My father was adopted three weeks after he was born. When the British government finally opened up birth records in the early 1990s, we found my father’s mother’s name, and eventually his half-sister and her family. But we didn’t find his father. The name wasn’t listed on my father’s birth certificate and anyone who would have known it had passed away.
The mystery stayed there—knowing his mother but not his father—until DNA testing and online ancestry registries became publicly accessible. By that time, my father had passed away. But my mother and I had our DNA tested. Through a process of elimination I identified my DNA matches that came through my paternal grandfather. There was a third cousin, and four fourth cousins. I started with the third cousin, who had done a lot of research on her family tree. We identified four sets of her great-great-grandparents who had lived in the same area as my maternal grandmother. Then I contacted my fourth cousins to find if any of them had any of those pairs in their family trees. Bingo. Three out of the four responded with the same pair. I now knew who my paternal great-great-grandparents were. By meticulously going through information on all of their progeny, I narrowed it down to four possibilities for my paternal grandfather.
But here all progress has stopped. Because the only way to identify which of the four possibilities is my paternal grandfather is to know more about the life of my paternal grandmother to find out which man could have been in her social world.
I look at the picture of my maternal grandmother, trying to will some information from its black and white image. I hope that the story isn’t one of violence and darkness. I hope that it is a story of light, that she had some brief moments of happiness in loving someone after her husband died.
My mother has two ideas for working the mystery from a non-DNA angle. My grandmother liked to sing, so would have been a member of a choir or musical group. And like everyone in that day, she would have been a member of a local church. My third cousin suggests another angle, using addresses to see if by chance any of the possibilities lived on the same street.
How does any of this relate to running an effective organization? When we don’t have the information we need to make a decision or to move forward, which more often than not is the case, we have to look at the puzzle from multiple angles. Even the smallest piece of information, like the name of a choir, or an address, could be useful. We then take all of these small pieces of information together to put the puzzle together.
Oh, and the address approach has turned up one strong lead. One of the possibilities to be my paternal grandfather grew up across the street from my maternal grandmother. There must be something to that.