Our Greatest Challenge

>> Sunday, September 20, 2015

The participants
Karin Corbeil, Patty Drabing, Marianne Brown and I are all Search Angels. We are all also members of DNAadoption.com. DNAadoption is a non-profit group which provides education for those trying to interpret DNA results. This means that we wear several hats, CeCe Moore has often been our mentor.

Patty is the President of DNAadoption.com, Karin is on the board of DNAadoption.com and DNAgedcom.com (our tools building companion site) and she also provides the support for DNAGedcom, Diane is the director of education for DNAadoption. Marianne is our magician who we call in to solve a problem when we are stuck, or to give us ideas. We all also help people search for missing or unidentified family members by analyzing the DNA results.

This blog is intended to reveal the role of DNAadoption in the search. Others were involved and they can tell you more about their role.

How it started
About 2 years ago, CeCe Moore came to Karin and asked that she look into identifying a man known as Benjaman Kyle who was an amnesiac with no memory of who he was and only fleeting memories of his past. CeCe had been working on this case for some time on her own.
Benjaman from the early days

Benjaman had received lots of publicity but no one had come forth to say that he was someone that they knew, The police had not been able to identify him either. CeCe had gotten FTDNA to donate DNA test kits. Others, including  DNAadoption's Angel Fund, bought Ancestry and 23andme kits and paid for Ancestry accounts to work on the test results. DNAGedcom also paid for a couple of Ancestry subscriptions in the past years.

Our hearts kicked into high gear and we were determined to help out this lost man, no matter what it took. Little did we know it would take 2 years. We said all along that we did not care about who got the credit or who found the answers as long as he found out who he was and could resume a more more normal life. However, since we did solve it, we want to let others know that DNA is a miracle and that with work it can provide answers - sometimes a lot of work.

How we worked
Karin started working the DNA results and after a while asked me and Patty to give her a hand in the search. Karin's principal role continued to be analyzing the DNA and constructing a large combined tree of the people who had been identified as DNA relatives. She eventually wound up with over 30,000 people in the tree.

I assisted in the expansion of the tree and analyzing the results. Patty is an expert in resources so she helped with that as well as tree building. When I realized from some of Benjaman's memories that we had lived in some of the same places at the same time,  he and I started chatting about the days we had lived in Colorado.When Benjaman remembered a detail, I would check it out and add to a timeline. However, Karin was the real workhorse on this. She would not let it go

I also started concentrating on certain trees figuring that sooner or later they had to lead to Benjaman.

It went on and on
We had plenty of other things to do, but worked on this case when we could fit it in. One of the people who was most likely related in some way to Benjaman started helping with family genealogical history and facts, This was a big push to the search. CeCe started encouraging us on, Email between us would keep saying we have to find this answer.

I have had a method in searching.  Every time a search got to a certain point, I would call in Marianne Brown who has a wonderful reputation of being able to find information about anyone, I call her the magician.

Our methodology
In the meantime, we were using the methodology we have developed to find the missing family members of adoptees. We have been very successful with this and genealogists have started taking our classes to learn this methodology. The methodology was started when I was brand new to DNA Analysis and kept asking where are the directions. Only to find that there were none. I kept quizzing Gaye Tannebaum, an early analyst in our field and as I followed her ideas, I logged the methods being used. The first search worked! Now we were excited. Rob Warthen started developing tools for us, Karin jumped in and the two of us worked as one to improve the methodology which has proven to be a constant task, the methodology is here.

There were so many people clamoring for help and so few to help them, that we made the decision that we needed to educate searchers to use our techniques rather than do the searches ourselves. This has worked well and we offer classes at http://dnaadoption.com

Why this case was more difficult
Benjaman's family tree that incorporated his many DNA matches was tremendously endogamous. Not much analysis has gone into the effects of endogamy on the results of DNA testing and we were partly under the misconception of how much distortion can occur to DNA predictions with the multiple intermarriages within small communities. The marriages do cause some pile up of DNA. It appears to be at its worst with 3rd cousins and improves from second grandparents and closer where the predictions again become more accurate,

Benjaman's more immediate family
Identification is being withheld at his request. We early on identified what appeared to be his second grandparents, These families were very large families and the endogamy was occuring in small communities and within the Baptist church communities that were quite isolated. It turned out that Benjaman's specific line was less endogamous than most of the family, probably because they migrated to another area. 

Marianne strikes again
As we were wallowing in thirty thousand members of the extended tree, we once again contacted Marianne and told her that we thought we were close and just could not close the deal. After a couple of days, she asked if we had checked this branch. We looked at it, I personally took one look at it and said, OMG, he was right he is Catholic, He had insisted on this as well as his birth date throughout the search. In the meantime CeCe, was reworking data to see if she could isolate the last part. At this point, we asked CeCe to take over the actual contacts and after convincing the family that it was not a hoax, a positive identification was made.

Our reaction
We all cried with joy and relief and then went back to our other searches.Our children and grandchildren had been aware of this search over the many months and had repeatedly asked if we had solved it. They had total empathy for Benjaman, so they were the first outsiders I told. And like  in this blog the specific answers were not so important as the fact that there was an answer.

