DNA Part Seven: End of the Line?
OK, I’ll admit it, for the last two years the most I did in my DNA search was to send out four identical, short, thought out letters to the last four known address of my birth mother. All four were returned “Unknown. Return to Sender.” I began to wonder if I will EVER reach her and started to measure how important it is to me. In 2016, thanks to distant cousins on the Rogers and Rowland side of the family, I attained two complete family trees going back to the 1700’s. The information holds great gems. Is it enough?
This month—I have an update.
BUT FIRST A RECAP…
As you may remember from previous posts, my birth mother, Joan, attempted to arrange an adoption through a local Church in the last month of the pregnancy. Something fell through and the arrangement did not take place. Sometime in January 1968 a foster care worker connected “Baby Girl Tames” with the Farnand family, a young Seattle couple who were recently told they were unable to have children.
In 2016, after taking a 23andMe DNA test in 2014, I find three “cousins”: one from the Rogers, one from the Rowland branch and one from (presumably) my Latin blood fathers side. Two of the cousins are the genealogists of the family. They unload full family trees going back to Wales, England, some photos, stories, and suddenly—an orphan has a history! I was numb from it all. In a fog for many months, processing the information and delighted to have “people.” However, not all the news was without tragedy.
In part six I discovered that in 1964, outside of Dallas, Texas, four half-siblings were killed in a murder/suicide car fire by my birth mothers estranged husband. Mom shows up next in 1967 to give birth to me in Seattle.
So, this month, I woke up one Sunday morning and decided to try calling a phone number for my mother’s oldest sister.
Auntie picks up.
We talk for 30 minutes.
Auntie shares that Joan had SIX children after having me.
She is unsure if her 83-year-old sister is still living, but she believes she may have settled in Florida. She has little other information about my birth mom, except to say she traveled a lot, perhaps to calm herself after the 1964 horrific event.
So now I am faced with the concept of not only *possibly* connecting with my birth mom but also SIX half-siblings! Joan had twelve children altogether. Big families are common in this line of the family. Mama Rogers, my grandmother, also had twelve. I guess what they say about everything being bigger in Texas extends to its families as well.
My Rogers-side cousin has asked me to be added to her tree on Ancestry.com. That site has a slightly better user interface and is family tree focused. Did you know Ancestry and the LDS church joined officially in 2013, and now hold the planets largest collection of ancestry data, an estimated 16 billion historical records, and DNA collection, supposedly for the purpose of helping the deceased get into the spirit world?
“Many Mormons do family history not only to learn about their heritage but also to find deceased ancestors who haven’t yet been baptized in the Church, and worthy Church members can then be baptized for these ancestors who have died.
When someone dies, Mormons believe a person’s spirit leaves the body. Performing baptisms for the dead is a chance for Mormons to do for those who are dead what they can’t do for themselves.”
Many genealogists, Mormon or otherwise, use this paid site. I’m not Mormon, however, the resources available at Ancestry are tempting. I would like to discover more about my blood father’s side. I have agreed to upload my DNA to the site. With my cousin’s information, we may be able to locate more family members.
Meanwhile, 23andMe continues to send me email alerts that I have “new relatives” to connect with. These people are almost all third to fifth cousins, which in my opinion are worthless connections. I currently share DNA, that’s as much as ONE strand, with 1064 23andMe customers. The site is more about health surveys than creating family trees, although you can create a family tree it’s more informative if you can get other family members to buy the kit and register on the site. The biggest advantage from my perspective is that you may be able to predict the health and features of future offspring. Perhaps, influencing a feature specific baby gift for your niece, “I purchased a blue blanket for your new baby girl to go with her eyes.”
In addition to learning if I have major markers for various types of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and I can also learn if I am prone to sneezing when a beam of sunshine suddenly hits me in the face, known as the Photic Sneeze Reflex. Genetic research is discovering all sorts of new genes for fringe stuff like:
Newborn Hair Amount
Asparagus Odor Detection
Bitter Taste Perception
Since I took the first DNA test in 2014, I’ve learned so much, the mother’s line is British, one branch is Mayflower peeps, via the Francis Cooke line. On another line, we are related to the Ethan Allan family and the 19th president, Rutherford B. Hayes. Both lines had large families, and there are many branches. Also, there is an unprovable rumor that we are related to a King of England. Which one is unknown. I’m guessing King Everyman.
You know what, I’m just not sure I need to know anymore. I know I agreed to join Ancestry, but I mean, wow, I think my brain is full. If a half-sibling reaches out, of course, I’d connect. If my birth mother, whose older sister now has my contact information, calls me, of course, I’d talk to her. I have much to ask, many things to say. But, right now, today— I’m good.
If I learn nothing more from this point forward, I am satisfied with the information on hand. I know my heritage, about 200 years of family tree history, some basic health markers. MOST importantly I have my own blood—my two adult children. The TWO people in the WORLD right now who I KNOW I am related to. They are my everything. I love them to the moon and back. The day they were born, I wondered how difficult it is for any mother to leave her child. Breaks my heart. My adopted father passed away, but I have a healthy relationship with my adopted mother. My adopted brother and I are also close. I have a small family, but they are people I can hold in my hands.
Do I need to know more? As my Grandmother Mimi use to say, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”