Thanks to autosomal DNA testing, I’ve learned who my biological father is. I have discovered and met some of my “new” half-siblings on my biological father’s side. I have also discovered that my wife has a previously unknown half-sister. Now, due to DNA testing, I’ve found that my mother has a previously unknown half-sister.
It began with an email from (I’ll call her) HC, who indicated that Ancestry DNA was saying that she and I were first or second cousins. The Ancestry match reported that she and I share 460cM of material. A look at our trees showed no surnames in common. Ancestry allows you to view a match and see who also shares that match. My half-sister, Glennis, was also a match and shares, even more, DNA (522 centimorgans) than I share with HC. That proves that the match was on my maternal side as Glennis and I share a common mother.
Through an exchange of messages, I learned that HC’s mother was adopted, was born in May of 1938 in Texas, however, her mother was conceived in Minnesota. That narrowed things considerably. My mom’s Montran/Barber line pretty much was from Michigan; my mom’s Brown/Manning line was from Minnesota. So, it was very likely that the match came from my mother’s father’s side of the family. Luckily, my mother has a half-sister. The bad news is that neither my mother or her half-sister, Barbara, tested with Ancestry.
No problem, GEDMatch to the rescue. Although both tested with another service, I had previously exported their data from the other system and imported the data into GEDMatch. If HC was a match with my mother and aunt Barbara, then the common ancestor had to be on their common father’s side. If the match was only with my mother and not my aunt Barbara, then the common ancestor had to be on her Montran side. I know very little about Montran line, so anything could be possible.
HC uploaded her data to GEDMatch and the results were amazing. She shares over 1000 centimorgans of DNA with BOTH my mother and my aunt Barbara – Proof that the common line is on the Brown side. I like to use The DNA Geek’s chart to quickly see the potential relationships between individuals at a particular centimorgans level. The chart shows that 1000 cM is solidly in the range of Group C relatives. Relationships for Group C include First Cousin, Half Aunt-Uncle/Niece-Nephew, Great-Grand Parent/Child and Great Aunt-Uncle/Niece-Nephew.
Now that I know that the match is on the Brown line I can speculate.
If Grandpa Dick is the father of HC’s mother, then HC would be the half-niece of my mother and Aunt Barbara. That fits the amount of DNA Perfectly.
If one of Grandpa Dick’s brothers were the father of HC’s mother then, HC and my mother would be first cousins once removed and I would expect a DNA match of between 215 and 650.
Dick’s father died in 1928, so he can’t possibly be the father of HC’s mother, so that scenario isn’t possible.
Finally, I questioned was there is a locational opportunity for Grandpa Dick to be the father. HC’s mother was conceived while her mother was in Deerwood, MN about August of 1938. In 1937, my Grandpa Dick was living in Brainerd, Minnesota, about 18 miles from Deerwood.
I think that is enough to prove the relationship. However, I always like to go the extra mile if possible and prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. HC’s mother is still alive and recently had her DNA tested. When the results come back, we can confirm this relationship. I expect that the autosomal DNA match with my mother and with Aunt Barbara will be in the 2000cM range – solidly in the half-sibling range.
Additional proof will come through a comparison of the X chromosome. Females have two X-chromosomes (males have an X and a Y). One of the X chromosomes is from the mother and is recombinant, that is to say, it is a mix of the mother’s X. The other X chromosome is a replica of the father’s X and is passed on without change. If HC’s mother and my mother are half-siblings, I would expect to see their X-Chromosome to have a solid match like my mother and her half-sister Barbara have.
My mother and my Aunt Barbara have a here-to-for completely unknown half-sister. Amazing. I always heard that Grandpa Dick “liked the ladies.” I guess he did. I now know of four daughters that he fathered, my mom, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Mary Lou, and newly found Aunt Phyllis. I wonder if there are more….
I do not typically use the full name of living individuals.
Of course, if any DNA specialists see anything incorrect with my reasoning above, please let me know via the contact form below.
We know that Grandpa Dick (Clifford/Richard Brown/Durand) was in the Army in the late 1920s and early 1930s and was stationed in Panama where he and Donna met. We don’t know exactly when Donna and her husband Sammy Amsterdam went to Panama, but we do know they left Panama and headed for the States in April of 1930. We are also fairly certain that they were estranged at the time. Donna and her three-year-old son, Russell, indicate their address was her mother’s in Detroit, while Sammy indicated that his address was his mother’s address in Brooklyn[i]. Family oral history has long held that Dick and Donna met in Panama and that Sammy and Donna split up because of Dick.
