PART TWO OF “THE UNIVERSE IS AT IT AGAIN!”: AN ANSWER

If you missed Part One, click here to read that first because this post continues my story…

Fast forward to April 2017. With another trip to Dublin booked for this coming August and an overhaul of the novel I am writing, I decided to get my DNA analyzed from Ancestry.

I figured, what the hell? Maybe I’d be able to clear up that Galicia/Austria/Russia/Poland confusion, but most of all, I was hoping to learn that I was, indeed Irish.

I ordered my Ancestry kit with a $20 off discount and it arrived on April 29. The kit provides specific instructions about how to spit into the little sample tube they provided.

I know, I thought the same thing: Why do I need instructions?

Well, it turns out that the process of spitting saliva into the tube took longer than I thought. I first had to activate my kit on my computer, and before attempting my saliva collection, I had to wait 30 minutes after eating or drinking anything.

When those 30 minutes were up, I followed the directions to collect my saliva, but since I couldn’t have any water, it took a long time to collect the right amount (minus bubbles, mind you).

Once I had enough of my saliva in the tube, I clicked the tube together to release the “stabilizing fluid.” I then packed it in the little, prepaid shipping box it came with and mailed it on Monday, May 1. I received an email on May 5 that it was received on Ancestry’s end and that it would take 6 to 8 weeks to receive my results. My sample hit Ancestry’s lab on May 23 with another disclaimer that it could still take 6 to 8 weeks due to high demand.

I was prepared to coast through the rest of the school year and the first part of summer without knowing my heritage, but eleven days later on June 3, I received my results via email. Little did I know the very unexpected and wonderful surprises the universe had waiting for me!

First of all, here’s my heritage:

Great Britain: 57%. I figured this would be a high number, and I was right. Must be why I love teaching British literature and bland food.

Scandinavian: 13%. Shocking! I had no idea I was of Scandinavian descent. When I tell people this, most look at me funny because I have blonde hair and blue eyes. Some have said, “Well, it’s obvious you are Scandinavian,” and aren’t surprised at all. However, if you look at my family as a whole, the only three people with the typical Scandinavian features of light hair and light eyes are me, my Grandpa C., and my 3-year-old nephew, I. My dad and uncle were both blonde when they were young, but their hair changed and their eyes weren’t blue. Again, must be why I love teaching about the Vikings and Beowulf! Let’s go a Viking!

Europe East: 10%. This is the line that extends to Poland, Russia, Austria, Ukraine, Galicia, etc., so I expected this region to show up. I was hoping that the test would narrow down the actual country my Grandma C.’s parents actually emigrated from. However, an offshoot of my ancestry report clusters my DNA on a map of this region right where Galicia would have been, so I’m going with Galicia. Kielbasa for all!

Italy/Greece: 9%. WHAT? Seriously? I’m Italian or Greek? Holy cannoli! This shocked the daylights out of me. I would have guessed any other heritage before Italian/Greek. My husband was very pleased to learn that he did, indeed, marry an “Italian Girl.” His father would have been over the moon to learn that I had Italian heritage!

Europe West: 6%. Germany, Belgium, and France fall into this region.  My Grandma M.’s grandparents were born in Germany, so this wasn’t a big surprise. Confirmation: German. Dad’s up in heaven screaming “Yah vull!” right now.

Iberian Peninsula: 3%. Spain and Portugal make up the Iberian Peninsula, and this one was a nice surprise. Interesting fact: Portugal is directly across the Atlantic Ocean from where I live. Neat!

Ireland: Less than 1%. I am Irish after all! While I was initially disappointed, at least Ireland showed up. I’ll take it!

Caucasus: Less than 1%. I know what you are thinking…where the hell is Caucasus? It’s a region encompassing Georgia, Irian, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, and more. Another Easter egg for sure.

On my report, I can click on each region to not only learn more about it, but also to take a closer look at my percentages and compare mine to other people from the same region. It’s pretty cool that I have a solid cluster in both the East Europe region (Galicia-the yellow spot in the map to the left) and also in a community called Early Settlers of New York.

But there’s more, a whole lot more to this story! Please look for Part 3 tomorrow!

Part One of “The Universe Is At It Again!”: Who Am I?

Who are you? Or better yet, who am I? That’s the quintessential question, isn’t it? And I think every one of us is searching for that elusive answer, despite how confident we might be.

Who am I, indeed? What makes me ME?

One of my biggest regrets is never preserving each of my four grandparents’ stories…their backgrounds, families, cultures, heritages, and what made each of them THEM.

Sure, I talked with them a bit when I was young, but I don’t remember much of anything because I never took the time to write anything down.

That part of my story, their individual stories comprised of their contributions to my genetic blueprint, is forever lost.

Huge regret.

HUGE.

I do recall being told over the years that my heritage includes Russian, English, German, and a tad bit of Irish.

Tad bit of Irish? With my connection to all things Ireland over the past 3 years, I longed for more than just a “tad” bit of Irish in my background.

So, last summer, I decided to see if I could find out exactly that that “tad” was comprised of.

Three weeks before I left for Dublin, I began researching my genealogy hoping to find an Irish connection, specifically through my Grandpa C. He never shared much of anything about his background or family, but I vaguely recall him saying there was Irish mixed in with his mostly English heritage.

Our local library offers free Ancestry access to anyone with a library card, so I spent a few summer afternoons playing detective as I tried to uncover at least one Irish link. The more I searched, the more discoveries about my family heritage I made, but with each click ahead I fell further behind on making a concrete Irish connection.

All in all, I ended up learning a lot, but I was unable to confirm or deny what it was that brought me to the library in the first place.

For starters, I found out pretty quickly that my supposed Russian heritage was perhaps incorrectly attributed.

Census from 1930

The line in my heritage through my father’s mother’s family provided very quick and solid information. Grandma C. always said that she was Russian, and she even knew how to speak it. However, I think she might have been mistaken. On every census and official document I could find on her family line, the home country of her parents, J and E, was different. The earliest I could find from the early 1900s listed Galicia (not the one in Spain) as their home country, and that changed over the years to Austria, Poland, and Russia.

Galicia was one of those recurring terms from last summer that guided me, and I wrote a separate entry about that here.

I unearthed more information about Grandma C.’s line, and my mother’s parents and their lines, but the line from my dad’s father gave me the least amount of data. All I found was Grandpa C.’s marriage certificate to Grandma C. (the one with parents from Galicia), which included both of their parent’s names, one entry in a census report from 1940, and his birth and death dates.

When he heard I was trying to learn about our family, my Uncle G (Dad’s brother) gave me a red binder filled with photos from Grandpa C.’s side and obituary clippings and memorial cards from many members of his family. I meticulously went through the album hoping to find a link to Ireland, but I came up with nothing. Most of the pictures didn’t have names, and the ones that did were people who both my Uncle and I had never met or really heard of before.

I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to confirm anything Irish in my heritage. Drats.

I traveled to Dublin in August, unsure of whether or not I had any legit ties to what has become one of my favorite places in the world. That trip changed my life in so many ways regardless of whether I’m truly Irish or not.

When I returned from my trip, the frenzy of back to school hit hard, and I abandoned my genealogy research for the time being. I instead focused on my novel, my writing, and my responsibilities. Another summer would be here, soon, with time for me to once again pursue learning about the origins of my heritage.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow!

 

My Ordinary Playlist of Extraordinary “To Live List” Sentiments

It’s here! It’s here! The second day of 2017 already has a different feel for me. I was hoping to catch the sunrise up at the beach this morning, but the weather gods thought differently. Instead, I sit here listening to the raindrops hit my windows, satisfied that fate had other plans for me.

After making my daily cup of peppermint coffee, I looked over my goals and my schedule for the week and the month. I then refined a few of the penciled-in daily tasks I will complete as I move towards making my future happen. I already was able to cross a few items off that I completed yesterday.

This is not my to-do list. Rather, it’s my To Live List.

That got me thinking…my To Live List needs a little more oomph, something that will help me stay positive and on the right path. Something to accompany it.

And there it is: My To Live List needs its own playlist.

I already had an idea of two songs to guide me this year, but two is not enough. I need a compilation of songs that are special to me: songs that hit MY chords of inspiration that are meaningful and exhilarating to my heart and my soul…songs that guide my journey and give me chills when I envision my future path, some of which actually make me tear up.

