25 March 2013

Finding the Identity of Papa's Father, Part III

My genealogical journey continued.  I collected ancestors much like shells collect on the beach.  Sometimes my waves of research would come up sparse. Other times, those same waves of research would bring me bountiful information on my family, their whereabouts and how they lived their lives.  Try as I might, nothing new ever floated my way in those waves of looking for Papa’s father’s identity. I sensed that it was the end.  I had exhausted every resource known to man. It seemed ironic that Papa’s mother’s line could be traced to Charlemange, King of the Franks, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Papa’s paternal family history? It ended at Papa.

While reading up on the latest genealogical news a few years back, a new topic kept popping up: DNA research.  I attempted to read up on it.  Quite honestly, most of it was confusing to me.  All I knew is that, at the time, DNA testing was expensive and the male Y-DNA appeared to be the winner in tracing your family.  Last I looked, I was female.  DNA testing was not going to help me. Wait. Y-DNA tested the paternal line? A son could be tested and it could show the DNA for his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father? It was like a bolt of lightning. Maybe I could ask my uncle to take the Y-DNA test for me.  He was Papa’s son! His DNA could open the door which I could never open.

When this past December rolled around, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. “I want a DNA test for Uncle Larry”, I said.  He looked at me like I had grown a third eyeball.  “What else do you want”, he says, “that’s not a gift. I can’t put that under the tree. You can’t unwrap that”.  “That’s it”, I say.  Discounting a DNA test as a proper Christmas gift, my hubby looked a little annoyed.  I begin to pontificate my reasons for wanting one. I tell him by having Uncle Larry’s Y-DNA tested, it might prove who Papa’s father really was and you won’t have listen to me moan any longer that it’s making me crazy that I can never find out.  And, I tell him, the detailed test I want is not cheap. It would be a very generous gift.  He relents and says, “What do I have to do to get it”?

I’m so excited! I grab my phone to call my uncle.  “May I borrow a little bit of your spit”, I ask him? He laughs and I begin to tell him why.  I proceeded to explain what the test was, what it traced and what it could tell us.  It could give us the clues to learn who his father’s real father was.  Uncle Larry said yes.  I was over the moon.

Before I ordered the test, I made a phone call to my mother. I was worried. My uncle loved me to pieces.  He would stand on his head and spit nickels if I asked him to do it. I wanted my mom to talk to him, make sure that he knew that the information derived from the DNA test could show some unpleasantness in our family history, that the surname they had used all of their lives would always remain their surname but a new surname may show up which would be their real surname and these results could be life altering.  She spoke with him.  He really wanted to take it.

Before long, my uncle got the DNA test, swabbed his mouth and returned the kit to Family Tree DNA.  I created the FTDNA profile online.  And, waited.


Coming soon.......The Results!


  1. I just have a hunch this is going to turn out well. At the very least it will provide another clue that will get you closer to finding our the real identity of Papa's father! Doesn't it seem to you that keeping this kind of secret can be hurtful even though it means to be consoling?

    That's a phrase I remember from my childhood: "Stand on your head and spit wooden nickels!"

    1. My grandmother used to say that phrase all of the time. My mom and I both still use it. I said it to my 17 year old son once and he said, "What does that mean"? I wonder how many people still say it any longer?

      Keeping this kind of secret can be hurtful. It always caused an uneasiness inside of me. My grandpa had one sister left. She knew they had different fathers but refused to acknowledge it. It seems an old-fashioned way of thinking. But, it was scandalous. I recently read that a large percentage of the Puritans at Plymouth were pregnant when they married and the possibility of raising someone else's child was there. I need to find that story again.