FamilyTreeDNA DISCOVER™ Launches – Including Y DNA Haplogroup Ages

FamilyTreeDNA just released an amazing new group of public Y DNA tools.

Yes, a group of tools – not just one.

The new Discover tools, which you can access here, aren’t just for people who have tested at FamilyTreeDNA . You don’t need an account and it’s free for everyone. All you need is a Y DNA haplogroup – from any source.

I’m going to introduce each tool briefly because you’re going to want to run right over and try Discover for yourself. In fact, you might follow along with this article.

Y DNA Haplogroup Aging

The new Discover page provides seven beta tools, including Y DNA haplogroup aging.

Haplogroup aging is THE single most requested feature – and it’s here!

Discover also scales for mobile devices.

Free Beta Tool

Beta means that FamilyTreeDNA is seeking your feedback to determine which of these tools will be incorporated into their regular product, so expect a survey.

If you’d like changes or something additional, please let FamilyTreeDNA know via the survey, their support line, email or Chat function.

OK, let’s get started!

Enter Your Haplogroup

Enter your Y DNA haplogroup, or the haplogroup you’re interested in viewing.

If you’re a male who has tested with FamilyTreeDNA , sign on to your home page and locate your haplogroup badge at the lower right corner.

If you’re a female, you may be able to test a male relative or find a haplogroup relevant to your genealogy by visiting your surname group project page to locate the haplogroup for your ancestor.

I’ll use one of my genealogy lines as an example.

In this case, several Y DNA testers appear under my ancestor, James Crumley, in the Crumley DNA project.

Within this group of testers, we have two different Big Y haplogroups, and several estimated haplogroups from testers who have not upgraded to the Big Y.

If you’re a male who has tested at either 23andMe or LivingDNA, you can enter your Y DNA haplogroup from that source as well. Those vendors provide high-level haplogroups.

The great thing about the new Discover tool is that no matter what haplogroup you enter, there’s something for you to enjoy.

I’m going to use haplogroup I-FT272214, the haplogroup of my ancestor, James Crumley, confirmed through multiple descendants. His son John’s descendants carry haplogroup I-BY165368 in addition to I-FT272214, which is why there are two detailed haplogroups displayed for this grouping within the Crumley haplogroup project, in addition to the less-refined I-M223.

Getting Started

When you click on Discover, you’ll be asked to register briefly, agree to terms, and provide your email address.

Click “View my report” and your haplogroup report will appear.

Y DNA Haplogroup Report

For any haplogroup you enter, you’ll receive a haplogroup report that includes 7 separate pages, shown by tabs at the top of your report.

Click any image to enlarge

The first page you’ll see is the Haplogroup Report.

On the first page, you’ll find Haplogroup aging. The TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) is provided, plus more!

The report says that haplogroup I-FT272214 was “born,” meaning the mutation that defines this haplogroup, occurred about 300 years ago, plus or minus 150 years.

James Crumley was born about 1710. We know his sons carry haplogroup I-FT272214, but we don’t know when that mutation occurred because we don’t have upstream testers. We don’t know who his parents were.

Three hundred years before the birth of our Crumley tester would be about 1670, so roughly James Crumley’s father’s generation, which makes sense.

James’ son John’s descendants have an additional mutation, so that makes sense too. SNP mutations are known to occur approximately every 80 years, on average. Of course, you know what average means…may not fit any specific situation exactly.

The next upstream haplogroup is I-BY100549 which occurred roughly 500 years ago, plus or minus 150 years. (Hint – if you want to view a haplogroup report for this upstream haplogroup, just click on the haplogroup name.)

There are 5 SNP confirmed descendants of haplogroup I-FT272214 claiming origins in England, all of whom are in the Crumley DNA project.

Haplogroup descendants mean this haplogroup and any other haplogroups formed on the tree beneath this haplogroup.


If you scroll down a bit, you can see the share button on each page. If you think this is fun, you can share through a variety of social media resources, email, or copy the link.

Sharing is a good way to get family members and others interested in both genealogy and genetic genealogy. Light the spark!

I’m going to be sharing with collaborative family genealogy groups on Facebook and Twitter. I can also share with people who may not be genealogists, but who will think these findings are interesting.

If you keep scrolling under the share button or click on “Discover More” you can order Y DNA tests if you’re a biological male and haven’t already taken one. The more refined your haplogroup, the more relevant your information will be on the Discover page as well as on your personal page.

Scrolling even further down provides information about methods and sources.

Country Frequency

The next tab is Country Frequency showing the locations where testers with this haplogroup indicate that their earliest known ancestors are found.

The Crumley haplogroup has only 5 people, which is less than 1% of the people with ancestors from England.

However, taking a look at haplogroup R-M222 with many more testers, we see something a bit different.

Ireland is where R-M222 is found most frequently. 17% of the men who report their ancestors are from Ireland belong to haplogroup R-M222.

Note that this percentage also includes haplogroups downstream of haplogroup R-M222.

Mousing over any other location provides that same information for that area as well.

Seeing where the ancestors of your haplogroup matches are from can be extremely informative. The more refined your haplogroup, the more useful these tools will be for you. Big Y testers will benefit the most.

Notable Connections

On the next page, you’ll discover which notable people have haplogroups either close to you…or maybe quite distant.

Your first Notable Connection will be the one closest to your haplogroup that FamilyTreeDNA was able to identify in their database. In some cases, the individual has tested, but in many cases, descendants of a common ancestor tested.

In this case, Bill Gates is our closest notable person. Our common haplogroup, meaning the intersection of Bill Gates’s haplogroup and my Crumley cousin’s haplogroup is I-L1195. The SNP mutation that defines haplogroup I-L1145 occurred about 4600 years ago. Both my Crumley cousin and Bill Gates descend from that man.

If you’re curious and want to learn more about your common haplogroup, remember, you can enter that haplogroup into the Discover tool. Kind of like genetic time travel. But let’s finish this one first.

Remember that CE means current era, or the number of years since the year “zero,” which doesn’t technically exist but functions as the beginning of the current era. Bill Gates was born in 1955 CE

BCE means “before current era,” meaning the number of years before the year “zero.” So 2600 BCE is approximately 4600 years ago.

Click through each dot for a fun look at who you’re “related to” and how distantly.

This tool is just for fun and reinforces the fact that at some level, we’re all related to each other.

Maybe you’re aware of more notables that could be added to the Discover pages.

Migration Map

The next tab provides brand spanking new migration maps that show the exodus of the various haplogroups out of Africa, through the Middle East, and in this case, into Europe.

Additionally, the little shovel icons show the ancient DNA sites that date to the haplogroup age for the haplogroup shown on the map, or younger. In our case, that’s haplogroup I-M223 (red arrow) that was formed about 16,000 years ago in Europe, near the red circle, at left. These haplogroup ancient sites (shovels) would all date to 16,000 years ago or younger, meaning they lived between 16,000 years ago and now.

Click to enlarge

By clicking on a shovel icon, more information is provided. It’s very interesting that I-L1145, the common haplogroup with Bill Gates is found in ancient DNA in Cardiff, Wales.

This is getting VERY interesting. Let’s look at the rest of the Ancient Connections.

Ancient Connections

Our closest Ancient Connection in time is Gen Scot 24 (so name in an academic paper) who lived in the Western Isles of Scotland.

These ancient connections are more likely cousins than direct ancestors, but of course, we can’t say for sure. We do know that the first man to develop haplogroup I-L126, about 2500 years ago, is an ancestor to both Gen Scot 24 and our Crumley ancestor.

Gen Scot 24 has been dated to 1445-1268 BCE which is about 3400 years ago, which could actually be older than the haplogroup age. Remember that both dating types are ranges, carbon dating is not 100% accurate, and ancient DNA can be difficult to sequence. Haplogroup ages are refined as more branches are discovered and the tree grows.

The convergence of these different technologies in a way that allows us to view the past in the context of our ancestors is truly amazing.

All of our Crumley cousin’s ancient relatives are found in Ireland or Scotland with the exception of the one found in Wales. I think, between this information and the haplogroup formation dates, it’s safe to say that our Crumley ancestors have been in either Scotland or Ireland for the past 4600 years, at least. And someone took a side trip to Wales, probably settled and died there.

Of course, now I need to research what was happening in Ireland and Scotland 4600 years ago because I know my ancestors were involved.

Suggested Projects

I’m EXTREMELY pleased to see suggested projects for this haplogroup based on which projects haplogroup members have joined.

You can click on any of the panels to read more about the project. Remember that not everyone joins a project because of their Y DNA line. Many projects accept people who are autosomally related or descend from the family through the mitochondrial line, the direct mother’s line.

Still, seeing the Crumley surname project would be a great “hint” all by itself if I didn’t already have that information.

Scientific Details

The Scientific Details page actually has three tabs.

The first tab is Age Estimate.

The Age Estimate tab provides more information about the haplogroup age or TMRCA (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) calculations. For haplogroup I-FT272214, the most likely creation date, meaning when the SNP occurred, is about 1709, which just happens to align well with the birth of James Crumley about 1710.

However, anyplace in the dark blue band would fall within a 68% confidence interval (CI). That would put the most likely years that the haplogroup-defining SNP mutation took place between 1634 and 1773. At the lower end of the frequency spectrum, there’s a 99% likelihood that the common ancestor was born between 1451 and 1874. That means we’re 99% certain that the haplogroup defining SNP occurred between those dates. The broader the date range, the more certain we can be that the results fall into that range.

The next page, Variants, provides the “normal” or ancestral variant and the derived or mutated variant or SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) in the position that defines haplogroup I-FT272214.

The third tab displays FamilyTreeDNA‘s public Y DNA Tree with this haplogroup highlighted. On the tree, we can see this haplogroup, downstream haplogroups as well as upstream, along with their country flags.

Your Personal Page

If you have already taken a DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can find the new Discover tool conveniently located under “Additional Tests and Tools.”

If you are a male and haven’t yet tested, then you’ll want to order a Y DNA test or upgrade to the Big Y for the most refined haplogroup possible.

Big Y tests and testers are why the Y DNA tree now has more than 50,000 branches and 460,000 variants. Testing fuels growth and growth fuels new tools and possibilities for genealogists.

What Do You Think?

Do you like these tools?

What have you learned? Have you shared this with your family members? What did they have to say? Maybe we can get Uncle Charley interested after all!

Let me know how you’re using these tools and how they are helping you interpret your Y DNA results and assist your genealogy.


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Just Released – Mitochondrial Haplogroup L7 Video!

I’m still VERY excited about the haplogroup L7 discovery. Mitochondrial Eve’s new 100,000-year-old great-granddaughter. So is the rest of the Million Mito Team

We’ve created a short video explaining just why this is so cool.

Paul, Dr. Maier, the Population Geneticist on our Million Mito team did a great job as producer. He’s certainly multi-talented! Thanks Paul.

Please understand that this is “just us,” no professional production, editors or anything like that. You’re seeing the real deal here. This video is something we wanted to do for all of you. We’re excited to tell this amazing story – one that we’ve explained in terms that everyone can understand and enjoy. We want you to love mitochondrial DNA as much as we do.

Please share this video far and wide with your family and friends. Remind them that everyone inherits their mother’s (and only their mother’s) mitochondrial DNA. They can make cool discoveries too.

But wait, there’s more!

Dr. Miguel Vilar’s Article

FamilyTreeDNA just published a guest blog article titled A 100,000Year-Old Human Lineage Rediscovered, written by genetic anthropologist Dr. Miguel Villar.

You’ll recognize Miguel as one of the four Million Mito team members in the video, but you may also remember him as the Senior Program Officer for the National Geographic Society and the Lead Scientist for the Genographic Project.

I think you’ll agree, he’s a great writer too!

What’s Your Story?

Not only is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) useful genealogically, it’s the story of all womankind. You don’t have to be a genealogist to appreciate and enjoy your mtDNA journey.

Mitochondrial DNA tells a story about each of us that we would never know otherwise.

The best part is that every single person can test their own mitochondrial DNA to learn more about their family story – and very specifically about their mother’s direct line ancestry that may be eclipsed or overshadowed in autosomal DNA by more recent admixture.

Where does your mitochondrial DNA lead?

What Else Can You Do?

You, your mother, and your maternal siblings all share the same mitochondrial DNA, passed to you by your mother. But what about your father? He inherited HIS mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but you didn’t.

You can discover your paternal grandmother’s mtDNA story by testing your father’s mtDNA, or his maternal line siblings if he’s not available for testing.

Your paternal grandmother’s story is your family story too!

Let me know if you like the video and if it makes mtDNA easier to understand and explain to your relatives. I hope this discovery and video help sew the seeds of curiosity.


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Hans Lenz (1645-1725), Wealthy Vintner – 52 Ancestors #363

Hans Lenz was born in 1645 in Beutelsbach, Germany, three years before the end of the 30 Years War. Unfortunately, the church records for this time period, between 1626 and 1646 were destroyed during that war by the legions of invading soldiers.

Hans was lucky to have survived. Most of his siblings didn’t. That warfare not only outright killed much of the populace, those that weren’t murdered directly often died of starvation or dysentery.

Luckily for the Lenz family, as horrific as this time was, they had two things that the soldiers wanted and couldn’t produce for themselves. Wine and bread.

Records show that the soldiers quartered with Hans’s father, but failed to “pay” for their wine. Of course, the fact that his father, also named Hans, had wine to turn over, and bread to be stolen, and continued to produce both was probably what saved his family.

The war ended when Hans, the son, was about 3 years old. It’s unlikely that he retained much memory of the war years, invading troops and their atrocities. By the time he was forming memories, his father would have been baking for the citizens once again, probably getting up before sunrise to produce fresh bread and pastries for the hausfraus as they did their market shopping for the day.

Hans the elder sold bread to the women in the mornings and wine to the men in the evenings.

Hans the younger grew up with the yeasty smell of baking bread wafting through the house, probably waking up daily to that wonderful scent.

His parents, Hans Lenz, the baker, and Katharina Lenz, both born in nearby Schnait were likely related, but church records don’t reach far enough back to identify the intersection of their Lenz lines.


Beutelsbach is a beautiful, quaint village beneath steep hillside vineyards, shown in this drawing dating from about 1760. Scattered houses surround the medieval church, its spire reaching for the heavens. The church was the center of village life, and of the village itself.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

The hillsides don’t look much different now.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

Hans would have climbed these hills to trim the vines of yesteryear, just as these grapevines have been trimmed and manicured today. In this photo, you can see the church tower in the distance. Hans would have been able to keep an eye on the village, surrounding area, and his home from these vineyards.

The Baker’s House

Photo courtesy Martin Goll.

Hans Lenz grew up in this home near the church in Beutelsbach. Descendant and historian Martin Goll identified this building and shared the photo, indicating that at least the bottom portion referred to as the basement or cellar is authentic to the period when Hans lived there.

Hans’s father, Hans the baker, died in 1667, just 14 months before Hans, his son, married Barbara Sing on February 23, 1669, in Beutelsbach.

Based on this autotranslation of the marriage book, it appears that Hans Lenz was serving in the military at the time he married and showed his license locally, perhaps?

Marriage book:

Gefreyter and hrn. Captain of Roman Compagnie. Has shown his marriage certificate of Mr. Obrist Lieutenat Pentz which of Mr. Specialis von Schorndorf by me been fitting, on it he gives the Conzesion to the Copulation.

It appears that Hans Lenz was serving in the Great Turkish War and received permission to marry.

Wine Merchant

Photo courtesy Sharon Hockensmith.

Hans did not follow in his father’s footsteps as a baker, but instead became quite wealthy, at least comparatively so in Beutelsbach terms, as a wine merchant.

As the only known son, he apparently inherited his father’s substantial estate. In addition to the bakery/home, the estate included 8 vineyard fields, as compared to the normal one field that was sufficient to earn a living.

Hans was the first of many vinedressers in the Lenz line. In addition to maintaining and harvesting his own grapes, Hans also ran a wine business, as did his father.

Martin Goll has compared many estates in Schnait and Beutelsbach and indicates that typical vinedressers processed and sold their grapes, but did not press them into wine and did not then sell the wine to consumers or merchants. Hans was the exception.

In addition to being a vinedresser, Hans was a very successful merchant and vintner, as indicated by his estate inventory after his death. Hans owned multiple properties, including, “house with barn and garden in the upper lane, 500 bottles, housing 370 bottles, cellar 170 bottles. Total assets 14,642 bottles.”

Yes, you read that right. More than 14,000 bottles of wine. I have to wonder where he stored all that wine, and if that was why the cellar in the photo of his home is so large, compared to others. I also wonder if the 14,642 was supposed to be the value of the bottles of wine, instead of a total.

According to Martin, Hans’s estate was worth almost 15,000 guilders.

I couldn’t figure out exactly the equivalent in today’s dollar, but Martin wrote that Hans’ heirs received about 2000 Guilders each which left them well-off but not wealthy like their father.

Hans may have been the wealthiest man in Beutelsbach.

The Lenz Home at Stiftrasse 17

Hans’s home and wine business was ideally situated in the center of town, at present-day Stiftrasse 17, where the streets converged, only a couple doors from the centrally-located church.

This was critical, not just for being right on the path to the center of town where everyone had to pass, but also because the church was fortified with a protective wall. Living just a stone’s throw away meant one could quickly gather family members inside the fortification in times of danger. Memories of the Thirty Year’s War weren’t yet distant. I wonder if the family ever needed to seek refuge inside the church walls.

On the Google Maps image above, you can see the fortification tower with the red arrow at the top, and the connecting wall by the lower red arrows. The Lenz home is indicated by the red pin.

On the 1760 map, the red arrow points to the building I believe to be the Lenz home. Note the large cellar in this drawing.

Married Life

According to the Beutelsbach Local Heritage book, Hans Lenz and Barbara Sing (or Seng) were married for 17 years, bringing 11 children into the world.

Taking the babies for baptism was just a short walk of a few feet.

Three children died before their mother, as infants. We have no death or marriage record for one daughter, so we don’t know what happened to her.

Barbara, their last child was born on July 2, 1686, and probably named in honor of her mother. Baby Barbara died when she was just three weeks and 4 days old – 17 days after her mother’s death. I’d wager this was a difficult birth and a crushing blow to Hans and their surviving children.

Barbara Sing Lenz died on July 10, 1686, at 41 years of age, leaving Hans with a critically ill week-old newborn infant plus 7 additional children ranging in age from 17 down to not-quite-5.

Hans was probably a much better vinedresser and vintner than single father, so he did what any other German man from that era would have done.

He remarried 13 months later to Barbara Roller, born in 1648, the widow of Sebastian Heubach from Endersbach. It’s unknown whether Barbara had children from her previous marriage, but it’s likely that she did.

Barbara would have mothered her own children, plus his too. The younger children may have been too young to remember their mother, so Barbara Roller Lenz was the only mother they ever knew.

Hans and Barbara had been married for 16 years when Barbara died on May 7, 1704 at 56 years of age. No children were born to their marriage.

By the time Barbara died, Hans’s children would have been grown.

Hans married again about 1705 to a woman named Anna who was born about 1650. They were married for approximately 20 years. Anna outlived Hans by three years, passing away on Christmas Eve in 1728.

Joining the Barbaras

Hans was “probably 80 years” old when he passed away. It’s hard to grieve this man’s passing. Given that he was born during a devastating war, he had an amazingly long and prosperous life.

Hans was born into a privileged family, at least compared to others, served his country honorably, and came home to inherit the family home and businesses.

Apparently, Hans wasn’t keen on being a baker like his father, but he did become a very successful vintner.

The great griefs in his life were likely the deaths of his parents and siblings, of course, in addition to the deaths of two wives and at least 5 and probably 7 of his children before he passed over to the other side.

We don’t know Hans’ cause of death, but it would probably have been attributed to “old age.” 80 at that time was ancient! He has cheated death so many times.

On a crisp winter’s day, on January 22, 1725, Hans joined all three Barbaras, his two wives and baby daughter, and all those who had gone before.

Photo courtesy Sharon Hockensmith.

The minister likely preached his funeral the next day, or maybe the day after, as the townspeople, along with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even a few great-great-grandchilden gathered to celebrate his life. The church would have been packed.

After the minister finished the sermon inside the sanctuary, Hans’ coffin would have been carried into the churchyard where he was buried in what is now an unmarked grave, perhaps between his beloved Barbaras.

Maybe afterward, the chilly mourners gathered around the corner at his home to toast Hans one last time with wine from his own wine cellar.

Here’s to you, Hans!


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Mitochondrial Eve Gets a Great-Granddaughter: African Mitochondrial Haplogroup L7 Discovered

Such wonderful news today!

We have a birth announcement, of sorts, detailed in our new paper released just today,  “African mitochondrial haplogroup L7: a 100,000-year-old maternal human lineage discovered through reassessment and new sequencing.”

Woohoo, Mitochondrial Eve has a new great-granddaughter!

Back in 2018, Goran Runfeldt and Bennett Greenspan at FamilyTreeDNA noticed something unusual about a few mitochondrial DNA sequences, but there weren’t enough sequences to be able to draw any conclusions. As time went on, more sequences became available, both in the FamilyTreeDNA database and in the academic community, including an ancient sequence.

This group of sequences did not fit cleanly into the phylogenetic tree as structured and seemed to cluster together, but more research and analysis were needed.

Were these unique sequences a separate branch? One branch or several? What would creating that branch do to the rest of the tree?

Given that Phylotree, last updated in 2016, did not contain an applicable branch, what were we to do with these puzzle pieces that really didn’t fit?

