Rockstar Genealogists – There Is no I in Team

We received the first results, kind of like early election returns, of the Rockstar genealogist voting today, which announced the silver and bronze winners.

electionI’m paired with Megan Smolenyak in the USA category and CeCe Moore and Judy Russell represent the DNA grouping.  Tomorrow, the first place winners in each category will be announced on John Reid’s Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections website where you can see today’s results too.

I’m stunned, honored and humbled.  I had hoped with my donation committment to raise awareness of genetic genealogy and it looks like that was certainly successful.

Why did I offer to make the donation to the Preserve the Pensions?  Twofold.  First, and it goes without saying, that I am extremely committed to preserving our original records and I think this project not only preserves records and makes them available for everyone, but it also raises awareness of the needs and the records themselves.  Plus, I think benevolence is contagious…at least I hope so.  Hint – you too can donate in honor of someone.

Second, because there is no I in team.  Genetic genealogy is a team sport, and the genetic genealogy nominees are all tireless players in this field.

family tree dna logoWithout Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA, who literally hounded Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona to perform a Y DNA test on himself and another Greenspan male, fifteen years ago, there would be no genetic genealogy today.  Thank you Bennett for your persistence and thank you, Dr. Hammer, for finally giving in!!!  You two made history – you are the astronauts, first walkers on the moon, of the genetic genealogy world.  We would not be here without you – bottom line!  What an incredible legacy.

But that walk has not been a stroll in the park.

I remember, years ago, when Rootsweb (owned by Ancestry, ironically) would delete any post that referred to DNA for genealogy except for the genealogy DNA mailing list.  As hard as it is to believe today, and as unimaginable as it seems, DNA was treated as some kind of pox and was verboten…and it went on for years.  I never fully understood why, but I believe it was most likely fear that DNA would unhinge some of the treasured long-standing genealogy works of the past – and perhaps the researchers of those works as well.  Thankfully, we now have the opportunity to confirm those works…or not.

When Megan Smolenyak was appointed as Ancestry’s official genealogist, the genetic genealogy community was ecstatic because as one of the earliest genetic genealogists, we were very hopeful that Megan could make a difference and bring that embargo to an end.

Fortunately, those days are long in the past now, but for a very long time, genetic genealogy was an uphill struggle through the briar patch with those at the top of the hill casting a suspicious eye upon us.

spencer machu pichu

The real turning point for genetic genealogy was when the National Geographic Society began the Genographic project in 2005 in partnership with Family Tree DNA.  Not only have the Genographic projects versions 1 and 2 brought hundreds of thousands of testers into the community, it has raised awareness throughout the world and lent unquestionable credibility to genetic genealogy.  No longer does anyone wonder if genetic genealogy is even possible.  National Geographic brought genetic genealogy mainstream – in retrospect, it was the infamous tipping point.

U.S. Army Officer Cap BadgeA few of the RockStar genetic genealogy candidates have been in this field since the beginning.  Megan was one of the first, using DNA in her genealogy business to repatriate the remains of soldiers.  Megan was the first to bring genetic genealogy to the public through her original Roots Television series, originally hosted on her own website, but now a Youtube channel.  She even provides genealogy grants to worthy people and organizations, and has for, are you ready for this….14 years.

Megan is clearly, and without question, not only a professional genealogist, as well as a genetic genealogist, but has also been a long-standing ambassador in the genetic genealogy world.  We would not be where we are today without her efforts.  She opened many doors that were firmly sealed shut and greased many skids.  Thank you Megan for all of your efforts for so many years that continue today.

Like I said, there is no I in team.  As more genetic genealogists came into the fold, each one brought a special skill and passion and focus.  Each person on the list of candidates and winners has contributed profoundly to this community in their own unique way.

Family Tree DNA held their first conference for their project administrators back in 2004.  The conference in Houston next month marks the 10th anniversary.  For many years, this was the only genetic genealogy education other than an occasional general session at a genealogy conference or speakers at genealogy groups.  Administrators did, and do suck up advanced education like thirsty sponges, even if it does sometimes feel like we’re drinking from the firehose.

