Part I of this series can be found here.
It’s weird to write about failure but here we are, in a way. As of today, I have no idea why my great-grandmother was on probation in 1922. I don’t know how she met my great-grandfather or why she lost track of him. What I do know is that Ancestry has been pestering the hell out of me about my DNA matches.
I have so many DNA matches, Ancestry won’t even tell me how many I have. Is it like that for everyone? All it will tell me is that I have 1,000+ matches who are fourth cousins or closer. I’m an only child so that kind of blows my mind. What’s even crazier is I have close matches who are related to me through four different relatives who are not related to one another. That’s another story for another day.
Anyway, Ancestry kept insisting this woman named Ancke Unrauen from Prussia was my fifth great-grandmother. I’m fairly certain I have identified my great-grandmother’s family but I’m not exactly sure which male line she is from because everyone gave their kids the same damned names for several generations. I had made some assumptions but I didn’t want to waste too much time on a theory.
One day, I decided to go full-on CSI and link some DNA matches to my family tree. Ancestry told me I have 12 DNA matches linking me to Ancke from four separate males lines. I spent an entire day piecing that all together. We’re talking about fifth cousins thrice removed! I don’t even know what that means at this point except that I’m related to Mennonite farmers and I now have 1,550 people in my family tree.
I believe I have identified some second cousins who live about two hours from my hometown. I have their names, addresses, and phone numbers. But how does one actually go there? Do you send a letter? I’ve left posts on the relevant genealogy message boards with probing questions and have received no replies so far. I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid family so I have no idea how this is supposed to work.
There’s a small town in Kansas with a museum that probably holds quite a few answers. I suppose I could call them and start asking awkward questions. It’s strange though; everyone involved in this has died so why is it even awkward for me? I think the whole thing must have been scandalous given the time period so will the current Mennonite community even be willing to discuss it? I once did skip-tracing for a collection agency so it’s not like I’ve never had someone hang up on me. This shouldn’t be a big deal.
I feel like I should start soliciting volunteers. I’ll give you GPS coordinates and a list of questions. Someone can take the churches. Someone can take the museum. Someone can call the cousins. I’ll drink two beers and call you in the morning. Who’s in?!?