thegenealogygirl


28 Comments

The Price That We Pay as the Keepers of the Memories

PETERSON, Grandma and Grandpa with Kent kids, 1987

My siblings and I with our grandparents – Ronald and Margaret Peterson.  1987

The first time I read The Giver by Lois Lowry, I was in my late teens or early twenties attending college.  I was instantly struck by the lack of true joy that existed in the community because of the absence of historical knowledge and freedom of choice.  The stripping away of freedoms, the complete control of the environment – even the weather itself – eventually led to a deterioration in all that makes us human.  No one chose their own career, spouse, number of children, what to eat.  They took daily “vitamins” to control their sexual urges.  Children were bred and then placed with families.  Members of the community were instructed in every way.  They even lost their ability to see color.

But there was one community member who was the “Keeper of Memories”.  This community elder was tasked to contain all knowledge of the past.  He held the memories of snow, music, dance, colors, taste, love, fear, courage, war, death, hunger, and everything in life that has the potential to bring pain.  He alone could advise the other village elders on matters they did not understand.  He alone kept the memories of humanity.

Jonas, the main character of the story, is selected to be the next “Keeper of Memories” and begins to meet with the man for whom the book is titled.  The Giver slowly pours memories into Jonas.  He begins with pleasant memories.  As time passes Jonas learns all that has been taken from him and his community members.  He learns that joy and pain are two sides of the same coin.  That the deeper we love, the deeper our loss when death comes.

Genealogists are also Keepers of Memories.  Memories of family members and their lives.  Memories of facts and stories.  Memories of how our family members fit into history.  We research, archive, write, analyze, preserve, store, share, and most of all – we tell.

Genealogists may be the Keepers of Memories for their families.  But they are nothing like Lowry’s Keeper of Memories.  We tell everything we can, to everyone who will listen.

We pay a price for our role as Keepers.  We give up time, money, space in our homes and hearts.  We have rooms filled with boxes, photos, albums, records, and artifacts.  We pay far more than we would ever admit for supplies, trips, education, books, records, and subscriptions.  We spend more time than even exists in a normal person’s week on our work.  We fill our hearts to overflowing with connections, memories, and love for people – many of whom we have never met.

There is another price we pay.

It is sharp, gut wrenching pain.

Pain that comes when we open a death record for a little baby and read that they died of measles in their infancy.  Pain we feel again when we hear people refusing vaccines for their children.  Because we know.  We have read the records and seen child after child in the same family die of diseases that are preventable today.

Pain that comes when we learn that some ancestor was intentionally harmed by someone.  Or even worse, when we learn that a member of our family chose to cause harm to someone.

Pain that comes when we doggedly chase lead after lead after lead, hoping to find that one record, that one fact that will finally poke a hole in our brick wall only to face disappointment.

Pain that comes when we have some simple daily reminder of how we lost someone that we love more than we can possibly say.

That happened to me this weekend.

I was watching something from my DVR.  An old episode of Long Lost Family that I hadn’t watched yet.  When it finished and I clicked delete, the TV went right to the channel it was on and a commercial began to play at that moment.  The moment I clicked the off button was the exact moment I heard “…cures Hep C…”.  I instantly turned the TV back on and sobbed as I watched a commercial for the first time, advertising a new wonder drug that can cure Hepatitis C in a few weeks or months with a 95% cure rate.*

My heart immediately ached for my Grandpa Peterson.  A man that I loved with my whole heart.  A man who was good and loving and selfless.  A man who always had time to listen and help.  A grandpa like no other.  A grandpa who spent time with me – lots of time.  He was a Mormon Missionary, a Marine, a University Professor, a Psychologist, a Church Leader, a Marriage and Family Therapist, a School Board President, a good neighbor, and an outstanding son, husband, father, brother, and grandfather.

He died about the same time that I first read The Giver.  I was 20 years old when he passed.  It was a punch to the gut.

He died of complications from Hepatitis C that he contracted from a blood transfusion in the eighties.  Near the end, he had Congestive Heart Failure that was so advanced he slept in a wooden rocking chair most nights.  He tried everything the doctors suggested.  He tried Interferon treatments that left him even sicker, much like chemo treatments.  He was on a no salt diet and meds for his CHF.  Nothing was working.  As a last ditch effort, he had heart surgery.  There was a slim chance he would recover and then they could give him a liver transplant.  But he never left the hospital.  He died two weeks later, three weeks after his 71st birthday.

