In Parts I and II, I told the story of my grandfather, Joseph Aner Markway, and how he came to mid-Missouri on an Orphan Train from the New York Foundling Home. I had found some distant relatives through Ancestry DNA who did not connect to any know part of my family tree, and the common thread was a Van Sten family from New York, where Grandpa Markway was born.
Through further DNA testing with Family Tree DNA (ftdna.com) which offers a test that traces the male lineage within a family (Y-DNA testing), I found others who share male ancestors named Vanstone, from Devon, England. My research has found that Vanstone likely is the Anglicized version of Van Sten, a name that appears to have come from Holland and Belgium (countries were not well-defined hundreds of years ago as they are now).
I found another surprise with the Y-DNA testing, though–two of the three male relations that showed up were Vanstones, but one was not. The woman managing that DNA test told me that the descendants of her great, great grandfather do not genetically match with the descendants of his “brothers,” suggesting that he likely was adopted. In other words, he was a descendant of the Vanstones.
Anyway, back to my grandfather…yesterday, I may have found his birth certificate online. For the past 18 months, I have searched for any records of Joseph Aner (the name he was known by at the Foundling Home), Joseph Doyle (family lore was that his mother was named Doyle), and Joseph Van Sten (the family name of his apparent father). Nothing ever showed up in the New York records.
I searched other genealogy web sites that sometimes have different information. Yesterday, on Family Search, sponsored by the Church of Latter Day Saints, I was searching for Joseph Aner, when the site also showed birth records for the surname, Auer, and up popped a birth certificate for Joseph Auer with a birth date of April 30, 1896 (one of two birth dates I have seen for him–the other being May 1). The certificate showed the parents were not married. The mother’s name was Adelaide Auer and the father was listed as Thomas King, perhaps a fictitious name as often happened in out-of-wedlock births.
My grandfather reportedly had gone back to New York as a young adult trying to find his mother and had been told her name was “Abby.” Might it had been Addy? I don’t really have any information on this yet. Adelaide Auer disappears from the records at this point–she is not listed in the census records of the U.S. or any state. All I know is that she supposedly was 24 years old at the time of his birth, and that she was born in the U.S. The father supposedly was 38, assuming anything about the father on the birth certificate is accurate.
In all my research, I also found that when Joseph Markway registered for the draft in World War I, he was living in Nebraska and living as a farm laborer. I have no idea why he had traveled so far to work. Surely there was farm work in Cole and Osage counties at the time. Did he go to Nebraska because that is where he had first been adopted off an Orphan Train? (He reportedly had been returned to the New York Foundling Home when the mother in that family had died and the father could not take care of him.) Did he go to Nebraska with a friend as part of some adventure, or did he go on his own?
I had heard that Grandpa Markway had owned a car dealership in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In searching the website, newspapers.com., I found advertisements for Cole County Motors, selling Hupmobiles, DeSotos, and Plymouths, with Joe Markway as the manager. My father had told stories of that time, where you not only sold a car to the customer, but you also had to teach them how to drive it.
Apparently the Great Depression was not kind to auto dealers, as the business disappeared, and he later became a mechanic for Arthur Ellis.
I have learned so much about Grandpa in my search, and I’m not finished. Along the way, I have also discovered some amazing stories about other parts of my family–stay tuned, those bits of history are coming soon!
My grandfather was left at the New York Foundling Home as an infant in 1896. As a toddler, he was placed on an “orphan train,” and was taken in by a family in Nebraska. The mother of that family died, and my grandfather was sent back to New York. A few years later, in 1901, he again boarded the orphan train and came to Missouri where he was adopted by the Markway family.
In my previous blog post, I wrote about my efforts to track down his history. How could I discover his birth parents without having names? Supposedly he had tracked down his birth mother when he was a young adult, but how would he have done so? The Foundling Home said it had no records, which made sense, because it was a place where anyone could leave a child, no questions asked. Grandpa once told my brother, Jack (who is named after him–Joseph John Markway), that his mother was named Abby Doyle. Was he right? Or is this just something he was told?
