The Perils of Genealogy: Part Four

The Tale Wags the Dog

Stay tuned…there might be a Part Four someday,” I said as I closed my last epistle on the topic of genealogy back in March of 2015. My never-ending quest for family history has moved onward in spurts over the past four years.  Back then, I had recently been dabbling in the results of my DNA test results. My expectations at that time were fairly low and I was considering DNA testing to be sort of a novelty. It was a curiosity at first for people who had invested so much time in their paper research. Many of them had traced family lines back through the centuries and they were well informed on their ethnic origins. Or so they thought.

dnahelix

Somewhere along the way, DNA testing took off like a rocket with several different companies pulling in the lion’s share of the market. These days, it is common to have friends who have had DNA tests done and result returned. Some choose to talk about it and some choose to keep it quiet. Some of that is because they may not really know what the report is telling them. The companies use different testing algorithms and procedures and will offer different interpretations of the results. If a set of identical twins are tested by two different companies, they will get different results simply because the companies work differently.

It is a huge market and there is a great deal of money to be made. I tested with 23andme.com mostly to get my ancestry information out of curiosity but that company provides genetic health reports based on one’s genetic makeup. Until I started reading the reports, I never heard of most of those obscure conditions (obscure unless you are afflicted). There are a few I’ve heard of. I just learned that I’m at little or no risk of Familial Mediterranean Fever. I know my risk level for macular degeneration and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In most cases, they can’t totally rule out all risk because the research typically doesn’t search out all genetic markers and we also must understand that genetic research is still advancing, and new markers might be discovered in the future.

The most recent twist in the health-related genetic testing research is the partnering of companies like 23andme.com with “Big Pharma” with tremendous profits for both sides. Drug companies would love to access genetic material as a means of developing cures or treatments for various diseases. The genetic testing companies protect individual privacy (we are told) but offer access to the DNA details so drug companies can identify disease markers and the genetics of numbers. Among other things, Big Pharma would want to know how many people have a certain risk and whether it is in their shareholders’ interests to chase a remedy if there are so few with the conditions. There is money to be made if they are selective in their work efforts.

Another recent twist is the use of DNA databanks (GEDmatch, for example) for criminal investigations. These databanks are a treasure trove for cold cases or current crime investigations. If an unknown perpetrator leaves DNA evidence at the scene of the crime, that DNA can be processed by one of the DNA companies to point to close relatives of the perpetrator who are registered with that company. Gedmatch is a good source for this because people who are tested by other companies can upload their DNA results for free to Gedmatch and use various research tools or look for DNA cousins from multiple testing sources. If your first cousin commits a crime and there is DNA evidence left behind you might be an unwitting tool in the investigation if your DNA is on file. This has happened a couple times (that became public) but might be more common in the future.  DNA deposited with one of these companies is supposed to be kept secure and private but the exception seems to be criminal investigations. GEDmatch issued the following statement on their web page:

April 28, 2018   While the database was created for genealogical research, it is important that GEDmatch participants understand the possible uses of their DNA, including identification of relatives that have committed crimes or were victims of crimes. If you are concerned about non-genealogical uses of your DNA, you should not upload your DNA to the database and/or you should remove DNA that has already been uploaded. Users may delete their registration/profile and associated DNA and GEDCOM resources. Instructions are available.

I guess removing one’s DNA from the databank would make it invisible in such investigations, but I’m not fully convinced that it is totally gone. Years ago, I worked in Criminal Justice information systems and we were directed to expunge records on some cases but there was always a bit of a shadow left behind on back-up tapes and such. Perhaps modern technology has advanced to totally remove any record. We are supposed to believe that, anyway.

And what about identical twins? If you have an evil twin committing crimes and leaving DNA evidence, will you get hammered if law enforcement finds your DNA in a databank? Identical twins have (nearly?) identical DNA. I’ve seen some reports that say there are ways to find differences but then I’ll find something that says otherwise.  Identical twins are the result of a split fertilized egg developing as two separate individuals. I don’t know where the differences in DNA develop.

