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 words 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?

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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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.

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.

No photo description available.

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.

 

DNA Day 2020: 9 Great Ways to Celebrate an Amazing 20-Year Journey

DNA Day 2020.jpg

DNA Day 2020, celebrated officially on April 25th, is a “big deal” anniversary for genetic genealogy.

In the Beginning – Family Tree DNA 

It was 20 years ago that Family Tree DNA was born and began doing business – in collaboration with Dr. Michael Hammer whose lab ran the DNA samples at the University of Arizona.

Bennett Greenspan, a genealogist and entrepreneur teamed up with his business partner, Max Blankfeld, and launched Family Tree DNA, never no idea, of course, what their startup would one day become. That would have required a crystal ball.

Bennett just wanted to solve his own genealogy brick wall and knew that Y DNA had been used to prove, or disprove, a patrilineal genetic relationship between 2 men with the same or similar surnames.

Dr. Hammer, who was weary of calls from genealogists asking for exactly that, said to Bennett, “You know, someone should start a company doing DNA testing for genealogy.” What fateful words those turned out to be.

Family Tree DNA went from being a business run from a cellphone out of the spare bedroom to a multi-national company, now one of four subsidiary businesses under the Gene by Gene umbrella. Gene by Gene owns a 10-story building that includes a world-class genetics lab, the Genomics Research Center, in Houston, Texas.

FTDNA sign crop

Never doubt the ability of passion and persistence.

And never, ever, doubt a genealogist.

That First 12-Marker Test

In March 2000, Family Tree DNA began offering the then-revolutionary 12-marker Y DNA test, the genesis of what would progress to 25, then 37, 67, 111 and now the Big Y-700 test. The Big Y-700 offers more 700+ STR markers along with a research-grade SNP test providing testers with the very latest haplogroup information. This level of sophistication and testing wasn’t even dreamed-of 20 years ago. The human genome hadn’t even been fully sequenced, and wouldn’t be until April 2003. DNA Day is celebrated in April to commemorate that event.

That 12-marker Y DNA test was revolutionary, even though it was a but a baby-step by today’s standards. Consumer Y DNA testing had never been done before, and was the first step in a journey I could never have imagined. The butterfly effect in action.

I didn’t know I had embarked when I pushed off from that shore.😊

That journey of 10,000 miles and 20 years had to start someplace.

The Journey Begins

Twenty years ago, I heard a rumor about a company testing the Y chromosome of men for genealogy. Suspecting that it was a scam, I called Family Tree DNA and spoke with Bennett, expecting something quite different than what transpired.

I discovered a genealogist who understood my problem, explained how the technology had solved the same quandary for him, and how Y DNA testing worked for genealogy. Y DNA could help me solve my problem too, even though I didn’t have a Y chromosome. Bennett even offered to help me if I needed assistance.

An hour later, I had ordered five tests for Estes men who I knew would jump at this opportunity to prove they all descended from a common progenitor.

Along with Bennett, and other genealogists with similar quests, I now had permission to dream – and to push the limits.

I Had a Dream

I dreamed that one day I could prove even more.

Where did my Estes ancestors come from?

Did all of the Estes men in the US descend from one line? Were they from the Eastes line in Kent, England? We would discover that both of the Estes immigrant lines, indeed, did hail from the same ancestor in Deal, England.

Were those much-loved and oft-repeated rumors true?

Before arriving as fishermen on coastal England, did the Estes family actually descend from an illegitimate son of the wealthy House of Este, hailing from Padua, Italy?

The family had spent decades chasing rumors and speculating, even visiting Italy. Finally, science would answer those questions – or at least that potential existed. At long last, we had an amazing opportunity!

Bennett explained that surname projects existed in order to group men who shared a common surname, and hopefully a common ancestor too, together. I formed the Estes DNA Project and mailed those fateful DNA kits to 5 of my male Estes cousins who were genealogists and chomping at the bit to answer those questions.

I began educating myself, adding genetics to my genealogical arsenal.

In future years, I would push, or perhaps “encourage” Bennett to expand testing, harder and faster than he sometimes wanted to be pushed.

I had fallen in love with discovery.

Dr. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza

While we were able to confirm that the Estes men descended from a common ancestor in England, we could not find anyone to test from the d’Este line out of Italy.

I knew that Dr. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, hailed as the father of population genetics, had done a significant amount of testing in Italy where he had begun his career, before retiring from Stanford in 1992. I had read his books – all of them.

Frustrated, I was hopeful that if I contacted Dr. Cavalli-Sforza, he might be able to compare the Estes DNA to Y DNA samples in his lab that he might have from earlier genetics studies.

If Bennett Greenspan could ask Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona, I could ask Dr. Luigi Cavalli-Sforza. Made perfect sense to me. The worst that could happen was that he might ignore me or say no. But he didn’t.

Dr. Cavalli-Sforza was very kind and engaged in discussion, explaining that no, he did not know of any males descended from the d’Este line, and no, he did not have a representative sample of Y DNA from that region of Italy. He indicated that I needed far more than he had.

We discussed what level of sampling would be required to create a survey of the Y DNA from the region to see if the Estes Y DNA was even of the type that might be found in Italy. If we were incredibly lucky, he opined, we might, just might, find a match.

In his early 80s at the time, Dr. Cavalli-Sforza was interested, engaging and sharp as a tack.

After several back-and-forth emails, we determined that I didn’t have the resources to recruit and fund the research which would have been significantly more expensive than consumer testing at Family Tree DNA. I had hoped for academic funding.

We both wondered aloud how long it would take, if ever, for there to be enough testing to reasonably compare the Estes Y DNA to other males from Italy in a meaningful way. Neither of us anticipated the DNA testing explosion that would follow.

I didn’t appreciate at the time how fortunate I was to be having these discussions with Dr. Cavalli-Sforza – an iconic giant in this field. We all stand upon his shoulders. Luigi was willing to speculate and be proven wrong, a great academic risk, because he understood that push-and-pull process was the only way to refine our knowledge and discover the truth. He will never know how much our conversations inspired and encouraged me to forge ahead into uncharted waters as well.

Dr. Cavalli-Sforza passed away in 2018 at the age of 96. He altered the trajectory of my life, and if you’re reading this, he changed yours too.

Estes Answers

The answers didn’t arrive all at once. In fact they dribbled in little by little – but they did arrive – which would never have happened if the necessary people hadn’t tested.

The Italy DNA Project didn’t exist twenty years ago. Looking at the results today, it’s evident that the majority of the results are haplogroups J and E, with a smattering of R.

My Estes cousins’ Y DNA doesn’t match anyone remotely connected with Italy, either utilizing STR markers for genealogical matches nor the Big Y-700 matches for deeper haplogroup matching.

That, combined with the fact that the wealthy illegitimate d’Este son in question “disappeared” into Europe, leaving a gap in time before our poor mariner Estes family emerged in the records in England made it extremely unlikely that there is any shred of truth in that rumor.

However, the d’Este male line does still exist in the European Royal House of Hanover, in the person of Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco. Ernst is a direct descendant of Albert Azzo I d’Este, born about 970, so there’s actually hope that eventually, we will actually know what the real d’Este Y DNA looks like, assuming no biological break in the line. As of 2017, the Hanover line has not been tested.

While Ernst is in poor health today, he does have two sons to carry on the Y DNA genetic line.

9 Great Ways to Celebrate DNA Day

We have so very much to celebrate today. DNA testing for genealogy has become a juggernaut. Twenty years ago, we had to recruit people of the same surname to test or realize our wait might be forever – that’s not the case today.

Today, upwards of 30 million people have tested – and probably significantly more.

The Big Y test, born two decades ago of that 12 marker test, now scans millions of DNA locations and provides testing and matching in both the genealogical and historical timeframes, as does the mitochondrial full sequence test. In February, The Million Mito Project was launched, a science initiative to rewrite the tree of womankind.

We’ve made incredible, undreamed-of strides. We haven’t just “moved the ball,” we kicked it out of the ballpark and around the world.

Here are some fun and beneficial ways you can celebrate DNA Day!

  • If you’ve already tested, or you manage kits for others who have – check your results. You never know what might be waiting for you. Be sure to click on trees, look at locations and do the genealogy work yourself to extend trees back in time if necessary.
  • Upload your tree to DNA testing sites to help others connect to your genealogy. If we all upload trees, everyone has a better and more productive experience. If a match doesn’t have a tree, contact them, ask and explain why it’s beneficial.
  • Join relevant projects at Family Tree DNA (click myProjects on top of your dashboard page), such as surname projects, haplogroup projects, geographic projects (like Italy), and special interest projects (like American Indian.)
  • Purchase a mitochondrial DNA upgrade to the full sequence level for only $79 if you’re already tested at the HVR1 or HVR2 level. Not only does the full sequence test provide you with your full haplogroup and more refined matching, it helps advance science too through The Million Mito Project. Click here to sign in and upgrade by clicking on the shopping cart or the mtFull icon.

dna day 2020 mtdna.png

  • Test your mitochondrial DNA, your mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line for only $139 for the full sequence test. Should I tell you that this test cost $900 when I first ordered mine? $139 is an absolutely amazing price. I wrote step-by-step instructions for how to use your mitochondrial results, here. Click here to order your test.

dna day 70 off.png

Today, we have the opportunity to document history in ways never before possible.

Celebrate DNA Day by finding your ancestors!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

Depression migrant woman.jpg

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

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

1943 rationing poster

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

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

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

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

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

Before Recycling Was a Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handkerchief quilt.jpg

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

Depression Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what about toilet paper?

Toilet Paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

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

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

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

Phone Holster.jpg

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

But that’s not all…

Food

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

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

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

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

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

depression cookbook.jpg

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

Depression cookbook church.jpg

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

Depression fudge.jpg

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

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

Depression master mix

click recipe pages to enlarge

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

Depression master mix 2.jpg

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

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

Everyone is getting quite creative.

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

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

Mom’s Recipe Box

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

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

“How much of that did you put in?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback Cooking and You!

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

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

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

Mother’s Recipe Box

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

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

Or, try Mom’s fudge!

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

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

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

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

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

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

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

Our Ancestors Did It

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

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

It’s Your Turn

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

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

Pandemic Rosie.png

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

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

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

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

Pandemic Rosie Riveter

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

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

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

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

Keep up the great work!

I salute all of you! ❤️✨🙌

Pandemic Rosie painting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s OK to Be Afraid

It’s alright to be afraid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Things

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

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

Stay “Rosie Strong.” You got this!

Pandemic Rosie strong.jpg

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

Bob McLaren, Beloved Clan McLaren Genealogist Meets His Ancestors

McLaren Profile.jpg

Compliments of Scott Stewart, photographer.

Bob McLaren, Clan McLaren genealogist and founder of the McLaren DNA Project, was one of the most beloved people in the genealogy community. He tried hard to be a curmudgeon, but he mostly failed at that. His smile and laughing eyes gave him away.

McLaren solo 2

Photo, compliments of Janine Cloud.

Bob’s sense of humor was dry, the same way he liked his Glenmorangie 12, single malt scotch whiskey, neat. Yep, he could tell you all about that, and don’t even think of mentioning some heresy about Cardhu. Unless of course, you wished to debate for the evening. Bob had been known to leave establishments, as is more than once, for having NO acceptable scotch in house.

Bob was Scottish, and Scotch apparently, through and through – always wearing his McLaren plaid kilt and educating anyone who would listen – at genealogy events, conferences and bars around the world. Bob was the consumate ambassador in every sense of the word.

Bob joined his McLaren ancestors on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, probably in protest of the danged Irish kidnapping a perfectly good Scotsman, Patrick, born Maewyn Succat in Scotland about the year 387, taking him to Ireland and turning him into a Saint. Waste of a perfectly good Scotsman in Bob’s book. Bob took his Scottish history seriously, very seriously, indeed. Just ask. Well, on second thought, no need to ask – he’d tell you one way or the other.

McLaren early

I remember the first time I ever saw Bob in person, from afar, at the 2004 Family Tree DNA Conference – wearing his kilt and dagger. Yes, dagger – known as Sgain-dubh in Gaelic, in his sock. At first, I was struck by his kilt, but then I couldn’t stop looking at his sock.

McLaren dagger

Courtesy of ISOGG, photo contributed by Candy Camprise.

Even when Bob had a cast on his leg, that sock and dagger were still very much present. After 9-11, he had to stop traveling while wearing his dagger. Airlines frowned on that for some reason.

McLaren talking

Courtesy ISOGG, photograph by Candy Camprise.

The never-failing commonality in all pictures of Bob is that he is always talking to someone, always educating, always sharing. Extremely outgoing with a “let’s get it done” attitude, Bob was passionate about every aspect of genealogy.

McLaren Jeremy

Photo courtesy Family Tree DNA.

Bob McLaren with Jeremy Balkin at the Family Tree DNA project administrators’ conference in 2013.

McLaren Kherlen.JPG

Photo compliments of Katherine Borges.

Bob, with Kherlen, volunteer project administrator for the Mongolian DNA Project at the 2014 conference reception.

Bob not only attended the conferences, he was a presenter from time to time as well.

Ever-present, we never thought about the day that Bob wouldn’t be with us. He seemed timeless. A tall man with a wizard-like beard, he seemed a bit like he was transplanted from another era. Maybe at first a little intimidating – at least before you got to know him and realized that his gruffness was mostly bluster. Underneath, Bob was a kind-hearted, gentle teddy-bear of a soul. Bob wasn’t trying to intimidate anyone, he just wanted to provoke you enough to get you to engage in an interesting conversation. I soon learned that two could play that game.

At one of the early FTDNA conferences, my husband and I had walked across the street from the hotel to a restaurant for dinner. I had seen Bob from a distance, but never actually met him. He was always talking to someone else!

He sat at a table near us, by himself. I walked over to his table and asked if he’d like to join us. A genealogist eating by themselves is a perfectly wasted opportunity. Of course, had Bob realized at that moment that I was a descendant of the dreaded Campbell clan, he might not have accepted that invitation.

I’m glad he did, because that dinner sparked a friendship that deepened over the years as the Family Tree DNA conferences became like family reunions – and Bob became family – to me and so many others too.

Bob was a man on a mission – genealogy and McLaren clan genealogy specifically. He didn’t so much love genetic genealogy for the genetics part of the equation, but for the fact that DNA could, did and would unravel the knots in genealogical mysteries. In particular, his goal was to document the various paternal branches of the McLaren clan through Y DNA mutations.

Bob also realized that collaboration was the only way to achieve this goal – hence his constant presence at various conferences, like NGS, RootsTech, FGS and others.

In order to interact with the maximum number of people and convince them of the benefits of DNA testing, Bob volunteered at the FamilyTreeDNA booth at many conferences – wearing his signature kilt of course. Everyone knew him, it seemed, and came by to say hello.

I don’t think Bob would ever admit it, but as he aged, it was a lot easier for him to sit in one place and let the conference walk by him rather than walk through the conference – especially large conferences like RootsTech in particular.

McLaren Rootstech 2015

RootsTech 2015, compliments of Family Tree DNA.

Just don’t make the mistake of telling Bob you were a Campbell, or even worse, a McGregor. He’d educate you on clan history right then and there.

McLaren table.jpg

Photo compliments Janine Cloud.

When an employee became ill at a conference, Bob along with Doug Miller, at right, volunteered and stepped in at the FTDNA booth at the FGS conference in 2011. That’s the kind of guy Bob was.

McLaren listening

Photo courtesy of Janine Cloud.

Bob was a wonderful listener, utilizing his decades of experience to dispense advice about genealogy research, clan history, trees, DNA testing, or pretty much anyone someone needed. He was a marvelous teacher.

Of course, Bob loved nothing more than to buddy with other genealogists, especially other Scottish men wearing kilts.

McLaren Moffitt

Photo courtesy of Robert Moffitt.

Here, posed with friend Roger Moffitt, Bob would call Roger “Laddie” and tell him he was a bad Scottsman when Roger failed to wear his kilt. Roger pays his respects to Bob, here, on his own Facebook page.

You may need to be Roger’s friend to see this and other Facebook postings about Bob.

McLaren dressed up.jpg

Photo courtesy of Scott Stewart.

I didn’t realize that there were casual and dress kilts and regalia, but Scott Stewart took this absolutely dashing photo of Bob “dressed up” for the 2009 NGS banquet standing beside fellow Scotsman, John Ralls.

Bob chastised Scott for not wearing his kilt too. No one escaped Bob’s encouragement😊

McLaren Beidler leiderhosen kilt

Photo courtesy James M. Beidler.

That Leiderhosen/kilt ad…well, here they are.

