By Rona Barrett | Published on 07.29.2015 2:08 p.m.
Any idea what the two most popular pastimes are in America today? I’ll give you the runner-up now and the most popular later.
The second most popular American pastime is genealogy. Although, “pastime” is really a misnomer because tracing our family’s histories is closing in on becoming a two billion dollar a year industry.
The nationwide genealogy craze started, perhaps, with the Mormon Church opening branch genealogical libraries.
Then came Alex Haley’s “Roots” in the ’70s. Then it all moved online.
Then came the television shows, including Oprah’s publicized personal search, advances in DNA, and the advent of over-the-counter genetic test kits.
For many years, I had been aware of it, but I preferred living in the fast lane, not the past lane.
But I’ve come to the realization that as we age, genealogy and DNA gives us benefits previous generations did not have—an opportunity for closure and, perhaps, reconciliation—finding answers and roots. This marvelous tool fills in gaps in our personal histories, helps us to search out long, lost relatives and to discover new ones.
Beyond personal interest or fulfillment, DNA as a search tool can bring about more serious, life-changing forms of closure and reconciliation: solving decades old forensic cases, one separated twin finding another, adoptees reaching out to their birth parents, those with a life-or-death race against the clock to find their family’s medical histories, and individuals who want the real facts about their ethnic mix.
As you may know, I am awaiting the results from my genetic testing done at UCLA to learn more about whether I was diagnosed properly as having an arrested case of muscular dystrophy, which may be coming out of remission, or that I have something else.
So, this new accessibility of DNA testing may be of personal benefit to me. I may find a true answer after all these years as to the condition with which I was born. This has now made me curious about my own family and background.
Since I’ve already provided the first spit for my DNA, I’m now ready to find out perhaps some more surprises about my ethnic mix, and distant relatives along with around $100. In 6-8 weeks I hopefully will get some questions answered about gaps (not saps) in my family tree.
I’m going with Ancestry.com. It’s one of the many helpful self-starting, self-guiding sites that is the largest with approximately 12.7 billion records, more than two million paying subscribers, 191 million uploaded photos and more than 16 million uploaded stories.
I can even contact a “Search Angel,” who will help me search public records, conduct name searches, connect to relatives, and more—without charge.
In subsequent columns, I’ll let you know what I found out from both UCLA and Ancestry.com.
So, now that you know more about number two, did you guess America’s number one pastime in America? Gardening!
Isn’t it amazing that our top two favorite pastimes in America are about caring for our roots?
Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.
— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at[email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.