July 30, 2013

Crabby's Epic Adventure!

Yeah, this was supposed to be a post for Monday, and it was also supposed to be about health and fitness. Specifically, it was about consumer online genetic testing services. Then it was going to be about bicycling.

But instead, how about a tale of adventure, wanderlust and shocking surprises? There are lots and lots and lots of pictures (let's pretend that's a good thing), and even kinda a fitness angle!

Ok, so maybe not. But I rode my bike around while researching portions of this post.  Does that count?

Work with me here, people.

Anyway, recently I got my DNA testing results from 23 and Me. And I thought I'd tell you about all the fascinating and fun information I found out. (And by "fascinating and fun" I mean: "Yikes, I can't believe how many medical horrors I am at high risk for!" kinda fun. As I suspected, I do not appear to have a genetic propensity for a disease-free life. But lots of cool info too. More on that later).

However, instead of exploring genetic testing, I got sidetracked. Something more compelling came up.

Yep, 23andMe suggested I download some family history. And I remembered I'd done a little futzing around on ancestry.com. So I thought I'd do another quick free trial under a different email address, dig up all that family history stuff, and download it into the 23andMe database!

Famous last words.

Have any of you ever been taken hostage by Ancestry.com?  It's not pretty.  I am hoping they have medications for the obsessive behavior it inspires. I have not slept much the last few days.

(Oh, and speaking of "not pretty," anyone else have some real winners in their family trees?)

Nice, huh?

Fortunately, I did come across some less frightening photos. (My maternal grandfather, whom I wished I could've known had he not died so young, is on the right).

Anyway, this has been my life, hunched over my computer hour after compulsive hour clicking on little leaf "hint" icons and looking at records and getting confused and then just going along with whatever other people figured out about who might be related to whom.  If you have not yet wandered onto the site: STAY THE HELL AWAY!!!

But it's too late for me.

And yeah, I  know how absolutely fascinating it is to hear about other people's efforts to find out their ancestry. Sort of like hearing about people's weird dreams, their battles with hemorrhoids, their preferred methods for organizing their linen closets, or what they ate for a snack last Thursday.

Whoops--I'm not sure how that got on my phone.  I swear I wasn't planning an entire post on lettuce tacos.

OK, so maybe I was.

Anyway, so yeah, I got obsessed with stuff I was finding on the web about my ancestors, and it turns out, if the people back in Ohio aren't making shit up, some of my possible ancestors are kinda pilgrimish.  And along the way, a few are buried in...  Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Where I live for half the year.

Note: I am WAY lazy.   I was in Scotland last summer, where the Lobster spent a bunch of time doing genealogical research.  I didn't bother to do any and my last name is... Graham. Couldn't be anything for me to hunt down in Scotland, could there?

But anyway, this time, I got bitten by the bug and wanted to find out more about my relatives, and it became kind of a quest.

It's amazing the stuff I found!

The journey began here...

But not because I flew off anywhere.

The airport picture is totally gratuitous--I took it back when the post was going to be on biking. But it makes my quest seem more adventurey, doesn't it?  I'd been busy when the Lobster needed to fly off on a business trip, so I told her to take the car and I'd go get it later.  But how cool is it that our airport is just a bike ride away?

Nope, my actual destination was the cemetery.  I found out Ebenezer Nickerson and his wife Elizabeth Mayo were buried there.

But the cemetery is big and I couldn't figure out where to start.  There didn't seem to be an onsite office like I was hoping.

I looked here...

And there...

And there...

But no luck.

Plenty of Nickersons in Provincetown (I even live off Nickerson Street) but not the right ones! However, a helpful public works employee suggested I try the Clerk's office in Town Hall and see if they knew where he was buried.

Cool! I didn't know they had info there.

But first, I stopped for supplies at the natural food store.  One can not embark on research without sustenance.

Then I approached Town Hall.  I like Town Hall.

I was armed with sophisticated research tools.

(Not pictured: the camera phone, because it can't take pictures of itself.)

