Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Grandma's Birthday

It's been a funny sort of year pertaining to paternal grandma's. I write this for today to remember the Grandma who helped raise me.  On the other hand I've spent a significant amount of time searching for and learning about my genetic paternal grandmother.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about family and how I define it. Many times I've said that my friends are my family, in part because I haven't a large number of immediate family members left and also because I haven't a great deal in common with those family members who remain. However, for all our differences, and in spite of how fascinating it is to discover the stories of my genetic family, my 'real' family members are the ones I grew up knowing. The feeling of family comes most strongly to me when sharing memories of those loved ones long gone. I can listen to reminiscences about my parents and grandparents, about my aunt Rita for a very long time. 

I hope I take after my genetic grandmothers, as one lived to age 91 and the other to nearly 97! However, the older I get the more I appreciate my Grandma's qualities. 

I've been working through the pile of stuff in the attic while the weather is mild enough to make it bearable. It is as much a curse as a blessing to have a space like this. There have been times when I felt a bit dizzy at the top of the step ladder, looking around at the accumulation of shelves, boxes, bags, oddments, Bill's luggage collection, my canning jar collection. Christmas stuff aside I have at times looked around and worried I might have a DSM-5 code looming. However, with my new environmentally-friendly standards for clothing fabrics and a renewed commitment to wearing 'my' colours/contrast, etc., there has been a steady stream of upper-body strengthening donations to the Relate charity shop in Whitley Bay. 

Never thought I'd say bright sun was a nuisance...

Two items I came across that will be always remain are these aprons that belonged to Grandma. They were Christmas gifts from one of her sisters, I'm pretty sure from Myrtle who was her younger sister by three years. Grandma had a sister, Millie, just one year older but Millie died in 1961 when I was five. Myrtle outlived Grandma by nearly a decade.

I remember a green one and may run across it some time. I see there are some tiny holes in the brown apron which, as they are about 50 years old, I think can be forgiven. Given the long life of decent fabric I consider 'disposable clothing' an obscenity.

I rarely remember to wear aprons when I cook, a habit I keep thinking I'll change. However, when I do don one of the aprons hanging on the back of the kitchen door, it covers both above and below the waist. I always thought these little half-aprons sort of a house-wifey costume. Then again maybe in the 50s women weren't as sloppy as I am.

I was just thinking it was a shame I never wear these aprons and it suddenly dawned on me that I am developing the skills to cut a top piece and attach it to the bottom part. I remembered that the hems on these are quite deep - 4 or 5" - and so I could steal a bit of the hem to make a matching trim on the top. Or I could go all out and do some red and green cross-stitch. Pink, red and green aren't colours I would have mixed, but I must admit the roses are a nice design. As it happens I have quite a bit of plain white cotton that could be shaped with a loop for the head and some kind of trim. When and if this happens, I will be sure to share them with you. I can see a deadline of her next birthday post would be useful. 

The other thing I've done this past year is to knit dishcloths (no photos to hand at this moment so that will have to be another post). We have stopped buying sponges that wear out in a week. I've made dishcloths for Christmas gifts (not sure how well that went over). 

I gave one to my sister-in-law, Jane, when I knocked off a couple during our holiday together in Switzerland last May. I took a couple to our Thursday night craft group since there never seemed to be a sponge around for washing tea cups and I began to worry about the hygiene levels there. I've taken to drinking hot water instead of tea/coffee and though I know tea stains aren't important, I was pleased to be able to scrub a few off. I think some of the ladies at the craft group were pleased as well, from both a crafty and a cleaning point of view.

I know Grandma would be very happy to know some of her ideas have stuck with me. I also know that she wanted very much to be remembered after she passed, and so she will be for as long as I can see to that. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Rita's Birthday

Today should have been my Aunt Rita's 73rd birthday. Hard to believe she's been gone 10 years next month. If I think of Grandma and Grandpa when I putter (American) / potter (British) around the house, I think of Rita and Mom when I sew. Mostly Mom when hand sewing, mostly Rita when I run the machine. I'm still using thread, buttons, fabrics that came to me from them.

About this time last year I found a 'sewing bee' run by a couple of ladies in Felling, only about 10 miles away, but across - actually, under - the River Tyne, so a bit of a nuisance - actually, £1.70 expense. I go a bit out of my way and loop through Newcastle for the return, crossing the river via the Tyne Bridge. Traffic is heavier that way, but I never fail to appreciate the wonder of this amazing bridge. 

The 'sewing bee' is just three hours of protected sewing time in the presence of some serious dressmaking expertise to bail me out when I get stuck. At £10 a session, I think it is a bargain. My initial visits were sheer hell, given that the other women (and, for a while, a man) seem to go there as much for a chat as to sew. 

I selected a shirt/tunic pattern that was by no means a beginner's pattern and the instructions seemed to be in Greek at first read. I had to work hard to shut out all the distractions and focus on what I was doing and I left the first sessions completely drained by the effort. I explained at the end of one session that I was quiet not because I wasn't interested in the conversation but because sewing was damned hard work for me and it required all my concentration not to make a hash of it. I was surprised to hear that some of them didn't even like sewing, just the outcome. I am pleased to say that I love the process as much as the product, maybe even more.

Of course patterns are made for women with B-cup sized boobs and mine are some double letter I can't even believe. I'm sure it's a made up system to keep me confused. So I had one of the ladies help me with fitting. She mutilated my pattern, cutting, taping and re-cutting until the darts were deep enough to fit my particular curves. Of course we had to take miles off the shoulders and arm lengths. Petite patterns are a rarity these days it seems.

I went to South Shields market one Saturday and bought 10 metres of plain white cotton (£2/metre) for making toiles (practice garments to work on fit). I think I made two or three practice bodices to check various things. I still need to copy the final pattern back onto paper. The white cotton can become a bag lining or something...

The shirt was a challenge. I remember thinking their method of doing the plackets on the sleeves was akin to origami and I spent one whole three-hour session sewing, unpicking and re-sewing - I lost count at 6 times - the collar. Then I had the idea of tacking it in place by hand and it went so much smoother I kicked myself for not having done that sooner. I bought some good quality (Gutterman) thread but only used buttons I already had in my stash. I wasn't bothered that they didn't match, in fact I kind of enjoyed that.

I hated the tunic when it was finished. I'm not happy in loose clothing with no waist. We did all sorts of darts to take in some of the bagginess, but it never looked right to me, a light weight white cotton tunic over thick black leggings. So we chopped it off into the shirt length. Only somewhere in there we didn't measure the front and the back, so the front ended up longer. I was sick of it, so put it aside. I learned a great deal from making it so I couldn't consider it a waste of time. I will go back and fix that, probably before next summer when I'll be wearing it again. 

I had bought some nice grey chambray from The Sewing Box in Morpeth, but I wasn't going to cut into that fabric until I was confident of the outcome. The next practice shirt was from some print fabric I loved. No idea where it came from. I'm sure it's polyester, which I would never buy these days, but I thought I would enjoy a shirt from this anyhow. The print makes me think of a party with streamers and confetti; Bill says it reminds him of something French in the 1950's. 

Clearly, I need a different set up for photos, one what doesn't include the shadows from the window frames. Sorry about that.

I used some clear buttons I had in my stash, including a couple of glass buttons on the middle of the sleeves where they could be rolled up and held with a tab. I had this feature on the white shirt, but later realised that a) I was never going to roll up the sleeves above my elbows and b) I hadn't made the plackets large enough to roll up that far anyhow. 

So I just removed the tab and button and the cotton fabric sleeves stay rolled just fine anyhow. The polyester sleeves needed that tab, which I now knew to place lower down. See? I learn a lot by doing. Except that I cut the opening before sewing on the placket, which is wrong, and not only that, I cut in the wrong place. However, the print being as it is, I just stitched up those cuts and carried on with the right method. I can't afford to be a perfectionist just yet.

Taking these photos I see that there are still a million little threads to be cut. Also that the front of the print blouse is also slightly longer, but I can live with this. I have worn both the white and the print shirts several times this summer, more as 'jackets' than an shirts, unbuttoned with white jeans and coloured tank tops (American) / vests (British). I don't like bare arms (unless it's really hot) any more than baggy clothes. I had a brief attempt at making a vest just before we went to France, but it didn't turn out well. The result was much tighter and low cut than I would care to wear in public. However, neckline aside, this may turn out OK after all. Vests are put off until next spring.

Since I've been losing weight slowly - about 10 pounds now since the first of the year - I'm sure I need another fitting session before I make the grey shirt. I was kind of tired of doing shirts for the moment. Winter is Coming (yes, I have read the Game of Thrones, but not seen any of the TV stuff since I don't do Sky and probably never will) which means I will live in long sleeved t-shirts and wool cardigans, probably with jeans and with something thermal underneath.

I have a knack for getting tiny stains on the front of my tees and whether bought new or thrifted I was loathe to toss a whole t-shirt just because of one speck of discolouration. I have plenty of renovation ideas, but needed to hone some skills. 

I attended a weekend workshop at The Centre Front a few months ago where we learned to copy garments without dismantling them. I managed to make a pattern for a t-shirt and a sweater-jacket. I made a toile for the t-shirt out of a couple of Bill's old technical race t-shirts and was amazed it fit just right. Not wanting to chop up my own tees just yet (exactly the right colours are hard to find), I thrifted 100% cotton t-shirts in mens' sizes L and XL for £1 each. I keep uncovering old (ie 1999) cotton race t-shirts in the attic and so have an ample supply of practice fabric. 

My first real t-shirt is made from (the reverse side) a L navy t-shirt and part of said 1999 Coastal Race tee in an almost white marled grey cotton. Sewing a contrasting neck band proved a major challenge, but I aim for a balance of my Mom's extreme patience and Rita's race-along 'it'll be fine' approach. I must admit I'm more on the painstaking side, but hope for more of Rita's confidence as I improve. 

Neither of them took quite the frugal approach I do, though Mom made many of my grade (American) / primary (British) school shift dresses from my aunts' hand-me-down circle skirts. Mind, dressmaking fabrics, patterns and notions weren't as expensive back then nor did the concept of 'disposable clothing' exist. I have my own ideas about natural (biodegradable) fabrics and about as-near-to-zero-waste as I can get. I think Mom would be proud of me, but Rita would think I was crackers. Rita didn't do frugal.

I've meant to learn dressmaking for absolutely ages and I'm really excited that this dream is finally unfolding. Rita loved clothes and sewing for all the years I knew her and I know she would be pleased that the dressmaking bug has at last bitten me. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Grandpa's Birthday

I've been thinking the past few days about what to write in remembrance of the three people born in September who were precious to me. The first birthday is of my Grandpa, born 10 September 1894.

I remembered Grandpa's bank box that I've kept all these years. It has fascinating bits in like his driving licenses from Oklahoma and from Wisconsin, both of which say he was 5'10" and weighed 185 lbs. There are legal papers for their burial sites in Minneapolis (which were never used), his WWII classification notice, a certified copy of his birth certificate from 1908 and another a few years later for Grandma. I found a photo she gave him of herself for his birthday in 1941. Also the bank book for their savings account. 

Bank books were never part of my life until I did business with a 'building society' here in Britain, probably the closest thing they have here to an American style credit union.  I have had several over the years, though I think they are called 'passbooks' here. 

I was fascinated to learn that Grandpa left over $7,200 in savings when he died. I've always thought that a remarkable feat for someone who was the sole support for his family, self-employed as a portrait photographer. His home and his car were paid off and he left no outstanding debt. It was a joint account belonging to him and Grandma. At his death the money was transferred to a different account with her name alone. Several withdrawals happened soon after, no doubt to pay for her nursing home stay.

Grandma's bank book had a more modern look featuring an image of the Local Federal Savings and Loan. 

Of course it looked a substantial building, something that had existed a long time and would stand forever. Kind of like I used to think of my grandparents.

Local Federal S&L is no more. It was taken over/ merged and moved a number of times then closed. The old building seems gone as well, replaced by a glass or mirrored building called "Leadership Square South". 

Image result for local federal savings and loan oklahoma city

I was thinking 'Local Federal' was an oxymoron, but the new name is rather sickening. Just think how proud those men feel though, when they tell you their office is in "Leadership Square". 

The account was opened in 1960 and closed in 1973.  Bill and I reckoned that Grandpa turned 65 in 1959 and so the $2,000 he deposited initially was probably from his business account. I remember him doing the odd portrait photography shoot as late as 1968 and he still had his darkroom in the front bedroom, but not long after that. 

He made both deposits and withdrawals over the 13 years, but the final amount was more over three times more than what he deposited. The value of $1 in 1960 was the same as $8.26 today (so he deposited about $17,000). Sadly, the inflation of the 60s and 70s ate away at his savings, as the value of $1 in 1974 was $5.23 in today's money (still, he had the equivalent of about $38,000). I've not calculated what sort of interest he was earning or how much he deposited vs how much he withdrew. It sounds slightly mental that I might sit down and do such things, but it is a small way of spending time 'with' Grandpa, thinking about him. 

My thought in writing about this is that it is so representative of the kind of man he was: careful, painstaking and frugal. I will likely never be able to create the level of order that he and Grandma had in their home or in their lives (well, aside from my Dad, who was rather a tornado through all that caution), but I often think of them when considering where to put things and whether to keep something I don't have a place for.

If Grandpa had any character flaws I was never aware of them. I remember him as the most patient person I ever met, aside from perhaps my Mom (and I know several of her faults). So, I'm remembering Grandpa today and sometime this month I will be making meatloaf in his honour.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

G is for Gumshoe

I've been re-enjoying the Kinsey Milhone series of late. Bill happened to spot the title of a recent read and asked me what was the meaning of 'gumshoe'. He knew how it is used, but why?

I couldn't answer off the top of my head, but the answer is that of course 'gumshoe' is a slang word for detective. In the early 20th century when 'sneakers/tennies/Plimsolls/trainers' came about, the soles were made of 'gum rubber'; this was also about the time of the 'Golden Age of Detective Fiction'. Gumshoes were silent, implying stealth, a critical skill of detectives, apparently.

If you've not discovered Sue Grafton's 'alphabet series', I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Knole and Numbers

One of the books I read while we were in France was Inheritance, by Robert Sackville-West. It could easily have been called Disinherited, as many of his stories included those less fortunate than himself. He doesn't own Knole, but he is entitled to live there, which is probably a much better deal in these modern times.

I ran across his description of the great stairwell that made reference to Maarten de Vos (or Maerton deVos) and scribbled it down, so pleased to have found it.

I have already mentioned that Knole is thought to be, or at least to have been, a Calendar House; they are apparently fairly rare. 

One of the other things I remembered was reading (or was it hearing?) some guide leaflet/recording about all the decorations of the Grand Staircase. One of the main things was a nude statue underneath the stairs of a ballerina who had been a long term lover of one of the Sackville-Wests. Her story is well-covered in the book, but I think the statue was buried in the basement for quite a while after the wife came along.

The decoration of the actual stairwell includes carvings and paintings concerning the four seasons (easy enough); the five senses are easy, too, even if I had to think about it and count on my fingers. (If you don't have a 'gratitude list' for your 'down' days, I recommend you write one and put each of those senses on it.)

I Googled the heck out of Maarten de Vos and didn't find much, but it does look as though this 16th Century Flemish painter had a large influence on subsequent artists. According to deVos there are Four Stages in the life of Man: Amor (Love), Labor (Work), Honor (Achievement?) and Dolor (Pain). Gosh, I'm really looking forward to getting old after winkling out the definition of 'Dolor'. He did paintings of each of these, but the ones at Knole are by a later painter.

Also according to the stairwell (and a few other sources) there are Seven Virtues. I had the impression at the time these were carvings on the banister or newel posts, but I never figured it out, there is so much going on in a relatively small space. 

In looking all these things up, I ran into some odd words. 

According to painter Brueghel (Pieter the Elder), the Seven Deadly Sins are:

Pride, Avarice, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Acedia

The last word apparently means apathy or sloth.

When looking for the 7 Virtues, I found reference to 

Wisdom, Justice, Charity, Faith, Hope, Fortitude and Temperance

but also to 'Liberality' and Sapientia (which translates as Prudence)

Wikipedia / The Bible has : Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility

I would guess 'Liberality' goes in line with 'Kindness', perhaps Fortitude with Patience and/or Diligence. However, I note that the arts don't give much attention to 'Chastity', or 'Humility' for that matter. 

