Friday, April 28, 2017

Gold Nuggets

It's not everyday you get to meet three of your 3 times great grandparents! I was digging through a shoe box full of loose photographs and came across a handful of particularly old photos. Before sticking them into the scanner, I always check the front and back for writing so when I save them, I can add that to the file name for future reference. I gasped when I saw the writing on these two pictures. The above photo is Martin Luther Rice and below is his wife Amanda Virginia Smith Rice. Neither one have I ever seen in flesh until today.

Martin Rice served in the Civil War and I wrote about his life awhile back in this post. His wife Amanda, I haven't written about directly but have alluded to her story before. She is one of the few lines of my family tree that extends into the southern United States. Her family was one of the early pioneers in Iowa after immigrating from Virginia in the years leading up to the Civil War.

Her family is also the cause of a circle within my family tree. Amanda's grandfather would have four kids, three sons and two daughters. One of those sons married and produced daughter Amanda Virginia Smith. The other son would marry and also have three sons and a daughter. One of those sons was named Abraham Smith. So Amanda Virginia Smith and Abraham Smith would be cousins.
Amanda Virginia Smith would marry Martin Luther Rice and have 11 children, one of which was a daughter named Annetta Jane Rice. Abraham Smith would marry a woman by Clementine Carr (see my next blog post for more about her) and produce two children, one of which was a son named Isaac Franklin Smith though he went by Frank.

Isaac Franklin (Frank) Smith, my 2 times great grandfather would marry Annetta Jane Rice his second cousin and my 2 times great grandmother. Their marriage would produce two children, the daughter of whom my first born daughter shares a name with and who is my great grandmother. Think that is confusing, try separating three Smith family lines in a family tree. Fortunately two of those lines eventually converged leaving me with only two distinct lines further back. Unfortunately Smith is a very very common name and will probably prevent me from going back on either of them as I have other lines of my family tree.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I've blogged about it several times over the years and as recently as a couple months ago, that I don't have any childhood pictures of myself. My mom had a lot but most were destroyed by a roof leak in the storage building where they were being stored. I've seen just a few over the years that survived but they are stored safely in the bottom of a cedar chest inside the house now and it is hard to access them without spending a half hour removing everything above so they remain there for the most part unseen.

When my grandparents were getting rid of possessions in preparation for a move to Iowa over Christmas, I jumped at the chance to digitize their home movies and slides. However as I later learned, the movies were all before I was born and the slides were all of my childhood years from ages 10 to teens. There weren't any pictures of me before age 10... or so I thought at the time.

A couple weeks ago on a visit to my grandparents, we finally got back into a corner that held two large moving boxes. "What's in those Grandma?"

"Pictures," she replied.

"Only pictures" I asked?

"They are packed full of pictures. Do you want to digitize those as well?"

Maybe a minute passed before I was lugging those two boxes down the hall to my car. Later before I left, we found three more shoe boxes full of pictures.These last two weeks I have been going through the boxes full of loose pictures trying to contain myself by not peaking ahead at what the albums contain. I've been scanning all the family related ones and a few of this and that that mean something to me. The majority of them I don't scan because they are mostly of my grandparents on vacation doing this or that. But I've already scanned probably around 500 or so keepers and I haven't even made it to the large packing boxes!

I have found lots of pictures of my childhood from aged 5 on up but not too many of the early years yet. The picture above was the one exception to that thus far and I just found it last night as I write this blog post. It shows my great grandparents whom I named my daughters after and the date on the bottom (which I erased for anonymity reasons) was dated about two weeks after I was born. No doubt, I am that baby. I'm pretty sure the background is the farm where my parent's lived, given to them by my grandparents after they were married, but I will have to ask my grandparents for sure the next time I visit. It will certainly be a picture that I treasure.

Monday, April 24, 2017

From My Daughters

The very day I last wrote to you about Pennywise whom you see above, I mentioned that I hadn't seen him around in a couple weeks. Like me, my daughters have been incredibly patient about waiting for me to find him. So the afternoon that I posted about him, I went to boil some eggs for the girls to dye for Easter and pulled out one of our large pots that I haven't used in awhile. He is now hiding in the extra hair brush and hair clip drawer in the bathroom waiting for one of my daughters to find him.

