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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Genetics of Spring (DNA)

There's no denying the fact -- it is spring. And to prove it, we just went around town and "took a gander". Of course, we went when it was not raining because apparently this week we were not over the rain as yet. There were several good downpours.

Today it is very much all sunshine and white wispy clouds. Lawns in the neighborhood have returned to their pre-drought splendor. And the birds, well they are busy doing whatever they do in spring.

Above is a variety of the displays around town. Our own yard is also starting to bloom after the poppies of last week. Next week we'll probably crank up the a/c to start the cooling of the warm season.

This week, it seems everything is connected to the topic of "DNA". And that includes our reading. "Finding Family" by Richard Hill was the second of a DNA related book (more to come).

This book was one of the most fascinating that we have read lately (besides "The Stranger in my Genes") and I have actually started to reread it to capture even more details.

It was a 26 year journey for the author who found out in his late teenage years that he was adopted. Twenty-six years later he identified his birth family with the help of DNA.

Several years ago -- twelve I think -- I provided a sample of DNA to be tested with FamilyTreeDNA. Then some years later I tested with 23 and Me.

Finally, I submitted DNA to be tested with AncestryDNA. I have received numerous matches from each company and still receive those matches almost daily.

The problem for me has been how to deal with these matches and to identify how they fit into our family tree. For some of the matches I have been able to identify the connection, but for most matches, I have not been able to make the connection nor can I even try sometimes due to the vast numbers.

For me, I have found the matches at AncestryDNA the most connectable.They have a huge database of others who have tested AND a lot of them have family trees already submitted to Ancestry so that connections can be made.

So -- a couple of weeks ago I signed up for the above online "bootcamp".  And I attended today, from 8am to 11:30 am.

The subject of DNA and DNA testing I find very confusing and so detailed that I need as much clarification as I can get.

Today's lectures were a step in that direction. I learned many great tips and hints with what to do with the matches from the big 3 companies that do the testing.

I am "chomping at the bit" to put into play some of those hints and ideas, which if I can I will start doing later today.

All this week though I have been going through a new book that I bought for research in Monroe County, Wisconsin. "Monroe County, Wisconsin -- Heritage Book" is over 500 pages long and contains short biographies of the families that live there.

Many of these families are related to us and they give a glimpse into the details of those families that I have not seen elsewhere. I have added about two hundred folks to the tree ( just this week.

The reason that these folks were not already in the tree is because a lot of the details I get from the census records -- and the latest census released is 1940. So, since this book came out in the 1980s, there are a lot of updating to do with the families.

It looks to be another good episode this Sunday on WDYTYA:  

Noah Wyle is featured. I do not have a lot of knowledge about him or his career (apparently he was on "ER" and "Falling Stars"), but that doesn't matter too much.

I am just interested in seeing what can uncover for him and for the others in his tree.

And if the methods are shown how they uncovered things even better.

Lastly, we need some "autosomal" DNA testing:

What a beautiful collection of vintage autos. So to find out their "DNA" would be fun.

That's a bit of our week.  See you all "in a few" . . .

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Beauty & The Poppy

Every year it is amazing that the transition from blandness in the garden to blooming color takes place so quickly.

At the beginning of this week when I took Dino out (each morning) I noticed the garden bed was a sea of green with the exception of ONE California Poppy.

By Friday of this week there were twenty some poppies:

For awhile though there was just the single flower. In the coming days there will be many many more. And there are some herb plants that will alternately find their way to the surface as well.

The weather this week has gone through ups and downs, with today being a bit of the down and cooler temperatures. Earlier this week we should have turned the a/c on but opted to enjoy the fresh breezes via the open windows and doors.

Yesterday we took advantage of the grayness to pick every lemon from our tree. We have several bags of beautiful lemons (we gave a couple of bags to neighbors) and the rest we are taking to the food bank.

Last post I mentioned some of the books that we had read recently and that we were going to start reading "The Stranger in My Genes" that night.

We did start that book and we found it to be an incredible story.

The author, Bill Griffeth is a current anchorman on CNBC and has written other books as well. But for me this one was so intriguing that I read well past our usual nighttime sessions and finished it this week.

Of course the book has to do with DNA and the amazing results that Bill received and for sure changed his life forever. I have submitted my DNA for testing to three different companies and have experienced nothing like what Bill did. Maybe I had better take another look . . .

We were so taken with that book, we ordered another similar sounding scenario book and that is "Finding Family" by Richard Hill. And we are part way through that one and are finding it to be as intriguing as the first book.

Both books detail the genealogical detective efforts that brings satisfaction to the authors and impacts them and their families mostly in positive ways, but at first it did not appear that that would be the case.

Since we read every night before drifting off we have enjoyed looking forward to each read, some more than others though. With the current two books I have looked forward to the reading session with a lot more anticipation -- and in view of that have pre-ordered a book due to be released the first week of April:  "The Foundling" by Paul Joseph Fronczak.  We hope that it too lives up to the same level of intrigue and interest as the others.

Sad news to report. This week while doing my usual searching for news about members of our family tree, I uncovered the obituary shown to the left.

Larry Hart was a shirt-tail relative in that we were not directly related, but related in a way.

Larry was the nephew of my 1st cousin Gale Hiles' wife, Vivian Hart.

Larry and I exchanged many emails over a few years and I will miss his insight on tree members and his "take" on life.

The Hart family was prominent in Wisconsin and many of that branch populate the Hiles Family Tree.

Larry lived in a variety of places and eventually wound up in Mississippi where his wife still lives.

I'm not sure how "breaking" it is but spring here in Northern California arrives officially on Monday the 20th of March.

We have been told that it will be a mixed weather week with more possible rain forecast. We like that, I'll hold off watering the lawn for a few days.

An amazing tree across the street has gone from buds to blossoms to almost completely leafed out in the last few days -- how much more spring-like can you get.

Next week I'm sure to have other spring-like results e.g. March Madness results.

Now, this IS more "breaking news" for me anyway. Amazon Prime is introducing "One-Day" and maybe even "Same-Day" service in our area.
Since I do order frequently from Amazon, this is very good news.

I use Amazon to fill in for many items that I used to buy on trips to the various stores within driving range. And sometimes I like to order "jit" or just in time as needed.

I also use "Google Express" to fill in for items that used to require a visit to a "brick & mortar" store.
These delivered products are examples of why we hear of so many store closings -- a bunch just this week. And Google Express almost always delivers your items the next day.

I'm sure enjoying having "WDYTYA" back on TV. It is of course on TLC on Sunday evening.

We of course record it and watch it when we want to.

This week features Jennifer Grey, the actress. And it looks to be another very interesting peek into a celebrity's family tree.

I watched a "sneak preview" of the show on Dick Eastman's blog.

And lastly,

I can not imagine having to do "that" (walking to the TV) ever again.

We do watch a fair amount of TV, it is our primary source of entertainment during the week.

The remote is an extremely valuable device. Along with the DVR it has revolutionized TV watching for us.

Growing up -- after we finally got a TV, we did have to walk up to the set and turn a "clunky" dial to change channels and adjust the sound as well with another button.

At one point (around 7th grade) we lived in an apartment while waiting for our house to be built. There were not enough bedrooms for everyone, so I had to sleep on the couch in the living room.

The TV was in the living room and after my parents went to bed, I would turn on the TV and watch some of the programs like, "I Led Three Lives" starring Herb Philbrick and others. The problem would be that if I wanted to change the channel, I had to ever-so-carefully ease the channel selector to the next channel because it would make a clunking noise and that would wake my father and that would put an end to TV watching for that night . . .

That is a bit of our week. See you all, "in a few"!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

It's About Time -- Of Course . . .