Benjaman from NBC feed after the search

Word to Benjaman
Benjaman, we grew to love you and greatly admire your strength. We were so pleased to able to give this gift to you.We wish you happiness and good health.


Acadian Adventures

>> Monday, September 14, 2015

By coincidence, I have wound up in the middle of several Acadian searches recently. I had done one previously, but I am now looking for my maternal cousin's grandfather and to our great surprise, we are finding partial Acadian roots.

This snowballed, it turns out that my cousin's wife is related to that unknown grandfather and thus to my cousin through Acadian ancestry. Then very close family friends were visiting with us when we were in Maine and they also had Acadian roots.

There is a great deal of endogamy among Acadians. There were not a huge number of them in the first place and they were geographically fairly isolated.

We decided to make out return cross country trip from Maine back to Washington through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. What a lovely adventure that turned out to be. I am using this in this blog to show you genealogy can be fun..

We had not planned on staying in Nova Scotia so long but it is an incredible place. On our way to Maine we had visited with cousin Roland Arsenault, he is of Acadian descent from New Brunswick and now living in New Hampshire. We had a lovely time going through common genealogies at our camping site in Southern Maine.,
I got lots of history background from him and then more from talking to people during our trip. What wonderful friendly people! Some of you are particularly interested in the Acadians of Nova Scotia. I have found out a lot and talked to several of them
In the early days, the Acadians had befriended the Native Americans and this saved many people during the troubles that were to come as the Indians warned them of trouble, hid them and snuck supplies to them. After a lot of French and British warfare, the Acadians who occupied very fertile country in Nova Scotia were expelled from the country. In 1755, the Acadians were forceably expelled from Nova Scotia by being loaded onto boats and sent away. Families were often separated during this and shipped to different places. Many of the Acadians were sent to France, some eventually came back to Nova Scotia, to Quebec, to Maine and other states and to Louisiana. In Louisiana they became the Cajuns.
The Arsenault family in particular escaped to Prince Edward Island. They eventually came back down into New Brunswick and settled there. This is close to the seacoast. However, when traveling in Nova Scotia, directions, which are not my strong point in the best of times totally eluded me. I had no clue to what was North, South, East or West, a brief look at Nova Scotia on a map could help to explain this. You can see what one might think of as North when there is actually east,

The Acadians had to drain the marshlands aaround Annapolis Royal and the result was beautiful, fertile farmlands.

The areas where the Acadians were eventually given some restitution were not farmlands and forced them to become fisherman and loggers

While traveling in Acadian Nova Scotia. Particularly in the French speaking areas, we came across huge churches in very small communities. They were all built around 1900. Considering that when we went to the 1900 Acadien village in Pinlico Peninsula, there were very small houses, one housed two families with a total of 23 children. These were very plain and poor communitites yet, they gathered resources to build these enormous and often very fancy churches.

We toured several of these churches with a docent. We came to one smaller church and were taking pictures of the outside and a man came over from a neighboring house and offered to show us around.

At this church we were treated to not only a tour of the church but also to the history of his ancestors. They had rich farms in the Royal Annapolis area where Acadians first settled in Canada. Some of them came via the same communities where the Pilgrims had lived in the Netherlands as a refuge before coming to North America..

After the expulsion, this man's family eventually came back to Nova Scotia and were given land by the then governing British as reparation. Unfortunately on the original, fertile lands they were farmers, but they were given lands along the coasts in rocky inhospitable terrain. Here they had to become lumbermen and fishermen.

This picture is the view from a restored Acadian village ca 1900.

Their relatives who went to Louisiana and with whom they still keep in touch, added the x to the end of their names - thus Comeau in Nova Scotia and Comeaux in Louisana. The most common names in the area before we got to Yarmouth (English town) were LeBlanc and Comeau.

This is an area of majestic old homes in many areas that have been well preserved. The churches show you what ethnicity has lived there in the last century, huge Catholic churches in the French areas and smaller Baptist, Wesleyan and Anglican churches in the English speaking areas. These were not typical Acadian homes but rather from wealthier citizens. The one below was from a Loyalist family that resettled in Nova Scotia at the time of the Revolutionary War in the United States.

These old homes were amazing, The Acadian homes were one story with a sleeping loft for the children. In the typical home ca 1900, the kids slept in the loft. This was quite different than these big fancy homes! 

The Acadian genealogy is quite well documented. I am still working on the various arms of this search and these are some good sites to check.

The Genealogy of Canada -http://www.nosorigines.qc.ca
Canadian Automated Genealogy http://automatedgenealogy.com/
Acadian Genealogy Resources www.cangenealogy.com/acadian.htm
Nova Scotia Archives www.novascotia.ca/archives/acadian.asp
Acadian Genealogy Home Page www.acadian.org
Acadian Genealogy and History Links http://www.islandnet.com/~cghl/region.php?cat=Acadian
Googling Acadians in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick will get you hundreds of resources.


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