Monday, November 28, 2022

Stalking the Missing Sibling


Collaboration is an important ingredient in piecing together a family's history. Think of your ancestral story like the parable of the blind men encountering an elephant. Each man envisioned a different reality, based on his own experience. The problem was that each one's vantage point allowed for a very limited segment of the entire truth of the matter.

I've heard people tell how they were not able to discover what happened to a brick wall ancestor until meeting up with a distant cousin who knew the rest of the story. Then, together, they each were able to piece together the entire story, gathering the missing details connecting their two versions of what really happened. In one example shared with me by a local society member, she couldn't figure out where her ancestor came from—until she ran across a story online, thanks to newly-discovered DNA matches. Her matches thought a missing sibling of their ancestor had died young, when she knew he had run away from home.

I had to laugh when a McClellan DNA cousin sent me some photographs to identify recently. He was trying to find a family picture which included my great-grandfather, Rupert McClellan. His explanation for why Rupert didn't seem to be in any of the photos: that sibling had left home early, bound for Tennessee. Perhaps, my DNA cousin mused, starting his own family was why Rupert didn't seem to visit his childhood residence in Florida as frequently as his siblings had.

Well, true, Rupert did go to Tennessee—for a short while. He also went to Georgia to attend Emory University before he ever headed to Tennessee, and after that, briefly to Virginia. But I also know that Rupert was back in Florida in time for the 1910 census. By then, he was working as a dentist in Fort Meade. While Fort Meade wasn't exactly in the neighborhood of his native Wellborn, Florida, Rupert was at least back in the same state.

This exchange over family photographs with my DNA cousin gave me the experience of being the one on the other side of the story—the one with the answer to resolve the family mystery. How much easier our research would be for us if we could all find that missing cousin who knows the rest of the story. 


  1. I finally solved my own "brick wall" ancestor mystery by connecting with a DNA cousin too. She had tons of records that she shared. I only wish my mom had still been alive to learn the answers to why she hadn't been able to trace her great-grandfather. Now, if only a DNA match would help me find my OWN missing sibling.

    1. It is a wonderful feeling to figure out those mystery ancestors, Sara, but I know your main quest is still to pursue your missing sibling. Here's hoping the recent holiday sales will bring in a DNA tester who will be key to solving that mystery for you.


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