Bob and I were volunteers on various committees together, so I knew that he had become rather frail over the past couple of years. I was concerned about him last year at RootsTech and also at the NGS conference in May 2019 in St. Louis.

For a man who did not participate in social media and didn’t much care to have his picture taken, there are certainly a lot of photos out there that feature Bob and…well… everybody it seems.

That’s because Bob was quite kindhearted, despite what he would have you believe, and never denied anyone anything. Except maybe a McGregor.

In the 24 hours of so since the word of Bob’s passing crept out on social media, many people have shared such heartwarming stories about Bob. I’ve been smiling and laughing through my tears.

McLaren me

This photo was taken of me and Bob in February 2019 at RootsTech. I told Bob I loved his black leather purse, or bag, whatever it was. Acting quite offended, which I knew he wasn’t of course, he very quickly schooled me on the fact that it was NOT a purse and it WAS a sporran. Call it what you want, Bob😊

We had an absolutely lovely week at RootsTech, running into each other several times.

McLaren Benihana

Attendees tend to form groups that eat together. This particular evening, part of the MyHeritage team and the FTDNA team invited me along and we had dinner at Benihana. One person in the group had a birthday and the photographer took a photo of the group together. We teased the birthday person mercilessly – Bob goading him into drinking some birthday Glenmorangie 12 in celebration.

I asked Bob if Campbells were allowed Genmorangie 12. He said, “absolutely not” and that he would have to drink mine for me.

We gave this picture to the birthday person, and I discovered this morning that he placed it on his fridge where it remains today, as a memento of a lovely evening with friends.

What happy times we had, and how we need those memories desperately today.

McLaren Addy

Photo compliments of Jennifer Zinck.

For some reason, Bob was especially inspirational to young people, and they in turn were drawn to him. One person mentioned that he is a sort of father-figure for her, and now he’s gone. Someone else said that he reminds them of the grandfather they wish they had known.

Addie Zinck, above, with her friend, Franklin the spider, attended her first Family Tree DNA conference in 2018. She too is missing her friend, Bob, today. Addie, don’t worry, Bob’s still with you.

Community Memorials

McLaren Katherine.jpg

Katherine Borges, Director of ISOGG, has known Bob almost as long as I have. She too had a very special relationship with Bob and remembers him, here, on the ISOGG Facebook page with this commentary and poem:

I’ve know Bob since the first Family Tree DNA conference in 2004. I’ve been blessed to get to know him better over the years because he had a huge heart and a wonderfully dry sense of humor. I used to tease him that I was going to buy him some McGregor whisky and he’d pull his skean dhu on me in reply. 😆

God willing and the creek doesn’t rise, I will dress in full Scottish regalia at the FTDNA conference in November in memory of Bob. And we’ll toast the life of this wonderful man with a wee dram.

“An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d;
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.”

– Robert Burns

Many people have replied to Katherine’s post with their own memories, so do take a look.

McLaren Borges Magellan

Photo courtesy Katherine Borges.

Bob with his fellow Scots, Linda Magellan and Katherine Borges, above. Looks to me like Bob, Linda and Katherine are plotting something!

McLaren Beidler Southard.jpg

Photo compliments of James M. Beidler.

Blaine Bettinger posted this photo, with Diahan Southard and James M. Beidler – and memorializes Bob here in the Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques group with this commentary:

In Memoriam. Robert “Bob” McLaren, who passed away yesterday, was a fixture of the Family Tree DNA booth at just about every conference. Bob was a project administrator, DNA expert, DNA educator, and all around incredibly nice person. Over the years he educated and assisted 1000s of people with all aspects of DNA. And I’ve rarely seen someone as proud of their heritage! He will be very much missed.

Be sure to read the many comments on this post too. Bob inspired so many.

It’s incredibly gut-wrenching when these iconic legends pass over.

The McLaren Quilt

This year, just before RootsTech, Bob became ill and was unable to travel. Based on what he said and the medical testing underway, we knew that he needed a care quilt.

Folks at Family Tree DNA and RootsTech that knew Bob signed blocks, although we were being quiet about his illness and his privacy.

McLaren quilt.png

I quickly ordered McLaren tartan fabric from a custom design/print shop. The signature blocks were overnighted to me from Utah and Texas after RootsTech and I pieced the top. The quilt was quickly quilted over a weekend with a Scottish thistle design, bound on Monday and overnighted, arriving the morning of Tuesday, the 17th.

