Acknowledging Ancestry.com’s Assembled Content and Delivery Systems


I am quite impressed with some major and recent improvements in Ancestry.com’s products and services marketing.  Yes, that’s right, I said “the ugly word–marketing, ” as inferred by those who haven’t been involved in it or have been the victims of marketing done poorly.  Yet, I’m here to give credit to Ancestry where credit is due because they are effectively using tools and techniques to reach me with the kinds of information and articles that I’m interested in while not being intrusive about it. I see it as a “take it or leave it opportunity” for me to learn more about a topic in which I am interested.

For example, one of the probably lesser known features on Ancestry’s site, is its blog page that I have occasionally visited, enjoyed, and all too often have forgotten about in the midst of all life’s goings on. Yet, I happened upon an ad about this blog today under CNN.com’s “Paid Content” when I opened their breaking news page. The image and headline that drew me in are on the left, here.

Now, I’m already a long time subscriber to Ancestry.com’s suite of online genealogical tools and features, so it costs me nothing more to follow down their marketing path and enjoy the extra wares provided.  And, when I find something that I like, I immediately think about others like me who also might be interested.  Needless to say, I share my finds regularly either in my blogs or on Facebook, or the like, as I am today. While I am not trying to be necessarily an unpaid/unsolicited advertisement for Ancestry.com, I believe in the power of word-of-mouth coming from peers who like me like what they see or read and are all into sharing.  Similarly, I appreciate others reaching out to me with items that they think I’ll like just because they know a bit about me and my likes.  Bottom line, if you are already an Ancestry.com subscriber these blogs and their interactive information are free.  If not, multiple times within the article appear clickable online banner ads like the one on the left of this text which takes you to Ancestry.com’s subscription page where you can see all your subscription options.  Now, let’s look more closely at the interactive and customized information that you can glean (if you choose) from today’s blog:

Do You Come From Royal Blood? Your Last Name May Tell You. – Ancestry Blog

 

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the London School of Economics conducted the study, which they published in the journal “Human Nature.” . . .

Using Surnames to Follow the Wealthy

The researchers based their study on families with unique last names. Those unique last names made it possible to trace the families through genealogical and other public records. In England, those aristocratic names included Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham.


Enter your last name to learn its meaning and origin.

Enter your last name to learn its meaning and origin.

The social scientists looked for those and other unique, upper-class surnames among students who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities between 1170 and 2012, rich property owners between 1236 and 1299, as well as probate records since 1858 — which are available on Ancestry.com.

So I entered my maiden name “Bolling,” using the older European version of it with the double “ll’s” instead of a single “l,” as we spell it today.  Voila!  Here’s what I got:

I was amazed at all the readily available and thoroughly interactive information at my fingertips.  Above, in the upper left top section, you can navigate an interactive geographic timeline distribution of people with the surname “Bolling” who lived in England, Wales, and the United States from 1840 to 1920.  In the upper right of this section, you can browse all the census and voter lists for Bollings.  It gives you the option to filter results and views by record or collection by years and/or collections by Country, or individual records.

In the lower section of the page, below, you have access to five drop down windows with even more detailed information about origin, immigration, life expectancies, occupations, and Civil War Service Records–all from various collections available through your Ancestry.com subscription.

And, more . . .

At the end of this very information-packed and fully interactive blog appeared the following series of images and headlines under the heading “More On Ancestry:” Similarly, they are packed with more fully interactive information from various Ancestry.com collections.

While I have chosen to focus this blog on Ancestry.coms paid content that I happened upon when browsing CNN.com’s site, I would suggest that all Ancestry.com subscribers visit/revisit Ancestry’s page to view firsthand the wealth of information and resources that can help make your family history journey more interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding.  And, remember, to check out Ancestry’s products and services in the right-hand column of your home page.  For example, video tutorials and short courses at Ancestry Academy, or learn more about AncestryDNA, their newest data collections, etc.

And a Big “Also Note”.

In the upper right hand corner of the “More From Ancestry” image, above, you see “by Taboola.”  Are you wondering what this is or means?  Well, here lies the secret to how Ancestry and other businesses are improving their content distribution and driving targeted traffic from their sites to us.   Taboola is one of the world’s leading content distribution companies that drives information to sites that we visit because they thought we would like it based on our interests and/or visits to previous websites (remember all those warnings about ‘cookies’). The delivered content is paid for by the company whose ad we clicked on–in this instance, Ancestry.com. ​ So, all these years of people talking about those horrid cookie files that invade our computer experiences–finally, I got a cookie that I enjoyed!

 

 

 

Alarming Witch Hunt – Another Ancestor Accused –


Thirty-seven or so years into researching my family’s history, I still remain committed to it.  Some days my findings seem to be the same old stuff and on others, I am literally knocked out of my seat by them–like today!  I am reviewing hints about family members that I haven’t spent much time with and I stumble right into another witch hunt. This time, 17 years have passed since my ninth maternal great aunt, Mary Bliss Parsons was accused and tried of being a witch and “questionably” acquitted (it is told her acquittal was due to her husband Joseph’s ability to purchase her freedom).

Characteristics of 17th Century Persons Accused Witches

Now, let’s understand just how (in the 17th Century), you might find yourself accused as a witch.  Here’s a list of nine characteristics according to the 17th century British sources used by Massachusetts courts — Richard Bernard’s Guide to Grand Jury Men…in Cases of Witchcraft, William Perkins’s Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, and John Gaule’s Select Cases of Conscience Touching Witches and Witchcrafts — and more recent studies such as John Demos’s 20th century work Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (Oxford):

  1. You are female.
    All through western history more women than men have been accused of witchcraft. It took less for a woman to be considered out of line.
  2. You are middle aged.
    Although suspects in 1692 ranged from Mary Bradbury in her 80s to the approximately five-year old Dorothy Good, most supposed “witches” were in their late 40s and 50s. Maybe other adults were resentful of a bossy mother-figure, or maybe not.
  3. You are related to or otherwise associated with a known suspect.
    As William Perkins pointed out “witchcraft is an art that may be learned,” so even if you weren’t a middle-aged woman you might be accused if you were friends with a suspected “witch” or if the neighbors had had their doubts about your mother, especially in 1692.
  4. You are of an English Puritan background.
    For the most part, the accused came from the same majority ethnic group as the accusers.
  5. You are married but have few or no children.
    Neighbors suffering misfortune might think you were attacking their larger families from jealousy especially if you lacked kin to speak up for you. Unprotected widows were at even more of a risk.
  6. You are contentious and stubborn with a turbulent reputation.
    Where a man might be considered forceful, a woman might have been labeled as contentious. The situation would be worse if you were also at odds with your own family. After all, the Devil encourages discord.
  7. You have been accused of other crimes before such as theft or slander.
    As John Gaule put it a “lewd and naughty kind of life” was just the sort of thing that attracted devils.
  8. You are of a relatively low social position.
    Status and rank was stronger in the 17th century. Being too often dependent on the neighbors’ help could cause them to resent you.
  9.  A confessed “witch” accuses you of being a fellow witch.
    This was a big problem in 1692 when so many suspects “confessed” from fear, confusion, or an attempt to curry the court’s favor. These confessing accusers generally named people already under suspicion.