These discussions, and others similar, led to the decision to launch the Million Mito Project to update the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree which is now 6 years old and seriously out-of-date. For the record, phylogenetics on this scale is EXTREMELY challenging, which is probably why Phylotree hasn’t been updated, but that’s a topic for another article, another day. Today is the day to celebrate haplogroup L7.

Haplogroup L7

The Million Mito team knew there were lots of candidate haplogroups waiting to be formed near the ends of the branches of the phylotree, but what we didn’t expect was a new haplogroup near the root of the tree.

Put another way, in terms that genealogists are used to, the new branch is Eve’s great-granddaughter.

Haplogroup L now has 8 branches, instead of 7, beginning with L0. We named this new branch haplogroup L7 in order not to disrupt the naming patterns in the existing tree.

Let’s take a look.

I used the phylogenetic tree from our paper and added Eve.

Just to be clear, we aren’t talking literal daughters and granddaughters. These are phylogenetic daughters which represent many generations between each (known) branch. Of course, we can only measure the branches that survived and are tested today or are found in ancient DNA.

The only way we have of discovering and deciphering Eve and her “tree” of descendants is identifying mutations that occurred, providing breadcrumbs back in time that allow us to reconstruct Eve’s mitochondrial DNA sequence.

Those mutations are then carried forever in daughter branches (barring a back-mutation). This means that, yes, you and I have all of those mutations today – in addition to several more that define our individual branches.

You can see that Eve has two daughter branches. One branch, at left, is L0.

Eve’s daughter to the right, which I’ve labeled, is the path to the new L7 branch.

Before this new branch was identified, haplogroup L5 existed. Now, Eve has a new great-granddaughter branch L5’7 that then splits into two branches; L5 and L7.

L5 is the existing branch, but L7 is the new branch that includes a few sequences formerly misattributed to L5.

Even more exciting, the newly discovered haplogroup L7 has sub-branches too, including L7a, L7a1, L7b1 and L7b2.

In fact, haplogroup L7 has a total of 13 sublineages.

How Cool is This?!!

Haplogroup L7 is 100,000 years old. This is the oldest lineage since haplogroup L5 was discovered 20 years ago. To put this in perspective, that’s about the same time the first full sequence mitochondrial DNA test was offered to genealogists.

It took 20 years for enough people to test, and two eagle-eyed scientists to notice something unusual.

Hundreds of thousands of people have had their mitochondrial DNA tested, and so far, only 19 people are assigned to haplogroup L7 or a subgroup.

One of those people, shown as L7a* on the tree above, is 80,000 years removed from their closest relative. Yes, their DNA is hens-teeth rare. No, they don’t have any matches at FamilyTreeDNA, just in case you were wondering😊

However, in time, as more people test, they may well have matches. This is exactly why I encourage everyone to take a mitochondrial DNA test. If someone is discouraged from testing, you never know who they might have matched – or how rare their DNA may be. If they don’t test, that opportunity is lost forever – to them, to other people waiting for a match, and to science.

Are there other people out there with this haplogroup, in either Africa or the diaspora? Let’s hope so!

With so few L7 people existing today, it looks like this lineage might have been on the verge of extinction at some point, but somehow survived and is now found in a few places around the world.

Ancient DNA

One 16,000-year-old ancient DNA sample from Malawi has been reclassified from L5 to L7.

This figure from the paper shows the distribution of haplogroup L within Africa, and the figure below shows the Haplogroup L7 range within Africa, with Tanzania having the highest frequency. Malawi abuts Tanzania on the Southwest corner.

Where in the World?

Checking on the public tree at FamilyTreeDNA, you can see the new L5’7 branch with L7 and sub-haplogroups beneath.

We find L7 haplogroups in present-day testers from:

  • South Africa
  • Kenya
  • Ethiopia
  • Sudan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen
  • Tanzania

It’s also found in people who live in two European countries now, but with their roots reaching back into Africa. Surprisingly, no known African-Americans have yet tested with this haplogroup. I suspect finding the haplogroup in the Americas is just a matter of time, and testing.

The FamilyTreeDNA customers who are lucky enough to be in haplogroup L7 have had their haplogroup badges updated.

If you are haplogroup L at FamilyTreeDNA, check and see if you have a new badge.

Credit Where Credit is Due

I want to give a big shout-out to my colleagues and co-authors. Dr. Paul Maier (lead author,) Dr. Miguel Vilar and Goran Runfeldt.

I can’t even begin to express the amount of heavy lifting these fine scientists did on the long journey from initial discovery to publication. This includes months of analysis, writing the paper, creating the graphics, and recording a video which will be available soon.

I’m especially grateful to people like you who test their DNA, and academic researchers who continue to sequence mitochondrial DNA in both contemporary and ancient samples. Without testers, there would be no scientific discoveries, nor genealogy matching. If you haven’t yet tested, you can order (or upgrade) a mitochondrial DNA test here.

I also want to thank both Bennett Greenspan, Founder, and President, Emeritus of FamilyTreeDNA who initially greenlit the Million Mito Project in early 2020, and Dr. Lior Rauschberger, CEO who continues to support this research.

FamilyTreeDNA paid the open access fees so the paper is free for everyone, here, and not behind a paywall. If you’re downloading the pdf, be sure to download the supplements too. Lots of graphics and images that enhance the article greatly.

Congratulations to Mitochondrial Eve for this new branch in her family tree. Of course, her family tree is your family and mine – the family of man and womankind!


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Dad, I Hear Your Voice – 52 Ancestors #362

In the shifting twilight of consciousness late at night, between wakefulness and sleep, and in the morning between sleep and wake again, sometimes I hear his voice speaking softly to me.

Just the sound of his measured tones someplace in the distance is comforting to me.

I don’t want to wake up, because I don’t want to leave him – or him to leave me. I clutch desperately to the tendrils of that dream, if that’s in fact what it is.


My Dad.

Not the man who begat me, but the one who chose me.

The man who would sacrifice his life for mine.

Not just theoretically, but in actuality – and nearly did.

His words and actions come back to me.

And visit my soul, whispering in the mist.

Just like in this photo, where, if you squint, you can see Dad standing outside the back door on the sidewalk, a shape frozen in time.

He’s always in the mists and someplace nearby, trembling on the raggedy edges of my life.

Drifting in and out like wisps of smoke.

Reaching out to me when need be.

Even all these years after he departed…

He never departed my soul.

In fact, he’s grown closer with each year of missing him.


Young people judge their self-worth by those who love them.

By the words they hear and the actions they see.

Dad never told me I couldn’t.

He knew I would probably do whatever anyway, so instead, he helped me be a safe daredevil.

As safe as a daredevil can be.

As safe as a father can keep the second daughter after the first one already died.

With each passing year, I realize with increasing clarity what a trying teenager I surely was.

How he must have struggled.

When I started drag racing on a dirt strip with my brother, mother was furious for any number of very logical reasons. She had the best of intentions, but her approach didn’t work well with me.

Dad was concerned for my safety. I knew he wished I wouldn’t race. But instead of telling me why I shouldn’t, or that I couldn’t, he made sure my seat fit correctly and my seatbelt was snug enough. No full harnesses then and the helmets were archaic by today’s standards. He made sure my equipment was in the best possible condition and crafted my rollbar himself.

He taught me to be the best driver possible.

But Dads can’t keep their daughters safe forever.

Racing wasn’t the worst of it.

Better Me Than You

A few years later, I got tangled up with someone who, in Dad’s vernacular “did me dirty.” It was worse than that though – it was downright dangerous and abusive. The kind of relationship that women often don’t escape.

I knew the day Dad brought a gun home, for me, and took me out in the field to be sure I absolutely knew how to use it, that the situation was serious as a heart attack. As a farmer’s daughter, we had used shotguns for years. This was entirely different.

That’s when Dad matter-of-factly informed me that he was going out FIRST and under absolutely no circumstances was I to set one toe outside of that house without him at night. Dad never, ever gave me ultimatums.

I could race cars, but I couldn’t go outside?


I loudly complained, for a variety of reasons, but among them, that Dad might get shot, himself. I was speaking mostly in the abstract, being more-than-a-little argumentative, not fully grasping the gravity of the situation.

The situation had already escalated to the point where my tires had been slashed, then my vehicle set ablaze. Dad bought the gun for me the day we dug bullets out of the house.

He knew what was up, even if I didn’t.

When I expressed concern that he might get shot, Dad looked up from what he was doing and said to me, “Better me than you.”

A slight pause, maybe a breath, then, “I’ve lived a long life.”

It took a minute for that to soak in…


He glanced at me, put his gun back in the inside pocket of his overalls where it lived those days, and said, very quietly and simply, “You’re worth it.”

You’re Worth It

My God. Could that man have told me he loved me any louder?

I stopped dead in my tracks.

My eyes filled with tears.

The silence was long and full of so much unsaid, and yet so meaningful.

That man, my step-father, who chose me as a young, mouthy teenager as part of a package deal when he married my mother would willingly lay down his life for me and planned to do so if I was in danger.

In my mind’s eye, I can see our two hearts being woven together, eternally.


As a naive young woman, I was heartbroken over the lost relationship with that tire-slashing, arsonist male who was shooting at our house. My family had a name for him, several actually. I just can’t repeat any of them here.

I couldn’t figure out what I had “done wrong” and why the male in question was behaving that way.

Of course, NOW, with decades of reflection and experience under my belt, I know those answers, and they have nothing at all to do with me.

But at the time, I was young and felt horribly rejected, unworthy, and cast aside.

Mom explained just how jerky the male was being, which, unfortunately, simply caused me to attempt to defend the indefensible. That upset my mother further. She saw some very ugly handwriting on the wall.

Dad and I often sat outside in the backyard together, especially when it was hot inside. And it was always hot inside when Mom was upset😊

Sitting on Dad’s metal glider and chair, cleaning vegetables that had been plucked from the garden, Dad was patiently trying to explain to me that I had other options.

You’re Worth So Much More

I wasn’t paying much attention to what Dad was actually saying. I was more focused on what I could do to change said male’s mind, “fix” him, and was busily making excuses. Then vacillating back to being angry. One might say I was pretty much an emotional mess.

Dad countered with a statement, and I replied, between tears, “Yea, Dad, I know he’s not worth it.” Of course, a minute later I’d say something completely different.

Dad paused, probably incredibly exasperated, but it never showed in his voice.

Instead, he said thoughtfully and deliberately, with the utmost love, “That’s not what I said, Bobbi. I didn’t say he wasn’t worth it. I said you’re worth so much more.”

I sat there for a minute because, at first, I didn’t understand the difference. Then, suddenly, I did.

Dad continued, “It’s not about him, it’s about you. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. You’re going to do so much more with your life. Your future is in front of you. You’re going to accomplish amazing things and change lives.”

And then.

“This isn’t the end of your life. It’s the beginning. It’s a doorway, a passage to the future. Your future is not here, but I will always be with you wherever you go.”

This morning, in the shifting twilight of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, once again, I heard your voice and saw your smile.

I love you, Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Edna Estes Miller (1920-1990), Sister: Once Found, Twice Lost – 52 Ancestors #361

Edna was my sister, but I didn’t know that for the first two decades of my life. Over time, I caught slight drifts that a sibling existed, in very vague terms, but nothing more.

Edna was listed in our father’s obituary as Mrs. Clifford Miller, but I didn’t see that obituary until I was 22 years old.

Finding Edna

I found Edna through a very odd combination of circumstances in 1978, only to lose her again in 1990.

What I wouldn’t give for those first two precious decades. I feel like I lost her twice – once through family circumstances and then, ultimately, to death.

Edna died unexpectedly. No time for preparation or goodbyes.

Edna and Clifford Miller, her husband, are pictured above in a photo taken in 1986 for their 50th wedding anniversary. This is how I remember her, except smiling. Edna was always smiling.

I was there that day, with them – one of the few life events we were able to celebrate together.

If you’re quietly thinking to yourself that there’s a BIG age difference between us, you’d be exactly right.

Edna’s story and mine are both messy, thanks in part to the same man – our father.

Edna and I were separated by many years and a lifetime we had missed. But we were joined by common bonds. Not only our blood relationship – we discovered many things we had in common and how much alike we were.

Edna Arrives!

Edna was born on May 22, 1920, the daughter of William Sterling Estes, known as Bill, and Martha Dodder.

Our father was in the Army and stationed at Camp Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. Martha, shown above with an unidentified soldier, was a volunteer at the hospital there.

In August of 1919, my father was hospitalized as the flu epidemic swept through Camp Custer.

He thought he was dying – with good reason. He nearly did. He ran dangerously high fevers and likely had encephalitis.

Our father was hospitalized 3 times over that summer, the last time in August for 3 weeks. He wrote desperate letters to his sweetheart in Indiana, Virgie, who had rejected him. She simply stopped writing – ghosting as we call it today – probably the most painful rejection of all.

My father did plenty of boneheaded things in his lifetime, but it’s hard not to have compassion for a young man, just 17, far from home, gravely ill, and all alone.

Two of his grandparents had already died of that horrible flu, and the remaining two would just a few months later. He must have been terrified.

Martha was 5 years older than Bill and was born with a cleft palate. Edna was conceived about the time of his hospitalization, or immediately thereafter. I’m not sure who was comforting whom or the expectations within the relationship, but a few months later, my father had another new problem.

You see, Martha wasn’t the only female comforting my father. So was Ilo Bailey, who also became pregnant. I’m not sure if my father simply married the first of the two women who presented themselves “in a family way,” or if other factors were involved.

I have always suspected that he was still “waiting” for Virgie to come to her senses. For the record, he did marry Virgie, in 1961, more than four decades later, but I digress.

Father married Ilo Bailey in December 1919 and their baby was born in February 1920. Edna was born to Martha just three months later, in May of 1920.

At one point, it appears that both women showed up at the courthouse for the same proceeding. I bet that was something to behold! I would love to have been a fly on that wall.

Eventually, though, Ilo had enough.

In March of 1921, Ilo wrote a letter to my father who was still in the military, although at that time, in the brig, telling him she was leaving for Kentucky with their son and had filed for divorce. Ironically, that letter came to me through Martha.

On December 12, 1921, Bill married Martha Dodder.

The New Problem

Now, the couple had a new problem.

When Edna was born, Martha listed a different man as her father. Soon after they married, Martha and Bill filed to have Edna’s surname changed and have him listed as her father, stating that the birth certificate was incorrect. A “mistake” had occurred.

I could never understand why Edna’s birth certificate wasn’t filed in the clerk’s book and index with the other babies born in May of 1920. Instead, it was out-of-place, filed more than 18 months later. Now, with this additional information, the filing order makes sense. The father’s identification and name change had to be approved by the court and was in essence treated the same, in terms of the recording, as an adoption. The records were also sealed.

Edna’s original birth record lists her mother as Martha Dodder and her father as Edward Polushink. The baby’s name was listed as Edna Marie Polushink.

Why would Martha do that?

Of course, it’s possible that Martha wasn’t sure who the father was, but I thought, all things considered, it was more likely that my father talked her into that in order to keep him out of hot water with the military who frowned upon soldiers getting local girls “in trouble” and then marrying someone else. They probably would have doubly frowned on getting two women in trouble at the same time – and that was in addition to his indiscretions for which he was already confined to jail for 6 months in 1920. His escapades read like a very bad, or exceptionally good, novel.

I shook my head, thinking what a bad influence my father was on poor Martha.


Edna never knew most, if any, of this. I didn’t make most of these discoveries until after her death.

I don’t think Edna knew that her parents weren’t married at the time of her birth. While relatively common today, at that time, it was socially very awkward, horribly embarrassing, and humiliating. To put this in perspective, some photos of Martha’s children were taken beside a horse and buggy. I discovered that information when I visited the local archives and located Martha and Bill’s divorce file, which included their marriage date and location.

Of course, I didn’t yet know about Ilo Bailey, and that both women were pregnant at the same time. For Martha, that would have made the situation worse, much worse – and then he married the “other” pregnant woman, truly leaving her stranded. My heart aches for Martha!

I discovered the information about Edward Polushink on Edna’s birth certificate in the 1990s, not long after she passed. I was working in Calhoun County, where Edna was born, and on a fluke decided to visit the clerk’s office and request a copy of her birth certificate. That’s when I discovered the discrepancy and the odd filing date. The original entry in the index had been lined through, which was even more confusing. As it turns out, the employee in the clerk’s office was confused too, which is the only reason I was able to view the two index entries.

Why would one entry be lined out with a new entry recorded months later? An adoption or court-ordered amendment of the birth certificate – that’s why.

That information always made me wonder, but I certainly did not want to create additional family drama. Edna and her family had already been through enough and all of that past history was water under the bridge. Edna was gone and I loved her regardless.

Plus, I figured Edward Polushink was simply a created alias. I casually asked around and no one had ever heard of anyone by that name. Neither were there additional records for him. My Dad was the king of aliases and how to use them effectively. Yes, that’s surely what it was.

Years later, after a multitude of records began to be available online, out of curiosity, I checked that name once again. Much to my surprise, I discovered one Edward Palushnik, a forestry engineer, who arrived in Battle Creek, Michigan in May of 1919 to live with his brother at 25 Margerie Street. Additional research in the 1915 and 1918 city directory shows both men living at 25 Marjorie Street.

Further research shows that Edward was discharged from the military in June of 1919.

Hmmm, maybe Edna really WAS Edward’s child. Could this be?

Surely not. Probably just a coincidence, right? Even though it does place a man with a similar name in Battle Creek at the same time.

This really nagged at the genealogist in me.

Then, in the 1920 census, I discovered Martha living with her parents, quite pregnant in April, of course, at 23 Marjorie Street in Battle Creek.


This is not a coincidence nor is Edward Polushink an alias.

Further research on Edward shows that he didn’t stay in Battle Creek. He married in September of 1921 in Wayne County, Michigan.

Talk about a can of worms!

The Divorce

My father and Martha had married in December of 1921, a year and a half after Edna’s birth, but that marriage didn’t last long.

On February 26, 1924, the divorce between Martha and Bill was finalized amid allegations of infidelity. He accused Martha of cheating which, even if true, knowing my father, probably fell into the category of the pot calling the kettle black.

She accused him of cruelty and alleged he was lazy and because of that, she had to work.

Reading the documents in that file was just painful. It became evident that Martha and Bill had a tumultuous marriage that probably should never have happened in the first place. It was abundantly clear that both people were miserable.

Martha filed for divorce in September of 1923. He did not contest the divorce and apparently, left.

I say “apparently left,” because…well…with my father, you never really know.

In May 1925, fifteen months after the divorce was final in February, a daughter was born to Martha who had not remarried. That child eventually had the surname of Lindsey, but I can’t help but wonder if my father was involved.


Whose child was born in May of 1925 and what surname did she use when the child was born, given what we discovered about Edna’s birth record?

In 1934, after the birth of three additional children, including one who died at 13 months of age, Martha married Marcus Lindsey as (at least) his 3rd wife. All of Martha’s children born after Edna carried the Lindsay surname, at least in adulthood.

Martha’s Death

Martha had a very rough life.

She died unexpectedly in January of 1943 at only 45 of a coronary occlusion. Her obituary said she had been ill for several months and had gone to stay with her sister for care. She left 3 young children at home ranging in age from 4 to 18.

I don’t have the details, but I know there was a great deal of “churn” surrounding Martha’s life, and Martha’s death.

Edna Grows Up

Edna was a joyful and beautiful child, raised for the most part by her mother and grandparents.

These photos were taken when Edna was 4.

By 1934 when Edna’s mother, Martha, married Marcus Lindsey, Edna would have been one of 4 children, the oldest at 14, and the only step-child. It’s not surprising that Edna married Cliff two short years later.

I don’t know exactly how or when Edna met Cliff. I do know that he was 8 years older than Edna, exactly 8 years – to the day.

Edna married Cliff on the third of July, 1936 in Howe, LaGrange County, Indiana, just across the Michigan/Indiana border – a Gretna Green type of destination with little or no wait to obtain a marriage license.

Yes, I do believe they eloped in Cliff’s car. She was 16. He was 24.

These grainy, sweet, photos were taken on their wedding day.

A year and a few weeks later, their first child arrived.

Cliff was always a hard worker – an industrious farmer who owned his own sawmill in addition to working at and retiring from Upjohn. A good provider, he was still a product of the time in which he was born and had specific expectations about what a wife, his wife, should and should not do.

Edna was 23 when her mother died, with three young children of her own – and expecting a fourth. Edna felt exhausted, orphaned, and alone.

Dad Visits Edna

Even though our father and Edna’s mother were divorced in early 1924, he never lost track of Edna entirely and had the habit of dropping in unexpectedly to visit people from time to time. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been welcomed by Martha, but he found Edna as an adult about 1950 when he searched her out and stopped by their farm.

Edna was angry with him for his 20+ year absence in her youth and Cliff was none too happy either. He never trusted Bill.

Edna’s oldest daughter says she remembers his first visit when she was in the 7th grade. She came home from school and he was sitting at the kitchen table, talking to Edna who introduced him to her children.

After that, he visited regularly.

Edna took photos of our father with her kids in 1953. During that same visit, he took her photo standing between her two oldest girls.

I so love the mischievous expression on Edna’s face.

It was during that time that Mother met Edna. Only two years apart in age, they wrote chatty letters discussing their children and exchanged photos for at least a decade. Edna told Mom about the farm and that her oldest daughter was going to college. Mom told her that my (half) brother was going to barber school, that I was potty trained and my father had been ill.

