Meet Ezekiel Estes, son of Susanna Estes and ? Ezekiel was born in 1814 in Halifax County, Virginia, and died in 1885, not terribly long after the camera was invented. That is clearly when this photo was taken, at his death.
His great-grandchildren didn’t know that his father was ? The family rumor had always been that Susanna, his mother, was apparently married to an Estes cousin, which explained why her surname as a “widow” was the same as her maiden name. However, a lot of courthouse records research, reading of old depositions that still exist and DNA testing of a descendant proved that indeed, Ezekiel’s father was not an Estes man.
How many of you have a photo like this, or maybe one even better, with the casket showing? Believe it or not, people made postcards of these kinds of photos. In the early 1900s, there were photos of children who had died that were dressed and posed with the parents, as if they were still alive. Can’t make it to the funeral, don’t worry…you get a picture.
But back then, once someone was dead, they were, well, dead forever… gone, except for that one photo. Today, that’s not quite the case, because one can preserve DNA and part of that person will live forever through the information their DNA provides. I mean, if we had Ezekiel’s actual DNA, we might be able to figure out who his father was.
So, what do you do if you meant to have Aunt Gladys swab at the family reunion this summer, but she had the bad judgment to pass away at Memorial Day? Don’t just throw up your hands and show up at the funeral empty handed. The funeral director is your friend. They do a fine job of cheek swabbing.
Call Family Tree DNA (on the phone, not e-mail), tell the customer service representative the situation and ask for a kit to be overnighted to either the funeral director or a family member who can be counted on to take it to the funeral director the same day. The funeral director will swab the cheek of the dearly departed and you will indeed still have the DNA information that Aunt Gladys meant to give you at the reunion. Indeed, it’s a wonderful last gift and legacy for her to leave for you and the rest of her family and descendants.
Yes, and I know the next question that’s coming. What about digging up the dead or testing things left behind? Well, you’ll have to wait for a future article to discuss that in detail. It’s much easier and infinitely less expensive to get a swab kit to the funeral director, let’s put it that way. Plus, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get DNA from a cheek swab and attempting to retrieve DNA from personal items later is less than 50% successful, best case, and sometimes much less. So, enlist the help of the funeral director, call Family Tree DNA or keep a swab kit handy at home at all times!