There are hundreds of DNA strangers that I have discovered over the past few years through either Ancestry or 23andMe testing. My sometimes obsessive curiosity comes about as I try to find out how all of them are connected. I’ve recently put together a list of over 300 matches that range from close family to distant cousin and have tried to compare each of their family trees to mine. This is easy but tedious on Ancestry.com because “common ancestors” are highlighted. However, many of these matches have yet put together a tree or have made their personal relationships private to prevent any possible analysis.
Unfortunately, death is a genealogist’s best friend. This is because families publish obituaries that expose most family connections to the public. What was once private information is suddenly common knowledge if you’re either an Ancestry or newspaper subscriber. Digging through all this information has been accelerated through computerization and the internet. It makes detective work much easier than it was years ago when graveyards, wills, and family stories were the most accurate sources for information. There appears to be little respect for the dead anymore as we seek family history.
Adoptees like myself have been similarly protected by the legal system. For example, only recently have adoption records been released. This has allowed me to find the identities of my birth parents, a secret hidden for over 65 years. Paperwork like this in conjunction with DNA testing are putting biological families back together. In my case, it’s like Humpty Dumpty where the pieces are still there but they’ll never be put back together. The woman that gave birth to me when she was an unmarried 18-year old student that apparently still denies any role in my life. I have not communicated with her directly but have sent proof to close family members. She supposedly claims to not remember and vehemently denies my allegation. It’s obviously been an embarrassing secret that she’s carried or buried all these years. A close DNA match with a daughter exposed the birth father and recently acquired adoption records confirm his involvement. After not knowing anything all these decades, I should feel satisfied in just knowing the truth. Instead, I continue to seek more details.
I’m not broken or even damaged. I was probably better off as an adopted child and grew up to be happy and successful. I do feel that something is missing, as I continue to search DNA connections that will undoubtedly just confirm my suspicions. One Banister hooked-up with another Banister (distantly related) as he prepared to go to war. Their relationship took place over the Thanksgiving holidays and nine months later I was born. They went their separate ways, married other people, and raised families of their own. I was put into a loving home and have lived happily ever after, just like a fairy tale or a Mother Goose melody. Maybe I’m being a bit too dramatic?
In reality, I’ve found Ancestry DNA matches with one “close family” tie, 4 first cousins, fourteen second cousins, and 264 other cousins, along with hundreds more of really distant relatives that comprise the Jerry Banister Family Tree. It has recently exceeded 15,500 connections including additional 23andMe DNA cousin matches. It’s a giant Ban(n)ister puzzle that forms a fascinating historical web extending across the seas to England and Scotland. The million dollar question is whether or not I’ll ever satisfy my Humpty?:
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”