Pandemic Journal: Memorial Day 2020

Memorial half mast

This year, in addition to honoring our brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the US flag will be flown at half-mast as a national expression of grief. The brutal trail of Covid as it rips through our country and the world.

5,288 deaths in my state, alone, 98,004 in the US as I write this – probably rolling across the threshold of 100,000, ironically, on Memorial Day.

Why didn’t I round 98,004 to 98,000?

Because every single one of those people matter.

Those 1, 2, 3 and 4 people above 98,000 may seem like a rounding error, but they aren’t. They have names, families and they suffered, just like those 98,000 other souls.

They may not have been old – not that being older should make anyone expendable.

The best of their life may not have been lived. We are all deprived and diminished by the loss of their potential – as are they.

But they all, every single one of them, have something in common.

They were all infected unintentionally and probably unknowingly by someone else. No one, not one person, signed up for this. Most of them had no idea they were putting their life on the line as they went about their business. This isn’t the military – no one enlisted fully aware of what the consequences might be.

It pains me greatly to see wearing a mask in public politicized. Wearing a mask is literally the very least we can do. Taking care of each other by doing such a small thing. Like it or not, we really are all in this together. What goes around, comes around.

Let me explain the very basic foundation of decision making that I’ve utilized for most of my life.

What’s the Worst That Will Happen?

If you wear a mask and you don’t need to:

  • You may never know that you didn’t need it
  • You might be a little uncomfortable or inconvenienced
  • You might be made fun of by someone not wearing a mask

Bottom line – you’re slightly inconvenienced if you wear a mask but you might save someone’s life, including your own.

If you DON’T wear a mask and needed to, the worse is:

  • You take the unnecessary chance of getting infected yourself. No, a mask won’t protect you entirely, but it helps.
  • You may, unknowingly, infect others who may suffer and die. They then infect others too, keeping the cycle of infection and death in motion and the numbers rising.
  • You’ll probably never know that you are responsible for infecting others and possibly killing people because you may never develop symptoms yourself, so you think everything is just fine. If you do develop symptoms, it’s too late to undo the exposures of the days before you manifested symptoms.

Bottom line – you may become infected yourself and/or infect others. You’re not just risking yourself, but everyone you come in contact with. They may suffer and die, or live terribly impaired, and be financially devastated in the process.

And…this outcome is avoidable.

The preventative step of wearing a mask in public, especially in public enclosed spaces, is so simple and entirely painless.

Who’s Vulnerable?

Everyone.

My immediate family, consisting of 7 people, 5 adults and 2 children, is healthy.

But…of those 7…

  • One is over 65.
  • One young person has a partial lung.
  • One child has partial kidneys.
  • One has an ongoing undiagnosed health issue.
  • One has a high risk housemate who is over 60 and had a heart issue last year.

If your family member exposes you, and you expose me, I will expose my loved ones, intentionally or not. If my family member dies because I inadvertently exposed them, I would never forgive myself.

If they die, that gaping wound would never heal.

Right now, 98,004 families feel that exact same way.

And some unknown person infected every one of them, accidentally.

Honoring the Dead

Memorial Day is supposed to be about honoring our military dead who gave their life defending our country.

Memorial poppy

Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when I was a kid. It’s a federal holiday for honoring and mourning military personnel who died while on active duty.

Volunteers often place flags on graves of all veterans.

A single red poppy has come to represent the fallen, symbolizing each life lost.

The US has suffered a total of 666,441 combat casualties during wars and conflicts from 1775-2019, with an additional 673,929 dying of other causes.

Wars are expensive in terms of lives lost and soldiers torn from their futures and families.

War Years Deaths
Civil War (both sides) 1861-1865 755,000 estimated
WWII 1941-1945 405,399
WWI 1917-1918 116,516
Vietnam 1961-1975 58,209
Korea 1950-1953 36,574
Revolutionary War 1775-1783 25,000 estimated
War of 1812 1812-1815 15,000 estimated
Mexican-American 1846-1848 13,283
Iraq 2003-2011 4,576
Philippine-American 1899-1902 4,196
Spanish-American 1898 2,246
Afghanistan 2001-present 2,216

There is no glory in death and warfare. There is, however, immense gratitude and respect.

Thank you seems like so few and such small works for their sacrifice – but it’s all I have.

Thank you one and all.

Memorial Arlington

On Memorial Day, flags decorate the graves of our brave soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My friend, Bob McLaren, who died in March will be buried there soon. I have decorated his grave in my heart and made masks in his honor.

Family Traditions

Memorial cemetery cleanup

In my family, Decoration Day was expanded to visiting and caring for all graves in the family. A combination of love for those gone, sorrow at the loss of their companionship and celebration of their life and the upcoming summer together – at least for those of us remaining on the green side of the sod.

Grass was manicured from the edges of the stones, stories were told and retold, and fresh-cut flowers lovingly placed.

In some locations, families spread quilts and have picnics in the cemeteries near their loved ones.

Memorial cemetery picnic

Military Family Members Honored

Ironically, few of my family members killed in the service of their country have stones.

James Claxton died in the War of 1812 and was buried in a now-lost hastily-dug grave just outside the stockade of Fort Decatur, Alabama.

My family members who died in the Civil War are buried anonymously; their battlefield resting places lost to time.

The body of my 1st cousin, Robert Vernon Estes, who died horrifically as a POW in Korea still hasn’t been returned, and likely never will.

Samuel Bolton Plank Cem

Samuel Bolton, my grandmother’s brother, gave his life during WWI. He was brought home and does have a stone. I hope someone is tending his grave today.

Frank Sadowski

And then, there’s Frank Sadowski, my mother’s almost-husband who was killed on Okinawa just days before the end of WWII.

All, lives cut short.

The Covid War

Depending on how you look at this, Covid deaths are approaching the total of all WWI combat deaths, or the combination of Vietnam, Korea and either the War of 1812 or the Revolutionary War.

Since February 28th – just under 3 months – 86 days.

That’s 1116 people on average that have died every single day – that we know of – not counting all the people who died but were never tested or diagnosed.

Look at this another way. The average commercial airliner holds between 150-200 passengers.

Using 150 as the average number, that’s 653 airliners that have crashed in 86 days, with everyone on board perishing. That’s 7.6 crashes per day, or one crash every 3 hours and 15 minutes – in the US alone.

Memorial week planes

Here are today’s planes that crashed and burned with 150 people each on board.

Just today.

Memorial month planes

Here are the planes from just this week.

Now, multiply that picture by 12.29 weeks since February 28th. If you printed that out on your printer it would be about 10 pages of solid airplanes.

And we know there are more coming, tomorrow, and the next day. We just don’t know how many more, or for how long.

So, are you willing to get on a plane and fly? That would take a lot of bravery, right?

But it takes no bravery at all to wear a mask. How about we do that instead, especially since masks can help prevent those Covid-planes from crashing!

Would preventing one plane crash be worth it?

Two?

Half of the crashes?

How many lives saved would be worth wearing a simple mask?

Memorial poppy field

If we need an extra 100,000 poppies this Memorial Day to honor the lives of each of the Covid victims since February, God forbid, if we don’t wear masks, stay home when we can and take precautions, how many will we need next Memorial Day?

If our ancestors can march off to war and lay their lives down for the rest of us, we can wear masks. People taking care of people.

And if we don’t, whose graves will you be decorating next Memorial Day?

Genetic Affairs: AutoPedigree Combines AutoTree with WATO to Identify Your Potential Tree Locations

If you’re an adoptee or searching for an unknown parent or ancestor, AutoPedigree is just what you’ve been waiting for.

By now, we’re all familiar with Genetic Affairs who launched in 2018 with their signature autocluster tool. AutoCluster groups your matches into clusters by who your matches match with each other, in addition to you.

browser autocluster

A year later, in December 2019, Genetic Affairs introduced AutoTree, automated tree reconstruction based on your matches trees at Ancestry and Family Finder at Family Tree DNA, even if you don’t have a tree.

Now, Genetic Affairs has introduced AutoPedigree, a combination of the AutoTree reconstruction technology combined with WATO, What Are the Odds, as seen here at DNAPainter. WATO is a statistical probability technique developed by the DNAGeek that allows users to review possible positions in a tree for where they best fit.

Here’s the progressive functionality of how the three Genetic Affairs tools, combined, function:

  • AutoCluster groups people based on if they match you and each other
  • AutoTree finds common ancestors for trees from each cluster
  • Next, AutoTree finds the trees of all matches combined, including from trees of your DNA matches not in clusters
  • AutoPedigree checks to see if a common ancestor tree meets the minimum requirement which is (at least) 3 matches of greater to or equal to 30-40 cM. If yes, an AutoPedigree with hypotheses is created based on the common ancestor of the matching people.
  • Combined AutoPedigrees then reviews all AutoTrees and AutoPedigrees that have common ancestors and combine them into larger trees.

Let’s look at examples, beginning with DNAPainter who first implemented a form of WATO.

DNA Painter

Let’s say you’re trying to figure out how you’re related to a group of people who descend from a specific ancestral couple. This is particularly useful for someone seeking unknown parents or other unknown relationships.

DNA tools are always from the perspective of the tester, the person whose kit is being utilized.

At DNAPainter, you manually create the pedigree chart beginning with a common couple and creating branches to all of their descendants that you match.

This example at DNAPainter shows the matches with their cM amounts in yellow boxes.

xAutoPedigree DNAPainter WATO2

The tester doesn’t know where they fit in this pedigree chart, so they add other known lines and create hypothesis placeholder possibilities in light blue.

In other words, if you’re searching for your mother and you were born in 1970, you know that your mother was likely born between 1925 (if she was 45 when she gave birth to you) and 1955 (if she was 15 when she gave birth to you.) Therefore, in the family you create, you’d search for parents who could have given birth to children during those years and create hypothetical children in those tree locations.

The WATO tool then utilizes the combination of expected cMs at that position to create scores for each hypothesis position based on how closely or distantly you match other members of that extended family.

The Shared cM Project, created and recently updated by Blaine Bettinger is used as the foundation for the expected centimorgan (cM) ranges of each relationship. DNAPainter has automated the possible relationships for any given matching cM amount, here.

In the graphic above, you can see that the best hypothesis is #2 with a score of 1, followed by #4 and #5 with scores of 3 each. Hypothesis 1 has a score of 63.8979 and hypothesis 3 has a score of 383.

You’ll need to scroll to the bottom to determine which of the various hypothesis are the more likely.

Autopedigree DNAPainter calculated probability

Using DNAPainter’s WATO implementation requires you to create the pedigree tree to test the hypothesis. The benefit of this is that you can construct the actual pedigree as known based on genealogical research. The down-side, of course, is that you have to do the research to current in each line to be able to create the pedigree accurately, and that’s a long and sometimes difficult manual process.

Genetic Affairs and WATO

Genetic Affairs takes a different approach to WATO. Genetic Affairs removes the need for hand entry by scanning your matches at Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, automatically creating pedigrees based on your matches’ trees. In addition, Genetic Affairs automatically creates multiple hypotheses. You may need to utilize both approaches, meaning Genetic Affairs and DNAPainter, depending on who has tested, tree completeness at the vendors, and other factors.

The great news is that you can import the Genetic Affairs reconstructed trees into DNAPainter’s WATO tool instead of creating the pedigrees from scratch. Of course, Genetic Affairs can only use the trees someone has entered. You, on the other hand, can create a more complete tree at DNAPainter.

Combining the two tools leverages the unique and best features of both.

Genetic Affairs AutoPedigree Options

Recently, Genetic Affairs released AutoPedigree, their new tool that utilizes the reconstructed AutoTrees+WATO to place the tester in the most likely region or locations in the reconstructed tree.

Let’s take a look at an example. I’m using my own kit to see what kind of results and hypotheses exist for where I fit in the tree reconstructed from my matches and their trees.

If you actually do have a tree, the AutoTree portion will simply be counted as an equal tree to everyone else’s trees, but AutoPedigree will ignore your tree, creating hypotheses as if it doesn’t exist. That’s great for adoptees who may have hypothetical trees in progress, because that tree is disregarded.

First, sign on to your account at Genetic Affairs and select the AutoPedigree option for either Ancestry or Family Tree DNA which reconstructs trees and generates hypotheses automatically. For AutoPedigree construction, you cannot combine the results from Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA like you can when reconstructing trees alone. You’ll need to do an AutoPedigree run for each vendor. The good news is that while Ancestry has more testers and matches, FamilyTreeDNA has many testers stretching back 20 years or so in the past who passed away before testing became available at Ancestry. Often, their testers reach back a generation or two further. You can easily transfer Ancestry (and other) results to Family Tree DNA for free to obtain more matches – step-by-step instructions here.

At Genetic Affairs, you should also consider including half-relations, especially if you are dealing with an unknown parent situation. Selecting half-relationships generates very large trees, so you might want to do the first run without, then a second run with half relationships selected.

AutoPedigree options

Results

I ran the program and opened the resulting email with the zip file. Saving that file automatically unzips for me, displaying the following 5 files and folders.

Autopedigree cluster

Clicking on the AutoCluster HTML link reveals the now-familiar clusters, shown below.

Autopedigree clusters

I have a total of 26 clusters, only partially shown above. My first peach cluster and my 9th blue cluster are huge.

Autopedigree 26 clusters

That’s great news because it means that I have a lot to work with.

autopedigree folder

Next, you’ll want to click to open your AutoPedigree folder.

For each cluster, you’ll have a corresponding AutoPedigree file if an AutoPedigree can be generated from the trees of the people in that cluster.

My first cluster is simply too large to show successfully in blog format, so I’m selecting a smaller cluster, #21, shown below with the red arrow, with only 6 members. Why so small, you ask? In part, because I want to illustrate the fact that you really don’t need a lot of matches for the AutoPedigree tool to be useful.

Autopedigree multiple clusters

Note also that this entire group of clusters (blue through brown) has members in more than one cluster, indicated by the grey cells that mean someone is a member of at least 2 clusters. That tells me that I need to include the information from those clusters too in my analysis. Fortunately, Genetic Affairs realizes that and provides a combined AutoPedigree tool for that as well, which we will cover later in the article. Just note for now that the blue through brown clusters seem to be related to cluster 21.

Let’s look at cluster 21.

autopedigree cluster 21

In the AutoPedigree folder, you’ll see cluster files when there are trees available to create pedigrees for individual clusters. If you’re lucky, you’ll find 2 files for some clusters.

autopedigree ancestors

At the top of each cluster AutoPedigree file, Genetic Affairs shows you the home couple of the descendant group shown in the matches and their corresponding trees.

Autopedigree WATO chart

Image 1 – click to enlarge

I don’t expect you to be able to read everything in the above pedigree chart, just note the matches and arrows.

You can see three of my cousins who match, labeled with “Ancestry.” You also see branches that generate a viable hypothesis. When generating AutoPedigrees, Genetic Affairs truncates any branches that cannot result in a viable hypothesis for placing the tester in a viable location on the tree, so you may not see all matches.

Autopedigree hyp 1

Image 2 – click to enlarge

On the top branch, you’ll see hyp-1-child1 which is the first hypothesis, with the first child. Their child is hyp-2- child2, and their child is hyp-3-child3. The tester (me, in this case) cannot be the persons shown with red flags, called badges, based on how I match other people and other tree information such as birth and death dates.

Think of a stoplight, red=no, green are your best bets and the rest are yellow, meaning maybe. AutoPedigree makes no decisions, only shows you options, and calculated mathematically how probable each location is to be correct.

Remember, these “children,” meaning hypothesis 1-child 1 may or may not have actually existed. These relationships are hypothetical showing you that IF these people existed, where the tester could appear on the tree.

We know that I don’t fit on the branch above hypothesis 1, because I only match the descendant of Adam Lentz at 44.2 cM which is statistically too low for me to also inhabit that branch.

I’ve included half relationships, so we see hyp-7-child1-half too, which is a half-sibling.

The rankings for hypotheses 1, 2, and 7 all have red badges, meaning not possible, so they have a score of 0. Hypothesis 3 and 8 are possible, with a ranking of 16, respectively.

autopedigree my location

Image 3 – click to enlarge

Looking now at the next segment of the tree, you see that based on how I match my Deatsman and Hartman cousins, I can potentially fit in any portion of the tree with green badges (in the red boxes) or yellow badges.

You can also see where I actually fit in the tree. HOWEVER, that placement is from AutoTree, the tree reconstruction portion, based on the fact that I have a tree (or someone has a tree with me in it). My own tree is ignored for hypothesis generation for the AutoPedigree hypothesis generation portion.

Had my first cousins once removed through my grandfather John Ferverda’s brother, Roscoe, tested AND HAD A TREE, there would have been no question where I fit based on how I match them.

autopedigree cousins

As it turns out they did test, but provided no tree meaning that Genetic Affairs had no tree to work with.

Remember that I mentioned that my first cluster was huge. Many more matches mean that Genetic Affairs has more to work with. From that cluster, here’s an example of a hypothesis being accurate.

autopedigree correct

Image 4 – click to enlarge

You can see the hypothetical line beneath my own line, with hypothesis 104, 105, 106, 107, 108. The AutoTree portion of my tree is shown above, with my father and grandparents and my name in the green block. The AutoPedigree portion ignores my own tree, therefore generating the hypothesis that’s where I could fit with a rank of 2. And yes, that’s exactly where I fit in the tree.

In this case, there were some hypotheses ranked at 1, but they were incorrect, so be sure to evaluate all good (green) options, then yellow, in that order.

Genetic Affairs cannot work with 23andMe results for AutoPedigree because 23andMe doesn’t provide or support trees on their site. AutoClusters are integrated at MyHeritage, but not the AutoTree or AutoPedigree functions, and they cannot be run separately.

That leaves Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.

Combined AutoPedigree

After evaluating each of the AutoPedigrees generated for each cluster for which an AutoPedigree can be generated, click on the various cluster combined autopedigrees.

autopedigree combined

You can see that for cluster 1, I have 7 separate AutoPedigrees based on common ancestors that were different. I have 3 AutoPedigrees also for cluster 9, and 2 AutoPedigrees for 15, 21, and 24.

I have no AutoPedigrees for clusters 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 17, 18, and 22.

Moving to the combined clusters, the numbers of which are NOT correlated to the clusters themselves, Genetic Affairs has searched trees and combined ancestors in various clusters together when common ancestors were found.

Autopedigree multiple clusters

Remember that I asked you to note that the above blue through brown clusters seem to have commonality between the clusters based on grey cell matches who are found in multiple groups? In fact, these people do share common ancestors, with a large combined AutoPedigree being generated from those multiple clusters.

I know you can’t read the tree in the image that follows. I’m only including it so you’ll see the scale of that portion of my tree that can be reconstructed from my matches with hypotheses of where I fit.

autopedigree huge

Image 5 – click to enlarge

These larger combined pedigrees are very useful to tie the clusters together and understand how you match numerous people who descend from the same larger ancestral group, further back in time.

Integration with DNAPainter

autopedigree wato file

Each AutoPedigree file and combined cluster AutoPedigree file in the AutoPedigree folder is provided in WATO format, allowing you to import them into DNAPainter’s WATO tool.

autopedigree dnapainter import

You can manually flesh out the trees based on actual genealogy in WATO at DNAPainter, manually add matches from GEDmatch, 23andMe or MyHeritage or matches from vendors where your matches trees may not exist but you know how your match connects to you.

Your AutoTree Ancestors

But wait, there’s more.

autopedigree ancestors folder

If you click on the Ancestors folder, you’ll see 5 options for tree generations 3-7.

autopedigree ancestor generations

My three-generation auto-generated reconstructed tree looks like this:

autopedigree my tree

Selecting the 5th generation level displays Jacob Lentz and Frederica Ruhle, the couple shown in the AutoCluster 21 and AutoPedigree examples earlier. The color-coding indicates the source of the ancestors in that position.

Autopedigree expanded tree

click to enlarge

You will also note that Genetic Affairs indicates how many matches I have that share this common ancestor along with which clusters to view for matches relevant to specific ancestors. How cool is this?!!

Remember that you can also import the genetic match information for each AutoTree cluster found at Family Tree DNA into DNAPainter to paint those matches on your chromosomes using DNAPainter’s Cluster Auto Painter.

If you run AutoCluster for matches at 23andMe, MyHeritage, or FamilyTreeDNA, all vendors who provide segment information, you can also import that cluster segment information into DNAPainter for chromosome painting.

However, from that list of vendors, you can only generate AutoTrees and AutoPedigrees at Family Tree DNA. Given this, it’s in your best interest for your matches to test at or upload their DNA (plus tree) to Family Tree DNA who supports trees AND provides segment information, both, and where you can run AutoTree and AutoPedigree.

Have you painted your clusters or generated AutoTrees? If you’re an adoptee or looking for an unknown parent or grandparent, the new AutoPedigree function is exactly what you need.

Documentation

Genetic Affairs provides complete instructions for AutoPedigree in this newsletter, along with a user manual here, and the Facebook Genetic Affairs User Group can be found here.

I wrote the introductory article, AutoClustering by Genetic Affairs, here, and Genetic Affairs Reconstructs Trees from Genetic Clusters – Even Without Your Tree or Common Ancestors, here. You can read about DNAPainter, here.

Transfer your DNA file, for free, from Ancestry to Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, by following the easy instructions, here.

Have fun! Your ancestors are waiting.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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10 Ways I Wish I Had Organized My Research Library

library.png

No, I don’t quite have that many books – it just feels that way. Nor are my books that neatly organized, believe me. In fact, that’s the problem.

My organizational lament isn’t so much about the physical locations of my books, but about the organizational tools and methods of finding the correct book when I need it. I know I’m missing things in my research as a result.

Let me explain.

My bookshelves today are organized by county and state, sort of. Keep in mind that I’ve been accumulating books and resources for decades, and I’ve moved during this period, more than once.

Accumulation over time tends to outgrow the originally allotted space. And no, Marie Kondo and books should not even be in the same article. ALL of my books bring me joy – and that’s that.

However, organizing books usefully for genealogy research has been challenging. How is “usefully for genealogy research” defined? Genealogy is in some ways different than library systems and books for pleasure reading.

Let’s take a look.

My Library

To begin with, genealogists often deal with published resources that aren’t published in the traditional manner.

This is (a small) part of my area for Tennessee county records.

library spiral.png

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to shelve or even see the names of spiral bound resources. I also ran out of space, so some books are stacked on top of others. Notice how few names I can see.

library 3 ring.png

Then of course, those 3-ring binders. Real libraries don’t have to deal with 3-ring binders either, but they are an organizational staple for genealogists.

I have bookshelves, but not enough shelf space. Who does?? Some things that probably belong in spiral binders are in filing cabinets, and vice versa. I actually Marie Kondoed something and threw away the printed 1790 NC census (yes, seriously) because it’s available online in lots of places.

My shelving resources were not all created at the same time. It’s kind of like a house that has been added onto for years. I did not redo my shelving plan with each addition. I just started using the added shelf space. So some things are in separate rooms from others. These county and state resources are intermixed.

library place books.png

Another problem is that some books have information that doesn’t really “go” in any one place. For example, the Virginia records could have information for many families and counties. How do I remember to check them for each family that they might/would pertain to?

Some books are even less specific – about Native American, Acadian or Scotch-Irish people, or women of a particular genre. And what is “Lethal Encounters” about, anyway? If I take it off the shelf to look, I may get nothing else done for the rest of the day.

library leftovers.png

Now add into that mixture technical and academic papers about genetics, labels that fell off, misfiled resources (why is Tinkling Springs in with the haplogroup binders?), ebooks that I own but are not on a shelf and therefore, easy to lose or forget about, papers on my computer along with physical overflow – and I’m sunk.

Yes, ahem, I do have two copies of the same book in those pictures. I just noticed. Another reason why I need a better system and to check it before I make purchases.

I know I should be embarrassed to even publish these pictures – but it’s the truth and I’d wager every one of you has something similar.

And I haven’t even gotten to that thing called pleasure reading. Those books are overflowing off of a different shelf in another room with little organization other than by general topic. For the most part, I haven’t touched them with the exception of historical stories, including novels, especially juicy ones. My pleasure reading tends to be something about my ancestors or genetics although I have a shelf full of good intentions.

My Solution

Several years ago, I paid one of my college-student offspring to help me set up a spreadsheet to track my holdings. You can use Excel in MSWord or if you have a Google account, Sheets is free under Google Docs.

Library Docs.png

Library Sheets.png

That student-labor approach worked great for a while, at least until said child no longer needed extra income. The project wasn’t complete, and I didn’t complete or continue the project myself. My bad. I’d rather work on genealogy, genetics or write blog articles.

Library spreadsheet.png

As you can see, this spreadsheet is a good start. Because it’s in spreadsheet format, it’s sortable. This helps immensely, but I’ve discovered it’s not enough.

What I Wish I Had Done

  1. I actually wish I had numbered the books and numbered the shelves too. In essence, similar to a library system, just not as complex. Then the books could be assigned to a shelf and I would know where to look for them. You might notice that I have a general location, but nothing more. If I knew where to look, even if the book was spiral bound, I’d see that in a note, know what I was looking for, and find the location between the shelf number and county affiliation or topic.
  2. I wish I had added a column for geography, probably counties, that the resource pertains to. I could add several in one cell, but that means I’d have to search, not sort, for the county name, like Wilkes, North Carolina. The state would need to be a second column, because county names repeat between states.
  3. Another alternative, of course, would be to work with a database instead of a spreadsheet because databases allow multiple entries for a single field. I could have Wilkes, Ashe, Surry and several more counties and states for a single book. In a different spreadsheet for another topic, I entered a duplicate row for each separate resource. In this case, I would have the book entered once for Wilkes County and once for Ashe County, which negates the need for a database in a bit of a clunky way.
  4. I wish I had added a column for the surname lines that each resource would or might pertain to in my genealogy. For example, I have several surnames in the same county, because that’s what happens when your ancestors stay in the same place for a few generations. When I discover a new surname, or need to recheck something, I need to be able to find the resources that are available for that location, and then add the new surname to all books that could be useful for that ancestral line.
  5. I wish I had added a column to track which resources I’ve used for a particular surname and person. For example, did I search in the 1787 Lunenburg County census for all of the surnames and people, or do I need to review that resources for people I’ve found more recently?
  6. I wish I had recorded when I added that resource to my library which might help me remember who I have and have not used it for.
  7. I have not added any resources that I don’t own, but that are available for counties elsewhere. I use FamilySearch and FamilySearch wiki for county information, but it’s not complete. Generally, it also doesn’t list more general resources that might pertain to that county. For example, I just discovered transcribed court notes for Wilkes County on Lulu.com. Now I need to search at Lulu for all of the rest of my research counties and surnames. Who knew?
  8. I wish I had made notes. For example, what exactly is “The 10,000 Year Explosion” about, and how might it pertain to my research, either genealogy or anthropological? I don’t remember if I read it.
  9. I need to add a disposition (de-accessioning) field. Yes, although the thought is traumatizing for me, I will be passing some books on before I pass on, hopefully, and have already begun that process. I need to know when the books left and who they are now living with. Having said that, it might be nice to note where I got the book in the first place and how much it cost. I do have a few rare books and some that are first edition signed collectors’ items. I fear those being sold at a garage sale after my death for a dime. (I think I might have an unnatural attachment to my books😊)
  10. The ever-changing DNA testing landscape and multiple (kinds of) tests providing DNA matches from multiple vendors needs to be recorded, somehow, as a resource too. For example, did I search for a Y DNA tester for my John Combs (1705-1762) line? If so, are they in the Combs surname project at Family Tree DNA? Did I send an Ancestry or MyHeritage message to someone to see if they would take a DNA test, or about their results? Have I used DNAGedcom.com to search for specific target surnames in my match list or GeneticAffairs to look for ancestral clusters? You get the idea.

DNA is a resource by line, surname, individual ancestor, both known and unknown, as well as location because sometimes that’s all we have to work with. I actually have two separate spreadsheets for DNA which I’ll share in a separate article – but DNA results are also a research resource that needs to be tracked along with various tools applied, and when.

What Have You Done?

Have you addressed this research organization problem, and if so, how?

What resources are you using?

What works for you, what didn’t, and why?

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Michael Haag (1649-1727), Village Baker and Judge – 52 Ancestors #284

Michael Haag was born on January 4, 1649, in Heiningen, Germany, the 6th of 7 children born to his parents, but probably only the third child to live.

Haag Michael birth

Michael’s birth record reads:

Baptism: 4 January 1649
Child: Michael (+ 1727 the 10th of April)
Parents: Hanss Haga (Haag) aka Koß & Catharina
Godparents: Michael Fischer & Maria ?

Michael married at the age of 22 years and 6 months, in the midst of the summer in his home church. Hopefully, the church was cool inside the stone walls on July 28, 1671, when Michael wed Margaretha Bechtold, 3 years his elder, daughter of Christoph Bechtold and Margaretha Ziegler of Ebersbach.

The location is somewhat unusual because marriages usually occur in the home church of the bride.

Haag Ebersbach

Ebersbach is about 9 miles through the German countryside from Heiningen.

Haag Michael marriage

Marriage: Friday, the 28th of July 1671

Michael Hag, legitimate son of Hanss Hag, Koss, & Catharina Bäur(in) and Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Christoph Bechtold deceased baker in Ebersbach and Margaretha Ziegeler. Bride pregnant.

Hmmm, perhaps that last statement had something to do with why they were married in his church, instead of hers. However, it’s not like her pregnancy would have been a secret.

Margaretha wasn’t just a couple months pregnant, she delivered their first child less than 2 months after the wedding. Why did they wait so long to marry? Clearly, Margaretha, along with her family, had to have known for several months. She was 25 years old by then.

While it’s noted that the bride was pregnant, ultimately, that mattered little given that Michael was clearly respected within the Heiningen community, serving as a judge for many years.

Given that Margaretha’s father was a deceased baker, and Michael was noted as a baker in Heiningen, I wonder if Michael and Margaretha met when he visited her father. Perhaps Michael apprenticed with her father. I’m sure there’s more to this story that we’ll never know.

Apprentices lived with the family, which would undoubtedly give the young couple ample opportunity to get to know one another. While 9 miles isn’t far, especially not today, a flat mile takes an average person about 20 minutes to walk. That’s 3 hours each way unless one hitched a ride on a wagon. Not convenient for courting, that’s for sure.

Michael and Margaretha went on to have 8 children over the next two decades, including one set of twins that died – the first twin, Maria, the day following their birth, and the second twin, Anna, a little over 6 months later.

Michael Haag’s family register is preserved in the church book, below.

Haag Michael register 2Haag Michael register

Thanks to Chris and Tom for obtaining and translating these various church documents. I can almost reach out through time and touch them.

The Heiningen Heritage book, here, provides us with additional information as well.

Haag Michael family history

Michael’s Sons and Y DNA

Michael and Margaretha had 3 sons. If those sons had sons who continued the Haag male line to present, Haag men can take the Y DNA test which provides insight into Michael’s patrilineal line. Where did the Haag family originate before they adopted the Haag surname? Y DNA can answer that question after church records go stonily silent.

  • Michael’s eldest son, also Michael Haag, a baker, was born in 1673 in Heiningen and died there in 1745. He married Barbara Widmann and had 2 sons, one who died shortly after birth, and Michael (the third) born in 1727 in Heiningen, but of whom nothing more is known.
  • Johann Georg Haag, my ancestor and also a baker, was born in 1682 and died in 1762 in Heiningen. He married Anna Hofschneider and had only one surviving son, Johann Georg, born in 1718, who had one son that might have survived.
  • Jacob Haag was born in 1687 and died in 1755, both in Heiningen. He married Margareta Stolz and had two sons, Johann George and Michael, who lived to marry and have children.

If you are a male who carries the Haag surname patrilineally and descends from this family, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you. I’d love to hear from you.

Michael was Buried on Good Friday

Michael Haag lived to be 78 years old, outliving Margaretha by just under 10 months.

Michael died on April 9, 1727, in Heiningen, the same village where he was born, married, and baked during his lifetime.

Haag Michael burial

Burial: the 10th of April 1727, Michael Haag Coß from a stroke and was buried on Good Friday, when he had reached his 79th year and had been in respectable service for forty years; offering at his funeral.

There must be some significance to, “offering at his funeral.” Was this unusual, or special. Was this for the family or the church, in particular, relative to Good Friday? If an offering was normally taken, it probably wouldn’t have been mentioned, so I have to wonder why this was worth recording, remarkable in some way.

Death from strokes have been reported in many members of this family line. I wonder if there was an underlying issue or if Michael had heart disease or another ailment.

This record reveals a very interesting tidbit.

Koss or Cos

Michael’s father, Johannes, is noted as “Kos” several times in his own records:

Hanss Haga aka Koß as well as Hanss Haga, the smith’s son called Koss

Now, in his death record, we see that Michael himself is referred to as Coß as well. Is this Michael’s nickname, called after his father?

Tom and Chris, a Native German speaker, are uncertain what “Kos” means, although it seems to be a nickname or alternate name of some sort. Tom suggested perhaps a farm name, and Chris mentioned that a certain type of peasant farmer is known as a “kossat,” but that term is found more in eastern Germany, not in this region.

The location of the word “Koss” and “Cos” in the records is always positioned after the surname, which may be a second hint, although I don’t know what it’s hinting at.

Regardless of what Kos means, it tickles me to know that I’m seeing Michael’s nickname, and one that was his father’s as well. It must have been quite affectionately bestowed, bonding the two generations together, and likely brought Michael comfort and peace after his father’s death in 1678 when Michael was 29 years old. Cos likely brought a smile to his lips, after it stopped bringing a tear to his eye.

Village Life

German towns were generally arranged with farmhouses clustered into small villages that were often walled, or the houses themselves formed village walls in order to protect the residents who then walked into the fields. Farms in Germany were different than farms in the US, which were (and are) widely scattered.

The old portion of the village is the central squared area above, bordered by Hauptstrasse and Kirchstrasse, an area that includes portions of the old wall surrounding the church.

You can see photos of Heiningen, here, including the old wall and buildings dating from the time when Michael would have lived.

Even today, Heiningen isn’t large, although modern homes are built on the land that was once fields, between the old village center with its ancient market fountain and the local water source, a creek only a few hundred feet away. Michael and Margaretha likely made that trip to the stream, or to the central well, thousands and thousands of times. A baker can’t bake without water, and Michael would have baked every single day.

It’s certainly possible that Michael lived on the farm or in the house that his parents originally lived in as well, which might confer the “house name” along with the property. When Michael married, his father was called Koss, and when Michael died, he was referred to as Cos.

I wonder if other people in Heiningen were known by nicknames that might reflect their house or farm or something else. For that name to be recorded in the official church records, Cos must somehow have been a defining name, as either a nickname or perhaps even as an alternate surname. Perhaps Koss differentiated this Haag family from another, unrelated, family. I find neither Koss, Cos nor anything similar among the surnames listed in Heiningen.

I wonder if Michael’s 40 years of “respectable service” mentioned in the church death entry means that’s how long he served as a judge in the community. Forty years would date back to 1687, when Michael would have been 37 years old and had at least 6 children, with the 7th arriving that June.

By 1687, Michael would have been well-established within the community. Margaretha’s death entry mentioned that Michael was a baker and “oldest judge.”

A Good Friday Funeral

Haag Michael Good Friday

Michael was buried on Good Friday, known then as Holy Friday, the liturgical date commemorating Christ’s Crucifixion.

Generally, Lutheran churches, draped in black paraments, undertake a three hours devotion of some sort, from noon to 3, the time during which Christ suffered before death.

The Eucharist was received, and church services were often accentuated by special music such as St. Matthew Passion, written by Johann Sebastian Bach and first performed on Good Friday in 1727, the year Michael died. You can view the nearly 3-hour classical music performance by the Bach Society, here.

We learn more about Good Friday in the Lutheran Church, as follows:

In Lutheran tradition from the 16th to the 20th century, Good Friday was the most important religious holiday, and abstention from all worldly works was expected. During that time, Lutheranism had no restrictions on the celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday; on the contrary, it was a prime day on which to receive the Eucharist.

The Good Friday liturgy appointed in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, specifies a liturgy similar to the revised Roman Catholic liturgy. A rite for adoration of the crucified Christ includes the optional singing of the Solemn Reproaches in an updated and revised translation which eliminates some of the anti-Jewish overtones in previous versions. Many Lutheran churches have Good Friday services, such as the Three Hours’ Agony centered on the remembrance of the “Seven Last Words,” sayings of Jesus assembled from the four gospels, while others hold a liturgy that places an emphasis on the triumph of the cross, and a singular biblical account of the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John.

More recently, Lutheran liturgical practice has recaptured Good Friday as part of the larger sweep of the great Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. The Three Days remain one liturgy which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus. As part of the liturgy of the Three Days, Lutherans generally fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday. Rather, it is celebrated in remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and at the Vigil of Easter.

One practice among Lutheran churches is to celebrate a Tenebrae service on Good Friday, typically conducted in candlelight and consisting of a collection of passion accounts from the four gospels.

Haag Michael tenebrae

By Bhuck – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6469502

Fifteen candles on a Tenebrae hearse at the Mainz Cathedral, where the candles are extinguished one by one during the course of the service.

Haag Michael candles

During the Lutheran Tenebrae service, there is a gradual dimming of the lights and extinguishing of the candles as the service progresses. Toward the end of the service, the central Christ candle, if present, is removed from the sanctuary.

A concluding Strepitus, or loud noise, typically made by slamming shut the Bible, is made, symbolizing the earthquake that took place, and the agony of creation, at the death of Christ.

Haag Michael church program

The front cover of a Lutheran Church Good Friday bulletin explains that extinguishing the candles represents abandonment and loneliness.

Along with observing a general Lenten fast, many Lutherans emphasize the importance of Good Friday as a day of fasting within the calendar. A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent recommends the Lutheran guideline to “Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat.”

Candles

Candles seem to be an ever-present important theme in the life of the Haag family in Heiningen. Michael’s son, Hans, born in 1682, married Anna Hofschneider on February 2, 1706, the feast of Candlemas. During that celebration, candles to be used throughout the year for families and the church would be blessed.

The candles lit and extinguished on Good Friday, during the traditional church service, as well as for Michael’s funeral, would assuredly have been blessed that previous February at Candlemas. I wonder how the priest or minister tied Michael’s life and funeral service a sermon to Good Friday. Surely, he must have.

I wonder if Michael was buried in the churchyard before or after the Good Friday service?

I wonder if the funeral attendees, all of the village residents, were quite serene, in the spirit of both Michael and Christ’s deaths, or if they celebrated Michael’s life by eating hot cross buns sometime after 3 PM.

Personally, I’m voting for the latter.

Hot Cross Buns

Haag Michael hot cross buns

Given that Michael was a baker and taking into account my love for all things yeast (Michael would approve) – I have to include hot cross buns in Michael’s story.

For all I know, hot cross buns might have been baked in Germany when Michael was the village baker. Hot cross buns are certainly popular today, and an abundance of recipes are available, all making me hungry.

Hot cross buns, with a cross marked on top, are buns eaten on Good Friday at the end of Lent. They are sometimes made with fruit and spice, signifying the spices used to embalm Christ. In traditionally Christian countries, plain unleavened bread with no dairy products is eaten during Lent, to midday Good Friday. It’s no wonder these raised yeast buns are so widely enjoyed.

English folklore includes many protective superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One theory is that the buns began in the 1300s at St. Albans Church in London, but no one really knows.

There is mention of hot cross buns being for sale for Good Friday by a London street crier in Poor Robin’s Almanac in 1733 and rules about when those scrumptious buns could and could not be sold dated to the 16th century. Seriously, bun regulations. They must have been absolutely wonderful to require rules.

Indeed, a tradition this wonderful would have migrated throughout Europe before long.

Somehow, it would only have been fitting for Michael Haag, Koss, the baker, to have his life celebrated at his funeral with warm and wonderful hot cross buns.

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Pandemic Journal: It’s a Web

Recently, I saw something that’s at once amazing, alarming, and haunting.

This YouTube video, here, shows aggregated anonymized cell phone data from March, provided by Tectonix Geo, a data analysis company. This is the same company that provided the maps showing travel patterns of spring-breakers on one beach in Florida, shown here.

A huge thank you to Tectonix Geo.

In the first Tectonix video about fixing the supply chain, they track travel to and from meat processing plants across the country during the month of March. I’m familiar with the plant in Logansport, Indiana, so let’s take a look.

Logansport, Indiana

I grew up in central Indiana, near Logansport. People I knew worked at the slaughterhouse in Logansport.

I don’t recall who owned the plant back then, but I do vividly remember the squalid working conditions. Most employees never lasted beyond their first shift. It was the one place someone could ALWAYS find a job because the heat, smell, death, noise, and packed working conditions were overwhelming, and they always needed workers. I hope things have improved since then.

Let’s just say that I can’t eat either hotdogs or bologna to this day, but this conversation isn’t about that.

As most people are now aware, those same close working conditions are fostering Covid outbreaks among workers in meat processing plants across the nation. Different states, cities, and companies are reacting with varying levels of alarm, testing, and remediation plans. I’m also not going to comment on that, given the associated politics, but what I am going to discuss is the map and associated cell phone traffic patterns.

pandemic tyson map

This satellite google map shows the Tyson plant itself, with the adjacent employee parking lot to the south, the trucking areas where the animals arrive and the processed meats leave, the retention ponds to deal with the fluids and waste, and the local roads. There’s also a train track leaving the facility.

I counted approximately 410 semi-trailers at the plant and adjacent, connected businesses in the photo, above. Each one of those semis, of course, will be arriving or leaving with cargo, traveling to and from other locations, as will the 2200 employees as they go home in Cass County and adjacent communities.

