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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Genealogy - my own story.


I was always connected to my mom's side of the family.  We all knew the basic history, and knew ancestor's names and where they came from.  Sure my grandfather would tell tall tales sometimes, but the basic history matched up.

So when my mom's sister did a DNA test, there were no real surprises.  A couple of things were interesting, but yep, we were descended from Spain and had some roots in Venezuela.  Good.

To me, the more intriguing part of this part of the family lineage came because of who my grandfather's father knew, and how he was connected to politicians and so forth before the second world war.

And then, how my grandfather (and some of his siblings) became defacto spies working for the OSS during the second world war.  The story there is intriguing, and one day I'll have to get into it.

My point here is that on that side of my family, there were no surprises, really. 

Now on my dad's side we thought we knew who we were.  We knew some family names, and some relatives.  But we were missing details and didn't know as much as maybe we could have.  My grandfather on that side was illiterate, and didn't know much about his family history more than a generation back.  His brother's children, though, attempted to do some genealogy research in the 80s.

But they were looking up history between Ireland and Newfoundland with a family name as common as ours...good luck.  They hit a lot of dead ends.  But they did give us some insights that would pay off later.

My grandmother on that side was always cagy and coy when it came to her background.  I knew the family had changed their name at some point.  I knew some things about her mother because I had the good fortune to meet her; she died when I was in high school.  So I knew nuggets, but not all that much.

And so my dad took a DNA test, and it came back with a moderately surprising result: we weren't as Irish as we thought we were, and it turns out my grandmother was Jewish (the markers for the Jewish lineage are quite pronounced, and though people in the lineage lived many places, they typically intermarried, keeping the DNA markers strong).  But he also had some Iberian (ie, Spanish) and Syrian, and some Eastern Eurpoean in his lineage.

Starting with what I knew of my grandmother, great grandmother, and what my relatives had discovered about my grandfather, I set off on a quest to learn more.

Oh the internet is an amazing thing.  And the fact that census data is released 72 years after its collected, meant I had access to info my relatives didn't.

Over a week or so, I discovered that Syrian and Iberian connection both came through the same side - as near as I can figure, relatives (who were probably Jewish) were kicked out of Spain at a time around the inquisition and likely wound up in Damascus.  Then, a few generations later, a family immigrated to Newfoundland and married into that part of our family.

Cool.

Then, on my grandmothers side, I was able to track down her original birth record, and found her given family name, and learned that her father had immigrated to the US from "Austria" which I quickly discovered probably meant Hungary.  As I understand it, immigrants from Hungary would use Austria as country of origin when heading through Ellis Island as it was easier.

And that pretty well summed up his history.  I had no idea about most of it, and was moderately surprised.  But it honestly doesn't change anything about who I am.  Its just neat to learn about who I am and where I come from.

That said, they say the DNA results do often surprise. And this one did, because it uncovered a mystery about my grandmother's side that was more intriguing than any of the results.

I'll post more about that later....

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