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Psychic Revelations: My first Trip to Baltimore OR WAS IT?? (Part 1 of 2)

The early evening of April 12, 2018, my older sister and I met at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for our first outing of just the two of us, in almost 2 years. She was IMG_0053already in the security line, so I quickly slipped in line with her. Our tickets were on her phone, and as we approached the TSA to scan them, my sister got through and my ticket wouldn’t work. After standing there for what seemed like an eternity, downloading the Spirit Airlines app, and trying various things… I finally got through just in time to get “randomly selected” in a security search. We made it to our gate on time, and boarded our bright yellow airplane for our first experience on Spirit Airlines. We sat near the rear of the plane, and I was curious who was going to be lucky enough to sit next to us (we didn’t pay extra to sit together, we were fortunate enough to get seats together though).

After everyone was seated, we were off on our adventure. We chatted with the guy in our row the whole time. He was going to see friends, as he did yearly. We explained how we had never been to Baltimore, MD, and we were going for lunch and to explore the cities our ancestors came from.  We landed with ease and had the most pleasant experiences in the Baltimore airport; seriously, everyone was very kind and helpful. We picked up our Nissan Altima, at Alamo Rent a Car, and headed for the Best Western Plus BWI Airport North Inn & Suites.

The check-in process at the hotel was long, with so many people checking in, but when I forgot my wallet at the front desk the woman working was quick to get it back to me. My sister and I settled in our room and opened some wine, Flying Solo;IMG_0033 we had purchased wine before flying so we were prepared once we got to our destination. The next morning, we sat down for some mediocre breakfast and pretty bad coffee; we skipped the coffee, checked out of our room, and headed out on our adventure where we would find coffee on the way. We weren’t having much luck and didn’t want to spend our whole morning looking for coffee, so we settled with McDonald’s coffee.  This amused me because my sister said to me, “I know it’s only coffee, but you can’t tell my daughter we went to McDonald’s. I never let her go to McDonald’s” With our caffeine we were ready to start our adventure.

First, we headed for Jericho Mill and Jerusalem Mill, in Kingsville, MD. This is where Elisha Tyson, our Abolitionist- 6th great-grandfather, first settled when he moved to Maryland from Pennsylvania. He moved to this area in 1772, and he built his flour mills there. We had the most relaxing time because nothing was open yet at Jerusalem Mill, so we were able to just walk around and take photos as we pleased. From there we walked to Jericho Mill, residential housing now, where Elisha’s house was and then back to Jerusalem Mill. After about an hour or so, we needed to head back to Baltimore to meet Julie, our 7th cousin 1x removed, who I had been messaging on Ancestry.com (the person who started my interest in looking more into my Tyson ancestors), for lunch.

 

 

As we were driving to meet cousin, Julie, at Holy Frejoles, following GPS directions, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Baltimore just seemed familiar. We were taking some back roads, winding around, and while paying attention to our surroundings, I explained to my sister, “based on where we are, I think we should be staying right there.” AND AS I POINTED OUT HER PASSENGER WINDOW, on the top of a hill, stood the house that was once my 6th great-grandfather’s summer home. I hadn’t seen the home before I said it; I just weirdly knew where we were.

Shortly, after seeing the house, we arrived at our restaurant location. I was a little IMG_0101hesitant to back into my parking spot, (I had never experienced having to back into a paid, street parking spot before – back in, not parallel park), so we drove around the block and found a different place to park. As we were walking to the restaurant, we passed a sign that said, Psychic. I had never paid anyone to do a psychic reading before, but after my weird encounter knowing where the house was a few minutes prior… I told my sister I may need to stop back in there later.

We met Julie and had a lovely lunch. She told us the Maryland Historical Society was a must and we needed to stop on Tyson Street. I thought to myself, “Cool, a whole street with my grandmother’s maiden name.” IMG_0088My sister and I decided we would head to the MDHS after lunch since it would close soon. Julie told us to go quickly so we had our time there. It was as if we had gotten our next clue; we dashed to the next location, like we were competing in the 1990s Nickelodeon game show Hidden Temple. We parked in a lot next to the Historical Society, and made our way to the front of the building. We paid our admissions, and headed to the library inside. We asked the librarians for information they may have on Elisha Tyson. They have a lot. But the man brought us what he thought would be the most interesting. My sister read, in one book, Elisha Tyson was compared to Hercules.  She exclaimed, “people must’ve really liked this guy.” I made a photocopy of a book I was reading, so I could read it more in depth at home. I, also, noticed a plaque on the wall with the name A. Morris Tyson. Turns out that guy is my 2nd cousin 5x removed, and we both descended from Elisha Tyson.

IMG_0128My sister and I made sure to check out the rest of the Maryland Historical Society, very cool by the way. As we were in the gift shop, I asked the woman working if she knew where Tyson Street was. She told us directions, and mentioned she had a painting at home made by a Tyson. These Tyson’s are everywhere, I thought to myself. As we walked outside towards Tyson Street, I realized we had parked right by it, but had missed the sign on the way in. We walked the few blocks that Tyson Street went, and felt more like an alley than a street. The amazing thing, Tyson Street stretched from the Maryland Historical Society and ended at Read Street. My grandmother owned a bookstore, and in that moment, I felt her with us.

 

 

 

After leaving the Maryland Historical Society, my sister and I headed to our Airbnb. Amazingly, our Airbnb was the old servant quarters at the summer home of my 6th IMG_0111great-grandfather. Mark, the owner of the home, met us as we pulled up. He instructed us where to park, and helped us with our luggage. Mark gave us a tour of the Airbnb, including the History of it, and he offered to show us the main house after we were settled in. The Airbnb was 3 levels. My sister took the bedroom on the top level. I took the bedroom on the second level. We knocked on the door that connected the Airbnb with the main house, and were shown the original fireplace which helped Mark realize the house was older than the original records had listed, and how it was discovered it was originally owned by Elisha Tyson, our ancestor. In the study, there hung a big picture, an original photo, of our 6th great-grandfather which has been lent to theIMG_0022 family who owns the home (I believe the Quakers lent it to them, if memory serves me correctly). Mark’s daughter, who had recently written a book report for her school about Elisha Tyson, gave us historical information and stories she had learned of Elisha Tyson, including how the Tysons, Ellicotts, and Hopkins (think Johns Hopkins) were the most prominent families and all married each other. We learned the house over looked the Flour-Mills, so they could watch for fires. So the area I had found familiar earlier in the day, was where the Flour-Mills once owned by my 6th great-grandfather.

We chatted a little more of which places my sister and I were trying to explore while we were in the area, and we parted ways. We were staying in the beautiful neighborhood of Hampden, Baltimore; there are a ton of restaurants and shops within walking distance to our Airbnb, and happened to be the area we were at earlier in the day to meet Julie for lunch. There was also the Psychic! I told my sister we needed to at least find out what prices were……

To be Continued….

American History: My 6th Great-Grandfather the Abolitionist

Growing up, I didn’t think much about where my maternal side had come from. We lived in North Dakota, and my mom, grandmother, and great grandfather had all grown up there. It wasn’t until making an Ancestry.com family tree and a constant unraveling of discoveries, I have not only been able to put names into my family tree, but I have been able to put stories and photos to match who these people truly were. The following story we travel back over 200 years.

  • Reynior Tyson 1658-1745
  • Matthais Tyson 1686-1727
  • Isaac Tyson 1718-1796
  • Elisha Tyson 1750-1824
  • William Tyson 1782-1863
  • William A. Tyson 1807-1897
  • Lewis Tyson 1843-1922
  • Robert Tyson 1873-1955
  • Victor Tyson 1899-1977
  • Patricia Tyson 1936-2012
  • Natalie Darling 1960-
  • Kelcie Knutson 1985-

My grandmother was very good at keeping everything. Luckily for me, she held ontoIMG_0843 family heirlooms, family documents, and lots of photos. Sometimes she would write on the backs of photos; more often, grandma would write on an envelope or index card and put the photos inside or attach it somehow. Some families have a Rolodex of recipes… some families have a Rolodex of family information. I never was able to read her writing, so rarely do I even try. Typically, when I see my grandmother’s writing, I ask my mom or aunt to translate.

Over the years, members of my family and extended family compiled documents, news articles, and stories. Folders were made with copies of everything. I received my first folder of family information in my early 20s, and for over a decade it sat in a plastic tub with old photos from High School that I moved from one apartment to another, and then sat in my img_0840-e1531768623969.jpgbasement for half of a decade. The second folder I received after my grandmother died, and joined the first folder, in the same tub. Never to be read, until this past year. But something tells me my grandmother had other plans and is somehow guiding me to look into my family history. I like to believe that my ancestors are sitting in Heaven, helping to control what I find out — a sort of mixture of Disney Pixar films Inside Out and Coco …. making sure my ancestors aren’t forgotten by using Ancestry.com to get me to bring them to life again.

Following an email I received after an Ancestry.com DNA match, I had to look further into my family. A woman named Julie, from Baltimore, contacted me on ancestry messenger to thank my mom (I manage my mom’s DNA) for taking the DNA test because the match helped her solve something in her family tree, which she’d been trying to solve for 20 years. My mom’s DNA helped her to confirm her own suspicions of her family tree. We learned Julie was born with the same maiden name as my grandmother, and she let me know how she was related to us: a great-grandfather of hers was brothers with a great-grandfather of mine, to break that down, Julie is my 7th cousin 1x removed.

In one of her emails, the following sentence came flying off the page at me. “As I am sure you know Elijah Tyson was a great Abolitionist.” I was aware Elisha Tyson was in my family tree. The end. That’s all I knew about him. IMMEDIATELY, I took to google and typed: “Elisha Tyson Abolitionist.” Pages and pages of stuff came up, including: a Wikipedia page, a book written about him, articles written about him in the 21st century. by Robert StreetApparently, my 6th great-grandfather, Elisha, was a very well-known abolitionist. He had become extremely wealthy in the milling industry, real estate, and trade. Yet, what really drew me in was the following: I found out this  great-grandfather of mine used his own home, as part of the underground railroad to hide free African-American slaves who were being held illegally, AND he used his own money to help free them. I read he was highly regarded by African-American slaves, they referred to him as Father Tyson, and at his funeral over 10,000 slaves marched to show their respect. 10,000 people marched at his funeral….. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Why hadn’t I ever heard of this man?

Google also displayed a house. A summer home for Elisha, built somewhere between 1790s and 1804, which a family had purchased in 2005, and spent half a million dollars restoring. THEN, I found the most miraculous thing,  an AIRBNB was attached to the restored house, where the servants once lived, and had once been owned by my 6th great-grandfather. I knew I needed to go to Baltimore.

The morning after I learned of the Airbnb, my older sister called me as she often does on her way to work. She asked me if I wanted to make plans to go to lunch. I said, “I want to go to Baltimore.” She responded, “They probably have lunch there.” So I proceeded to fill her in on what I had learned about Elisha Tyson and the Airbnb. She told me she had two weekends in the coming months available, and to check into the Airbnb. I messaged Robyn, the owner, immediately. Robyn was very quick to respond, and one of the weekends my sister was available was open. I chatted with my sister, and by that evening I was booking the Airbnb and she was booking us an experience on Spirit Airlines. I realized I had roughly one month to learn whatever I could about my ancestors before we jetted off to Baltimore.

I decided it was time to start going through the family stuff I had. I dug out old documents. I ordered the book Life of Elisha Tyson, the Philanthrpist by John Shoemaker Tyson. In addition, I was fortunate to receive an email with a bookreport the daughter of the AirBnb happened to have recently written. I also made sure to tell Julie we were coming, with hopes of meeting her. I mentioned we were staying at the Airbnb. She proceeded to ask me which property it was at. This is when I learned there were TWO homes of my 6th great-grandfather’s still standing. The second home of my 6th great-grandfather’s was located at Jericho Farm, in Kingsville, MD.

