So. I was using Genome Mate. It was a lot of work for not much result. There was an update. Always more work. I never got around to doing it, and never went back.

So now I’m looking at DNAPainter. Worth taking a shot, or will it just be extra useless work?

Roberta Estes says, “DNAPainter is one of my favorite tools because DNAPainter, just as its name implies, facilitates users painting their matches’ segments on their various chromosomes. It’s genetic art and your ancestors provide the paint!

People use DNAPainter in different ways for various purposes. I utilize DNAPainter to paint matches with whom I’ve identified a common ancestor and therefore know the historical ‘identity’ of the ancestors who contributed that segment.

I wonder. Painting is fun, but I’m more just a genealogist. Cousins are fun, but they’re not the entire game. I’m going to always lose interest in any tool that doesn’t help identify new ancestors.

Holy Grail, Holy Fraud

Honestly, nothing makiies me crazy quite like supposedly serious genealogists taking data straight from books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail and others of that ilk that should be just entertainment. I often think I should take on a systematic study and create a website devoted to the subject. Not going to happen, so I’m happy to find this article by Jason Colavito.

The claim that the Knights Templar are the secret guardians of the Holy Grail, identified as the Holy Bloodline formed by the children of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, is of very recent vintage, but due to its promotion in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (2003) and on TV shows like America Unearthed (2012-present), the idea, first proposed in 1982, has become an industry, gradually subsuming other medieval “mysteries” of equally dubious provenance, particularly the claim that a Scottish noble named Henry Sinclair discovered America in 1398. There is not one single authentic medieval document that (a) confirms a Holy Bloodline of Jesus, (b) links Henry Sinclair to the Knights Templar, or (c) documents any voyage by Henry Sinclair to anywhere outside of Europe. How the myth formed is an astonishing story on its own.

Related Post

  • Swanstrom, Justin. “Holy Grail.” Swan Knight <yellacatranch.com>, Jan. 1, 2000. Retrieved Oct. 29, 2019.

Revised to update link.

Foreign Origins

Our European ancestors often did genealogy as propaganda. Nowadays it’s sometimes hard to convince new genealogists, people who might have only a limited historical education, that there wasn’t some secret, oral, underground stream of tradition that has been suppressed by clumsy academics.

No. It was pure propaganda, and today we can see through it easily.

When I was in college, we translated Virgil’s Aeneid in Latin class; a project that spanned a full year. I loved that story. I still do. Priam murdered at the altar. Aeneas and his family fleeing the burning city. This is the stuff of legend.

But it’s all just a propaganda. The legendary Trojan prince Aeneas, who fled the city, eventually settled in Italy. He was the supposed ancestor of Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome, and more importantly ancestor of the family of Julius Caesar. Virgil wrote his famous poem to help aggrandize Caesar and his family.

The story worked to connect upstart Rome to the ancient and considerably more sophisticated culture of Classical Greece.

And medieval propagandists took a page from Virgil. If Rome had a Trojan ancestor, then as heirs of Rome their national lineages had to be just as good. The Franks invented Francio. The British invented Brutus. The Scandinavians turned Thor into Tror. All Trojan princes. “Heirs to Troy, and by extension to the Roman Empire, they had a right to rule inherited from the heroes of classical antiquity.

Preserve First, Scan Second

This blog post stopped me in my tracks. I’m doing a huge scanning project right now. Drawers and drawers and more drawers of old paper files. All my genealogical correspondence and papers from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. A lifetime of work, and omg I was active. And now I’m helping Mom clean out her storage units (yes, units, plural). She’s giving me boxes of stuff, some of it originals of copies she has given me, some of it copies I’ve given her, and some of it stuff I’ve never seen before.

So, you can imagine I was in no mood to hear someone say I should stop scanning, that I should, apparently, backtrack and start preserving. Might be good advice for someone, but not for me.

Then I took a few days to think. Maybe I’ve being over-reactive. INFJ. You have to know I’d be over-reactive to anything that challenges my organizational process.

On reflection, preservation first makes a lot of sense. You don’t have to fix all the problems, but at least get it organized, do some triage, and get it put in archival boxes. I have mine neatly organized into file folders, staples and paper clips mostly pulled, crumbling papers photocopied. So, I’ve already done most of what Denise recommends as the first step. The way I see it, I’m good to continue with the scanning.

