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.

Monday, December 5, 2016

CHAPTER 29: BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Hi there.  It's me.  Julie, the genealogist.  Some of you (by that, I mean all of you) may have noticed that I veered away from my original subject matter for several months.  While I was ensconced in six months of my Dad's illness, taking care of him and making sure he was received the best quality of care, I got a little side-tracked.  While I originally wrote about it on this platform- I have since transferred that story elsewhere so that this blog could continue to be strictly about genealogy. Writing about his situation and that journey, as it happened, is the natural way for me to purge frustrations.  It also became an invaluable way for me to keep track of timelines and events.  I certainly didn't expect it to go on for as long as it did- and is, in fact, on-going.  Though my father passed away at the end of September, I am faced with continued conflict that threatens to linger for, possibly, years to come.  While I take my cues from my dad, who was ethical, proud, and stubborn as hell- I vow to fight until the bitter end.  He is likely turning over in his urn by what is happening down here- and I can and will not disappoint him.

So yeah, genealogy.  When last I wrote I was awaiting the DNA results from the son of one of the brothers that my mother mentioned had lived across the street from her when she became pregnant with me. Those results came back as a non-match- so that ship has sailed.  I've received no more hints from my mother, and we've all but stopped discussing the subject.  DNA will be my only way of getting my answers.

During the past couple of years I have been contacted by readers who have turned out to be a distant DNA match to me.  One of them is a lady named Stephanie.  She reached out to me in one of the Facebook DNA groups.  Her half sister matches me on Ancestry as a distant cousin and on Gedmatch we share just 22.9 cM's.  That's a probable distance of 4-5 generations and while it's pretty much a needle in a haystack situation, the chances of finding your link are greatly increased when all parties share a passion for the search.  So the sister, Dena's father was adopted from England.  We know, by the way we match, that we match through her paternal line. While Stephanie, through research, had discovered who Dena's dad's family was, she reached out to a possible half-sister of his. Upon convincing her to take a DNA test (see, I'm not the only one with that talent) her results came back as an Aunt to Dena- and a 4-6th cousin to myself.  Ok, so great- all we needed to do was build out the aunt's tree right?  Right.  I applied for the marriage certificate of the Aunt's mother and, upon receipt, I had name's and locations of her parents.  From there I searched for earlier records and built the tree back to as far as I could. One of the direct lines was the name Whitall.  They seem to have remained in one area of Northern England for most of the 19th Century.  That name is not as common as most of the other names in the tree- so, I suppose for that reason I focused on them.  I scanned direct ancestors and there siblings in each generation until I came across Samuel Whitall- born 1790- sent as a convict to "Van Diemen's Land" in 1811.  That was what I called a "bingo".  It was a long shot- but with nothing else to go on- the first connection directly to Australia that I had discovered.  Following Samuel's life in Australia, he had a very interesting story of love, family, tragic early losses of children- and an eventual early death at 31.  Luckily, the last of his four children (born the same year of his death) survived.  His name was Thomas Gardener Whitehall- and he proved to be a prolific generator of humans- producing at least thirteen children from two wives. There are several Whitall family trees on Ancestry and I wrote to the administrators of several of them.  I finally got an enthusiastic response from one John Whitehall- who was a 4x great grandson to Samuel Whitall.  John was interested in my story and more than willing to take a DNA test, so I worked a few extra hours, bought another DNA test and sent it off to Sydney.

I won't leave you hanging.  John and I are not a DNA match.  Of course, that's not to say we aren't related- as I've said before, the possibility of 5th cousins showing a DNA match is around 10%.  If I tested every single one of John cousins, or older living Whitehall relatives my chances of getting a match is much higher (if there is indeed a connection).  So, in lieu of chasing that white rabbit- I put the Whitall/Whitehalls on the back burner- with a possibility of reopening an investigation should more opportunity arise.  Thanks for playing along John.  You're a good sport!

I'm going to talk a little bit more about triangulation.  As I've mentioned before, this is the best (and essentially only) method of finding common ancestors when you have absolutely no clue about whom you are looking for.  I've managed to create an interesting little triangulated cluster on Chromosome 1.  In order to triangulate matches, you must use a tool called a chromosome browser.  Ancestry does not feature such a thing on their site- so one must either test with 23andme or FTDNA.  Both of these sites have some semblance of a chromosome analysis too- in which you can identify exactly where/on which chromosome you match someone. The object, of course, being to figure out who your shared ancestor may be.  If more than one person matches/overlaps with you on a particular chromosome, and ALSO matches each other on that chromosome- then you have a TRIANGULATION.  All three of you share a common ancestor and have inherited that tiny piece of DNA from said ancestor.  In a perfect world, you would all have a thoroughly hashed out tree, that goes back at least five generations- and you can pinpoint who that person is by comparing trees.  Of course, this is rare (otherwise we wouldn't need triangulation...) so, it's always important to provide as much information about every person in your tree as possible- especially locations. Remember, before the twentieth century travel was expensive and took a long time.  More likely than not, families stayed in the same general area for several generations- unless they were convicts, fleeing a famine, or very wealthy.  Another option for triangulation is to upload your "raw DNA data" to a free site called "Gedmatch".  It's pretty bare bones, but features a lot of tools that can help a genealogist really zero in on their search.  Another positive aspect is that most people that use Gedmatch are interested in actually connecting with family- so you can e-mail matches directly and they're more likely to respond than the consumer sights.  Oh, I forgot to mention.  Gedmatch is FREE.  For a small donation you can access bonus "tools"- which are well worth it. 

So, my little Chromosome 1 triangulation consists of Dena D (in the eastern US), her biological Aunt G (in Northern England), Gavin S and his father Robin S (in NSW Australia) and someone who's  wife I found on Facebook- but I'm not getting much as far as info- or returned messages. All of these matches go back at least four generations- but we should all share a common ancestor. The biggest frustration about Ancestry DNA is that it has really expanded it's database in the past couple of years. This can be nothing but positive for genealogists.  The frustrating part is that most of the people who have tested- are not genealogists. By that, I mean that they have never looked into researching their family tree before now- so there is no tree from which others can glean information. Genealogy research takes time, perseverance, and some deductive reasoning.  A lot of people don't have the time or inclination to start researching now- so we end up with pages and pages of potential answers- with administrators that don't even realize that their information could offer someone their "missing link".  Ancestry has several ways for users to contact potential relatives- but the rate of "non responses" is astronomical.  There also seems to be a theory that if you message someone through the "green button" they don't get the message, but if you click through to the administrators page and use the brown/orange button- responses are more frequent.  I've tested this method myself- and there seems to be a difference.  So, if I can give any advice to my readers who are considering testing their DNA, please attach some semblance of a tree to your DNA results (with names and locations)- and please don't ignore requests for help.  If you never have any intention of sharing info or helping someone looking for answers, I respectfully request that you don't make your results visible to matches- because that's just plain cruel.
I mean, I get it.  You were just interested in finding out your ethnic make-up- but there's just so much more to discover.
The two other "testing" data bases that I use are 23andme and Family Tree DNA.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses-but I find their user response ratios even worse that Ancestry.  While 23andme rolled out a whole new "experience" in the past year, they are taking their own sweet time switching some of the older users from the previous interface.  My list of matches is a sad graveyard of people who no longer care to be contacted- but I am forced to experience the ghosts of distant cousins mockingly staring back at me.  Too much?  Probably.  I digress.
The Dixons.  From left Grandpa Raymond, Grandma Rosetta, Uncle Bryan, Auntie Diane, Ronald Dixon and Zella Baxter Dixon.

