Putting it all Together – Part 4
(Part 4 of a series on building out Michael’s maternal family tree, read: Our biggest brick wall breakthrough so far started with a forgotten tweet, a LOT of work, and migraine on Super Bowl Sunday: Putting it All Together Part 1, The brick wall starts to crumble: Putting it all together – Part 2, and One stunning turn after another as our brick wall falls: Putting it all together – Part 3)
Patrica’s loss hit the entire family hard. Her death was unexpected, even after years of various health issues. She was only 61 years old and full of life…it just didn’t seem like it was her time. We were jolted because we’d literally just reached out to her to learn how she knew (guessed?) the secret that her Father had a child with her Aunt. A secret that took us 4 DNA tests and years of research to piece together. It didn’t seem real that we couldn’t just pick up the phone and ask her family history questions anymore. It really hit us when it sunk in she wouldn’t ever be laughing with us as she doted on our children.
Her brothers, who a day before sat in our Dining Room receiving our big news, were now in charge of their sister’s funeral. They asked if we’d do the obituary and was a natural ask. We’d probably read more obituaries than anyone else they knew, but it was a sobering task for someone we loved so much.
A Second Family
In addition to learning that Felice’s Mother “Susan” was Pat’s half-Sister, we also had recently figured out their Father Luther had a 2nd family. Two of his daughters from that 2nd marriage tested with AncestryDNA, and we had confirmed their linage through vital records. They had just lost a half-Sibling, and the brothers agreed we should confirm their information for the obituary. We reached out to both of the DNA testers, leaving messages about losing their half-Sister.
One of the siblings responded, and we found out that we had unknowingly opened up old wounds. Luther’s 2nd family was close to him, closer than the children of his 1st marriage. While his 2nd family was news to most of us, Luther’s children from his marriage to Ann knew of them. They were apparently dismissive and cold as Luther was dying.
The dynamics became apparent when we learned we’d never get a response from the other DNA tester. The wounds and anger ran too deep. Even the tester we were working with was struggling hard participating with us. She understood we played no role in the drama, and she had enjoyed their time with Pat. But there was too much damage done to want to revisit this side of the family. She did eventually provide information on her siblings which allowed us to include them in the obituary. However, even though they lived in town, two of the children from the 2nd marriage did not attend her funeral.
After the Funeral
After the funeral, our contact with the 2nd family asked about Susan’s DNA results. She too couldn’t figure out how Susan could be so close a match. We explained that her Father had a child with the Sister of his first wife, and that only added to the pain we’d opened. In the end it was all too much. While very supportive and respectful, it was clear she needed some time before reaching out again. I doubt we’ll ever initiate another conversation with the 2nd family.
Ann’s surviving children now know that Susan is their half-Sister, as well as their 1st cousin. They have decided that Ann doesn’t need to know the truth, and we won’t be bringing it up. For this reason, we didn’t include Susan as a sibling in Pat’s obituary.
One Last Puzzle to Solve
When we started that Super Bowl Sunday we had two theories: 1) Susan was the Daughter of Luther; and 2) Luther’s Grandmother Sarah Moore’s maiden name was Jones and she was the daughter of Roman and Mary Jones. Several months later, the final piece of that puzzle fell into place.
The proof on the second theory came when we were browsing around FamilySearch in December that year. There was a hint showing the Marriage Register of Joseph and Sarah Moore, married in 1894 in Carroll County, Mississippi. Carroll County is where Roman and Mary had raised there children and would reside in until their deaths. The marriage record showed that Sarah’s maiden name was Jones, and she was born in 1873. That’s the matches the records for Roman and Mary’s daughter.
Combined with our other research, we’re confident this being the same Sarah meets the Genealogical Proof Standard. Additionally, the cM’s in other the DNA tests fit and support this link. We’re now able to link our family tree with the 17 DNA matches we’d grouped together in the “Casting a Wide Net” series.
Putting it All Together
In the end we realized we had much of the data needed to break down these brick walls all along. Going back to June 2018 we had a good idea that Susan and Charles were closer than 1st Cousins. If we’d opened our minds a bit, we likely should have figured out they shared Fathers. We had Sarah Jones’ daughter in our family tree, and a little digging could have likely linked her pretty quickly. Also, it was pretty clear there was no link on Susan’s maternal line to those 17 DNA matches.
Even with that, it took a stroke of inspiration on a random Super Bowl Sunday to put it all together. We learned our lesson on this. Again. We often have all we need to solve these mysteries, we just need to better examine the data. We also opened more family wounds than we would have liked, including ones with families we didn’t even know existed. Additionally, there doesn’t feel like we have any closure by resolving Felice’s Mother’s biggest family history mystery. Susan doesn’t discuss her father and the family dynamic hasn’t changed. While they all know they are 1/2 siblings, they still rarely interact…just like Cousins.
Was it worth it?
Michael’s family tree is now more complete and the stories of Roman and Mary Jones help round out his family history. Genealogically, it was a clear success and two brick walls have been toppled. Still, it’s hard to see this as a victory. These “mysteries” often weren’t that when the people involved were alive. It’s likely become lost to future generations because those who lived them didn’t want them to be known. They often aren’t just quirks of poor record keeping. Brick walls aren’t always meant to fall.
We’ve said it before in this blog: Building a family tree using DNA testing is serious (Family History is a hobby…but DNA is serious business). Even when the tools work better than hoped, the results can be complicated and painful. We will always tell the truth we find in our journey, but we have learned to consider whether we want an answer to the questions we ask.