Untangling Those Roots
Unraveling Your Roots, A DNA and Genealogical Weekend, which is out Fall Conference and Annual Meeting are just under a month away. If you are reading this on line, the week you got it, there is still time to be in the drawing for early registration so read fast! I am going to be honest, the committee is getting nervous. We have great numbers for the Friday Workshop and many are familiar names but the total numbers are lower than we would like to see based on the caliber of the speakers and the number of members in our group. We know that many people wait until the last minute but this is a little nerve wracking.
From the beginning it had occurred to us that DNA is not everyone’s “cup of tea”. If you have been researching for decades the traditional way your recent generations are probably pretty complete so what would the benefit be of learning this whole new thing like DNA? You might be surprised. I come from a pretty boring family, or so I thought. My husband’s family was well researched before I got started on it and if anything, it was even more boring. No horse thieves, politicians or witches to be found. What was DNA going to tell me that I didn’t already know?
Here are just a few things I found out even with the very beginner DNA research I have done on probably two of the most boring families out there.
Great grandad had a way with women. I knew my grandmother was the middle of the pack of six girls and 1 boy. What I didn’t know was who was a sister/brother, half sibling or step sibling (And then there was the one no one talked about). Great grandad had three wives in 10 years and only the one I am related to lived past child bearing age. Details on family relationships died with my grandparent’s generation because “You didn’t talk about those things”. Also it appears that the names of the mothers were not a priority on birth records before 1900. DNA can help you untangle those roots. Oh, and it was traditional research pointed me to a coroner’s inquest that revealed a child of the family no one knew about. At eight years old my grandmother discovered the body of her older stepsister that had committed suicide. It was two days before Christmas. No wonder Grandma never really wanted to talk about her childhood.
Great, Great, grandad was really young at heart. On the other side of the family we knew little about my mother’s father’s family. My “real” grandfather died when my mother was eight and she was adopted by her mother’s second husband. He was “grandpa” to my older siblings but dead before I was even born. My mom’s original family name was Pahler and it is not that common. I was able to find two groups of them and they were in Ohio and Pennsylvania. But which one was mine? In the end the breakthrough came via DNA because the answer was BOTH! Good old Jacob Pahler had a wife and six children before he emigrated in 1865. When he got off the boat he had a wife and six kids but the wife was only two years older than his eldest son. Through DNA it was possible to figure out that the second wife was Jacob’s stepdaughter. He had married her shortly after her mother’s death (in childbirth at 40 something) and then moved to America and had eight more children there. And so the principle of endogamy touched my boring family.
Identical Twin after all! This last epiphany is actually about me. I grew up part of a family of nine and the thing that turned people’s heads as the family entered the room is that the last four of us were two sets of twins born 15 months apart. Yes, my mother was a saint and a master of time management. We were always told that all of us twins were fraternal twins. Four placentas, definitely fraternal, my sister and I just look a lot alike. The whole darn family looks alike-no non-paternal events happening here. As we got older though various people would say “You must be identical” and research bore out the fact that there was more than one way to split an egg. So for Christmas one year I bought a test for my sister. And when she finally got around to taking it her results stated “Either you are Rootsdigger7 or you are her identical twin. Well, there you go! And did you know that our children show up as half siblings though they are truly cousins and raised 1000 miles apart! It is a bit of a shock to find you share more cM with your niece than with your daughter but that is random mixing for you!
Can you imagine what tales from your tree can weave as you untangle your roots with this new tool DNA. None of these discoveries would be possible without traditional research. None of them would be as interesting without DNA research. If you are intrigued, if you just want to get away and “Do” some genealogy, this weekend conference is a great place to start. Truly make it a weekend. Come stay at the Fireside Inn and Suites. Park for free and take the shuttle into Portland for either the workshop or traditional research at some great repositories. Have a pizza party at the hotel and mingle with other researchers you only get to see once a year. Attend the all-day conference and annual meeting. We have great speakers and you will get a glimpse of the big plans we have for 2020 and Maine’s Bicentennial. Check out the session options, there is something there for everyone.
Register before Aug. 20 and get entered in a drawing to win a DNA Test from My Heritage or two tickets to the Spirits Alive Eastern Cemetery Tour. For more information and to register go to maineroots.org .