DNA Will Out

Because I write police procedurals, I try to keep up with forensics. To that end, I watch a lot of true crime on TV. I had seen several programs devoted to the Golden State Killer who literally got away with murder for decades until advances in DNA, specifically familial DNA, came calling and nailed him.

In the aftermath of that arrest, I’ve been a fascinated follower of the career of CeCe Moore. She started out doing familial DNA work in order to reunite long-adopted children with their birth parents. Now her career has morphed into something else, and she’s currently working as a cold-case detective uncovering murderers who, like the guy in California, have remained hidden in plain sight for years and sometimes decades.

But this week, a piece of familial DNA popped up and hit me smack in the face.

When Colt, our grandson was born, he was the spitting image of his father. In the past few years, however, that dynamic has changed. A year ago, at a junior high band concert and shortly after Colt started wearing glasses, I saw his profile under the lights and noticed how much he resembled my father, his great grandfather Norman Busk.

Colt has been growing like a weed. When he showed up at a recent bowling tournament after a four month bowling hiatus, the guy in charge took one look at him and dubbed him “Stretch.” And it’s true. He’s all legs these days, and in that respect he resembles my three younger brothers who, as they were growing up, were known for their “Busk” build—scrawny and with outsized legs.

Both my paternal grandmother and great grandmother were six feet tall, and I’m right in line with that at six-one. For the time being I still have an inch or so on Colt in terms of height, but his inseam is a 38—four inches longer than mine. So there you go. That’s one side—the lanky side—of the family tree.

But then there’s that other side. Colt’s paternal great grandfather was a guy named Herman Teale Janc. I’m relatively sure that when Colt’s paternal forebears arrived in this country, most likely from somewhere in eastern Europe, whoever was doing the paperwork lopped off the part of the last name that they could neither spell nor pronounce. So a name was supposed to be pronounced Jance like dance ended up being mostly mispronounced as Jank like tank. After my first husband died, the kids and I went to court and there, for a mere four hundred bucks, we bought that final E for our name so people would pronounce it correctly.

But back to Herman. He was a relatively short guy, only about five seven or so. He had a headful of coal black hair of which he was inordinately proud. He was working at the Nevada Test Site when he died of a heart attack at age 53. When my mother-in-law, Mary Grandma, went to clean out his locker, she was furious when she discovered a bottle of hair dye hidden inside. So much for his coal black hair!

I really liked Herman. We’d sit at the breakfast table, drinking coffee and talking for hours on end. In 1972, I named my baby girl after him. There was no Harry Potter at the time, so I wasn’t about to name my newborn Hermione. Since Herman was out, I used Teale instead, naming her Jeanne Teale. (That’s the French pronunciation, so it’s more like Zhun Teale than the Americanized Jeannie.) Herman saw his namesake only once—the week after she was born. He died three months later, and I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and named her after him.

But back to those long conversations over coffee. Herman loved to pile one spoonful of sugar after another into each cup, and he always sat on the kitchen chair with one leg folded and tucked under the other.

Last week when the family’s post bowling tournament quarantine ended, Colt and his mom came to dinner. We were out on the patio where Colt was helping with the grill. When he turned around to down, there it was! He folded one of those incredibly long legs under him and sat on it, just like his great grandfather Herman!

So there you have it—familial DNA at work in a handsome young man who, as it happens, may have his father’s bronze hair, but who also resembles BOTH his great grandfathers!

As for his grandmother? I couldn’t be happier!

16 thoughts on “DNA Will Out

  1. This is a great post. Watching our parents and/or grandparents show up in our children or grandchildren is fun. DNA testing will probably continue to change our view of the world. The visual clues we actually see are much more fun though. Thinking of Colt as long and lanky as he grows into the man he will be is a gift for all of you. He will be so proud when he can look down on you and grin.

  2. What a great post! I often find myself looking at our younger family members and seeing traits, expressions, and body movements from grandparents. One of my favorite memories is my youngest granddaughter Laila getting up one morning and running in to tell her mother “You know that short blue-eyed grandma? Well she told me…..” Laila was about 5 and was talking about her mother’s paternal grandmother who had passed away long before Laila was born. Laila had not seen a photo of that “blue-eyed grandma” and was describing her saying grandma talked to her in a dream. I had thought from the day Laila was born she looked just like this grandma, even though Laila is half African-American and has very different coloring. The similarities between Laila and her great grandma Isabel amaze me regularly!

  3. I used to watch a TV show called “Cold Case”. It got cancelled during a writers’ strike and can’t be re-released now because of problems with music rights. It was fun to watch the detectives work on cases that had dropped 20 years ago. New detectives can sometimes pick up on something that was missed.

    It’s funny about names. When my great-grandfather came from Sweden his name was John Jacobson. He changed it to John Gustafson (his father’s name was Gustav Jacobson). His sisters took their mother’s maiden name for a reason I never figured out. It has made family history difficult.

    I like the story about your grandson. Tall is really better as I’m sure you know.

  4. What a fascinating post! All sorts of cool background. I have often wondered where the name “Jance” came from, as it’s a name I’ve never heard before. And of course, I’m always interested in Colt stories, because he’s a trumpet player too.

    • Another interesting thing that crops up are interests and skills through the generations. Music, writing, dispositions, etc. Young adults who didn’t know the father’s family, have mannerisms, etc. In my family, reading is a strong presence. I love watching the greats grow and their uniqueness emerge. Or repeat!

  5. At the end of army basic training, I was selected to be one of the flag bearers, along with several soldiers from other units . One of the others had my name, Bartley, on his shirt. He looked like a couple of my cousins, but I knew he couldn’t be one because all my cousins were several years older than me. During our conversation, I learned that his grandfather lived 20 miles or so from where my father grew up.

    Well, at my next duty station, I walked into the barracks where two guys looked at the name on my uniform and said “There was a Bartley in our old unit, AND HE LOOKED JUST LIKE YOU!”

    I later talked to my aunt who knew who the man – he was my grandfather’s cousin!

  6. Familial DNA is amazing, as is your post!
    I had four uncles, the Quick boys, on my mom’s side. All were tall and handsome and resembled my Granddaddy Quick, especially when he was younger. My male cousins look as though they could be interchanged within each uncle’s families. Two cousins are the spitting imagines of their uncles. That Quick DNA is strong!
    My niece will stand with her arms crossed identical to my dad. Recently, while scanning family photos to share with my cousins, I came across a rare photo of myself (I am always the photographer) and I realized that I also stand with my arms crossed in the exact same way.
    I am always amazed how pictures of myself at the age of 6 are identical to my mother at 6. Between actual DNA and familial DNA, there is no denying who our parents are!

  7. My mom’s younger cousin (Janice) was adopted. Her adoptive mother (Julia) told her the adoption papers would be in the bank box. Nope. I’d long thought she was related as when she’d call me I’d be sure it was my mother. Their voices were EXACTLY the same. I was so pretty sure I’d even figured out who might have been to mom. She died but still being close to her girls who were curious as heck I put them in touch with my late mom’s 90 year old sister. Yup! Julia adopted her niece when her brother’s daughter had a baby while in nurse’s training in another town.
    Janice refused DNA saying she was now satisfied her parents were her parents, regardless, and died. Her daughters (one who looked just like another of my cousins they’ve never met) were set to get their DNA and mine to see. How that woman could have denied her grandchildren all those years is beyond.
    comprehension to me.
    They’re so thrilled because they now know we’re “REALLY” related and are more in touch than ever. So proud of them.
    You are so up on not only forensics but technology (Man Overboard) and staying current. ??

  8. I just finished the last Ali book. I’m going through withdrawals. Looking forward to the one you are writing.
    Will you do book tours? Or a chance to get an autographed book?

  9. Amazing how behavioral traits and quirks are inherited along with hair color and height. Fascinating too! In our family one odd thing we inherited from my dad is the ability to catch falling objects that we aren’t even looking at…one handed at that. Handy unless it happens to be a knife that falls and instinct kicks in.

  10. Howdy!
    you got the long legs of your grandparents!!!
    My grandfathers, both were over 6ft… both!!
    and then… my grandmothers… Both were scaring the heck out of 5ft 1in.. Of course whom did I take after??? and now my daughter and grand daughter and me… 5ft 2in if I stand up really straight.
    My grandson, 11 y/o, taller than him Mom and Me…
    love and hugs and howdy to JTeale

  11. I love all your posts & books too! CeCe More is amazing, I am sure you are watching her show Genetic Detective, if not it is great!

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