DNA, Another Step in the Search

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series DNA in Genealogy Research
  • DNA, Another Step in the Search

If you haven’t read about my search for my great-grandfather’s surname, you can find out more here, here, and here. After I found my grandfather’s family, I was thrilled, and did quite a few happy dances, visited the cemetery, got his will and every record available about him and his family in his hometown of Howell, Michigan. Then the struggle began. 1870 census? Nothing close. Passenger lists? Nothing. I have searched passenger lists and Castle Garden records every way imaginable. I have a list of possible surname spellings that covers two pages, all carefully recorded from soundex and “sounds like” searches of various sources. I have visited the locations where he lived, read the newspaper microfilms, copied his real estate transactions, obtained death records for him and his family, searched for birth records and other records. But I still have a dead end. Boo!

When I realized I was pretty much at a dead end on that branch of the family, I did what my brain and experience told me to do. I searched more, expanding into neighboring counties and my grandfather’s siblings. I found a divorced Baptist minister, and a descendant of the divorced wife’s second husband. I wrote letters to 26 gentleman who were listed in the phone book and have a name which may be connected with another branch, carefully outlining the relationship and asking specific questions. I included a self-addressed stamped envelope in each letter, and my phone number, along with e-mail and postal addresses. I received only replies that were negative, not one from the person I was seeking. Still nothing useful or helpful in identifying the family’s actual origin, or the original spelling of their name. Boo-hoo.

Now, the new “Family Finder” DNA test has become available, and I am taking the plunge. A close male relative of mine is also taking the family finder test, and a YDNA test. It will be interesting to see what the results are, and if it will help me in my search. I have no illusions here, I know this is not a magic bullet. Today I will list the reasons why I have considered the test, and why I am taking it, and in later parts of this series, I will keep you abreast with the process as it unfolds. If my experience helps someone, then I will have a good result, even if it does not help me.

  1. The YDNA test that my relative is taking will provide me with a tool to find other members of my great-grandfather’s family. Since research is stalled at the point where my ancestor arrived in Howell, Michigan, with only a few clues to his origin and no substantial real evidence, I am hoping that there really may be a magic bullet. The best possible result would tell me his actual origin, Germany, or elsewhere, and what the “more German” spelling of his name was. What I am hoping for, a lucky match to a family who is also actively researching, which may point me to the correct location in Germany, or elsewhere.
  2. The Herrington mystery is another reason. My mother was raised in foster care. Her paternal line originates with a man named “Herrington” who lived near an area where members of the better documented Harrington family lived; however, he does not seem to be closely connected to that family. Since that ancestor came from a large family, I am hoping that some other researchers also take the “Family Finder” test and I may become aware of them and their research.
  3. The Orlando Palmer adoption mystery. My mother’s maternal grandfather was the adopted son of Platt B. Palmer and Angeline Carpenter. His original name was Askey, or Ascha, or similar. The evidence I have found fits the story, but the details are lost in history. Maybe I will connect with a descendant of the family. I have found some, among them a super researcher who is generous and caring. I just want one more…

Since much of this is a shot-in-the dark kind of thing, I thought my readers might be interested in the results. Fishing trips can be fun and challenging, but so are roller coaster rides. Ride along with me as I explore DNA testing, what to expect, and how the process works. Better still, watch me sweat and sit on the edge of my chair while wait to for the results. Best of all, see if the results help me in any way.


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    • Candyce on March 29, 2010 at 11:33 am


    This will be a very interesting journey! I’ll keep close tabs. I still get confused about the “Herrington” / “Harrington” connection, and, since I’ve not renewed my Ancestry.com account, I am at a complete standstill myself!

  1. There is plenty to be confused about, Candyce. I am not sure what this adventure will bring, but I am excited about it anyway!

    • Richard Allen Fellows on April 3, 2010 at 5:52 pm


    I have ordered a YDNA test from Ancestry.com. Will advise when information is available.

    Best regards,

  2. I am not aware of any male “Fellows” in our line being tested, but will keep my ear to the ground. I believe that your Joseph is “our” Joel, so I will be interested in your results, also.

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