Describe unique traits that have been passed down to you by an ancestor.

Being interested in family history since the age of 10 years old, I am keenly aware of some of the many genes I inherited. Firstly, I believe diabetes came to me from my paternal side of the family--the Masons--because Daddy developed Type 2 diabetes in his 40s and I in my 50s. Well, mine was caught in my 50s. I probably had it in my 40s and wasn't really aware of it until it got to the point where one evening, after eating a meal of spaghetti and then going out shopping with my mother, I felt almost drunk and started slurring my speech. After putting the car seat back and resting a bit, I got over the spell and continued on my way.

Another time I noticed while driving that I was weaving all over the road, so I turned around and went home and crawled into bed. Another time or two, I'd fall asleep and wake up all wet where I'd broken out in a sweat. Something was wrong, but I still wasn't certain. Then around Christmastime in 2000, I went to the doctor for a cold or sinuses, and unbeknownst to me, they tested my blood for diabetes. My A1c was 11. Kim Bastide, the PA-C of Patient Choice Ghent in Norfolk, Virginia, called me and informed me that I am diabetic and started me on Metformin medication.

Since then, I learned that my cousins, Harry C. Mason, Jr., and his brother, Bill, are both Type 2 diabetics, as was their dad, Harry, Sr., (Daddy's brother). Harry Gougar, a descendant of the Masons, also has diabetes Type 2. So, it appears we all have that gene in common if it indeed is inherited through the genes, and it has all been adult-onset Type 2 diabetes.

I look a lot like my Daddy from about midways the face upward and seem to have his hairline, hair texture, and hair color, and blue eyes, although I was blonde as a child, and he wasn't. The blondness comes from my German and Northern European ancestry on my mother's side. Daddy's side of the family were from the United Kingdom with a haplogroup of R1b1c, and the Masons had dark brown, almost black, hair.

Like his mother, Pearl (Garrison) (Mason) Mince, Daddy's hair was dark up until the day he died on October 12, 2007. Of course, it was sprinkled with some grey, but when you glanced at him, you still saw dark hair. His mother's hair was longer so you could more easily see the salt-and-pepper coloring, but it wasn't dyed either. You saw more dark than grey in Grandma's hair as well.

I'll never forget when we picked Daddy up from the hospital at Sentara Norfolk General one time after he'd been admitted and tested for dementia, as I drove up and saw him sitting in the wheelchair, he looked so much like his mother that I was shocked! Isn't it funny how men look more like women when they age, and women begin to look like men? I suppose it's all hormonal.

Other characteristics that I've noticed in my immediate family (half-brother, his twin daughters, my mother, father, and me) are that we do not have prehensil toes. In other words, from our big toe down, each toe is smaller than the next. Our toes next to the big toe are not longer, as so many people's are. My feet are very small, which some family members on the Mason side have said resembled Bessie (Mason) Kendrick's tiny feet. Bessie was my father's aunt who was born, reared, and died in DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas.

Also from my paternal grandmother, Pearl (Garrison) (Mason) Mince, Daddy and I both inherited thyroid disease. Not only did we inherit it, my half-cousin, Cynthia (Godair) Weischman of Stuttgart, Arkansas, has had thyroid problems, too. We've discussed over the phone how our hair never gets oily but just needs washing for styling purposes.  Cindy and I both have had dry skin, all compliments of hypothyroidism--not to mention difficulty losing weight.

Daddy developed thyroid disease in his 30s and had radioactive iodine treatment for his. Mine, on the other hand, developed into exophthalmic goiter and had to be removed when I was 15 years old in February 1967, requiring me to take thyroid hormone ever since. Whether Grandma inherited it from her mother's side, the Norwoods, or her father's side, the Garrisons, I do not know, but doctors say that it runs in families.

From midways the face downward to the chin, I look like my mom, Dolly L. "Evelyn" (Higgerson) Mason.  We both have a big smile and plenty of room for our teeth, which we believe we inherited from her dad, who had a nice square jaw.  Neither Mom nor I had wisdom teeth, which must be in the genes.  Mom's father was Harry Clifton Higgerson, born in New Madrid County, Missouri, and moved to DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas, when a young man. Since Grandpa's death in 1974, I had his son Harold's Y-DNA tested, and that line is of haplogroup I1a--probably of Viking descent. That explains the blonde hair and blue eyes of many of the Higgerson children. Later, their hair turns brown and then grey. My mother's parents' eyes were blue, as are Mom's and mine.  I read once that a geneticist said, all people with blue eyes are kin since blue eyes were as a result of a mutation in the genes.  Up until the point of the mutation, everyone had brown eyes.

From the Higgersons came my shortness, I believe. I'm only 5' tall. Mom was 5'2", although at her age of 83, I've noticed a lot of shrinking in her height due to osteoporosis. Daddy was six-foot tall. When I was a baby, they'd point to my legs and say that I was going to be tall like my Daddy, but that never happened! By the time I was 12 years old, I stopped growing.

Most of the Higgerson men that I have ever met were of small stature, medium build, and most of the Higgerson women cousins that I've met are short and stocky--just like me. From my grandfather Harry C. Higgerson, Mom and I both inherited a small dimple of dark skin on the outside of our ankles, more prominent on the right than left. Whether Grandpa inherited that from his father or his mother, I don't know. I'll have to ask around of my cousins to see if they have the same "mark."  Mom and I have some hair growth on our big toes, too, as well as on the top of our feet, which I don't think is real common. I picture that coming from our Chewning/Chowning/Chouning ancestry, which were mostly tall, dark, and French looking.  Most of the Chowning/Chewning cousins I've met were swarthy and tall.

My mother's mother, Ruth Mary (Mertens) Higgerson, was a superb mother and awesome grandmother to me. She would have put Martha Stewart and Julia Childs to shame with cooking, cleaning, sewing, decorating, and running a household. Grandma, to me, was tall, about 5' 8" and very erect. As a child, when Grandma slept, she stretched out on the bed and didn't curl up because she was afraid she'd end up growing crooked!  Therefore, her entire life, she was very straight and erect. Her grandson, I. Larry Higgerson, Jr., reminds me of her in that regard. I didn't take after Grandma very much, but I loved her dearly. She taught me how to make bread and rolls, which I enjoyed doing when I was young, and she taught me to crochet, do cross-stitch, crewel work, and crafts. I never enjoyed cooking, so I did not learn as much from her as I should have, nor have I learned much from my mother in that regard either. But one thing I loved that my grandmother made was her vinegar-based salad dressing, and I learned how to make it. 

When Mom and I took a 21-day European tour in 1996, we enjoyed the food in the Netherlands so much because everything was pickled and tasted like home.  We decided then that one of our maternal ancestors had to have been from that region of the country since we like their food so well.  With DNA testing of our mitochondrial DNA, our suspicions were confirmed.

After Grandma and Grandpa Higgerson and Margie moved to Norfolk County, Virginia, soon after World War II was over, and I was born in 1952, I spent a lot of time with them and enjoyed being with them. Grandma taught me to appreciate my ancestors and old photographs, which I rummaged through and asked questions about who the people were in the pictures. She kept photos and newspaper clippings. 

Because Grandpa didn't have any photos at all of his family, I questioned him as well as to where his family was. Grandpa taught me how to walk as he was recuperating at home from a bad car accident at the same time I was toddling around trying to stand on my own two feet.

I felt loved and cared for by my parents and my maternal grandparents. If something happened to Momma and Daddy, it would not have been difficult at all for me to move right in with Grandma, Grandpa, and Margie as I felt quite at home with them, too.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I inherited Margie's nose and Grandma's and Margie's deep-for-a-woman Germanic-sounding voice. My mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup U2, northern European, which makes sense since Grandma's parents were both born in the U.S. of German immigrant parents.

All the adults I was around as an only child made me mature beyond my years during all the phases of my life, and they taught me to be cautious, honest, and tactful.

















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