I'm not sure what most parents do with all the things their kids bring home from school. I have kept a few select things over the years but there are so many and my oldest, doesn't want to let them out of her sight. Unfortunately her room was starting to groan at the seams so I told her I would photograph each and every one so we have a record of it and can remember it and then throw it away. Reluctantly she agreed and I hauled out two and a half garbage bags that has accumulated over the years. However as I was uploading the pictures into the computer, I wish I had kept this one because my eyes keep gravitating to it on the screen. They made a stamp and created about 20 of these in different colors but the rest were mostly bi-colored. This one done up on the background of the American flag colors has four colors. It is too late to grab it out of the trash as it has been hauled away but I'm glad I at least have a picture.

My wife is a highly skilled medical professional but there are certain things that only Dr. Daddy can do. I invest in a lot of superglue but have an assortment of tools that I use to rescue my daughters' patients. I came inside to find this note on the kitchen table. My daughter had just received this gift from my grandparents who are continuing to sort through their stuff giving me some stuff to keep, some to sale at our spring garage sale and some to my daughters. I thought it was too cute not to take a picture. Fortunately, there was a little plastic post between the body and the head that had snapped and a dab of superglue was easily able to fix Austri. Dr. Daddy to the rescue.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Biological Weapon of Mass Destruction

Like good Catholics and other similar faiths, we abstain from all meats except seafood on every Friday of Lent and a few other holy days within. Our garbage is picked up early Friday mornings. These two seemingly unrelated events created one of the worst biological weapons ever known to man, at least from my point of view.

On a Friday a couple weeks back, I made my famous salmon cakes for our Friday Lenten supper. Since the garbage had already come early that morning, I made sure to bundle up the salmon skin in an empty plastic bag, stick it in the household garbage and carry that out to our garbage can out beside the garage that gets emptied by a garbage truck every Friday morning. I certainly didn't want any salmon skin stinking up our house.

A couple days go by and we have another full bag of garbage. On my way to do an errand, I open the door of our minivan to allow our youngest daughter to climb into her seat while I take the full bag of garbage and add it to the outside can. Knowing full well it would stink, I held my breath as I lifted the lid, stuffed the new bag of garbage inside, shut the lid and got a few paces away before resuming normal breathing operations. As I was buckling up the youngest in her car seat, I was hit with a wave of rotten smelling seafood. I quickly hopped in the car and took off hoping to let the area clear out while I ran my errands.

However, for the rest of the day, whenever I got into the minivan, the stench was so overpowering that I would gag and cough until I could get the engine fired up and the front fresh air blowers on high.  I thought it would eventually air out and dissipate but the next day it was even worse than the first. I bought some activated charcoal which I spread in a big dish on the floor and bought one of those vent clip on air fresheners. I put a fan blowing the air onto the charcoal thinking that eventually it would filter out the odors. That evening, it still smelled just as bad or worse so I went nuclear. I bought one of those Christmas tree deodorizers that hang from the rear view mirror in the scent of vanilla and a tub of this odor absorbing paste that people put in their house after a fire to rid it of smoke smells. By now, the scent of vanilla and spring rain (scent of the clip on air freshener) were so overwhelming when I came out of my meeting last night around ten o'clock, that I could smell my car 20 feet away with the windows closed! I opened the door and despite the air fresheners, I could still smell the stench of rotten salmon! After turning the blowers on high, I drove home the five minutes it takes but by the time I got there, all the chemicals had seared my nose and gave me a headache. I woke up several times in the night and could still smell those smells.

So on day four, I opened the garage door and let the garage air out for a bit before I ventured inside but still I was gagging the entire time it took for me to back the car out into the driveway. (Which is why I skipped breakfast.) I first power washed the entire outside of the car and then proceeded to spend the rest of the day wiping down every interior surface of the van and shampooing every seat, carpet and headliner. Still, I would get whiffs of the rotten salmon smell over top of all the cleaning chemicals. I'm thinking of just setting the sucker on fire and pushing it down into the ditch.

My wife gets home and starts smelling a spot in the back of van and then proceeds to tell me how five days ago when she was out with some of her friends, they spilled some food in the back of the minivan but she had cleaned it up well and there wasn't any stain. I replied that it couldn't be that because this smell, smells exactly like rotten seafood. My wife said she had spilled octopus..... I still gave her the benefit of the doubt since one day had gone by after the spill and I hadn't smelled anything until the following day. The octopus had also been cooked so it hadn't been raw.