And, our lesson learned from all this?

Anyone might be accused of witchcraft. But if you were a widowed middle-aged English Puritan woman with few if any living children and had slim financial resources, were known for having a temper and were suspected of petty crimes (whether justified or not), and might have been related to or were friends with someone else who was suspected of witchcraft — watch out for your neighbors.

In our hunt, however, the accused is not a female, but rather, my 61 year old 9th paternal great grandfather, Robert Williams, a Puritan, emigrant from Norwich County, Norfolk, England, and a cordwainer (leather worker or shoemaker) by profession for a short time (Literally, a “cordwainer” is someone who works in “cordwain,” an archaic word for cordovan leather), who emigrated to Massachusetts aboard the John & Dorothy of Ipswich at age 29 in April 1637.

In 1644 Robert became a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company (the oldest chartered military organization in the western hemisphere).

Twenty-five years later in 1669, we find Robert Williams listed among the accused as a witch in Hadley, Massachusetts. A complaint is filed accusing him of being a witch. He appears before the courts–an indictment preliminary to trial occurs–then he is tried and acquitted of his charges at this trial.

In Law and Liberty in Early New England: Criminal Justice and Due Process, 1620-1692, By Edgar J. McManus (1993), Appendix D., Page 211, cites Robert Williams as being accused of witchcraft and then shows the verdict as acquitted, but adds that he was whipped and fined for lying.

Now, here’s a real lesson for all you budding family historians and researchers 

Please sit up and pay attention here.  How closely did you look at the List of Accused Witches, above?  Did you take a good look at the entry for accused Robert Williams, or did you like me, just drop your jaw, and move forward?  In my case, my “moving forward,” meant looking for more specifics about Robert’s accusal/accuser.

After querying and browsing a few hours searching on Google, I happened upon an Ancestry.com message board entry from “Lois in Michigan” that dated back to 2012. Lois queried:

…I have looked in many, many places, checked out recommended reference books, and looked in the Suffolk Co. court transcripts, but have either missed it or looked in the wrong places. I believe he was associated, at various times, with Roxbury, Hadley, and Stonington [Massachusetts]. Any help would be much appreciated.

(So, I, unknowingly, had followed in Lois’ steps.)  Six hours after Lois’ query came this response from “LSLangille:

Search GOOGLE BOOKS with his name in quotes as such: “Robert Williams” witchcraft Massachusetts.
There’s about 5 or 6 hits.  Search for his name in here too:
http://books.google.com/books?id=CkNMR7L68I0C&dq=%22Robe…

And then, Lois’ final comment in this threaded discussions:

Thank you so much! Found him! To my disappointment, the Robert WILLIAMS accused of witchcraft was not the Robert WILLIAMS who was my ancestor….

Once again I followed Lois’ steps to prove for myself her findings.  And my 9th great grandfather Robert Williams was of “Roxbury,” and was a man of means.  Meanwhile, the listed Robert Williams was of “Hadley,” and a servant!

And, here’s the “icing on the cake.”  In the book Colonial Justice in Western Massachusetts (1639 – 1702) THE PYNCHON COURT RECORD,  I find my own proof that in fact there was a Robert Williams of Hadley as well as a Robert Williams of Roxbury:

An entry at the March 29, 1670 court held at Northampton notes that Robert Williams of Hadley, a former servant, was bound over to the court by John Pynchon in ten-pounds bond and, for want of sureties for his appearance, committed to prison. The ground for this action was the offender’s “notorious Lyinge,” but he was also suspected of witchcraft. The evidence of witchcraft was not of sufficient force to keep Williams in prison or to warrant sending him to superior authority. However, for his lying, Williams was adjudged to pay a five-pound fine to the county, to be whipped with fifteen stripes, to pay all charges of his imprisonment, and to stand committed until the court’s order was performed. This punishment, harsher than that appointed by law, was undoubtedly influenced by the suspicion of witchcraft.

And, here’s a map that shows the close geographic proximity of Hadley, Roxbury, and Northampton:

So, whatever happened to my 9th paternal great grandfather, Robert Cooke Williams–who was not an accused witch?

Fast forward to 1684. Robert Cooke Williams is now 76 years old.  He is still living in the midst of all this mass hysteria and scapegoating within these dark times in our American History known as The Salem Witch Trial Era.

Four of his five sons are still alive.  Their ages are 44 to 52.  He first wife, Elizabeth died 10 years prior; he has been married to his second wife, Margaret for nine years.  King Charles II has just revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s royal charter, a legal document granting the colonists permission to colonize.   It is still a devout and strongly religious community, with people living in near isolation, and still fearing that the Devil was constantly trying to find ways to infiltrate and destroy their Christian communities. Conversely, King Charles believed the colonists had broken several of his charter’s rules; including basing new laws on their religious beliefs and discriminating against the English Church and Anglicans.

King Charles II died in 1685 and King James II replaced him.  In 1686, King James II merged the Massachusetts Bay Colonies (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) into one large colony known as the Dominion of New England. And, in 1688 he again expanded the dominion to include New York and New Jersey as well as instituting a royally-appointed government with many new and more strict laws.

Occurring next, The Glorious Revolution in England,  when Mary and William of Orange took over the throne from James II.  Upon learning of Mary and William’s take over in England, the colonists especially in the Massachusetts Bay executed a series of revolts against the government officials appointed by James II. And in 1689, these colonists overthrew the unpopular Dominion of New England.

And now, it’s 1692, Robert Williams’ age is 84 and unperceived to anyone, Robert is living the final year of his life still in the midst of The Salem Witch Trials which were in full stride. The trials began in February 1692.  Finally, the colonists began to doubt that so many people could actually be guilty of witchcraft. They feared many innocent people were being executed. Local clergymen began speaking out against the witch hunt and tried to persuade officials to stop the trials, but the executions continued through September 22 when the last eight people were hanged.  In October 1692, the 52 remaining people in jail were tried in a new court and pardoned or released from jail by May 1693.  In all, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 were killed.

