the journey of my dna journey

A few months ago I read Alondra Nelson’s book titled The Social Life of DNA Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome. This post is inspired by that read. After I’d finished I realized that I had never quite spelled out the terms and pitfalls of my personal DNA quest and how I was going about it. And of course Nelson’s work presented ideas I’d never really considered, such as proving a genetic connection to Africa as a means of potentially receiving monetary reparations. If any restitution is to be made for what has occurred to my ancestors I have decided it will and must first come from me.

Tajikistan 2006
Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan – 2006

Eleven years ago – that is when my interest in DNA and genetic genealogy began. Only 24 years of age then, I had been traveling within Tajikistan for roughly three weeks. I first explored the capital city of Dushanbe as a member of a Habitat for Humanity International Global Village team. Afterwards I took off to an even more far-flung corner of the country in the Gorno-Badakhshan region to check out the Pamirs and Wakhan Valley. Undoubtedly, my travels there remain steady in my top 3 favorite journeys of all time. There are many reasons and one of them is due to a very chance encounter with the group that would accelerate my desire to participate in DNA testing.

I had been wandering the bus station with my then guide, Theodore Kaye, (now an amazing editorial and corporate photographer) looking for a safe, not too tightly packed, vehicle that could get me back into Dushanbe safely. The ride back from Khorogh would be a journey of 16 hours along a very jagged path down the mountains. Selecting a vehicle that appeared to have my ultimate safety at heart was paramount. Then it happened. My face turned and caught sight of a foreigner like myself. We made eye-contact and proceeded with introductions, answering the why on Earth are you here questions and so forth. As it turned out the friendly foreigner, David Evans, a photographer for National Geographic, had been traveling in country with Dr. Spencer Wells’ team from the National Geographic Genographic project. They had just wrapped up collecting DNA samples from natives of the region. Teo asked them if it would be alright if I hitched a ride with them back to Dushanbe and they agreed.

From that point onward it was full-throttle drinking of the DNA juice that would lead me to take my very first DNA test. To be clear, the Nat Geo gang explained the Genographic project for sometime during our ride back to the capitol and I was in awe. Having never been very inclined towards science I was also a bit intimidated by Dr. Spencer Wells, but everyone was so down to Earth and the pitch they made as to why anyone and everyone should participate reeled me right on in.

Naturally, the first test I took when I returned home in late 2006 was the Genographic test.
Read more

hello and farewell to MyCanvas

MyCanvas screen shot

MyCanvas screen shot

The loss of a good book building software / online program is like the loss of a dear family member. When released the news on June 4th about terminating MyCanvas in September of this year I was devastated. Huh? What? Wait – I was just getting started. I’ve used several online book publishing services to make a wide variety of books, but somehow losing MyCanvas feels like a real blow. Last year I spent every extra hour I could after getting my daughter to bed working on a heirloom quality five generation family tree and history book that I could pass down to my children. I chose MyCanvas because it made sense. The ease of uploading timelines, pedigrees and adding backgrounds related to the time frames when my ancestors were living was one selling point. Others included the various binding and paper options. I chose a premium book (tan leather cover, hinge binding and semi white-glove treatment).

The good news for me is that I completed my book last year and was able to order two copies before completely did away with the premium publishing services. The bad news and there is far more bad news, is that they are providing no way possible for users to save the work they created with their online software. This means it will not be possible to make edits for future editions and all final purchases have to be made by September 30th. Since I was really hoping to create similar books for my maternal aunts, uncles and cousins much later on, I’ve since been working OT to make sure I get solid 3-4 variations of my book done for my family. This was not something originally on my schedule yet I have no choice, but to slave away the night creating these books. Creating something from scratch will be far more time consuming and is the avenue I’ll have to take for any future work. So if you’re wondering where I’ve been… There you have it.

UPDATED 8/19/2014: has announced that it will keep MyCanvas around for another six months before transitioning it to Alexander’s. According to their blog with the announcement:

Founded 35 years ago, Alexander’s is a Utah-based printing production company that has been the long-term printer of MyCanvas products including its genealogy books, calendars, and other printed products. This makes the transition of MyCanvas to Alexander’s a natural fit.

And this is the best news I have heard all day. Over the last couple of weeks and up until today I was stressing not so much about completing my projects, but keeping the quality top notch. Creating a family history book is something not to be rushed in this manner as mistakes are very likely occur to occur. Now I can take my time again and keep the quality on the up and up! Thank you and Alexander’s!