My family discoveries have been quite surprising and contain historical figures from Europe and North America. Many of these relatives and the people with whom they were associated are known to millions of people around the world. With each discovery I have made, I continue to be surprised at how my personal bloodline ties into so many well known figures from history.
No one has been more surprised by these discoveries than I have, especially since all of these people originate on my paternal side, a side of my family that I have known very little about. Both of my paternal grandparents were dead long before I was born, and my knowledge of them was limited to a handful of stories I heard over the years. My paternal grandmother died as the result of a car accident in December, 1953 and my paternal grandfather of cancer in April, 1959. My father was only 11 when his mother passed, and 17 when his father passed. As I grew up, I knew very little about my paternal grandparents and knew only a handful of immediate relatives from that side of the family. My maternal side of the family though, I knew quite well - or at least that is what I thought.
When I began researching my family history, I felt confident that I would be able to easily trace my maternal lineage, but was skeptical that I would find much at all about my paternal lineage. The exact opposite has happened though, and today I have thousands of paternal relatives listed in my family tree, and only a few hundred of my maternal relatives.
DNA testing has helped me not only find new relatives, but also to be able to confirm my relationship to many people. DNA has helped me find the birth father of my paternal grandfather (who was born out of wedlock) as well as my paternal great-grandmothers birth father (the man listed as her father was, in fact, not.). During this process, I not only found new relatives that also have taken DNA tests, but confirmed my genetic relationship to several well known families both in the UK and in the USA.
I am still trying to locate relatives of my maternal great-great Grandfather who was born in the USA during the height of the Civil War, orphaned and then sent to a Catholic orphanage in Toronto. The discovery that my great-great Grandfather was orphaned at age 10 was a surprise, as was the fact he was born in the US and not in Ireland or Canada. After years of searching, I have found genetic matches that may be through his side of the family, but I have yet to be able to confirm a match and piece together the story of his family.
I keep my family tree, which is listed on Ancestry.com, "public" meaning that anyone with an Ancestry membership can view the information in my tree. I also keep my DNA results public on Ancestry as well as several other sites. Some people question my decision to do this, but I am on a mission to document my family history and locate other family members. I can't possibly do that if I keep everything secret! I seem to be in the minority though when it comes to wanting to discover more about my family. There are thousands of Ancestry members that either have a family tree listed, and then lock it down so you cannot view their details, as well as those who have taken a DNA test and do the same thing.
To date I have been in contact with dozens of people with whom I share common relatives. I have even met quite a few, and so far things have worked out well. I have been able to reconnect with family members that I never knew existed and have even formed friendships with some of those people. The information I have been able to gather about different branches of my family have also proven quite helpful, and I would like to believe I have been able to help others as well.
I have found that my success rate with contacting family members has been far greater with "ordinary" people - regular working class people who are not famous, not celebrities and not nobility. I have managed to be in contact with two of my English relatives, both of whom are members of The Peerage (English nobility), but the communication was rather brief (although helpful). I have made no attempt at contacting my more famous US cousins that include sons and daughters of a well known President, actors and actresses. I am realistic in the fact that celebrities probably have all sorts of people try and contact them all the time, and most are probably not playing with a full deck.
I will continue my journey of discovery, and hopefully continue to be surprised at the people I discover, and hopefully along the way meet some more interesting and wonderful people.
For those of you attempting to do the same, don't give up and continue your search. Even if you manage to meet only 1 great person, it makes the effort worthwhile.