Finding a Father For Jane – The Conclusion

I dialed Jenny’s number, curious as to what she would say. Soon, I discovered I had nothing to worry about. Jenny was a pleasant young lady and was intrigued by the possibility that her grandfather or grand uncle, Will or Jim Smith, could be Jane’s father.  She told me what a great man her grandfather had been. He had moved to California and married her grandmother there by 1950.  Jenny and I came up with a plan: she would buy a DNA kit for her father, Todd, to take and send in to Ancestry.  His results would help us determine if Will or Jim was the father.  A few days later, I received a call from Angie, Jenny’s cousin. Her mother, Cathy, was Todd’s sister.  Angie had talked to Jenny and was equally as excited to solve the puzzle of Jane’s father.  Jane was obviously related to their family, we just didn’t know how yet.

We impatiently waited for a month or more for Todd’s test results to come back.  I finally received a call from Jenny.  They were here!  I quickly checked Jane’s DNA profile on Ancestry.  Darn!  The numbers weren’t conclusive.  Todd’s DNA matched Jane’s but was in the very low range for a half-sibling, and the high range for a first cousin.  Back to the drawing board.  After lengthy discussions with Jenny and Angie, we decided to get ahold of the other brother, Jim’s, daughter and see if she would take a DNA test.  She readily agreed.  Another month or more wait.  Her results finally came in…she matched as a definite first cousin (she was actually disappointed she didn’t match as a half-sister).  So, we could rule out Jim as the father.  More discussions with Jenny and Angie.  Angie decided to convince her mom, Diane, Todd’s sister into taking the DNA test.  She agreed.  Here we were again: order the kit, spit into the tube, send it in, and wait.

Finally the day arrived.  The test results came back.  Diane’s DNA came back with a 95% probability of being a half-sibling to Jane!  Coincidently, it was Jane’s 70th birthday that day. What a great birthday present.  With Todd’s, Cathy’s, Angie’s, Jenny’s and now Diane’s DNA results, plus the genealogy research and tree I had constructed, we could confidently say that Will Smith was Jane’s father.  We’ll never now if he knew, or what the story was about how he met Jane’s mother.  However, we found a family who opened their arms and accepted Jane based on the DNA and genealogy research.  Not all stories like this have a happy ending, but fortunately, this one did.

Finding a Father For Jane – Part 2

Jane and I sat around my dining room table discussing her story.  We came up with a plan.  Top on the list was for Jane to take a DNA test.  I opened up my laptop and immediately ordered it from Ancestry.  It arrived the next week.  Jane came over, spit in the test tube, and mailed the sample that same day.  As we waited for the sample to be analyzed, I did some research.  John Jones and Jane’s mother were married in April of 1948 and Jane was born in November of 1948.  Yes, she was pregnant when they got married.  They divorced within a few months after Jane was born.

I also did a little research on Dave Brown, who rumor had it might possibly be Jane’s father.  He was deceased, but I did find him in our town during Jane’s childhood.  I researched Jane’s mother’s family.  We waited impatiently for the test results.  Finally, I received an email that the results were in.  I called Jane right away.  We sorted out the known cousins from her mom’s side of the family.  We had a match in the range Ancestry calls “first cousin”!  She was a young lady from Washington state.  They matched at a level that could be a first cousin, but also a half-niece, or a first cousin once removed.  Ever better was that she had a tree attached to her DNA results.  I started with the information in her tree and began building a tree for Jane’s potential father.  It was not a easy task, but after reviewing census records, marriage records, death records, etc. I had a simple tree constructed and had narrowed it down to a potential family with two sons the right age to be Jane’s father.  It was time to contact the young lady Jane’s DNA had matched her with.  I sent off a message on Ancestry explaining who I was and a brief overview of my research.  A very short time later, I received a message back!  She was excited and wanted to talk about it over the phone.  I nervously dialed the number…

Finding A Father For Jane – Part 1

It all started at a church picnic.  We were sitting around the picnic table delighting in our desserts, when a gentleman asked if I was still doing genealogy and how it was going.  Always eager to talk about my genealogy pursuits, I gave a brief overview of my activities.  Soon a voice piped up from down at the end of the table, “Could you help me find my dad”?  Without missing a beat I responded with a “Sure, I’d love to”!  Soon the two of us embarked on a journey to find Jane’s elusive father.

