it’s like the woods

4.4.22 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Four days after we visited the nature center with Kat I wanted to return to see if the Canada goose was still sitting on her eggs. She was, and had turned and was facing the other direction. This time we walked on some other trails through the woods and the meadow. There are still more loops to follow so we plan to return once a week to see the Canada goose, and if we’re lucky, some goslings one day.

eastern white pine sapling growing in the swamp
glacial erratic on top of Council Rock

It’s like the Light —
A fashionless Delight —
It’s like the Bee —
A dateless — Melody —

It’s like the Woods —
Private — Like the Breeze —
Phraseless — yet it stirs
The proudest Trees —

It’s like the morning —
Best — when it’s done —
And the Everlasting Clocks —
Chime — Noon!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #302)


I imagine ‘it’ in Emily’s poem is Presence.

We also found six locations along the Meditation Walking Path, “each selected to provide a place for quiet reflection or meditation.” The path follows some of the other trails and the shortcuts between them. A little confusing but I think we sorted it out.

plentiful skunk cabbage
the leaves are food for the Canada goose couple
a blind for meadow bird photographers
a view from the blind
birdhouse in the woods
red-bellied woodpecker
Canada goose on her nest
notice the turtle climbing up the rocks
mama
seed pods, goose feather and moss on water
papa’s morning nap

The light is so magical this time of year!

Sadly, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate is going up again. On Friday it was over 5%. I got my second booster shot that day and felt malaise all weekend, but it wasn’t too bad. Feeling overwhelming mourning and anticipatory grief for Ukraine…

a heavily wooded glacial valley

3.16.22 ~ Paffard Woods, Stonington, Connecticut

The preserve offers diverse terrain ranging from a heavily wooded glacial valley in the northern portion to a salt marsh on a tidal cove at the southern edge. Other distinguishing features include many glacial erratics, large trees, a white pine grove, wetlands crossed by bridges, and a cultivated field.
~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website

After several weeks of being plagued with gout/tendonitis/edema, Tim’s foot was finally healed enough to take a walk! Just in time to welcome some lovely warm spring weather. We chose a new-to-us preserve, Paffard Woods and walked for over an hour, much to my delight! It was a sunny day with temperatures around 50°F (10°C).

skunk cabbage coming up, early sign of spring
glacial erratic with a split hidden in the shadow
curious markings on tree bark
(thanks to Eliza for identifying beech bark disease)
a stone crossing ~ we made it across without incident
root covered terrain leading up to a nicely placed bench on top of a ledge
looking down at glacial erratics from the top of the ledge
moss on log illuminated by sunbeam

Even though these dark-eyed junco photos are marred by twigs I was excited to see them in the woods. They used to visit my birdfeeder when I had one but these are the first ones I’ve seen in the wild.

dark-eyed junco
tree/glacial erratic buddies

And then we saw a couple of eastern bluebirds flying to and from the hole way high up in this tree. Again, it was hard to get pictures with the twigs interfering with the focus. These were the best of my dozens of attempts! (Lots of shots with blurry wing action, too.)

eastern bluebird
trunk with many legs
trunk with many arms
more skunk cabbage
even more skunk cabbage
vine strangling a trunk
marcescence

Connecticut’s positivity rate has been hovering between 2-3%. There’s talk of a fourth shot being needed for those of us over 65. Still exercising a lot of caution in stores. Putin’s cruel onslaught on Ukraine continues. But it was good to forget reality for an hour and feel grateful for a brief dose of the healing power of nature.

invasion

Way before dawn this morning my sister and I found ourselves sitting together in the living room, shedding tears for Ukraine. Our father was the son of Ukrainian immigrants. We both have memories of him telling us about how Ukraine has been invaded over and over again throughout its history. Being little children most of what he was talking about didn’t mean much to us, but we often heard about Vikings, Mongols, Cossacks and Tatars, the Austro-Hungarian Army and Russia, Hitler and Stalin. His sense of ill-fated tragedy made a deep impression on us.

My grandfather left his pregnant wife and young daughter (Mary) in Luzhek Verkhniy, Ukraine to come to America in 1909. My grandmother left their daughter in Ukraine to be raised by Mary’s grandparents and came to America with her five-month-old son in 1910. They had six more children born in this country. Our aunt Mary finally came to America to live with her parents in 1926, at the age of 18. Most of her aunts and uncles who she grew up with came over at various times, too. Except for one who was “killed by Stalin,” presumably because he stayed.

