DNA for Adoption Research: “Nice to Meet You!”

dna for adoption research holiday tableAs a daughter of an adoptee, this season I am grateful I can use DNA for adoption research. Seats at my genetic holiday table are gradually filling, even if some place cards are just penciled in.

At this time of year when many of us are spending more time with family than we otherwise might, we often reflect on the empty seats at our table. We think of those who weren’t able to travel to the family gathering, and back to those who have passed on. For some, however, a long empty seat has been filled this year, thanks to the assistance of a DNA test.

Earlier this year we related the story of Mary McPherson and her cousin Dolores Washington-Fleming who discovered a common connection through Peter Edward Williams. Mary is a descendant of his wife and Dolores through his slave.

Mary and Dolores welcomed this new connection and shared information about their common ancestor.  As they reunited for the first time, perhaps they talked about what life might have been like in the 1850s in the south, and how their ancestors would’ve never guessed that the two of them would be gathered around the same table.

DNA for Adoption Research

As word spreads of the power of DNA testing to reveal the secrets of the past, many adoptees are flocking to genetic genealogy testing companies with the intention of filling the empty seats at their holiday tables.  The New York Times reported a touching story of Khrys Vaughan who felt her identity crumble when she found out she was adopted. Turning to DNA testing, she was able to connect with cousins and feel a biological connection she didn’t know she had been missing. Even though she still has many open seats at her table, she felt that filling even one meant that she was no longer biologically adrift, but could now look at someone and say, “This is my family.”

A similar story broke recently out of California. Just days old, Jen Chervin was found outside a hospital in Yuba City, CA. That was 40 years ago. But this year, Jen used the power of the genetic genealogy database in combination with some serious genealogy work to find her parents. While neither is in a position to openly embrace her as a daughter at this time in their lives, Jen now has a name card to place at seats of honor around her holiday table, all thanks to a simple saliva test.

This has been a landmark year in my own family. In one seeming miracle after another, I have added the names of maternal grandparents and great grandparents to my family tree as DNA testing has helped my mom fill in some of the missing pieces in her life. We have had a true Texas welcome from some of her paternal second cousins, and an outpouring of kindness from a maternal second cousin. While our place cards for mother and father are only tentatively penciled in, I know as I look around our genetic holiday table that I am excited about the new faces I see and I can’t wait to learn more.

How to Get Started Using DNA for Adoption Research

If you want to get started filling seats at your table, there is no time like the present to give yourself (or someone else) the gift of DNA testing! (Remember, before you get started, make sure you’re emotionally ready for the unexpected. You never know what “surprises” you’re going to unwrap when you start genetic testing.)

My quick reference guides will guide you through the process and act as a reference tool along the way. It will tell you that the first rule in DNA testing is to test the oldest generation. So parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles should be first on your list. If you are that oldest generation, then pat yourself on the back and get swabbing!

The savvy shopper begins with the AncestryDNA test for all interested parties, and the YDNA 37 marker test from Family Tree DNA for all males. Then sit back and wait for the results to roll in! As they do, check back here at Genealogy Gems for tips on how to use that data to fill seats at your holiday table next year.

More Inspiring Gems About DNA for Adoption Research

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Heritage Recipes – Aunties, Sprinkles and the Santa-in-His-Cap Cookie Cutter

I’m blessed to have oodles of oft-used and much loved heritage recipes and cookbooks from the ladies in my family who came before me. But I’m not the only Lisa who does. I’ve invited my good friend Lisa Alzo to visit with you here on the Genealogy Gems blog.

Lisa is the author of Baba’s Kitchen and a well known genealogy lecturer.

She’s has also presented genealogy sessions at the Genealogy Gems booth at national genealogy conferences. 

In today’s post, Lisa Alzo is  generously sharing one of her mouthwatering holiday heritage recipes, and, most importantly, the loving genealogical story behind it.

So preheat your oven, pour a glass of eggnog, and spend some time with Lisa and her Aunties:heritage recipes cookbook

Reflecting on Family Traditions

“I’ve been thinking a lot about family traditions lately.  Perhaps it’s because I have been spending the majority of this year sorting and organizing family treasures, or maybe it is the approaching holiday season that makes me feel sentimental about food, family, and special times.

Each December, one of my favorite traditions is baking Christmas cut-out cookies, using this recipe that my dad’s sister Betty (“Auntie B” as I called her) passed down to me.  I have many fond memories of baking these cookies with another “Auntie”—my father’s other sister (Sister Camilla) when she came home for the holidays to Pittsburgh from the convent where she lived in Texas.

holiday heritage recipes : Lisa Alzo and Sr. Camilla Alzo making Christmas cookies in December 1972.

Lisa Alzo and Sr. Camilla Alzo making Christmas cookies in December 1972.

To be honest, my mom would do most of the hard work of preparing the dough and rolling it out into large ovals on the wood cutting board dusted with flour. Auntie and I were in charge of the frosting and decorating, which in my opinion, was the best part.  After all, Santa needed a big plate of these cookies when he dropped by.

The recipe has always been a favorite in our family because it is not just a plain sugar cookie, but has a hint of almond that provides extra special flavor.

For me, the holiday season is not complete until I make these cookies. So, every year I play holiday music, make the dough, use the Santa-in-his-cap cookie cutter (I still have the original), and sprinkle the red crystallized sugar on top of the powdered sugar icing on the freshly baked cookies. Inevitably, my mind always wanders back to the wonderful Christmas memories my aunts created with me.

Traditions are a part of our family history. This tradition stayed with me so much that I included the recipe for Auntie B’s Cookies in my book, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions. I’m pleased to share it with Genealogy Gems readers.”
– Lisa A. Alzo

Thank you, Lisa! I’m definitely going to whip up a batch of these and I’m sure I can entice Davy and Joey to do the sugar sprinkling!  Happy baking and Merry Christmas.

More Holiday Heritage Recipes Inspiration

Heritage Cookbooks: Recipe for a Sweet Family History

Little House on the Prairie: A New Cookbook (and Old Documents)

Cooking Up More Family History

Check out my fun retro recipe video called Cooking with the Toastite below. It features my conversation with the author of From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes Gena Philibert Ortega. I interviewed her in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episodes #137 and #138.

NGS 2016: Attend Virtually with Streaming Sessions

NGS 2016 offers a virtual streaming package for online attendees this year–and Lisa’s new Google Earth class is part of it!

The National Genealogical Society (U.S.) is counting down to its annual conference on May 4-6 in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Now you can count down the days, too, even if you can’t attend in person. NGS 2016 is offering registration packages with remote access to 10 live-streaming lectures that you can watch from your own computer or mobile device.

One of Lisa Louise Cooke’s NGS lectures, “How to Follow and Envision Your Ancestor’s Footprints Through Time with Google Earth,” is among the classes being streamed.  Here’s a quick run-down of the two days:

Day 1: Land Records, Maps and Google Earth:

  • Mapping Apps for Genealogists, Rick Sayre, CGSM, CGLSM, FUGA.
  • Private Land Claims, Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA (on foreign land grants and subsequent records that proved legal ownership in territorial areas prior to U.S. acquisition)
  • Are You Lost: Maps and Gazetteers for English and Welsh Research, Paul Milner
  • Deed Books: More Than Just Land Records, Vic Dunn, CG
  • How to Follow and Envision Your Ancestor’s Footprints Through Time with Google Earth, Lisa Louise Cooke

Day 2: Problem Solving with Proper Methodology, Historical Context and DNA

  • Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • Sharing With Others: How to Convey Evidence, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG
  • Systematically Using Autosomal DNA Test Results to Help Break Through Genealogical Brick Walls, Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • Helen F. M. Leary Distinguished Lecture, Ethics in Genealogy— Professional and Personal, David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA
  • Doughnut Holes and Family Skeletons: Meeting the GPS through Negative and Indirect Evidence, Stefani Evans, CG

NGS 2016 official social media badgeThere are Live Streaming access registrations options for each day (5 lectures each for $65/$80) or a bundle for both days ($110/$145). (Prices are for NGS members/non-members.) It’s a fabulous price to access classes that were hand-picked from among the top-notch instruction provided at NGS. The lectures will air as they happen on May 5-6, but virtual attendees will have access to the classes for a full 3 months (through August 7, 2016).

