I am extremely saddened today to learn of the passing of my dear friend and fellow genetic genealogist and blogger, Joan Miller. Joan passed away on Friday after a very brave battle with a long illness, throughout which she always stayed positive and full of hope. She was just that kind of person.
When I first started blogging, Joan was extremely encouraging and generous. At the SCGS Genealogy Jamboree 2011, she encouraged me to attend the GeneaBloggers' Ice Cream Social. While there, she lovingly walked me around the room and introduced me to every person there. I was deeply impressed by her kindness that night and continued to be so throughout our friendship.
The timing of her death meaningfully coincides with the announcement of the SCGS/ISOGG "DNA and Genetic Genealogy Conference" to be held in conjunction with SCGS Jamboree. This is very significant to me since my dream of this conference was born from Joan's vision. At the 2011 SCGS Jamboree we discussed her idea to approach the organizers of the event to host a genetic genealogy pre-conference. She never got the chance to do so, but when they came to me with the same idea, I immediately thought of Joan. It is a reality now and I know that she would be so proud. My participation in this conference will be in her honor and we will be memorializing her contributions at the event.
Due to the distance between our homes, our friendship was mostly "virtual", but I had the pleasure of interviewing Joan at the 2011 Family Tree DNA Administrator's Conference. She spoke about her love of genetic genealogy with passion and intelligence (just like she did everything). She was such a joy.
Joan was a prolific and award winning blogger at the Luxegen Genealogy Blog. One of her favorite subjects to write about was genetic genealogy and we owe her gratitude for introducing many of her readers to DNA testing for genealogy. As a retired manager of a medical research lab and a self-described "science geek", Joan was uniquely positioned to understand the complexities of DNA testing and, as a natural teacher, translate that knowledge into easy-to-understand language for her readers. She also coordinated the Alberta Family History Society DNA Interest Group where she was an active volunteer. They were very lucky to have her there to mentor the participants in person.
As a long-time genealogist, she was an early adopter of using the Internet to connect with other genealogy researchers. According to an interview at GeniMates.com, she set up her first genealogy webpage in 2001. She was well known as an active and beloved member of GeneaBloggers and the online genealogy community as a whole. As such, I'm sure that my memorial post will not be the only one.
As I write this memorial to Joan, the word generous comes to mind over and over. She was the definition of that word in so many ways. It was Joan who inspired many of us to join the Kiva Genealogists for Families Project where she was a team leader with Judy Webster. Making a commemorative loan in her name seems like a fitting tribute. [Update - Joan's daughter Heather has asked that commemorative loans or donations in memory of her mother should be made through Kiva and the Genealogists For families Project linked above.]
For the recent Fall 2012 Issue of the AFHS Chinook Journal, Joan and I co-authored a Genetic Genealogy Reference Guide. She did most of the work on it, but generously insisted that I receive credit for the updates that I made to her list since she had been away "From the GeneaSphere" (the name of her regular column in the journal) due to her illness.
|Alberta Family History Society's Chinook Journal|
She also asked me to look after her small, but beloved Aumack DNA Project while she was healing. I guess that was a more permanent request than I had hoped. Joan had first started working with DNA for genealogy in 2005 when she asked her brother to test so she could join the Kerr/Carr DNA Project (Kerr = her maiden name). She speaks about that experience and what she learned in our video interview above.
Joan and I shared regular, albeit brief, correspondence since she learned of her illness about a year ago. In our last exchange, she was her typically encouraging and positive self and more interested in my well-being than hers. Always thinking of others, she enthusiastically shared an idea she had for me - to create a DNA ebook for beginners. I should listen to her advice.
She described herself and her interests on her Google+ page:
Turn off the news. Get off twitter. Go spend some time with the people you love instead. Much better use of time. Peace out.