Home > Daily Special

Family à la Mode

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

A year or so ago I sent a vial of my saliva off to Ancestry DNA. The results were not  surprising since I’ve been tracking my genealogy for decades now. I’m Scandinavian (most specifically southeastern Sweden) where my mother’s parents came from in the late 1800’s. I’m also German/European where my father’s progenitors came from in the mid-1800s. There are a few other odd bits in there, presumably just to keep me engaged in family history research.

Besides my pie-chart, Ancestry DNA also lists other spit contributors who share some of my DNA.

Last week I visited my sister Susan in the Chicago area. I browsed through my DNA profile and sent a message to one of the “possible cousins” who shares some of our strands. To my surprise and delight, I got a quick reply. Clara (not her real name) turns out to share direct ties to our great-grandfather and great-grandmother! And even more surprising and joyful, she lives just a half hour from my sister’s place! We made a date to meet.

Susan and I met Clara and her husband at Baker’s Square and connected over sandwiches and pie. Susan – older than I am by 6 years – had clear childhood memories of Clara’s mother (now deceased). Susan and Clara reminisced about names and places they both recalled. My only memory of that branch of the family is going to the funeral of one of Clara’s uncles, Johnny, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967 as a teenage soldier, just a few years older than I was at the time, and long before Clara was born.

Johnny was one of twins. His twin brother Jimmy is still alive and one of his sons has twin daughters. Clara herself has a twin sister. My sister Susan has twins. What are the odds?

Clara is very involved with music, singing since she was a child. She took cello lessons in college. Susan was an exceptional cellist well into her college years, too. Clara sings with an international barbershop singing group and has the knack for that style’s unique and complex harmonies. My daughter Christina is a talented singer and, back in her high school and college days, devised intricate harmonies with the acapella groups she sang with or formed. If I recall correctly, at least one of those songs was in nine-part harmony.

Some of Clara’s kin on our common lines were gifted artists. I lean that way myself.

Clara wondered whether Susan and I would have blue eyes like her grandmother.  Apparently, we do. Clara’s eyes are a gorgeous green – like our other sister Holly’s and like my daughter Christina’s.

Clara is not like Susan or I – nor any of our known relatives – in at least one distinct way. She is a brilliant astrophysicist! Until a few years ago when her health took a downturn, she was literally a rocket scientist with top secret projects and had highest level security clearances. My husband has some serious scientists among his kin, but Clara doesn’t share any DNA with him.

Clara is also a woman of gumption, determination, good humor, good will and compassion. She is an articulate and detailed storyteller and regaled us over our BLTs and desserts with her fascinating life experiences.

I am SO glad we connected. Family research doesn’t have to be just back and back in time. Sideways is great, too.

I wonder if in the next life we’ll have ample chances over heavenly sandwiches and pie to sit down with all the others in our expansive webs of connection. Imagine how fascinated and thrilled we’ll be at the commonalities and distinctiveness.

I know I had a little taste of heaven meeting Clara!

What cool connections have you made with distant kinfolk? Any surprises?

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

3 thoughts on “Family à la Mode”

  1. When my husband and I were first married, we were sitting in our BYU ward sacrament meeting listening to the talks. One woman, who I barely knew, shared stories from one of her ancestors. The more she spoke, the more I realized that her ancestor was *my* ancestor, my great great grandmother. I knew we must somehow be related, but when I went up to her afterward to discuss it, we discovered that our parents were actually first cousins. We would never have known had she not given that talk.

  2. I understand feeling those connections. I have been feeling especially drawn to my maternal grandmother (gone nineteen years now) and her line lately. It is such evidence of a life beyond this.

  3. I was listening to the bishop's wife give the lesson in Relief Society one Sunday and the story sounded familiar. She was talking about her husband's relative. Come to find out my third great grandfather is my bishops fourth great grandfather. It made the connection between our families stronger. I agree that some sideways family tree searching is a good thing.


Leave a Comment