We lived in central Indiana. Edna and Cliff lived in Michigan. Mom was busy with me and Edna was busy with several children, including a daughter of about the same age. In fact, then as well as years later, we could have been mistaken for twins. I’m at the right, below.

Both Mom and Edna had fond recollections of each other. Edna did not, however, feel fondly towards my father, and neither did my mother nor Cliff.

At some point, Mother and Edna met when I was young, likely accompanying my father at some point when he visited. Edna said she remembered me as a baby. I wish someone had snapped a picture.

I have no recollection of Edna in my life when I was young, but that’s probably because my parents separated when I was about 18 months old, Bill died a few years later, and both Edna and mother were extremely busy.

Father Died

Our father died in 1963 following an automobile accident. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but he bled to death from internal injuries. That’s not the whole story though. His death was actually a suicide. Edna never knew that either.

I don’t know if Edna attended the funeral, although I suspect not. Mother did not take me, probably simply because we didn’t have the gas money, although attending his funeral was something I really needed in order to accept that he was dead and never coming back. I was only 7. He was often gone for long periods, dropping in at will. It was natural for me to believe that we were just “waiting” and he would one day show up again. Except, that wait was forever.

As a young child, I adored my father, unaware that he left a trail of carnage and broken hearts behind him in terms of the women and children in his life.

Mother resented my father’s behaviors and the fact that he walked away from responsibility. She discovered the “other woman,” along with the “other child,” Dave, born just 5 months before me.

Yep, my Dad did it again – two women, both pregnant at the same time. You’d think he would have learned in the space of thirty-some years…but no!

To say Mother was furious, not to mention crushed and embarrassed is an understatement. Mother entered into that relationship with the intention of “forever.” Every other woman who had children with my father assuredly felt the same way, with the same set of expectations – living happily forever after. That never happened.

There weren’t hard feelings between Mother and Edna, but their letters became fewer and further between, then stopped. Edna had teenagers, then grandchildren and so did Mother. Plus, Mom worked and eventually remarried.

Growing up, I didn’t realize that I had a sister, although I don’t think it was actually a “secret.” It was more like a vague sense that drifted away in time.

Years later, when I actually read my father’s yellowed obituary clipping tucked into his American Legion hat with his tie and pin, the fact that another child, a sister, was listed hit me like a ton of bricks.

Finding Edna

I found Edna through a series of “coincidences” that served two purposes. Not only did I meet Edna, but I also accidentally became a genealogist.

I think both were my fate.

I knew little about my family on my father’s side. Truthfully, I knew nothing. My father’s family was from far-away Tennessee and my mother was not in contact with any of his relatives.

When I was pregnant and suddenly found myself out of a job (yes, they could do that back then), I decided I wanted to know a little more about my father’s family and had unexpected time on my hands.

My step-mother, Virgie, a lovely lady, was still living, but she didn’t know much about the Estes family.

Virgie provided me with my father’s obituary, along with his hat, tie and pin that she had been saving for me until I was an adult. In the obituary, Edna’s name was given as Mrs. Clifford Miller of Vicksburg, Michigan.

I was stunned.

I was immediately skeptical because there were several errors in Dad’s obituary. To begin with, my mother was listed as my father’s daughter and I was omitted entirely. I called Virgie and asked about that, and she said she didn’t know what happened, or why.

I now know that three other children were omitted as well. Or at least, people my father believed were his children.

Additionally, my father’s 4 full and 3 living half-siblings are omitted, and his half-sister is listed as his step-sister. But hey, it’s close, right?

Is it any wonder I was confused? What little I had been told didn’t line up with what I saw in writing. Did I really have a sister? Who was she?

Virgie suggested that I call my father’s family in Tennessee to sort things out and learn more.

Was that a solution or jumping from the frying pan into the fire? I recalled some of the things my mother had said, mostly in passing, about my father and his family. It also concerned me that Virgie didn’t know more. She was a lovely lady. Why was she not involved with these people – and why did none of them seem to care that my father had a daughter?

Hello, Operator?

After a day or so, I gingerly picked up the phone, dialed “0” for “operator” and asked for anyone with the Estes surname in Tazewell, Tennessee. That’s all I had, that one town name. The operator in Tazewell, a local lady, was extremely helpful.

She asked me “which Estes” I wanted to talk to. I told her that I wanted to find out about my family, and who my father’s family was. She said, “Oh, you need to talk to George,” and connected me. Uncle George, who was really a first cousin once removed, told me, among other things, that my aunts, my father’s sisters, were still living. I was dumbstruck. So was he – that I didn’t know about them. He gave me a phone number.

I connected with my elderly, somewhat eccentric aunts, whose favorite pastime it seemed was doing battle with each other. As it turned out, they knew “all about“ me and had a LOT to say, trying to outdo each other. They told me “stories” about siblings and such, some of whom did exist and some who may not. I’ve never been able to substantiate much of what they said, although it wasn’t all bunk either. It was then and remains difficult to sort the truth from the fiction.

I’m still waiting for that DNA surprise sibling I’m just sure must exist someplace!

A little more sleuthing netted me another phone number.

Finally, after an appropriate amount of grilling and questioning me, one of the aunts grudgingly gave me a phone number she said was my sister’s.

The aunts were masters of giving you almost what you wanted, but not quite. In this case, I received the phone number for one sister, but they would not provide information about other supposed siblings, although they made it very clear they had that information. I didn’t know this at the time, of course, but in retrospect, I was very fortunate to receive that one phone number and name.

I debated about calling. My mother was very uncomplimentary about my father’s family and that conversation with my aunts confirmed some of what she had said.

My grandparents had in essence abandoned my father and his brother. My grandfather was not a nice person. The aunts clearly suffered through similar situations from the same parents. They were manipulative enough that I was concerned about the rest of the family. Were they the same? Or worse? What was I getting myself into?

Did I REALLY want contact with this family, or did I just think I did? Maybe I just wanted to know about them, not know them.

Finding lost relatives is much like opening Pandora’s box. Once opened, it can never be closed. After much introspection and endlessly staring at the phone number written on that pad of yellow paper, I summoned all my courage and decided to call the woman who was supposed to be my sister. I picked up the receiver and dialed. There was no turning back now.

I finished dialing. I heard the phone ring on the other end.

My hands were shaking.


What if she hung up on me?


What if she was crazy?


What if I was sorry?


I knew, based on my mother’s very guarded behavior about my father, as well as comments that other people had made that this family was “difficult” at best. I had no experience with their flavor of “difficult” and was clearly outgunned.


Was I making a huge mistake?


Should I just hang up?


The Phone Call

Cliff answered the phone.


My voice was quivering.

I told him who I was and asked if his wife was the daughter of William Estes.

I sounded ridiculous and stumbled all over my words. I should have practiced.

He asked why I wanted to know and what I wanted.

This was not going well. I wasn’t prepared for this very direct question.

He was clearly NOT friendly.

I explained that I wanted to know about my family. He immediately sounded very “odd,” his voice quite strained. He paused, then told me to hang on a minute.

That was the longest minute ever.

Muffled shuffling and muted voices. I knew he had covered the phone with his hand.

A minute or so later, although it seemed like forever, Edna came to the phone. Increasingly nervous, I stuttered and stammered.

I’ve always disliked phones and phone calls.

I had the distinct sense that this was a one-time shot. No repeat if I somehow screwed this up.

Edna was nice and pleasant, and I finally relaxed a little. Her voice was soft and reassuring. I didn’t feel like she hated me from the onset.

We visited for some time and she told me that they were in the process of moving, and retiring to Arizona. Had I not called when I did, I would have missed them entirely and would probably never have been able to find them. They had sold the farm and were leaving that upcoming weekend.

That’s how close I came to missing Edna.

But that just-in-the-nick-of-time call wasn’t the oddest part. It turns out that I had actually been given the wrong phone number by the aunts. Was that intentional? I had repeated it back to them. However, in my nervousness, I had accidentally inverted those two “wrong” numbers when dialing, and had, by happenstance, reached the right number.

That “coincidence” still gives me cold chills.

Edna mailed me this 40th-anniversary photo of her and Cliff. I studied this picture to see if she looked like me.

I couldn’t tell.

It seemed and felt odd to have a sister that was my mother’s age.

Meeting Edna

Edna and I wanted to meet, so we decided that she and Cliff would stop by during their travels that summer, after my baby was born.

Cliff and Edna arrived a few weeks later pulling their 5th-wheel and camped in our driveway.

That was the first meeting of many. We bonded immediately and felt like we had always known each other. I was sad that they were moving so far away, but we made the best of the situation. We visited in person when we could, wrote letters, and talked “long distance” on the phone nearly every Sunday when they weren’t on the road.

Edna and I spent time getting to know each other, chattering like magpies, and cementing a permanent bond.

Both of us agreed that our mothers had done a pretty good job of raising us. She felt that she was much better off for not having been involved with our father…and she was probably right. She knew him as an irresponsible parent and had of course heard at least some stories from her mother and maternal grandparents. Edna had the advantage of having known our father as an adult herself.

He was taken from me when I still adored him as a child. I wasn’t old enough to comprehend that he caused the pain of his absence and was innocently ecstatic to see him again – just like an abandoned puppy waiting eternally for their uncaring human to return.

Hearing what Edna had to say as another of his children helped me understand the situation better. She also wasn’t speaking as an “X,” but as his child.

I understood why the trail of women he left, several with a child, felt so negatively towards him with his string of broken promises and betrayals. Edna, as a child was hurt by his absence too. Neither of us knew at that time about the horrific childhood he had endured and somehow survived.

I do believe he loved his children…just not in a responsible way. If he hadn’t, he simply would have never come back, risking slammed doors and outright rejection.

Perhaps the best thing about our father was us finding each other, like lost pieces of the same puzzle.

Common Ground

Edna and I discovered much common ground. Both of us had found our voices as artists.

Edna created beauty using lots of varied media. Her most incredible pieces were wood carvings and burnings.

I love her bird carving, shown here, but her creation I found the most moving was a carving that depicts 3 people of different races, white, black, and Native American, all looking upward to the same distant location in the sky. An exquisite spiritual piece, it spoke to my soul. I knew it emanated from hers.

Edna and I had more in common.

We had both raised orphaned animals. She was showing me photos in her family scrapbook and there was a picture of her with a young deer following her around. She then told me about bottle raising that orphan deer, and other animals as well.

My children and I rescued and raised orphaned and injured animals for years. How we both came to that rather unusual commonality is just another of those uncanny coincidences.

Some years later, one of my father’s nieces told me that in the 1940s when my father came to live with their family for a few weeks, he rescued a group of baby ducks. She and he, together, raised them. She said they had those ducks as pets on their farm forever until they died of old-duck age.

Our father wasn’t all bad.

Edna and I nurtured our new relationship and made up for the lost years as best we could. I was more the age of her kids, slightly younger than her youngest child.

