My Mom’s parents divorced when she was four. It was the late fifties. Our culture wasn’t exactly divorce friendly back then. But to make matters worse, our Costello family members weren’t fans of divorce either.
My Mom’s father is Vince, John Costello’s son. My Mom was raised with her three siblings by her mother, my Grandma Deane.
My Mom saw her father very few times after the divorce. She saw his parents more frequently but her Grandpa, John Costello, died when she was a child.
My contact with Vince has been very minimal. I met him first when I was 16. Then again in the Spring of 2018.
Given those facts, it probably won’t surprise you when I say that I haven’t met most of my Mom’s Costello cousins. In fact, I don’t recall ever meeting any of them. Not really.
I was once in a room with some of them. I was probably introduced to a few but it was a rather overwhelming family gathering celebrating Uncle Dan & Aunt Barbara’s 60th wedding anniversary. So any introductions to said cousins have been completely forgotten.
It felt a bit uncomfortable to be there because I wasn’t actually invited. Not by Uncle Dan and Aunt Barbara anyway. My cousin Gregg invited me. Gregg is Dan’s first cousin. You see, I was going to Spokane to visit my family and planned to meet Gregg for the first time. My trip was at about the same time as the anniversary party. Gregg invited me to attend. Well, that turned into me attending with a large collection of Vince’s posterity also. Who were also not originally invited.
I don’t think we were unwelcome. Uncle Dan and Aunt Barbara were always very kind whenever I saw them. I have a small handful of recollections that include them. Over the last several years, I’ve made it a point to visit Aunt Barbara when I’m in Spokane.
But, back to that anniversary party, I recall visiting with Uncle Dan and Aunt Barbara for a few minutes. I also remember sitting with Aunt Virginia, Vince and Dan’s sister. I asked her questions about her father and took copious notes as she talked. That is about all that I can recall from the party.
My Mom wasn’t there so it felt kind of odd to be there without her. It certainly wasn’t a “welcome back to the family” kind of experience. Don’t get me wrong – everyone was perfectly nice. But still, it felt like I was hanging out in a room full of people who were technically family members, but were mostly strangers.
Now fast forward to this past fall.
I had a weird “a-ha” moment. I realized that I am trying to solve a very challenging puzzle. I’m trying to use DNA matches to give me hints of people and places to research in the hopes of learning John Costello’s story. I need my cousins!
Cousins who are mostly strangers to me.
How could I change that? I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight.
So, what did I do?
I started a family Facebook group for the descendants of John & Mary Costello. I added photos and that one special bit of video I have of Grandpa Costello. Then I friend requested every living descendant of John & Mary Costello that I could find on Facebook. After each friend request was sent, I quickly sent a message introducing myself. The cousins that accepted my friend request, I immediately added to the family Facebook group.
I wish I could tell you that my efforts were wildly successful.
But the small bits of success were definitely worth it! I am now Facebook friends with a few of my Costello cousins. I occasionally share photos in our family Facebook group. I get a little bit of response.
But the most important connection I’ve made is with one of my Mom’s first cousins and his wife. That cousin is the son of Aunt Virginia. And guess what?! He has taken a DNA test. He has been wanting to learn more about John Costello too!
That important connection I made with my Mom’s cousin means that I now have access to his DNA results. Yippee!! I’ve made so much more progress since being invited to view his results.
That connection with my Mom’s cousin, and being invited to view his DNA is certainly worth celebrating. But there is one more thing that has come out of connecting with this cousin that is blowing my mind.
Once his DNA results were back and showed that he was about 26% European Jewish, Aunt Virginia had to work through some feelings. Once she had begun to accept this information, she shared this, “His business was in a Jewish area, his friends were Jewish and he went to synagogue once in a while. He also got hate mail from anti-Semites. She said it all started to make sense!”
I’ve been asking questions for years. YEARS, people!!
I’ve been asking questions in person, in letters, in phone calls (often through my Mom or Grandma).
These were not things Aunt Virginia had ever shared.
Oh boy. My entire approach to researching Grandpa Costello had one major flaw – I had never considered that he might have been actively participating in the Jewish community in Spokane. What if there are synagogue records from that time that have survived?!
Whoa – time to revisit the time period surrounding Grandpa Costello’s marriage, and to learn about the Jewish community in Spokane. What if the very clue I need to find John Costello’s story is right in the town my family still lives in?!
I have so much to do.
Grandpa Costello, I’m going to find you! But I wouldn’t complain about some help. Maybe you can soften up your two living children and convince them to take DNA tests. I would really love that. xoxo
Descendants of John & Mary Costello – I need your help! Grandpa Costello’s story lives in your DNA. I would love to DNA test the living children of John Costello and any of the living grandchildren of John Costello. I have ten DNA kits already purchased. If you are willing to test, I will mail a DNA kit to you at my expense. I just ask that I have access to the results. If you are willing, send me an email. The address is on the sidebar. Let’s do this!
10 thoughts on “Finding John Costello – Connecting with His Descendants”
Dear Amberly, I believe you will “get there” in terms of the information you seek. I had resigned myself to the idea of not being able to identify an English great-great-grandfather with a very common name. Then DNA bailed me out last year. A number of 3rd to 4th cousins tested, and I could tell they were not related to his wife. 2 were related to both, and there were only two marriages that allowed for that possibility. 4 people from 3 countries led me to my answer. As it turned out, I had received an email about 5 years earlier re: a record I had saved from Ancestry.com. I researched that family a little further back, and the woman in question has turned out to have been my gg-gf’s sister and it related to her first marriage to a man killed in a mining accident. It was a 20-year journey that all of a sudden came together quickly. Someone is probably looking for you, and you just don’t know it yet. Lynne
Oh, I love this message, thank you, Lynne!! I will keep up hope. Now if I can just figure out what Grandpa Costello’s name was before he immigrated… (that may take a bit longer!)
I hope those Costello cousins respond. Do you think perhaps they do not want to accept that they have Jewish ancestry? Might that be the reason for their resistance?
Thank you, Amy. Good question. I know for some the answer is a definite yes. I think for others it is just a general lack of interest. The disconnect in our family because of Vince and Grandma’s divorce is certainly not aiding my efforts. I’m considering sending out a family letter to every single descendant of John Costello with an introduction of myself, a brief description of my project, what I’ve learned, a tiny bit about our DNA matches, and then an invitation to participate as a DNA tester or in any other way they would like (ie rounding up more photos, stories, or records as most live in Spokane). Still thinking through that though.
It sounds like a good plan, Amberly. I hope they respond. Good luck!!
Thank you, Amy! ❤️
My research is structured on the “Field of Dreams” premise that if you build it, they will come. Good things come to those who wait. It’s working.
Thank you, Lynne! That sounds about like what I have been doing. Just have to keep going!!
I’m over here cheering for you, Amberly. One of these days we are going to see a post here with even bigger letters than those you used above!