Sunday, June 16, 2019

Remembering Fathers—
and Other Family Members

Happy Father's Day! If you still have a father within traveling distance, I hope you were able to take some time today to express your love and appreciation. Those of us who don't wish we could.

There is still a piece of my dad around for me to remember. Of course, I have many memories—and photographs, in case I forget. But thanks to his DNA—and his father's, too—every time I look in the mirror, I can see part of his face looking back at me. I resemble my dad. And though I never met him face to face, judging by the pictures my older relatives have been kind enough to share with me, I can see I look like my paternal grandfather, as well.

That magical secret code locked up in the genes passed to me from my paternal side may one day—soon—open up a few clues on a mystery that has long had our family stymied: just where my paternal grandfather came from. Who would have guessed, years ago, that we'd someday be all a-buzz about this thing called genetic genealogy? And yet, thanks to relatives connected to this patriline who have been willing to participate in DNA testing—especially my brother, whose test included his Y-DNA—I now have the clues to begin cracking that century-old mystery.

Between the magic of this technology—many of us are still struggling to get our heads around the science that lies at its basis—and the reports of thousands of matches showing up in my accounts at all five major testing companies, it's easy to lose sight of the power of the thing in the midst of overwhelming data. After all, I have 3,780 matches at Family Tree DNA, 1,638 at Ancestry, 1,213 at 23andMe, and 8,031 at MyHeritage. That's a lot of work attempting to track how these DNA relatives connect to my family tree.

In the past year, I had focused my family history research on my mother's line for a very specific reason: my plan to take a specific research course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. Though I am still following through on that task—in the past two weeks, I added 133 names to my mother's tree, to bring up the total there to 18,585 individuals—I am shifting my research goal for the remainder of this year to conquer the one question of just where my paternal grandfather came from.

Work on my father's tree had come to a near stand-still in the past year. Still, since January, I've added an incidental few names as interesting family tidbits came my way. Right now, that paternal tree stands at 538, the smallest of my family trees. But thanks to the appearance of one DNA match which surfaced after I used MyHeritage's AutoCluster program, I believe I've made a connection with someone who may be related to me through my paternal grandfather's line.

It's pretty much the same for my husband's father's tree: not much work in the past year, except for the occasional discovery of an obituary or other bit of news. Right now, my father-in-law's tree stands at 1,531—up eight in the past two weeks, only because I've been chipping away at a Tully connection on this tree which I can't quite yet figure out. I know—mostly from old family photographs lacking labels—that there are more Tully relatives out there; I just never could find any documentation to verify exactly what the connection was. But now that I'm looking more closely at these records, I'm finding names to add to my father-in-law's tree, after all.

So it looks like this will be the season for working on both fathers' lines—mine, and my husband's. I'll be rushing to take advantage of the Father's Day sales at some DNA companies, before the end of the weekend, as more relatives agree to participate in testing. Every little bit of help enables me to paint one more speck of that picture about a grandfather I never really knew.


  1. I remembered my Dad. My mom tried to get a flag for him since he was a veteran - but the government said, no, he wasn't on active duty. So I wrote the local VFW group and they sent me a flag within 2 days. I put it in a triangular case and gave it to my mom. We remembered OUR veteran.

    1. Good for your local VFW! Glad you were able to do that for your mom, Iggy!


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