Beyond the Political Etiquette of Previous Generations

I’m tired of hearing about how Donald Trump, the president-elect, is breaking the old molds and doing things in a new and different way. It hasn’t been news for almost a year. He is, and will, and will continue to. And whether you like him or not, whether you agree with (one of) his many (often contradictory) promises and claims or don’t buy into it at all, can we just move forward past the failures of the pundits and the blame game and all the rest? [Yes, I know, some of it is important. The integrity of the US elections is at stake, and what was or wasn’t done needs to be investigated. Perhaps, just perhaps, as that happens, we will realize that we ourselves have done the very things that we are scandalized by when they are done to us. Perhaps, just perhaps, we will learn to change some of our behaviors.]

Whatever politics were at whatever time in the past you refer to; things are different… and they are still the same. At least since Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation we have not been the nation we were before nor had the government we had before. The truth is that the mold was broken long ago, before most of us could even vote. Whether we look at the great popular movements (and counter movements) of the ’60s, at Camelot, which Jackie Kennedy apparently created single handedly, or Nixon’s rise and fall — somewhere between McCarthyism, the now uncontested subverting the Vietnam peace talks, and the bungled break-in at the Watergate and the subsequent cover-up — or even Clinton’s shift of the Democratic party to a centrist party of milktoasts, we must recognize that with the increasing partisanship in this country and the now ever-present gridlock in Washington, D.C., things have not been working smoothly for a very long time. Blame it on who you will. There is plenty of blame to go around, and no party is blameless.

While Barack Obama may have been the first president who was a part of the digital revolution with children who grew up in it; Donald Trump is the first president of the rest of what that digital revolution portends — the first president of the reality-tv nation.

Trump’s telephone calls and tweets have, even before he has taken the oath of office, affected both this nation and others. They have caused nations to rattle savers, or sheath them; industry to announce changes and stop construction projects; and people all over to flop and run around like chickens with their heads cut off. They have caused his own party to make a u-turn on ethics in the congress.

Yes, the Trump administration will be very different from any other in recent memory. It must be: not because others have been feckless, but because congress is broken and its brokenness has affected the other two branches of government; because if it is not, we may very well find ourselves on the brink of revolution. The Trump administration will not pay lip-service to the  decorum of a past and lost system (though it claims to want to return us to its heyday), it will not base its actions and policies on the foundational principals of the this nation (though through its court appointments it will ensure the most regressive court this nation has ever known), nor probably even couch its policies in that language. Rather, it will be a transnational presidency based on the assumption that, with apologies to Ford and Detroit, as goes the Trump brand, so goes the nation. Of course,  Detroit actually produced something, and Ford paid his employees such that they could afford to purchase the product they made. But as we have learned through reality tv, what matters is not what is best, most helpful, maximizes utility; rather it is what can create drama, stir up emotions, and promise the impossible — hopefully making it true, at least for someone. And it is this type of administration which will dictate our international and commercial affairs, our military decisions and the future of this great nation. It is this administration which  will, by admitting what all know (or should have known) that the emperor has had no clothes. The new normal for this country’s governance and self-identity, it policies affecting education and science, the balance between natural resources and development, and our direction for the next several decades will be and is being hammered out.

All of us, if we have our wits about us, will try to be a part of that process, that new and different process, that terrifying and awesome process by which almost 350 million are governed and protected, how the single largest international monetary system and economy will will change the world.

I do not doubt that were Hillary Clinton to have been elected, the same would have been true in greater or lesser measure. The difference, however, is that while the Clinton Foundation may well have polished the Clintons’ name (and, as with most things Clinton, suffered from sloppiness, intermingling, and a perceived need for privacy and protection that both boggles the mind and far exceeds its value), it was and still is an actual charity doing work to transform the world into something better, improving the lives and welfare of a broad, and primarily under-serviced and under-recognized portion of the world’s population. Nothing even vaguely altruistic can be said about the Trump Foundation — it exists for the benefit of the Trump name and image, and that alone.

Eisenhower said, in the speech referenced above, that for the first time in the history of the US, we had become a purveyor of armaments. The industry of plowshares had been transformed but not returned to its previous role. He said that “a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity” because of the money it controls. No president has taken heed of these cautions, and the power of industry and individual interest groups has only increased in the meantime.