Finally–I am without words!

 

 

Adding “Genetic Communities” to My DNA Results


Evaluating My DNA Testing Results

It has probably been three or more years since I first received my DNA test results that I ordered through Ancestry.com.  Initially, I was very disappointed with the look and feel of Ancestry’s DNA feature–it merely showed (based upon my DNA sample test), that I descended from Europeans who had migrated to the New World.  Now, the only way I wouldn’t have already known this was if I had been an ostrich with its head buried in the sand for the past 400 or so years.

Over the past 18 months or longer, Ancestry has continued to add, or in its opinion, improve to its list of features like its “lifestory” option which assimilated facts from my collected documentation in my family tree to general historic timeline narratives of events in close proximity with a given fact.  It was a good try, but, in my opinion, something I preferred to research and narrate on my own with more specificity, if and when I chose to do a write about an individual.

Ancestry Releases Another New Feature

Then, this week, Ancestry sent me an email announcing more new features to help me better connect my people and my places to historical details and migration paths.  It seems AncestryDNA™ has become the largest consumer genetic testing company with 3,000,000 people tested; 80,000,000 trees; and 19,000,000,000 records.  And this time, Ancestry uses its vast collection of DNA results to tap into its family history resources and create an all-new feature “Genetic Communities™,” which in turn helps me fill in missing pieces about my family’s story and how it inter-relates to the geography, times, and stories of other families.

Earlier results broke down my ethnicity origins into a mere four regions of the world. With today’s results (that will continue to grow over time, since this feature is in its Beta version), I can browse over 300 Genetic Communities using MapBox open source geospatial maps that Ancestry integrated into this new feature.

So Just What Is A “Genetic Community”?  

Ancestry describes a genetic community as a group of AncestryDNA members who are connected through DNA most likely because they descend from a population of common ancestors, even if they no longer live in the area where those ancestors once lived.  The image below shows that my ancestors and I are part of two genetic communities in which our connection is very likely or possible:  Early Settlers of Lower Midwest & Virginia and Early Settlers of Tennessee and the Deep South.

And further,  below is just one of six time-line examples within the “Early Settler of the Lower Midwest & Virginia” Genetic Communities™: (1700-1775 “Into the Back Country,” 1775-1825 “Kentucky Fever,” 1825-1850 “Along the Mississippi,” 1850-1875 “War Hits Home,” 1875-1900 “The South Industrializes, 1900-1950 “An Urban Life,” in this new feature. Although, not shown as links, you can click on each name from your tree and it will display this person on the MapBox map, (which you can zoom in or out of for greater or less geographic detail); and you can also click another link that will allow you to view each person’s profile details from inside your Ancestry family tree.

“Into the Backcountry 1700-1775”

By 1700 flourishing towns and small cities dotted the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Many new immigrants from England and Germany, and Scots-Irish from northern Ireland, pressed into the rugged country to the west where they could find land, religious tolerance, political freedom, and economic opportunity. They faced threats from the French on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains and native peoples who resisted encroachment on their lands.

People in Your Tree

  1. Elizabeth Williams Settle  B:1661 D:1724
  2.  Elizabeth Frances Triplett B:1670 D:1710
  3. Deborah Hearn B:1670 D:1731
  4. John Powell B:1670 D:1731
  5. John Bourne B:1672 D:1720
  6. Ethelred Taylor B:1675 D:1716
  7. William George Wharton B:1675 D:1740
  8. Elizabeth Johnson B:1676 D:1760
  9. Elizabeth Duke B:1677 D:1725
  10. Susan Alvis B:1680 D:1735
  11. William Kinchen B:1681 D:1735
  12. Thomas Chowning B:1684 D:1782
  13. Elizabeth Ruffin B:1685 D:1761
  14. Sarah Davis B:1686 D:1721
  15. William Taptico II B:1690 D:1719
  16. Elizabeth Barrick B:1690 D:1724
  17. Sarah or Mary Ann Lee B:1690 D:
  18. William Elliott B:1692 D:1750
  19. Frances Rachel Riley B:1692 D:1751
  20. Lettice Bourk B:1693 D:1727
  21. Mary Fellows B:1693 D:1747
  22. Capt. John Higginbotham B:1695 D:1742
  23. Benjamin Asbury B:1695 D:1750
  24. John Jett B:1695 D:1771
  25. William Guttery B:1697 D:1723
  26. Frances Brown B:1698 D:1755
  27. Etheldred Taylor B:1699 D:1755
  28. Ann Elizabeth Wells B:1700 D:1770
  29. Robert Kyle B:1702 D:1774
  30. Benjamin Bowling B:1704 D:1767
  31. Betty Ann Campbell B:1704 D:1779
  32. Mary Williams B:1705 D:1735
  33. Samuel S McGehee B:1706 D:1788
  34. William Tapp B:1707 D:1791
  35. Christian Bourne B:1708 D:1791
  36. Mary Elizabeth Bland Blair Bolling B:1709 D:1775
  37. Thomas Wharton B:1711 D:1748
  38. Robert “Chowning” Chewning B:1711 D:1843
  39. Mary Elizabeth Elliot B:1714 D:1745
  40. Moses Higginbotham B:1714 D:1790
  41. James Whitlock B:1715 D:1749
  42. Aaron Garrison B:1715 D:1758
  43. Patience Kinchen B:1715 D:1765
  44. Agnes Christmas B:1715 D:1768
  45. Elizabeth Birdwell B:1717 D:1816
  46. Betty Guttery B:1718 D:1743
  47. Jane Sparks Miller B:1720 D:1756
  48. William Balum Dempsey B:1720 D:1777
  49. John Asbury B:1720 D:1812
  50. William Brown B:1722 D:1793
  51. Jonathan Stanford B:1723 D:1792
  52. Jean Bolling B:1724 D:1795
  53. Elender Nellie Last B:1725 D:1760
  54. Susanna Watson B:1728 D:1751
  55. Vincent Tapp B:1729 D:1791
  56. Mary Mollie Meadows B:1729 D:1800
  57. Robert Bolling B:1730 D:1775
  58. James Powell B:1733 D:1816
  59. Frances Kyle B:1734 D:1825
  60. Benjamin Bolling B:1734 D:1832
  61. Mary Leavette B:1735 D:1791
  62. Mary Mollie Jett B:1736 D:1823
  63. Mildred “Millie” Stephens B:1739 D:1781
  64. Charles Whitlock B:1739 D:1814
  65. Charles “Chowning” Chewning B:1739 D:1816
  66. John Wharton B:1741 D:1816
  67. Esther B:1742 D:1811
  68. Samuel C Mcgee McGhee B:1744 D:1814
  69. Rhoda Morris B:1745 D:1827
  70. William Garrison B:1746 D:1824
  71. Winifred “Winnie” Elizabeth Garrison B:1747 D:1835
  72. Grace Brown B:1748 D:1789
  73. Mary Elizabeth Stanford B:1749 D:1828
  74. Jane Bowling B:1750 D:1809
  75. James Bartholomew Warren B:1750 D:1813
  76. Samuel Young B:1751 D:1800
  77. Susan B:1752 D:
  78. George Asbury B:1756 D:1819
  79. Sarah Jane Yancey B:1756 D:1820
  80. Daniel Dempsey B:1759 D:1846
  81. James Moses “Old Moses” Higginbotham B:1760 D:1826
  82. Elizabeth Betsy Dempsey B:1760 D:1840
  83. Eleanor Garrison B:1762 D:1856
  84. Jarrett Bowling B:1762 D:1857
  85. James Tapp B:1764 D:1860
  86. Elizabeth “Betsy” Garrison B:1765 D:1826
  87. Ptolemy Powell B:1767 D:1843
  88. Wiley L McGee B:1769 D:1845
  89. Sarah “Sallie” Chewning B:1771 D:1834
  90. Andrew Austin Wharton B:1773 D:1835
  91. Frances Withers B:1774 D:1850
  92. Elizabeth Leavette B: D:1771
  93. Thomas Leavitt B: D:1771
  94. Thomas Whitlock B: D:1832

