family

DNA, NPE, and Family Secrets

This post isn’t exactly photography related, but it’s about something that has been very much on my mind and heart in the last couple months.

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by family stories and relationships- how do we all connect? I wrote out family trees while still a child, although they only went back to my great-grandparents- and weren’t entirely accurate.  I think some of this fascination had to do with being an only child; I wanted more PEOPLE!

Well, I have them now! We are still a small family, but our family tree includes 6,057 people at last count.

In the last year, I’ve developed an interest in DNA as a genealogical tool, but, truthfully, it was hard to wrap my mind around triangulations, chromosomes, centimorgans and segments. Still is! However, some unexpected DNA cousin matches in the last couple months have motivated me to learn to apply science to my lifelong hobby.  You see, when you have your DNA done, you not only learn your ethnicity, but you see how other people who have taken the test are related to you. People can be totally private, but their user names still pop up as matches and their relationship to you is estimated by the number of centimorgans you have in common. There were some surnames in four close cousin matches that were totally unfamiliar to me- and they had trees!

Without divulging names and where they fit on our tree, I will say that at least 3 of the 4 were adopted- and one has not written back.  And they were from the same general geographical area.  A mystery- and I love mysteries!

The more I went through their sketchy, incomplete trees and those of dozens of others that connected to them, the more I realized we had an NPE- a Non-Paternal Event, which means that the father of record is not the biological father. This was not a huge surprise, because there was a known ancestor who we had heard was not the actual father. About ten years ago, I decided to incorporate the father of record into our tree and had traced his ancestors back to colonial days. Now it looks like there will be a whole new line to investigate.

The adoptees that I wrote to knew the names of their birth parents, but not their ancestors- except for one. And I’ve found how she connects to the others- most likely through her unknown father’s line. This is the fun part. The hard part for me is seeing the broken families in the trees and imagining the hardships some of these people were facing.

The evidence is not solid yet on how these adopted cousins fit into our tree; I can connect them more easily to each other than to us- except through DNA. And the conventional wisdom is that DNA doesn’t lie- people do. Yikes.

I’m sure this post is hard to follow without more specific details, but I’m trying to respect the privacy of family members. I have mixed feelings about the whole situation- it is so wonderful how DNA can bring people together, but it also can reveal secrets that the people involved may never have wanted to be revealed. There are ethical dilemmas involved.

And then there is another DNA family story that will have a happy ending- just not yet.  Almost fifteen years ago, a twenty-some year old second cousin of Lonnie’s named Kenny (whom he had never met) contacted us wanting to share family history. He has the mind and dedication of a cold-case detective and is highly skilled at tracing family from past to present, as well as present to past (and all on his PHONE!). While other genealogy contacts have come and gone (or died. . .), I’ve been talking to Kenny (and, in recent years, texting with him) regularly all these years. And. . . DNA just showed us that he and Lonnie are not related. This has been very upsetting to say the least, but, since we know family is not all about DNA, he is and will always be our cousin.

So, as you may surmise, despite being very busy getting ready for two photography shows and leading an otherwise busy life as well- I have been obsessed with family history- and not getting much sleep. I keep putting my files aside, but then just can’t seem to step away from the computer!

So that’s what I’ve been doing!

 

 

 

 


Lite Brite!

One of our children’s favorite toys when they were little was a Lite Brite. When I taught preschool, I had one for my students as well. You can imagine how excited we were to find a WALL of Lite Brite at the aquarium. I think Miles would have loved to play there a lot longer.


Wearing of the Green

Life has been too busy and full of fun to do blog posts! We are just home from taking the boys to the airport in Phoenix, and the house seems very empty.

I did post these on Facebook, but never got around to putting them on the blog.  Treasure hunts have been a tradition in our family since I was a little girl. This time, a leprechaun upstaged me and borrowed my treasure chest to create a treasure hunt for Miles and Henry on St.Patrick’s Day.

The festivities continued on into the evening with a non-traditional St. Patrick’s day Chinese fried rice dinner and hot fudge cake and ice cream to celebrate the birthday of their 2 year old golden retriever, Penny, who is back home in Alaska. Tons of fun!


The Boys and Friends

The boys are here, and life is good! We are busy with outings and play and just hanging out. I’ll share photos when I can.

My pig collection, probably only about a quarter or less of what I had when I was teaching, has been supplemented with Bun Bun, Ottsie, and Fro Fruie. I’ll be so sad when the boys are too old for stuffed animals!


Alaska Kids!

We have just returned from a weeklong trip to Alaska, where we had a wonderful visit with my daughter’s family in their beautiful new home.  Alaska is everything we heard it was and more- majestic peaks, glacial waterways, wildlife, and an abundance of wildflowers. We can’t wait to go back!

Of course the reason for our visit was these guys! They are settling into their new life and were eager to tell us about the otters and other animals they had just seen, as well as the wild berries and mushrooms growing in their yard. They will be starting school in a couple weeks, so their lives will quickly become very busy.

