How I Broke My Family Tree, and How I Am Using DNA to Repair It

When I was fifteen years old I broke my family tree.  It started innocently enough.  Like any good family history researcher I requested the death certificate of my great-grandfather.  Since I didn’t know his exact death date, I searched for a date range.  Then it finally arrived.  I had that super excited feeling I get when genealogy-related mail arrives.  I opened it.  Checked it over for the right name, age, occupation, location.  Yes, this was the right person.  Noticed the death date to enter into my family tree.  Oh, died Black Tuesday when the stock market tanked.  Interesting, remembered that from history class.  Then saw he was buried at the insane asylum by hospital employees on Halloween.  Weird and a little creepy.  But wait, grandma was born over a year after that.  WHAT?!

I showed the document to my father.  Hmmm.  Talked about it.  How would we tell Grandma?  This person couldn’t have been her father.  Later he called her and told her what I had found.  She was upset, but at the same time felt like it clarified why she had felt so different in her family.  That was the day I broke my family tree.

Ever since then, my family tree has had a big hole where one of my great-grandparents belongs.  I have many generations on many other branches, but still that glaring, gaping hole.  In my hallway I have a printed family tree poster showing my and my husband’s families through our great-grandparents.  On my side sits a mysterious blank.

Thankfully now we also have DNA as a tool for genealogy.

In 2009 at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree I was selected by Ancestry to join a panel of users and talk about our impressions of their DNA testing website.  We were each given a DNA test coupon for participating.  I used it for my uncle to take a Y-DNA test to compare it to others on a line I was researching for my DAR application.  Also at that conference I attended an interesting presentation by Bennett Greenspan from FamilyTreeDNA.  His company also offered DNA tests.

Then a couple of years later, autosomal DNA tests came out.  This would be so great. We could find cousins on all sides of the family!  Maybe I could find our missing ancestor and repair the family tree?  Well, it has been much more complicated than I expected, but I have made some headway learning who I am descended from, and I will be writing about my discoveries.

For the next post in this thread, please see this link.

Posted in DNA

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