I began my search by taking the Ancestry DNA test. Several weeks after spitting into a small tube, my results came back. I didn’t recognize most of the names on my list, and I quickly realized how little I knew about my extended family. My brother, Jack, showed up as a match, as did my first cousin, Gary Ferguson. Some other fairly close matches showed up that I recognized as being from my mom’s side. I started studying the family trees that some of my matches had posted, and those trees gave me some clues as to how to separate people into groupings related to my four grandparents.
(In a future post, I will go into more detail about the technical aspects of this for those who are interested.)
It seemed every time I had a theory about my grandfather and who is family might be, my theory would get shot down the next day.
But there was one person, estimated as a 3rd or 4th cousin, that I couldn’t connect to any other family names. Ancestry.com has a feature that allows you to see who else shares DNA with that person, and only a very few people matched that person. And, as it turned out, those people only matched others within that small group. They didn’t match anyone on my mom’s side. They didn’t match my dad’s maternal side. And some of them showed up as matches to Gary Ferguson, telling me they were on my paternal side.
Hmmm…how did these people fit?
I looked deeply into the one family tree that one woman from that family posted. There was a branch of that family that lived in New York City. I continued looking for other information, but there was not much there. Finally, I reached out through the Ancestry website to Pam, the woman estimated to be a 3rd-4th cousin match. Pam was very gracious and shared what information she had about her family, but not surprisingly, she had no knowledge of an infant placed at the Foundling Home.
I kept searching DNA connections, family trees, and historical documents online. Another DNA connection popped up, who also shared DNA with Pam. I contacted Robert, and we pieced together that he was Pam’s second cousin. They did not know of each other (but will soon meet each other for the first time–all because I’m searching for my grandfather’s parents).
Then, I found a third DNA connection that shared ancestors with Pam and Robert. Connie had a very extensive family tree online. Clearly, she took her genealogy seriously.
By this time, it was becoming clear that I was looking at someone in the Van Sten family as a possible great-grandparent. But I didn’t know if that would be Grandpa’s mother or his father.
I uploaded my DNA file to a website called GEDmatch. (You may have heard of it in the news recently when a serial killer was found through use of that site.) GEDmatch accepts DNA data from all the major testing companies and allows you to find connections from various other companies. I also uploaded by DNA to My Heritage and Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).
I felt hopeless when I found out Robert was distantly related to someone on my mom’s side. But then I realized that relationship was so distant that it didn’t explain why Pam was so closely related to me.
I talked to my brother, Jack, about signing up for an Ancestry membership so that I could see how closely he was related to our shared matches. (Ancestry and other companies can actually tell you how much DNA you share with another person, measure in centiMorgan. That is how you can estimate your potential relationship to that individual.)
I had a lot of circumstantial evidence that the Van Sten family was important in my search but no real proof. Every day, I look at the new connections that show up on Ancestry but I get no real new information.
Yesterday, when searching through documents online. I found a woman who checked into a poorhouse, described as “pregnant and destitute.” Her mother was a Van Sten. This woman, Nellie, gave birth close to my grandfather’s supposed birth date, in New York. And, I found a birth certificate…she had a son! I could find no other information online about his. Had I found my grandfather?
This morning I found that the answer was no. Sadly, I found a death certificate for the baby. He only lived a month.
I was ready to take a break from searching, at least until the results came in from another DNA test I took several weeks ago. Through FTDNA, I had taken a Y-DNA test. Y-DNA is something that is passed on from father to son only. So, in theory at least, it is possible that the DNA from my male ancestors could show up connected to a family surname many generations back.
The test came back today and it showed me as matching some individuals with the name “Vanstone.” So, I believe a Van Sten was my great-grandfather. There are two Van Sten brothers who were in the likely age group and lived in NYC at the right time.
Now I have to continue my detective work to see if I can determine which brother. Then I can turn my attention to my great-grandmother.
Today, though, I can’t believe I have traveled this far.
My grandfather, Joseph John Markway, came to mid-Missouri at the age of 4 or 5 on an “Orphan Train.” He was born in New York and within a few days of his birth, he was left at the New York Foundling Home.
At that time, New York city was teeming with immigrants, orphans, and “street urchins,” people poor and desperate. The Foundling Home had a basket on its front steps so people could drop off babies that they couldn’t care for.
My grandfather was one of those babies. Many of those ended up on an Orphan Train, sent westward, hopefully to be accepted into loving Catholic families. (Other institutions had Orphan Trains that delivered children to Protestant families.) The train would roll into a town, and families would examine the children as if they were livestock, and then choose one or more. Families often were looking for potential farmhands or household help. Sometimes, families had prearranged to adopt children, and they waited for their child to be delivered. Local parishes, to various degrees, would check out and recommend local families as potential new homes for the “orphans.”
When my grandfather arrived in Taos, Missouri, he wore a name tag that said “Joseph Aner.” That likely was not the surname of his father. The Foundling Home may not have ever known either of his parents. Or, if it did, the Home was known for changing names—perhaps to hide the child’s origins, protect the parents anonymity, or even to give the child a name to hide undesirable ethnic origins
The Orphan Train adoptions did not always turn out well. The orphanages or Orphan Train organization would check up on the children annually, and the children were encouraged to write letters back telling the agency how they were doing. Occasionally, children returned to the sending agency for various reasons. I remember hearing that my grandfather was one of those, but I don’t really know.
The 1900 United States Census shows him as being an “inmate” of the Foundling Home–inmate was the term used at the time to describe anyone that lived in an institution.
The next year, in 1901, he made the trek from New York city to Central Missouri where he was claimed by the Fred Markway family, a family that already had 12 children and another adoptive son.
(My mother, Joseph’s daughter-in-law, once told me that he had gone back to New York as a young man and tracked down his mother. But after finding her, he returned to Missouri and said, “I’m a Markway.” I only heard this story in the last couple years of my mother’s life.)
This story piqued my interest. How in the world did my grandfather find his mother? How was that even possible? Did that mean the Foundling Home had records? What did he find out about her that made him “disown” her?
For some reason, my grandfather’s story has always gnawed at me. When my family moved to Jefferson City when I was there years old, he helped adapt our modest 2 bedroom home to fit my parents and their five kids. My grandfather moved in and shared the converted attic with me and my two brothers. I can’t remember how long he lived with us—I don’t think it was long before he moved in with my dad’s sister’s family.
Grandpa Markway was a fun grandparent. I remember him as being mischievous—I don’t really know what I mean by that exactly. But every time he would leave after a visit, he would say, “See you in the funny papers!”
One of my clearest memories is that he would pitch me a wiffle ball, and no matter how far I would hit it, even if it was over the barbed wire fence into the neighboring pasture (yes there was a pasture next to our house within the limits of Jefferson City), he would go get the ball. My older brothers would always make me crawl under the fence, but not Grandpa.
During my first year of playing little league baseball, he came to every single game. I wasn’t necessarily special—he went to all his grandkids’ events—but it meant a lot to me.
I remember the day he died. I overheard my parents talking. He died unexpectedly in the morning after getting out of bed. He was setting the time on his watch. My parents chose not to tell me before I went to school. That day, I did poorly on an Arithmetic test and the teacher asked me why. I know the Irish nun felt horrible after I blurted out, “Probably because my Grandpa died today!”
So, why am I writing this now? Over the years, I have wondered where he came from—probably because that is part of where I came from. I would do a little research online, but what was I really looking for? I signed up with Ancestry.com and I searched for people named Aner before realizing that may not have really been his name. How could I find out anything without having a tangible starting point?
When my son, Jesse, was in middle school, he had to do a family tree for one of his classes. It was easy to trace my mother’s family—they have been in America forever and reproduced prolifically. One ancestor left his entire estate to descendants to the nth degree, meaning that a professional genealogist had to be hired be the probate court to track everybody down. Many people ended up with $10 or so, but there was a tremendous record of family history as a result.
But Grandpa Markway’s family was a mystery.
In the past year, possibilities came up. I had seen the ads on television of the guy learning his family wasn’t really Italian and the woman wearing the traditional Nigerian clothing. I decided to take a DNA test through Ancestry.com.
The DNA testing shows how closely you are connected with other people who have also taken the test. As of today, 583 fourth cousins or closer have been identified. Nearly all can be traced to my mother’s side or my paternal grandmother’s side, but…there are a few that don’t seem to connect to any identified ancestral lines…
In talking with my older brother, “Jack”, whose nickname hides the fact that he was named after our grandfather, I learned that Grandpa Markway would occasionally share tidbits of information. Jack seems to remember that Grandpa once said that his mother was named Abby Doyle…and that she was a “saloon singer.” (It sounds like she lived a different life than the Puritans and Quakers I have found on my mother’s side.)
In checking my known DNA connections on Ancestry (and other sites that allow uploading of my DNA information from Ancestry, I have found a few people named Doyle who are very distant relatives (4 or more generations back to a common ancestor). I found one woman whose grandmother was “Lizzie Doyle” and another woman who had a Lizzie Doyle in her history, with Lizzie being the daughter of Anastasia Doyle. In trying to research this, I learned that “Anastasia” in 1800s Ireland was equivalent to “Jennifer” in 1980s America…
Trying to research Irish genealogy made the desperation of the potato famine hit home for me. The historical record for families literally disappears as individuals leave for America…Australia…and anyplace else that would take them in. A single family might disperse all across the globe just to survive.
So, it makes sense that I have connected with people across the world in the search for my grandfather who grew up around Jefferson City, Missouri.
Where do things stand now? I connected with a woman from Boston (who currently lives in France). I’m genetically connected to her mother…who married INTO a Doyle family and we’re trying to figure out the relationship. We apparently are connected through a McInnis/McKay family in Nova Scotia, but the records in Nova Scotia from that time are poor. I’ve joined an Irish genealogy group online and found that I match genetically with several of its members…and surprisingly, I’ve found that my mother had more Irish ancestry than I ever imagined. I’m in the process of connecting with several other relatives who appear to have possible connections to my grandfather.
I have found an Abby Doyle in New York Census records and she could have been my great grandmother. She died in a state psychiatric hospital. Could this be the woman my grandfather was “ashamed of?”
When I was training to be a psychologist, my father could not understand my career choice. He had little respect for the mental health field. But, one day, he told me that my grandfather had purchased and read books by Sigmund Freud. Was there a genetic reason I had an interest in psychology? Or did I somehow have an interest passed down to me because my grandfather was trying to understand his mother? This is all speculation at this point…
Now back to the question of why am I so curious about my grandfather. As I mentioned earlier, I felt a special connection to him. Today, though, I realized I am part of the last generation that knew him. And, as genetics get diluted with each generation, I may be part of the last generation that will have an identifiable genetic connection to his birth family.
Beyond that, I can’t express the longing to know more of his story. I know the truth, at best, will be complicated. But, for some reason, I just want to know.
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is ‘cor’-the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences—good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’”—Brene Brown, psychologist
I feel vaguely anxious. I can’t really identify what it is, or what thoughts I’m having that trigger the anxiety. Last night I couldn’t fall asleep.
Tomorrow I am running a 5k, something I’ve done many times before. I’m not a particularly fast runner—I usually come in somewhere in the middle of the pack for my age group. I’m fine with that. I use the races as motivation to keep exercising. It helps me get on the treadmill when I know I have a race coming up.
This past November, I was training for a 5k. It was taking me a bit longer than usual to get my distance up to where it needed to be, but I was confident I’d be able to do the race. I had run a little over 2 miles on a Saturday morning. Then, on Monday morning, I had a heart attack.
On Tuesday, I had a catheterization that revealed serious heart disease and I had a stent placed in the “widow-maker” artery. I recovered well, went through rehab, and gradually returned to exercising.
On paper, I didn’t have many risks for heart disease. I have always exercised. I played sports through college and I’ve been a runner for the past ten years. I ate decently, watching my fat intake, except for a remarkable fondness for pizza. I have always been thin. I still remember my first baseball game in college. When Coach Dix brought me in to pitch in New Orleans against Tulane University, I heard this guy with the most charming southern drawl say, “Gee, number 13, you’re so skinny you could tread water in a garden hose.”
Throughout my life, I have had recurrent dreams of being able to fly. Sometimes, I have had a cape and have been Superman. I’m not quite as skinny in those dreams.
