Do You Have My Eyes?

Throughout my life I wondered who I looked like, in families this is easy, you look like Mom, Dad, or Grandma. It’s not eaIMG_4790sy when you’ve never met anyone you are biologically related to. When I went shopping I wondered, did I have any brothers or sisters out there? Had I ever walked by them, saw them at a basketball game, or on T.V.?  What if I was related to my husband? We have been married 25 years! What if we are a bad hillbilly joke? This is going to require some dysfunctional greeting cards.

Evidentially I may look like several people whom I don’t know because I have had occasions of mistaken identity occur.  Not like when someone gets close and they realize you’re not the person they thought you were type either, I have had full-blown, people insisting they knew me when I have never seen them before in my life. The last time someone insisted they knew me was in Nashville, Tennessee in of all places a Library at a book sale, because I am addicted to books and can’t help buying them, even on vacation.  I was over 400 miles from home when a women and her daughter rather adamantly insisted they knew me.   I said I had no clue who they were,  they felt I was blowing them off so they accused me of being a snot.  It shocked me. I was in a library, isn’t there decorum in a library?  I reached in my purse and pulled out my driver’s license to prove my identity, I was frankly shocked.

My identity proven, they apologized.   They thought I was pretending not to know them.  While this was the most disturbing of the incidents, it was not the first that occurred and I don’t think it will be the last.  After the fact, I wondered who the other woman was? Could I actually be related to her? Was she a sister or a cousin I don’t know?

What I know in my ‘non-identifying information’ is scant.  I assume I don’t have relatives in Tennessee, I could be wrong.  People are quite mobile and move great distances for work and family relocation. I also know that faces are basically all the same layout and there are people who look-alike but aren’t related.  If I knew my family I could easily shrug this off and maybe not think another thing of it. No big deal.  Not knowing is the crux, secrecy is the festering point.

I’m blaming all those Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie books.  You, Miss Marple, you made my brain ask the big why? Hercule Poirot, you made me see the details. To ask if there could be something else behind the what if and the why.  To ask questions and demand answers that others are born into.  I want to fill in blanks with answers on my medical forms and on my family tree.  It’s not too much to ask, to come into the light from the shadow of the past.

Not At The Table

Every holiday weekend, means family and dinner.  I battled the crowds to get the customary Easter dinner fixings. I planned baskets for my kids and treats for after dinner. Setting the table I see who is not there, not only those who have passed but those I haven’t found.  I would like nothing better than to fill those empty seats with relatives.

I feel numb drifting through my growing family tree, these people have no meaning to me yet.  They are a mystery to be solved, they lack a tangibility.  So, I need a break.  The one advantage of being adopted and loving genealogy is more families to research.  I turned to my husband’s known parentage and known but not researched tree. He was told a story, but some of the story wasn’t exactly true.  That sounds familiar right? Good to know that adoptees are not the only ones that are fibbed to.

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Myself and my husband Mark in his full MCPherson kit on Lake Chautauqua, New York

I’ve been researching his paternal family tree, because the truth seems to vary by the teller.

His Grandmother’s line is wonderful, there is such diversity and good documentation to follow! She was a McPherson and her mother was a Cooper. Sounds pretty Scottish and Irish right? Mark, my husband wears a McPherson tartan with pride celebrating his Scottish roots, however, with some digging, the immigration of the McPherson clan was an interesting one.  The McPherson branch took a route through Canada, like many loyal to the crown.  Landing on Prince Edward Island they were didn’t stay to find brides like Anne Shirley they forged westward to Montreal, Quebec.

Knowing history as well as genealogy can be beneficial, with a little research I found some facts about early Quebec. Early Quebec was overwhelmingly male inhabited, about 80%, there was a desperate shortage of women to marry.  As a result from 1634-1662 Filles a Marier, young women were sponsored to come over, they signed a marriage contract, however, she had the right to refuse her potential spouse and some did on arrival.  The Filles a Marier brought 262 young women to Quebec to become wives and the foundation of society in the wilderness.

Later the state sponsored the Filles du Roi, King’s Daughters. 774 Filles du Roi were recruited, of which 414 were orphans. Providing these young women with a dowry and transport as well as pick of the eligible bachelors, it was “The Bachelorette” circa 1663, with more aromatics.  These young woman had to brave many hardships as well as ridicule of the established families who started rumors that they were prostitutes or thieves. I imagine there is nothing better to do in a small community than to spread rumors, somethings never change.

Martin McPherson found himself a nice French girl, Marie Billet, who lucky for my husband, was a descendant of one of those brave women who embarked from France as a Filles a Marier.  If it hadn’t been for that first step into the unknown he would have never existed.  We all have our unknowns, for adoptees our unknown biological families hold mystery and fear of what we will find.  I love uncovering family treasures through old records. Taking a break from my own mystery reaffirms why I am searching. I need my own answers, I need my own stories.

Jumping In

My Non-Identifying information or non-id told me very little about who I was searching for, but it did have some clues.  One very good one was that father’s family was large.  My DNA matches through Ancestry could be used to match my non-id, however, I needed a way to organize the information that made sense and followed an established system.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Ancestrys’ family tree building program is good, but I had problems with it glitching with duplications that I had to go back and delete. I spent hours deleting and correcting, especially with the huge families that I found with the first top matches I had.  Family Tree Magazine offers free forms that I used to organize the massive information.  I needed to view the multiple branches all at once but on Ancestry I could only view a small section at a time.

A large dry erase board is another option for organization. I didn’t have room in my home for one, but I could see the advantage to keeping the information organized through a large dry ease board, or simply just use it to work a section at a time before transferring them to a sheet or computer program. There is one caveat, however, when copying work be careful.  It is very easy to transpose names, dates, or other information. Inadvertently you may create an error in your tree, double-check the information as you transfer.

As I worked in my potential birth father’s family the tree grew and it became clear that my first cousin match wasn’t my first cousin. I worked up the family tree to her Grandparents.  It was most likely that we shared these same relatives because I noticed that I also had matches to both sides of these two peoples families.  They had twelve children and I had to work out the families for each to see if any of them remotely matched my non-identifiying information or if my non-identifying information might be a fiction and I should just focus on the DNA.

Getting a subscription to Newspapers.com was a necessity for me as most of these people were from Illinois.  Thankifully, the newspapers that covered the areas that these people lived in were included in the subsciption service.  Tracking down twelve seperate individuals, their marriages, children, deaths, and obits would be hours of computers work.  Would it be worth it?  What did I want from it? That remained to be seen, I mainly wanted to know where I came from and have simple answers, the answers were out there, I just had to work to find them.