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April 2, 2018

Barking Up the Wrong Tree - What to Do?

Hub's grandfather Bert Holden 1918-2000
If you haven't had this happen yet, you probably will. Your ancestor, perhaps your great-great grandpa, whose lineage you've traced for a decade, turns out to not be your great-grandpa.  Uh-oh. Now what?

* Do you throw your hands up in the air and exclaim "That's it! I give up!"

* Do you slump down in your chair, hang your head and moan "Woe is me, all my hard work down the drain"

* Do you pump your first and yell "Yippee - what fun! Now I have a whole new line to trace!"

* Do you take a deep breath, pause, and then calmly say to yourself "I better be really sure about this before I venture off on a new tangent"

Hubs and I faced this dilemma a year or so ago, and opted for reactions 3 and 4. It can happen for many reasons. It can be quite dramatic such as an illicit birth or it can be very mundane - human error. Perhaps there was a hidden affair - a baby born to a married couple but not the husband's child. Perhaps you, the researcher, simply made an assumption that turned out to be incorrect.

Elsie Markham Holden
hubs' great-grandmother 1898-1993
In our case with hubs' great-grandfather, we had no idea we had the wrong man until DNA tests were done. They proved conclusively that hubs' great-grandmother's child was born to a different man than her husband.

We weren't shocked, or horrified, and we did not judge his great-grandma. Why would we? We don't know if she hid the truth from her husband or she told him. We don't know the circumstances but we did feel a twinge of guilt that her long-held secret was now out. She certainly hid it from her children and grandchildren but here we were uncovering it and exposing it to the universe.

But I confess that most of what I felt was excitement at having an entire new line of people to find for hubs.

We've spent quite a bit of time now on Bert's new paternal lineage (Cooper). We know his father was one of two men who were nephew and uncle, so we have a two-pronged research. I don't know if we will ever know for sure which man was the father but we have a theory. 

As for our original research into the wrong family (Holden), I've saved it all in case anyone is ever looking for the family in Ontario. I have a lot I can share! 

Do you have a story?


Trudy Grein said...

I was new to genealogy and having trouble connecting my gggrandfather Cooley to his parents. I met up with a lady online who had been researching for years. She sent me information from a certified genealogist from the Cooley Family Research Association that linked this ancestor to a couple. Being new to research I accepted the findings of the certified genealogist. As I kept researching though something just didn't feel right about the whole thing. I kept digging and eventually uncovered my gggrandfather's true parents and I could prove it with the evidence I had found. I learned never to just accept someone's research unless they can document their findings.

booklearner said...

Well, it's SORT OF along this line.....

I didn't have many people directly show up under the closely-related section of my DNA when I first got my results. Six months later, my son had his, and of course, it showed him right under me, saying it was a parent-child relationship. Well, duh! But at the same time, I thought "Yippee! I finally have a name under mine that shows we are CLOSE!" (so, ok, I am easily entertained... but I digress...) Within a year, there were 3 who showed up as more than 4th cousins. THEN - voila! A NEW name, RIGHT under Kevin's (my son)!!! SO... I messaged him, and gave him my email. He emailed me back, and gave me a bit of info that I was too tired that night to read. And I told him I would try to find him on Facebook. So I found this name, and asked friendship, and said in my message "We are the DNA cousins that show up...." He accepted.

Well, as we talked here and there, he kept saying "No, I don't recognize that surnmae.... " so I said "Oh, maybe you are related on my mother's side, who are Italian" and the response was "No, no Italian, I don't think..." and we kept on and on. He kept insisting his family was in Colorado (where I am), but I said I never started out here, so I didn't think so.... he asked if I had my DNA with 23 and Me, or FTDNA. I had it with Ancestry, which is where we "connected"....lots of little inconsistencies.....We communicated about 8 months.

Then he gave me his email and told me he was going to send a genealogically written book by his sister I would love (titled: Runaway, Ray, in case anyone wants a good read!). So then I looked up his first email he sent me, and saw where he DID mention the surname, and it IS on my father's side. So I told another cousin that he must have inherited the "stupid gene" because he said opposite in his email from what he was telling me on facebook..... I would be sure to tell him in the morning.

...Then, in the middle of the night, it hit me.....

I shot up out of bed, and pulled up the 'email' he just sent me, and then I pulled up the "original email" from his first message. Yes, it was the same company address (gmail), BUT - the NAME was.... (gasp! horror!) DIFFERENT.

Like Indiana Jones said when he put the pieces of the puzzle together about the other guys in their search for the lost ark: WE WERE SEARCHING IN THE WRONG PLACE! IT WAS THE WRONG PERSON!!!

I realized I was the cousin with the "stupid gene"!!!!!

Oh, I crawled for forgiveness! I begged for forgiveness! I ate humble pie mixed with crow! gag! I told him I would tearfully accept his "unfriending" me......

His response? He said "NO! Let's remain facebook friends! Since I don't know that much about my own surname, and this guy shares my ENTIRE name, let's see if we can put my pieces of the puzzle together!"

Then something more came my way in regards to him: He sent me a pdf photo of the town directory of MY OLD HOME TOWN, a small town it still is, and I have just moved back. And in that directory it shows his family just not being in Colorado, but being HERE. My great grandfather, the Italian one, no less, was here at THAT TIME, and they must have crossed paths! And since this guy lives way over in California, I am readily available to help him in his search for home records that can only be seen in person. And, perhaps, a grave or two.....

So it did have an unexpected turn, that is quite a diversion from the grind we sometimes find ourselves in. It is an interesting journey, and an exciting one at that! I always loved a story! That was why I was a theatre major in college.....

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....I sent a letter to my actual cousin, apologized for not responding to his old email, explained what had happened, and am anxiously anticipating his response.

He hasn't responded..... yet..... :D

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

booklearner - great story! I love it.

Trudy - very wise words. Sorry you had to suffer through that but good on you for figuring it out in the end.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

I think I would throw up my hands & stomp my feet... for about five minutes & then get back to researching. You just that with great results. It is nice to read that research isn't always an easy path and how you handled it. It inspires the rest of us to stop waving our hands & stop stomping our feet and to get back to our research.

Judy Stickney said...

I have a 2nd great-grandfather who had no birth family, too. The only thing I could do was try searching anyone with his same name, ruling out those who were in the wrong location for a timeframe in which I knew his whereabouts. I finally found "my" Jacob in Illinois, reasearched him, even made a trip to his county seat looking at records. 2 years of near daily research. Then new records popped up on Ancestry proving "my" Jacob was not my Jacob after all.
Back to the drawing board and very thin leads. I finally found a family whose Jacob disappeared, but the other siblings' descendants were doing research. After finally deciding he belonged to this family based loosely on facial similarity with brothers and a bible entry giving his marriage to my grandmother (wrong date and mashed up name), DNA has proven that he (and I) really do belong to this family! But that took a number of years.
Don't give up! The truth is out there! I have been able to help a few adoptees and kids from broken families find their roots in our family, too. DNA has been a great help, but good old-fashioned research provides the facts.

Marcy Belles said...

When I was first doing research, still learning, using the census microfilm, I accidentally skipped a generation. I didn't realize the popularity of repeating names in the family (Kentucky). I knew that birth years could be a couple of years off so didn't think much when I found a Caroline Maynard with an age difference of 2 years. The region was correct. It wasn't until I went to Kentucky and met up with a cousin who was a published genealogist that I had realized my error. My Caroline was actually the niece of the Caroline I thought was my direct ancestor.

Xeric Maid said...

What about the time, as a new genealogist, that I connected to a whole family line that wasn't mine?

I had found a whole family with the correct husband/wife names and their child was that of my ancestor, so I "linked" to them, only to find out later that there were two (well, and probably others, too) with those same names, and that the originally linked ancestors weren't mine. I, like many, many others, wanted those answers and that resolution. Thankfully, some more experienced genealogists helped point out my possible errors and I was able to "disconnect" from the very popular ancestor with the great lineage! Now, I am a lot more conservative and require documentation and not just fervor.

The obverse of the coin can be true, to: recently, I along with another cousin, have been able to put together a whole family of a GG Grandmother who had no family, using obituaries, old photos, gravestone memorials, school records and family bibles, etc. Our sleuthing was exciting, fun, and so rewarding! We are still working on it, but it has given us both so much encouragement and inspiration.