that had been passed down for generations. Most of the time, Mom didn’t even have to look at the recipe when making our favorite dishes. Both of us knew that fudge recipe by heart, I guarantee.

There are references throughout my mother’s recipe box to a “pinch of” something and instructions to work the dough “until it feels right.” I learned to cook this way and always have – much to Jim’s chagrin.

“How much of that did you put in?”

“I don’t know, enough but not too much. Till it looks right.”

Yep, I’m my mother’s daughter alright.

The transition to mother’s double seems to be complete, because I pulled a spaghetti sauce jar out of the trash earlier this week and washed it, thinking “we might need this.” You never know what might happen and how long the ramifications of the pandemic might last. Who knows, spaghetti jars might be just as valuable for barter as TP one day.

The good news is that there’s only one bread bag in the house right now, and it’s holding bread. At least presently. Plus, I can’t crochet. There’s that. Don’t ask how I know, but you can’t use bread bags in quilts. (If you figure out how, please, just don’t tell me – OK?!)

I am however, jealously saving even the smallest scraps of fabric from making protective facial masks for medical workers because I might need those remnants for a scrap quilt.

Now, if I can just find the lids to all of the orphan Tupperware, or is that too much to ask?

Throwback Cooking and You!

You’re probably finding yourself in the process of attempting to cook with whatever you have on hand too. You may discover items in the back of the pantry that are older than your children.

Mom, like her mother, worked her entire life – so her recipe box also contained a plethora of yummy recipes, many of which were also quick. Most of Mom’s recipes, however, cater to her sweet tooth. It wasn’t until I was digitizing and creating an index that I realized that the recipes for chocolate and sweets far, far outnumbered everything else – put together.

Don’t believe me – check it out for yourself by clicking on the link below to download a cookbook of sorts that I created from Mom’s Recipe Box. Please download and enjoy.

Mother’s Recipe Box

A few years ago, for a family Christmas gift, I scanned the recipes in Mom’s recipe box. Perhaps you’ll find some new recipes to try, or a dish that perhaps you’ll recognize from a long-ago church carry-in.

If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find some comfort food from your childhood that you’ve forgotten about and you’ll have almost everything to make it!

Or, try Mom’s fudge!

Let me know if you find something fun here, or share a story.

By the time we exit out the other side of this pandemic, we’ll be cooking like our mothers and grandmothers, using whatever is on hand, not following any recipe exactly and “seasoning to taste.” 😊

Maybe this is a good time to scan your family recipes and document your memories. Seeing your ancestor’s handwriting and connecting with them as they survived trying times might just help you feel better.

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Johann Jakob Lenz (1712-1793), Grenadier & Captain of the Roman Company – 52 Ancestors #279

Johann Jakob Lenz was born in Beutelsbach, Germany among the vineyards on Saturday, July 25, 1712 to Johann Georg Lenz and Sibilla Muller.

Johann Jakob b 1712 crop.jpg

Baptism:

Born 25 July and baptized same day

Parents: Joh. Georg Lentz & Sibylla, wife.

Child: Johann Jacob

Godparents:

1. Joh. Jacob Hahn, barber

2. Joh. Jacob Schmid

3. Maria Margaretha, wife of Joh. Jacob Schwartz(en).

It’s interesting that he was baptized the same day he was born. It might just have been convenient or easy to do, or, the baby might have been weak or considered at risk.

Unlike other Lenz men for generations, he is not referred to as a weingartner, or vine tender in the vineyard. Instead, he appears to be a captain of the Roman Company – a military man.

Johann Jakob died in Beutelsbach on March 8, 1793 at 81 years of age – quite a remarkable achievement before the days of modern medicine.

Jakob Lenz family report.png

We find information about Johann Jakob Lentz in the Beutelsbach local heritage book, here.

