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Family secrets continue to unravel

By: Paula Walter
Assistant Editor

It’s been almost a year and a half since my search for my family ancestors led me to discover my DNA make up wasn’t what I thought it was. My Italian great-grandparents who never learned to speak English weren’t really related to me. Although I can say it calmly now and even make jokes about it, I felt as though the rug was pulled from underneath me.
After taking the DNA test, I discovered I was missing a huge component of what I thought was my DNA make up. I had no Italian DNA. The man I knew as my grandfather was Italian; actually they were from Sicily, an island off the mainland. I felt as though my world was turned upside down. I remember calling my brother, ready to plead with him to please give up some of his DNA and send it off to be tested. Luckily, he readily agreed. My two cousins, daughters of my mother’s sisters, were willing to find out what, if any, secrets their DNA told.
About a month later, my cousin, Patty, called and told she had received her results. Sure enough, she had plenty of Italian ancestry. It showed we were second cousins, not first, meaning we shared one grandparent and great-grandparents. I was relieved that we truly were related because at that point, my heart couldn’t have stood finding out Patty wasn’t really my biological family. She has always been more of a sister than a cousin. My cousin Linda got the same results as Patty, again, a significant amount of Italian DNA. Finally, my brother’s test results arrive and I cautiously clicked the link to discover what he may have inherited. I wasn’t sure what to expect as there were all kinds of crazy theories running around in my head. Although there are times I’d like to say he’s not really related to me because we are so different, I couldn’t. We are definitely siblings and he definitely was lacking in Italian DNA.
I was pretty much in limbo for a long time. I would get a lot of DNA hints from Ancestry, but most of them didn’t make sense to me. Most of them were connected to people in the south. My grandmother was from Maryland and hints from my father’s family were mostly from Pennsylvania, Eastern Europe, Scotland and Ireland. I kept getting names and family trees from people in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Most showed as fourth cousins or beyond. However, there were a few that were third cousins. I was in email contact with one man who was just as confused as I was. He was adopted and had very little information on his parents. What a pair we were, stumbling around trying to make heads or tails out of all of these DNA hits.

I had decided I was going to give it a rest for a while, and hadn’t logged onto the site for several weeks. I signed online recently and saw I had a “new” second cousin, the same distance apart as Patty and Linda. I didn’t recognize any of the names. However, I started plugging in names that I kept seeing over and over, and finally began to see a pattern of locations and people. So it appears this second cousin and I have the same grandfather. If this is indeed my mother’s father’s family, I have an uncle still alive.
I began to do some research on the family, and was pleased to find that the area he was from in Louisiana had some awesome historical records. As a great-grandchild of immigrants, I found this new information astounding. My great-great grandfather fought for the south in the Civil War, was captured but was traded and returned to his unit. He was a reporter and was the editor for a newspaper in their hometown. I have to tell you that this information pretty much blew me away. As a child, I was always curious. I always wanted to know why, who said what, what did they mean, and on and on. I drove my parents crazy. It’s pretty wild to me that I now work for a newspaper, just like my great great-grandfather did. One of his brothers was a lawyer and my brother is a lawyer. It was almost like some of the pieces that never made sense to me fell into place, my “aha” moment.

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