Today is Grandma’s birthday – Mary Elsie Cecelia Elliot Sutinen – she was of French-Canadian, Acadian, Scottish and First Nations descent. Born in Ishpeming, Michigan to immigrant parents who came from Maskinonge, Quebec. She had five children – my mother was the youngest girl and the fourth child. Her life was not easy … hard work, poverty, difficult circumstances and more. But my memories of her are of a loving, doting, beloved woman who gave us kids sugar-free (she was diabetic) Jello with whipped cream, the BEST snuggles, learning from her about tatting, needlework, hearing occasional Quebecois words from her, her sisters, and the wonderful smells of a grandma’s home. A devout Catholic, she endured a lot and relied on her faith to get her through – AND was happy, smiling, welcoming, gentle and very obviously loving me and my brother, my cousins. Missing her now when I would like to ask SO many questions. Bonne Fete with our ancestors, Grandma!!
And thank you! You birthed my mother, who birthed me … and you loved and cared for all of us in your family, and the HUGE family of your birth (she was one of 16; 14 lived to adulthood). She connects me to my matrilineal ancestors, my distant past, going all the way back to Benouville, Rouen, Normandie, France where my 10th great-grandmother Guillemette Rolleville was born in 1625 and any paper trail further seems to end (for now … ). From Guillemette to her daughter Marie-Catherine and on and on, for generations, it comes to me and my only female first cousin in this line, Karen … Neither Karen or I had children, so this part of the lineage ends with us. Feels sad … but there are others who descend from her in the mitochondrial lines so the DNA continues. Merci, Grand-mere …. je me souviens!
Yes, it’s the new year … and how many DNA testing kits did you get as a gift? Yes, it’s a current fad and yes, it is also fun. But let me help to frame some of the issues with DNA, genealogy, testing, ethnicity vs. race and those pretty pie charts.
First, I’m a genealogist AND a scientist. I have two degrees that stress the importance of data, replication as a tool of quality and refinement, and control groups and more. And I value documentation, and proof – more than one document that provides information confirming or refuting what another document says, and a “reasonably exhaustive search” – a standard of utilizing everything that we can access to prove/disprove facts.
Second, let’s be clear – DNA testing is in its early stages. Yes, it has come a VERY long way from the 1980s when it was first used with genealogical information, and tools now available to us is far more extensive, detailed, scientifically-based that ever.
And third, there is NO biological basis for “race”. From a chemical, DNA, or cellular level, we are all 99% the same and we share chemistry, DNA and cellular structures with bananas, trees and other living things. We are carbon-based organisms that have evolved over millenium. To state, because of DNA data, that we are a particular race is just wrong – scientifically, genetically, socially and otherwise. There are plenty of research-based studies and writings that trace every human living on the planet back to Africa…..thousands and thousands of years ago. AND those pretty pie charts – with percentages and lovely colors – stating this or that percentage of DNA from Western Europe or the Iberian peninsula or wherever …. that information is based on a testing database of samples that place the same or similar DNA in a particular geography at a point in time (most of the DNA sites will offer that this ancestral DNA is from approximately a 500 to 800 year old time frame).
So, to keep it simple, if you decide to use the DNA test kits (please at least be sure to use the companies that work very hard to maintain scientific standards, privacy rights, testing protocols and ethics – these are Ancestry, 23 and Me, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and FindMyPast), there are some things to consider: 1) Please know that virtually everyone will get a surprise from their results. It may be as simple as “I didn’t know we had Scandinavian ancestors!” to as emotional as “My dad isn’t my dad??!!!” Yours truly is working her way through what a really big revelation means, so don’t take this lightly. 2) The pie chart is the LEAST of it! The database that is used for the testing is always growing and changing, refining and developing. I’ve already seen as least two updates that have changed my results – in the first one, I was Ashkenazi Jewish, then from the Iberian peninsula, and now it’s Scandinavian. The Scandinavian one actually makes sense as I know that my ancestors (from the years of doing research in the paper trails my ancestors left) were from Normandy – a region of France heavily impacted by Norman or Viking invasions … hence “Scandinavian”. THE most important part of your results is the COUSIN matching!! You will find people related to you through the DNA that you didn’t know about (I found someone a half hour from my home!) and you will have a really fun time getting to know them! Trust me – the COUSIN CONNECTION is the BEST part of DNA testing. 3) Follow the instructions. It’s easy, and perhaps a bit yucky, but it’s important. The science is built on a clean sample and your results will make sense. 4) AND know that there is a paper trail that will help you to sort it all out, with lots of helpful people to show you how to look at what you find in your results.
