Unwelcome Discoveries and Light at the End of the Tunnel, 52 Ancestors #156

Mother used to say that things happen in groups of 3. These past couple weeks have proven her old adage to be true. What an emotional roller-coaster!

Sooner or later, every genealogist meets an ancestor they really don’t like. One whose personal values are diametrically opposed to their own in a way that causes the genealogist some amount of…well…let’s just say consternation. Maybe even soul searching as you struggle to understand. And maybe you can’t understand and you wish the ancestor just wasn’t yours.

I met one of those when I wrote about Thomas Day, the probable wife murderer. When I discovered his murderous history, which looks very much like he beat his wife to death, given that he was found sitting by her dead body, I even checked my pedigree chart to see how far back he fell. The answer is 9 generations, meaning that if I carry any of his DNA at all, today, it would be on average 0.195% of his DNA, less than one fifth of 1%. I felt like I dodged that bullet. Whew!!

Coping Mechanisms

It’s interesting to see how people cope with revelations like this. This ancestor is so distant that you can emotionally distance yourself in many ways – by saying he might not be a murderer after all, by compensating for his behavior by making excuses, by minimizing the negative information, by emotionally divorcing yourself from him, or by accepting the evidence, feeling empathy for his spouse and realizing that he, 9 generations ago, really has nothing to do with you today.

But let’s face it. Who wants an icky ancestor?

Each of the ancestors in our tree has bad and good, some more bad than good, and some vice versa. We know so very little about any of our ancestors that we define them by the snippets, good or bad, that we do know. Keep in mind that each of those people did indeed do one thing that was very important to you – and that’s to beget your ancestor who begot another ancestor who a few generations later had one of your parents who had you. You would not exist, as you, without them – regardless of anything else in their life. You are their legacy every bit as much as what they did when they were alive.

We can simply hope we don’t “inherit” the “murderous” proclivity, genes, or whatever brought that person to that place in time in a way that led to that behavior – whether the driving factor was some something social, situational or genetic. We hope that the trait or tendency was not passed to us, today, either through genetics or family dynamics, meaning learned behaviors by example.

Whatever it was, we don’t want it!

Mental Illness – The Untouchable Topic

Of course, there is the possibility that mental illness was involved. Mental illness tends to be the topic that no one, and I mean no one, discusses.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, in my family line, a descendant of Thomas Day, Joel Vannoy, Thomas Day’s great-great-grandson was in fact committed to the Eastern State Mental Hospital for the insane in Knoxville, Tennessee. Joel was my great-great-grandfather.

The people in Tennessee who told me all kinds of things when I first began visiting and talking about genealogy never revealed that. They talked about wife cheaters and wife beaters and women having children not fathered by their husbands and “carrying on” with the preacher, but no one ever talked about mental illness. That was THE taboo subject.

After I made that discovery, quite by happenstance, in the court records, it turned out that people knew. Then the uncomfortable discussion immediately turned to which side of the family the “crazy came down from.” Everyone was very anxious to distance themselves not from Joel himself, but from the possible spectre of mental illness – and by virtue of the unsaid, that it was or could be found in their line as well.

Joel wasn’t dangerous, just “preachin’, swearin’, and threatenin’ to fight,” according to his hospital paperwork, but his grandson, my grandfather might have been a different matter.

Smoke and Fire

My grandfather, William George Estes, seemed to have a somewhat distant relationship with a moral compass. He not only cheated on my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, but with her own young cousin. After my grandmother divorced him, he married that cousin. They moved to Harlan County, Kentucky where he was a moonshiner and then cheated on her with her cousin. See a pattern here, perhaps? Divorced and married again, he treated that third wife very poorly, according to my mother who visited a grand total of one time. Mother was horrified and did not wish to discuss the situation.

Sometimes oral history is right, and sometimes it’s wrong, but there is often some sort of fire where there is smoke. In the case of William George Estes, there are troubling whispers about the murder of a revenue agent. I have no idea if that story is true, but I do know that one of his children starved to death, according to the death certificate. No one talked about that either. In fact, until I found the death certificate quite by accident, I never knew the child existed. I wanted to believe that the cause of death was wrong, but then I recalled that my father’s sister reported that when they were young, they didn’t have enough food and the children were fed moonshine to keep their hungry stomachs from hurting and so that they would sleep.

Imagine hearing this about your parent and grand-parents. Imagine living like that as a child. Imagine being my father.

Then, add to that the fact that the Aunt, who was somewhat inclined to embellish, said that when your grandparents divorced, when your father was about 12, neither parent wanted your father or his brother who was younger by two years. The boys, desperate, hopped on a freight train with the hobos, finally making their way back to Tennessee, from Indiana, to their grandparents’ home. They arrived very hungry and dirty. I didn’t want to believe that, but after being told the same thing by three different people with personal knowledge, I realized it was true.

Mind you, the mother who didn’t want him is the mother my father cared for, at home, for months, in her final lengthy illness in 1955. He did not betray her as she had betrayed him.

That unwanted 12 year old child turned into a 14 year old who lied about his age to enter the service in World War I. Anything was probably better than trying to scavenge. It’s no wonder he spent the majority of his life, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places” and trying to pretend everything was OK when it wasn’t.

I have never believed, nor do I believe today, that the past is necessarily a predictor or deterministic of the future. I don’t believe that parents’ actions dictate what the child will turn out to be, either bad or good, although they certainly have an influence. The world is full of examples that disprove that logic, in both directions. I fully believe that nurture can either overcome or mediate nature – excepting of course for barriers like Down’s Syndrome that people are born with – and that our own personal decisions are what drives and determines our lives. Of course, sometimes there seems to be no nurture, but still, we have the ability to choose and to change – to create our own destiny.

My father was no angel. He was human. I have no idea how much of his behavior sprung from his early environment, but I know that later he made choices that were not in his own best interest and he paid dearly for them.

The Father I Knew

The father I knew loved me, doted on me in fact, for just short of 8 years. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1963.

He spent quality time with me when I did see him. He made special meals and I got to have special “coffee” with him. Coffee parties instead of tea parties. Of course, “coffee” was really warm milk and sugar with enough coffee to look like today’s latte. He played dolls with me, pulled me in my red wagon and often held me as I slept. I have no bad or negative memories of him.

My parents separated when I was young. While my father was a doting father to me, he was also doting in a different way, it appears, on women other than my mother.  A long-time pattern with my father it seems, as with his father.

My “half-brother,” Dave, who also knew my father, remembered him in the same affectionate way.

The father we knew took us fishing and was a man we adored. Our father rescued animals in need, a raccoon whose mother was killed on the road, an orphan duck and a little dog named Timmy. He rescued people too, including two orphan children from the orphanage in Knightstown, Indiana with his last wife, Virgie.

Dave and I who were born when my father was in his 50s have very different memories about my father than my sister, Edna, who was born when my father was in his 20s.

Edna did not know our father as a child and her opinion of him was formed entirely from her mother’s perspective.

My father did find Edna as an adult and tried to establish a relationship, as best you can after a prolonged absence. Pictured above, my father with Edna’s children between about 1958-1960.

I surely don’t blame Edna’s mother for how she felt, as my father was anything but a model husband – at least until his last marriage.

His last wife, Virgie, a lovely woman, knew him, understood him and loved him. In a letter to me after his death, she wrote that no matter what anyone said about him, no one knew what he had survived as a child and that he was not all bad. Perhaps he at last finally found the love he sought so desperately. I hope so. He was killed two years and 3 days after their marriage.

Our Identity

Our identity, in many ways, is tied to our family – to our parents. It’s tied to knowing that our parents are our parents, that our father is our father, that our siblings are indeed our siblings. It’s rooted in what we believe to be true and in good memories that make us feel warm, wanted and loved.

Our identity is uprooted when we discover something that contradicts, challenges or disproves that identify, and to say it’s upsetting is just about as big an understatement as can be made.

It shakes our very worldview, of ourselves and our place in the family. It makes us question if we are somehow less worthy because of circumstances beyond our control. We wonder if we were unwanted, a mistake, or an inconvenience.

We question who we really are. These types of discoveries are life-shaking and life-altering.

Grief

I’ve always felt that many times, I’ve been brought to and through something to provide me with perspective so that I can help others. Perhaps that’s one way of making bad things alright – of finding a plateau for acceptance – or maybe it’s just my justification for why bad or painful things happen. The silver living, so to speak. Regardless, it’s a way of helping others through situations that are almost impossible to understand without having walked a mile in those shoes.

Sometimes that mile is awfully long, uphill and freefalling at the same time, and treacherous, let me tell you. The worst roller-coaster ride you’ll ever experience.

Such was the case with the discovery that my brother, Dave, wasn’t really my brother. I then spent months doubting that my father was my father, only to discover that he was my father, and not Dave’s father. It was a miserable few months filled with doubt, dread and anxiety. The end was a mixture of relief for myself and anguish for Dave’s loss – information I never shared with him because he was terminally ill at that point.

In essence, I twice, within a few months, lost the brother I so loved.

That experience gave me the opportunity to experience the agony that others would as well, but also to learn that love really has nothing to do with biology. The depth of suffering is equal to the depth of love.

When we lose what we believe, there is grief involved. Grief over the lost truth, over the part of what we believed ourselves to be that isn’t, doesn’t exist, and dies before the rebirth of a revised identity.

