Researching your family history is a gift that keeps on giving — especially for Stephanie Gustys. Last year, we posted the incredible story of how a DNA match helped Stephanie uncover the details of a past her grandmother had been too traumatized to tell her.
Well, her discoveries didn’t end there! Stephanie recently commented on one of our Instagram posts that she had made a new discovery, and we reached out to her to get the full scoop.
To recap, Stephanie’s paternal grandmother, Stefanija, was born in Lithuania. At age 17, during World War II, she was taken from her family by the Germans and placed in forced labor camps. After the war, Stefanija was moved to a British-run Displaced Persons camp, and she became pregnant with Stephanie’s father there. Shortly after, she married Stephanie’s grandfather and they had another baby. The family eventually immigrated to Canada.
“They entered Canada through Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia,” says Stephanie. “Here, Dad was kept in isolation for fear of typhoid. A baby picture of my dad shows an infant in woolen clothes, with a large distended belly from starvation.”
Stephanie recently found out, through the Arolsen Archives in Germany, that the displaced persons were given clothing by the German people for the journeys to their new countries. “I always wondered at a photo I have of my Grandpa and other Lithuanians, looking handsome in beautiful ill-fitting suits, on the ship from Germany. Now I know how they came to have these clothes.”
“My father had always assumed that his mother’s Lithuanian husband was his biological father,” says Stephanie. “So when my father, as an adult, requested his birth certificate from the German government, he was shocked to see no father listed.”
Stephanie tried to help her father uncover the identity of his father, but it was an impossible task… until DNA testing became available.
“I took a DNA test and uploaded it to MyHeritage,” says Stephanie. “I had always assumed that my mystery grandfather was Lithuanian. But MyHeritage showed me that I am only about 25% Lithuanian, with about 25% British ethnicity, which must have come from my paternal grandfather.”
Stephanie had many DNA matches that she wasn’t able to place in her tree, and she wondered if they might be able to lead her to her mystery grandfather. She appealed for help on a Facebook group and a woman named Alexandra Dixon came to her aid. Alexandra sorted through Stephanie’s DNA matches, pinpointing the matches who appeared to be related to the missing grandfather. Within a few days, she homed in on some DNA matches with ancestors in Lancashire, some of whom had the surname Wolstenholme — a common name in Lancashire, with many people descended from the original family in the area. This seemed a promising lead, but the matches were too distant to trace the connection.
A few months later, a much closer DNA match in England popped up who seemed to be related to Stephanie through her grandfather. Stephanie messaged the match, but she was unsure of the connection.
Then, this summer, Stephanie posted again in the Facebook group and a man named Richard Rohan came to her aid. “After doing more research into my DNA matches, Richard was able to find several more of my matches who had Wolstenholme ancestors,” says Stephanie. “So I wrote back to my DNA match in Britain, and asked her if she knew that name. She answered that it was her great-grandmother’s maiden name, and then gave me the names of her great-grandmother’s siblings. One name stood out: Wilfred Wolstenholme. Wilfred was also my father’s name!”
At this point, Alexandra jumped back in and she and Richard worked together to get to the bottom of the Wolstenholme connection — even finding a branch that settled not far from where Stephanie currently lives. “This new match shared the right amount of DNA with me that her great-great-uncle Wilfred could indeed have been my grandfather,” says Stephanie. “We are now 99% sure that Wilfred was my paternal grandfather, but finding a direct descendant of his to test would be the final confirmation.”
“Sadly, my father passed away without ever knowing who his father was,” says Stephanie. “He thought about it constantly, and always just wanted to know who he was. It’s a bittersweet happy ending. I do hope to be able to connect with some relatives through the Wolstenholme line, but in the meantime, I have made wonderful new friends with my search angels, Richard and Alexandra.”
Take a MyHeritage DNA test today — you never know what more you’ll learn about your family!
Source: My Heritage