Recently, I decided to challenge myself this year before Halloween. I kept my challenge private, not wanting to share what I thought was going to happen until my challenge was over.
In the middle of October, there was a lot going on at my work. I was really tired, really stressed and ready to do more that work, come home, go over emails and go to bed.
I challenged myself to not touch the computer again until after Thanksgiving. For work emails, I would use my phone for email access or a work computer. For personal emails, I set up a system where I would get a notification if I got an email from family members.
I will admit that the first few days were weird. I was used to getting up, booting up the laptop and eating breakfast over the desk while I tried to "catch up" with the world before I went to work.
Now, I had a little bit of free time. I was able to sleep in if I wanted, or style my hair differently or do any of a number of small tasks before I went to work.
I still set out my clothes and work items before I went to bed each night. I still did all of my morning things such as take vitamins and an allergy tablet. Now, that I had this extra time, I was not running around our small apartment, making sure that I had everything in order. I knew that I had time.
The next thing I noticed is that I was leaving earlier every morning and not rushing in traffic. Two times, I got into work early enough to get a very nice parking space.
Coming home in the afternoon was strange for the first week. No longer did I turn the computer on and simply sit there, scrolling through Facebook. Now, I was able to use the Amazon Prime feature and read some books that I have been meaning to read. I was able to have long conversations with friends because I was not tired and exhausted. I was able to catch up with friends by talking to them, not reading about them. It was refreshing and I enjoyed it.
After the second week of my laptop not even being turned on, I did not even look at the laptop with interest. I was no longer interested in social media as I had been. I was informed about friends and family. I was caught up on the news. I was happy and more relaxed.
A trip to New York City in the past would have necessitated my laptop coming along. I did not even think about packing it or a small tablet when I was making plans for the day trip. It did not even occur to me until I got home that I could have taken it with me. My son asked the hotel for the wifi password so that he could play a video game on his phone. We used apps to navigate our way around the city, but other than that and a few photos, we did not do any extreme use of technology.
It was interesting to see people with their heads down in their phones, so to speak when we were very in tune with the world around us and our surroundings. Although we had an app to let us know when the next stop was coming up, it was far more interesting to look out the window at the different neighborhoods and pay attention to the names of the stops. It made me think back to my childhood with my sister, when we were responsible for our commute, including getting off at the correct stop.
When my son and I saw the city, we had so much fun. We spoke to my husband that night, telling him of all of the things that we were seeing, and of all of the fun that we were having. When we got off the phone, we went to bed and slept so well, it was awesome how all of the walking we did made us sleep so well! The next morning was very leisurely for both of us. I was able to sleep until after 6 am, and we were able to have a great breakfast at a donut place because we waited until after the rush. The best part, though, was the time that we spent together, talking and interacting because we were not "in our phones", but connected with one another.
Week 3 of the challenge was a little strange. I had to send a personal email to someone that would normally have been a long email. Instead, I sent a brief email, answering all of their questions and signed off. I did not look at any of the emails that were waiting for me. It was not even anything that occurred to me. A phone call from a different friend noted that they had not seen me online in a long while. I explained that I had been really busy with work, but that all was fine. We caught up and I got to hear about their newest grandchild.
My final 2 weeks were really a blur as it was very hectic at work for Thanksgiving. All I could think about was work and sleep, even with no computer in place. My car died and I had to focus on replacing it. The internet was not even a thought as I navigated getting down to see family and driving back up.
I knew yesterday that it was my last day away from the computer. I did not feel sad or happy, I just knew that I needed to do some training at home and that I needed to have a look at the emails still waiting for me.
I turned the computer on this morning and it took longer than usual to boot up. There were several updates and a scan that needed to happen. It took about 10 minutes. I loaded my email and I saw that I had nearly 5,000 emails waiting for me. It was mind boggling to see so many emails.
Looking at all of those untouched emails helped me to make some decisions. When you see emails every day that you are not interested in, it is very easy to simply delete them one at a time, never realizing how long it takes to delete them every single day. I subscribe to a lot of like minded lists, and I was able to create folders to filter those into as well as unsubscribe from a bunch of emails that are no longer relevant to me. Additionally, I was able to update a lot of email contacts with the best email for them to reach me at, making my valuable time used much wiser.
The final thing that being unplugged for so long did is give me a distaste for spending a lot of time on social media. Before, I was content to sit there and scroll through the endless streams of posts and ads and news. Now, I find myself itching to be back in the real world and not in the virtual one.
As Christmas and other winter holidays draw closer, I find myself becoming better at things I always wanted to do. Better at sales and couponing, better at creating budget plans and following them and better at being an active member of my family. I will be posting reviews, genealogy information and DNA information here, and I will be updating much more regularly as I have come up with many more ways to better manage my time. I look forward to all of your input and comments!
A problem that a lot of people have when trying to reach out and contact their genetic family via Ancestry and other similar sites is that the family members that they are trying to reach out to don't check their accounts very often.
This can be really frustrating for a person who is trying to discover their family.
Here are some tips that I have used to try and find the family that I am looking for. I hope that these will help you, too!
1. Search the username in a google search, in quotation marks. If the user name is ABC123, I will search "ABC123" to see what pulls up. If I don't get a lot of hits or if I get no hits, I will remove the quotes. Sometimes I get a lot of hits. Sometimes, I am still stumped.
If I am lucky, at one of these posts, there will be an email address or a contact me button. I pretty much know that I have the right person if I find posts by that user name in a genealogy forum or page.
The weirdest one that I have ever looked for? One match only, and it was to a toy boat collector in Europe. Sent an email and heard back from him in less than 30 minutes. He had only taken the test to learn what his genetic makeup was. Never bothered to create a family tree or check back to the site. Imagine his surprise when I united him to a very close family relative.
2. Notice if the user name is a person's name. Some people will just use their name. JohnWSmith, for example would help my search, especially if I had an idea of the city and state that they are in. The more unusual the name, the easier this will be.
3. Notice if the user name gives a clue. JohnWSmithGolferNYC would really help you out in your search. The username JWSNYC tells me nothing, unless there are matches on the initial google search.
4. Make notes of what actions that you take as you go. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the great lead that you had, only to find out that you can't find it.
5. IF you decide to send emails, take the time to create the same email in a word processing file, such as Microsoft Office or Open Office. That way, you can merely copy and paste over and over to all of the contacts that you find.
6. Make notes of all of the emails that you send out, and if you get responses, make notes of them as well.
Good luck on your search!
I always advocate either creating a paper trail for future generations of genealogy or following a paper trail when trying to find someone who is deceased.
A friend of mine is going through a close family member being placed in a hospice center. When I worked for a church years ago, we had a list of things that a person who is the caregiver should do ahead of time in order to have as smooth a transition for themselves and their family member as possible. I am going to include it here as I feel it would provide a lot of places to look for hints and clues about their ancestors. Enjoy and good luck in your search.
Hospice Care Checklist for Family Members for End of Life Care and Aftercare.
The most loving act that a person will do for another person is the planning and execution of funeral and aftercare arrangements. No longer is the person there to give approval. It is strictly an act of love, obligation and respect that allows a survivor to complete the plans of the funeral.
Pre-planning for Funeral and Burial
24-72 Hours After Death
One Week After Death
Months After Death
My life has been a little bit hectic with getting married and moving house. One of the things that I have been wanting to do is to get a nice email out to all of my "good" GEDmatch relatives.
I have been putting this off, wanting to write a "good" email.
I bit the bullet this week, so I wanted to share my do's and don't's right here.
When writing, make excellent notes of WHO you emailed. Include the test kit number, the email address, and if there is a name or initials listed, note them.
Don't make your newly found family member do all of the legwork. List off the surnames that you know of as well as how you are related.
Adopted? No problem. Just mention in passing that you were adopted from city/state and the year of your birth.
I emailed 25 people in my first batch and I got back emails from 7 of them.
The most common responses that I received were:
1. I manage a lot of different family members/kits, so can you please be more specific? (That is why I now include the test number, email and name in each and every email.)
2. What surnames are you researching? That would at least tell me where to look.
3. Where did you have your original test done at so that I can check there as well?
This caused me to change my email to the following (identifying information has been changed for privacy concerns)
Title of email:
Hello GEDMatch DNA cousin!
Body of email:
Hello, my name is Dixie and I matched your test kit T123456 on GEDmatch.com. The person that I match is John Doe.
I have known connections to the following surnames: Brown, Green, White, Black and Grey. I hope that we can compare family trees and determine where we match as I have a lot of brick walls in my research that I would love to get past.
My email address is PirateDixie@gmail.com , My webpage is www.cocktailsandswagger.com if you would like to learn more about the research that I have done so far.
I look forward to hearing from you and comparing notes. Attached, please find a photo of me and my mother so that you can put a name with a face.
I am excited to get to know another cousin!
Notice I answer as many of the questions that my new family members will have? I want this to be easy on them, not a chore! I enclose a picture so that they can put a name with a face and decrease the likelihood that my email will be discarded.
Feel free to use this email, with your modifications, of course, for personal use.
Let me know how your GEDmatch emails went in the comments below.
Hugs and good luck,
I write a lot about genetic genealogy, family trees, DNA, and home life as well as the occasional product review. Comments? Email me at CocktailsAndSwagger@Hotmail.com