Our host family: Patty and Louis at each end; daughter, Elizabeth Rose, Laurel, daughter Camille, and Wendell
Back row: Janine, Laurel, Louis, David, Wendell, Laurie Jean. Middle row: Janine’s husband David, Ginger and Larry Grignon and their grandchildren.
Three new brothers and baby sister—left to right: Louis, Guy, Wendell, Yvonne, Michael. (I met Larry later and visited with Gene on the telephone).
I recently met five of six siblings that I never knew existed; I am the oldest. The path to discovery had many curves and dead ends: From Manhattan, New York, to Seattle, Washington; Las Angeles California, to Henderson, Nevada, and back to New York. Eventually to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where a lady named Jodi uncovered information that placed my parents within a few blocks of each other in 1946.
I’m back home now, in northern Minnesota, reflecting on the journey that took me 3300 miles and seventy-two years back in time, to 1946 Long Island, New York, where a young woman with two small children had recently arrived in Selden to nurse wounds from a bitter divorce battle. She met a young man recently home from World War II. We’ll never know exactly how they met; she had no vehicle so walked to the local store for groceries. Maybe he saw her struggling with two toddlers along the dirt road and offered her a ride. Perhaps the young woman walked a few blocks to his parents’ home to use their telephone and met him there. Those young people discovered they had something in common—French language and culture. Several months later my mother moved on with her life, eventually met my stepfather Herman through a lonely hearts club catalogue, and moved to northern Minnesota. The young man married a local lady and raise six children in the Selden area.
In 2015, while doing research for my book PAWNS, I had a DNA test done on my two older brothers, myself, and my younger sister—the four children that my mother brought to northern Minnesota in 1949. Two years later a retired genetics scientist named David called my sister and told her he had discovered a match for her half-sister. That summer we drove to Cincinnati and met Grace and David. When David learned that I didn’t know who my father was, he began the search. In late 2018 he narrowed the search to possible families and suggested I contact a possible link. On 12 January 2019 I sent a letter of introduction along with a copy of my memoir, Muddy Jungle Rivers—the letter began:
Dear Mr. Grignon, I recently took a genealogical DNA test through Ancestry.com and learned that my ancestors date back to Louis Grignon (1841-1921) & Lucie Lacoste (1851-1931). Are your grandparents Lucien Grignon (1893-1955) and Yvonne Eva LaChance (1892-1971)? I have close DNA cousins through both the Grignon and LaChance families, so I am therefore somehow related to your extended family.
Mr. Grignon—Louis—called me the same afternoon he received my package and we visited for about an hour.
David continued his search for confirmation. At some point—I don’t fully understand, David’s search intersected with a man named Rich (Laurie Jean’s husband I later learned) who was researching his wife’s family background. Was it serendipity, fate, luck? David’s search leapt forward and on April 8, 2019, he wrote, I checked Ancestry today and….apparently Louis’ older brother Larry and his daughter Janine had submitted DNA tests already. AND…… AS YOU CAN SEE ON ANCESTRY AND IN THE ATTACHED SCREENSHOTS, THEY ARE BOTH STRONG MATCHES TO YOU !!! Larry Grignon, almost certainly Guy Grignon’s oldest son and Louis’ brother, is a DEFINITE HALF-BROTHER TO YOU !!! And Janine Grignon, likely Larry’s daughter, is a definite half-niece to you!!
And so Laurel and I planned a trip to visit her sister Grace near Cincinnati and on to Long Island. We invited David to join us. It was an amazing event, connecting with new family. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. Louis and his wife Patty invited us to stay in their home—they were wonderful hosts. Janine, brother Larry’s daughter, had a luncheon for us—her husband, a New York police officer, is an awesome chef. I was touched by the enthusiasm the young people had. Our father Guy had died in 1994. Janine and Larry’s other daughter, Laurie remembered him and commented more than once how much I looked like their grandfather.
Another evening we had dinner with Louis, Patty, and their two daughters, Camille and Elizabeth—lovely young women. Louis spent the week chauffeuring us around Long Island. We visited many local sights, including the Grignon grandparents’ home and Middle Country Public Library in Selden where we explored old records.
Our last evening, Louis took several of us out on his sailboat—it was clear with a light breeze on Long Island Sound.
I will always cherish that week, filled with wonderous new memories. We look forward to the Grignon family visiting us here in Minnesota, and our next visit with them.