Today, through ISOGG and the newly formed Institute for Genetic Genealogy (i4gg), CeCe Moore and Tim Janzen, along with their many volunteers speakers have brought education specifically focused on genetic genealogy to the masses – the public and professional genealogists alike.  Thanks to their efforts, genetic genealogy is becoming mainstream.  Soon, genetic genealogy won’t be something separate, just another tool that every genealogist understands and is able to utilize.  Maybe it will be another specialty under the genealogy umbrella, just like regional or country specialties are today.

isogg clipKatherine Borges founded ISOGG in March 2005 because she felt there was a need to educate genealogists, testers and the public about genetic genealogy.  I remember talking to Katherine at the DNA conference after a particularly intensive statistical session, just before she founded ISOGG, and she said “I think I understood 2 or 3 words.”  We were all wandering around in a bit of a daze after that particular session wondering what the devil we had gotten ourselves into.

Today, ISOGG, still free, serves thousands of members worldwide.  Katherine, as an unpaid volunteer, continues to champion genetic genealogy around the world.  Megan referred to Katherine as the “godmother of genetic genealogy,” and indeed, she is.  I think of her as the fairy godmother actually, because more than once at the conferences where she works (volunteers) for ISOGG she has found testers for my surnames or even documents for my family.  I love her magic wand!!!

The success of genetic genealogy is a result of everyone bringing their own chisel to the brick walls that surround us.  Genetic genealogy is the result of tools and technology, social media, communications and plain old elbow grease grunt work court house basement genealogy research.  It’s a special brew, all ingredients stirred into the soup called collaboration – and the results are discoveries the likes of which we could never have imagined.  No, there is no I in team.

Some of the people on the list of Rockstar candidates are professional genealogists, some professional genetic genealogists, and some unpaid.  All of us, bar none, are volunteers and donate a huge amount of time and effort into the community.  Some of us are bloggers, and if you think bloggers make lots of money from their endeavor, think again.  Every article we write is an investment of our own time with very little, if any expectation, of a return.

Some of us have a particular focus and private commitment that involves genealogy.

In Bennett’s case, his focus has always been Jewish genealogy.

Bald Eagle in FlightIn my case, my passion and focus have been, long before genetic genealogy, reviving the history of Native American people from the obscurity of a nameless history.  Today, that passion is manifested through my haplogroup project research, my blog, the American Indian Project at Family Tree DNA and the Native Names Project which is a list of thousands of transcribed names of Native people from obscure original documents.

Gates PBSCeCe Moore’s focus has been on utilizing genetic genealogy to reconstruct the family trees of adoptees, eventually identifying their birth family by process of elimination.  Much of her work is quiet and private, which means she can’t publicize a lot if her findings.  But that’s OK, because she makes up for it with her television presence, working with Dr. Henry Gates on his Finding Your Roots PBS Series, which starts this season, as luck would have it, September 23rd.

mennoniteTim Janzen, MD, a long time genetic genealogist is also a practicing physician.  I have no idea when he finds the time to do everything he does, including his commitment to the Mennonite DNA project.  Tim utilizes autosomal DNA within this project and developed early tools to be utilized in autosomal DNA analysis.  Tim is also teamed with CeCe as founders of i4gg.

Gavel and Law BooksJudy Russell needs no introduction as her blog, The Legal Genealogist, speaks for itself, every day.  I can’t believe the amount of content this woman produces, and quality content too.  In addition, she keeps the most intensive travel schedule of anyone I know outside of the Secretary of State.  Judy’s passion is genealogy and the law, and it shows.  I’m glad Judy loves and embraces genetic genealogy, but I’m also glad that’s not her primary focus, because we need her expertise so desperately in the legal end of the records we sometimes see and don’t fully understand.  If you ever get the opportunity to see Judy speak, by all means, do.  I don’t care if she is talking about icebergs in the Amazon….catch her talk.  Stand in the back of the room if necessary…just make sure you are there.

sca;esBlaine Bettinger is also a lawyer, now.  When I first met Blaine, he was still in school.  He authored one of the earliest blogs about genetic genealogy, covering all type of topics ranging from press coverage to the X chromosome.  Blaine is also the past editor of the Journal for Genetic Genealogy, hosted on the ISOGG website.  Blaine has been a genealogist for 20 years, and while Judy brings her perspective of law to genealogy, Blaine brings his perspective of being a genealogist to law.  I’m glad to see the “next generation” passionately involved in genetic genealogy.

british flagDebbie Kennett’s dive into genetic genealogy is through her Cruwys News blog where she chronicles her family genealogy journey and occasionally genetic genealogy.  Debbie, who lives in England, is an Honorary Research Associate attached to the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London. I value Debbie’s non-US centric perspective and that fact that she has perspective and information about the non-US companies and players that we simply don’t have here.

If anything, genetic genealogy has shown us over and over again how widespread our “cousins” are, how trivial today’s political borders are and how closely related the world is.  I hope it has changed our perspective a bit of other people.  Of the genetic genealogists, CeCe Moore and I share an ancestor someplace along the line, but as irony would have it, we haven’t had time to figure out the identity of our common ancestor.  The cobblers kids never have shoes….

winnerAs far as I’m concerned, these genetic genealogy nominees are all winners.  They are certainly all contributors.  It’s nice to see the official Rockstars receive recognition for their efforts.  But more importantly, because we as genealogists and genetic genealogists cannot succeed alone, I hope the cumulative success of these Rockstars serves to raise awareness of the promise of genetic genealogy and encourages everyone to integrate these tools into their genealogy toolbox, because, well, there is no I in team.

Congratulations to all of the winners, in each category. I’m so honored to be included!  What an incredible group.

Thank you, everyone, for voting in this fun Rockstar exercise.  Thank you John Reid for being a fine emcee:)    And thanks, everyone, for making me pay!!!

Now, it’s time for me to figure out how to best donate my $250 so that it receives the best matching possible for the Preserve the Pensions project.

Cricket Team Holding Hands



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Last Call

last callNo, not that kind of last call.

Last call to vote – in the Rockstar Genealogist competition hosted at John Reid’s blog, Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections.

Rockstar genealogists are those who give “must attend” presentations at family history conferences or as webinars. Who, when you see a new family history article or publication by that person, makes it a must buy. Who you hang on their every word on a blog, podcast or newsgroup, or follow avidly on Facebook or Twitter?

So, you get to vote for your favorites AND it’s your opportunity to make me pay.bag of money

And pay BIG.

This is the only time in my life that guaranteed, my money is going to be quadrupled and I’m not even going to have to buy a lottery ticket, draw a card or roll a dice.  It’s guaranteed!

You see, here’s the deal, in the past voting, a genetic genealogist has never found their way into the top 10 of the Rockstar Genealogists.  Now I’d like to raise awareness for genetic genealogy and how useful it can be, and I am a strong advocate for the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project….sooooo…..if a genetic genealogist finds their way into the winners circle, meaning the top 10, I’ll pay up.  My $250 donation will become $1000 through matching donations and will preserve 2200 pension pages total.  A very worthy cause, don’t you think?

You can read about my original pledge or take a look at what Judy Russell had to say.  You know, she did get up at o’dark thirty and walk to the Alamo for Preserve the Pensions as well, and well, truthfully, I’d rather count out all 25,000 pennies than do that…..

Here’s a list of this year’s nominees. You can vote for as many individuals as you want, but you can only vote once.

Genetic genealogists on the list include:

Voting ends today, Friday, or maybe Saturday, according to John…but don’t wait for Saturday and be disappointed, so vote NOW, include one or more genetic genealogists….and make me pay:)  I’m already counting my pennies!!!

Am I going to have to pay?  Who is it going to be????

last call2__________________________________________________


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Rockstar Genealogists – Sweetening the Pie


Did you know there was such a thing as a Rockstar Genealogist?  Well, there is, and yours truly, along with 149 of my closest friends, has been nominated.

John Reid is sponsoring this third annual contest on his blog, Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections.  A little digging tells me that I was also nominated in 2013 as well, but I didn’t know it.  Maybe I’m the “Lives Under a Rock” genealogist:)

You can vote for your favorite genealogists by visiting John’s blog and clicking through to vote.  Voting is open now and will end late Friday or Saturday, according to John.  So don’t wait, vote now.

Here is last year’s list of winners and a list of this year’s nominees.

On the 2013 winner’s list, I see several familiar names, including Judy Russell and Megan Smolenyak who both work with genetic genealogy in addition to more traditional genealogy.  I know both of these ladies personally, and I can vouch for the fact that they are, indeed, Rockstar Genealogists.  I would like to see both of them in their Rockstar garb however.

What I didn’t see were any genetic genealogists, those who specialize in that end of the field.  Looking at this year’s nominees, and there were a lot of them, I was very pleased to see several genetic genealogists listed, including CeCe Moore, Tim Janzen, Blaine Bettinger, Bennett Greenspan, Debbie Kennett, Katherine Borges and of course, yours truly.  Not bad for a field that just a decade ago was almost entirely unknown, and 15 years ago, didn’t exist at all.

I find it particularly fitting that Bennett Greenspan is included in this list, given that he’s the man who started it all.  And wow, am I ever in awesome company!

So, given that I’d love to see at least one genetic genealogist in the winner’s circle, complete with their electric guitar, strumming it with their DNA swabs – I’m going to, ahem, sweeten the pie.


Make Me Donate!!!

If any of the above mentioned genetic genealogists are in the list of 2014 winners, I’ll donate $250 to the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions Digitization Project.

But, it gets even better, because right now, there are two organizations, the Illinois and Indiana Genealogy Societies, who are matching donations to this project, so my $250 will become $500.  So, if I “have to” donate, I’ll be doing it through one of them.

But we’re not done, it gets even better yet.  Right now, is matching every donation 100%, so that $250 that turned into $500 actually turns into a $1000 donation.  That $1000 donation preserves 2200 pages that are in desperate need of preservation and that will be available free, forever, for everyone.

I had three ancestors serve in the War if 1812, one of whom died in the service of his country, so I feel very strongly about this crowdsourcing project.  These records are incredible and many times include information about wives and children not available elsewhere.  In one case, the pages of a family Bible were torn out and are today found in that pension file – the file of a man that no one today knew even served in that war.

So, if someone else would like to join into the pie sweetening, that would be just wonderful.  No such thing as too many cooks in this kitchen!  Post your sweetener as a comment to this article.  After all, it’s all in good fun and for a great cause.  Pass the sugar!


So, please vote now and do your share to make sure I “have to” donate and let’s get at least one of our genetic genealogists into the winner’s circle.  You can vote for as many people as you want, but you can only vote once.

Here’s the link to vote.



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You’re Invited to Aleda’s Virtual Funeral

Aleda's Virtual Funeral

We’re having a virtual funeral….and you’re invited.  In fact, this might be a first….the first virtual funeral ever – and you can be part of this groundbreaking event.  It’s a testament to how the electronic, internet, Facebook, DNA age has changed our lives.

Aleda passed away more than a week ago, on January 26th.  Sometimes things don’t always go exactly as we would like, and suffice it to say, Aleda is being buried tomorrow, Friday, February 7, at 2:30, alone.  Well, not entirely alone, the man who mowed her yard since he was a child, and his wife, will be there, and the backhoe operator, of course.

She has a world of online friends and cousins who she met through DNA testing, so, we’re giving Aleda a virtual funeral.  Her favorite reading was the 23rd Psalm, so we’re inviting everyone to participate at 2:30 by reading or reciting the 23rd Psalm, for Aleda, to lift her spirit to the Heavens.  Let’s send her off with a chorus of voices.  Aleda won’t be alone.  We’ll all be sending her home.  And that’s it.  Nothing else for you to do, so it’s very easy to participate.

By the way, I’m being a bit vague about her name and location because of her family’s concerns about the security of her property, which is why there has been no obituary, etc.

