Advent Calendar - Grab Bag - The genealogist dream gift to give

Thursday, December 9, 2010






This is a true story that happened only last Christmas. Christmas of 2009. This was the most rewarding thing I have ever done with genealogy and to top it all off it was a gift given!



An Unusual Christmas Story


On the Friday before Christmas, 2009, Nanette Ringering and I planned a gift wrapping party at my house. She, along with Heather and Rachel and me wrapped and wrapped. Lots of ribbons and bows, wrapping papers scotch tape and bags. We had Christmas music playing during this festive time of the year and of course the Christmas tree lights were twinkling on the tree. It was fun to watch Rachel looking and ooohing over the packages. (10 months old)

The mail arrived and in it was a package from my sister Nancy Kyte that included some old photographs of our ancestors. After exclaiming over them and sharing them with Nanette, she teared up and said “I’m so happy for you Mary, but I’ll never have that.” Nanette had been adopted by our familyi at the age of two weeks.

Six months earlier Nanette – from now on I’ll call her Sis – asked me to look for information on her birth family. She had given me the name of her birth mother, Dana Stygar, and where she was born. At that time there was not much to look up. I found some items of interest but had a hard time confirming them. It looked like the maiden name was Young and her mothers maiden name was Judd from old census reports. I put the information aside.

The Sunday before Christmas my Dad, Mel Lyon invited my family, Mike & myself, Kirk, Heather and Rachel, and even Sis and Steve Ringering to meet with him and his wife Phyllis at the Hometown Buffet for a good meal. Good it was indeed. We had a great time.

While I was getting some food at the buffet Steve Ringering came up to me and stated "the best gift you could ever give Sis would be to find out about her family." I told Steve I would find my information from six months ago and see what I could do. Sis had told Steve about the pictures recieved from Nancy.

The next day, three days before Christmas eve, I worked on it. You will be amazed at what I found on such short notice! Upon checking out Ancestry.com of which I am a member, I found a family tree that mentioned a photograph from 1939 of Dana Stygar. The birth and death dates totally matched! Since the tree was set to private I could not look any farther. So I sent out a message to the creator of that tree mentioning that I had a sister in law had who been adopted, and gave the name of Dana Stygar and her statistics. Sometimes on these things people take awhile to look at their messages on a board like that.

On this same day, I googled Dana Stygar. The name popped up on Facebook and I thought, no way, Dana Stygar is dead, but checked it out anyway. The profile picture of Dana Stygar gave me a shudder. It was a profile picture, and the eyes, cheekbones and nose looked very familiar to me! No way! I sent this Dana a message as well and hoped to hear form both her and Barbara Stygar – the creator of the Ancestry tree soon.

The next morning I woke up early. 4:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep. So I got up and headed for the coffee and settled down at the computer. Oh my……..BOTH ladies replied to me! Barbara Stygar it turned out would be Sis’s sister in law. Barbara said this was interesting because she tried to find out about the girls, but was told she needed to get a court order from Sacramento to open up the records. What? Girls? I imediately went back to Ancestry and sure enough there was a Elizabeth born the same day as Sis with the same mothers maiden name. Oh my – this was exciting. Barbara sent me some photo’s of the mother and siblings of Sis that confirmed she was Sis’s mother. We have been in contact every day since! I sent Barbara a photo of Sis as well and she was shocked at the resemblance of her mother-in-law.

From Dana, I found out she was named after her Grandmother! Only two years ago she took back her maiden name (Stygar). She is the daughter of Sis’s Eldest sibling so she is 41. I never would have found her if she had not changed her name. Then – I found out Dana lives in Gresham! After conversing with her via e-mail now, I sent her the photo of Sis in which she replied “She looks just like my Grandma!” Dana and I met at Coffee’s On and spent one and a half hours together on Christmas Eve morning! She was a tall lady, big, but had those familiar features of Sis’s. It was amazing!

The day before I had taken the photo’s of Sis’s bioligical Mom and brothers, gotten 5x7 prints for them and frames for Sis. I also made copies for Dana that she loved. Plus, a total list of all the siblings. Sis’s birth mom had a total of 12 children and I was able to put them all in order of birth thanks to Barbara Stygar down in Modesto, California.

Here is what happened Christmas Eve. The Hellman’s all arrived at my house between 5 and 5:30pm for our Christmas celebration. Food was everywhere. We were all digging in. Then the doorbell rang and Dana, her friend Troy, their 5 month old son Patrick and Dana’s 17 year old first son arrived. They came in giving me a box of chocolates. The Hellman’s all thought is must be someone from the church and did not pay any attention really. Then I slipped Dana “the gift” and I asked everyone to cram into the family room. I asked Sis to sit down which she did reluctantly. Dana went to her and said “Nanette, Christmas time is a time full of surprises and family, and on behalf of my family I would like to present you with this gift.” Sis was understandably nervous. She opened the box and the first thing she saw was a listing of “The Children of Dana (Young) Stygar” with Dana’s birth and death date. Sis was the last, and a twin. The tears started falling, then she saw a picture of her Mom holding her first born with a huge smile. Sis’s dimples, eyebrows and nose for sure. I asked Sis if she knew who that was and she said through tears “no……my mom”. Then I told her Dana was her niece and they both cried and hugged and cried and hugged, and we pretty much all were a mess.

Dana and her family stayed for about 45 minutes. Dana is excited to have an Aunt that lives nearby because she has never lived close to any family. Dana and Barbara are in contact with each other again through this, and she has spoken with her Dad Joshua who remembers being in the military and hearing his Mom adopted out a girl. Her twin is a mystery.

As for myself, I must say this has been the most unbelievable and rewarding gift I have ever done for someone. To think that all of this information came down just a few days before Christmas is unreal. We now plan to try and get those court records open.
by Mary Hellman, 2009
Nanette Ringering, Dana Stygar, Christmas Eve 2009
Postnote: Sis and Dana have been in constant contact through this year. Dana's father Joshua passed away this year unexpectantly.

PLEASE HELP! If you or someone you know was born on April 11, 1961 in Los Angeles, California and had been adopted out please contact me! The adoption would have been a private one and not through an agency. The birth name would have been Elizabeth Stygar. It would be awesome to find Sis's twin!

4 comments:

Cindy said...

Beautiful Christmas story and a wonderful gift! It's such a joy when we can find something like this for someone. Thank you for sharing this true "Spirit of Christmas" story.

Mary said...

WOW, this is what Christmas is all about...family...what an awesome story.

Homestead Mommy said...

Oh what a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope one day you will be able to find the missing twin sister!

Greta Koehl said...

You are a real Genea-Angel! I add my hopes that you will be able to find the sister - that would be so exciting.