While I was researching Dick’s activity in Panama I encountered An American Legacy in Panama: a brief history of the Department of Defense installations and properties, the former Panama Canal Zone, Republic of Panama by Suzanne P Johnson; United States; Department of Defense; Legacy Resources Management Program; U.S. Army Garrison (Panama)[ii]. In An American Legacy… there is a photo of two “Cabaret Girls,” one of whom looks just like Donna. I talked with Russell and he agrees, it looks like Donna to him. The photo is also from the correct time and place that Donna would have been in Panama, and finally, it shows here in a bathing suit, something that Donna started being photographed in when she was seventeen. She also starred in several Bathing Suit Revues over the ensuing years (See Donna Montran).
Family oral history also says that when Dick saw Donna in Panama, he told an army buddy that he was, “going to marry that girl.” Dick and Donna never married but they did have a child in January 1932. In any event, I consider this another photo of Donna. When I have a chance to visit the National Archives, I’ll do some more searching and see what additional information they may have about the “Cabaret Girls” of Panama
[i]Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data – Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, R), iOS Application, Year: 1930; Arrival: Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_4710; Line: 1; List number:.
[My first cousin, once removed, Sharon Marie (Larson) Huffman, recently passed away. Among her documents was one where she wrote of some of her memories regarding her grandparents, my great-grandparents Arthur Durwood and Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown. Many thanks to Tim and Julia for providing me a copy of Sharon’s memories and giving permission for me to present them here. I have done minimal editing of her writing.]
Grandpa Arthur and Grandma Mary Brown
My grandfather Arthur Brown was a young farmer in the hills of Sylvan Township, near Brainerd, Minnesota. He was born in 1868 and died in 1928. If I understand correctly, he was born in Lansing, Michigan. At the age of 21, he married Mary Elizabeth Manning. She was 14 years old. Together they had 12 children, two of which died in infancy.
Arthur Durrwood and
Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown
Grandpa died at the age of 60. Mom thinks that he had Cancer, but that they didn’t call it cancer in those days. She was only ten years old. We were never to know this grandfather.
Grandma Brown was born in Kentucky around 1876. Giving birth to 12 children back in those days left her with a lot of hard work. She was quite a woman. I have the most respect for her memory. I loved her so very much. This grandma became one of my very best friends.
My earliest memories of her are of her visiting us while we lived in Brainerd. But it was after we moved to Motley and I was a teenager that I truly came to appreciate her presence in my life.
Many times she would sit us down and tell us of her earlier years. She worked very hard to raise her family often. I don’t think it was easy. There were six boys, and four girls. She didn’t have modern conveniences and I’m sure there must have been tons of laundry, meals to cook, vegetables to raise, chickens to feed, and all kinds of other chores. Medical crisis were often handled by herself, as doctors were not as accessible as they are today. She told of her baby dying in her arms, scarlet fever among the children, and one son falling against the stove and injuring himself badly. Sons gone to war, coming home with Malaria, losing her wonderful husband at such a young age and her home to fire while she was with him as he was dying. She also told of bankers coming to try to foreclose on her land and people trying to take her children. She stood firm, shotgun in hand.
Grandma helped deliver babies back then and I think was present at the time of my birth in the house across the street from her own where my Aunt Nettie and Uncle Earl lived. This was in 1940.
Grandma had a little house of three rooms when I first remember going to her house. My Uncle Dick lived with her. He was still suffering the effects of Malaria and had a hard time getting around without a cane and sometimes two. She cared for him daily. She had a bedroom, kitchen, and living room. At one side of the living room was the bed and dresser for my uncle. They had no inside bathroom at that time and it was only a short time before I left Minnesota in 1973 that they had a toilet installed at one end of her bedroom. It was a crowded little house, and yet there was always room for company. It was also around that time that they changed the “pitcher” pump for a pressure pump. I don’t remember her ever having a hot water heater.
Grandma Brown & Uncle Dick Brown
Grandma and Uncle Dick raised a large vegetable garden every year. There wasn’t a weed in it. I’d see her out with the hand pushed cultivator cleaning the rows between the veggies. Most nights you could also hear the water being pumped through the garden hose to water the garden, after the pressure pump came into being. Then when harvest time would come she would can the vegetables, pickle most everything that could be pickled, and make jellies, relishes, chow chow, and also can fruits that they had picked and some they bought at the store. All of these things, plus potatoes, onions, squash, and melons, were stored in the little cellar under the kitchen. When he could, Uncle Dick would catch lots of fish, hunt deer, and raise chickens so they would have meat to add to their diet. My favorite Christmas gift from her would be a pint jar of wild plum butter.
Flowers were also a joy in her life. She would make little flowerbeds in the sand and coax many kinds of flowers into life. She took great pride in raising beautiful gladiolas, dahlias, pinks, pansies, and others. What a special day when you were presented with one of her prize flowers as a gift.
For many years, Grandma would bake her own bread. Her fingers were gnarled and sore from Arthritis, but she kneaded the bread dough anyway. I t was a great treat to have Grandma’s home made bread toasted with peanut butter on it. I t was only later in her life that I would encourage her to buy bread from the store so her hands wouldn’t hurt so badly.
Grandma always saw too it that we had something to eat if we went to her house. There were times when we came home from school at noon and there would be no lunch – No one home. We would go over to her house and she would fix us something and send us back to school. There were times when Mom would go to her for something to feed us kids. I regret the times when she would send something over in her canning jars, and we would not wash it but just put it out behind the house. Then she would have to come and get them and wash them up to save for next falls canning season.
Another thing my grandma did was make hand made quilts. She had a treadle sewing machine and did a lot of the stitching by hand. She made use of many old clothes. Instead of just throwing them away, she would put them in a quilt. I t was quite often that you would see a piece of your old dress in one of grandma’s quilts.
She would become upset when we would take them out in the yard and sun bathe. Not only because we were getting the quilts dirty, but that we were “half naked” in our bathing suits. How I wish I had one of them now. It would never be used outside on the grass. It is because of her being a Christian that I am today. She led us to Sunday school and taught us from the Bible. She not only talked being a Christian, but she lived what she talked. I have never met a person so trustworthy in my whole life. You could tell her something and it never went any further. She didn’t gossip at all. She would never take anything that didn’t belong to her either. When Mom lived in Mound, Minnesota, she would come to visit Grandma on the weekends. She would bring food to be used while there and occasionally there would be some left over. I t took a lot of talking for me to convince her that Mom wanted her to use up what was left over so it didn’t go to waste. She would say, “That belongs to your mother.”
The strength she had never ceased to amaze me. One time she had a headache and was laying on the couch. She took some liniment and was rubbing it on her forehead. Some ran down into her eye and started burning. Quietly she got up and went to the sink to wash it out. Never a peep out of her. We finally realized what had happened and helped her wash it out of her eye.
Not being able, as a young lady, to go to school she wasn’t well educated. She would send us to the store with her “shopping bag” and a “list” of things she needed. We would always chuckle as we tried to figure out what she needed. She wrote things as they sounded to her and that would sometimes be bred, mlk, egs, serel, and other staples. I n spite of not being educated she was a member of the Woman’s Relief Corp, the Assembly of God Church, and other organizations. She read her Bible as best she could, memorizing many verses and chapters.
She truly loved each one of us kids. She became our source of comfort and security. She was always there for us. As I became older and would bring my own children to visit her, I acquired many memories. We would prepare a meal and then I would help her with the dishes. She would hold the dishpan in her lap and wash and I would dry and put away. The heat from the dishpan helped ease the pain in her legs and the hot water helped with her hands. After we would get everything put away, she and I would sit with a cup of tea and visit. How I loved those times of fellowship with her.
Grandma also loved my children very much. I t would tickle me when she would call my son Forrest so many different names trying to say it right. Sometimes he was Forrester, Foster, Foister, and then she might get it right. When he was just a baby, she thought he had fingers long enough to be a piano player some day. Tim, she called “the investigator.” She knew him quite well as he grew up loving to take things apart. Renee, her “pretty little girl” and Todd was the baby.
We never went to Grandma’s that she didn’t want us to spend the night. She said she would make a bed on the floor for us. She didn’t want us to go home in the dark. That is one of the reasons that when my Uncle Dick said that we were coming too often, that it was too hard on grandma that it broke my heart. I don’t think she would have been happy knowing he had told me that. She loved having us come.