The visitors' information provided at Knole pointed out that the artwork on the Great Stairs did not include the virtue of 'Temperance', a funny little thing which is probably why I remembered all this to begin with.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

What's So Great about Gedmatch?

1. It lets you see where you match people on each chromosome. This helps a LOT in that you can choose to only look at the matches that you share a specific space on a particular chromosome, meaning you narrow the trees you look at to only your Dad's side (Grandfather, Great-grandmother, if you know that much detail) and you don't get muddled up trying to find the common ancestor from two different sides of your family.

2. It lets people who tested at companies other than Ancestry upload their DNA, so you get to look at matches who tested elsewhere. Ancestry is still the biggest database, but I've found really close cousins at Family Tree DNA. Gedmatch may well one day out grow Ancestry in numbers of matches because of this ability to upload, free of charge.

3. It gives you a direct email address to contact people. There have been concerns about the efficiency of the Ancestry message system, particularly for people who don't have a paid subscription to Ancestry. Mind, I've only had 3 emails in the past year, so it's not like you'll be flooded with inquiries.

4. It is FREE. You can upload, see your matches, look at who matches both of you, look at exactly on your chromosomes where you match another person or how they match another. And many other things as well.

5. It's open, by which I mean you can look at anyone else's kit number to see who and how they match someone else. That means you can help someone else figure out something. It means you can work on someone else's matches without special permission (as if you're not going to have enough on your hands with your own matches). If you have someone else's kit number, you can access all the data they have put on line without special permission or paying any subscription fees. 

6. If you upload your family tree (called a Gedcom file), there is a facility that will compare your tree with another tree, searching for the common ancestor without your having to scan it name by name. That's pretty cool. It also lets you search all the other family trees uploaded for a specific ancestor and then check to see if you share DNA with any of the people who have that person in their tree.

7. Personally, I made a special family tree that I named 'Shelley's Lineage' to put onto Gedmatch. Gedmatch doesn't protect the privacy of living people who may be on your tree, like Ancestry does. I'm happy to put myself out there, but when it comes to attaching a tree to other people on Gedmatch whose DNA I administer, all their children and spouses, etc. who are on my Ancestry tree, that's a different story. I will be creating special trees with just their lineage to attach to their DNA. Where there are living parents, I can select to put 'Private Male' or 'Private Female'. 

8. You can buy more options for only USD $10 for a month's access. This can be done as a one-off, or you can set up monthly payments. I tend to do a one-off every 4-5 months when I feel I've exhausted the data I have. I haven't fully explored every option of what they call 'Tier 1', but the 'triangulation' feature is very useful. It creates a (very long) list of places on your chromosomes where two other people match with you. I don't understand all the ins and outs of genetic genealogy but apparently a single paired match isn't necessarily a 'true' match, but a triangulated one is. But don't rely on my explanation - there are any number of other bloggers who are expert genetic genealogists. I don't always understand what they are saying, but each time I read it a bit more sinks in.

9. In addition to Gedmatch, there is now Wiki-Tree, another FREE facility that shares the pedigrees of any number of people. They ask users to 'sign' an 'honor code' referring to good research habits. I've not signed up yet, will need to study up on what their criteria are for these good habits (I'm sure mine are ridiculously sloppy in comparison). Even if you aren't a member you can look at their data. One of the neatest things I found was that you can look at all the descendants of a given person (well, all the descendants that have been uploaded). I've used this to weigh up a hunch about how I'm related to some of my matches. 

Clearly I have loads more to learn about using genetic data for building my family tree. Let's just say I'm happily addicted to this whole process and look forward to understanding it better!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

How to Copy Your DNA from Ancestry to Gedmatch

This is for my cousins who are putting a copy of their Ancestry DNA test results onto Gedmatch and running into trouble. Hopefully this will help a little.

When you first sign into your Ancestry account, your first screen  may look something like this: 

Or, perhaps it will look more like this, if you aren't involved with 'member connect' which tells you what others are doing.