I personally think that violent criminals need to be caught. If I have a DNA cousin running around raping and pillaging and hurting victims, my DNA might be the clue to stop it, but I have mixed feelings about being unwittingly dragged into the investigation. Would I also have to be called as a witness to explain how my DNA came to be part of the databank? I hope not.

Another issue is children who are adopted finding their birth families. I have a dozen or more adoptees in my DNA cousin list (out of several thousand). I have tried to work with a couple adoptees, but we have not moved any closer to establishing an identifiable link. These adoptees are usually fourth cousins or more distant and I have dozens or hundreds of fourth or fifth cousins…most I have never heard of.  Sometimes, lightning strikes and the adoptee finds a close DNA relative and then can work out the details. Sometimes the birthparent finds the adoptee directly through a DNA cousin list.  I know of two recent occurrences where the birthparents initiated the contact. In one case, the adoptee was surprised because they didn’t know they were adopted. That opened several family issues and some real repercussions. Many people in the adoptive family kept the secret for decades – took it to the grave in some cases.  The other situation has been a bit awkward because the adoptee’s half-siblings went to the same school and lived just a short distance away. They came into contact from time to time but had no idea they were related.

In an extreme case, a man who contributed to a sperm bank decided to have his DNA tested for health and ancestry purposes. He apparently wasn’t thinking about the possible dozens of children that he passed his DNA to without his actual participation or knowledge. He has discovered that he has multiple sons and daughters and they have a mystery parent that maybe mom needs to talk about. Awkward, no?  In cases where the contributor didn’t get his own DNA tested, his natural offspring or even his cousins who did are scratching their heads trying to figure out how they are related to these many strangers…half siblings or cousins they never heard of.

DNA Result Confusion

I’m seeing an increased number of comments on various genealogy web forums of people being disappointed in their results.  There are more people getting tested and the results don’t synch with what Mom and Dad said.  I think the issue partially lies in the randomness of DNA transmission from one generation to another and then to another, and so on. My report showed that I have some Danish DNA specks (says 23andme) but I have no recent Danish ancestry.  Through paper research, I found one woman who was born in Denmark in the early 1600s and moved to the Netherlands where she married and had children who later migrated to New Netherlands and settled in the Hudson Valley. That is probably seven generations or more in the past and there is almost no reason to expect that DNA to make it through the generations to me. I made up my mind that the randomness caused a small amount of DNA to tumble down through the generations to find me. My daughter doesn’t have any Danish DNA so it stopped with me. I was the end of the line, but I had something of a template in my mind of where “my people” came from.

As soon as I got comfortable with my explanation, that Danish DNA disappeared when 23andme updated their report. These companies will update reports as more people are tested or they gain access to another DNA source. In my case, my Danish and Balkan DNA traces disappeared and were replaced by Portuguese and Spanish DNA. I have no clue where that came from and no ancestry that leads back to the Iberian Peninsula. I’m having a hard time rationalizing that reported finding. I have a bunch of remote ancestors from the Netherlands and Spain, under the Hapsburgs, occupied the Netherlands in the 1500s so some Iberian DNA might have crept into the family tree back in those dark days. Who knows?

My recent update stirred up my DNA pot quite a bit. The report became more precise and now points to the actual locales or provinces where my ancestors likely lived. The Eastern European DNA that I thought was most likely from the Baltic coast of Poland near Gdansk is really from Warsaw and provinces adjacent to modern-day Ukraine. I am now more German and French than Irish and British. I know what German and French provinces my ancestors came from and some of that makes sense, but some don’t. My more precise Irish report closely resembles what I already know. My precise British report is all over the map but might make some sense – I don’t have much information on my English ancestors because they are very ancient and go back to the Plantagenets and before and don’t make up a large branch of my tree.

