One of the regular clients of the Irish Family History Centre (IFHC) has a free travel pass and regularly comes up from Kilkenny to get help with his tree. His name is William and he diligently buys a ticket for the IFHC each time. And each time he has a different problem for us to grapple with. I always look forward to his visits. But in March 2017 he also had something to show us that he himself had done. And it illustrates the value of doing a DNA test.
For the previous two visits, William had been particularly interested in tracing what had happened to a particular generation of his relatives – seven ‘lost’ siblings, all born around 1850 – all of whom had emigrated to the US. There were few family stories to use as a basis, and US censuses were not being cooperative. He was particularly interested in trying to trace all of their families forward and find living relatives. Tracing forward is, almost always, a difficult thing to do. But William, who is tenacious when tackling a problem, had had a ‘simultaneous breakthrough’.
We had managed to find the marriage of one of the female ‘lost seven’ and had established that she had married an Italian man whose father was called Rocco Pellettieri. William had, some months previously, taken an autosomal DNA test (that he had purchased at the Irish Family History Centre) and at almost the same time as we had genealogically uncovered a link with the 19th century Pellettieri family he received an e-mail from a person whose DNA results he matched. This person had the surname ‘Pellettieri’ and who, in e-mail correspondence, said he had an ancestor called Rocco Pelletieri and that he thought that he and William were related! William was delighted, his face lighting up as he told me.
Thus, through a combination of genealogy and DNA, William had found one of his ‘lost seven’ and established that present-day relatives exist. Only six more to go!
By Patrick Roycroft