Either way, the part you are interested in is the black bar at the top, where it says DNA. Click on that. Then select 'Your DNA Results Summary'.

If there is more than one DNA results associated with this username, you may need to 'View Another Test', otherwise, click on 'Settings'. 

Next, click on 'Download Raw DNA Data'.  This only makes a copy of your DNA, it does not remove it from Ancestry.

It will then ask for your password, the one you use to log into your Ancestry account.

Ancestry will send an email to the email you've given them for this account, to verify that you actually want to do this.

Click on the green button for 'Confirm Data Download'.

And, again, click on the green button 'Download DNA Raw Data'.  In case you are curious, like me, I looked at my raw data. It's just a very long string of numbers and letters as I recall. It makes no sense at all without a programme to interpret it.

When you push that button, it will create a folder, usually in the 'Downloads' directory. You'll see the seconds counting down until it is complete. Make sure you know where to find this folder on your computer. If you're not sure, click on that 'Show All' button in the opposite right corner from the folder name. It will show you the whole file name and you can click on 'Show in Folder' to help you locate it on your computer. It's all pretty simple and straight forward, but I know if you aren't used to using computers, this can seem as scary as venturing into outer space. I felt that way at first, anyhow.

OK, so you have DOWNloaded a copy of your DNA to your computer. Now I will show you how to UPload that copy (actually, a copy of that copy) to Gedmatch. (I'm writing a separate post titled "What's So Great About Gedmatch?" and will link here when it's finished.

On with the task at hand. I'm assuming you've already registered an account at Gedmatch ( They'll want an email address and a password. If you've not done this already, go do it now. We'll wait for you...

I've been on Gedmatch for over a year now and have 6-8 people's DNA listed under my email address and have only received something like 3 inquiries. I've never had an email from the company itself; they aren't selling adverts. They do sell the more advanced functions of their website for USD$10 a month. You can do a one-off or regular payments. I do one-offs every 4-5 months. I say all this to support the idea that you can use your 'real life' email with reasonable assurance. That said, some folks do seem to set up a different 'genealogy' email address for this. I think it would complicate my life to do that, but it's your choice.

So, now you are registered and have your Ancestry DNA on your computer, you can log in to Gedmatch. 

You want the 'Generic Upload FAST' selection. It is a LOT faster than it used to be, like about 10 times faster. 

At the top is a set of detailed instructions about uploading different types of files, so this is sort of a duplicate. 

I have shrunk the print size on my screen to get all of these details on the same page; your real life copy on Gedmatch will be much more legible! 

This upload screen will ask you to complete some blanks. You can be anonymous on here if you wish, using an alias for the name of the DNA donor. I used initials for all my kits, but you do need to put your real name down where it says; it never shows up. I'm guessing it's something about a declaration of 'ownership' and there is another question about this later. 

The next step is at the bottom of the screen where you (a) choose the file from your computer; and then (b) Upload to Gedmatch. 

You need to give it time to click through each chromosome and something called a '36 (or is it 37?) Build'. No idea what that's about, but wait for it to finish. They will show you the progress so you'll have an idea of how long it takes. When I first did this it took 5-10 minutes. The last time I did it, we were done in about one minute. This site keeps on getting better and better!

When it is finished it will then give you your Kit Number which will have a letter and six numbers. As you've uploaded Ancestry DNA results, your Kit Number will begin with an Axxxxxx. Write that down. (Note if you misplace it, just log on to Gedmatch and look down the right hand side for 'User Lookup'. Put in your email address and they will tell you your kit number. 

There is a facility on the menu called 'One to Many' which shows you a list of all the people you match. It takes a couple of days after you upload for all these matches to be identified and linked to your new account. You can, however, do an immediate 'One-to-One' comparison if you know someone else's kit number. 

If you like, email me and I can give you mine! I'd love to know your kit number, too, but if we are a close relative, you will show up on my list eventually, with a bright green kit number. That green fades over a month's time to white. This tells all your matches they have a new match to look at! 

Finally, if you are putting your DNA on to Gedmatch because I specifically asked you too, THANK YOU SO MUCH! (Hope I wasn't too much of a pest!).