Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 9:33 pm | Fair 61º


Rona Barrett


Rona Barrett: Caring For Our Roots

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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >