Byrd’s in my family tree. The Universe grins sardonically at me, pleased with its simple play on words.
I eagerly contact Susan to play what we like to call “Go Fish” with our DNA matches. We converse at great length over the familial possibilities. However, it always came back to Mom and Susan’s father, Bill. We could only guess Bill was falsely told his birth father was Thomas Camm. Why would he question it? Thomas was the man that married his mother, Martha, in 1925, after all. Bill was born in November of 1925, and …” well, hold on, we don’t know the month. What if Martha got pregnant and told Thomas it was his– so he had to marry her?” I asked Susan. “Anything is possible….as we keep finding out!” she retorted. With no more spaces to turn we emailed our closest Byrd match in 2015 and started mining the rest of the Byrd vein.
Months flew by (no pun intended–it just keeps happening), Susan and I continued to speak daily, go on trips, and enjoy our families. Before we knew it 2017 arrived without notice. Our closest match, who paid $100 to test his genetics, sure didn’t seem interested in his family I thought. I had tried to make contact with him at least six times within two years. I was surely becoming a pest. All the while we were getting an abundance of Byrd matches with the same great-grandparent’s names. We also had some Byrd lines that seemed random. You would think we could just trace them down to date, place, and common sense. Unfortunately, we also came across people who either were adopted themselves or had big blanks in their own family trees.
I couldn’t help them and they had no idea how to help me.
In the month of April, Susan and I talked about cleaning up our research notes and setting the Camm surname aside for good. I also think we were silently conceding to the fact that we may not get any detailed matches for a while. In fact, just a month prior we had been informed that our closest Byrd match had passed. My research was starting to ebb and I was feeling like I was knocking on my own door. “Hello, it’s me again,” I would say to myself going over the same names and dates. I soon became indifferent about opening the door and needed a fresh perspective. I circled back around on the 24th, making a mini tree that included our closest deceased match. Again, the same great-grandparent names echoed on the screen. It was obvious there was nothing left to unearth…so I nonchalantly switched over to my Ancestry DNA page.
As I sipped my coffee, I glanced up at my monitor. I caught the name “Nicholle” out of the corner of my eye. Her expected match to me was 1st to 2nd cousin. I thought I was on the wrong page and immediately hit refresh. There she was again. I excitedly called Susan who had not yet seen her matches of the day. “Susan, go to your DNA matches RIGHT NOW!” I said. “Okaaay, whhhhy? Lemme get my tea. I have to let the dogs in. Who is this person? Wait, I have an email from her!” As she read the email to me, some aloud and some under her breath, I sat stunned. “She’s my niece! Her father was put up for adoption….and he… oh, he passed away.” Susan said, in shock. “Your mom and I just found and lost a brother on the same day. I don’t know how to feel.” My heart sank for her… for all of us. But Susan, being the resilient one bounded back, “But I have another niece, how exciting!”
That same evening I decided to reach out to Nicholle. The words flowed effortlessly, either because I did not have an expected outcome or simply because I was jumping in with my whole heart. Either way, I welcomed her into the family on any level that she felt comfortable. Her immediate response was this:
“I’m totally overwhelmed!!! But oh my GOODNESS– so excited and full of love. I’ve been waiting for this day for my entire life, truly!”
Nicholle is beautiful, inside and out. Her father, Greg, was a Methodist minister and she says he would have been absolutely thrilled that Nicholle found her way to us. Next to God, family was everything to him. We have known each other almost a year now, but have never met in person. We have psychic check-in moments, a love for health and fitness, and a penchant for little white dogs. More importantly, we are both fully accepting and excited about the future of our blended families.
People ask me almost daily if DNA is worth it. I cannot answer that for you. Everyone has a different set of apprehensions and circumstance. My only piece of advice is this: please don’t let fear hold you back from the unknown. Your perception of the past is just that. Try and get the facts. They aren’t always pretty but you may just feel more whole knowing that those who combined their efforts towards your existence have an amazing story to tell you.