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/