Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rebirthing a Sister for my Cousins

We tunneled toward each other, neither knowing of the other, where the point of joining might be, or even if there was one. One evening an Ancestry message, “cousins maybe??,” blasted through the uncertainty.

Hi you came up on my DNA chart as a possible cousin. I was adopted at birth in 1965 & know nothing about my birth parents so I’m flying blind, but I thought I would reach out....
I held my breath, my mind racing. I had tested with the three major genealogy companies, out of curiosity, mostly, not purposefully. And I know or know of all my first and second cousins and their families. Except one. When I was a teen my eldest girl cousin gave birth to a child she gave up for adoption. I remember that. Here we were as children in 1949, Janie in the middle and me on the far right.

Research into the child’s identity led always to dead ends. Even my aunt’s recollections failed me. Finding him or her would bring completion to our family, I felt, and maybe to the adopted child, too.

This DNA cousin was born in 1965, the year of my cousin’s child’s birth. Could she be the one? My new cousin hadn’t yet posted a profile photo on Ancestry, so I couldn’t compare and be sure. I checked the match details: predicted first or second cousins, confidence extremely high.That works for a first cousin once removed.

Tears burned my eyes. My heart quickened. Was she the child I’d looked for and always hoped to find? I responded: 

Hello! Please tell me about you. Where were you born? What is your birthdate?[3] 

I didn’t have to ask; I already knew. The response came quickly:

I was born in Phoenix Az. 12/19/1965 and was adopted at birth, All my records are sealed so this is all I have to go on.

We could have been so close to finding each other! Yes, Arizona adoption records are closed. But on the chance that this unknown cousin might try to access the record, I had contacted Arizona’s Confidential Intermediary Program. My letter detailed his or her parents’ vital data and offered to be contacted by a member of the Court and/or the Program should the adoptee wish.

I had had no response. But now here she was! She’s the one! I knew she had been born on her maternal grandfather’s birthday, 19 December 1965. And she was actively looking for her birth parents, so she would not be blindsided by an unexpected revelation.

Your mother was my first cousin. I've been waiting years to hear from you. I will answer any questions you have.

The wait for a response seemed interminable. I couldn’t focus on anything else and slept fitfully. Finally:
Are you sure it’s me? This is a little scary after all these years & wanting to find both my Mom & Dad. I have had so many dead ends. How are you sure its me?

Oh boy, what a question to ask a genealogist! I was ready:

My cousin was married in 1964 at twenty-one. She became pregnant about six months later, but the marriage ended. She gave birth and gave up the baby for adoption. Her parents felt she was unable to care for a child as a single mother (remember the times), and they could not. The baby was born, and it's my understanding that my cousin never got to hold it. Then it left our family.

These memories, your birthdate of December 19, 1965 in Arizona, and our DNA match as first or second cousins convince me that we are in fact first cousins once removed.

We became Facebook friends right away. One look at a photo on her page of a woman who called her “Mom,” and I knew for sure: her daughter was almost a clone of my cousin and her mother.

Both of us reeled from the new information. She had so much to process!

I was told such a different story. I was told that my Mother was single & in college & that no one knew where my Dad was but that he was married & had 7 children. Do I have any 1/2 siblings?

How differently we can interpret the few facts we have to go on! I had been told that she had been adopted privately. My aunt kept for years the name of the attorney (who, she hinted, might be the adoptive father). Finally she threw out the little black book with his contact information. She could not remember (or would not reveal) his name.

I shared what I knew:

It's true that your mom was single (marriage annulled) at the time of your birth. She may have taken some college-level courses. It's also possible that she and her parents didn't know where your father was at that time. I believe he had fathered one child before his marriage to your mom, and then three more by a subsequent marriage. Your mom married again and had three more daughters. Yes, you have half-siblings!
 Finally she asked the big questions:

Do you know her name? Is she still alive & do you know if she ever wondered about me. I need to know the truth. Yes, it’s a lot but I have been hunting for so many years. Do you know or have pics of siblings & do you think they would want to know about me? Do you know my Dad’s name?
I sent her this photo of her parents, taken the day my parents hosted a wedding reception for them, 27 September 1964.

I answered:

My cousin, Jane Marie "Jayne" (Kellar) Mudra, passed away in 1995 of a diabetic coma. I never saw her again after her wedding reception in 1964, but she did visit infrequently with my folks when her children were small. I have a feeling (my own memory of the time) there was great sadness about giving up her baby, that she would have chosen to keep it (you).

Your dad was Rodney Dean Loyd. Sadly, he, too, passed away at sixty-nine in 2011. This I know from information on Ancestry. I only met him the one time at the reception.

Jayne’s three daughters are all on Facebook. I chat infrequently with one, so if/when you're ready, I can contact her on your behalf. I don't know if the girls are aware their mom had another child.

Her half-sisters’ Facebook page links accompanied this message so she could see their pictures and posts and get a feel for them. Would my new cousin want to be in touch with them?

Wow!! That is a load of great info. Thank you so much. I do wish they were still alive, but at least I have answers. I would love it if you could reach out to my sisters & see if they would be interested in some kind of contact. I will understand if they say no, but not knowing is worse than rejection.

Did my cousin’s daughters even know they had an older half-sister? How would they react to this news? I immediately messaged each one of the girls separately through Facebook.

Hey! You know I keep track of family, right? An amazing thing happened the other day. I was contacted by a woman, who matches my DNA as a cousin. I've confirmed that she's your half-sister, born before your mom's marriage to your dad. She's a good person and would like to be in touch with you and your sisters. Here's her Facebook page link [deleted for privacy]. Hope all's well with you! —Judy
Jayne's three daughters by her second husband, October 1974

Within seconds all three had responded:

The youngest half-sister: I've been trying to look for her for a very long time.
The middle half-sister: Grandma and Mom always talked about it. But did not know a lot. I'm so crying with joy.
The eldest half-sister: I've been looking for her for over 40 years. I asked Grandma so many times, but when she passed I thought all hope was lost.

What followed was an outpouring of love and tears of joy held in suspense over four decades. In the moments and days since April 12, 2017, messages have been flying back and forth among the sisters and their children, connecting and sharing family. They plan to visit each other and commemorate their sisterhood with matching tattoos. It was my privilege to act as midwife in this long-labored birth, along with and Facebook. In the end, the connection happened in a matter of minutes, and the results will last a lifetime.

The last word belongs to my new cousin April: “I love happy endings or new beginnings or both!!”

[1] plushpuppies, “cousins maybe ??,” internal message to Judy K. Fox, 11 April 2017, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 April 2017).
[2] “AncestryDNA Results for Judy A Kellar Fox,” match list 11 April 2017, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 April 2017).
[3] Judy K. Fox, “cousins maybe ??,” internal message to plushpuppies 11 April 2017, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 April 2017).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Judy Kellar Fox (Aloha, Oregon), letter 18 September 2013 to Clerk of the Court, Phoenix, Arizona 85009.
[6] Judy Kellar Fox, "cousins maybe ??," 11 April 2017.
[7] plushpuppies, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[8] Judy K. Fox, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[9] plushpuppies, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[10] Florence (Madge) Kellar (Lakeside, Oregon), conversations in 1996 and 1997 with the author, her niece.
[11] Judy K. Fox, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[12] plushpuppies, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[13] Judy K. Fox, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[14] plushpuppies, “cousins maybe ??,” 12 April 2017.
[15] Facebook messages to three cousins [names withheld for privacy], 12 April 2017, Facebook ( : accessed 12 April 2017).
[16] Facebook messages from three cousins, 12 April 2017, Facebook ( : accessed 12 April 2017).
[17] plushpuppies, “cousins maybe ??,” 15 April 2017.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Swimsuits on Summer Days, 1920s

If all went well, there would be time between morning and evening milkings to get away, relax and enjoy a break. Away from the farm and the hay, the cows, the orchard. They worked hard. It was summer and time to play.

The River

There was an easy camaraderie among Julia, her brothers Joe and John (standing on the pier), and Lew (possibly the photographer). They were the middle siblings of nine and very close. Julia’s husband Ben (front left) fit right in with her brothers. Their close family friend Eunice and her beau Stanley rounded out the group, as they often did.

Carefree for a while, they enjoyed the water, the sunshine, and the companionship at the river. The brothers were all home from the war. Julia and Eunice probably brought a picnic lunch. The Russian River in Sonoma County, California, drew locals as well as tourists from San Francisco. Here at Mirabel Park Julia, who never learned to swim, would feel safe in the shallow water. Maybe the others didn’t know how to swim either.

Their swimsuits mirrored their freedom from the usual daily chores. The ladies didn’t wear their constricting corsets, baring their arms and legs! The stretchy wool knit suits clung to bodies, revealing shapes and curves, a huge departure from modest swim garments of earlier eras.

 Boyes Springs

Ben and Julia’s ranch lay about two miles west of Boyes Hot Springs, a resort built around natural thermal springs. Like the Russian River, it drew Julia’s family and friends as well as San Francisco vacationers, who ferried across the Golden Gate and then rode a train right to the springs. The pool encouraged relaxing and socializing, not swimming, really. Its shallow mineral waters allowed everyone to stand in it comfortably.

The ladies in the foreground, careful about their hair, wore swimming hats that resembled the cloche hats then in style.

Julia snapped a photo of one extreme diver, probably her brother Lew, in mid swan dive. He worked hard, and he played hard. How did he get up so high? How did he enter the water?

The siblings and friends celebrated their youth in summer weather. Milk the cows, feed the stock, jump in the Model T, and head for a picnic. If there were no flat tires on the way, they should arrive home in time for the evening milking.

The Photographs
Bathers at Mirabel Park: Collection of Joanne Kellar ([address withheld for privacy]), a gift from her grandmother Julia. The Mirabel Park website shows an old postcard taken from the same vantage point.[1]
Overviews of Boyes Hot Springs resort pool: Collection of the author, from Julia’s photo albums.
The diver: Collection of the author, from K.R. “Lew” Lewis photo collection.

The People in 1920
Ben and Julia (Lewis) Streeter, the author’s grandparents, resided in El Verano, Sonoma County, California, two miles from Boyes’ Springs.[2]
Julia’s brothers, Joe, John, and Kandido “Lew” Lewis were all living on Sonoma County farms, where they worked as hired hands.[3] Friend Eunice Silva lived in Santa Rosa, where she worked as a nurse.[4] Her husband-to-be Stanley Walkerdine, the only non-farmer among the men, worked in the steel industry in San Francisco.[5]

The Diver
This photograph is in the loose photo collection of K.R. “Lew” Lewis. It appears to have been taken at the same time as the two other photos of Boyes Springs, which were glued into Julia’s photo album. Possibly Julia took the photos and shared one with her brother.

The Swimwear
Comparison with photos from a few online sources suggests the early 1920s for these swimsuits and, by extension, these photos.[6]

[1] “Historical Links,” Mirabel RV Park & Campground ( The link to the historical photos is currently broken.
[2] 1920 U.S. Census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Sonoma, ED 153, sheet 4A, dwelling/family 105, Benjamin E. Streeter household; NARA microfilm T625, roll 150.
[3] [Joe] 1920 U.S. Census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Sonoma, ED 154, sheet 7B, dwelling 165, family 177, Roy McReynolds household; NARA microfilm T625, roll 151; [John] 1920 U.S. Census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Petaluma, ED 141, sheet 13B, dwelling [blank], family 32, George Hammerman household; NARA microfilm T625, roll 151; [Lew] 1920 U.S. Census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Sonoma, ED 162, sheet 2A, dwelling 29, family 3 [number of persons in family], Frederick A. Lowell household; NARA microfilm T625, roll 150.
[4] 1920 U.S. Census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Santa Rosa, ED 153, sheet 8B, dwelling/family 205, J. P. Silva household; NARA microfilm T625, roll 151.
[5] 1920 U.S. Census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, ED 96, sheet 6A, dwelling 61, family 178, Sidney A. Boden household; NARA microfilm T625, roll 134.
[6] Dolores Monet, “Women and Fashions of the Early 20th Century—World War I Era—Clothing of 1914-1920,” HubPages ( : accessed 23 May 2015). Also, Sophia Ellis, “Have Times Changed for the Better? A Look Back at Women’s Swimwear,” Hello Giggles ( : accessed 23 May 2015). Also, “Swimsuit,” Encyclopedia Britannica ( : accessed 23 May 2015). Finally, Pauline Weston Thomas, “Women’s Swimwear: Swimsuit Fashion History 1920-2000,” Fashion-Era ( : accessed 23 May 2015.

© 2015 Judy Kellar Fox, CG,