We spoke nearly every Sunday. Phone rates were cheapest on Sunday and that’s when everyone made those expensive “long distance” calls. We visited when she and Cliff came back north in the summers. They wintered in Arizona and came home and “camped” in their 5th-wheel at the various kids’ and grandkids’ houses in the summer.

We always managed to get together at least once each summer.

We couldn’t talk during the summer months as much. Cell phones didn’t yet exist, at least not on a wide scale. Edna was great about writing letters though, and I wrote a few too. I loved those days of finding an envelope with her familiar handwriting in the mailbox. It always raised my spirits and was the highlight of that day.

After I began to fly with my career, I scheduled flights to connect through Phoenix so I could overnight with Edna and Cliff before catching my flight the next day. We saw each other when we could and never expected our time together to be so short. We always had the future in front of us to be enjoyed, and we certainly planned to do so.

I’ve often wondered what she told her kids before I met them. They always called me their “Baby Aunt Bobbi” because I was younger than all of them. I was welcomed always and made to feel like a family member. I never felt like I hadn’t been a family member.

The 50th Anniversary

One of my favorite memories is with the whole family.

For Edna and Cliff’s 50th wedding anniversary, the family held a big reunion picnic at one of the kid’s farms outside Battle Creek. We thoroughly enjoyed the day, did lots of good-natured teasing and visiting, and played volleyball in the large front yard between the tree-shaded circular driveway and the road. Edna and Cliff had 6 children – 5 of whom lived to adulthood and more than a dozen grandchildren. By their 50th wedding anniversary, they had several great-grandchildren too.

Friends were invited as well, so their 50th-anniversary celebration picnic was bustling, with cars and trucks parked up and down the road for half a mile or so. One man even arrived on a tractor.

I’ve never been a part of a large family, so this was something new for me. What fun, and I was saddened that I had missed so much for so long.

Edna’s sons and grandsons were busy grilling hotdogs and hamburgers. Everyone brought dishes for the buffet tables which lined the driveway in the shade beneath the huge maple trees, their leaves fluttering from time to time in the gentle breeze.

We all grabbed paper plates and enjoyed a wonderful summertime feast, sitting on scattered chairs and on blankets and quilts on the grass. Edna and Cliff, as the guests of honor, got to sit on folding chairs at a real table. They had very specifically said, “no gifts,” in the invitation, but people didn’t listen very well, me included. We “paid them no mind,” as we said on the farm.

A card table covered with a red and white gingham tablecloth held beautifully wrapped gifts and cards, many handmade.

I stitched a commemorative sampler celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary which corresponded with the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

Cliff returned the sampler to me after Edna passed on. It was painful to him and he wanted to be sure I had it. Returning it was an act of love, but the day it arrived back home was one mighty sad day. When I made it, that possibility never occurred to me. I have now passed it on to one of her grandchildren who will, in turn, pass it on again.


After lunch at their anniversary celebration, someone erected a volleyball net.

The younger family members, of which I was then one, distributed themselves on opposite sides of the net and a good-humored but competitive series of volleyball games began.

Fourth of July weekend is hot. Between games, we all made beelines for the table with the cold drinks.

Several coolers held lemonade, iced tea, Koolaid, pop, Hi-C, and other cold treats. On the table with the cups, ice floated in a punch bowl with sliced fruit and some sort of red fruit punch. It looked luscious and icy cold. I filled a red plastic cup with ice cubes and ladled punch into the cup. I drank the whole thing in one long gulp, filled the cup, and did it again.

After each person had something to drink and cooled off a bit, we wandered back onto the front lawn, preparing to play another game of volleyball. It had sprinkled a bit while we were getting refreshments, and maybe a bit of dessert too, but the sun was out once again.

Someone served the ball and off we went.

The ball was coming straight for me. I had the perfect shot. I leaped my best Olympic leap into the air…

The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back, looking up at everyone in a circle, staring down at me.

“What happened?”, I asked.

Seems my family was wondering the same thing.

My nephew helped me to my feet and walked me to one of the tables with chairs. Edna and Cliff were concerned, although Cliff was laughing and Edna was poking him to stop.

I asked where my cup was and could someone please get me some more of that tasty red ice-cold punch. I thought I might be overheated.

My nephew looked at me skeptically. “How much of that red punch did you drink?”

“Two cups. It was really good,” I answered.

“Just now?”

“Yea, why?”

He started to laugh. Then he started to laugh so hard he was crying and couldn’t breathe. Cliff was guffawing.

He told me to sit still. He called his brother over and started telling him something. His brother started to laugh uproariously too.

I was irritated. I was still thirsty and wanted something more that was cold to drink. I stood up, only to sit back down again. I felt queasy.

Something wasn’t right.

One of my nephews finally went over to the table, I thought to bring me some more punch. He reached into the cooler and brought me something else to drink.

Then he picked up a mason jar from behind the punch bowl, out of sight, and brought it over to me.

“Know what this is?”, he asked.

It had a clear liquid in it that looked like water.

“No. Is it water?”

“It’s White Lightening,” he said.

My eyebrows shot up.

“Moonshine? Oh, I don’t want any of that. I just want some of that punch.”

“Ummm,” my nephew stammered, trying not to laugh, “You just had two cups of it.”


“Yep, the punch is spiked, heavily spiked” Cliff chuckled, “I thought you knew.”

“No more punch for you,” my nephew pronounced, “You’re relegated to lemonade or iced tea. And no more volleyball either.”

I remember smiling a lot the rest of that hazy afternoon. I sat close to Edna and Cliff so lots of people talked to me too, although I don’t remember much of what they had to say. I simply remember how happy I was, sitting with my sister.

Cliff bought Edna a beautiful new diamond ring which he presented to her, saying she deserved it for putting up with him for 50 years. Let’s just say it MIGHT have been me who laughed out loud and snorted my lemonade through my nose. White Lightening will do that to you!

I’m still laughing, sitting here writing about this today. So was Edna, then.

That’s such a good memory. Everyone had a lovely day.


Other times, we’d just sit and visit wherever we were. It didn’t matter.

One time, I went to meet them someplace where they were camping and we made goulash. The only veggie she had in the camper was carrots, so our goulash had hamburger, macaroni, tomato sauce and mega-carrots. We laughed, but enjoyed cooking and eating together regardless of what it was or how many carrots.

I loved being with my sister. We thought we had forever.


A year or so after the anniversary party, Edna called with some not-so-good news. She had cancer.

I froze.

That C word will stop you in your tracks and steal your breath. Cancer will steal life as you know it, if not life itself.

My chest tightened. I sat down before I fell down.

“Whhh – wwhat? Where?”

Very long pause.

“Breast cancer.”

“Oh God. NO! NOOOooooo…” I screamed.

I tried not to sob uncontrollably but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stop the tears.

Over the next two years, Edna underwent a double radical mastectomy and chemo. I didn’t see her during this time. Not only did they not return north, she didn’t feel like having company in Arizona. Fortunately, one of her children lived there and others visited from time to time to help.

It was living hell.

The surgeries and treatments didn’t just affect her breasts and chest, but her arms due to the extensive surgery to remove lymph nodes. The chemo made her deathly ill. We feared she would die as a result of or during the treatments.

We still talked on Sunday when she could and felt up to it. We planned for the future – where we would meet and what we would do. We talked about making crafts together, perhaps, or her favorite place in the mountains.

I would ask her opinion about things and she would share her wisdom.

Sometime in 1988 or 1989, she got the all-clear. Cancer free. What a horrific journey, but worth it. Life could resume, although Edna always seemed tired. She was quick to remind me that she was no spring chicken and everything she endured had aged her.

The House in the Mountains

Cliff and Edna had purchased land in the mountains near Tucson before Edna’s cancer diagnosis. After the all-clear, Cliff built a house, their dream retirement space. I know Edna missed the adults-only modular retirement community where they lived before, but they both loved the peaceful, beautiful mountains. Edna’s stamina was slowly returning, and just as soon as they got unpacked and settled in their new home, she wanted me to fly down and visit again. The drive back north was more than she felt she could handle.

I delayed that visit because I knew she was still struggling with the move and fatigue. I didn’t want to be a burden and as soon as she was finished getting settled, I would visit.

They decided to take shorter driving trips in their 5th-wheel, closer to home. In May of 1990, Edna went for a checkup with her oncology team in Tucson. When she got home, they decided to head out for a few days, someplace in the mountains.

Edna set about cleaning the house and packing. Cliff got the 5th-wheel ready. A day or so later, they took off.

June 1, 1990

On Saturday evening, June 1st, 1990, my husband and I went to dinner with friends.

When we returned home, there was a message waiting from Cliff that said Edna had a heart attack. I still remember with horror hearing that message. I rewound and played it again – unsure I had heard correctly. Maybe I had missed something.

After all those months of being chronically frightened, I had finally relaxed a bit, but apparently, too soon.

He left a phone number which I called immediately. The number was to the nurse’s station at the hospital and they went to find Cliff. There was no phone, they explained, in Edna’s ICU room.

ICU? My sister was in ICU? Those words and that realization struck me like an icy slap.

Cliff repeated that Edna had a heart attack, but that she was relatively stable now. Although she was understandably upset and in some pain, she was taking a positive view of the situation. I asked where they were and he said they were at a small hospital in the middle of noplace.

He didn’t know much more.

ICU. My sister was in ICU.

After talking to Cliff, I was very uneasy, although I couldn’t put my finger exactly on why. Cliff didn’t seem terribly worried and he was there in person. Why was I?

Who knows what “intensive care” was like in a little local hospital. Did they know what they were doing? Should she be transferred? Was she really mostly “OK’ or was she just putting on a brave face for Cliff? Did she not want me to know because I would worry? What caused the heart attack? Were diagnostic tests being run?

Of course, that was before widespread cell phones and one could not talk to patients in intensive care.

She wouldn’t have been in ICU if it wasn’t serious.

ICU. My sister was in ICU.

I needed to be there. For her and for me.

I called the airline and the first flight out was about 9 AM the following morning. I booked it and went to bed for a very restless night.

I couldn’t sleep.

The Next Morning

When I got up early in the morning, I decided to call the hospital to check on Edna before I left for the airport. Once I left the house, I was pretty much out of touch until I actually arrived in Arizona. I had rented a car for my arrival and wouldn’t be in touch with the family until I got to the hospital someplace in the mountains in the afternoon.

I talked to the nurse at the nurse’s station. It was 3 hours earlier in Arizona. She said Cliff was sleeping in the lounge. Back then, family members didn’t get to stay in the rooms with patients. The nurse told me that Edna was “resting comfortably” and was stable. That was certainly good news and made me less anxious and somewhat hopeful.

Between talking with the nurse and Cliff the night before, I got no indication that Edna might not recover. Everything seemed calm and routine, as routine as something like that can be. Edna was a survivor by all accounts. Cautious optimism was the watchword.

