Friday, August 11, 2017

A 245 Centimorgan Mystery: DNA Triangulation At Work

With my recent excitement over DNA discoveries (welcome to the family, new first cousin!), I've spent the past week or so sending my newest cousin photographs, family health information, and family history. I have more to send - how can one even explain all of this in mere weeks? But I want to give her space to process everything.

So as she's working on learning more about her newly-discovered biological family, I am turning my attention to the shared match I mentioned in my post about my new cousin.

As I said at the end of that post, this 245 cM match also matches my new cousin. My new cousin only matches me through a very specific line, which means my mystery match can only share one of two sets of great-great grandparents with me:

Edward Henry Blake and Ada Estella Gay


Erastus Bartlett Shaw and Emma Anna Murphy

I know this thanks to triangulating with my new first cousin match. My first cousin only shares my paternal grandmother, not my paternal grandfather. Why? Because my paternal grandmother had two marriages. She had two children from her first marriage (my oldest uncle and my aunt) and two children from her second marriage (my second uncle and my father). My new first cousin descends from my oldest uncle.

So since my 245 cM mystery match shares my first cousin as a match, I know it must be through an ancestor of our grandmother, Barbara Estella Shaw.

With a match of 245 cM, I know we're in the second cousin range. I've been in touch with this match and based on her age (she was born in 1947; I was born in 1974), I'd say we're looking at a once removed relationship in there.

It will help immensely when my father finally sends in his DNA test, but considering the closeness of the match, this would put her in first cousin territory with my dad. Maybe a first cousin, once removed.

That helps put this in perspective, but it's interesting to note that my grandmother only had 4 siblings and I'm only aware of 2 of them having children. I'm not saying there can't be surprises there, but that would mean this woman is (quite possibly) adopted and not aware of it.

So you can see it's rather tricky territory, as Judy Russell recently noted. (As a side note, I'm thrilled that Judy Russell is speaking at the Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference next year. Oh yes, I will be there!)

Since I'm not ready to pursue that idea just yet, the first thing I'm doing is backing up to my father's grandparents. This brings me to Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake. I'm exploring the possibility that somewhere in my family is a mis-attributed parentage.

However, all I can do at this point is speculate. I am considering the mirror tree concept, but I do feel certain there's a mis-attributed parentage somewhere among our trees. Whether hers or mine, I won't know until I dig further.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My Shaw Ancestors in Middleborough, Massachusetts

I love the town of Middleborough. Because I grew up in Bridgewater, I got to visit Middleborough very often as a child and young adult. That included going to the Middleborough Fair every year with my dad and sister and I have very fond memories of it.

My paternal grandmother was a Shaw, so she and her ancestors spent most of their lives in Middleborough and Carver. Here was see Grandma as a high school graduate:

Barbara Estella Shaw

My grandmother was the only surviving daughter of her family, so her parents doted on her. She also had three brothers who survived. Her twin died when he was only three.

Her father, Harrison Clifford Shaw, and grandfather, Erastus Bartlett Shaw, had a poultry and egg business:

Shaw Poultry Trucks

As I mentioned, Harrison and his wife, Nina, had seven children, including my grandmother. I believe this could be their first child, Herbert, pictured here:

Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake

Harrison's father, Erastus, was a farmer. His obituary even referred to him as "the last of the old farmers."

Erastus was the son of Harrison Shaw and Adeline Bent. Unfortunately, I don't have photos any of them - just their death notices and relevant genealogical records. So I don't know much about their lives. Erastus was born in Carver, but spent his life in Middleborough.

Unfortunately, Erastus's parents died when he was quite young. Plymouth County Probate Court records show that his brother-in-law, Ebenezer A. Shaw, petitioned for guardianship. Erastus was then reared by his brother-in-law, Ebenezer, and sister, Sarah.

I can't imagine what losing his parents at a young age must have done to him, but it's good that he had older siblings willing to care for him. Erastus went on to be a success in his life with his business. He had two marriages - the first to Lucy Cora Maria Philips and the second to Emma Anna Murphy, my mysterious great-great grandmother.

With Lucy, Erastus had two daughters, one of whom survived to adulthood. With Emma, he had only my great-grandfather, Harrison Clifford Shaw.

I treasure the photos I have of the family and really wish I could find some of Erastus and Emma. Several of my Shaw cousins still live in Carver, Middleborough, and surrounding areas. I think the last time I saw them was 2006 or so. I guess I need to get home for a visit next year!

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

And DNA Makes Six...

Or "In Which Wendy Receives a Most Unexpected DNA Match"

Once upon a time, there were five of us - Andy, Bryan, myself, April, and - five years later - Danielle:

And DNA Makes Six...
Bryan, Wendy (me), Andy & April

Five first cousins who got together for summer breaks and the occasional Christmas. 

And then DNA changed our world.

Initially, I took my DNA tests in hopes of breaking down a specific brick wall. I won't repeat Emma Anna Murphy's mystery here, as I've already shared it often. But she is my great-great grandmother, the one I've chased for almost 25 years.

Emma had only one child that we know of: my great-grandfather, Harrison Clifford Shaw, born 9 May 1889 in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Harrison married Nina Gertrude Blake on 28 January 1912 in Middleborough. Together they had 7 children, 4 of whom survived to adulthood:

1. Herbert Clifford Shaw (1912-1982) - no children

2. Inez Adelaide Shaw (1915-1915)

3. Alice M. Shaw (1916-1916)

4. Robert Henry Shaw (1918-1979) - three children

5. Kenneth Linwood Shaw (1921-2006) - three children

6. Barbara Estella Shaw (twin; 1923-2006) - four children

7. Laurence Bartlett Shaw (twin; 1923-1927)

Of course we know all of our first cousins, right? Most of us grow up around them. We certainly thought we knew ours, anyway. Just the five of us...

