Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

In Memoriam

When I was growing up, Uncle Warner and Aunt Ona were the uncle and aunt I saw most often. Uncle Warner was my grandmother's brother and was 3 years younger than she was. (Amazing, when you think that my grandmother was born in March of 1897, Uncle Forrest in December of 1898, and twins Wardy and Warner in January 1900. Big Mom had four kids in less than three years.) I can say with certainty that we saw them more often than my other aunts and uncles, whom we saw often, because we saw Uncle Warner and Aunt Ona almost every day. We lived at Big Mom's old house at 3319 W. 38th St., and they lived within 5 blocks of us. We were the destination of their evening walk which culminated with an hour's conversation on the front porch before they strolled back home again. The grownups talked about everything, but my favorite stories were the ones they told about growing up in Kentucky.

Uncle Warner and Aunt Ona -- 1968
Uncle Warner discussing something very important with my brother Tim.

Uncle Warner and Aunt Ona had two children, Warner V. Castle II ("Little Warner") and Linda. Warner was 10 years older than I was, and Linda was a year younger than Warner. Because of our ages, I don't have a lot of memories of them as we were growing up. I remember that when Tim and I were in elementary school, Little Warner took us up on the hill, put us up in a tree, and then wouldn't let us down. I just remember that Linda was beautiful and was going to school at the University of Tulsa to be a teacher.

Warner lived south of Tulsa for a long time, and then he and his wife Anna moved into Uncle Warner and Aunt Ona's beautiful two-story house on 41st St. The house had been in the family for a long time, as it was originally the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, Aunt Ona's parents. By then, I had moved away, and I didn't see Little Warner except every once in a while when the family or cousins would get together. Linda moved away and lived in Missouri and California, so I didn't see her for years. Then, a few years ago she moved back home.

Two Christmases ago I got a Christmas card from her, saying that she enjoyed my blog. Well, that was a nice thing to know. Somebody was reading it, and she was interested in the family history, too! We started to get together for dinner and meet to discuss genealogy; she joined and started talking about doing her DNA.

Then, one day it hit me. If we were ever going to find out the origins of Jacob "the Longhunter" Castle, somebody with the Castle surname was going to have to take a y-DNA test. A couple of male Castle cousins from my generation are still living, but the only male Castle from my dad's generation was Warner. I wondered aloud to Linda if he would be willing to take a DNA test. She asked him, and he joked that he wouldn't do it for anybody but me. But really--he was kind of excited. He started telling his family that they would have to call him Warner "the Longhunter" Castle. He ordered his y-DNA test from Family Tree DNA, and Linda and Anna ordered Family Finder tests from there as well.

Then, you know how things happen. Anna had pneumonia, and Linda had read that sometimes antibiotics mess with DNA test results. Everybody put off taking their tests, because they were all going to mail them at the same time. Then one day Linda called. This time it was Warner who was critically ill, first with pneumonia and then a stroke. He was in the hospital and on a respirator. Nobody was thinking about DNA tests.

Sometime in that next week, Linda realized that her big brother was not going to get better, and it occurred to her that he would be really disappointed if that DNA test didn't get sent off. She enlisted the aid of Carrie and Terri, Warner's daughters. (Terri caught the family history bug at a young age, when she helped take care of my grandmother.) Together, they searched Warner's house for the DNA kits.

My grandmother, Terri, and Warner--I have a feeling
Warner had just said something funny!

Here's the way Linda tells it: "We were sitting on Warner's hospital bed swabbing his cheek when the doctor walked in. He was surprised and asked us what we were doing, but when we explained, he thought it was a good thing." I told Linda that, according to the blogs of genetic genealogists that I have read, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. 

Warner passed away on September 20. Later, Anna was looking at her checking account statement and remembered about the DNA test. She was so distressed, thinking that Warner had been so excited about his test, that Linda felt like she had to tell her what they had done. She said that at first she thought Anna was going to be mad, but then she started laughing and said she was glad they had taken care of it. She and Linda both took their tests, and as originally planned, they mailed all of them together.

Linda's test results showed up on FTDNA within a few weeks, and it was fun to see a close cousin (1st cousin, once removed) with whom I share so much DNA--536.78 cM's. We had to wait a little longer for Warner's, as it wasn't available until December. All in all, he had 8 y-DNA matches. These eight men share a common ancestor, although not recently. Only one of them has the surname Castle. Here is the really interesting thing--four of them have the surname Harmon or Harman. Two of them list their most distant known ancestor, and in both of those cases the men are descendants of the Harman (Herrmann) family that came from Palatinate Germany and settled in Virginia. If you've read my post about Jacob "the Longhunter" Castle, you know that Jacob had a feud with his neighbor, Adam Harman--same family. You have to wonder if this was a family feud that spanned continents and generations.

Warner's haplogroup was R1a1a (R-M198), and in the Castle DNA Project he was placed in the same family group as two other men who claim descent from Jacob Castle (1749-1849, Jacob the Longhunter's son) and one who claims origins in Germany. His haplogroup is not the same as a group who claim Yelles Cassell as their ancestor, so it's possible that our Jacob was not the son of Peter Cassell or the great-grandson of Yelles, as has been hypothesized. He also is not related to the descendants of Elijah Castle, who also lived in Russell Co. VA. Does that mean there were two Castle families with different origins living in Russell Co. in the 1700s? Of course, the comparisons only have validity if the people who test really know who their ancestors are. More Castle men will have to take y-DNA tests before we can draw any conclusions.

Warner's funeral program

Have you ever sat through the biographies and eulogies of a funeral, wishing you had known the deceased better, realizing that you really had a lot in common? That's how I felt about my cousin Warner's funeral. He and Linda had grown up in the same neighborhood that my brother and I had, although 10 years apart. We had played the same way as kids, loved the same hill. Warner and I shared the same politics and the same priorities. Warner was a 28-year veteran of the Tulsa Fire Department; an animal-lover; a protective big brother, husband, and dad; a trusted friend. He was ornery, too. That's what I remember.

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