It was a sad day when we moved from Minnesota to Idaho and I had to say goodbye to my dear grandmother. I was visiting her and telling her how afraid I was to fly. I just knew that I would die in a plane crash. She reassured me, telling me I was going to be just fine She hugged me and told me she loved me, and that God did too and He would look out for me. I left her with a longing and sadness in my heart over leaving her behind. Years passed and we had moved to Alaska. She had moved from her little home to a nursing home. When I was able to come back to see her I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see her again and feel her love. I t was not to be. My sister, Barbie, and I went to the nursing home and Barbie said to her, you remember Shari don’t you grandma? She said yes, and turned away from me, talking about Barbie picking a bouquet of flowers out of her Poinsettia plant. She was in another dimension. She didn’t know me anymore. It broke my heart.
I wasn’t able to come back for her funeral. She died on Mother’s Day in 1983. Gone to be with her heavenly father. The one she had served all of her life. Our loss was Heaven’s gain and I’m sure the angels welcomed her with open arms for she truly was one of them.
Mary Elizabeth and Arthur Durwood Brown
Children born to them were:
I have never been on a genealogical research trip. Certainly, I’ve had a desire to go to the
Family History Center in Salt Lake City, the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the
National Archives in Washington DC, but until now, I’ve never had a compelling reason for such a
It all started with a photo. When my great aunt passed away, my 1st
cousin, once removed, (Beverly) received a large number of photos that my great
grandmother had. Within that set of photos was one of my grandfather as a young
man, part of a basketball team. A photo I had never seen, nor had my cousin until she received the package.
1928 Corozal (Panama Canal Zone) Basketball Champions Source: Family photos from either Dick Brown or Mary Manning Brown.
It is clearly a military basketball team and Grandpa Dick was part of that team — The Corozal 1928 Champions. That begged the question where was Corozal. A Google search found several Corozals;
however, the one in the Canal Zone, Panama was the obvious location. First of all, there was an Army post there and
second, family history and other research indicated that my grandparents, Donna
& Dick, had met in Panama City, Panama. I’ve always wondered if Dick and Donna got together after his military service or if Donna took another trip to Panama that I don’t know of. (She is known to have been in Panama in 1930 but my mother was conceived in 1931.)
I tried to find Dick’s military records before and
learned they were, apparently, lost in the disastrous 1973 fire at the National
Personnel Records Center. Legends about my grandfather Dick abound regarding
him possibly being in Military Intelligence, about his changing his name while
in the service because of his being some kind of spy and that his surname of
Durand came from that time. There are also stories that his first name change came from his military service, but I don’t believe that to be the case. In either event, I thought
that without his service record we’d probably never know the truth.
It looks like I may be wrong. The National Archives has “RECORDS OF U.S.
ARMY COMMANDS IN PANAMA 1915-40” and 49 linear feet of those
records. Now I expect that the vast majority
of the records are General correspondence, Reports, bulletins, circulars, and
information about the Canal, however, there is one part of the records that
contains General correspondence and orders of Corozal, 1917-39. Maybe I’ll learn what years Dick was in Panama.
Wow! I now know my
grandfather was in Panama in 1928 and in 1931 and that he was, at least, in
Corozal in 1928 and probably there for the entire three years and there are
many records regarding orders and information about the command. I just need to
get to the National Archives to fill in lots of the details of his life there.
National Archives, College Park, MD
The National Archives in College Park, MD appears to be the
repository for 1,188 still pictures. Maybe there are photos of his basketball team
from other years. I know my grandfather
played baseball in later years and was, or so they say, really good. Maybe there are team photos of him as well.
I’m excited. I just can’t believe there won’t be something in the over 3,500
cubic feet of information at the Archives (Washington & College Park) that
will shed light upon this time in his life and upon his military service.
I’m excited to plan a trip.
I can go to the National Archives I can spend the day, maybe two or three (taking the shuttle to College Park one of those days) and my
wife can spend her time at the National Gallery only a block away.
I find Facebook to be one of the absolute best resources I’ve ever used for research. A few months ago I was able to “friend” a first cousin once removed. “BLZ’s” mother, Delores, and my grandfather were siblings. As such, she is a contemporary with my mother. She also lived near my grandfather and great grandmother for many years and had her own stories. She also has some of the old records and writings of her mother, Delores, and her grandmother (my great-grandmother) Mary Brown. I wrote Delores in 2001 and received a wonderful letter that I’ve incorporated into my research long ago. I found out from BLZ that her mother wrote another letter, this time for her children, in 2005; of which, my cousin scanned and sent me a copy. This 2005 letter included many new (to me) tidbits of information regarding family. I admit I have a difficult time using old handwritten documents so I transcribed it for my use.
