Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CHAPTER 36: GLOBAL WARMING

My feet are always cold.  Always.  I have no idea why.  Doctors don't have the answers and don't seem to be concerned.  It first became an issue in 1991 when I was touring the UK with a show called "Recycle This".  We would go into schools across the continent and present an upbeat (all singing, all dancing, all joking) musical, designed to educate tweens about the benefits of reducing their carbon footprint.  Somewhat ironically, we were sponsored by a well known international company who's name rhymes with *Plow Dastics.
So, the six of us cast members (two girls and three guys) piled into a passenger van in the dead of October for six weeks, criss crossing across England, Wales and Scotland.  It was a tremendous opportunity; one that I took for granted. I didn't yet have the obsession with genealogy and my history with that great land.  By then I had found my biological mother- but that family knew little to nothing about their own origins and weren't particularly interested in finding out about them.  This was long before the internet, Ancestry.com and the onset of instant and fanatical genealogical research.  It was still far too daunting a task for me to even begin building a family tree.
The UK was damp and chillingly cold for this california girl.  I soon noticed that sitting in a drafty van for hours on end would cause my feet to first sweat, then become chilled- and soon they would be, essentially, blocks of ice at the bottom of my legs.  I began to spend my nominal weekly stipend on every type of sock that I could get my hands on in the hopes of finding some miraculous cure for that which was ruining my otherwise enjoyment of exploring the countryside as it constantly streamed past my window.
Over the years I have been known to go to extreme lengths to thaw out my lower extremities.  I have burned out numerous hair dryers by inserting them under the blankets on my bed. I own more than my fair share of Ugg Boots.  Don't judge. My mother-in-law will recall many a family gathering where I couldn't possibly continue with the visit until after I had filled up a sink with hot water, sat on the counter, and soaked my feet until the icy-ness had been extricated from my tootsies. It's a thing.  Even today, as I sit in front of my trusty lap-top, my feet are adorned with my favorite booties that are equipped with battery powered heaters so that I can remain toasty warm.  That's them in the picture at the top of this page. By the way- it's seventy degrees outside. Had such a pair of joy filled muk-luks been available in 1991, life on tour would have been far more comfortable.  It has occurred to me that perhaps this is nature's way of telling me that I need to move more and sit less- but I digress.

My daughter, born and raised in California, started college just outside of Boston last year.  She too has experienced this life diminishing phenomenon. We are one in the same.



When last we spoke, I disclosed that my biological father, Clive Fisher, was on a boat bound for England.  He had previously been corresponding with his father on average of two or three times a week.  My grandfather seems to have had the foresight to transcribe the letters into composition books and they are compiled in a series of chronological chapters.  My cousin, Kaylene, takes the time to photograph them and send them to me by Facebook Messenger every few days.  It is a delightful window into my father's life.  
As the dates were progressing to early 1964, I began to anticipate the time when, perhaps, my father would talk about my mother.  Maybe there would be mention of the "nurse" that he had met at such and such.  I harbor no delusions that it was a great romance.  At this point I would be surprised if it was anything more than a one time fling.  Things happened.  It was a long time ago.  No judgement.  
Clive certainly enjoyed meeting the ladies.  He spoke of them often.  Sometimes he named them, sometimes he didn't.  He never went into detail- or even eluded that there was anything more than flirtations. One time he mentioned getting to "second base" with someone.  Cute.  I wonder what that meant in 1964.

I mentioned in the last chapter how the letters were constant until April of 1964- and suddenly- like a punch in the gut- it was October 19th and he was traveling to England.  My cousin says that she is sending the pages in the order in which they were written.  Either an entire book has gone by the wayside- or "papa" decided that some things didn't need to be recorded for the record. 

According to his letters, Clive was living in a boarding house in Exeter.  He had a job driving (or conducting) on a bus.  He talks about "Frances".  I believe that she is the pen-pal that he had been corresponding with and decided that they should meet in person.  When he got there, he discovered that she was practically engaged to a soldier and their imagined relationship was not to be.  Clive was not thrilled- but he took it in stride.  He made the best of the situation and stuck around to experience life in Exeter.  He was not impressed with his "land-lady".  Apparently she was a bit of a "tight wad" and complained when he took long baths or sat in front of the heater for too long.  He experienced his first (almost) white christmas (grey?) in 1964.  He missed his dad, siblings and their children- but he was determined to stick it out as long as he could.  He thought that the "pommies" -at least the ones in Exeter- were a little too set in their ways- and generally "backwards".  After moving to a new boarding house he liked his new landlady.  She was from Bolton, Lancashire.  They shared a common opinion of the "Devonsians" (as he called them) seemed to be stuck in the past and afraid of "progress".  He said he liked the Northern Englanders more than the Southerners.  On January 12th, while singing the praises of the new land-lady he asked "Do you know where your ancestors on your dad's side are from in England?"  I instinctually exclaimed "I do!".  And he was correct.  They are from the Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire areas.

On January 30, 1965, Clive wrote to his father.

"Dear Dad,
     
 I received your welcome letter yesterday.  It snowed last night. There's still some snow around today but most of it's gone.  I'm writing this at work so I'm racing through it. There was a lot more snow this time than there was last time.  The weather here now is dull as buggery.

My feet are cold."


* Please don't sue me

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

CHAPTER 35: LEARNING ABOUT CLIVE


     Clive Edgar Fisher, my biological father, wrote letters to his father from Moonee Ponds at least once a week.  He would begin with "Dear Dad, I hope this letter finds you well as it leaves me".  He had recently left the Royal Australian Navy to begin his life as a civilian.  He lived in a boarding house on Mt Alexander Rd.  Incidentally, according to Google Maps it is exactly eleven minutes from his address to the house I grew up in.
 He had just started a new job at the Melbourne rail-yard and attended night school. He expressed to his father that "he WILL become a geologist".  His tenacity is inspiring to read about.  He left school at fourteen years of age to help support his family- but he clearly didn't stop the learning process- and never gave up hope of continuing his education.

