True Joy in Finding Lost Family- Reconnecting after Tragedy

Move over Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys! I have a real mystery to investigate: finding lost family after a terrible tragedy.

I received a phone call from my wife’s aunt asking me to look into the whereabouts of her husband’s grandmother. One of his sisters had received an email from a DNA match but was nervous to connect. Our aunt told us a story of tragedy causing the grandparents to split households, the boys staying with the grandfather, the girl going with the grandmother. Our uncle knew his father and grandfather but had only rumors of his grandmother and aunt. Did she die? Did she move back to the old country of Yugoslavia? What happened to the various uncles and aunts?


The grandmother was pregnant when she left and there was another full-blood sibling. All of the full-blood siblings have passed away, but I have gotten some first cousins back in contact with each other….

Finding Lost Family

Now, let’s dive into some of the details…. The grandparents, Johan and Katarina had four children, two boys and two girls. On a terrible day in the Bronx, the older daughter was burned by a fire, an accident with matches. She later died at the hospital. It is unclear what precipitated the accident. It is clear that it created a rift between Johan and Katarina. Johan kept the two boys. Katarina left with the remaining girl *and* was pregnant with an additional son. It is unclear whether they ever actually divorced.

There were stories of the boys having to be very self-sufficient growing up as their father was at work. The boys were told that their mother had moved back to the old country and died. Johan changed his name, remarried, and had two additional daughters with his new bride in the Bronx/Manhattan.

Katarina had simply gone to Long Island. She remarried and had three additional children (two sons and a daughter) with her new husband. The five kids grew to maturity, many marrying and producing further children. It is quite the extended family!

But each family only knew rumors of the other family.


On I found the profile for a daughter of the daughter of Johan and Katarina (thanks to that DNA testing). She was aware of her new grandfather, but knew there was more to the story as her mother had always wanted to reconnect with lost brothers…. I reached out to this person on and can happily report that all of these first cousins are now in communication with each other.

I have documented the family tree for each family but also documented back a few generations in the “old country” for the grandmother, the common element for these cousins. Connecting long lost family members has to be one of the best things I have done with my genealogy skills. I am really enjoying hearing about their getting reconnected and meeting up in person….


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *