Saying farewell to TV faves

I acknowledge it, I watch too much TV.  Lots of years of not feeling well plus lots of living alone added up long ago to finding companionship in t.v. characters (who, when you’re not up to par, are SO undemanding 🙂 ).  For some years I’ve really listened more than watched, as I’m often reading and writing blogs while the “tube” keeps me company in the background.

My faves are usually what they call “character-driven” which, for me, in some cases means I love the characters so much I watch it even though the plots are often stupid –long-time fave N.C.I.S. would be one of those.  But I also like shows like This Is Us or Friday Night Lights that not only have great characters played by good actors, but also strong and compelling storylines.

This last year has seen the demise of so many shows I love, I’m feeling sad sometimes at the losses.  Major Crimes, with the cast of characters I started loving when it was The Closer, was maybe the first; an incomprehensible exit for a highly rated show the network decided didn’t fit its new direction (which mostly leaves me not liking to see even the trailers of their newer shows…).  I was particularly disappointed in the decision to kill off Captain Raydor, effectively forestalling any possibility of a pick-up by another network or streaming service.

I adored The Fosters from the first episode and would have happily continued watching for at least another season or three, but they decided to end it.  So in June I sadly watched the 3-part finale and now wait uneasily for the spin-off, which will feature one of my favorite characters and one of my least favorite with occasional appearances by some of the others.

Loving Nashville came as a bit of a surprise to me since I’m not a fan of country music, but I love Connie Britton so I’ll try any shows she’s in at least once.  I wound up loving all of it and now there are a bunch of other actors I’d watch at least once in anything…  well, maybe not horror or one of those cable dramas so dark the trailers make me want to give up on humanity 🙂  Now I’m sadly watching the final countdown to the end.  At least I’ll have my playlist of the music I’ve liked best from the show.

Code Black has been one of the better medical dramas in my humble opinion.  While I thought they made a mistake in getting rid of some of the first season cast and replacing them with — to me — interchangeably uninteresting new interns, I did like the addition of Rob Lowe.  I’ve always liked Marcia Gay Harden, so she guaranteed my first watch and everything else kept me coming back.  Next week is the series finale and I’m sorry to see it go.

Even though much of it was pretty silly, I loved Amazon’s quirky Mozart in the Jungle from my first view.  I’ve taken my time with the latest season since I sped through the others too fast and was disappointed to hear these will be the last episodes ever.

Those are just a few of the losses so I’ll be posting again with some more.


Anyone else tired of enviro-nazis?


Actually, in this day and age I’m pretty tired of people being snarky and incredibly judgmental about many topics, but I’m narrowing in on environmental nazis today and that one predates all this social media finger-pointing.

Back when I first got interested in environmental issues in 1968 or so, it was a pretty fringe thing.  I took environmental biology my first year at Northwestern (70-71) and was hauling piles of stuff to the recycling center by the next year [for the young folks, this was before cities sent trucks to your doorstep to pick things up; you had to take every single thing you recycled to the recycling center yourself and cans had to be washed with tops, bottoms and labels removed and smashed flat and everything had to be divided by category).  Later in the decade I participated in marches and protests for solar power.

In those early days, we were just glad to see others participating.  We weren’t busy pawing through other people’s environmental habits and pointing fingers.  Somewhere in the 80’s though, as the movement grew bigger and more popular, I noticed lots of self-righteous environmentalists who began judging others based on their personal edicts as to what constituted being a good environmental citizen…

The late 80’s saw me representing my office in a rulemaking for the Illinois Commerce Commission and standing firm with one other fellow on refusing to sign on unless some environmental provisions we wrote together were included (they all got in!).  And the large team of attorneys from a coalition of agencies in which I was a tiny cog, wound up stopping nine nuclear power plants from being built.

