Secret scandal: truth hidden for generations exposed with DNA testing

photograph of snow-covered budding tree branches

Just wanted to share a recent stunning DNA test revelation.

First, I think it is important to note that this happened ONLY because both myself and my newly discovered cousin (Rick) uploaded our DNA test data (and those of the accounts we manage) to Gedmatch, a free DNA testing tools website that allows users to compare DNA results from four major DNA testing companies.

Rick and his father had tested through Ancestry and I had tested through FamilyTreeDNA (as did my aunt and my Grandmom’s first cousin) – without Gedmatch, we would not have learned what turned out to be a major revelation.

Rick’s father (Joseph) matched my Grandmom’s first cousin (Shirley) as a solid third cousin, and Rick matched as fourth cousin. My aunt and I also matched them and on the same chromosome segments, but one to two generations further back. So it was clear we are definitely related. And since the strongest match was through Cousin Shirley, it was clear that we connected through my Grandmom’s maternal line (half Pennsylvania Dutch dating back to colonial times, half recent German Catholic immigrants)

I figured it was a match on my Grandmom’s PA-Dutch line (Brown), but Rick noted that his father’s entire family were recent German immigrants and Catholic. This meant it was my Grandmom’s Reuter line.

Rick and I exchanged family trees.  We both had traced our lineage back enough to be able to find a common ancestor, but could not find anything.

Surnames did not match, nor did the regions in Germany from where our ancestors came.

But – and this is the second most important thing to note – I had shared a link to my ancestors on WikiTree. And it was in the biography I had written for my third great-grandfather where Rick found a vital clue to our connection.

He noted that my third great-grandfather, Peter Reuter, was enumerated with his third great-grandparents, Philip and Rosa Kemper in 1870.

Turns out, that Philip Kemper (who owned a bar) was enumerated not just once, but three times in 1870 – in June, July and November – Peter Reuter (a bartender) lived with him in June and July but was gone by November.

Furthermore, Philip Kemper was more than 30 years older than his bride, Rosa who just happened to be Peter’s age.

I think you might guess where this is heading…

Philip and Rosa were married a total of eight years before her early death and only ever had one child – a daughter, born 10 months after Peter Reuter was enumerated with the Kemper family.

So, it appears my ancestor likely had an affair with a married woman in his early 20s as a newly arrived immigrant.

Never thought DNA testing would unlock such a long-ago secret…

I find this discovery to be amazing not just because a clandestine relationship was finally exposed, but because the connection involved half-siblings.

Cousin Shirley is actually a half-second cousin to Joseph. Because they descend from half-siblings they match as third cousins.

My newly discovered cousin, Rick and I initially doubted anyone other than perhaps his third great-grandmother, Rosa (Kopponberg) Kemper knew that Peter Reuter was the biological father of her child.

Although… he was gone from the household soon after the conception, so who really knows for sure what went down and who knew what.

When Rick finally presented our findings to his father, however, Joseph shared that he had heard Peter’s name before. So there’s that.

As for Rick and his father, they have identified the correct biological family for their ancestor. And bonus: I have traced and sourced this family line and all its branches back into the 1600s for the past two decades, so they have all that info too.

There are warnings to heed when deciding to undergo DNA testing for genealogical purposes. Testing companies warn not to test unless prepared to accept potential unexpected outcomes that could shatter what you thought you knew to be true about your own family.

Obviously, these warnings are meant for surprise revelations concerning immediate relatives… finding out you have a half-sibling, thus learning of a parent’s infidelity, for example.  Or discovering a new cousin whose parent was the child your grandmother put up for adoption, as another such example.

These are tough truths for some to digest and can wreck havoc in certain families.

But what about generations further back?

This finding probably would have been devastating for all parties involved if it had come to light back then.  Today, it’s just a fascinatingly juicy detail that reveals more about a distant ancestor’s life.

COPYRIGHT (C) 2017 BY JANA SHEA. ALL MATERIALS PROTECTED UNDER THE LAWS OF COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION.
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