Genealogy, My Family Tree

The Endless Task – Organizing DNA Matches

For the past few months I’ve been getting more and more intrigued in working with my DNA. Last year at this time I took a DNA test through Ancestry to solve a genealogy puzzle, and it worked, I discovered who I am fairly positive is my biological great-grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.

With the announcement of Ancestry changing how they give us results and taking some of our matches away, I’ll admit, I have been like many who are probably plowing through their results as I type this hoping they can save something, anything that may be that key to a mystery.

This was my thinking. My darn brick wall consisting of Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers (I think that’s her last name?). I was afraid that maybe, just maybe, one of those 6-7 centimorgan matches may be the answer I am seeking to break down my brick wall. The key to where my 3rd-Great-Grandfather was before he showed up on the 1850 Federal Census in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

So I’ve been slaving away for the past week in my free time, trying to figure out who goes where. And don’t forget the many matches who you have no matches with.

All in all it’s exhausting.

I did stop for a little bit as one of my matches lines up to be the sister of Andrew. I will admit, someone’s tree on MyHeritage showed this relationship but I’d never seen head or tales of her. So this gave me hope.

So I plugged in an ominous “Blair” for their father and placed Sarah Permelia Blair as Andrew’s sister on my tree, wondering if maybe something, anything would come up for a mom, or even more information for a dad… but nothing.

So it also stated that Sarah was born in Washington County, Maryland. I began looking there for Blair’s listed on the 1810 Census (Sarah was born in 1816 and don’t you know there is an Andrew Jackson Blair who lived there in 1810??? Andrew Blair’s and Suzanna Aker’s second oldest son’s name is Andrew Jackson Blair – he is my 2nd-great-grandfather). So yes, I got really excited for about 30 seconds because this Andrew Jackson Blair’s son, Andrew Jackson Blair was born in 1825 and my Andrew has 4-censuses stating he was born between 1812-1815.

Do you think I can find any other information about this Andrew Jackson Blair quickly? No. However, I’m not a huge fan of Andrew Jackson, so with his being born in the late 1700’s and being named Andrew Jackson made my day as he wasn’t named after the War Hero/President (took a class in college while getting my history degree called “Jefferson to Jackson” and the more I learned the more I came to dislike both Jefferson and Jackson).

For the past year in my hunt for Blair men in Pennsylvania with people aged 25-30 in their house in the 1840 census, various names have repeatedly come to the forefront of my search, one being a John Blair. I finally decided to throw him and his wife as the parents of Andrew and Sarah into my Ancestry tree. They didn’t have an “Andrew Blair” listed on anyone else’s Ancestry tree, but they all have a gap in their children around 1812, so I figured it didn’t hurt to try. It took a long 24 hours but it gave me the answer I needed. I had 4 hits – it wasn’t enough for John Blair and Mary Perdew to be my 4th-great-grandparents (I’d had 23 matches with Andrew and Suzanna, so I should have had at least that many or more for them to lineup; more than 4 anyhow). Some would see this as a failure. I chose to see it as I had matches so I made progress. John Blair is a member of a much larger Blair family in Pennsylvania and it appears I may be in the ballpark for finding a connection. I quickly removed them as I have my tree public (I like to help others as I’ve viewed other’s trees for assistance over the years).

So I now only have a day or so to go before the algorithm changes for Ancestry’s DNA matches. I am still trying to get matches grouped but I am no longer in the rush I was. If I get any of the 6-7 centimorgan matches, great. I like to think I may not know what I’m missing. But I find organizing my matches fun. And I love that I have several on my dad’s side that have overlapped with my mom’s side. It’s funny – this particular branch of my dad’s are all settled in south central Pennsylvania while my mother’s is north central PA, all I can figure is that some came and met in the middle. Weird enough that my half sister (we don’t have the same dad) has a blue dot which represents my dad’s last name.

Fingers crossed that my DNA helps hold the key to my 4th-great-grandparents on my Blair side of the family, and this new algorithm is all that and more. Time will tell!

My Family Tree

I Took a DNA Test & Figured Out a Mystery

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.