And at the same time I would periodically read an article in which somebody who’d barely been born when I started recycling and studying environmental issues basically told me something I did in life meant I’m not really an environmentalist.  These folks had opinions about anything from what you did or didn’t recycle, to what you ate, what you drove, what you wore, what you bought…  Most of them had a strong opinion about one or two things and policed everybody else for those things while caring nothing for one or more precepts other environmentalists found important.

Mostly I’ve always just rolled my eyes and left it alone.  And wondered why they felt the need.  In all the years I’ve tried to help the environment I’ve never felt an impulse to check out what others did so I could shame or blame them nor to chastise people for what they do or don’t do.

I know enough about many studies to know if the majority of people on earth started participating in one or two environmentally friendly behaviors  we would start turning it around.  Note it’s not that everybody has to do every single environmentally positive thing anyone has ever conceived of, we just need to get as many people as we can to take on what they can.

So I applaud any effort any one is making and I see no point in chastising those who don’t do anything.  I’ve never known an “environmentalist” who didn’t do some stellar things in one or more arenas and then waste something like crazy in another.  Why does the latter cancel out the former?  Who am I to judge?

So mostly I let these enviro-nazis go, roll my eyes and move on.  Every now and then, though, when some whipper-snapper launches one of those “you’re not an environmentalist” tirades that includes something I do in their snotty condemnation, it pisses me off.

Today was one of those days, when I read an article posted on Facebook that informed me I can’t eat meat and be an environmentalist.  It’s not that I don’t know the arguments about how badly our meat growing and eating habits affect the earth.  I do.

But I have problems with anemia and the one and only “prescription” anyone ever gave me that worked came from an acupuncturist who advised me to eat red meat 1-2 times a week.*  My health has also gone on an unbelievable downhill slide every time I’ve tried to eat a vegetarian diet of any sort.   I feel I’m a better participant in helping the environment when I’m healthy.

I do the best I can about local and being careful whose meat I purchase, etc. and I still recycle copiously, use “green” detergents, etc., so  the idea that eating meat once or twice a week erases four decades of working for the environment both personally and sometimes professionally, left me fuming today.

It’s so offensive to “talk” to people that way, I don’t understand why these folks fail to see what a total turn-off it is to approach these issues with such self-righteousness and judgment.  There may be some people they shame or bash into submission but I bet they lose more than they gain.  They even make me want to throw my recycling in the trash 🙂  And I think it’s pissing me off worse than usual because I’m so tired of so many people in general being so snotty.

I guess in a society where far too many people would rather point their fingers at others and blame them for all their problems than to ever take that scary walk down the path of looking into their own hearts it makes some perverted kind of sense.  But really, how about some self-examination and aiming for some compassion? I’m tired of all these cowards who’d rather condemn other people than face their own inner demons.  So I guess it’s my turn for finger pointing 🙂

And I’m wondering if you’re tired of it too?

* red meat contains heme iron, which you can’t get from any vegetable source and also an enzyme that helps you absorb iron.  Many of us with routine anemia problems either need the heme iron or the assist on absorption or both.


a signed book up for grabs

The Matticus Kingdom


Hear ye, hear ye…

(Or, is it here ye, here ye?  I can never remember.  Really, as Jester of the Kingdom I should know these things… but, it’s not like they hand out a owner’s manual when you find yourself running a kingdom.  I’m having to make all this up as I go along.)


The time has come, once again, for a contest… an official Matticus Kingdom contest… the kind where you all compete in some sort of game and the winner gets a book… a signed book…  a signed book delivered to their mailbox or front door, and all I ask in return is you leave a fair and accurate review of the book on Amazon once you’ve read it.  That seems straightforward, right?  And well worth it when you get the fun of playing the game, the book delivered for free, and the emotional rollercoaster of reading…

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Share Your World April 23, 2018

Cee’s Share Your World this week:

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

In the interest of health, I’d pick Trader Joe’s spinach, cranberry, pecan, etc. salad, pots of the soup I always keep around, ribollita, and either the supplies to make my smoothies or better yet, a steady supply of the smoothies just as I make them but made by somebody else 🙂

Granola Nut Bar

And then, for what I really love, dark chocolate, La Coppa coffee, and an endless supply of my homemade granola bars (again, preferably made for me by someone else).

List at least five movies or books that cheer you up.

The Secret Garden has been a lifelong favorite book (never thought any of the movie attempts did it justice) and I lost count long ago of how many times I’ve read it.

The Harry Potter movies and books; mostly just the early ones.  I can’t say the darker tone of the later ones is exactly cheering.

Return to Me, with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver is one of the rare ones I’ve seen a number of times and always love.

The Thin Man movies, especially the first couple — William Powell and Myrna Loy could deliver funny lines like nobody else…

So many Fred Astaire movies — many with Ginger Rogers, but plenty of them to love with many other partners too!

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing? 

My mother and I sitting in separate rooms, both with the TV on, her with a book in her lap to read during commercials and me with my laptop, half paying attention to what I’m watching while reading and writing, etc.  For me, yoga usually somewhere in the evening.  And periodically in one or the other of the two rooms, Salty the cat on somebody’s lap.  I’m thinking the mouse is in a well-hidden vantage point 🙂

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

Daffodils in light snow; April in KY 2018

It keeps coming around to the day or two here and there when it warms up enough for the furnace to be off and the windows open.  It keeps shooting back down to temps that are unnaturally cold for Kentucky in late April and it really makes the few warm days seem special!

Cee’s Share Your World April 9, 2018

Cee’s Share Your World this week:

Been anywhere recently for the first time?

No, I’m living in kind of a groove recently, in which I pretty much go to the same places routinely.  I have in the last couple of weeks made several re-visits to places I’ve not been in a while.

Most notable, maybe, was meeting a friend at Barnes and Noble for coffee.  There’s only one here and in an area I don’t much like so I’ve stuck with the closer-to-me independent bookstore and its cafe.  But B&N was a better halfway point for this friend.  I realized I couldn’t even calculate how long it had been, but I think at least 10 and probably more like 12 or 14 years!

When my mother and I drove around and took pictures in the cemetery last week, that was the first time we’d been in probably 4 or 5 years (see photos on last SYW post).  So long that neither of us could remember how to get to my grandparents’ graves which we used to visit regularly.

List three favorite book characters.

Dickon in the Secret Garden.  The book is one of my all time faves — possibly read more times than any other.  I love Dickons’ good humor, kindness and love for animals.

Sophy in the Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer.  I’m a great fan of Ms. Heyer (whom I consider to be greatly underrated).  Sophy is fun, strong, confident and incredibly independent in a novel set during the Regency period in England… when women were seldom seen in that light.  Those are frequent traits of Heyer’s heroines and one of the many reasons I like her.

Morgaine in Marion Zmmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon.  Strong and magical and full of heart.

What is your favorite non alcololic drink: hot or cold?

I make espresso every morning — the only cup I allow myself a day in general — and put cream in it but I don’t foam or heat it, so it isn’t really officially a cappuccino or latte, etc.  LOVE my coffee.  I don’t much care for alcohol so actually even if you allowed alcohol on the list, I don’t think it would be on mine…

Morning Coffee

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

I’m pretty happy that in spite of unseasonable frosts and snow, our daffodils, hyacinths, etc. are still alive and blooming.

Share Your World April 2, 2018

Cee’s Share Your World this week:

What was or is your favorite cartoon?

There were cartoons called “Merry Melodies” when I was a kid.  There were some more famous ones from them like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but my station had a slot in which they showed what I now think are older ones and I always found them charming — far more charming than most anything else in the way of cartoons (and I watched many as a child 🙂 )

Which cooking utensil (other than the usual pots and pans etc) would you miss the most?

I rely pretty heavily on both my food processor and my blender.  Since I have trouble standing for long periods, the processor has particularly been a lifesaver as it SO drastically reduces the amount of time it takes to grate and slice.