Pandemic logansport

The packing plant is on the outskirts of Logansport, near highways that conveniently connect it with other local communities. In other words, you don’t have to go through town to get to work. Being located away from town is necessary anyway, due to odors.

pandemic logansport rural

Many people from rural farms, nearby cities like Kokomo, Lafayette, Monticello, Rochester, Wabash, and Peru, along with residents of other small towns travel to Logansport daily to work in the plant.

When I lived there, many people didn’t work at the plant for long, just until they could get a better job, so they never moved closer. Or, their parents owned a farm. This is prime Hoosier farm country.

Often, workers at the plant were among the most economically disadvantaged. They lived paycheck to paycheck and worked for minimal wages in conditions that served as inspiration for many of us to continue our education so we could work someplace else. Anyplace else.

Yet, these people go to work every day, sometimes even when sick because they can’t afford not to. Trust me, they work very hard.

Tectonix Geo Data

The Logansport Tyson plant became a Covid hotspot when more than 900 of the 2200 employees, or more than 40%, tested positive in April. The plant reopened last week after being closed for cleaning for two weeks, a politically hot-potato topic in general that I’m also not discussing.

Tectonix Geo analyzed anonymized cell phone data from the plant facilities throughout March 2020, beginning at the first of the month.

pandemic tectonix tyson

The blue on these maps shows the dots representing cell phones that are transmitting location data as they connect with cell towers. This first map shows the cell phones in the Tyson facility on one day in early March.

pandemic tectonix tyson close

Now that you know the lay of the land, we can identify which dots represent specific areas.

pandemic tectonix tyson markup

At the top of the plant area, you can even see the row of blue that tracks to the row of parked semis in the aerial photo of the plant.

pandemic tyson dot

To put this in perspective, this tiny blue dot is the Tyson plant, shown in the Google images.

Pandemic tyson begin spread

Throughout the month, every few days, the Tectonix data shows the highlighted blue as the cell phones moved away from the plant. You can still see the plant as the brightest spot, of course, because that’s where people with those phones gathered every day for work.

The areas most commonly inhabited and travel locations, according to the blue lines and clusters, were in Logansport itself, and along the feeder highways.

pandemic tyson spread local

Next, we see adjacent communities light up. Lafayette, Kokomo, and Peru have a lot of people who work in that plant, driving back and forth. It’s about 25 miles to Kokomo, 20 to Peru, and 40 to Lafayette. Of course, lots of smaller communities are lit up too, like Delphi, half-way to Lafayette, and Monticello, 20 miles due west of the Tyson plant.

In the first few days, these blue pathways and clusters likely represent where employees live or visited in the local region.

pandemic tyson midwest spread

As time passed, the blue clusters and lines became more pronounced and spread further from the plant, each tiny point of light representing a cell phone traveling – at first primarily within the state of Indiana, but then further.

Given this data, it’s not surprising that Cass County has an infection rate higher than any other county in Indiana.

pandemic tyson region spread

The tiny blue dots are too small for us to see individually, but each one is a potentially Covid-exposed person as their travels take them throughout Indiana and into major metropolitan areas in other states and Canada. Look at Chicago, for instance. Indianapolis, the state capital, becomes blue too, as does Fort Wayne, both of which are travel and economic hubs to elsewhere.

The time-lapse video shows the blue web extending across the US and on into Canada.

pandemic tyson country spread

By the end of March, you can clearly see that all of Indiana is pretty much blue, meaning that people who were in that plant on that initial day in early March have traveled to all of those locations. For a location to literally “turn blue,” many, many people need to have visited that location for the cell tower to pick up those signals thousands of times.

The Midwest is heavily affected by just this one plant, and the tendrils reach into many other parts of the country, along with southern Canada. Some of these may be trucking routes whose drivers loaded at the Tyson plant, but many represent travel by production employees and perhaps a few visitors who were present in the plant that initial day in March when Tectonix took their first snapshot in time.

What probably isn’t represented here is air travel, especially outside the US. Air travel was on a decline increasingly in March anyway, and stay-at-home orders had already begun in many places. Indiana’s governor ordered Hoosiers to stay at home on March 23rd, limiting their activities to only essential travel. Food production is an essential activity, and the Tyson plant remained open at that time.

As I look at these maps, I’m reminded that this is ONLY the phones of less than 2200 people who were in the plant on one day in March. It doesn’t even begin to speak to the people they interacted with and exposed, who traveled as well.

That’s the purpose of contact tracing of Covid-positive people – to determine the identities of those exposed people.

The gravity and importance of this web of contact and exposure don’t become apparent until Covid visits a facility near you, or a family member, or maybe your neighbor who may be exposing you or exposing someone else at the local convenience store or gas station who will expose you. Then, suddenly, this is all critically important.

The Message

I’m a visual person. That old adage about a picture being worth 1000 words holds true for me.

My first thought was how much this looks like a cobweb. Then I thought of the world-wide-web and how electronically interconnected we are.

I remember initially hearing about 6 degrees of separation years ago and being surprised when I discovered several cases where it was true. Now, older, wiser, and a genealogist, I’m no longer surprised.

With Covid, it’s more like 2 degrees of separation, if that. If you don’t know someone with Covid, or who has died of Covid, I guarantee you, one of your friends does. Me, and probably others as well.

As a society, in our lifetimes, we’ve never dealt with a run-away pandemic before. A situation where our very high degree of mobility which facilitates physical connectedness threatens our very safety.

Those 900+ infected Tyson employees were contagious long before they knew they were ill – perhaps as long as two weeks – if they even became ill. Super spreaders, as we now call them, a Covid-created term.

Infectious but not ill, they went to work and about their business in the community, and clearly, outside of the community, along major corridors – at work, church, family gatherings, restaurants, eating, shopping, touching doors, gas pump handles and using public restrooms where uninfected people assuredly followed. Truck drivers, upon whom we depend for our food supply, among other things, drove cross-country, truck stop to truck stop, warehouse to warehouse, perhaps taking an invisible passenger along with them.

Social distancing guidelines are being relaxed in some places, and people are clearly sick and tired of them, that doesn’t mean those unwelcome precautions are any less necessary.

If you have doubts, just look at this Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map of confirmed cases by county for where you live and think about the map of the contact spread from that one Tyson plant in Cass County, Indiana.

pandemic johns hopkins cass county

It’s Not Over

Easing of restrictions doesn’t mean the danger is over. It’s not.

If you were at risk before, you’re still at risk now. Epidemiologists estimate that only 5% of Americans have been exposed in total. 95% of us are yet to be exposed. Think about that. That’s almost everyone.

Put bluntly, everyone is at risk. No exceptions. We don’t even know if previous infection conveys immunity. We are still one big social epidemiological experiment with the outcome still unknown. The global “we” will undoubtedly survive, but our personal outcomes and those of our loved ones may be a different story.

The line of Xs shows how societies survive pandemics.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The bold Xs, approximately 70%, get infected. The red Xs die. Yes, society as a whole, represented by the entire row of Xs, survives, but several individuals do not. Not only that, but many of the bold Xs, even though they live, are not unscathed and not entirely recovered. In other words, surviving is not necessarily equivalent to “getting well” and returning to life as before.

To date, 294,000 worldwide have died, with 83,807 deaths in the US, and those numbers are still rising at an alarming daily rate. In the US alone, that’s more than 28 times the number of people who died during 911.

Those red Xs representing 84,000 dead aren’t just Xs, or numbers, or dry percentages heard daily on the news, they are people who are someone’s beloved family member. And there will assuredly be more to follow, probably more than have already died.

We may be getting numb to bad news, but that doesn’t mean the news is better.

The POINT of social-distancing restrictions was to flatten the curve so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed all at once. In other words, so that people would get infected slowly, across time. A flattened curve and easing of restrictions just mean that now, there’s probably a hospital bed and maybe a ventilator available for you when you become a bold X, hoping not to become a red X.

The GOAL, at least my goal, is to be a boring non-bold black X, meaning to remain uninfected until we at least have a relatively successful treatment and, preferably, a vaccine. I don’t want to become infected, nor do I want to infect anyone who winds up being one of those people needing a hospital bed, a ventilator, or a body bag.

Some infected people are entirely asymptomatic or exhibit only slight symptoms, but others begin an uncontrolled spiral into death. There’s no telling in advance which you might be, and once begun, there’s no brakes or steering on that run-away train.

Prevention is much easier, albeit inconvenient.

Easing of restrictions does NOT mean Covid is gone and does NOT mean you won’t catch it.

We still don’t fully understand this disease, have any reliable treatments, nor a vaccine. Dr. Fauci stated yesterday that a 2020 vaccine is unlikely, so we’ll need to protect ourselves, and others, for some time to come. Protection and prevention need to become our new way of life – at least for the foreseeable future.

If you ever doubted how you and others potentially spread germs – and in this case, a deadly virus – look again at that blue spider web on the Tectronix map that was seeded by fewer than 2200 people in one place on the same day.

Your life or that of someone you don’t know, do know, or love may depend on internalizing the spiderweb message from that map.

This isn’t like the flu. Those who survive Covid are physically (not to mention economically) devastated.

However, there are still positive messages to be found amid the Covid-carnage, and I’d like to share two of my favorites with you.

Finding Our Way

Here’s a wonderfully inspirational story and beautiful video telling the story of a young couple who both contracted Covid. Both nearly died, barely escaping death, but both survived and were in rehab facilities because of the utter devastation Covid wreaked on their bodies.

Yes, I said a young couple. Covid-19 doesn’t just kill old people, as if that was any kind of justification for anything, anyway.

Yes, I know, I’m sick of social distancing too, desperately want to see my family and friends and have a haircut – but certainly not unhappy enough to risk lives – mine, those of people I love, or yours. Any inconvenience pales by comparison to the possible consequences.

By the way, I wrote the draft of this article on Mother’s Day afternoon, safely tucked away at home. Yes, I’m sad not to see my family, but oh-so-grateful that we are all being safe and that my family cares enough about me to keep me safe too.

Please, don’t take chances.

  • Distance – remain at home unless you really have to go someplace.
  • Do more genealogy.
  • Engage in things that bring you joy.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask when you do need to go out in public.
  • Walk outside, away from others. Wave to others.
  • Stay out of crowds and away from people not taking proper precautions.

A Kindness Web

That blue web that we see on the map…it’s a web of warning today, prompted by pragmatic fear of this virus. But keep in mind that our human web of contact can also be a web of good, helping others in many ways. We don’t always need to see each other in person to do that. Failing any other act of kindness, the kindest thing we can do is to stay home.

Our ability to bestow kindness continues, and there are more people in need today than ever.

Donations, contributions, and porch-pickups or drop-offs work. Make an act of kindness and charity a part of your pandemic experience.

Your kindness, in whatever way you can, may make all the difference in the world and change someone’s story.

Telling the Story

Speaking of telling the story, I’d like to leave you with something quite uplifting and inspirational.

The Great Realisation: Hindsight 2020 is a short bedtime story told sometime in the future about the time of “the virus,” back in 2020, read to a little boy by his father. The storybook tells how “the virus” changed us, our world, and the future in which they live. I so want this to be our clarifying, unifying truth, the silver lining to this cloud. Please listen, here, after the obligatory ad, of course.

I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Stay safe so we will all be here on the other side, whenever that really is, to tell our stories.

MyHeritage: Brand New Theories of Family Relativity

MyHeritage has run their Theories of Family Relativity (abbreviated sometimes as TOFR) software again, refreshing their database, which means more Theories of Family Relativity for DNA testers.

According to the MyHeritage blog:

The number of DNA Matches that include a theory increased by 42.5% from 9,964,321 to 14,201,731.

Sometimes we arrive at a theory through multiple paths, indicating a strong theory and providing additional supporting evidence. After the previous update, there were a total of 115,106,944 paths. This update increased the number of paths by 40.5% to 161,762,761.

The number of MyHeritage users who now have at least one Theory of Family Relativity™ for their DNA Matches has increased by 33.6%.

I’m SOOO glad I added all of those branches to my tree, including all children and grandchildren of my ancestors. Every piece of information is utilized in developing Theories.

I sure hope I have new Theories. Let’s see.

My New Theories

Yay, under DNA Matches, I have the purple banner that indicates there are new Theories waiting for me.

Theories new.png

I can just click on View Theories to see all of the TOFR, including new ones.

Theories 65.png

You can see that clicking on the “View theories” button filters my matches to only those matches who have Theories. I have 65 matches, many of whom will have multiple Theories for me to evaluate. That’s an increase from 52 Theories previously, or a 20% increase.

New Theories result from people who have tested or transferred since TOFR was last run in July 2019. Some will be people who can now connect because someone’s tree or research documents now provide enough information to suggest a common ancestor – which of course is the foundation of Theories for DNA matches.

You can sort by new matches, but there isn’t a way to see only your new Theories of Family Relativity. That’s OK, because I make notes on each person with whom I have a Theory, plus I keep a separate spreadsheet.

Theories notes.png

Matches with notes show up with a purple note box. “No notes” have no color, so it’s easy to click through my TOFR matches pages, looking for TOFR matches with no color. Those are new TOFR matches.

Are the New Theories Accurate?

Theories with DNA matches are formed based on a combination of your tree, your matches tree, other people’s trees, community resource trees like FamilySearch, plus various documents like census records that tie people together.

The reason multiple Theories exist for the same match is because there are different possibilities in terms of how you and your match might be related or how different trees might tie you together. In some cases, Theories will be for different lines that you share with the same person.

Each Theory has a confidence calculation that weighs the reliability of each theory connecting segment based on internal parameters. As you can see below, this connection is given a 50% probability weight of being accurate. You can click on that percentage to review the match and comparative data.

Theories weight.png

click to enlarge

Path 1 of my first new Theory is accurate, even though birth and death dates of Ann McKee’s husband are different at FamilySearch.

Theoreis multiple trees.png

click to enlarge

Looking further down this tree, you can see that my match had only extended their tree through Roxie, but a FamilySearch tree spanned the generations between Roxie and our common couple, Charles Speak and Ann McKee.

My tree didn’t extend down far enough to include Roxie.

Of the other 4 paths/Theories, 3 simply connect at different levels in the same basic trees, meaning that I connect at Margaret Claxton instead of Ann McKee.

