Betty Jane DeYoung 1921-2009

Mystery Photo that Pauline carried with her for many years.  Why?

9 September 1921

On the 9th day of September 1921, my paternal grandmother Betty Jane was born to Pauline Mastbergen.  Betty took the surname of her mother due to her being an illegitimate child.

8 February 1898

On the 8th day of February 1998, Pauline Mastbergen DeYoung passed from this world.  As the women sorted through her possessions to donate to Goodwill what was no longer needed, a short letter was found written to Betty explaining how the man she knew to be her father, Martin DeYoung, was not her biological.  The letter failed to tell who the father was.

A small photograph was found in Pauline’s hand purse.  It was apparent the photo had been viewed on multiple occasions due to the edge wear.  The photo featured a balding man with close-set eyes and stained fingertips, perhaps in his late 30s, early 40s, who wore a cap, sandals, and an apron from waist down.  It was unidentified.

Was this man Betty’s father?  If so, how to find him?

Proving the Adoption

Because Betty and Pauline lived their entire lives within the confines of Kent County, Michigan, I contacted the County Probate Court, the court that oversees adoptions like Betty’s, to order a copy of the adoption record.

According to Michigan Probate Code, Section 710.68 and 710.27.

(20) A direct descendant of a deceased adult adoptee may request information under this section. All information to which an adult adoptee is entitled under this section shall be released to the adult adoptee’s direct descendants if the adult adoptee is deceased.

Therefore, if the adult adoptee is deceased, a direct descendant will be treated as if he/she were the adult adoptee and receive the equivalent information authorized by law.

Betty’s file was located and I received a copy via email within 60 days.

Unfortunately, Pauline, when pressed for the identity of Betty’s father, gave the fictitious name of John De Geu, who allegedly lived on Ionia Avenue.  City directories were scoured for this or names similar to it, but nothing was found.  It is likely that she did not know who the father was.

22 August 1924

Betty was officially adopted by Martin DeYoung on the 22nd day of August 1924, just 18 days shy of Betty’s third birthday.  Because she was so young she had no recollection of these events which is why the letter written by her mother came as such as shock to the family.

Tracking Down the Mystery Man in Photo

I set out to uncover the identity of the mystery man in Pauline’s photo.  Who was this man?  Why did Pauline carry the photo with her for so many years – not even having a photo of her former husband?

Using the FAN principle (Family, Associates, and Neighbors), I looked to Pauline’s family, primarily her sisters, to see what events may have transpired in their lives around the time leading up to Betty’s birth.

Sister Lillian’s Early Marriage and Subsequent Divorce

Pauline’s older sister Lillian, age 18, had married Steward A. Thompson, nine years her elder, on 25 October 1918 in Grand Rapids.

“Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925”, database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N3TC-4QH : 15 May 2018), Stewart A. Thompson and Lillian Mastberger, 1918.

Stewart Thompson was once previously married and had a son named Forrest.  The marriage was short-lived, Stewart filing for divorce on grounds of cruelty, to both Stewart and Forrest.  The divorce was granted on 11 December 1922

“Stewart A. Thompson vs. Lillian Thompson”, Superior Court in Chancery, Kent County, Michigan.  File No. 4002.  File and Transcript obtained from the Western Michigan University’s Zhang Legacy Collections Center Archive.

Of special interest are the two witness names found in the marriage registry: Alfred Thompson and Pauline Mastbergen, both of Grand Rapids.  Because Pauline and Alfred knew one another, based on this document, it was worth pursuing any information that could be extracted on Alfred.

Was Alfred Goldberg Thompson the Father?

Alfred Goldberg Thompson was born on 17 July 1883 in Coldwater, Michigan.  He died on 11 August 1964 from pneumonia.  He also had skin cancer and had surgery to remove lymph nodes.  Alfred would have been 35 at the time of Lillian’s marriage to Stewart.  The photo Pauline had in her possession was probably taken around this time.

Alfred was Stewart’s older brother.  He worked as a brass finisher for the York instrument company.  He married. Using his obituary I traced his family forward to find a granddaughter living in Byron Center, Kent, Michigan.  Because I did not have her phone number I wrote her a lengthy letter explaining the situation and enclosed a scanned photo of who I believed might be Alfred.

I received a phone call about a week later from the granddaughter who confirmed that the man in the photo was indeed Alfred Goldberg Thompson.  But she failed to respond to any further of my phone calls or letters.

The next step was to prove the theory that Alfred Thompson was Betty’s father using DNA.

Using DNA to Prove Fatherhood

I tested myself with 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and AncestryDNA.  I tested my father and mother with AncestryDNA exclusively because it boasts the largest database.

Because my Thompson contact was no longer responding to my inquiries I brought Stewart’s line forward and found living relation that had already tested with AncestryDNA.  Problem was…they did NOT appear in my DNA matches.  This was the proof I was looking for.  Alfred Goldberg Thompson was not the father of Betty DeYoung.

So why did Pauline carry his photo with her for so many years?  Who knows.  Perhaps she really admired him.  Perhaps he was a former lover.  Or maybe she really truly believed that he was Betty’s father.  I go with the latter reason only  because not many of us carry former boyfriend or girlfriend photos with us for over 50 years!  I choose to believe that Pauline did not know the identity of Betty’s father.

The 1920s were wild times.  If Pauline was anything like her sister Lillian, she had a lot of men.  That’s not being critical, that’s just being a realist.  It is what it is.  Genealogy doesn’t seek to sugarcoat a situation or hide skeletons in the closet.  Rather, genealogy lays it all out there for the whole world to see.  And we all do have skeletons.  None of us are perfect.  And I certainly do not judge my great-grandmother Pauline based on the mistakes she made.  I came into the world when she was in her 60s and she was nothing but the sweetest woman.

Back to the Drawing Board

Since Alfred was proven by DNA not to be Betty’s father, I had nothing further to go on, other than DNA.

I was contacted a short while later by Jodi, one of my DNA matches who tested on both 23andMe and AncestryDNA.  An adoptee she was successful in finding both her biological parents.  Sadly her father wanted nothing to do with her.  It was on her father’s side that we were connected.  We were predicted 4th cousins by Ancestry with just 42 cMs shared across 3 segments of our DNA.  The average cMs shared for 4th cousins is 35 with a range from 0-127, so this is fitting.  Were we the predicted 4th cousins this would mean that Jodi and I would share a 3rd Great Grandparent.

This was meaningful and worth pursuing not only because I had nothing else to go on at this point but also because my possibility of finding Jodi and my common connection was possible.  Jodi had already successfully developed her tree and was more than willing to share with me.  I looked at the people on her father’s side that were 2nd great grandparents.  Why?  Because it was possibly one of these people’s parents that was the common connection.

One name stood out from the others…an Estella Dart.  I had other “Dart” connections on both 23andMe and Ancestry.  I studied Estella’s genealogy.

Jodi’s genealogy: Jodi > father (private) > gf: Louis Gordon Schooley > 1ggf: William H. Schooley > 2ggm: Estella Dart > 3ggf: Freeman Dart > 4ggf: Curtis Dart

Estella was born in 1877 to Freeman and Sarah (nee Porter) Dart.  She was the 2nd of 5 children with two brothers, Charles, born August of 1882, and Clarence (Calvin), born January of 1888.  My great-grandmother Pauline was born in 1900 so either of these two men would be a bit older than she.  I examined Calvin to see where he was in 1920.  He was married with a 3-month old daughter and a 1-year old son.  He operated a mechanic garage located right around the corner from where Pauline was born and raised.  Coincidence?  He was definitely in the right place at the right time.

I brought Calvin’s line forward and found living relation in Rockford, Michigan.  Armed only with an address I wrote a few letters and never received a response.  Because of their obvious disinterest I looked elsewhere.  I then found a couple sisters, one living in Hastings, Michigan, the other in Wyoming, Michigan.  I wrote the Wyoming sister (the youngest).  She responded.  After a lengthy phone conversation we agreed to meet at a local Denny’s.  Both sisters and their husbands came along and I brought my wife.  We exchanged photos.

Calvin Edward Dart 1888-1929

After a bit of conversation one of the sisters mentioned her desire to learn her ethnicity.  I’m always armed in such situations with a DNA kit which I purchase when then go on sale.  So I pulled one out and offered it to her.  She was more than willing and quite eager to take the test.  We left in good company and I was just as anxious as the women to learn the results of the test but for reason of finding out if Calvin Edward Dart was the biological father of my grandmother Betty.

Nearly two months later the tests came in and again were quite conclusive: Calvin Edward Dart was not the biological father.  The sister was my 4th to 6th cousin with a predicted 4th cousin (same as Jodi) with shared 45 cMs across 2 segments.  If Jodi and these sisters were of similar shared DNA this indicated a common connection between the entire lot of us…but further back.  These women were closer to the source.  Their grandfather was Calvin.  The connection then could be Freeman Dart or his father, Curtis.

But if not Calvin or his brother Charles Dart, then who?  Again I was left with no possible candidates.  Until I was contacted by an American living in Germany who was attempting to uncover his and my connection along the “Porter” line.  This investigation led to some remarkable discoveries and the ultimate revelation of my grandmother Betty’s biological father.

This article will be continued as Part 2…