Category Archives: Ancestry Things

The Letter

I really enjoy a good romantic suspense novel. Some stories have a a mysterious letter from the past in them, a letter hidden long ago that reaches into the present, saves the day and explains all.

Turns out, my mother wrote a letter in 1962 that I am just now seeing for the first time. Unfortunately, it isn’t a great letter of love or sacrifice. It is quite the glimpse into the self-absorbed, narcissistic world my mother lived in. It has created more questions than explanations.

My aunt very reluctantly recently shared the letter from my mother to herself and my uncle. She’s had it tucked away in her things for the last 54 years. I think she was and is embarrassed by it. My mother tended to behave in an overly dramatic and often bizarre way in life. It took me a long time to give up ownership of her actions and not be embarrassed by her behavior. Regardless, my aunt saved the letter and finally shared it with me. I hope she understands that she has nothing to be embarrassed about. She and my uncle were the victims in this letter, and I’m confident they didn’t do anything to even suggest that such a letter should even be written. It is just another example of my mother’s strange mind connecting dots that didn’t exist to reach a preconceived conclusion, and making up stories to fit.

The Letter=FanAlthough undated, we know the letter was written sometime shortly after I was born in March of 1962. It is written neatly, in mom’s perfect penmanship, not a single misspelling, with full and complete sentences. Her words and syntax were carefully chosen to be grand and elaborate. She seemed to be was on a grandiloquent mission to punish self-perceived wrongs committed against her. It is incredibly over-the-top. It is also angry and full of jealousy.

The story is this letter was a result of a request my mother made of her brother that could not be fulfilled. My mother never named my father, not to me, not to her brother, not to anyone that we know of. She was unmarried, single and 32 years old when she had me. Details of that time of her life are purposefully sketchy, but what we know is just a couple of weeks after I was born, my mother showed up at my uncle’s home, which she often just did.  Along with her she brought newborn me, and a man, described by my aunt as having blonde/reddish hair and blue eyes. He seemed to care a lot about me and had purchased baby things for me, including a stroller. This was the first and last time this man, whose name no one remembers, ever came around. My aunt was under the impression he was not my father. Not long after that visit the red-haired man was apparently gone. My mother contacted my uncle asking him to please contact a “Mr. Turner” on her behalf. Mr. Turner, as my aunt remembers, was a music teacher who lived Independence, Missouri, but she doesn’t believe he was the red-haired man my mother brought with her that day. Mother wanted my uncle to contact Mr. Turner with the message that he was to come and get her. These details are not in the letter, but lead up to it.

After what I can only imagine was probably a lifetime roller coaster ride of of emotional manipulation and abuse at the hands of my mother, my uncle told her no — no, he would not contact Mr. Turner, she would have to do it herself.

Who Mr. Turner was, what he may have meant to her or to me, if anything, and why my mother couldn’t contact him herself are all mysteries. But my uncle’s refusal to be drawn into my mother’s latest drama, seemed to have left her feeling very out of control of her situation. She fired off this “goodbye” letter, and seemed to be attempting to punish my uncle and aunt for her situation. She said grand things like, “Never again are we to see or speak to one another,” and “There now exists a complete severing of all relationship.” She carried on about how she felt as if she’d been purposefully made to seem small and insignificant in comparison to her brother. It was clear she was very jealous of my uncle and his life. It felt to me to be manipulative and narcissistic. As one of my cousins noted, it looked like she was attempting to engage my uncle and aunt; as if by engaging and getting a response, she still had an “in” to a relationship she could control. But she was terribly frustrated in the end having lost control, and that obviously upset her.

Everyone will take what they want from mom’s letter, but what stood out to me was that as a brand-new, first-time mother, she did not anywhere in this four page rant mention concern for her child, or that she even had a child. Her brand new infant was completely absent. It was totally about her.  She also did not bother to mention why it was so terribly important to contact Mr. Turner.

The self-imposed severing of the relationship only lasted about two years. The story is Mother just nonchalantly reappeared one day in my uncle and aunt’s lives, without a word as to where she or I, had been. She never mentioned the incident in 1962, and according to my aunt, acted as if the entire episode never even happened.

I had mentioned the mysterious music teacher, Mr. Turner, to a friend at work who remembered from her childhood The Turner Music Store on the Square in Independence, Missouri. It was a family business and was operated by Mr. Turner, and his wife. Mr. Turner died in 1989 according to Mrs. Turner’s short obituary from 2003. There’s absolutely no evidence this is the Mr. Turner my mother was so interested in, nor should any relationship be implied.  There’s nothing  good that would result in pursuing any of this all these many years later.

This letter and any clues around it will have to rest in peace; nothing has been saved, and nothing has been explained.

I Search

I’m not sure why, but I search. It’s in my nature, maybe my DNA. I search for products. I search for places, I search for names on the crime drama shows I watch, I search for people, property, things.

To be fair, a lot of my searching is for work. I have to find companies, property and people. It’s amazing to see the lengths people will go to to hide themselves, their normal and mundane, and their misdeeds; their lives. If I’m lucky, I’ll find what I need to find that’s helpful. I know about bankruptcies, property, tax liens and creditors. I know how people take advantage of their parents. Where is that sister? I know about things people own and don’t want anyone to know they own. I know about real last names and how clever merging makes new identities. I know where folks were born, where they grew up, where they went to school.

I know.  But does it matter?
grandfather-mountain-heavy-fog-bridge-to-nowhere-dave-allen
Everyone’s life is like a giant puzzle. Some folks have a clear picture of what they’re putting together. My personal puzzle is fuzzy and indistinct. It’s like trying to put together a picture of fog. I can find the facts, but that doesn’t tell me the why or where the facts go. Some of other people’s pieces may fit with pieces in my puzzle, but I don’t know why they fit. So what if I know random facts?  I still can’t put them in my puzzle in any way that it makes sense.

I feel like I deserve to have a picture to work on.  I feel like it’s my right.  Maybe the more pieces if find, the clearer my puzzle will be.

So I search.

How Did I Get Here?

I am Milady.

How did I get here?  It’s a fundamental question.  It is probably a question everyone reflects on in some unconscious way all the time, but because they know the answer it just flies in and out of their head without much consideration.

I can’t really do that.  I am Milady.  My parents are Rose Evelyn and Information Not Given.  I can’t remember anything from birth to age four, save a couple of snippets of my grandfather’s home on North 11th Street in Kansas City, Kansas.  I remember my grandfather very fondly, then he died.  I spent the years between four and 10 essentially living out of a turd brown 1962 Chevy Nova station wagon.  The next eight years, from 10 to 18, are the ones that probably shaped me more than any other, but it still doesn’t answer the fundamental question, how did I get here?

BlankBox.JPGJust to be clear, I have never really fixated on the missing information.  It’s just there, and it is what it is.  It would come up every now and then.  That blank box.  The one that kept me from filling out my passport application online because the form wouldn’t accept anything other than a full name for parental information.  The one that made me worry about my security check for my Federal job.

My mother told me one story, then another, and then others.  I always knew that there might have been a shred of truth in each story, but none of them were “the” story.  Mom had what I called convenient memory — she remembered things the way that was most convenient to her, and then she believed it, so it was truth to her.  What was inconvenient or embarrassing to her, just didn’t make it into her story, and she really didn’t think much about how she told it.  She had no problem telling me as a child that I was not loved or wanted.  But it is what it is, and I never spent a lot of time pondering it and just assumed I’d never really know.  Over the years others had approached my mom with questions, and she was just as creative with them.  We got some great quotes though.  Glenda, who was my “mom” for many years, was adamant I needed to know and she had a long conversation with my mom once.  All she got out of it was that apparently the sex was “hot,” but nothing more.  And yes, that was the word used.  Ick.

I once had a client that was a private detective.  To help pay his bill with me, he did some research on a name and story that my mother had settled on after I was 12.  I just kind of assumed that the shred of truth was that second name.  My step-dad had once found my mother crying over an obituary when I was 15 or 16, and she claimed then it was the man that was my father.  She told my aunt the name, giving a certain amount of credence to the story.  The detective researched, found the obituary my mom likely had referenced.  He died in the mid-1970s, so the timing was right.  I just filed the info away in my brain and left it with that.  I had a sneaking suspicion that he, or whoever it was, never even knew I existed, and if he were dead, my mom didn’t have to give it another thought.

In 2014, my husband gave me a Ancestry.com DNA kit for Christmas.  I sat and stared at it for six months before I finally spit in the vial and sent it off.  I’m not sure why I waited, other than it was just that blank box thing again.  I just wasn’t sure it would tell me anything new.  I’ve always felt like I was on the periphery of my family anyway, and it wasn’t going to change any of that.

EthnicityEstimateIn 2015, I got my ancestry profile.  It actually was kind of fun.  I’d always assumed that I was predominantly Scotch/Irish based on my mother’s ancestry.  Well, not so much.  Turns out I’m primarily Western European and British — my mother’s ancestors came from France and England.  That was news to me.  I felt a little let down that I wasn’t as Celtic as I’d imagined, but it is what it is.

I shared my results with my maternal cousins, and one took an interest.  He was so curious, he did his own DNA kit.

PredictedRelationshipThe first confirmation was that Ancestry.com immediately matched our DNA and made our relationship first cousins.  A fact has been established.  This is just about the most concrete evidence of where I came from that I’ve ever had.

Then we noticed something.  We had shared DNA matches.  Ancestors on my mother’s side.  It was an actual path that I could follow.  My husband was fascinated by the whole thing and worked my genealogy back to something like 700 AD.  There’s landlords, Countesses and castles in the lineage.  Perhaps I am a little bit of a milady after all.

That lead me to the DNA matches that my cousin and I did not share.  The obvious implication is they came from whoever my father was.  My closest relative on that side is a second cousin.  That means we have shared great grandparents.  I’ve talked to her, and her aunt on her mom’s side, and it seems logical that I’m from her mother’s branch of her family tree, because that’s the branch that was from Kansas City.  We haven’t quite figured it all out, and I still can’t say I know who my father is, but I can tell you who he wasn’t.  He wasn’t the name my mother gave me when I was 12, that she cried over an obituary for, and that the private investigator researched for me many years later.  He may be one of the names mom mentioned in her waning years as dementia was taking over.  I will never know.  Based on the little bit of evidence I have, it looks like the possible candidate, who is deceased now, was at time of my conception substantially younger than my mom, probably around the age of 20 to her age 31.  That would have been a fling that my mother would never in a million years have admitted to because it would have been far too embarrassing for her.  Que that convenient memory.

The one conclusion I can come to is it is very reasonable to believe that my father, whoever he was, had absolutely no idea he ever had a child named Milady out there.  I can believe that telling me I was not loved or wanted was at its least unfair.  That may be all I ever get, but it’s more than I had.  It is what it is.  I’m here.

I am Milady.