A nice lady found a big book and found the right page for old Ebenezer and Elizabeth; the pictures I took were so blurry she took pity on me and xeroxed.

At Town Hall, they have stuff to look at while you wait for the poor lady to walk across and xerox things for clueless amateur genealogists:

So I found at that Ebenezer could be found in "Cemetery #1" but the nice lady didn't know where that was.

I went back home, and googled, and eventually found out it was also known as the Winthrop Street Cemetary. Google maps was strangely silent on where that was but I finally figured it out.

Time to resume my adventuring!

I wandered around a bit... and spotted some more of the wrong Nickersons...

And eventually came upon this nice little spot:

And took some badly lit photos of the graves!

They're buried right across the street from the grocery store, so I can always go back with a real camera if I decide I give a crap.

However, can we linger for a moment on the creepy tombstone design?

Who thought scull-and-crossbones lightbulb-head ET-faced medusa-haired man was a pleasant reminder of a life well lived?

However, the real adventurey stuff came later when I continued opening up a few more leaves... and ended up, you guessed it...

At the Mayflower.

And if it's all true, I am related to the coolest f--cking pilgrim of all:  Stephen Hopkins!

He got shipwrecked and stranded in Bermuda and then somehow made it to the New World before the Mayflower even sailed.

And here's more about the story behind this picture 

He was sentenced to death as a mutineer, yet managed to sweet talk his way out of execution. And when he came back on the Mayflower he was much less of an asshole to the natives compared with other pilgrims.  Oh, and later, if the accounts are correct, he kept running into trouble with the law by selling booze when he wasn't supposed to.  What's not to like? (Well, ok, maybe the part about him mistreating a servant. That part, not so cool.)

Yet... there are still those Ohio links that I'm not 100% sure of--there could be some wishful thinkers back there, and all you need is one person who is the wrong relative for the whole house of cards to crumble. But then there are lots of other little wriggly leaves on that ancestry tree to explore and who knows where they'll lead?

Hmm, I may be getting on that plane someday after all...

Whew!  So that's what I've been doing for the last few day.

Anyone else ever get hopelessly caught up in the whole ancestry obsession?


  1. Crabby, Stephen Hopkins sounds like an interesting fellow. Good on you for your research. Cousin Terry has taken on this for our family and she's done a magnificent job. We had ancestors in Estonia so when I was there a few months ago it added a layer to the visit. I didn't get to the island we were booted from, but it was cool to be in the country.It is hard to describe being on the same land as forebears.

    1. That is so cool, Leah, that you got to go to Estonia and visit ancestral lands! And appreciated the pictures you brought back. Wish I had a Cousin Terry to do the heavy lifting like you do!

    2. Actually, Crabby, if memory serves me (I need to check, but I'm actually supposed to be working right now and not reading blogs!!) you possibly DO have a cousin Terry, AND a cousin Leah, a cousin Reb.... but it has been awhile since I worked on our tree, so I could be mistaken. I know we have Mayflower connections, or close to it.

    3. Bag lady, sorry I missed this comment earlier! I shall have to see if we are relatives, wouldn't that be cool if y'all are my Canadian cousins?

  2. This post is fun, especially the gratuitous bike shots. :-D I've been purposely putting off research like this because I know it will suck me in forever and I'll never get anything else done. Maybe when I retire, heh. Are you going to continue and see how far back you can get?

    Regarding the creepy Medusa-haired guy on the headstone, he looks really familiar. My business partner and I were in Charleston, SC, last summer and saw some headstones very similar to that hidden between buildings in the downtown area. We didn't find them very warm and fuzzy either, but they're definitely interesting!

    1. Thanks so much Heather! Charleston is such a great area for dead people! Oh wait, that didn't come out right. Anyway, you are SMART to stay away from the life-destroying timesuck that is genealogy, though I hear some people are actually able to sleep and eat and whatnot while finding out where they came from.

