I found it!
A quick recap for new readers: Shortly before my great-grandfather was born (in North Carolina), his father left to find a job in Virginia — and was never seen again. Paw carried a tin-type picture of his father, Thomas S. Maness, and searched for him all his life. I am the fourth generation trying to solve this mystery.
We think Thomas S. is Thomas "Swain" of Moore County, N.C. I was so disappointed when a Y-DNA (male) comparison between my uncle and a man who reputedly shared ancestors with Swain turned up negative. Descriptions of both men are so close, we weren't ready to give up. Now that autosomal DNA can compare women and men, I wanted to compare the DNA of my uncle with Swain's granddaughter, Mrs. Lessie — one last try!
Mrs. Lessie agreed, but then I lost the key to my safe deposit box containing money for the expensive test. My uncle offered to pay to get a new key. Before we went to the bank, I decided to search one more time. I found it! Yay! Where? In one of the places I had already looked. Go figure.
I cashed my savings bond and called Ms. Lessie. I had to remind her again who I was. I verified her address, logged in to my FamilyTree DNA account, and ordered the tests!
At nearly $600, this is a big gamble. But if it solves our 137-year-old family mystery, it'll be worth every penny.
Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost." Mark 15:8-9