In a few weeks time, my Ancestry.com family tree grew very quickly. I asked Julie questions regarding what she may know about people from the Baltimore area. I specifically wanted to know anything about my 5th great grandmother’s family, the Ellicott’s (Elizabeth Ellicott was married to Elisha Tyson’s son, William). Julie let me know there was a whole city called Ellicott City, MD; I eventually learned the city was started by my 7th great-grandfather and his two brothers. In addition, I learned my 7th great-grandfather’s nephew (a first cousin to my 6th great-grandfather, my 2nd cousin 7x removed) surveyed the Mason-Dixon line, was commissioned by George Washington to draw plans for Washington D.C., and taught Meriwether Lewis survey methods. I was suddenly living out American History books in my very own family.

Since my sister and I were only going to be in the Baltimore area for less than 72 hours, I made a short list of must sees:

  1. Main house/Airbnb
  2. Maryland Historical Society
  3. Jericho Farm/Jerusalem Mill
  4. Ellicott City
  5. Lunch with Julie

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Reunion Mishaps: “I Hope I Get an Invite to the Next Reunion.”

Two months ago, my dad forwarded me an email about a family reunion on my paternal grandmother’s side. My dad learned of the reunion after he had been in touch with a distant cousin, who lives in Washington, after matching on Ancestry.com. My paternal grandma died when I was 8, and I really didn’t know much of her side, aside from her one sister and a few of her sister’s kids and grandkids. So when my dad told me he wanted to go to the reunion, which was an hour away from my house, I decided it was a must. The flier listed four names with the color to wear to represent which family you descended from:

“PETER wear RED

JOHN wear BLUE

MATHIAS wear WHITE

BERNARD wear YELLOW”

My dad told me we were yellow. He said Bernard was my grandmother’s grandfather. So the Friday before the reunion, I went shopping for yellow clothes for my family. Saturday morning, we all dressed in our yellow, and trekked down Interstate 94 for Clearwater, MN. We met my dad, my step-mom, paternal uncle and aunt, at the reunion; they drove in from North Dakota. When we showed up, I was quick to notice how most people were wearing white, to represent Mathias. Within 5 minutes of being at the reunion, a woman approached me and asked if I would be interested in planning the next reunion. Mind you, I had no idea aside, from my close family members, who any of these people were. The reunion was a potluck with so much food. People had brought in old photos, that decorated a table. Stacks of binders with family information lined another table, which were made by my great-grandfather’s first cousin. My great-grandfather’s first cousin was still alive, and he was at the reunion. Apparently, his dad didn’t have him until his dad was 60.

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They, also, had sign-up sheets to place your contact info. You were to put your name under the family member you descended from. My dad went to put his name on the contact sheet, while I took my kids to the park outside of the pavilion we were in. About 10 minutes later, my dad comes outside and tells me, “we are in the wrong color; we were supposed to wear white.” I responded, “What do you mean we are in the wrong color?” Apparently, my dad got the generation of the reunion wrong. Although, my dad did have a great-grandfather named Bernard, we were at a family reunion for my dad’s great-great grandfather, Mathias. I just laughed and laughed. I don’t think my dad thought this was as funny as I did because he immediately wanted to know if he had a white shirt in the car. I told him he had to wear yellow like the rest of us. We stayed at the reunion for a few more hours and parted our ways in the mid-afternoon.

Later in the evening, I decided I needed to share with my sisters and my paternal cousins the funny mix up with the color yellow. I was visiting my best friend, so I wasn’t paying too close of attention to my phone This was the following conversation:

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Me: “Funny story. So I go to this family reunion on the Ritter side. My dad told me that we needed to wear yellow for Grandma Agnes’ dad’s side. Went to the reunion….we were suppose to wear white. Apparently it was a reunion for offspring of our great-great grandfather and my dad go the color wrong and the person we were representing wrong. Omg. But we did meet a 1st cousin of grandma Agnes. Miss you all. XOXO”

I received a response,

“Oh my. Look like a bunch of minions! Hilarious.”