As an “owner” of one’s DNA data, it is possible to submit the raw data to other companies and get a second or third opinion on ancestral origins. I did that with Myheritage and with GEDmatch. Different companies use different methods and have drawn up the map of the world in different ways. Don’t expect the reports from different companies to be the same across the different methodologies. Myheritage provided an ancestry report that was laughable and made no sense at all. They also assigned something like 4,000 DNA relatives but the bulk of those was a very low likelihood of being a real connection. I did find a couple close cousins but also many “cousins” from Finland. GEDmatch goes off in a different direction and offers so many ways to slice and dice your results that you can mess with the tools until you find something that “fits” what you expect. You will have another list of hundreds of DNA relatives there.

This past year my daughter wanted to get a second test so we both tested with Ancestry. The results were quite close to what we expected them to be. Perhaps the closest match. Ancestry also has a huge databank of genealogical research and is a major repository of family trees. The DNA cousins they identify will often have a family tree that helps track the connection.

An interesting twist to the DNA search popularity is the rise of specialized cousin matching sites (on Facebook). I joined one site for Ireland and another for County Kerry and County Cork. These Facebook sites and the entire concept is tied to the DNA data on file at GEDmatch. The sites have a matching tool that mines the huge GEDmatch data collection that you supply to the Facebook site and finds other people searching the same geographic area to find close matches People only join the Facebook site if they are searching in that specific region. That information is not available from GEDmatch alone.

All this DNA information and the various reports are interesting but I’m hard-pressed to point to any singular genealogical breakthrough that came out of it. It is helpful to know some of the health information. The field is still new and changing as more people are tested so one’s ancestry is still a moving target. Things are improving but not exactly stabilized yet and the multitude of companies adds some confusion. There is no standardization. The unintended consequences of testing regarding the privacy and security of the data might keep people from testing in the first place.

Back to Basics with a Boost

I keep plugging away at the basic research and I’m making more progress that way than I am with DNA test results. I have discovered that the thousands of DNA cousins I have access to are a valuable tool for giving hints and pointers for basic research. I have 150 “cousins” who report the surname “Foley” in their ancestry surnames or in their attached family trees. I have yet to find an ancestor with that surname, but I’ll bet that there is one out there waiting to be found. The same is true with maybe a dozen other names. In some instances, you can search the cousin list by a location or region and find a cluster of “cousins” with family tree ancestors that come from a certain place. That is helpful and is tied to DNA-based relationships.

I subscribed to Ancestry in order to use their resource collection. Years ago, we had to go to libraries or look at borrowed microfilm or microfiche at the local LDS facility. Now much of that, plus a lot more, is available online.  Ancestry is one of several and just happens to be the one I use. The others are probably much the same. Family Search is a free site managed by the LDS church and it has census records and other basic information. There is an Irish genealogical website that has parish records. Other countries have similar archive sites, but the language problem will slow people down unless they can translate on the fly.

I recently found a probate record with a will that identifies my ancestor as an heir. That link took me back through a bunch of New England families and generations to the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock. My distant Pilgrim ancestor, a little girl at the time, was the first female to step off the ship at Plymouth Rock. Hold your applause because I don’t need it – that little fact and a couple dollars will get me a small coffee at Starbucks.

There are a few helpful newspaper archives available online and I have been successful in finding information on several family lines. My great uncles were, indeed, gang members and thugs in the Irish gangs of St. Louis. They would assault people on the street and were political enforcers who would keep people from voting if they were not going to vote the “right way”.  One newspaper discovery provided an important confirmation of a relationship among four families in three different communities. They all came to one grandchild’s baptism and the newspaper recorded the occasion and the relationships.  The only problem was that the newspaper (from Gasconade County, Missouri) was in German and used an old German Fraktur type font. It took me a day to translate it and even then, I didn’t get all of it right until I had an expert look at it.

Doing Ancestry searches on specific people provides details of their life but also reveals other people who are searching for the same family. Trolling through these related family trees will sometimes yield a helpful clue but many times it can be wrong. My advice is that if you find a glaring mistake in somebody else’s family tree to keep it to yourself unless you want your head cut off. I learned that lesson the hard way but escaped with my head.  Always be aware that these family trees are a work in progress and subject to revision. Look at the clues but do your own research to confirm the correctness of the information.

