52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History 1 – New Year’s Day

That’s a long title and it’s going to get tedious as the weeks go on.

The question  is:

Week 1: New Year’s. Did your family have any New Year’s traditions? How was the New Year celebrated during your childhood? Have you kept these traditions in the present day?

The answer is no. It wasn’t. I don’t know anyone who celebrated New Year’s Day, certainly not in my extended family.

So we’ve had to make our own traditions. My husband and I used to do the NYE thing when we were younger.  These are from 1988. we had a great spot at Taronga Zoo, which is on the harbour at Mosman:

Carole at Taronga Zoo

1988 fireworks

As you can see, the fireworks were not as spectacular twenty years ago as they are today. Cameras didn’t take great pictures in low light either. These were scanned from prints. Actually the photos are from the Bicentennial celebrations on Australia Day, 26 January 1988, but you get the idea. I think this was the first year the Bridge was used for fireworks.

Sydney Harbour Bridge 1988

We still like the fireworks but we don’t go in to the city to see them in person any more. It’s all too much hassle. It took us nearly an hour just to get out of the Taronga Zoo car park that night in 1988. We’d had to camp all day to get a good spot, and that was even after buying two of the restricted number of tickets for Zoo Friends. We had the Zoo to entertain us but once we’d picked a spot we had to stay there.

These days we watch them on TV. Up until this year we had a tradition of getting takeaway Thai food, but this year we had leftover risotto. We drink champagne, or sparkling shiraz, and watch movies, interrupting them for the kids fireworks at 9 and the big ones at 12.

New Year's fireworks 2011
Courtesy Channel 9 Sydney

The TV is much bigger, and with a much better picture, than the one we would have watched in 1988. All the more reason to stay at home. We prefer watching movies at home these days too. A sign of age, or of better technology? Perhaps both.

I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do think about what I’ve achieved in the last year and what is ahead of me this year. Perhaps it’s time to formalise this process and write things down.

DNA testing continued

DNA graphicI had decided to take advantage of a special deal with 23andMe and get my DNA tested. I am hoping to learn a bit about my deep ancestry from my mitochondrial DNA in this test, as well as some genetic health risks and susceptibilities.

I tried to order the kit a few days before. I eventually realised that my first order with 23andMe didn’t go through, so I ordered again. I received confirmation that it has been sent, which I hadn’t had before, so obviously I had done something wrong, or not done something, before. So far so good!

Timeline so far:

9 Dec 2010 – I ordered a kit from 23andMe

10 Dec 2010 – Kit was shipped from 23andMe

13 Dec 2010 – Kit arrived at my front door

15 Dec 2010 – I spat my sample into the test tube

16 Dec 2010 – Sample collected by courier

21 Dec 2010 – Sample arrived at the 23andMe lab, and I was reminded to register my kit on the website

The process takes 6-8 weeks, so there will be no new updates for a while.

In the meantime, I had ordered some books from Amazon. That order did go through, and all 5 of them have arrived – 3 all at once and the other 2  individually. I’ve read the first 3, the last one being Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner’s Trace Your Roots with DNA, (2001). Even though the book is nearly 10 years old it gives an excellent introduction to the basics of DNA testing. They discuss the coming developments pretty accurately – more markers, more usefulness for mtDNA, more popularity and so better chances of matching with someone else’s test results.

All this reading has inspired me to more testing! I’ve ordered a test for my maternal uncle, and one for my unsuspecting father or brother.

I’ve also changed companies. I will be using Family Tree DNA for these and probably all subsequent tests. It’s not that I think that they are a better company, or do better tests; it’s more that they do different tests.

Family Tree DNA are more concerned with pure genealogy, whereas 23andMe are more concerned with the health aspects of DNA. It will be interesting to compare the two. Family Tree DNA has, as far as I can tell, the largest number of  projects.

A project is what you join if you want to find matches with other people who may be relatives. The pricing is less expensive if you join a project. Most of the projects are for surnames. My husband, for example, is part of the Bassett project, so he can see how closely he is related to other Bassetts around the world, and where their most recent common ancestor came from. There is little point in getting your DNA tested unless you want to compare it with others’.

Other projects are for geographic areas. My uncle is one of the last of a line of Easons, the first of whom came to Australia from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland, so he will be part of the Ulster Project. The story we were told was that Eason was originally a French Huguenot name with a d’ on the front of it. I have not found any evidence of this as yet, but then my trail runs cold in 1813 with the marriage of Sarah Irwin of Clogher, Tyrone, to Richard Eason of Armagh.

Family Tree DNA do not use couriers unless requested, so this story will unfold a little more slowly.

Image courtesy of Chris Harvey at Dreamstime.

DNA testing – is it for me?

I’ve been learning slowly about DNA and how it can help my family history research for what seems like years now, and have never done anything about it. What convinced me that it really was worthwhile was a lecture given by Megan Smolenyak at the Congress in Auckland last year, but still I’d done nothing. I really should get on to it, I think to myself whenever the subject comes up.

23 and MeToday I bit the bullet and ordered my first DNA testing kit. 23andMe is offering a huge discount on their tests, from $499 down to $99, although you then have to agree to pay $5 per month for a minimum of 12 months for updates. The postage is not cheap either – $69.95 to Australia, although this includes return postage back to the lab after you’ve spat into the container. The special runs until the 29th November “or while stocks last”.

23andMe is not the only DNA testing company around, although they do specialise in health aspects, with a long list of genetically carried diseases and responses to drugs. I have also considered Family Tree DNA for more complete testing of both sides of my tree, and will still do so at some stage. Perhaps when they next offer a discount!

Have a look at the special at 23andMe and decide for yourself. I will post updates as I continue my journey.

Postscript: I have to admit that my sudden resolve was not only due to the huge discount being offered. A discussion on the merits of the test on Facebook has resulted in three of us all signing up for the test together, and we will all be blogging about it.

Here’s Joan’s post and I’m sure Susan‘s will not be far off. It’s very exciting!