I should have felt reassured, and I was trying to.

Still, I just could not shake this feeling.

As I was talking to the nurse, I heard the speaker at the hospital. In fact, it was so loud, I couldn’t hear anything else. I still hear it in my dreams.

Code Blue

“Code blue, code blue” it screeched, “code blue.”

The nurse either dropped the phone or put it down. I wasn’t clear whether she was going to get Cliff or if she was responding to the “code blue.” The phone was a wall phone beside the table. I sat down in a chair at the kitchen table.

I understood all too well what “code blue” meant.

I waited, but I already knew.

I waited…and waited….and listened for any glimmer of hope.

Maybe I could hear something.

Maybe Cliff would come to the phone.

Maybe it wasn’t Edna who had coded.

In the pit of my stomach, I knew.

I wasn’t fearful, it was more like dead certainty. I have always called those events “knowings”, and they are never wrong.

I closed my eyes and waited as the hot tears slipped down my cheeks.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably more like 20 minutes, someone came back and picked up the phone. I don’t think it was the same person, but they probably saw the phone laying on the desk off the hook. They picked it back up and said, “Hello?”

Icy fingers gripped my heart.

I asked if it was Edna who coded. The nurse said she couldn’t tell me that. I asked again for Cliff who they said was “busy.” No doubt he was. Desperate for anything, I asked, “If it wasn’t my sister who coded, you would tell me that, right?”

She paused for a very long moment, then said “Yes, yes I would.” I can still hear her voice.

I asked if Edna was gone. Like before, she said she couldn’t tell me that…I would have to talk to Cliff, who was of course “busy.” So once again, I asked the same type of question.

“If my sister wasn’t gone, you would tell me, right?” Once again, she softly said, “Yes, I would.”

Edna was gone.

Somehow, I had known since the night before.

I have always wondered if she would have fared better had she been in a major metropolitan hospital, but none of that mattered anymore.

I vividly remember sitting alone at the kitchen table in the early dawn hours, struggling with what to do. I would liked to have asked Edna for her opinion, but that would never be an option again.

Should I go to Arizona anyway? A plane ticket and rental car were horribly expensive for a young family counting pennies, let alone dollars. With Edna already gone, it seemed an unnecessary expense.

In retrospect, I probably should have gone ahead and made the journey. At least I would have gotten to see her body one more time in person and not just in a photo. I could have supported Cliff and her 2 daughters who did manage to arrive in time. But I didn’t realize any of that in that moment. I still couldn’t talk to Cliff and I had to make a “go, no-go” decision.

The Real Struggle

The real struggle though was how to deal with the unexpected death of my sister. Edna was twice lost to me.

This all seemed so horrifically unfair.

It had only been a year or two since her mastectomy and chemo for breast cancer. We thought she was cancer-free, although I came to doubt that as did the rest of the family after her death.

Cliff told me that he thought she had been told the cancer had metastasized during her checkup in Tucson. That’s why she came home and wanted to leave immediately on a camping trip. One last time before she had to tell him about the cancer and go back for more treatments.

Or, maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t going to take any more treatments. I believe that’s the decision she was weighing.

If that was the case, her death by a comparatively quick heart attack was probably a blessing, an odd sort of cosmic gift.

Funeral Decisions

After her death in Arizona, the family was faced with the quandary of how to handle the funeral arrangements. Cliff discovered that transporting her body back to Michigan for burial would cost thousands of dollars. I just had cartoonish visions of Cliff pulling the 5th-wheel, with Edna in her casket, back home. Had they allowed that, I’m sure that’s exactly what he would have done, talking to her all the way.

The decision was made to cremate her remains, then bury the urn in Michigan.

On the day of Edna’s funeral, schedules and resource juggling worked out such that Bagel (our beagle) went to stay with a friend for the day, my former husband went sailing instead of with me to my sister’s funeral, which meant he needed the van. Edna never much liked him anyway.

That meant my daughter and I, just the two of us, drove my former husband’s convertible to the funeral service which was graveside at the cemetery. A very odd combination of grief and freedom.

It’s odd the things we remember. I felt kind of strange driving a convertible to a funeral. It seemed inappropriate. Then again, I know Edna would have had a good chuckle.

After the service, we all went to Edna’s grandson’s for refreshments. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, there was no red punch, although everyone but everyone reminded me of that legendary picnic! We all laughed about that. I was so grateful to have had that time together to make priceless precious memories.

My daughter and I put the top to the convertible down and enjoyed the rest of the day, driving home. Just her and me. That too was a gift. The sun kissed our faces and the wind blew freedom through our hair and dried our tears.

Edna would have liked that. She was free too. A part of the wind.

The Service

Edna and I shared one more thing, our deep connection to the spiritual realm, Mother Earth, and her creatures. We shared Native American ancestors and embraced the Red Road, the Native lifeways.

We both felt a spiritual connection deep within our souls and gave it a voice in our art, the way we lived our lives, and our views of the Earth and our fellow creatures. We lived it, every single day.

As we gathered together in the cemetery for Edna’s farewell ceremony and looked out over the surrounding fields, a small dark spot appeared on the top of the distant hill.

The spot began to move towards us and shortly, we could see that it was either a large dog or a wolf or maybe a crossbreed between the two. The lanky canine came and joined us. Edna’s granddaughter, a veterinarian, called the dog over to sit down, and it did, just like any other attendee, facing forward and listening attentively.

Cliff had asked if I could read a poem that had been found tucked away in Edna’s Bible. I believe she had read it at the funeral of one of her two sons-in-law who had passed away.

I took a deep breath and began to read the poem through tears. The dog came to sit by me, pressing against my leg. I was crying too hard and couldn’t finish reading the poem.

Not knowing what else to do, I passed the sheet of paper to Edna’s grandson. The dog moved to sit by him as he read.

He couldn’t finish the poem either and handed the paper to his sister, the veterinarian, who was also holding her daughter in her arms. The dog moved beside her as she finished reading the poem.

It took three of us, and a dog spirit, perhaps embodying the spirit of all the animals who loved Edna too, but we got it done.

I had never had a sister before.

Her passing left an incredible gaping wound that has never been filled or completely healed.


So, what are we left with?  Regrets and good memories.

I do regret that we didn’t find each other sooner and that our time on this earth together was only a short dozen years. She has been gone far longer than we had with each other, although our time together is still bright in my memory and seems both ageless and timeless.

I wish I had been able to spend more time with her. She invited me to see their new house several times, but I never went. I always expected to do it “soon” or someday and was waiting for the right opportunity to come along. I didn’t want to be an imposition. Someday isn’t a day on a calendar nor is it promised. I should have gone.

I regret not accepting a gift. Edna offered me some matchbook-size travel earring holders that she had made with plastic canvas and yarn. I did want one, but I didn’t want her to feel obligated to offer them to me after I had admired them, so I was reluctant to take one. She didn’t say anymore, and I’ve always regretted that I never accepted one and just said: “thank you.” She made them with her own hands and I would certainly cherish that today. I’ve always regretted that decision and I surely hope I didn’t hurt her feelings. Growing up poor and proud makes receiving anything difficult.

Edna provided an incredible amount of encouragement and inspiration. She was always my cheerleader and had more confidence in me than I did in myself.

She was never condemning or judgmental, but she was direct and said what she thought, and why. I always thought long and hard about whatever advice she proferred, and we often discussed why she felt the way she did. It was during those discussions that I learned about how both oppression and depression affect the lives of people, not just in one generation, but across many.

She laughed at life’s ups and downs and found amusement and humor in most places. She taught me to laugh at myself and view the world through the rose-colored glasses of humor. So much of life can’t be changed, but you can control your perception which in many cases determines your level of happiness.

For her conservative upbringing and lifestyle as a mother and farm wife, she was amazingly worldly and her opinions were ones not of repetitive tradition, but of thoughtful common sense. That book was not a product of the cover.

I made some exceedingly difficult, life-altering decisions and talked with her about each one.

She saw me through the tumultuous times associated with leaving Indiana and was always supportive of my decisions. She never doubted for one minute that I could and would succeed and assured me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. It’s one thing when your parents tell you that – it’s quite another when someone else does.

Edna was firmly convinced that I didn’t need to have a man in my life, and the only reason a woman should ever marry (or otherwise take a partner) is because they want to. Never because society suggested that a woman needs a man in her life or a father for her children.

She advised against marrying the man I married, the one who couldn’t be bothered to attend Edna’s funeral to support his wife and daughter, although Edna supported my decision when I married him anyway. I wish I had listened because she was right. Her not-so-tongue-in-cheek recommendation was just to have some fun and not get too serious about much of anything.

She taught me about incredible courage in the face of devastation as she faced what needed to be done, bravely, with her mastectomies. A few years ago when I had breast surgery, I thought of her and knew that compared to what she underwent, mine was nothing. It’s because of her though that I’m extra vigilant. Yearly Mammograms are my friend.

Losing her at such a young age inspired me in yet another way. Edna was not thin. We don’t know what caused the blood clot that triggered her heart attack. It could have been cancer, which is known to cause blood clots, or it could have been related to her weight and related health issues. We have the same body type. I vowed to not repeat that pattern and took definitive action. I don’t want to follow in those footsteps if I can help it.

Edna loved her children and grandchildren intensely but suffered through some very difficult times with at least one of her children. Her understanding and sage advice continues to see me through a similarly devastating situation.

I am so grateful for her wisdom and that she so gracefully shared it with me.


The summer of 1990 served up several losses.

A couple of weeks after Edna’s death, my beloved cat, Savina, also passed on.

My step-father who I loved dearly was quite ill. We knew what was coming, just not when.

My marriage was shakey, although I didn’t realize quite how shakey it was at the time, and my children were teenagers experiencing their own trials and tribulations.

These deaths and transitions left me reeling with loss and facing the reality of mortality. Questions about what is important and about death itself reared their ugly heads.

It was years before I didn’t pick up the phone on Sunday “to call Edna” or conversely, thought, “Oh, I bet that’s Edna,” when the phone rang on Sunday afternoon.

In 1993, when my (then) husband had a massive stroke, my step-father died, and life further deteriorated, I desperately, desperately wanted to talk to my sister.

In August of 1990, my daughter and I took a week and went “up North” with Bagel the Beagle. We didn’t really have any planned destination. I was searching for some sort of peace and resolution.

My daughter was looking for a nice patch of sun on a beach. Bagel was just so happy to be with us.

I wrote and journaled every day and discovered a way to talk to Edna. I wrote reams, and designed two commemorative art pieces for her, which I later stitched.

One, titled “Proverbial Sampler”, is shown here. The bear paw design is a wink and a nod to our shared heritage and spirituality. Please take a minute and read the sayings behind the design. They say it all.

Edna is often with me, especially during creative or difficult times. I’ve learned to feel her presence. She is never far.