Sadly, Bob never received his quilt. I spoke to Mrs. McLaren today, and she said that the quilt is now spread on the couch with the family admiring it and telling stories. That’s what Bob would have wanted anyway – although I am gravely regretful that I couldn’t somehow have gotten it there a day or two earlier. If it was humanly possible, I would have. I hope his “McLaren Quilt” will bring his family comfort, knowing how many loved Bob and reading their caring messages.

Several people have said to me, “Bob sees it now,” and I desperately hope they are right. I wish now that I had told him it was on the way, but I wanted it to be a surprise and I had absolutely no idea Bob would only be with us another 24 hours.

I am incredibly glad that I called Bob on Monday and spoke with him at length, explaining how he had inspired me, thanking him for being such a strong pillar and foundation in our community.

Bob was planning to be dismissed the next day and his wife was preparing for the same at home. Bob told me, among other things, that he hoped and indeed, planned, to be at the next Family Tree DNA conference in November 2020 in Houston. After that, he said, “it’s probably lights out.” By this time, Bob was aware of his diagnosis although he was optimistic and encouraged to think that he would attend one more conference. I had already spoken with his wife and was surprised to hear Bob planning for November, but make no mistake, if any human could have pulled that off, it indeed was Bob.

Sadly, that wasn’t in the cards, as Bob slipped away the next day with his family gathered round.

While I’m crushed, as are decades’ worth of friends and acquaintances in addition to his family, I’m incredibly grateful to have had Bob’s presence in my life. I’m glad I told him that, in so many words, and thanked him for being an inspiration to a whole generation, or two, of young people.

I know he’s no longer suffering, and knowing Bob, he’s still close by, silently encouraging us.

In fact, I strongly suspect that indeed he has seen the quilt – including my block that I signed, “Your Campbell Cousin.” I know he would have smiled, in spite of himself. I think he secretly forgave me for that Campbell thing long ago.

He’s probably quite amused that his funeral is on hold due to this virus, although I’m sure his family is not.

But I have news for Bob – it’s not lights out. Not at all. In fact, the illuminating light of Bob’s life will continue to shine for a very long time – through the generations by virtue of the thousands and thousands of people he helped, those he encouraged to DNA test who are one step closer to unraveling the mystery of their own ancestors and the young people who look up to him as a role model and (grand)father figure.

That’s one heck of a legacy, one we all can and should aspire to.

Rest in Peace, Bob McLaren, Sir. Well done.

I know you have flown to the McLaren homeland, Creag an Tuirc.

McLaren homeland

By User:JacobiteMacLaren, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41255504, Balquhidder from Creag an Tuirc, the gathering place of the Clan MacLaren

Condolences, Memorials and Family Contact

Bob’s funeral plans are on hold for now due to the pandemic.

Those who wish to share stories or pictures of Bob over the years may either comment on this article, send photos to me via e-mail at roberta@dnaexplain.com and I’ll post them in this section of the article along with a description and your comment, so long as I have permission from the people in the photo.

I told Bob’s family that they are welcome to use download and use any portion of this article for his service or any other purpose that brings them comfort.

To contact the family directly, send an email to Bob’s son, Sean at sean.r.mclaren@gmail.com.

To send cards, Bob’s address is given on the Clan McLaren website, here. I do not know if anyone will check Bob’s personal email again, so I would not suggest reaching out that way.

Contributed Memories

From Ally Woods in California:

Sir MacLaren will always bring a smile whenever I hear his name …

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

McLarenn and Ally Woods.jpg

From Marie in New Zealand:

Scottish Gaelic

Caud ye the door laddie – snak it my loon
Breng o’er  a cher and Sett Doon man, Sett Doon
It’s ainly but richt that yer  Kinfolk shud courl
To gie ye advice Tae gang oot in this worl’

Means:

Close you the door laddie – snib it my loved one
Bring over a chair and Sit Down man, Sit Down
It’s only but right that your Kinfolk should care-at-all
To give you advice to go out in this World

My best to you Roberta –
On losing a fine friend who would have heard and kenned / known this from an early age.