The 5th path, however, is ambiguous and I can’t tell if it’s accurate or not. It doesn’t matter though, because I have 4 different solid paths connecting me and my new match.

Theories can connect people with almost no tree. One man had a total of 7 people in his tree, yet through multiple connections, we were connected accurately as 5th cousins.

One accurate Theory combined a total of 6 trees to piece together the Theory.

Working the Theories

I stepped through each match, making notes about each Theory, confirming the genealogy, checking for additional surnames that might indicate a second (or third or fourth) line, as well as SmartMatches.

SmartMatches only occur if the same people are found in both trees. I had no SmartMatches this time, because each of these Theories was more complex and required multiple tree hops to make the connection.

One match was a duplicate upload. After eliminating that from the totals, I have the following results for my newly generated Theories of Family Relativity.

Scorecard

Match Total Theories/Paths Accuracy Comments
1 5 4 yes, 1 ambiguous
2 3 Not exactly, but close Close enough that I could easily discern the common ancestor
3 2 Yes
4 5 Yes
5 1 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation
6 1 No Acadian, needs additional research
7 5 Yes, but 2 with issues 2 were accurate, 2 with ancestor’s first wife erroneously as mother, and one with private mother
8 2 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation, also, 2 separate lines
9 2 Yes
10 4 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation
11 5 Yes One wife shown as unknown
12 3 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation, also 4 separate common lines in total
Total 38 23 yes, 1 ambiguous, 13 close, 1 no

All of the close matches were extremely easy to figure out, except one in a heavily endogamous population with many “same name” people. That one needs additional research.

I’m not at all unhappy with the Theories that weren’t spot on because Theories are meant to be research hints, and they got me to the end goal of identifying our common ancestor.

I wrote about how to use Theories, in detail, here.

Observations and Commentary

Theories of Family Relativity has been run by MyHeritage for the third time now. It doesn’t run all the time, so new testers and uploaders will need to wait until the next run to see their Theories.

You can expect some Theories to come and go, especially if someone has deleted a tree or changed a piece of data that a Theory utilized.

I did not go back and recheck my earlier Theories because I had already ascertained the common ancestor.

I have a total of 65 matches with whom I have TOFR, one of which is a duplicate.

I have a total of 99 paths, or Theories, for those 64 matches.

Of my 64 non-duplicate matches, only 5 don’t have at least one correct Theory. Of those 5, all incorrect Theories are a result of an incorrect tree or name confusion that I was able to easily resolve. Only one needs more research.

Reviewing the match for additional surnames often reveals multiple lines of descent beyond the Theories presented.

Previously, I only had 11 matches with multiple Theories, but of my 12 new matches, only 2 don’t have multiple paths. Multiple Theories are a function of more matches, more trees, and more resources. I’m grateful for all the hints I can get.

Remember, Theories are just that – theories that point you in a research direction. They require confirmation. Good thing we’re genealogists!

Next, DNAPainter

Of course, the good news is that I could paint my new matches at DNAPainter, having assigned them to our common ancestor, thanks to Theories. DNAPainter is a great sanity check. If you have the same reasonably sized segment attributed to multiple ancestors, something is wrong, someplace.

That something could be:

  • That the segment is identical by chance in some matches
  • Someone’s genealogy is inaccurate
  • Imputation added invalid data
  • You’re related in more ways, on more lines, that you know
  • There’s an unknown parentage event in a line someplace
  • That your ancestors were related

What About You?

Do you have new Theories of Family Relativity waiting for you?

Sign on and take a look.

If you haven’t tested at or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage, you can order a test, here. Tests are currently on sale for $39.

MyHeritage offers free transfers from the DNA testing companies whose step-by-step upload instruction articles are listed below.

Instructions for uploading TO MyHeritage are found here:

If you test at MyHeritage, all DNA features, functions, and tools are free.

If you transfer your DNA file to My Heritage, DNA matching is free, but Theories of Family Relativity requires either a site data subscription to access genealogical records, which you can try for free, here, or a one time $29 unlock fee for the advanced DNA tools which include:

  • Theories of Relativity
  • Chromosome browser
  • Triangulation
  • Ethnicity estimates

Have fun!

__________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Blanche of Castile, Queen of France (1188-1252), An Astute Matriarch – 52 Ancestors #283

You know, I think I like homeschooling.

Earlier this week, my daughter-in-law asked me if we descend from Blanche of Castile, because my 11-year-old granddaughter, Miss Sylvia, was working on a Medieval history assignment.

Yes, Sylvia, as a matter of fact, we are!

Of course, knowing she is descended from Blanche made the assignment much more personal and interesting.

Blanche relationship calculator.png

Blanche, also known as Blanca, is Sylvia’s 25th great-grandmother. Sylvia is also related to Blanche in multiple ways as well.

Of course, a 25th great grandmother means that Blanche is 27 generations back in Sylvia’s tree. That’s hard to imagine, but the good news is that once you connect with your “gateway ancestor,” royal pedigrees branching upstream of those gateway ancestors are well researched and publicly available for the compiling. Wikitree has a gateway ancestor list here, an Ancestry search here, and Geni, here.

Estes chart final Louis VIII

I had this beautiful pedigree chart created years ago. While this abbreviated pedigree doesn’t actually show Blanche herself, you can see the tiny black box around King Louis VIII, Blanche’s husband. As it turns out, Blanche ruled longer and had a more enduring effect on history that King Louis.

I’m not sure how Miss Sylvia selected Blanche for her report, but I can see Blanche’s likeness in Princess Sylvia.

sylvia princess

Meet Blanche

Blanche pedigree.png

Blanche was born on March 4th, 1188 in variously named castles located in Palencia and Valencia, Castile, to Alfonso VIII, King of Castile, and Eleanor Plantagenet of England. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone knows exactly where she was born, other than Castile.

Blanche Sagunto Castle.jpg

This fortified Sagunto Castle complex in Valencia, drawn in 1563, would be a good candidate for where a queen might bear a child, safe from invaders and protected.

Just like Sylvia, Blanche was born a princess.

Blanche San Francisco.jpg

The San Francisco Church in Palencia was built in the 1200s, possible in Blanche’s lifetime, and certainly reflecting the architectural styles that she would have found familiar.

Blanche manuscrpt.jpg

Blanche’s likeness is recorded in a stunningly beautiful illuminated manuscript created in Paris between 1227 and 1234.

The woman depicted in the manuscript may actually have been created to resemble Blanche, at least somewhat. Blanche’s husband, King Louis, died in 1226 and this manuscript, begun in 1227, may have been created to honor Blanche. Note that she appears beside a much younger monarch, likely her son, only a boy of age 13 in 1227, but the King nonetheless.

These illuminated pages, in residence at the Morgan Library and Museum, are bound in a brown, stamped leather case from about 1500, lettered: The Apocalypse: Illuminated Manuscript – 13th Century.

The provenance of these illuminated pages is listed as:

Executed in France, ca. 1227-1234 for Blanche of Castille and her son St. Louis, possibly as a gift to the Cathedral of Toledo, where the main portion of the manuscript now is; M.240 was removed from the Toledo portion by ca. 1400; binding dates from ca. 1500.

Blanche ruled the kingdom beginning in 1226, as regent, a noble who rules on behalf of the rightful monarch who cannot due to their age, absence, or other incapacity. In 1226, Blanche ruled on behalf of her son who was crowned as king at age 12 upon the death of his father.

This image, probably of Blanche, is part of a larger painting on the upper half of a manuscript page.

Blanche and Louis IX.png

Crowned queen, possibly Blanche of Castile, veiled in white, wearing vair-lined mantle, seated on throne of foliate type, raises hands toward crowned king, possibly Louis IX of France, beardless, holding bird surmounting fleur-de-lis scepter in right hand and round object, possibly seal matrix, in left hand, seated on throne.

Blanche’s husband, King Louis VIII, of France, died in 1226 when their son, Louis IX, the heir apparent, was but 12 years old. Blanche had him crowned as king within a month of Louis’s death, forced reluctant barons to swear allegiance, served as regent of the kingdom, ruling during her son’s minority, and exerting significant influence throughout her life. At the age of 38, Blanche was ruling the kingdom and would continue to do so for the next decade.

Blanche was no hands-off monarch. She raised an army, orchestrated surprise attacks, riding into battle herself shortly after her husband’s death, leading the army, literally. Blanche gathered wood to help keep her soldiers warm, building immense loyalty among the men. She was no ordinary woman, made of unflinching mettle, pardon the pun.

She simply figured out how to do what needed to be done, and did it.

The Life of an Astute Matriarch

Miss Sylvia’s titled her report about Blanche for Mrs. Peterson’s class, The Life of an Astute Matriarch.

Let’s let Sylvia tell Blanche’s story, with minor edits, hotlinks, and a couple of strategically placed comments by grandma.

“The question is not who’s going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me,” – Marie Curie.

Yep, indeed, there’s certainly a lot of Blanche’s character in Sylvia!

Queen Blanche of Castile was honorably descended from a knowledgeable and regal European family. Blanche was headstrong, and religious. Blanche had an impenetrable bond with her husband, Louis VIII, and her son, Louis IX. One example is when Blanche died, her son was devastated. This Queen of Castile, continued controlling, capably till the day that she died.

Queen Blanche of Castile, who was born March 3, 1188, was born into Spanish, French, and English royalty. Bearing great responsibility, Blanche was the pious daughter of King Alphonso VIII of Castile and Princess Eleanor Plantagenet of England. Incredibly, her grandfather was (King) Henry II of England and her grandmother was the lovely Eleanor of Aquitaine. Also, her great-uncle was King John I of England. Because she was smart and strong willed, her grandmother favored Blanche over her older sister to be the future Queen of France. Around 11-12 years-old, Blanche was betrothed to Louis VIII of France, when he was 12-13 years-old. That was extremely young!

Don’t get any ideas, Sylvia!!!

After Blanche was unexpectantly affianced, her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, visited Spain and swept her away to France to meet her future husband. Remarkably, after a short betrothal, Blanche married Louis. This marriage was arranged by King John I of England, although Blanche would cherish her husband. Their marriage set in place a truce between England and France over land.

Blanche of Castile endured heart ailments after many years of ruling as regent. Because she was committed, she continued presiding over the court, while her son the King was imprisoned in the Holy Land.

In November of 1252, while her son was still in the Holy Land, on her way to the Abbey of the Lys, she suffered a heart attack. Tragically, when she returned to the Palace of the Louvre, she died, leaving her dutiful son to rule. Mourning the loss of his mother, King Louis IX did not speak for two days. While Blanche was buried at Maubuisson Abbey, which she intelligently helped create, her heart was taken to the Abbey of the Lys. She never saw her son.

Queen Blanche of Castile, who was married very young, was a wise and respected queen. Blanche and her husband, King Louis VIII, adored one another and had an immensely happy life together. Together, they maintained a truce between England and France, and they had thirteen children, five of who survived.

Blanche co-ruled with one of these children, Louis IX, future king of France. When Queen Blanche died her son was heartbroken. He was despondent. He was bitter. He was left to rule alone. He reacted this way because they ruled collaboratively together for most of Blanche’s reign.

Queen Blanche was a proud and dedicated matriarch of her family and kingdom.

Indeed, Sylvia, she was, and is an ancestor we can be mighty proud of.

What do you think, Sylvia? Would you be ready to rule a kingdom at age 12? King Louis IX learned how to rule from his strong mother, Queen Blanche who, herself, had married at the same age he became king.

Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages in the Middle Ages were the norm, especially in Royal families. Children were married to spouses where political arrangements conferred benefits to the various royal families and kingdoms involved. For example, King John of England signed a treaty ceding the fiefs of Issoudun and Gracay along with other lands in exchange for his niece becoming the Queen of France.

Louis VIII and Blanche were married when she was 12 and he was 13 years old, On May 23, 1200. Their first child was born a few years later, in 1205, but died shortly thereafter.

While their marriage may have been happier than most arranged marriages of the time, Blanche suffered the grief of losing 7 of her 13 children, and not all as babies.

Coronation

Louis and Blanche wouldn’t become king and queen until they were 36 and 35, respectively.

Blanche Cathedral Reims

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims, By Johan Bakker, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38255047

King Louis VIII and Queen Blanche’s coronation was held on August 6, 1223, in the cathedral in Reims, above, as depicted in the painting below.

Blanche coronation Reims

Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile at Reims in 1223, a miniature illuminated manuscript from the Grandes Chroniques de France, painted in the 1450s (Bibliothèque nationale)

Children

Blanche’s five surviving children read like a who’s who of Catholic Sainthood and European nobility.

Blanche Louis IX.jpg

  • Louis IX, King of France, 1214-1270, an extremely devout Catholic. Canonized in 1297 as Saint Louis, his feast day is celebrated on August 25th. Above, shown in the same illuminated manuscript as his mother. Louis IX sponsored France in both the disastrous 7th and 8th Crusades.  Louis had 13 children, 4 of whom died as infants or children, before Blanche’s death.

Blanche son Robert of Artois.jpg

  • Robert I “The Good”, Count of Artois, 1216-1250, one of the Knights Templar who died in the 7th Crusade in Al Mansurah, Egypt is also our ancestor. He had two children, both of whom lived to adulthood.

Blanche son Alphonse of Poiters.jpg

  • Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, 1220-1271, shown above, far left, taking an oath as Count of Toulouse. He served as regent of France after his mother’s death until his brother returned from the 7th Crusade. He took part in the 7th Crusade and died in the 8th. He had no heirs.
Blanche daughter Isabella

By © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3609986

  • Saint Isabelle, 1225-1270, whose statue is shown above, was two when her father died. She eventually founded a nunnery and although never actually becoming a nun, devoted her entire life to God, refusing to marry even after being betrothed. She was beatified in 1521 and canonized in 1696, her feast day celebrated February 26th.

Given that Isabelle never married nor had children, the mitochondrial DNA of Blanche of Castile did not descend to present-day through Blanche or any of her sisters.