For the most part, this is only a hobby and people need to keep it in perspective. The DNA testing angle is an interesting wrinkle, but it has its shortcomings. There are people who are deeply disappointed in the results. Maybe Grampa always said he was an Indian but (uh-oh) it doesn’t show up in the report. Chances are that Grampa wasn’t an Indian. Those NPEs (Non-Parental Events) also pop up and cause family heartburn sometimes.  Basic, old fashioned genealogical research is also burdened with pitfalls and myths about Indians or whatever. I have a line that supposedly goes back through England to Normandy (with a convenient side branch to Charlemagne) and then to Vikings and finally to a mythical fifth-century Viking Sea King. I can imagine him standing on the prow of his ship guiding a small fleet toward land to raid some unsuspecting little coastal village.  That’s a fun story to tell but that’s all it is.  Meanwhile, I also found ancestors who were investors bankrolling the English slave trade. That kind of story is not so much fun, and will sometimes quietly disappear.  Unfortunately, we can’t pick our ancestors.

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Wednesday Roam — Water Wars and Aggravation

Some weeks it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.  It has been one step forward and two steps back here at the home place. Not all bad but just a lot of aggravation.

I’ve lived here for over a year and a half but my learning curve is still bothersome. There are several “systems” that are new to me — things I never encountered before that are major components of how things work. I had no idea of what an “evaporative cooler” was or how radiant heat worked when I moved here. I never had a well or a septic tank before.

I grew up in a place that got around 40 inches of rain each year and no one had a need for a sprinkler or irrigation system. Here, we get about 8 inches of rain and it is common to have some sort of irrigation system. I’m the fourth owner of the place and the first owner, way back in the late 1990s, installed an expensive sprinkler system. They had horses and were hoping to grow grass out of the sandy soil and sagebrush.  Twenty years later I come along and try to figure out what they had installed. My neighbor says the system hasn’t worked in ten years….or at least was not used for that long. The original owners left in a huff when the city told them that they not only could not install lights around their horse corral for night riding but they were not allowed to keep horses on the property over night in the first place.  Seems like they didn’t check the zoning rules before they built the house and brought in the horses….or figured they could bluff their way through.  It didn’t work.

So, here I come. I figured out how to turn the sprinkler system on but only one sprinkler worked and it sprayed water on the gas meter.  That made no sense to me.  I would periodically go and fiddle with the system controls and ponder why it didn’t work. My neighbor said I should have a manifold somewhere.  Manifold?  I searched the yard and found nothing other than what I figured was the access to the well and pump.  Finally I got the system working just by resetting the controls and starting from scratch.  This was just dumb luck because there is no manual or instructions to speak of and no map telling me where the sprinklers were. Suddenly I had things popping out of the bare ground and squirting water around the front yard. the little drip spigot by my fig tree started bubbling water. I suddenly saw potential.  Maybe I could get the fig tree to do something!!!  Maybe I could get the yard to have some living plants other than sage and saltbush!!!

I was happily planning out the future. I bought a few plants.  I discovered a second sprinkler system that is a manual sort of thing connected by a hose to the well hydrant. I raked and cleaned up the yard and removed the dead debris.  I planted a red osier Dogwood over by the driveway. I planted some blazing star bulbs and planted some native wildflower seeds. I turned on the hose/hydrant system to provide some water for my new plantings.

Nest morning I realized I forgot to turn off the hose/hydrant system. That was not good but I should be more careful. Live and learn. “Don’t get distracted and finish what you start” should be my motto.

I noticed that the goldfish pond was low so I turned on the hose and added some water to the pond. It was down about six inches and it’s a big pond so it takes a while to add the water. I went inside to get another cup of coffee. About midnight I remembered that the pond had been filling. YIKES.  I ran outside and turned off the water. Happily, the fish were still there. The pond was quite large and the fish were swimming places where they had never been before but that was okay. They were having a great time. My pump and filter system was under water…not good.  I pulled out a couple buckets of water but realized I’d be at it all night if I was going to use a bucket.  I went to bed.

