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DNA For Hipsters

November 20, 2016 7 Comments

brother's estimate

brother’s estimate

my estimate

my estimate

The subject of DNA testing has become more and more popular since directed some television programming at discovering the ethnicity of celebrities.  Many folks are surprised to learn their DNA reveals a different or much more complex ethnic background than they had assumed.  It is particularly poignant for black people to trace their ancestors back to slavery and find out how much non-African DNA they have.  The show and the advertising have increased the number of people sending samples to the database at This has the effect of defining all of us in the database with more precision.  I think that this is one way to eradicate racism. Our connections are much more complicated than any of us have been thinking.

The more DNA they have to compare, the more specific they can be. When I first took the test the program was new and not well known.  My profile initially told me I was 98% from the British Isles, and trace elements.  I was not very impressed.  As the database grew my profile showed more specificity including western Europe.  Recently my brother sent in his saliva in order to help a man find his birth father.  He has distant DNA links to our family and asked us for some help with his own research.  Male DNA reveals more than female, so my brother complied with his request.  I had heard this before, but when I studied my brother’s DNA results I was surprised to see he had more detail than I did.  We had the same parents for sure.  My partner said it is because my brother is a later model, but this makes no sense. I think it is because he is a male.  I will get to the bottom of this.  In the meantime I have started to investigate some of the 550 DNA matches that Ancestry has compiled for me over the years while I basically ignored this feature.  It is really interesting and fun.  They send me new connections all the time with charts about the lineage.  I am into it, and have made progress on my tree.  I have confirmed some sketchy connections in my research, and found many new ones.  DNA is where it is happening for my investigations right now.  It is yielding progress.  I paid my annual subscription fees this month, but feel really good about all the value I get from  The more DNA they collect the better it is for me, so send your spit to my database, please.

DNA testing for the public is a huge growth market.  It is also the talk of the town.  When I ran into my friend who is a doctor and knows she has Swedish ancestry did the test at 123 and Me recently.  She did it because it is possible to test for genetic predisposition to disease as well as for contraindicated medications.  She wanted to know which meds are going to harm her. I did not know that was part of the information being shared, but that does sound incredibly useful.  I need to check back with her to see what she learned beyond what she knows from that old family bible in Swedish that tells part of her story.  Everyone finds surprises.  Have you done any DNA tests yet, gentle reader? What have you discovered?  What made you decide to do it?

#Weekendcoffeeshare Time Travel

March 9, 2015 5 Comments

This weekend the transporter cloaks are outfitted with time travel capabilities. We are able to zoom through both space and time at will now. I figured once we had warmed up,why not go on an excellent adventure with these cloaks?  I spend a lot of time studying my family tree. It is a fascination of mine that teaches me history as well as how my own family members were acting at various times. I have started to think beyond what I know, beyond the facts that have been recorded, in each of the personal dramas of my ancestors.  I have been thinking about the role that Selma, Alabama played in my mother’s ancestry.  Her ancestors lived there and some fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  They were a religious group who founded a Baptist church in Texas after the war.  I keep contemplating how religious people could believe in slavery.  I can come up with no logic for that situation. If we were having coffee this weekend I am afraid we would have to take up some heavy subjects like racism and liberation.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and was living in Venezuela when the first march on Selma took place 50 years ago.  My own exposure to racism and class divisions was played out in the petroleum camp where I lived in South America.  I lived a privileged life of an imperialistic overlord, and was enthusiastically in favor of it because I was 13 years old.  I now believe that immature societies take advantage of weakness and corruption rather than building up the core strength of the population.  Dictators and now terrorists make it a goal to dominate, control, and torture others.  I am not sure if this is relatively new, or if people have always used power to harm others.