Blanche son Charles of Naples.jpg

  • Charles of Naples, King of Sicily, also known as Charles of Anjou, 1226/27-1285. Charles may have been born after his father’s death in November of 1226 and was the first Capet to be named for Charlemagne, his 13th great-grandfather. Given that his mother was busy ruling the kingdom, as regent, he was primarily raised in the houses of his brothers. An unusual mixture, Charles was a politician, a strategist, a warrior, a King as well as an accomplished poet. Charles had 6 children, all of whom lived beyond Blanche’s death.

In total, Blanche had 21 grandchildren, 17 of whom outlived her.

1226

Think, for just a minute, about Blanch in November of 1226 when Louis VIII died a miserable death of dysentery.

Blanche turned 38 years old that March. She and Louis had celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in May.

She had born 12 children and was pregnant for her 13th.

  • Blanche’s first child, Blanche, her namesake, was born in 1205 and died soon after. Blanche herself was only 17.
  • Philip was born on September 9, 1209, betrothed in 1215, as was the custom, and died before July 1218, not even 9 years old.
  • Alphonse and John were twins who were born and died on January 26, 1213.
  • Louis IX was born on April 25, 1214, and was the first of Blanche’s children to live past childhood. The eldest, he would succeed his father as king and was 12 when his father died.
  • Robert was born on September 25, 1216, and he too lived to adulthood.
  • Philip was born on February 20, 1218, and died in 1220, a toddler.
  • John was born on July 21, 1219, was betrothed in 1227 but died in 1232 at age 13, before his marriage. John would have been 7 years old when his father died in 1226.
  • Alphonse was born on November 11, 1220, and died in 1271. He married but had no children.
  • Philip Dagobert was born on February 20, 1222, and died in 1232. He would have been 4 years old when his father died.
  • Isabelle born in March 1224 would have been two and a half when her father died. She lived to adulthood but never married.
  • Etienne was born near the end of 1225 and died in early 1227, not long after Louis VIII died. I wonder if she died of dysentery too.
  • Charles was born in 1226 or 1227. Based on Etienne’s birth at the end of 1225, it’s likely that Charles was born about 18 months later, so perhaps in the first few months of 1227.

In November 1226, Blanche had buried 5 children, had a 12-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, a two and a half-year-old, a 1-year-old and was pregnant. Her husband was deathly ill with highly infectious dysentery, and others in the court probably were too. Etienne, the baby, may have died of the same disease not long after Louis.

Within a month of Louis’s death and funeral, Blanche made immediate arrangements to have her oldest child crowned king in order to avoid a dangerous lapse of power into which others with aspirations of control would attempt to insert themselves. Very shortly thereafter, Blanche buried baby Etienne and gave birth to Charles.

That would have broken any normal woman. Blanche, however, persevered.

Regent

Blanche twice ruled France as a regent. The first time, beginning in 1226 when King Louis VIII died and her son, Louis IX, was too young to rule the kingdom. Blanche ruled a second time in 1248 when King Louis IX set out on the 7th Crusade, against his mother’s wishes. Perhaps more accurately stated, Blanche was dead set against that endeavor. Was she politically savvy, or did she possess a mother’s intuition that things would go disastrously wrong?

Blanche ruled until her death in 1252, with Louis IX not hearing of his mother’s death until in the spring of 1253 after his release from captivity, along with his brothers.

Suffice it to say that Blanche did not die in peace.

One letter from Blanche still exists, penned in 1240 to her subjects, as follows.

Blanche, by the grace of God queen of France, to her beloved citizens and the whole community of Béziers, greetings and love.

That you bear sincere faith towards our [beloved] son the king and have done so in the past and will do so in the future, as we understand from the tenor of your letters and because our beloved, G. des Ormes, seneschal of Carcassonne much extols you, we thank you for your fidelity, in whose constancy we have hope and faith. We ask and request that you so persevere in the constancy of said fidelity and act so faithfully and virilely and give counsel and help to the people of that king our [beloved] son that you deserve to have our help and favor and his.

Enacted at Chateauneuf, A.D.1240, in the month of October.

Burial

In 1236 Blanche funded and founded the Abbaye de Maubuisson, which is where she was buried 16 years later.

Blanche tomb.jpg

This drawing of Blanche’s tomb is found in the Louvre, in Paris.

Blanche’s marble sarcophagus is held, today, in the St. Denis Cathedral in Paris.

The Maubuisson Abbey was decommissioned in 1786 by Louis XVI after the French Revolution, claiming that it had lost its religious function, consigning the abbey commissioned by his 16 times great-grandmother, along with her resting place, to ruin.

Blanche abbey de maubuisson.jpg

Soon, the abbey was used as a military hospital, then a stone quarry and part of a textile mill in the 1800s before being abandoned altogether. I wonder if those people during those years had any idea that a queen rested among them, or if they would have cared if they did. Perhaps by then, her tomb had been destroyed and her bones returned to dust.

Excavations in 1907 unearthed many precious objects that disappeared without a trace, leading to speculation that Blanche’s royally appointed grave had been discovered, and looted.

In 1947, the abbey was classified as a historical monument and in the 1980s, additional archaeological excavations were undertaken. Today, the abbey houses a Centre of Contemporary Arts and a project incubator lab devoted to architectural heritage, contemporary works, and natural history.

As was the custom of the time, Blanche’s heart was removed and sent to the royal abbey Notre-Dame du Lys, founded in 1244 by Louis IX and Blanche, and also now lying in a state of ruin, having been looted and destroyed during the French Revolution. Still, these ruins are somberly beautiful, and I can envision Blanche walking peacefully here.

Blanche and Sylvia

As Sylvia said, Blanche was indeed an astute matriarch, excelling on her own merits, despite being born to wealth and privilege. Blanche’s life was anything but easy and her immense responsibility weighed heavily on her heart.

I’m so pleased that Sylvia is interested in history and that our family has royal ancestors for her to research. I would have been a lot more interested in history in school had I realized that it was actually relevant to me.

Not only are our royal ancestors’ lives interesting, but they were also recorded and have been extensively researched, making the details of their lives available to us today. We gain a peek into their lives behind the veil of time and perspective into the history of the time in which they lived, a history which they helped shape.

Who were they?

Are we anything like them today?

We probably carry little or no “royal blood” in our veins descended from Blanche today, but then again, you never know. Royalty intermarried a great deal, perhaps providing us with multiple “doses.” Even if we didn’t inherit their DNA, and that’s not necessarily an assumption I’m entirely willing to make – because let’s face it – we had to obtain our DNA from SOME ancient ancestors, we might inherit some characteristics passed down culturally, generation to generation, through the ages.

I see several of Blanche’s best characteristics in Sylvia. Not only that, but I think they even look a bit alike.

I’ve been saving the absolute best for last. In addition to researching a medieval individual, Sylvia was also to dress like that person would have dressed.

Blanche Princess Sylvia.jpg

Behold, our very own Princess Sylvia, 25th great-granddaughter of Blanche of Castile, Queen of France.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Research

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Four Quick Tips to Make Your Mitochondrial DNA Results More Useful

Mitochondrial DNA is a special type of DNA passed from mothers to all of their children, but only females pass it on – unmixed with any DNA from the fathers. This means that mitochondrial DNA provides a laser line focus straight back in time on your mother’s matrilineal line. You can also test your father or his siblings, or grandma herself, to obtain your paternal grandmother’s lineage.

Focus

It’s a misperception that mitochondrial DNA is more difficult to use than autosomal DNA. Surnames do change with every generation in your mitochondrial lineage, but they change in autosomal for women too.

Mitochondrial DNA is the ONLY way to focus on just the tester’s matrilineal line and can be used in conjunction with autosomal DNA. Mitochondrial DNA also reaches further back in time, beyond that 5-6 generation approximate threshold for autosomal.

Because the surnames change, females lines are inherently more difficult to research, so it’s fortuitous that we have an extra genetic tool that we can utilize.

There are easy steps we can take to increase the productivity of mitochondrial research, beginning with making sure you have taken the full sequence test at Family Tree DNA. (Which just happens to be on sale right now for Mother’s Day – click here.)

The HVR1 and HVR2 “mtPlus” level is introductory. You’ll need the all 16,569 mitochondria locations tested with the mtFull full sequence test for high-resolution matching.

How can you make your mitochodrial DNA results more useful genealogically? Good question. Here are 4 quick tips to do exactly that!

Tip 1: Trees

The backbone of genealogy is trees.

Million Mito tree.png

  • Please be sure you have a tree uploaded and extended as far as possible on your matrilineal line by clicking on myTree at the top of your personal page and either uploading a GEDCOM file or creating your tree. Because surnames do change, a complete matrilineal tree is important for other people to find descendant surnames of your ancestor – and vice versa. That’s exactly how I connected my ancestor to her family.

Tip 2: Earliest Known Ancestor

Million Mito account settings.png

  • Complete your Earliest Known Direct Maternal (matrilineal) Ancestor field by clicking on the drop-down by your name, then on “Account Settings” at upper right, then on “Genealogy” and “Earliest Known Ancestors,” shown below with the red stars. Complete your information.

Million Mito ancestor.png

Note that “earliest known” means on your direct matrilineal line only – your mother’s mother’s mother’s line. It does NOT mean your “oldest” ancestor on your mother’s side of the tree. That’s a common misconception. They aren’t asking for that guy who lived to be 104.

Enter the name for the last known person in your mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line – which of course is a female.

When finished, be sure to click on Save, near the bottom.

Million MIto eka

Click to enlarge

Your Earliest Known Ancestor is the critically important information shown on the matches page, above. You want to see other people’s genealogy information, and they want to see yours.

Please feel free to contact people who don’t have any Earliest Known Ancestor showing and suggest that they complete this field. I’ve actually had very good luck emailing my matches who don’t provide that information and include “how-to” instructions. Feel free to send them a link to this article!

Tip 3: Matches Map

When surnames or an obvious connection are lacking, geography can be critically important. If all testers completed the location of their Earliest Known Ancestor on the Matches Map, everyone would benefit.

Million Mito matches maps.png

  • Select Matches Map, above, to update the geographic location of your earliest known ancestor.

Million Mito map.png

Matches Map information allows matches to see if their ancestors are located near to yours (and vice versa) and may unveil previously unknown information, such as a mysterious Scandinavian history for the person whose earliest known ancestor is the white pin found in Germany. Why are the majority of her full sequence matches found in Scandinavia?

Maybe a cluster of matches in a common geography will lead you to discover a new ancestor – or a previously veiled history. You don’t know what you don’t know, which is why we test.

Tip 4: Check Back

  • Check your matches from time to time to see if someone has updated their information or you’ve missed a critical new match.

I discovered a brick-wall-breaking match that I had been inadvertently ignoring for almost 6 years. (My bad!!!)

Check your own information occasionally to be sure you didn’t forget to update your contact information, ancestors or tree with new discoveries.

Get Results!

Concerned that you won’t understand your results? Here’s a step-by-step series about how to navigate and interpret the various tools and options on your personal mtDNA page.

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA, now is the perfect time. Many people are taking advantage of recent “enforced leisure” to focus on genealogy research. Click here to check your account, order or upgrade.

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Anna Hofschneider 1680-1764, Married on Candlemas – 52 Ancestors #282

Anna Hofschneider (sometimes spelled Hoffschneider) was born December 6, 1680, in Heiningen, Germany, the daughter of Michael Hofschneider and his wife, Margareta Widmann.

Hofschneider Anna 1680 birth.png

Anna’s Godparents are listed as Hanss Christoph Goltz & Anna Maria with an unreadable surname.

Anna didn’t marry until she was 25 years old. Anna Hoffschneider married Hanss Jerg (Johann Georg) Haag, a baker by trade, on the Feast of the Purification, February 2, 1706, in Heiningen.

Haag Hoffschneider 1706 marriage 2

I wonder why Anna and Hanss Jerg selected that particular date. Of course, they could have married any day, on either side of this religious feast day, so that particular date or feast celebration must have had special significance.

Candlemas

The Feast of the Purification is also known as Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans have different names for this Feast Day, but it is universally celebrated joyfully, “just as Easter.”

This Christian Holy Day is based upon Luke 2:22-40, which states that Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth, historically viewed as January 1. Jewish law holds that males must be circumcised 8 days after birth in a special Brit Milah ceremony, at which time they are also given their name.

Hofschneider illuminated manuscript 980.jpg

This illuminated manuscript circa 980 depicts the circumcision of Jesus.

Women, who, according to Christian literature, conceived children in sin must be purified 40 days after the birth of a male child and 80 after the birth of a female. The purification ritual occurred when the mother brought a burned lamb and a young pigeon to the temple to request the priest to pray for her purification. You can read more about this interesting historical custom here and here.

It appears that the circumcision of Jesus and the purification of Mary, one of which was to occur 8 days after Jesus’s birth, and one to occur 40 days after Jesus’s birth have been conflated into one religious holiday. Regardless, both involved celebration and purification and are widely celebrated in the Christian faiths.

Hofschneider candles window.jpg

In addition to celebrating the circumcision of Jesus and the purification of Mary, candles made of beeswax are blessed before the service, then carried during the service and throughout the year. Hence, the name Candlemass, or the mass that blesses the candles.

According to The Church Year. the candles, after being blessed, are carried “with the intention of obtaining from God by their pious use and the prayers of those who devoutly carry them, health of body and soul; that our hearts, through the doctrine of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Ghost, may be interiorly enlightened; and that the fire of the love of God may be kindled in our hearts, purify them from all remains of sin, and make us partakers in the joyous light of heaven, which will never be extinguished,”

Maybe Anna and Hanss Jerg hoped that marrying on Candlemass, amid the joyous celebration, would extend the blessing of the “joyous light of Heaven, which will never be extinguished” to their marriage.

The Wedding

Hofschneider candles.jpg

The church would have been beautiful, candles freshly blessed, lit and burning brightly, hearts joyful as the young couple pledged their lives to each other. It’s likely that the entire congregation was present, and that this wedding was part of the religious festivities of the day. Something extra special for everyone to look forward to and celebrate.