Next morning I figured out how to drain the water using a large funnel and a hose at the waterfall where the pump returned the water to the pond. It took most of the day to get the water level back down to where it belonged.

Meanwhile, every day I was doing more raking and planting and the sprinkler and drip system seemed to be fine. Then one morning I noticed that two sprinklers were running at 9 AM when they should be off. Why is that? Apparently they had been on all night because there was a lot of wet mud and puddles of water. I tried to turn them off with the controls…nothing happened. I reset the controls back to zero….nothing happened. I unplugged the controls….nothing happened. Hmmm. I have rogue sprinklers.  Since I have no manual or instructions, I went to the trusty Internet.  There were lots of pictures of sprinkler systems and manifolds. I figured I needed to go out and take things in hand and turn off the water access to the whole system. Inside the manifold box there should be a valve that cuts off the water. I went out and got into the only box I could find and it didn’t look anything like what the pictures showed on the Internet….but there was a valve with a handle that did look like what they were showing in the manifold pictures. With some difficulty and some WD-40, I managed to get the old valve turned and the sprinklers died down to a dribble. Ah…success! Things were looking up. I called the local sprinkler company emergency service number (this was a Sunday) and they said I probably got it fixed temporarily and they could send a repair guy next week.  Great.

A couple hours later I realized there was no water coming into the house.  The valve turned off the flow of water from the well.  So I was back out in the yard and re-opening the valve and the sprinklers came back on but only at a low trickle.

There has to be a sprinkler manifold box somewhere. I got my rake and started scraping away some old brush and — Surprise! – there was another box under an old sage bush. The box hadn’t seen daylight in years. So…I opened it up and recognized what I had seen earlier on the Internet…except there was no shut-off valve. Of course….why would I think that there would be a shut-off valve? There was water inside the box…not good. I took a couple pictures of the box with my phone and jumped in the car and drove to the sprinkler store….which was open by that time.

“Yep…that’s a manifold box and you have water in it.” he said.

“Yeah…where is the shut-off valve?”  I asked.  “I have sprinklers going and can’t turn them off.”

“Did we install it?”

“I have no idea….it’s twenty years old…probably not.”

So we were not really getting anywhere. He wanted to be sure he wasn’t to blame — CYA.  Finally we took the picture on my phone over to the spare parts bin and found something that looked like what was inside the manifold box.  He showed me how to turn off each sprinkler valve until I found the right one.

Okidoke. Maybe this will work.  When I got home my daughter had arrived so I enlisted her help in my battle against the rogue sprinklers.

“Tell me when they go off” I shouted. I started fiddling with the sprinkler valves inside the box. Almost immediately I heard screaming. She was drenched. She didn’t know which way to run.  That is probably the last time I’ll get much help from her…

But…we got the sprinklers turned off, eventually.

As a payback for her help I took her for a short hike up in the foothills. She has been wanting to find out how to find the trailheads and parking areas to access the trail system. It was cool and windy but we had a nice short walk. We had a nice dinner and I think she almost forgot about getting wet.

Here are a few pictures of the foothills trails. It is spring and things are starting to bloom. Maybe next week will be better.  The sprinkler guy shows up on Friday.

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Perils of Genealogy: Part Three

 Nuts and Bolts… “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”  – Popeye

Well, actually I hadn’t planned on writing a Part Three.  I figured I had pretty much left everything on the table with parts one and two…but, nooo.  You might recall that I briefly referred to DNA testing for genealogy back in my earlier post and that I was mildly interested but not all that enthusiastic about having my DNA tested.  Well, my daughter and I decided that we would get the tests as sort of a Christmas present…sort of like what you get if you really don’t need anything.

We did our thing…spitting in a test tube…and sent off the little packages and waited for our results.  We used 23andMe for the tests but there are other companies. It cost us about $99 each.  About six weeks later we started getting results back.

I figured I knew pretty much what the test would reveal but I was interested in my daughter’s results because she would have half of her DNA from me and half from her mom.