Genealogy, and in this case, genetic genealogy changes lives.  In my recent article, “Finding Family the New-Fashioned Way,” I included a poll asking three questions:

Have you become close to someone met through traditional genealogy research.

The results?

43% – Yes, somewhat close, we’re friends
42% – Yes, very close, like family.
14% – No

Have you become close to someone you met through DNA?

43% – Yes, somewhat close, we’re friends.
40% – No
16% – Yes, very close, like family.

Have you met in person the people you’ve discovered during genealogy of DNA research?

62% – Yes
23% – No
14% – No, but have plans to.

Well, I can tell you how Aleda answered those questions, and although the polls are anonymous, I’m sure she answered because she was the consummate contributor and participant.  Aleda would have answered yes to all of the above.

Aleda was a joiner.  In High School, she was a member of several clubs, the editor of the newspaper, and she loved science, especially chemistry.  It’s no surprise then, how quickly she embraced DNA testing decades later when it became available as a genealogy tool.  She was a pioneer, one of the first.

Aleda's high school

Aleda's high school 2

Aleda became interested in genealogy early in life and spent 50 years researching her family history.  She became active in the DAR as well and I believe was a 47 year member.

By the time I met Aleda, in 2006, congestive heart failure had already set in, but that Aleda 2006 croppeddidn’t slow her down much, and it certainly didn’t stop her.  Aleda volunteered to help staff a table for the Lost Colony Research Group in Manteo, NC.  She had to walk slowly, due to the oppressive heat and her health, but walk she did, and she stayed with us all day, talking to people interested in the Lost Colony – or more particular, in figuring out if they descend from Lost Colony survivors.  She was a founding member of The Lost Colony Research Group.

Her family, at least part of it, was from the South, the colonial South, the early South, the South that enslaved Indians and Africans, and she was descended from some combination of all of those people.  Aleda’s DNA, you see, held secrets that would only be divulged when her brother took his first DNA test.

To say Aleda was shocked is an understatement.  But she was also thrilled.  The bad news – it would be 5 long years before her brother would have a DNA match.  Five years is a very long time to wait.  But Aleda didn’t just wait, and she never, once, complained.  Instead, she recruited people.  She researched, she found other people she thought might be related.  She told them of their wonderfully interesting and colorful family history.  And she and her brother took every test they could take.  Aleda was determined to learn everything she could learn by embracing this new technology.

Her brother’s Y DNA is very distinctive.  When he has a match, there is no question that it’s a match.  Aleda gathered her brother’s matches into a research group.

When autosomal DNA became available, she was one of the first to embrace that technology as well, and autosomal matches opened up a whole new world of cousins for Aleda.

As her health deteriorated, it seemed that she worked harder and harder, and began teaching others what she knew.  She had apprentices and taught her research group about file organization, about computers, about DNA and how to research.  She knew her time was limited.  She had come to love them all.

She embraced all things new.  Aleda never had children, but she was a born teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education as well as a second Masters in Liberal Arts from John Hopkins.  It’s no wonder that she always thought innovatively, outside of the box.

Her research group told me that when my blog articles were published, they had to hurry and read them right away, because Aleda would be calling shortly to discuss how to apply them to their research.  They told me how much Aleda looked forward to my blogs.  I never knew.

Aleda 2013As Aleda became increasingly homebound, especially following a stroke a couple years ago, her world became her online friends and cousins with whom she communicated daily.  Her last trip was in the fall of 2013, despite her health challenges, to visit Hancock County, Tennessee, tracking down those pesky ancestors.

She never gave up…not until the last day….not even the last day.  The morning of her death, she was working on X chromosome clusters, and teaching, always sharing her knowledge with her research group.

Aleda loved her cousins.  I don’t meant that lightly.  She truly loved them.  They became her family that she had never had.  They spoke with her daily.  She knew them better than anyone else, even if they were scattered to the winds across the US.

Unfortunately, the fact that we are so scattered, and that we are having an epic winter combined with age and health issues makes attending her burial impossible for her research group.  So, a virtual funeral it is.

What would Aleda think of this virtual funeral?

I’ll let one of her research group cousins tell you:

My dear, dear friend would be so thrilled to think she was having a “virtual funeral.”  She did so like “different things.”

Aleda was not just a friend.  We talked most days and usually had a few projects going at the same time.  She taught my little group of kin what little we know about DNA – and much of it by following whatever Roberta happened to be doing on her blogs.  She spent 50 years in searching for her ancestors and jumped in with both feet when DNA became available.  She said you just couldn’t do enough DNA research.

Because our brothers and my other male kin matched, we became Aleda’s project.  Once I hopped on Aleda’s swiftly moving train, I didn’t get off again until her passing.  She always had a project or two or three or more going at a time and was right in the middle of two big ones to do with the X Chromosome Charts.

She was one of a kind: bright, non-judgmental, generous, loving and forgiving. We lost a super friend, cousin and  dedicated genealogist…the world lost a great lady. Roberta, she so loved your teachings and she in turn taught us.”

Rest in peace dear Aleda.  I thank you for sharing so much of your vast knowledge with us and I really enjoyed our ride.  Hopefully I can be as helpful to others as you were with everyone you knew.”

I think Aleda would love her virtual funeral, her “home-going,” and she would forgive us for not being able to attend in person because that’s how Aleda was.  She always found the positive in everything and everyone.

Please join us at 2:30 Eastern time on Friday to repeat the 23rd Psalm for Aleda.  Please “like” this article if you’ll be virtually attending.

And then, let’s all be a little bit Aleda. She made such a difference to so many who she reached out and touched through genetic genealogy.  The science is simply a means to an end…and what matters in the end is family, however you come to define them.

Update – Aleda’s Virtual Funeral

Aleda had a beautiful virtual funeral.  Thank you to all of the virtual attendees for being your sister’s keeper.  Lots of people participated by reading the 23rd Psalm.  This beautiful version was created and contributed by Donna based on the rose wreath foundation created by

23rd Psalm

Aleda’s virtual funeral included a piano, trumpets, bells tolling, songs and Psalms.

One gentleman in Texas played and sang this.

A lady in Kentucky played the piano and sang.

And in North Carolina, the reading was accompanied by this and bells tolling.

A balloon was released.

In West Virginia, a man took his heirloom family Bible and visited his family cemetery to read the 23rd Psalm.

In Tennessee, a man visited the cemetery that held his 4 great and 5 of his great-great-grandparents, walking from grave to grave as he read the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.

One woman was on an airplane, and several were attending the Rootstech conference in Utah and stole a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle.  My husband was going to excuse himself from a meeting and go to the restroom, but instead, recruited his colleagues in the business meeting he was attending – and they all participated.

Another woman, in Maryland, asked for and received a few minutes relief from her job on the “front desk” in a library.

In fact, Aleda probably had more people at her virtual funeral than she would have been able to have in reality – when you consider the complications of distance and weather.  The map below shows the locations of the people I’m aware of, and I know there were many more because the messages about her virtual funeral were shared over and over again.

This map shows the states where people were who participated.  In Kentucky and Tennessee, there were literally hundreds, followed by Texas.

In addition, there were also several people from the UK, Japan, Israel, Finland and some of our military in Fort Apache, Afghanistan.  It was an international event.  Aleda would have been both surprised and pleased.  I guess maybe this could be called the first virtual surprise “come as you are” funeral.

Funeral States

I’ve been surprised by how many people have told me of special blessings they received while participating in Aleda’s funeral.  In my case, after I did the reading, outside in front of a huge drift in 8 degree, blustery, but sunny, weather, I realized that there was a half moon in the middle of the day, and the spring’s first robin had accompanied me.  I’ve cropped the photo below to show both.

Aleda Moon Robin Cropped

Aleda also had flowers.  Three people sent arrangements with messages from the entire genealogy community.  The florist’s husband attended the burial and took this photo for us, given that the florist had recently had knee surgery.

Cemetery cropped

He said that the funeral home that is adjacent to the cemetery learned of our virtual funeral for Aleda and some of the staff attended in person too, so there were 4 people, plus the florist’s husband and the workers who doubled as her pall-bearers who participated as well.  Everyone read the 23rd Psalm aloud for her.


