Joy has often bragged about being one-eighth Cherokee. Now she wonders if it’s as phony as a politician in a Pocahontas costume.
Genealogy is a subject that interests lots of people. That interest was piqued for Joy when her sister had her DNA tested by Ancestry.com, and the results came back “no Native American blood.” We immediately wondered if Joy lacked Cherokee DNA too, despite family lore. This took us on a journey of genetic discovery online.
First we went to Quora.com. This is the web’s premier site for asking questions about anything. And it’s free. Joy asked “Is it possible to have zero Native American blood if your great grandfather was a full-blooded Cherokee?” We were amazed at the lengthy and thoughtful answers. Seven genealogy buffs weighed in, some with specialized knowledge and helpful links. Most said it was highly unlikely that her sister’s test was in error, though others suggested getting tested by a rival site, 23andme.com, co-founded by the wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Others pointed out that it’s possible to get nearly all your DNA from one parent, so Joy could be part Indian and her sister, not. Another said that if you do have Indian blood, there would be supporting documents, since Native Americans were at one time registered. We looked at some records. Ah ha! Her Cherokee ancestors the family insisted she had were in fact listed on an official count.
Which prompted Joy to order her own $99 AncestryDNA.com test. And there she is, dripping saliva into a tube to send off. (Didn’t mean to gross anybody out there.) The results will take about six weeks to come back. In the meantime, we found a whole slew of free tutorials at Ancestry.com/academy/courses/topic. One of them shows how siblings can differ from each other.
DNA analysis is more complicated than we thought. According to LiveScience.com, DNA tests analyze less than one percent of a person’s genome, so they’ll miss most of your relatives. In fact, they say the test does little more than show your “genetic cousins,” people who share genes with you.
We went to a live talk on genealogy now that our interests were engaged. The presenter said he uncovered a slew of cousins he likes better than the cousins he already knew about. He suggests starting your research the old-fashioned way, with phone calls to relatives, even if they are younger than you. Some may have old photos and other info. Also, he said, check out FamilyTreeDNA.com.
Some closing words about Quora.com: This is a question and answer site that promises to fulfill the promise that Bob initially saw as the true value of the Internet: It was that somebody, somewhere, knows that answer to almost any question. It’s still a work in progress but it continues to offer the hope of the whole human race joining in the search for knowledge and sharing what they find. And besides, it cost nothing to join. (Just as it should.)
- “Before and After Pics Showing How Famous Cities Changed Over Time.” Search on that phrase to discover the immense changes that have taken place, sometimes in as little as 16 years. Singapore, Dubai, and many other cities are utterly transformed.
- “People are struggling to Solve this Brainteaser.” Search on those words to find a fun puzzle challenging you to turn four squares into three with three moves.
- GatesNotes.com is the personal site of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He writes a lot of book reviews, posts photos and tells anecdotes about his friendship with investor William Buffett. He recommends “The Rosie Project,” by Graeme Simsion, one of the funniest books we’ve read in years.
A reader writes to say his Gmail account was hacked and he can’t get back in. The hacker changed the password.
He’d hoped there was someone at Google he could call, but all recovery info is online. The first thing to try is clicking on “forgot my password.” If you can reset it to something unlike the original, you’re in and the hacker is out. Problem solved. For other approaches, search on the phrase “Recover a compromised email account.” If you use Yahoo, you can write them directly at email@example.com.
Book: “Smithsonian Maker Lab”
“Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects,” is a new book by Jack Challoner; $20 from dk.com.
Kids can create a map using invisible ink, play music through paper cup speakers, hoist a weight with a waterwheel and watch a plant grow inside a bottle. The author’s favorite project was making sugar crystal popsicles, “because the result looked beautiful and tasted great, too!” Joy is going to try making her own bath fizzies. The photography is excellent and the step-by-step directions are easy to follow.
Birthday and Other Greetings
Our birthdays are both in July and our best friends have July birthdays too. Want to wish someone happy birthday by email, but dress up the message a little?
Go to images.google.com. Search on the phrase “happy birthday.” Click your favorite with your right mouse button to save it. Now attach it to your message. Or, in Gmail, put it right in the message itself. To do that, click the “insert photo” icon that’s five over to the right of the “send” button. Click “upload,” and browse to where you’ve saved the image you want to use. Voila! It goes in.
This is also great for sending a “thinking of you” card.
Tips and Tricks
David Pogue, who has written a number of technical books on programming, had some good tips we’re passing on.
- Put your cell phone in a mug when you play music. The sound will be louder and richer. This is especially good for hard-to-hear audio books you might be playing in your car. We used a raisin can because our phone is too big.
- Shut off a ringing phone in a meeting or another embarrassing situation by pushing any button on the outside.
- If you put your phone in airplane mode or turn it off, it will charge much faster. Always use an outlet for the fastest charging, not a USB port on your computer.