My DNA Revisited: Where Did I Come From

On September 17, 2012, I published a post “My DNA–What? Surely you Jest!!  Just a few days earlier I received notification of my DNA results from Ancestry.com.  My photograph of a torn up circle representing my DNA was prominently included in my post.

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For amateur genealogists everywhere, Ancestry.com’s $99 DNA test was probably their (and my) first chance to actually get a sense, scientifically of “where did I come from”.  I bought a test in the Fall of 2012, took the test, received the results and was totally confused.  Nowhere in my DNA test results did I see any support for my research concerning my Western European roots.  Since my own research indicated strong ties to France and Germany, I tore up my test results in frustration.

IMG_3243What a difference a year makes.  On Oct. 17, 2013, I received an e-mail fromAncestry.com notifying me (and, I am sure, everyone else who has taken their DNA test) that “Our breakthrough update is here, with exciting new details and context…”.  The new results more closely mirror my years of research into my family tree.

In many respects the old and new results are similar.  But in terms of my family history research they are miles apart.  Much of the research I had given up as wrong, is now consistent with the new results.

 

My revised DNA test results:                                         My original test results:

Scandinavian                33 %                                              Scandinavia                 43 %

Ireland                            30 % [1]                                         British Isles                  40 %

Europe West                18 %                                                Middle Eastern          10 %

Italy/Greece                 12 %                                                Southern European    7 %

Trace Regions

Iberian Peninsula       4 % [2]

Finland/N. Russia    < 1 %

Great Britain              < 1 %

Caucasus                       1 % [3]

My research is validated in many significant respects:  My Lewis ancestors presumably moved to the colonies in the 1600’s from Wales rather than England.

My Western European DNA is consistent with the Mesle migration from Western France where they lived in St. Maixent, Alencon and Poitou (just North of the Iberian Peninsula) beginning in about 1000.  By the  1300s, Mesles lived in the Normandy Region of France.  By the the 1500s and 1600s, Mesles lived in Germany before relocating to the New World.

My great-grandfather Franz Mesle, nicknamed “the Swab”, almost certainly lived at least briefly in Austria-Hungary.  Germans who settled in Austria-Hungary, (near the Caucasus area) were called Swabs.  Franz married Katharine Kirsch/ner, daughter of Conrad Kirsch/ner.  A Catharine Kirschner was born in Jabuka, Austria-Hungary in the 1800’s to Conradus Kirschner. By 1881 Franz and Catharine lived in Canada and then the U.S.

If my new and enhanced DNA results are correct that I am 1 % English, my maternal great grandparents, John Fox and Jane Bond Fox, both born in England, must be my only English ancestors.

My search continues.  The biggest change in my results are, to be fair, a shift of DNA results from Northern Europe to Northern and Western Europe.  But this seemingly minor change is significant in connecting my research to my DNA.

I now continue my search.  Who am I? Where do I come from?  What difference does it make?  Maybe none.  But my quest continues.

As for my Lumbee ancestors–I still do not have a trace of Native American DNA

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[1] “Ireland” includes Wales for purposes of the DNA results

[2] The Iberian Peninsula includes extreme SW Europe: parts of France, Spain, Portugal, Andorra & Gibraltar

[3] Caucasus is on border between Turkey & Kazakhstan in W. Asia

The Lion Roars

Sunday is a perfect day for a visit to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.  It is always a treat. The Funerary Lion that sits in the Gallery Sculpture Hall on the main level of the gallery is one of my favorite works of art in Kansas City.

Sculpted from marble in Athens Greece, it dates from about 325 BCE [1].  The lion epitomizes the power and grace of Greek culture.

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Before the weather outside is too beautiful to ignore, check out the Nelson or a museum or gallery near you.

[1]  BCE–Before Common Era

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Benjamin Franklin is one of our nation’s most beloved and celebrated founder. Truly a leader of men, he was a diplomat to France, author of the original Poor Richard’s Almanack, authored portions of the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. And that is just the beginning of his talents and accomplishments.

Noted for both his eloquent descriptions of life and government, he could be witty, pithy and wise.  This wonderful sculpture of Franklin, created by George Lundeen, [1] sits by Latte Land on the Country Club Plaza.  Feel free to sit with him for a while.  There is plenty of room on the bench.

                                                   Where liberty dwells, there is my country [2]

[1]George Lundeen sculpted this wonderful bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin.  It is a warm representation of Franklin, one of a series of similar sculptures, large and small.  Lundeen’s creations include national heroes, child athletes, newspaper boys, Native Americans and others are charming and seem to capture the spirit of our national character.