Our hearts feel very heavy. I wonder if some sort of genetic memory is at work here. Took a peek at CNN and saw some people in Ukraine kneeling in a city square, praying. I had to turn it off. If you have any comments, please don’t make them political. My thoughts and prayers are for the Ukrainian people.

spring will arrive early here

sunrise at home, 6:58 am, Groundhog Day
2.2.22 ~ Haley Farm State Park, Groton, Connecticut
cloudy, no shadows

We got our groundhogs out for a nice walk this morning. Meet Basil and little Basil, if you haven’t already. For those of my new readers who don’t know the story, Basil is named for my paternal grandfather, who was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1882 in a village near the city of Stanislav, now known as Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine. When Pop arrived in America in 1909, instead of translating his given name, Wasyl, to its equivalent in English, Basil, he started using the name William, by which he was known for the rest of his life.

fun in the snow
hiding in the stone wall
the path not taken
the path taken

After taking the pictures we decided to walk through a meadow, a path we hadn’t had a chance to follow yet. It was lovely covered in snow, still on the ground four days after the blizzard. But today the temperature got up over freezing so it is starting to melt.

Looks like Friday will be a mess with an ice storm. I was grateful for this lovely day.

the meadow was surrounded on all sides by stone walls

O barren bough! O frozen field!
Hopeless ye wait no more.
Life keeps her dearest promises —
The Spring is at the door!

~ Arthur Ketchum
(The Atlantic Monthly, February 1904)

a little snow still clinging to this tree trunk
path between the meadow and Palmer Cove

ethnicity estimates update ~ 9.30.21

Barbara’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

Eastern Europe & Russia 29%
Germanic Europe 23%
England & Northwestern Europe 23%
Wales 11%
Sweden & Denmark 9%
Balkans 3%
Norway 2%

Tim’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

England & Northwestern Europe 67%
Wales 13%
Ireland 9%
Germanic Europe 5%
Sweden & Denmark 2%
Scotland 2%
Norway 2%

Ancestry.com has updated its ethnicity estimates for us again. See past ones here.

What I found of interest was some of the “genetic communities” we were placed in. Communities are formed when they identify AncestryDNA members whose ancestors probably came from the same place or cultural group.

Tim was added to the Early Connecticut & New York Settlers group, which agrees with his ancestors’ paper trails.


I was added to the Poland, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania group. I found this one interesting in light of my cousin’s recent discoveries of our Ukrainian grandparents’ Polish/Ruthenian/Rusyn roots.

Another curious group for me is Northern New England Settlers. The paper trail hasn’t led me to this area. But, for many years I have been frustrated in my dream of tracing my maternal line back to my first foremother to come to this country. I haven’t got very far.

Emma Freeman Thompson b. 1906 Lynn, Massachusetts
Amanda Eliza Hamblin b. 1879 Dennis, Massachusetts
Annie Eliza Baker b. 1845 Dennis, Massachusetts
Eliza R. Eldridge b. 1823 Dennis, Massachusetts
Nancy Roberson b. c. 1807 in Maine (?)

I have a record of Nancy Roberson’s marriage to Leonard Eldridge in Harwich, Massachusetts on 20 October 1820. The 1870 census record and her death record say she was born in Maine. But no names for her parents! So many questions but this seems to explain my inclusion in the Northern New England Settlers genetic community. The search continues!

Zdynia, Poland

Konrad Fusiak
my great-grandfather

My paternal cousin has been doing a lot of research on our Ukrainian roots and has shared some of her discoveries with me. Our grandparents spoke Ukrainian and emigrated from there in 1909 and 1910, but it seems our grandmother’s parents were originally from elsewhere. I’ve always considered myself half Ukrainian and identifying 41% “Eastern Europe & Russia” on my DNA test seems to bear that out.

