August 7, 2016

My DNA Craze

I've become a DNA convert.  I didn't dabble in DNA before because, frankly, it intimidated me. And for good reason!  

The topic is complex and the learning curve steep. But I'm putting one foot in front of the other and learning as I go. I don't need to know everything about DNA to just get started. Right?

There are 3 major DNA tests. I've already done AncestryDNA and I'm waiting for results from 23andMe. I've tested my son with AncestryDNA (results pending) and I'm trying to convince him to also test with FamilyTreeDNA, but he is having a hard time understanding why we should spend another $69 on DNA testing. 

He asks "haven't you already done the family tree"?  And then there's "I've already done one test, why do I need to do another"?  If I pushed hard enough, he'd give in and do it. But I don't want to push him into it. I want him to understand the answers to his own questions. But I'm just a DNA fledging and I can't always answer him in a way that satisfies him. Or my answers lead to more questions. Wish he wasn't so dang smart that he wants to poke holes in all my answers!

I've already connected with a couple of cousins and that makes me very very happy. However, DNA has deepened the mystery of my Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, which just makes me even more determined to get to the bottom of it.

I'm attending a DNA Special Interest Group weekly and an intro and more advanced all day workshop. After all that...I'll be pretty DNA literate. I hope. 

July 10, 2016

It was a Nation's Flag

Forgive me. I ask you right up front. Forgive me. 

Why? Cause I'm about to express my opinion about the Confederate flag.  Politically incorrect, I know. And I also know I'm a little late to the party, as usual. But here we go....

Let me just say that I do not get the defilement around this flag. It was once our country's flag, for those who lived in the south, even though that entity ceased to exist 130 years ago. Still.

It was a nation's flag. Not a symbol of hate or ignorance. While I - like most everyone else - abhor the slavery of another human being, it's not totally about the south's desire to keep slaves, although that was indeed an economic issue and the driving force of the War Between the States. 

Further, I totally agree it should NOT be flown above the South Carolina State House. That place of honor should be reserved for the United States Flag.  What are those hillbillies thinking?

I get just a tiny bit offended when I read of the desire to erase this flag from our memories and our nation's history. I identify so strongly as a southerner. This flag is a large piece of my family's story which I've spent nearly 30 years trying to piece together. It's part of my own personal history, thanks to my many ancestors who served in the Confederacy.

It infuriates me that this flag has been so abused and misused by organizations of hate, like the Klan. Neither should it be an emblem in the Civil Rights Movement, in my small but strong opinion OR the mascot of Ole Miss being waved furiously at football games, for Heaven's sake. 

It was a flag that once represented a nation, an idealism, and the ole genteel South.  It's part of our past and present culture. Why do we need to assign any other premise of semiotics to it?

Answer: We don't. 

May 23, 2016

So got my DNA test results back...

So I finally got my DNA test results back. And BOY OH BOY was I surprised!

40% European Jewish. Specifically, Ashkenazi Jew. Seriously?  I guess the data doesn't lie, but who ever would have thought??

What is most amazing about this is that when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my oncologist specifically asked me if I was of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. I said "no, of western European descent". Which was a kinda dumb answer cause I really didn't know the answer since I'd not done the DNA test. Turns out the kind of breast cancer I had was prevalent in the African American and Ashkenazi Jewish populations. I'm 1% African American. 40% European Jewish. Go figure.

Talk about knocking my socks off. For real.

Not that I have a single thing against being of Jewish descent. But golly...I come from a long long long line of Baptist preachers and moonshiners. There wasn't a Jew in the bunch, far as I knew.

Looks like there was. A Jew in the bunch. How cool!

European Jews were primarily found in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Israel with a smattering in Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia and Estonia.

Ashkenazi Jews made up more than 2/3 of the souls killed in the Holocaust. Albert Einstein was an Ashkenazi Jew.  Genetic testing is highly recommended for folks descended from the Ashkenazi.  They are prone to Tay-Sacks Disease, Breast Cancer, Parkinson's and all sorts of other horrid illnesses. 