As I watched the commercial, I sobbed for the years that I lost with my Grandpa.  And I thought about how we, as our family’s Keeper of Memories, can’t help but connect everything we see, hear, read, and experience to some part of our family’s history.  I’m not the only member of my family who remembers how we lost Grandpa.  There are plenty of others who share in the same pain.  But there are so many other parts of our family story that are kept only by me.

I am my family’s Keeper of Memories.  I pay a price because of that.  But it is a price I would pay again and again because the joy, understanding, and connections that come, outweigh the price every single day.  Even on the days when a TV commercial reminds me of one of my greatest losses.  The depth of my pain only exists because of the depth of my love and the joyful memories of a grandfather who loved being a grandfather – who loved me completely and let me know it.

I treasure my role as Keeper of Memories for my family.  I don’t need that red sled.  I’m staying in this role until I know it’s time to pass the torch.  I will keep telling everyone in my family who will listen, the precious tid-bits about our past.

My Grandpa is one of the reasons I embraced this role that came to me.  His memory should never be forgotten.  I will do my best to make sure it isn’t.

 

What joy and pain have come to you as your family’s Keeper of Memories?

 

 

*I’m not sure if I got the numbers from the commercial exactly right.  That is what I recall.  I didn’t want to find it and watch it again.

 

ps – I believe that Families can be Forever.  This belief means that the flip side of my pain in missing my Grandpa is the joy of knowing I will see him again.  I treasure that knowledge.  His death was the first that I experienced in my family.  (Not counting great grandparents who I didn’t know nearly as well.)  That, and the manner in which he died, and the strength of our relationship, have made his loss more painful than many others I have experienced.  Which makes my gratitude for Eternal Families even deeper.  You can read more about what I believe here.


12 Comments

Memorial Day 2017

IMG_7690

Memorial Day 2017 with my family was really wonderful.

 

Part One:

 

While driving north to begin our adventures, we talked about the origins of Memorial Day, our cousin James Boles and his life and sacrifice, and where we were headed.

Part Two:

 

A picnic lunch with my 4th great grandmother, Maria Amanda Dolby Skeen at Lehi Pioneer Cemetery.  This sweet little cemetery is just a grassy park surrounded by trees and a flowing irrigation ditch.  There is only one marker sharing the history of the cemetery.  We know that Maria is buried there.  She was the mother of 9 children, 4 who pre-deceased her.  She died in 1854 at the age of 36, leaving her husband with 5 young children.  Maria and her family were Mormon Pioneers who experienced extreme persecution and were driven from one place to the next, finally traveling with the saints to what is now known as Utah.  A few short years after their arrival, Maria passed away.

IMG_7692

IMG_7694

Part Three:

 

A few hours in the American Fork Cemetery.  We had a list of ten of my husband’s ancestors to look for, and 16 little star shaped flags to post on any veteran’s graves that had no decorations.  This year I couldn’t find actual flags so I had to make do with my Dollar Store find.

IMG_7696

This little darlin’ was so fascinated by everything about the cemetery.  He wanted to know all about every headstone he came upon.  He was searching for “soldier headstones” and “B-E-C-K”.

IMG_3363

He was so happy when he found his first “B-E-C-K” headstone.  Of course I missed his huge smile and caught his explanation instead.  😉

IMG_3366

Jacob S and Elizabeth H Beck, my husband’s 2nd great grandparents

IMG_3408

With my camera in hand, I obviously had to photograph any headstone that caught my eye.  I have a bundle to add to findagrave.

IMG_3431

It was a lovely cemetery visit, to a beautiful cemetery, in a fantastic setting, on a perfect day.

Part Four:

 

We made some new family memories exploring the beautiful Cascade Springs.

IMG_3459

IMG_3475

IMG_3615

IMG_3544

IMG_3545

IMG_3483

IMG_3514

IMG_3568

IMG_3569

IMG_3618

IMG_3624

IMG_3608

IMG_3631

Even the drive home was picturesque.  The summit took us to an elevation of 8060!

It was a Memorial Day to remember.

 

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you preserve a special memory today.

 

 

ps – Why do 15/almost 16 year olds insist on being ridiculous in photos?  Sigh.  My 19 year old recently told me I need to lecture his teenage brother and tell him to just smile for photos.  Haha, he was the scowler/face maker not so long ago.  A normal phase I suppose…

 


17 Comments

This Sunday – The Best Mother’s Day!

