Thursday, June 27, 2019

Race to the Finish Line

Now that I have a target surname to work on, thanks to the few DNA matches which seem to align with my mystery paternal grandfather Theodore Puhalski's roots, the next step is to do what some researchers call a "quick and dirty" tree. To do that, I'm using the tree-building tools through my subscription at It's a private tree I'm creating, of course, owing to the fact that I could very well be making mistakes as I build that tree as rapidly as possible. And one more detail: I made that tree unsearchable, lest some hapless neophyte stumble upon my work and assume it represents the gospel truth about the Michalski family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I certainly wouldn't want to see my error-prone experiment replicated.

At current count—and this is only after about eight hours' work—my little Michalski tree is up to seventy six names. It only stretches back three generations at this point, starting from the woman who likely was mother to one of my DNA matches and grandmother to another match, and reaching back to that woman's paternal grandfather. As I've done in the past with my maternal tree for matches on my mother's line, I've done the same for this Michalski tree: extended the descendant lines for each of the siblings in each generation, which is what provided those seventy six names. Keep in mind, this was apparently a good Catholic family with several children for each generational iteration, so it's kept me quite busy.

The catch, though, is working into this tree the Michalski lines I spotted in the other four DNA matches. Those lines aren't necessarily an extension of the one line I've been working on so far. At some point—I keep expecting to stumble upon this juncture soon, but like the carrot tied to a stick, it keeps stretching on before me, no matter how far I reach for it—I expect the other matches will belong to a brother's line of the one I'm working on now. That, however, would be the easy explanation—and a good reason why I'm keeping my eye on those collateral lines for each generation.

In the process, I'm not just looking at the Michalski surnames. I try my best to include the maiden names of the spouses, just in case. That policy may bear fruit, as I just noticed what may be a case of siblings marrying siblings.

The second reason I'm including that practice of paying close attention to the maiden names of the Michalski wives is that those two maiden names I've already spotted seem vaguely familiar—as in sounding closely like a surname I stumbled upon, back in New York when I tried every which way to ferret out clues about my mystery grandfather.

Remember the stories about my father's Aunt Rose? If you have been reading along here at A Family Tapestry for a few years, you may remember my mentioning that lady with the outlandish hat. I still can't decide whether she was a real blood relative, or just the good family friend to whom the adults in my father's life accorded the respect of the endearing term, "aunt."

A while back, I followed Aunt Rose's story as far as I could, using genealogical research techniques, and stumbled upon an unfortunate situation she experienced which led me to some documents providing a bit more identification of her family. The record I sent for included a surname so unusual, I couldn't locate it anywhere else, even in the vast humanity that populates a city the size of New York.

I am wondering now whether that original document may have contained a typo, or at least a mild case of disinformation. We'll revisit that story, beginning tomorrow, and see whether there is any hook to connect with some surnames I've uncovered in the trees of these DNA matches. It may all be a premature conjecture on my part, but I'm sure you can understand that I'm chomping at the bit and hoping to race toward the answer. I know: patience, patience! Yet all the while, my mind is wanting to rush to the finish line.


  1. Can't wait for next installment!

    1. Neither can I, Miss Merry--and I'm the one writing it! Ah, the life of the Genealogical Guinea Pig...

  2. I hope you can someday explain (in a very basic way) more about how to build experimental private trees on Ancestry. I have tried to do something like you describe here, but I get lost. I identify with what you said before about looking at the scores of matches and thinking, "Who ARE these people?"

    1. It can be frustrating, can't it, Lisa?! Actually, this is my first experience taking a long, hard look at my matches' trees and spotting the same surname jump out at me from multiple places. I'm feeling quite spoiled. FINALLY.

      I will try and put something together about building those trees for you this weekend. It isn't hard, but you do need to know where to look to complete the process.


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