My grandmother Barbara was married twice and had four children. With her first husband, Dean Burleigh Jennings, she had:

1. Jon Bartlett Jennings (1945-1983) - no children

2. A daughter - mother of Andy, Bryan and Danielle

With her second husband, Vincent Allen Wood, she had:

3. Lawrence Allen Wood (1951-2001) - no children

4. A son - father of me and my sister

What came to me via DNA testing did not turn out to be a connection to an ancestor, but to the present.

A Surprising New Match

As of this week, I had been able to work every single close DNA match, except for one. I knew she didn't match my mother or any of my maternal relatives who tested, so I could narrow her down to a paternal relative. But our paper trails do not meet. So I set aside the mystery of the woman with whom I share 245 centimorgans on 15 segments for a while.

On Monday, I noticed eight new matches. My immediate assumption was that they would fall into the 4th cousin-to-distant range, but you never know. I skimmed over my first page of results, not expecting to see a fresh face.

But there she was - a fresh face we will call K.

Ancestry predicted a first cousin relationship based on 395 centimorgans shared over 19 segments.
My maternal first cousins match me at 904 and 759 centimorgans respectively, so I figured this was a second cousin match or a first cousin to one of my grandparents. But my Nana's (maternal grandmother) first cousins match me at 215 and 190 centimorgans each. Interesting.

First, I checked our shared matches and saw that she was not a maternal relative. Great. That narrowed things down, but also made it more difficult, because I had only one confirmed paternal relative to check her against. And she did not match him, which seemed to rule out the Wood side of my family.

But, interestingly enough, she was a match to my other close mystery match.

Hmm... Okay, then. I looked at her family tree, wondering if any of the five names she had listed in it were familiar.

"Interesting," I told myself. "Her father has the same name as my uncle. She must be a Wood after all."

My latest speculation about my other mystery match revolved around my paternal great-great grandparents on the Wood side, so it made sense. However, she doesn't match my known Wood DNA match either.

Naturally, I sent this new match - K - a message with the names of my grandparents and all four of my paternal great-grandparents - Wood, Wood (no, that's not a typo), Shaw, and Blake. I told her where they were from and asked if the names rang a bell.

Her response came swiftly:

I was born in 1969 to Jon Bartlett Wood "Woody" from Middleboro, MA. I know he went to BU and was in the Coast Guard and had 2 brothers and 1 sister. 
I was given up for adoption two months after my birth because my biological parents did not want to get married.
I was able to track down my biological mother, but because my biological father died in his early 20's I couldn't find much about his family.
Does that name sound familiar to you?

If you've ever had an experience like this, you can imagine how I felt as I tried to respond.

Uncle Jon? A daughter? My beloved uncle, whose untimely death when his ship - the SS Marine Electric - sank in 1983... Whose death shook us all... He had a daughter? A part of him still living in this world?

I probably came across as a crazy lady in my response to K:


You're Uncle Jon's daughter? HE HAD KIDS? OH MY GOD. SERIOUSLY.

K... Oh, we should talk on the phone! My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I can tell you all about my Uncle Jon!

Yes, the dreaded all-caps. But I was absolutely shaking. I had to know how this was possible.

For a few minutes, I paced back and forth and cried tears of joy.

I was always open to this sort of surprise, as well as the possibility of a mis-attributed parentage somewhere in the past or present. Always open to unexpected babies and Maury-style "he was NOT the father" discoveries.

Open, but not prepared for the tidal wave of shock and joy to know there was someone totally unexpected out there. A close relative none of us had ever known about.

The phone rang and in a rush of joy and excitement, K and I exchanged our stories, punctuated by "oh my god" every so often.

This woman, only 5 years older than me, was my first cousin. There was no doubt about it.

After that, I enlisted my sister's help. First we had to inform our dad and our aunt. This was their dearly departed brother's child, after all. Then we had to give K a chance to see the father she had never known.

Emails flew back and forth as I provided most of the genealogical information and what few photos I had.

At the close of every email, I told K if she needed space, we would give her space. And if she wanted to know more, we would give her more. We were excited, but we weren't about to push an insta-family on her. I wanted to respect her journey as an adoptee discovering her biological father's family.

Likewise, she has shown the utmost respect for us as a family unit who always knew a very specific set of people. 

Fortunately, and as I predicted to K, the responses of our family were completely positive. My father told my sister he is not surprised - he always thought Uncle Jon had a child out there somewhere. My uncle (speaking for my aunt, as she has been dealing with health issues) affirmed that this is very exciting and said, "We embrace her." He said it was only a pity we didn't know sooner.

I spent Monday in a haze of joy. My arms wouldn't stop tingling. I don't know how I managed to write those initial emails. I didn't fall asleep until close to 2 a.m.

But it was so worth it.

Being genealogists, we often want to help others find information. I always hoped that someday I could help an adoptee along their journey, because I know what it's like not to grow up with at least one parent.

I just never thought that adoptee would turn out to be someone so closely related to me.

Once upon a time, there were the five of us - Andy, Bryan, myself, April, and Danielle.

But now there are six.


Remember the mystery match who shares 245 centimorgans with me - the one I just can't connect to using a paper trail?

Because of K, I can rule out my dad's paternal ancestry which, interestingly enough, brings my focus on that match to only two likely sets of shared great-great grandparents: 

Edward Blake and Ada Gay or 

Erastus Shaw and - I bet you guessed it - Emma Murphy

I think it's safe to say that this story is To be continued...

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan