Sunday, February 26, 2017

23AndMe Or "Not As German"


You can forget everything I've ever posted about being mostly of German descent.  After spending the last decade-and-more years researching my family tree, and finding most branches leading back to Deutschland, I've come to learn that, by comparison, my chromosomes tell a very different story than what my research has indicated.

For Christmas last year, Kevin bought me DNA testing from 23AndMe, a DNA testing service that breaks down your global ancestry by percentages, among other things.  It took about 5 weeks but the results arrived recently and I learned some interesting things about myself.  For example, below is my DNA break down:

So yes, I am still 100% European, but only about 19% German.  This is beyond puzzling to me.  Two of my G+parents were for certain born in Germany: 1) My Mom's maternal grandmother, Catherine Groeter, was born in Dusseldorf and came over on a boat when she was 4 years old, and 2) Mom's paternal great-grandfather, Justus Rase, was born in Freudenthal, coming over before the age of 10.

Of my 16 Great Great Grandparents ("GGG"), 8 of them (50%) are of German descent, and 4 of those are 100% German, meaning both parents came from Germany.  So it would seem that my German heritage would be more strongly represented in my DNA -- my guess is to the tune of about 60% at least.

Now let's compare this to my British/Irish (and Scottish) heritage which is a whopping 49% in the chart above.  So nearly half of my DNA is from British Isles ancestry.  Comparing that to the 16 GGGs, only 4 of them have ancestry dating back to Great Britain and only 2 of those are 100% from the British Isles. 

Puzzling, no?

I also need to account for 2 GGGmothers, Emma Burton and Ida Porter, and 1 GGGfather, John Winebrenner, whose ancestry is completely unknown to me.  All three of them are on my Dad's side. But I guess I can deduce based on the evidence that they should/could be between 50%-100% British, Irish, and/or Scottish.  

I've compiled a visual of my GGGs for myself to help make sense of it all.  You can see the preponderance of German flags to flags from Britain, Ireland, and France.  The blank squares are unknown.  The top flag represents the paternal side of that person; the bottom, the maternal side.
*not their real photos, obviously

I actually thought that DNA testing would answer more questions than it's raised.  Not so.  As I've researched, I've been happy to find surprises, like the higher-than-expected number of Irish ancestors that I introduced on here last year and the year before.  But not as surprised to learn that I am not as wholly-German as I always thought.  Or at least my DNA tells me.

Another goal for me is to identify that "Broadly Northwestern European" category.  At almost 24%, that's about 1/4 of my DNA.  Broadly Northwestern European includes Germany for sure, along with northern France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Great Britain, and Scandinavia.

The search continues...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oh, The People I Have Lived

I like keeping lists of things I've done.  I find it interesting to reflect on subjects and to categorize information because I think it helps me find patterns in my life.  I can harken this back to my post on StrengthsFinder and my penchant for context - the desire to look back in order to make sense of the now, as well as to help make decisions for the future.

For a few years, I've been keeping track of several things, among them a list of all the jobs I've had and a list of all the shows Kevin and I have seen.  Another list I've been keeping is a list of all the places I have lived.  My current home is my 35th home, or rather moving into this house was the 35th time I have packed up and moved.

For the first 20 years of my life, I lived in just 3 places - the house in which I was born, the house my parents rented soon after I was born, then the house they bought when I was 5 - the same house in which my mother still resides:
1.  House in Cresaptown, MD
2.  House in Eckhart (south)
3.  House in Eckhart (north) - parents' home since 1971
So this means that over the next 45 years, I moved 32 times.

Working backward, I've lived in Chicago for the past 12 years.  Here, I have lived in 6 places, including the time we moved to and from Miami.  I moved 7 times since moving to Chicago in 2005:
4.   Apartment in Andersonville with Ashley
5.   Apartment in Boystown with Ashley
6.   Kevin's apartment
7.   Condo in Uptown
8.   Miami
9.   Condo in Uptown
10. Current house in Lincoln Square - since 2015
Prior to Chicago, I lived in DC for 10 years, where I also lived in 6 places:
11. Group house at 4th and D, NE
12. Apartment on Capitol Hill
13. Apartment in Georgetown
14. Apartment on T Street, NW
15. Group house on T Street, NW
16. House in Shaw with Ashley
My first home in DC was a group house on 4th and D Streets, NE.  I lived there for 1 month: September 1995.  I had two roommates, one of whom I never met or saw the entire time I was there.  It was a rough situation and I had things stolen from me.  I found another place several blocks away on Capitol Hill and lived there for about two years. It was the first time I lived on my own, responsible for everything.  I remember one unspecific day, a few weeks after moving in, when I realized that I was "doing it": my rent was paid, all my utilities were paid, my car insurance was paid, and I had groceries in the kitchen.  It was the sudden realization, I guess, that I had finally grown up - at the age of 29.  The last time I moved from my parents' home was my move to DC in 1995.  I swore I would never move back home again.  And I didn't.