One virtual participant added something to her reading, something that she felt Aleda wanted.

Psalm 30:11 – You have turned my mourning into dancing for me, you have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.

Rest in Peace our dear friend Aleda, we have truly sung you “over-home.”

Find-A-Grave Memorial

bunch dna card

Aleda flowers



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Finding Family the New-Fashioned Way

When I first started doing genealogy, I didn’t even realize “it” had a name, or that I was doing “it.”  I am truly the accidental genealogist.  I simply wanted to find out something about my father’s family.  He died in a car accident when I was in grade school and we didn’t live anyplace close to his family.  I think the nesting instinct had set in.  I was pregnant for my second child.

I did discover some information, but that ended with the memory of older family members.  And then, my genealogy endeavors took a decade long holiday while I finished my master’s degree and other life events happened.

One day, I saw an announcement in the newspaper that the local Mormon Church was having a genealogy workshop.  They invited you to bring your sticky problem and come on by.  I took that same child with me that evening, somewhat apprehensive about the session being a “trap” to get folks into the church.  The Mormon people never use genealogy as a way to entrap non-Mormons – so no worry there.

As genealogists have discovered, one discovery leads to two at least more questions. I was hooked that night at the Mormon church.  We found the marriage record of my Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy on microfiche.  I still remember the awe and thrill of that moment, looking at that scratchy old record.  Anyone who asks when you’re going to be finished with your genealogy just doesn’t understand the blank noncomprehending stare they receive in reply.

What I expected to find, after my initial foray to find some living relatives, was history.  I didn’t expect to find a lifelong obsession.   And I had no idea I’d find other, more distant family, that I would become very close to.

My cousin Daryl comes to mind.  We met over the internet researching a common family line a decade ago.  She has become my sister-of-heart and my travel companion.  In fact, here’s a photo we took, trapped inside a cemetery in Tennessee.  Thankfully, it WAS fenced and the fence was between us and the bull, even if we were trapped inside.  I’m still not sure if that bull was unhappy with our presence in HIS field or hopeful of adding us to his harem.  Yep, these are things you only do with very close friends or family!  And what great memories we’ve made.

Angry Bull

I was thinking this morning about how genealogy has changed.  For years, we wrote letters.  Remember watching for the mailman to arrive and running to the mailbox?  I surely do, especially when you had written someplace for a record and were expecting its arrival.  All genealogists knew exactly what time the mail was supposed to arrive!

As time evolved, the advent of e-mail has been a huge boon to genealogy.  Now, we very seldom write letters and we interact in the space of minutes or hours with new and old cousins.

I’ve also stopped trying to quantify “cousin.”  If we’re related and not a parent/sibling aunt/uncle niece/nephew, then we’re “cousins,” kin, and that’s all that matters.  With the advent of DNA testing, I’ve discovered I’m “cousin” to more people than I’m not!  My, how the world has both grown and shrank in one fell swoop.  I am so very blessed to have so many genealogically discovered cousins, here, as well as many who live in other countries – Marja in Finland who I met in November, David in Australia, Doug in New Zealand who I met up with in England, John in Japan, Yvette in the Netherlands who I’ll meet this year, and the list goes on.

The next big connector was and is Facebook.  Now, the first question you ask a new cousin is “are you on Facebook.”  While e-mails are personal, directed to you individually, you can get to know your cousins on Facebook in another way, by watching what they do and say.  I have a new cousin Loujean, discovered just before Thanksgiving.  We are Facebook friends, and I think I know her better than I know my nieces and nephews who are not on Facebook.  And yes, I’m dead serious.  I have no idea what those nieces and nephews are doing, but I can tell you all about Loujean:)

So, now I’m curious about your experiences with both genealogy and genetic genealogy.  Aside from the answers to historical questions, has genealogy or genetic genealogy enhanced your life by adding people to your list of family that you care about?  Has it changed your life?  If so, how?  You can answer the polls below, or leave comments, or both.



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