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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks nos. 39-44—Unknown Ancestors

Six of my third great-grandparents remain unidentified. Four lurk in the shadows of history, nameless and faceless. Two others, I can name only as Mr. and Mrs. Riddle, and I know nothing more about them.

The four unknown subjects had a grandson who fathered my grandmother. Who was he, and who were his people?

As I have written many times on these pages, my grandmother arrived in the world in Palisade, Nebraska in August, 1896. When I quizzed her about it in the 1960’s, she stated she had no knowledge of her father’s identity. Information on her parentage did not come down through collateral family lines even though many cousins knew that her mom was an unwed mother. The father’s name has been a well-guarded secret for over 100 years.

No clues have come to light in all these years. Her father did not give her his name. Did he even know she existed? Before she married, Grandma sometimes went by her mother’s maiden name, Riddle, and sometimes she used the surname of the aunt who raised her, Evert.

Grandma’s maternal Riddle family, presents only slightly less of a challenge. Her grandfather, John Davis Riddle (1821-1896), reportedly was born in Pennsylvania to the elusive Mr. and Mrs. Riddle. The first record of John was when he (as John Davis, not John Davis Riddle) married Olla Dunbar in Summit County, Ohio in 1843. The couple shortly relocated to Mendon, Michigan where they lived out their lives. No Riddle descendant ever heard or recorded any information about John’s birth family. Who were his people?

Six unknown ancestors. How will I ever identify them? DNA testing might provide some answers, and I keep hoping for a promising match. Beyond that, the riddle of the Riddles will make an interesting research project one day.

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