He described an active social life.  He went to local dances and had at least two girl-friends that were nurses. He didn't mention their names- but it piques my interest because my mother was a nurse when she became pregnant with me. 
He talked about possibly going to England; inquiring if his father would like to take the trip with him.  William (my grandfather- known as "Papa" to all the grandkids) was living in Wyangala, New South Wales- a couple hundred miles from Sydney.  The Wyangala Dam is a well known tourist attraction. It seems that Papa was working a pensioners job there at the canteen. The home base for the family was Deniliquin, NSW, about half way between Sydney and Melbourne.  My Aunt Jean lived there still with her husband and kids and it was where most family gatherings were held.

These letters began (at least the ones that I have seen) in June of 1963. There were plenty of mentions of older siblings Max and Jean.  I believe, sometime in 1963, Jean's twin, Don, had died a tragic, early death.  I seem to have gotten the last part of a letter that was written as early as 1960 in which Clive gave his father Don's mailing address. In a letter from "papa" to Clive there was mention of the cost of Don's funeral. Other than that it is clear that Clive was being careful to be sensitive and supportive of his probably grieving father- not to mention himself and his two remaining siblings.  Knowing this fact makes the letters all the more poignant for me. The fact that Clive's mother, Thelma Heather Grace (nee) Parker had died in 1948 when he was only 9 meant that this was a close knit family that looked out for one another- and were no strangers to loss.

The letters read like a diary- only better.  As he had an audience, my father was descriptive about his experiences and painted pictures of his surroundings and adventures.  He talked about taking day trips to Mount Dona Buang, Healesville Sanctuary and Air Shows at Laverton. He could write pages about aircraft and their capabilities.  He described conversations he had at dinner with his housemates, and related impressions of movies and newsreels that he had seen that week.  He described the troubles he was having with his car- and relayed hilarious stories of constantly breaking down in remote areas- only to be rescued by well meaning locals.  He talked about girls as "dolls" or "sorts"- in a way that seems old fashioned- even respectable.

He had a pen-pal in England named Frances.  She had sent him photographs of herself in a bikini, and another of herself with her horse in some sort of horse show.  The bikini picture really made an impression because he brought it up more than once.  I think this was probably what inspired his desire to travel to the UK.

This stream of regular letters continued for a year.  I started to realize that it was getting close to the time for me to be- ummm- created?  On April 8, 1964 (364 days before my birth) Clive wrote about having had a brief phone conversation with his dad the previous night- before getting cut off before the three minutes were up.  He complained about trying to get through to the Wyangala Dam Cafeteria- but the "silly old crow" at the Wyangala exchange said there is no phone at the cafeteria, "there is isn't there?"  He talked about missing his school lecture because he ran out of petrol on the way there.  A couple of weeks ago he visited "Bert and Lil" around dinner time, brought a projector and showed them some of his slides.  My research has proven helpful as I realize that he is referring to his paternal uncle Albert Leslie Fisher and his wife Lillian Hazel.  It also appears that Uncle Bert passed away just a few months later.

The next letter was dated October 19, 1964.  It was coming from the SS Canberra- a passenger ship bound for Southhampton.  After messaging cousin Kaylene- it appears that there are no transcribed letters between Clive and "Papa" from April 8, 1964 to October 19, 1964.  According to my birthdate, I was conceived in mid July- right in the middle of that six month gap. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

CHAPTER 34: DRIPPING WATER HOLLOWS OUT STONE, NOT THROUGH FORCE BUT THROUGH PERSISTENCE

I have been putting off writing this chapter for a week now.  I'm almost afraid to write it.  Here goes.

On Thursday, July 13th, I was profoundly aware that Rob's results were going to come in at any moment.  I had gotten into the habit of refreshing my browser once every two minutes or so.  To distract from the anxiety I continued to research the Fisher tree.  Due to the fact that I have become rather adept at searching, inspecting and legitimizing documentation it had grown to the size of my maternal tree in less than six weeks.  The Price tree has taken me a good five years.  While I am far from perfect, practice helps.

So, that day I went about my usual house-hold duties, occasionally jumping on line to check if results were in.  Around two pm, I quickly logged on to Rob's account and suddenly things drew to a grinding halt.  His page had changed to reflect that his DNA results were ready and his match list was available for perusal.  My stomach lurched.  Taking my cleansing breaths I took note of that rare feeling that, no matter what, things were about the be permanently changed.
I clicked on the "VIEW ALL DNA MATCHES"- held my breath- and up popped what I had been hoping- expecting- to see.


There I was at the top of the list under "CLOSE FAMILY".  This distinction is reserved for siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and first cousins. So far so good.  Next I clicked on the little "i" icon that would tell me how many centiMorgans and segments Ancestry's computer had determined that we share.

As you can see, it says 1,339 cMs across 46 DNA segments.  The next step was to look at the DNA Statistics document that is provided by Christa Stalcup from the DNA Detectives.

I studied it for what seemed like an eternity.  We are definitely within the range of half siblings (1300-2300)- but I also noticed that the first cousin match range was not too far below our number (575-1330).  We were only 9 cMs over the top cut-off. Cursing my typical "murphy's law" type luck, I quickly screen shotted the results and posted them to DNA Detectives- asking for instant feedback and noting that after uploading Rob's DNA to Gedmatch our sharing was upped to 1391 cMs.
I began to get a barrage of opinions.  Most believed that it was a half-sibling match, while others agreed- but cautioned that there's a small possibility of a high matching first cousin.  
I had really expected to see a higher number- somewhere around the average of 1800 cMs.  It didn't feel as conclusive as I had anticipated.  CeCe Moore and some of the other administrators continued to have to a debate about the circumstances, likely scenarios and percentages. 
Finally, around 5:47 pm I messaged Rob that the results were in.  I asked if he was ready for results and he said that he was at work- but ok.  In hindsight, I should have taken his cue and told him we could talk after work- but that train had already left the station.  I proceeded to tell him the information that I had, sent him images of graphs that break down the percentages, and told him that I was ALMOST positive that we were half-siblings- but there seemed to be a tiny margin of error.  I could tell that he was confused and, like me, not at all happy that it didn't seem 100% conclusive.  I suggested that perhaps we can track down one of Max's children and ask them to test.  He agreed that perhaps we should. I think we were both disappointed that we were robbed of that celebratory moment - and the thought of continuing the hunting and testing did not appeal to either of us.  I discovered later that Rob was already having a particularly stressful day at work and this revelation pretty much pushed him to the end of his emotional rope.
As the evening progressed I monitored the conversation going on in DNA Detectives about my case.  I encouraged Rob to join the group so as to see what the consensus was, and I also tagged him in various conversations that I was having with experts and numbers crunchers.
Overnight the conversation continued, and more and more people were weighing in to confirm the likelihood that we were half-siblings. 

