and how we got started in genealogy
It was an open secret in my family that no one knew who my paternal grandfather’s father was. I remember asking questions about my lineage and coming up empty on that side, and wondering who it could have been. We have a missing key in our lineage.
What features on my face or personality might be from this mystery branch of the family tree?
My grandfather never talked about this while he was alive and there was nothing passed down in our oral history of who it may have been. Not one peep! Once we started asking around we heard a few rumors of what may have happened from older family members. Most were debunked, and some were too salacious to give credence to but unable to prove or disprove at the time.
This, while hugely frustrating, led my sister and I into the world of genealogy in the summer of 2008. All in search of our missing key.
Therefore, I have come to be grudgingly thankful for this mystery because it got us started in genealogy. It was too late to get answers for our grandfather, Malcolm Moersch, but it was not too late to get answers for our father. We knew we had to find this missing key. So, down the rabbit hole we went!
We started with the usual suspects of birth, marriage, military and census records but came up empty handed. Some of these documents we had to send off for and it was frustrating seeing the fathers name section be blank over and over.
Next, Jenne managed to dig up our grandfather’s baptismal record.
It was not easy to find because our Grandfather was born out of wedlock. ‘Bastards’ were not allowed to be baptized inside of their church at the time and must be done at the family home. We were already sure our Grandfather was born out of wedlock but this confirmed it.
The church, having required a father to be listed on the form, didn’t ask if a name was valid or not.
With this form, we did find a fathers name listed! Oh, how excited we were! We searched here, we searched there, and nothing panned out. There were a few search hits in census and military records but none placing the person in the vicinity needed at that time. We had another loose end that we couldn’t shore up and we figured that most likely the name was added so that my grandfather could have been baptized.
Just as soon as DNA in genealogy started to become a thing, we submitted our dad’s DNA into ancestry.com. This was back when the male DNA side was the only way to get a complete profile. We monitored to see if any relatives popped up on his side but his DNA didn’t ever connect to anyone.
We continued to search, but if you do genealogy and a door remains closed, you just start opening other doors.
These doors led to fun stuff! We found so many other branches, cousins, friends, documents, and stories. There’s never a dull moment for long in this business. However, our minds always traveled back to our Grandpa Malcolm and his mystery dad and our missing key.
In 2019 ancestry advertised how you could upgrade your previous DNA samples. When I tried to upgrade my dads I was not successful. As I stated before, he never had a connection to anyone on the site. Jenne called and requested help with my dads DNA and we found out that the sample I.D. my dad had was deleted from their system.
The code he had on his box was very short and one they considered a ‘test sample’ and he must have been given one of the first kits.
So, we ordered a new box, met at a convenient library, collected his saliva, sealed the box and dropped it in the post box on site. A new sense of hope was palatable. Will this lead to our missing key?
It wasn’t long that Jenne texted me from work that I needed to check our dads DNA on ancestry because we’ve had lots of activity. I logged on and it didn’t seem real.
After all this time, was it that easy to have found our missing key?
On the site, I dug up as much info as I could and pinpointed who our great grandfather was. My sister contacted the family on her break and quickly got a response. After some back and forth all were in agreement that we have a solid and unquestionable match.
He had since passed, but we did meet up with his youngest son, our dads Uncle, and his wife.
We got a lot of stories about him and with some discussion found out exactly how our Great Grandparents met. Both worked for the USO in downtown St. Louis raising funds for WWI!
Our newly minted Great Grandfather Anthony Chiavetta was a musician and played for the big bands while our Great Grandmother Anna Freida Moersch organized events.
He was from a strict Catholic family who refused a match between himself and my pregnant, Lutheran Great Grandmother. With him being just a young man, he was persuaded to leave her and his son behind.
It was such a fun evening meeting them and they made what could have been an awkward situation so much better by being open. We also thankfully all have a similar sense of humor about this whole thing. Due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to meet with them since, but we’re so thankful for the time we’ve spent with them so far. We plan on seeing them soon!
But do you want to know the kicker? Our missing key turned out to be a man whose Italian last name, Chiavetta, translated to ‘Little Key!’ This serendipity in genealogy, y’all. It doesn’t stop!
Have you had any similar experiences of filling in your family tree? Ever break down a brick wall or had one last 11 years like ours? Do you have a missing key too? We’d love to hear about it!
To read more about our feelings of Serendipity in genealogy check out this blog post here!