I don’t have it all in archival boxes, and I’m not actually sure I want to do that. I have a bunch of lateral files, and a largish closet we call “the file room”. I use those for the papers. Then I have the photos in bankers boxes. I fret about those boxes. If I died right now, today, the lateral files would stay where they are are for 20 years, but the boxes would go to my sister, who would likely stash them in storage for lack of space.

My sense is that climate control is an important element here, as well as keeping a clear vision about what is practical and what is probable. I could put everything in archival boxes now, but my sense is doing that would increase the risk of eventual destruction.

Today’s thoughts aren’t my last word on the subject. Now that I’ve read about the problem, I’ll be thinking about it every morning when I go into the file room to grab today’s scanning project. And I might eventually change course. Just not today.

Royal Fakes

One of my main academic interests is the way genealogical fakes are created and preserved. For many years I was active on Geni.com, working with other volunteer curators to round up and fakes, get them corralled, and so improve the quality of the medieval tree there. In the end it turned out to be a losing battle.

Even so, most of my genealogical correspondence continues to be people asking my opinion about different lines where they suspect a fake. Answering those messages is a lot of work. And, truthfully, my heart isn’t really in it right now. I’m off on other things.

I’ve stumbled across a YouTube channel — UsefulCharts — that does some pretty good work on presenting basic information on this topic. So, I’m going to take the easy way out and just link to some of them. I don’t agree with every point of every presentation, and I would caution that many of the presentations oversimplify. But still.

There are some shortcuts that will save you a lot of time if you accept them upfront. Despite what you might read in the popular press and on the Internet:

  • There are no proven descents from Adam and Eve.
  • There are no proven descents from King David.
  • There are no proven descents from Jesus.
  • There are no proven descents from Joseph of Arimathea.

On the other hand:

  • Everyone in Europe is probably descended from Charlemagne.
  • Everyone in the British Isles is probably descended from William the Conqueror.
  • Everyone in the British Isles is probably descended from Edward III.

Everyone is descended from royalty. Not everyone can prove their connection to these lines, but having a proven lines is very common. If you have one, very cool, but you’re not special.

Revised Oct. 27, 2019 to add link.


How would it be if we all had double surnames, one from our paternal line and one from our maternal line. Sort of like the Spanish do, but modified slightly so the maternal surname really is a surname that passes along the maternal line and not just the mother’s paternal surname.

That’s the idea thrown out by Burgerkrieg.

I tried it for about six weeks. I thought it might mitigate the perpetual confusion about my name change from Howery to Swanström. I don’t know whether it helped or not. Mostly it just drove me crazy because I’m a minimalist at heart. In my world even middle initials seem pretentious, an affectation of the petit bourgeoisie.

I do like, though, a particular “system” I see among some of my European cousins, where the last name comes from one parent and the middle name from the other. No long strings of given names there, so nicely minimalist.

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Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Yesterday I wrote about living in Mantua, Utah. I mentioned joining Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Brigham City. That memory sent me off to do some research. I was curious about the church’s history, and also about dates.

I found a little potted history (see below). Founded in 1959. We were there early in its history, then, but not among the first. Originally part of the Augustana Synod, the Swedes. Yes, I knew that. Merged into the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) in 1962. I’ve known that as long as I can remember, because that whole thing about LCA vs American Lutheran Church (ALC) was part and parcel of my childhood religious identity. First pastor was Donald Ranstrom. It was his first parish. I remember him, I think, or at least his name. Founded by people who worked at Thiokol Chemical Corp. My parents worked for Thiokol, so that matches my mother’s story that one of the reasons they chose Holy Cross was that they had friends there, particularly Ray and Eleanor Wall. I remember them.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Brigham City, Utah

Holy Cross was a beautiful mid-century building, at the mouth of Box Elder Canyon, on the eastern edge of Brigham City. I remember doing a search several years ago. Back then Holy Cross was Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the 1988 successor to the LCA, ALC, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). This time I was disappointed to see they are now Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), a conservative synod. Not as reactionary as Missouri Synod, but still quite conservative.

I remember they did an outdoor breakfast and worship in the canyon. We did those. And sunrise services in the canyon on Easter. I can picture the turn off, but I don’t know if I could find it again. It was in a forested area right at the western edge of Mantua. If you took that turnoff from U.S. 89 it would lead back in to Mantua. Looking at a modern map, I think it had to have been S. Park Drive, down by Box Elder Creek and the Box Elder Campground. Maybe.

Looking just a bit more, I see that Pastor Ranstrom went on to serve at UC-Davis, a famous bastion of liberalism in the turbulent 1960s. I found an article where he is tolerant of same-sex marriage (2003). I like that, but his career must have had a much more liberal trajectory than Holy Cross. I’m pleased about that but also a little sad that he lived well into my adulthood, so if I had thought to do it I would have been able to meet him and talk to him.

(I had the same chance to meet again with another childhood minister, Steve Ranheim from Grand Junction. We exchanged a few emails, in 2001, I think. He lived here in Denver and was working for a social services agency. We were going to get together for coffee, but we never did and then he died.)

I was baptized at Holy Cross on June 28, 1964, along with my mother and two sisters. (St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon — although as good Protestants we pretend we don’t know about saints days.) I have my baptism certificate. I will have to pull it out and look at it. If you had asked me, I would have been sure I was baptized by “Pastor Nilsson”. Looking at the list of former clergy, there was no Nilsson. It must have been Pastor Nielsen, who served from May 1, 1964 to April 30, 1967.

It’s a good thing my mother kept the baptismal certificates. When I converted officially to Episcopalian in, say 1982, Holy Cross had no record of my baptism. The records from those years are lost, they say, or maybe never kept. As a Good Samaritan, I got copies from my mother, and sent them to the offices at Holy Cross. Sometimes I wonder if they really kept them.

Nowadays, I live almost directly across the street from another Lutheran Church, Prince of Peace in Denver. Some days I think I ought to wander over for services. I think I was probably about 12 or 13 when I noticed most people in most Lutheran churches have German or Scandinavian surnames. No surprise there. I’d fit right in.

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Mantua, Utah

When I was little, we lived in Mantua, Utah. We moved down from Logan when Mom married my step-father Carroll Place in 1961, and lived there until we moved to Las Vegas in January 1965. I don’t think my parents sold the house there until 1969 or 1970; sometime after we moved to Grand Junction, anyway. 

We were talking about Mantua a few weeks ago. Mom mentioned that we lived there during its centennial. I have a lot of memories of Mantua, but I don’t think I remember that. She said there was a parade of sorts, with wooden oxen fixed to the front of cars to represent the pioneer wagons. Actually, I do remember that but I didn’t connect it with the town’s centennial.

Mom also told a story I’ve heard so many times. The centennial commission recommended that everyone paint their houses white, to make it look like a quaint and quiet New England village. But, Mom and Daddy put turquoise siding on the house, and there was a lot of fuss about it. The only church in town was the Mormon church. We had been going there. They threatened to excommunicate Daddy because of his defiance, then they found out we weren’t Mormon.

I always thought the commission that recommended white houses was the Utah centennial commission, which would have been 1947. (Honestly though, I’ve been saying sesquicentennial for years. but we weren’t in Mantua for the sesquicentennial of anything, so it makes no sense.) And because I thought it was recommendation made some 14 or 15 years before we even moved there, the whole thing seemed like a rather pointless dispute.

When we were re-hashing the story this time, Mom corrected me. It was the Mantua centennial, not the Utah centennial (1947), and not the Utah sesquicentennial (1997).

So, I had to look it up. Mantua was founded in 1863. (I didn’t know that.) Its centennial would have been 1963, which is smack in the middle of when we lived there, and would also be about right for the parade I remember. The whole story comes rushing together for me.

It was just now, tonight, that I realized this dispute about the color of the house probably led to my parents joining the Lutheran church in Brigham City. I remember Mom coming in to talk to me in bed one night. On Tuesdays, the bus left us all off at church so all the kids could go to Primary. Now, Evonne and I were supposed to just come home. The Mormons had the only church in Mantua. We started going to Holy Cross Lutheran Church on the eastern edge of Brigham City. In other words, the closest non-Mormon church. I was baptized there in June 1964, with Mom and my sisters. Daddy was Episcopalian, but the rest of us weren’t anything yet. Mom would have been taking inquirer classes for several months, so the timing is exactly right,

If that’s what happened, it’s ironic. We were probably all on our way to becoming Mormon and integrating into the community until someone decided to get pissy about house color.

History of Mantua

Mantua was settled in 1863 by 12 Danish families. Even before I started looking, I knew they would be the families who were our neighbors — the Jepsens and Jensens on either side of us, the Johnsons at the north end of town, and others.

In the old days, Mantua was called Little Valley, Flax Ville, Geneva, Hunsaker Valley, Little Copenhagen, and Box Elder Valley. The town is 5 miles north of Brigham City, on the west side of U.S. 89 coming down from Logan. Main Street in Mantua runs north – south. Mantua Reservoir is on one side of the street, houses on the other.

Our House

If you turn off U.S. 89 on to 500 North toward Mantua, the Mormon church is on the right side of the intersection with Main Street, then the Jepsens lived on the left side of the intersection, across from the church. We lived next to (north of) the Jepsens. When we lived there the address was something like Box 424. On Google maps it looks like it would now be about 525 N. Main.

Daddy had just bought the house, and was building a garage when he married Mom. It was originally a little 4-room house, with the back bedroom divided to create a bathroom sometime back when they still had claw foot tubs. It had a columned porch across the front that was the main entrance. Then, there was an addition along the back side of the house. Even though it was an enclosed and heated room, we called it the “back porch” (It’s a Utah thing). And there was a little addition to the back porch that we called the “little back porch.” The little back porch was the back entrance and mud room. From there, you went into the back porch, which was the laundry room, as well as my bedroom, From there you went into the kitchen. My parents remodeled the kitchen, finishing the new kitchen cabinets the same day we left for Las Vegas.

The house sat on 3 acres. As I remember it, Highway 89 was our back property line. That would have been true for all the houses along Main Street. Besides the new garage, we had a barn and attached tool shed, two cows, and a zillion cats. People from Brigham City were always dropping off unwanted pets up on Highway 89 and Mom was always adopting them while she looked for new homes.

I started school right after we moved to Mantua. We were bused to Mountain View Elementary in Brigham City. There had been a school in Mantua itself. We sometimes went down to play in the playground there, but it had closed, I think, just the year before I started, so say 1960.

Two summers when we lived there, Daddy joined the volunteer fire crews fighting fires on the hills around Mantua. One was in the hills on the other side of 89, and the other was in the hills south of town.

I drove through Mantua probably about 1980 or 1981. The house was still there but almost hidden behind all the trees. Mom was always planting trees. Now (2019), looking at Google Street View, it looks like the garage has been connected to the house, the front porch torn off or substantially remodeled, and a big new addition on the north side. All the trees are gone.

I have many more memories of Mantua. I hope I will find time to write more about them someday.

More Information

  • Chasing Blue Sky, “Mantua “Little Valley” – Mantua, UT,” Waymarking.com, February 20, 2013, accessed October 22, 2019 https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMGDZN_Mantua_Little_Valley_Mantua_UT
  • Josie Manwill, Brigham Young University, “Mantua’s Danish Heritage,” Intermountain Histories, accessed September 30, 2021, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/444 (love the church picture at the top of this page; such a familiar childhood memory)
  • Town of Mantua, “Mantua History,” August 29, 2014, accessed October 22, 2019, http://www.townofmantua.com/4952.html

Edited July 10, 2020 to remove dead link; Sept. 30, 2021 to add link.

Remembering Russell Means

Russell Means died 7 years ago today. I thought he was one of the truly great men of our time. Not everyone agreed. His obituary in the New York Times said, “He styled himself a throwback to ancestors who resisted the westward expansion of the American frontier. With theatrical protests that brought national attention to poverty and discrimination suffered by his people, he became arguably the nation’s best-known Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

I vaguely remember some of the earlier stuff, but he really came into my world in 1973 when he was one of the leaders of the American Indian Movement, and the group that occupied Wounded Knee. His detractors criticize his showmanship, but I was 17. It was the showmanship that caught my attention and got me to read about the underlying issues.

I particularly like this video of him, because it has him talking about a wide variety of subject.  

Russell Means: Welcome to the American Reservation Prison Camp (Full Length)

Navajo Rock Piles

Navajo Historian, Wally Brown, teaches about rock piles. If you have ever stumbled across one, now you know what they were for. Maybe you could pick up the tradition and start a rock pile for your family, and make commitments to relatives, both close and distant.

I love this idea. I come from a family of rock hounds. Sister Laura foremost among us. She inherited Grandma Swanstrom’s piles of rocks, which at this point seem like an important legacy.

I have my own little collection, sitting in a bowl on the balcony, then also a collection of “crystals” in my medicine bag.

As soon as I saw this video from Wally Brown, I was converted. This will be my new habit. Whenever I make an important commitment I will now add a rock to the pile.

Native American Traditions, Rock Piles