I Have An Impenetrable Brick & Mortar Wall - HELP!

+8 votes
I’m hoping someone might have “an uncovered bit of information” or perhaps some suggestions that would help poke a hole in this enormous paternal wall blocking my way forward.  

Ok, here’s my story…and I’m sticking to it…so far, anyway:  My name is David Farrel, my father’s name is Don Farrel, and his father’s name was John Farrel.  John was married to Alice Farrel, supposedly in Texas…don’t know when.  Don was born in January 1903, supposedly in New Mexico.  He (again) supposedly had a sister, Alice.  Its been told that Don left home when he was 13, but that is unconfirmed.  

I have been unable to find any record of my father, Don, before the early 1930s when he was incarcerated in the State of Washington.  We have some records of him from that time until shortly after he and my mother were married in Montana and shortly thereafter divorced.  I was born in September of 1943 before the actual divorce but my father never knew of my birth.  He and I never communicated.  We do know that Don had a wife (prior to his marriage to my mother).  She was known to us as “little Mrs. Farrel” but she may be Kathleen Bradley of Washington State.  He also married again ca ’54-’59 to Penny Sanderson of Canada.  Don passed away in Florida, August 1990 and Penny has also passed.  I have no known paternal bloodlines that could be DNA tested.  

I have also searched many sources for Don’s sister Alice, without any conclusive result.  Similarly, I’ve looked for John and Alice Farrel and could only find one very vague citation for a John and Alice Ferrill having given birth to a daughter in Williamson, Texas on 16 August 1903.  She was sadly, stillborn.  There was no mention of a male born to this couple.

At this point, I’m wondering if the Farrel surname is true or was assumed and related forward (and backward) by Don as he progressed through his younger years.  He did keep Farrel as his surname from the ‘30s throughout his life however.  I have had YDNA and autosomal tests completed through FTDNA, which thus far have resulted in no matches of significance.  While I did, early on, assume that, with a name like Farrel, I had ties to Ireland, my haplogroup (E) suggests ties to Eastern Europe and none to Ireland.

So there you have it in a large nutshell.  I’m good on my maternal side, but stumped on the Y side.  I’d be glad to share any other data or information that might help me move onward.  Trust me, your assistance will be appreciated forever!!  David
in Genealogy Help by David Farrel G2G Crew (380 points)
Depending on what Penny (the last wife) knew, death Certificates have birth and birth place and parents. They usually are found in the town he died in. His social security application probably has information. (I don't know how to get one of those, but I'm sure you can google it). He also would have registered for the draft in the 1940s. https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/archival-programs/other-records/selective-service.html
Anne:  Appreciate the help.  We've already got the death certs and SS information.  Its what we've used to search with so far but its also lead us nowhere.  The draft registration was another wall as he was apparently incarcerated most of the time and during his releases he just didn't register...or thats what it seems.  I will certainly follow up on the link you provided, however.  Regards,  David
Guess you do have a brick wall. Sounds as though they stuck it together with crazy glue instead of mortar.
Hey, that's a good one Anne...love it!  Yes, my wife and I have been at this for many moons and have yet to see the light of day.  I do have to follow up on the armed service aspect to see if perhaps Don was indeed in the service which could account for the time we can't find information about him.  That or just assume, with more conviction, that his real surname wasn't Farrel at all.  Do you have any idea on how one would proceed if that were the case?  Perhaps its just going to be a waiting game with DNA?  Anyway, thank you again for your input.  David

3 Answers

0 votes

Don Farrel

United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries


Name Don Farrel
Event Type Obituary
Event Date 08 Aug 1990
Event Place SouthEast, Florida, United States
Gender Male
Age 87
Relationship to Deceased Deceased
Birth Year (Estimated) 1903
Birthplace , , New Mexico
Death Date 06 Aug 1990
Newspaper St. Petersburg Times

Spouse and Children

Penny M Farrel Wife Female


"United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014," database with images,FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVS1-3RQM : 4 September 2015), Don Farrel, SouthEast, Florida, United States, 08 Aug 1990; from "Recent Newspaper Obituaries (1977 - Today)," database, GenealogyBank.com(http://www.genealogybank.com : 2014); citing St. Petersburg Times, born-digital text.

by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.7m points)
Frank.  This is indeed my father Don.  Most, if not all of the obit. info. came from either Penny's family or our family tree.  Now, if you can find anything about him from birth up until he's in his late 20s or early 30s, or even from the mid 40s through his passing, you win the jackpot.  Or, if you find anything about his father, same deal.  Thanks for your input.  David
+1 vote
by Charles West G2G6 Mach 1 (15.2k points)
One of the results above is the Social Security Death Index. Ancestry has the Social Security Applications Database which will give you what he wrote about himself at that time. His Social Security number should be on his Florida Death certificate which, since you are a direct descendant, I'm pretty sure you should be able to obtain if you don't have it already.

Rosemary:  Thank you for the hint.  I will certainly follow up on that and see where it leads.  Best,  David
Charles.  Thanks for the link.  We've pretty much gone through all of that information previously although we did discover a D. Farrel in the same community Clearwater, Fla. where Don passed away.  Unfortunately, the address we have for Don and the one shown for D. are not the same.  I will pursue the SS Death Index to see where that leads.  Thank you for your efforts!  David

Ok, I've done that and my wife tells me that we have the death certificate and SS application...which is where we discovered Don's (supposed) parents names.  So, thats a dead end too, that I wasn't aware of.  Other than those two items and the records of incarceration in Washington State and Idaho, its like he almost wasn't really here...but then again, we do have a BRIEF record of him and his wife Penny around Reno, Nevada in the 60s and Santa Rosa, California in the 70s, where they owned restaurants.  Nothing at all on Census records or the like.  Keep the suggestions coming!!!!
Have you considered autosomal DNA testing at Ancestry ($79 for the 4th of July)? Then add the data to GEDMATCH and see if anyone matches. It may be a long shot but some people have had quite a bit of success with this. And the databases just keep growing.
Rosemary:  Thanks but I am already on GEDMATCH through Ancestry Autosomal and FTDNA Family Finder.  Keep the suggestions routed my way!  Dave
0 votes
Hi David

I'm sure you have probably done this ... but have you searched under different spellings of the name Farrel especially for Dons father and grandfather. My husband's second name is Farnhell and he gets a wide variety of mail addressed every variation of the name that you can think off- Farnhill Fernwell Farnel Farrel - etc etc. Also  - I'd be happy to do searches in Scotland and England for you if you think they might have emigrated from there.
by Norma Farnhell G2G5 (5.5k points)

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