Without really trying, I seem to have become a DNA detective, and it is both a fun and frustrating hobbie.
Through a combination of good old fashioned ancestry research and using DNA science, I have been able to unravel many family mysteries these past few years. I have been recreating my paternal lineage which amazes me to no end; when I started I didn't even know my paternal grandmother's surname, and now I have over 700 years worth of paternal family history documented, and there is no end in sight.
I still have many mysteries to solve, especially on my maternal side of the family. Although I have known more about my maternal family history than my paternal history, uncovering my lineage has proven to be extremely difficult, especially on my maternal grandmother's side of the family. One of the most significant mysteries remains the origins of my maternal great-grandfather (on my grandmother's side), and even after many years of research, I am at a dead end.
My maternal grandmother's grandfather was born in the US in 1861, presumably in Niagara Falls, New York. By 1871, at the age of 10, he was orphaned and sent to a Catholic orphanage in Toronto. Despite my very best efforts, I have not been able to find his birth record or name of his parents or any potential siblings. I have also been unable to glean any information from the Catholic Church records despite several attempts. The only information I have been able to find is from my great-great grandfather's obituary which is how I discovered he was an American in the first place.
As I have been working my way through the thousands of DNA matches on Ancestry.com and other DNA related websites, I have been keeping a watchful eye on any matches that may lead me to discover more about my great-great grandfather and his family. There have been a few DNA matches that are tied to me, my mother and our cousin (who's father, like my grandmother, were direct descendants), but so far nothing concrete has turned up; until this week.
On Thursday I found a DNA match that closely tied to my, my mother's and my cousin's DNA profile. When I contacted this match, she said that she had heard that she had Canadian relatives although she herself is American. Unfortunately we have not yet discovered a common ancestor, but there remains the possibility that we match on my great-great grandfather's side of the family. This possibility exists as she does not match with other known family members who would match if it were another relative.
Several weeks back, after years of research, another distant paternal cousin and I were finally able to confirm our common ancestors that dated back almost 500 years. It's amazing that DNA can remain inside of us through countless generations, and it can be a very helpful tool in locating relatives, both close and distant, and is a valuable tool in family research. However, DNA matches can often raise as many questions as they answer, so one must be prepared to dig deep and wide if you wish to uncover a common ancestor.
My quest to piece together my family history continues, and with the help of solid research and the science of DNA, maybe one day I will be able to solve the mystery of my maternal great-great grandfather's family. It is a day I am very much looking forward to!