MapBox Time Period View of Ancestral BirthplacesB

Bottom line, I am enjoying browsing and navigating the “Genetic Communities” feature because I always wanted to geographically place my ancestors together along a timeline to see their proximity to each other and how their lives might have been the same or dissimilar. If you are an Ancestry.com customer, who hadn’t yet heard about Ancestry’s newest feature and its options, I hope you will check it out and let me know what you think.

On This Day: April 5, 1614 – Pocahontas Marries John Rolfe


Article Details:  POCAHONTAS MARRIES JOHN ROLFE
Author:  History.com Staff
Website Name:  History.com
Year Published:  2009
Title:  Pocahontas marries John Rolfe
URL:  http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pocahontas-marries-john-rolfe

On the 403rd Anniversary – The Story of the Marriage of My Paternal 11th Great Grandparents

Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Indian confederacy, marries English tobacco planter John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia. The marriage ensured peace between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians for several years.

In May 1607, about 100 English colonists settled along the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. The settlers fared badly because of famine, disease, and Indian attacks, but were aided by 27-year-old English adventurer John Smith, who directed survival efforts and mapped the area. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, Smith and two colonists were captured by Powhatan warriors. At the time, the Powhatan confederacy consisted of around 30 Tidewater-area tribes led by Chief Wahunsonacock, known as Chief Powhatan to the English. Smith’s companions were killed, but he was spared and released, (according to a 1624 account by Smith) because of the dramatic intercession of Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan’s 13-year-old daughter. Her real name was Matoaka, and Pocahontas was a pet name that has been translated variously as “playful one” and “my favorite daughter.”

In 1608, Smith became president of the Jamestown colony, but the settlement continued to suffer. An accidental fire destroyed much of the town, and hunger, disease, and Indian attacks continued. During this time, Pocahontas often came to Jamestown as an emissary of her father, sometimes bearing gifts of food to help the hard-pressed settlers. She befriended the settlers and became acquainted with English ways. In 1609, Smith was injured from a fire in his gunpowder bag and was forced to return to England.

After Smith’s departure, relations with the Powhatan deteriorated and many settlers died from famine and disease in the winter of 1609-10. Jamestown was about to be abandoned by its inhabitants when Baron De La Warr (also known as Delaware) arrived in June 1610 with new supplies and rebuilt the settlement–the Delaware River and the colony of Delaware were later named after him. John Rolfe also arrived in Jamestown in 1610 and two years later cultivated the first tobacco there, introducing a successful source of livelihood that would have far-reaching importance for Virginia.

In the spring of 1613, English Captain Samuel Argall took Pocahontas hostage, hoping to use her to negotiate a permanent peace with her father. Brought to Jamestown, she was put under the custody of Sir Thomas Gates, the marshal of Virginia. Gates treated her as a guest rather than a prisoner and encouraged her to learn English customs. She converted to Christianity and was baptized Lady Rebecca. Powhatan eventually agreed to the terms for her release, but by then she had fallen in love with John Rolfe, who was about 10 years her senior. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas and John Rolfe married with the blessing of Chief Powhatan and the governor of Virginia.

Their marriage brought a peace between the English colonists and the Powhatans, and in 1615 Pocahontas gave birth to their first child, Thomas. In 1616, the couple sailed to England. The so-called Indian Princess proved popular with the English gentry, and she was presented at the court of King James I. In March 1617, Pocahontas and Rolfe prepared to sail back to Virginia. However, the day before they were to leave, Pocahontas died, probably of smallpox, and was buried at the parish church of St. George in Gravesend, England.

John Rolfe returned to Virginia and was killed in an Indian massacre in 1622. After an education in England, their son Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia and became a prominent citizen. John Smith returned to the New World in 1614 to explore the New England coast. On another voyage of exploration in 1614, he was captured by pirates but escaped after three months of captivity. He then returned to England, where he died in 1631.

Sleepy Hollow: To be, or not to be


Regular readers of my posts quite likely already have noticed that these writings are about the histories of people, places, and things that I have recalled, researched, or fact-checked to the best of my ability and chronicled here because I hold something about their existence near and dear to my heart.  Infrequently though, I add humor and on rare occasions I hint at what could be or might have been, if only . . .  In today’s post, I add to this list another of my interests:  partially fiction and partially factual stories (my timing is rather apropos, don’t you think?) that I value because they spark my imagination or provoke treasured thoughts and emotions within me–regardless of their venue, they resonate within my lover of history, adventure, and nostalgic longings.  For these reasons, I write today about:

Sleepy Hollow – The TV Series (2013-)

Charismatic and well-polished English actor, Tom Mison, breathes eloquent depth and fullness of character as he portrays fictional Ichabod Crane.  In 1781, while a George Washington protagonist and working as a double agent for him during the American Revolutionary War, Crane beheads “The Headless Horseman” (the character from the fictional short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by American author Washington Irving).  In 2013, after having been frozen in time for 250 years, Ichabod Crane awakens in present day Sleepy Hollow, New York. This is where producers’ Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s story line about the seven years of tribulation and the meeting of the two chosen witnesses from the Bible’s Book of Revelations (Ichabod one of them) begins. The main storyline centers on the personification of the two biblical witnesses (prophets) who are tasked to thwart off the apocalypse. Thus, Crane finds himself in the foreboding situation of having to find and kill the fiendish Headless Horseman once again.  To help him through these challenging times, he draws upon his personal knowledge of and relationship with George Washington, George Washington’s letters and bible and his new associate, Deputy Sheriff Abbie Mills who has just learned that she is witness number two because of her sightings of phenomena in her childhood.  Most of Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills research and planning for their daunting task takes place in  “The Archives,” a property of the Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s Department, where deceased Sheriff Corbin kept all notes about Abbie and her sister’s sightings and other supernatural findings that he assembled throughout his years in the department.

