So for a while now I’ve been on the fence about taking a DNA test. I became even more curious about 18 months ago when my mother-in-law got my husband one for his birthday. It took him a while to finally take the test (I came home from an Evening of Genealogy at the library where I saw a mutual friend and Sandy advised he had better do it as it’s possible that it had an expiration date). So he did and though his tree was limited it was fascinating to see his ethnicity estimate and the DNA matches he had.
So ever since then, I’d been on a teeter-totter, half wanting to take a test and half afraid like so many others about big brother finding me (though I’m not sure exactly why). But this past Fourth of July convinced me to take a test when I went and spent the day with my mom’s side of the family at my cousin’s house and my aunt told me offhandedly “You know there is a chance that who you think is mom’s dad isn’t”. Her reference to mom was my maternal grandmother.
Now, if you are any sort of genealogist you know what I am thinking at this point. This person, we’ll call him hubby #2, who I have listed as my great-grandfather, because that’s what my grandmother’s birth certificate states, who I’ve spent hours researching, hoping to make sense of why he ignored her, even as an adult… may not be my great-grandfather?
The DNA Test
On this day AncestryDNA was on sale and it was the last day of the sale. At 11:51pm I purchased my kit and just had to wait.
The following Wednesday the kit arrived in the mail. I was ready – I came home, spit in the vial and boxed it up and by 8:30am the next day, it was at the post office being mailed. The following Monday as my husband and I went cemetery hopping, I got the email stating that it had arrived at the testing facility, and by Friday, July 26 I had my results.
- 84% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe
- 12% Ireland & Scotland
- 4% Germanic
Well, if nothing else the ethnicity estimate summed up why my skin coloring is so pasty white (I’m fair – like I was wearing a black dress and black flats the other day and you’d think I had on white tights pale).
But one over the course of the next week and a half that I figured out was missing were matches to any of hubby #2’s surnames. So I guess what my Great-Great-Aunt Ina stated after my great-grandmother’s funeral was correct – hubby #2 wasn’t my grandmother’s dad.
But who was?
The Search is On
So a week or so passed and one evening I sat in my recliner and decided to just focus on the third cousins who make up my DNA matches and put them in the categories of my ancestors: Blair/Foster’s; Childers/Fesler’s; Ritchey/Cypher’s – you get my point. But there was a name that kept popping up – so I decided to focus on it.
So I pulled up the 1930 census to see if there were any “V’s” living in the vicinity of my great-grandmother (her name was Mildred) as I knew she lived in the realm as I now live, an area called North Hill. Sadly by the 1930 census, she is living with her second husband in Cuyahoga Falls (FYI – my grandmother, was born in 1929).
When I didn’t find the information I was looking for in the census, I decided to look up the “V’s” in the 1930 City Directory. There I found a “V” who was a lawyer with an office at a main intersection in the area. I had seen his name on a family tree of one of my “matches” and he was in my great-grandmother’s age range, but as odd as it was I saw another “V” who lived just a few blocks from where I live now listed and I decided to further investigate.
I threw this second “V” into Ancestry and found him right away. He was 89 in 1930 and my Great-Grandmother would have been 22 – I hoped he wasn’t who I was looking for. I looked to see if he had a son, he did, so I clicked to see some information about him, wondering if he was married or had children because they would probably be Mildred’s age (she was born in 1908 – he passed away in 1906). When I clicked on the link to Find A Grave, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a photo of a tombstone of 89-year-old “V”, his son, wife, and daughter. But was most surprising was that the daughter’s last name rang bells in my head… it was the same last name as my great-grandmother, Mildred’s, hubby #1!!!
Mildred’s divorce from hubby #1 was final on September 5, 1929. She married hubby #2 on September 29 and my grandmother was born prematurely on October 2. With all the DNA matches to the “V’s” this made total sense. What further proved my hypothesis was the following photos. The first is the obituary photo from the February 28, 1994 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal of hubby #1 while the other is a photo of my Grandmother I believe taken in the 1990s.
It’s the same nose and the same high cheekbones. If hubby #1 isn’t her father, I need to find out who in his family is (but I do have matches to both “V’s and “G’s”, I just have to go up to my 4x great-grandparents on the “G” side).
Sharing the News
I was so excited when I discovered all this. I quickly got on Facebook and shared what I found with my Aunt who began this whole mystery for me. I was surprised she was still up at 11pm.
All my research of hubby #2 and his family wasn’t a total loss. In the end, he was still my great-grandmother’s second husband. I’ve just disconnected him as the father of my grandmother and now have hubby #1 in that place (he was already listed in my program as well).
I’ll admit I was happy to find out her first husband was my grandmother’s dad. I considered my great-grandmother a strong woman for divorcing him in the late 1920s and then hubby #2 in the early 1930s because they weren’t the men she deserved. But the thought of someone else intermingled didn’t exactly thrill me either.
My great-grandmother had reasons for divorcing hubby #1, he was apparently gambling their money away.
Hubby #1 didn’t get married a second time until 1939, 10 years after his divorce with my great-grandmother was final. He was married to his second wife until he passed in 1984. I like to think in those 10 years he grew up. From the comments on his second wife’s obituary, they were both wonderful people who everyone seemed to love. This makes me feel good.
Then again, who is going to go onto a website and say how awful someone was? Well, at least not on an obituary site (I hope not anyhow).
What I am still puzzled about was there was a point in my grandmother’s marriage to my grandfather where he forced her to go meet her dad, hubby #2. The entire visit he did nothing but ignore her. Not one word was said. I’ve heard that story from different people and it’s the same. I can’t believe he would be so mean to my grandmother. My guess is that he knew she wasn’t his. He noted on other documents I found that he had no children. This is fine. But why not just tell her when she was an adult visiting him? Why keep quiet? At this time what was to be gained?
My Aunt commented to me it just goes to show how much Mildred wanted out of her marriage that she didn’t want to risk hubby #1 finding out he had a child. But it makes me wonder if everyone’s life would have changed had they known? Maybe he would have straightened up earlier?
Or maybe he did know?
Ninety years later, we will never know.
* I’ve used the simplistic codenames of hubby #1, hubby #2, and hubby #3 in regard to my great-grandmother’s husbands for the simple fact that hubby #1 was remarried and has a daughter. At this time I am mulling over whether I should contact her, but since to my knowledge she is unaware I thought I’d respect her privacy, so no names. I know she could do a search of her dad’s photo and find out, but I’m also DNA matches with her relatives so there is that chance she may find out anyhow (or who knows, maybe she is a match). One of my matches was actually a girl I went to school with, who is semi-related to my friend’s husband and I believe she has been told (I was excited to share my story with someone interested in genealogy having no clue her hubby was related to them). Maybe one day I’ll add the picture of the headstone that tied everything together.