“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”—Brene Brown, psychologist
Back in my 20’s, I had my first real brush with my mortality. I had some health issues that knocked me over the head and reminded me that I was not Superman. I still remember the neurologist starting our conversation by saying, “You’re probably worried you have a brain tumor, right?” I stammered in reply, “Actually, no, that had never occurred to me…”
It was around that time that I had a dream, a dream that made me wake up laughing, a dream that I didn’t need to be a psychologist to interpret—I dreamt that I was Clark Kent and could not find a phone booth. Yes, I was just as vulnerable as everyone else.
Last November, I had no idea that I was about to confront kryptonite. On that Monday, November 15, I was walking down the hall at work and stopped briefly to talk to a friend. As we finished our conversation, I had a strange tingling sensation in my left arm and heavy pressure in my chest. I began having tunnel vision and it took everything I had to remain conscious, to remain alive
I made it back to my office, sat down, and the symptoms all went away. I knew I had to get to the hospital. I didn’t want to go by ambulance though—all I could envision was getting wheeled out of the building with hundreds of people watching. I knew I could get there on my own—because I was Superman, of course.
I drove myself to the ER. Apparently Superman is not too bright.
Within seconds of arriving at the ER, blood was drawn, I had an IV, and EKG was done. The EKG was abnormal. My troponin level was mildly elevated. They handed me some chewable aspirin that still had that orange flavor I had liked as a kid. I flashed back to being a kid, being sick, and being taken care of.
Within 75 minutes of my arrival, I was upstairs in a room in the cardiac unit. Electrodes were monitoring my heart. I received clot-busting medication through the IV. Physically, I felt fine. Emotionally, I was in a daze. There was so much to process, but I didn’t even know what it was…
As a psychologist, I used to work with heart patients, at the very hospital where I was now a patient. I knew many of the nurses. One of them had organized a 5k I ran in a couple years earlier.
As a patient myself, though, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Would I recover? Would I be disabled? Would I even survive? As all these thoughts sped through my head, I felt a strange feeling of relief, a feeling of acceptance (or was it denial?). I was able to let go of many of the things I worried about on a daily basis—it was clear that they didn’t matter.
The next day, I had the cath and had the stent placed. In another day I was home. All went well. That’s the short story.
The longer version is this…
When I left the hospital, I was exhausted walking the short distance to the car. When I got home, I plopped down on the couch, short of breath. With the heart attack, the catheterization, and the meds, I became short of breath just walking across the room. After a few days, I tried walking on the treadmill at a slow speed. I lasted only a few seconds before feeling dizzy and out of breath.
I got bored doing nothing and began loading and unloading the dishwasher. I got light-headed when I bent down and stood up. This eventually got better and I was thankful for being able to do simple tasks.
After about a month, I started cardiac rehab. I couldn’t do much at first, but my confidence grew over time as I increased both intensity and time on the equipment. I started doing some exercise at the YMCA.
I’ve continued to train, and it has all led to this. Tomorrow I run.
But why am I nervous? Running, in some ways, is my return to life. Running is an affirmation. Running is also a reminder that all this can be taken away. Just as I developed an appreciation for being able to do simple tasks after my heart attack, I appreciate being able to run, to move. Running is part of my identity, a part I came so close to losing. I am a runner.
Tomorrow is a reminder that I will lose this ability someday. Tomorrow is a reminder that I am vulnerable. I am not Superman. But I can feel like him for 30 minutes.
Afterword: I completed the race in 28:30, a minute-and-a-half faster than my goal. I felt good during the race and even better after. Thanks to all for your support!
I had a heart attack nine days ago. The next day, a cardiac catheterization found one coronary artery 80% blocked (a stent was used to prop this one open), another 70% blocked, and one on the right side was 100% blocked.
I had been feeling fine and had been training to run a 5k on Thanksgiving day–tomorrow.
I had been a little more tired in the afternoon, but hadn’t really given it a second thought. I’ve always been on the skinny side. (The first game I pitched in college, a vociferous southern gentleman suggested I was so skinny I could “tread water in a garden hose.”) I had a decent diet (conscious of watching the amount of fat I consumed). I never smoked. I had annual checkups that found my cholesterol and triglycerides to be in the acceptable range.
