December 11, 2016

DNA and a Crisis of Faith

I was raised in a very conservative, very religious home.  As Christians, our lives literally revolved around the church. As my mother used to say to my father "we're at church any time the doors are open". And that was true. 

Both of my parents served as Deacons and Elders. My mother, at a time when it was unusual for a woman to serve in those positions in a church, was very proud when she was appointed an Elder. You'd have thought she'd been elected President.

Once I went away to college, I latched onto my freedom like I was drowning.  You can probably imagine the scene. Utter chaos.

Fast forward 35 years -  I've floated in and out of church, church-hopped, even explored other faiths. I've always been intrigued with faith, in general. It is fascinating to me. Most of my ancestors are Baptists down to their very core. My early ancestors were Quakers. What a beautiful way to live!  I've attended Catholic services and marveled at the tradition and beauty of the faith.  I understand the Muslim faith to be just that - a gentle, peace-loving faith.

I've read a great number of books about Judaism and am stunned by the persecution and resilience. I'm particularly drawn to art and museum exhibits around Judaism. Always have been. Now I know why.

Because my biological father was Jewish.

We're finally getting to the point of this conversation. I was raised Gentile but Jewish blood flows through me. I felt it but didn't know what to call it. It's kind of like looking for your glasses only to discover they are on top of your head. I have no plans to convert. But I am so drawn to the Jewish culture, I may adopt it in slivers. Is it wrong to use the culture as a buffet of traditions? Probably.

I'm wondering what others did when they discovered the greatly unknown flitted around their DNA - whether it's a faith, a culture, or just another geographic dot on the map. Did they embrace it or ignore it?

DNA testing. The gift that keeps on giving. 

October 29, 2016

Introducing Mr. Harry Adler

Adlers in North Carolina
I never thought I'd be writing this post. But here I am introducing my (biological) father. All these years, I thought I knew exactly who I am. But a DNA test proved me wrong. 

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Harry Adler. Harry was born 08 October 1911 in Kinston, NC to parents Phillip Adler and wife Hattie Foxman. He had 4 siblings: William, Ada, Rebecca, and Irvin. 

Harry was a 3rd generation American of eastern European descent. His grand parents immigrated from Russia/Poland and Germany in the late 1890s through Quebec and New York, settling in eastern North Carolina around 1910. The family was active in social circles and were one of only a handful of Jewish families in Lenoir and Edgecombe counties. 

Harry shows up on the 1920 and 1930 census in Lenoir County (Kinston), NC. When he was 22, he married Doris Temperance Hurst,daughter of Charles Morton Hurst Sr. and Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Beverly, on 25 Jul 1934 in Greensville County, Virginia. By 1935, Harry and his new wife were living in her hometown in Martin County, NC. 

Raleigh's News and Observer, 12 August 1934
By the mid-1950s, Harry and Doris were living in Raleigh, but a few years later they moved to Jacksonville, NC to see to various business interests there. They owned a department store (as did other family members in nearby counties). They also owned a dry cleaners, finance company, and other assorted businesses in Jacksonville, NC. Collectively, the Adler family owned retail stores all over North Carolina including Raleigh, Tarboro, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Jacksonville, and Kinston. They dealt in children's clothes, ladies clothes, slippers, shoes, jewelry, and other household goods.

Enter my mother, Gladys Allen Stancil. Mom was a very smart cookie and reinvented herself several times over her lifetime, but in the late 1950s, she was an experienced bookkeeper. She took a position working for the Adlers in Jacksonville in 1958. By spring 1959, she was pregnant with her first and only 

In the mid-1960s, Harry and Doris moved to south Florida where they owned/managed an apartment building.  They later moved to the Florida panhandle to be nearer their son, Joel, who had married and settled in the area. 

Harry passed away 12 February 1977 and is buried in Martin County, NC next to his wife Doris. 

Pensacola News-Journal, 13 Feb 1977

Robersonville Cemetery, Martin County, NC

October 12, 2016

Just to be perfectly clear...

In the days since DNA led me to discover my true biological father, I've experienced many different emotions. Mostly, I've just felt so sad that Carl Stancil wasn't my biological father.  In the larger scheme of life, it really doesn't matter who my bio father may be. What matters is who raised me to be the woman I am today. And that man was Carl Donald Stancil - the finest man I've ever known.

I've written a great deal about him on this blog. He was so proud to be an American, a Christian, and my father. He was kind, compassionate, loving, patient, and so very sweet. I wish I could hold his hand one more time. Just for a minute.

So while I'm off exploring my biological family, I'll never forget who raised me. I'm the luckiest girl on earth.

Carl Donald Stancil

October 9, 2016

Perseverance + serendipity = Success

I found my biological father. 

I feel both grateful and guilty – at the same time. Grateful to my friends who encouraged me to dig and helped me analyze data but guilty that I found him so quickly when others have searched for years.

Were it not for DNA testing, I would have never known my father was not my biological father. I would have been blissfully ignorant the rest of my life, chasing dead Stancil family members until the cows came home never knowing I was pouring my soul into finding people who not my blood relatives. Would that have been a terrible thing? Not really. However...

Were it not for DNA testing, I would have never found my biological father. I would have never known my own truth.

DNA testing can be a blessing and a curse. As they say, don't ask the question if you can't take the answer.

One day. On a whim. Because it was on sale. Because all my friends were doing it. Because I was curious about my ethnicity. Because I wanted to expand my research skills. Because I wanted to know more about my family. Because it seemed like innocent fun…I took a DNA test.

It changed everything.

It changed nothing.

How I found my biological father in 10 easy steps:

  1. First, tested with AncestryDNA. Results = 40% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Whaaatttt? Not what I expected. Nah, not possible.  
  2. Next, tested with FamilyTreeDNA. Results = 43% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Umm...there are no Jews in my ancestry. What’s going on here?  
  3. Then, tested with 23andMe. Results = 47.7% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Uh Oh. Oh gosh. No. Could it be? Oh goodness.
  4.  The unthinkable hit me: one or both of my parents may not be a biological parent. Seriously?!? I stared at my results in disbelief. Went to that night bed dazed and confused. The obsession set in. 
  5. Attended DNA workshops, joined a DNA Special Interest Group, read DNA how-to books at night until I couldn’t hold my eyes open, bugged my knowledgeable friends endlessly. Saints they are, my friends. 
  6. Sent many many many emails to my matches; most total strangers. Got 1 or 2 responses.
  7. Discovered one 1st cousin match and one 2nd cousin match online. Focused on those.  Like a laser, I did.  
  8. Couldn’t make contact with either until I found the 2nd cousin’s address via a Google search (i.e. Internet Stalking).  Mailed him an old-fashioned letter. The kind you put in an envelope and drop in a metal box.    
  9. A week later, he called and gave me names to research.  The entire family were German and Russian Jews.  My 2nd cousin handed me the key to the truth. God bless him. 
  10. Created a family tree based on those names. Lo and behold…staring at the 1940 census for Lenoir County, NC…I knew I’d found my man. A family friend from my childhood. I knew him well. Apparently, so did my mother.

All the pieces fell into place. Certain things now make perfect sense. A fellow named Harry, for whom my mother worked in the late 1950s, a family friend (and his wife) we visited often even after they retired to Florida in the mid-1960s. 

I still have lots of questions and loads to process. But even if I never get those answers, I’ve answered the most important question of all. I feel more peaceful today that I have in the weeks since learning of my “situation”. I can breathe without strategizing the next step in my search.

I have always been very proud of the fact that my roots run deep in North Carolina. Thankfully, Harry continues that tradition; he was born and grew up one county over from mine. Whew. I coulda been half New Yorker or something. Close call!

Is closure in sight? Not really. Probably not ever. The upside is 1) I have an answer, 2) I have a new family to research, and 3) I understand my mother just a little bit better now. All good things. 

September 26, 2016

More questions than answers

Clyde the Bulldog
How it is that I got one answer but it led me to about 1000 new questions? Is that crazy?

I received news of my mom's blood type. The news is bad. She doesn't match.

Mom = O+
Dad = O-
Potential Baby = O

Uh oh. 

Carla = A+

It's not possible for two O parents to produce an A child. Unless they're mutants, which they aren't. This means one or both of my parents are not my biological parents. Now, everyone keeps reminding me what an awesome childhood I had, so what does it matter, blah, blah, blah.


Yes, I had a great childhood and as I keep saying, I will love my parents until the end of time.


Can you imagine what it might be like to discover in mid-life that the one constant you would have forever is now a mystery? 

I've lived a great life, but like all lives it's not been without it's bumps. All the usual stuff, such as crazy teenagers, divorce, cancer. Now this. Now I discover my parents are UNKNOWN. 

