Finding Grandpa: How DNA Solved a 70 Year Mystery: Part Two

My mysterious and secretive

close up black and white photo of my grandparents
My grandparents

grandfather is what propelled me into researching my family.  I knew I was limited with what I could get on that particular branch, so I focused on other, easier branches of the family. It was frustrating that while I could go back on each of my family lines into at least the 1700’s, I could not get beyond my mother’s father.  Printing out my genealogy chart looked like a smile with a missing tooth.

I and my first cousins with whom I share

this grandfather were relentless “interviewing” my mom and uncle for any tiny missing bits of info.  We were grasping at straws, because we had nothing to go on.  I was not the only one who was curious about this man I’d never known.

If you’ve not read the first part of this story yet, you can find it here. Finding Grandpa: Part One.  This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info.

My grandfather went by the name Morris Sallick.

He also went by the Spanish version, Mauricio Sallick.  In 1998, I looked up every Sallick in the United States, and sent a letter to everyone. black and white profile picture of a man, my grandfather, wearing a coat and tie I told them my story, and included a copy of the only photo I had of my grandfather. Each letter included a self-addressed stamped envelope to make it easier for them to reply.  I asked if he looked familiar and what their family name used to be before changing it to Sallick.  What was their nationality?  I tried very hard not to come across as a desperate lunatic.

To my surprise,

I received several responses.  I kept the letters and still have them to this day.  There were a wide variety of previous last names, and countries of origin.  While this was all very interesting to me, it did not help further my research.  I could not connect any of the Sallicks that replied, to my lineage.  I was no closer to finding my elusive grandfather’s real name, or place of birth.picture of huge Mormon church with tall spires

Years later, I spent a week at the Family History Center in Utah, which I believe is the largest genealogy library in the world.  I made great progress for my other family lines, but found nothing useful to help my search for the origins of Morris Sallick.

My mom suspected her father was German-Jew.

She thought his accent sounded German.  He spoke English and Spanish, but not like a native speaker.  He’d listen to a “foreign” radio station, in a language no one recognized.  My mom instinctively knew she should not ask him what he was listening to.  He would be enraged whenever Hitler was mentioned on the radio.  She surmised her father was secretly Jewish.

When DNA testing became readily available,

I decided to get tested.  Since I was casting a large net out into the abyss to find a connection, I chose to test with Ancestry.  They have the largest database, so I figured that was my best chance at finding any long lost cousins.  I also hoped to narrow down possible locations of gramps’ birthplace from “the earth”, to a more specific location.  (If you’d like to have a DNA test, you can order a kit here .)

My test results revealed 25% European Jewish.

While we’d always suspected my grandfather was Jewish, we now had proof.  My grandmother’s line was traced back to the mid 1500’s, and no one was Jewish on her side of the family.  My Jewish roots came straight from my grandfather.close up picture of blue, twisted strands of DNA

I sent an email blast to this branch of the family telling them my results.  My mom then asked to be tested, and came back 48% Euro-Jew.  After she got her results, Uncle Morris joined in, and showed up as 49% Euro-Jew.  Yes, I think it is pretty safe to say that my grandfather was hiding the fact that he was Jewish.  The secret he took to the grave stayed a secret for 70 years.

The next step was to look at cousins

who showed up as close DNA matches.  I sent messages to my closest matches, as well as those of my mom and uncle.  While I did get replies, the relationships were too distant to connect our lines.  I also had no matches with the Sallick name, or any derivation of it.

As Ancestry became more sophisticated,

they introduced a new helping tool called “genetic communities”.  My mom, Uncle Morris and I were put in a genetic community of people from Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus.  This was the first time I felt like I might be getting somewhere with finding gramps.  We thought he looked Eastern European, but that didn’t narrow things down at all.  This was truly something to go on.

While I’ve heard of these countries, and atgreen map showing the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Belarus one point entertained the idea that he might have been from Belarus, I’m ashamed to say I did not know exactly where these places were.  I grabbed my Atlas, and looked them up.  I decided if I had the choice, I wanted my grandfather to be from Latvia.  My reasoning for this was logical and emotional.  Belarus was the largest of the three, which meant more records to research.  I wanted him to be from a small country, hoping that would make finding him easier.  I find Lithuania difficult to say, and it makes me sound like a have a lisp, which I don’t.  That is why I wanted it to be Latvia.  I also just like saying Latvia…

Having genetic communities gave me more information

I could give to my DNA matches.  I still had no path to connect any of these matches.  They were all simply too distant, and I had minimal information to go on.close up drawing of twisted, blue single strand of DNA

I had placed such high hopes that Ancestry’s DNA matches would give me the answers I struggled to find.  I thought about getting tested with other companies, but these tests are not free.  It was going to be a rather large financial investment to have my DNA everywhere.  At the time, I did not know some companies will let you transfer your test results to their platform free, or for a small fee.

There were many things I did not know about DNA,

but I was about to find out.

Please join me at Finding Grandpa: Part Three for the grand finale!

If you have long lost family you’re searching for, you can order your Ancestry DNA kit here.

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