The photos below are from a walk we took at the Eagle River Nature Center, just a few miles from their house.

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Next week, I will share some of the photos I took of our short trip to the Kenai Peninsula and our all day boat trip to the Kenai Fjords.


Expressive!

Henry_facesThese are just a few of the many expressions that drifted across Henry’s face as he played a game of Mancala (thank you, Debbie!). No one could ever accuse him of being self-conscious!


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Going to Miss These Guys!

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Junior Rangers!

We are having a major heatwave, so our two days at the Grand Canyon were punctuated by frequent stops to refill water bottles and stand in the shade. The highlight of the trip was the boys being sworn in as Junior Rangers by a close family friend of theirs, who is indeed a big important ranger at the Grand Canyon.  The boys completed all the required pages (at different skill levels) of their official Junior Ranger books and then were sworn in front of a small crowd of curious tourists. They already have badges from Yellowstone, but this particular badge was significant because of the friend that did the ceremony for them. A sweet moment! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of them wearing the badges. . .

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And here is a shot of the canyon (I’m amazed it’s as sharp as it is, since it was too hot to carry a tripod and the railings were too hot to lean on to steady the camera!):

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First Look

We just returned from the Grand Canyon and had the joyful experience of watching the boys have their first look at one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Here’s Henry taking it all in:

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Happy Father’s Day!

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When your family lives in three different states, it’s a rare day when you can all be together. Caitlin and the boys have been here a week, and Matt drove in on Thursday- what a joy it’s been to have both kids and grandkids with us. We are missing Justin, Caity’s husband, because he used the week to drive (pulling a trailer) from their previous home in Yellowstone to the new one in Anchorage, accompanied by his brother, Kris and the family dog, Penny.

Happy Father’s Day to the proud Papa in this photo, to the absent daddy in Alaska, and to all the wonderful dads out there!


The (little) Magician

Henry and Miles were both entranced by The Magician, the photo I took of our friend Dale a few weeks ago. I asked them who they thought was in the photo, and Henry tentatively asked, “Santa?”.  When I told them that it was someone they knew, they both realized it was Dale. They were curious about how the magic got into the photo, so this morning we re-created the photo with Henry as the magician. I think he enjoyed being dressed up and posing more than seeing how the magic got into the photo.

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After viewing the print, he said there was one thing he didn’t like about the photo- his FACE. Caitlin says he doesn’t like mad or sad faces in books. He certainly enjoyed making all sorts of faces for the camera!


The Master Builder

We ordered some new lego sets for the boys before their arrival, including a huge ship for Miles.  He completed it with no help within hours- he’s pretty amazing!

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They’re Here!

Life is busy and fun right now, because our daughter and sweet grand-boys are here! They are moving from Yellowstone to Anchorage, Alaska, and are visiting with us for two weeks while they are in between houses. They arrived Friday evening, and we spent most of Saturday at the new Legoland Discovery Center and Aquarium in Phoenix- a fun way to begin our visit together. We will be busy keeping them entertained over the next two weeks, so my blog posts will be intermittent.

There were LOTS of Legos to play with.

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Miles LOVED building structures and testing them out on the earthquake table.

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Assembling Lego cars and sending them down a ramp was a lot of fun.

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Yup- life is good!


Big Wow!

For the last month, three photos of mine have been hanging at ‘Tis, a downtown gallery right on the square. I must admit I have visited them there more than once.

Below, you can see my husband, the art critic, analyzing Dandelion Dreams.

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And here are Moonburn and Daydreaming (I think I overuse the word dream in my photo titles. . .):

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This whole gallery experience has felt like I’m playing at being an artist, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.  I still have one photo on display in another gallery at Prescott Center for the Arts, and I was awarded an honorable mention for that one (I didn’t even realize there were awards). The planets must have aligned just right!

Yesterday, the last day of the show at ‘Tis,  I went to pick up my photos. The curator said I could only pick up one, and when I asked why only one, she replied “Because the other two are SOLD!” You could have knocked me over with a feather! I’m pretty stoked!

So Dandelion Dreams and Moonburn didn’t come home- and that’s more than okay with me!


Christmas Past

Christmas 2015 is already a part of the past, but, as we head toward 2016, I am hesitant to let go of the spirit (and decorations!) of Christmas. I suspect our tree will stay up until New Year’s.  We had a wonderful, though quiet, Christmas with our son, Matt. Lots of food and movie-watching!

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The moon photo was taken Christmas Eve through our front window. Although I saw the historic full moon on Christmas, it was already high in the sky- and I didn’t attempt another photograph.  Anyway, I was distracted by a fabulous Christmas gift I received from my husband- the Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens(!) and by some fun and very useful photography accessories from my kids (mini reflectors and a plant clamp for flower photography- and a thermarest seat for sitting down on hikes to take said photos!).  The snowflake ornament photo at the top of the collage above was taken with the new lens, which does great macro as well as portrait photography.

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season!