Hofschneider wedding.jpg

Johann Pachelbel died in 1706, having composed Pachelbel’s Canon in D, beloved today as the “wedding march.” Perhaps Anna’s processional music was every bit as beautiful as she slowly approached her groom in the candlelit church. Close your eyes and listen, here.

A Market Town

We don’t know where Anna and Hanss Jerg lived, but Heiningen was a market town, and Hanss was the baker. The church was the center of both the village and the lives of the villagers. The market, the church, and the village shopkeepers would have all been located near or in the central square. At that time, houses and buildings, except for the church, abutted each other as part of a defensive strategy.

Hofschneider Heiningen map.png

Anna and Hanss Jerg likely lived within a block or two of the original fortified wall surrounding the church, perhaps inside the “circle” to the right of the church itself on the map shown above.

They would have heard the church bells every day as they rang, marking time in their lives. It was a short walk to the quiet sanctity of the church – the first and last place visited in their lives and their respite in times of pain and confusion.

Family

Anna and Hanss Jerg began their family with the birth of their first child in July of 1707. Having a total of 8 children, their 4th and 7th children perished with violent coughs as babies. Of course, today, I can’t help but think of the Covid-19 pandemic we’re dead center in the midst of as I write this article. Death in various forms threatened at all times. Anna was actually fortunate – more than half of her children survived.

It’s interesting to note that the only child who was given a middle name was the child named after Anna’s husband. The Heiningen Heritage Book is online, here.

Children:

  1. Margaretha Haag, born July 1, 1707 in Heiningen married Johannes Leyrer on May 30, 1732 in Heiningen.

Hofschneider margaretha haag birth 1707.png

Margaretha had 8 children, 3 boys, and 5 girls. Of the girls, 3 died young. All three boys died as children. It appears that Margaretha probably had no surviving children. This had to be devastating for both Margaretha and her mother, Anna, who undoubtedly welcomed each pregnancy as a new beginning, hoped and prayed with Margaretha, wept with her, and comforted her daughter as best she could as each child was buried. One child lived to at least 15.

Margaretha’s children died of odd things. The first died of “Schmerz in der brust“ which translates as chest pain,” one of “Stickfluss” which would be something akin to whooping cough or a paralyzing of the lungs, two of emaciation, one of “Durchschlechten” which I could not translate exactly but occurred when she was 17 days old and could be something akin to “slipped away,” and the last two of a combination of the words, “Durchschlechten, Gichter” which translates as “slaughter, gout.” Gout, of course, is the buildup of uremic acid due to kidney dysfunction. I would strongly suggest that these children had a genetic issue.

Perhaps Anna was relieved when her daughter no longer became pregnant because it meant there would be no more babies to bury. Margaretha’s last known living child was confirmed in the church in 1749, but then, silence.

  1. Dorothea Haag, born April 24, 1709, in Heiningen, married Johann Georg Hardtle on August 14, 1736, in Heiningen and died August 17, 1789, also in Heiningen. Cause of Death: Nachlass der Natur (survivor of nature; old age). Dorothea had 4 children, 3 boys, 1 who died young of dysentery, 1 who married in Crailsheim and one who married in Madgeburg, and 1 girl who died at age 7 of gout.
  2. Anna Haag, born September 29, 1711, in Heiningen; married Johann Michael Spingler on March 9, 1734, in Heiningen and died November 29, 1740, in the same location. Cause of death: childbed fever. She had 3 children, 1 girl who married in Rothenberg, one boy who died a few months after his mother, and one who survived.
  3. Catharina Haag, born May 12, 1714, in Heiningen; died March 31, 1715. Cause of death: violent cough. Whooping cough perhaps?
  4. Catharina Haag, born April 24, 1716, in Heiningen, married Johann Jakob Lenz (1712-1793) on November 12, 1734, in Heiningen (see ancestor article here,) and moved to Beutelsbach. They had 4 children, 1 girl, and 3 boys, all of whom lived to adulthood and married.
  5. Johann Georg Haag, born September 13, 1718, in Heiningen; married Anna Catharina Frasch on September 15, 1744, in Heiningen. She died on July 28, 1772, in Heiningen. They had one child who died at 3 months of age of emaciation. Johann Georg married second to Margaretha Schurr on June 29, 1773, in Heiningen. She was born December 11, 1740, and died March 22,1806 in Heiningen. They had 4 children, 2 boys, one of whom died young and one we know nothing more about, and 2 daughters, one who died young and one who died in 1856. Both of their deceased children died in August 1826, a few days apart, of bloody dysentery. Johann Georg continued in the Haag family tradition of being a baker by profession.
  6. Michael Haag, born March 11, 1721, in Heiningen; died February 28, 1722, in Heiningen of tuberculosis or pestilence. I can’t help but wonder if this child had whooping cough too.
  7. Elisabetha Haag, born November 7, 1722, in Heiningen; married Johann Georg Kümmel on August 13, 1748, in Heiningen; and died 16 November 16, 1768, in Heiningen. They were married for 20 years, but no children are listed. Based on the experience of Margaretha, I wonder if Elisabetha had the same issue as her sister, except in Elisabetha’s case, she either never became pregnant or never carried the pregnancy to term. I don’t believe stillbirths were recorded in the church records.

Rough Years

1713, 1714, and the beginning of 1715 were particularly difficult for Anna. In February 1713, her mother died. In May of 1714, her child, Catharina, was born but became ill at some point. In October of 1714, Anna’s father died, followed in March of 1715 by Catharina, then 10 months old.

In addition to her children, Anna buried 13 grandchildren whose deaths were recorded, and possibly another 2 whose records we don’t find in the church books after their baptism or confirmation. Only 9 lived to adulthood – at least where records were found.

Life in German villages, under the best of circumstances, was not for the fainthearted. However, high infant death rates made difficult situations even more heartbreaking.

Families had lived in this village for generations. Since at least the 1300s and probably earlier.

It’s possible that a specific mutation or combination of mutations was found in higher frequencies in this population due to a founder effect, meaning that several families descended from a particular ancestor passed this mutation on to their offspring. If people who both have the same mutation or mutations happened to marry each other and have children – those children could inherit a copy of the mutation from both parents. In this case, the result would have been these deadly diseases that manifested with symptoms of gout and emaciation. The result, of course, was death for the child.

Clearly, no one had an understanding of genetics, per se, in the 1700s, but I can’t help but wonder if there was at least a rudimentary understanding of trait inheritance, especially if a specific situation plagued many members of the same family or lineage? If that was not the case, then I wonder why the Catholic priests had to grant special dispensation for marriage to certain levels of cousins.

Anna’s Mitochondrial DNA

All of Anna’s children inherited her mitochondrial DNA that she inherited matrilineally directly from her mother’s line. However, only women pass mitochondrial DNA on to descendants. If anyone, male or female, descends today from Anna through all females, I have a mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship for you! With Anna’s mitochondrial DNA, we can track her ancestors back beyond the information genealogical records can provide.

Anna’s daughters who are candidates to have female children include:

  • Margareta Haag – If any of Margareta’s daughters survived, which is extremely unlikely, it would have been Catharina Leyrer who was born in 1734 and confirmed in 1749 or Margareta Leyrer who was born in 1743.
  • Anna Haag – Anna’s daughter Ursula Spingler was born in 1735 and married Johann Daniel Bubeck in 1768 in Rothenberg. She may have had daughters.
  • Catharina Haag – Married Johann Jakob Lenz and had one daughter, Anna, born in 1744 who married Johann Jakob Birkenmayer and had 4 daughters.

Our only known possible mitochondrial DNA candidates descend through Catharina or possibly Margareta or Anna.

Anna’s Death

Anna lived a long life, outliving her husband by 19 months – both of whom died as octogenarians.

Hofschneider anna death 1764.png

Death: January 20, 1764, died Anna, surviving widow of the late Hanss Jerg Haag, baker, buried at a later time; aged 83y1m2w.

It’s interesting to note that Anna was buried “at a later time.” I’m guessing that this had to do with the fact that the ground was frozen in January.

In weather records, the winter of 1946/47 was referred to as the coldest and harshest experienced since 1764 in Europe, which of course suggests that 1764 was worse. I wonder where her body was stored, and how long the family had to wait to bury Anna beside Hanss, the two small graves of her babies, her daughter who had died of childbed fever thirty years earlier and at least 13 grandchildren.

HOfschneider Heiningen Michaelskirche.png

The churchyard today seems to have no gravestones, although I haven’t seen a closeup photo that shows the yard on every side. European cities and villages reuse burial locations and have for a very long time. The old stones are removed. Even if the churchyard is no longer in use today for burials, it assuredly was at the time that Anna was buried.

The defensive wall rings the medieval church and nearby buildings. Church members, which would have meant everyone living in the village at that time, would have been buried beside the church in the churchyard after their funeral service. All their neighbors, who were also their relatives, gathered round. All heads bowed.

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Pandemic Journal: Dear Mom – A Ray of Hope

Coronavirus, Symbol, Corona, Virus, Pandemic, Epidemic

Well, Mom, it’s been 14 long-years-ago today, and I don’t even know where to begin. It’s not that I haven’t written, because I have, faithfully, every year. It’s just that the most unbelievable things have happened in this past year. You’re not going to believe this.

Actually, it’s like the earth is trying to shake us humans off, like a big, wet, shaggy dog.

First, Australia was being consumed by wildfires – before, during and after I visited. I’m sure you don’t know which thing is the more shocking – the fires or me in Australia, at all, but especially DURING the fires. Yea, I didn’t tell you about that!

While cruising around Australia and New Zealand, we heard about what we thought was a new strain of flu taking hold in China. We didn’t think much about it. It was winter, flu happens.

Then, 2020 arrived. Hold my beer. Or, in your case, some reheated black coffee. I still don’t know how you drank that stuff.

These past couple months have been incredibly bizarre. Surreal. I keep having to pinch myself – but this is real, very real. As far as I’m concerned, 2020 has already worn out its welcome and just needs to STOP! Like now. We can write this one off in the history books and move on, except, we can’t.

And by “you won’t believe this,” I mean, really, seriously, you won’t.

Umm, Things Have Changed

You’ll think I’m writing a script for a bad novel, but I’m not. Actually, there is something novel going on, but it’s a novel virus and trust me, that’s the villain.

In less than two short months that seem like an eternity, our lives have been dumped upside down and disconnected from life before. I don’t mean like when Dad died, or even when you passed over – I’m speaking of a phenomenon much larger. We are being strangled by a global pandemic. I mean “we” in a much larger sense. In fact, the largest “we” possible – the entire world. This novel virus named Covid-19 is running ripshod across every continent on earth, like a murderous sniper raging out of control.

Pretty much all we can do is wash our hands, stay apart and/or wear face masks. We feel like vulnerable sitting ducks. Because we are.

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Pandemic, Infection, Disease

Up until these past few weeks, we though that research and medicine had conquered scourges like this. That we were safe, and that nothing like this could happen here and now in the modern era. We have science and immunizations on our side, making us invincible to something on this scale. We were sorely mistaken, living under a dangerous illusion.

Not only have we never seen anything like this, neither did you. You were born after the 1918 flu pandemic which was caused by a virus related to the one sweeping the world now. Beginning in early 1918 and over the next three full years, the H1N1 virus, the source of what was known as the Spanish Flu, killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 Americans.

In two months, WITH at least some preventative measures in place, so far this virus has killed 218,000 worldwide with 60,000 deaths confirmed in the US alone, more than anyplace else in the world – although that number is likely vastly under-reported for a variety of reasons. The reality is probably at least double that number, if not more.

Nurse, Healthcare, Mask, Pandemic, Covid-19

Now the worst part. There is no vaccine, nor cure. All we can do is treat the horrific symptoms. People, including medical staff and care givers are dropping like flies as most of us shelter-in-place at home, trying to avoid infection.

Shelter-in-place is a term often used when ordering a lockdown as a result of an active shooter, terms you, thankfully, weren’t familiar with. This is a new kind of threat and we can’t see it, making some people think and act like it isn’t real. But it is.

I never thought about the economic effects of the Spanish flu pandemic that lasted three years, or how it might have been connected to the 1929 Great Depression. Perhaps the flu wasn’t causative, but the world had emerged from three years of pandemic-hell, following on the heels of WWI, less than a decade before the Depression began.

empty restaurant

Today, we’re experiencing a combination of the two. We’ve shut down large swaths of the economy in something resembling an economic medically-induced coma in order that people can shelter at home, work from home when possible, protecting themselves from being infected so they don’t infect others.

One of the first things to be cancelled were sporting events. No March Madness in Indiana this year. Yes, I know, you’ve rotated in your grave few times. Sports figures were some of the first to be infected and tested. There were no early tests, and even yet, tests are very restricted. Many people have or had Covid and are never diagnosed, so their illnesses and deaths are not included in the Covid statistics.

This stealthy disease is worse, far worse, than earlier virus strains because it’s highly contagious and very lethal to many. It’s particularly dangerous though, because some people, super-spreaders, become infected, don’t show any or only mild symptoms but still infect others for many days, up to two full weeks. Those who do become ill can spread the virus unknowingly, even before they are symptomatic. This equates to a lose-lose situation. We’ve been hoping a vaccine would be developed quickly, as that seems to be our only way “out.” Quickly in vaccine terms means months, perhaps more than a year, not weeks.

Now we’re receiving reports that people may be able to become reinfected, meaning that immunity is not conferred. Vaccines are based upon immunity. This isn’t good news at all.

We’re still learning about this invisible terrorist. There’s no roadmap and it seems that every day there a new piece of devastating news. Some days, I just feel like I’ve been pecked to death by a herd of angry chickens.

I’m working on a quilt that I’m naming “Black and Blue,” because between this virus and the associated politics, which is a potato far too hot to touch, I feel battered and bruised. Quilting is my sanity right now.

We’re doing our best at “social distancing,” staying home, remaining apart and wearing masks when we do need to go out in public. It’s particularly difficult not to see family. A few days ago, the grandkids came over and we practiced responsible social distancing by walking around the yard, together, apart, separated by at least 6 feet. It’s easier when you make it fun and it’s important to set a good example.