  3. The creepy winged skull motif you found on the one headstone is very interesting. The crossed bones above symbolize the fact of death, that we are nothing (in the end) but bones-- it's a message about humility-- this motif was quite popular with more puritanical sects and held on in the Americas long after it went out of fashion in Europe (which had moved on to weeping willows and other Enlightenment imagery). The winged skull is called a soul effigy- it symbolises the soul of the dead as having been so pure in faith that it went straight to heaven. Soul effigies are never made to look like individuals, so no, your ancestor was NOT that ugly. So basically the headstone imagery is one of here lieth the remains of X but don't worry, he or she has already gone to heaven.


    1. How cool to know the meaning behind that imagery. Thank you, Barb! Great info! :-)

    2. Thanks for sharing that Barb-- fun to learn :)

    3. I really appreciated that information too Barb! I guess those early ptown folks were not the weeping willow sort. Somehow doesn't surprise me.

  4. Hee Hee! Thank you for the smiles this post gave me, a good change from the leukemia document I'm editing today! :-)

    My ancestors came from France only 2 generations away (on one side anyways), so the info is readily available. :-)

    1. Ooh, leukemia does not sound as fun as shipwrecks and tombstones and illegal alcohol sales HSH, thanks for popping by!

  5. My father is big on this stuff and he has nerve so he just marched himself up to the mansion in Dublin that his ancestors had been servants in and wanted to know what was up with kicking the mother and kids out in the street when the father went to war. The people were very nice and had great records which they shared.

    My mother recently showed me pictures of my great grandmother with her 9 children at the time. Tiny little old lady! Then my mothers says she had 3 more kids after that! WHAT!! The woman looked 85! Unfortunately with that picture we also received hundreds of very old pictures of family with no dates or names on them.

    1. Love that story Cindy! And boy, one thing you notice with this going back in time thing, is that small families are pretty much a modern invention. I got really brutal with trimming the tree to eliminate siblings and multiple marriages because otherwise the dang thing would take a computer the size of Texas to take a look at.

  6. I thought you took that airport photo for me! I bet that would be a fun airport to fly into!

    Ancestry.com is an interesting site, though I haven't felt that interest yet.

    Old cemeteries are interesting to me. The old one in Savannah was amazing!

    Great, interesting post here!!

    1. I DID think of you at the airport Dr. J! I have yet to take a flight from it, however, as they are expensive and they only have little tiny planes and frequently shitty weather and I'm still a little skittish. I usually take the bus or ferry to Logan. But... someday!

  7. I have not checked out ancestry.com and thanks to your disclaimer, I won't, LOL! Still in the rabbit-hole known as Ravelry, which is where knitters go to look for a new project and never come out. :)

    1. Ah, then ancestry.com does indeed sound like it could be trouble Shelley because there is no small amount of unraveling involved!

  8. What an interesting post, Crabby. BTW, I am having such a hard time calling you that, given that, you know, we have not been formally introduced and here I am taking liberties by using your first name ;). I got a bit distracted by your shots and found myself whimpering with desire to get back to Provincetown, where I haven't been for at least 15 years. Favorite time, Thanksgiving, when it is empty of tourists. Yeah, the NERVE of me, is if I am not one myself but, moving on, I am SO getting that genetic testing done!
    Since I moved here with my parents from Europe in 1972, I've been curious about my ancestry, which one would THINK I would know but...it is fuzzy. One of the reasons I wish I knew more is that it may tie in with questions regarding my eating (the tendency to eat once, usually in the evening) and my absolute intolerance of heat and humidity.
    A very analytical and thoughtful blogger brought up the possibility that, depending on our ancestry (agrarian vs. hunter/gatherers), we may be likely to gravitate toward one type of pattern and preference, than others. I thought it was an interesting hypothesis and your blog post today ties beautifully into that. I am more likely to get to the mystery of my ancestry from genetic testing than from records, which were lost/burned/destroyed during the two world wars in Europe.
    Thank you for the link and for sharing the fascinating discoveries you've made about your own family. Hope you have fun wading through the rest. I have to admit that I am almost relieved not to do that myself. I'd get so obsessive about it!

    1. Oh, you MUST come back to Provincetown dlamb!!! And we love the shoulder seasons best too.

      Very interesting about the possible genetic roots of your eating routine and your intolerance of heat and humidity--though I am shocked when ANYONE can stand hot humid weather as it makes me simultaneously homicidal and suicidal but to weak to actually do any harm to self or others.

      And I hadn't really thought about how genealogy would be more challenging in places that got bombed to pieces! Such a loss of history and cultural treasures. Wars suck.

  9. Hi all,

    Wow, awesome comments so and I need time to respond to them properly and personally--Will be back!

    Weirdly busy day but I can't wait to respond because there is all kinds of awesomeness here and helpful info as well! (Oh, and dlamb, feel free to address me as "Ms McSlacker" if that feels more comfortable. But Crabby is just fine. I should probably change my name to Crabby McSlacker legally, at least when it comes time for tombstomb inscriptions.)

    Back later today!

    1. :) Thank you Crabby. Now that I have permission, officially, I will try to be more relaxed about it. You know, you can take the "girl" out of Europe but those first 7 years when manners are taught to children remain...

      Thank you for your sweet, gentle humor and always kind and polite manner. Those of us who were born in the Victorian era really appreciate and admire that sort of thing. Wait, should I mention anything about the Victorian era to someone who mentioned Scotland as possibly being significant to her in ANY way? A faux pas this early in our acquaintanceship...dear me!

    2. Dlamb, I hope your Victorian era sensibilities aren't offended by my foul language! You are awfully kind to overlook that. :)

      And I am apparently 99% European according to the 23andMe folks, but from what I've learned from ancestry.com, Scottish is just one of the multiplicity of of national heritages in my background--our patriarchal naming system makes it stand out way more than it should.

    3. Dear Crabby, this ancient woman is an unfortunate cross between a sailor and a truck driver when it comes to language so... :):):)
      I was about to order the kit but when I noticed that (ahem frugal as I am) one could get a discount for ordering ADDITIONAL genetic tests, I decided to wait until I could enquire if there are any other interested parties in the family would might like to avail themselves of terrifying genetic information of which they may be unaware. Yessir, I am all about exacerbating stress by adding anxiety to our medical hx info. They are welcome, I'm here to serve!

  10. I love this post!! I love the way your mind works and the little side tangents as you go through stuff!!
    I've never gotten into the whole ancestory thing because I'm a bit like you and I'm afraid that my family would starve before I learned everything that needed to be learned to complete the entire tree - easier to just stay away!! But now you have me thinking.....

    1. Kim, thank you! I think my whole freakin' BLOG is a little side tangent, glad that's not too irritating.

      And don't worry, you can feed your family while doing this stuff...if you just ensure your research takes you by purveyors of chocolate bars. Works for me!

  11. I checked it out once but resisted signing up as I was too busy with the end of the school year stuff at that time. Now, I'm in the process of de-cluttering my house. One closet at a time. the drawers are pretty bad too. Plus I need to get my act together and do something with my last 3! (yes, three) vacation photos/videos. Eek.

    So, no I haven't gotten caught up in ancestry dot com as I could tell it would be a time consuming project. It is on my To Do List.

    Thanks, I really enjoyed that post/blog. I can live vicariously through you! he he.

    Bob "just got back from Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo!" Ben

    1. BobBen, I love that you take advantage of the school schedule to have these great summer adventures!

      And, yikes, vacation photos... we have them dating back from the early nineties and they've never made it into albums. Talk about a To Do list item! I suspect WE'LL be in our early nineties before we get to it.

  12. Where most of my dad's people came from, i don't think they keep records much. At this point, i'm more interested in where the family is going than much about where it came from, but it is cool to hear about other people's searches.

    1. "i'm more interested in where the family is going than much about where it came from" LOVE that messymimi!