I don't come from the type of people who have unknown parents. But...guess what? I do!

One of the following 4 things will become my new constant:

1) NPE. Non-parental event. (Is that a cold term for the matter or what?)
2) Adoption (birth certificate faked, family member got in the "family way", etc)
3) Switched at birth (these words still make my head spin)
4) Sperm donor. Really? In 1959?

So I'm seriously chasing the DNA matches to see where they lead me. One in particular is intriguing...a FIRST cousin. Problem is he has a fairly common name but heck he is a FIRST cousin AND is of Jewish descent. So I'm bugging total strangers to help me with a mystery that isn't even theirs.

Just call me the "BULLDOG". Cause that's what I'm gonna be until I get some answers!

September 21, 2016


Oh gosh, the A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N is just killin' me.

I've been anxiously (and impatiently) waiting for my mom's medical records to show up in the mail. I ordered them from 3 different places.

Today, WakeMed called to ask a few questions and said they'd be mailing records including her blood type TODAY. They wouldn't give me the blood type over the phone, dang it.

I might know as soon as TOMORROW if Mom is potentially my biological Mom.

Dad's blood type = O+
My blood type = A+
Mom's blood type = must be A+ or she can't be my mom

If she is A+, then I can at least leave her on my list of potential biological mothers. If she isn't, she falls off the list and I'm in a bigger tizzy than I am now, but at least I'll have a definitive fact. Right now, definitive facts are in mighty short supply.

In the meantime, enjoy Carly's blast from the past. I was 12 years old in 1971 and in middle school at Jacksonville Junior High School in...where else...Jacksonville, NC. I wasn't allowed to listen to Rock and Roll but would sneak my little transistor radio into bed with me and listen to it under the sheets. WKIX in Raleigh. Now THERE is a blast from the past!

September 20, 2016

What is Inheritance?

My beautiful and wonderful friend Cyndi pointed me toward this really cute two minute animation on how we get our DNA. 

Perfect for beginners and for those of us who get things scrambled in their head and need to come back down to earth (ie real science). 

Check out my little buddies below by clicking here. 

September 16, 2016

Read a Book: The Stranger in my Genes

My DNA quandary has led me to read books and watch TV shows that never would have caught my attention otherwise. 

TV. Really. I can take it or leave it. I usually leave it. I almost always regret whatever time I've spent watching TV. It rots the brain, you know. I have enough issues in that department.

On the up side, I've just finished an excellent book entitled The Stranger in my Genes. It was a short but powerful read  by Bill Griffeth, the financial wizard who leads us through the finance news each day at 3pm on CNBC just before the closing bell. 

Who knew he was an amateur genealogist?

AND who knew he experienced a great DNA surprise similar to mine? Bill discovered his dad wasn't his dad. He explains the emotions and process a thousand times better than I ever could. 

Bill drives home the point that if you must have your DNA analyzed, you should be prepared for the results, whatever they may be. DNA is science. It's real. It does not lie or tell stories. It doesn't care if it turns your world upside down.

Have a read. Especially before mailing off your DNA test. 

September 14, 2016

Ummm...we have a problem. A DNA problem. A big one.

Oh. My gosh. I've got a real mystery on my hands. A big one that will impact nearly 30 years of diligent genealogy research. Not to mention my psyche.

On a lark (and also to benefit my research), I took a DNA test. Results say I'm 40% Ashkenazi Jewish.

Ok. Took another test. 43% Jewish Diaspora. Huh.

Took a 3rd test. A whopping 47.7% Ashkenazi Jewish. Nearly 50%. Half. 

What does this mean? 

It means I'm 1/2 Ashkenazi Jew. You get 1/2 of your DNA from each parent. One of my parents was...Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ). Neither of my parents were AJ.

My son tested at 25% AJ. Exactly what you would expect if a maternal grandparent was nearly 100% AJ.

Why is that significant? 

Neither of my parents were of Jewish descent. Or my grandparents. Or my great grandparents. Or my great great grandparents. I know this for a fact. Although I can't DNA test dead people, I know these folks through and through. I can't know their ethnic origins, but I know they were all dyed in the wool Baptists. Every last one of them. Devoted Baptists.

Anyhow....50% means a PARENT. My mom or dad.

What does this REALLY mean?

It was hard to say out loud at first, but now I can say that it means one of my biological parents is unknown.

Was it mom? Maybe. She was "adventurous", shall we say.  However, we do know she was in fact pregnant at the right time and I have a certified birth certificate to show I was born to her and dad.

Was it dad? Maybe. He suffered serious war injuries. Could he have been sterile? They had been married 7 years when I came along. They've told me they had been trying since their wedding day to have a baby. They were unable to have other children, making me an only child.

Was I switched at birth? As ludicrous as this sounds, the answer is "maybe". Maybe. 

The Experts

I'm leaning heavily on my "DNA friends" to help me figure this out. One friend thinks it's on my maternal side, which lends a tad more more credibility to the "switched at birth" scenario. 

Together, we are chasing a lot of leads. I'm doing every single thing one of them tells me to do. 

I've requested both parents medical records from every hospital and doctor I can think of who may have treated them. 

Dad's blood type was O+. Mine is A+. I don't know mom's yet, but if it's not A+ then we know for a fact she is not my mother. A blood fact.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that my mom and dad gave me a wonderful childhood. Every family has their issues, but as things go, my issues were few. I was a well-loved and well-raised little girl. I will love my parents until the end of time. No matter what. 

Sure ain't.

August 7, 2016

My DNA Craze

I've become a DNA convert.  I didn't dabble in DNA before because, frankly, it intimidated me. And for good reason!  

The topic is complex and the learning curve steep. But I'm putting one foot in front of the other and learning as I go. I don't need to know everything about DNA to just get started. Right?

There are 3 major DNA tests. I've already done AncestryDNA and I'm waiting for results from 23andMe. I've tested my son with AncestryDNA (results pending) and I'm trying to convince him to also test with FamilyTreeDNA, but he is having a hard time understanding why we should spend another $69 on DNA testing. 

He asks "haven't you already done the family tree"?  And then there's "I've already done one test, why do I need to do another"?  If I pushed hard enough, he'd give in and do it. But I don't want to push him into it. I want him to understand the answers to his own questions. But I'm just a DNA fledging and I can't always answer him in a way that satisfies him. Or my answers lead to more questions. Wish he wasn't so dang smart that he wants to poke holes in all my answers!

I've already connected with a couple of cousins and that makes me very very happy. However, DNA has deepened the mystery of my Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, which just makes me even more determined to get to the bottom of it.

I'm attending a DNA Special Interest Group weekly and an intro and more advanced all day workshop. After all that...I'll be pretty DNA literate. I hope. 

July 10, 2016

It was a Nation's Flag

Forgive me. I ask you right up front. Forgive me. 

Why? Cause I'm about to express my opinion about the Confederate flag.  Politically incorrect, I know. And I also know I'm a little late to the party, as usual. But here we go....

Let me just say that I do not get the defilement around this flag. It was once our country's flag, for those who lived in the south, even though that entity ceased to exist 130 years ago. Still.

It was a nation's flag. Not a symbol of hate or ignorance. While I - like most everyone else - abhor the slavery of another human being, it's not totally about the south's desire to keep slaves, although that was indeed an economic issue and the driving force of the War Between the States. 

Further, I totally agree it should NOT be flown above the South Carolina State House. That place of honor should be reserved for the United States Flag.  What are those hillbillies thinking?

I get just a tiny bit offended when I read of the desire to erase this flag from our memories and our nation's history. I identify so strongly as a southerner. This flag is a large piece of my family's story which I've spent nearly 30 years trying to piece together. It's part of my own personal history, thanks to my many ancestors who served in the Confederacy.

It infuriates me that this flag has been so abused and misused by organizations of hate, like the Klan. Neither should it be an emblem in the Civil Rights Movement, in my small but strong opinion OR the mascot of Ole Miss being waved furiously at football games, for Heaven's sake. 

It was a flag that once represented a nation, an idealism, and the ole genteel South.  It's part of our past and present culture. Why do we need to assign any other premise of semiotics to it?

Answer: We don't. 

May 23, 2016

So got my DNA test results back...

So I finally got my DNA test results back. And BOY OH BOY was I surprised!

40% European Jewish. Specifically, Ashkenazi Jew. Seriously?  I guess the data doesn't lie, but who ever would have thought??

What is most amazing about this is that when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my oncologist specifically asked me if I was of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. I said "no, of western European descent". Which was a kinda dumb answer cause I really didn't know the answer since I'd not done the DNA test. Turns out the kind of breast cancer I had was prevalent in the African American and Ashkenazi Jewish populations. I'm 1% African American. 40% European Jewish. Go figure.

