Tuesday, October 14, 2014

And The Results Are...

Ted William Miller
Elkhart High School, 1958

I sent autosomal DNA test kits to both my uncle Ted Miller and my cousin Michelle Herman, daughter of Sandy (Miller) Canen, on 7 February 2014. And after I dropped them into the parcel bin at the post office, all I could do was wait. This would become the frustrating reality to DNA testing as time passed. Regardless of how many leads or possibilities or willing test subjects crop up, it still leads to sitting and waiting. And guessing. And making research plans in response to all of the possible outcomes. Because unfortunately that's just how I am. Instead of spending my time on client work or lecture development or answering email in a timely fashion, I spend an inordinate amount of time building elaborate family trees and determining who to DNA test next, or I research the ancestors of those who matched my mother in 23andMe's DNA database -- no matter how small the percentage of shared DNA -- to determine how they might connect somewhere in the past.

I had earlier sent out a slew of invitations to connect with other genetic matches of my mother in the DNA database of 23andMe, and I had done the same on FamilyTreeDNA after I had my mother's results transferred to that site as well. But before the big revelation that Frank Strukel was not my mother's father, they were just simple, pleasant invitations to the tune of "we have DNA in common! Let's compare notes and see where we connect!" Now that I was losing my mind waiting to determine if Eldon Miller was or was not my mother's father, as well as proving or disproving he was also the father of Ted Miller and Sandy Miller, I had to do something to keep busy. 

I picked through the two DNA databases, and I eliminated any matches to my mother that also matched her sister, Dianne. The presumption being that anyone who shared genetic material with both of them were likely people who shared a lineage on her maternal ancestry. I was concerned with the big Question Mark that was now her paternal ancestry. To those people with profiles that shared DNA with my mother only, a new query went out: "URGENT! I need your help! Please help me by sharing your genome and ancestral information! My mother's paternity is in question!"

The unfortunate reality of the situation was that the only matches my mother had in either database were woefully small. Most of them fell under 0.3% of shared DNA, which at best could be a fourth cousin. And knowing someone's sixty-four great-great-great-great-grandparents still wouldn't help me find the answers I was seeking. The few people who did respond to my queries had little genealogical information or a poor understanding of genetic genealogy. It was not uncommon for me to get simplistic responses like, "my father is from New York," or "that sounds like my mother's rascally cousin Leroy! We always thought he had more kids out there!" When I responded that the state of New York was a bit too broad to be helpful or that cousin Leroy would have contributed a far greater genetic match than 0.2%, I was usually met with silence.

I had done some preliminary work on the ancestors of Eldon Miller. There were no obvious matches to my mother that also shared connections to any of his ancestors. None. And although Eldon came from a long line of colonial Germans from Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, the matches to my mother seemed to have a very strong southern English bent to them. But I told myself, the matches are too small to mean much of anything. You just have to wait.

I hate waiting.

Ted Miller's DNA sample made it to the labs of 23andMe on 20 February 2014 -- less than two weeks after I had sent the test kit to him. For that, I was ecstatic. And I logged into my online account every day to see at what stage of processing and analyzing they were in. But if Ted was questioning the fact that Eldon Miller was his father, his results would do me no good alone. I already knew that Ted and my mother, Carol Crumet, shared the same mother, Helen (Timmons) Miller Strukel. So at the very least, his results would come back as an approximate 25% match, as a half-sibling should. But what did that tell me about her father? Nothing. Any number of combination of fathers with Eldon thrown into the mix could account for half-siblings. The only way Ted Miller's results alone could help me was if they came back as 50% matches, or full siblings. But even as full siblings, if Ted truly believed Eldon was NOT his father, would that mean that Ted and my mother were the result of a long standing affair of Helen's that dated back to 1940? The convoluted combination of possibilities made my head ache. I needed to know more about their deceased sister, Sandy (Miller) Canen, and I would learn that through my cousin Michelle's test results. And so I also watched and waited for her test kit to arrive at the labs of 23andMe.

Gerald and Sandra (Miller) Canen
Elkhart, Indiana, 1962

I hate waiting.

Still after a week had passed into the processing of Ted's sample, Michelle's sample had yet to arrive at the lab. I sent her a friendly email on 28 February 2014 stating "Ted's spit sample has made it to the lab. I am not sure if you've sent yours or not. Remember, we will never have a sample from Jerry, as his children are adopted." This is the gentle, friendly, mildly-persuasive way of saying, "You DO realize you are my only other source of Miller DNA, don't you? Please stop dilly-dallying, spit, and drop the damn test kit in the mail!"

It may have had some benefit. Her test was mailed on 3 March 2014, and arrived at the labs of 23andMe on 14 March 2014. Over a month had passed since one-quarter of my family tree had been nullified, my mother's story regarding her entry into this world had changed, and Frank Strukel had been demoted from being my grandfather to being my grandmother's second husband. And even if I could have had Ted's results alone, even a tiny genetic morsel to nibble upon, I'd have been happy. But while Michelle's tests were being processed, Ted's were stuck in "Quality Review" for an eternity.

I hate waiting.

I have never relied upon an email from 23andMe to tell me "Your Results Are Ready!" to access new results. I have always known that days before their system bothers to notify me. And really? Do people ever just wait for that email? "Oh my goodness, I had forgotten all about that test! I am so glad they sent me a reminder!" Really? Do those people exist? It seems ridiculous to me.

Interestingly, the DNA results of both Ted Miller and Michelle Herman were ready at about the same time. So I really had a great deal to chew upon thereafter.

Cousin Tree (with genetic kinship)
Wikimedia Commons, Author:Dimario, 2010

Ted Miller shared 24.8% of his DNA with my mother. He matched his sister Dianne Moore by 25.6%. If you refer to the chart above, which you may see again and again in the future, this would be compatible with Carol and Dianne both being Ted's half-sisters. Full siblings share approximately 50% of their DNA with each other; half siblings 25%. Therefore, although they all shared the same mother, they all had different fathers.

Ted Miller and Michelle Herman shared 26.5% of their DNA in common. Michelle only shared 10.7% of her DNA in common with my mother, Carol Crumet; and 9.18% with Dianne Moore. Referring to the chart above, this would indicate that Michelle is Ted Miller's full niece, and as such it also means that Ted Miller and Sandy (Miller) Canen were full siblings. The amount of DNA Michelle shared with my mother and Dianne would indicate that they are half-aunts, and therefore half-sisters to her mother, Sandy (Miller) Canen.

And like the sick and twisted logic puzzle that it is, if Ted and Sandy are full siblings, their shared father is Eldon Miller. Ted's paternal doubts were proven false. And for those purists who will chime in that these results only truly indicate that Ted and Sandy were full siblings, and their father could be anyone who fathered them both in 1940 and 1942, the link to Eldon Miller was confirmed via other DNA matches.

Ted and Sandy are full siblings, yet half-siblings to Carol. Carol is a half-sibling to Dianne. The results then are unavoidably clear.

Eldon DeWayne Miller was the father of Ted William Miller, born in 1940, and Sandra Kay Miller, born in 1942.

Frank Louis Strukel was the father of Dianne Lynn Strukel, born in 1949.

Now, much like her early childhood days when Carol first learned of her adoption, Carol Sue Miller, born in 1946, was again without a father.


  1. My heart breaks for your mom! You are a great researcher and writer and I hope you find the answers you seek soon!

  2. I hope this isn't the true end of the line.

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