Thursday, February 29, 2024

Genealogy tips, anyone?

Thomas got the two of us those genealogy test things for Xmas as he thought it would be fun. He knew his dad was German, his mum Danish, but had always suspected given how swarthy some of his ancestors on his mum's side were that there might be some fun little gems in there too. 

As for me, we kind of figured I'd be entirely boring. I knew my great gran was from Ashton-under-Lyne in England and my great great grandpa was Irish, but other than that to my knowledge I was entirely, boringly 100% Scottish, though like Thomas my family was entirely fair-skinned and blue and green-eyed until my gramps and mum suddenly popped out much darker than expected, and brown-eyed. A born traveller, I secretly hoped against all evidence that I would be more exotic than I realised, even just a wee 2% something else, but I didn't dare get my hopes up too high. 

So, we did the wee swab things, sent them off to Germany and more or less forgot about it after that, till ten days ago when we were in Scotland.

Then the two emails came in...

So, sadly we're still in the dark as to why Thomas has several ancestors with dark eyes and skin, which he didn't inherit himself, as his DNA came back even less exotic than just half German, half Danish; it actually pinpointed that he is half Schwäbisch, half Jutlandic! With a mum from Odder in Jutland and a dad from Stuttgart, I'm not sure that was overly enlightening. Money back time????

I, on the other hand, got much more than I was bargaining for and it more than made up for Thomas's yawn-worthy results! Mine came back only 78% Celtic, which was a shock, but more of a surprise was that I was 15% Scandinavian. Given I thought even my Scandy kids were only 25% Scandinavian until last week, this is a huge surprise for everyone. I did chuckle to myself thinking that even my French kids were part Scandinavian. I'm not sure my ex-husband would approve. He might even accuse me of having had an affair with Thomas five years before I met him! 😂 

So, maybe I was originally Danish and could find some loophole to actually qualify for a Danish passport after all these years here as it is one of the hardest passports to qualify for! Moving further across Europe I'm also apparently 7% Eastern European, probably Polish/Ukrainian! Having booked to meet up with my bigger kids in Gdańsk for a week next month, I might go looking for some long-lost rellies while I'm over there! 😃

So, blown away by this info, I hardly noticed the other info attached to my findings and went off to bed mulling over my new multifacteted, jet-setting background. At 3am however I found myself fully awake, sitting bolt upright...

My subconscious had well and truly kicked in. Wtaf did I read under my ethnicity results? Sleeping in my nephew's bedroom, I searched the floor under his futon with my fingertips till I found both my phone and glasses. Under my ethnicity results was a list of people on their database that I was very distantly related to. Our DNA matched 2%, 1.6%, 0.8%. This wasn't overly interesting, but one person on their long list stood out: a woman. The only info on the database was her name, her age (70-79) and that she is resident in the UK. Our DNA match was over 12.5% and it stated that she could only be one of two relationships: a first cousin or a half aunt. And they indicated with a neat graph that half aunt was much more likely than cousin. 

But here's the Halloween-sized family skeleton! Because both my parents were only children, I knew I definitely didn't have any first cousins. But till last week I didn't think I could have any half aunts either! 70s would make her most likely a half sibling to one of my parents who currently would have been 79 and 80 had they lived. My dad's parents were never apart, not even during the war as granda was an essential munitions worker at Glasgow forge with flat feet into the bargain and though dad was an only child, he was more an only surviving child as his parents had two further kids after him who died at birth of Rhesus disease. I'm not fully ruling out dad's dad having an affair or a drunken one-night stand but it seems highly unlikely. Gramps (mum's dad) however was a different kettle of fish. In the RAF till 1948, stationed around Blackpool, while mum and gran lived in Springburn alone, he spent the majority of the first four years of mum's life leading a very separate life from his wife and child. Later in the 1940s my gran had to move to England (Wolverhampton) to care for her older sister who was dying of cancer, so once again the family was apart for some time.

And here's the most frustrating thing. There's a contact email for this half aunt, so of course I contacted her (extremely tactfully!) to try to work out at least from geography who she's most likely to be related to, but she hasn't replied. Is she in shock? Hasn't she seen it? Has she died since her DNA was analysed? Arg, I'm so frustrated!!!!