Sometimes grief over the fact that someone lied to us, or hid the truth – even if they believed it was for our own good or their own protection. Grief has many reasons and many forms. But when we lose something we held dear, in any form, we grieve.

The Double Whammy

When grief is mixed with betrayal, it’s even worse. Betrayal takes a couple of forms too. Betrayal of oneself, of a moral compass, or personal betrayal by someone we love and thought we could trust.

Think of betrayal of a moral compass as occurring when someone does something that they know they shouldn’t – and do it anyway. And I’m not talking about eating chocolate here – but actions that are socially, culturally or legally unacceptable – generally addressed by legal or severe personal consequences.

Think of personal betrayal as when you discover that your spouse cheated on you.

Sometimes betrayals involved both kinds of issues. Those are particularly ugly.

Times Three

This past week or two, I’ve gotten to experience up close and personal three different betrayal/grief situations – although they are not all three mine. Two belong to close friends, which means I share their pain as I have been involved in their respective journeys.

In one case, a woman accidentally discovered through DNA that her mother and her uncle are half instead of full siblings. Yes, there are all kinds of reasons why that might be, but the first assumption out the gate is always that grandma cheated. That may not be the case, but other options, like the possibility that nonconsensual sex might be involved is also disturbing. Most of us clearly know what is involved in begetting, but we really don’t want to know the details of grandma’s sex life. TMI.

Regardless of why, the revelation that the person you grew up with believing was your full sibling is not, and the entire family lived in ignorance, except for one person, who probably lived a lie – is very disturbing on several levels. It means rethinking everything and everyone involved. It also means you’ll probably never know what really happened, but you get to deal with all of the possibilities. A homework assignment no one signs up for.

Been there, done that. It’s ugly and it takes time to get used to your new identity that you don’t like nearly as well as your old one. Your family members get new identities too. And grandma? You’re just confused about her, at the same time remembering that women at that time had very few options. All I can say is try not to judge.

It takes time to process through all of this very emotional high drama, especially when you suddenly realize you’ve spent several decades working on the genealogy of a line that isn’t yours. One more thing to grieve.

In the second case, a friend discovered the identity of his father, after decades of looking, being one of two brothers. Along with that, he discovered why the secret was closely guarded by his mother for her entire life. It’s one of those stories that would make a wonderful soap opera or reality TV show – so long as it’s not your own story. It’s also incredibly sad on so many levels.

My friend is well adjusted. He’ll absorb this, he’ll deal with it and go on. He now owns the truth he sought for so long. However, I know he was hoping that maybe his father had “only been a married man.” At one time, his mother having an affair with a married man seemed scandalous, but compared to the truth, it’s the tame option.

While these types of events are extremely interesting and colorful if they aren’t your ancestors, they are far from amusing when you discover that they pertain to your parent.

Which leads me to the third situation. My own.

Let’s just say that sometimes you have to go through a really dark tunnel to emerge into the light.

The Dominoes Fall

There is a great irony to the fact that I am probably the only person, ever, that knows, or will know when I’m finished, the truth about my father’s life. Except for my father, William Sterling Estes, himself, of course.

The dominoes began to fall a couple weeks ago. And they haven’t stopped. Just when I think there can’t possibly be any more left to discover, there is. It there a bottom to this barrel?

While the two circumstances with my friends involved DNA, one as the accidental medium of discovery, and one as the solution to the long-standing question of paternity, my situation, ironically, has nothing at all to do with DNA.

What are the chances, right?

Sometimes people think that only DNA reveals unsettling surprises, but that’s not the case. Unmasking the truth is as old as genealogy and research itself.

I’ve been prepared for years to find an unknown sibling, or two, or maybe three. Kind of hopeful, actually, since all of the ones I know about are deceased. Nope, that didn’t happen via DNA.

What I have discovered is why there was such a big gap in my father’s life.

Pandora’s Box

Let’s just say I’m struggling through this. I am extremely grateful for the woman who sent me the information, but man alive, has it ever opened a Pandora’s box. Like my friend who unveiled the identity of his father, I got what I wanted but the situation discovered is very disturbing on several different levels – which is obviously why it was hidden by anyone who knew.

The information revealed that my father was using an alias, and was prosecuted for statutory rape after marrying a 15 year old girl. The female in question had listed her age on the marriage license as 18, and had previously told him she was 24 when they met. The testimony asserts that the girl’s mother told my father that the female in question was 15 five days before they were married, which means that he committed statutory rape, because he was an adult. And yes, he went to prison for a felony – for having sex with his wife, who was less than 30 days away from being 16 which was the legal age of consent in that state at that time.

Scratching your head as to how that makes sense? Me too.

The first thing I did was to have a huge meltdown when I saw the words statutory rape. I mean, the second word is horrible enough, before the addition of the first word. That was before I discovered the details, almost two weeks into this nightmare, specifically the age discrepancy issue and the fact that the wife lied about her age on the marriage license – and that the “event” was consensual. I breathed a huge sigh of relief about the consensual part, because I really did not want to think of my father in the way I typically think of a rapist.

There had been vague rumblings in the family about a situation like that, but I thought I had disproved those rumors years ago, based on when and where my father applied for his Social Security card. I was wrong. This was something entirely different. The original rumbling was probably two stories conflated together or someone who only knew a tidbit. That old smoke and fire thing again.

I found it difficult to believe that my father was sentenced to prison under the stated circumstances, so I talked to a historian at the archives in the state where this occurred and then visited the county where the trial proceedings remain.  The verdict; yes, that is exactly what happened and why. If a male over the age of consent had sex with a female under the age of consent, it was considered statutory rape. There was absolutely no legal differentiation between that and forcible rape, and the mandatory sentence was the same too.

The woman who sent me the original information assumed I knew about “it” and had omitted the information from his timeline because of what “it” was. Believe me, “it” was news to me.

If you’re saying “Holy Cow” or the same phrase with another word in place of cow, so was I. I walked around for days shaking my head and doing the facepalm. I desperately want to grab ahold of my father, shake him, and scream, “What the hell were you thinking?”

An alias and an underaged girl – what was he thinking? My mother had a saying about that kind of behavior too – something to do with thinking with the wrong body part.

Of course, I’m assuming here that my father did in fact know her true age, but I suspect that he had no idea he could be prosecuted if they were married. Perhaps that’s why they married. Or maybe he believed the girl’s version of her age. His testimony is not included in the case because he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

Why did he do that, considering the length of a sentence for statutory rape? Perhaps to spare his wife from having to testify about very private things? Maybe he didn’t fully understand. We’ll never know, because I clearly can’t ask him what he was thinking.

I do know, based on his letters, that he didn’t realize that his wife divorced him a couple years later. How sad is that?

And in the greatest of ironies, the judge who sentenced him wound up trying to help him, saying that his hands were tied in the situation by the guilty plea and the mandatory sentence required.

The Maze

I feel like I’ve spent the past two weeks or so living in a twisty-turny maze that rivals any spine-tingling gripping can’t-put-it-down novel I’ve ever read. Except this is no novel.

As any good genealogist knows, there are clues to be followed. And yes, because I can’t not know, I dug into every clue with the tenacity of a beagle after a fresh bone.

It’s been a productive search too, finding records at state and county archives. Many records. Some with depositions and testimony. Some include heartbreaking letters…from my father.

My father did go to prison, but he was not a violent man. He seemed to have been somewhat impulsive and he loved too many women, the wrong women, too closely together. I can’t help but wonder if there are more wives and marriages yet to be discovered, but because he was using an alias or aliases, I’ll likely never know. If you’re up for some high drama entertainment, you can read more about my father’s story here.

I’m guessing alcohol played a part in his errant decisions too. I’m not surprised, given what we know about his childhood. Both of his brothers had alcohol issues as well. Maybe nature and nurture were both stacked against them.

My mother and others said that my father fought with the demon, alcohol, and tried repeatedly to “get clean.” Those were the days before AA. At his death, Virgie, his wife at the time, said he was clean and had “dried out” in the VA hospital in Fort Wayne. Her daughter said he had fallen off the wagon. Regardless of whether he ultimately won that battle in his 60s or was defeated one last time by alcohol, alcoholism surely informed many of his decisions and negatively affected the relationships in his life in the years my mother knew him – and probably earlier as well.

Yes, my father’s life was “colorful” in a very sad way and the price he paid was heart-wrenching and dark. I shudder to think about his life in prison. I’m still struggling with the reality of my father and prison and all of the associated connotations and baggage.

A history of prisons in the state where he served exists, and it’s so horrid I haven’t been able to read more than a few paragraphs at a time. Yes, prisoners deserve to serve time, but they don’t deserve to be chained together for up to 18 hours a day, working on road construction in the unrelenting heat as, one by one, they fall and die. That’s torture, not punishment or rehabilitation.  He served during that time. Is it any wonder that the prison’s detailed inmate records for this time period have somehow disappeared over the years?

More than once in these past couple of weeks I have wondered if it would have been an easier discovery to find out he wasn’t my father at all – rather than to discover my father was not quite who I thought he was.

Conflict

I will be sharing more with you as I can, while respecting the privacy of people who may still be living. When you’re doing genealogy, you really never expect the big reveal to be your parent – and certainly not in quite this way.

But first, before I can share more, I have to finish the research and get through this dark space and out of the tunnel into the light.

I’m both very angry with my father for his behavior that can’t be called anything but massively stupid, at best, and predatory at worst. It’s very difficult to wrap my head around that and to know that I’ll probably never really know whether he was in some ways a victim himself or whether he was, in truth, a slimy bottom feeder. Or some combination of both.

At the same time, my heart aches terribly for him based on some of the evidence that has come forward. He was, after all, my father, the man I loved and adored. The thought of him being tortured, for years, tears at the very fabric of my soul. Yet, he survived, and so will I.

It’s hard to feel this conflicted about someone you dearly loved and idolized as a child and who was ripped from your life by death. It’s also very difficult to reconcile the man I knew with the man in the impersonal black and white words of the legal proceedings staring back at me resolutely and unblinkingly from paper yellowed with age.

I am sharing this most difficult journey because I want others who find themselves in this darkness, regardless of the details of what put you into this space, to know that you are not alone.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

For all of you who might make or have made an inconvenient or unwelcome discovery – through DNA or through traditional genealogical records – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And yes, it’s really dark and ugly and lonely in the tunnel, because it’s a tunnel you have to walk alone.

As you struggle in that dark place, I want you to remember something.

You are YOU, not someone else. You may be a biological product of your parents, but more so you are a product of your own hard work and your personal decisions. Your accomplishments and your decisions are yours. Parents don’t get the credit and they don’t get the blame.

Whatever the dark space, you are the awesome outcome, regardless of anything else. You have the opportunity and potential to shine.

Unwelcome discoveries like this may cause you to doubt or devalue yourself. Don’t.

Just. Don’t. Go. There.

There is a fork in the road, multiple forks in the road, for all of us, and it’s the choice you make at those forks that matters. Those forks define your life.  Your forks – your decisions, not theirs. Their forks do not reflect on you.

Your life is your book. Your parents only get an opening chapter. You get to write the rest. Those are your blank pages to fill. Yours. Only yours.

You are only in control of you. Your ancestor’s decisions, while they clearly affect your life in terms of your existence, where you were born and your economic circumstances, do not define who you are or dictate the kind of person that you evolve to be or the choices you make.

Regardless of the creepy critters in the dark haunted tunnel, the trap doors and the spider webs, there is a light at the end and you will emerge a better and more empathetic person than you entered. It’s painful, but not fatal.

Just keep walking, putting one foot in front of the other, and don’t be afraid. The discovery is the worst part, and by the time you’re walking in that tunnel, the discovery is over. You’re now in the healing process. Your wounds will become scars that testify to your strength and survival. Be proud of your resilience.

Just. Keep. Walking.

As I used to say to my kids, “the only way to it is through it.”

Feel the feelings you need to feel, but don’t let those consume you or define you either – and don’t wallow there. No good will come of that. Purposefully walk through the tunnel and out the other end into the warmth and light. The rest of your life is waiting for you, and you ARE the light for others.

Easter is, after all, a time of resurrection and redemption – of the earth when flowers joyfully spring from their long sleep and as our souls emerge from colorless hibernation as well.

Take heart, spring always arrives, no matter how long, cold or bleak the winter in the tunnel!

Concepts – Undocumented Adoptions vs Untested Y Lines

So you took the Y-line test and you don’t match the surnames you expected to match and now you’re worried. Is there maybe an “oops” in your lineage?

One of two things has happened. Either your line has simply not tested or you have an undocumented adoption in your line.

An undocumented adoption is any “adoption” at any time in history that is not documented – so if you didn’t know about it, it’s an undocumented adoption. Often, these events in genetic genealogy are referred to as NPEs, Non-Paternal Events, but I prefer undocumented adoptions.

Yes, there are myriad ways for this to happen, and I mean besides the obvious infidelity situation, but right now, you only care about figuring out IF you have an undocumented adoption, not how it happened.

How can you tell if your line is one that simply hasn’t been tested of if there is an undocumented adoption in your line? Sometimes you can’t, you’ll simply have to wait until more people of your surname test. Of course, you can always recruit people through the Rootsweb and Genforum lists and boards and social media.

Most of the time this is a process of elimination. If you can’t find anything to suggest that you have an undocumented adoption, then your line is simply probably untested, especially if it’s not a common surname or your ancestors had few male children.

However, there are often clues lurking relative to undocumented adoptions.

Scenario 1 – Right Family, Non-Matching DNA

If you are part of DNA surname project and there are other people who have tested, that you don’t match, that claim the same ancestor as you do – you might have an undocumented adoption on your hands.

In this case, someone’s genealogy is wrong, yours or theirs. By wrong, that doesn’t mean you made a mistake. You (or they) may have tracked the line back to the right ancestor, but instead of being the child of a son of John Doe, for example, your ancestor was the child of the daughter of John Doe, who wasn’t married at the time and had a child by a Smith, but gave the child her surname, Doe.

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So right Doe family, wrong child giving birth. There are also other family situations that are discovered utilizing Y DNA testing, like a child simply using the step-father’s name. In this case, finding more descendants to test, especially through other sons will help resolve the paternity question. Given the scenario above, we really don’t know whether the green or red DNA is the Y DNA of John Doe. We need the DNA of another son to resolve the question.

Scenario 2 – Accurate Genealogy, Undocumented Adoption

If you are part of a DNA surname project and two other people who descend from two separate sons of the same ancestor you claim, both having good solid genealogy back to that ancestor – you do have an undocumented adoption on your hands. This situation pretty much removes any doubt about your ancestral line if you are Steve, below.

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Assuming their genealogy is correct (and yes, the genealogy could be wrong), theirs (the green) is the paternal line from that ancestor, so you need to start looking at situations that might lend themselves to your ancestor having that name but not sharing that paternal genetic line.

The break in the ancestral line can have occurred anyplace between John Doe and son Steve and the tester, Steve V.  You might want to test males descended from men between Steve Doe and Steve Doe V.  Word of warning here – if you don’t want to know the answer, don’t test.  The break could be between you and your father or your father and grandfather.  Sometimes, these possibilities are just too close for comfort.

At this point, I would turn to autosomal testing to see if any of the people in the surname project match you autosomally. That may tell you if you are actually descended from this line at all – perhaps through a female child as described above. With autosomal testing, especially of distant relatives, you can prove a positive, that you are related, but you can’t really prove a negative, that you aren’t related.

If you’re testing second cousins or closer, you can prove a negative.  If you don’t match your full second cousins, there is a problem – and it’s not the genealogy.

Scenario 3 – Matching a Group of Men with a Particular Surname

If you match a significant number of men with other surnames, with one surname in particular being closely matched and quite prevalent, it’s a large hint. For example, let’s say you have 6 matches at your highest marker level, and 5 of them are Miller men descended from the same ancestor. Chances are very good that you are of Miller descent too.

Again, I’d turn to autosomal testing at this point to see how closely you are related to your closest matching Y DNA Millers or others descended from this same ancestral line.

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Scenario 4 – Your Line is Untested

If your surname is something quite unusual, like Ferverda for example, and you don’t fit the situations described above, then it’s likely that your line simply hasn’t tested yet. In this case, the grandfather of our tester was the immigrant from the Netherlands, and Ferverda, both there and in the US, is a very unusual name.

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Of course, your line having not tested can happen with common surnames too.

Utilizing Y Search

Check www.ysearch.org periodically to see if others of your surname took the Y chromosome test elsewhere and just got around to entering the results into YSearch, even though the other testers (Ancestry, Sorenson) have been defunct for some time now relative to Y DNA.

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You can also search at YSearch by surname. You don’t have any way to view results by surname, outside of projects, at Family Tree DNA, so the only way to discover that someone who claims your paternal line and doesn’t match you is to search by surname at YSearch and hope they have included a tree.

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In this example, one person with the Estes surname has results at YSearch, but 40 have Estes in their tree, just not as their patrilineal surname.

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Keep in mind that depending on how far back in time an undocumented adoption occurred, you may find matches to people with that same surname who descend from your common biological ancestor, but you may still not share the original ancestor. In the example above, the Doe men red all match each other, because their unknown Smith ancestor is the same, but they don’t match the descendant of John Doe through son James.

A non-match to men of your same surname isn’t a cause for panic, but it is time to do some additional digging to see if you can discover why.

Happy ancestor hunting!

Henry III, King of England, Fox in the Henhouse, 52 Ancestors #49

I had been so looking forward to the results of the DNA processing of King Richard the III.  Richard was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was reportedly buried in the “choir of the church” at the Greyfriars friary in Leicester. The friary was dissolved in 1538, following the orders of King Henry VIII who ordered all monasteries destroyed.  The building was later destroyed, and over the years, the exact location of the cemetery was lost.  In 2012, the friary location was found again, quite by accident and remains believed to be King Richard III were discovered buried under the car park, or what is known as a parking lot in the US.

Richard had a very distinctive trait – scoliosis to the point where his right shoulder was higher than his left.  He was also described, at age 32, as a fine-boned hunchback with a withered arm and a limp.  This, in addition to his slim build and his battle injuries led investigators to believe, and later confirm through mitochondrial DNA matching, that it was indeed Richard.  At least they are 99% sure that it is Richard using archaeological, osteological and radiocarbon dating, in addition to DNA and good old genealogy.

Mitochondrial DNA testing was initially used to identify Richard the III by comparing his mitochondrial to that of current individuals matrilineally descended from his sister, Anne of York.  That DNA was rare, and matched exactly in one case, and with only one difference in a second descendant, so either the skeleton is Richard or another individual who is matrilineally related.  Fortunately, Richard’s mtDNA was quite unusual, with no other individuals matching in more than 26,000 other European sequences.  The scientists estimated that the chances of a random match were about 1 in 10,000.  The scientific team has utilized other evidence as well and feel certain that they have identified King Richard III himself.

King Richard III did not have any surviving descendants, so why was I so excited?

As it turns out, his Y DNA is representative of the Plantagenet family line which includes King Richard III’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, King Edward I, who is also my 19th great-grandfather, which would make King Richard III my 5th cousin, 16 times removed, I think.  Maybe.

According to a paper released this week by Turi King, et al, “Identification of the remains of King Richard III”, it seems that there is a bit of a fly in the ointment.  It’s no wonder this paper was in peer review forever.  The authors knew that when it was released, it would be the shot heard round the world.  For one thing, a tiny trivial matter, one of the possible outcomes could call into question the legitimacy of the current English monarchy.  Only a detail for an American, but I’m thinking this is probably important to many people in England, especially those who think they should be the ruling monarch, and in particular, to the ruling monarch herself.

I wonder if Dr. Turi King rang up the Queen in advance with the news.  I mean, what would you say to her???  How, exactly, would one begin that conversation?  “Um, Your Highness, um, I think there has been a fox in the henhouse…”

In order to confirm the Y DNA line of King Richard III, his Y DNA was compared to that of another descendant of King Edward III, the great-grandson of my ancestor, Edward I.  Edward III had two sons, Edmund, Duke of York from whom King Richard III descended and John of Gaunt, from whom the other Y DNA testers descend.  Five male descendants of Henry Somerset were tested for comparison.  Of those five, four matched each other, and one did not, indicating an NPE (nonparental event) or undocumented adoption in that line.  The pedigree chart provided in the paper, below, shows the line of descent for both the Y and mitochondrial DNA participants.

Richard III tree

Now, what we have is an uncertain situation.  We know that Richard’s mitochondrial DNA matches that of his sister’s descendants, Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig, shown at right, above.

We know that the Y DNA of Richard does not match with the Y DNA of the Somerset line.  We know that in the Somerset line, there were two illegitimate births, according to the paper, in the 13 generations between John of Gaunt and Henry Somerset, which were later legitimized.   The first illegitimate birth is John Beaufort, the oldest illegitimate child of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford, who later became John’s third wife.  Katherine was previously married to a knight in the service of John of Gaunt, who is believed to have died, and was governess to John of Gaunt’s daughters.

The second illegitimate birth is Charles Somerset (1460-1526) who was the illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort and Joan Hill, about whom little is known.

The Somerset line proves to be downstream of haplogroup R1b-U152 (x L2, Z36, Z56, M160, M126 and Z192) with STR markers confirming their relationship to each other.  King Richard III’s haplogroup is G-P287.

Richard III haplotree

In this case, we don’t even need to scrutinize the STR markers, because the haplogroups don’t match, as you can see, above, in a haplotree provided in the paper.

The paper goes on to say that given a conservative false paternity rate of between 1 and 2% per generation, that there is a 16% probability of a false paternity in the number of generations separating King Richard III and the Somerset men.

What does this really mean?

According to the paper:

“One can speculate that a false-paternity event (or events) at some point(s) in this genealogy could be of key historical significance, particularly if it occurred in the five generations between John of Gaunt (1340–1399) and Richard III). A false-paternity between Edward III (1312–1377) and John would mean that John’s son, Henry IV (1367–1413), and Henry’s direct descendants (Henry V and Henry VI) would have had no legitimate claim to the crown. This would also hold true, indirectly, for the entire Tudor dynasty (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I) since their claim to the crown also rested, in part, on their descent from John of Gaunt. The claim of the Tudor dynasty would also be brought into question if the false paternity occurred between John of Gaunt and his son, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. If the false paternity occurred in either of the three generations between Edward III and Richard, Duke of York, the father of Edward IV and Richard III, then neither of their claims to the crown would have been legitimate.”

While the known illegitimate births in the Somerset line lead us to look at those generations with scrutiny, the break in the Y chromosome inheritance could have happened in any generation, on either side of the tree.

According to the BBC article announcing the DNA results:

“Henry’s ancestor John of Gaunt was plagued by rumors of illegitimacy throughout his life, apparently prompted by the absence of Edward III at his birth. He was reportedly enraged by gossip suggesting he was the son of a Flemish butcher.

“Hypothetically speaking, if John of Gaunt wasn’t Edward III’s son, it would have meant that (his son) Henry IV had no legitimate claim to the throne, nor Henry V, nor Henry VI,” said Prof Schurer.”

So where does this leave us? I wonder if anyone has the name of that Flemish butcher????

Will the real Plantagenet, please stand up…or maybe be dug up.

What we need is a tie-breaker.  Although the paper did not state this explicitly, I’m sure that the scientists also knew that they needed a tie-breaker – a male that descends through all males from someone upstream of Edward III.  It appears that the Plantagenet line may well be a dead end, other than the Somerset line.  I’m sure, with all of the resources brought to bear by the authors of this paper, that if there was another Plantagenet Y DNA male to be found, they would have done so.

So, the bottom line is that we don’t know what the real Plantagenet Y DNA line looks like, short of exhuming one of the Plantagenet Kings.  They are mostly buried in Westminster Abbey in crypts. The Plantagenet line could be a subgroup of haplogroup R1b-U152. It could be haplogroup G.  And, it could be yet something else.  How?  There could have been a NPE in both lines.  I have seen it happen before.

Purely looking at the number of generations, meaning the number of opportunities for the genetic break to occur, there were 3 opportunities between King Richard the III and his great-great-grandfather, King Edward III, and there were 14 opportunities between Henry Somerset and King Edward III, so it’s more likely to have occurred in the Somerset line.

Richard III Y descent

But that is small comfort, because all it took was one event, and there clearly was one.  We don’t know which one, where.  In this case, probabilities don’t matter – only actualities matter.

Back to my ancestor, King Henry III, father of King Edward I….

Dear Grandpa King Henry III,

I was just writing to catch you up on the news.  This is your 20 times great-granddaughter….you do remember me…right?

I am sorry to report that there seems to have been a fox in the henhouse.  Yes, that would be the Plantagenet henhouse.  No, I don’t know when, or where.  We just have fox DNA.  Yes, we probably also have hen DNA, which would be your DNA, but you see, we can’t tell the difference between fox DNA and hen DNA.

By the way, would you mind trying that Houdini message thing and sending me a message about which DNA is fox and which is hen?

Thanks a million….

Your 20 times great-granddaughter

Even though we will probably never know what the Plantagenet DNA line looks like, we do know a lot about King Henry III, the father of King Edward I.  We also have some idea what King Henry himself looked like.  The effigy on his coffin in Westminster Abbey is shown below.

Henry IIi effigy

King Henry III was born on October 1, 1207 in Winchester Castle, shown below, the son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme, and died on November 16, 1272.  He was known as Henry of Winchester and was King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death.

Winchester Castle

He ascended the throne at age 9, on October 28th, 1216, at Gloucester Cathedral, and ruled under a guardian, council of 13 executors and the tutelage of his mother until he became of age.  He assumed formal control of the government in January 1227, although he didn’t turn 21 until the following year.  He ruled for a total of 56 years.  A 13th century depiction of his coronation is shown below.

Henry III coronation

Henry took the cross, declaring himself a crusader, which entitled him to special protections from Rome.  While Henry never did actually go on Crusade, he might well have joined the Seventh Crusade in 1248 had he not been engaged in such a negative rivalry with the King of France.  After Louis’s defeat at the Battle of Al Mansurah in 1250, Henry announced that he would be undertaking his own crusade to the Levant, but that Crusade never happened.  Henry was aging by that time, at 43. It would he Henry’s son, Edward, who would represent the family in the Crusades, leaving in 1270 for the Eighth Crusade.

Henry was also crowned a second time, after the first Baron’s War, on May 17, 1220, at Westminster Abbey, in an effort to affirm the authority of the King, and with the Pope’s blessing.  The medieval manuscript by Matthew Paris depicts the second coronation.

Henry III second coronation

While the first coronation was hurried after his father’s death and with, in essence, a borrowed crown from Queen Isabella, since the royal crown had been either lost or sold during the war, the second coronation used a new set of royal regalia.

Henry III great seal

Engravings of Henry’s great seal.

Eleanor of Provence

Henry married Eleanor of Provence, daughter of Raymond-Berengar, the Count of Provene and Beatrice of Savoy, whose sisters all married Kings as well.  Eleanor had never seen Henry before their marriage at Canterbury cathedral on January 14, 1236.  At the time of their marriage, she was age 12 and he was 28.  It was feared she was barren at first, but they went on to have 5 children, including Henry’s successor to the crown, Edward I.  Her first child was born when she was age 15.

Royal 14. B. VI, membrane 7

This medieval manuscript chronology from the early 1300s shows Henry III at the top, with his children left to right, the future King Edward I, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine.

In 1239 when Eleanor gave birth to their first child, Edward, named after Henry’s patron saint and ancestor, Edward the Confessor, Henry was overjoyed and held huge celebrations, giving lavishly to the Church and to the poor to encourage God to protect his young son.  Their first daughter, Margaret, named after Eleanor’s sister, followed in 1240, her birth also accompanied by celebrations and donations to the poor.

Eleanor accompanied Henry to Poitrou on a military campaign, and their third child, Beatrice, named after Eleanor’s mother, and born in Poitou, France in1242.

