Sunday, October 20, 2019

Glimmer of Hope in a Dark Corner

Two weeks ago, when I reviewed my biweekly research progress, I mentioned that I've started work on an additional family tree. This tree isn't publicly viewable, however; I've tucked it in a dark corner of the website. I've locked it away as a private tree, and banished it from sight by also designating it as "unsearchable."

I still want to count it, however, so I'm adding it to my tally. At some point, I'll be brave enough to add it to my father's own tree, and let some sunlight in—or at least the scrutiny of others' researching eyes.

The tree I've been constructing—in this top secret project—is the tree which intersects the family lines of the six DNA matches I've recently received. All of those lines include a surname Michalski—not a surname I've ever run across in my own research. After further study, I realized that the mother's maiden name of two women who married into that Michalski line is very similar to that of the woman I believe was my paternal grandfather's mother.

As you have likely noticed, I am stuck with my paternal grandfather's origin. When he came to America, he was quite tight-lipped about his ethnicity, even to his own close family members. Of course, he is long gone now, but everyone in the family who remembers him tells me he evaded his grandchildren's questions with finesse. If we had heard anything at all from these childhood questioning sessions about our roots, we had been told that we are all Irish.

Finding out that just wasn't so was a discovery we made after many years of joint research woes. Now, we know we are Polish, and we even have a few possible names to chase after, but not quite enough to made serious connections. Until, that is, we tried DNA testing.

Believe me, the discovery was not instantaneous. Family members who've tested have waiting six years before any promising matches showed up on our accounts—and I've tested at all five of the current major DNA testing companies. With these six matches I've finally received, I've been working on that stealth tree. It's a secret tree, because I can't be sure it is mistake-free. I certainly don't want anyone copying my "what-if" scenarios as if they were true fact. The world will have to wait a long time for that debut; I'm still mired in conflicting Polish records.

However, that stealth tree is growing. Two weeks ago, I had 106 individuals listed in that tree. Now it has grown to 280, an increase of 174 individuals. Yet, it is barely starting to connect these six DNA matches, let alone the other matches who might also be part of this tree, if I can only figure out their nexus with my father's family.

In the meantime, I can't lose sight of my other research goals. I am still working on my four family trees—a tree each for my parents and my in-laws. On my mother's tree, which I'm working on in preparation for a class on Virginia research at SLIG next January, I've managed to add fifty nine individuals in the past two weeks, to total 19,225 people in that tree. On my mother-in-law's tree, news of changes among distant cousins has kept me busy enough to add a modest seventeen more people, for a total of 17,148 in her tree.

With my focus on those two trees—plus my newest goal of working on those paternal-side DNA matches—it's no surprise to see I've made zero progress on my father-in-law's tree, and I really haven't added anything (officially, at least) to my own dad's tree. But out in that dark corner of the ether at Ancestry, where all those private, unsearchable trees hide, we can count that 174 new names on my mystery tree as working towards my dad's own line.

At some point, there will be one big merge event, and that tree of my dad's will grow exponentially. 


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