I invite you for coffee in 1865 in Selma, Alabama at Elizabeth Langley, my 3rd great-grandmother’s house.  Maybe she can answer some of the questions many of us must have about slavery and emancipation.  I hope she will help us make sense of the seeming contradiction between Christian faith and the Confederacy.  I want to ask her about the day 100 years before the 1965 march with Dr. Martin Luther King, when General James Wilson was followed by the liberated slaves on the exact same route followed in 1965.  I want her to tell us what it was like to hear about black men marching behind the army that freed them.  I am sure Elizabeth will whip up a mean batch of biscuits for all who are hungry.  Her southern hospitality will not fail to make us feel at home, I am sure.  There will be rocking chairs out on the porch for rest and conversation before we cloak back to this century.  I look forward to hearing about your week and your take on life in 1865.  Thanks, as always, for your company.




Institutional Racism in 2014

April 28, 2014 1 Comment

Sports fans and all Americans need to be ashamed that this much institutionalized racism can exist in professional sports.  When I was a child I was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, with special emphasis on my love for Roberto Clemente.  I went in person to many games at Forbes Field, and listed to the others on my transistor radio.  I hold a big grudge against my dad for an incident that took place when I was about 10.  We went to lunch at The University Club before games, then walked to the field.  One such day Roberto himself was eating in the dining room at the University Club before a game.  I wanted to get his autograph, naturally.  My dad was very strict and gave a lecture about treating everyone with respect.  Of course this was the first black person I had seen eating in that dining room, and it may have been many years before there was another.  Richard Arden Morse was a bit of a racist in some ways, but he was firm about not disturbing Roberto to indulge me.  I was angry (and still am, if truth be told), but I will always remember the point.  It had to do with dignity, and making sure his visit to our snooty club was treated as a natural event.  I loved Roberto for his athleticism, and was unaware until later in life of his fight to attain equality as a black baseball player.  He is still me favorite athlete of all time.

This rings in my mind when I see this Sterling guy still living some horrible stereotype lifestyle that belongs in the distant past.  The nasty truth about this story must be exposed.  In no uncertain terms we must reject his behavior.  Each of us has some part to play in this, if only by voicing an opinion.  I am with Magic in thinking he needs to say he does not want to own a team now.  What do you think, gentle reader?  Does this freak you out?

Ruby Taylor on Racism

July 14, 2013

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace, and a soul generated by love.”
Coretta Scott King

I know a very special woman through social media named Ruby Taylor.  She lives in Lancaster, PA, a town I knew well because I spent a year going to boarding school in Lititz, PA.  She has a wonderful attitude, but the reason she caught my attention is that my mother’s name is Ruby Taylor.  I study my ancestors to learn about ethical will and history.  This week I thought about slavery in terms of my slave owning ancestor who ran away to Florida with her slaves in order to be in Spain in the 1700’s.  She actually bought and sold slaves in Florida.  This is heavy, and I can picture the whole crazy trip. Meanwhile the Zimmerman verdict was delivered in Florida.  Much ado…

The most profoundly wise statement of the day came from Ruby Taylor:

“Truth the prosecutor did a poor job preparing the case and in his closing statement proved the case for the defense.Next we need to be just as vocal when people in the inner cities kill black children no matter the race.My brother Daniel Tyrone Taylor was shot in the head and murdered by a black boy at the age of 16 years old. So, to me murder is murder no matter the race.We have a justice system and whether you agree or not justice was served. Justice does not mean the verdict is what we want. Justice mean the case was heard in court and the jury made a decision based on the evidence.My view and my truth.Be mad at violence and the lost of life not just because the person holding the gun was white.The family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against Zimmerman and the proof and evidence is much less.I just do not want justice for Trayvon I want justice for every child black, white, and/or hispanic who is murdered. Justice and protection for all children.Good Night!”
Being mad at violence is the only rational reaction.  Ruby Taylor of Lancaster, I sincerely hope we are blood relatives.  Ruby Lee Taylor of Humble, TX changed her middle name to Lea because she didn’t really want to be named for Robert E., but you can never change your ancestry or the part your family played in history.  You can learn from their mistakes which was the entire purpose of the mistakes.  Justice and violence don’t mix, gentle readers. Let us all find ways to reduce violence in the world.  Ruby says smiling counts, and I am absolutely sure that she is right about that.

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