How does a photo of a fruit fly breeding chamber lead to the discovery of one’s own lineage back to 14th century France? That’s not a question I’d ever have thought to ask, but this evening I found an answer after following the most fascinating click trail in, well, ever.
It started with an idle perusal of recent Flickr photos from my contacts. Jeremy Keith is currently in Chicago for DrupalCon, and after a page of tantalizing food and architectural photos, I found myself back in Brighton looking at his photos from a laboratory-related exhibit at the Lighthouse Gallery.
I’m quite familiar with the word because Dr. Gordon Tener — my grandmother’s brother and a father figure to my own dad — had a long career as a professor of biochemistry at the University of British Columbia here in Vancouver. During his tenure he researched, among other things, ribonucleic acid (RNA) and the genetic organization of drosophila melanogaster, otherwise known as the common fruit fly.
Dr. Tener died two years ago, and as I was looking at Jeremy’s photo I realized that I may never have punched his name into Google to see what the internet knew about his life and achievements. So I did, and eventually I stumbled across a Blogger site set up to document the extended family history of the Tener family.
The top of the site references something called the Tener Book, which was a genealogy published in the fifties that I’d never heard of. And what do you know, there on page 79 are references to Dr. Tener and my grandmother, which means this book is about my family history, back 20 generations through nine centuries and five countries, complete with photos of various great-great-great-great grand-relatives and a family crest I didn’t know about.
All from a photo of a fruit fly breeding chamber.
It’s easy to take for granted just how much information we have at our fingertips these days, but then mind-blowingly personal discoveries like this come along every now and then and put it all in sharp focus. The internet is amazing.