Would you dare to sleep in haunted house overnight?

As long as nobody was telling me the ghosts were malevolent, I think I’d enjoy it.  And I’m pretty sure there were ghosts in the house my grandmother and aunt lived in (built in 1875).  I never saw one but all the animals stopped in their tracks and stared in the direction of…  apparently nothing… often enough I was quite sure they saw one or more regularly.  i.e. I think I already have slept in a haunted house.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.


Tuesday it was supposed to storm all day and I’d planned to hang out at home.  Instead the storms ended in the morning and it turned sunny, warm and beautiful.  My mother and I took a ride through the big local cemetery where they have magnificent displays of flowering shrubs and trees plus big beds of tulips.  Heavenly

Share Your World March 26, 2018

Cee’s Share Your World this week:

What is your favorite color of hair? You can name your hair color or a color that you just like.

My mother’s hair originally was a gorgeous red they always called mahogany.  She’d gone more brown by the time I came along but there were pictures of the color and she has a curl of it.  It’s a shade I’ve rarely seen on anyone else, but truly a beautiful color.

List at least 5 things that you are good at.

  1. writing
  2. napping
  3. yoga
  4. cooking
  5. quick thinking

What is your favorite animal or type of animal? (pets, dolphins, stuffed, wild cats, etc)

Stretched-out Salty

My very favorite animal of the moment is, of course, Salty.  Also love horses.  And, just to look at, from a distance :-), ocelots, elephants, sea otters, koalas…

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

It warmed up and got sunny for a couple of days and, even though it was still cool, we opened up the house and aired it out for a bit and it always feels so good!

Cee’s Share Your World 3/5/18

Cee’s Share Your World this week:

What did you or did not like about the first place you lived without your parents?

It was a dorm, Bobb Hall, at Northwestern.  It was the first year they quit separating women’s residential spaces from men’s by a mile, so our dorm was in the middle of the men’s quad and virtually next door to the frats. The only women’s dorm at that end of the campus, which was sometimes quite uncomfortable.  But really the thing I liked the least was having to go down the hall to the big shared bathroom carrying all your shower-related stuff and that it was shared and that you couldn’t take a bath.  Kind of whiny first world problems…

What is your most favorite smell/scent?

Oh, I love so many.  I’m very into scent and have worn perfume since I was a kid.  Early on I was into Shalimar and still love it but I’ve expanded to so many more.  Butterfly by Hanae Mori is a current fave.  There are blooming flower scents I love, like lilac, rose, lavender.  Cooking scents I love, like rosemary, cinnamon and pot roast cooked in wine.  The scent of fresh coffee in the air is a big fave.  And I adore burning Nag Champa incense.  The aromatherapy concoction an aromatherapist friend created for me.  Just to name a few 🙂

Would you prefer snowy winters, or not, and why?

I liked living in California and coming to Kentucky at Christmas, seeing one round of snow and then no more.  I grew up in Michigan and lived many years in Chicago and I just got tired of the cold and getting stuck and having to shovel, and clearing off my car…

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

Morning Coffee

In a freak storm incident a couple of weeks ago, water blew into and leaked down our cook top exhaust hood and into the workings of the stove top, burning it out.  We have a long wait for a new one, which had to be ordered, so I’ve not been able to make my stovetop espresso in the morning.  (another of those first world, “poor me I had to fix coffee with Melitta filter” problems)… This last week I dug out my old Gaggia espresso machine and started enjoying yummy espresso again.  I REALLY appreciate that!

Granola/Nut Bars

A while back I decided to start making healthier snacks and hunted for a good granola bar recipe.  While I’ve collected some more traditional recipes to try (s00n), the one I landed on was heavier on nuts and seeds than oatmeal and I liked the switch.