Reading through several editions of Emily Post’s books on etiquette, one cannot help but be struck by the changes in the world by the time of the post WW II era. The section on chaperones seems quaint, on drinking, unimaginable, and that on private trains for a wedding might come from a British serial. However, it is in many ways these very transitions which are, for the very first time, taking place as the yet-to-come Trump administration prepares to take office. Mrs. Post always took pains in her editions to address both those accustomed to the old ways and uncomfortable with the changes, and those neither reared in nor now living in that world. Perhaps, that is the role of etiquette — not just to tell us how things “should” be done, but prepare us for the fact that these things change over time. They always have.

The question for us is whether this representational democracy can, indeed, govern a republic like these United States. Our challenge remains to discover and hold fast to some way that will allow this post-modern society [filled with a reality-tv-show-like media circus] can hold accountable its elected representatives, including the president (and the executive administration) to actually act in the interest of the πόλις, and make the hard choices required to prosper it rather than just to please its populace. Will it function in a way only designed to service the monied interests while giving lip service to gain itself the best ratings in terms of viewership and entertainment? Or will we insist that not be the case?

This week, the congress discovered to its chagrin, that business as usual didn’t quite fit the bill. But, as anyone who has studied systems knows, they tend to try to recapture any past stability they have had. Perhaps, it is time for an intervention.

23andMe New Again

What will I do?!?JQe6TjsIpGXBO-4bV0UoPg_email_bean_tools1.png

Finally, I have access to my account on the “new” 23andMe, and I am very excited. I puttered around in it a bit, and like the options and set-up. Of course, I miss a few of the things from the old version.

Hopefully I will have time in September or October to really explore it, and work on getting two more relatives to join… an ongoing challenge.

They are the only living first or second cousins on my parents’ generation.


A Fun Project

Last week I received an email (along with about 20 other people) saying that I was a zero-distance mt-DNA match to an individual named Bonnie White. Each of us had tested on both the high variability regions with Family Tree DNA, and providing four generations of a maternal line. Each of the recipients were invited to share their maternal lines to see if we might come across a common name or location. According to Family Tree, about 50% of people with this type of match share a common ancestor in the last 5 generations. (Of course, that also means that for half the people, the connection is further back, perhaps quite a bit further.)

Before I had decided if I would do anything about the post, I started receiving replies where the sender must have clicked on the reply-to-all rather than the reply button. And before I knew it, looking at these strangers’ lists of maternal ancestors, I was hooked.

I started a new private tree on Ancestor, and put in my own maternal line, the line included in the original email, and the lines from the emails I had been copied on. No clear or obvious connections, but a very different type of genealogy than I normally did.

Also, I responded to the original email with my maternal line, as well as an offer to collate the information received, put it in an usable format, and distribute it when done. If she didn’t comment on it, I would move on to other things. After all, I didn’t have any matches I could see.

But I did get a reply, welcoming the offer of help… and a copy of the relevant correspondence.

I didn’t get to work much on the project last week—I was going back and forth to Houston, and spending time at M D Anderson to be with someone receiving treatment. However, over the weekend, I was at home, and got to do a bit more work and organizing.

Last night, I sent each of the people involved an invitation to the tree on Ancestry, as long as an excel spreadsheet that showed the information we had collected.

Here is what we have:

  • A cluster of individuals, with a common ancestor, who live in New Zealand and Australia;
  • A cluster of individuals, with a common ancestor, who lived in the USA;
  • Nine family lines, with no clear connections, in four different nations;
  • Eleven individuals who we haven’t been able to connect;
  • Two individuals who match the group on, but not on Family Tree;
  • Three different maternal lines going back to England.

Three of the invitations to the new tree I created have been accepted, and I’ve received one thank-you. I hope others are able to add to the tree, extend it, etc. Even if I don’t find a connection to my own line, it is exciting to think that this may help some others.

One of the people who matches was adopted, and doesn’t know who his birth-parents are. Wouldn’t it be great if someone has a connection to the time and place where he was adopted? At least it might give a clue to a possible parentage.

Anyway, it is that one detail, and a post on the blog AnotherTeenMom, that led me to return to this blog, on which I have posted nothing for over a year, and create this post. Hopefully, this will start to become a habit, or a Hobbit, or something of the sort.


