The Driving Gene: The Journey Begins

Our genetic make-up defines many of our physical characteristics: hair color and type, eye color and shape, skin color, basic body shape, and so much more. It can indicate our propensity toward certain diseases, and it can explain personality traits and quirks. For instance, if I can prove the work done by others before me, I may be able to blame John Howland, the man who fell off the Mayflower, for my inherent clutziness. That would explain a lot!

I told a cousin the other day that I think my love of driving is genetic, as well. Dad loved to drive. Unfortunately, as my sister and I can verify, he didn’t like to stop much. I don’t mind stopping every couple of hours, but I tend to keep it to less than 15 minutes when traveling alone.

Today I drove the first, and shortest, leg of my 27-day journey–from Willows to Sacramento. I don’t mind flying, but driving has its perks. You can see much more of the natural beauty of this great country, and do it so much better, from the window of a car than a plane. You can travel with anything you want, as long as it fits into the trunk of your car, and the extra space inside. (I actually had a lot of free space this trip!)

As I was driving I saw the usual signs of spring in the rural Northern California countryside. Dust was flying in fields where tractors worked in prepartion for planting rice. Almond and walnut trees were dressed in their brand new spring-green frocks. The tall weeds in the medians were waving their green tassels in an April, kite-perfect wind. The pastel blue sky was speckled with families of puffy-white, cumulus clouds. A beautiful day for a drive!

Do you prefer to drive, or fly? Maybe you prefer trains. (I have only been on a few short train trips.) I bet your family would be interested in hearing about one of your trips. Come on. Go ahead. Take a chance. Show Your Tale…


Happy DNA Day!

Hope you aren’t tired of hearing about DNA. I know it can be an iffy topic, but thought I would share a few of my experiences and some things I have learned along the way. Among other things, it is important to remember that DNA testing and traditional genealogical research must go hand-in-hand to achieve the greatest value of any test results we receive by spitting or swabbing. How our ancestry looks on paper, through the records, could be, and probably will be, different from how our ancestry is defined genetically.

I have tested with four different companies–DNA Spectrum (no longer in business), Ancestry, Family Tree, and 23 & Me. In honor of DNA Day, I plan on sending in my 5th test today to My Heritage. I first learned about DNA testing for genealogy through National Geographic’s advertisements for their Genographic Project. I got curious. Then, in 2013, while attending a Family History Conference in Sacramento, I signed up with DNA Sprectrum. After receiving and analyzing my saliva, they sent me lots of fun lists, charts and graphics. I was totally surprised by many of the resulting groups in my ethnic distribution, but then I didn’t know much about DNA testing at the time. I loved that it showed I had a little Romani Gypsy in me, though. (That explains my love of travel. Ha, Ha) Other unexpected groups included Iberian, and American Indian. There were many expected outcomes, as well, such as German, Swedish,  and Western European.

The other three testing companies returned results  mostly similar to each other, but only vaguely similar to that of DNA Spectrum. (Perhaps the latter company was a deeper DNA test, like the Genographic Project 2.0.) It is important to remember that every company has a different database. Perhaps more and more people are testing with multiple companies, as I recognize this trend among my peers, but there are other differences from one testing company to another, including how matches are determined.

Blaine T. Bettinger’s book, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy (Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2016) is full of wonderful information to help even the novice understand the basics of DNA Testing and how it supports genealogical research. The book is full of graphics to demonstrate the meaning of the text. Eleven myths about DNA testing are discussed, as are the different types of DNA tests–autosomal, mitochondrial, Y-DNA, and X-DNA. The examples come from the author’s own test results and demonstrate the differences between the three major testing companies. For those who want to know more about analysis, Bettinger further demonstrates how to use the most popular third-party tools in the industry. There is even a chapter especially for adoptees. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about DNA testing and what all those results mean.

Never stop learning… DNA can even help you Show Your Tale in new and interesting ways.


Then & Now: Bass Lake Revisited

(August, 1957– I was not yet five. The two boys with me in the picture were sons of one of my parents’ friends who were camping with us.)

Making special memories with your children is not always easy for working parents to do, but it is one of the most important. Our parents were hard-working people, but they understood that kids are only kids for a short time. Every childhood memory of my summer vacations includes a two-week camping trip to one lake or another.

For many years we went to Bass Lake near Yosemite. I loved the water, could hardly get me out of it, but I wasn’t a great swimmer, yet. However,  thanks to my sister Carol, I learned to float on one of those trips. And then there was the time I fell asleep in our boat when I was supposed to be the observer while my older sister skied behind. By the time Dad noticed he was only towing a rope, she was quite a ways back, her head bobbing above water. Oops! Sorry, Bonnie.

Bass Lake Revisited 2017

October, 2017, I had a chance to revisit Bass Lake. Sixty years later! Standing on the shore near the falls, looking across to where we used to camp, brought a flood of happy memories. The campfire shout around the lake in the evening–“Elmer…. Mother’s calling!”  (Or so, I recall.) Boating. Swimming. “Observing.” The falls. Day trips to Yosemite. But, as an adult, the lake looked so much smaller. (Most things in the world are big through the eyes of a child.) It was wonderful to see through my childhood’s eyes once again. Thanks for the memories, Bass Lake.

Bass Lake 2017

(Left) Friends and our swimming area in the background.                                          (Right) Mom, Dad, and my godmother Mary Jane hanging out.




2019 International German Genealogy Conference

July, 2017–The International German Genealogy Partnership (IGGP) held their first-ever family history conference in Minneapolis, MN–CONNECTIONS: International Cultural Personal. Instead of an expected 250 attendees, the conference committee was ecstatic to host over 700. It was one of the best conferences I have ever attended! What else would you expect when you gather together a group of German “cousins” from all over the world who are interested in finding their connections to the past, to the present, to each other? It was so great in fact, many people said, “Just give me a few days to regroup, then let’s do this again!”

Well, it is going to be more than a few days, but the Sacramento German Genealogy Society (SGGS) is hosting the 2019 International German Genealogy  Conference, June 15-17. The theme is “STRIKE IT RICH! with Connections 2 Discoveries.” If you have German ancestors and want to learn about the best resources and methods for German genealogical research around the world, or want to connect with possible cousins, I would encourage you to attend this marvelous conference.

For more information about this conference and IGGP, go to