Here is roughly what I expected…

  1. That my results would show me being primarily Germanic with some fairly large parts Irish and English and Dutch.
  2. I expected my German or central European roots to include a little Ashkenazi Jewish traces.
  3. I didn’t expect any East Asian, Chinese, Japanese or South Asian traces.
  4. I didn’t expect any Sub-Sahara Africa traces or even any North Africa or Middle East traces.
  5. I didn’t expect any Native American traces.

OK — so the results came back and here’s what I got…. But first, here’s part of what they say about the analysis “This analysis includes DNA you received from all of your recent ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived before the widespread migrations of the past few hundred years.”  So they are talking about “recent” ancestry going back maybe a few hundred years…maybe as far as 7-10 generations.

99.9%      European

Northern European

33.4%      British & Irish

10.4%      French & German

1.1%         Scandinavian

0.0%       Finnish

27.8%     Broadly Northern European

16.5%      Eastern European

Southern European

1.3%       Balkan

0.0%      Sardinian

0.0%       Italian

0.0%      Iberian

0.6%     Broadly Southern European

0.8%     Ashkenazi

8.0%    Broadly European

< 0.1%  Middle Eastern & North African

< 0.1%  Broadly Middle Eastern & North African

100%  Kenneth Hartke

That’s not exactly what I expected….

  1. I’m much more British and Irish than I expected (33.4%). Indeed, that is the largest part of my DNA pie.
  2. The designation “Broadly Northern European” is my second largest part (27.8%) and is probably my Dad’s Germanic heritage since his family came from the Baltic coast of Pomerania which is now, after WW-II, the north coast of Poland. “Broadly” means that there are traits that seem to be common to people over a broad region. Since the German population of Pomerania was expelled from that region once it became part of Poland, I can see that that population would now be largely assimilated into northern Europe and a specific DNA location would be hard to determine.
  3. I have 16.5% “Eastern European”, which could also account for some of the Pomeranian ancestors but includes more eastern regions such as Ukraine and western Russia and goes clear to the Caspian Sea. I have a mystery person in my ancestry who might be Bavarian (if you believe his naturalization declaration) or he might be Ukrainian if you believe family rumours….so Eastern European makes some sense.
  4. “French and German” makes up 10.4% and includes almost all of Western Europe from Denmark to the Pyrenees and east through Switzerland and most or all of Germany. Really? I only 10.4% from that region? This was a surprise because I have a long French Huguenot line, lots of New Amsterdam Dutch, Hanoverians and Hessian Germans.
  5. OK – well I also have 8% “Broadly European” so maybe that is just a mix of European traits that would account for some of those folks.
  6. I’m also a smidgen “Balkan” at 1.3% and a smaller smidgen “Scandinavian” at 1.2%. I expected a little more Scandinavian. Sweden was in control of Pomerania for a while and what about all of those Vikings running around Ireland? We must have been running faster.
  7. So now…near the bottom of the list is .8% Ashkenazi. That is less than I expected and…surprise, surprise…it comes from my mom – the Irish and English part of my ancestry. I’m also a tiny bit “Broadly Southern European” (.6%) maybe Italian or Iberian…and less than .1% “Broadly Middle Eastern and North African” which again, comes from my Mom and is apparently Druze or Kurdish. Actually, anything under 5% is really just a hint and could even be a fluke

Well, that was all very enlightening, I guess. It will take me a while to figure all of this out. My results also reported that I am 3% Neanderthal. Wow…3% is a lot of Neanderthal and above the average. I’m at about the 88th percentile but there are some few people testing at about 4%. That apparently is a European thing for the most part.

Long Lost Cousins  – Howdy, my name is Ken and we are kin.

Along with your test results you get a list of other people who have tested and are your DNA relatives. I have about 935 people identified as related to me based on our DNA tests. Holy Chromosomes – Who are these people? Well, I waded into the mob of people who I expected to greet me with open arms. I found a second cousin, once removed, who I didn’t know but I know his Mom from long-ago family reunions. I also found a sixth cousin – mostly because I recognized his surname in my family tree and he was in this mob of cousins. I’ve contacted and shared with about a dozen people and have a few hints and possible connections but nothing more concrete than that. It seems like most of these people are asleep at the wheel and don’t respond to emails. I have about twenty contacts sent out with no responses.  Must be a family trait.