  13. WE LOVE Who Do You Think You Are in this house!!!! It is back on again & episode 2 is tonight!!!! From that, hubby got totally hooked on Ancestry.com & has been at it ever since!!! He found lots of great stuff on his side too! He worked a little on my side but it is mostly his.. :) I find it pretty cool!

    When I lived back east - loved the cool old cemeteries....

    So, have you come back up for air yet? ;)

    1. Thanks Jody--I'm trying to stay away from the ancestry site for a bit to catch up on things but have a feeling I will be back on again today, accck.

    2. Do you watch Who Do You Think You are - pretty interesting how!

  14. Death Ride GrandmaJuly 30, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Fortunately, my son-in-law LOVES this geneology stuff, so I can get all the intriguing tidbits without risking going near the site myself. One little note: when I was a kid, there was a little comic page thing called Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not. Once it claimed that my grandfather was the last child to be born in a house that had had more generations of a single family born in it than any other in the US. It's a house that still stands in Mystic Seaport. The record is not likely to be broken, of course, because the odds of a family's successive generations choosing home birth these days...and staying in the same state, let alone the same house...and mom going back to her parents' house to give birth...all pretty low.

    The genetic testing is interesting. I am always sort of indignant when medical people suggest we might not want to know everything, but I also see that knowing what theoretical risks we have could be sort of unsettling. I suppose it's something we'll just have to get used to, like knowing we could get hit by cars whenever we cross the street, but also knowing it's not worrisome enough to keep us on the sidewalk. My mother's family and personal history were bad enough that she was tested for BRCA 1 & 2. The testers told us gently that they were about 98% sure the results would be positive. They weren't. Drove the testers a bit crazy. But: even people who test positive will not all get cancer (various numbers and theories exist, but at least 40% of them will be fine), and my mother, without the genetic indicator, had cancer twice. Oh - and eventually died of something unrelated after living to see her grandchildren grow up.

    1. I remember that "Ripley's" comic page thing-- How funny it would be to see your own family featured!

      I'm with you on wanting to know vs not know. And like you said, the results are far from predictive--there are so many other factors than the few genes they have markers for. But I do like knowing a little more specifically which things to be afraid of!

  15. Dear Crabby - Love, LOVE this post! as always, love the pictures, too. (Keep 'em coming!).

    You didn't mention much specifically about the genetic test results other than the omg reaction to the list of risk factors. Hope it's ALL completely unfounded fear and unnecessary angst. Just believe and know that your wonderfully healthy lifestyle, knack for balancing fun and work and your terrific sense of humor all will work together to keep the boogey man at bay :).

    What I'm most curious about, though - are those lettuce tacos. What's in them? And, how big WERE they?! They look kind of tiny in that I'm thinking those are cherry tomatoes of the very smallish variety? This was a 'snack', right? It couldn't be an ENTIRE meal, right? Please oh please say that they were a snack!! Or an hors d'oeuvre?? Even a "heavy appetizer".... or - ok, MAYBE a light meal ????

    I love the idea of using HUMONGO sized romaine leaves in lieu of something more bread like. But to satisfy me of the apparently equally large sized appetite - the leaves would have to be SO large that I would be suspect of them being GMO or coming from an endangered rainforest!

    If this WAS an entire and REGULAR sized meal, my hat is off to you of the highest order of self restraint! If you could pass along a serving of that self restraint my way, I'd be most appreciative!

    Whatever the case, may you continue to find many more interesting and cool characters from your ancestral past!

    1. Crabby, before you disappear forever into the morass of ancestor dot com, I second Anon in wishing to hear more of lettuce tacos. Also, I find myself wondering about the genetic composition of the bicycle.

      I have avoided looking farther back into my ancestry than oral history takes me, shortly before the Civil War except in one case. My mother-the-social-worker believed it was important to know any health problems of your ancestors, which is why I can tell you that the only diabetic relative I have is one great-great-aunt.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    2. You guys crack me up with the lettuce tacos!

      So that picture was sort of between a meal and a snack; I'd had a huge breakfast and needed to grab lunch before heading out somewhere and wasn't as hungry as I sometimes am. Normally they'd be fuller and have chicken on them too but I'd run out. And I often have some additional grilled veggies or green salad on the side.