Later that week, sitting around my dining room table, Jane indicated that at age 70 she felt she deserved to know the truth.  It started for her around age 13 when she was looking at her baby book and noticed a different last name on some of the documents.  Jane asked her mother about this and found out that the man she knew and loved as Dad had adopted her as a baby.  Her mother then divulged that she had been married previously, when Jane was born, to a man we will call John Jones.  Jane grew up never meeting this man, and loving and cherishing the man she knew as Dad.

When Jane was in her late fifties, she decided she wanted to get a copy of her original birth certificate, not her adopted one.  In our state, the laws require the signatures of both parents, if living, or their death certificates.   Jane obtained the proper forms and researched and found that John Jones was still living.  She approached her mother about signing the forms, but her mother refused.  Sometime through the years, the rumor had floated around that Dave Brown, rather than John Jones, was Jane’s father.  Her mother would divulge nothing.

Several years later, after Jane’s mother passed away, Jane decided to pursue obtaining the original birth certificate again, this time with her mother’s death certificate instead of her signature.  She looked up John Jones, explained what she wanted, and asked if he would sign the forms for her.  Yes, he would.  Jane visited him at his house, he signed the forms and they chatted a bit.  Jane found out that John and her mother were only married a brief time, and that things just didn’t work out for them.  Then, out of the blue, John asked Jane if she would be willing to take a paternity test.  Of course her answer was yes!  A short time later the results came back…John was NOT Jane’s father.  Who was Jane’s father then?

St. Louis, Here We Come!

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St. Louis here we come! Tomorrow morning my friend, Cookie and I, leave for the NGS conference in St. Charles, Missouri. I am excited beyond words.  I have attended national conferences in the past, and know what to look forward to in the coming week. Genealogy overload!!  Four days for lectures, exhibitors, and talking genealogy with my friends (new and old).

Today is packing day.  Lots of comfy, business casual clothes and comfortable shoes. I won’t forget my swimsuit so I can sit in the whirlpool at the end of the day.  Loaded up with business cards, iPad with conference app and syllabus downloaded, extra cash to buy books, etc. Lots of things to remember.

One other thing to get excited about…I get to see one of my old college friends who lives in St. Louis.  We are planning dinner on Wednesday evening, and time visiting at her house on Saturday evening.  I am so looking forward to seeing Karen!

Stay tuned for updates on the conference…

Wedding Wednesday – Gail W. Garnett and Corinne J. Johnson

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Omaha World Herald, 19 Mar 1946:

Corinne Johnson to Wed Monday

The engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Miss Corinne Joy Johnson, was announced Sunday at a buffet dinner by Mr. and Mrs. Sigurd P. Johnson.  Miss Johnson’s fiance is PhM1C Gail W. Garnett, son of Mrs. Grace Garnett.  The couple will be married Monday at 8 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Chruch.

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Mr. and Mrs. Gail W. Garnett -25 Mar 1946

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The Wedding Party – Bob Schiller, Keith Johnson, Tony Jacobson, Gail, Corinne, Missy Johnson, Ann Madsen, Lois Johnson.

Talented Tuesday – Poetry by Jenny

The following is a poem written by my great grandmother, Virginia (Jenny) Coate Harper. I thought it was very fitting for this beautiful Midwestern spring day.

SPRING AGAIN

Happy springtime’s here again,

The gladdest of the year.

The birds are singing in the trees

To fill our hearts with cheer.