Of course, my daughter is in that mob….we share about 50% of our DNA with the rest coming from her Mom. In theory and pretty much in practice – with each generation you lose another half of your DNA package from a single relative. You get about 25% from each grandparent. Great-grandparents contribute only 12.5% and going back another generation you get 6.25%. By the time you go up your family tree line and back down to a fourth cousin you are sharing only a very small percentage of DNA… less than 1% — maybe just .65% or even less than half of that. I was just contacted today by a fourth cousin (projected) and we share .25%.

I found that matches on my ‘X’ chromosome are going to be related to me through my mother. If those matches are male then they are related to me through their mother.  That tends to be helpful in finding how we are related. One of my projected fourth cousins in adopted and has no knowledge of any biological family. He is matched to me on my ‘X’ chromosome so he is related to me through my Mom. He also is related to another of my male fourth cousins through the ‘X’ chromosome so now we have two related female lines pointing to this adopted male cousin. It is plausible that we may be able to tie him in to the family at some point.  (Run away, dude, run away as fast as you can!)

I have another fourth cousin who is African American and her family has been in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas for as long as she knows.  My ancestors – as far as I know – never lived south of Missouri. This is a pretty solid DNA cousin connection with .25% on two separate chromosomes. She doesn’t match with any of the other DNA relatives that I’ve shared my information with but fourth cousins can be pretty far flung and numerous – people had big families in prior generations. If you counted up each sibling and half-sibling of your parental lines for five or six generations and then consider how many kids each one had or could have had, you have, potentially, hundreds of cousins running around.

Another DNA cousin has a family name of Connor or O’Connor, along with a bunch more, and he is Irish with roots in County Kerry. I didn’t, at first, recognize any connections but my ancestry goes back to County Kerry and I recalled having seen the name Connor listed as sponsors at baptisms in the local church for my Scollard and Moran relatives.  His Connors or O’Connors are probably my Connors or O’Connors once we figure this connection out.

There are two haplogroup designations that you are identified from your DNA. One is your mitochondrial haplogroup which is passed down from mother to mother to mother – all the way down directly from an ancient prehistoric female relative. Mine, from my Mom, includes that tiny Kurdish, Druze and Ashkenazi DNA along with a bunch of other European and Irish/British DNA. You also learn what your paternal haplogroup is – passed down through your male line, father to father to father. My paternal haplogroup is a common European designation but it seems to be more of coastal people than mountain people, originating, they think, along the North Sea and then spreading eastward toward the Baltic Sea and also across the English Channel. This is all very murky and lost in the eons of prehistory. There is plenty of scholarly debate going on about these ancient origins.

So far, DNA testing has provided a lot of information that is interesting about my personal genome – where I come from and how much from different areas. It has enabled me to locate distant relatives I didn’t know I had. It has given me some hints on family tree road-blocks and revealed possible new family names I didn’t know. But it also raises a bunch of new questions and you begin to realize that there is so much of the puzzle that is missing or disguised. There are hundreds of adoptees who have been tested and are searching for biological family links. Sometimes they make a connection but sometimes it is just a hint. At some point, once some bureaucratic roadblocks are satisfied or removed, I will be getting genetically identified medical information. I know some diseases run in my family but this will show if there is a genetic link or whether there is a higher risk for some diseases and lower risk for others. I guess that will be good and useful information although sometimes it might be better not knowing.  All in all, I’m glad I did this but it will take a while to see how helpful it was.  Stay tuned…there might be a Part Four someday.

Wednesday Roam — On Being Linked In

I bought a new — never before used — vinyl record yesterday. First, let me say that I’m not a Luddite — at least not a card carrying member. I like a few of the modern electronic conveniences. But — from where I stand…or sit, I’m often taken by how much people around me are constantly connected to some sort of electronic device. I know — it’s a common complaint.