I realized in retrospect that she was with us at her funeral, via the dog, and that she is indeed with us if we need her, or just for company at other times. It’s not her presence or absence that’s the issue, but our ability to sense her spirit.

Of course, I still missed her, but I didn’t feel quite so abandoned and alone. I learned to love her in a new and different way.

The last part of the poem we read at her funeral sums it up pretty well.


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Honors and Accolades – Thanks to You!

Before I share the good news, I’d like to thank you, my readers and followers – my tribe – for being my fans.

For reading what I write and watching what I produce. For sharing your thoughts. For inspiring me with your stories and questions. For supporting me.

It’s because of you that I’m privileged to write this article about recent honors and accolades.

Three, to be specific, or four, depending on how you count.

I’m truly humbled.

All three notifications arrived in my inbox within a few days this past week, which also corresponded to a difficult death anniversary in my family, so I really needed this boost.

Family Tree Magazine’s 101 Best Genealogy Websites

Family Tree Magazine compiles an annual best of the best list of 101 genealogy resources for genealogy enthusiasts to research our family trees.

I’m very pleased that DNAeXplained is included again this year.

You can see the full list of honorees, here and you can click on each category to learn more.

I encourage you to try something new.

How many of these sites have you never utilized? What might be waiting for you? Do you have a particularly thorny brick wall that needs to fall?

Maybe some of these resources don’t pertain to your areas of research, but others may.

You might have used some in the past but need to check back occasionally.

For example, DeadFred. You could find photos of your long-lost relatives, and you can also submit orphaned photos there as well.

You know I’m already searching for the surname of every ancestor in my tree that died after the advent of cameras in the mid-1800s! If not them, then maybe their children or siblings. Hope springs eternal!

I’m going to try one new website from the Family Tree Magazine list every day.

Which resource are you trying first? Let me know how it goes and if you find something fun.

Legacy Family Tree Webinar’s Top 10

I received an email from Geoff Rasmussen with Legacy Family Tree Webinars announcing that my webinar, Wringing Every Drop out of Mitochondrial DNA ranked number 5 in the top 10 webinars for May.

Truthfully, I was pleasantly surprised because mitochondrial DNA has often been the “neglected” DNA that we all carry. Hopefully, that “neglected” status will change and more people will test now that they understand how beneficial this tool can be, which means additional and more meaningful matches for all of us.

More than 2,200 people have viewed this webinar so far and received the extensive companion syllabus.

You can watch too by joining Legacy Family Tree Webinars, here, which gives you access to all 1787 webinars, and counting. New webinars are literally added daily, and you can register to watch live webinars along with recently recorded webinars for free for the first 7 days. Take a look.

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA, please do by clicking here.

By taking a mitochondrial DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you’ll also become a part of the exciting Million Mito Project which is literally rewriting the history of womankind.

 E-book Release and Lovely Book Review

I received a note from my publisher,, who is also on Family Tree Magazine’s “Best Of” list again this year, telling me that my book, DNA for Native American Genealogy has been released as an e-book AND has received a major book review by Dr. Margaret McMahon. I think this should count as two really good things, not just one.

I wrote about the contents of my book, here, but Dr. Mac, as she is known, summed things up succinctly in her statement, “This book picks up where the theories end and your work begins.”

That was my goal, to educate my readers, explain the various tests and results, and provide a research roadmap. Do you have a family story of a Native American ancestor? Are you looking for answers?

Dr. Mac’s book review corresponds well with the recent release of the book in e-book (e-Pub) format. Here’s how to order:

Thank You, Thank You

Once again, thank you for your continuing support. I’ll have more interesting news soon!


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Find a Grave (Owned by Ancestry), Seriously, JUST STOP Incentivizing the Creation of Memorials of the Recently Deceased

I’ve been horrified, as has any sentient being, about the massacre in Uvalde, Texas.

I’ve also been increasingly furious these past few days because the practice of awarding “points” by Find a Grave, owned by Ancestry, to people who create memorials is making an already horrific situation much worse for traumatized families whose members perished.

THESE CHILDREN AREN’T EVEN BURIED, yet a non-family member rushed to create memorials for them, including photos and other family details lifted from news articles and other sources! We won’t even mention the copyright violations that Ancestry/Find a Grave consistently chooses to ignore.

This vampiristic death-gathering and memorial-creating behavior isn’t limited to the Uvalde massacre, it’s Buffalo and other victims of mass killings in addition to people who die of natural causes every day.

The same thing happened with one of my immediate family members a few years ago, and I still remember the shock of discovering her via a “hint” in the midst of grief.

Before I continue, I’d encourage you to read Judy Russell’s blog article, Ancestry, this one’s on you, but come back here when you’re done. Judy is on FIRE about this one, and with good reason.

Ancestry’s Failed Policy

Ancestry’s supposed policy of showing limited information about a memorial unless the creator is an immediate family member obviously had a major fail given that Judy was able to take screenshots of the memorial of this recently murdered child.

After a rather loud and persistent outcry from the community, back in January Find a Grave decided to redact some information for 3 months after a death. Yet, the memorial remains in place for the family to find. Ancestry does NOT prevent the creation of these memorials for bounty points.

This situation should never have happened in the first place and has been ongoing with incredible foot-dragging by Ancestry FOR YEARS! It’s just in our faces again with the Uvalde and other recent high-profile mass murders.

Even with the photo and some information hidden, for now, the Uvalde victims’ memorials are still listed. The one above is the same child’s memorial as in Judy’s article.

Even after eventually transferring the memorial to a family member, the original creator is always still listed. Unfortunately, this practice of awarding points and forever listing the “creator” by Ancestry encourages and incentivizes “trophy hunting.”

Here’s an example from one of my immediate family members.

You can then click on the name of the creator or the “maintainer,” which is me in this case, and see their stats. Here’s mine.

Notice that in Judy’s original screenshot, you could see the Find A Grave identity of the person who created that child’s memorial. However, Find a Grave has chosen to “protect” that person in the redacted version by not showing the creator’s identity. So we don’t know who collected that bounty point.

This is not a new issue. Ancestry/Find a Grave has not and is not acting expediently to resolve the situation. In fact, the “situation” doesn’t have to exist at all.

Take a look at this complaint board about Find a Grave. These issues pepper the genealogical community on social media, day after day after day.

Why Is This Happening?

This occurs because Ancestry displays the number of memorials created by volunteers. Some people spend their time finding obituaries and death announcements and creating memorials for people as soon as they die in order to rack up points, like a game.

The problem is that finding your loved one’s memorial, often with incorrect information, created by a stranger is unexpectedly jarring, at best. Especially to discover that your family member was only a trophy harvest whose memorial was created hours after they died. Then, having to ask (sometimes beg an unresponsive person) for the transfer of their memorial to you, only to have the creator’s name forever associated with the memorial adds insult to injury.

I’m not referring here to a volunteer who lives locally and “takes care” of local cemeteries, like the person who created memorials for my parents months after they were buried, not hours after they died. Most of those people are respectful, kind, and pleasant to deal with. They provide their services out of the kindness of their heart AFTER giving the family a respectable amount of time. Those ARE NOT the people I’m referring to.

Those lovely local volunteers aren’t the mega-harvester people searching online funeral home listings morning and night for new points to score. That is NOT a service to anyone except themselves, and oh yea, Find a Grave/Ancestry who can then serve up hints to Ancestry subscribers and garner page views.

Ancestry clearly wants to keep those harvesters engaged but to the detriment of the actual genealogists who subscribe to Ancestry’s services. That’s a mighty high price leveraged on the backs of their customers. And let’s face it, sooner or later, everyone’s parents, siblings, or (God forbid), children pass away. Ancestry is rewarding people to further torture the grieving. Every grieving person needs a respectable amount of time and space. Ancestry, of all companies, should be sensitive to this.

What Needs to Be Done?

I’m not privy to any inside information, but I believe that originally Find a Grave, before it was purchased by Ancestry, began listing memorials and other stats to encourage volunteers to document and photograph cemeteries to assist genealogists. That was the original purpose.

However, that purpose has morphed into something very different. Ancestry has the agency, and responsibility to put the brakes on.

Ancestry needs to:

  1. Stop awarding points like trophies, at least publicly.
  2. Remove the name of the original creator when the memorial is transferred to a family member.
  3. Prevent anyone except close family members from creating memorials for minimally 90 days and I’d suggest a year.

I wasn’t done with my mother’s estate for at least a year and wasn’t ready to deal with seeing her photo and obituary online until then.

And if that was my child, OMG.

Who in their right mind would think that entering those massacred children into Find a Grave immediately was acceptable by any criteria? Any standards of decency? And why would Find a Grave tolerate this for even a minute? Death is traumatic for family members under the “best” of circumstances and it only goes downhill from there.

And this is clearly the worse of circumstances.

While the individuals who created those memorials before the bodies were even cold were insensitive, and that’s the best spin I can put on it, Ancestry is the only one who can, should, and has the responsibility to stop this. And they have, so far, been unwilling.

It’s time for every single one of us to speak up. Bloggers and influences as well as the rest of Ancestry’s customers. We can all be influencers.

Use Your Outside Voice

Ok, bloggers and social media people – use your voices. We have even more influence cumulatively, together, as a chorus, than individually.

I do need to provide a word of warning though, especially to bloggers and other professionals.

Ancestry is punitive if you don’t always write positively about them. They will pull your affiliate account if you have one. They will exclude you from influencer calls, meetings, and related events at conferences. I’m guessing Judy and I will be enjoying snacks in the restaurant while those meetings are taking place. I encourage you to join us. It’s worth it to do the right thing.

You don’t need to be a blogger to have an influence. Everyone has a voice. Here are several things everyone can do.

Ancestry’s CEO

Deborah Liu was named Ancestry’s CEO in February 2021. She can fix this with one call or email.

This would be a good Twitter thread to reply to:

Based on Deborah’s social media photos, she has children. Ask her how she would feel if her children were massacred, and some unknown trophy hunter created their memorial as soon as their name was available. Would she feel violated? Crushed? Robbed of the opportunity to provide that caring act for her precious family member when she was ready?

God forbid this would ever happen to Deborah or her family, but if it did, this problem would be remedied in about 30 seconds.

Deborah may be “mourning with them,” but she is increasing the grief of countless people by failing to remediate Ancestry’s company policy. Furthermore, she, assuredly, is not following the Golden Rule by “doing unto others.” As if just doing the “right thing” isn’t enough reason alone.

Here’s the Biblical reference, if she needs it:

Matthew 7:12 (International Version), “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Perhaps Deborah didn’t know before, but let’s make absolutely positively sure she knows now!

Other Resources

Here’s a list of other places you can place comments and make yourself heard!

Let’s be that squeaky wheel and get results. Be respectful, but be sure to remind Ancestry that you are a PAYING customer when you call.

Ancestry, it’s way past time to step up.