I started sticking my nose deep into the seats and carpet around the van and couldn't really smell anything but the overwhelming smell of cleaning chemicals until I got to the rear cargo area where the octopus spill had happened and there, it definitely smelled like rotten salmon... or as I now knew, rotten octopus. I started removing trim and was able to finally lift up the carpet in that area. The carpet itself is really thin and not made of absorbent material but adhered onto the backside is about an inch or a really dense, very absorbing foam and it was saturated with that liquid stink. Gagging, I ripped the absorbing foam from under the carpet and threw it away. Almost immediately things started smelling better. I soaked the thin carpet in that area with more carpet cleaning/deodorizing chemicals and put a fan along with the previously mentioned odor absorbing paste in a tub underneath the carpet to get it dried out again and hopefully odor free. I'll have to find some sort of replacement foam to patch back into that area eventually but at least that seems a bit cheaper than the alternative of just going out and buying another minivan.

My wife did apologize for not telling me about the spill despite two days of me telling her about the horrible smell and an entire day spent detailing the interior of our minivan, not to mention the $50 odd dollars I have spent on various deodorizing products over the last week. I think she was getting back at me for leaving the sunroof open on her vehicle during a light shower one evening awhile back. The moral of the story however is that one doesn't have to go very far to create one of the most potent biological weapons known to man, especially if like me, they like eating some octopus now and then.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Scrap Wood

I love woodworking but unfortunately, I only have a half stall of a a two and a half bay garage to do my work in. My wife won't let me park all the cars outside permanently but does allow me to park them outside during the day if I'm making a lot of sawdust. So I must drag my equipment out in the mornings and put it back in the evenings.

Somethings however, are not conducive to constantly moving around and thus tend to accumulate in corners as evidenced by my pile of scrap wood seen above. Believe it or not, I had about five half sheets of plywood behind that pile that I had completely forgotten about. Even if I had remembered them, it would have been easier to drive clear across town and buy another sheet than to unpile all that wood to get to the sheet of plywood and put it all back. One day while reading a magazine, I saw a solution to my problem.

The solution was to build a scrap wood cart on caster wheels so I could wheel it out, walk completely around it and see if I have what I need. Back in February when it was 70 degrees out for a couple weeks (much warmer than it has been since), I celebrated by putting that cart together using two new sheets of plywood (before I discovered the five half sheets behind my pile) and some electrical conduit pipe. It has room on the back for full sized sheets of plywood and plenty of bins for smaller items.

As I put my stash of leftover boards into my new cart, I was amazed at how much I had accumulated over the years. Fortunately I barely had enough room for it all and I was able to push it back into the corner again. I now have a mission to try and come up with projects to use up some of those extra materials to get it down to a more manageable size. Now if it would just warm up again so I can get back into the garage.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monastery Falls

My dad in the hole at the top of Monastery Falls
My parents took to kayaking when I was a young kid. When I grew older, they would take their kayaks to a local lake to practice rolling and when they were through, they would sometimes let me paddle it around. Eventually, they paid for lessons up in Wisconsin and those lessons took part partly on the Red River, home of Monastery Falls, so named for the monastery built on the shore of the river overlooking the falls.

It has a six to eight foot drop at the beginning in a very narrow channel that prohibits paddling. At the base of the first drop was a massive all consuming recirculating hole in the water which ate lots of boats and took the lives of more than one person. In fact, the week before I went over the falls for the first time, a local boy fishing upstream and fallen into the river and met his death in that hole. As the water fall widens out, it goes over a few smaller ledges before plunging off the final eight to ten foot drop at the very end into the pool near the monastery. It was very intimidating to a fourteen year old boy learning to kayak for the very first time.

I lined my kayak up with the slot that partitioned the top of the falls and paddled for all I was worth. In order to get through the large hydraulic hole at the bottom of the falls, one had to get enough speed ahead of time for there was no room to paddle once you were actually in the falls until you were in the hole. I did my job well and plunged through the hole with speed to spare. In fact, I did my job so well that my speed caused me to inadvertently eddy out and the point of my kayak speared a crack in the rock.

Instantly I was spun backwards and almost tipped over. Not yet knowing how to roll the kayak, I plunged my paddle into the rocks at the bottom and pushed my way back upright as the water now hurtled me towards the large drop at the bottom. I could see all my fellow classmates and instructor looking at me slack jawed as I tipped over backwards and disappeared out of their sight into the churning waters below.

