Monday, January 1, 2024

Armchair Genealogy


By Melinda Cohenour

Happy New Year!! Earth welcomes 2024 with a fervent wish for a brighter future - a reprieve from COVID and its many variations, peace around the world - praying for a quietude to descend upon the Middle East and an end to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as renewed prosperity and equitable governance in our beloved United States.


This column is penned after a busy Christmas period which brought joy to our household. We only wish more of our grandchildren and their families could have shared with us in person.

And it precedes the celebration of so many family birthdays. As I write these words this 30th day of December, we acknowledge with joy the twin birthdays of our granddaughter Erin Elaine Bostick and her aunt Anne Bulut. Our discovery of Anne came about through DNA testing a few years back. Both Erin's mom (Melissa) and her cousin (Adam) tested and both test results showed a close family relationship with our beautiful Anne. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIN! HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNE!

Through DNA testing our family has been blessed to discover additional half sisters and brothers to Melissa and Anne. These siblings now enjoy a loving relationship filled with frequent contact. Our Facebook friendships also now extend to those siblings' family members - a blessing enriched with each contact. We thank God for the discovery of these precious family "finds"!!

And, so, my mind turned again to my own DNA test results. For several months now, my focus has been on the shocking investigation of the Gilgo Beach Four. The discovery of these burlap-wrapped victims more than a decade ago launched an intensive search resulting in the location of ten sets of bodies or dismembered remains. A gruesome six-month immersion into the investigation of those murders was tied to the fascinating use of DNA to solve decades-old crimes. The arrest last July of Rex Heuermann triggered your author's in-depth pursuit of news related to the case. Now we patiently await 1) the trial of Heuermann, 2) identification of the three remaining mystery remains, and 3) any proof of the identity of the perpetrator responsible for the other victims' deaths. Are they all the victims of one serial killer? Or by some strange coincidence have all these skeletal remains been discarded by more than one monster? And will their cases be solved by the miracle of DNA?

As we await more news connected to this investigation, my interest has turned to more refreshing and joyful pursuits - just Who has been found through my own DNA testing? This promises to be a rather complex issue. Just taking a quick look at my new Ancestry DNA matches turned up the following (rather amazing) stats:

Ancestry shows 48,724 DNA matches tied to my Maternal line and 51,007 matches through my Paternal line. There are, interestingly, 209 matches that seem to link to BOTH parents and 3,896 matches that have yet to be assigned to either parent's lineage. That amounts to an astounding 103,836 living COUSINS (most relatives not of core family relationship will be cousins of some ilk).

Those 3,896 unassigned matches are anomalies that occur for various reasons: tests were processed after Ancestry's last update or Ancestry lacks sufficient information to assign to one or the other parent. These assignments are made without either of my parents having tested by virtue of Ancestry's computerized logarithms ability to compare long strands of my DNA which are identical to those matches. These strands are likely inherited from common ancestors. Examination of paper trails and other evidentiary sources lead to the identification of parental lines.

Ah, yes. Examination of the closest of these new DNA matches should occupy a goodly amount of time. Should some really interesting connections to historic figures show up, you can expect a column elucidating that tale. Otherwise, we shall continue to plod down that seemingly eternal path seeking to break down brick walls, our Five Brick Wall personages that have shown up before

Looking forward to a New Year of research. May you continue your own discoveries through Armchair Genealogy.

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