With each new episode and every new season, the stories and characters arise to every occasion to always cleverly save humanity and the world.  2016’s Season 3 finale left me literally weeping. Then with changes to the setting and some of the cast in 2017, I found myself somewhat disenchanted with the Season 4.  But, I remain a staunch fan of the storyline and Tom Mison.  Producers have not yet made a decision about creating a Season 5.  And, as I watched the season four finale this week, I sense it is very likely that I watched the finale of the series.  I feel a sense of loss that leaves a new emptiness inside me. I know nothing can last forever and that’s it’s only a TV show; but, if there is another chance for renewal, I hope the producers return to the successes that we loved in seasons one through three.  As we have seen repeatedly during the past four seasons and 52 episodes of Sleepy Hollow (and other popular fictional series), those who we thought were killed or died, have surprisingly and cleverly rejoined the living.  Just say’n, here, folks.

And finally, thanks to all those great adventures and pauses from reality that I so enjoyed in Sleepy Hollow.  And to my readers, thanks for joining me during my pause from “just the facts.”  Hats off, too, to Kurtzman and Orci for all of their top notch movie and tv productions, and a special thanks to Tom Mison, for all his dedicated and intricate acting talents and skills in bringing to life, Ichabod Crane.

From Spit to SNPs: Decoding My DNA


A few years ago I spit a small amount (about two tablespoons) of my saliva into a specimen collection tube provided in a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing kit that I ordered through Ancestry.com. My goal was to learn about my ancestors’ through their genealogical beginnings and follow a familial chain of genetic links from generation to generation. Initially, I was disappointed with my scant results and what to me were already obvious findings. That is, that 77 percent of my ancestors originally hailed from Great Britain and Ireland–something I already had discerned from handed down family history and my own 35+ years of genealogical research looking back and identifying family branches across many generations of ancestors. Next came Ancestry.com’s sharing of likely genetic family matches through their own standards for confidence ratings based upon thousands of DNA tests purchased. As the growing number of persons getting tested grew, genetic scientists were busy decoding DNA into SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. In fact, they occur once in every 300 nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 10 million SNPs in the human genome.

Recent and rapid scientific, forensic, and technological advances in DNA analysis and the increased understanding and use of these DNA studies has brought forth even more relevant and interesting information about me and my family that goes beyond the former traditional genealogical links to my past.  In fact, studying these SNPs that make up genetic differences has proven to be very important to broadening my understanding of our family’s health issues. These studies also have helped medical geneticists discover how SNPs can help predict individual’s responses to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors such as toxins, and risks of our developing particular diseases. SNPs also can be used to track the inheritance of disease genes within families.  Along this short but fast-paced trek into DNA I have been given new proof of more familial relationships than I had ever been unaware of and have discovered some family members that I hadn’t seen or heard from in years.

Before these new DNA discoveries, when visiting doctors or discussing family health conditions among others, I relied upon personal histories and documentation of conditions, diseases, and  causes of death.  Now, moving forward I can potentially use these new genomic analysis results to look at calculations of risks for genetic health conditions and potentials to increase my quality of life and have a clearer understanding of my inherited conditions and propensities to specific diseases.

So, a few days ago, I simply Googled “advanced analysis of genetic data,” which led me to:  www.impute.me.  Next, I attached my DNA test results from Ancestry.com that I received a couple of years back to their form and emailed them.  Just two days later, free of charge, I received a return email that gave me a web site address so I could download my personal imputed genome analysis file.  They also provided their web site address to modules that would help me explore specific findings of my genome analysis.  Absolutely interesting and amazing data!

On impute’s site appears a GWAS (genome-wide association study) Calculator module, among other modules.  The GWAS module focuses on associations between SNPs and traits like major human diseases. By just entering my assigned unique genome ID, I was able to see if any variant within my SNPs was associated with a trait; in this instance: Acne. The results showed 13 SNPs in my genome (from Navarini AA et al (PMID 24927181), which were reported to be associated with severe Acne.  And, the narrative included a genetic risk score for this trait that “was higher than 36% of the general population. This is a fairly average score.”  The chart below shows 5 of the 13 SNPs examples present in my DNA that present a risk for severe Acne.  I filtered the SNP-score column (fifth column) to display in descending order so you could see my first four SNP scores and reported genes (last column) that resulted in this risk for Acne. Note the fifth row (and, similarly, the remaining 8 rows not shown) indicated a “0” SNP-score.  This is the kind of presentation given throughout this module to describe my risks among about hundred traits provided in the GWAS calculator.

Looking more closely at my GWAS Calculator and appearing before my eyes were confirmations of the presence of specific diseases that exist(ed) among various family members and the higher risk percentages of my having these same diseases. For example, I have a 76 percent higher than the general population risk of being within the Autism spectrum disorder, adhd, bipolar, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia–some family members have suffered from some of these maladies, but I can’t say that I have personally; a 52% higher than the general population risk of having Cardiovascular Disease; an 82% higher than average risk of food addictions; a 99% higher than average risk of having freckles (if you know me, you know I do or did); then there were the risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and allergies, restless leg syndrome, and hip osteoarthritis (75% higher risk than the general population–all me! And the list continued.

BUT . . . Just how much of who we are, our strengths, capabilities, and limitations is determined by our DNA and genetics?