Last Monday, I was walking down the hall at work. I stopped briefly to talk to a coworker. At the end of that conversation, my left arm tingled like it was falling asleep. I felt pressure in my chest. I had a moment of tunnel vision.
I knew something was wrong with my heart.
I walked back to my office and it all went away. My denial kicked in and I momentarily thought everything would be ok. But, thankfully, I knew better. I needed to go to the hospital. I told my assistant I was leaving to go to the doctor, but I didn’t tell her why–I didn’t want her to worry.
I still had enough denial, though, to drive myself to the ER (what in the world was I thinking?).
Within moments of arriving at the reception desk of the ER, I was in a room with three sets of hands on me (starting an IV, giving me an EKG, and drawing blood).
I had not yet called my wife, Barb. I didn’t have my cell phone with me. You see, I had given it to her in the ER the night before when I had gone in due to a weird sensation in my arm. That night, my EKG was normal. The strange feeling in my arm followed a specific nerve pathway. It appeared that I may have had a pinched nerve. (Even in retrospect, that was a reasonable hypothesis.)
This time, my symptoms were much stronger, much more clear. I asked the nurse to call my wife, and Barb was there within minutes.
At various points, I thought about my brother Steve who had died suddenly from an apparent heart attack 18 months earlier.
As brothers, Steve and I had some things in common. But we also had significant differences. We were twelve years apart in age and sometimes it felt like we were from different generations. When I was younger, I sometimes felt that he was a parent more than a sibling.
We also had significant personality differences. He felt queasy even walking into a hospital. I became a psychologist, spending some of my time consulting on medical units, primarily with cardiac patients.
Here I was, sharing one very important thing with him. I was having a heart attack. But mine was different–I had some warning.
That day, I felt I had a choice. When I had the tunnel vision, it seemed that I had the choice of whether or not to live–not whether or not to go to the hospital–but to LIVE. I felt I could have allowed myself to let go, to die, right then and there.
I can’t explain it. Who knows if what I’m describing is literally true. All I can do is say how it felt.
I did not feel fear. I did not feel that I needed to run from death. It felt okay to leave, but I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t want to leave Barb. I didn’t want to leave our son, Jesse. I didn’t want to leave the rest of my family.
It wasn’t my time to leave.
When I was wheeled up to the cardiac floor, I saw several nurses I knew from the time I worked there. It was comforting that they still worked there, that they are so committed to their work, and that they remembered me.
Physically, I felt fine. Emotionally, I was in an altered state. I knew my life had forever changed, even though I didn’t really know what that meant.
Barb was with me the whole time, loving and supportive, knowing just what I needed without me having to say a thing. Other family members came to see me. By this time, Barb had brought me my phone and I had emailed and texted friends and coworkers.
Late that afternoon, I encouraged Barb to take a break.
As I rested quietly in my room, I looked out the window and could see the tops of some very mature trees. I watched them sway gently in the wind and thought about how good my life has been.
I have a beautiful wife that has loved me for 27 years. We share a grown son who brings kindness and compassion to the world. I have done important work. I have always had everything, and more, that I needed.
Death was close, but for some reason, now was not my time.
The next morning, I went through the cardiac catheterization. I came out feeling fine. The next evening, I was home with instructions to relax for the next couple weeks until my follow up appointment with the cardiologist. At that time, I may need another stent, although that’s not certain.
I’m not saying this has been easy. I have experienced a whole range of emotions and shed some tears. But, for some reason, I am still here and I don’t exactly know why. Maybe I’ll never know. I have been rethinking my priorities without really knowing where this process is taking me.
I encourage you to read the whole column by Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester. He describes how we should not just be thankful for things, but for time. Time is the real gift we have been given.
This year, more than ever before, I am thankful for the time I have been given.
Please consider Frank’s thoughts as part of your Thanksgiving prayer:
“…this Thanksgiving, I’m shooting for being thankful of when. I’m hoping this long moment which is my life will find its knife’s edge at that table, filled as it will be with bounty and surrounded as it will be with love. I’ll try to be aware–keenly aware–that this moment always comes unbidden and, in that way, I am always being given a great gift. For that, I’ll be truly grateful.”