Without looking who sent the text, I thought based on the text itself, my little sister had written it.

My cousin responded, “Hahha damn had no idea anyone was going but parents”

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Then, I looked closer at my phone when I got the following text:

“You know, I’m pretty sure I’m in this group chat by accident, but I’m happy to be apart of the family”

This is when I realized I had not entered my little sister’s phone number, which I know by heart, into the text.

Me: “Hahahahah. Omg. Totally typed my sisters number wrong and you answered. Even better.”

Me: “But to everyone else… no one knew about the reunion. It was a last minute thing and ancestry match to my dad.”

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“You guys look wonderful. Minus the guy in a boot. What happened man?”

Me: “Poor guy broke his foot. He didn’t know he broke his foot after a surgery that made his foot go dead. Thank you for entertaining me tonight. So funny.”

“Hey just for the laughs. Hope the foot gets better. And nice yellow shirts. I hope I get an invite to the next reunion.”

There was a series of a few more texts, then this afternoon I get a text, “Im Easton by the way, never introduced myself.”

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Cousin Teddy: Family Stories and Historical Discoveries

I have always enjoyed stories. I especially loved listening to my maternal grandma tell me stories. My grandmother’s used book store was across the bridge from my elementary school; often, I would walk across a wooden bridge, that stretched over the river and railroad tracks, to the small downtown. As I would walk into my grandma’s store, I would always start by yelling, “grandma, grandma!” because you never knew where you were going to find her. The books were stacked from the floor to ceiling: some on shelves, some on counters, some on the floor. I always questioned how they didn’t fall down on anyone. However, my grandma knew where every single book was in that place. She would always know what type of books her regulars were reading, and she’d even set books she thought they would like, in piles for them. My grandma, her name was Pat, had a children’s play area with vintage play mobile toys, a penny gumball machine, and would always let me play store with her vintage cash register  she used to ring up her customers. Many days, she would send me with a few quarters to go to the Coin Shop to buy a soda.

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My maternal cousin and I with our Grandma Pat in front of the Paperback Book Exchange, circa 1989.

Some days, my grandma and I would sit and she would tell me stories. She would sit on her chair, and I typically would sit on the stool used for climbing to the top of the book mountain, wedged between stacks of books. One of my favorite stories is when she told me how she grossed her mom out, as a small child. Her mother, named Amy, had called her name, while she was playing outside, and when Pat turned around she had grasshopper legs hanging out of her mouth. She told me her mom was horrified. This story is still funny to me. My grandma also told me about Quakers and some castle in England. I didn’t really know what a Quaker was, aside from the Oatmeal, and the castle she showed me an old photo of didn’t spark much interest to small me. I guess I didn’t really understand.

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Family Castle Grandma showed me when I was little.

So when 32 year old me got a text from my mom, “did you know we were related to some people called something like the 13 or Original 13?” I immediately turned to my wonderful friend google and went to town. Google came through as always, and the names of the founders of Germantown, Pennsylvania came up. One of those names was Reinert Tisen, also known as Reynier Tyson (can also be spelled: Ryner/Reiner/Theissen/Theisen). Tyson was my grandmother’s maiden name. I was very new into my Ancestry.com tree, so that night, I spent countless hours figuring out how we were related to this man. I learned, Reynier Tyson was a Quaker from Krefeld, Germany. He was one of 33 passengers who sailed on the Concord, recruited by William Penn and met in Pennsylvania by Francis Daniel Pastorius.

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Photo I discovered on Ancestry.com; a statue of the founders of Germantown, PA.
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Names listed on statue: note Reinert Tisen.

I discovered Reynior Tyson was my 9th Great-Grandfather. I was on an emotional high; my love for History was becoming bigger with the discovery in my very own family. I, also, discovered that Germantown, PA and the Quakers were very against slavery and in 1688 the Germantown Quaker Petition Against African-American Slavery was formed. During this time, Reynier Tyson was a Burgess of Germantown, meaning he was able to make laws. Not only did I learn that Reynier Tyson was my Great-Grandfather (x9), but he is also President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great-Grandfather (x4). Meaning Teddy Roosevelt would be my 5th cousin, 5 times removed. I suddenly felt like an ancestry.com poster child. Cousin Teddy!!!!

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My paternal cousin, myself, and my older sister at Mount Rushmore in 1994. Little did my sister and I know we were sitting in front of our cousin Teddy.

“Family is the last and greatest discovery. It is our last miracle.” -James Mcbride

Family Traditions and DNA Curveballs

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Nothing in my family is traditional, but we still had our “traditions.” My dad’s parents were divorced and remarried by the time I was born. In addition, my own parents divorced when I was 4, so when it came to holidays as a young kid, specifically Christmas, my older sister and I would shuffle from one of our many grandparents houses to the next to make sure we saw everyone.

We typically would start with Christmas Eve at my step-grandmother’s (my then step-dad’s mom) house; the house literally had rooms full of homemade cookies. I really have no idea how many rooms, or tables, were actually filled, (because she was only my step-grandma a few years and it was 25 years ago) … so in my mind I choose to remember her whole house  overflowing with cookies.

Following step-grandma’s house, we would go to my maternal grandparent’s house for buffet style lasagna dinner. We would do Christmas on the main floor, with grandma; she always had bags full of treasures she would pick up from her thrifting, and a card either left blank so you could reuse it or signed, Clara, her alter-ego, filled with a little cash. Then a quick hangout with grandpa in the basement as his cigarettes filled the entire floor; enough time to grab some bar pretzels while spinning on his stools and eating some still half-frozen shrimp cocktail. My maternal grandfather would typically come up stairs to grab a plate of food, long after everyone else ate, and maybe stick around to open a present. I am guessing we got him socks.

Of course, we were home before my 8pm bed-time, so we could wake up to open presents at our house Christmas morning, the house I lived at with my mom and step-dad (step-dad from years 1990-1993). I remember one year my dad and step-mom sent my older sister and I a trunk full of everything we asked for. It was amazing; except, we didn’t get to spend Christmases with my dad, until I was roughly 10. See, my dad was in the Army, and when my parents got divorced, my mom moved us to be closer to our grandparents because we didn’t know when or where my dad would be stationed next. Luckily, my dad’s parents were very involved in our lives.

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So Christmas Day, after opening presents at our house, my older sister and I would head to my paternal grandmother and step-grandfather’s house. My aunts, uncles, and cousins would all gather.  The kids would drink copious amounts of Tang, dig in the candy cabinet grandma always kept full, and find some made up game to keep us occupied before opening gifts. Then, depending on which house my grandfather and step-grandmother were living at the time (grandpa bought, sold, and rented out real-estate), we may be able to walk from grandma’s house to grandpa’s house.

Once at grandpa’s house, we always had a sit down meal with many traditional Norwegian fixings: Potato Klubb was one I loved. Who doesn’t love a potato dumpling? Lutefisk is one that was served, but I was never brave enough to try. My cousin once referred to it as fish Jell-o, and I have never thought of it as anything else. And always served was Lefse; lots of butter and sugar spread on a very thin flatbread made from potatoes. Of course we had these Norwegian dishes; my paternal grandfather was 100% Norwegian after all.

Unfortunately, a lot of our traditions on my dad’s side dwindled when I was pretty young. My paternal grandmother died when I was 8, followed by a paternal uncle when I was 9, paternal step-grandfather when I was 11, and my paternal grandfather when I was 13. All the loss left a pretty big hole in everyone’s hearts, and possibly a reason my dad really dove deep into Ancestry.com when it came out (aside from his love for History); also, a reason I was probably so interested in genealogy at such a young age.

