My mom’s first cousin, Ray Saunders, has long been searching for information about his father. His parents divorced when he was an infant, and his mother had very little information about the man she married and had a child with – marriage certificate, a birth certificate for their son, divorce papers, and a single photograph of Dave “Red” Saunders taken before he met and married Marguerite McGallagher.
After their marriage dissolved, Marguerite took her baby son, Ray, and went back to live with her widowed mother who still had several young children at home. Marguerite worked long hours at several jobs to help keep the household going, so there were many times when Ray was left in the care of many of his close relatives. He spent a lot of time with his uncle Mitchell (my grandfather) and his family. For this reason, Ray is as close to my mother and aunt as a brother would be. When I got involved in picking up the family history research my parents had started decades ago, I discovered how many more resources are available for family genealogists these days, among them, DNA testing. I did daddy’s DNA test and when it came up in conversation, Ray asked if it might be helpful for him in his search to also do a DNA test. So we did a test just before Christmas of 2016. The results take a while, so I did not get his results until late January, and by that time I was caring full time for my mother who had a major stroke and then planning her funeral in February. And life since then has been a bit hectic with caring for Daddy full-time with his advanced Alzheimer’s.
Fast forward to April 3, a DNA match for Ray sent me a message in Ancestry.com. I didn’t actually read the email until the last couple of days since we were now dealing with the illness and passing of my mom’s sister’s husband. I am very close with Aunt Peggy and she is my closest neighbor, as well. In any case, I finally got around to the e-mail and with a bit more research realized the match (Ray’s biological 1st cousin) had a website listed in her profile. Turns out it is a link to her search for her biological mother and the book she and another relative wrote documenting that search and the ultimate discoveries that have led her to believe she is the great-granddaughter of Mark Twain. Below is a link to her book and another link to her website.
The Twain Shall Meet: The Mysterious Legacy of Samuel L. Clemens’ Granddaughter, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch
I stayed up until the wee hours last night reading her book and sending her a message including links to the information we have on Ray and a link to his DNA data. She sent her phone number and I was able to talk to her today. He is her closest DNA match to date. She has another known first cousin who also shows up as a match in Ray’s DNA, but according to this woman who has more experience with understanding DNA results, Ray has more genetic markers in common with her than even the other known 1st cousin. The kicker is that the last name Saunders does not show up in any of her or the mutual cousin’s family trees. She wants to continue talking and emailing me until we can unravel more of the mystery before she meets Ray. She mentioned that I can go to Ray’s Y-DNA information and do a search that will help us determine historical surnames with that strand of DNA.
I think it’s interesting that she claims to have a strong link to Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), and even though Ray is not related through that side of her family and therefore, not related to Clemens, her years of experience researching and using DNA tools may give us the key we need to unlock the door to his ancestry on his father’s side.