No school, no church, no dinners out, no haircuts, no quilting, nothing social with other humans – not even visiting other people’s houses. After a couple of months, most people are going a bit stir crazy.

Thankfully it’s getting warmer so we can go outside. The snow has melted and the early spring flowers are finally blooming. This is the worst case of cabin fever, ever – but it beats the alternative. Unfortunately, not everyone is complying.

I know you probably don’t understand why this is so difficult, because when you were growing up, your family only owned one car, when you had a car at all. Everyone stayed home most of the time.

You didn’t have a phone, TV didn’t yet exist and there wasn’t even a restaurant in town. Only a few people had electricity. Even as an adult, you never owned a computer, or had email, and you wouldn’t use your cell phone. Now, because we can’t see each other, we’re entirely dependent on those forms of communications.

You probably wonder what our problem is and why we don’t just read a book. Of course, your family was a lot more self-sufficient than we are today. For starters, we don’t grow our own food, have cows to milk or chickens to lay eggs.

Our grocery stores, something you never had either as a child, now sport tape on the floors to keep shoppers 6 feet apart as they wait to enter. Only a certain number of people are allowed inside at a time to minimize contact.

Some groceries can be delivered and we can literally order anything online, even cars.

Doctor visits happen over our computer now using a two-way movie camera built into the system. We carry on all kinds of business, banking and have meetings and conferences where groups of people can see each other on their computer screens which also function as two-way televisions. Now that’s actually kind of funny, because all sorts of unexpected challenges have cropped up.

Jammies are now “office attire.” Yes, I know, you’re gasping. Sometimes we have to put on “business casual” tops, but some people forget that they are not wearing proper attire below the waist.

reporter no pants

Just yesterday, this poor reporter in a suit coat above the waist was sporting the “no pants” look. Based on the background, you know he had strategically placed his chair where he looked the best in his home. He’s now famous, infamous and unforgettable. On his next job interview, they will chuckle and say, “Oh yea, you’re the guy without pants.”

Not only is he VERY relatable to the rest of us, because we share that very fear, he’ll also never live this down. Hopefully it will just be a fond memory soon, shared over a beer in the pub with his buddies.

I’ve transitioned to the “office live” realm too by creating a Facebook LIVE presentation for MyHeritage, a genealogy company. Yes, genealogy combined with genetics is still my consuming passion. You didn’t think that would ever change, did you?

I know you don’t know what Facebook is – but think of it like an online journal where many people say too much and some people don’t say enough.

Imagine writing letters and posting the letter on the fence outside your house for all to see. The viewers are all of your worldwide Facebook friends, or at least the ones that Facebook decides should see your “posting.” Yea, it was weird for me at first too, but in these pandemic times, Facebook is a source of connection to people outside of our general geographic realm, and those within it too. I can see what the grandkids are doing. We can share whenever we feel like it, and almost always, someone is listening. I talk about plants, quilts, cats and genealogy – none of which would surprise you. You’d be talking about Avon, crocheting and posting cat pictures.

Here’s a shocker. I’ve even been cleaning. My least favorite thing on earth to do, but you already knew that. Hey, look what I found.

I’m sure you remember when I used to hang this on the bedroom doorknob of whichever child needed a nudge to clean up their room. I’ll be gifting it to one of those children for their kids’ doorknobs. Karma!

The thing that took the longest for the Facebook LIVE presentation was the technology prep (computers, don’t ask) and cleaning my office. Spring cleaning has taken on an entirely new aspect. Houses have never been cleaner because many people are bored out of their minds. I’m creating boxes and bags of donations for places like Salvation Army as soon as they are open again. The need will be great.

For my presentation, I dressed up – well pandemic dress-up – meaning not PJs or a tshirt. I selected a nice top, donned my favorite funky socks for confidence and wore jeans instead of sweatpants. Nothing has to match now.

I want you to notice that my desk is clean, as in entirely clear. That will never happen again in my lifetime, I’m sure. Might be one of the 7 signs of the Apocolypse.

Jim cameo

However, I forgot to shut my office door behind me, and Jim made a cameo appearance, twice. Thankfully, he WAS fully attired, being a veteran of working at home. Ahhh, the challenges of home office and a rapidly changing environment. Most people have carved out a “studio” someplace to work, even if it’s the kitchen table. Seeing other people doing the same things we are makes us all feel better and more connected to our friends and colleagues.

One of my friends kindly brought her husband a snack while he was on a video conference, forgetting that she was sporting a very comfy t-shirt and pink “granny panties.” Utterly mortified and terribly embarrassed, she claims she’s never going to a Christmas party again. We told her that the other video-meeting attendees were probably envious, on two counts. I’m guessing they’ll be gifting her with day-of-the-week panties for Christmas, because right now, none of us can keep track of which day is which because they all run together. Except that day. She’ll never forget that day.

A New Way of Life

Schools and universities are closed and education is taking place online too – not just for some, but pretty much for everyone. Parents have suddenly become teachers on top of trying to work at home. That’s interesting, to say the least. Forgive me for saying that I’m so grateful my children are the lovely adults that they’ve become.

online learning

We’re learning a whole new way of living – not because we want to – but because we have to.

Case in point, funerals. Funeral homes and morgues can only store so many bodies, so something has to happen – especially not knowing how soon “normal” funerals will be able to resume.

A few days ago, because of the restrictions on gatherings and crowds, we attended a “zoom funeral.” Zoom is video conferencing software that allows groups of people to see each other on their computer or phone. Since you left us, cell phones have become mini-computers that we carry around at all times. We have separation anxiety if they aren’t on our bodies or near us. There are even cell-phone watches now. Queue Max Smart and Agent 99.

A virtual funeral, attended remotely, is not quite the same as being there, but it’s certainly better than nothing at all. It’s just, so, well, different.

Very few people in the immediate family were in the church due to social distancing requirements – less than 10 – sitting in individual pews far apart. The Priest spoke from the pulpit, standing above the casket, delivering the eulogy. The sermon was “zoomed,” live to whoever wanted to “attend.” Churches and genealogy societies are meeting this way too.

Families are using Zoom to gather remotely for meals. We zoomed as we ate your version of creamed eggs on toast on Easter Sunday – our family tradition. You remember that, I’m sure.

Fear

While zoom and other enabling technologies are a good thing and allow some connection to each other and normalcy, people are very frightened. Our health is in danger, the food supply is in danger and the economy is in danger. Jobs have been lost and families wait hours in line in their cars for food banks to open. At the same time, items at groceries are often sold out, yet farmers who can’t get their products to market are dumping milk and plowing under their crops. The connection is broken.

One piece of good news is that gasoline has now dropped below $1 a gallon, a price not seen in decades or if ever, adjusted for inflation, but we really can’t go anyplace so it matters little. Of course, the flip side is that the oil industry is not doing well.

We have all tried our best to remain optimistic, repeating that we are all in this together, we’ll make it, and it will be over soon.

Stay Home, Stay, Coronavirus, Corona, Covid-19

Truthfully, none of those things may be entirely true, yet we try to remain upbeat, supporting each other and encouraging others to do the same. Many people will make it to the other side, survivors, although not undamaged, but with lives and a world to rebuild.

Pause

Here’s the thing Mom. We thought this was a pause. That’s how it’s been perceived, a pause in our collective lives to save lives. Altruistic. Feels good, helping others by helping ourselves. Unemployment exists for people who lost jobs. They’ll be called back to work in a month or so – right?

A pause in our economy to “flatten the curve” of infection so that hospitals and medical personnel have a fighting chance of treating the tsunami of gravely ill people who are becoming ill so quickly that the hospitals have run out of beds, medical equipment and supplies. It’s so bad that no visitors are allowed. Not only is there no space, it’s not safe. Entire hospitals are full of Covid patients, many of whom die alone, without their families. Heartbreaking is an understatement. This is a war.

Quilters and sewers have been making face masks for weeks because there is an extreme shortage. I’ve made hundreds, for nurses and doctors, transit workers, first responders, police and fire, delivery people, neighbors, the elderly, nursing homes, essential workers, friends and family. I’ve lost track, and mine are not even a drop in the bucket. I never want to see another mask again as long as I live, but they may be a critical part of our lives for a long time to come.

For the first time ever, you can wear a mask into a gas station without the attendant thinking they are being robbed. We live in strange times.

If you were here, you’d be making masks, sitting right beside me, companions, just like we used to work on projects. You’d be old enough by now that you’d likely be living with me, so that would be comforting, all by itself. I surely do miss you Mom. I wish I could talk to you, in person. I ache to hear your voice again. I wish I had a recording.

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You’ll never guess what I found digging for fabrics for masks. The oldest fabric I own is what’s left from when you and I re-covered that comforter back when I was a teenager. That’s the same comforter that you re-covered with your Mom when you were a teenager. I remember purchasing this fabric together at the fabric store, from the sale bolts. Everything we ever bought was from the sale bolts or the remnant bin:)

I’m going to use this fabric now, Mom, to make a scrap quilt I’ll enjoy. No point in saving it any longer. The future is uncertain. So is the present. I’ve never felt this way before. Use the fabric. Wear your dress cowboy boots and funky socks around the house. Just do it. No regrets.

Reset

This wily virus isn’t finished. Far from it. This interlude wasn’t just a pause.

Portions of the country are “opening up” again, and many are frightened that this is happening too soon – much too soon. We’re all connected together in this – the whole world metaphorically holding hands. Of course, no one is supposed to be literally touching right now. Still, we can’t avoid human contact entirely and the virus depends on that.

World, Globe, Worldwide, Www, Global, Planet, Sphere

Covid-19 is the great equalizer. Rich, poor, every nation, opposing political parties, old, young, all races, already sick or healthy – the virus attacks everyone randomly and indiscriminately. Many have died and are yet to die.

By now, everyone knows someone who has or has had the disease, and almost everyone knows someone who has died. I know several.

Every day, the virus’s tentacles reach closer and closer to home. It’s 4 houses away from one of our closest family members as I type this, and two of our family members think they’ve been infected and recovered already, but went undiagnosed.

If “those other” people get infected, they infect others, who infect others, who eventually infect everyone. This is why we need to stay home and only emerge very cautiously, under controlled circumstances. Until we have a vaccine, which is months away, best case, or perhaps years away, there is no “resume life” button.

We thought that when the restrictions were lifted, our life would return to something approaching normal. Everyone would have had a month or 6 weeks timeout, an enforced stay-cation, but the danger would have abated. Shops and restaurants would open and everyone would resume doing what they were doing before. We’d get much-needed haircuts and meet for coffee.

We’d have a big after-Covid party celebration with margaritas and Mexican food – in a restaurant!

Maybe not so fast.

We thought this was a sprint, but we’re beginning to realize it’s a long-distance marathon, an endurance race.

Over the past couple of weeks, especially this last week as we all anxiously watch the process of early states relaxing the restrictions, we’ve listened to infectious disease specialists and scientists who tell us that indeed, the virus is still coming for us.

Perhaps it will nab us now, especially if some states open too soon and reinfect everyone. We won’t know for 2 or 3 weeks how rapidly the infection rate will increase. With Covid-19, delay is deadly, because we can only measure the results of what we do now by what happens 2-3 weeks in the future.

Perhaps the virus will re-emerge from “hot spots” in states that never did and still haven’t ordered social distancing. Perhaps it will rear its ugly head this fall when the weather cools, schools reopen and people spend more time inside. Probably all of the above.

We aren’t going to be safe for months, if ever. This transformation from temporary pause to chronically fearful isn’t what we expected a month or 6 weeks ago. Now it’s beginning to seem inevitable. I’m still trying to find the right balance of optimism, confidence, paranoia and panic.

It’s not so much that I’m concerned about contracting the virus myself. I actually think I’ve already been exposed at least once, although I’d surely like to know. It’s the havoc the virus is wreaking on everyone and everything, everyplace – family members, friends, neighbors, economy – literally life as we know it is under seige.

We control very little in this equation, because our safety and future is at least partially dependant on people we don’t even know in places we don’t live, and who may or may not comply with safety measures.

This isn’t a pause, it’s a reset, a full control-alt-delete hard reboot with no warning. The screen’s gone dark as we sit staring blankly at where our former lives used to be. The old normal is gone. When it arrives, we don’t know what the new normal will look like, how our lives will be different in the future, and we’re not at all sure what’s going to be left.

This slowly creeping realization of our new reality is sinking into our bones like a cold, damp, fog, little by little, chilling us to our core.

Pandemic Journal

When I started the Pandemic Journal series, I thought that in a few short weeks, after some memorable adventures and perhaps a few laughable mis-adventures, I would scribe, “The End,” close the book with a smile and retire my pandemic pen after documenting this unique hiccup of history for the future.

We would have been inconvenienced a bit, but the relatively happy ending would occur sooner than later with the world having escaped the worst of the scourge of the virus by staying at home. The virus and associated inconveniences would depart as rapidly as they had descended upon our lives. This epic pause would be just another interesting chapter in a our collective human life journey. The Covid chapter would be done, finished – on to the next, none the worse for wear.

Now, I’m not so sure about any of those things.

Not sure at all.

Hope

And then, last night it came.

Finally.

A ray of hope. A tiny pinpoint of light in this darkness.

The antiviral drug, Remdesivir, in a very limited blind study was shown to shorten the length of hospital stay for Covid patients from 15 to 11 days.

Those are clearly the sickest people, and Remdesivir does nothing to prevent infection. We also don’t know if fewer people actually died. The drug must be administered via IV, over a period of days, but it reduced the recovery time by 31% in this small sample. The good news is that it’s not a new drug, so it doesn’t have to go through the approval process for the drug itself. Remdesivir is expected to be authorized for emergency use on Covid patients in a few days.

Having said that, there’s so much we don’t know, and Remdesivir might not be any part of the answer when we learn more. This discovery might be the chink in the virus’s armour though, the first step in the path to finding life-saving treatments to defeat this horrid enemy. We now know it’s possible to fight this virus, and how.

Remdisivir is clearly not a panacea, but here’s what it is.

It’s a spark of hope, that seedling in our time of despair. Perhaps the bloom of springtime after the bleakest of winters.

Hope springs eternal.

Flowers for you, Mom.