The newest studies of DNA suggest that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in who I am, what I look like, my singularities or uniqueness, and my biological, mental, intellectual and physical conditions and capabilities.  Studies suggest that multiple genes are involved, so our inheritance patterns are not straightforward. For example:

  • A person’s fingerprints are unique as you know and are based on the patterns of skin ridges (called dermatoglyphs) on the pads of the fingers. Dermatoglyphs develop before birth and stay the same throughout life. The ridges begin to develop during the third month of fetal development, and they are fully formed by the sixth.The basic size, shape, and spacing of dermatoglyphs seem to be influenced by genetic factors. Studies suggest that multiple genes are involved, so an inheritance pattern is not straightforward.
  •  A child’s eye color often can be predicted by the eye colors of his or her parents and other relatives.   In fact, both my parents and my siblings have blue eyes; my grandparents had blue eyes; and most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (direct relatives) have blue eyes.   Yet, genetic variations sometimes produce unexpected results.  There are several disorders that can affect the color of our eyes.  One of these examples is ocular albinism characterized by severely reduced pigmentation of the iris.  This causes very light-colored eyes and significant problems with vision.
  • Another condition called oculocutaneous albinism affects the pigmentation of the skin and hair in addition to our eyes. Both ocular albinism and oculocutaneous albinism result from mutations in genes involved in the production and storage of melanin.
  • Hand preference is the tendency to be more skilled and comfortable using one hand instead of the other for tasks such as writing or throwing a ball. It was initially thought that a single gene controlled handedness. However, more recent studies suggest that multiple genes, perhaps up to 40, contribute to this trait. Although the percentage varies by culture, in Western countries 85 to 90 percent of people are right-handed and 10 to 15 percent of people are left-handed and then there are those who have this uncommon trait and are known to be ambidextrous.  They interchange hand preferences depending upon a task.  All the people in my family are right-handed–except for me!  I may have been right-handed at birth, but when I was 18 months old I received second and third degree burns all over my body from a spill of hot bacon grease.  The only part of me that wasn’t bandaged for months on end was my left hand.  I guess like other creatures, I adapted to my situation.  Or, just maybe my left-hand preference is related to differences between my right and left halves (hemispheres) of my brain. Our right hemisphere controls movement on the left sides of our body, while the left hemisphere controls movement on the right sides of our body.  These same studies on hand preference suggest that at least some of these genes help determine the overall right-left asymmetry of the body starting at our earliest stages of development.
    • For example, the PCSK6 gene has been associated with an increased likelihood of being right-handed in people with the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia. Another gene, LRRTM1, has been associated with an increased chance of being left-handed in people with dyslexia (a condition caused by a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols and causes difficulty with reading and spelling).

Is the probability of having twins determined by genetics?

The likelihood of conceiving twins is a complex trait. It is probably affected by multiple
genetic and environmental factors, depending on the type of twins. The two types
of twins are classified as identical and fraternal.  My genealogical research shows twins and even triplets go back generations on both my paternal and maternal sides of my family.  My maternal great-grandmother had three sets of twins among the 13 children she birthed –extremely rare and perhaps unprecedented.  And, yes, I am happy to say that our grandson is a fantastic father of 5-year-old twins – a girl and a boy.

So, did I get my blue eyes and freckles from my mother or my dad? Where did I get my fearless personality and the absence of a talent for singing, as much as I love to sing? Did my intellect come from my mom’s two X chromosomes, or was it predetermined by my genes? It’s still not clear to me how many of my physical characteristics are purely hereditary, and my genetic waters get even murkier when it comes to nature vs. nurture factors like behavior, intelligence, and personality. This argument has never really been won.  So, let’s leave it at this:  we do not yet know how much of what we are is determined by our DNA and how much is contributed by our life experiences. But we do know that DNA and life experiences each plays a part.

 

Observing Women’s History Month and Honoring One of America’s First Women Immigrants


 

 

Background

Just 30 years ago in 1987, the United States Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity.  This action came eights years after Molly Murphy MacGregor, a member of The National Women’s History Projectwas invited to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, which was chaired by noted historian, Gerda Lerner, and attended by the national leaders of organizations for women and girls. You see, an formal history of notable women and their accomplishments was virtually an unknown and undocumented.  It wasn’t until 1978 when the “Education Task Force of Sonoma County California Commission on the Status of Women” initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration.  When others learned of Sonoma County’s celebratory success, similar celebrations materialized throughout the United States and a national effort surfaced to secure a “National Women’s History Week,” from which the National Women’s History Month got its roots.  The sitting President now issues an annual  Proclamation to honor extraordinary achievements of American women.  This year’s theme  “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” Thirteen women from diverse backgrounds, with different fields of endeavor, and spanning three centuries make up this year’s honorees.

“Anne Hutchinson Banished, March 22, 1638”The following Article was written by staff of Boston’s “Mass Moments” Program, funded by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities:

On This Day...

      …in 1638, Anne Hutchinson was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Three years after arriving in Boston, she found herself the first female defendant in a Massachusetts court. When she held prayer meetings attended by both men and women, the authorities were alarmed; but what really disturbed them was her criticism of the colony’s ministers and her assertion that a person could know God’s will directly. Put on trial for heresy, she defended herself brilliantly. But her claim to have had a revelation from God sealed her fate. She was banished from the colony. Along with her family and 60 followers, she moved to Rhode Island, and later to New York, where she perished in an Indian raid.

Anne and William Hutchinson and their 15 children were among the 200 passengers who arrived in Boston aboard the Griffen in the fall of 1634. The couple had followed their minister, the Reverend John Cotton, to be part of a new community where they would be able to practice their faith openly.

A successful merchant in England, William Hutchinson had the resources to buy a house in Boston and a 600-acre farm. The Hutchinsons were respected gentry by the standards of early Massachusetts, and they quickly assumed a prominent place in Boston affairs.

But within three years, Anne Hutchinson would stand before a Massachusetts court, charged with heresy and sedition. In 1638 she would be excommunicated from the church and banished from the colony for holding and teaching unorthodox religious views.

Anne’s father was an outspoken English clergyman. Sentenced to house arrest for being publicly critical of the established church, he turned his prodigious intellectual energies to educating his children. Anne inherited her father’s intellect and strong religious beliefs. With the benefit of his library and his careful tutelage, she received a better education than most men of her day.

At the age of 21 she married and took on the traditional role of housewife and mother. She bore 15 children and learned midwifery, a skill that entitled a woman to special respect and esteem. She also maintained her interest in theology. She and her husband became devoted followers of the Puritan preacher John Cotton. At a time when Puritans could not worship freely in England, they chose to follow the Reverend Cotton when he emigrated to Boston in 1633.

At first Anne received a warm welcome. Bostonians appreciated her skill as a midwife; when she began to hold prayer meetings for women in her home, she seemed the very model of Puritan womanhood. John Cotton later remembered that “[a]t her first coming she was well respected and esteemed. . . . I hear she did much good in our Town, in womans meeting [and] at Childbirth-Travels.”

