My Aunt & I Solved the 100-Year-Old Mystery of My Great-Grandfather’s Identity

The story of Jessica Stanmeyer’s great-grandparents is straight from the flicks: intrigue, secrets and techniques, homicide, betrayal, forbidden romance — it’s received all of it. MyHeritage person Jessica, 57, from Wisconsin, U.S., collectively along with her Aunt Sharyn, managed to unravel the 100-year-old thriller of her great-grandfather’s identification utilizing a mix of DNA, family tree, and a few sleuthing. That is her story:

Jessica Stanmeyer

Jessica Stanmeyer

My grandma, Esther “Sanie” Mertes, was born within the higher peninsula of Michigan in January 1916. Her mom, Florence “Florrie” Mertes, was solely 19 and single on the time of Sanie’s start. Florence had been orphaned on the age of 13 after each her mother and father have been killed: her father supposedly died in a farming accident in 1900 when a hay press “fell” on him, and her mom was killed by her second husband in 1909. The homicide was splashed everywhere in the headlines on the time. It’s been speculated that the second husband killed her first husband to be able to marry her, however that was by no means confirmed.

Jessica Stanmeyer’s grandmother Sanie as a baby, held by Sanie’s mother, Florence

Jessica Stanmeyer’s grandmother Sanie as a child, held by Sanie’s mom, Florence

The next 12 months, Florence married Charles Wilkings, a pleasant, respectable widower. It was a rocky relationship. Charles was a very good husband and father, however Florrie had an eye fixed for different males and by no means appreciated Charles based on my grandma. She let Sanie imagine that Charles was her father till sooner or later her mom knowledgeable her that he was not. My grandma cherished Charles and was devastated. From my grandma’s memoirs:

“In 1929, once I was 13, Mother instructed me I used to be not Charles’s daughter, however the illegitimate offspring of a liaison between her and one Roy Allie. I used to be shattered. The blight of my start didn’t matter an excessive amount of, however that I didn’t belong to ‘Dad’ whom I cherished and that Florrie, whom I hated, was my actual mom was greater than I might bear. I sat in surprised silence as Mother instructed me about my father and his household. She despatched me to her trunk within the attic to search for my father’s image. I searched a number of occasions, however by no means discovered it.”

On a couple of event, Florrie was dishonest, so my grandma by no means actually knew for sure that Roy was her father. A number of details concerning the man appeared off: he was French, blond, medium body, preferred to prepare dinner, was a partier. My grandma was none of these items. She yearned to press her mother for extra particulars, and at last, within the Seventies, she confronted her mother, eager to know extra, and Florrie blurted out that Roy was not her father. By the point my grandma handed in 2007, she gave up hope that she’d ever know the identification of her actual father.

Jessica’s grandmother Sanie on her wedding day

Jessica’s grandmother Sanie on her wedding ceremony day


Down the DNA rabbit gap

That is the place the current DNA expertise actually helped our household remedy this household thriller. Round 2017, my father, Sanie’s oldest son, was gifted a DNA take a look at. My grandma had researched our household tree extensively. She knew of her mom’s deep German roots. My dad’s father, Vladimir Floriani, had deep Croatian roots. The one piece that was unknown was the French aspect of our household — if, certainly, Roy was her father.

To everybody’s shock, my dad’s outcomes confirmed that he was almost 25% Finnish! His sister, Sharyn, intrigued, additionally examined and received related outcomes. Our household was shocked, however knew that the Finnish within the outcomes should be from Sanie’s father’s aspect. That’s what led Sharyn and I to dig deeper to see if we might truly discover his identification.

Jessica’s Aunt Sharyn

Jessica’s Aunt Sharyn

Aunt Sharyn and I have been full novices at family tree. All we knew was that we have been searching for a Finnish man who lived within the UP that would have fathered Sanie. We used the recommendation of the massive community of individuals on websites like MyHeritage,, and Fb teams to learn to establish good matches.