Somehow I managed to stay upright and paddled back to the eddy at the base of the lower falls, exit my boat and clamor up the rocks to watch my next classmate attempt the falls. I acted nonchalantly as possible when they started peppering me with questions trying to act as if it was no big deal that I had almost died in a falls that had already claimed one person that week.

We spent all afternoon there and I would run the falls several more times, all more successful than my first attempt. The hydraulic hole would eat none of our boats that afternoon. In fact, it was such a pleasant day that we all took turns jumping into the middle of the falls, below the hydraulic hole and swimming down the last and largest drop at the bottom where there wasn't a hole to contend with. I've never been back to the Red River or Monastery Falls but I'll never forget that day.

My dad going over the bottom drop of Monastery Falls

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Pinto

While scanning pictures awhile ago, I came across this one that reminded me of something I had forgotten about, my dad's Ford Pinto. My earliest memories of vehicles on the farm all revolve around this Pinto. It was always a beater of a car in my mind and I can't remember it ever being new though I suppose it was. The back hatch leaked like a sieve until my dad eventually duct taped it "permanently" closed and was driven for many years like that. Other memories are:

Going over to my grandfather's farm for Thanksgiving and forgetting to take the stick of butter we brought along inside. It melted and forever more the car always smelled like rancid butter on hot days.

The Pinto, flawed as it was, had one of the most reliable engines I've ever experienced in a car since. It would start under any temperatures and you never had to crank the starter. It everything was frozen solid, the Pinto would start up. In fact, after sitting behind the shed on the immediate right for a handful of years growing up in weeds, my dad eventually sold it to someone looking for a donor motor. My dad trickle charged the battery and it started right up even then.

Once, while trying to get through a rather deep mud puddle in a gate entrance, the Pinto slid sideways smashing into a post on the passenger side and caving in the front quarter panel. Years later, while sliding into our driveway one snowy, icy afternoon, my dad gunned it to prevent from getting stuck and hit the frozen pile of snow thrown up by the road grader caving in the driver's side front quarter panel. After that, it looked matched on both sides.

Rust eventually got the Pinto which is why it was sitting out behind the shed for a number of years. The drivers seat rusted through the floor pan and sat on the lines routed underneath. The brake lines also rusted out. The fellow who bought it for the engine, requested it delivered so my dad drove it 10 miles through the back gravel roads without brakes to deliver it.

My dad nicknamed it Verge. Not sure why and he doesn't remember or won't admit to why. I've named every car I've ever owned because that is what my dad did.

I'm not sure what is happening in the picture. I'm guessing my dad came home from some project due to the ladder and bucket nearby. He probably took a load in and came back to find my dog Ted laying in the back of the car like it was his doghouse.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pennywise On a Shelf

It will take some background so I'll start at the beginning. Years ago, in an attempt to stave off useless presents at Christmas time, my brother and I declared a truce. We still give each other gifts for birthday but don't during Christmas. Then we both got married. Although not agreed upon or even discussed, we have been buying small presents for each other's spouses that border on the simple to a gag gift. This year I bought my sister-in-law a pair of pug (dog breed) socks since she has a pug dog at home. She in return gave me Pennywise the Clown.

Decades ago when I read a lot of fiction, I was a big Stephen King fan and read all his books. I even had them all in my collection. After I gave up reading fiction to just read non-fiction, I have made an exception for any new book published by Stephen King and will still read (and collect) them. After my brother got married to someone who was also a Stephen King fan, I loaned my collection to her for reading. She really liked the book IT which features Pennywise the Clown and so she found this doll and gave it to me for Christmas this year.

When I got the gift, I wasn't sure what to do with it at first so it just stayed in the back of our car until we got back home to Iowa. As we unloaded the car, I set it somewhere and forgot about it. The kids found it and were creeped out by it which inspired me. When they were asleep, I moved him like the Elf on a Shelf craze going around. The next day they would hunt for Pennywise until they found him. After a few days, I hid him above the bathroom vanity lights and then forgot about him. The kids didn't find him and they too forgot about him. Until last night.

Our youngest 4-year old daughter was stalling from going to bed and when we asked her to go brush her teeth, her answer was she was too tired. Some threats later it changed to she was scared. Finally she went but was crying while brushing her teeth. When I finally went to see what she was so scared about, she pointed at Pennywise. Oh yeah, I had completely forgotten about him. The oldest daughter got out of bed with all the commotion and saw Pennywise too. We got both back in bed and I made a mental note to put him in a new location after the girls were asleep.