There are many new tidbits of information. One of the best was my grandfather’s middle name. He changed his name from Clifford D. Brown to Richard Earl Durand to Richard Earl Brown. I have never found a document which included his “D.” middle name. Delores’ letter is the first place I’ve ever seen a middle name for him — Durwood. Durwood fits as it was his father’s middle name. There is also mention of a great grand uncle, Robert Manning, that I had never heard of before. I knew that a Robert J Manning lived with Enoch, Minerva, Mary, and Phoebe as shown in th 1885 Minnesota Census but I never knew the relationship. So, it appears that all three children were living with their grandparents in 1885. I learned the occupations of several great uncles and the surname of the man Adia/Ada married. All-in-all a very helpful letter.
If you are able to connect with a cousin, start with sharing photos or stories, eventually, you may find the cousin has fresh documents you haven’t seen before. Cousins can be great resource to enhance your understand and knowledge of your family.
Below is a copy of the letter and my transcript. There are a couple of words I can’t quite make out, so, anyone who wants to help please feel free to comment. I have also highlighted new tidbits of information.
— — — — — — (Page 1) — — — — — —
April 4th, 2005
Delores Pribbenow Letter
Page 1 Dated April 4, 2005
I, Delores Sarah Pribbenow, being of sound mind do write this truth for my children to refer to:
I was born the 11/7/1917 to Arthur Durwood Brown and Mary Elizabeth Manning. Mary was born 1876 April 17, lived to be 107. She died on mothers Day. Born 1876 in Kernsville, Kentucky, maiden name Manning. Art was born in Lansing Michigan, they had twelve children raised 10 to adulthood. Two died as infants (Dorothy & Martin) of measles. Children are as follows: Clyde Leroy B. Clarence Andrew B, Victoria Cocialia, Cora Elsie, Clifford (Dick) Durwood, Edward, Louis B., Arthur Eugene B. Charles W B. Delores Sarah, Nettie Mae Viola, the youngest. My mom passed away in Bethany Home in Brainerd. My father passed away in Walker Minn. in hospital, I remember it well. My momn& I camped on the campgrounds at Leach Lake to be near him at his last moment. He died in the night time during a terrific storm. Power was all out. So we didn’t hear until morning when we went to see him, we transported his body by train to Sylvan depot and he was buried in Sylvan or Gull River Cemetery. My Dad, Arthur had surgery in Brainerd for Gall Stones and appendicitis, never recovered his health. Doctored in Rochester, Mayo Clinic, and other doctors ended up in Walker. No help. I’m sure it was cancer he had yellow jaundice and lot of pain with chills, he kept is appendix and gall
[———– Next sheet (Page 2) ————-]
Delores Pribbenow Letter
Page 2 – Source: BLZ
bladder & stones in a glass jar until his death. My memories of him are seeing him sitting in a chair braced up against a tree with a straw hat on and smoking a corn cob pipe. Also walking with hands clasp behind his back – while viewing his crops in the field. We raised cucumbers for the Heinz pickle company acres and acres of them. Back breaking job to get them ready to sell. We lived many miles from towns had to transport by team & wagon at least twenty miles one way. My mother had one sister Phoebie and a half brother Robert Manning.
My dad had many Sisters and Brothers, ???? I remember them
“ Clifford – Wife Lou Lou
“ Edward – farmer wife Dora
“ Fred was a barber – wife Anna
“ Charlie – A cook – Minnie his wife
Aunt – Ada – husband Ben Mayers – a lawyer owned an island in Gull Lake also a gold mine
In the old days they had a child every 9 months it seemed up to a dozen and they continued to rename the child after the aunts and uncles – making it very confusing. I had many uncles and cousins I never ever met.
[———– Next sheet (Page 3) ————-]
Delores Pribbenow Letter
Page 2 – Source: BLZ
My Mothers Sister Phoebe Brown, Richmond. Sisters married Brothers, my uncle Clyde Brown, my dads brother married my mothers sister Phoebe. They had two children, Stella Brown Barnet, Henry Brown – They were my double cousins. Then Uncle Clyde was crushed between to box cars on the M N I rail road he was a brake men, Phoebe later remarried to William Richmond they had Billie, Mahala, Norman, George Herbert Jim Gilbert uncle Will R. died and Phoebe remarried to Milo Upton.
Uncle Bob Mannings wife was Martha – She died in the State of Washington they had sons named Grant & Herbert, that I new
Uncle Ed Brown died of cancer – had button put in this throat talked there that also my Brother Ed had the same thing many years later – Cancer has taken all of my family – I am the only one left.