…ok, I’m a tad bit weepy here…shake it off, you’ve got this…Pardon this pause of being human…

Onward!

I would like to share with you the first 10 songs on my list, and explain why each song will be a part of every single day in 2017. On the surface, the songs might seem common and ordinary.

Nope. That’s the farthest from the truth.

My connection with each song, who now has a coveted and loved home on my Amazon music app, is very personal (yep, one way I put my Prime membership to work for me!). I carefully selected each song for a specific reason.

My goal in sharing these songs with you is not to “toot my own horn,” per se, but to hopefully inspire you to find the songs that will be the soundtrack to your 2017 life, songs which will make you come alive this year and fuel your passions as these songs fuel mine.

I present to you my Onward, Writer! My “To Live” Playlist.

img_0951Song 1: “Blackbird” by The Beatles. “Blackbird fly…Into the light of the dark black night…Blackbird singing in the dead of night…Take these broken wings and learn to fly…All your life…You were only waiting for this moment to arise…Yes, I have been waiting for this moment my entire life, and instead of waiting, now I am living and doing.

Song 2: “Gonna Fly Now” by the Rocky Orchestra. Hokey and stereotypical, but nonetheless important to me. There will be a moment later this year when I run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Instead of laughing, consider joining me! Let me know that you’re in and I’ll keep you posted about plans to make this happen!

Song 3: “Look Around” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This upbeat song is a reminder to take a look around every day to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. You might find me happily jumping around like my 2.75-year-old nephew while listening to this song.

Song 4: “Rey’s Theme” from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. The character Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is one of my heroes because she’s strong and brave. Even though she doesn’t know what path to follow at first and wants to stick around at home, life (and the Force) has other plans for her. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I look up to her a lot, despite being more than half her age.

Song 5: “Training Montage” by Vince DiCola from the Rocky IV soundtrack. No explanation for this one is needed.

Song 6: “The Jedi Steps and Finale” from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. This one is hugely personal. Hugely! I cannot put into words the massive symbols and meaning this song has for me. Maybe someday, but not yet. You can read a blog post I wrote last January about that scene in the movie and some of my connections to it.

Song 7: “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Can’t stop the spirits when they need you…this life is more than just a read through… The spirits? Yes, especially SHE who is still guiding me. It’s time to LIVE as this is my one and only LIFE. Time to make my dreams come true!

Song 8: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. I am not a fan of Eminem at all. However, I think you’ll agree with me that this song is legendary, one that will put my ideas into action and give me the kick I might need at times.

Song 9: “The Longest Wave” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The wave is here, my friend. The wave is here, in more ways than one. Did I tell you I intend to learn to surf this year?

Song 10: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. These lyrics are wrought with meaning for me and this part of my life’s journey: Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting…Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear…Here comes the sun, here comes the sun…And I say it’s all right…

wordThere are 93 other songs on the list, ones that I know will provide me with encouragement and guidance when I randomly shuffle the playlist. The universe is pretty good at selecting just the right song I need to hear at a particular time, and I wholeheartedly believe it still will guide me this year.

I’d love to hear what songs you have selected to be a part of your To Live Playlist for 2017! Please leave me a comment and tell me about one and what it means to you!

Until next time, 

Jill

 

The Signs of a New Direction, Perhaps?

Author’s note: If you know me, you are aware that I’ve been experiencing a year full of “signs from the universe,” so to speak, which is leading me on a pilgrimage to Ireland in August. Today’s post is the latest in the web of signs guiding me to “sea“k my soul; these opened up an entirely new path on that web. Everything is mysteriously connected, and someday I intend to share the whole story. For now, please enjoy this small anecdote from my journey so far…

I started researching my family history yesterday at the local library, mostly because I am interested in learning more about my dad’s father’s heritage. We think there’s Irish somewhere in that lineage. Since I am headed to Dublin, Ireland, next month, I thought I’d see if I could find any ties to locations or to family that might be there. So far, that search has amounted to nothing.

Zilch.

The day, though, did not leave me disappointed.

Rather, it left me invigorated, and perhaps even a little spooked (in a good way).

My dad’s mother, Tillie, was one of 8 children. I thought her parents immigrated together from Russia. I also recall hearing they came from Austria, and they might have come to the USA separately. Various family legends speak of her two older siblings being born here, no…the oldest was born in Austria…no, the two were born abroad, and so on.