There’s violets blooming in the dell

Where bunny rabbits play,

And bees are droning round the trees

Mid apple blossoms gay.

The daffodils and tulip bright

Begins a gorgeous race,

While lilac, rose, and columbine

Will vie for scent and grace.

The turtledove coos to its mate

As their nest they have just begun

While mother hen and baby chicks

Are basking in the sun.

Long furrows top of fresh plowed soil

Stretch far across the field,

A symbol of the thoughts and plans

For crops this earth will yield.

At signs of putting forth new life

Some happy thoughts must cling

For birds, and beast and all mankind

Must love the happy spring.

Jenny was born onBertJenny051 21 Mar 1874 to Calvin W. and Candace (Coppock) Coate.  She married Elbert S. Harper on 22 Dec 1902.  Jenny died on 28 Sep 1950. Much of her poetry was discovered years after her death, mixed among personal papers and possessions.  Many of these poems were written on the backs of used envelopes, old letters, or scraps of paper.  In the 1990’s, Jenny’s granddaughter, Betty, self-published a small collections of Jenny’s poetry to preserve it for future generations.[1]

[1] Schwartman, Betty (Taylor) Smith, Ed., Jenny: A  Portrait in Poetry. 199?, self-published.

Society Saturday – Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference

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Today is day 2 of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Grand Island.  Yesterday we had several great session from George Morgan of Aha!Seminars.  “The Genealogist as CSI” was a refreshing view of genealogy research from a different perspective.  We look for clues, gather evidence, evaluate the evidence, develop hypotheses, and reach conclusions just like crime scene investigators do.

George also spoke about using maps to further our genealogy research, as well as locating and analyzing obituaries for more clues.  The sessions also included a panel discussion from several lineage societies, including Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Colonial Dames, The Society of Mayflower Descendents, and Union Daughters of the Civil War.  Although I am already a member of DAR, I really think I should talk to a few friends about joining Colonial Dames, and Union Daughters. Both sound like worthwhile organizations. Alas, I do not qualify for the Mayflower Society. Darn.

Today we look forward to more lectures from George on using the U.S. Agricultural Census Schedules, and gleaning clues from newspapers.  We also have on the schedule, Kassie Nelson speaking on Handing Down History to the next generation, and a panel discussion on Genealogical Computer Programs (Legacy, RootsMagic, FamilyTreeMaker). I can’t wait for another great day of communing with my genealogy friends and colleagues.

Tombstones Tell a History of Their Own

wapello 003Often times as genealogists, we utilize tombstones as sources of data for the birth and death information on our ancestors. Being able to see a gravestone (or a picture) can open up doors for discovery that we, as genealogists, often dream about. Perhaps it might be the foreign place of birth, military history, or groups to which our ancestor belonged.  However, in my case, it was a small piece of history immortalized for all time.

Several years ago, I was contacted by a kind fellow genealogist, who located me via an on-line family tree. During a recent trip to a local cemetery, this genealogist had stumbled about the gravestone for my great-great-great grandfather, Andrew Daubenheyer, in Hancock County, Illinois.  This kind lady was contacting me because of the uniqueness of the information contained on the stone.  Following Andrew’s vital information was the phrase, “Killed by the Mormans in Sept. 1845”. Intrigued, I immediately contacted the Hancock County Historical Society for information from county history books to discover the rest of the story.  Meanwhile, my new genealogist friend contacted a reporter for the nearby Fort Madison Daily Democrat.  Soon after I received an e-mail copy of the newspaper article, Some Tombstones Show Sentiment of the Times, by Jerry Sloat

During the mid-1840s, Hancock County, Illinois, and the city of Nauvoo, became an area of settlement for the Latter Day Saints, as they were driven farther and farther westward.  Andrew Daubenheyer, one of the local settlers in the area, like many of his friends and neighbors, was displeased with the settlement of the Mormans. This lead to a tumultuous time in Hancock County history.[1]