So, dear readers, there is really not much progress to speak of.  I have been working on the trees of my adoptive family.  I was thrilled to be able to identify the subject of a painting that has been in my dad's family for over a hundred years.  On my mom's side, I discovered that her first husband was the son of russian immigrants that changed his name from Dulofsky to Doal, after they got married. That was not a happy union for my mom, and she never shared any information with us- including my dad.  She also had three Great Uncles on her father's side- all brothers, named Abraham Lincoln Vincent, George Washington Vincent and Martin Van Buren Vincent.  They had a sister that married Prince Albert Baxter. I love this stuff.

Onward.  Stay tuned.

Friday, January 29, 2016

CHAPTER 29- ON BEING ADOPTED

First things first.  Latest results are in. Neither of the "brothers from across the street" is my father.
I'm still toying with the idea of calling one of them again, coming clean about my original motive, hope he doesn't hang up on me, then ask if he remembers anything about my mother from that era. We'll see if I can pull the trigger on that one.

Onward.

My biological mother got mad at me on Facebook.  I'm often posting thinly veiled updates about "truth" and "virgin birth".  There's usually no comment from her- and if I'm honest, I am trying to shake something from her. Well, a few weeks ago I went too far with a response to a comment on my page that actually referred to her and she was none too happy.  Though I'm not proud to have hurt her feelings, the fact that she showed some sort of emotion about the whole thing was somewhat gratifying.  To be honest, pushing someone to have some sort of emotional response is kind of my thing.  Having been raised by people that showed little to no emotional expression is probably the genesis of this malady. It was made clear to me that emotional outbursts were not encouraged or welcomed, and certainly a sign of a flawed personality.

The events of the past couple of years has brought to the forefront continuing insights about my experience as a person who is adopted. By virtue of the fact that I have reached out and joined various "groups" who offer support, information and validation to (and from) others with similar experiences, it is only natural that I find myself comparing and contrasting my own experience to theirs.  It is no secret that when I was adopted (in the mid 1960's) the very topic of adoption was looked upon as "taboo" and, by it's very nature, was designed to be kept private and rarely spoken about.  Though my parents were always up front about that fact that me and my brother were adopted- it was made clear that this was not information to be freely shared with the general public.  While my mom would relay the story of the baby-shopping expedition of which I was the prize, the final caveat was always "Don't tell anybody".  While this admonition was meant as a way avoid bullying, my perception was that it was something to be ashamed of.  I experienced a lot of taunting from other kids as a child.  Being adopted was the least of the reasons that people had to single me out.  The first difference was that I had a right lazy eye- a fact that had eluded my parents until my kindergarten teacher sent home a note asking if they were planning on doing anything to remedy it.  Up until then, I thought it was perfectly normal to sometimes see people morph into identical twins.  How was I supposed to know that this wasn't something that everyone experienced?  After visiting an Opthalmologist (Dr Foster- I remember him well) I was prescribed corrective glasses.  My mother, who had definitely experienced her "peak" years in the 1950's chose a pair of blue horn-rimmed, cat-eye shaped frames with enameled filigree corners.  Now, these days, that is the exact style that I like to rock- however, 1970 was not a fun time to wear unusual glasses- or any glasses for that matter.  My goggles, however, were the least of my worries.  I was also quite pigeon-toed, knock-kneed, sway-backed and ,for some reason, my hips are connected so that walking induces a prominent wiggle of my hind quarters.  One would think that I was trying to emulate Marilyn Monroe.  It was not cute.  Well, it probably was, but as a result,  I was the constant subject of taunting by kids that thought I was definitely trying to get attention.  Of course, that couldn't have been further from the truth.  There's the added feature that the very timbre of my voice cuts through any other sound that is happening at any given moment- so I was also considered somewhat loud.  What can I say? I knew how to project before I knew I needed to project.  It is clear to me now that I was just doing my best to figure out who I was.  It seemed as though everything that defined me was what got me the most negative attention.  It was not a happy childhood for the most part.  I don't wish to indict my parents for any sort of wrong doing in this situation, but the fact of the matter is, they were as bewildered by me as those kids.  When I would come home crying because kids had been teasing me, the standard response was "well, what were you doing to make them treat you that way?"  Again, my parents were turtles.  Keep your head down, don't attract too much attention, and for God's sake, don't be different.

For most of my life, knowing that I was adopted was not the most unique thing about me.  It was just my circumstance.  While I spent time at the homes of friends with close knit families, attentive mothers and doting fathers.  Mothers who would compliment and encourage their daughters, and fathers who would look at their daughters with such adoration that sometimes I felt as though I was witnessing something that was intensely private.  I took note that my home life was not the same as theirs.  However, though the most obvious reason would be that I am not made of the same genetic materials as my parents, it was never a valid concept in my family.  There was a constant underlying assumption within my household that there is no "nature versus nurture" debate.  The narrative was always that I was chosen and should feel nothing but thankful that these people had saved me.  They wanted children so badly that they made the sacrifice of taking in a child who had been rejected by her own parents.  To be anything other than enormously thankful would be improper.  My older brother, also adopted, was the example of how I should feel.  He all but denied that he was adopted.  He never asked questions about his "real" parents. As there appeared to be more of a bond between the three of them, it was telegraphed that that was the preferred state of affairs at our house.  I can't say as I blame them.  As a natural empath, I think I understood that deep down they would feel hurt that I thought we weren't really able to connect.

I am not a psychologist, nor do I claim to be an expert on the psychological ramifications of adoption.  All I have is my own experience and, with the help of therapists, have been able to sort through the "why" of my particular "presentation".  While there is a movement among many adoptees to abolish the practice of adoption altogether- I don't take quite so extreme a stance.  There is study after study referring to the trauma a newborn child experiences as they are born and immediately removed from their mother- never to experience her smell, voice, soothing and- well- presence.  In my particular case, I was in an orphanage for two months- probably with different care givers on a daily basis.  One can only assume that I may grow up feeling intensely insecure.  Well.  I did.  Not to mention my lifelong inability to connect on an emotional level for fear that it wouldn't last and I would experience more feelings of abandonment.
Me at eleven.  I remember hating this picture.  Now it's my favorite.