In the last chapter I touched on the connection with my new second cousin once removed, Natham Turner.  It was fun to be able to help him to clear up some of his family mysteries while he helped me with mine.  I was delighted to discover that I had a first cousin once removed, Shena Morrison, living less than an hour from me in California.  The fact that she was a contemporary of my grandmother, Thelma, who had died at the young age of 42 and remains a mystery within the Fisher family gave me hope that perhaps she could shed light on her story for those of us still in the dark.
Natham was reaching out to her daughter, Yasmin, to see if he could arrange a meeting.  On July 6th I received a text from him saying "Shena just died yesterday. I'm not joking"
She was 98.  I read her obituary and it spoke of her years living in Fiji and New Guinea where she cliff dived, swam with the natives and dressed as a boy to go into the jungles to provide medical care to soldiers.  After the war broke out she, her brother and mother went to Sydney where she became an up and coming Opera Singer.  She had been described as "the next big thing".  Shena married four times and lived the second half of her life in Ventura, Ca.  I hope to speak to her daughter, my second cousin, as soon as I feel that it is appropriate to reach out.  I can't help but be dumb-founded at the timing.
Shena's funeral was to be held in Ventura on July 14th.  It would have been a perfect opportunity to be able to pay my respects and listen to stories about the life of my close cousin.  Instead, I was required to attend a deposition in Riverside; another unfortunate result of events that have taken place since the illness and subsequent death of my dad. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
So, I went to the deposition and upon returning home, I texted Rob to see how he was feeling.  It was now Saturday morning in Australia- so he had had time to process and could be in the privacy of his own home to discuss the results.  He too had been monitoring the discussions and had come to his own conclusion that it wasn't necessary to search out and test one of Max's children.  I was relieved- though still willing to do it.  Rob gave me the go-ahead to make my "announcement"- and I opted to do it only in my private pages.


I had been conversing all day with Lauren McGuire, one of the DNA Detectives.  She was familiar with my story and was eager to help me to get a more conclusive result.  She accessed my Gedmatch results and did a "one to one" comparison with me and Rob.  She screen-shotted me the comparison graphs and pointed out where we matched on our entire Chr. 8 and almost all of Chr. 22. She said she was going out on a limb but couldn't imagine it being anything other than a half-sibling.  Our Gedmatch shared DNA was at 1410.  Then she went to the trouble of convincing another "detective" Leah LaPerle Larkin to look at the match on Gedmatch- and Leah then convinced a gentleman named Andrew Millard (of the UK) to run a simulation using a new technique that he had recently developed.  If any of them are reading this, please forgive my ignorance and probable incorrect terminology.  Numbers and percentages and simulations are where my brain checks out.
So, Andrew ran the simulation while I continued chatting with Lauren.  Finally I was told that Leah had the results- did I want to hear them now or have them posted.  I told her to post them.  I don't know why.  I guess I wanted to have that discovery moment.  I went to the post in DNA Detectives and there it was:



IT WAS OFFICIAL.  Even though I had already announced it- the fact that the people who do this all the time had come to that conclusion as well was huge.  I quickly messaged Rob saying "Look at this!"

I want to express my utmost appreciation to Cece Moore, Rose Overburg, Lauren Reed McGuire, Leah LaPerle Larkin, Christa Stalcup, Blaine Bettinger (who I believe gave his two cents in there a time or two), the mysterious Andrew Millard and all of my genie friends and supporters (I'm talking to you Beverly Pritchett, Meryl Naismith, Stephanie Eversly, Colleen Ward et al) that have bolstered me over these past few years.  You are all truly angels and I'll never be able to thank you enough.

I'm there.  It is finished.  I can stop wondering and just research my known family.  I can breathe.

It's all still very new.  Rob and I chat online almost every day.  This is an adjustment for his family as well.  He has told his (my) brothers and some cousins.  His mother and our sister both live in Queensland.  I will say that I was conceived a full year before Clive and Rob's mother were married. 
Last time we talked he hadn't told them and it's completely up to him as how he will proceed.  I've been messaging with my cousin Kaylene- and the other day she introduced me to her sister Heather.  They are welcoming and open.  Heather has a sort of scrap-book from our grandfather that was filled with letters that his children wrote to him over the years.  They copied one that my father wrote to his dad in 1963 when he was living in Moonee Ponds and had just got a job with the railways.  I was struck by his beautiful penmanship and near perfect use of punctuation.  He left school at fourteen, so his grasp of language and letter writing was a nice surprise. You don't have to have formal schooling to receive an education.  As I read along I realized how much I felt like I knew him.  His writing was conversational, non sequitur, and not without humor.  He was descriptive enough that you could visualize the minor car accident that had just happened outside his boarding house window.  His style was stream of conscious and slightly self deprecating, all the while showing concern and interest for the person with whom he was corresponding.

I knew him.  I recognized him in his writing. He used it as a way to connect with others, to relay his experiences and create a history.  Writing life down clarifies things- and reminds you where you were, and why you were.  I have no doubt that I get that from him. That, and my desire for answers and the twinkle in my eye. 







Sunday, July 9, 2017

CHAPTER 33: PROOF

I'm halfway through my approximate two week waiting period before the DNA results are expected.  Instead of anxiously refreshing my browser on a bi-hourly basis I thought I would give my fingers and mind something else to do while I wait.  I thought I would summarize the eight DNA matches that have proven my connection to the Fisher line.  Here they are in no particular order- only because I don't remember the order as it all happened lightening fast.

First, and most obviously, is HK.  The original, the best, the sole reason that this is finally happening.  I'm sure his partner Naomi never imagined that working on a family tree would trigger such a shift in the world of a complete stranger.  Once I started talking to Rob, I pretty much let Naomi off the hook.  I could tell that, although she was willing to help, she was not sure what to think- and how much information was okay to share. 
 If the hypothesis is correct, HK is my first cousin 1x removed.

Debbie and "eurekapub" are a pair of siblings who have been on my match list for a couple of years now. I knew that they were matches to my paternal line (as they do not match my mother) and there is a bit of a tree that lists a few names that I have kept on my list of "possible" paternal names.  All of the family seems to be firmly rooted in Sydney.  In hindsight, this was more of a clue than I realized.  They are a "mutual match" to HK, which is why Rose (my dna detective angel) suggested that I make a mirror tree for them as well.  That is when I discovered the missing Anderson line that connected to the Anderson in HK's mirror tree.

GC is a gentleman named Graham who was tested by his step-daughter Tam.  After research we discovered that he is the grandson of the sister of my (potential) great grandmother, Marjory Taylor. We likely share John Taylor and Jane Chadwick (his g grandparents, my 2 g grandparents).  Graham is the one match on this tree that is what is known by the experts as an "outlier". On paper he is a 2nd cousin 1x removed (or 3rd cousin-but one generation older than myself)- however, we match on 259 cM's- closer to a straight 2nd cousin match.  Cece Moore has told me that this most often happens in areas where populations of the same family are highly concentrated and isolated- so people tend to marry into their own family.  It could also just be a fluke.  Time will tell.  Thanks to Tam, I have been gifted with lots of photos and info about Graham's branch of the tree.  Their family has been in the Bendigo area for well over a century- as have the Fishers.

HM is a teenager who begged his mother, Jocelyn, for a DNA test to prove his Scottish genealogy.  He did- and then some.  He is a "shared match" with HK and the eurekapub siblings.  This suggests that Anderson once again comes into play.  Jocelyn and I had a discussion and, before long, we figured out that her grandmother was a Lydia Anderson, daughter of  Walter Anderson, who was sibling to Jeannie Anderson- my likely 2nd g grandmother! 

So, at this point, I had connections to both of the parents of my two potential fathers- Taylor, on the paternal Fisher line, and Anderson, on the maternal Parker line.  It was about at this point that I felt confident enough to present evidence to Rob as to why taking a DNA test would be a good idea.

But wait, there's more.

Amelia Clapton is not a match in common with any of my known cousin matches-- however, a quick look at her tree (thank you Amelia) showed a William Robson AND Sara Jane Fisher as her 2x g grandparents.  Though both of those surnames were in HK's mirror tree- neither of those particular people were.  Here's where it got good.  Jane Chadwick (likely 2nd g grandmother) had been married to a John Robson back in Cheshire.  She had two children (maybe three) with him before he unfortunately died in what appears to be a cave in France in 1853.  That's something for future research.  Anyway, shortly after John's unfortunate demise, Jane appeared to have taken her children to Australia, and married John Taylor in Bendigo in 1855.  Eventually, Jane's son, William Robson, married Sara Ann Fisher, sister to my potential g grandfather, Charles Fisher.  I know, I know- it's overwhelming.  It hurts my head trying to make sense of it.  The bottom line is that Amelia and I are double 3rd cousins 1x removed.  We share one and a half sets of g grandparents (of various "greats") Jane Chadwick and John Robson, as well as Charles Fisher and Martha Cornwell.  In short, one set of siblings married another set of siblings.  As there is a Taylor in there somewhere this MAY explain my unusually high match with Graham- but don't quote me on that.

Whew.  How are we doing?  Are any of you still reading this?  If so, thank you.  I realize that this may be a little "dry"- particularly to those interested in the blog for the "soap opera" like story- but really, it helps me to put it all into words in one place so that I can direct skeptics to this chapter.

Alrighty then.  Moving on.  I got a match named Mandy Reidy.  She did not have a tree, but a quick Facebook search brought up someone in Western Australia with the maiden name Lethlean.  Ah yes, Lethlean was indeed familiar to me. Jane Chadwick's oldest daughter, Agnes had married and Alexander Lethlean (from Cornwall) in 1867.  He had several children from a previous marriage, and they went on to have approximately twelve more children and raised them in the Bendigo area.  I had done a little research on the Lethleans (probably because of the interesting name) and they seemed to split between Bendigo and Western Australia.  There are still many Lethleans in Bendigo, one of whom worked alongside Clive Fisher in the Bendigo Post Office for many years.  Likely unknown close cousins working side by side! Mandy quickly got on board in figuring out the exact connection.  It took about a day, but I finally figured out that we are 3rd cousins 1x removed.  Our most recent shared common match is Agnes Robson (1850-1921).  There is a sordid and scandalous story involving Mandy's great uncle that took place in the early 1930's in Western Australia that made national headlines for years.  Perhaps I'll touch on it in a later chapter.

Well, we have arrived and number eight!  About a week ago, a new match came up named Natham Turner.  He was a shared match with HK and eurekapub and lives in Sydney.  Natham's Facebook profile suggested to me that we have a lot in common- just as humans, and as expected he was quick to respond to my friend request and message which read "Hi.  You are one of the only two Natham Turner's on FB.  I believe we are a DNA match on Ancestry.  Are you interested in figuring out the connection?"
His response:"Are you an ad? Tell me more."
Nath and I were going to get along just fine.  Before long it was revealed that his grandfather was named Charles Edgar Luvei Parker- and he was born in Fiji.  Now, my (probable) g grandfather was Charles Edgar Parker Jr- however, the dates were way off.  Natham didn't know anything beyond his Charles other than his mother's name was Rose.  OK.  Challenge accepted.  By purchasing "Luvei's" marriage certificate I was able to discover that HIS father was Charles Edgar Parker III- older brother to my Rob Fisher's grandmother, Thelma.  Their parents were Charles Parker and Jeannie Anderson.  Yep.  That Anderson family.  

Thelma Parker is a mystery.  She comes from a large family that occupied much of a beautiful peninsula in Balmain, Sydney.  I have only been able to identify her birth certificate, proving who her parents were, one Electoral Roll registry in 1930, and her death certificate from 1948.  She died of Tuberculosis leaving four young children; Maxwell (16), Jean and Donald (10, twins) and Clive (9). The certificate states that she married William John Fisher at age 25 in Queensland.  I have yet to locate such a record.

There you have it friends.  I must confess it feels good to have all of this information in one place.  I now have somewhere to direct skeptics.  I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted.  Time for coffee- oh, and to check AncestryDNA yet again. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

CHAPTER 32 : EXPOSITION


The next day there were still no leaf matches on the mirror tree that my DNA was attached to. Rose had noticed that there were two common matches with HK.  She noticed that one of them "almost" matched someone in the tree.  I realized that these two matches were familiar to me.  They were a brother and sister, DG and Eurekapub.  He had some semblance of a tree connected to his results- bare bones- three generations or so.  I had spoken to the sister and she wasn't able to share much, but had expressed an interest in helping.  Both sides of their family was centered around the Sydney area.  Rose had a "feeling" and requested that I make a mirror tree based on them as well.  I eagerly followed her direction- thankful that I had help from the Ancestry "hints".  Before long, I realized that  Eurekapub had missed something two generations back.  He had labeled his grandmother as having the maiden name "Andrews"- when, in fact, it appeared that it was "Anderson".  He had skipped a generation.  "Andrews" was actually his great grandmother's maiden name.  I corrected that error, continued as far back and out as I could and added my DNA in place of my match.
Before long it became evident that there seemed to be a possible connection.  There was a Walter Anderson in Eurekapub's tree- and HK's 2x g grandmother was also an Anderson.  They were both born in Sydney- about ten years apart.  Around the same time time, both Rose and I realized that the common relatives were probably HK's 3x g grandparents.  That could very well point to my family being on HK's mother's line- the one I had not been focusing on. Rose said that if that were the case- then it was pointing towards the "Fisher" line. That meant that the amount of DNA I shared with HK would point to one of his maternal uncles being my biological father.  Rose advised me to purchase his grandfather's death certificate (from 1972).  I did so and I now had a list of the Fisher children and their ages at the time of his death.  I added them to the mirror tree.  Though g grandpa had had four sons, only two were still alive in 1964.  

I had spent a fair amount of time perusing HK's Facebook page.  I had not "friend requested" him, but was able to view most of his "friends".  I had, by deduction, figured out who were cousins and which parent they were connected to.  Earlier I had noticed a cousin named Rob Fisher.  Upon clicking through to his profile, there was something familiar about him....I want to say that it felt as though he was as open a person as I am.  He freely shared many family photos, spoke lovingly of his family, and had constructed albums that he had tagged cousins in and invited them to participate.  I noticed that he loved cricket and aussie rules footy, aviation, his wife and two kids,  and worked with the disabled. He was obviously comfortable with expressing himself with words and was quite photogenic.  One album in particular was dedicated to the memory of his father.  His name was Clive and he appeared to have passed away around 2009.  Rob talked about his love of the outdoors and that he had a particular fondness for trees.  So much so, that he would pose his photography subjects in front of trees- so there was a theme in his photography.  It was charming and spoke volumes of Rob's love for his father.  There appeared to be two brothers as well- but they didn't seem to have Facebook pages.  

Upon the revelation that my match seemed to be focused on this particular line, I remembered Rob and how connected I had felt to him.

Meanwhile, another close match had shown up on my paternal line.

The next few events happened quickly, and there were so many that I've lost track of the timelines or exact order.  I will do my best to keep it succinct. My point is, as evidence began appearing, things started to fall into place.

I began getting leaf hints on my mirror tree.  The first was GC.  I reached out to the administrator and she shared that the match was her step-father.  He had a rather distinctive last name- so it wasn't hard to figure out where in the tree he connected.  My original match (HK) had a 2x g grandmother named Marjory Taylor.  She had a sister named Ann- who appeared to be GC's g grandmother.  This family had long been rooted in Bendigo, a town halfway between Melbourne and the NSW border.  The Fishers are also firmly connected to Bendigo.  In fact, Rob and his brothers and mother still live there.  This was a good, confirming hint.  
Over the next few days, as I managed to build the mirror tree up and out, more new matches with hints popped up.
Rose indicated that it was pretty evident that the Fishers were the family to focus on.

As Rob had appeared to be level headed I decided that he would be the most obvious person to reach out to.  His Facebook page indicated where he worked so I sent a message to their business page- as well as "friend requesting" his personal profile and sending him an inbox message saying that I thought we were probably cousins.
Within minutes, Rob responded.  He said he couldn't think how we could be related, so I gave him an abbreviated version of how I had arrived at that conclusion.  I explained my various DNA matches- particularly my close match to his cousin HK.  I, ever so gingerly explained that all evidence pointed to one of his grandfather William's sons being my father.  I explained that I was adopted and that even though I had been given a name, that person turned out to not be the one.  He was empathetic and, I think, interested.  I then asked him what he could tell me about his uncle Max.  I knew he could figure out on his own that Clive was also a candidate, but thought it best to focus on the less "shocking" option.  Rob told me that he had only met Max three times in his life and he believed that he now lived in the Philippines.  Before that, he had lived in Queensland.  This checked out as the only person I had found it the Electoral Rolls with his exact name had been in the Townsville area throughout the sixties and seventies.  We ended that first conversation with Rob promising to ask relatives about the whereabouts of Max.
The next day we spoke again, briefly, as Rob was busy at work.  He told me that he had spoken to his cousin who also didn't really know Max.  The last time he had visited Australia was 2009.  The cousin believed that Max had also contracted some form of cancer in the past few years and had likely passed away as well.

By now, Rob had accepted my friend request so I was able to see more of his family photos.  There were many of his dad at various stages of life.  He was in the Navy in the late 50's and there were photos of him onboard some ships as well as a couple of uniform portraits.  He was handsome and impish.  He had a twinkle in his eyes (that I noted bore a striking resemblance to my son) and full lips- as do I. Both Rob and Clive have a small widows peak.  I do as well.  I've been told that possession of a widows peak suggests a "dominant allele" in genetics.  It basically means that one of your parents most likely has one.  My mother does not.
There were a few pictures of Max and Clive together.  Max was taller, with sharper features.  I admit that you see what you want to see- and visuals are rarely proof of paternity.  It was hard not to feel that I favored Clive.  I had found his military records on Ancestry and discovered that he was 5'6" ish and had hazel eyes. This was a BIG tell.  My mother is 5'91/2".  When I met Malcolm (not my dad) he was well over 6 feet tall and had dark brown eyes.  I was always the shortest kid in my class- and have barely grown to beyond 5'3".  Also, I have green eyes with grey rims and brown flecks-often referred to as hazel.
Rob and I continued to converse over the next couple of days.  I discovered that he had an older sister as well.  She is exactly eleven months younger than me.  Rob explained that he believed his parents married soon after they met due to her pregnancy.  
This was comforting, I think, for both of us.  At least, if Clive were my father, he was definitely not yet married- and perhaps hadn't even met Rob's mother.
Finally, Rob and I both came to the conclusion that there was really only one way to find out the truth.  He could take a DNA test and it would tell us if we are cousins or half-siblings.  He agreed- though it was clear that he was unsure of what this meant for the future of his family as he knew it.  I assured him that he would be in control of the situation.  All I wanted was my answers.  I had no desire to upset a family and once the results came in, I would leave it up to him as how to proceed. 

That evening I was, once again, perusing Rob's Facebook gallery and came upon a photo I had never seen before.  It was of Clive, dressed in a green cap and gown, with a glorious smile on his face, waving a rolled up diploma.  The caption read-

My heart skipped a beat and tears spontaneously appeared.  All I could think was "God, I hope this is my dad".  This is the kind of persistence I aspire to. I believe you keep learning until the day you die. The joy and pride that he evoked was breathtaking. That picture told me everything I ever needed to know about the man that could be my father.
The next morning, an Ancestry DNA test was in the mail on it's way to Bendigo.

Now we wait.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

CHAPTER 31: BREAKTHROUGH

Sometime in the middle of May, 2017, I woke up at 7.45 am and proceeded to go about my usual morning ritual.  Wake up my fourteen year old, turn on the shower for him, make coffee, re-wake up my fourteen year old and log on the AncestryDNA.  As usual I proceeded directly to the DNA match section and clicked on the "new" button.  I usually see the same list of 5-8th cousins with no attached trees.  These are useless to a researcher.  Occasionally I will ask someone for a look at their tree, or just a list of names and locations, but more often than not, these are the baron waste-lands of matches that were only interested in finding out their "ethnicity". There's nothing wrong with that; no judgement.  It just adds to the disappointment.  
This time, however, I was looking at something different.  So different that I had to refresh my browser.  There, right before my eyes was a new "1-2nd cousin" match.  Also known as the motherlode of matches when you have unknown parentage. The name of the match was "HK".  I immediately clicked on the profile and clicked through to where I could compare other tests that I manage.  My mother was not a match.  This was a Paternal very close match.  There was no tree attached to the results (no surprise), but the administrator of this test was a name that looked as though it was a reverse of her first and last name. I quickly sent off a casual, but keen message-

" Hi.  HK just came up as a new 1-2nd cousin match to me.  This is the highest match on my paternal side. Is there a tree I can peruse?
thanks, Julie"

If you've been following along you know that my next step was to go to Facebook and type in the name that I assumed was the administrator.  Bingo.  Up came a young lady named Naomi, from Melbourne, Australia.  Further examination showed that her partner, boyfriend, fiancee had the initials "HK".  Instead of immediately friend-requesting her, I hovered over my computer waiting for a response from my Ancestry message.  Keep in mind that Melbourne is seventeen hours ahead of Los Angeles.  That means it was around 1am where she was.  I realized that it would be several hours before I could reasonably hope for a response, so I proceeded to post updates of my good fortune on a couple of private Facebook pages that focus on using DNA for genealogy.  My story is somewhat known in those forums, so I was able to bask in the well wishes-as well as heed advice to "screen shot" the match in case it disappeared.  This is something that happens to adoptees.  We are often someone's "dirty little secret" and are frequently made to feel less than human- just by virtue of existing- and looking for answers that others take for granted.  

I spent the next few hours trying to remain calm when, suddenly, on my post in an Australian DNA genealogy page, there was a message from Naomi.  It hadn't occurred to me that she may be a member.  So much for keeping the "adoption" thing on the "down-low".  
The message said "Hi Julie.  I've sent you a message."  Eek!!

Naomi and I played text tag for a while.  After explaining that I am an adoptee (but mean no harm) she obtained permission from her partner's family to share his tree- and so it began!!

For the next several hours I constructed a "mirror tree".  This is, essentially, a replica of your matches tree.  Thankfully, Ancestry has a mechanism that recognizes names you are adding and gives you assistance by offering "leaf hints" from their data-base.  This made for pretty quick work as I have years of experience constructing trees and analyzing potential matches.  I completed the previous two generations, focusing on the siblings of my matches parents.  The amount of DNA we share, 378 cM's over 18 dna segments indicates that we are somewhere within the first to second cousin range.  At first it appeared that most of his dad's family was firmly rooted in Victoria (my home state), while his mother's side seemed to be solidly in New South Wales (next state to the north).  I spent most of those first few hours focusing on the dad's side as I was conceived and born in Melbourne- the largest city in Victoria.  My matches dad is only about ten years older than myself.  He does appear to have two brothers, but there was no birth information listed on the tree.  I asked Naomi if she knew their ages and she said that she would ask my matches dad.  While I awaited that info I began to focus on the next generation back.  My matches paternal grandparents each appeared to have an enormous amount (by today's standards) of siblings.  All of the males, five on each side, proved to be of an age that they could have fathered a child in 1964.  Open rabbit hole; insert self.
After a few hours it came to my attention that there was a great uncle who was a local mayor at the time of my conception.  He appeared to be married, with children, and was a life-long politician.  I noted that a potential political scandal could explain the secrecy surrounding my paternity.  Perhaps my mother had been convinced to name a different father so as to not further soil her reputation, as well as ruin a political career and break up a family?  It was feasible.  Even, I dare say, understandable....