[2] Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Two Gentlemen of Sonoma

A few weekends back we went to see the play Two Gentlemen of Sonoma (a “play” on Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona). Our friends Neal and Maxene were both involved with the production (Neal played General Vallejo, the Duke character, and Maxene was the stage manager). The stage was set for Shakespeare at the Adobe, and it was a beautiful place, just east of Petaluma and set under Sonoma Mountain. We haven’t had a chance to tour it yet, so we were very excited to see the grounds.
The side of the Adobe building was positively beautiful, especially with the setting sun.

We went with our friends, Scott and Katy, and it was such a blast.

There are so many things to see and do here, we never have time to see it all. This gave us a chance to see a little bit of history while enjoying a hilarious piece of artistic expression. This version of Shakespeare’s play was adapted by Director Lucas McClure and it was absolutely wonderful. The show was to benefit the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. We will definitely keep this theatre group in mind for future outings!

Oneida Community–Where Giants Walked

“Where giants walked”.  Those are the words our tour guide, the curator of the Mansion House in Oneida, New York, used to describe the Oneida Community.  Disbanded more than 120 years ago, the community grounds still emit a feeling both vibrant and tranquil.

I didn’t know what to expect when the “cousins trip” arrived in Oneida.  What we found far exceeded even my enthusiastic expectations.  We spent a night in the Mansion House where our rooms were simple but lovely.  The environment was so much more.

The Oneida Community was founded in the belief that individuals can become free from sin while still here on earth.  Beyond their religious aspirations, their practical reality involved a focus on hard community labor, culture, music, art and literature.  These values resonated throughout the community.  Beautification of the grounds of the Mansion House and of the surrounding community are evident today.

While much of the Mansion House is plain, befitting a society based on de-emphasizing private property, there was an emphasis on beauty of the common areas.  The great hall that was a central meeting area demonstrates the community’s commitment to perfection in its culture and art.

The grounds are lovely, incorporating gardens, simple fountains and open areas surrounded by trees.


Artistic endeavors were encouraged.  The museum displays beautiful art such as this unique braided rug that are  wonderful works of craftsmanship.

The library was a focal point of daily life, filled with books that were identified as incorporating all of the knowledge important to a learned community.  It remains a great place to visit and study.

While long disbanded as a religious community, descendants of community members continue to live in the shadow of the Mansion House.  While their homes are not elegant, they are as graceful, well-groomed and inviting as the people who live there.

Welcome to “Utopia”.

Oneida Community: From Utopian Community to Silverware Manufacturer

Founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848, the Oneida Community was based on the premise that individuals can be free of sin and perfect on earth, not just in Heaven.  The community practiced what has been described as “Bible communism”, in the sense that it practiced a form of communal property based on a belief that freedom from possessions facilitated achieving perfection.  At its peak, shortly before it dissolved in 1881, it had a membership of 306.  While the community has been disbanded well in excess of 100 years, descendants of the members continue to live in apparent harmony and grace in the shadow of the Mansion House, which was at the center of community life.

The Mansion House consists of a cluster of buildings sitting in a campus like environment where members of the community lived and prospered.

None of the members of my family were members of the Oneida Community, but it is, nonetheless, a part of what shaped our family values.  Because my  grandfather worked for the Oneida Silver Company, he and my father, aunt and uncle were surrounded by former members of the community and were constantly influenced by the best of its values: equality of the sexes, cultural advancement, education and hard work.

To facilitate the complete integration of women into the life of the community, women rejected the heavy petticoats and restrictive clothing of outside society and wore short, but modest, dresses over long pantaloons. Women were included among the leadership of the community. Men and women shared work duties, rotating among those duties so that each person shared in more routine and more specialized tasks, as well as sharing traditionally male and female tasks.

Criticism of members of the community was considered a significant aspect of the goal of achieving perfection.  Primary reasons for criticism were what was considered inappropriate “special love” such as love of a mother for her birth child that exceeded her love of the children of other women.  I am told that the unwillingness of the community to recognize the inevitability of close ties between a mother and her own child was one of the reasons for the downfall of the commune.  Victorian values in the outside world may have been another. Squabbling among members surely also took a toll.

Pride, vanity were often the subject of criticism.  Individuals called for criticism by leaders of the community were expected to remain silent, accept the criticism and use the criticism as a means of furthering their efforts to obtain perfection. This lovely hall served as a center for cultural events, concerts, meetings but also the location for individual criticism.