Nowadays, from what I have discovered, there is far more known- and shared- about what to expect with an adopted child.  There is mandatory counseling, numerous books on the subject, and a general knowledge that children do not come out of the womb a shapeless piece of clay ready to be molded into whatever their nurturers deem fit.  I think it's safe to say that family history, health and cultural, are more likely to come into play when matching a child with an adoptive family.
My parents could not be more different than myself.  I wish someone had educated them about the importance of validating the adopted child.  I wish that they had the instincts to over-nurture (which is the recommended method).  Don't get me wrong.  I believe that nowadays parents dote on their children to an extreme that stunts said children's ability to assimilate into normal society when necessary.  Call it the "millennial factor".  My experience was the opposite of that.  I've spoken often about the emotional divide I've always felt.  My father is the first to admit that he was raised in an emotionally disconnected household.  He obviously felt that this was fine for him- especially considering he was genetically related to both of his parents.  My mother, the youngest of eleven children, lost her father at two months of age.  There are many anecdotal stories of her childhood in Montana.  But they were just that.  Anecdotes.  I don't know anything about what it was like for her to not have a father.  I do know what happens when you sit on a pregnant cat (don't ask). I didn't find out that my mother had a previous marriage until someone let it slip at a legal proceeding. I came to find out later that it was an abusive marriage- and though he knew about the marriage, my mother never shared details with my dad.  My point here is that neither of my parents put any weight into the emotional impact that circumstances present.  My guess would be that they had endured life's hardships while keeping a stiff upper-lip- and so should I.  After all, my brother seemed to fit in just fine.  Why didn't I like to play sports?  What was wrong with me?  Why did I want to dance?  Why did I want to sing?  What benefit would those kinds of activities provide me as an adult?  People that looked like me couldn't make a living like those people we see on TV.  Why didn't I just learn how to cook and type so that I can be someone's secretary one day and maybe he might marry me? All of these things were said to me at one time or another.
When I was fifteen, I landed the lead in my school musical.  I had waited years because you were only allowed to participate starting in tenth grade.  My friend, Maida and I decided that we should audition together- so we sang "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (from Jesus Christ Superstar) as a duet.  Maida was beautiful and very popular with the boys.  Imagine my surprise when a few bars in, they asked her to stop singing and for me to continue alone.  Long story short, I was cast as "Adelaide" in "Guys and Dolls" and I was ecstatic.  Maida slowly pulled back and within a few months had stopped talking to me completely- but that's a story for another time.  Anyway, I ran home with the thrilling news that "I had landed a lead!!"  I honestly don't remember how the conversation went- but I know (because they told me afterwards), that they were terrified for me and worried that I was going to embarrass myself (and them).  One way that I know that this is true is that none of my relatives were invited to the performances.  My parents only close friends (the McGraths) did come- but they were the most eccentric people that we knew-and likely invited themselves after I had probably blurted out my good fortune at some gathering.
This production marks the turning point in my self perception.  I had never sang a solo out loud in public- but I always knew that I could sing.  I finally had my opportunity and it was a smashing success.  Overnight, life changed for me.  There was only one production a year at my school, so it was a pretty big deal.  Most of the people from our community turned out and I received personal accolades from some who had never bothered to speak to me.  Boys asked me out.  My self esteem went through the roof.  I felt happy and had proof that I was a force to be reckoned with- and that there was finally SOMETHING that I was good at.
My parents were complimentary.  By complimentary I mean that they said "we had no idea that you could sing."  I had been "singing" at home for my entire life.  I was usually told to be quiet, so the best time for me to sing out loud was when my mother was vacuuming.  I could sing at the top of my lungs without complaint.  To this day I feel a physical let-down when a I hear the slow decline of sound when a vacuum is turned off.
So, one would think that once I had proven myself as a legitimate talent, my parents would have less resistance to my desires to pursue further performing opportunities, right?  Yeah, wrong.  If anything this was even worse news for them.  I mean, as far as they could tell nobody that was in their scope of existence actually did this for a living.  If they were to start being supportive and complimentary now- they would be contributing to my eventual disappointment.  (Ok, I'm projecting here- but that's the only reason I can think of that they wouldn't be thrilled that I had found a purpose in life...)  They were exceedingly practical people.  By practical I mean that they rarely allowed themselves the pleasure of an indulgence just because it made them feel good. This was probably a symptom of growing up during the depression. If it wasn't an "investment" in the future, then it wasn't necessary.  Of course, my mother found her greatest pleasure in the consumption of food.  She actually would wake up in the morning and say "what will I feast on today?" I can honestly say that the thing my mother and I actually bonded over was going into town and eating roasted chicken and potatoes from Coles. It's no surprise that I have a less than desirable relationship with food.  My Dad built his own "Hi-Fi" system.  He would spend hours in his "music room" blasting Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" so loudly that the house would vibrate.  I remember spending excruciatingly long sessions with him in a stereo store in Melbourne- I think it was called "TEAC".  So, it's interesting that they couldn't bring themselves to back down just a little on the negativity.  Oh well.  At least I had my knew found popularity right?  Also wrong.  Two months later, my parents packed us up and moved us to the U.S. I am not exaggerating at all.  They had decided that it would be perfectly reasonable to uproot your hormonal and insecure fifteen and sixteen year olds and move them to another country in the middle of high school.
If you think that dad had received an extraordinary job opportunity, think again. Dad is, if nothing else, a man of his word.  A stand up guy. When my parents met in Los Angeles (at the Palladium no less) in the late fifties, he apparently swept her off her feet.  They had a short courtship and got married (a week after her divorce was finalized) in Las Vegas in early 1960.  The deal was that he would take her back to Australia- but would bring her home to America whenever she got too homesick.  Romantic right?  Sure.  Except Mom stuck it out for twenty years- only to pull the trigger at , what I consider to be,  not the best time.  I don't know, maybe let us finish our formative schooling first?  Nah.  It'll be fine.
So, no sooner had I embarked on a new social life and general outlook did the rug get pulled out from under me.  My parents sold the house that they had built from the ground up, Dad left his successful electrical contracting business to his partner/brother and I had to pack my entire life into two suitcases and move to Washington State.  To say it wasn't easy is an understatement.

As distressing as the transition was- I wouldn't change anything about it.  Sure, there were tough times and plenty of regrets.  However, I can't imagine life any differently than it is now.  I couldn't be any luckier to have such a patient and supportive husband and two kids that are the very image of my husband and I.  In a the best possible way.

So, what do I think about Nature V Nurture?
From my mother I certainly see similarities.  Most people that compare pictures don't really see a resemblance, but I see many.  First of all, she has "the walk"- the Marilyn Monroe walk.  I was heartily amused the first time I noticed it.  We have hooded eyes, soft features and a tendency towards a loose waddle.  I like to call it "the Priest chineck".  We both tuck our feet under us when we sit on a low chair or couch.  We tend to spread out wherever we are parked, particularly when we are working on craft projects. My tendency towards losing control of household clutter is definitely a family trait.  That's a real clear one for me as my parents were always very buttoned up and sparse.  I have a bit of a problem with it. Personality wise I don't really see a similarity. Though we both want for people to like us, I think I'm at a point where I'd rather get answers than play nice.  I have an unabashed vanity and desire for knowledge.  My personality is, for lack of a better word, pretty out there.  I guess when I thought that Malcolm was my father, though he was not ideal, I was totally accepting that this must be where I get the other stuff.  I was really at peace with what I thought was the end of the story.  It made sense.

The parents who raised me instilled characteristics in me that were obviously learned through how they "modeled".  It was always important to show up for appointments and events on time- even early. I do this to a fault- and I loathe it when others don't respect my time.  They never sent cards or thank you notes.  Even though I've learned since that it is appreciated- even expected, I've never been able to bring myself to make it part of my lifestyle. They didn't make a big deal about birthdays.  I figured that it wasn't significant to them because they weren't there when it happened.  I remember once my mother told me that she considered June 3rd more my birthday. These are small examples that come to mind as I write.  I think, however, the biggest impact that my childhood had was fear of "putting myself out there".  My father, by nature, is somewhat of a pessimist.  He's naturally contrary- and I think that he finds amusement in taking the opposite position just for the debate of it.  As a child I thought that my father had the answers to everything.  If he said it, it must be true.  He was an adult- and he was the smartest man I knew.  One time I had almost convinced him to let me take dance classes with my best friend Linda. My parents thought that I only wanted to do whatever Linda was doing as a social thing (would have been natural- even if it were true).  He sat me down and said "If we enroll you in this dance class, you must stick with it for an entire year- even if you hate it."  In hindsight, it should have been a no-brainer- but at the time I thought that if my dad were laying it out like that he MUST know something that I don't know. He was my dad- he was never wrong.  So, I ended up making the safer choice and didn't take the class. It's the first of many regrets.  So, it's been instilled in me to really think about consequences before taking actions.  I strongly live by this motto- to a fault.  For fear of making the wrong choice I have sabotaged myself for much of my professional life.
You see, once I decided that I was going to pursue a career as a performer, my motivation was to prove all the naysayers wrong.  My motivation was "F*$% YOU".  The problem was, once I got to a level where my competition was tougher, the chance of failure was higher.  I actually intellectualized that if I just didn't show up, then nobody would see me there, and know that I wasn't good enough to book the job.  Of course, this makes no sense, but for me, avoidance was safer than putting myself out there and failing- thus proving that I was in the wrong business.  I have had a decent career as a theatre actor- but I always regret not taking more risks and letting myself fail if that was the outcome. I wish that the term "what if" was not in my vocabulary.

My full circle moment came a couple of years ago.  In 2012 I enrolled in Cosmetology School.  My theatre career had taken some hits due to this "aging" thing.  I knew that I was going to need something creative to fill my time and contribute to the household.  I was at peace with this decision and excited about this new adventure.  On the very first day of class I received a frantic text from my agent.  Work had been so scarce for me that I hadn't even bothered to "book out" for the next few months.  Apparently I had booked an Adam Sandler movie and was needed on set for a fitting ASAP. Are you kidding me?  I had gone to the audition all but knowing I wasn't going to book it- which is probably why I had booked it.  Anyway, I got permission to take a couple of days off to shoot my scene.  The movie was called "Just Go With It" and I had a scene with Adam and Jennifer Aniston.  The premise was that he was a plastic surgeon and I was a patient who had had an unfortunate breast implant deflation incident. I had to wear a painfully constructed bra that flattened one breast and the other was made to look enormous. It was visually ridiculous, but pretty funny.  I got to spend two days being prodded and poked and improvising with Adam and Jennifer.  It was silly and fun.  I felt validated that I was considered funny, camera-worthy, and castable for a major motion picture.  When I told my dad about it he offered little response- as if I had just told him that I was making a ham sandwich. This was not surprising. I had given up talking about the business many years prior because trying to explain the significance of anything proved more frustrating than it was worth. He had never heard of Adam Sandler or Jennifer Aniston- so as far as he knew I was probably doing a favor for some guy with a camera.  I knew that when it was released he couldn't deny that this was kind of a big deal.  Fast forward a year and a half or so and the movie is released.  I let my dad know that it was playing in his local movie theatre.  I knew that it wasn't going to be his "cup of tea" but I thought that maybe he would take a couple of hours to finally see his daughter on an actual movie screen.  That didn't happen.  I was ok with it.  I mean, I wasn't really surprised and I had long since accepted that it was better to leave it alone.  The following Christmas, Dad came to our house to see the kids.  As he was leaving, my husband picked up a copy of the movie, handed it to my dad and said "Your daughter is in this- you should watch it."  He didn't tell me this until after dad had left and I was angry at him for not letting me decide whether or not I wanted that to happen. I didn't hear anything about it in the following weeks so I just forgot about it.  Later that year- maybe 8 months later, I was having dinner with my kids and my dad at a local restaurant.  We were having a relatively pleasant conversation.  I have made a point over the years to not try to talk about anything too deep- so we've had extensive discussions about the weather and beer.  I was uncharacteristically relaxed.  Suddenly dad said "So I watched your movie."  I was caught off guard, but I chuckled a little and asked him what he thought.  He paused, took a large intake of breath and said "Why would you accept a role like that?"  My stomach dropped and I was incredulous.  I began hyperventilating and said "What do you mean?  I beat out a lot of actors for that role.  It's a major motion picture."  His face did something resembling an eye roll and he mocked back "major motion picture...."  I was stunned and hurt.  I knew I shouldn't be surprised, but it's hard to intellectualize something when it's that raw.  As my kids were present, I decided to change the subject and not let him know how painful that was to hear.  I am acutely aware that my dad just doesn't get it.  It should never surprise me by how out of touch he is about certain things, when he is so well versed in others. We finished up our meal and I was nothing but relieved when he finally went home.  Over the next couple of days it really sunk it and I battled a long bout of depression.  Moments like that are what my therapist refers to as "triggers".

I never wish to diminish the perception of my parents.  As I've always said, they were essentially good humans doing the best that they knew.  As much as I've worked towards forgiveness it's difficult when behaviors are repeated.  Visiting with my dad is trying as I'm bracing for a trigger moment. I have, on many occasions, tried to explain what my "problem" is.  He's listening- but he doesn't hear.  He feels attacked and denies the existence of every example that I supply.  He is a stubborn and proud man.  I love him so much. I can't be around him.  It's painful.

So, what was my point?  Nature versus Nurture is definitely a thing- but what's even more important is education and acceptance.  It's as simple as that.  Yes, I need to know who my father is or was.  I'm not looking for a father.  I have one- warts and all.  The real need that I have is to be told the truth. That's all.  I have that right.  No matter how long it takes, I will never give up trying.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

CHAPTER 28: UPDATES.....LOTS OF UPDATES.

Note- I began writing this chapter several months ago.  It's safe to assume that most "updates" were written anywhere from a week to a month between.

So, as of my last chapter- my story is at a stand still.  I have a few random "leads" that I am currently awaiting results on- but there have been no major developments in my search.  This leaves me at a loss for "content".  Since the release of the last chapter I did, in fact, hear from my mother.  She mentioned a couple of gentlemen who lived directly across the street from her uncle's home (where she was living at the time).  She said that she doesn't remember anything "happening" with either of them- but eluded to some of my previous suggestions that perhaps she was in a state that had been caused by some substance she may have been "slipped".
Now, I don't know how to decipher exactly what she is saying.  It seems as though perhaps she is "telling" me something. She told me their names.  I have been able to locate them.  The problem now is how to proceed.


