Friday, August 13, 2010

My brick wall had concrete blocks behind it...

In previous posts, I mentioned that I'm the fourth generation looking for my great-great-grandfather Thomas S. MANESS, who disappeared about 1875, age 25-26. Over the past few years, we had begun to believe he might be Thomas Swain Maness of Moore County, N.C., a rather rough character who was reputed to have five wives in different places.

Their parents' names were different, but we thought that a man with that reputation might lie about who his parents were. I haven't found Thomas' reputed parents in any census (N.C. or Arkansas). Same county, same middle initial. Their ages were about a decade different, but that wasn't too serious as Swain's date of birth changed wildly on his various records; no one's pinned it down exactly.

My uncle sent off his DNA to compare with a relative of Swain's. We got the results this week. And the DNA verdict is ... (drum roll) ... we are NOT related! As a matter of fact, we don't seem to be related to any Maness on file; they started a new family group for us. Which leads me to wonder, if a man could lie about his parents, would he give his own real name?

My great-grandfather had seven (six adult) children, so we have a whole clan of Manesses in Randolph County. What if his father wasn't even a Maness at all?

Here I was, the official family genealogist, trying not to assume until proven, warning my relatives to stop passing down oral history about the other family. I didn't realize until I got the DNA results how much I had built up my own hopes about solving this mystery. I was floored.

Other folks, however, have been encouraging. My uncle wants to see another Maness genealogist we haven't talked to yet. We have an old photograph that we're trying to compare. A helpful genealogist in Moore County reminded me that the connection between Swain and the living relative (for DNA) was based on oral history, so we could still be kin to Swain and not the relative. And no, I haven't forgotten the possibility that Thomas could have been telling the truth, and I need to look harder for his alleged parents.

Last month I heard a story that Swain could chop wood like no other man. And then my cousin, not knowing about that, mentioned that our Thomas was a woodsman - a piece of oral history that I had never heard. We have more clues and resources than my family has ever had. I could be back to square one, or this trail could be warmer than ever.

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