But her prayer meetings soon began to cause concern among the Puritan magistrates. An eloquent speaker, she began to draw large gatherings of women and men. The magistrates believed it highly inappropriate for a woman to instruct men, especially in religious matters. The laws of Massachusetts Bay were based on biblical teachings, and the colony’s leaders took seriously Paul’s commandment that women be silent in public meetings. But Anne Hutchinson’s supporters insisted that her meetings were private gatherings.

The real trouble began when word spread that she was criticizing the teachings of the Puritan ministers. She found the ministers, except for John Cotton, lacking in the spirit of God. Concerned about maintaining order in their new community, the ministers in Boston preached that people must live according to biblical precepts, thus demonstrating good works and upholding the moral order. Anne Hutchinson embraced the idea that salvation came about only when God granted it; she believed that human will and action played no role in salvation.

Her unorthodox views did not end there. She suggested that an individual could know God’s will directly, and that some people received revelation directly from God. This threatened the ministers’ role as interpreters of the Bible. As Hutchinson’s following grew, the magistrates decided that she was a dangerous woman who must be stopped. They charged her with sedition for undermining the authority of the ministers and heresy for expressing religious beliefs at odds with those of the colony’s religious leaders.

Her trial was extraordinary. Much of the testimony concerned the “crime” she had committed by daring, as a woman, to speak and teach men in public. Governor John Winthrop condemned her meetings as a “thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex.” He conducted much of the initial examination himself.

She boldly answered each of his questions with challenging questions of her own. He responded angrily: “You have rather been a Husband than a Wife and a preacher than a Hearer; and a Magistrate than a subject.” Her chief crime was usurping male authority.

Winthrop challenged her authority to speak, and she defended herself in biblical terms. He claimed that she had defamed the ministers by accusing them of preaching a covenant of works and not being able ministers of the New Testament. She retorted, “Prove that I said so,” and would acknowledge only using the words of the Apostles.

Anne mounted a skillful defense, but her intelligence and eloquence rankled the magistrates, who resented her lecturing them. Winthrop described her as “a woman of haughty and fierce carriage, a nimble wit and active spirit, a very voluble tongue, more bold than a man.” After two days of intense questioning, the magistrates had still not found a way to silence her.

Then Anne Hutchinson essentially convicted herself. She declared that her knowledge of the truth came as direct revelation from God, a heresy in Puritan Massachusetts. The astonished magistrates leapt upon what they considered a false teaching and proclaimed her guilt: “Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.”

Hutchinson refused to recant and accepted her exile. In the spring of 1638 she and her family left Massachusetts Bay for the more tolerant Providence Plantation founded by Roger Williams. After her husband died, she moved to New Amsterdam. There, in 1643, she and five of her children were killed in an Indian raid. John Winthrop viewed her violent death as a sign of God’s final judgment on her blasphemy.

In 1922 a statue of Hutchinson was erected on the grounds of the Massachusetts State House. In 1945 the legislature voted to revoke her banishment. Today Anne Hutchinson is remembered as an advocate of freedom of religion and of women’s rights. Although in reality she was neither, she was a brave and principled woman who had the courage to speak her mind in a society that allowed women no public voice.

Sources

American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Women Who Defied the Puritans, by Eve LaPlante (Harper Collins, 2004).

Anne Hutchinson: Brief Life of Harvard’s ‘Midwife,'” by Peter Gomes, Harvard Magazine (November/December, 2002).

Boston Globe, Interview with Eve LaPlante, “Heretic, or Centuries Before her Time?” May 8, 2004.

Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England, by Jane Kamensky (Oxford University Press, 1997).

Brown’s Indian Queen Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue – Ghosts of DC


Ghosts of D.C. often posts images and backstories about pastimes of people and places in our Nation’s Capital, the District of Columbia.  It’s story this time is about an 1800’s Hotel that hosted many famous events and people and like our American culture fell upon hard times during the Great Depression and in 1935 became another thing in our history that no longer exists.

http://ghostsofdc.org/2014/02/21/browns-indian-queen-hotel-pennsylvania-avenue/?utm_source=campaign-monitor-recycle&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Brown%E2%80%99s+Indian+Queen+Hotel+on+Pennsylvania+Avenue&utm_content=item-2

Expect the Unexpected — John Rolfe Was Here, Too!


Where Are We?

Where’s the Dickinson’s

We are about 1,500 miles away from home in the Caribbean on the West Indies Island known as Hispaniola–the second largest island in the Caribbean within the Greater Antilles.  It occupies an area of 29,418 square miles. Haiti occupies the western third of the Hispaniola island and the remaining eastern two-thirds make up the Dominican Republic. During the Age of Discovery (15th-18th centuries), Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola on December 5, 1492 and named it La Isla Española, “The Spanish Island,” which was eventually Anglicized to Hispaniola. It is said that when he first laid eyes on its shores, he termed it “La Perle des Antilles” or “the Pearl of the Caribbean.”  Because of this widespread European discovery and exploration movement, New World and 

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Old World products were exchanged. This brought horses, cows, and sheep from Europe to the New World and tobacco, cotton, potatoes, and corn to the Old World.

We arrived here on Sunday, March 12, 2017, to celebrate our 52nd Wedding Anniversary (wedding date: March 27th).  On Monday, we met with travel advisors and oriented ourselves within the Dominican Republic’s Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa Complex, where we stayed for five days.  The resort nestles within 79 acres of land surrounded by a coconut plantation with a variety of lush tropical vegetation. Its indigenous trees include mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, cypress, pine, oak, and cacao. All around us we see exquisite plants, bountiful tropical fruits, and spices including rice, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, yam, banana, pineapple, mango, fig, grape, breadfruitm. , oregano, paprika, and many more.

Obviously, we’re not Dominican, have not lived in a Dominican neighborhood or spent a lot of time exploring the island, so we were quite surprised when we were introduced to this drink known as “Mama Juana”. Similar to the 19th Century American practice of selling cure-all elixirs in traveling medicine shows, in the 1950’s, Jesus Rodriguez invented Mama Juana with claims that it was an herbal medicine that apart from acting as an aphrodisiac could rid you of the flu, aid digestion and circulation, and cleanse the blood, liver and kidneys. It’s a concoction of rum, red wine and honey, soaked in tree bark and herbs. Some say this elixir tastes like Port or Amaro liqueur, but my tastebuds reacted to it much like they do when I have to take obnoxious cough syrup.  However, Mama Juana’s claim to fame is its promised sexual potency, which has given it a nickname of “liquid Viagra”.

