BIGSbits & pieces

Here you will find a variety of content that will be updated regularly. Be sure to check back!

Pat's Prompts - October 2023

Autumn Traditions

This photo is of a Texas High School Senior dressed elaborately in her “mum” for Homecoming! A strong Southern tradition!

Other traditions call for Halloween costumes, parties, trick or treating, hay rides, a pumpkin farm visit, and yummy sugary foods to warm our hearts!

What favorite memory do you have from childhood, teen years, college days? Take this moment to jot down the memory that comes first to mind. My memory below is a favorite anecdote about our Alaska life.

The first year Don and I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, our sons were aged 2 and 3.5 years. We were so excited to take them trick or treating – bundled up, to be sure, because that day the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees below zero! As California transplants, we thought surely we could trick or treat to nearby houses. “Cheechakos” (Newcomers) is what we were! So, with boys in costumes over snow suits, Don and his friend Phil carried them out to the sidewalk. In ten minutes they were back. Neighbors wouldn’t open their doors, but called from inside, “No trick or treating this year.” In the far North, casual social life pauses in the face of minus 50 degrees. The following year, I celebrated Halloween with my boys by organizing a noon-time neighborhood parade of snow-suited preschoolers, some costumed, some with masks, and all happy to be outdoors in a comfortable temp that was about minus 25 degrees! Then back to our house for hot chocolate, cookies, and games! Assimilation!

No doubt some autumn traditions played a part in your life. Share your memories and we’ll post them over the next few weeks. Please send your responses to Larry Noedel or Susie Wood. Thanks!

DNA Ditties

What can you learn from your DNA matches? (Part 1)

There are many uses for DNA matches and many ways to use DNA information. Let’s discuss some basics.
1. Discover and connect with known or unknown DNA cousins. If you recognize someone’s name from your DNA match list but you never knew them or lost contact, you immediately have a way to contact them. You may not recognize the name of a close match, perhaps because they are using an alias or their married name, but when you look at their family tree you immediately know who they are. But perhaps you have a reasonably close match with no public tree or very limited tree information. You can contact them to ask for more information, or try to build their tree backwards in time based on what little information they provide.
2. Use DNA matches to validate (or invalidate) your own tree. The fact that you and individual X have a reasonable DNA match means that you both descend from a common ancestor (or ancestral pair). If you can identify that common ancestor from examining your tree and their tree, you have validated the research you did to identify that ancestor. The more DNA cousins you can find that descend from the same ancestor, the more certain you can be of the validity of the ancestor. Even if the trees of you or your DNA cousin don’t go back far enough in time, and have tools (ThruLines and the Theory of Family Relativity, respectively) that suggest how you and individual X might be related, using information from any trees that are on their sites. Not all of these suggestions may be correct, but you are able to examine all the evidence to decide if you believe the proposed relationship. Note that, for these tools to work for you, you must have your DNA test linked to your family tree on that site ( Conversely, if you have an extensive family tree, well populated with siblings of your direct ancestors, and you are not finding any DNA cousins on a particular line, it may be time to worry that you have a mistake on that branch of the tree or there is a previously unknown adoption or non-parental event.
3. Use DNA matches to build out your family tree. 
4. Use DNA matches to explore non-paternal events or adoptions.
These last two uses involve similar problem solving techniques and we will discuss them next time.