Case studies, Methodology

How I lost my Pomeranian

Gottlieb intrigued me. His name itself is exotic, at least it is where I live. I never met a Gottlieb before him, in real life or in family history research. Gottlieb Augustus Edward Malchow. Who was he? What did he look like? What were his life experiences and expectations? Why did he come to Australia and how did he meet his wife?

All these questions, and more, drove my research for many years and he became one of those special ancestors that drag you back to them all the time. I cannot explain my interest in him. Perhaps it was the place he came from – Pomerania. I had heard of Pomerania before but I knew next to nothing about it, so I read and gathered maps and photos to learn more. Perhaps it was also because the records said very little about him.

Gottlieb was my great great great grandfather, on my mother’s side. He married my great great great grandmother Maria Elizabeth Kiesecker in Mudgee, New South Wales Australia, on 1 September 1862. They had five children – Christina, Elizabeth, Charles, Ferdinand and John. Christina was my great great grandmother.

I have never found Gottlieb’s death certificate or Christina’s birth or baptism records. These are important documents for establishing relationships. My relationship to Christina has been confirmed through a combination of DNA evidence and other documentary records. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Gottlieb.

Even before I had my DNA tested, there were hints that something was wrong. The first was my failure to find Christina’s birth or baptism records, when the records for all her siblings were available. The second was the knowledge that Gottlieb and Maria married in September and Christina was supposedly born the same year. I now believe that her mother was either already pregnant when she married or that Christina was born before the marriage.

My DNA test results revealed a group of people who were related to me and also to each other. I had no clues to how we were related until one of my DNA matches contacted me and supplied me with information about their family tree and their matches. Sarah (not her real name) and I shared 47 centimorgans.

The ‘unknown’ group of DNA matches, with Sarah in the top left corner of 6
Predicted relationships for 47cM, from Blaine Bettinger’s shared cM tool on DNA Painter website

Sarah also had matches with other descendants of Christina, but not with descendants of Christina’s maternal cousins. From this information we concluded that Christina’s father was the link, not her mother. Comparing our ages helped us narrow down the possibilities, as we were a generation apart. After further analysis, we developed the hypothesis that Christina’s biological father was either Sarah’s great grandfather Edward Webb (1837-1923) or his father, also called Edward Webb (1812-1899). Sarah’s research indicated that both were in Mudgee around the time of Christina’s birth.

Ironically, I still do not know what Gottlieb looked like but I do have this photo of Edward Webb jnr, which was kindly uploaded to an Ancestry tree by David Fayle

I now have eleven DNA matches who are descended from Edward Webb jnr, through three of his children; and five DNA matches who are descended from his siblings. The size of the matches are too small to be definitive, but they are all within the ranges you would expect if he were Christina’s biological father and their relationships with each other have been established. Unfortunately, I have not been able to trace any descendants of Gottlieb’s other children to compare their DNA to mine, which could confirm or refute the hypothesis.

The evidence that Edward Webb was Christina’s biological father is still circumstantial, but it is enough for me to agree that I have lost my Pomeranian. It is important in family history to accept that new evidence can change your conclusions and to understand that DNA evidence can contradict documentary evidence. Gottlieb is still part of the family, as he did raise Christina as his daughter, but I still feel a sense of loss.

Read my article about how DNA research is essential in family history.

Need help with your DNA research? I am available for DNA consults.

More of my family history stories are available on my other website.

3 thoughts on “How I lost my Pomeranian”

  1. Great read. Interesting to hear if you can track and matches to Edward juniors maternal line as this would exclude his father but a long way back…needle in a haystack but now you know it’s the Webb haystack. Well done! 👏🏻👏🏻

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