Henry III return from Poitou

This manuscript by Matthew Paris depicts Henry and Eleanor returning to England from Poitou in 1243.

Their fourth child, Edmund, arrived in 1245 and was named after the 9th-century saint.  Concerned about Eleanor’s health, Henry donated large amounts of money to the Church throughout the pregnancy. A third daughter, Katherine, was born in 1253 but soon fell ill, possibly the result of a degenerative disorder such as Rett syndrome, and was unable to speak. She died in 1257 and Henry was distraught.

Henry’s children spent most of their childhood at Windsor Castle and he appears to have been extremely close to his family, rarely spending extended periods apart from them.  King Henry III and Eleanor had the following children:

  1. Edward, eventually King Edward I, was born on June 17, 1239 and died on July 7, 1307. He married Eleanor of Castile in 1254 and Margaret of France in 1299.
  2. Margaret was born on September 29, 1240 and died on February 26, 1275, at age 35. She was the Queen of Scots and married King Alexander III, the King of Scotland at age 11. She had three children; Margaret born in 1261 who married King Eric II of Norway, Alexander born in 1264 who died at age 20 and David born in 1272 who died at age 9.
  3. Beatrice was born on June 25, 1242 and died on March 24, 1275 at the age of 33. She married John II, Duke of Brittany, a love match, and had 6 children. Two of her descendant females would marry kings.
  4. Edmund, known as Edmund Crouchback, was born on January 16, 1245 and died on June 5, 1296, at the age of 51. Crouchback reportedly refers to “crossed-back” and refers to his participation in the Ninth Crusade, although with King Richard III’s scoliosis, I have to wonder. He married Lady Aveline de Forz in 1269 at age 11. She died 4 years later, at age 15, possibly related to childbirth. He then married Blanche de Artois in 1276, in Paris, widow of Henri I, King of Navarre, with whom he had three sons, two of whom revolted against King Edward II.
  5. The story of Katherine is sad indeed. She was born either deaf or a deaf-mute at Westminster Palace on November 25, 1253 and died on Mary 3. 1257, before her 4th birthday. It was obvious at her birth, that in spite of her beauty, something was wrong. As she aged a bit, it also became evident that she was mentally challenged. Matthew Paris, chronicler of King Henry III, described her as “the most beautiful girl, but dumb and useless.” She was therefore not a political asset and was never betrothed. Her parents, however, loved her devotedly.

A few days after her christening, on the day of Saint Edward the Confessor’s death, January 5,1254, the King held a massive banquet, to which he invited all the nobility. The provisions for this banquet included “fourteen wild boars, twenty-four swans, one hundred and thirty-five rabbits, two hundred and fifty partridges, fifty hares, two hundred and fifty wild ducks, sixteen hundred and fifty fowls, thirty-six female geese and sixty-one thousand eggs”.

After Katherine’s death, both Henry and Eleanor were heartbroken.

Although the marriage of Henry III and Eleanor was clearly political in nature, Henry was kind and generous and they apparently came to love each other.  Henry, unusual as compared to other English Kings, had no illegitimate children.

Henry was reported to have a drooping eyelid and an occasional fierce temper, but was generally known to be “amiable, easy-going and sympathetic,” as reported by historian David Carpenter.

Henry III sketch

The sketch above is from Cassell’s History of England published in 1902 but it does not reflect a drooping eyelid.  The painting, below, from an unknown artist in 1620 is titled simply “Edward,” but it does depict the drooping eyelid.  King Edward I was the son of Henry III.  Now, if Richard III had only been reported with a droopy eyelid, we’d have another clue.  Interestingly enough, the National Portrait Gallery has a discussion about the “crooked eye group” of kings, the latest of which is Edward II.

Edward droopy eyelid

Henry III was known for his piety, celebrating mass at least once a day, holding lavish religious ceremonies and giving generously to charities.  He fed 500 paupers each day, fasted before the feast days of Edward the Confessor and may have washed the feet of lepers.  He was often moved to tears during religious ceremonies.  The King was particularly devoted to the figure of Edward the Confessor, whom he adopted as his patron saint.  Edward the Confessor was an early English King who lived a very pious life and who was also Henry III’s 6 times great-grandfather.

Henry reformed the system of silver coins in England in 1247, replacing the older Short Cross silver pennies with a new Long Cross design, shown below. Between 1243 and 1258, the King assembled two great hoards, or stockpiles, of gold. In 1257, Henry needed to spend the second of these hoards urgently and, rather than selling the gold quickly and depressing its value, Henry decided to introduce gold pennies into England, following the popular trend in Italy. The gold pennies resembled the gold coins issued by Edward the Confessor, but the overvalued currency attracted complaints from the City of London and was ultimately abandoned.

long cross pennies

In 1247, Henry was sent the “Relic of the Holy Blood” by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, said to contain some of the blood of Christ.  He carried the Relic through the streets of London from its storage location at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a procession to Westminster Abbey, shown below, by Matthew Paris.  He then promoted the relic as a focus for pilgrimages, but it never became popular.

henry III carrying relic

Henry III’s reign in England was marked by multiple insurrections and allegations of ineffective government at best and improprieties at worst.

Henry started out at a disadvantage due to his age and of course, inexperience as a child.  The first problem happened before Henry was of age.

Taking advantage of the child-king, Louis VIII of France allied himself with Hugh de Lusignan and invaded first Poitou and then Gascony, lands held by the English monarchy. Henry III’s army in Poitou was under-resourced and lacked support from the French barons, many of whom had felt abandoned during the years of Henry’s minority and as a result, the province quickly fell. It became clear that Gascony would also fall unless reinforcements were sent from England.

In early 1225 a great council approved a tax of £40,000 to dispatch an army, which quickly retook Gascony. In exchange for agreeing to support Henry III, the English barons demanded that the King reissue the Magna Carta, originally issued by King John in 1215. Henry complied, declared that the charter was issued of his own “spontaneous and free will” and confirmed the new with the royal seal.  This gave the new Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest of 1225, shown below from the UK National Archives, much more authority than any previous versions. The barons anticipated that the King would act in accordance with these definitive charters, subject to the law and moderated by the advice of the nobility.

1225 great charter

Henry invaded France in 1230, in an attempt to reclaim family lands lost since the reign of King John, but his attempts were both unsuccessful and very expensive.  As you can see, most of the Plantagenet family holdings in France had been lost, except for Gascony.

Plantagenet land in France

The drawing below depicts Henry travelling to Brittany in 1230, by Matthew Paris.

Henry III to Brittany

The English people paid for military actions as well as Henry’s expensive lifestyle, carrying out major remodeling of royal properties, through increased taxes, which caused Henry, over time, to become very unpopular.

In 1258, a group of Barons seized power in a coup, reforming English government through a process called the Provisions of Oxford, which is regarded at England’s first constitution.  This document was the first to be published in English since the Norman Conquest 200 years previously. As a result, Henry ruled in conjunction with a council of 24 members, 12 selected by the crown and 12 by the barons.  Those 24 then selected 2 men to oversee decisions.  This certainly wasn’t what Henry wanted, but he had little choice at the time.

However, in 1261, Henry overthrew the Provisions of Oxford and the superceeding Provisions of Westminster, with assistance from the Pope in the form of a papal bull which started the second Baron’s War.  In 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner at the battle of Lewes, but his oldest son, the eventual King Edward I, escaped from captivity and freed his father the following year.

This time, Henry won and was restored to power, initially reacted harshly, confiscating all of the land and titles of the revolting Barons.  In an effort to bring eventual peace, the Dictum of Kenilworth was issued to reconcile the rebels of the Baron’s War with the King.

Death of Simon de Montfort

Their rebel leader, Simon de Montfort, Henry’s brother-in-law who had married his sister, Eleanor, was now dead at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, shown above. The Dictum pardoned the revolting Barons and restored their previously confiscated lands to them, contingent on payment of penalties equal to their level of involvement in the rebellion, typically 5 times the value of the annual yield of the land.

The spirit of peace and reconciliation established by the Dictum of Kenilworth lasted for the remainder of Henry III’s reign and into the 1290s, although reconstruction was slow.  Henry died in 1272, succeeded by his son, Edward, who became King Edward I, who was on crusade in the Holy Lands at the time of his father’s death.

Although unpopular due to his spending habits, Henry invested significantly in many properties still enjoyed by people today, improving their defenses and adding facilities, including rebuilding Westminster Abbey and his favorite palatial complex by the same name in London.

Westminster complex

The Tower of London was extended to form a concentric fortress with extensive living quarters, although Henry primarily used the castle as a secure retreat in the event of war or civil strife.

Tower of London map

Tower of London as it appears today from the Thames.

Tower of London

Henry also kept a menagerie at the Tower, a tradition begun by his father, and his exotic specimens included an elephant, a leopard and a camel.

Henry III elephant

Henry was given an elephant, above, as a gift by King Louis IX of France.

Henry III visiting Louis IX France

King Henry III visiting Louis IX of France.

Winchester Castle great hall

Among other projects, Henry built the Great Hall of Winchester Castle, shown above.

Perhaps Henry’s legacy contribution is the creation of what would become the English Parliament.  The term “parliament” first appeared in the 1230s and 1240s to describe large gatherings of the royal court, and parliamentary gatherings were held periodically throughout Henry’s reign. They were used to agree to the raising of taxes which, in the 13th century, were single, one-off levies, typically on movable property, intended to supplement the King’s normal revenues for particular projects. During Henry’s reign, the counties began to send regular delegations to these parliaments, and came to represent a broader cross-section of the community than simply the major barons.

In Henry’s last years, he was increasingly ill. He continued to invest in Westminster Abbey, which became a replacement for the Angevin mausoleum at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou, France,  In 1269 Henry oversaw a grand ceremony to rebury Edward the Confessor in a lavish new shrine, personally helping to carry the body to its new resting place in the rebuilt Westminster Abbey.  Edward the Confessor has built the original Westminster Abbey in 1065 which was demolished by Henry III to construct the new Westminster Abbey in its place.

In 1270, Henry’s son, Edward left on the Eighth Crusade and at one time, Henry voiced his intention to join Edward.  That never happened, and Henry III died at Westminster Palace on the evening of November 16, 1272.  Eleanor was probably at his side.

At his request, Henry was buried in Westminster Abbey in front of the church’s high altar, in the former resting place of Edward the Confessor. A few years later, work began on a grander tomb for King Henry III and in 1290, Edward moved his father’s body to its current location in Westminster Abbey.

Henry III crypt

See, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to access the remains of King Henry III…no digging involved!!!  For that matter, we could just skip to the beginning and start with the remains of Edward the Confessor.

Ralph Dean Long (1922-1994), My Stepfather, 52 Ancestors #36

dad1

It was 20 years ago this weekend that he slipped away…this man I loved so much.  Well, slipped away isn’t exactly the right word for it.  He removed his own life support because the family was not united in their decision of what should be done.  So, he somehow rallied the strength and did it himself.  He was one of the bravest men I ever knew…in a very quiet, unassuming, homey type of way.  His final act of bravery only surprised me in that he was able to somehow find the physical strength to do it.

When I think of him, which is often, I think of him in his blue denim overalls.  He was a farmer, a Hoosier with a bit of a lisp and a definite Hoosier drawl, and a breathy, raspy laugh that was interjected between his words many times, like he got his own joke part way through and he just had to laugh before he could continue.  His sentences were full of laughter pauses and punctuations.  But when he was serious, he was dead serious and a man of very, very few words.  God help anyone who hurt someone, human or animal, that he loved.

Dean, as he was called, was born on December 26th, 1922 in Howard County, Indiana to Harley Clinton Long (1878-1949) and Lottie Bell Lee (1881-1962), the youngest of 12 or 13 children.  I never knew his parents.  I did, however, know several of his siblings.

Two of his siblings, Arnold and Wilma, never married.  They lived on the old family farmstead their entire lives.  Another sister, Verma, married but never had children.  She was the eternal sourpuss, and it was the family joke that her husband died to get away from her.  Wilma, on the other hand was the loving sweet aunt and Arnold, well, I’d describe him as a lecherous old man.  My Dad told him once that if he put his hands on me, or my mother, again, he’s kill him – and I do believe he meant it.  More importantly, Arnold believed it.

Dean was married initially to Martha Mae Alexander and they had two children, my step-brother, Gary, and a daughter, Linda who died as an infant.  Linda was born with what appeared from pictures to be Down’s syndrome.  When my daughter was born, Dean gave me Linda’s baby blanket.  I was extremely moved but I could never use it. It’s still safely tucked away.

Dean was grief-stricken when his daughter died at 18 months of age, the day after his birthday and two days after Christmas in 1959, but his heart-ache was only beginning.  His wife had a disease that was, at that time, impossible to diagnose. It was progressive, debilitating and fatal.  I don’t remember the name of the disease, but he carried a newspaper article in his billfold about it, and there were only a handful of known cases at the time.  It took her a decade to die, all while fighting an unknown foe to live and raise her son.

The aunts were Dean’s salvation during this time, because they stepped in and helped take care of Gary while Dean tended to his wife through her many hospitalizations.  This was before the days of handicapped accessibility, but he modified the house with all kinds of aids for her.  Many of which remained long after he and my mother were married simply because they were useful.

After Martha’s death, in 1968, Gary, by then a teenager, began manifesting symptoms of mental illness and was institutionalized episodically for many years.  We always wondered if Gary’s illness was in some way caused in utero by the beginnings of his mother’s horrible illness.

Through all of this, Dean continued to farm, because that was what he did – and if you’re a farmer, you have to farm whether you feel like it or not. He also developed chronic ulcers, had 7 or 8 surgeries to stop the bleeding over the years.  The family was “called in” more than once because he wasn’t expected to survive.  His abdomen looked like a railroad track.

But he did survive, because he had to – he had a family to take care of who needed him desperately.

By the time I met Dean, about 1969, he had joined Parents Without Partners and he was the “fix it” guy for all of the ladies in the group.  He would visit those who needed something fixed, in exchange for dinner or coffee and a doughnut maybe.  Everyone loved Dean.

For a man with so much grief and loss in his life, he was always warm, smiling, friendly and funny.  Nobody didn’t like Dean.  Well, except my Mom.

You see, Dean “took a shine” to her.  Yep, our stuff got fixed first, and he came “calling” complete with flowers wearing his only suit.  My Mom wasn’t interested in a farmer, because she grew up on a chicken farm, hated every minute, and swore she would never go back.  I recall vividly the day that Dean dropped in unexpectedly, carrying flowers and a box of Dunkin Doughnuts, in his ill-fitting too-big light blue suit.  He walked up the driveway hill, smiling and hopeful with a spring in his step carrying the box and flowers carefully, like the crown jewels.  He rang the doorbell.  Mom didn’t want company.  She had worked all day and was tired, plus, she wasn’t interested in a farmer.  I was happy to see Dean and headed to answer the door

Mother stopped me and told me not to answer the door.  He knocked and knocked, long after any hope of an answer disappeared.  Then he turned and walked slowly down the driveway hill, to his car, his shoulders slumped, head down and the flowers hanging forlornly from his hand.  He looked back at the house one more time and there was no smile.  He got in his car and drove away.  I cried and cried, not for myself, but for the oh-so-evident sadness, disappointment and terrible loneliness of that man in the ill-fitting blue suit.  Mother felt terrible and I told her she should.

Apparently something changed, because the door never went unanswered again and Dean became a regular part of our lives.

Then one day he asked me if he could marry my mother.  He and mother went to visit Gary and asked his blessing too.  We began planning a country wedding in a small white church.  Life was glorious for everyone.

dad2

The biggest challenge was introducing our cat to his dog.

I loved life on the farm and I became Dad’s shadow.  One of my biggest joys was to help Dad with the chores – driving the tractor, birthing hogs, whatever.  A few things I didn’t like and Dad was just grateful for any help he had.  Gary wasn’t there much and when he was, didn’t much care for farm work.  My mother fit right in, and was grateful Dad didn’t raise chickens.

I had been without a father since my own father’s death in 1963, so I was extremely grateful to have a father.  Dean became Dad someplace along the line and if you didn’t know I wasn’t his biological daughter, you would never have known.  I always joked with him.  Anything “bad” I told him was his fault and I inherited from him.

One day, he walked in from the barn, walked over to me sitting at the kitchen table, thunked me on the head with his thumb, which was his special gesture of affection, looked at me and said, “Hey, when I married your mother, I got my daughter back.”  His eyes welled up with tears, and then he just walked out of the room like he had told me nothing more important than that the soybeans were sprouting.  He was just that way, a man of very few words but deep commitment and undying love.

Now let’s just say I wasn’t the most well-behaved teenager in the world and I gave my mother multiple episodes of heartburn – and that’s probably putting it very mildly and quite understated.  She, however, got very even with me by wishing that awful mother curse upon me – “May your children be 10 times worse than you are.”  She removed said curse and apologized profusely many years later, but it was too late and the damage was already done.

But Dad, well, he was always the encouraging one.  He told me I could do anything I wanted to do, and that I could be anything I wanted to be…and growing up poor, on a farm, had nothing to do with it.  He looked at me one day, walking past the metal swing outside as we were snapping beans and said, “Bobbi, if anyone changes the world, it will be you,” and just continued walking.

I was dumbstruck, and remember looking at his back walking away after he dropped that bombshell on me.  I wondered what he meant.  But those rare words from Dad sunk in and hit home, and I’ve never forgotten them.

I remember vividly, oh so vividly, when Jim and I were at the National Geographic Society for a DNA Conference in 2005.  As we walked down the huge marble Explorer’s Hall – I looked at Jim and said, “Wouldn’t Dad he surprised?”  Jim said, “Not at all.”  I kind of laughed, because it’s a very long way from the hog farm in Indiana to the Explorer’s Hall in Washington DC.  Dad would have been proud.  However, little that I did ever surprised Dad.  He was the eternal optimist in spite of the horrible challenges he had weathered.

For some reason, possibly because he had lost his only daughter and I had lost my much-beloved father, we formed a special bond.  In fact, a bond so special it transcended his lifetime.  A year or so after his passing, I was sleeping, alone in my house.  Suddenly, in the middle of the night, someone woke me up.  I woke up with a start, sat straight upright, confused and terrified, because I was, supposedly, alone in the house.  I had just a few seconds to think about it, because a fireball suddenly exploded into the bedroom door from the hallway.  The house was on fire, and had I not been awake, I would have perished, trapped in that bedroom.  Yes, it was Dad who woke me up.

