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If we could choose the time

Here on this day in March 2020 when the United States wreaks havoc with the circadian rhythms of its citizens by setting the clocks forward an hour, the question arose on Facebook: to what time would we set the clocks if we could set them to any time we wanted?

Setting the clock

A genealogy friend chose the early days of 1884 when she could meet her great grandmother Addie, born in August 1883, and Addie’s great grandmother Lois who died in March 1884.1

Another responded she would set the clock back to 1897 to be able to warn her great great grandmother not to marry the charming man 14 years her junior.2

The Legal Genealogist is hard-pressed to choose a single time to set that magical clock.

Should I pick April 1855 when my great grandfather Hermann was baptized in Germany… and his mother declined to tell the pastor of the Lutheran Church who the father was?3

Or a time a little earlier when my third great grandmother Margaret was born so I’d know if her mama was her daddy’s first wife or his second wife?4

Or perhaps a time in the early 1800s when my scoundrel second great grandfather George would have been with his parents and so couldn’t have told one of his many fibs about where he’d come from?5

Or a time in the late 1700s when somebody somewhere would have known the origins of our Fore family and whether we actually are descended from the Faures of Manakintown, Virginia?6

Or the middle of the 1700s when my fifth great grandfather Noel was born so I could meet his mother and determine whether I’m right in suspecting that she was a free woman of color?7

Or any of the many many times in the 1600s or 1700s when an ancestor could have told me where in England, Scotland, or Wales the family actually came from?

So many choices — almost too much to choose from — but no matter which one I chose, the one thing I’d want to make sure I could carry with me would be a DNA test.

Getting the answer to a genealogical question by being able to turn that magical clock back would be enormously great fun. But being able to prove it by having genetic evidence that supports the conclusion we’re drawing from the surviving fragmentary records is the right one — now that would truly be magical.

So here on this DNA Sunday, when we’re all readjusting our circadian rhythms, a question for you: if we had that magical clock and could set it to any time we want, when would you set it to and who would you DNA test?

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Setting the clock,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 8 Mar 2020).


  1. See status update, Jennifer Armstrong Zinck, posted 8 March 2020,
  2. Ibid., comment of Yvette Hoitink.
  3. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Friedrike, how COULD you?,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 7 Jan 2012 ( : accessed 8 Mar 2020).
  4. See ibid., “Why chase that mtDNA,” posted 23 June 2019.
  5. See ibid., “How many Georges?,” posted 6 Aug 2016.
  6. See ibid., “Down home Alabama,” posted 11 Mar 2019. I’m working on the question of his mama…
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