The History of Hancock County tells of Andrew Daubenheyer’s demise.  “On the 18th of September he started to Carthage with a two-horse wagon. On the evening of the 20th he started for his home on horseback, which he never reached, but on the morning of the 21st his horse came home without him. On his road home was encamped a body of Mormons…and the belief was that he had been waylaid and killed by them. Search being made his body was afterward found, buried near the place of the encampment.”1

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Tull Cemetery in Hancock County, where Andrew and his wife, Jerusha, are buried.  High on a hill, overlooking the Mississippi River, stands a wonderful tombstone that hints at a history of its own.wapello 005wapello 007

[1]Gregg, History of Hancock County (1880), p. 344.

A Tragic Tale – Bessie Harper Slayback

William H. and Ricca (Nelk) Harper, Cecil and Bessie, circa 1896-98.

William H. and Ricca (Nelk) Harper, Cecil and Bessie, circa 1896-98.

Several years ago, I received some photos and newspaper clippings of the William H. Harper family from relatives at the Harper-Hunt family reunion, as this line of the family no longer had any living descendants. William H. Harper was the oldest son of John K. and Eliza J. (Hunt) Harper. As I perused the materials given to me, a tragic tale unfolded.

Bessie Harper was born 10 July 1893[1] near Woodbine, Iowa, the daughter of William H. Harper and Ricca Nelk.  She was my maternal grandmother’s (Amy Harper Taylor) cousin.  Bessie Harper became the bride of Herman Slayback on Wednesday, December 19, 1917 at 12 o’clock at the home of her parents, Willie and Ricca Harper, with about 150 guests in attendance.  Her bridal gown was pale blue silk with a veil of white net held in place by lilies of the valley.  She was attended by her cousin, Creola Burch, who wore white silk.  Both young ladies carried white roses.  Bennie Grinnell acted as Herman’s groomsman.  A reception was held the following evening at the home of the groom’s mother, Mrs. D. W. Dunkle[2].

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Herman Slayback and Bessie Harper, Wedding Day, 19 Dec 1917.

Within the next few months, Bessie and Herman made their home in his hometown of Bloomfield, Nebraska.  Less than ten months after their wedding, the newlyweds would both become victims of one of history’s darkest moments – the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

Herman was the first to succumb.  He passed away in Bloomfield on October 15, 1918 at the age of 29.  While his remains were brought to Woodbine, Iowa for burial, Bessie was left at home seriously ill with influenza and pneumonia, with her mother at her side.  Bessie died October 18, three days after the death of her husband, at the age of 25 years.  She is buried beside her husband in the Woodbine cemetery[3]


[1] Harper-Hunt Family Records, submitted by family members at the Harper-Hunt family reunions, Woodbine, Iowa, 1978-1980.

[2] Unidentified original newspaper clipping, “Harper-Slayback”, obtained from family members, July 2000.

[3] Unidentified original newspaper clipping, “Mr. and Mrs. Herman Slayback”, dated 24 Oct 1918, obtained from family members, July 2000.

Fabulous Find Friday – Gail Garnett in the Omaha World Herald

Gail1I was playing around with the Omaha World Herald archives at the Omaha Public Library website yesterday.  Lo and behold I found several articles on my father-in-law, Gail Garnett!  There were quite a few snippets about his “track star” days at Omaha Technical High School in 1940 and 1941.  However, this one actually has a picture of him! OWHJuly1941b: (Omaha World-Herald, 6 Jul 1941, p. 3-B, Col. 1).  

And another one with a picture of Gail in his Navy uniform: OWHMar1942 (Omaha World-Herald, 29 Mar 1942, p. 4-B, Col. 1).

One more of Gail and Corinne in Omaha on a visit: OWHJuly1951 (Omaha World-Herald, Evening Edition, 13 July 1951, p. 18, Col. 2).

What great finds!  I’ll have to see if I can obtain copies of the photos from the OWH archives.

Note: These articles are copyrighted by NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004