Martin Goll, local historian, reports additional information in the notes, as follows:

Bemerkungen:(notes)
Kann lesen und schreiben. Hat ettlich Jahr lang allhier und in Stetten gedient. Ist 1734 in die Außwahl als Grendadier kommen. Hat sich 1742 losgekauft.
Todesursache: Halsentzündung
Ehebuch:
Gefreyter und hrn. Hauptmann von Roman Compagnie. Hat seinen Trauschein von Herrn Obrist Lieutenat Pentz vorgezeigt, welcher von dem Herrn Specialis von Schorndorf durch mich geschickt worden, darauf er die Conzesion zur Copulation erteilt.

Auto-translated to English by Deepl, they read:

Comments: (notes)
Can read and write. Served here and in Stetten for several years. Was elected grenadier in 1734. Bought himself out in 1742.

Cause of death: throat inflammation.

Marriage book: Corporal of Herr Captain of Roman Compagnie. Has shown his marriage certificate from Lieutenant Colonel Pentz, who was sent by the Specialis von Schorndorf through me, after which he gives the permission to marry.

Does this suggest that perhaps Johann Jakob was serving elsewhere and had to return home to marry?

What is a Grenadier?

According to this research, grenadiers were elite assault troops chosen for being the most physically powerful soldiers and would lead assaults in the field of battle. Grenadiers would also often lead the storming of fortification breaches in siege warfare.

A drawing, here, shows a grenadier from Upper Saxony in 1734. Johann Jakob may have looked much like this in uniform. Perhaps Catharina found him to be quite handsome! She wouldn’t be the first young woman to be smitten by a man in uniform.

Jakob Lenz grenadier.jpg

This painting shows Prussian Grenadiers with mitre hats advancing on foot during the Battle of Hohenfriedberg in 1745, just three years after Johann Jakob “bought himself out.”

Jakob Lenz mitre cap.jpg

The grenadiers were distinguished from other soldiers by their distinctive headgear, mitre caps, the ones above being from Prussia.

It appears that Johann Jakob served in the military for at least 8 years, and probably longer. He was elected to grenadier in 1734, which means that he was already serving. Born in 1712, he would have been 22 by that time. I wish there were German military records or some way to discover what he was doing during those years, and where.

A timeline of Germany history shows that there was no warfare from 1716 to 1740. In December 1740 the Prussian King Frederick the Great issued an ultimatum to Austria demanding the cession of Silesia and a week later, Prussia invaded Silesia beginning the Silesian Wars.

Beutelsbach was part of Wurttemburg, the Holy Roman Empire, which was apparently not directly involved in the Prussian invasion of Silesia. However, assuredly, soldiers were militarized with war so close to their borders, ever vigilant, if not more.

Johann Jakob apparently “bought himself out” in 1742, perhaps before the treaty was signed in July. I was unable to discover information about how German soldiers “bought themselves out” of military service, which suggests perhaps that he was serving either mandatory service or maybe he had signed a contract of some sort. Or maybe “bought himself out” means something else entirely, like bought himself out of that specific position.

Regardless, what we can take away from this is that he was a large, strong man, based on the fact that he was elected as a grenadier.

Ironic that a tough soldier died of “throat inflammation.” I suspect that throat inflammation or sore throat was actually something else. One did not simply die of a sore throat, so perhaps his final illness included a sore throat which could have been a strep infection that evolved into something much more serious.

Johann Jakob couldn’t have been stationed too far away in the military, because he married his first wife, Catharina Beerwarth, on April 25, 1741. Catharina was from his hometown, Beutelsbach.

Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last long.

Johann Jakob Becomes a Widower

Johann Jakob married his first wife Catharina Beerwarth while he was still in the military service. They had one son Johann Jacob Lenz who was born August 25, 1742, 16 months after they were married. This child died a few days later, on September 2, 1742. It was also in 1742 that Johann Jakob “bought himself” out of the military. Was Catharina experiencing problems during the pregnancy that eventually took the life of their child, and then her own life as well?

Catharina was born October 24, 1708 and died four months after her child, on January 16, 1743, of steckfluss which translates to either pneumonia or bronchitis. It was the middle of winter.

Catharina’s mother was Katharina Lenz born in 1675 in Schnait, the neighbor village, daughter of Caspar Lenz and Anna Maria Baur, so she and Johann Jakob were very probably related in some fashion, although it may have been several generations earlier, assuming they were only related on one line, which isn’t a safe assumption at all in these small, intermarried, villages where residents had lived for countless centuries.

Johann Jakob Remarries

Johann Jakob’s second wife was Katharina Haag, born April 25, 1716 in Heiningen to Jorg Haag and Anna Hofschneider.

Katharina and Johann Jakob Lenz were married on November 2, 1744 (corrected to 1743) in Heiningen where she lived with her parents. Katherine was 27 when she married, had never been married before and had always lived with her parents, according to Martin Goll’s notes. Interestingly,  another note reveals that she had endured a 6 weeks long headache, which causes me to wonder about closed head injuries as well as either meningitis, meningismus or encephalitis – all diseases or injuries which would cause a severe protracted headache.

Jakob Lenz Heiningen.png

Heiningen was not close to Beutelsbach. In fact, it was some 20 miles away. Twenty miles today is a quick trip in the car, but 20 miles then required a horse or a mule, both in short supply, or a very long walk – roughly 7 hours at 3 miles per walking hour, assuming flat terrain.

Johann Jakob would have had to have the opportunity to meet, court and get to know Katharina.

That distance might help explain why their first child was born three months or so before they were married. It’s also possible that one of the years recorded is incorrect.

Katharina would have gotten pregnant about November 6, 1743, roughly 10 months after Johann Jakob’s first wife had died. Did he visit Heiningen in November 1743 and not know that Katharina was pregnant? I’m sure there is more to this nearly 300-year-old story, and I surely would love to know what it is.

Update note: Indeed, there was more to the story – a transcription error. Nothing nearly as exotic as my theory. My friend, Chris, checked the original marriage record that I can’t publish due to restrictions by Archion.de, and discovered that the marriage actually look place on November 12, 1743 and their child, Anna was born on July 30, 1744. Mystery solved!

I also wonder if the reason it was noted that Katharina had always lived with her parents is that perhaps she had some residual issues due to the cause of the extended headache. Both of those facts seem so odd to note, especially in combination, making me wonder if they are provided as a subtle explanation for something.

Katharina and Johann Jakob only had 4 children, which too is unusual. Adding to the mystery, their first child, Anna is noted as having been born in Beutelsbach, but if Katharina and Johann Jacob weren’t married, Katharina certainly wasn’t living with him at the time and her parents were living 20 miles away. Another note in the records stated that she had always lived with her parents. Of course, the note regarding where Anna was born could simply be wrong, too.

  1. Anna Lenz born July 30, 1744, died January 31, 1810.
  2. Johann Georg Lenz born Sept 27, 1745 died June 3 1834
  3. Jakob Lenz born February 1, 1748, died July 2, 1821 (my ancestor)
  4. Georg Friedrich Lenz born January 13, 1750

Katharina’s last child was born when she was 34 years old, but she did not die until 1791, 41 years later, two years before Johann Jakob passed over.

We don’t know where Johann Jakob and Katharina are buried, although it was almost assuredly in the Beutelsbach Protestant church’s churchyard, probably only a few steps away from their home where lived their entire married life.

Jakob Lenz Beutelsbach church.png

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Pandemic Journal: “Rosie the Mask Crafter” & Conquering Fear

As we look back, from our privileged position today in a safe home doing genealogy, we think that participating in a historic event or time might have been fun. Exhilarating or exciting, perhaps, or both.

When you’re in that historical moment where life changes in the blink of an eye, as we are today, and you don’t know who will see the other side, or what the other side looks like, it’s not fun or exciting in a good way. It’s flat out terrifying.

Our Ancestors Did It

We are doing today what our ancestors did before us. We are persevering and putting one foot in front of the other, doing what we can with what we have in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. They were resourceful, and so are we.

