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Unraveling a pair of half-brothers marrying a pair of sisters, 3+ generations later?

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  • Unraveling a pair of half-brothers marrying a pair of sisters, 3+ generations later?

    To be clear, they didn't marry their own sisters. Their wives were sisters to each other, not them(the husbands). The two half-brothers had no other known/suspected siblings who lived past their 2nd year.

    To further add confusion, the half-brother's wife passed away after having had several children. The Half-Brother married again, and two of his children subsequently married the youngest siblings of their step-mother. Luckily for me, that's a problem for them to sift through, as I'm down the line where only one wife was involved, so "uncle-grandpa" is only a tangential concern for me.

    The challenge to date is we've been unable to locate and DNA match against any known descendants from the half-brother's Second Marriage. While we do have several matches from the first one, which doesn't demonstrate too much, given the expected match through the pair of sisters. They also haven't been particularly helpful in trying to investigate things further.

    To further compound things, near as we can tell, the last living member on the relevant male lines on our end died in the 1980's so Y-DNA testing isn't a viable option.

    Patience and time(and the right person(s) testing) will probably eventually allow us to confirm the information we have is correct as to the (alleged) half-brother actually being a/"the" half-brother, particularly given there were children from a second marriage not involving a woman closely related to the other brother's wife.

    The challenge I see is we're dealing with being near the edge of reliable atDNA testing as it is on connecting the two family lines, particularly when you add in the "half" relationship at the end. I'm wondering if someone knows if there might be another way to resolve the matter should we never get a known match from a descendant of that brother's second marriage? This basically is a :double-cousin" event with a twist, so I guess I'm wondering if anybody has worked out a way to reliably decipher things on the genetic level where that is going on.

    In full disclosure, my line from the other brother being discussed also had another "double cousin" event happen involving a pair of his daughters, but that portion of the tree is known well enough we didn't need DNA to determine parentage.

  • #2
    What is the actual genealogical problem to be solved here? Whether genetic evidence can solve a problem depends on what the possible family trees are, and who is available to be tested.

    I ran into a situation in the 16th Century where two brothers from one family who had the same given name (Pierre), married two sisters from another family who, themselves had the same name (Clauda). These two couples then owned various family properties jointly! I wondered how some future genealogist would treat this situation, and finally concluded, that since the ancestry, at least, would be exactly the same for descendants of both couples, there was really no point it trying to figure out which was which! It was a time when arranged marriages were probably the norm, and very likely the parents thought this double marriage would be really cute. It was also a time when it was not uncommon for a family to produce 2 or even 3 children having the same given name, perhaps named after different godparents? Or from different mothers? Or maybe just to confuse genealogists?

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    • #3
      Part of the problem is making sure we have the correct set of parents identified and we aren't hitting a "same name, different person" problem. The surname involved was fairly common, and so was the half-brother's given name, one he shared with their father.

      The challenge is the paper trail from there, they immigrated to the US prior to 1870, the brother on "my" line was an adult by the 1870 census and while he was next door to the alleged half-brother, father and stepmother, but beyond that no government paper trail found to date in the USA links them together otherwise. We do have a note from my Grandmother saying he had a half-brother by a matching name who had married my Grandfather's Grandmother's sister, but no other supporting information. (My Father and two of his siblings have DNA tested)

      So confidence is reasonably high we have the right people pegged for half-brother, father, and stepmother. Knowing there is a set of family lines we've been unable to get a match against but should (barely) be able to is annoying in trying to confirm it.

      Which then takes us across the Atlantic to Europe where we find a family that appears to be a near exact match. Except they're living in a village about a dozen miles away from where our family records said they were from, not too bad so far. Further compounding this is birth information doesn't quite line up with headstones in the USA(years and sometimes even months and days differ). To make things even more interesting the Mother's maiden name given for my 2x Great Grandfather on his marriage record is very different from the record belonging to the suspected family group in Europe. But the stepmother's information does match against the information given by the half-brother when he married.

      So far seeking an answer from a generation deeper in the tree is likewise coming up empty. I have pretty much declared "good enough" on the matter but still wonder if there might be another option short of finding a translator to go digging in Czech records to figure out what was going on with my 3x Great Grandmother being given different surnames, which admittedly is likely to be on the agenda at some point anyhow, but it would be nice to know if we're even investigating the right woman first.

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