I took the advice that we should always focus solely on the strongest Finnish matches to my father and Sharyn. I then used MyHeritage’s AutoClusters software to attempt to work out how these matches have been associated to 1 one other. By means of the assistance of our community, we have been in a position to recreate lots of their household bushes till sooner or later, I spotted what number of of them have been linked.

We rapidly started working combing via their household tree to discover a man who would have match the standards we have been searching for. Due to the DNA matches, we knew there have been total branches we might ignore as a result of the DNA matches on that department have been too distant for the person to be a part of that a part of the tree. I additionally used a likelihood software to attempt to slender down which department to give attention to.

Jessica’s aunt and dad

Jessica’s aunt and pa

We lastly homed in on one man, Johannes Pakarinen, who met the standards — however his path dried up. He solely had a spouse, Jennie, and a son, Levi, who appeared to have spent his life in an establishment. We couldn’t discover any extra details about them, so there was no one alive to ask extra.

Happily, Johannes’ sister, Alma, had a grandson that was nonetheless residing. His identify was Arto Helenus and he lived in Finland. Once more, with the assistance of the community on MyHeritage, we have been in a position to acquire a telephone quantity and one other myHeritage member and shut DNA match supplied to name and ask him to check for us if we despatched him a take a look at. He agreed and he examined with myHeritage. Weeks later we acquired the outcomes that he shared 257 cm, the biggest match we received up to now. We knew we had hit the correct department.

The story of Johannes

Whereas this match strongly supported our concept, we nonetheless wished extra strong proof and to know what occurred to Johannes and household.

We came upon his spouse had a sister, and my Aunt Sharyn was in a position to join with a relative who occurred to have notes from an uncle about Johannes and Jennie Pakarinen. His info indicated that Johannes and Jennie had 4 kids: Mamie, John, Martha, and Levi. It was a heartbreaking story: Johannes had abandoned his spouse round 1910 or 1911, and Jennie was compelled to work to assist them, however ended up dying of pneumonia in 1919. The kids got here to stay with Jennie’s sister for some time.

We realized that their son, John, was adopted by a household in Michigan. Sisters Mamie and Martha went on to marry and the youngest, Levi, was institutionalized. Later, we realized he by no means spoke — maybe from early childhood trauma? Mamie was solely married a couple of years earlier than she divorced. Martha went on to have 5 kids, after which she was institutionalized. We ultimately came upon that Martha was later launched from the establishment and went on to have another son in 1952: Paul Warrick.

Sharyn linked with Paul via Fb who knew little about his household. He simply knew that his mom had a traumatic upbringing and by no means talked about it. She suffered from postpartum melancholy and was institutionalized and missed elevating her kids. Her husband insisted on bringing her dwelling, and that’s when she wished another baby — Paul. He instructed us their household cared for his mother’s sister, Mamie, after her divorce, and he additionally cared for his a lot older siblings.

Paul agreed to take a DNA take a look at. It revealed he was a half-first cousin to Sharyn and my Dad.

We knew we had sufficient proof to say that Johannes was my grandma’s father.

Whereas we now have not met Paul but, each Sharyn and my dad have talked to him at size, and he’s been key in filling in some household tales that had been lacking all these years.

Sadly, we don’t know what occurred to Johannes Pakarinen. Paul mentioned it was rumored that he stayed in higher Michigan, as individuals recall seeing him at native bars. There are some WWI and WWII registration playing cards we discovered on-line of a farmhand who has an identical identify and makes use of the identical birthdate, born in the identical small city as Johannes, however we will’t make sure it was him. Finnish church data point out there was just one Johannes Pakarinen born in that city that 12 months.

I assume realizing what occurred to him isn’t as necessary. It simply would have been good.

Both means, I’m simply shocked that a few novices like ourselves might remedy this loopy household thriller. I solely want my grandma would have been alive to be part of it.

Many because of Jessica for sharing her unbelievable story with us! You don’t need to be an knowledgeable to make wonderful discoveries utilizing MyHeritage DNA. Order your kit now to begin discovering!

The put up My Aunt & I Solved the 100-Year-Old Mystery of My Great-Grandfather’s Identity appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.