Bravery is not the absence of fear, it’s working through the fear, in spite of fear and doing something productive. Sometimes that “something” becomes our legacy.

It’s Your Turn

As one of the army of mask-makers isolated in her home says, “It’s up to me to be the history maker. Our lives are a culmination of the choices we make and the chances we take.”

That woman, still anonymous, is now and will be forevermore known simply as “Rosie, the Mask Crafter.”

Pandemic Rosie.png

An entire army of sewists, many of them quilters, are sewing masks, every day, all day, coordinating requests, delivering supplies and completed masks where they are needed across the country. The dozens made in our homes added together combine into rivers of hundreds that become thousands and then tens of thousands, but the need never abates.

Still, we cut and sew and pick up and deliver, day and night, and we will until either the virus is defeated, or the manufacturing industry can ramp up enough to meet the demand.

Thousands of us are members of social media coordination efforts that sprang up overnight to answer the call. Not only can we save others by staying home, we can help to protect our brave front line fighters in this war to the death – our health care providers who never signed up to fight battles. Yet, there they are every single day, trying to save us and themselves in a war zone that has been transformed from something that seemed perfectly normal just a couple weeks ago to a Hell scene straight from the apocalypse.

Someone posted “Rosie the Mask Crafter’s” picture, iconically posing by her sewing machine, a pandemic version of Rosie the Riveter who represents an entire generation of women who stepped up in 1943 during WWII to fill the manufacturing void.

Pandemic Rosie Riveter

Thank you to “Rosie” for permission to use her photo.

Then, a couple days later, this…from group member, professional artist, Camilla Webster:

Thank you to the member who shared a photo of “Rosie, The Mask Crafter.”

I painted her today for all of you in memory of my friend Maria who passed away this weekend of COVID-19.

Keep up the great work!

I salute all of you! ❤️✨🙌

Pandemic Rosie painting

Rosie, The Mask Crafter, Copyright @ Camilla Webster Inc 2020 ❤️ – Thank you to Camilla for permission to use her painting.

I have to tell you, when you know someone who is sick or dies from this monster, this gets real – real fast. When your friend’s spouse is a doctor or nurse ON the Covid floor, doesn’t have enough PPE and they ask you for help protecting their loved one – it gets real, very real in a heartbeat. Just like it did for Camilla when her friend died.

Suddenly, you’re not sewing, you’re driving your tank through the night to create the defenses our medical warriors need so the masks can be overnighted the next morning. They are the front lines, but we have their backs as much as possible. If they can do that, we can certainly do this from the safety of our seclusion – a luxury they aren’t afforded.

And on and on we sew – as the streams of sirens scream, delivering the flood of critically ill people to hospitals across our nation as city after city becomes overwhelmed.

You May Need Masks for Your Family – You Can Do This!!

If you are willing to make masks for front line medical workers or others in need, such as nurses aids, public servants or other essential workers, there are numerous groups on social media coordinating by state and county. Search for terms like “mask” or “face mask warriors.” Call your local quilt shops, hospitals, police department, sheriff or EMS facilities to see if they are aware of local need in places like nursing homes or medical offices.

I’ve provided the pattern I use here, along with pictures of how I’m making the masks.

As the pandemic worsens, it appears that the CDC may recommend wearing face masks when we go out in public, not only to prevent picking up the virus, but from spreading it if we are infected but not symptomatic. Even if you’re not sewing for donation, you may want to make some for your own family. Men are sewing just same as women – everyone can do this, even if you’ve never sewn before.

The frightening thing is, we are nowhere near the peak yet. So, I want to share something else with you today.

It’s OK to Be Afraid

It’s alright to be afraid.

I posted a link to the article, The Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief on my Facebook page. I’ve tried very hard to stay positive, but that’s not always possible, especially since I have family on that front line.