The original recipe turned out to be a bit of a mystery as the amounts in the recipe were far too small for the size pan specified; first off I wound up having to transfer the thinly spread ingredients (which would have turned out to be granola instead of bars) to a pan half the size.  Then I wound up deciding to tweak ingredients, which kept happening over several tries.  Now the recipe I’m using basically has nothing in common with the first.  But I love these.

Leigh’s Granola/Nut Bars

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  (I find if I start it first it’s ready long before I am so I usually wait till I’m farther into the process)

Dry ingredients:

  • 1-1/3 cups dried cranberries
  • 3 cups chopped raw cashews
  • 1 cup raw slivered almonds
  • 1 cup oats (not quick)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • 4 Tablespoons chia or hemp seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 2 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

As is usual with granola-type recipes, substitute other fruits, nuts and seeds according to your preferences (just make sure the seeds are similar sizes; either tiny to substitute for hemp or chia or larger to substitute for sunflower or pumpkin).  You can also choose a different type of nut butter.

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl; make sure the salt and cinnamon are well-distributed.

Separately mix together all the wet ingredients (I put them in a Pyrex measuring cup so they’re easier to pour).  Stir well.  I find it takes quite a while to get the wet stuff well distributed through the dry so my advice is, take the bowl somewhere where you can sit for a few minutes and be comfortable while you stir and stir and stir.

Lay parchment paper on a cookie sheet approximately 16″x 12″; although pundits claim they come in standard sizes, I have a bunch and I’ve measured them and there are lots of variations.  I have several within an inch of this size in one or both dimensions and any will work.

Spread the mixture evenly on top of the parchment paper.  Bake 33-37 minutes.  I usually check at the 33 minute point and they often come out then but occasionally it seems to take a little longer.  They should be slightly brown and firm but not too brown (often bits at the edges wind up more brown).  You really don’t want these overdone or they’ll break up when you try to cut them.

They need to sit for about an hour on the pan after they come out of the oven and then you need to cut them fairly soon.  If you cut earlier, they’re still warm and tend to fall apart when you cut.  If you wait very long past an hour, they get drier and tend to break up.  I get about 20 fairly standard size bars from this; recently I’ve started cutting them smaller as I’m pretty satisfied with just a small chunk.

These freeze very well so I usually divide half into one box and put half, separated in layers by wax paper, in another box for the freezer.  They last well for about two weeks when left out and are edible after that but not as good.  I’ve never left the freezer box in there for much more than the couple of weeks it takes to finish the first box so I can’t tell you how long they can stay in there 🙂

Negotiating genealogy sites

10x Great Grandfather

I’ve always been interested in family history and joined Ancestry in 2009 with a free membership.  Since then, interest in genealogy has boomed and the landscape of places to build trees, explore DNA and find sources has grown to what sometimes feels like an untamed wilderness.  In a recent return to searching after a long hiatus I’ve found myself sorting through too many choices and struggling to decide what are the best sites.

Over the years after my initial research on Ancestry I researched off and on using regular search engines and at one point received a huge family tree put together by distant cousins on my mother’s side, so I kept adding info to my Ancestry tree.

Having finally decided to get into DNA testing, I ordered a test from Ancestry and bought a 6 month membership so I could work with the results.  I quickly ran into some serious limitations and issues with Ancestry and slowly started finding my way to other sites and making comparisons.  With Ancestry you can’t really put results for several people on one tree and they only have one test.  So I’ve wound up with two tests from Ancestry and a Y DNA from another site and am putting results on two other sites that allow me to put the DNA info together on one tree.

I’m certainly not an expert and there’s lots of high level stuff relating to DNA that I have yet explore at all, but I feel like I’ve gotten familiar with some basics as far as working with tree building and adding DNA.  I’m also not claiming to give you a comprehensive view as there are a number of such sites I’ve not dealt with at all but this does give you an overview of some ins and outs associated with some of the major ones.  This is my personal take, based on my research needs and desires…

Issues with Ancestry

I wound up having several issues with Ancestry that have me putting my tree together on WikiTree (see below for more) with plans to make it the main repository for any info I gather.  I’ll leave the Ancestry tree up and at some future point it’s possible I’ll copy any additional material there but I’m disenchanted enough to want my tree elsewhere.

Research is one issue.  For me, the main reason to ever pay Ancestry is their huge database and the ability to do research.  Without paying you can’t see anything much except what’s on your tree.  But the database has become so complex and their efforts to give you a broad spectrum so out sized that I found I’d get hundreds of thousands or millions of results and 99%+ of it was crap.

For instance, more often than not I’d fill in name, years of birth and death, and two or three places the person lived and the results would give me people with names not even remotely similar, people in far flung places unrelated to the ones I named and people whose lives were as much as 150 years off.  There are people who’ve provided guides to refining your search criteria in order to get more precise results but every version I’ve tried has led to no results at all.

After a few weeks I started running my searches on engines like Google and Bing and coming up with mother lodes of info that took only minutes to reach (some easy-to-find sources had a lot of info that took far longer to comb through but with results so good it was worth it) and frequently did not appear to have been picked up on by Ancestry.  Sometimes I found documents containing all the deaths or all the land sales or all the gravestones from a particular place where multiple ancestral families lived over a hundred years.  Sometimes I landed on other genealogy sites — including finding the first proof of my paternal 5x great grandparents (who they were and where they lived) because they were named in someone else’s will!

Then came my DNA results and for a while I worked on looking through the matches.  The way it’s set up there isn’t much to do with that info on Ancestry other than individually get in touch with all the cousins and they produced such daunting numbers I didn’t really know where to begin.  I’d heard about GEDmatch (more below) and wound up deciding to upload the DNA results there.

I also kept running into trees on WikiTree with good info and slowly began to realize it’s free and interested in well-documented trees.  Which leads to another beef I have with Ancestry.  Hints and searches routinely lead you to other people’s trees.  Initially I was pleased to be able to copy info from an already-complete tree but soon I realized people are just throwing together trees without really checking and putting up obviously incorrect links to branches that don’t belong, parents who were born after their children, cousins who wind up listed as siblings, etc.  I’ve wasted so much time filling in parts of the tree and then having to go back through and research the real tree; at this point I reject more hints from other people’s trees than I accept.  More on WikiTree below.

The final nail in Ancestry’s coffin for me was deciding to get DNA tests for my parents.  First, I really wanted Y DNA for my Dad, who’s the only living direct male descendant and Ancestry not only doesn’t offer one but doesn’t let you upload results from a Y DNA test taken elsewhere.  Then I ordered a test for my mother and it turns out you have to set up a separate tree and although you can become a manager on the other tree and get the results to show up on your DNA page there’s no way within either tree to display your results and/or how you match.  My mother’s test info went up easily on my GEDmatch account and then I was able to use the GEDmatch file to add it to WikiTree.

We each, of course, get a list of matches that shows one another as the top match with a probability of parent and child, but no way to confirm the match, make it show up as true on our trees, etc.  I find that a ridiculous omission.


As mentioned, WikiTree is free, which for me is big.  Other than searching through other people’s trees, they don’t provide a research database like Ancestry, but since I’m getting more from general internet searches anyway, the lack of a database doesn’t bother me.

To join, you have to sign up to be a volunteer, although I haven’t found that I’m called on to do anything so it hasn’t been a burden.  WikiTree is anxious to make sure the trees are well-documented so you are asked to provide sources for everything.  I have gotten away with some pretty vague sources (like, “she’s my mother I’ve always known when and where she was born” 🙂 ) so they’re not policing too closely and some of those incorrect trees (that are everywhere) have been copied there too but since the focus is on documentation, I find less in the way of errors and many members are either fairly vigilant about checking info they encounter or happy to receive a note pointing out an error.

