by: Allen Holleman
In mid-March 2016, while in the final stages of planning for the Hollyman family gathering, I was contacted through Ancestry DNA by a woman who was a match to me. I had seen the match, and there was one other with the Holleman name as part of the ID and numbers of others who have Holleman lineages listed.
I’ll call her Susie, as that is what she’s always been known by. But I’ll not identify anyone directly, for privacy reasons.
Susie related that she was born in Florida in 1956 and immediately adopted. She grew up in south Florida, went to Auburn University, met her husband when he was in medical school, and has lived in Birmingham, Alabama since. They have four beautiful daughters who are all educated and with established families of their own.
Her daughters had given her the DNA test as gift because she was curious about her origins but was not looking for her birth-parents. She had never known the name of Holleman and wondered how she might fit into this family if indeed she did. She had close matches to three of us plus others with Holleman lineages. After looking closer I responded that she indeed seemed to be a Holleman cousin. We corresponded more after the Hollyman Gathering in VA and got very comfortable with each other. Besides emails, we had quite a few phone conversations.
With the strongest matches being in a great-uncle’s line, she appeared to be there. I contacted some cousins, and two brothers had a memory from their mother about such an event. I remained in contact while they discretely inquired. This was quite sensitive and required a lot of delicacy.
Indeed what they heard from their mother seemed to be correct. It seems all of the females in the line were aware, even those too young at that time to have the full story. It appeared certain that it was not one of the younger girls but their aunt who was 32 and unmarried then. The aunt did marry later, in the 1960s, and had two sons; that made discretion even more imperative. I remained the only contact for now and tried to keep her insulated and to soothe any speculations from the daughters, although Susie remained quite patient even with as little as I had given.
While the cousins worked on how to handle the discussions and revealing details, I worked on the DNA matches. When it was certain where Susie fit with records and DNA confirmation, the two sons were delicately advised. The younger brother was so ecstatic about having a sister, he called Susie to tell her what we had found. He then flew to Birmingham to meet her. At first the older brother was so taken aback he wasn't quite ready to accept it. After a few weeks, he had become more accepting and has now welcomed Susie enthusiastically. Their Mother passed away in 2005.
In late July, Susie's travel plans allowed her to come to Raleigh and a 'reunion' was planned and she, her husband and three of the daughters have been officially welcomed and all are thoroughly charmed with these new cousins.
There are many factors in DNA but cM is an effective measure of relativity. Basically by analysis finding exact copies of segments of the first 22 chromosomes that two (or more) people have. The measurement is in cM (centiMorgans, named for the scientist who developed the process). Adding those gives the total cM - the measurement we use. Chromosome 23 determines gender.
Several other cousins also quickly tested at Ancestry, the results were soon returned. The DNA matches found were pretty conclusive early on. Mine with her is 2nd cousin: 251.9 cM. The two cousins who got the details confirmed each match her in the 840-50 cM range as 1st cousins and with each other as brothers at 2667 cM. Susie’s match with her (half-) brother is 1670 cM.
I had mentioned another match, and when I advised Susie that he is a professor at the University of Alabama Law School, she said, “My daughter is graduating there next week!” It turns out that the daughter did not have classes with him but does know him, and I encouraged contact and for Susie to meet him as well and tell him her story. In the meantime, he and I made contact. I didn’t get an impression that he was going to reply quickly, so I gave him enough to pique his interest and a little background. He now has the full story after contacting his mother and cousins and he is as excited and enthusiastic as the rest of us. Their match is at 535cM.
I am so pleased that I could put bits and pieces together and get this story on to a happy new beginning.
I never expected DNA to play such an important role in our family but it certainly has made a believer out of me!
As this is an encouragement for DNA testing as well as a wonderful story, I want to add a post-script on two other findings.
My Mother was a Jones and I was having difficulties in connecting any beyond my Great Grand Father but I contacted a match and found her mother has traced the Jones and Canada families of North Carolina and Virginia to 1800.
The second was just this week (Sept 2016) in emails with a 55 cM match that felt promising. We compared notes on lineages and found a common connection to my GGM's Olive lines. Her folks had done much research. Our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) is James Olive, b. 1713 in Virginia. We both got a lot of Olive DNA to match at 55cM 9 generations (for her, 7 for me) back. And I now have the Olives back to 1646 in Virginia.
Our primary research is still genealogical through records but genetic genealogy through DNA is becoming more important all the time. We encourage DNA testing, you never know what - or who - you may find.