I feel like this isn’t just a temporary situation, but a fundamental change – a paradigm shift in life as we know it. Not only do we not know who will be on the other side, we don’t know what “the other side” looks like.

After I posted the link, I discovered that two of my cousins expressed their feelings. One said she is angry, and one said she is afraid. We discussed this, together, and a few more people chimed in. It felt good to share what we are all feeling and admit that we can’t be cheerful and upbeat all of the time. It was comforting to know we are not alone and that yes, we are grieving.

This situation exacerbates other life events that are already saddening – like deaths of family and pets when we can’t travel, and funerals that can’t happen at all. It isolates us when we most need to be together and hug our family – but we can’t. We risk their very lives, and others, if we don’t continue to isolate. This is particularly difficult when dealing with the critically ill, knowing we may not see them again and we’re missing our last opportunity, or when dealing with elderly or other people who can’t understand WHY we’re not there.

We don’t always, always have to put on the smiling face, the mask of our own that says, “it’s going to be alright,” because truthfully, we don’t know whether it will be or not. Yet, we all say that to each other as reassurance, a form of whistling while walking past the cemetery in the dark.

But here’s the thing. I don’t know if I’ll survive this, or if all of my family will – but I have a choice today. I’m inconvenienced and afraid, but I’m also able to fight and I promise you, I will fight until my dying breath whether it’s sooner or later. By making masks, by still doing for others as I can, by teaching and writing these articles, by honoring my ancestors and by fighting for those who desperately need help, both human and animal – I will fight on.

I may be frightened, but I’m not down and I’m not out – and I’m trying to make sure others aren’t either. I’m absolutely determined, committed and steadfast in my perseverance – even if we are all whistling while walking in the dark. Keep on walking, one step at a time! We are walking together – virtually – if not in person.

Five Things

If you’re not sewing masks, and even those of us who are can’t do that 24X7, here are 5 things you can do that will distract you and lift your spirits.

  1. The VGA (Virtual Genealogy Association) Entertainment Show free video is here, minus the music which had to be removed because it might have been a copyright violation to play or sing those songs.
  2. Legacy Family Tree Webinars is having a free genealogy webinar every single day in the month of April, here or you can subscribe for free unlimited access to everything, here.
  3. MyHeritage is making the photo colorization tool free, here, and all US census records are free here or you can try a free trial subscription to all the records, here. DNA tests are also on sale for $39, here.
  4. If you’ve DNA tested at any of the companies and contacted people in the past who haven’t answered, now’s a great time to check for new matches (don’t forget Y and mitochondrial DNA) and reach out because many people are safely tucked away at home. What better time to do some genealogy and reach out to others?
  5. Here’s a list of free educational videos and more than half a million National Archives records that you can use if you’re schooling your children at home, or maybe you’re interested yourself. Wait, you could assign genealogy research as homework! YES! Now THAT, that is a silver lining!

Stay “Rosie Strong.” You got this!

Pandemic Rosie strong.jpg

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Triangulation in Action at DNAPainter

Recently, I published the article, Hitting a Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters. The “Home Run” article explains why you want to use a chromosome browser, what you’re seeing and what it means to you.

This article, and the rest in the “Triangulation in Action” series introduces triangulation at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, GedMatch and DNAPainter, explaining how to use triangulation to confirm descent from a common ancestor. You may want to read the introductory article first.

This first section, “What is Triangulation” is a generic tutorial. If you don’t need the tutorial, skip to the “Transfers” or “Triangulation at DNAPainter” section.

What is Triangulation?

Think of triangulation as a three-legged stool – a triangle. Triangulation requires three things:

  1. At least three (not closely related) people must match
  2. On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA and
  3. Descend from a common ancestor

Triangulation is the foundation of confirming descent from a common ancestor, and thereby assigning a specific segment to that ancestor. Without triangulation, you might just have a match to someone else by chance. You can confirm mathematical triangulation, numbers 1 and 2, above, without knowing the identity of the common ancestor.

Reasonably sized segments are generally considered to be 7cM or above on chromosomes 1-22 and 15cM or above for the X chromosome.

Boundaries

Triangulation means that all three, or more, people much match on a common segment. However, what you’re likely to see is that some people don’t match on the entire segment, meaning more or less than others as demonstrated in the following examples.

FTDNA Triangulation boundaries

You can see that I match 5 different cousins who I know descend from my father’s side on chromosome 15 above. “I” am the grey background against which everyone else is being compared.

I triangulate with these matches in different ways, forming multiple triangulation groups that I’ve discussed individually, below.

Triangulation Group 1

FTDNA triangulation 1

Group 1 – On the left group of matches, above, I triangulate with the blue, red and orange person on the amount of DNA that is common between all of them, shown in the black box. This is triangulation group 1.

Triangulation Group 2

FTDNA triangulation 2

Group 2 – However, if you look just at the blue and orange triangulated matches bracketed in green, I triangulate on slightly more. This group excludes the red person because their beginning point is not the same, or even close. This is triangulation group 2.

Triangulation Group 3 and 4

FTDNA triang 3

Group 3 – In the right group of matches, there are two large triangulation groups. Triangulation group 3 includes the common portions of blue, red, teal and orange matches.

Group 4 – Triangulation group 4 is the skinny group at right and includes the common portion of the blue, teal and dark blue matches.

Triangulation Groups 5 and 6

FTDNA triang 5

Group 5 – There are also two more triangulation groups. The larger green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal people because their end locations are to the right of the end locations of the red and orange matches. This is triangulation group 5.

Group 6 – The smaller green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal person because their start locations are before the dark blue person. This is triangulation group 6.

There’s actually one more triangulation group. Can you see it?

Triangulation Group 7

FTDNA triang 7

Group 7 – The tan group includes the red, teal and orange matches but only the areas where they all overlap. This excludes the top blue match because their start location is different. Triangulation group 7 only extends to the end of the red and orange matches, because those are the same locations, while the teal match extends further to the right. That extension is excluded, of course.

Slight Variations

Matches with only slight start and end differences are probably descended from the same ancestor, but we can’t say that for sure (at this point) so we only include actual mathematically matching segments in a triangulation group.

You can see that triangulation groups often overlap because group members share more or less DNA with each other. Normally we don’t bother to number the groups – we just look at the alignment. I numbered them for illustration purposes.

Shared or In-Common-With Matching

Triangulation is not the same thing as a 3-way shared “in-common-with” match. You may share DNA with those two people, but on entirely different segments from entirely different ancestors. If those other two people match each other, it can be on a segment where you don’t match either of them, and thanks to an ancestor that they share who isn’t in your line at all. Shared matches are a great hint, especially in addition to other information, but shared matches don’t necessarily mean triangulation although it’s a great place to start looking.

I have shared matches where I match one person on my maternal side, one on my paternal side, and they match each other through a completely different ancestor on an entirely different segment. However, we don’t triangulate because we don’t all match each other on the SAME segment of DNA. Yes, it can be confusing.

Just remember, each of your segments, and matches, has its own individual history.

Imputation Can Affect Matching

Over the years the chips on which our DNA is processed at the vendors have changed. Each new generation of chips tests a different number of markers, and sometimes different markers – with the overlaps between the entire suite of chips being less than optimal.

I can verify that most vendors use imputation to level the playing field, and even though two vendors have never verified that fact, I’m relatively certain that they all do. That’s the only way they could match to their own prior “only somewhat compatible” chip versions.

The net-net of this is that you may see some differences in matching segments at different vendors, even when you’re comparing the same people. Imputation generally “fills in the blanks,” but doesn’t create large swatches of non-existent DNA. I wrote about the concept of imputation here.

What I’d like for you to take away from this discussion is to be focused on the big picture – if and how people triangulate which is the function important to genealogy. Not if the start and end segments are exactly the same.

Triangulation Solutions

All vendors except Ancestry offer some type of triangulation.