And don’t let anyone tell you what RACE you are – because they can’t! The results can tell you a bit about where geographically your ancestors traveled through on their way to where you are today. It will tell you a bit about ethnicity – the culture of our families, such as customs, favorite foods, holidays, dances and music, clothing styles, and possibly eye and hair colors. The testing information is based in finding clusters, clumps of DNA that reappear over and over again in a particular region, geography, locality in people in that area. I know, for instance, that on my mom’s side, our people were Native, French-Canadian, and Scottish because – and this is important – others with our similar DNA were from these identified groups because of records, documentation, and more. But it doesn’t tell me WHICH tribe, or WHERE in France or Scotland, or that level of detail. At least yet …. as more and more people are tested and can document specifics about these ancestors, we can begin to narrow down migratory trails, immigration routes and track back into time.
So please look beyond the pretty pie charts. Take time to look for the paper trail that your ancestors left to find out about their lives …. their religion, foods, homes, jobs and what made their lives worth living. You are the product of pairs of people who had a relationship that created a child …. I was going to say “pairs of people who loved” but I know that many children were born of affairs, rape and incest. In the context of their lives, the child lived and had children ….. down to you. Think about the blessing of two parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and more going back into time. Learn about that and don’t worry about whether they wore kilts or lederhosen, a sari or animal skins … find a cousin and learn about your common ancestors’ lives and the courage, stamina, and strength that helped them to thrive. Let me know if I can help ….
It’s just before Thanksgiving and I’m beginning to get SOOOO excited about the upcoming RootsTech 2019!! Maybe you are thinking about going, or maybe (if you can’t go) you are wondering if there is livestreaming, or workshops that you can look at after …… YES, YES, and YES!! You can STILL register – click here for Registration!!
And there is SOOO much to do when you get there – here’s just one picture of the vendors’ area …. demos, speakers, things to buy, networking, learning, and so much more. Food, a place to sit and catch or breath, meet up with newly-found cousins!
THANK YOU to GeneaBloggers for accepting my blog into your great list of fellow genealogy bloggers!! I was featured TODAY – January 23, 2018 – and this will go down in my history with Lineage Journeys as another NEW OPPORTUNITY to share with so many in a new way!
Future posts here will include information, resources and links to content that I’m creating for Acadian, French-Canadian, Native/First Nations/Indian or Indigenous research, and locality information for Michigan, Ontario, Quebec and more! Lineage Journeys provides the unique perspective of the ancient spiritual traditions of North America and Europe along with research-based documentation of lineages, family histories and immigration pathways that define the heritage of the customer’s family.
So STAY TUNED for more!!! And thank you, again, GeneaBloggers!!!
A “watershed moment” is a point in time in which you feel that something changed, that you changed, that life changed.
I had a moment/day like that recently. Actually it is more of a series of things that have happened. As a genealogist, there are moments in time that I recognize that I’m noting a date and it was a big deal for my ancestors. Someone died, someone was born, two people were married. There are so many of those moments as a genealogist that I honestly can say that they are dates in a computer sometimes to me … until my own “moment”.
You see … someone died. Actually there have been a series of deaths in the recent past (since my brother died in July 2013 actually) and this most recent death of a beloved “sister” has caused a shift. I put “sister” in quotation marks because, while she wasn’t a genetic sister, she was a sister of my heart … a teacher, friend, beloved leader and spiritual Elder. To me and many. And it was at her funeral and the four days of the wake and then burial ceremony, that I’ve been thinking about A LOT! Without going into all of that here, it DID make me think, as a genealogist of those “watershed moments” of my ancestors.
Perhaps it was in the mid-1860s when my Villeneuve (Amiot dit Villeneuve) ancestral family came from Maskinonge, Quebec to Marquette, Michigan area. My Elliot ancestors came from the same area to Ishpeming, Michigan in the 1880s. Then they all eventually ended up in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, in Houghton County – around Hancock and Boston Station and the mining communities. They met up there supposedly because they attended the same church. A Villeneuve girl married an Elliot boy, and an Elliot girl married a Villeneuve boy. In June, 1889 when Edward Elliot married Marie Louise Villeneuve in Ishpeming, was that a “watershed moment” for them? Did they recognize the importance of that day and the history that they would create together (they ended up having 18 kids!!!) that resulted in my grandmother? Did the day that great-grandfather Edward died in 1919, crushed by a shifting pile of coal that he was assigned to move, created that incredible “watershed moment” for great-grandmother Louise? She had a pile of children and now no husband. In the 1920 Census, she has eight children living with her. The two oldest sons are working so the family at least had an income but many of the children were very young. My grandmother, Mary Elsie Elliot had married Warner “Waino” Sutinen and was living nearby. Grandpa Warner was also a miner – I wonder if he was present when Edward was crushed … who told Great-Grandma Louise that he was severely injured (he later died of his injuries according to the newspaper account and his death certificate). Certainly, that would have been a “watershed moment” for both families.
Maybe it’s a function of the death of others that gives us “watershed moments” … it has been for me, early in this new year. Does everyone have moments like this?
As 2017 draws to a close, and I’m writing with just another day away from Christmas, Hannukah and Winter Solstice are behind us and Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s coming, I’m reflecting on family, research, change and the coming year.