Nobody really knows the true story.  I regret never asking any of my grandparents about their heritage when they were still here. (Advice: If you have that chance, do it today before it’s too late).

Yesterday turned out to be an amazing day, as the truth started to reveal itself.

While using the local library’s Ancestry.com account, I search my paternal grandmother’s name and found a record from the 1920 census listing the people in her family. I knew the names of her brothers and sisters (Sam, Helen, Emilie, Michael, Sophie, Vladimir, Alice-she wasn’t born yet for the 1920 census) and that their last name was Gibey, but I never knew the names of her father or mother.

Well, I learned that her parents’ names were Joseph Gyby and Eva (Bybel) Gyby.  Both were born in Galicia.

Galicia?

Where is that? I never heard of it, or at least I don’t recall hearing of it before yesterday (July 25, 2016).

Turns out Galicia is a region in Central Eastern Europe that is between Poland and Ukraine. It was absorbed into Poland (Western Galicia) and Ukraine (Eastern Galicia) during the first half of the 1900’s.

Both Joseph and Eva spoke Russian, according to the 1920 census, and both were 37 years old. That meant they were born sometime in 1883-1884.

They apparently came to the USA separately, Joseph in 1909 and Eva in 1898. The 1920 census states that both Joseph and Eva were naturalized as citizens in 1919, and the spelling of their last name changed to Gibey somewhere along the line.

Just when things were getting good, I ran out of time and had to leave the library.

I have had this eastern European heritage inside me that I never realized, including roots from a country/region that no longer exists! Pretty exciting!

Fast forward to about 6:30 pm.

I picked up a book I am in the middle of reading but didn’t read for a few days. It was a gift from a former student who said it was the best book he ever read: The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. (Sidebar: When a former student gives me a book, you can bet that I will read it.)

I read about 15 pages, took a break, then started reading Chapter 5, Section 8 on page 139:

“In 1889, Louis and Regina Borgenicht boarded an ocean liner in Hamburg bound for America. Louis was from Galicia, in what was then Poland.”

I stopped in my tracks right there.

Galicia? Again?

Why did I happen to read that particular page on the same day I found out I have ties to this mysterious location named Galicia, that I had never heard of before?

I believe the universe had a hand in this huge “coincidence,”; it’s too uncanny, like so many of the other signs I’ve been experiencing this year.

I put the book down and just sat there, shaking my head in disbelief and in awe.

That was the perfect spot to stop reading for the night, as my brain was getting tired and I didn’t want to uncover a whole new path of discovery while I was fatigued.

But it doesn’t end there…

About thirty minutes later, the Yankees versus Houston Astros game started at Minute Maid Field in Houston.

In the bottom of the first inning, the first Astros player in the lineup was George Springer, who hit a home run on the first pitch he saw from Michael Pineda. I did a double take as I watched the replay: behind him, on the electronic sign behind home plate, the following ad was on screen (and was for the rest of the inning): EVA AIR.

While Springer and subsequent Astros players were at bat, the AIR part was conspicuously covered up, and all that was visible most of the time was EVA.

EVA.

My great grandmother’s name that I never knew before yesterday.

Shivers and tingles and reassurance and pure awesomeness sent from the Universe.

All along, I thought I’d easily uncover a tie to Ireland, but I was mistaken.  While I still might unearth an Irish connection, I am now aware of a new and different path. I am observing and documenting everything, and as Seamus Heaney put it, I will be “digging” to uncover and learn all that I can.

Galicia. Eva.

I can’t wait to go back to the library to see what else I can dig up.

PS: Malcolm Gladwell threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Friday, July 22, 2016. It was Malcolm Gladwell night. Never really heard of him before my student gave me The Outliers, but I am now an avid follower of Mr. Gladwell.

IMG_4065
The Gyby/Gibey Family in 1927: Top: Tillie (my grandmother-also known as Matilda, Tekla), Helen, Sam, Eva (my great-grandmother, maiden name Bybel), Emilie (also known as Millie), Sophie (also known as Cleo). Bottom: Michael, Alice, Joseph (great-grandfather), Vladimir (also known as Laddie/William/Bill). Ironically enough, the name Gibey/Gyby died as none of the males had a son.