      The great thing about them is that they are a perfect vehicle for avocados, which I've recently re-fallen in love with. My problem with avocados has always been the desire to accompany them with tortilla chips or tacos. It's amazing how far a sprinkle of beans, some salsa, garlic salt, chicken, tomatoes and avocado can go towards feeding a "taco" hunger without turning it into a total carb pig out.

      Be glad there wasn't a whole freakin post on them though!

  16. My father in law's hobby is cataloguing the genealogy of the original families in the area we are from. So when I met him, he already had a binder all about my family. Realizing that gave me a bit of a weird feeling. I would really like to have a look at it all some day though.

    1. How funny that your father-in-law had you cataloged even before you became part of the family JavaChick! That seems like it could feel a bit odd, but kinda handy to have it all collected already. Though then you miss out on the fun of clicking on quivering leaves on the internet--it's sort of like a video game for people who don't normally bother with them.

  17. I really neeeeed to get all caught up in it.
    My ancestors--some of whom survived the holocaust---are swiftly dying.

  18. Beware MIZ, once you start it's hard to stop. But yeah, sounds like it would be great to find out some family history while there are still people alive to learn about!

  19. It's so funny: just the other day I was thinking about going on the site, because I know very little about my mom's side of the family. Maybe if I have a safety, someone who can draw me out if I get in too deep...

  20. Very cool that you were able to learn so much. I am rather hesitant to check out Ancestry.com but would like to at some point. I've always heard that it's a bit time grabber. But it sure grabbed you in a good way.

  21. Been there, done that with Ancestry.com. I did the trial too and tried to suck as much information down as I could in a short time. It is fascinating what you can find there. When I have more time I'm going to join for real. Cool about your relative. I love that grave marker. Very cool. You should do an etching of it!
    Hope you're having a good time when you're not busy cruising the grave yards. :)

  22. Adventures in genealogy. Very cool!

  23. My mom is really into family history so I don't need to go to ancestry.com we have piles of books at home with all that info. I remember as a kid being drug around old cemetery's looking for long lost relatives and there are some creepy looking graves around! I've seen similar creepy tombstone designs and I think it has something to do with religion and the persons soul...not exactly sure. Anyway, good luck with the rest of your history adventure.

  24. I'm interested on your take of 23 and Me! Hope that comes eventually...

    I fell into that Ancestry hole for a long weekend. Since my family has only been in the US since around 1900, I quickly played out all the leaves.

    Found out about male ancestors in Germany who were the military type, then quit. Oddly couldn't find my father's military records from WWII.

  25. Dear Crabby,
    First off, I adore your blog; an excellent mix of information, meandering and humor. I've read it a few times before and always left with a smile on my face. Not sure how I found it, Perhaps a mutual FB friend...

    I went on the genealogy search a while back and it is black hole. I was blocked at my great grandparents, who I'm quite sure all of their siblings/families were gassed but that didn't stop me from consuming weeks of free time writing and searching... Your search, writing & photos were terrific. Keep up the fun!

    By the way you can take a photo of your phone with a mirror. ... And from your blog, I'm convinced you're neither Crabby nor a Slacker!

  26. Thank you guys so much for all the great comments, and SanDiegoNancy: Welcome!!!! I really appreciate the kind words, plus the patience you all have with my ramblings.

    Update: still obsessed! Ohio looking good, more interesting characters turning up, many more leaves to turn over, graves to visit, and Provincetown/nearby Cape Cod connections to rummage around in. ALMOST wish we weren't heading off today on vacation. But, it will all still be here when we get back, unless grave robbing is coming back into fashion.

    thanks again for continuing comments!!!!! I always read them eagerly, even if I don't always reply personally or reciprocate blog visits.

  27. Looks like you had a nice little excursion! I also am big into ancestry and digging deep into family history. I find it to be fascinating and very interesting! Thanks for sharing!


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