Arkansas World War II veteran Marvin Hill, will become 105 years old this month in Hot Springs. Hill was with an army engineering batallion that built airfields and bridges as America, Germany, and Japan were at war. Think of all that he (and his family) have experienced in the last 150 years. Hill’s story has been recounted for the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress.
Are there stories like Marvin Hill’s in your family? In 2020, you could transform your family by researching and embracing its history and traveling to where your ancestors thrived – even if that’s only 50 miles away here in Arkansas.
We can easily start on our journeys before Christmas presents are opened. During the holidays, if we want to give customized and even surprise-bearing gifts, we can conveniently prepare family history-related offerings even as we have the privilege of gathering with and remembering family members.We can give photos, scrapbooks, and other treasures related to our families. We can provide memberships to local historical and genealogy societies — where our family history lives.
DNA : The Expanding Silent Storyteller
If we’re not that far along yet, we can buy for ourselves and family members home DNA tests that can help dispel myths about our history and reveal more about the family story. These tests are on sale from the major testing companies. Before buying, we are well-advised to read comparison articles because all DNA tests are not alike. The tests can happily help us connect with distant relatives, but sometimes also yield unwelcome surprises about family relationships.
Most DNA testing companies have also now begun health-related DNA tests to reveal likely health problems, and some companies are offering cosmetics or foods supposedly designed to match our DNA profiles.
Geno Palate offers a “personalized nutrition report to eat the best foods for your genes.” My Heritage DNA Health+Ancestry test includes “a comprehensive polygenic risk score for high blood pressure based on thousands of variants, 3 genetic risk reports that estimate personal risk for developing a disease,” and so on. A caution for purchasers is that “terms of service” may change for these tests and/or that the information gathered may someday dovetail with insurance company testing. BasePaws even offers at-home DNA testing for cats!
Arkansas DNA Opportunities and Connections
After you’ve tested, if your family has deep roots in Arkansas, you may want to consider the Arkansas Genealogical Society’s Early Ancestor Roots DNA project announced at the AGS convention in October.
This project can help you learn how your own family’s DNA connects to other early Arkansas settlers. As a bonus, you may be able to find treasured cousins who can share unknown family knowledge with you or break through a “brick wall” that has stymied the research so far.
Participation could also lead to an application for an AGS Arkansas Ancestry Certificate for the Colonial, Territorial, Antebellum, Civil War, or Nineteenth Century periods. For details on both the Early Ancestor Project and the ancestry certificates, please check further here and here.
Upcoming Family History Events
Does the holiday spirit inspire you to write about family history? In fact, many of our distant ancestors were married on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because Christmas was one of about three work holidays during the year.
The Heritage Seekers Genealogy Club will present UALR Professor Sherry Rankins-Robertson January 27 speaking about how to start writing your own family’s history so that it may be preserved and shared. The meeting will be from 6:30-8 at the Second Presbyterian Church at 600 Pleasant Valley Drive, Room 66, in Little Rock.
Ever attend a free after-hours “genealogy lock-in?” Intense genealogy research is conducted after a library or other research facility is closed. In Jonesboro, on Feb. 1, the Genealogy Society of Craighead County will hold its winter lock-in. Representatives of historical societies and the Arkansas State Archives will be on hand.
If you want information about the active Northwest Arkansas Genealogical Society in Bentonville, please check this website.
Are your Irish eyes smiling? The Ulster Historical Foundation will present a genealogy workshop on March 21, 2020 at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in a Little Rock event sponsored by the Butler Center of Arkansas Studies and AGS. For a list of history-related events and cultural grupos that enhance genealogy, please see the Heritage Seekers page.
No matter how we investigate and preserve our family history in 2020, we should treasure the evidence that much of it depended upon love. Short story writer William Sydney Porter, “O.Henry,” illustrated family love and the spirit of sacrifice in his wonderful work, “The Gift of the Magi” back in 1914, the year Marvin Hill was born.In that story, a young couple separately sold their most prized possessions to purchase something special for the other. The Magi in the title referred to the rich and wise said to have bestowed gifts upon the baby Jesus.
Jeanne Rollberg is a genealogist with American Dream Genealogy and Research who serves on the boards of the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives and the Arkansas Genealogical Society. She teaches genealogy classes at LifeQuest of Arkansas.