My Ancestry account is not currently active because I simply have not had time to use the service while I was dealing with everything else I was dealing with in terms of my life. I am not a professional genealogist, but it is something I thought would be fun. Well, you know, I thought it would be fun and then I learned about the dark side of it. Our family has had its fair share of NPEs (non-paternal events). Fortunately I was fairly well prepared for the scenarios that came up when they came up because I spent so much time watching genealogy shows. So if I was asked to keep secrets, I kept them. When someone is looking for their birth parents or family, it is a stressful and exciting time, with both sides having their own expectations and worries about what might come. I think there is always some grieving involved, for what could have been, what isn’t, and what can’t be. Chances are there is a fair amount of post-traumatic stress disorder in family members, which could be related to circumstances surrounding the parentage. When I started doing genealogy, I had a picture of what a genealogist was like in my head - and it wasn’t the picture of a person studying the social history of their family in different areas, it was a picture of a white person trying to gain access to different clubs. I haven’t bothered to apply to any, although I am eligible. I am finding much more interesting information by looking at the struggles of my more immediate ancestors. Other people might be inclined to gloss over these things as they are depressing, but it shows me how resilient my family had to be for me to be able to go to college, learn the things I did, and use that information. Plus, my life operates in a pattern where when I revisit the information I see more of the story. So cousins reaching out to me is an opportunity to do just that, even if I don’t always have time to answer right away.
One of the reasons I left Facebook was because my genealogy hobby was bringing more conservative people and perspectives to my feed, and when the 2016 Election came around, I could see the brainwashing, and also how intolerant the conservative perspective was of any views not in alignment with what I would later learn was the brainwashing Cambridge Analytica was doing on that platform. That’s the gist of my sort of tense relationship with genealogy. Something that was kind of a surprise to me was that my father closely matched the McMullen Clan Chieftan, and my mother’s maternal cousin closely matched the Wilson Clan Chieftan. When I write these essays, they sit in the hopper for quite some time while I periodically revisit them and make edits and add new thoughts. Shortly after I wrote the previous sentence (this one was added during editing), I got an email from what is now The McMullen Kindred that they had decided to adopt the word “Kindred” and abandon the word “Clan,” which seems like a great way to show both sensitivity to the racist connotations of that word, and also a desire to move toward a Kindred spirit. Upon finding these connections several years ago, The McMullen Chieftan invited me to the 200th anniversary of Brian Boru, and the Wilson Chieftan asked me to paint his portrait! I wasn’t able to go to the Brian Boru anniversary because I had too many other commitments at the time, which also prevented me from following through on requests for art teaching services and commissions. I have found that when it rains, it pours.
Anyway, I am a political person, and a progressive, so I don’t know how to be myself in the context of those relationships, and because certain people tend to be political and I am an empath and I see certain political ideologies as causing harm, I have to limit my exposure because it sends my anxiety through the roof… with that, blood pressure, digestive issues, sleep problems… Anyway, I was not friends with the McMullen Chieftan on social media, rather we kept our conversations to email and they largely involved my father, too, so I don’t know what his political views are, and I like it that way. The Wilson Chieftan was political, lived in Scotland, and was in favor of Brexit. I do not know how I feel on that matter, honestly, since I do not live in Europe or understand how its unification affected certain groups of people. Further along in this essay it will become apparent that my family’s political ideologies have been shaped by a struggle against fascism and imperialism, and so I am sympathetic to all of that when talking politics. But I am not particularly well spoken in person, and that is kind of wrapped up in my anxiety. It does not mean I cannot think.
The connection to the Wilson Chieftan was a big surprise because the YDNA project includes so many different haplotypes, to actually match the haplotype of the Chieftan is not that likely, but to match him in particular is even more unlikely. And he was political on Facebook, and in a way I wasn’t sure I agreed with. But yeah, um, he is family, right? I have traveled a lot, and I kind of don’t understand why we have borders. But I have a fence around my property, and that’s sort of the same thing. In my case, the fence was helpful because it kept my dogs from running away, but I do honestly appreciate a bit of outdoor privacy, which keeps me from feeling like I need to be social whenever I am out in nature. Oh yeah, that’s why people drive up to the mountains here - to try to get away from people. I suppose mostly keeping to oneself is a sort of compromise in that regard. Nothing like getting entangled in a political discussion with your neighbor while you have something cooking!
Anyway, I never would have expected such esteemed connections, because as I have said before, I come from the Clan of the Pod People, which I suppose must also be renamed to the Pod People Kindred. My family was broken in many ways, and my genealogy research has essentially been focused on learning why, which has had a lot of twists and turns. I was able to learn quite a bit because I had three men in my life who were willing to do YDNA testing to help me with our genealogy research. So at the same time I found out about the connections to the Chieftans, I also found out that my husband’s paternal line is actually Lewark and not something else, which means there were no adoptions or NPE’s, also known as “non-paternal events” in his paternal line that we can tell. For the most part, everyone was who they said they were, meaning their DNA matched people whose family documentation corroborated ours. I also learned that the surname is Welsh and derived from an old Welsh king, Llywarch Hen, who is said to be the inspiration for Sir Lamorak of the Arthurian court, and also the father from which many Welsh princes were descended.
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Well, now… in every family there are legends which can sound like pretty big fish tales to an outsider, and here is the one I have. Supposedly my husband’s grandmother, Dorothy Habgood of Lakewood, CO, USA, who was the daughter of Maurice (a British immigrant to the US who was a Methodist missionary Minister), was friends with Nancy Reagan and had regular visits with Princess Diana. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Dorothy. I suspect I would have liked her as she was a music teacher and supposedly could get any group of kids to play in a band together in a matter of hours, and she also enjoyed the theater. Her husband Howard Lewark was a milkman for a living.
As an aside, I do happen to love milk. I haven’t figured out exactly what is in it that helps me with some of my health and anxiety problems. Some people might like to interpret it as an addiction, and I suppose it is possible that the casomorphin (an opioid) is what helps me feel better when I consume it, but there are plenty of other compounds that might help with my particular health situation. I experience similar relief from taking calcium, progesterone, Vitamin D or other simple sugars, as well as saturated fats, all of which are components of milk. Anyway, it is not my intention to discuss milk here, and there are a lot of ethical considerations around consuming it that directly affect my community which I plan to write about in the context of discussing what I learned about animal welfare, farming, and the environment when I was a more active part of the locavore movement. Suffice it to say, we drink enough milk that we get milk delivery, and I appreciate the people who provide that service for me and especially the reliability of that service over the pandemic.
Anyway, the Lewarks were married to the Stewarts several generations back, and that is significant because I once read that half of the people with the Stewart surname are descended from royalty, and some of them including my husband’s ancestors were expelled from England for being Jacobites during that era… which was the story told in the Showtime series Outlander which is based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. So basically, my husband and I are related to a bunch of people who had trouble with the King’s authority, and then to boot, my husband’s grandmother is supposedly related to the Spencers somehow, which I haven’t been able to figure out. That was the big fish in the story - that the reason she was visiting Princess Diana is that she was related somehow. I don’t know how or if I will ever be able to corroborate that, but it has been interesting in that the thing they say about genealogy has generally been true when I have been doing my research - there is a grain of truth in every one of these crazy stories. But anyway, there is also recent British Ancestry on my mother-in-law’s side of the family (surname Still, and no, I have not found a relationship to the artist), as well as my husband’s stepfather’s family (Randall). I have wondered if British heritage is related to perfectionism trauma because of certain things that happened in their family stories that I think may have been influenced by status anxiety.
When I looked into the surname Habgood in what’s referred to as “The Peerage” (the aristocracy’s listing of “Who’s Who”), I only found an Anglican Archbishop John Habgood, who sat on the House of Lords and who apparently passed away in 2019 since I originally looked him up. He was sympathetic to both homosexuality and women in the ministry of the Anglican Church. There is a DNA match on that side of the family who is a cousin who works for the National Archives in art preservation, and he supposedly has some letters sent in WWII from the UK which might elucidate something about my husband’s connection to England, but we haven’t followed through with our communications.
I did have to take a break from genealogy, meaning I wasn’t able to answer communications from cousins on the subject more recently because combing through genealogical records was simply too detail oriented for what my brain could handle while I was struggling the most with my aphasia and memory issues. My water heater was backdrafting for I don’t know how long, and I got the brunt of the exposure because my studio where I worked was right near it in the basement, and then I was struggling with long haul COVID afterward. I had episodes like this before in 2006 when we first moved here. Both times I struggled with aphasia issues which may have been related to having been on a diuretic. I am pretty sure that taking a diuretic when I carry SNPs for Primary Hyperaldosteronism Type III did not help matters. With this condition, potassium levels can be depleted by the use of diuretic blood pressure medication, which is the front line medication for hypertension. Potassium is important for cardiovascular and neurological health in particular, and potassium deficiency can actually be fatal. Over the pandemic I learned there is a certain type of hearing loss associated with disturbed potassium metabolism in the brain, and it seemed to me that it was more like a receptive aphasia like what I experienced, than a strict hearing loss. I have to make sure I eat enough fruit, and I also use potassium chloride on my food. Other people in my family have struggled with extremely low levels of potassium when on diuretics, and because COVID depletes potassium levels, this is something I have had to pay attention to more closely, even though I have been able to discontinue my blood pressure medication. I got it under control by correcting a choline deficiency, which I am also prone to genetically due to polymorphisms in choline dehydrogenase (CHDH) and phosphatidylethanolamine methyltransferase (PEMT), which decrease my body’s choline reserves. In 2006, I had similar stroke-like symptoms after being on a diuretic for 9 months when my daughter was born while living in a small apartment that had been recently repainted and recarpeted, and in which the dryer vent was not hooked up correctly. At that time I had a CT which found no abnormalities and was diagnosed with visual migraine. The migraines affected my mood and cognition. It took a few years to recover then, too, and included a time of being intensely chemically sensitive. I think I may be exceptionally prone to the vascular effects of NO2, which is kind of a bummer. I feel it’s important for me to avoid my migraine triggers, because migraines are associated with microvascular changes and over time this can predispose a person to stroke. Since my migraine symptoms involve stroke symptoms already and I haven’t found a way to communicate this to a healthcare provider, I do not know if there were vascular changes to my brain in the recent years. Stroke runs in my family. I am somewhat incapacitated for doing intellectual or social work when I have migraines, so this impacts my ability to participate in the economy greatly, and it also affects my quality of life.
This type of hyperaldosteronism is apparently a pretty rare disease, so I can’t be angry with my physicians for using the standard of care to treat my hypertension, and I of course do not know how drinking caffeine affects my potassium levels (so I drink decaf coffee, but sometimes I still drink caffeinated soda). But now I know if for some reason I lose my battle with hypertension, meaning my blood pressure goes up despite everything I am doing, I can confidently communicate to my physicians that I have to have my potassium monitored closely if I take a diuretic again, and that should help me avoid a fair amount of the uncomfortable autonomic nervous system symptoms I experience. There are other medications like spironolactone which are preferred for controlling blood pressure in this type of hyperaldosteronism, but they are estrogenic, and estrogenic compounds generally worsen my health issues, including my autism spectrum or menopause symptoms or whatever you cool people decide you want to call it. Upset tummy, inability to get jokes (ugh, the worst), and compulsive need to whine, shop and clean… like a friggin’ automaton. So anyway, estrogens have been linked to autism. I do love that we are working for acceptance of neurodiversity issues, but to me it is still important for me to find cures because the sensory, mood, neuromuscular and digestive issues greatly affect my quality of life.
My husband swore that my personality changed when I went on the hydrochlorothiazide diuretic again in January 2017 after a hypertensive crisis, and I suspect he is on to something. This is a big reason why I am reluctant to use pharmaceutical interventions before investigating nutritional deficiencies; so many pharmaceuticals save a life in one way, but then significantly negatively impact quality of life in others. In this case, the thing that supposedly was saving my life could have killed me without regular potassium checks. When I had long haul COVID I was evaluated for hyperaldosteronism, which can cause renin, aldosterone and cortisol to become out of whack, and my levels were normal. Another person in my family was undergoing similar treatment at the time, but this person has a stressful job and their levels were out of whack, despite them being “physically fit.” So that was an experience which altered my perception of how lifestyle factors including nutrition and environmental exposures to stress and chemicals might be more important than what the medical establishment likes to beat us over the head about. Also, I had near two death experiences in hospital settings which I think were due to medications I was administered. I have a lot of good reasons to see doctors as human beings, just as capable of doing harm as they are healing, and comparatively I have had a lot more success slowing down and listening to my own body and doing my research, so I am not the type to run to a doctor. I react to all the sanitizers used in medical facilities, so I haven’t been particularly motivated to expose myself. A respirator actually does not filter out all the things I react to. Also, I have a fair amount of doctor-related trauma from trying to sort out my problems. So to say that I have some pretty serious trust issues with the medical establishment would be fair. I feel like it is going to take some sort of miracle to heal those wounds.
Anyway, related to the milk thing, I also have polymorphisms for another type of hyperaldosteronism called Primary Aldosteronism with Seizures and other Neurological Abnormalities (PASNA), including a SNP that resides on the CACNA1D gene but overlaps with the gene for choline dehydrogenase (CHDH), so that is how I put together the choline deficiency with my own health struggle. It was potentially at the scene of the crime, and I never would have looked into it if this other family member who was struggling with long haul had not gotten the proper care and communicated with me that their condition might be hereditary. CACNA1D is the 4th subunit of a voltage-gated calcium channel, and calcium transport is implicated in many neurological issues. This is something I actually studied in graduate school, but our lab was looking at the sodium/calcium exchanger and its potential role in the development of dementia. So I was familiar with the role of calcium in excitotoxic brain injury when I discovered my CACNA1D polymorphisms. Because calcium is so calming for me, I suspect this polymorphism has something to do with my milk cravings. When I was researching CACNA1D, I found that there is a support group for people with polymorphisms in another calcium channel, CACNA1A which seem to be associated with more severe, but similar symptoms to what I experience, and that those polymorphisms are also associated with the Autism spectrum.
So back to the dark stuff I unearthed in my genealogical research… because of the questions other genealogists asked me recently, I ended up going through the files my father and I copied from Governor Adam McMullen of Nebraska's archived records again. We had gone to the state archives in 2013 to substantiate a rumor that we were related to him because we were up that way for the VEX Robotics National Championship with my son’s team, which ended up winning the autonomous programming competition. Anyway, the genealogy research we did on the McMullen family at that time has come full circle in the context of what our family and the nation has been through over the pandemic in some important ways. I didn't put all the clues together in the letters back when we copied them, beyond that other people in the family were struggling during The Great Depression, especially on our side of the McMullen family. Governor McMullen had to have some boundaries, because even though he was a successful politician, he still couldn’t afford to pay the taxes on his farms. Fortunately for him and his wife Cora Greenwood (who was involved with the Daughters of the American Revolution, which he would have been ineligible for, not just because he was male), he did not have children to support.