By Jennifer Lackie
Several months ago, I saw an article in The Buffalo News titled “Father’s ‘Day’ mystery began at Crystal Beach.” The article was about two families that united because they discovered they were closely related. After reading it I decided to have my own DNA tested through AncestryDNA.
I ordered the kit online and the process was quite simple; it involved spitting into a small test tube, mixing my saliva with a preservative and mailing it back.
When their analysis was complete, I logged onto the website to see my shared DNA results. To my great surprise, my niece was the very first person listed as a close DNA match, “Close Family-1st Cousin.” This was simply amazing to me. There were other distant cousins listed with familiar last names and they were named as second/third or third/fourth cousins.
However, what spiked my interest was the second person listed below my niece, a first or second cousin who was completely unknown to me. I tried emailing her through AncestryDNA but there was no reciprocated interest in finding out our connection.
I speculate that her mother or father is the offspring of one of my grandfathers through a marital affair and he or she is my uncle or aunt. My mother and father are deceased, so it seems sad to me that they never knew they had a half brother or sister.
The birth of this child would have taken place in the late 1920s, and back then certainly would have raised quite a few eyebrows, had the truth been known. Things of this nature would have caused family disgrace and shame. I had to let this go and accept that some things from the past will remain unknown. I moved on with my quest.
I began piecing together my family tree one branch at a time from what very little I knew. AncestryDNA paved the way for me to go beyond my grandparents by providing ancestry hints, shared family trees and records. My family tree began to grow with each branch. I realized just how many people I was connected to over generations and I was only a tiny piece of the branch.
I came to appreciate each individual family member I came across when I examined their individual profiles: the different names, their places of birth, their siblings, their marriages, children’s birth, their residences, the wars they fought and their dates and places of death. I saw photographs of portraits and photographs of tombstones.
My family tree has now grown to more than 500 people. Most of them are completely forgotten but perhaps, in my own way, I have brought them back to life by acknowledging that they all lived and walked this earth, breathed its air and felt its sunshine.
They had jobs and families and endured life’s struggles and hardships. If any one of them did not exist, the chain would have been broken, and I would not exist today. I am thankful to them all.
I like to walk in a local cemetery with my dog as it is a tranquil and peaceful place to be. I have a newly found appreciation for those strangers who are laid to rest there. I think of their families and the legacy that they have left behind.
Perhaps in 200 years, my third great-grandchildren will look me up, too.
Jennifer Lackie, of Colden, learned a lot about her family’s history through AncestryDNA.