Realizing that I wasn't sure what the next step would be, I posted for help in a group where experienced DNA searchers offered advice and technical expertise.  Eventually I got a response from an aussie detective named Rose who was more than willing to talk me through it.  Rose is "donor conceived" and managed to identify her biological family with a smaller match than I have.  I gave her editing rights to my mirror tree and she told me that I needed to go even further back and that she would help me.   You shouldn't blindly add suggested connections, but if a record match seems feasible and doesn't have any direct contradictory information than you already have, it's ok to build off of that.  "Mirror" trees should always be kept private and unsearchable as they are, for the moment, speculative.  
After a while, Rose suggested that I add my DNA results to "HK" in the tree.  It would take a few hours for Ancestry to search through the names in my tree to see if there were any name matches to other trees of people who are confirmed DNA matches to me.
All I could do was wait.



Friday, December 9, 2016

CHAPTER 30- DISCOVERING LOUISA: A SAGA OF THE AUSTRALIAN GOLD RUSH


Since my paternal search has pretty much come to a screeching halt- I figured I needed to write about my other search- my maternal line.  I have spent a considerable amount of time researching that side of my family- and it's been arduous and difficult task.  Something I've come to discover is that most families pass on information much like a game of "telephone".  Facts become exaggerated or distorted, actual documents have been incorrectly filled out, sometimes deliberately and, often, inadvertently.  The biggest lesson I have learned regarding registrations- particularly death certifications- is that they are only as informative as the person who reported the information at the time.  Often, particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whomever was reporting a certain death was not equipped with the information that was required for a particular death certificate.  Hence, many records list people's parents as "unknown"- or even worse, they guessed.  I suppose it never occurred to them that this information could be vital to future generations of genealogists.  So, first rule of thumb when researching family- take information provided by someone other than the subject with a grain of salt.  At least when you are presented with an "unknown" you know to look elsewhere.  I have spent years looking for people that I finally discovered (thanks to DNA) did not exist. Such is the case in the story of my recently identified third Great Grandmother. 

I've decided to start with the story of Louisa Knight Price Trevan.  In telling any of these stories, there will be a mixture of facts- and conjecture.  By that I mean that though there is no proof that something is the case, this is the most likely scenario, based upon the facts presented.  I'll use itallics when speculating- and cite the facts with which I have drawn the hypothesis.

So, we first glimpse Louisa Knight as the mother listed on the birth certificate of one Henry Price, born 8 February 1857.  His birth took place in Magpie, Victoria- a suburb of Ballarat.  Though he was born in February, his birth was not registered until 22 December of that year.  The informant was his father, Alexander Price, a 25 year old Miner from Norway.  Louisa was listed as being 23 and said she was born in Parramatta, NSW.  Alexander said that they were married in December of 1853 in Geelong and he lists one living "issue".  It's not clear whether or not he is referring to this child or one previous.
As it turns out, Henry Price was my 2nd Great Grandfather.  He is listed everywhere else as "William" Henry Price and it's not clear how that new first name came about.

Two years later on February 10, 1859, we have the birth of another boy, Edward.  (He later became Edward "Francis" Price- but I guess Louisa and Alex liked to add to names later on)  Most of the details are the same as before, but they are now living in Clunes- another popular gold-rush town.  It now says that they have three living boys at home- and as Louisa is the informant this time- I suppose she is counting Edward as one of the three.  I've yet to find any evidence of a first-born other than on Louisa's death certificate. Alex is still Norwegian and is now listed as a carpenter.

On January 27, 1861, Louisa and Alexander are married in St Paul's Church in Clunes.  Though they have always maintained in their son's birth records that they were married in Geelong in 1853- this appears to be the first "official" wedding.  It is my understanding that during the gold rush, people living in the fields often married without official recognition other than intent.  There's also the chance that they were trying to save face- but regardless- there were three sons of this union before they were legally married.
Thanks to my newly found cousin, Sam Price, I obtained a copy of the actual certificate from the wedding (as opposed to just the registry).  Alexander's parents are listed as Peter Price (carpenter) and Martha Maria Holden.  He maintains that he was born in Christiania, Norway- and indeed, those in my Price family whom have tested do have varying percentages of Scandinavian DNA.  

The real mystery is that "Price" is not a Norwegian name- though I've been told that Holden is.  There's a chance that Alexander made up his name to sound more english- or perhaps his father was an immigrant who settled in Norway.  If there are any Norwegians reading this that would like to search for Prices living in Oslo in the early 1800's I would be extremely grateful.

Louisa's parents are listed as Henry Knight (Sailor) and Isabella (no maiden name).  The fact that Louisa was born in Parramatta could suggest that one or both of her parents were convicts.  Parramatta was known for it's institutions that housed female convicts and their children. In some documents Louisa says that her father was a "Sea Captain".  One might suggest that perhaps he was the captain (or a mariner) on a convict ship that was transporting Isabella to Australia.  As of now, I am unable to locate any birth record for Louisa- or the existence of her parents.

June 4, 1861 is the birthdate of Francis Walter Price.  There was always a rumor in the Price family that my 2nd G Grandfather had a brother named Walter that lived in Warrnambool- but they didn't talk.

1861 proved a busy year for our Louisa.  In the August 24th issue of The Ballarat Star she testified in the Clunes Police Court as a witness to a theft.


While I have no proof that this is "our" Louisa Price- there is a good chance that it was.  She was married to a miner and likely lived in a tent in the goldfields- and we will learn later that she is not afraid of a courtroom.

Charles Thomas Price was born on September 19, 1863.  Most of the details are the same- however, this time Louisa only lists Francis Walter as previous issue.  This is also the last mention of a living Alexander Price in any documents.

On July 24, 1867- a daughter is born.  Her name is Sarah Jane and there is no father listed on her birth certificate.

1869 to 1873 appear to be a tumultuous time for Louisa. I have just uncovered some of these details in the past few days.  In this case, it really paid to purchase birth and death certificates.  It's always a gamble because you're going to fork out twenty bucks for a photo copied image that may or may not provide some new information.
In December 1869, there is a newspaper article regarding a court case in Clunes where Louisa is having a dispute with a man named James Davey, regarding a stable on a "creek reserve" property that had been purchased by Louisa.  Apparently the stable belonged to him even though the property belonged to her- so he was told to remove the stable and there was some sort of financial deduction that I don't really understand...anyway...so there's that.  In April of 1870, Louisa has a son named Thomas James.  There is, once again, no father listed.  In February 1872, she has another son, James.  Here's where things really became interesting to me.  I found a death registration for another Louisa Price in 1873.  On further examination, I notice that the mother is listed as Louisa Price as well.  At this point, I bit the bullet and purchased the death record- in hopes that it would provide more information.  There was no father listed, however, there were two new pieces of information.  First of all, the informant is "Alice Knight- friend". Hmmm, this is the first time I have heard of this person- and the fact that she is a Knight is of extreme interest to me as Knight is Louisa's maiden name.  Louisa (baby) died at six days old- and what really caught my attention was her middle name- Davey. Immediately that name rang a bell. It had been a while since I had seen the newspaper clipping about the stable- so I rifled back through my files and, lo and behold, not only is James Davey mentioned in that clipping from December 1869, but there is also another court dispute in June of 1873 between the two involving "abusive language".  Baby Louisa is born just four months later.

I went ahead and purchased the birth and death records for the two boys.  Sure enough, there is no father listed- but James Davey is the informant- and he is identified as "putative father".





These are the type of discoveries that make genealogists positively giddy. We run to our husband in his office and regale him with the details of what we just unearthed during about eight straight hours in front of our computer.  When we fail to get the reaction we feel we deserve we then go back to our computer and blog about it..
Just kidding.  Not really.  Actually, my husband is very supportive of all my endeavors- but this is such a part of our daily life now that I'm sure it all sounds like white noise to him.  Thankfully I have lot's of geni Facebook friends who "get it".

But wait- there's more.  When next we meet Louisa, it is June 15, 1874 and she is marrying John Williams Trevan.  The wedding takes place in "a private house in Clunes" and is performed by a Methodist minister.  John is a widow and has four living children and one deceased.  Louisa says that her husband died in 1862 and she has 4 living children and 3 deceased.  Alice Knight is listed as a witness. (I need to know about Alice Knight).
Louisa states that her first husband died in August of 1862, however, her youngest son, Charles Thomas was born in September of 1863.  Not only is the math off- but he is listed on the birth certificate as alive and well (well- alive....)
Louisa goes on to have three more sons with John Trevan- all of whom, sadly, also die in infancy.  I haven't purchased their death certificates yet (I'm a little tapped out...)- but the deaths of the previous three suggest a congenital heart defect.

Louisa Knight Price Trevan died on December 7, 1895 of Acute Enteritis- or an inflammation of the small intestine.  The informant was Charles Price- her youngest son who was 31 at the time.  Louisa's living issue and their ages are listed:
Oliver Price- 40 years.                                                                        I have never found any reference to an Oliver Price
Edit: further investigation has lead me to believe that the name is possibly Otmer.  This is, in fact, a Norwegian name.  Still no records of birth or death.
William Price- 38 years.  
My 2nd G Grandfather- born as Henry Price- later becoming William Henry Price
Edward Price- 36 years
Walter Price- 34 years
Charles Price-31 years
Sarah Price- 29 years

Edward Price actually died at the age of 25 in Rochester, Victoria.  The fact that Charles thought he was still alive reinforces my belief that this family was quite divided.  In Edward's obituary, the only family mentioned is "brother, Harry Price, of  Macedon".

It has taken me a long time to get this far.  For years, I thought that my 3rd G Grandparents were Peter Price and Lucy Blake.  Those are the names listed William Price Sr's death certificate by his son, William Jr.  There was clearly not much talk around the old homestead of family.  Lucy is indeed similar to Louisa- but where did Blake come from?  Marriage records list Alexander's father as Peter- so maybe that was a nickname....  My point is- lot's of people guessed or made things up- so don't take death certificates as fact unless you have back-up.

One last point.  I recently went back to review all of the birth certificates that I have purchased over the years.  I was scanning the 1893 registry of Grace Dorris Price, sister of William Henry Price Jr. Suddenly, a name jumped out at me. Listed as a witness was "Mrs Trevan".  A year ago that name meant nothing to me- but with this, I was finally able to connect Louisa Price to my direct line.

My final proof has been science.  Thanks to DNA testing I was matched to a cousin named McCarron.  His G Grandmother was a lady by the name of Sarah Jane Row (nee Price).

With further research, I was able to locate Sam Price- a direct descendant of Walter Price (from Warrnambool).  Sam and his cousin, Sandra, have both tested and guess what- we all match.  I have managed to find direct descendants of two of my 3rd g grandparents other children.  A year ago- we never knew of each other's existence- and nobody in my Price family had ever heard of Louisa Knight Price Trevan.

Louisa Price was a feisty warrior.  I now know so much about her- but there is so much more to uncover.  I can't wait for more revelations.  If you've ever thought of doing DNA testing- please do it.  Come on in- the water's fine.  History is coming to life for all of us.  We all have so called skeletons in our closets- but that's just the point.  Our ancestors don't define us- they provide us with context, clarity and truth.  There is nothing more important than truth.  This is my mantra.