Lucky us.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the results. I attending an introductory DNA workshop over the weekend. It was about 75% over my head. The other 25% was very helpful. Hopefully, I can use my test results to connect with lots and lots of cousins who are rich in family information and pictures!  Keeping my fingers crossed.

March 4, 2016

Mom and Dad

Carl Donald Stancil and Ann
Gladys Allen on their wedding day
May 2, 1952 in Raleigh, NC
I'm thinking a lot about my mom and dad these days. I think of them every day, but somehow each year between February 2 and April 13, I think about them even more.

Daddy died on 2 Feb 1997 of a perforated intestine. Essentially, he had a hole in his gut. Normally, these things are easily repaired, but he already had end stage heart and lung disease, so he was placed in palliative care with a morphine drip and allowed to pass peacefully and painlessly. He was 66 years old, just 10 years older than I am now. He served in the US Marines for over 20 years followed by another 20 years in civil service. So he gave. More than most.

Mama died 10 weeks later on 13 April 1997. She died of a broken heart, both literally and figuratively. Although she could be a real pickle to live with, she loved my daddy with all her heart. I'll never forget the look on her face when I told her daddy had passed. 

1958 in Hawaii
I recall the shock I felt at suddenly being an orphan, despite my age. BOTH of my parents were gone. It felt quick and sharp. I've never felt so alone. I recall a quote from John Kennedy, Jr that you don't really become an adult until both of your parents are gone. I didn't understand that before but I do now.

My parents are still with me; in ways many might find...well, odd. 

My mother stands in my kitchen and talks to me when I'm cooking. She's often telling me what I'm doing wrong <grin> and she's almost always standing in my way. But in spite of our mother/daughter dynamics, I love that she is there.

Daddy often rides in the car with me. He loved for me to drive him places. He'd sit in passenger seat and say "now honey, slow down...". I have a lead foot and the driving record to prove it. He'd often ask to stop for ice cream on the way home. The man loved his ice cream!

There's no doubt in my mind that my parents loved me with all they had. They gave me everything they had to give. I've done the same for my son. 

Miss you mom and dad! Thank you. For everything.

March 1, 2016

Taking the DNA Plunge!

I did it. I finally did it! I forked over the $99 to have my DNA tested via Ancestry DNA. I'm very excited; 6 weeks seems like an awfully long time from now to wait for my results.

I've been thinking about taking the leap for a long time, but the price tag always stopped me. I'm stingy like that. BUT...then I read Judy Russell's blog post on getting the most bang for your DNA buck. Judy's known as The Legal Genealogist and writes some of the most clear and concise information I've found. Her post on DNA pushed me to DO IT!

So I forked over the $99 and spit in the little container and popped it in the mail. Now I wait.

Really...after all the money and HOURS I've spent over the past 30 years on my genealogy obsession, $99 is very little to pay to take it to the next level. And why not take full advantage of the newest DNA technology to learn more about my family?  After all, DNA testing told me that I carried the BRCA1 gene that gives me a 75% chance of having breast and ovarian cancer, and that turned out to be...well...sadly true. But I digress...

Once my DNA test results are in, I'll be able to link to them on and hopefully connect with new cousins and dig even deeper into my ancestry.

You should do it too!  After all, the more DNA results we have in the pool, the greater the chance we will connect. Come on. Do it. It's just a little spit!

February 21, 2016

John Ruffin Davis

John Ruffin DAVIS is my great great grandfather on my maternal side. He is one of my brick walls and quite a mystery to me. Part of the problem is his oh so common name: John Davis.

I’m not entirely sure whether he went by John or Ruffin. My instincts tell me it was Ruffin, but since that was his middle name it may not appear on certain documents.

Ruffin was born about 1825 in Granville County, NC. He married my great great grandmother, Lucinda Davis, on Janurary 5, 1859. Lucinda was the daughter of Jonathan Davis and Matilda Bailey. A Davis married a Davis. Lovely. One more hurdle in researching this couple.