Talk about knocking my socks off. For real.

Not that I have a single thing against being of Jewish descent. But golly...I come from a long long long line of Baptist preachers and moonshiners. There wasn't a Jew in the bunch, far as I knew.

Looks like there was. A Jew in the bunch. How cool!

European Jews were primarily found in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Israel with a smattering in Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia and Estonia.

Ashkenazi Jews made up more than 2/3 of the souls killed in the Holocaust. Albert Einstein was an Ashkenazi Jew.  Genetic testing is highly recommended for folks descended from the Ashkenazi.  They are prone to Tay-Sacks Disease, Breast Cancer, Parkinson's and all sorts of other horrid illnesses. 

Lucky us.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the results. I attending an introductory DNA workshop over the weekend. It was about 75% over my head. The other 25% was very helpful. Hopefully, I can use my test results to connect with lots and lots of cousins who are rich in family information and pictures!  Keeping my fingers crossed.

March 4, 2016

Mom and Dad

Carl Donald Stancil and Ann
Gladys Allen on their wedding day
May 2, 1952 in Raleigh, NC
I'm thinking a lot about my mom and dad these days. I think of them every day, but somehow each year between February 2 and April 13, I think about them even more.

Daddy died on 2 Feb 1997 of a perforated intestine. Essentially, he had a hole in his gut. Normally, these things are easily repaired, but he already had end stage heart and lung disease, so he was placed in palliative care with a morphine drip and allowed to pass peacefully and painlessly. He was 66 years old, just 10 years older than I am now. He served in the US Marines for over 20 years followed by another 20 years in civil service. So he gave. More than most.

Mama died 10 weeks later on 13 April 1997. She died of a broken heart, both literally and figuratively. Although she could be a real pickle to live with, she loved my daddy with all her heart. I'll never forget the look on her face when I told her daddy had passed. 

1958 in Hawaii
I recall the shock I felt at suddenly being an orphan, despite my age. BOTH of my parents were gone. It felt quick and sharp. I've never felt so alone. I recall a quote from John Kennedy, Jr that you don't really become an adult until both of your parents are gone. I didn't understand that before but I do now.

My parents are still with me; in ways many might find...well, odd. 

My mother stands in my kitchen and talks to me when I'm cooking. She's often telling me what I'm doing wrong <grin> and she's almost always standing in my way. But in spite of our mother/daughter dynamics, I love that she is there.

Daddy often rides in the car with me. He loved for me to drive him places. He'd sit in passenger seat and say "now honey, slow down...". I have a lead foot and the driving record to prove it. He'd often ask to stop for ice cream on the way home. The man loved his ice cream!

There's no doubt in my mind that my parents loved me with all they had. They gave me everything they had to give. I've done the same for my son. 

Miss you mom and dad! Thank you. For everything.

March 1, 2016

Taking the DNA Plunge!

I did it. I finally did it! I forked over the $99 to have my DNA tested via Ancestry DNA. I'm very excited; 6 weeks seems like an awfully long time from now to wait for my results.

I've been thinking about taking the leap for a long time, but the price tag always stopped me. I'm stingy like that. BUT...then I read Judy Russell's blog post on getting the most bang for your DNA buck. Judy's known as The Legal Genealogist and writes some of the most clear and concise information I've found. Her post on DNA pushed me to DO IT!

So I forked over the $99 and spit in the little container and popped it in the mail. Now I wait.

Really...after all the money and HOURS I've spent over the past 30 years on my genealogy obsession, $99 is very little to pay to take it to the next level. And why not take full advantage of the newest DNA technology to learn more about my family?  After all, DNA testing told me that I carried the BRCA1 gene that gives me a 75% chance of having breast and ovarian cancer, and that turned out to be...well...sadly true. But I digress...

Once my DNA test results are in, I'll be able to link to them on and hopefully connect with new cousins and dig even deeper into my ancestry.

You should do it too!  After all, the more DNA results we have in the pool, the greater the chance we will connect. Come on. Do it. It's just a little spit!

February 21, 2016

John Ruffin Davis

John Ruffin DAVIS is my great great grandfather on my maternal side. He is one of my brick walls and quite a mystery to me. Part of the problem is his oh so common name: John Davis.