I’m halfway through my 60s and can member the first time I saw and heard a transistor radio– some kid smuggled it in to grade school and it was a primitive thing by today’s standards….or by standards of 30 years ago, for that matter. I’m not a complainer….just an observer….but it is hard to carry on a conversation with someone who can’t take their eyes off of a four inch green.

In the midst of this connective-ness, I have recently become aware of how much I have gone down that road.  Oh yes…it is a slippery slope, brothers and sisters… Just in the last few months I’ve joined the ranks of the electro-masses.

I have a lap-top and a tablet and an MP3 player and a few other things. I got rid of the steam-driven desk-top computer — the Mother Ship — at my last move. I’ve been on the internet (Lordy!!) for more than 30 years— long before GUI…if you know what I mean. So, in a way I was there all along. In the beginning, where I worked, I was the gatekeeper for the internet access. You had to come to me to get a password and authorization to have the privilege of gaining access to the WWW. We had no microcomputers. Access was through a labyrinthine set of portals and commands on the mainframe computer. It was like a secret compartment in the “big box” and I had the keys.  People were very nice to me then but there really wasn’t much reason to be on the internet. It was mostly academics and scientists and a few tech savvy people communicating in dull text messages or posting lengthy documents that few people read. There was no commercial content. Even getting an image of something was a novelty.

I’ve had a cell phone for ten years or more but it was a mobile phone and nothing more. It was an old flip-phone and it served me well. I once tumbled 30 feet off of a cliff and landed on the flip-phone in my hip pocket and we both survived. We were a little worse for wear but we were OK and the phone might have kept me from getting banged up more than I was. Later, I fell into my goldfish pond and the flip-phone tried to die but I was able to resuscitate it and it went on for another year or so as if nothing happened. It was a good friend.

In December of last year I got hearing aids…something I needed for a while. Here was an electronic gizmo that worked fine and did what it was supposed to do. But wait…as they say on TV. I can have more than just a hearing instrument — in fact I did have more. I can be wired for sound. The hearing aids come with a discreet little gadget that hangs around my neck concealed under my shirt that has several buttons and a microphone that controls the programs in the hearing aids. Yes, they are programmable. They also will talk to my mobile phone using Bluetooth so that when I get a phone call all I have to do is push a button under my shirt and I get people talking to me through my ear pieces and they hear me through the little microphone…all hands free (almost). So now you can see me wandering around the mall or grocery store talking to myself. But wait…that’s not all! I can listen to music or podcasts, too, or get an app that checks my batteries and controls the programs even better… but not with my flip-phone. I need an iPhone.

For several weeks my little old flip-phone was trying hard to live up to expectations but it would overheat during telephone calls. It got so hot that I could barely touch it and it finally passed out…ending the phone call. OK…it lived a good life but it was time to step up and get the iPhone.

It was a frustrating month when I got the iPhone because it really didn’t work as planned. While it was great in theory, it was a mess in everyday usage because the new app and Bluetooth were picking up signals and chatter from the iPhone and feeding them into my ears every 45 seconds. I think they call that instability and I was becoming more and more unstable as time went on. Finally we (I had four other people trying to figure it out) accidentally found the solution. It had nothing to do with a hammer or a flushing toilet. There is a little known setting on the iPhone that changed the way it communicated with the hearing aid app and the associated Bluetooth connection.  All is well…mostly.

So here I am now…  If I was having an out-of-body experience and looking down on myself, say in my local coffee shop, I’d see that I’m probably staring at my tablet screen with my iPhone sitting on the table and my thingy around my neck monitoring my ear pieces and telling the iPhone what the status is while waiting for your all important phone call.

Oh…That vinyl record I bought is Annie Lennox singing some old songs…some vintage Patsy Cline, some Hoagy Carmichael, Billie Holliday, “I put a spell on you”, “Summertime”….yes, very nice. And it plays on a turntable with a stylus and I can hear it fine…without the iPhone.