Wednesday, May 29, 2019

This just got more complicated

A few years ago, I found my great-grandmother Rosie Sitzman, her mom Mary, and her older sister Mary, attempted to enter the US. After a few days, they were deported due to Mary being a single mother with two little children and no likely means of support. That got me thinking - who was Rosie and Mary's father? Why wasn't he on the boat with them? Why did the girls have their mother's surname? I had no answer for these questions, so I went digging.

I ordered the Social Security applications for both Rosie and Mary, and both of them said their father's name was Chris Schmidt. There were definitely a lot of Germans in Rozvadov where they came from, and likely a lot of Schmidts. If that was their father's name, finding him would be like trying to find a John Smith in London. Not a pleasant thought for sure.

As I got more involved in DNA, and learned more about other lines of my family history, I started wondering in the back of my mind if Rosie and Mary did in fact have the same father. I have learned from experience both in my own family and through my work that it is not unusual for children in these situations to have different fathers. I realized that the only way to determine this would be to find a descendant of Mary and have them take a DNA test. Fortunately, in going through the Wagner family pictures with my Grandma Blossom a few years ago, I got to see loads of pictures of Mary, her daughter Ellen, and Ellen's children, so I knew who I needed to test.

I checked with a couple relatives, and got a phone number for one of Ellen's daughters. After a little phone tag, we talked for a while (super nice lady!!) and she agreed to do the test. Fast forward a few months, and the results came in. By this time, I had results for my dad, his brother, and two sisters, so I had a pretty good set of people to check this cousin against. I set the scenario up on, and ran it through their What Are The Odds? tool, once with Rosie and Mary being full sisters, and once with them being half-sisters. The full sisters scenario came out with a probability of zero - my dad and his sibs did not share enough DNA with their second cousin for Rosie and Mary to be full sisters. I ran it again, with Rosie and Mary being half-sisters, and the probability was one, meaning the relationships are possible. So that seems to pretty well confirm it - Rosie and Mary had different fathers.

This complicates things a bit. One of the reasons I had for getting my dad and his sibs tested was to try to identify Rosie and Mary's father. I had hoped that by testing one of Mary's descendants, she'd be kind of a triangulation point for Bohemian matches to help in this process. I can still do that, but only for relatives connected to Rosie and Mary's mother Mary. I think my plan now is to test the children of Blossom's brother, Howie Wagner. That will give me Wagner/Shute/Groff etc DNA, which I already have a ton of matches to. But those relatives are also the only other repository of Rosie's DNA out there, and hence the only other people who I know have the DNA of Rosie's father. Just one of them would give me about another 7% of mystery dad's DNA (I have about 23% of his DNA covered by testing 4 of my dad's generation, and adding one of Uncle Howie's kids into the mix would boost my coverage of Rosie's DNA, and hence my coverage of her dad's DNA). I've already got one of those kids, Chuck, tested. He passed away a couple years ago, so he's not available to test at Ancestry. Hopefully one or more of his siblings will be cooperative and help me in this research.

So yeah, like I said, it's more complicated now, but still doable. Wish me luck!

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