A few decades have gone by, and new holiday traditions have started. One holiday tradition is we typically spend Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, where I live. My older sister, my maternal uncle, or I host at one of our homes. The morning starts off with a Turkey Trot in Downtown Minneapolis, for those who want to run for fun. We blend together whatever family or friends want to join for an afternoon meal. My dad has come the last 3 years. His birthday happens to also be a few days after Thanksgiving. So this past year, I asked my sisters if they wanted to get him an Ancestry DNA test for his birthday because I truly thought this would be an amazing gift for him. He was very intrigued opening it, but then he left it in Minneapolis. My little sister brought it home with her to Arizona because many of us were going to see her for Christmas. Then my dad forgot it in Arizona. I was beginning to believe he was forgetting it for a reason.

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In January, after my father-in-law passed away, my little sister flew to North Dakota for the funeral, with the Ancestry DNA test. I told my dad how my husband was able to get his mom and dad’s Ancestry DNA tests done while his dad was on hospice, so he was the only biological grandparent of my kids that hadn’t taken the test. A few days later, he spit in the tube, and sent it off to Ancestry.com for processing.

Weeks passed by and my dad was starting to get nervous he did the test wrong, but alas the results were in within about a month. Remember when I said my paternal grandfather was 100% Norwegian? My dad who had been so proud of his Norwegian heritage found out he was only 18%, and there is 13% Great Britain he had never known about. Thus, the family genealogy has gotten a bit shaken up. My dad and I are able to track my dad’s paternal side to Norway until the 1500s, but that’s where it stops. Recently, my dad ordered a Y-DNA test to determine how our family got to Norway and where they may have migrated from. I cannot wait to see those results!

Families change. Traditions change. Change can be good. Change can be hard.

“Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you react to it.” – Charles Swindoll

Skeletons in the Closet: Not Everything Stays Hidden Thanks to Ancestry DNA

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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

“SoaladyinCaliforniaSusanmessagedmeafterfindingGrandpa’sobituaryandthereisagirlthatmatchedherdadwhowasgrandpascousinorsecondcousinandtheyarelookingforherbirthdadandwillmymomtakeadnatest.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Living Big in a Little House

The average size home in America is 2,400sq ft according to http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/04/real_estate/american-home-size/index.html.

My family of 4 lives in less than half of that size.

A little over 6 years ago, my husband and I purchased our first home. 1104 square feet in a neighborhood that was full of abandoned, industrial buildings and a few blocks from the Impound Lot. We have a small yard, no mudroom, no garage, no unfinished basement, no dishwasher. However, it is ours! When we bought our house we weren’t intending on having a second child, but we welcomed our daughter just over a year after closing on our home. We added a closet and door to our small play area (called a Den when we toured the home), and made a 3rd bedroom. Our children have their own bedrooms (they did share a room for a few years too). Our son asked to move into the playroom a few years ago, so he could have his own room. (I read a lot on having a child on a different floor then the parents, but it works for our family.) After agreeing to this, we immediately developed a fire evacuation plan. It is important for me to have my kids prepared, always; especially if we are on separate floors.

We are fortunate to have 2 bathrooms. This hopefully will eliminate a lot of fights as our children get older. We have added shelves everywhere we can to make added space. Our dry storage is made on shelves leading to our basement.

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Our basement houses our storage and husband’s saws…so many saws. These tools have come in handy as we try and renovate our house, ourselves.  Our biggest challenge we have taken on is our backyard. I am excited to share the transformation with everyone soon. We have invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this house.

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Recently, at my neighborhood association meeting,  a lady I had never met before, a lady that rents in the neighborhood I live in, asked me, “and you are okay living in that small of a house?” The honest answer is yes! As for the size of our house, why does it matter to someone else what size your house is? I absolutely understand why people want more space, but I also think that should be their choice.  I sometimes envy people who may be able to have people over all seasons of the year because they don’t need to rely on outside space to entertain. I envy how people have rooms that their kids could play in without being on top of them, but then I realize my kids follow me to all of our rooms regardless of the size of our house. Our house allows for me to stay home with our kids, for our family to travel, and forces us to explore our city more.

To conclude this post, one miraculous time, we had a friend whose home country is Ireland, tell me that our house big. That still puts a smile on my face because in many countries, our house would be considered big, and it helps me to just be thankful for what I have.

“There is only one success – to be able to spend your own life in your own way.” – Christopher Morley