DNA Part Seven: End of the Line?

 

 

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 1700s.  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 disappears from records and timelines, reappears in Seattle, 1967 to give birth to me, “Baby Girl Tames.”

 

THIS MONTH

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 tells me Joan had SIX children after having me.

Auntie is in her mid-80’s like my birth mother.  My mother’s sister claims she is unsure if Joan is still living because they haven’t talked in decades, but she believes she may have settled in Florida after marrying a man named Tames or Taméz.  She has little other information about my birth mom, except to say she traveled a lot throughout Central and South America, perhaps to calm herself after losing her family in 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!  If this story is true, 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.  However, I have no way of proving the post-1967 story of my birth mother to be true or not.  At one time I consider hiring a private investigator, then reconsider thinking the effort and price might not equal the reward.  It sends me on downward contemplation wondering if it is better I stay hidden, a feeling familiar to me since before I was born.  An unborn child hears and feels, but it takes many years for them to understand.  As a grown woman in my 50s, I ask, “Do I hold enough self-preservation to end this quest?”  Why seek out a family that wants nothing to do with you?

 

Ancestry.com

Meanwhile, I grow an internet relationship with my Rogers-side cousin.  She 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.”

( https://www.mormon.org/blog/why-mormons-do-baptisms-for-the-dead )

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.

 

23andMe

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
Cleft Chin
Freckles
Earlobe Type
Asparagus Odor Detection
Widow’s Peak
Bitter Taste Perception
Unibrow
Earwax Type

Rutherford B Hayes (October 4, 1822 – January 17, 1893) was the 19th President of the United States from 1877 to 1881

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 king? Unknown. I’m guessing King Everyman.  If you are a genealogist, you’ll know it costs extra money to join foreign online databases.  I am trying to keep my expenses reasonable.

 

In Conclusion…

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.”

 

DNA Part Six: The Good and Bad News

wordcloud
A tree shaped word cloud using known Rowland / Rogers family names

Good and Bad News to Report.  First the Good News:

I can’t believe it’s been over a year and a half since I have written about my DNA journey.  What a long quiet year 2015 was on the DNA front.  So many months have gone by with no new leads.  It was a tough year and full of distractions.  My temp work had me bouncing around between five different jobs.  However, I gained new skills and met some interesting people along the way, so no complaints.

Then, in April, 2016, I received this message from Sandra:

I uploaded my information into gedmatch.com and you were the first person on my list.  I wanted to contact you because I was wondering how you fit into my family.

 I’m not looking for anything from you.  I was just curious as to how we’re related.  I’m always fascinated finding new family.

Turns out Sandra is my mother’s cousin AND she is the genealogist in the family!  She sends me my mothers family tree.  For the first time in my life, I have a blood family tree, names, history and stories. It is overwhelming.  I’m in a fog for weeks.  Stunned actually.

Then, in June, this little gem shows up from David:

fyi, have put dna in GEDmatch and your dna in that database  has highest match to ours.
Our ancestry lived mostly in Ohio in the 1800’s.

David and I exchange trees.  We compare dates and names

Great
That is a match
You grandfather our uncle, Byron Rowland, brother of my mom, Gayle Rowland.

No wonder we are such a close match
Have much on Rowland ancestry

Music to my ears! If that wasn’t enough David sends me his family findings, a hundred page document that includes more names, more dates about the Rowland’s …and this note:

attached is tree for our mom, Gayle Rowland
It is same for Byron Rowland
Rowland’s were from Wales
Also, you are a Mayflower descendant

mayflower 2
On November 9th ,1620, the Mayflower’s crew sighted Cape Cod

Confused yet? The simple version is that David and Sandra share the same great grandparents, the parents of Gayle and Byron.  David descends from their daughter (Gayle) and Sandra from the brother (Byron). Sandra is my first cousin once removed and David is my second cousin.

There are so many families using DNA sites now. 23andMe lists over 1000 relatives for me, even though I only share one chromosome with most.  Sandra and David, as distant as we three are on the tree, score head and shoulders above the fray. I am thankful for these two diligent genealogists.

 

THE HORRIBLE BAD NEWS

Sandra sent the newspaper article with the headline

“Flames in Locked Auto Held Cause of 5 Deaths”
from the Castroville, Texas, Wednesday,
22 Jul 1964 issue of the Dallas Morning News.

My mother married a Captain who served in World War II.  They had five children.  After the death of their youngest son, my mother, Joan, wrote her husband a letter that she was taking the kids and leaving him.  He moved out and went to live with his parents in a nearby town.

Then, one day, perhaps when Joan was at an appointment, he loaded my four half brothers, and sisters, ages two to ten, into the car.  He put them to sleep with exhaust fumes by connecting a hose from the car muffler to a window, then poured gasoline over the car and lit a match.  Here is what the article reports:

“Justice of the Peace C. O. Williams of Devine said his verdict of “murder and suicide” was based on the physical evidence investigators had uncovered.

   The evidence, he said, included a letter Loessberg had written to his estranged wife in San Antonio and mailed shortly before driving to the pasture.

   Medina County Sheriff Charles Hitzfelder quoted the brief, handwritten note as saying: “You have only yourself to care for now.”

   Hitzfelder said the car may have been doused with an inflammable fluid.  The engine’s air cleaner was off the carburetor.

   A rancher and three youths who had been rabbit hunting in the area discovered the burning auto.  When found, the vehicle was upright, but had crashed through a fence and sideswiped two trees.”

The Rowland family was in total discord over the horrific murder-suicide.  It was 1964, perhaps they blamed Joan?  She ran to Seattle to live with a distant Aunt.

We know she married again.  She gave birth to me at Harborview Hospital, then, disappeared.  Perhaps, I am her only living descendant?

 

STILL, SO MANY QUESTIONS

Did her husband know about me?  Is she still alive?  It is possible that she is alive, in her 80’s.  I have all the information I need to find her address, find the marriage certificate, to find her phone number and call her.  I haven’t done any of that.  I just can’t get myself to do anything.

How could she…

What if…

It would hurt…

It could hurt.

It could also heal.

 


 

https://shannonplawswriter.com/2015/01/26/dna-part-five-how-do-you-identify/

https://shannonplawswriter.com/2014/12/20/dna-part-four-spice/

https://shannonplawswriter.com/2014/11/28/dna-part-three/

DNA Part Two: The Waiting

The-Family-Tree
Family Tree. Artwork by Pauline Murphy

Part Two
The Waiting

I’m getting close to the day.  The day my 23andMe DNA test will return and I’ll know my genetic heritage.  I’ve decided to  share the results with my two children first, then my mom and brother, (my father has passed).  Then share it here.  The story will not end with the results.  The social media aspect of 23andMe may potentially link-up the results with relatives.  As I stated before it might be boring or a big mess of family drama—let me share my mess with you.

Honestly, a social DNA site freaks me out a little.  I used my real name for processing, but a fake one for the profile.  My personal photo is a bunch of flowers.  I am chicken.  Cautious.  Nervous.  Feeling the need to protect myself, and yet I have to look, I must take a peak into this unknown.

ADOPTED FAMILY TREE

Here is what I know.  My adopted parents are mainly of Irish and German decent.  My mother and her siblings were the first generation born in America, my father was his families third.  I was raised by a working class family in the suburbs south of Seattle, on the wooded plateau of Federal Way.

Around 2009 I got the bug to research the family tree.  My dad’s Irish side was a bit beat up from divorce, my grandmothers five husbands and the generational condition of not talking about the ass holes in the family.  (Would have been nice if they would of at least saved their name and date of birth.)   Mom’s side ended with her great-grandparents, the parents of the ones who made the boat trip over.  She knew it all from memory, with the help from a few notes.  That tree is a nice big full tree, with many children.  However, I couldn’t go past 1880.  Using European genealogy sites is expensive, so I stopped there.

TartansMacLaren
The MacLaren Tartans, photo credit: Clan MacLaren Society of North America

I married into the Laws family.  While researching their tree, I learned they have a long stake in America.  The first, James Laws, came over from England, landing in Massachusetts in the early 1700’s.  There was a split of some kind in the family. Many stayed in the Carolinas while others, my ex-husbands side,  went to Chicago, then Kansas, then California. Prior to England, I could only guess that Laws was a corruption of “Lawrence” a possible connection to Scotland’s MacLaren Clan.

146_MacLaren
The MacLaren Badge

After contacting the North American chapter they confirmed the surname connection.  We joined the clan immediately.  It was exciting to learn about tartans, badges and read about the fighting history of the MacLaren.  We took the kids to the Highland games in Tucson, found the MacLaren booth and told the kids, “These are your people.”  Later we visited the popular Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace.  It felt like “place”.  A virtual family I am happy to be a part of, even if by marriage.  It is an identified part of my children’s heritage and I celebrate their lives as any mother would.

 WHAT IF

What if my DNA reveals something unexpected?  Of course it will.  Do you remember on the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are” when guest Spike Lee learns he is not 100% African?*  Blood has no boarders.  Do the boxes we check on a form define who we are in society?

Here’s another gem, this one from a usaid.gov job application:

“Ethnicity and race information is requested under the authority of 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-16 and in compliance with the Office of Management and Budget’s 1997 Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Providing this information is voluntary and has no impact on your employment status, but in the instance of missing information, your employing agency will attempt to identify your race and ethnicity by visual observation.”

“Visual observation”―What the hell does that mean?

Lets play a game.  Can you guess Keanu Reeves nationality just by looking?  Here’s a photo of the famous actor:

keanu
Keanu Reeves

He was born in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mom and an American father.  His father was born in Hawaii, of British, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese ancestry.  You only get to know that information when you get to know Keanu and he shares it with you (or you look him up on IMDB).

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Nature and Nurture

My DNA test talks to the very old debate of nature verse nurture.  How much of what and who we are is dependent on our upbringing, and genetic makeup.

nature-nuture
photo: Simply Psychology

Saul McLeod writing for Simply Psychology has this to say:

“In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important?”

If you are interested in this discussion, please visit the site (see link below).  It is full of intriguing arguments, especially about temperament and the “genius” gene.  To much information to share here.

Washington Adoptees Rights Movement (WARM) was my first point of contact for information regarding my birth family.  The site also included reunited stories.  Some good, some not so good.  One reunion I remember was about a daughter and her father that discover they had same mannerisms.  They combed their fingers through their hair the same way and liked the same type of food.  Makes me curious if mannerisms are genetic.

I am wondering what it will be like to meet any member from my birth family.  I wonder if we have the same eyes, smile, and laugh.  I wonder if any play the piano, sing or write.  My mind is full of wonder.  Questions my heart asks, the words go out into the universe like an echo, returning empty.

In part three of my series I will tackle race and religion.

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Part One here: https://shannonplawswriter.com/2014/11/12/23me-it-begins/

Work Cited

McLeod, Saul. “Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology.” Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html

MacLaren Clan of North America:  http://www.clanmaclarenna.org/

To learn more about the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace visit:  http://www.royalfaires.com/arizona/

*http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2010/04/30/wdytya-spike-lee/

DNA Part One: It Begins

Picture 246
The Kit
I have a 23andMe DNA kit and I’m not afraid to use it!

If you follow my blog or know me a little more than most—like the way one may “know” Nutella after eating half a container—then you’ll know that I am adopted.  Orphaned, then adopted.   I literally made it 40 years not knowing anything about my birth family.

Well, that’s about the change… a little bit any way.

Picture 247
Eight Easy Steps

23andMe will provide what percentage of my DNA is from what populations of the world and allows members to connect with others that share their DNA, “DNA Relatives”, via the 23andMe social network site.

My kit is registered and my profile set up.  I’ll know more in 3-4 weeks when the results come in. “Congratulations, you’ve been cloned!”  Sometime around the end of December I’ll share “Part Two: The Results”.

To learn more about my views on adoption, please check out my post:

“Philomena / What Are You?”

Wish me luck!  I’m rollin’ for some Charlemagne!  ahahaaa!

To learn about 23andMe click here.

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