Unexpected Change in Plans

So, Dorothy, just who was your father?
So, Dorothy, just who was your father?

Yes, this last week I had an unexpected change in plans.

Is any change in plans expected? Maybe some are, but I suspect most aren’t. Some are bad; some are good. Some result in a little change; some in a major change. This one, that began last Monday and extended through the rest of the week, was a doozey. A major change in direction for my extra-curricular activities, so to speak.

On Monday I received an e-mail from 23andMe, the DNA company, saying that I had new DNA relatives posted. Great; I get that e-mail from them every month. As new people have their DNA checked, 23andMe figures out who’s related to who, aggregates them month by month, and notifies you when you have new ones. I have new ones almost every month, but few are close relatives. Most are distant cousins, and we share 0.05% or less of our DNA. No way to tell how we are related, and not really worth taking time to try to figure it out.

It was World War 1, after all. Wartime romances can, I'm told, be intense. For sure your dad never saw this nice photo of you.
It was World War 1, after all. Wartime romances can, I’m told, be intense. For sure your dad never saw this nice photo of you.

But this month I had a guy added with the last name Penson. That’s significant because I’m related to another man (and his daughter) on there in a significant way. He was predicted to be my third cousin, and he was related to me and my half-sister, but not to some other cousins who are related to my through my grandmother’s mother. That meant this guy and I had to be related either through my mother’s father or her paternal grandfather. If this man and I are third cousins, that means we share great-great-grandparents as common ancestors. That’s close enough to pursue, so I asked for sharing with them. His daughter gave me what information she had for his great-grandparents. She had all of them, eight names for me to pursue, none of them a family name I recognized.

I need to back up. I haven’t know for sure who my mother’s dad was. My grandmother told me his name, way back in 1977-ish, but with her it was always difficult to know if she was telling the truth. Sorry if that’s a terrible thing to say about a grandmother, but it was so. She said he was married before, but had divorced his wife, and they were married. However, the marriage was annulled when her husband was found to be a bigamist. She described it as an honest mistake, him thinking his divorce was final when it really wasn’t. That’s how things stood for 40 years. I knew his name, which included only a diminutive for his first name. When I started to seriously research genealogy around 1998, and in the years since then, I would from time to time spend a little time looking for him. I thought once I found him, but couldn’t place the man of the right name and age in St. Lucia in 1917, which I was pretty sure was where he had to be for him to have a relationship with my grandmother and for my mom to be conceived.

It would have been nice for you to have known your dad. Alas, such are life's circumstances.
It would have been nice for you to have known your dad. Alas, such are life’s circumstances.

Back now to 23andMe. So on Monday I’m notified I have new DNA relatives. Among them was this man named Penson, who was predicted to be my 3rd cousin. The significance was Penson was one of the names given to me as great-grandparents of the other man. That told me I should be looking for a connection between Penson and Foreman, the name my grandmother said was her husband’s name (though she had never taken his name). An internet search turned it up almost immediately. A man of the right diminutive and last name was in a family where his mother’s name was Penson. Bingo!

I believe it was Tuesday that I found that. As I searched more for this man, I discovered he was Canadian (as I was told he was), and that he served in the military during World War 1—also as I had been told.  I just needed to put him in St. Lucia during that war. Further searching showed that Canadian WW1 records are scanned and on-line. I searched, found the guy, and saw he was in St. Lucia from November 1915 to August 1918—exactly when he needed to be there.

From that point the week was filled with confirmations, finding genealogy website that showed him with families before and after the war, and trying to find people of those names on Facebook. From various websites I was able to confirm much information those websites had, and even expand greatly on them. By Friday I was pretty sure who some half-first cousins were, and made contact on them on Facebook. With two of them I’ve had some messaging conversations. At this point I don’t want to give any names, even of the long dead. That may come in another post.

So, my forty year quest to know who my grandfather was is now over. Well, not quite over. I’m hoping some first cousins will be willing to take DNA tests to confirm the relationship. All the pieces have fallen into place, confirming what my grandmother told me. But so long as there’s a scientific way to prove it, why not? That will be the next step.

So, this week, I hope to return to normal off-work activities, such as writing, reading, stock trading, upkeep around the house. The saga isn’t over, but may have to go on the back burner for a bit.

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