Saturday, October 28, 2023

It's All Relative


It seems odd, now that I've switched tracks to research my paternal Polish roots this month, to compare what I can find on DNA matches for both sides of my family. Still carrying forward that earlier goal of checking all my ThruLines matches for my maternal Tilson line, I am now running that task side by side with the race to wrap up Aunt Rose's story of her parents from Poland. Talk about a contrast: examining colonial American ancestors alongside descendants of immigrant ancestors here merely since the last few years of the nineteenth century.

The Tilson project led me to DNA relatives who were at least fourth cousins, and more likely to be fifth cousins or even more distantly related. The challenge in tracing that paper trail was to find mentions of familial connection in documents such as old wills from the 1700s. The challenge in finding Aunt Rose's relatives, once I discovered her origin in Pomerania, is to locate any actual documents—though I'm happy to at least have transcriptions for a start.

On the far-removed Polish side of the relative equation, my DNA matches are more along the lines of third cousins. Think about it: our family just returned from an out of state trip in which my daughter helped her second cousin once removed prepare for her wedding. If my daughter has children of her own, they will become this bride's third cousins. While the number may make that seem like a distant relationship, in our family's world, a third cousin can be quite close. Such would be the relationship with these DNA matches who are both mine and Aunt Rose's relatives—if only our family had kept up the connections.

A relationship can seem so close, and yet it can also be a calculation which makes it seem so distant, so far removed. One third cousin might be no more than a name on paper at a DNA testing company, while another could be the next guest at a family celebration. It's all relative—in more ways than one.

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