For many years the community prospered due to its farming, silk and canning operations, but more important as a primary producer of animal traps.  After the commune disbanded the founders and their descendants remained closely connected financially and geographically.  By about 1899, the former members of the commune, under the leadership of P.B. Noyes, son of the founder, acquired a failing silver ware company. Oneida and its employees, including my grandfather, Frank C. Mesle, moved the company from Niagara Falls to Oneida where the company prospered through hard work and innovation.

Many utopian values were incorporated into the life of the company, particularly the concept of sharing wealth and sharing economic challenges.  Executives of the company were given raises only when raises were given to line workers. In periods of recession and depression, all employees shared the available work such that while their hours and their incomes were reduced, no one bore the overwhelming burden of difficult times.

The company reached the height of its financial success in the 1980’s but its revenues declined, and the company essentially disappeared, due to its inability to compete with foreign flatware.  But many of the best the values of the community continue to this day.  Literature, culture, music and hard work resonate throughout the community.  Beautification projects can be seen in Oneida and neighboring Sherrill, NY. even today.

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore/Flower, dominates the central square in Florence, Italy.  Construction began in 1296 and was completed in 1436. It stands on the site of an earlier church erected during the 7th century.  Identified as a basilica or duomo, the complex of buildings at the site a cathedral, it is the home congregation for the Archbishop of Florence.  Wow.  When Terry and I visited Florence in 2011, 575 years after it was completed, I had to marvel at the comparatively pristine condition of the complex.

Our day in Northern Italy would not have been complete without visiting this architectural marvel. The architecture is alternately described as  Gothic, Classic and Romanesque, because it has elements of each of those styles and more.  The world was changing in the late 1300’s and the early 1400’s. The architecture of this magnificent structure was changing with it.

At the extreme right in the photograph is the bell tower, or Campanile, the second of the three buildings in the cathedral complex.  It’s design and construction were overseen, until his death, by the famous Italian architect and painter, Giotto di Bondone.  The pink, white and green facade reflects the natural colors of the marble from which the facade of the building was constructed. The intricate designs, exquisite windows and interior and exterior sculptures and Biblical works of art, are characteristic of the churches of Northern Italy built at that time.  But this is no less a masterpiece.

I particularly focused on the gilt bronze panels on the doors that  are situated on three sides of the duomo.  Additional, similar doors are on the baptistery, the third buildings in the cathedral complex.  Like every other aspect of the cathedral, the craftsmanship and detail are of the highest quality.  They evidence that the finest artists and intellectuals gravitated to Florence and helped usher in the Italian Renaissance.  Look at the detail of the faces and the elegance of the horns.

Surrounded by galleries, palaces and museums, the cathedral establishes Florence’s role as a center of  culture in the 1400’s.  Not surprisingly, the historic centre of the city is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  It shares that designation with Dubrovnik, Croatia, which has also been featured on this blog.

Independence Day–a day for reflection and fun

Two hundred thirty-six years ago The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress.  In that document the original 13 colonies declared their freedom from Great Britain.  It states, in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with                                            certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

Independence Day is a great day on which to remind ourselves of the privileges we hold dear and the sacrifices that have helped shape our nation and our national values.  For me it is a time for gratitude.

Hopefully, it is also a day for celebration: for fun, barbecues, laughter, and fireworks!

Have a safe and happy holiday.

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The American flag was photographed July 3 at the Liberty Memorial.  The fireworks were photographed July 3 during the Westwood, Kansas, fireworks display.  All the photographs were taken using my Nikon D5100 camera and Tamron 18-270 zoom lens.  I am trying to learn the secrets of my camera.  I took lots of shots of a nearly limp or semi-limp flag before I finally was lucky enough to catch a couple of shots where the wind had opened the flag .  I had to try numerous settings to get the light and speed right to make it possible for me to catch the fireworks as they raced across the sky.  It will be years before I photograph fireworks with the skill to make it to PhotoBotos, but for now, I think these are fun.

Little Boy Lost–in 1869

James Churchill was born May 8, 1863 and died Nov. 22, 1869.  He was 6 years old.  I do not know where he was born.  Presumably he died near Leavenworth, Ks., since he was buried there, by the Missouri River.

More than 125 years later, his tombstone was found, upside down, in an open field.  I have searched high and low but have found no record of his birth or his death.

