In 2002, my dad triggered my interest in Ancestry.com. As most teenagers were busy on ICQ, after waiting what seemed like hours for their dial-up Internet, I was scouring Ancestry.com, as a 16 year-old does…. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I didn’t make much of a tree, but every couple years, I would get back on and look around. THEN, the Ancestry DNA test came out. I was so intrigued by this test. Not for me of course. I knew where my dad’s side was all from, and growing up having pride that my paternal grandfather was 100% Norwegian. My dad even knew all of the towns that his ancestors came from.
As for my mom’s side, I knew we had a very small family: my mom, her parents, her 4 siblings, their 1 aunt, 1 uncle (separate sides), their grandparents, and a small number of distant cousins. Really, NOTHING exciting. My grandparents had gotten married in January 1957; grandma was 20 and grandpa was 24. My eldest uncle was born in April 1957, followed by an aunt in August 1958, my mom in December 1960, an uncle in 1963, and an another uncle in 1970. They lived a pretty average life. My grandparents lived in the same house from 1969-2007, the year my grandfather died. My grandmother owned a used bookstore, loved to garden, and visited all local thrift stores, daily, to find her next treasure. My grandfather was horn salesman at music store, he traveled frequently with his job earlier in his career. He was very involved in the Elks Band and American Legion Band, and he loved his PBR.
Nick, my husband, and I were curious to do the Ancestry DNA test to see our genetic make-up. Nick never knew his paternal grandparents because they died young, and after a family reunion, on his paternal side, we were sure that we would order the Ancestry DNA tests (after about a year of talking about doing it). Then, life got busy and we just didn’t get around to ordering the tests.
Fast forward to July 28, 2017. This date sticks out to me because it was the evening before my 32nd birthday. As we were on the way to a backyard puppet show, my mom called. We briefly chatted about what we were both doing then she asked if she told me about the Facebook message she had received that day. I’m pretty sure she spoke so fast, her words all jumbled together
If you don’t understand what that said, neither did I. So to slow it down for you, my mom received a Facebook message from a lady in California, Susan, a big Ancestry.com buff. Susan’s dad was a 2nd cousin – DNA match for a woman named Tricia who was looking for her birth father. Susan’s dad was my mom’s paternal grandfather’s first cousin. Looking through her Ancestry tree and the geological location of Tricia, Susan concluded my grandfather was a possibility. Through an obituary, Susan was able to locate my mom and her older sister’s names and messaged them on Facebook. She asked if either of them would be willing to do a DNA test to see what type of relation they may be to Tricia, the woman looking for her dad. Since Tricia had matched Susan’s dad, she would be a cousin, if not a sister.
I thought this was sooooo funny. When my mom told me, I kept saying, “you’re going to get a sister; I’m going to get a new aunt for my birthday.” My mom was insistent that there was no way. Nor did she think this was funny. She exclaimed, “The only thing I have ever been certain of in life is that I am 1 of 5 siblings.” I proceeded to ask her if she was going to take the test. The whole situation was weird, and my mom was apprehensive because she had never been interested in genealogy stuff because remember…her family was small; she doesn’t even have any first cousins. My mom didn’t think she needed to pay for the test, since it was still nothing she was interested in; however, Susan just happened to have an extra test through Ancestry.com and told my mom she’d have it sent to her. My mom agreed.
That evening, I looked up Tricia on Facebook. As I viewed Tricia’s photos, I could see my mom’s eyes looking back at me. My mom thought I was just crazy when I told her of the resemblance. Then came the photo of Tricia as a child, and she looked just like one of my uncles, as a kid, with longer hair. Tricia friend requested my mom on Facebook because no matter what, we would at least be distant cousins with her based on her previous match.
A few days later, Aug 2 (easy date to remember since it is my daughter’s birthday), as my mom would message back and forth with Tricia…. It was revealed that Tricia’s older sister remembered their mom dating someone with the same name as my Grandfather, and Tricia owned a piano from the place my Grandfather worked, which was purchased across the state from where she grew up. When Tricia was gifted the piano on her 40th Birthday, it also came with the receipt that she still had. The piano was the final straw for our family to KNOW that there was going to be a close DNA match.
My Aunt from Colorado had a family reunion for her husband’s family, in the city Tricia lives in, planned for 10 days after learning of the piano. My mom, sister, and I immediately made plans to meet up with my mom’s always sister AND to meet Tricia, who we believed may be their new sister. We had a lovely time with Tricia and her family. Her son looked so similar to what my cousin looked like when he was a kid. The meeting was comfortable and uncomfortable. Comfortable in a sense like I had known Tricia my whole life; uncomfortable in the sense my family as I knew it was getting turned upside down.
3 weeks after learning of Tricia, 1 week after meeting Tricia, the DNA results were in, and as Maury Povich would say, “Your Grandpa IS the father!” I knew it. I KNEW IT before the results were in, but the results gave me so many more questions and many of those questions won’t ever be answered. As we have tried to piece this all together, the following information we know. My grandfather had a 7-year affair. The affair started in 1968, before my mom’s family moved from Grand Forks, ND to Minot, ND, in 1969. In 1970, my mom’s baby brother was born. In 1972, Tricia was born. In 1975, the piano was purchased.
One afternoon in August, I began to cry. A LOT! I cried because I thought of my grandmother and how her hatred for my grandfather now made sense. It wasn’t disguised. When I was very little, they slept in separate beds that were pushed together (not because they needed extra space). Then eventually my grandpa moved to the basement (not because one snored). They drove in separate cars to events (not because they were coming from different places). If they were in photos together, they were typically on separate sides of the photo (to not stand next to each other). Meals were not eaten together. You get the picture.
I won’t ever know why my grandparent’s remained married, especially for 50 years. My grandma didn’t even go to grandpa’s funeral. Again, it now makes sense. Both of my grandparents have been dead a long time, but I am certain my grandmother has helped open Pandora’s box because Tricia wasn’t the only family discovery I made in my 32nd year, but more on that another day. At the end of this month, my family will host our 1-year anniversary of learning of Tricia and celebrate my 33rd birthday.
We have embraced Tricia and her family, and it is reciprocated. My older sister and I have both had the opportunity to see her many times in the past year. Here’s the part that is just wild to me, I now have an 11 year old and 16 year old first cousins. I feel annoyed that my family missed out on the first (45) years of knowing Tricia, but am thankful for Susan helping to complete the puzzle we didn’t know was missing pieces.
Have you ever found out a big secret about your family? Do you or someone that you know needs help finding a relative? I would love to learn of your experiences; please feel free to contact me.
“So exciting to be gaining a sibling later in life; most people start losing them then.” – John Hoes
This post was not sponsored by Ancestry.com; I’m just a big fan!