Redheads in Your Family?

Science Dump posted this video from Buzz Feed today, and I thought it was worth sharing:

I don’t know how accurate the facts presented here are, but they generated some interesting conversation on Facebook, especially among my red-headed friends!

For the record, I also seem to be almost impervious to anesthesia, which frustrates the heck out of my dentist. And my red-headed cousin went gray long before I did… maybe having 3 kids helped her along?

Good News From Family Tree DNA!

I received the following news from Family Tree DNA yesterday:

Dear Group Administrators,

We have great news for you, your group members, and most importantly prospective members: As of Monday, we’ll begin including domestic return postage in the cost of shipping and handling. By adding return domestic postage, it will encourage more of those sponsored testers to return their kits, since they don’t have to visit a post office or guess at the number of stamps to put on the envelope! For both domestic and international shipping, the fee will now be a consistent $9.95. 

Now, you have no more excuses for not testing, right? ;-)
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For information about the Swanay/Swaney/Sweaney DNA Surname Project, please visit our public project page, or FamilyTree DNA. Please also feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Santa Barbara Symposium on Human Origins II

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will be holding a Symposium on Human Origins II on September 12-13, 2014. Called “Our Incredible Human Journey: From Africa to the Ends of the Earth,” the 2-day symposium is billed as being for “scientists and non-scientists alike.”

Few topics are more compelling to scientists and non-scientists alike than the question of how the human species originated and evolved and how this peculiar creature, unlike any other species of animals, colonized the whole globe to lay the foundation for the emergence of the vast array of diverse societies and cultures that we know today.

Research over the past few decades has established that Homo sapiens originated in Africa; current work shows that this occurred far earlier than anyone had imagined. An array of sophisticated new scientific tools from diverse disciplines including archaeology, biology, geology, physics, DNA studies, and linguistics is generating amazing new insights into when and how these earliest humans spread from Africa across the rest of the world into Europe, Asia, the Pacific region, and the Americas.

For more information, and to download a flyer, visit

I will unfortunately be out of town that weekend and have to miss what sounds like an interesting event. But if anyone attends, I hope you will drop me a note or leave a comment with your thoughts!

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Found Tombstone: Missing Marker or Movie Prop?

A Facebook friend messaged me this morning about a story in today’s Antelope Valley Times:

Tombstone found near Vasquez Rocks

ACTON – A Sprint employee made an unusual discovery while working near the Vasquez Rocks in Acton… the broken and discarded tombstone of a woman who was born and died in the 1800s.

[Around 3:30 p.m., Monday, August 4,] Joe Trader was working on a cell tower near Indian Brave Road and Valley Sage Road when he found the tombstone nearby.

Trader called the Sheriff’s Department and the tombstone was taken to the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station by Deputies.

There were no clues to where the tombstone came from or how it came to be abandoned in the hills. It is unknown if it had been stolen and discarded or if it had been abandoned in the hills after having been replaced with a newer grave marker.

The tombstone is engraved with “Mother” on the top and the name “Sarah Robinson” on the front.

It gives a date of birth of May 19, 1822 and a date of death of June 22, 1889.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station at 661-272-2400.

[Information via press release from the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station.]

See the original article here:

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I used to live not far from where the tombstone was found, so of course, this mystery intrigued me. Unfortunately, I was on my way out the door to take my kid to swimming lessons, so I could only do a brief search for the mysterious, tombstone-less Sarah Robinson. Oddly, I could find absolutely nothing about any woman even slightly resembling her vitals. Granted, I was in a hurry, but I fully expected to find… something. Shortly afterwards, my friend added the comment that the latest rumor is that Ms. Robinson’s tombstone was a lost movie prop. Interesting, and certainly possible, considering that many, many movies, TV shows, music videos, etc., have been filmed at the Vasquez Rocks, which are nearby.

I’m not entirely convinced, though. And I would hate to see Sarah go without her tombstone, especially if she was buried in a nearby cemetery or on a local property.
So… what say you, genealogists/movie buffs out there? Can we find a home for the Sarah Robinson tombstone? Or is it truly just a movie prop?