If you and your Ancestry matches have uploaded to GedMatch, Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, you can triangulate with them there. Otherwise, you can’t triangulate Ancestry results, so encourage your Ancestry matches to transfer.

I wrote more specifically about triangulation here and here.

Transfer your results in order to obtain the maximum number of matches possible. Every vendor has people in their data base that haven’t tested elsewhere.

Transfers

Have you tested family members, especially everyone in the older generations? You can transfer their kits from Ancestry or 23andMe if they’ve tested there to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch.

Here’s how to transfer:

Now that we’ve reviewed triangulation at each vendor; FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe and GedMatch, let’s looking at utilizing triangulation at DNAPainter.

Triangulation at DNAPainter

Once you identify your ancestral segments with matches, or using triangulation, you can paint them on your maternal or paternal chromosomes utilizing DNAPainter.

The great aspect of DNAPainter is that you don’t have to triangulate in order to use DNAPainter. Just identifying matches as maternal or paternal allows you to visually see where on your maternal or paternal chromosomes your matches fall, in essence triangulating groups for you.

DNAPainter assigns colors to each ancestor and shows your match names, which I’ve disabled in this example for privacy. I’ve also optionally painted my ethnicity segments from 23andMe, which I discussed in this article.

Triangulation DNAPainter chr 22.png

Above, on chromosome 22, I’ve painted matches that I know descend from either my mother’s (pink) or father’s (blue) side. At DNAPainter, I DO have both a maternal and paternal chromosome, but they are only useful AFTER I figure out which side of my family a match comes from, or if I paint my Family Matching bucketed maternal and paternal matches in an upload file from Family Tree DNA. I wrote instructions for how to do that, here. The combination of Family Matching and DNAPainter is awesome!

Looking at the graphic above, I know that three separate people who match me descend from the bright pink ancestor on my maternal chromosome; Curtis Lore and his wife. I’ve assigned Curtis the bright pink color, and now every match that I paint assigned to Curtis and his wife is colored pink.

One person descends from Curtis’s parents, Anthony Lore and his wife Rachel Hill who I’ve assigned as green.

Until someone else matches me and descends either from Anthony Lore’s parents or Rachel Hill’s parents on this green segment, I won’t know which of those two ancestors, or both, provided (pieces of) that segment to me.

Anthony Lore and Rachel Hill are my great-great-grandparents and Curtis Lore is their son. Even if I only have 2 matches on this segment, one pink and one green, I would know that the green portion of my maternal chromosome 22 is attributed to Anthony and Rachel which means I inherited that green segment from my pink ancestor, Curtis Lore.

In order to determine the source of the two pink triangulated matches at far right, I’ll need to wait until someone from either Curtis’s line or his wife Nora Kirsch’s line match me on that same segment.

We build these groups of triangulated segments slowly, creating in essence a timeline on our chromosomes. It seems like it’s taking forever, but four generations distance with 2 separate triangulated segments really isn’t bad at all!

At DNAPainter, triangulation is as simple as painting your identified matches, either individually, one by one, or using the group import features. I would only recommend utilizing that feature at Family Tree DNA where their Family Matching software divides your matches into maternal and paternal, allowing DNAPainter to paint them on the correct chromosome. Otherwise, the segments are painted, but you can’t tell which side, maternal or paternal, they come from, so I don’t find painting all matches useful without some way to differentiate between maternal and paternal. After all, the point and power of a chromosome browser is to determine how each person is related, from which side, and from which ancestor.

In the article, DNAPainter Instructions and Resources, I compiled my various articles about the many ways to use DNAPainter, including an introduction.

Transfer

Be sure to test at or transfer to each vendor who provides segment information. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not, but you can transfer your ancestry results to Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch, each of which has unique features that the others don’t have. Transferring and matching is free at each vendor.

I wrote transfer instructions for each vendor, here.

Then, paint and triangulate all in one step at DNAPainter.

Have fun!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research