What could be more timely . . . the spring ahead time change. It kinda snuck up on us this time. We thought that we had a few more weeks. We have noticed that it is staying light later each day and the mornings are bright and sunny as well. After tomorrow it will be a bit darker when we get up, but we always get used to it after a few days. The evening light will be nice.

It is really about time, in fact it is almost spring, which arrives in less than two weeks. This week, here in Sonoma County it seems like spring. There are trees and flowers in bloom, the birds are active and the sounds of baseball are beginning to be a daily thing out back of our yard.

We actually almost walked over to watch the baseball events, but decided to wait until we see some uniformed players -- that should be coming very soon.

We can't forget that tonight at bedtime we need to change at least some of our clocks forward by one hour. Some of our clocks are controlled by the satellite and/or computer so they don't need to be manually changed. Still others do need to be changed . . .

TV programming lately for us has been sparse except for this week we have watched one of the new season nine episodes of WDYTYA.

Courteney Cox was the first featured celebrity to have genealogical results shared with her and with us the viewers, last Sunday night.

Courteney, it turns out has a long line of British Royalty that she connects with and in very interesting ways.

It would be so nice to be able to show a family tree that identifies real ancestors, Royal or not Royal.
Her family tree is proven back to the tenth or eleventh century, maybe earlier even. I have been able to show the HILES line almost through the seventeenth century.

For Gail's side, on one line we can go back almost as far as Courteney's line. We keep hoping to expand other lines also.

This Sunday night on TLC's WDYTYA, they are featuring Julie Bowen and they promise to have some shocking revelations about her family -- always sounds interesting to me.

Unfortunately, always hanging over my head is the dreaded tax return for the current year.

Just this last week, when I actually decided to mean business and gather all our "stuff" and put this thing to rest, we see that we did not have everything that we needed and had to send for the info.

It is a good and bad thing in that, I can put off  for about another seven days (snail mail) attempting to finish.

The bad thing is that I won't have any excuses when the needed documents do show up . . .

We'll face that when it happens. The simplification of the tax system can't come fast enough -- though as we have said before -- "be careful for what you wish" . . .

But even though I have the "tax stuff" going on, everyday I try to work on some aspect of the family tree.

This helps me be grounded and energized as I lose myself climbing through the branches.

I have found a lot of interesting people and things and facts, just not so much that I feel worthy of reporting about, though it is all put into the tree.

I'm constantly amazed at the branches that I find and the fact that so many different surnames are surprisingly related to us.

In the tree that I have on there are two people short of 15,000 today. That may even change later today if I need "grounding" . . .

We still read throughout the day and every night before drifting off to dreamland. Some books on the nightstand cause us to drift off earlier than others:

Last night we just finished "The Year of Living Danishly" and we are both happy about that. While the book was very interesting and humorous, we think we could have done with about six months or so.

We did learn a lot about Danish life and it is safe to say that we don't feel that we could stand some of the lifestyle -- e.g. the winter months, when cold and darkness prevail and folks remain inside their homes for huge periods of time.

Tonight, we will start reading "The Stranger in my Genes" by Bill Griffeth. It is about the results of DNA revealing just who is in their family tree -- so we look forward to finding that out.

Prior to "Danishly" we read "The Dash", "The Cozy Life" and "Silent Legacy", all fascinating in their own ways. We are doing are best to keep those "Amazon" delivery services -- soon to be drones, maybe -- active.

One thing we can say for sure from our perspective:

We think that it is "normal" to find the many circumstances and the varied types of folks in a family tree, making it then, normal . . . that makes sense, right?

That is a bit of our week. See you all "in a few"!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Weekly Roller-Coaster Routine

Actually this week emphasized the routine quality of the ongoing days. The weather was of course part of the equation but on a country-wide basis. Meaning that we had extreme ups and downs with respect to the weather e.g. snowstorms, tornadoes, warmer than usual spots, rainier than usual spots and just plain nice weather. Like a roller coaster . . .

Locally this week we had sunshine everyday, cool, but very refreshing with a hint of spring in the air. Today, not so much, it is raining, lightly, but raining.