As I write this, I am awaiting the results of a test that another gentleman was kind enough to take.  He is a distant relative of a woman whom I match on Ancestry as a "4th to 6th cousin". She was born in New Zealand and now lives in the US- but has a large extensive branch of family in my hometown.  I have been able to trace several members of this family- many of whom would fit the criteria of someone who could indeed be my father.  I don't however, expect for this individual to be identified as my father- though it is possible.  My hope is that perhaps we will match in some way- possibly closer than the lady in Alaska- and we can then see if we match (all three of us) on the same chromosome.  If we do, then we can ascertain that all three of us probably share a common ancestor.  That would then suggest that I am on the right track, and I can further investigate this family as my tribe.


Update- The results of the Alaska lady's cousin came in and he is not a match to me.  Initial thinking would be that this family is not mine...however, it is important to note that the further genetic distance (in this case- at least 4th cousins) the less chance there is for detectable DNA to be present.  In  other words, the more distant the relationship, the less chance of a match- even if there is a connection.  An example would be that one of that persons siblings could also be tested and we would match because that person and I happened to inherit the same segment of DNA from our common ancestor.  Unfortunately, DNA testing is quite expensive- not to mention that convincing an entire family to gift their DNA to a complete stranger is a task in and of itself.  There are several different branches of this tree that are in Australia- so, I am still optimistic that my father is somehow connected to my Alaska match.  Eventually, I will probably try to contact others from those lines.  I may need to start a second job in order to pay for all of the tests I'm sending people.

Update #2- I have made contact with the son of one of the brothers that my mother told me about.  I told him that I am an amateur genealogist (true), searching for my Australian connection (also true) and that his family was in the tree of one of my AncestryDNA matches (not so true...). I've wrestled with the ethics of this for a while.  The fact is, if I called this guy and told him that his father or uncle have been suggested as my possible father (through implied date rape?), the conversation would end there- and that opportunity would be gone forever.  Let me say this;  although my mother says she doesn't remember having a third sexual partner- I am not convinced that she was drugged and raped.  I will not be able to ascertain any sort of conclusion on that until my father has been identified.  I'm sure Lynn's denial is a response to some sort of trauma- however, trauma wears many hats.  That's all I will say about that for now.
So, I'm told that the son's father will be taking the test (amazing).  That means that he will come up as my father, uncle or no match.  Given the track record (so far) I'm not holding out much hope- but at least that stone will not go unturned.

I am relentless.

Update #3-I am still awaiting confirmation that the test currently in Australia has been taken and sent. The "son" appears to be dragging his feet a bit.  At first I was afraid that he had done some research of his own and happened across this blog, however, whenever he answers his phone he still seems as though it's in the works and is happy to assist me.  I will, however, refrain from posting this chapter until I have confirmation that the sample is on it's way.  Torture!!!

In the meantime, I've made some new connections in the Genealogy world.  Someone, who's sister is a fourth cousin match, directed me to a page on Facebook called "DNA Detectives".  It consists of incredibly knowledgeable researchers and people who are basically in the same situation as myself- adoptees or people who have found out later in life that one of their parents is, in fact, not so much.  It's both heartening and distressing the read people's stories that are so similar to mine.  It appears to be commonplace for biological mothers to "clam up"- even when it comes to the children that they have raised from birth.

Update #4- It is now December.  The "son" in Queensland, Australia has not communicated- nor answered any of my phone calls.  As far as I know, he still has possession of the DNA test.  In a moment of desperation I dialed the number of the "father" (as it is listed on Facebook).  He answered.  That was unexpected.  He had the usual polite "Aussie" phone manner and was patient when I explained the same story that I had communicated to his son.  To my surprise, he hadn't been told about it- but still seemed willing to participate.  He said that his son has been moving his family in to a new home and had been "full on" of late.  I came very close to just throwing out my mother's name and the name of the street that they had both lived on around the time of my conception.  Instead, I mentioned that I know my mothers side of my family and that I was born in Melbourne.  I asked him if he had any relatives there and his response that his brother lives there- but never offered that he had been born in Victoria and lived in Melbourne in his twenties.

I don't know if it was a mistake to show so much of my hand.  I had mentioned the surnames of many people in his direct family line- reading them directly off of the "mirror tree" that I have constructed to see if I get any Ancestry hints.  He was receptive and, at that moment, willing to participate.  I don't know if, after talking to his son, he changed his mind.  Maybe he started thinking about his younger years in Melbourne and thought about the ramifications.  Maybe the son has also thought about that and is pretending that his e-mail seems to be repellent to my e-mail address as he has said that every time he sends me an e-mail it bounces back to him.  I don't buy it.


 If "Mr Queensland" (or his brother) is my father, I wish Lynn would just tell me.  I'm tired of having to snoop into complete strangers lives and convince them to take a DNA test because my mom feels like a floozy.  I'm fifty.  Any man that turns out to be my father need not worry that I'm going to want anything from them other than the truth.  And a DNA sample. And family medical history.  And his parents names so I can research MY genealogy.

It would be so nice just to be able to talk to someone and say "Hey.  My mother says she knew you in 1964 and there is a possibility you could be my biological father.  Would you be willing to take a DNA test so we can find out the answer?"

That doesn't sound so difficult does it?

Update #5- Was about to publish this but decided to call "Queensland Son" just to see if I could get through.  He answered and said he felt terrible about being so flakey and would call me a little later. I have to say, as a family they both have a sincerity that is undeniable.  I frankly feel like a wretch for not being able to share the complete story with them.  I will, however, wait a little longer to publish this chapter.

Update #6- Sample received by Ancestry.com.  The son took it- but that's all I need.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

CHAPTER 27: WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

So, the month of January consisted of....actually January and February was a blur.  Getting Malcolm's new sample turned out to be the easiest of all tasks.  I also had sent Serena a test so I could use her as a litmus test in case Malcolm's sample got compromised.  The idea was that if she matched him and not me- his original results were correct.  Likewise, if she happened to match me and not him- then there was proof that 23andMe had made an error.  In the meantime, I had sent an Ancestry DNA test to John and Lynn- just to cover all my bases.  I wired them money so that they could afford to return the test as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately their idea of quickly and mine differ.  Ultimately I received the returned test in as much time as it probably would have taken using regular means. After finally receiving it, I then sent it back to Ancestry for processing.  Ancestry has only recently started offering testing in Australia- so in January I didn't want to risk them rejecting a sample that had originated elsewhere.
In the meantime, I had received a notification that Serena's sample had not yielded enough DNA and they needed to retest her.  At this point I had still not conveyed to Serena the gravity of what was happening.  I didn't want to cause her any undue concern until I had a better grasp on what exactly was happening.  She was getting married the third week of February and I knew she was already overburdened.  

It took me several days to realize that Malcolm's results were ready. I actually don't remember how I discovered it- perhaps there was an e-mail.  There was no change to his Ancestry Composition.  He still did not share a single cM of DNA with me.  Serena was next. It was late March.  She matched Malcolm as his daughter.  She did not match me at all.  He is not my father.  She is not my sister.

On March 30 I received notification that John's results were in.  He is not my father.

Needless to say, the past six months have been troubling.  I find myself in bouts of depression.  Up until a few weeks ago I had stopped exercising, and was eating and drinking way too much.  I found a new therapist.  She's helping me to verbalize my continued trauma.  I can't really afford therapy right now- but if there were ever a time that I needed it- it would be now.