You may know the common riddle joke, “why did the chicken cross the road.”  Well, as we taxied through the resort, we needed to stop and give the right-of-way to a pair of magnificent peacocks with their massive tails and iridescent shades blue, grey, and green coloring. They wanted to cross the road to get to the other side to graze among the fruits, nuts, worms and lizards.   As the story goes, and so befitting to our anniversary celebration this week, Peacocks are pure of heart.  They pair with a mate and are loyal and eternally faithful to their partners–I accepted this encounter as a good omen of things to come.

The most noteworthy mammal among the indigenous animals is the agouti, a rodent. Wild dogs, hogs, and Brahman cattle are abundant, as are many reptiles, notably snakes, lizards, and caimans. Waterfowl and pigeons are common birds.

But, What Has Any of This To Do With John Rolfe?

Maria, landowner, and some of her family in the background.

Quite surprisingly, it does and we will get to it.  But first, we explored the diverse Dominican countryside in an open-air safari-style truck during our guided tour excursion from Punta Cana where we ventured into the Anamuya Mountains.  There, we spent time on horseback, explored an old sugar plantation, tasted several fruits and vegetables, sucked on raw sugar cane, shelled coffee from its beans, drank freshly ground cocoa and fruit drinks, savored a typical buffet lunch, visited with a Dominican family, and relaxed on the white sands of Macao Beach.

And here’s where my 10th great grandfather, John Thomas Rolfe comes into this picture and became a part of our discussion within the cultural excursion in the Dominican Republic.  In 1612, just three years after John Rolfe, husband of Indian Princess Pocahontas arrived in Jamestown, Virginia–originally from Heacham, England–John Rolfe began the state’s tobacco industry from tobacco seeds that he got while on one of his trips to the West Indies. He exported the first shipment in 1614 and it became Virginia’s biggest cash crop.  When the new tobacco was sent to England, it proved immensely popular, helping to break the Spanish monopoly on tobacco and creating a stable economy for the new colony. By 1617, the colony was exporting 20,000 pounds of tobacco annually; that figure doubled the following year.

Tobacco became central to the state economy and to the new United States in the 1770s. It was glorified and celebrated with parades and tobacco queens. In tribute to the history of Virginia’s top cash crop, thousands of tiny tobacco leaves are carved into the ceiling of the State Capitol.

However, in the last 50 years, with the adverse medical findings, the world turned against smoking and against tobacco companies.  In 1998, the United States government reached a master settlement agreement with the big tobacco industry and has paid farmers not to grow tobacco since then.

You will learn more about the connection between John Rolfe, the Dominican Republic and earlier days of tobacco making from our demo here.  It features Alex, our safari tour guide, and a native Dominican who has been hand rolling cigars for 48 years.  In fact, we went on three excursions during our stay and all of our guides and drivers (Alex, Hamlet, Melo and Francisco) referred to us as family and treated us as such.  Our trip was truly enriched by them and their good humor, humility, respect, and knowledge sharing about The Dominican Republic, it’s peoples and cultures.

There were two more excursion features that I am compelled to include before finishing up this post.  The ZipLine Excursion.  Ziplining has been on my bucket list and it was through my God, my faith, and my fortitude (that I believe my grandmother Loretta instilled in me) that helped me embrace the challenge of climbing stairs to the 12 various zipline platforms there were as high as nearly 2,300 feet and 800 meters long at times (for a total of about two miles of ziplining), and my desire at age 70 to push myself out of my comfort zone to set an example for our younger family members that they can succeed at anything they want if they set their hearts and minds to it.  I also wanted to thank God for each new day of my life here on earth with all my family and friends.

Likewise, I’d like to thank all the Punta Cana and excursions  staff and especially the twenty+ young men who welcomed and pushed me off each of the 12 zip line platforms. I felt their kindnesses and cheers that helped me to succeed and complete the full course of nearly two miles and at heights as high as 2,296 feet over mountains, rivers, and forests.  I just knew at some point, though, along my journey I was going to take out at least one of them when coming into the finish line at each of the 12 platforms. Fortunately, for all of us we “hung in there,” for a successful completion and another great memory.

 

 

A Sunday Morning Visit With Me and “Mr. Church”


I’m branching out this morning–taking that little fork in the road, if you will.  This post still shares with you my feelings about my love of God, church, family, special moments, memories, and family histories.  However, in it, I also reveal my love for good music, a good book or a good movie; and, how I spend and appreciate my infrequent solitude that lets me remember back to times and emotions from earlier seasons in my life.

Yesterday was Saturday and my husband Bob is attending a weekend-long firefighters’ leadership seminar in Northern Montgomery County, MD.  So, after running errands I attended our church on Saturday night with my daughter and her family.  And, as always the music, message, and multitude of faithful friends and family filled my heart and spirit as together we worshipped.  This worship was deeply moving to me as one of the older hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” from 1873,  reminded me of my maternal grandmother, Loretta Ford–this hymn was one of her favorites and it was played at her wake.  In fact, grandma’s birthday is tomorrow, and had she lived until now, she would be 122 years old.  Loretta was an adventurer, a pioneering spirit, a fighter, a lover of life and of God. From her I got my confidence, initiative, inventiveness, and drive.  She continues to be my inspiration and not a day passes when I don’t realize that she is still here with me as my guardian angel. So, in the quiet of my home this sunny Sunday morning with only my loving Chihuahuas by my side, I decided to stay nestled in and curled up under my warm blankets to watch a good movie, without any interruption from the cold world outside just beyond my bedroom.

As I casually browsed the list of movies using my relatively new cordless Amazon TV fire stick,  I happened upon a thumbnail for a 2016 no-name, no-hype film called “Mr. Church,” with an image of an older and very pensive looking Eddie Murphy.  So it’s Sunday, I went to church last night, and no church-going for me this morning–and next I spot a movie with “church” in its title.  I tell you it was sheer providence.  So, why bother watching the movie’s trailer, or reading its reviews, when this film literally leapt from ten feet out off my TV screen and triggered my fingers to click the “watch” button on my TV remote.  

Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church

Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church

Now, I’m only a few moments in, and I realize that talented and absurdly funny man Eddie Murphy was giving us an inspired and new look at his first and flawless dramatic performance–one that we’ve never seen from him in his 30 years of producing and starring in comedic movies.  And a performance, that I hope will lead to many more like it.  So, if you’re looking for a pure story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother receive gifted services of a talented cook, “Mr. Henry Joseph Church,” as a six-month arrangement that instead spans 15 years and creates a family bond that lasts forever, this film is for you.  Its story’s overwhelming moments will choke you up with heartrending emotion and your tears quite likely will flow.  But conversely, the easy display of warmth and love within family relationships will grab you up and make you feel like you’re floating on air, or dancing on the ceiling.

If you’re interested in watching the full movie, it’s available for free, here on YouTube