Sunday, December 20, 2020

New Cousin

Finding new relatives that no one in the family talked about or perhaps even knew about is one of the risks/joys/adventures of having a DNA test done.  I have a new relative, just a little younger than me, positioned somewhere between first and second cousin. She was a closed adoption in Ellsworth, ME in 1958.  Only two other listed relatives on her paternal side, both quite remote. She messaged me on  People are quite tentative about this, with good reason.  Folks don't want to hear about extra babies born who were hushed up at the time.  I think I have mentioned before that we have that situation with our adopted nephew/fifth son.  His mother was a closed adoption in 1967.  He has a very close DNA match that we have narrowed down to be his grandmother's sister. We asked her for details and received the reply that no women in her family had a baby in Cambridge in that year.  They were all in California the whole time.  So we still don't know, though another match on that line might tell us which girl went away to "summer camp" that year.

It is uncomfortable.  It became clear that this new cousin must be a child of one of my grandparents or one of their siblings. On that side, my grandfather had four brothers and my grandmother was an only child, so I assumed at first that that side was more likely.  But the centiMorgans of the common relatives did not come close to matching.  We concluded at first that my grandfather must also be her grandfather, with an unknown son born around 1920 or so.  As Ellsworth is across the bay from Nova Scotia, that made some sense.  So...Grampa...he is long gone, died in 1983.  I knew him a bit and it did bother me just a touch.  I worried it might bother some other people more.  What to do?  What to say? How do you ask such questions without giving away the suspicions?

The woman is working with Search Angels, which helps people locate birth parents.  I spoke with them trying to narrow the places and dates, but it still didn't add up.  I don't have a huge number of DNA matches on that side but I have some, but she was not showing up as connected to them at all.  Which is impossible. We cast about until the person (from San Diego) mentioned that it must still be him because he had lived in Westford and her distant connections were from Leominster (he mispronounced it) which was so nearby. Ah, that was the key.  It wasn't my grandfather from Nova Scotia at all, it was his first wife, from Leominster, whose family had been in that area (Fitchburg, Shirley) for generations. She died youngish in 1952 and I never knew her. I actually had a hard time talking him into that, but it made sense to me. So she had a child before marrying Carl, who was a very silent person.  I never heard him mention her.  Or much of anything else, actually. I don't know if he even knew about the boy.

That boy in turn was the father of my cousin, born two states and 300 miles away, so she has two mysteries to solve to place herself in the genetic world accurately. I hope to meet her after all this avoidance of contact is over. My father had a half-brother he never knew about, and I have a half-first-cousin I just learned about, and it is time to close the circle.


RichardJohnson said...

An acquaintance found out through some DNA testing that the family tree is rather different from what the narrative was. Turned out a grandfather didn't pass the DNA test, but DNA tests located the actual grandfather and his family. Details? Recall Tom Lehrer from My Home Town.

Tom Lehrer: My Home Town
"I guess I better leave this line out just to be on the safe side
In my home town."

Though one detail: Keene, NH figures in the drama.

Donna B. said...

Finding a new cousin in my family didn't involve DNA, but an adopted child looking for medical history. Apparently, my parents' generation knew about this child and his parentage. His adoptive parents knew the birth mother's name but hadn't revealed that he was adopted until his medical problems surfaced. It's a sordid tale involving two brothers and one woman, but the end result was that his six half brothers and sisters refused to acknowledge him. I thought this unfortunate and can't quite understand why.

Texan99 said...

If it were me, I'd like to know about the new relative and the backstory. It wouldn't be likely to make me think less of anyone. Not that many people get through without any sexual indiscretions, so I'm not really inclined to dump extra blame on the ones who got "caught" by a pregnancy. It can happen at any time to anyone who has casual sexual relations at any time during a long life. My impression is that's most people.

My grandfather and his sister were orphaned by disease and mischance. The important thing is what the people around them did to pick up the slack. At least an adoption story shows us that some people picked up the slack.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

My brother mentioned seeing a marriage document stating that Ruth's marriage to Carl was her second. that leads to other questions, such as how that marriage ended and why she did not have custody of the child. Now that we know a little more about where to look we might learn more.