So for the past 22 years (since 1995), I've moved 13 times, which means that for the period of 9 years between 1986 and 1995, I moved 19 times.  That's 19 times in 9 years.  How is that possible?  College accounts for most of it.  On average, a college student moves 2+ times a year to and from school.  And there were many attempts at moving out and trying to make it, but failing for whatever reason or needing to move back home because of some circumstance:
17.   Apartment in Ocean City, MD - my first attempt at moving out, but was temporary
18.   Back to parents' house
19.   Apartment on Washington Street, in Cumberland, MD - bad roommate situation
20.   Back to parents' house
21.   House in Sterling, VA with Ex#2
22.   Duplex with a friend in Winchester, VA following breakup with Ex#2
23.   Back to parents' house
24.   Condo in Silver Spring, MD with one roommate
25.   Apartment in Silver Spring, MD with two roommates
26.   Back to parents' house
27.   Dorm room at Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA  (one semester)
28.   Apartment on Grant Street in Frostburg, MD (summer)
29.   Dorm room in Cambridge Hall at FSU, Frostburg, MD
30.   Back to parents' house (one month)
31.   Dorm room at Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA  (two semesters)
32.   House with two college/friends roommates in Winchester, VA  (summer)
33.   House with two college roommates in Winchester, VA  (two semesters)
34.   Apartment in Waterford, CT for an internship (one summer)
35.   Back to parents' house
So when I tell Kevin that I have moved for the last time and in my final home, he laughs at me.  But just looking at this list makes me exhausted.  It's 35 times of folding, wrapping, packing, sealing, labeling, stacking, packing, cleaning, patching, painting, tossing, donating, driving, moving, unpacking, arranging, rearranging, refolding, painting, mail forwarding, electricity, gas, cable, internet, and in some cases a new driver's license and updating voter registration.

But looking back on these places, it's easy to compare them to relationships. The places I have lived were like people who came into my life and stayed awhile.  I entered each one full of hope and promise; they were new and exciting.  Now and then, they needed work or my attention to fix something either caused by me or (more typically) by the person who came before me.  They kept me warm, made me feel safe, gave me comfort.  I trusted them with all my possessions.  And then, I moved on either from need or want or lack of either.  But despite that, I remember each one fondly because each one was different.  I don't regret any of them because I learned something about myself in each place.

And just like the relationship I am currently in - I've found my last home.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Amos Went To The Big House

As previously mentioned in this blog, my great-grandfather, William Amos Troutman (aka Ricker) was a bit of a hoodlum.  He was arrested at least once that I know of, which most likely doesn't constitute his entire criminal career.  There were probably other crimes he committed where he was either caught or caught and released.

Amos is listed among the population records of Western State Penitentiary.  This prison, nicknamed "Western Pen" was built in 1882 along the banks of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh.  As Amos' family lived southeast of Pittsburgh, Amos literally went "up the river" to prison on October 2, 1897.  The distance from Somerset to Pittsburgh is about 70 miles, but to his family at the time, Amos must have seemed far, far away.

He served 1 year and 6 months for his role in stealing $1,300 from Phineas Werner, a Greenville township farmer.  His partners in crime were his younger half-brother, Harvey Deal, who was sentenced to the Huntington Reformatory because of his age, and Charles Bloom, an experienced convict who apparently talked the two younger men into joining him in the robbery and then split the money with his accomplices, keeping most of it for himself since neither Amos nor Harvey could count money.

My hope is that the one stint in the brink was enough for Amos.  There's no other prison record in western Pennsylvania for him following this time, and not certain if he served the entire time or was let out early.  But hopefully it set him straight and he moved on.

But aside from all that, is the information provided by the prison record.  It lists a complete physical description of Amos that I didn't have, until now.  It's like seeing him in color for the first time.

At the age of 24, Amos was 5'11", 175 lbs.  His body type is listed as "stout" which would suggest he had somewhat of a muscular build.  He had light chestnut brown hair and a sandy red beard.  His eye color suggests green or hazel, based on the way the description is written.  He had a high forehead, a medium/fair complexion, and a long, prominent nose.  His body was riddled with scars and marks, most likely from being a laborer and farmer his entire life (up to the age of 24 at least).

His occupation was listed as farmer, and he got a check next to the category of "occasionally intoxicated".  He was a Lutheran who was 16 when he left public school.  He could read and write "imperfectly" as evidenced by his signature on the prison ledger:

He signed it as Amos Ricker; Ricker being his mother's maiden name.  My guess is he didn't prefer using the name of Troutman since he was illegitimate.  At the age of 24, he could be using Troutman since he had a choice in the matter.  But it seems he preferred his mother's family name.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

James Blanding Sloan

Anyone who has been to our home has seen the wall in our dining room that houses our eclectic collection of Chicago-centric art.  One of the prints on the wall appears to be old and faded.  It has originally belonged to Kevin's maternal grandfather and was gifted to Kevin several years ago after Kevin had moved to Chicago.  It's one of those prints that you have to look at for a long time because the longer you look at it, the more you see.  At the bottom left on the print is written, "German building - Jackson Park Chicago" with the name of the artist written on the right side, James Blanding Sloan.  

Our print is number 9 of 100.

I believe the building in the foreground of the print, which is from an actual wood carving, is the Guatemala Building.  The image below is a map of the north end of the White City, showing the Gallery of Fine Arts Building, which is the present-day Museum of Science and Industry.  I surmise that the vantage point of the print above is standing just west of the Guatemala Building, looking east to the Germany building:

The Germany Building at Jackson Park (right) was originally built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the event that gave birth to Jackson Park as Chicagoans know it. All but a few of the hastily-erected but magnificent Expo structures burned down the following year through a series of accidental and malicious acts. The German Building, Iowa Building, Spanish Pavilion, Japanese Temple, and Palace of Fine Arts were survivors. The German Building lived on for another 30 years as a beach house, suffering fatal fire damage 30 years later. The Iowa Building was relocated to this spot at the south end of the beach. The Spanish Pavilion later became the LaRabida Hospital (minus newer structures), and the Palace of Fine Arts is better known today as the Museum of Science and Industry. 

James Blanding Sloan studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the precursor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a versatile artist: painter, wood carver, graphic artist, set designer, illustrator, and puppeteer. Originally from Texas, he moved to San Francisco in the 1920s where he established a studio on Polk St. and owned a puppet theater on Montgomery St. From San Francisco, Sloan moved to Hollywood where he worked as a stage and set designer. In 1934, Sloan became the director of the WPA Federal Theater in Los Angeles.  

James Blanding Sloan
Sloan was a bit of a rascal.  I encourage you to read his Wikipedia page .  Not only was he an artist, he was also an activist.  Just after America entered World War I, he was arrested for posting signs which urged young men not to register for the military draft, but to claim exemptions as conscientious objectors.  

In 1929, he was arrested in San Francisco for pushing the boundaries of censorship by creating and using anatomically correct nude marionettes and puppets in his puppet theater shows for sold-out adult audiences. He also used his theater to run foreign films that had been banned elsewhere.

Kevin and I have always liked the print that hangs on our dining room wall with several other Chicago-themed prints.  But knowing the history of this one print -- and the ass-kicking nature of the artist behind the work -- probably makes this one a little more special than the others.

By 1948, James Blanding Sloan was living in Altadena, California, and in the mid-1960s moved to Berkeley, California, and then to the nearby town of Canyon, where he died at the age of 89.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Dollar Tree

People, I have discovered Dollar Tree.

I'd seen this store all around Chicago but never really paid much attention to it.  There are lots of other variety stores out there with "dollar" in the name, such as Family Dollar (owned by the same parent company), Dollar General, and K Dollar.  These stores sell items at discount prices, but for more than just a buck (ostensibly, the names are derived from the fact that all prices are rounded to the nearest whole dollar, avoiding the $.99 trap most often used in pricing).  I figured Dollar Tree was just another one of these stores.

Au contraire mon frère.

Walking through those doors is like having a religious experience.  I don't know if I can explain it completely, but perhaps it's simply knowing that every single item costs $1 at most.  I could buy an entire aisle's worth of stuff and still be able to justify spending the money because, hey - it was only a dollar!  It's the same feeling of power I get when all my laundry is clean or when I have a full tank of gas.  It's an "anything is possible" feeling.  It's powerful.

Back in 1982 or so, the new indoor mall opened back home when I was a teen.  It included a store called 99 Cents Only.  And for a teen on a budget, that's nirvana.  But I soon learned the "you get what you pay for" lesson because everything in that store was cheap (in more ways than one) and lacked any kind of quality.  It was mostly junky stuff, left over from the old 5 And Dime days.

But Dollar Tree is different.  The quality of its merchandise is better; it's not primo by any means, but it's better than what I have seen in other discount variety stores.  And it is the variety that keeps me intrigued.  I see the exact same items in Dollar Tree that I see in other stores, including my grocery store of choice, Mariano's.  For example, I can buy a bar of Yardley Oatmeal soap at Mariano's for $3.99, or I can buy it at Dollar Tree for $1.  I can buy crepe paper streamers at Target for $1.99 or I can buy them at Dollar Tree for $1.  I found $1 cereal bowls in Dollar Tree that exactly match the dishes we already had from Pottery Barn (and you can bet the PB dishses didn't cost $1 each!).

There are two Dollar Tree stores within walking distance from our house and I find I go to them regularly, not to buy items per se, although I always do) but to at least familiarize myself with what they have so I know where to go to buy them.

In short, I'm a huge fan - huuuuuge.