Later, I heard some silent sobs coming from the bedroom of my 10-year old daughter. I went inside to see what was the matter and she said she was scared that Pennywise was going to get her while she slept. I should have seen this coming since she still believes in Santa and Elves on Shelves but didn't. So I had to reassure her I moved Pennywise around and that he was an inanimate object and couldn't move on his own. After a few minutes of discussing when I moved him around the various times, she was reassured enough and went to bed. Pennywise moved to his new location above our china cabinet seen in the above photo.

This morning while at the bus stop, my oldest told me Pennywise was almost like an Elf on the Shelf except that I moved Pennywise and the Elf on the Shelf moved by himself when all the kids were asleep! I love childrens power to believe things.

[I have had this post in draft form for a couple months and since writing this, my daughters have taken to hiding Pennywise for me. The last time I saw him was a week ago when I found him underneath my easy chair. He disappeared shortly there after and I haven't seen/found him since.]

Monday, April 10, 2017

1964 Indianapolis 500

I was able to digitize all my grandparent's 8 mm film and have been digesting it over the last couple months. Among the many videos of family was this clip from the 1964 Indianapolis 500 where a crash by Dave MacDonald ruptured his fuel tank and set his car on fire. Another driver Eddie Sachs ended up colliding with MacDonald's burning car and exploded. Sachs died instantly from blunt force injuries. MacDonald was pulled from the wreckage but would later die of his injuries. Several changes to the sport were directly linked to this tragedy. My grandparents had been there to witness and record the entire event while visiting my great uncle who sold tickets at the gate every year.

My great uncle, brother to my grandfather married and moved to Indianapolis to be near his wife's sister and her family however, she died just short of five years later. Due to conflicts between my grandparents and my great uncle, I'm not sure I know exactly why because they were loath to talk about the subject. The most common story however was that she was dropped as a baby which somehow damaged her physical growth. In the videos and pictures I have seen of her, she was indeed deformed and hunchbacked. I have letters she wrote to my great uncle when he was in World War II and she seemed very intelligent. Only recently have I discovered the real story due to finding her death record online. It said she died of acute congestive failure due to kyphoscoliosis which she had since birth. She died at age 44 leaving my great uncle a widower at age 38. He would live the rest of his life alone in Indianapolis and I know from my talks with him, his wife remained his first and only love the rest of his life. When I was a pallbearer at his funeral, I was glad that he was finally reunited with her.

When my great uncle came to visit, he would tell us lots of stories of working at the Indianapolis 500, including the time someone tried to buy a ticket with pennies. My great uncle dutifully sat there and made the person wait as he counted pennies for the next hour and a half and then made the person cough up the couple dollars short they had been before handing them the ticket. I never thought to ask about the people in line behind that person but I'm guessing there were multiple ticket lines. After selling tickets, my great uncle would have to reconcile his till and turn it into the office but then was allowed to watch what remained of the race. In 1964, he would join my grandparents and my grandmother's sister and brother-in-law for the race. Not shown in the video is the post race video of themselves smiling at the camera and passing a beer back and fourth between them.

I've blogged about this in the past but my great uncle was in touch with his artistic side. He loved music (actually owned a record store for a time), acting in off-Broadway musicals, dancing, writing and was obviously still in love with his deceased wife. His seven year younger brother, my grandfather, was mechanically inclined, a very practical man and pretty much the opposite of my great uncle. The differences in personality and age would keep a wedge driven between them for my entire life. Even when my great uncle died five years ago, my grandfather refused to go to the funeral. My parents, mom's brother and I were the only ones to attend along with my great uncles church community. It was a member of my uncle's church,who talked at the funeral about doing taped interviews of my great uncle talking about his childhood and war experience. Eventually she sent me copies of the interviews and they are some of my most treasured things of my great uncle.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Husband of First Cousin Twice Removed

I'm not sure because I'm getting older or because I participate in honoring newly deceased that belonged to an organization that I'm in, but I read the obituaries regularly. My parents who live out in the boonies and don't get a "local" paper unless they drive the 30 miles to town, often miss deaths of friends, neighbors and even distant relatives if I don't happen to catch them and send them to my mom in phone text form. One this morning caught my eye that came from my biological father's side of the family.

Like many American's these days, I'm a product of a divorced family. My father left when I was six years old and never really came back. I remember seeing him once and I think my mom has said I saw him several times before he wasn't interested in any more visits. I know now that he was simply too young to be a father at the time and really don't blame him for leaving. I'm actually always been kind of happy he left because my mom remarried when I was eight to the man whom I have considered my father ever since and my life has been better than I probably deserve ever since.

Anyway, I spent my childhood growing up on a farm surrounded by other families who were always kind to me. It was only after I developed my fascination with genealogy in my adulthood that I realized that all those families were related to me in one way or another. Our closest neighbor, whom I read in the obituary this morning, was married to a daughter of one of my great grandfather's brothers. According to Ancestry, that makes him the husband of my first cousin twice removed. I had forgotten how exactly he was related to me and before logging in to find out, I had thought he had married my grandfather's sister which would make him more closely related but that turned out not to be the case.

Although my family always get along well with this man's children and used to get along with the man himself, he hadn't spoken to us in over three decades despite being only a half mile away and the only neighbor visible from our house. Back in the 80's, his son had gone into "organic" farming which turned out to be marijuana. All summer long, planes kept flying south and low over our farm for reasons we didn't know and only when "harvest" began did we find out. I've told the story before of working on our pumpkin business outside while over 50 "plain" cop cars circled our block trying to apprehend our neighbor's son who had escaped via tractor and was driving through our fields. He was considered armed and dangerous and not one of them stopped and suggested we should go inside. He ended up holding up another neighbor (a distant cousin to him and a more closely related cousin to me at gunpoint and then turned himself into the law.

Although everyone involved knows he turned himself in and he even told his father (our recently deceased neighbor) that he turned himself in, his father always blamed my parents for his capture. We still would talk with his wife up until she died 15 years ago but he would never talk with us. He ended up living to the ripe old age of 95 and I'm guessing carried the bitterness towards my family with him to his grave. My parents will attend his funeral though to support two of his children in their time of grief. The son that did prison time for the above mentioned marijuana bust (at one point was the largest recorded bust in Iowa) is probably unsurprisingly back in prison with several years left of his sentence for having almost a ton of marijuana stored in his garage that he was trying to sell.  Although that happened a county away, 20 years after the original bust and after 20 years of silent treatment by our neighbor, I'm sure my family probably got blamed for that one too.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Origins of Ed
A reader brought up some good questions based upon my post from yesterday and I thought they merited their own post.

Years ago in the pursuit of deeper genealogy, I took a DNA test through It brings up a whole list of worries since DNA tests can open up cans of worms that were meant to stay sealed among families. I have met several people who have essentially learned that they had adulterous ancestors or some that adopted without telling the children somewhere back along their tree by taking DNA tests. The tests can show with a great degree of certainty close relatives back as far as five generations and can match you with others who have the same genetic code. So if you take a Y-DNA test which tests genetic material only along your paternal line and discover you are related to hundreds of Smiths but your last name isn't Smith, it can spell that somewhere along the line, a male Smith ancestor isn't your blood ancestor for whatever reason.

I should break here to say that even though exact copies of your paternal ancestors code is passed down through the years, about once every three to four generations, a mutation of one of those genes can occur. It is natural and happens to everyone which is why we gradually evolve instead of being exact 50% copies of each of our parents. By tracing those mutations and using math, genealogy places can match you to other people with the same mutations and give accurate estimates at how far back you are most likely related.

So saying all that, it was a relief to get back my DNA test and see that all the people who were related to me and matched up by all shared the same surname as my birth surname. I am the product of a knowing adoption due to a divorce so even though I now have a different surname, I still know my birth surname. It has allowed me to connect with other people whom I am related too but with whom we don't know our connecting ancestor. Many times we've been able to figure it out eventually but sometimes we can't. I usually suspect either an adulterous ancestor or a "secret" adoption as the culprit and those are almost impossible to trace without finding a living male descendant along that particular line and having another Y-DNA test done.

I've also had another DNA test done that goes back further in your DNA tree and compares you to millions of other people to measure how "close" your DNA is. They can actually tell  you where your ancestors came from in percentages with a high degree of certainty. For example, I am:

63% Great Britain
23% Europe West which includes countries like Germany, Belgium, France and Switzerland
5% Scandinavian which includes countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark
4% Irish
2% Iberian Peninsula which includes countries Spain and Portugal
1% Italy/Greece

They also have low confidence regions such as Western Asia which includes most of the Middle East and Northern Africa both of which comprise less than 1% of my DNA makeup each. In the write-up, they provide, they state this is most like ancient left over bits of DNA remaining from ancestors who rose up at the birth of humans and migrated into Asia and Europe. They also tested for European Jewish ancestors and Native American ancestors but found no DNA markers for either.