You can also load as many GEDmatch DNA test numbers as you have and the family relationships show up.  My mother and I are already in there and I’ll get the GEDmatch # for my dad’s test when it’s finished as well.  They consider testing for at least 3 family members to be important so they’re well set up to have multiple family members all on one tree.

The volunteer community network is great and people are really good about answering questions, responding to comments you make on mutual family members, etc.  So far I haven’t needed much help as I’m just copying info from my Ancestry tree to my WikiTree tree, but I’ve seen examples of the great helpfulness of members toward others; whatever help you need in putting your tree together, people will try to provide.

You don’t have to pay anything to be able to see whatever source material you attach and others in the family can see it all as well (depending on your privacy setting choices you may have to give some of them special status; if you leave it public, anyone can see).  This is thrilling for me because I’ve become the main chronicler for the family and I have cousins who don’t belong to Ancestry so have limited views.  Once I’ve completed copying to WikiTree, any of them can see it all.

As far as filling in info, their tree is pretty easy to use.  They don’t offer as much in the way of suggestions based on what you’re typing but I often find Ancestry’s suggestions are just in my way so I haven’t missed it too much.  The forms themselves are easy, and organize the tree just as well as Ancestry.


I landed on this site just because they have Y DNA and I happened upon a sale offering the best price I’d  been able to turn up.  You can do some tree work on their site but I find it so confusing and non-user friendly I just intend to get the raw dna file when the test is complete and use it elsewhere.

They also lose points for making it apparently impossible to follow along on the progress of your DNA test.  Ancestry gets points here, because as soon as you buy one you can go to a time line that shows where you are in the process and then e-mail updates when they receive the test and then when they complete the results.  It may be too early to tell whether I’ll get e-mails but I sure can’t find any place on the site to determine whether they’ve gotten the test back yet or are in process.

[Update:  I did eventually click on the one link I hadn’t tried “Order History” and discovered there’s sort of a time line there.  Right now it’s been stuck showing the test as “received” with the date “pending”.  Not sure how you can receive something and not have a definitive date for that and there’s no explanation.  But you can try to follow along on the progress.]

You can upload a gedcom file but the tree shows up as a one inch wide column in the middle of an otherwise empty page.  Their instructions for how to accomplish tree building made no sense to me and you don’t seem to be able to do much with the gedcom file after you upload it — particularly when you can only see an inch-wide swath of it.

I gathered they’re connected somehow to Family Search though the DNA portion of things is also (or instead?) somehow connected to National Geographic.  Family Search is the Church of Latter Day Saints family tree site.  The FamilyTreeDNA site is some sort of Beta so possibly will improve.

I did join Family Search some years ago but I don’t find it adds anything helpful enough to what I can do on Ancestry or WikiTree to take the time to build my tree there (looks promising if you don’t already have a tree and want a good place to start) and, mysteriously, there seems to be no way to connect an already-existing Family Search account to the FamilyTreeDNA account.  I really have no reason to want to build a site from scratch again…  Because of their connection to the Mormon records Family Search is a good place to do research.

My plan is to download the raw DNA file once completed, put it up on GEDmatch so it gets one of their #’s and then add it to WikiTree.  I doubt I’ll have anything to do with the Family DNA site after that except to potentially take a gander at matches.


GEDmatch is not really a site for trees per se.  It’s more about DNA data and has lots of tests available you can run your DNA through to figure out nuances of ethnicity, etc.  They also match DNA and, since people can upload tests from multiple sites, you can get matched to family members whose trees are on different sites than yours.

You can upload a gedcom file here and that will show up as your tree. If you upload one, matches will also show some info based on trees you and your matches have both uploaded.  I have yet to do more than upload the two completed DNA tests, look at my mind-bogglingly long list of matches and run my DNA through some of the tests.

If you want DNA results on WikiTree, the easiest way is to upload your results on GEDmatch, which assigns a number, and then input the number on WikiTree.

I think this site is worth joining if you’re into DNA because of the ability to compare tests from lots of genealogy sites, the many tests you can run and the ability to upload multiple family members to the same account.  They even have a match deal for which you can input two of your family member’s DNA tests and see the list of folks both match.

Because it’s free their server has limits so they do log you out after very few minutes of inactivity — you wind up logging back in a lot.  It’s the one annoyance — but in exchange for free I don’t find it that bad 🙂 [You can pay in order to have access to running even more tests and a bit more info, but it’s mostly free]


I actually think I joined Geni before Ancestry and then was enticed away by Ancestry’s free trial; once I had more stuff on Ancestry through their database, I didn’t go back.  They are now a collaborative tree site but I don’t remember that they were then.

I landed back on my tree there when a Geni listing showed up in a search and I was somehow logged into the site when I got there.  Because of the collaborative piece, other people can make connections on your tree and add whole branches.  If you put a name in for someone who’s been hooked to your tree, a chain of connections shows up at the top when you’re logged in, showing how you connect to this person.

At first I was excited when I saw a chain to the subject of my search but quickly realized  there’s a huge downside.  The “curators” who add these branches are volunteers and not necessarily trained.  Lots of tree information on the site is full of the same mistakes people are making on their trees in other places and the curators often don’t seem to look closely enough at whether it makes sense or is correct before adding it to all the trees they think should link.

The big problem is, once a curator has added a branch to your tree that doesn’t belong there, you can’t personally change it.  Your only recourse is to go into this page in a forum and ask one of the curators to fix it.

Eventually I came to dread arriving at a search page and seeing one of their chains to me at the top because it means someone has already added it to my tree and it’s been an incorrect addition more often than not.  While the collaborative idea sounds great in theory, I’m not finding it works out so great in practice because too many people have copied flawed trees from other sites and too many curators pick those up unknowingly.


A lot depends on what your goals are in building a family tree.  If you only want a tree and don’t care about adding DNA info, you probably want to visit a few different sites, join on the free membership and try out their tree building software with just a few entries of immediate family.

I find in general with software that what’s intuitive and easy for one person can be incomprehensible to another and you want to work with software that feels usable to you.  There are some pretty big differences in how the software works, so be sure you sample at least a few and see which seems easiest to use while accomplishing what you want.

If you want to work with DNA on your tree, there’s kind of an odd twist to it.  Most (possibly all but I haven’t checked everywhere) of the sites that sell the tests are not set up to have multiple samples all on the same tree and/or do only one or two types of analysis and many sites only sell one kind of test.

If you want one of those all-important Y DNA tests, for example, you only have a few choices and none of them are from sites that also have major tree software and/or a database of materials.  You will probably have to do as I have done and buy tests from different places (all of whom seem to require you to register as a member) and then download the raw data files and upload them to WikiTree and/or GEDmatch.

If you want a big searchable database, Ancestry is probably your best bet but, as I said, unless you want to have to study up on how to get decent results off their very oddly set up search system, you may be able to get better info from general internet searches*.  One nice thing about using search engines has been that they give me results from any of the genealogy sites as well as city, county and state archives and miscellaneous web publications.

As the field of possibilities has grown, the array you face is bewildering and you have to make some decisions about what you want to accomplish.  If you’re just starting, take a good look at the possible sites for placing your tree and also check out family tree software you can buy so that you have your own copy — some of them can be linked to on-line trees.

If you’ve already started and now you want to get into DNA you may have to do what I’ve done and juggle around to different places and switch over to a site like WikiTree that lets you work with DNA from family members more readily.

It will really help in the long run if you give serious thought to what you want to achieve with your tree before you commit.  Even if you don’t plan to work with DNA now, do a little research about it so you can be sure you won’t want to add it in the future – once you’ve chosen a site with limits to what you can do with DNA it’s a time-consuming slog to have to move your tree.

*I have a friend who has more success than I do with searches there and disagrees with me, so you may find it works out differently for you.