My questions about him had been endless. He was, after all, the phantom in my ancestry, a great and impervious vapor, a Wizard of Oz if you will. He was my fleeting great-grandfather, the drawn curtain of my pedigree chart, his family lines going, well … nowhere. I don’t know that I ever really expected to find him, or to see his face. I certainly did not expect any DNA results to fall from the sky, making a picture of his smile even possible. Yet those DNA results did pull back the curtain (coming in just last week) and therein I was able to find his face, albeit grainy in brown and white, and sheepishly grinning down and away, as if to say he knew I’d been looking for him for a very, very long time. Indeed, I had been.
The discovery of his identity was hidden sometime in late 1914, coinciding with the birth of his second child, a baby girl, no doubt a child he never laid eyes on. She was simply his unnamed child, first only known as a “female child,” then as Georgia Lee Young, and finally as Katheryn Elizabeth Ogle. She was my grandmother, and I’ve spent the better part of the last 25 years trying to find and piece together the lives of her biological parents. I’d had success in re-tracing the steps of her biological mother Opal Young [Porter] [Everett] (1895–1978), but her biological father had always eluded me, presenting me with closed doors across the state of Kansas.
He wrote … that if I truly wanted to find my grandmother’s biological father I ought to get a DNA test for her son, my dad, for Christmas.
Then, right before last Christmas, something of a miracle was set into place by one of the amazing individuals who works at NEHGS. He wrote advising me that if I truly wanted to find my grandmother’s biological father I ought to get a DNA test for her son, my dad, for Christmas. He said that maybe, just maybe, it was time to solve this one-hundred-year-old mystery once and for all. Now, because he is modest – and super cool – I want him to tell his part of this story in his own words. But suffice it to say my friend is an utter rock star, and I was wise to listen to him. Following his advice, I gave dad the DNA test kit for Christmas to see if his biological grandfather might be gleaned from all those millions of slimy cheek swabs. I reasoned that my friend, while well-intentioned, was surely trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat!
In the meantime my mother passed away. The wait for the DNA results began to grow a bit longish, and with the terrible drain on my family’s spirit, well, I’ve been a bit numb to my own ancestry these past few weeks. It’s been as if “family history didn’t matter anymore,” and I had put the thought of those DNA results in the back of my mind. After all, what were they truly going to tell me anyway? Who needs another sixth cousin?
Then the email came. My dad’s results were in! My friend said he was looking at the results and that he was finding some unusual certainty in them – and an answer. He asked me to call him right away and I did so. My genealogical spirit soared! He told me he had isolated the name of my grandmother’s biological father.
My friend explained to me that not only did the DNA match, but that he was also able to place my great-grandfather (via a paper trail) in the town of El Dorado, Kansas, in 1914 – the same town where my biological great-grandmother was living at the time.
By the way, I need to mention here that my friend analyzed this DNA match, proved the paper trail, and solved this 100+-year-old mystery in the space of about fifteen minutes – in between making sandwiches for his daughters’ school lunches. Yes, this rock star had pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
[My] great-grandfather might as well have come from the Land of Oz: after all, his was the face hidden behind those closed doors and kept confidences.
So I am calling my new great-grandfather “the hidden face.” Up until now I’ve only had one face to look on, that being the (hard-fought and -earned) face of my biological great-grandmother Opal Young. I have needed these two faces to look at, to see all those “I spy” sorts of family resemblances that are often important to adopted persons (and their genealogically-inclined descendants).
Yes, finally, I have that second face, and the lines of my ancestry to extend. And while it may not be the family I might have imagined or chosen (Where are you Edward Winslow?), it’s mine! I will own and explore it for all it is worth – because my mother would have wanted me to. It’s a bit of a DNA Christmas miracle for my dad, and from my friend and, yes, maybe even sent from Opal. Indeed, my great-grandfather might as well have come from the Land of Oz: after all, his was the face hidden behind those closed doors and kept confidences.
How was the mystery solved? The story continues here.
 State of Kansas, Standard Certificate of Birth, for the female child born to Opal Ray Young 2 December 1914.