But Ukraine wasn’t showing up looking closer under that broad Eastern Europe grouping. Instead, my DNA was indicating “Poland, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania.” And then my aunt’s DNA was matched with another family from Poland! (Apparently the DNA was too diluted for my cousin and me to show up as DNA matches with these distant cousins of our great-grandfather, Konrad Fusiak.) Here’s the tentative line, yet to be proven with documents:

Piotr Fusiak (b. 1760 in Lug, Małopolskie, Poland)
Gregorius Fusiak (b. 1798 in Lug, Małopolskie, Poland)
Gabriel Fusiak (b. 1827 in Zdynia, Małopolskie, Poland)
Konrad Fusiak (b. 1855 in Zdynia, Małopolskie, Poland)
Katerina/Katherine Fusiak (my grandmother, b. 1887 in Luzhek Verkhniy, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine)

Orthodox church in Zdynia by Tomasz Bienias

The province of Małopolskie is also known as Lesser Poland, a historical region. Zdynia is a tiny village, population 220. I can’t seem to locate Lug. (Perhaps it is Ług in Podlaskie?) From what I can tell from a cursory search there were several ethnic groups living in southern Poland. When my grandmother Katherine came to this country in 1910 she identified as a Ruthenian on the passenger ship manifest. Another aunt told me that Katherine’s mother, Ludmila Karaseck, was born in Prague and came to Ukraine to work in the salt mines. Wonder how she met Konrad from Poland? So many questions!!!

So, I’ve ordered a book, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 by Timothy Snyder, who “traces the emergence of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian*, and Belarusian nationhood over four centuries.” I hope I can make some sense of the history of the region and gain some insight into my eastern European ancestry.

*Lithuania is a Baltic nation and in December 2019 I had 3% Baltic DNA. In September 2020 my son had 3% Baltic DNA and I didn’t show any. It seemed to be replaced with 3% Balkans. I suspect a mistake was made somewhere along the line. It will be interesting to see what shows up the next time they do an update/adjustment! See: ethnicity estimates.

Last Revised: 24 February 2022

Augusta Jean & Jon Stephen

Augusta Jean Chomiak (1913-1986)
Jon Stephen Chomiak (1909-1919)
c. 1914

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may remember a picture of my Ukrainian grandmother and three of her eight children. (Katherine’s Children)

This picture is special because it is the only picture I have of Jon, who came to America with his mother when he was only 5 months old. He was born in Ukraine on 19 September 1909 and arrived on the SS Finland at Ellis Island in New York City on 4 March 1910. Sadly, he died at home of appendicitis when he was only 9 years old. His family was living in Buffalo, New York at the time.

At the time this picture was taken his older sister Mary was still living in Ukraine with their grandparents. The youngest four children (Lillian, Olga, Theodore, Ludmila) had not been born yet. There is a mystery child mostly unaccounted for, a boy named August or Augustine. No one seems to know anything about him except that he died as a toddler after ingesting something stored under the kitchen sink. I can find no birth or death records for this child, but it seems he was younger than Jon and older than Augusta Jean. It seems likely to me that Augusta was named after her brother who had probably died shortly before she was born.

Oddly enough, when one of my aunts filled out a family group sheet for me she gave August’s birth date as the same date as Augusta’s, leading me to consider that perhaps they were twins, however no one else in the family thinks this is likely. But it does seem likely that August was born in 1911 because Jon was born in 1909 and Augusta was born in 1913 and at that time most siblings were born about two years apart. And Lillian was born in 1915.

Anyhow, my Aunt Lil remembered that Jon was buried in “Father Baker’s Cemetery” in Lackawanna, New York. On a 2002 summer trip to western New York, we found the cemetery, which is now known as Holy Cross Cemetery, but we were disappointed to find no record of his burial in the office and no death certificate in the city hall. (Years later I discovered the family was actually living in nearby Buffalo, according to 1920 census records.) The kind people at the cemetery said that there were many graves not yet recorded in their database.

Aunt Lil remembered Jon fondly as a very loving big brother who bought his little sisters Jean (she went by her middle name) and Lil candy whenever he could. He was an altar boy at the church, and helped the family out by collecting coal from the railroad tracks, which we also located. We discovered quite a bit about Father Baker (1842-1936), and learned that the church where Jon must have served was replaced by the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory (consecrated 26 May 1926), which we toured.

Aunt Lil was four years old when her beloved big brother died and she spoke of him often through the years. Aunt Jean was six years old when Jon died. The middle name given to her only son is Jon. Lil and Jean were seven and nine years old when their baby brother, my father, came along. According to him they teased him relentlessly. 🙂

Today is Jon’s birthday and also the 7th anniversary of my father’s death. A bit of synchronicity that I would stumble across this picture today when I was looking for something else.

ethnicity estimates ~ 9.16.20

Barbara’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

Eastern Europe & Russia 41%
England & Northwestern Europe 26%
Scotland 12%
Germanic Europe 9%
Wales 7%
The Balkans 3%
Norway 2%

Tim’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

England & Northwestern Europe 71%
Ireland 13%
Scotland 6%
Wales 6%
Sweden 2%
Norway 2%

It’s only been 9 months since our last DNA ethnicity results have been updated! See last ones here.

