52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – #15 DNA

There are a lot of commercials right now offering a reduced cost for DNA testing. The Christmas offer was the enticement for my husband to buy a kit for me. I had never been very interested in DNA testing, after 20 years of research I pretty much know where all my ancestors came from.

If you have a tree established in Ancestry then the DNA kit offers more information for them to track the migration of your ancestors. I knew my ancestors had settled in New York and Massachusetts and Kentucky between 1600 and 1700 then migrated west to Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas and Colorado in the 1800’s. Ancestry confirmed this migration by illustrating the pathways from the European continent to the American continent and across the plains to the Midwest. It makes a pretty picture.

The most interesting part of the DNA test results is the revelation of more than 1000 names within Ancestry of people I share DNA characteristics with. For example, the closest match for me is my first cousin Roxanne Hancock Dye. Roxanne’s father and my mother were brother and sister. Roxanne took an Ancestry DNA test and has established a tree in Ancestry. The match shows we share 1083 cM across 44 segments. A centimorgan (cM) tells you how much DNA is shared. A segment represents the sections of DNA that are identical between two individuals.

Roxanne, her mother, and daughter Emily.

My other closest connections within Ancestry are Kori Bitterlich, my sister’s grand-daughter, with 998 cM over 41 segments. Gary Langdon, my first cousin, 851 cM across 41 segments. James G. Fields, who is my first half-cousin, 350 cM over 17 segments. James’ mother June is my father’s half-sister. After these matches the numbers drop pretty fast to about 99 cM and 10 segments for my third, fourth and fifth cousins.

The real catch with this is you must have an Ancestry DNA test in order to provide the information to know our connections. Because my siblings and most of the cousins I know do not have this connection to Ancestry I don’t have any other DNA information. However, I do have a fairly large tree built with documentation for proof and that makes me happy. But if you are curious, take advantage of the Ancestry DNA test holiday sales.

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #14 – Brick Wall

A ‘brick wall’ is that point during research that you are unable to find any information, hints or clues in the billions of records available online or at the library, courthouse or archives. If you are persistent and follow a typical genealogical method of searching you will find something some day. My research follows more of a hit and miss style with the hope of getting lucky.

My hit and miss method also includes being bold enough to contact total strangers and ask if they are related to the ancestor I am researching. I have met a lot of really nice people using this method with only a few who never responded to my plea. I have discovered that people are curious and people like to talk about themselves.

Most recently I have been working with a gentleman from West Virginia who is an author and skilled at restoring old photographs. He very generously sent me his book which tells the stories of the Jewish people who settled in Morgantown, West Virginia. A very poignant, and emotional entry into his world. We are jointly searching for information on his grandfather to find a connection to my husband’s ancestors. I thought by learning as much as I could about early settlement of Jewish families I might be able to get a hint as to where to look for records.

Another lady who retired recently and moved to Fort Collins wrote to ask me if the name mentioned in a letter written more than 100 years ago from Nathan Brink Hancock to his young bride (my great grandmother Lulu Brace Hancock Baber) was also a cousin to our joint ancestor. We are still working on that.

Most recently I received a request from a lady who recognized a name in my Norwegian ancestor tree and was eager to learn if it was the same person in her tree. Anderson is a popular Norwegian name after all. It was the same ancestor, and we were able to share information, stories and photos.

Great Uncle Jureen ‘Jack’ Anderson, daughter Jeanine and wife Vyvyan.

Some of my brick walls have shrunk quite a bit since I took the DNA test and received notifications from Ancestry. But, alas the biggest brick wall I face has not even been chipped in the twenty years I have been searching. That would be for Hyman Singer and his wife Rebecca Silverblatt.

If only I could see an 1890 census (which burned in 1921), or find immigration records or applications for naturalization. I am obsessed with finding out where they came from. Some of the United States Federal census records say Russia or Emperor of Russia, which is now Belarus. Some census records indicate Leeds, England. I must find their entry to the United States. It is out there. . . somewhere!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #13 – In The News

Twenty five years ago the front page story on the Sun’Sailor newspaper covering St. Louis Park, Minnesota reads Minnetonka Woman Unveils Mystery. The date was March 2, 1994 and Jeanine Shesterkin nee Anderson was pictured holding photos of her mother and four half-siblings who she discovered in 1993. My father’s sister, June, mailed the newspaper copy to me recently after visiting with their cousin Jeanine whom she had not seen in many, many years.

Vyvyan Anderson abandoned Jack Anderson and Jeanine when Jeanine was about 2 years old. The only memento Jeanine had of her mother, Vyvyan, was a piece of paper with her handwriting on it. For more than 50 years, that piece of paper was the most tangible evidence Jeanine had of her mother.

Vyvyan Anderson

Jack was 22 years older than Vyvyan when they married in 1937 or 1938, and he was a successful businessman who owned a soda shop and car dealership. He never drank or smoked. Jack had two brothers who were pastors and their Norwegian mother, my great grandmother, Signe Anderson was a devoted Christian.

Jack, Jeanine, Vyvyan Anderson

In 1942 a business opportunity enticed Jack and Vyvyan to move to New York City. Vyvyan apparently became bored with the life of a homemaker and had an affair with a high-ranking Marine. She became pregnant and the two of them left New York City for Florida. The Marine had been stationed at NAS Pensacola. Jack divorced Vyvyan and she married her Marine in 1942.

What always touched Jeanine was her dad never married again. He never even dated. He went to his grave loving Vyvyan. He never said one bad word about her.

Jack and Jeanine moved to Southern California to build a new life. Jack worked as an engineer with Lockheed Corporation. When she was 10, they returned to Minneapolis where Jack took a job with Honeywell.

Jeanine’s memories of her childhood were warm and positive. She said he taught her to ride horses, to shoot, cook and wash clothes. As she grew older Jeanine said she started to inquire more about her mother and encouraged her father to see other women. He told her one heartache like that was enough for a lifetime. In her late teens they moved back to the Enchanted Lake area of Lake Minnetonka where her father retired and died in 1982.

Unfortunately Jeanine learned her new found siblings were not so lucky. Their father suffered from mental illness, abusing both physically and mentally his wife and children. In 1994 at the siblings family reunion her half sister Jacquelyn was unable to attend and Jeanine met her later in Georgia. The Douglas County Sentinel in Douglasville, Georgia reported on February 26, 1994, the story of Jacqueline meeting with Jeanine and the joy she felt at finding her long lost sister.

Jacqueline Irvin Sliter with photographs of her siblings.

Vyvyan died in 1988, five years before Jeanine started her search.