On the 1850 census, he is living with William Davis, age 28, Susan age 17, and their daughter Virginia, age 3 months. Interestingly, William is Lucinda's half brother whom Ruffin would not marry for another 9 years. Ruffn's occupation is listed as farmer. 

1850 US Census, Granville County, NC

Ruffin shows up on the 1860 census in the Beaverdam area of Granville County as John R. Davis at age 35. He is living with wife Lucinda, age 20, Francis Allen, age 30 and daughter Indiana, age 6 months. I've no idea who this Francis Allen is - perhaps a family member. 

1860 US Census, Granville County, NC

Ruffin and Lucinda had 5 children:

1.   Indiana, born 20 Nov 1859. She died on 05 Oct 1904 in Granville County, NC at age 44. She married George P LOWERY on 12 Nov 1884 in Franklin County, NC.
2.   Sidney Irvin, my great grandfather, born on 29 May 1860 in Granville County, NC. He died on 03 Mar 1944 in Granville County, of chronic myocardial degeneration (ie heart disease) at age 83. I've heard he was a raging alcoholic. He married Cordelia Ann DAVIS on 24 May 1888 in Granville County, NC.
3.   James Medicus was born on 27 Dec 1864 in Granville County and died on 26 Nov 1932 in Granville County, NC at age 66.
4.   Charles was born in 1870 in Wake County, NC. 
5.    Ed. He may have died at birth.

Ruffin was old enough to have served in the Civil War and may have enlisted in Person County May 5, 1861. He would have been 38. This may explain the gap in his children's birth dates: 1860 - 1864. 

Another John R Davis of Granville County is shown in the American Civil War Soldiers database on He fought for the confederacy in unit 140. Enlisted as a private on 10 Aug 1861 at the age of 29 (would have been born around 1834). Died of disease Jan 31, 1863 in Granville County. 

I can't determine definitely if either of these men was my John Ruffin Davis.

Lucinda married Simon Hall in November 1873, so presumably Ruffin died prior to that. The youngest child for whom I have a birth year was born in 1870, so date of death was likely between 1870 and 1873. I do not find him on the 1870 census.

There is a family story that Ruffin's brother Charlie killed his wife Alice while she held their new born baby in her arms. Charlie was arrested and held in the Wake County jail. Medicus (one of Ruffin's sons and Charlie's nephew) went to visit Charlie at the jail. During the visit, Med mentioned that he'd attended Alice's funeral. Charlie didn't remember killing Alice and he was distraught. That night, he hung himself in the jail using a bed sheet. I haven't found any documentation of this story but it sure makes for some family drama!

If you know a single thing about John Ruffin Davis, I'd sure like to hear about it!

February 20, 2016

Find a Grave - my newest obsession

So I mentioned last month that I've become a tad obsessed with Find a I've used the site for years, it's not a new toy, but lately I've become interested in taking pictures to add to the site.

I've chosen cemeteries where my family members are buried. Most are already listed on the site, and most are 100% documented with pictures. But for those that do not have all the gravestones pictured, I'll drive over, snap the shots, and upload them to the site. Luckily, I live in the land of my ancestors, so all the cemeteries are within a 3 county radius.

What fun! Oh boy, does that mean I am OLD? Yup, I think it does. I'm really trying very hard to embrace my mid-50s. I certainly look that old (thanks, breast cancer) and most days I feel that old. But it's great exercise traipsing around cemeteries and I enjoy the OCD component in checking un-pictured graves off my little list. 

Find a Grave charges a one-time fee of $5 to sponsor a memorial. Sponsoring memorials means all the advertisements are removed and the photo limit is increased from 5 to 20. Each week, I chose one family member to sponsor. I started with my parents and I'm working my way through my direct line ancestors. Then, I'll start on the aunts and uncles.

I've found there can be quite a lot of politics on the internet around Find a Grave. I try to stay out of the fray and take a fairly liberal attitude toward transferring memorials to people who are more closely related to the deceased than me.

It's a fairly harmless hobby, right? Keeps me off the streets at night!