As you may know, we’re constantly evolving the technology and methods behind AncestryDNA®. Using a combination of scientific expertise, the world’s largest online consumer DNA database, and millions of family trees linked with DNA results, we’re releasing our most precise DNA update yet.
~ AncestryDNA email

Of course I find it terribly exciting to make note of all the fine-tuning that has been done. Ireland and Scotland got separated and I wound up with no Irish, but with 12% Scottish ancestry. Baltic and Italian heritage disappeared, but Norwegian held steady at 2%, and new are Wales (7%, separated out from the old England, Wales and Northwestern Europe grouping) and the Balkans (3%). Eastern Europe & Russia percentage stayed about the same, but the map extended much farther east. In the years to come perhaps there will be more fine-tuning of my Ukrainian roots, as I have so little to go on for my father’s ancestry.

Wales got separated out for Tim, too, at 6%, and he’s still plenty of English, Scottish, Irish and Northwestern Europe. New for him is Sweden at 2%. He maintained his 2% from Norway.

And now, to see how it plays out for one of our children:

Nate’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

Germanic Europe 26%
England & Northwestern Europe 20%
Eastern Europe & Russia 18%
Scotland 12%
Ireland 6%
Sweden 5%
Wales 4%
Norway 4%
Baltics 3%
France 2%

If we try to add up the percenatges, they don’t add up. 🙂 Nate has more Germanic Europe than we could possibly have given him! (Thank goodness he turned up as our son, though, on the DNA test – phew!) And the Baltic which disappeared from my estimate showed up on his at 3%. And where on earth did France come from??? (Although, on my first DNA test estimate 2% Iberian Peninsula showed for me. And one of my ancestors was said to be a French Huguenot.) Yes, these are definitely estimates, subject to further change, but the gist of it does seem to follow the paper trail. 🙂

It’s important to remember, too, that even though we give half of our genes to each child, each child gets a different mix of half our genes. Tim’s brother doesn’t show any of Norway or Ireland, but has a lot more of Scotland than Tim does. (Maybe someday I will get my sister on board with getting a test!)

Until next time!

ethnicity estimates

Barbara’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

Eastern Europe & Russia 43%
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 28%
Germanic Europe 20%
Ireland & Scotland 3%
Baltics 3%
Norway 2%
Italy 1%

We recently added more ethnicity populations and communities. Based on this update, you might see changes to your results.
~ Ancestry.com

Tim’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 71%
Ireland & Scotland 21%
Germanic Europe 6%
Norway 2%

The last time we examined our DNA results was in 2014, about 5 years ago. (penetrating the past) We both have some interesting changes in our results!

For me, the Italian connection all but disappeared, which seems about right because I could never find one on the paper trail. Norway shows up solidly in about the right amount for my 3rd-great-grandfather, and Ireland as well, for his wife, my 3rd-great-grandmother. My father’s Slavic (Ukrainian) origins gained a larger percentage in my DNA. I’m intrigued with a new category, 3% Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).

Interestingly, Tim also seems to be 2% Norway. But he’s a whopping 92% England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northwestern Europe. And this analysis turns up absolutley no European Jewish ancestry, in spite of having a Jewish maternal grandfather. Still a mystery.

So, on Christmas Eve, we were sitting around our table working on a jigsaw puzzle and listening to holiday music with my sister and brother-in-law. I had made the shuffling playlist for my iPod years ago and had included tunes from many traditions. When the Dreidel Song came on my sister asked Tim if his family had celebrated Hanukkah when he was a child. The answer was no, although his stepgrandmother often brought Jewish foods to the house during the holidays. And then, much to my astonishment, he mentioned that his maternal grandfather had converted to Judaism. What!?!

This definitely would explain the lack of European Jewish ancestry for Tim!

It never ceases to amaze me how memories are stirred up in the oddest ways. And how a non-genealogical question lead to a spontaneous answer containing an important clue, which led to the solving of a genetic conundrum.

It will be fun to see any future changes in our DNA analyses as the scientists fine-tune the estimates as their population samples continue to grow.