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A Daughter Reflects As Her Vibrant Mother Retires From SCGS

Updated: Mar 27

by Kay Fairhurst Adkins

Editor's Note: Longtime SCGS member Alice Fairhurst officially retired at the end of 2023. Well, sort of. She'll still be heading the British Isles Group and co-chairing the DNA Interest Group. Alice has been a major part of SCGS since joining in the early 2000s. She was an inspirational president for seven terms, Jamboree co-chair, and a major player as genetic genealogy took shape. Alice was there with her paintbrush when a wall needed a quick touch-up before an event. Among her milestones:

  • British scientist Brian Picton Swann lauded Alice's "pioneering work" on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) Haplotree. "You will reflect and should take enormous pride and pleasure in what you accomplished," Brian said, adding, "It has become recognized the world over as the go-to resource."

  • In June 2013, ISOGG and SCGS held a one-day DNA conference in conjunction with its annual Jamboree. Featured speakers included Dr. Spencer Wells, Blaine Bettinger, Dr. Tim Jantzen, Judy G. Russell, CeCe Moore, Richard Hill, and Katherine Borges.

  • The 2013 conference co-chair CeCe Moore said: “This is the very first genetic genealogy conference that is independently produced by societies such as ISOGG and SCGS. I have dreamed of an ISOGG-sponsored genetic genealogy conference for a long time, and I am thrilled to be working in cooperation with the SCGS Jamboree on this inaugural event. Holding the conference in conjunction with the Genealogy Jamboree helps us reach many family historians who would otherwise be unable to attend.”

  • In 2014, ISOGG presented a Genetic Genealogy panel at SCGS's Jamboree, moderated by Alice and featuring CeCe Moore, Blaine Bettinger, Maurice Gleeson, and Katherine Borges. (see photos)

  • In 2015, Alice moderated a DNA panel at Jamboree that included Emily Doolin Aulicino, Blaine T. Bettinger, Shannon Chrismas, Dave Dowell, and Tim Janzen

  • In March 2016, Alice moderated a panel at the California African American Genealogical Society (CAAGS) held at the USC Radisson Hotel, Los Angeles

  • In October 2018, Alice and her family met a cousin she discovered through DNA results and extensive research. Alice helped her new cousin (an adoptee) find her birth parents. (see photo)

  • In 2021: She presented "British Isles Naming Patterns and DNA" at Jamboree.

  • The same year, she edited and published with Kay the SCGS anthology The Stars in Your Family

  • She was the longtime editor of the quarterly The Searcher.

  • At the end of 2023, her genealogical fiction book, Family of Losers, co-authored with Kay Fairhurst Adams, was published.

This a letter from Alice's daughter, Kay Fairhurst Adkins, followed by a story she wrote for Cherish Your Family Inheritance.

My mother, Alice Megaw Fairhurst, has done so much for so many people and has been the silent person behind the scenes who kept so much running smoothly. She is truly part of a generation that believes in living the action of giving back and building community. Her interest in genealogy started with her marriage when her mother-in-law, Oris Marie Fairhurst (1899-1976), passed along a family history to her. As we kids moved out of the house in the late '70s, she and Dad, David Noel Fairhurst (1933-1999), became more interested in family history, trying to learn about a fabled "Fairhurst Gang." Throughout the years, she has written about this and many other family finds in her articles for The Searcher.

She and Dad took trips to Salt Lake City to research, and she volunteered at the local FamilySearch Center in Covina. Later, after my father died, she and her friend, Gordon Matheson, began attending meetings and events at SCGS, becoming increasingly involved. They also took lead roles in various Scottish Clan tents at So Cal Highland events, celebrating their heritage. In time, she took on more and more roles at SCGS. When a need appeared, she filled it, whether temporarily or permanently. She never planned to be the editor for The Searcher as long as she did, but she did a good job and helped streamline it to adapt to changes in printing costs. She never planned to take a top leadership position for Jamboree, but when the old Jamboree leadership team left, a faction wanted to cancel the conference forever. Alice saw Jamboree as the main source of income for SCGS and the primary generator of new members, so she pushed and pulled and ensured Jamboree continued for as long as possible through her force of will. Cultural and technological changes, challenges, costs, COVID-19, and the effects of aging finally won out, and it is time for a new phase, both for Alice, now 87, and for SCGS.

Alice has always been a person who goes deeply into her different interests, but genealogy has far surpassed the rest with its many avenues for exploration and teaching. She was uniquely suited for this transitional time, having an early interest in computers, people, and science. She loves that high-ranking people in the field of DNA know her by name and that she has had a role in the evolving world of DNA Genealogy.

Alice Fairhurst: The Queen of Reinvention

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but my mother, Alice Megaw Fairhurst, is the Queen of Reinvention. She told my brothers and me that the happiest time of her life was when she would sit on the floor playing with us when we were little; realizing children eventually grow up, she knew things would change. With her children in elementary and pre-school, Alice returned to school at California State University, Los Angeles, to finish her degree. [She did most of her undergrad work at the University of California, Berkeley.] Originally, Alice wanted to study music, but her sensible parents encouraged her to become a teacher. Combining her interests, Alice became a substitute teacher, bringing along her guitar and leading singing classes. I was proud whenever my mom came to class to teach us new songs. Eventually, Alice settled into a support role at Covina High School. A dozen neighborhood boys met in our garage while Alice was their Cub Scout Den Mother. Her scouting activities locally and at the Council level earned her the Silver Beaver Award, the highest award for women in Scouting. She was also active with my Campfire Girls group. Alice made costumes, led crafts, wrote skits, and brought fun to every gathering, honing her organizational skills. Handy with a hammer and saw, multi-talented Alice made a light-up display that showed how a bill became a law for a citizenship class she taught for youth group merit badges and beads. She also held free SAT preparation classes for neighborhood teens in our house.

As her children left for college, Alice attended Cal State University, Fullerton, and received an M.S. in Counseling, adding more skills to her repertoire. She became an expert in the Myers Briggs Personality Theory, co-writing the book Effective Teaching, Effective Learning: Making the Personality Connection in Your Classroom with her daughter-in-law, Lisa Fairhurst. Teaching and providing career counseling at the United College of Business built the foundation for her to join the campus at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she worked with everyone from support staff to top scientists, helping employees bring out their innate talents. She enjoyed seeing how people operated, observing their behavior, and respecting them for their strengths and differences. While at JPL, Alice helped start the campus Asian American Group.

As she prepared to retire from the corporate world, Alice observed other retirees and decided to emulate the more active and involved ones. She had been intrigued by genealogy for years. It was time to get involved and continue her mission of understanding people from various backgrounds. Alice has personally been a key element in passing down the love of genealogy to future generations.

Her greatest fulfillment has been her involvement in genetic genealogy. Alice spent nine years working on the YDNA Tree, communicating with scientists and laypeople worldwide. She was there to experience the big breakthrough from a few SNPs that could all fit on one page to the SNP explosion. With her DNA work, Alice is proud to have been part of something that has greatly impacted the world. She reinvented and volunteered at the Southern California Genealogical Society and Library.  Alice has served a record seven terms as President of SCGS. Throughout the years, she held many titles: editor of The Searcher, chair of the DNA Group and the British Isles Group, facilitator of many roundtables, and knowledgeable speaker on various genealogical topics to multiple groups. As President, she made it a priority to emphasize multiple ethnic groups. Alice has been driven by a desire to help the community in one way or another, and this has shown in all the lives she has touched and inspired.

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