IMG_0376

My missionary son has been gone for almost 9 months!  He emails every week and sends photos and videos.  He is doing great!  He loves people and loves to serve and that pretty much sums up how a missionary spends their time.  In the picture above he is second from the right holding a fire extinguisher.  This group of missionaries is helping restore a home that was badly damaged due to severe weather.

On Sunday, my missionary will get to Facetime with us for Mother’s Day!  Hooray!!  Missionaries call home twice a year, on Christmas and Mother’s Day.  I’m excited to get to talk to my boy.  I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for how quickly the years pass, so here are a few shots of my oldest.  ❤

FullSizeRender (1)

That boy of mine had a rough introduction to the world.  He was born 11 weeks early and weighed 2 1/2 lbs.  He spent the first 7 weeks and 2 days of his life in the NICU.  He is 3 days old in this photo.

16638678476_917019234d_o

Here we are on a fun little family stay-cation exploring historical pioneer sights around Salt Lake City, Utah.  August 2010

16540064069_70593fb697_o

First day of school photos, August 2011.

16717385735_7c2b33faa7_o

Hanging out at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, August 2012.

463865_637122022982481_2129660138_o

Family photo shoot, Spring 2013.

964030_637122642982419_2128723993_o

Same photo shoot.

26491809102_42a9d01fbc_o

Senior pics, spring 2016.

28287193634_64e9eedcee_o

Last family photo shoot for a few years, August 2016.

28725998084_eaa6f3e483_o

Last photo with all three of my boys for a few years, August 17, 2016.

Happy Mother’s Day!  ❤ ❤ ❤

 


20 Comments

My DNA Results – How do they compare to my tree? (Updated)

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 5.52.56 PM

Yesterday I shared my ethnicity percentages based on my tree.  They look a little something like this:

  • 62.5% – British Isles (English, Mixed British Isles, Scottish, Welsh)
  • 15.6% – Europe West (French Canadian, French)
  • 9.4% – Scandinavian
  • 6.3% – Some mixture of European Jewish & Italy, Greece
  • 6.3% – Iberian Peninsula (Spanish)

As you can see from my screenshot up there, I have some interesting differences between my tree and the DNA I inherited.  Here is a comparison of my tree ethnicities and my DNA ethnicities.

Ethnicity comparison - Sheet1

The first important note is that those trace ethnicities, 2% or lower, are often considered noise.  In my case, those bottom three surprise ethnicities are not backed up by documentation.  The first six however, are documented, even the 1% Iberian Peninsula.

The biggest surprises for me are these:

  • How little of the French and French Canadian DNA I inherited.
  • How much European Jewish DNA I inherited.
  • How much Italy, Greece DNA I inherited.

John Costello and his ancestors make up 12.5% of my tree.  And yet, I inherited 19% of the three regions he could have contributed – Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish, and Italy, Greece.

And here is where I need to beef up my learning, you see something I read recently caused me to misunderstand a very important point – you inherit 50% of your DNA from each parent, beyond that, it is a random mixture of all that came before them.  I had a handful of paragraphs with some interesting questions and insights into some of the nuances of my tree.  But those questions and insights were based on my misunderstanding, so I chopped them out.  😉  Thank you Deborah for some helpful pointers!  (See her comment below).

I have so much to learn about genetic genealogy.  I need to test my siblings and cousins so I can isolate the various pieces of my DNA and do some fancy-science-y-ultra-nerdy-but-oh-so-cool-DNA-genealogy like this.

While I am still learning, and not completely sure of what my next steps are, the thing I keep coming back to is… How can I be 10% European Jewish when I had no idea I had ANY European Jewish ancestry?  10%.  That’s a lot of percent.  Especially when I didn’t see it coming.

This DNA stuff is oh-so-fascinating.  Have you tested?  Did you find any surprises?

Happy Wednesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today – DNA or otherwise!


18 Comments

My Ethnicity Fractions – Based on My Tree

Scanned Image 101240003

Years ago my younger brother Derek asked me, “What are we?

He was curious about our ethnic makeup as so many people are.  All those years ago I did a quick calculation based on the research I had done and drew up this little map for him.  Over time I have learned more about my heritage and can now update that set of data to reflect my most current understanding of our tree.

ethnicity percentages

Based on this new chart, our ethnicity percentages – from our tree – are:

  • 34.4% – English
  • 12.5% – Mixed British Isles
  • 12.5 % – French Canadian
  • 12.5% – Scottish
  • 9.4% – Danish
  • 6.3% – Italian Jewish (I don’t think this is really a thing, but I’m not sure yet what to call this portion of my tree…see here.)
  • 6.3% – Spanish
  • 3.1% – French
  • 3.1% – Welsh

I know that totals 100.1% – I rounded.

