In the latest episode of The DNA Thread, I feel like throwing up.
Last week, I was entering all kinds of DNA data into a program called GenomeMate Pro and I noticed a lot of matches that matched both my mom and my sister, but none of the known, tested cousins. We have my mom’s paternal side fairly well covered, with known first and third cousins having been tested. And we are finding tested second and third cousins on her maternal side…but only on the maternal-maternal line. It struck me that the matches that I was seeing might be from the paternal side of her maternal line (her mother’s father’s people). I run into a brickwall pretty quick on that line, ending with a birth in 1865 Maryland. They did not keep birth records then. I have no idea where in Maryland this guy was born, and I certainly have no idea who his parents were. His death cert lists them as “Unknown”.
Here is his obit. Note the last line.
That tells me that they were in touch with the people back home in Maryland.
Anyway, I finally realized that I had this guy’s cemetery info. I was provided with his exact plot number after a quick email to the helpful people at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Queens, NY. I then asked the FindAGrave.com folks to snap me a picture of his grave. For $40, I can have the full grave record from Mount Olivet. Maybe someday when I am rich again.
So, if I can’t find him in Maryland via the paper-trail, could I find him in NY among the living? I needed to reverse course and try my hand at a different kind of genealogy. This is where it gets really creepy. Hunting the dead is one thing. Hunting the living is something else entirely. There are actually people out there that specialize in it. They are scary good at it, too. If they want to find you, they will.
I started looking at what I already had to work with, which was three siblings of my mother’s mother’s father, David T. Atkinson Sr. I’ve tried tracing one of them already. He, William E. Jr, was in the Meuse-Argonne battle during WWI and does not seem to have ever married. Then there is another brother. He has a shockingly common name and it is impossible to find him in the sea of Walter Atkinsons out there. That left me a sister. I had already discovered that she married, but I didn’t have anything on her children. Did she have any? Turns out, yes. Four of them. I traced the oldest daughter and found she married and had two boys. One son was already dead, but the other one seems to still be alive. He lives in the town of Sayville, NY, which is out on Long Island. This is the first time I had ever heard of the place. I found what I think is the guy’s mailing address, so I wrote up a packet explaining who I am and what I was trying to do and, hey, is this your family tree and, if so, how about you take a DNA test to help a cousin out? I even included a SASE so that he could reply one way of the other. Then I started looking at the other kids. I managed to find that one of them had an obit published in 1997 in the local paper of Sayville. I found one of these living people hunters on a FB genealogy group and she was able to get me a copy of the obit faster than the Sayville Public Library! It was on a pay web site that I do not have a subscription with.
His obit listed six kids and made reference to 14 grandkids. The tree suddenly was much larger.
The creeper crept and I started creeping along with her. Public records and non-secured FB pages of the kids. I didn’t even bother with the grandkids as I want the oldest DNA available. The shared Atkinson DNA segments are really starting to get small at this distance. Looking through the pictures on the first two FB pages, the people seemed familiar, but nothing striking. Then I hit one sister and, holy moly! It was insane. In one picture, she looked like one of my mom’s sisters. In another, a blonde version of my sister. In a younger picture (#TBT), she looks like a mash-up of my mom and my sister’s oldest daughter. Here was my target. It was so freaky that I sent the pictures to my youngest niece to get her opinion. She also saw my mom’s mom in the photos. She’s a cousin, for real. I sent the pictures to my sister and she’s freaking out. In fact, she is going to make first contact with this woman. It is far less creepy to have a strange woman ask for your DNA than for a strange man to do it. Then I sent the pictures to my mom. She’s freaking out. In the #TBT picture, she sees herself looking back at her! Same eyebrows! Same lips! So everyone is very excited. I start looking around for an email address for my sister to use. What I found was even crazier.
Remember, I had never heard of Sayville, NY before this all. I turned up on one of those uber-creepy whitepages/police record sites the sale history of a house that my target owned. The house had traded hands between family members a fair bit over the years, but it was owned for the longest time by their dad. This was the house they had grown up in. So, who did this second cousin to my mother sell it to? A similarly distant cousin of my father! I just finished tracing this guy down from the one little record I had on the birth of his dad (David Jr). David Sr was a brother of my father’s mother. Now Jr’s son is living in this house that a bunch of my mom’s cousins were raised in. My family is running in circles. How can this even possibly be? But there it is. Here we thought we were basically alone over here and now my paternal second cousin bought a house from my maternal second cousin one time removed! I am sure they have zero idea of the connection. I’d show you his tree, but there are so many siblings in David Sr and my grandmother’s generation that the tree is far too wide to display in a blog! Most of them are still in County Cork.
I went looking for one person to take a DNA test and now I may have, possibly, three! Of course, I am so freaked out about the whole thing that I want to puke, so I think I will do nothing about it for now. Maybe my sister will bring it up to the woman she is getting in touch with.