Lynn is steadfast in her belief that Malcolm is my father.  No matter how many times I tell her that it is a scientific impossibility, she refuses to acknowledge that there had to have been someone else.  I've asked her about the possibility of an event so traumatic that she completely blocked it out.  She says no.  I've asked her if she had any surgeries around that time- or was under any sort of anesthesia. She says no. She says she can't explain it and hopes that I can get over it.  I can not.

I suppose that so-called Repressed Memory Syndrome is a possibility.  If there was a trauma that resulted in a pregnancy- wouldn't my continuous questions spark something?  When asked if she had told anyone about the results she said that John knew and he believed her.  Believed what?  Surely he understands that I had to have had a 'father'.  She said he mentioned an old boyfriend of Lynn's that she had broken up with but he was persistent and left flowers and chocolates on the front porch of the house she was staying in with her Uncle.  She told me his name- though she had never slept with him-and also told me that he had died in 1973.

I know you know where this is going.  Within three weeks I had found his living sister, Ivy, explained my situation and convinced her to take a DNA test.  In a bizarre coincidence, she happened to live in the same town as Sharyn (you know, road trip Sharyn)- and I was able to send the kit to Sharyn and she walked over to the lady's home- a couple of blocks away- and helped her take the test.  Sharyn took pictures of her and told me that we have the same eyes.  She said that she looked at her the same way that I look at people.  While that was encouraging- I've learned not to expect anything until I have scientific proof.  Rightfully so- as Ivy's results came up as "not a match."  Unless Ivy, or her brother, was adopted and didn't know it, it was another dead end.

As it stands, the only thing I have to go on at this point is DNA.  Unless Lynn has some sort of break through it will probably take years.  There are very few Australians in the genealogy databases as it wasn't readily available to Australians until very recently.

The only factual information that I have is that I was conceived in June or July of 1964 in Melbourne, Australia.  My mother says she was working as a Nurses Aid at the Royal Children's Hospital.  She was staying in a room at the home of her deceased Great Aunt's husband, Dave Bell.  He was well into his eighties at that time.  Upon sharing this information on a 23andMe message board, I received the following superb e-mail-

Hi Julie,

I've been following your threads and can only imagine the emotional rollercoaster you've been on trying to find your bio-dad.

Please take what I'm going to suggest to you with as much gravity as you feel it deserves. 

Is it possible that your father could be one of the Beatles?
They toured Melbourne on the 15th, 16th and 17th of June 1964 and you may be aware of the hysteria they created especially amongst young ladies. There was a relatively recent documentary that aired on the Australian ABC TV about this topic (sorry, can't remember the name) which revealed the extant that the Beatles and their entourage were visited in their hotel rooms by young women. I remember when I watched it one of the insiders that they interviewed said something along the lines of "they must have been all shooting blanks because I'm surprised there wasn't a spate of pregnancies after what went on".
I don't want to give you any false hope but I just thought it was worth mentioning after I saw you post that you were probably conceived in June or July 1964. I didn't want to post such a 'crazy' suggestion on the public forum and thought it was better to private message you.
By the way, the impression I got from the documentary of the young ladies involved was that they seemed like very nice but naïve girls who were caught up in all the hysteria of Beatlemania at the time.
Please don't be offended at anything I have suggested.
I do sincerely wish you the greatest of luck in your efforts to find your heritage. You seem very strong and I know you'll get there in the end. 

See?  Superb.  Here was my response-

Dear xxxxx, This was truly my most favorite e-mail EVER. What a delightful way to wake up. While it does sound like a ludicrous possibility- you can bet that I'm going to do my due diligence and research it.  I appreciate your ability to think outside of the box and not be afraid to reach out. Thank you for your suggestion. Wouldn't it be crazy if you turned out to be right?

Warmest regards,
Julie

So. You may have noticed that I use humor to make light of the most upsetting of situations.  There is a saying that goes something like "tragedy plus time equals comedy".  A lot of the time you have to laugh or you'll cry.  I mean, seriously, I spent twenty five years, countless thousands of dollars and travelled internationally and "bonded" with a complete "fake" family- all the while outing my "supposed" father as a pathological liar.  Its. Just. Bananas.  I couldn't have made this up if I tried.

I'm currently exploring any and all of my DNA matches that do not match my mother.  Anyone that has a connection to Australia gets priority.  I have been speaking with a lady, Jill in Alaska, who matches me with enough DNA to predict that we are probably 4-6th cousins.  She has a well researched tree (a rarity) and a branch of her family came from England before traveling to New Zealand and Australia.  In fact, there appear to be several branches with family members who were, in fact, residing in the Melbourne area at the time I was conceived.  I've reached out to one family and, by virtue of my magical phone voice, have convinced an obliging gentleman to provide a DNA sample. Once received and processed, I will be able to determine if we share any DNA.  If we do, I can then upload his raw DNA data to a free website called Gedmatch.  In the meantime, I'm going to ask Jill (the lady in Alaska) to upload her raw data as well.  To put it simply, we will be able to compare our data -chromosome by chromosome.  If, by some miracle, all three of us match in the same area of the same chromosome- we can conclude that all three of us share the same ancestor. This is called Triangulation. Depending on how much DNA we share, I can conclude that I am on the right track and am getting closer to the truth.

That all makes perfect sense right?  Yeah.  It's a learning curve.  There's also the variable that sometimes, if there is enough genetic distance between two relatives- they may not match at all.  For example, I may match someone as a fourth cousin, but because siblings inherit different random DNA from their distant ancestors, I may not match that person's full sibling.  I know, right?  That's why it's important in Genetic Genealogy to test as many family members as possible.  Keep in mind, that this should not happen in closer matches.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

CHAPTER 26: INCONCEIVABLE.

I spent the next twenty four hours waiting for the rest of the results to come in.  Someone on the message boards had said that sometimes information uploads to accounts at different speeds- so maybe all of Malcolm's data was slower to load.  It didn't seem likely as Lynn's had loaded immediately and she was listed second on my list of DNA Relatives- actually proclaiming her my "mother" and saying that we shared 50% DNA on 23 segments.  No mystery there.  After writing a frantic "Community" post asking for advice I started receiving various suggestions-
Check Malcolm's account settings to ensure that he is "opted in" for sharing.
Done.  I manage the account so we automatically share.
Could he have sent a decoy sample?
No.  I watched him give the sample (saliva).
Use the "Family Inheritance: Advanced" feature.  This tool allows you to key in both donors data and compare by chromosomes.
Did it. Results showed 0 cMs, 0 segments.  No match.

Ok.  Now I was really starting to freak out.  The only solution could be that there had been some sort of sample mix-up in the lab.  There was probably someone else out there right now receiving nonsense results and as soon as 23andMe was made aware of this mix-up all would be well with the world. Right?
It was now Friday evening.  I finally decided that it was time to talk to a human at 23andMe- however, after locating a customer service phone number (no small feat I tell you)  I discovered that I wouldn't be able to speak to anyone until Monday.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS????
 Always needing to be proactive and possessing a general lack of patience, I finally found an e-mail address (it's like an easter egg hunt) and jotted off a desperate plea for help. I'm sure the title line was in all caps and followed by several quotation marks.  I tend to turn into a child when faced with such adversity.
Knowing that I probably had the weekend ahead to wait for any sort of response I took solace in the message boards and continued to read the advice from many educated and well meaning responders. Many of them are also adopted as I am a member of the community for adoptees - and others are just knowledgable of the workings of DNA matching and genealogy in general.  Most of the responses were words of empathy- expressing how this happens, that mothers are often deceptive as to the identity of fathers.  Perhaps my "parents" used a sperm donor, maybe they needed help getting pregnant (obviously not an option as no one was trying to get pregnant).  I refused to entertain the idea that this was anything other than a lab mix-up.  Lynn had never wavered on the point that Malcolm was my father- even though they had only had one physical coupling.  I felt somewhat indignant that so many people were offering condolences because of this "discovery".  I kept wanting to tell them that no, this is different. My mother has no reason to lie to me.

I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to talk to Lynn.  Initially, I had opted not to tell her about this until it had all been cleared up- but the longer it went on, my resolve became weaker.
In the back of my mind, it had occurred to me that perhaps there had been another "encounter" and she had kept that information from John- all the while assuming that Malcolm was my father.  It's an understandable tactic- especially in 1965. It would make sense for her to not want John to find out about something that she had kept a secret for almost fifty years.
I dialed Lynn's number and John answered.

Hi John.  It's Julie.  Can I talk to Lynn?
Hello Julie. I'll just get her.
Lynn came to the phone. We exchanged the usual pleasantries.  Then I said
Can you go somewhere private so no one can hear you?
She did.  Then I said
So this is weird and I'm sure it's a mistake- but Malcolm's DNA came back and it says he is not my father.
That IS weird.
Right!
Do you think that John could be my father?
No.  I was already pregnant when we met.
When was that?
I think October?

If that timeline was correct- John could not be my father.  Although it did occur to me that perhaps Lynn had thought she was pregnant- or had become pregnant and unknowingly miscarried, then became pregnant again, fairly quickly, by John.  Of course, that would have meant that I was a couple of months premature- and there was no evidence of that from my hospital records.  Then I decided to just put it out there- and asked Lynn if she thought that there could be another option.  Perhaps there was a "secret" that she had kept from the world for fifty years- assuming that there was no way it could be uncovered.  I told her that I knew she was aware that I was writing a blog and was perhaps afraid that I would "out" her if she disclosed the nature of said information.  I assured her that if she could relieve herself of this burden, that I would cease writing my story and keep that secret to myself.  After all- the only person that genuinely needs such information is me.  In finally coming clean- we could both move on with our lives and I could explore the truth-privately.
She was steadfast in her original claim.  Nope.  No way.  There was never anyone else. Nobody.

That was good enough for me.  As I've said before- Lynn had always been straightforward with me.  Though her memories had always been a little foggy- and often not accurate- she appeared to be genuinely bewildered (though a little complacent) at the results.
I ended the call telling her that I would talk to her after I had talked to the testing company.  I was even more sure that it was just a mistake and things would make sense after talking to 23andMe.

Appointed with Lynn's assurance that it just couldn't be true- I went back to my records of the Campbell family.  I had acquired loads of documents and photographs over the past few months.  The resemblance to my "grandmother" was striking and did not go unnoticed by others.  We shared hooded eyes and a ready smile.  I can't see me in Malcolm- he is tall and has dark brown eyes (mine are green)- but in contrast with Lynn- his personality makes perfect sense.  While Lynn is understated and reserved, Malcolm is loud and attention grabbing.  Though I have never felt a "connection" to him, I believed that much of my personality was formed as a direct result of his DNA.  My search had been over. I should have the freedom to research both sides of my tree- and this little hiccup- though irritating- would soon be amended.
Malcolm's mother, Arline


Monday morning I started calling the 23andMe Customer service number.  The "waiting" message told me that they were experiencing higher than normal activity- and instead of allowing me to hold, I was instructed to "call back later. Click."  This was not helping my frayed nerves- though I was bolstered by the thought that the reason they were so backed up must be because of the messed up batch- and I was not the only one experiencing this angst...
By early afternoon I finally got through to a customer service representative.  I attempted to calmly relay my story to her and insist that there must be some sort of mistake.  She was patient and seemed to be armed with the language to use when such a situation occurs.  She told me that 23andMe stands by it's results, they had no reason to believe there had been any kind of lab mixup- but, as a courtesy, they would be happy to send a new test to the original recipient and pay the testing costs and postage. I was happy to hear that she was willing to help- but unnerved by her confidence that mistakes like this don't happen in their lab.  She told me that providing their customers with accurate data was their number one priority.
The representative arranged for the new test to be sent out asap and assured me that an open line of communication would be established by e-mail throughout this process.
The same day I purchased another test and sent it to my sister, Serena.  The best way to control my perception of the results was to have her results on hand.  If she matched me and not Malcolm, then I could conclude that his original results were incorrect. But, if she matched him- and not me- then they were correct. I was relieved to have an ally in Serena.  We had gotten quite close over the past months and I knew that I could count on her help in any way possible.  Also, I had the added comfort of knowing that if Malcolm decided to stop complying (given the nature of our last conversation in Australia) I could at least have Serena to test against me.
It turns out that my concerns about Malcolm were unfounded.  I had been worried that he might refuse to talk to me the next time I called- but he was more than willing to help out when I told him that the results had come back as "inconclusive" and they needed another sample.  This would be his third time giving a sample- and hopefully the last.
In the meantime I sent an extra Ancestry DNA test I had laying around the house to Lynn and John.  John had agreed to test-on the off chance that Malcolm's next results were the same as the last.  This way I was covering all of my bases- and I would hopefully have all of my answers within the next six to eight weeks.  Discovering that John could actually be my father put a whole new narrative on the story.  It would mean that he and Lynn had given up their mutual child and gotten married just a couple of months later.  While I wouldn't blame them for such an error- I would imagine that it might be difficult for them to reconcile at first.  It would also mean that my original family was still intact.  I would have three full siblings.  It occurred to me that John being my father would actually make more physical sense than Malcolm.  He is shorter than Lynn (was actually a jockey in Ireland) and has light eyes- were actually green when he was younger.  Then I remembered how surprised I had been when my initial Ancestry DNA estimate said that I was 44% Irish.