Genealogy Do-Over Begins

For well over a year I have been intending to restart my genealogy work—by which I mean start over at the beginning. But one delay after another has kept this from happening.

Today I have published online a skeleton family tree, basically it consists of myself, my siblings, and my husband. On his side, I include his grandparents and their parents—he remembers several of his great grandparents. On my side, I have included my ancestors for about five generations back.

Over the next few weeks or months, I will add documentation to support every statement or implication in the tree. I will first do what I can from the censuses, and also create a spreadsheet of the individuals and the census which they appear in, along with the household information.

It is fun to have finally gotten this part of the project underway.


Mary Hypatia Link, Aunt Hi, 52 Ancestors #13: Different

She was either born in 1899 or 1900, and I know which one.

This last year, I have been struggling with the idea of proof. That was one of my impetuses for starting a 52 Ancestors blog-project, “starting” being the operative word. Most of my life I have been recording and collecting ancestors. But the truth is, I know my collecting has mixed all types of things together—some right and some wrong. Today, for the first time, I have documented my use of The Genealogical Proof Standard, and it feels good. You see, the birth-year of my great aunt, Mary Hypatia Link, is wrong in her obituary, and probably on her headstone, too. She was born in 1899, not 1900. And now I can prove it.

Last weekend, I had dinner with a cousin, Continue reading

And just who might they be? ( 52 Ancestors #00)

The last completely-filled-out column on my six generation chart is the fifth column representing my great-great grandparents. And for one of my great-great grandmothers, I have two distinct possibilities.

All of these ancestors of mine seem to have been born in the first half of the 19th Century, and almost half of them lived into the 20th Century. Many knew their grandchildren, but none saw a great grandchild born (so far as I can tell).

Since I am planning to investigate each of these ancestors this year in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, it occurred to me that if I listed them here and now, some gentle soul might recognize a name, contact me with some information, and keep me from making as big a fool of myself as I might otherwise do. Because it helps me, I have included the ahnentafel numbers next to these ancestors. So, here goes.

On my father’s side, these are his father’s grandparents… Continue reading

What In The World Am I Going To Do? My great-great-grandparents, and a bit more (52 Ancestors #0)

Week 0: What in the World am I Going to Do?

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge appeared last year, and is continuing this year. This is my 0th post in what I hope will be at least 53 posts this year.

Yes, I know that New Years has come and gone, and so has the first week of the year and most of the second week; so it may appear a bit odd that I am still on week number zero – except, of course, for those of you who know I’m always running a day late and a dollar short. However, this thing called life has a way of intervening: it usually does, especially around the holidays. And I am getting my act in gear now.

We learn so much as amateur genealogists, about history and modern assumptions and what-not, that I think it only reasonable to use some of that knowledge in coming up with an excuse explanation to solve our difficulty. For you see, by the Julian calendar, today is actually New Years Eve. And, as people who poke around in history and historical documents, we have the delight of discovering that different calendars were and are used in various countries at different times. In fact, most non-Catholic countries didn’t really like the fact that Pope Gregory XIII (Ugo Boncompagni) proclaimed this new calendar, so they didn’t adopt it until things had gotten a bit out of kilter: so we find it as early as 1582 in most Roman Catholic countries, but much later in Protestant and Orthodox countries. Greece adopted it in 1923. Quite a spread, 341 years.

All that to say that I think it quite appropriate to start the challenge today, the 13th of January, which happens also to be the 31st of December.

So, let me share some of my thoughts and plans, knowing that they are libel to change.

We all have sixteen great-great-grandparents, though that doesn’t necessarily require sixteen different people. In my case, it does. And spending a week on each of them will take about a third of the weeks of a year. (Actually, a little less than a third 16/52 = 4/13 ≈ 3.‾076923 if you want to be downright pedantic about it.) I’d like to focus on each of them, though probably not just one after the other. That will leave plenty of time for other explorations of things that might be suggested by something uncovered while looking at them.

I hope you will enjoy this journey I will be taking into the history of my family. Perhaps you will choose to accept the same challenge. And hopefully, we may just find we are related and didn’t even know it.

Bryan, a.k.a. Zim