I don't know if the surname on her DNA results is her birth name, married name or other. Her first name is a diminutive form too, so is that her real full name or has she shortened it? Anyway, the bottom line is that I have checked the birth records from 69-80 years ago for anyone of that name in Scotland, England and Wales and when that drew a blank, I looked for anyone with that first name to see if she'd married a man of that surname any time between the 60s and now and that drew a blank too! So what now?! Just a hint as to where this woman was born could confirm or negate any of my grandfather suspicions. I don't know where to look now, but the bottom line is that someone covered up something big in my family back in the forties. It's sad to think that if I do manage to do some sleuthing neither mum nor dad is about to find out about their potential long lost half sibling.

Oh the scandal and intrigue!

Monday, February 26, 2024

Mum and her mum

I'm not usually much of an anniversaries kind of person. If someone forgets my wedding anniversary, I'm not devastated. After all it falls on an arbitrary date nearly 3 years after we actually wanted to hold it, decided partly by the date my ex finally gave up his nearly 4-year battle to not let me divorce him and was brought forward when my husband was threatened with redundancy leaving us without the funds to marry when we'd actually planned. Romantic, huh? I always wanted a summer wedding as I love summer. My wedding anniversary is in February🙄

Maybe it runs in the family? As a child I remember asking my granny when she got married, to which she replied 'it was either 6 o'clock on September 7th or 7 o'clock on September 6th. I can't remember...' either that or she didn't want to, she always found my gramps a bit of a handful. 

My own mother, her daughter, was the opposite. Birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day etc were big. Expensive cards and flowers marked every occasion and you daren't forget. Long after I had given up sending Christmas cards, for the sake of the planet, honest, I still sent one - to my mother. Dad was a bit more forgetful, often wishing me a happy birthday on my brother's birthday or similar, but he wouldn't have dared forget one of their special couple dates. 

Death anniversaries, well deaths that marked her, mattered too. I once noticed the symbol 'x' on her kitchen wall calendar. The year was 1986 and there seemed to be an 'x' on the 11th of each month, starting in March. I enquired what the 'x' meant and was told each 'x' marked a month on from the day someone had run over her cat, Snoopy. A decade later there were no 'x's on 27, the date of her own father's death. Hmmmm.

I've always found grieving to be more something that can hit you unexpectedly. I can hear a song I associated with my dad, happen upon an old photo, smell mum's perfume or catch a look in my kids' eyes that reminds me of how one of them looked, or I even a glimpse of myself in the mirror first thing in the morning with no makeup and that sets off the pain much more than a simple date on a calendar. 

Maybe I relate less to dates because I have moved time zone in my life. Had I had my boys where I live now, both would have a different birthday to the one they actually have, given both were born in the UK after 11pm, so dates are less set in my head.

Years later, mum's date obsession became an issue for me. My dad died on May 11 2012. Every 11th of the month that year, her usually sad and lost demeanour visibly worsened and she wanted to talk about little other than how awful the 11th made her feel. This broke my heart at first; she had never been without him in her adult life; she, like dad, was only in her 60s; it just wasn't fair but as the months passed I got more agitated. It felt almost like she was deliberately gearing herself up to be extra miserable on the 11th of each month, than she already was and I had a vested interest. Of all 8 of her grandchildren, only one had a birthday that fell on the 11th and she was one of mine. Approaching 3, I didn't want her birthday tied up in the spiral of sadness that the 11th was becoming. And give her her due, she didn't let that one 11th descend into depression just eight months on, but I certainly dreaded it more than I should had dreaded my baby's birthday that year.

So, today my mum has been dead for two years. It feels both like she's been gone for a decade, and simultaneously like she died last week. Growing up, February 26 was always a fun day as it was my gran's birthday. We knew we'd get nice fairy cakes and we'd spend the weeks beforehand saving up to buy her a little something: a cotton hanky with flowers on, a pin cushion, a hairbrush, a vase from a corner shop, something small that would be greeted with great appreciation. Even after she died, I still tended to remember Feb 26 with a smile as it had always been a big deal. It also marked the beginning of a big surge of birthdays in our tiny family. There were only the four of us, two grandfathers and one grandmother and of those all except my brother had their birthdays in the six weeks around Feb 26. To me that date was synonymous with endless cake and the making of cards. And by adulthood one of my best friends also had that birthday so there was always something to celebrate, usually over a shared plate of chips in the Collins canteen.

So now I'm not really sure how I am meant to feel about Feb 26 anymore. There's something rather unnerving about mum dying on her own mum's birthday. 

I really am at a loss.