Recently, technology has allowed them to hone in on particular migration waves of immigrants coming to the United States. From my DNA, they tell me that two of them, Early Settlers of New York and Early Settlers of the Northeast, play significant parts to my genetic makeup. The Early Settlers of New York are comprised of German, English, Scottish and Irish immigrants who came in the 1700's and joined the earlier Dutch and Scandinavian groups already in the area. The Early Settlers of the Northeast are the same German, English, Scottish and Irish immigrants but ones that comprise some of the first settlers in the United States. If you compare these ancestors with the map shown on yesterday's post, you can then see their migration routes as they expanded westward and eventually landing in my state of Iowa and producing me who is writing about it some 300 years later.

Early Settlers of the Northeast

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


This map from a blog post on combines my love of maps and genealogy. Back when I started learning about my ancestry, I knew little about where I came from. But as I started tracing their routes, the bulk of my ancestors came through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois into Iowa, essentially the light blue swatch shown in the map above. There were a few exceptions that came up from the red and purple swaths representing Appalachians and Upland South but they were definitely in the minority and as near as I can tell, moved north due to a force known as the Civil War over slavery.

Although completely in control of my destiny, I think, I see this map and can't help but feel like a lemming just running with the herd. I'm not sure what the term for a group of lemmings would be called but if there isn't one I would vote for a "slice" of lemming.

Back to seriousness, I'm guessing these swaths of color are dictated by geographical and climates more than geopolitical reasons. I also guess a lot of it has to do with sentimental reasons as well. I have lived outside my "zone" and traveled even further away but I always get a sense of belonging and home when I return near to where I grew up. I would be interested to see this same map in another few centuries to see how these zones progress but alas, I will be merely some dust, probably somewhere in that swath of blue.

Monday, April 3, 2017


I never dwelled on the subject of inheritance because my family has had a record of living so long. My great grandparents lived into their 90's. My three remaining grandparents are also near their 90's. The one grandparent I lost to Parkinson's disease lived to be almost 80.

My parents eventually brought up the subject a few Christmas's ago while vacationing with my brother and his family in Florida about the estate they plan to leave behind. Normally it wouldn't be a big deal but with much of it in farm land that has dramatically risen in price these last three decades, there may be tax implications I will have to eventually deal with. I still hope I don't have to deal with them for a couple decades to come but it definitely got me thinking.

That discussion planted a seed into my head about what my grandparents will leave behind. I remember staying at their house over the years and sleeping in a bedroom set of this exquisitely beautiful antique furniture that belonged to my 3rd great grandparents. It was thick burl walnut and marble. (The rest got "lost" by a shipper hauling my great grandparents furniture to Florida.) When my grandparents were looking to move to Florida 25 years ago, they had to downsize and my uncle ended up with the bedroom furniture since he had the room. Long story short, he ended up in a nasty divorce and part of the nastiness resulted from his now ex-wife selling that antique furniture for a few hundred dollars at a garage sale while my uncle was out of town.

Now 25 years later, I had hoped they still had some of it left but as we moved what remains of their furniture into their new apartment a month ago, it was apparent that it was indeed all gone. The furniture that remains is either very decrepit pieces from the 80's or some more "modern" stuff purchased in the 90's. It was a little disheartening because I've wanted to have something of theirs to pass onto my family eventually.

I did take the opportunity to convert all their home movies and slides into digital format and still hope to do the same with their pictures when we finally get them unpacked. But seeing them on a computer screen still isn't quite the same as touching something that they loved and cherished. I finally got my chance the other day when my Grandpa asked my Dad or Uncle if they wanted his rifle. My Uncle declined and my Dad, who has several rifles passed down through his family, really didn't want it either. So I took it. It is an old Steven's Savage 87A .22 rifle that has seen its better days, or at least the stock has. It was made sometime in the 1940's so I'm not surprised at the condition of the stock but all the steel components are in perfect condition and well taken care.

I really have no need for the rifle and after taking it apart and putting it back together, I stuck it in a closet and gave all the old ammunition that came with it over to my father to use or dispose. Maybe one day when my daughters are older, or perhaps their children, I will bring it out again and we can shoot off a few rounds while I tell them stories of my grandpa using it to hunt squirrels when he was a young man.

Stevens Savage 87A with stock in better condition than my grandfather's rifle