I’m not entirely sure whether he went by John or Ruffin. My instincts tell me it was Ruffin, but since that was his middle name it may not appear on certain documents.

Ruffin was born about 1825 in Granville County, NC. He married my great great grandmother, Lucinda Davis, on Janurary 5, 1859. Lucinda was the daughter of Jonathan Davis and Matilda Bailey. A Davis married a Davis. Lovely. One more hurdle in researching this couple.

On the 1850 census, he is living with William Davis, age 28, Susan age 17, and their daughter Virginia, age 3 months. Interestingly, William is Lucinda's half brother whom Ruffin would not marry for another 9 years. Ruffn's occupation is listed as farmer. 

1850 US Census, Granville County, NC

Ruffin shows up on the 1860 census in the Beaverdam area of Granville County as John R. Davis at age 35. He is living with wife Lucinda, age 20, Francis Allen, age 30 and daughter Indiana, age 6 months. I've no idea who this Francis Allen is - perhaps a family member. 

1860 US Census, Granville County, NC

Ruffin and Lucinda had 5 children:

1.   Indiana, born 20 Nov 1859. She died on 05 Oct 1904 in Granville County, NC at age 44. She married George P LOWERY on 12 Nov 1884 in Franklin County, NC.
2.   Sidney Irvin, my great grandfather, born on 29 May 1860 in Granville County, NC. He died on 03 Mar 1944 in Granville County, of chronic myocardial degeneration (ie heart disease) at age 83. I've heard he was a raging alcoholic. He married Cordelia Ann DAVIS on 24 May 1888 in Granville County, NC.
3.   James Medicus was born on 27 Dec 1864 in Granville County and died on 26 Nov 1932 in Granville County, NC at age 66.
4.   Charles was born in 1870 in Wake County, NC. 
5.    Ed. He may have died at birth.

Ruffin was old enough to have served in the Civil War and may have enlisted in Person County May 5, 1861. He would have been 38. This may explain the gap in his children's birth dates: 1860 - 1864. 

Another John R Davis of Granville County is shown in the American Civil War Soldiers database on He fought for the confederacy in unit 140. Enlisted as a private on 10 Aug 1861 at the age of 29 (would have been born around 1834). Died of disease Jan 31, 1863 in Granville County. 

I can't determine definitely if either of these men was my John Ruffin Davis.

Lucinda married Simon Hall in November 1873, so presumably Ruffin died prior to that. The youngest child for whom I have a birth year was born in 1870, so date of death was likely between 1870 and 1873. I do not find him on the 1870 census.

There is a family story that Ruffin's brother Charlie killed his wife Alice while she held their new born baby in her arms. Charlie was arrested and held in the Wake County jail. Medicus (one of Ruffin's sons and Charlie's nephew) went to visit Charlie at the jail. During the visit, Med mentioned that he'd attended Alice's funeral. Charlie didn't remember killing Alice and he was distraught. That night, he hung himself in the jail using a bed sheet. I haven't found any documentation of this story but it sure makes for some family drama!

If you know a single thing about John Ruffin Davis, I'd sure like to hear about it!

February 20, 2016

Find a Grave - my newest obsession

So I mentioned last month that I've become a tad obsessed with Find a I've used the site for years, it's not a new toy, but lately I've become interested in taking pictures to add to the site.

I've chosen cemeteries where my family members are buried. Most are already listed on the site, and most are 100% documented with pictures. But for those that do not have all the gravestones pictured, I'll drive over, snap the shots, and upload them to the site. Luckily, I live in the land of my ancestors, so all the cemeteries are within a 3 county radius.

What fun! Oh boy, does that mean I am OLD? Yup, I think it does. I'm really trying very hard to embrace my mid-50s. I certainly look that old (thanks, breast cancer) and most days I feel that old. But it's great exercise traipsing around cemeteries and I enjoy the OCD component in checking un-pictured graves off my little list. 

Find a Grave charges a one-time fee of $5 to sponsor a memorial. Sponsoring memorials means all the advertisements are removed and the photo limit is increased from 5 to 20. Each week, I chose one family member to sponsor. I started with my parents and I'm working my way through my direct line ancestors. Then, I'll start on the aunts and uncles.

I've found there can be quite a lot of politics on the internet around Find a Grave. I try to stay out of the fray and take a fairly liberal attitude toward transferring memorials to people who are more closely related to the deceased than me.

It's a fairly harmless hobby, right? Keeps me off the streets at night!