52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: DNA

Cryptic…that was the flavor of the first email that I received. Suspicious…that was another flavor added to the profile. Annoying…that topped it off. The taste in my mouth, as they would say, was bitter. Who was this strange woman with her questions and insinuations? Where was her evidence? Should I brush her off, not respond, pray she would go away? She wanted to know if my grandfather was her mother’s natural father.

Her first email wanted information about where my grandfather and his brothers lived and visited in their youth. Had they ever gone to a certain Kansas county? Did they have relatives there? Was one of them the father of her mother? No, they had not lived in the area to which she referred. I thought that would end that.

The second email revealed her reason for asking. Her own mother had been adopted. She was bound and determined to find her natural grandfather of whose identity she had no clues. She had located her natural grandmother, but she was not willing and was determined not to reveal the identity of the father of the child she had given up for adoption. Could my grandfather be the father? Was it ever discussed within the family circle? No, I never heard any stories. I wanted her to go away…as fast and as far as she could travel!

About a year went by and the third email appeared. She had had Ancestry DNA done. According to the results, we were a match…dear heavens, help us all…third-fourth cousins. I decided to dig into my tree and see if any males in my grandfather’s family had lived in the area she was searching. My grandfather’s uncle and his family had lived in that location. There were two sons in the family. I supplied her with the names and any information I had which was sketchy.

She reached out to the family and told them her story. The sons of the sons allowed her to interview them. One of the sons, she asked him if he would submit to an Ancestry DNA test. Consent was given. They were a match.

The final email shared with me who she believed her natural grandfather to be…my grandfather’s uncle. She created a story about the two people involved: they met at a social gathering one summer. They dated for a short while. When the girl discovered she was pregnant, she did not know the whereabouts of the boy. She decided to go it alone and place the baby in an orphanage. I answered her email with a note of congratulations and well wishes…

DNA is a marvelous tool in identifying family. However, it does not carry forward stories, truths, and all answers.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Brick Wall

“TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”

Imagine that the paternal side of your family tree has seven…yes, count them , seven…leaves. This is true for me. A six word sentence explains it all: I am third generation Polish American.

Once upon a time, I set a goal to find my grandparents, Anna Mroz and Franciszek Slabik, in the Ellis Island records. After a year, I had found both of them as they had come separately and unknown to each other. My grandmother’s brother Antoni Mroz was listed as her contact/escort person. Supposedly, he lived in Greenwich, Connecticut. She came in 1906, and she has not been found in the 1910 Census. Also, no Antoni in sight. My grandfather came in 1912, and he was meeting his brother Jan Slabik. He has never been found in any census. No siblings and their families can be located. My grandparents never spoke about their parents to their children. No aunts and uncles came to visit, call, or write. My grandparents and their children lived in Philadelphia.

Once upon a time, I set a goal to find out the names of my great grandparents who remained in Poland…all I sought were their names. I sent for my grandparents’ death certificates. The informant, my aunt and their daughter, only knew the name of her mother’s father: Stanislaw Mroz. The rest of the names were a mystery. I thought about any document that might bear these names. I sent to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a copy of my grandparents’ marriage certificate. Yes, the names were there! Jakob Slabik and Agata Kendra were my grandfather’s parents while Stanislaw Mroz and Teclas Goruyk parented my grandmother. When the marriage was celebrated in 1914, Babcia’s parents were deceased while Dziadek’s were farmers.

Once upon a time, I yearned just to know where my grandparents were born in that big mess of a country Poland…a country that was not a country for over 100 years. That has been very difficult to research. In reading through research hints by professional genealogists, I may as well be trying to translate Polish without a translator. It is truly overwhelming to me. Will any part of this brick wall come tumbling down…ever?

Ancestry DNA has yielded only one cousin…my first cousin with whom I grew up…his kids got him the test as a gift.

Truly, I am a positive person. I long for the day when someone will say, “Czesc kuzynie…hello, cousin.” Then I can write, “Once upon a time I longed to meet a cousin, and there was a text from her.”