 

OMG, Mary Tan Hai is Found – 52 Ancestors #275

Late last night, the son of my mother’s dance partner, Mary Tan Hai, reached out to me after googling his mother’s name during the time she danced in Chicago and found my 52 ancestors article about Mary and mother dancing together during WWII.

Except, her name really wasn’t Mary Tan Hai. It was changed from something I never knew until last night to protect her from being sent to a concentration camp during the war.

If you recall, I wrote about my mother’s professional ballet and tap dancing career during WWII, here. Mother’s dance troupe partner and good friend, Mary, was Japanese. Her family was interred in the Japanese Detention Camps here in the US. Mary couldn’t communicate with them or her Japanese identity would be discovered and she would be sent away too.

In order to protect Mary, they changed her name and the dancers protected her within the troupe. Mary “became” Chinese. There was no record in the troupe of her Japanese origins, just in case. I don’t know if mother ever knew Mary’s true name.

My mother was born in 1922. After Mom’s fiancé was killed in action, she left the troupe and eventually lost track of Mary, but never forgot her best friend and roommate. She talked about Mary and wondered what happened to her. I presumed when I wrote the article about Mom’s dancing career that Mary had long-ago passed. I searched, but I couldn’t find anything about Mary Tan Hai anyplace. Now I know that’s because that wasn’t her real name.

I was wrong. Mary wasn’t deceased.

Mary’s family is “gathered round her”, her son wrote me last night, as she prepares to pass over. Mary and Mom will reunite soon. Oh, the stories they’ll have to tell. The hugs they’ll share!

Even though I’m at RootsTech today, I quickly found a table on the Expo Hall floor, downloaded the photos from my own blog to my laptop, colorized the photos at MyHeritage, downloaded them and mailed the newly-alive colorized photos to Mary’s son.

A few hour later, I receive a lovely gift in return that I never imagined. Mary, as it turned out, had a photo album with pictures of mother I had never seen. I am forever grateful. After I sort through what I received, I’ll be publishing that information soon.

I’m so glad to know that Mary married, to a serviceman it turned out, had a family and a long, wonderful life. Perhaps Mary can still enjoy these photos, and if not, I know, based on the thank you note that her family is.

Thank you so much MyHeritage for providing this AMAZING tool to allow us to connect and share and remember. For everyone who is interested in colorizing photos, the first 10 are free for people without a MyHeritage subscription, and unlimited free colorization of photos if you do have a subscription. I’ve provided instructions here.

Now, take a look at these beautiful colorized photos!

Mother, Mary Tan Hai and troope

Mother is middle row right. Mary is back row right, just above Mom.

Mother, Mary Tan Hai and troope colorized

Mother and Mary Tan Hai

Mother and Mary Tan Hai colorized

Mary Tan Hai

Mary Tan Hai colorized

Mary Tan Hai gazebo

Mary Tan Hai gazebo colorized

Mother, Mary Tan Hai lawn

Mother, Mary Tan Hai lawn colorized

Mary Tan Hai well

Mary Tan Hai well colorized

Mom, Mary Tan Hai peeking

Mom, Mary Tan Hai peeking colorized

Update: Mary’s beautiful obituary can be found here. Thank you to her family for the notification.

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Dear Dave: You’re Featured in a Book – 52 Ancestors #274

Dave and I for blog

My Dearest Brother, Dave.

You’re either famous or infamous, or both. That’s not news to you though! You’d be pleased about both, or either.

Yep, Libby Copeland tells our story today, including the secret you never knew, in an article published in the Washington Post. I wish you were here to read it with me, but I’m guessing you’re getting a good chuckle right about now from over yonder.

Miss you, love you,

Sis

Libby’s article offers a different perspective on DNA testing and family. DNA giveth, but for me, DNA could never, ever, taketh away.

Dave walks with me and makes me brave, something I need especially on days like today when I prepare to speak to thousands of people over the next few days at RootsTech with cameras rolling. He is still with me, always beside me. Sometimes laughing at me, forever protecting me. He left a hollow place in my heart that can never be filled.

Libby Copeland did a masterful job of telling our story in her book, The Lost Family, and I am forever grateful. Her book (which you can order here) includes stories from other genealogists that I’ve written about as well, including my friend, Rosario, here.

Today’s Washington Post article is found here. Kleenex warning!

If you want to read more about Dave’s amazing story and our journey, my earlier articles are here, here and here.