For NGS members who purchase access all 10 classes, they’re paying just $11 per class! Click here for more info and to register. And watch the calendar–registration for NGS 2016 Live Streaming access ends April 22, 2016 at midnight.

Picture3Come see us at NGS 2016! After a fabulous response last year, Genealogy Gems will once again host FREE presentations in the Exhibitor Hall. Join us in our brand new Genealogy Gems theater. Our popular sessions help you think outside the box for greater genealogy success (and have fun and get free swag while you’re at it). Click here to check out the full Genealogy Gems Theater schedule.

Photo + Story Competition: RootsTech 2018 Contest

A new Photo + Story competition will be part of RootsTech 2018! If you can take a story-filled picture and caption it meaningfully, you should enter. Check out these tips for creating winning family history photo and story combinations. Winners will receive prizes from Canon and Dell–so start putting together your best photos and stories.

Photo + Story Competition

RootsTech 2018 Photo + Story Competition

“A good photo tells a good story. And behind every good photo and story is a photographer who recognized the moment the two had come together and snapped the shutter.” So says the press release announcing RootsTech 2018‘s Photo + Story Competition. Here’s how to enter:

“Participate by finding or capturing a photo and story, past or present, of you or a family member. Unlike standalone photo or story competitions, we want you to use the power of both photo and story to share, persuade, inform, inspire, connect, and belong.” In fact, some of those verbs are the four categories in the competition:

  • Connect
  • Belong
  • Family
  • Heritage

Winners will awarded prizes from Canon and Dell, which will certainly help your future family history storytelling! Selected entries will appear in an exhibit at RootsTech 2018.

photo + story competition RootsTech 2018This contest complements the appearance of RootsTech 2018 keynote speaker Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton. His personal glimpses into the lives of ordinary people in New York has set a standard for quality photo stories.

Details You’ll Want to Know

Here are several must-know details if you’d like to enter the contest–or encourage someone you know to enter:

  • Entrants can submit one photo and story in each of the categories.
  • Entrants must be at least 18 to apply.
  • No professional qualification, licenses, certificates, or certification is required.
  • If you didn’t take the picture, you must have permission or rights to use the photo (if it was taken after 1923). Agreeing to compete places full liability on the participant.
  • Go to RootsTech.org for contest entry details.
  • The deadline for entries is December 31, 2017.
  • Selected entries will be notified by January 15, 2018, with more information on their intent to exhibit.

Family History Storytelling Tips for You

At Genealogy Gems, we’re all about helping you to discover, preserve and share your family history. If you’re thinking of entering this contest, consider how the following tips, adapted from a Genealogy Gems article on family history storytelling, can help your Photo + Story competition entry:

  1. Create vivid “characters.” Photos can capturing someone’s expressions, body language, mood, unique clothing or a moment of intense personal drama. They can also create compelling portraits of the heirlooms or objects that store family memories. Your stories can do the same. Choose unique, meaningful details–both in words and pictures.
  2. Paint the backdrop. What’s going on in the background of your picture? The “setting” and any background action should help tell the story, not distract from it. In your story, add essential details that the image can’t communicate. Is the exact date or place important? What else?
  3. Tell why this story matters. Call it what you will: a meaning, a moral, a message–the best stories and photos say something about life. Something more than skin deep. Think about why the picture and story matter to you. Share it clearly, concisely, with humor or feeling or whatever tone best works for you and the message.

Genealogy Gems will be at RootsTech 2018 to help you discover and share your family stories! Click here to learn more.

 

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU