Who Were They? – Part One

I will start with who I am. I am the great-granddaughter of David Brazille Plunk. I’ve always known he wasn’t a Plunk. I think all of his descendants have always known this and, like me, have been curious as to who his biological parents were, as well as what happened to them.

The rumor in our family for years was that his biological surname was Smith and that he was of German descent. Unfortunately, all of his sons and daughters are deceased now, but the stories they told were all basically the same. That he wasn’t a Plunk, that he said the name of his parents was Smith, and that he didn’t like to talk about it because it hurt him to do so.

This journey in finding out who his parents are has been a very emotional one for me, on various levels. I can understand his feelings of “hurt” and although I do understand, there is still that need to know who they were. The earliest paper proof of him that I have been able to find is the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Union, Doniphan, Missouri where he is living with his adoptive parents, William Henry Plunk and Sophia Angeline Niswonger Plunk. On that census, he is listed as having been born 1879, AR. His relationship to the head of the household is listed as “boarder”.

What happened to him during the 20 years preceding that?

There is another clue from a story handed down through the family that when his biological parents died, they named him and his sister, Gertrude, as beneficiaries in their will, but to inherit they had to resume their biological names. They both refused. My mother told me that she remembered hearing Grandpa (David) and the boys (his sons) talking about it. Her memory was that “one of the boys asked him how much money was involved”. His response was “it doesn’t matter, I’m not taking back their name”.

If I could find that will, it would be paper proof of who his parents were. However, you can’t search for a will using the beneficiaries names. You have to know the name of the deceased to find the will.

I have turned to DNA to help with the search. I am using Y DNA which is passed from father to son to son to son, etc., as well as autosomal DNA which tests those 23 pairs of chromosomes inherited from all ancestors.

David Brazille Plunk had six sons and six daughters. His second oldest son, Orvan O. “Bud” Plunk and his youngest son, Ira Brazile Plunk, both had sons who had sons (great grandsons of David). I have used the Y DNA of both of those great grandsons. They match each other exactly giving me the Y DNA for David Brazille Plunk. It is frustrating that their Y DNA results have not given me the surname for David’s biological parents. Although it proves the family history that David is of German descent, it turns out that his Y DNA is so rare that, at present, I’ve only found one other male who shares it. Good news right? Wrong. It appears that their DNA match is from an assumed surname line as well.

The autosomal DNA test is for myself. This isn’t an easy thing for me because I am legally, morally, and in every way that matters, the daughter of Ivan Harold Wallain. However, genetically, I am the daughter of another man. This means that for the purposes of using my autosomal DNA, I have to look at my genetic male parent to determine which of these 290 matches of genetic cousins my test resulted in to determine which side of the genetic family the relationship is.

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