I got an early Christmas gift from the Ancestry DNA lab last week. My test results came back much earlier than I expected them. I sent the test in on November 28 and had results on December 21. That’s just over three weeks, or half of the expected 6-8 weeks. I suspect the lab time is going to go up a bit in January, assuming lots of people gift DNA tests. But if they’re down to three weeks now, I can’t imagine they’re going to get buried too badly. If you’re thinking about taking a DNA test as part of your genealogy research, I encourage you to do it. Use this referral link and save $10.
What Did My Results Show?
Here’s the shocking part, to those who know me well: I’m human. No, really. DNA results don’t lie.
I picked up a few cousins. 367 376 378 4th cousins or closer, to be exact. That’s obviously just a rough estimate. I’ll need to reach out to many of them to confirm the relationship. Three probable first or second cousins look like they connect to the Smith family. There’s a whole bunch of 5th-8th cousins out there too.
I think there are at least a couple of connections to the Mueller cousins that I’ve been hoping to find.
Ancestry also creates what they call an Ethnicity Estimate, designed to show what part of the world most of your DNA comes from. It’s no great surprise to me that much of mine comes from Western Europe. Both sides of my family seem to have come from the same basic regions of Germany, Switzerland, and France.
These estimates are just that – a SWAG – but it’s sort of interesting to see it overlaid on a map.
The Smith Family
Albert C Smith and Mary Susan Mallow had thirteen children, 11 of whom survived childhood. Their oldest, Rebecca Florence Smith, was born in 1892 and went on to have a son and two daughters. The youngest child was my mother, Beatrice Baldinger.
We didn’t know anything about my grandmother’s family until about 1985. Nan only rarely spoke of her life before marrying my grandfather, always claiming to be orphaned. In fact, when Nan visited Ohio in the 70s and we drove through Parkersburg, West Virginia, she only barely nodded at some of the sights. Yet she had visited Parkersburg in the early 1910s.
As part of that same visit, we drove to Blackwater Falls State Park. The park is located on the outskirts of Davis, West Virginia, which is just twenty miles from where her family lived.
She never said a word.
When we finally connected with the Smith family in 1985, they were thrilled to hear from us. They’d lost track of Nan about a year after she met and married Edward Baldinger, in 1921. Family legend says that she wrote to the Smiths after my uncle Ed was born, saying that she was married and happy, and please don’t try to contact her.
I can imagine, to some extent, why the oldest daughter of a rural West Virginian would leave the family as soon as possible. By the time she was married, there were ten other children at home. I’d assume that as the eldest daughter, she was her mother’s right-hand assistant, sharing much of the work needed to run a household of twelve, with the youngest only barely out of diapers. There couldn’t have been many opportunities for a young woman to get out of that small-town existence. It makes sense to me that she’d take the first chance she found to move on.
But what my mother never understood – and I with her – was why Rebecca would completely shut down communication with her family. As I understood it, she never contacted the Smiths again, and never gave them a way to reach her. When we met them in 1985, they said they thought she had died years before. They had no idea she’d had four children and seven grandchildren. We had no idea of our numerous aunts and uncles and cousins.
I’ll be interested to see if I can find out anything from the Baldinger side about why she cut off contact. The Smiths never knew why, and my grandfather died long before I was born. In fact, I never met either of my grandfathers. Grandpa Robert Mueller died in 1927, just days before my dad’s 7th birthday. Grandpa Ed Baldinger died in August 1945. My parents didn’t meet until the 1950s and married in 1959.
More threads to tug on and unravel.
Passing On The Story
My dad didn’t talk much about his father to me. I never figured out if that was because he was so young when his father died, or because I never showed much interest. Dad would sometimes talk about his cousins, as they became close after his father died.
He also didn’t talk much about his brother Louis, who died at eighteen. He suffered an appendicitis attack, had surgery, then developed pneumonia and died. I know it was a huge shock to my dad, who was the youngest of the three Mueller boys. I don’t recall when I first learned about the uncle I never knew, but I know I was in my teens.
My mother never talked much about her father either. She would have been 18 when he died, and I can imagine it was a hugely difficult time. He died right at the end of World War 2, the day before Nagasaki was bombed. I recall hearing that he was a lumber broker or somehow involved in the lumber industry, so that’s how he supported the war effort.
As I sit here considering what I know about my grandparents, I realize that while I talk easily about my parents if the kids ask, they don’t ask much. I wonder why? I suppose it’s due in part to not knowing what they don’t know. Only my oldest son has any memory of my dad; Matt was 4 when Dad died. Mom died four years later, and only Erica and Adam had met her, Adam just a baby at the time. The kids occasionally show some general interest, but it’s usually been driven by some school or Scout project.
One of the things I fear is losing the ties to the past. I’m working on why that’s such a big deal to me but at the same time, I’m also working on trying to document the past. The biological connection is important to me because I want to know who the people in my past are. The history is just as important though because I want to know more about the people in my past.
How do you share your history with your kids?
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