by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
Y’all already know that I am an amateur genealogist. I’ve been doing family searches for quite a few years and I’ve learned a great many things in that time, but I am, by no means, an expert. I still have to call on my sister Bobbie, or a cousin or two for help from time to time.
Genealogy is a lot of fun. I enjoy learning about my ancestors, where they came from and how they lived their lives. But the research can be grueling when you can’t find that one piece of the puzzle that will open a door. We call these situations, brick walls. I’ve run into more than one in my research. It’s disheartening when you know you know and yet you cannot find the piece of paper to prove what you know to be true. No lineage society will allow you to enter on your word alone. You must have that paper trail.
On my mother’s side, we have come upon a brick wall that is proving more difficult to scale than the highest wall you could consider climbing. We thought we knew our line, but it turns out, it wasn’t what we had thought. We were in the vicinity, but things didn't line up. But even with having made discoveries, more and more puzzles emerged. We discovered one line that led to two more lines that weren’t even related, even though all bore the same surname. It made no sense.
DNA testing proved that, even though these people were in our paper trail, they were not our true ancestors. We may never know what happened and we can only guess at when the breach in the line occurred, or how. Was there an adoption? Was there a previous marriage? Was there an NPE or a non-paternal event? All we do know is that, even though they carry the family name, and have done so for over three hundred and fifty years, we are not related at all. Culturally, after all these years, we will never be any other than what we have always been. But DNA says that isn’t who we are.
One thing DNA does is tell us to whom we are related. I’ve found many new cousins with the advent of DNA testing. I get messages almost weekly from Ancestry telling me they’ve found new matches for me. I love finding new cousins with whom I can exchange family information, stories, and even photographs. The wife of one of my cousins recently posted photos of my mother’s three half-brothers. I had never seen those before. I cried as I gazed upon their faces for the first time. I was surprised that they looked so much like my mother and one of her full-blood brothers.
So, when does DNA become intrusive in our lives and when is it a help? For me, these unrelated relatives will always be my family. But I would like to know who my birth family is. Even though the breach occurred so many years ago. Some people are taken aback by the findings and want nothing else to do with it. They hold tenaciously to what they’ve known for so many years on paper, even though DNA says it isn’t true. Paper trails aren’t always true, even though you have worked on it for many years. DNA doesn’t lie. I feel deeply for those people who just can’t accept it. I cannot imagine telling my mother she wasn’t who she thought she was.
As a Christian, I believe that Mama is in Heaven with her family, those to whom she thought she was related, and those whom DNA will eventually tell us are her ancestors by birth. I don’t think any of this will matter when we get to Heaven. We’ll all be known as the Family of God, His children, heirs of the Kingdom.
Have you done DNA testing? Did you get any surprises? Tell us about that below.