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Feeling the American Spirit

I just wanted to wave hello to anyone who has dropped in because of the article in the current issue of the DAR’s American Spirit magazine. I was excited to be interviewed a few months ago for the article, “Finding Family on Facebook,” by Lena Anthony, in which “DAR members share stories of how they’ve connected with relatives and found missing links in their family history using social media tools.” Well, I’m still looking for many of those “missing links,” but I can say that social media has helped me find quite a few leads. And cousins. 
Oh, and I apologize for the mess here. I’m in the process of making some major changes, which will hopefully become live in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, please make yourself comfortable, and feel free to look around. Maybe we’re cousins?
For more information about American Spirit magazine, please visit I hope you enjoyed the article, and if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a note. :-)

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Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Throwback Thursday: Pepper Gets A Bath

My beloved Lab/Retreiver mix Reilly passed away at the age of 14 1/2 years last December, which led us to adopt two new little terriers, which I’m sure you will be seeing here fairly soon (you may have already seen them on Facebook). 
So all this has led me to think about my first dog, Pepper. He was a good boy (aren’t they all?) who let me wheel him around in a stroller and dress him up in doll clothes. Here he is getting a bath, c. July 1977. Yep, that’s me, and my shirt really does say, “Shake Your Booty.” It was the 70s… what can I say?

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Original photograph dated July 1977, privately held by Elizabeth O’Neal, Santa Barbara Co., California, 2014.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Reports of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I did not fall off the edge of the earth (although, it kind of feels like it sometimes). I have not been trapped under a heavy object, and to the best of my knowledge, I do not have a debilitating disease.

So… where have I been?

Loaded question. I guess the short story would be that I hit a wall. And not the brick variety that genealogists run into more often than we like. I’m talking about the type of real life wall that smacks you down, mentally and physically. You know… just when you think things are moving along nicely, and then… POW! Actually, it was not really an all-at-once wall; more like a few bricks here, a few bricks there. Pretty soon, you’re covered in bricks, thinking, “What the h*ll happened?”

You can skip this part if you don’t want me to bore you with the rambly details and lady part stuff.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I do remember the first event that winded me. I had written a rather glib post about getting your annual mammogram, casually mentioning that I had been blowing mine off since 1998. I mean, no one in my family had ever had breast cancer (that I knew of), so I had nothing to fear, right? You can imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox and found The Letter. The Letter said that my results were “inconclusive,” and that I needed to come back for a repeat mammogram and an ultrasound. To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. Did I mention that no one in my family had ever had breast cancer? And I had my DNA health results from 23andMe, and they said I did not have the BRCA gene. So I was fine. Right?

As the tech doing my follow-up mammogram said, “That just means you’ll be more surprised if you have it.” She really wasn’t being rude, but she sounded as if she’d heard excuses like mine dozens of times before.

Apparently nothing seriously ugly showed up in either test, and they just wanted to be thorough and check out “a suspicious-looking spot.” (insert temporary sigh of relief here)

So next came The Vicious Cycle of Infections: cold – sinus infection – cold – sinus infection – ear infection – cold – sinus infection – double ear infection – bronchitis… you get the picture. At one point, I had an acute sinus infection, two ear infections, and walking pneumonia. And it’s really hard to think – much less write – with a head full of puss. Anyway, the doctor threatened to put me in the hospital, but I refused. Thankfully my stubbornness didn’t kill me, and I eventually got myself to an ENT who has helped me break the Vicious Cycle: Almost 1 year infection free!

But what is most bizarre about all of this is that all those crazy infections may have saved my life. Every visit to the doctor always started in the same way (“I’m back! Did you miss me?”). The nurse would take my blood pressure. Now, I’ve never paid much attention to this procedure, since my blood pressure has always been about as low as a dead person’s. But at every visit, it was a little bit higher, and a little bit higher, until finally the nurse got a scared look on her face and stammered that she was sure the machine had malfunctioned. She took it again, this time with a straight face, but didn’t say much. The doctor came in a few minutes later and said we needed to have The Talk. I agreed that yes, I realized that I needed to take action about all these sinus infections. No, he said. He meant about my blood pressure.

(Insert bricks here)

My mother had been diagnosed with malignant hypertension many years earlier, and we had made lots and lots visits to the ER where doctors tried desperately to get her blood pressure down to a non-walking-stroke level. Her father also had HBP, and died at the ripe, young age of 38. But that could never happen to me, right?


I was told to immediately start on HBP meds, start exercising, and lose 30 pounds. Ok, and if I did all this, could I go eventually off the meds?

Probably not. “You’ve got bad genes,” the doctor informed me.

He doesn’t know the half of it.

The moral of this story…

I’m not sure if there really is a moral, or even a point, to be honest. But I’m down 25 lbs, taking my meds like a good girl, and possibly training for an upcoming breast cancer walk (still deciding on that one). I’m in better shape than I’ve been in in about a decade, and I feel like I can finally think straight again. Oh, and I’m taking a ballet class, which I haven’t done in 30-cough-cough years. :-)

I’ll talk about genealogy next time, I promise.

So… long time no chat. How YOU doin’?

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Image from Meme Something.
Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal