The hidden face

“Katheryn,” ca. 1920.

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.


[1] State of Kansas, Standard Certificate of Birth, for the female child born to Opal Ray Young 2 December 1914.

[2] Jeffery Record, Closed Doors, Vita Brevis, 16 March 2017.

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.

17 thoughts on “The hidden face

  1. A wonderful story, and exciting miracle like results for you, especially given the sad time you have just gone through. But please, would you share the details on the analysis by your “rock star” friend? How did he isolate your GGrandfather using the DNA?

  2. Yes, a good story. I love hearing about people who find relatives through DNA and are happy about it,
    Also, I agree with Carole; please let us in on the process your friend used!

  3. Have you been able to the biological great grandparent’s family history…what ethnic derivation is he, and did you find anything interesting about his ancestors? This reminds me of that episode of finding your roots were Tea Leone’s Biological grandparents were found through DNA

  4. Please add me to the list of amazed readers wondering how your friend could find “some unusual certainty in (the DNA results) … and isolated the name of (your) grandmother’s biological father” in about 15 distracted minutes.

    Is your friend also related to your great grandfather?

  5. I always enjoy your writing. Thank you for telling this story. I am so curious to know if we have shared roots. I have Ogles in my ancestry starting with my 2nd great grandmother Nancy Ogle. I also have ancestors in Kansas on my father’s side. I also have a mystery ancestor on my mother’s side which you inspire me to try to find through DNA.

    1. Why did your grandfather not show up on your DNA?? My father is my mystery. I found out after he passed that he was not who he said he was, which makes me not who I thought my name was. No DNA because i am female.

      1. My brick wall is my 3rd great grandfather who was born in 1818. He received an early land grant in Arkansas. I haven’t been able to find his parents. I’ve done my DNA, but don’t have the male DNA. Don’t know any male descendants that I can ask for DNA.

  6. I loved hearing your story and success with DNA in locating a “lost” grandfather. I have the exact same situation with my deceased husband’s grandfather and just gave my son a DNA test for Christmas this year. I hope we have the same results because apparently this grandfather changed his name when he moved out West from Massachusettes and then disappeared after his wife bore their 3rd child in 1914.

  7. Loved hearing your story, especially since it was so similar to mine. Last year after many, many years of searching I was finally able to find my unknown great grandfather thru DNA. After locating him everything else fell into place and it all made sense. While DNA provided the means of finding him, the paper trail provided the rest of the story.

  8. Well done, Jeff! You captured the mystery of him and the excitement at the discovery. Your stories of our family are very entertaining!

  9. This is beautiful, Jeff. It really does seem, sometimes, like those who have gone on before us can communicate somehow. It’s a great gift to find these connections. … I think this knowledge expands us and makes us more…

  10. I too would love to hear how the connection was made that quickly (or at all). My mother had two illegitimate grandparents and I have no idea who either father is, and there are no male lines to check Y-DNA. Autosomal has, to date, been unhelpful.

  11. Jeff, one more thought on your Ogles in Kansas. Wonder if they are related to:
    Carlos Vierra (1876-1937), well-known artist and photographer. He married in 1910, Ada Ogle (1881-1957) who was born in Hutchinson, KS. They moved to Santa Fe, NM., like a number of others who sought the dry climate for a cure for tuberculosis. Carlos was one of the artists who formed the Art Colony in Santa Fe in the early 1900s.
    Ada’s other was Alice M. (Hesson) Ogle (1853-1916).
    I am also from Kansas, now living in Santa Fe.

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