I first learned about my great grandmother Carrie Schultz after my maternal grandmother’s death. Carrie (I later found out she was Caroline Vianna Schultz) was married to my great grandfather Warren Hutchinson. There was a picture of her among my grandmother’s things. All that I remember is that she was older and appeared to be a very large, obese woman. At the time, my mother told me she was German and that because Germans were not well-loved during WWII, she didn’t speak much. My mother also described her as very sad. So that is where I started looking for a German immigrant girl. I had one other clue, her father was named August.
I found just such a family, but things didn’t seem right. The dates were off, the ages were off and the Carrie Schultz I found seemed to go on to a different life. I ended up creating a composite person to align that Carrie with my family story.
It bothered me enough that I began searching broadly on the internet. I found one person who had compiled a very different family tree for the Schultzes. It had Caroline V Schultz as the daughter of August Schultz and Mable Kelley. Not a German immigrant, but born in Michigan. It seemed more right. The dates fit, but the story was off.
At a certain point in family research, most people find that the family story is wrong, but calling your mother a liar to her face will not endear you to her either. So I kept that tree with Carrie born in Michigan as part of my research tree without much hope of figuring out whether it was true or not and let it go.
A few years down the line, I found out that “Vianna” had become a family name among second cousins in the Hutchinson family. That brought me back to Caroline V. Schultz and gave me more confidence in that previous research. In most of my online family trees, I dismantled the composite person I had created but left the tree stunted.
Enter Ancestry DNA and the Kelley family. The genetic relatives I have at Ancestry.com (unrelated to my Thompson cousins and my aunt) are a little more than numerous. They’re actually sort of overwhelming. I have several layers of genetic Kelley relatives through Mable Kelley, her father Asa Loren Kelley and eventually her mother Carrie (notice the pattern) Gundry that it became that “preponderance of evidence” everybody doing DNA research hopes for. There were too many Kelleys on my mother’s side my DNA to ignore.
Over time I was also “found” by my Schultz genetic relatives, trying to put their family together with all the issues you might expect from researching a German/Prussian family who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s. Those discoveries sealed the deal that the lone researcher who posted his tree for August and Mable was ultimately correct.
It would not surprise me if Carrie Schultz’s German parentage was an issue in the 1940s and I wouldn’t doubt that she spoke German and shared that with her children and grandchildren, but would largely keep it hidden otherwise. I recognize that the emotional content and context of the little bits I learned about my great grandmother are probably correct from the eyes of her granddaughter. My mom wasn’t cataloging statistics, she was experiencing a person. Carrie died when my mom was a teenager.
My long focus on the mysteries in my Thompsons overshadowed the mysteries in my Schultz and Kelley families. They are an example of the power of autosomal DNA testing to connect genetic relatives even when the family story is a bit off. They’re also an example of how mysteries can sometimes be solved without the great pains and effort I’ve had to go through to tease out information from my other families. People openly sharing and connecting did the hard work for me. The system worked as intended.