I believe I have identified his parents.  The tombstone lists his parents as R.D. and S.C. Churchill.  I believe they were David R. Churchill and Sophia C. (Brown) Churchill.  I find no record David and Sophia had a son named James, but they had other children in this same time period.

James was born 2 years after the civil war began, and died 4 years after its end. Most residents of Leavenworth in 1863 were pro-union, since Camp Lincoln, in Fort Leavenworth, was a reception and training center for Kansas volunteers for union soldiers.  Since it seems unlikely confederate loyalists would live within the shadow of a Union stronghold, that suggests the family held anti-slavery beliefs and, more likely that they moved from the North or the East. Of course, nothing is certain.

I doubt the family was traveling west.  In 1862 David Churchill lived at 211 Delaware in Leavenworth.  Someone in the family is listed as a member of the Mayflower Society which may be helpful, because it suggests a family with an interest in its own heritage.

The person who found the tombstone wants very much to return it to the family.  He indicates he took the stone originally because after an extensive search he found no indication of a cemetery, no indication of houses or of any homestead near the land where the stone was found. He offered it to a historical society which was not interested.  (There probably are many other tombstones with similar stories.)

The stone itself evidences a certain level of affluence for Kansas in the 1860’s.  It is not illegible, like many stones from the late 19th century.  Even after so many years of being subject to the weather, it is a substantial stone, with the family information clearly carved and easily read.

Please, if you have any information about the Churchill family, or even about a 19th century cemetery along the river in Leavenworth,  just send me a comment.  Thanks

World War II: They died that others might live

World War II holocaust survivor, Bronia Roslawowski, was born Brucha Kibel, in Turek, Poland, to Tzvi Eliezer (Hersh) Kibel and Bluma Bayrach.  She was born in about 1926 but we were never really sure about her age!  She died July 14, 2010, in her adopted hometown, Kansas City, Missouri, after a long and meaningful life.  She was beloved by all who knew her–and she seemed to know almost everyone.

On September 4, 1939, German armed forces marched into Turek, where Bronia lived with her family.  After two already difficult years, in December 1941, Bronia was sent to Inowroclaw Straflager in Northern Poland.  A “resettlement camp” during the war, it was the first of approximately 5 concentration camps in which Bronia survived the war.  In 1943 she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She worked in a forced labor camp at Telefunken plant in Reichenbach, escaped the gas chamber in 1944 and was forced on a death march shortly before war’s end. Her right arm was tattooed with the number 57365. Still, despite all that she suffered, she survived.  She was liberated by U.S. servicemen in 1945 and worked briefly in a resettlement camp before moving to the United States.  Only she and a brother survived the war.

Bronia married Mendel Roslawowski, himself a survivor of the camps.  Together they raised his son and her three daughters.  They opened the M & M Bakery at 31st & Woodland.  A popular neighborhood deli, it was a favorite of the local community, medical students and young lawyers.  Her brisket and bagel sandwiches were absolutely priceless.  She had photographs on her walls of children who frequented the deli, many of whom she fed free sandwiches and cookies.  She hugged her customers and seemed to find time to make each of her regulars feel loved.  To Bronia, no one was ever a stranger.

Bronia never forgot her war-time experiences.  She was determined not to let those experiences, or the loss of her family, control her life. She laughed easily and often.  She opened her home to her extended family and her children’s friends–who came to feel like family.  At the same time, anxious to educate her community about the horrors of war, she spoke regularly on behalf of survivors about the holocaust, and worked with the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education.  Her message was a message of love., stating She forgave those who harmed her, insisting they are all God’s children.  She acknowledges the hate and ugliness she saw in the world and she denounced Nazis, but not the German people.  She stated that “you cannot condemn a nation.”  “I don’t hate” she  repeated.   

Prior to her death she was one of 52 Kansas City Holocaust survivors and war refugees whose stories are included in the book From the Heart.  She is also the subject of a children’s book, Love the World, by Maureen Moffitt Wilt focused, obviously on her message of love.  It is beautifully illustrated by Jeff Porter.  The photograph of her family, taken at her granddaughter’s marriage, is an image of a woman who not only survived the war, but thrived.  She lived a rich and full life. Bronia’s life, and her message of love, are reflected in the strength and commitment to family and community of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

For Bronia, her family and all of the other Bronias, the horrors of their early lives gave way, to meaningful lives here in the United States, in Europe and throughout the world.

A victim of hate, she became a messenger for love.  She understand that as she suffered due to the hate and intolerance of others, she also was given a new life by liberation forces.  Neither their sacrifices, nor Bronia’s message of love, should be forgotten.