So, when I took this picture in my garden this weekend, I wondered where those rays came from.  I certainly didn’t see them when I was taking the photo. Then, I realized that it was indeed 20 years to the day since Dad’s passing.  Leave it up to Dad to say hello like this.  He was such a beautiful soul.

dad3

Mom has joined him now, as has Gary.

Losing Dad happened far too soon, and in large part due to his own choices regarding smoking.  That saddened me and to some extent, angered me, because neither Mom nor I, nor my kids, were ready for him to go.  Mom grieved his death horribly.  It’s also testimony however to how powerful nicotine addiction is – you’ll do it in the face of sure and certain death.  The fact that Dad wanted to, and couldn’t, overcome it saddens me even more.

While losing Dad was terrible, I have so many wonderful memories of him.  And he was such a kind, gentle and funny man.  His quiet demeanor belied his love of humor and a good prank, and I think he was always pondering one in the back of his mind

One of the favorite family stories was when, as a teenager, he stuffed the school heat ducts full of chicken feathers.  When the heat came on in the fall, not only did some of them manage to catch on fire and stink to high heavens, but the rest of them blew out all of the ducts into the classrooms. Of course, he “knew nothing about that,” (chuckle, chuckle) and neither did his brothers, but for some reason, that was a family favorite story for the duration of the lives of the brothers and sisters.  The sisters mostly rolled their eyes.

dad4Another time, Dad dressed up as a pregnant woman for some event – probably a fundraiser for something – likely on a dare.  I had to help him with his dress and bra and teach him how to walk pregnant, in high heels.

dad5

I don’t think he ever got the hang of that.  Mom strapped a pillow on him before he went to the event.  Good thing he didn’t get stopped in this truck.  The local cops would have been talking about that forever.

His baldness was also a topic of conversation and of eternal, unending jokes.  He was not sensitive about it, so it was never off limits.  One time, we bought him a hairbrush for bald men, with no bristles.  I have absolutely no idea when this photo was taken, but he was clearly wearing a wig.

dad6 crop

He loved to Rendezvous and he was a mountain man.

dad7

Those Rendezvous men were all the epitome of pranksters.  One time, when I went to visit, he was fictitiously being “tried” for molesting a ground hog.

To add to things, I got him a “doll” on a couch one year to take along with him.  The doll was wearing something red and black and she reclined on her fainting couch.  She was, perhaps slightly suggestive, a little risqué perhaps, nothing more. That doll on her 3 foot couch was kidnapped immediately and was held for ransom, passed around from camp to camp and tent to tent and appeared here and there, for years.  One time her stockings appeared tied to Dad’s top tent pole like a flag.

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Dad’s Rendezvous nickname was “Hoot” and I don’t think it had to do entirely with an owl either, although clearly a double entendre.  He was, indeed, a hoot.

dad9

Even this younger picture, as a teenager, with Verma, reflects his sense of humor.  They were in Indianapolis and whatever was going on , she was not amused.  She was never amused.  He was always amused.

dad10

He always had stories to tell too, some true and some, well, in the flavor and honor of Rendezvousing.  I have no idea about the red eye in the skull, but I’m sure there was some wonderful story about that, perhaps tailored to the listener.  I do know that he had a very unique turtle shell with vulture feet and a vulture head with feathers for a tail and a variety of stories about how that happened, depending on the audience at hand.

In later years, Dad spent a lot of time with school kids showing them old timey ways to do things.  He would set up his “camp” at the schools in the yard someplace and the classes would come out one by one.

Dad was always making an outfit or something for his encampment out of castoffs.

dad11

He turned just about anything and everything into something useful for his encampment.  I made a lot of his Rendezvous clothes for him.  He made things like buttons out of wood and bone.  Mom and I used to go and visit him when he went “camping.”  He loved that.  Sometimes I would go in period costume too and generally caused some kind of ruckus, which was, of course, the entire point.

One time I announced to everyone that he had gotten my mother pregnant.  At the time, most of them didn’t know I wasn’t his biological child, so it was a tongue in cheek accusation, meant, of course, to give them something to “talk about” over the weekend.  He might have been tried for that too, for all I know.  Couldn’t be worse than molesting a groundhog.  I think he was sentenced to hang for that one, but was rescued by some Indian.  There was always some twist or subplot spontaneously evolving and all in great fun and joviality.  How he always looked forward to the next encampment, which was, of course, the next chapter in a continually unfolding drama with no script.

After Dad passed away, I went to the encampment the next summer in Burlington, his “home” Rendezvous location where they had a memorial, in Rendezvous tradition, to say goodbye to him.  His camp was set up “empty” and on Saturday night, the men all gathered around his campfire.  They all told stories about him and the good times they all shared, like that time he nearly got hung for molesting that groundhog.  I said to them that he could not have been a better father had he been mine biologically.  They got really quiet, then one of them said, “We didn’t know that he wasn’t your father.  We knew that one of you kids was a step-child, but based on how close you were to your Dad, we thought you were the biological child.”  To him, I was his child, pure and simple.

I miss Dad. He could have had another 10 or maybe even 20 years with us.

After his passing, I brought some of his phlox home from the farm and planted it here, along with some of his ferns that grew so thickly along the north side of the farmhouse.

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The purple phlox grows tall here and thrives.  I moved it from my other house when I built this one, along with several ferns.

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Today, I went outside to find the phlox blooming with, and shedding onto, the white Rose of Sharon.  I think of Dad every time I see the phlox blooming and that makes me feel good, just like seeing the ferns unfold their beautiful spikes in rebirth does every spring.  But today, this beautiful combination of the white flower and the purple bloom spoke to me of the purity of love and eternity, and how those that are gone are really still here – forever.  The phlox may have shed its bloom, but it is obviously still quite beautiful.

dad14

I will miss Dad forever, and I will grieve his passing forever, because I will love him forever.  But I will also honor his life by smiling and living with humor, honor and dignity.  I strive to cultivate the qualities in myself I so admired in him and found so inspirational and discovered were my bedrock, and hope to pass them on to my children, by example.  What better legacy could I leave him?

You may wonder why I included this story in my DNA blog.  Well, pure and simple, I inherited a wonderful legacy from Dad, my step-father, and my life was greatly enriched by his presence.  Sometimes, inheritance has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with DNA.  He was as much my Dad, and in some ways more so, than my biological father.  A hundred or two hundred years ago, everyone would have thought I was his daughter and today, we would somehow discover that now dissolved fact and it would be considered a NPE or an undocumented adoption.  It wasn’t a surprise to us, it was just life as we lived it day by day.  It was only a surprise to those who didn’t know, which, 100 years later, would have been everyone.  Think about the fact that in his lifetime, even many of his close friends didn’t realize.

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Why Don’t I Match My Cousin?

no cousin

I receive this question regularly from people who have taken one of the autosomal DNA tests and who expected to match a cousin, but don’t.

Of course, the Jeff Foxworthy in me wants to say, “Because he’s not your cousin,” but fortunately, I never let my inner Jeff Foxworthy out in public.

Actually, that’s often their biggest fear – that they are uncovering a very unpleasant family secret – but Jeff Foxworthy aside – that’s generally not the case.

Let’s take a look at why.

According to Family Tree DNA’s FAQ on the subject, combined with the percentage of DNA shared with each type of cousin, we find the following.

Relationship to You Likelihood of a Match % of DNA Shared
1st Cousin (common grandparents) 100% 7-13
2nd Cousin (common great-grandparents) >99% 3-5
3rd Cousin (common great-great grandparents >90% .3-2
4th Cousin (common ggg grandparents) >50% <1%
5th Cousin (common gggg grandparents) >10% Sometimes none detectable at match threshold
6th Cousin (common ggggg grandparents) <2% Often none detectable at match threshold

If you don’t match your first cousin, then you need to start thinking about Jeff Foxworthy or you’re simply extremely lucky, or unlucky, depending on your perspective.  Buy a lottery ticket. 

In all seriousness, if you don’t match a first cousin, consider having your sibling (or parent) or your cousin’s sibling or relevant parent test as well.  In some cases, two people simply inherit different DNA and even though they don’t match each other, they do match other people in the same family. 

However, if you’re going to go down this path, be prepared that the answer may be that you really aren’t genetic cousins.  By the time you get to this point, you’ve already peeked into Pandora’s box though, so it’s kind of hard to shut the crack and pretend you never looked. 

Another option for determining whether or not you really match that cousin is to download both of your results to GedMatch.  The testing companies have pre-set match thresholds that determine what is and is not a match.  That’s a good thing, but what if your match is just slightly under that threshold, and there aren’t other relatives to test?  GedMatch allows you to match at very small segment levels that would generally be considered population matches and not genealogy matches.  

Judy Russell had the perfect example of just this situation in her Widen the Net blog.  Her mismatch was with a 3rd cousin.  According to this the chart above, she stood a greater than 90% change of matching, but she didn’t, so she’s in the special 10%.  And that 10% gets left wondering.  Fortunately, Judy had tested aunts, uncles and another first cousin, and her cousin who did not match her did match them. 

The moral of this story is:

  • Ignore Jeff Foxworthy when he starts to whisper in your ear, at least initially
  • Test as many family members as you can
  • Don’t jump to conclusions
  • Utilize third party tools like GedMatch if necessary
  • Understand that if you test enough family lines, you will eventually find an undocumented adoption someplace

Happy First Blogiversary

may you live in interesting times

Today is the first anniversary of the launch of www.dna-explained.com.  In a way it seems like just yesterday and in another way, it seems like DNA-explained has been a part of my life forever.  One thing is for sure, it’s been a very interesting year!

So now, I’m going to tell you a secret.

I was going to retire early and write a book.  I was going to have time on my hands.  I was going to work on my own genealogy and share the journey of what I learned.  I was going to weed my garden.  Are you laughing now?  Holding your sides?  Well, if so, you clearly understand just how unrealistic that expectation was.

I have less, much less, time now than ever.  My little part-time retirement job overtook my original career, and then some.  I’ve never worked harder, had less sleep, nor loved it more.  Is sleep really a necessity?  Seems like so much wasted time.  Spoken like a true genealogist!

Genetic genealogy is the marriage of my two passions, genealogy and science.  I spent my entire career on the very exciting edge of technology, first communications research and discovery, then mapping and specialized software.  Genetic genealogy isn’t much different actually, except it’s more bleeding edge (some days) than leading edge and it’s much more personal and fulfilling.  Not only have I learned volumes about my own ancestors – things there was no prayer of knowing even a decade ago – but I get to help others on that journey too.  Not only that, but I’ve gotten to be personally involved in scientific discovery.  I can’t imagine a better place to be!

And no, I’m not writing a DNA book.  Well, actually, I am, soft of – but just in a different way.  Blogs are the way of the future – so is electronic communication.  The problem with books about fast-moving and highly technical topics is that they move on and change so rapidly that tomorrow, literally, your book can be out of date and you have no way to update it.  Just what I don’t need is another box of boat-anchors in my office.

Not long ago, someone on the ISOGG Facebook page asked for a list of books and someone replied, “forget the books, read the blogs.”  I don’t want to invest the effort into one of those “forgotten books” when the blogosphere beckons and is so much more friendly towards photos, graphics, color and change.  It’s also a lot more personal and flexible.  And it lets me interact with you and vice versa .

So how have we done this first year?  As of yesterday, we surpassed 2100 subscribers and that doesn’t count all of the RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter followers.  My husband bet me I’d have 2000 by summer and I said I wouldn’t.  Good thing I didn’t bet much, because I was wrong.  Thanks to all of you.  Sometimes being wrong is a good thing!

This is the 162nd posting, so about one every other day.  I had goaled one a week.

There have been a total of about 2700 “real” comments and are you ready for this, almost 29,000 spam ones.  No, that is not a typo.  Yes, I do use a spam filter, but I still approve every single comment that is posted – and now you know why.  The spam filter doesn’t catch them all, because spammers are crafty!

In total, the articles are “tagged” in 81 different categories so you can find them by searching.  One of the articles I’ll be writing soon will tell you how to use and search blogs more efficiently, including this one!

http://www.dna-explained.com has had a total of 249,545 views, nearly a quarter million and that doesn’t count the 2100+ people who receive postings via e-mail and RSS.  We average just over 1000 hits per day now.  Wow!

What is the most popular category of blog articles visited?  Autosomal DNA.

How about the most popular article?  Big News! Probable New Native American Haplogroup.  That shocked me.  For a long time, the most popular article had been the kickoff of the Geno 2.0 announcement, National Geographic – Geno 2.0 Announcement – The Human Story published on July 25, 2012.  Older articles have more time to amass hits – and the haplogroup article was just published June 27th.  Indeed it does seem to be big news and is of interest to lots of people.

One of my reasons for creating this blog was as a matter of self-defense. Most of you know that I also have a business webpage, www.dnaexplain.com.  I receive a lot of inquiries from the page and through my various list memberships.   The DNAeXplain webpage is professionally written and updating content it is not just a matter of typing.  I have to create something, send it to the provider and they make the change or the update.  And it’s not convenient or free.  Needless to say, this is not a conducive environment to making regular updates or additions.  I do need the separate website though in order to take orders for consulting and for DNA Reports, so the blog doesn’t by any means replace the webpage.

I was constantly referring people to several papers on my webpage, which are still there, but I needed more flexibility.

So I decided that if I wrote the answers to the most frequently asked questions, well, including graphics and pictures (which really are worth 1000 words), once, I could use that document to answer people’s questions, over and over again.  The good news is, so can you.  What are the most commonly asked questions and the pages I use to answer them?

  1. What can DNA testing do for me?  That is such a basic question and the answer could be that book I didn’t write.  I use the article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy to answer this one.
  2. I think my ancestor was Native American and I want to prove it.  This question also has other variants like, proving which tribe, joining a tribe, getting benefits and free education.  I refer people to the article Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA.
  3. I’m adopted, or I don’t know who my father is, and I want to use DNA testing to find my parents/ancestry.  This is also relevant for people who discover an undocumented adoption in their line that “interferes” with the genealogy they thought they knew.  For this answer, I use I’m Adopted and I Don’t Know Where to Start.  This article, along with many others, links within the article to other resources as well.
  4. What can autosomal testing do for me?  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve received some flavor of this question, I’d be really retired and on that World Cruise!  The article I use for this is Autosomal Basics.
  5. And then the companion question to the one above, my autosomal results are back – what do I do with them now?  For this one, I refer people to the summary article for The Autosomal Me series.  While it is focused on a particular challenge for me, minority Native admixture, the tools and techniques are relevant for everyone.

We’ve had an awesome first year, thanks to all of you, and I’m looking forward to even more breakthroughs and findings in year two.  I love sharing your stories and victories too and always appreciate tips and hints pointing out genetic genealogy items of interest.  I have some fun articles planned for this upcoming year and there are discoveries on the horizon, so stay tuned!!!

And indeed, may we all continue to live in very interesting times!

                       

Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

Right here, on Family Tree DNA’s main page, it says as much.

mythbusting ftdna

Here is the product description for their Family Finder autosomal test:

“Family Finder uses autosomal DNA (inherited from both the mother and father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.) to provide you a breakdown of your ethnic percentages and connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations.”

Now the genetic genealogists among us will know right away where this myth that women can’t find their father using DNA came from.  Indeed, it’s a true statement when you’re talking about Y-line DNA.  Women don’t have a Y chromosome because it is passed only from father to son.  The mitochondrial DNA that she does carry is from her mother’s maternal side, so before autosomal testing, there was no ready tool for women to identify or find missing fathers.  For a long time, before autosomal testing, it was said as a general statement that women could not test for their father’s DNA.  That statement was true in that context at that time.  Not anymore.

The Times, They are A’Changin’

Today, however, there are 4 different DNA tests/tools for DNA testing, all with different purposes and that can be used in different ways, often in tandem.

Where the Y-line test tests just the Y chromosome, the paternal line, and the mitochondrial DNA tests only the direct maternal line, autosomal testing tests your DNA contributed from all of your ancestors, males and females alike.

You can see in the chart below that the son and daughter carry some of every color of the DNA of their great-grandparents.  The daughter carries the blue of her great-grandfather’s autosomal and the yellow of his wife’s autosomal, but not the short blue Y chromosome of her father.  Only the son has that.

mythbusting autosomal chart

Therefore, you can indeed utilize the information to find missing fathers, for women and men alike, in exactly the same way.  The only difference is that men can take the additional Y-line test that women can’t take.

By way of example, let’s look at some of my results at Family Tree DNA.

I have a total of 333 autosomal (Family Finder) matches.  My mother has a total of 180 matches and we have a total of 66 common matches.  That means that I also have 267 matches from my father’s side.

So let’s say I’m adopted and I’m not really sure which side is which.

I would then begin to construct family trees based on my matches suggested relationship and their common ancestors.

mythbusting vannoy matches

On the chart above, my Vannoy cousins are shown, all with matches to me, and all from my father’s side of the tree.  Family Tree DNA’s estimates are very accurate, within one generation, and all are within the range they provide.  Their ranges and estimates are more accurate the closer in time they are to you.

If these people are my second cousins, we share common great-grandparents.  Third cousins, common great-great grandparents.  You’ve just gone from “unknown” to within 3 or 4 generations in one fell swoop.  Wow!

If you find a group of people with the same surname or the same ancestral surname, like I did on my Vannoy line, then you can, based on their estimated relationship to you, begin building a combined pedigree chart.  All three of these men have uploaded their GEDCOM file, so you can easily see their common ancestor.  Their common ancestor is also your common ancestor.  You can then narrow the list of possible links from them to you.  Once you identify their common ancestor, then continue to work down the tree to current to find someone in the right location at the right time.

On the chart below, which is my DNA pedigree chart, you can see how close the common ancestor of these matches really is to me.  We’re only 3 generations from my father.  This common couple, Joel Vannoy (1813-1895) and Phoebe Crumley (1818-1900) had 7 children, both male and female.  My father descended from one of those 7.  Now I’m only two generations from my father.  Going from “father unknown” to only two generations away is extremely powerful.  This is exactly why these tools hold so much promise for adoptees and others who are searching for their parentage.

mythbusting common ancestor

In the meantime, you may get lucky and click to open your personal page one day to find a very close, sibling, aunt/uncle or first cousin match.  Yes indeed, that can do a world of good to narrow the possible choices of parents.  That’s also why I always suggest to people seeking unknown parents that they swim in all of the autosomal pools, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.  You just never know where that answer or critically important hint is going to come from.

I hope you are now a believer and any confusion has been removed.  Women cannot take a Y chromosome test to find their father, but that has nothing to do with autosomal DNA tests.  Women can, and indeed do find their missing fathers using autosomal DNA.