Tips on Spring Grave Site Cleaning and Planting Flowers

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With Spring finally here in most parts of the United States, it is time to be thinking about checking up on the last resting places of our loved ones who have gone on before us.

Whether its time for your annual visit or maybe you haven’t been for some time, spring is a great time to plant and do some general maintenance. Most people visit around Memorial Day. Cemeteries usually have caretakers that mow the lawn and pick up litter, but they don’t usually do any individual gravestone management. Before you head out  you may want to think about  bringing some supplies in case you need to clean the gravestones themselves as well as planting flowers etc.

Over the course of time signs of damage can begin to show on gravestones. Weather and pollution can create many different situations that can cause serious damage.

By following a simple cleaning procedure that is used by professional conservators, you can easily keep your loved ones gravestones clean, readable and prevent any future deterioration.

But before you tackle cleaning a stone you first will need to determine if the gravestone really needs to be cleaned. It can be easy to mistake the natural patina of aging for dirt.  The color of marble gravestones can change naturally over the course of time.   You need to use care when cleaning, because you can cause more damage to a gravestone that is already flaking or peeling, so these stones may be best left untouched or looked at by a professional conservator.  So only clean a gravestone if it really needs it.

Things to look for when a gravestone is in need of cleaning are: plant growth, soiling, and staining which are caused by things like moss, lichen, algae, fungi, mold, and other plant life.  These types of things growing on gravestones can be very harmful and if left untreated, these growths can cause gravestones to weaken, crack, and split over time.

When looking for algae, fungi, and lichen, they can be green, gray, black, red, orange, yellow, blue, or even brown in color.  All these organisms can damage the gravestone by trapping moisture on the stone and just beneath the surface of the stone and then when there is a temperatures change, this moisture can freeze and thaw causing expansion and contraction within the stone, which leads to weakening or cracking the stone.  Plants, like grass, ivy, moss, trees, bushes and ferns that grow on or near gravestones can be damaging also, because their roots can penetrate the stone and cause splitting, or can cause the stone to shift, putting it off balance and possibly falling over and breaking.  So when you are doing your plantings do make sure they have room to grow and not interfere with the stone. And when your plantings become too mature, dig them up and plant small young planting again.

Another component of plants that can be damaging is the acid they contain. Marble is composed mainly of calcium carbonate. Lichen secretes an acid that dissolves calcite and can cause serious damage to the surface of marble gravestones to the point that they become unreadable.

Gravestones that are flat on the ground are very easily damaged by dirt, leaves, grass clippings and even mud. The minerals in soil such as iron or copper can stain gravestones and sandy soils can act as sand paper and wear the outer surface of a stone. Upright gravestones can also be damaged from strong winds particularly if they are in a sandy region.

Pollution from city traffic and factories carry pollutants such as acid rain, that can change the appearance of gravestones.  Even bird droppings can stain gravestones. Gravestones near trees or bushes are at risk for staining from sap.  Overhanging tree branches can drip their sap onto gravestones. The sap contains resins which can cause staining and be difficult to remove. So again, be aware of what you are planting for plants and how large they will grow.

Here is a list of things that are helpful in cleaning your gravestones:

  • Water
  • Spray bottle, bucket, or hose
  • Soft plastic scraper
  • Soft bristle brushes
  • Wooden pick
  • Biological Solution
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves

Weather related suggestion:
When planning a visit  to the cemetery, it would be best if it is an overcast day or partly cloudy. This will be more comfortable for you and the cleaning process will not dry as quickly.  This is especially important if the gravestones you are cleaning and doing plantings for are in direct sun.  Or you possibly go early in the morning or closer to early
evening time when the sun is not so hot. 

Water is the most important thing to bring if the cemetery does not provide it. If they do provide a water source, then remember to bring a bucket or jug just in case there isn’t one available. Water should be used first to gently wash away dirt, soil, and dried leaves or grass clippings. Stones is very porous and absorbent and if using a cleaner, spraying with water will help keep the cleaner more on the surface.

When you are ready to clean the gravestone, wet the entire surface with water. Use a soft plastic scraper to gently remove plant growth, such as moss or lichen. Scrapers should be softer than the stone.

When using a brush be sure to use a soft bristle brush. The brush should be made of natural fibers or soft nylon. Be sure to use brushes that do not have any metal or rough edges as it could accidentally scratch the stone. You may need to use a variety of brush sizes for different areas of a gravestone. Even an old toothbrush are work pretty well on lettering or engraved designs.

A wooden pick can be useful to remove lichen or moss that may be growing in indentations or engraved lettering.

Be sure that the surface of the stone is wet before you use cleaners and continue re-wetting the stone while you are working on it to avoid allowing the cleaner from to dry on the surface.It is best to start cleaning from the bottom of the stone and work your way up. This will minimize the effects of streaking if you are using a cleaner.

Cleaners used on gravestones should be the gentle possible. D2 Cleaning Solution is a gentle biocide and is very effective for cleaning gravestones that are covered in biological growth such as lichen, moss, fungi, algae, and plants. D2 was designed by conservators and is recognized as the official cleaner of the Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration for cleaning U.S. military gravestones. There are several kinds of cleaners on the market. Before choosing one be sure to read the label, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and make sure it is biologically safe and suitable for the type of gravestone you are cleaning, marble, granite or metal.

And don’t forget to wear Safety Glasses and Gloves for your own protection.

Work a small area at a time. Spray the cleaner generously on the area and allow the cleaner to sit on the stone for about 3-5 minutes. Then, gently scrub the stone in small circular motions with a soft brush. Work the cleaner into all indentations and lettering. Keep an eye on any damage to the stone and be careful that you are not applying too much pressure that could cause the damage to worsen. If you see flaking, stop and reassess where you should clean the area and think about whether you should consult with a professional.

If needed spray a second round of cleaner on the gravestone. Allow to sit again for about 5 minutes. Remember work in small sections. Keep the gravestone wet as you work by continually spraying it with water and cleaner. Finally, rinse the stone when you are done cleaning, making sure not to leave any visible cleaner on the surface.

Cleaners such as D2 Biological Cleaner  continue to clean the gravestones on its own for a few weeks or longer after the initial cleaning.  As the cleaner seeps into the pores of the stone it will kill more biological growth.

Here are a few reminders of what not to do:

  • Never use common household cleaners such as bleach.
  • Never use chemical cleaners that have strong acid or salt bases.
  • Never use power tools, such as sanders or drills with wire brushes
  • Never use power washers with pressure over 300 psi
  • Never rub the gravestone surface with hard-bristled brushes
  • Never scrape the gravestone surface with any metal

Here are a few reminders as to what you should do:

  • Always use the gentlest cleaning method possible
  • Read and follow product manufacturer’s guidelines
  • Use safety practices such as gloves and eye protection.
  • Test a small area before cleaning the entire headstone
  • Keep the stone wet as you work
  • Always get the approval of other family members before cleaning

If you are planting or digging up bushes or flowers you will need to bring:

  • Shovel
  • Hand saw
  • clippers

By maintaining and caring for the gravestones of your loved ones’ you are not only showing your love and respect and how much they mean to you, but you are helping  to preserve their last resting place for future generations.

_________________

My Journey with DNA and Genealogy Pt 3

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ancestryseeking.comThis is part 3 of my journey with genetic DNA and my genealogy. I have been working with my DNA results from both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.  There has been a lot to learn about the tools that they offer and what I need to be looking for.  I have also uploaded both DNA Raw files to Gedmatch.com and Familytreedna.com. Each of these websites offer different tools and have different ways of showing their results.

Here are some of my thoughts, insights and experiences with each of these companies on what I have learned thus far.

An important note to keep in mind is that people don’t always test with  more than one company. Some test at Ancestry, some at MyHeritage, some at familytreedna and some at 23andMe. And not everyone uploads their results to Gedmatch. Plus, there are a lot of people that don’t add a family tree. What this means is you will not find the same results or Matches on all of these websites.

MyHeritage:

Starting with MyHeritage.com, I took an autosomal DNA test.  This type of DNA test uses your 23 Chromosomes, which has 50% of  your mother’s DNA and 50% your father’s DNA.  Currently I have over 5000 Matches. I bought a 1-year Premium Membership, because otherwise I wouldn’t get to see my Match’s family trees.  I started a family tree with MyHeritage with 7 people, myself, my parents and their parents. I now have over 2,000 relatives in my tree this is due to the smart matches and instant matches that they notify you about. I did not to want upload my entire family tree and am using this new family tree on MyHeritage to help verify relatives in my original family tree that I keep on my computer.  I use Rootmagic software which is sync able with MyHeritage and can download information straight to Rootmagic.   I can search their database by a person’s name or by a source.  They have a very good triangulation tool that shows when you and your Match match up with a third person.  They show you total cMs (centiMorgans), the largest cM, and how many segments of cMs each Match has with me. They show the start and end positions of each cM, which is important when looking for triangulation Matches and they have a Chromosome browser map that shows on which Chromosome they match you on.  I was able to download my Raw data, and upload it to Gedmatch, which is a third party website that has even more tools to help analysis my data. You can also download your entire list of Matches, which goes as low as 7cMs. Anything below this can possibly give you a false reading. The more cMs the closer the relationship the Match will be. You can also download a shared Match list. They do an ethnicity estimate, which I haven’t really gotten into yet.  In your shared Match list is where you can see any triangulation Matches. I have found several 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins on both my maternal and paternal side with MyHeritage and have continue to grow my family tree. Ancestry:

AncestryDNA.com

I did AncestryDNA’s autosomal test. I wanted to compare theirs with MyHeritage autosomal.  Ancestry gives you a list of Matches but doesn’t tell me how many Matches I have. You need to subscribe to one of their Memberships in order to see your Match’s family trees.  I signed up for their two-week free trial to check my Match’s family trees, then cancelled. Many of my Matches didn’t have trees, so in order to find anything out you need to connect the person.  They want you to build a family tree ­­with them so they can match you with others. I don’t feel that they give you as much information as MyHeritage. They show you what they call DNA circles which are other family trees that have common ancestors that match yours. I currently have 5 family circles.  You can see how many cMs each Match has and the number of segments, but they don’t give you largest cM or the start and end distance of each cM.  Ancestry doesn’t have a Chromosome browser to show you what Chromosomes that your Matches have in common with you. You can download your Raw DNA data file. They do show you shared matches with a Match, but again you have to have a membership in order to see any details.  AncestryDNA does offer an ethnicity estimate which I haven’t really worked with yet. Like MyHeritage as more people test with Ancestry you can get more Matches.

Familytreedna:

I uploaded both of my raw autosomal DNA data files from Ancestry and MyHeritage to familytreedna for free.  I have over 3,000 Matches. The results were similar to those found on the other two sites. I created a family tee with 15 people on this site, which is 4 generations.  You can view other Matches’ family trees if they have one. They have a Chromosome browser and an in common with tool.  They give the total shared cMs and the largest segment.   They do show you which chromosomes you match on in their browser and this is downloadable information. You can also download all your Matches into an excel file.  You can view a Chromosome browser match in a table format or map layout which will give each Chromosome, the start and end of the distance, the size of the cM and number of matching snps.  I haven’t really worked much with familytreedna as of yet. I think that they have some good tools for analyzing my results.  Familytreedna does offer YDNA & MtDNA testing which both Ancestry and MyHeritage do not. I do have a male relative’s YDNA results that was done with familytreedna and I just sent in my own MtDNA test to them. Once I get my results back I will start focusing on understanding each of these results. They are different from the autosomal results. YDNA and MtDNA are direct line ancestry results, meaning YDNA goes from son to father and on back several generations. The same forMtDNA which goes from daughter to mother and on back several generations in a straight line.   Familytreedna offers a free downloadable guide book to help you to learn more about their results. This is written by Blaine Bettinger and Matt Dexter.  Family Tree is free and gives you access to family trees of those who have put them up on their site. As I said earlier they have more tools such as ethnicity estimates, etc, that I haven’t tried as of yet.

Gedmatch:

I uploaded to both my Autosomal raw DNA files from Ancestry and MyHeritage to Gedmatch.  This is a 3rd party application that doesn’t do testing, but does have all kinds of tools to help you to analyze your results from other companies. they have a One to many matches which will list all of your matches. They allow people to upload a GEDcom/wikiTree. They show both MtDNA & YDNA matches, Autosomal  and XDNA results. The show Total cMs and largest cMs. They give the Username and email of each Match. they have a 2d and 3d Chromosome browser, a one to cone comparison tool and much more. I was able to connect with several 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins.  they do offer Tier 1 Utilities which is  7 more tools, which includes a triangulation tool. There is a $10 fee a month for the use of these additional tools. Everything else on this site is free.

Conclusion:

I find that all of the above companies have their pros and cons. I think of the four that MyHeritage and Gedmatch seem to offer the most, but familytreedna is a close contender. I’m not impressed with AncestryDNA even though they have the largest genealogical family tree database.  They seem to have the least to offer as far as tools to help you in your analysis.   I don’t really have much experience with 23andMe so I’m not able to provide any insight into what their website is like.   They may be a site I will test with in the future so that I have access to their database and tools.  With the use of my DNA results I have been able to connect to 4 family branches that I was not able to by using just the paper trail. My DNA Matches have opened up so many new relative connections.  The important thing to remember is that you can’t just use genetic genealogy to find your relatives you also need to use family tree genealogy with a record source to help prove and verify your findings. Wishing you all the best in your family search.

My Journey with DNA and Genealogy. Pt 2

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Using DNA testing in combination with my genealogy research has been very successful and at the same time very intriguing.   Last month I explained to you that I have been doing genealogy for decades and had come to a point in genealogy that they call a brick wall on four branches of my family tree. So I decided to take a DNA test to see if it would give me any new insight on any of these branches. I choose to go with MyHeritage.com which is one of the four most popular DNA testing sites. The other three being Ancestry.com, 23andMe.com and FamilytreeDNA.com.  Currently MyHeritage.com has over 95 Million users, 2.0 Billion Profiles, 8.9 Billion Historical Records and over 41 Million Family Trees on their website.

Since I have received my results from MyHeritage I have learned how to use my genetic DNA results with my genealogy. I am using some screen shots from their website to help explain some of my DNA results to you and I have blanked out my Matches personal info for privacy reasons. To really get a good understanding of how MyHeritage works you can watch this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGi4Jb84XAc&t=2855s.

We as humans are more similar to each other than we think. All people share 99.9% of their DNA sequence in common. Only the remaining 0.1% differs from one person to another. Depending on how much DNA, my DNA Matches have will determine if they are a close or distant relative to me because there are significant similarities between their DNA and mine within that 0.1%. For every DNA match, it shows the estimated relationship between me and the other person, based on the quantity and characteristics of the DNA that I share with that person. In the lower right corner of my login page, it shows I have 4686 DNA Matches. When I first opened my results four weeks earlier I had 3576 DNA Matches, so you can see that as more people test their DNA at MyHeritage the amount of my matches can continue to increase.
My Ethnicity Estimate results shows that my DNA traces back to 8 Ethnicities, 97% from Europe, (43.1% Irish, Scottish, and Welch, 13.2% English, 5.9% Finnish, 4.9% Scandinavian, 21% Sardinian, 9.8% Greek, 2.1% from Northwest Africa. These results come from very early ancestry links.

 

 

This map view of my Ethnicity Estimates shows the approximate areas. Usually most companies that offer Autosomal DNA testing will give you an Ethnicity Estimate, but they may be different from company to company due to the formulations that they use. An Autosomal test is on your 22 Chromosomes which is shared DNA from both your paternal and maternal sides

In the below screen shot is a first cousin once removed (who we will call “John”)  currently has the highest amount of DNA to me of all my Matches on MyHeritage.com.  We share a total of 537.8cM (CentiMorgans). The higher the total DNA the closer the relationship to the match.  Meaning if I had a match that had approximately 3600 cM that would most likely be a parent or a sibling match. There could be other relatives who have had their DNA tested, but they may have tested with another company like Ancestry.com or 23andMe.com so unless I test with those companies I would not know about their DNA Match.

My cousin “John” has a family tree on MyHeritage with 213 people in it. After viewing his family tree I was able to see how we are related on my paternal side. Not everyone that has a Match with you includes family tree information and not everyone is a member.

The Shared Matches below show the percentage of relationship with myself (on left) and with “John” (on right). In this first Shared Match you can see that there is a person who is more closely related to “John” than me. It is so high that MyHeritage suggest that this Match could be his son and they suggest that that person  may also be a 1st cousin once removed to me.

It turned out that this Shared Match is “John’s” son and is my 1st cousin twice removed. To have a better understanding of relationships, here is a relationship chart to help you to understand  cousin that are removed relationships. Removed basically means each generation above or below me.

MyHeritage gives you a view of all 23 Chromosomes and where my Match’s DNA and mine match. Below is a view of 22 of my 23 Chromosomes and where “John” matches on each of my Chromosomes.

 

MyHeritage has recently added a really nice tool that they call a Chromosome Browser. This tool helps me to compare my DNA Matches with other DNA Matches and myself. I can compare up to 7 Matches at a time by clicking on the ones I want to check. This has been really helpful in finding out which of my Matches are truly related and on what side of my tree (paternal or maternal).

 

 

 

 

When I compare them it will show me on which Chromosome they match with me and the others. As you can see these two people are very closely related to each other besides me.

 

 

If a DNA Match has a family tree available, I can get more insight about how the two of us may be related. I can also contact my DNA Matches to exchange information and ask questions.

To better learn from which branch we are related I have looked at my family tree and their family tree and found a common ancestor that we both are related to. In the beginning I started out with a small family tree on MyHeritage website by adding three generations, which is a total of 7 people. This helps MyHeritage and my DNA Matches to be able to see our connection.

MyHeritage has been emailing me when they have discovered people that could be related to me which they call Smart Matches or Instant Discoveries. My online family tree with MyHeritage has grown to over 1,200 people from these Matches.  I can also use their search screen  to possibly find missing people from my tree.

 

I have been able to break through two of the four brick walls. This has been amazing to finally complete the connection with these two branches on my paternal side. My journey continues to find the other two branches on my maternal side.

I have downloaded my Raw DNA file from MyHeritage and uploaded it to Familytreedna.com  and to Gedmatch.com. It is free to upload to these two sites. They both provided DNA Matches with their own databases.  From the results I have found a few matches that were the same as on MyHeritage, but there are many that are different. I believe this is because of where people have their had DNA testing done.  So not all databases are the same, because not everyone tests at the same or more than one place and so I have been able to find several more matches with these two other sites.

I would have to say that I find DNA genetic very interesting and know that there is still a lot more to learn in order to make the best use of all the information that it has revealed to me.

I do recommend that if you are interested in having your DNA test done that you do your homework first. Meaning learn as much as you can about DNA genetics and then decide what you really want to learn about yourself. Is it who your related to or where your ancestry came from?

Next month I will give an overview of my results on Familytreedna.com and Gedmatch.com.   Wishing you all the best in your search.

A Helpful Genealogy Tool To Keep You On Track

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One of the most important things that needs to be done when doing Genealogy is to keep your information organized.  Today most genealogist use some form of computer software or online program to store their information. These help a lot when it comes to keeping your information organized and most of these programs offer the ability to create and print several different forms, charts & reports. These can be very helpful in seeing what you have collected and what may be missing, but it is still difficult to see the progress you have made or possibly who you are missing.

I have used many different kinds of genealogy forms, charts and reports over the years. I have even created excel spread sheets.  I have found one form that is extremely useful for helping me with knowing who I’m missing at a glance.  It is a form that is a chart at the same time. I’m talking about the Fan Chart. This form allows me to see my entire genealogical tree at a glance. As I said many of the genealogy software and online programs offer this form chart. You can also find it on the internet as a free download in several different styles. Here is a 7 generation form from Martha Stewart’s website.  You can even find the fan chart form on Printerest. 

I use a 9 generation fan chart you can see here that has both my maternal and paternal branches.

I am able to see who I’m missing at a glance.  I was able to create this with Treeseek.com.  You will need to create a Familysearch.org account or if you use the familysearch.org online family tree program all you need is your familysearch.org your account ID. Treeseek.com  has 7 & 9 generation fan charts, along with  other charts that you can download and print out  for free or they can print and mail to you. Of course they charge for the printing and shipping.