07 August 2017

Madness Monday - My Gypsie Roots

Family roots are never simple lines, they are always tangles. Recently my mother did her DNA, and her ethnicity was really no surprise to me. Though I had not found her Irish immigrant ancestor, I didn't doubt that he and/or she was back there somewhere. A short red head with a fiery personality and a maiden name of Roe screamed Irish to me. It turns out that yes she is about one-quarter Irish, but the question was, from where?

The research began years ago on my mother's paternal line. One of my first posts about my grandfather Von Joseph "Rusty" Roe was the WWII Records, 1973 Fire, written in February 2007. Sadly the discovery of this news closed some doors that would have afforded me the opportunity to get to know the man I never knew. I was about two years old when my Grandpa Roe died, so I do not remember him. I did, however, learn bits and pieces from my mother, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Dawna, his three daughters. Through them, I was able to compile the details in the previously mentioned blog post. I knew his father was Frank Roe, and through Aunt Mary I learned that Frank had a brother Piere, but we didn't know who their parents were.

In March of 2009 some two years later I made a small break through. I found a census record, which did finally tell me Frank's parents were Jerry and Rachell Roe, and that he had one more baby brother we knew nothing about. Though from the census I now knew there were still two more siblings we didn't know. I had spent countless hours researching this family over those two years, and all I came up with was a census record?! Seriously, I was perplexed. This was the only line of my family at this point that I wasn't at least four generations deep from my parents! I was frustrated. That's when I wrote my fourth "Madness Monday" post "Madness Monday - Jerry Roe born abt 1861". By this time I was seriously mad with frustration. 

This family was so elusive that I couldn't seem to find anything more. I sent off to Oklahoma archives trying to locate possible death records, birth records I knew would be useless, and even obtained a copy of the Dawes Rolls to search, since Rachell, the mother of my great-grandfather Frank, had claimed to be half Chippewa Indian. That's right, if this were true, this fair-complected red-head would be 1/32 Native American. 

For years this really seemed to be a mystery I would never solve. A year or so after I found the census record I finally came across a marriage record for a Rachel Mason and J.J. Roe in Missouri. I knew in my heart it had to be them, but there was still no definitive proof. Then suddenly in 2012, there was a Find-A-Grave memorial for a Rachel Roe in Ponce City, Oklahoma. Finally, something more. This told me she was born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1861, which I knew from the census that she was born in Canada, but still nothing on Jerry. Even to this day, I have never found what happened to Jerry.

Once again my research would stall for years, then I lost my job, went back to school, and life got crazy. Recently, however, the brick wall has begun to crumble. I bought a DNA test through Ancestry.com and asked my mom if she would do a DNA test. She was more than happy to do so, as she had been curious recently and was hoping I would find more. While we waited impatiently for her tests to come back this past spring, I had spring break where I finally had some time away from homework to do some research. 

I began looking at Piere and Frank's brother Jaybird, the baby. I never understood why my mom and her sisters never knew anything about him. In the recent years, Missouri has done a fabulous job of making its records available online. In my week of research, I came across a 1930 census showing Jay Roe as a patient at the Central Oklahoma State Hospital. I also found his death certificate in Missouri showing that he had died 27 May 1932 in Vernon, Missouri. He died of Tetanus, caused by an accidental burn on his lower limb, and once again his residence was at the State Hospital #3 in Vernon, Missouri. I knew there had to be a story on this. I then looked for a newspaper article. I can't find it today, but I do remember reading that he had a seizure and fell in the fire, burning his leg severely, which would later result in his death. 

Well, that explained what happened to Jaybird and why the sisters never knew about him. It's very likely my own grandfather didn't know about his uncle. That still, however, didn't shed any light on who Rachell and Jerry were or where they came from. For that answer, I would have to wait until we got back my mother's DNA test.

Finally, after waiting two months we had her DNA test back, but as luck would have it, I was in the middle of finals so it would have to wait. Mid-May came and I was now a graduate with a degree as a paralegal, now it was time to get back to my real passion. One of the first mysteries I tackled was my mother's paternal line. 

First I connected to a 2nd cousin to my mother, only to not hear from her after a short while, but then came the most important connection, Ronda Krug. Ronda showed up as a 3rd - 4th cousin. There wasn't a lot of names on her tree, but one certainly caught my attention, Jess Johnathon Roe. When I contacted Ronda she responded back and was excited to compare notes on our Roe ancestry. However, she asked me one strange question that caught me off guard, "did your mom speak Romani and was your mom and dad both gypsy?" Did my family what?! Are you serious? I wasn't put off by the idea, it actually intrigued me, but I would have never thought to even look in that direction because my family had never spoken of it. 

The more I thought about what she asked, the more it began to make sense. It was that one little question that got me thinking and prompted me to look at my mother's paternal line in a whole new light. One that would bring the wall crashing down. Now it all made sense. I always wondered why and what would prompt my mother's great grandparents to move all over the country. Rachell was born in Canada, Jerry in Iowa, they were married in Missouri, Frank was born in Iowa or Missouri, Piere was born in Minnesota, and Jaybird was born in Kansas. That has to be it. They were Gypsies!

There was still a part that was nagging me that didn't make sense. The distant cousins that my mother shares DNA with that are Roe descendants of one Jeremiah Roe born in 1750 Ireland were well-established members of society and none of them show signs of being Gypsies or even moving much. Most of them settled in Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. Well, there are those two states again, Minnesota and Iowa, but for the life of me, I still have yet to discover how and where my Jerry Roe fits into this family tree. I have rebuilt a family tree for the descendants of Jeremiah Roe, well mostly, it's still a work in progress, and yet I still don't see a connection; however, I share a connection with many descendants of Jerimiah Roe. 

Eventually, I decided the Roe's were not my Gypsie roots. It had to be Rachel that came from that life style. I then turned my attention to Rachel Mason. After I compared more DNA matches, I was convinced that Rachel was the daughter of Frederick Mason and Sarah Rinehart I also looked at Rinehart DNA connection and a few have their Rinehart line that traces to John Rinehart 1814-1881, and some of them have Sarah the wife of Frederick Mason in their tree. The most important connection was Nancy, who not only matched my mom, but also matched Ronda. Her family had put down roots, but she remembered the Mason "traveler cousins" as she called the coming to visit on their way back and forth from Canada to Oklahoma. I shifted gears and focused on the Mason line in the hopes that it would lead me to our connection between Jerry Roe and his ancestors I know he descends from Jeremiah Roe the Irish immigrant. 

When I came across this amazing gem, it all made perfect sense.

Then when I read the margin I wrote this to Ronda and the rest of my cousins who had been following my journey at this point;
OMG! OMG! I'm doing the happy dance and my co-workers are laughing at me! This is Rachel Mason's family. She is on the first line of the next page, but I copied this page because of what it says in the margin, "These families have been camping here for the last few weeks." OMG! Ronda Krug this is more proof of the gypsie connection and now I believe my theory is correct. I think Jerry Roe was not a Gypsie because I'm finding no evidence of any of the Roe family being gypsies. For generations, they were well-established members of their communities, but I suspected that Jerry married a gypsie and then began to travel with her family. The Mason's are where our Gypsie roots come from!!!!!!!!!
It got better when I read the margin on the next page:

"These families have been camping in the city for some weeks. Some of them claim to be Cherokee Indian and others claim to be gypsie. I perhaps one many may be Indian. The women are all darker than the men. They may be Indian and gypsie mixed."
There it is, not only the Gypsie, but the Native American connection. My mom's DNA tells me she wasn't Native American, but this tells me that she likely could pull it off because of her looks.

It was a beautiful moment. The journey will continue, but I may never have made this breakthrough without DNA. 

10 June 2017

I'm Back! And This Time Armed with DNA!

Life sometimes has a way of throwing you curve balls and you either strike out or you knock it out of the park. Two and a half years ago it was announced that my current employer would be closing our plant. I had a choice, either I could go on the hunt for another job and likely lose ground with the kind of pay I was making at the time, or I could put in two years of hard work, work part time for lower pay, tighten the budget, and get my degree so that I would finally have a chance at a better future. I choose to go back to school. With the help of my wonderfully supportive family I made it, and now I have an amazing future and I love what I'm doing as a paralegal.

The hardest part of going to school was resisting the urge to be pulled into solving another family mystery, especially when my in-law and then my parent's DNA tests came back before I was done with school. That was so hard to not dig in and focus on my priorities first.

Having our autosomal DNA done has begun to break down some brick walls, not only for us but for other people as well. The first wall to crumble was for someone else. His name is Anthony and he contacted me about eight months ago. I explained to him that I was focused on school, but certainly willing to help him if he could wait until I was on Winter Break. He agreed and patiently waited for me to get back to him. While I was on Winter Break he and I emailed almost daily regarding the Ward's in my father-in-law's family. He had told me that he and several other family members had done their DNA and had a surprising story to tell me. It turned out that one of my father-in-law's ancestors had left his first wife, which explains why I could never find his death record, changed his name slightly and had a whole other family with another woman. He probably would have never been able to solve that mystery if it were not for DNA.

The next mystery on the demolition list was my father's 2x great grandfather. He was a man that ran away from home and disowned and even denied his parents. Through DNA we have proven the connection to his Aunt's descendants. I still want to try and get the descendants of his half siblings to do DNA to have a more definitive connection, but I'm pretty certain we have proven who the parents of William G Woolsey are because of DNA.

Right now I am eyeballs deep in a new mystery that seems to crumble a little more each day. I have been searching for my mother's great grandparent's families prior to their marriage. When my mother did her DNA, I was able to find that all Roes that we connected to descended from one Jeremiah Roe who immigrated from Ireland where he was born in 1750. Right now I am compiling a tree of all of his descendants. It's hard because I have some gaps between siblings where I think there are other children that I am missing because the records were very sparse then. So far I have not been able to find the exact branch of the Roe family that my 2x great grandfather Jerry Roe belongs to, but I will. I have, however, had a breakthrough on his wife, Rachel Mason.

DNA helped me make a connect with several Roe cousins, very closely related actually. I started a facebook group for all of us so that we could exchange stories and photos. One of the things I learned is that the oldest brother of my great-grandfather continue to live the Gypsie life that he had learned from his parents and passed it down to his descendants, unlike my great grandfather who left that life behind. Well heck, that explains it all! No wonder I couldn't trace the family or find them in most census records, and the children I knew of are all born in a different state! With that in mind I also used our DNA to see who we shared in common with the last name of Mason, and again a particular family kept popping up. This family turned out to be Rachel's parents, and the best part is I finally found a census of her with her parents, and in the margin was a notation about a group of families that were traveling together as Gypsies! That's it!

Now I have a theory I'm pursuing on my Roe connection to solve who the parents of Jerry Roe were. I hate to keep all of you in suspense, not really I've been in suspense for twelve years, but I'll have to report back when I do finally solve this mystery and I'll have to write more about Rachel's story.