Based on how Ancestry DNA lumps things together, these percentages should look like this on my Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates:

  • 62.5% – Great Britain (English, Mixed British Isles, Scottish, Welsh)
  • 15.6% – Europe West (French Canadian, French)
  • 9.4% – Scandinavian
  • 6.3% – Some mixture of European Jewish & Italy, Greece
  • 6.3% – Iberian Peninsula (Spanish)

But here’s the thing about DNA.  We don’t inherit exactly half of what our parents inherited.  We inherit a unique combination of half of what they inherited.  So while the percentages based on my tree look one way, the actual DNA I inherited is an entirely different matter.  I have four siblings.  Each of us inherited different combinations of our parent’s DNA – half from each parent, but a unique and random half.

My DNA results are in.  I will share them tomorrow.  They are fascinating.  The portion I am most curious about happens to be the potion that is brand new to me – the Jewish ancestry of John Costello.  What combination of DNA did he pass on to me?  12.5% of me comes from him.  Based on what I know, he could have given me DNA from these three regions – Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish, and Italy, Greece.  Because the Jewish portion is a brand new – weeks old – discovery, I wonder if I inherited any of it?  If so, how much?

Care to take a guess?

Tune in for my DNA reveal tomorrow.

 


22 Comments

“We’re not Irish… so we just decorate for Easter.”

IMG_6758 2

A few weeks ago, my darling little 5 year old was playing with a friend.  They were in my piano room and I was in the next room.  I heard my kiddo say, “We’re not Irish.”

It’s true.

But, it’s a weird thing to say.  Especially when it’s completely out of the blue like it was.  I chuckled to myself and thought, “Okay, I guess he’s the son of a genealogist.”

Then he said, “So we just decorate for Easter.”

Oh!

Then I got it.

He was basically explaining to his little pal, who could not have cared less, why we didn’t have any St. Patrick’s Day decorations up, but we did have Easter decorations up.  Not lots, just those little window clings.

It was only the week before that my kiddo was at a different friend’s house where there was lots of St. Patrick’s Day decor.  When we left he said we should decorate for St. Patrick’s Day and out of laziness I replied, “Well, we’re not Irish, so we just decorate for Easter.”

My words came right back to me.

But for a brief moment I thought my little 5 year old cared about his ethnicity estimates.

😂

Maybe one day!

 

Happy Tuesday – I hope you make a great, or at least amusing, genealogy discovery today!

 

ps – Won’t it be funny if my ethnicity estimates show that I am a wee bit Irish?

 


4 Comments

A Few Personal Updates

IMG_6682

My youngest throwing rocks into the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington.  You can just see the rock he has thrown clear up at the top of the shot.  He got a lot of height, not much distance.  13 April 2017

I am currently in my hometown of Kennewick, Washington hanging out with my Dad and my youngest son.  We’ve had a quiet few days and will be here for several more.  Last week we were able to enjoy a little time in Columbia Park.  They have a wonderful playground there right next to the beautiful Columbia River.  We ended our park visit with time along the river bank throwing rocks and sticks.  It was a beautiful day as you can see.  It was joyful for me to watch my son enjoy the river so much.

IMG_0378

My oldest, missionary son helping with a service project for refugees in the Lexington, SC area.  My son is in the center squatting down with his arm around one of the refugees.

My missionary son is also doing well.  He recently sent me this fuzzy picture and I just keep thinking about it and what a good boy I have.  There he is front and center with his arm around a refugee he met.  They obviously made a connection.  My son mentioned this man and how tearfully grateful he was for the service my son and others provided in one of his weekly emails.  It is wonderful to see the goodness of a grown child.  To see that he is choosing to spread love and light with those he meets.  And that in this instance at least, that love and light was readily received.

There is too much sorrow and pain in this world.  But this week, I am feeling the simple joys of motherhood – of mothering that is bringing goodness to fruition, and of mothering in the moment and seeing beauty in the world with a tiny child.

Hopefully my wonderful middle son is enjoying his one-on-one time with Dad at home.  Lots of man time building a play structure and installing a sink.  🙂

 

Happy Monday!  I hope your week is filled with fabulous genealogy discoveries – or peaceful family time like mine will be.