As researchers we can find dates and places but we treasure those interesting items that give us insight into the people our ancestors were. DNA testing can match us with distant relatives who sometimes have quirky stories or information that we don’t have. It’s great when they share them with us.
William “Bill” Albert Miller is my great uncle. He was born on 28 April 1917 in Devlin, Rainy River, Ontario, Canada. His parents are Harry Miller and Margaret McCall. Bill grew up on the farm. His father worked hard hauling wood and doing labour for other people so Bill and his brothers and sisters worked hard on the farm along with their mother. Uncle Bill and his brother, Uncle Robbie, took over the farm when their father died. Bill had a dairy farm and his cows won red ribbons at the Emo fair.
Uncle Bill was quiet and gentle. My father remembers helping him out at the farm one winter. Dad was struggling with a high school math problem but Uncle Bill looked at the problem and gave him the correct answer. Unfortunately, the teacher didn’t accept the answer, because Dad hadn’t shown how he worked it out.
One time Uncle Bill taught us how to milk cows. I remember being really bad at it. He also repaired my bicycle before I went on a big trip. Another thing I remember about him is his interest in genealogy. I went to him when I started looking for stories about the family. He had a box of information and correspondence with a McCall family in Michigan.
For years Uncle Bill was a confirmed bachelor but in 1974, at the age of 57, he married Myrtle Ivy Brown.
Now you’re wondering how DNA fits into all this. A DNA match of mine was someone Uncle Bill had written to years ago. This person sent me documents that included a copy of a letter Bill wrote about his marriage.
He says, “Yes I did get married, on the 29 of June….I now have a family of 3 daughters, 2 sons and 3 grandsons.
We are very happy, I should have made this move long ago. Why didn’t some of you old married folks tell me it could be this good?”
This letter is an amazing find. It gives me a better understanding of my Uncle Bill’s married life. He embraced family life and his new family embraced him. The kids, who were almost in their teens or older, called him Pops.
Our DNA matches may have information we don’t. It’s especially gratifying when they have personal items and stories relating to our ancestors.
William Miller Birth; Original Birth Registrations; Devlin Municipal Office, Devlin, Ontario
Collection of documents and letters from a DNA match; copies of originals.