October 29, 2016

Introducing Mr. Harry Adler

Adlers in North Carolina
I never thought I'd be writing this post. But here I am introducing my (biological) father. All these years, I thought I knew exactly who I am. But a DNA test proved me wrong. 

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Harry Adler. Harry was born 08 October 1911 in Kinston, NC to parents Phillip Adler and wife Hattie Foxman. He had 4 siblings: William, Ada, Rebecca, and Irvin. 

Harry was a 3rd generation American of eastern European descent. His grand parents immigrated from Russia/Poland and Germany in the late 1890s through Quebec and New York, settling in eastern North Carolina around 1910. The family was active in social circles and were one of only a handful of Jewish families in Lenoir and Edgecombe counties. 

Harry shows up on the 1920 and 1930 census in Lenoir County (Kinston), NC. When he was 22, he married Doris Temperance Hurst,daughter of Charles Morton Hurst Sr. and Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Beverly, on 25 Jul 1934 in Greensville County, Virginia. By 1935, Harry and his new wife were living in her hometown in Martin County, NC. 

Raleigh's News and Observer, 12 August 1934
By the mid-1950s, Harry and Doris were living in Raleigh, but a few years later they moved to Jacksonville, NC to see to various business interests there. They owned a department store (as did other family members in nearby counties). They also owned a dry cleaners, finance company, and other assorted businesses in Jacksonville, NC. Collectively, the Adler family owned retail stores all over North Carolina including Raleigh, Tarboro, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Jacksonville, and Kinston. They dealt in children's clothes, ladies clothes, slippers, shoes, jewelry, and other household goods.

Enter my mother, Gladys Allen Stancil. Mom was a very smart cookie and reinvented herself several times over her lifetime, but in the late 1950s, she was an experienced bookkeeper. She took a position working for the Adlers in Jacksonville in 1958. By spring 1959, she was pregnant with her first and only child...me. 

In the mid-1960s, Harry and Doris moved to south Florida where they owned/managed an apartment building.  They later moved to the Florida panhandle to be nearer their son, Joel, who had married and settled in the area. 

Harry passed away 12 February 1977 and is buried in Martin County, NC next to his wife Doris. 

Pensacola News-Journal, 13 Feb 1977

Robersonville Cemetery, Martin County, NC

October 12, 2016

Just to be perfectly clear...

In the days since DNA led me to discover my true biological father, I've experienced many different emotions. Mostly, I've just felt so sad that Carl Stancil wasn't my biological father.  In the larger scheme of life, it really doesn't matter who my bio father may be. What matters is who raised me to be the woman I am today. And that man was Carl Donald Stancil - the finest man I've ever known.

I've written a great deal about him on this blog. He was so proud to be an American, a Christian, and my father. He was kind, compassionate, loving, patient, and so very sweet. I wish I could hold his hand one more time. Just for a minute.

So while I'm off exploring my biological family, I'll never forget who raised me. I'm the luckiest girl on earth.

Carl Donald Stancil

October 9, 2016

Perseverance + serendipity = Success

I found my biological father. 

I feel both grateful and guilty – at the same time. Grateful to my friends who encouraged me to dig and helped me analyze data but guilty that I found him so quickly when others have searched for years.

Were it not for DNA testing, I would have never known my father was not my biological father. I would have been blissfully ignorant the rest of my life, chasing dead Stancil family members until the cows came home never knowing I was pouring my soul into finding people who not my blood relatives. Would that have been a terrible thing? Not really. However...

Were it not for DNA testing, I would have never found my biological father. I would have never known my own truth.

DNA testing can be a blessing and a curse. As they say, don't ask the question if you can't take the answer.

One day. On a whim. Because it was on sale. Because all my friends were doing it. Because I was curious about my ethnicity. Because I wanted to expand my research skills. Because I wanted to know more about my family. Because it seemed like innocent fun…I took a DNA test.

It changed everything.

It changed nothing.

How I found my biological father in 10 easy steps:

  1. First, tested with AncestryDNA. Results = 40% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Whaaatttt? Not what I expected. Nah, not possible.  
  2. Next, tested with FamilyTreeDNA. Results = 43% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Umm...there are no Jews in my ancestry. What’s going on here?  
  3. Then, tested with 23andMe. Results = 47.7% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Uh Oh. Oh gosh. No. Could it be? Oh goodness.
  4.  The unthinkable hit me: one or both of my parents may not be a biological parent. Seriously?!? I stared at my results in disbelief. Went to that night bed dazed and confused. The obsession set in. 
  5. Attended DNA workshops, joined a DNA Special Interest Group, read DNA how-to books at night until I couldn’t hold my eyes open, bugged my knowledgeable friends endlessly. Saints they are, my friends. 
  6. Sent many many many emails to my matches; most total strangers. Got 1 or 2 responses.
  7. Discovered one 1st cousin match and one 2nd cousin match online. Focused on those.  Like a laser, I did.  
  8. Couldn’t make contact with either until I found the 2nd cousin’s address via a Google search (i.e. Internet Stalking).  Mailed him an old-fashioned letter. The kind you put in an envelope and drop in a metal box.    
  9. A week later, he called and gave me names to research.  The entire family were German and Russian Jews.  My 2nd cousin handed me the key to the truth. God bless him. 
  10. Created a family tree based on those names. Lo and behold…staring at the 1940 census for Lenoir County, NC…I knew I’d found my man. A family friend from my childhood. I knew him well. Apparently, so did my mother.

All the pieces fell into place. Certain things now make perfect sense. A fellow named Harry, for whom my mother worked in the late 1950s, a family friend (and his wife) we visited often even after they retired to Florida in the mid-1960s. 

I still have lots of questions and loads to process. But even if I never get those answers, I’ve answered the most important question of all. I feel more peaceful today that I have in the weeks since learning of my “situation”. I can breathe without strategizing the next step in my search.

I have always been very proud of the fact that my roots run deep in North Carolina. Thankfully, Harry continues that tradition; he was born and grew up one county over from mine. Whew. I coulda been half New Yorker or something. Close call!

Is closure in sight? Not really. Probably not ever. The upside is 1) I have an answer, 2) I have a new family to research, and 3) I understand my mother just a little bit better now. All good things.