This year was the one with a trip to Australia/New Zealand (part pleasure trip and part research trip), the selling of our home of 18 years and downsizing into a new home, much in the way of our Native ceremonies and family, and new jobs for both my husband and me … well, yes, it has been “interesting”.
But through it all, I am reflecting on the blessings …. getting to know new genealogy clients (through my work at Lineage Journeys) and their families (past and present), learning much new information at the various genealogy conferences I’ve attended (IF you haven’t gone to a conference, even a local one, you are missing out on learning so much, AND making great connections with fellow genealogists!), and building relationships in the genealogy community that I hope will be mutually beneficial.
Speaking engagements have been picking up, and the continuation of my relationship with my local library through monthly presentations, has been a great gift of learning too. Yes, mostly I love to speak because it gives me the chance to learn from others. Yes, I give them information but, more importantly to me, they give me their enthusiasm and excitement for the “hunt” of their family, information about resources that they have found that are helpful, and just the fun of meeting yet another person who is hooked to this hobby that we call genealogy. Searching for our families and where they came from and what they experienced is a unique and growing passion of so many of us – and I so love meeting others that I share this love with!
In this new year, this blog will look different – I’m revising and updating this site and the matching website and pages for my work. With the help of technology, graphic design, wordsmithing, and some great women who are helping me think it through, you will soon see a fresher design and content. I plan to blog more in the new year and share more about resources, sites and helpful information that I find. So please “stay tuned”!!!
Until then, may you experience the peace, joy, hope and festivities of the season with good health and prosperity in the new year!
It wasn’t easy for our ancestors, and it’s not easy for us. Change. It is constant and sometimes we are easily able to adapt and other times, it is just hard as we’ve settled into a way of being or doing that we don’t want to shift from.
In my work at Lineage Journeys, or when I reflect on the journeys that my ancestors have taken – those who came from Europe in less than wonderful conditions on a ship, those who were the Native people of North America and the moves that they had to make to deal with the influx of other tribal people or the Europeans – I realize that I have it SOOOOO much easier!
A friend of ours just left yesterday for medical school in another country. I heard from him today and he’s going through the initial stresses of the move – learning about the currency there, the costs of average supplies and food, and beginning to set up his life there. It’s not easy, of course, AND he’s alone with only our Facebook connection for conversation at this point (yes, we’ll use Skype or something later).
There’s a spiritual journey in all of this, and there’s the drawing on ancestral wisdom too in all of this. For our friend, his youth and inexperience are playing out while I can reflect on the changes that are happening for me with
work, family and internally. When I get into stress about my own challenges with change, I reflect on “what would my ancestors have done?” or “how mightthis grow me, spiritually?”. Both elements are “in play” and available for me todraw on if I remember not to freak out about what is happening. It’s all an illusion of my mind anyway!
Change is good, change is necessary, and change is hard.
Growing up in Michigan is a unique experience. As a kid, when the snow gets melty, dirty, you just want to be somewhere else. But when you experience the glorious moments when the trillium fill the forests in spring, morel mushrooms are cooked intodelicate culinary treats and the call of the lakes, boats, warm summer days or the swish of snow during a ski run with the smell of hot chocolate or bonfires is in the air …. oh, and those trees in the fall – how DOES a maple tree have so many colors within it!! Well, I went off there a bit … but THAT is the Michigan I know.
My heritage, lineage here in Michigan isn’t that long. My people are, on dad’s side, fairly recent (late 1800s) immigrants from Poland and Germany by way of Massachusetts and then to Detroit where grandpa had a bicycle sales and repair company, and my dad and his brothers worked in the auto industry; on my mom’s side, we are VERY long on the North American continent but not so long in Michigan – my Native ancestors are mostly from the regions now called Canada and the Upper Peninsula in the 1870s, having been longer in the eastern maritimes; and mom’s ancestors who founded “New France” in their moves in the 1600s to Quebec and Montreal from northern regions of France (Normandie mostly), settling in for a long time in the area around Maskinonge, Quebec. The French-Canadians came to Michigan in the 1880s where they met my Native ancestors, ultimately my grandparents moved to Detroit for jobs after mines began closing. Mom’s dad was a Finn, coming as an infant with his parents and a brother. So we haven’t been here all that long.
But we are Michiganders. We GET Petoskey stones, pasties, Yoopers (we descend from them), Trolls (those from under the bridge – lower peninsula residents), the Mighty Mac (the Mackinac Bridge), and more. We rejoice in Morel Festivals, FlannelShirt Days, and the four seasons. Genealogy is important to me and, over the years, it has helped to inform me about who I am in the context of family, culture, spirituality and geography. Increasingly over the years, while Michigan is home, so is South Dakota (where my extended Native family are), and Quebec (where other extended family are) but so too, Eastern Canada and Normandy, France, and Scotland and Germany … well, the world actually.