So, when I think of roller-coasters, I think of "The Bobs" in Riverview Park in Chicago. It is no longer in existence, but growing up we made at least one (annual) trip to enjoy the park, usually with a young people's church function.

Much like the political events of today, "The Bobs" presented us with all the usual thrills and also a chance for me to just close my eyes and hang on. I'm of course feeling a bit nostalgic this week and that was emphasized when we watched an interview with our 43rd president. The words "misunderestimate" and "strategery" came wafting back in the interview. The interview really was part of the book tour promoting W's new book about the many portraits that he has painted of many of our country's everyday war heroes -- very nicely done.

Thinking about the family tree, my immediate family including three generations -- grandparents, parents and self -- the four states on the signpost are the primary ones where our folks resided.

Moving to the next generation requires another sign post. My grandparents were either born in Iowa or Wisconsin. Before them, Ohio (on the paternal side) was a key state. But all eventually lived in Illinois.

Since then, many other states are where we find tree members.

Last post, I pictured the house that my maternal grandparents owned in Chicago, Illinois.

It is located at 2521 N Bernard St (earlier named Smalley Court).

I have had one cousin remark to me that she felt that maybe the house was a "Sears" house, one that came in a kit and then assembled. I don't know about that. But that would be interesting to find out.

As I mentioned, the house in my memory was so much larger than the one pictured here.

Inside, the main floor consisted of an entry hallway and to the right was a "front room" a more or less formal living room. There was a second living room like a family room where my grandparents spent most of their leisure time. The two rooms could be separated with a pocket door that we kids always loved opening and closing.

Continuing straight down the entry hallway was a formal dining room, where we enjoyed many holiday dinners. I also remember Grandpa B working on his nightly crossword puzzle at the dining room table. It is also where he allowed himself a nightly drink and one cigarette only -- and he used a cigarette holder (like FDR).

Further past the dining room was the kitchen and all that was included -- like a walk in pantry and a door for milk to be delivered, as I remember . . . from the back porch.

What was missing?  A bathroom. There was one on the second floor and then one in the basement:

As a youngster, this often presented me with a dilemma. Do I walk up the large stairway in the front hall and walk down the -- what seemed like a long hall -- to the large bathroom located at the rear of the house OR do I open the doorway in the kitchen and walk down a fairly steep stairway into the basement . . .

Time of day also entered into the decision process. Evening or nighttime for sure was a time to consider due to darkness and all that goes with that.

The basement toilet was like the one pictured to the right, just not quite as nice looking.
The bathroom was pretty much like a closet that included a thin plywood door with finger holes instead of a knob as I recall.

But, once in the basement there were some interesting things to look at and do.

Right as you came down the steep stairway, there was the Victrola.

And there was a large collection of Victor Records. We would put one on the turntable and crank up the machine and play away.

And then if it was winter time, the laundry tubs would be filled with Koi from the pond outside where in the warmer weather they lived.

The multicolored fish were so much fun to watch as they swam around the tubs. In the summer they were fun to watch as they swam around the pond with the plants and other figurines.

But if it were a holiday, the basement became another whole world as well:

Grandpa B loved playing pool and he loved it when dinner was over and all the "menfolk" and kids would come downstairs for some pool.

He was patient with us kids, showing us how and when to shoot. The one side of the basement had cabinets along the wall and depending on the needed shot -- sometimes a cabinet door would have to be opened to accommodate the pool cue.

The other wall had some mounted fish and a stuffed pheasant or two on it along with some of the old ale house type framed art. In other words -- a mancave . . .

I watched when the games were over as Grandpa B would carefully brush the table and make sure that it was clean and ready for the tablecloth like cover to be put over it -- until the next event.

There was another room in the basement that I believe was used mostly by my mother's brother, Uncle Stew. It had a desk and books and photography equipment all around. Always interesting.

And so that is a part of our week. Today inspired the nostalgia of looking back at Grandpa B's basement.

See you all, "in a few"!