To pass the next few weeks of anguish I began to research Johns family genealogy.  I figured it would be good practice-and I would be one step ahead in my research if the results came back that he was my father.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

CHAPTER 25: THE SUCKER PUNCH

I was picked up at my hotel by my very handsome cousin, Andre and his equally attractive girlfriend, Samantha.  They both made me feel instantly welcome- though they were not sure who exactly I was.  I spent the thirty minute drive giving them an abbreviated version of the story.  Having spoken to Andre's mother, Tina, the day before, I was somewhat nervous about meeting so many family members at one time.  Tina had turned it into a bit of a reunion- with family coming from as far away as Canberra.
Upon arriving I was greeted by Tina and my cousin, Keith.  There was also his brother, my other cousin, Peter.  Their mother was Doris, who's mother was Lillian (Lil)- my Great Grandfather Clarence's sister.
 Then, there was Olga.  Olga had been almost a mythological character to me.  Several family members had spoken of her (including Malcolm)- but it was difficult to pinpoint exactly how she fit into the family.  Through my research I had found that she was the only daughter of Hester (another sister of Grandpa Clarence and Lil) and her second (?) husband.  Hester had died when Olga was a small child and she was subsequently raised by Lil.  Olga had three older half siblings from Hester's first marriage- one of whom is the father of "Sue".  "Sue" is whom I came to the conclusion is the woman on Ancestry who had written me the cryptic e-mails regarding my possession and display of family photos that I had acquired.  So, hearing that Olga would be present had both surprised and tantalized me.  Knowing that Sue was her niece made me wonder if Olga was there on a reconnaissance mission. She had, after all, travelled all the way from Canberra.  Upon meeting Olga I could tell that she was straightforward and assertive- almost intimidating.  I told her how thrilled I was to meet her as I had heard her name so often.  After some small talk I asked her how old she had been when her mother had died.  Her response was "Oh, I don't remember." That's when I knew that she didn't trust me yet.  She was holding everything close.  This was going to be interesting.
One of the reasons this reunion had been put together was because Keith and Tina were in possession of many historical family photographs. My contacting them had inspired a desire to collaborate and sort some of them out-as they didn't know exactly who some of these people were, or what their stories were.  The goal was to share.  Tina had put together a makeshift "tree" with photographs that went as far back as William Campbell and his wife, Elizabeth Carnes (daughter of the ill fated William Carnes of the "Port Tragedy").  I asked to connect to wi-fi so I could fire up my tree and share my findings.  Upon doing that Olga was at my side, asking if she could look at my tree.  Of course I was eager to get her input.  I navigated backwards to show her how I had proven that I was related to them.  I showed her each generation- some documentation was plentiful- others, within the same generation, had been impossible to trace.  Finally, I arrived at Elizabeth Carnes.  The picture I had been given was displayed as her "profile" picture.  I showed Olga how, buy researching  on the website "Trove", I had found the story of the "Port Tragedy". Even more recently "Ancestry" had added new records that showed that Elizabeth and her parents had been regular guests at the Marylebone Workhouse in London.   I showed her documentation that Elizabeth had managed to escape from her poverty stricken childhood and acquired passage to Australia where work for young women was plentiful and she could create a more promising future.  I showed how she had married William Carnes in 1862- even though he had a wife and child back in England and had never divorced.  I showed how they had five children within ten years before they became estranged- and how, in 1899, after many years of estrangement William had returned to their family home, attempting to stab Elizabeth, and after failing to do so, killed himself.  I believe that Elizabeth has a story to tell- and that I have only uncovered the tip of the ice-berg.
Olga's face had been un-reactive as I shared my findings with her.  She seemed not surprised nor shocked.  Finally, she pointed to the picture of Elizabeth and said "You have no right to have this picture."  There it was.  She had been sent on "special ops".  My stomach lurched a little, but I knew that I needed for her to understand that I was using my powers for good and not evil.
"Sure I do" was my chirpy response.  I explained to her that I was aware that she had probably spoken to her niece.  I told her that, as I had explained to "Sue", as a member of this family I had as much of a right to this information to do with it as I best see fit- and I didn't want this history to be swept under a rug and kept from younger generations as if it had never happened.  It was a factual part of family history- and Elizabeth's story should be kept alive.  I also told her that all of this information (other than the photograph) was a matter of public record and I had found it all in public accessible forums.  As far as the photograph, I told her that I would have considered removing it from my public tree had "Sue" not been so cryptic and refuse to identify herself.  Upon this, Olga chose to step away.  I wasn't sure how this was going to play out, but I shook it off and continued visiting and perusing photographs with other family members.
I love this picture of Ethel May and Lillian dancing in a field

It was a generally relaxing day.  I had the opportunity to bond with my cousins Andre and Rebecca. Upon finding out that Rebecca is a singer I felt a little flutter of camaraderie and began seeing more and more similarities between us.  We had similar smiles and she had a playful, light personality and didn't take herself too seriously.  That fact that she is quite beautiful didn't hurt- but I don't pretend to aspire to such aesthetic virtue.  Another sister, Maria had also been there, but had to leave before I had the chance to really meet her.  We later connected on Facebook- as you do.
Through out the day, I found myself asking about relatives that had been so hard to trace.  There had been two other brothers of Clarence- the oldest, William and the youngest, Arthur.  Both had minimal public records- except a couple of newspaper articles: one when Arthur had been reported missing in 1916.  It had described him as 14 years of age and four feet six inches tall.  One would wonder if he was a dwarf- but it was more likely a typo. The other article, dated in 1930, had Arthur being arrested and held without bail for causing "grievous bodily harm" to his brother, William.  Interestingly enough, there are no photographs of either of these brothers.  In fact, no one that I asked seemed to really have heard of their existence.  I also noticed that there are no surviving photographs of Clarence- but plenty of his wife, Ethel May.
As the day continued, Olga began speaking to me again.  She seemed to understand that most of my information was, indeed, a matter of public record and I think, perhaps, she was relieved that I hadn't made a formal speech about the "Port Tragedy" (though that information is readily available to anyone who wants it..)  She even began telling me family anecdotes, and sharing with me facts and evidence that she thought would be useful for my family tree.  She even went as far as dictating which photograph of herself she deemed acceptable as her "profile pic".  She is an obviously intelligent lady and a loyal aunt, and I can't fault her for trying to protect her family from what she has been told is a complete stranger.  I ultimately chose not to include Olga's picture in the tree- though any information about "living people", even in public trees on Ancestry, are not visible to others.
As the day wound down, Keith drove me back to my hotel.  He and Tina had gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and welcome.  I mentioned to him that about the earlier friction with Olga, and that his cousin "Sue" was clearly not a supporter of me opening a can of worms that she had obviously hoped to keep to herself.  I just wanted to make sure to be an "open book" with everyone.

Finally, my trip came to an end.  It was a long and eventful three weeks.  Though I had covered a lot of ground, there were still so many questions to be answered, relatives to be noted and their stories to be told.  I was exhausted. For now I could bask in the fact that I had achieved my ultimate goal, the one that I had worked so hard for the last quarter of a century to complete. I got home to my patient and supportive family, sent in the DNA samples that I had collected, and celebrated Christmas.


January 1st, 2015.  I received an e-mail from 23andMe telling me that the analysis of my two new samples were complete and ready for review.  That took less than three weeks!  What a treat!  I quickly logged on to my account and proceeded to peruse my new Ancestry Composition.  By clicking on the "Split View" mode, you can see which of your genetic makeup comes from which parent.  There it was.  It was unremarkable as both Lynette and Malcolm share similar ancestry.  It just appeared that Lynn has a higher percentage of British/Irish and Malcolm has more French/German and Scandinavian mixed in. I clicked on "Paternal Line".  What?  I then clicked on my list of DNA relatives.

Malcolm was not my father.