The biological father of my foundling ancestor?

I think I have found the biological father of my grandfather, Dwight Willard, who was abandoned as a newborn at a charitable orphanage organization in San Francisco in 1920. The man I believe to be my Great Grandfather is William Norsworthy Gordon, son of Robert Edward Gordon and Emma Norsworthy.  He was born in Texas which is where all of his siblings and ancestors remained, but uncanny circumstances brought him to California when he was a young boy.

Photo of Emma Norsworthy found on
Photo of Emma Norsworthy found on

William N Gordon was a twin, born in 1894, and  had an older  sister Sally (b. 1892). Their mother died a few months after the twins were born. William’s twin sister, Julia, then died a few months after that. The Fort Worth Daily Gazette from February 3, 1895 said the baby died of heart disease. I have not yet found a record for the date or cause of death of their mother, Emma. The newspaper article also said that after Emma’s death, her twin infants lived with their grandparents, Julius and Sarah Norsworthy.

Fort Worth Daily Newspaper article from Feb 3 1895.
Fort Worth Daily Newspaper article from Feb 3 1895.

Two years after the death of Emma, her husband remarried a woman named Minnie Lee Perkins. The 1900 U.S. Census shows that the oldest daughter of Emma and Robert Gordon, Sally, lived with her father and his new wife in Sulphur Springs Texas. In 1900, the young  William Gordon lived with his mother’s youngest sister, Cornelia Alexander (Norsworthy) in Greenville Texas.   By 1910, the Alexander family with the addition of  new children and William Gordon were living in Los Angeles, Ca.

Cornelia Norsworthy and William N Gordon. Photo found on

I do not know why the Alexander family moved from Texas to California, but there is some speculation by another genealogist (and distant family member of this family) that they may have moved due to a murder scandal that Nellie and Emma Norsworthy’s brother, James Fred Norsworthy, was involved with.  Fred was a well-to-do banker in Greenville, Texas and was being entertained by one of his clients, the wealthy T.H. King, when a swimming accident resulted in the fatalities of Mr. King, his mistress, and his mistress’ best friend.

James Fred Norsworthy. Image found on
James Fred Norsworthy. Image found on

Fred Norsworthy was the only survivor of this group, and rumors around town spread that he may have actually killed the three people, and even been paid to do it by Mr. King’s wife. Guilty or not, I am sure this was a very uncomfortable period for his family members, and may be the reason that Nellie and her family (including William Gordon) moved to California.

The 1910 Census placed William Gordon in Los Angeles California, but my grandfather was believed to be born in or near San Francisco. Where was William Gordon living in 1920? Well, according to the 1920 census, William Norsworthy Gordon was living in San Francisco California, not too far from where my grandfather was found. He was 25 years old, a manager for an automobile company, and married to Vera (Hunter).

The census was taken January 2nd of 1920, and my grandfather was found almost a year later on December 24, 1920. In June of 1920, William’s wife, Vera, gave birth to a daughter. If, William Gordon is indeed my great-grandfather, then that means that he had an affair (or a fling) when his wife was 6 months pregnant.  This has not been a fun detail to share with living descendants that I have been trying to get DNA from. It is very likely that William Gordon had no idea he had a son.

So, why do I think William Norsworthy Gordon is the biological father of my grandfather? Because genetic genealogy suggests this is the case. My uncle’s FamilyTree yDNA test revealed that his biological surname is most likely ‘Gordon’.  So I knew I needed to find a Gordon man who I could place in San Francisco in 1920. Luckily, my mother recently had a 3rd cousin match through her autosomnal Ancestry DNA that listed Gordons in their family tree. This cousin is a descendant of William Norsworthy’s half-brother, William R Gordon.

I created a new Family Tree in Ancestry with this 3rd genetic cousin’s  Gordon family, and filled in as much of the ancestors and descendants that I could find.  I then linked my mother’s  DNA to this tree, and found that my Mom had 10 DNA matches that shared ancestors to this tree. None of these DNA matches were connected to those with the  Gordon surname, but they were linked to ancestors of two wives of Gordons;  Mary Madeline Holt (wife of William Potts Gordon) and Emma Norsworthy (wife of Robert Edward Gordon).  I also looked at my DNA matches at 23andme, and my mothers DNA matches at FamilyTree DNA, and found even more matches to the Holt and Norsworthy families.

Gordon Family Tree
Pedigree chart for William Norsworthy Gordon

Robert Edward Gordon and Emma Norsworthy only had one son, William Norsworthy Gordon. This and the fact that William is the only member of this Gordon family living in San Francisco in 1920, provides substantial evidence for him being my Great Grandfather. But is this evidence enough to say with 100% confidence that William Norsworthy Gordon is the biological father of Dwight Willard? Maybe not, but  99% confidence seems reasonable.

For a 100% confidence of this parental relationship, I would like to have matching DNA with his living descendants. William Gordon and his wife Vera had two children before Vera died in 1943, then remarried a younger woman and had two additional daughters. Those two additional daughters are still living today. I have been in contact with  a few of the descendants of William, and so far one has agreed to take a DNA test.  I am hoping to find at least two descendants to test just in case my mother and the testing cousin inherited different DNA from their grandfather, and do not show up as genetic matches to each other.  If I discover that me or my mothers DNA match at least two of the living descendants of William Norsworthy Gordon, then I will be able to say with 100% confidence that I have found the biological father of my foundling ancestor.

Are we related?

Family Search just released a new website, that allows you to see if people in your surrounding area are related to you.  I used it this past week at RootsTech, the world’s largest genealogy conference, and saw that there were distant cousins of mine in the same room as me, or  across the street, or down the hall.  It was really fun to see my family tree in action.  Not only can you see cousins in the area, but it will show you how you are related.

Continue reading Are we related?




“Roots” by Heidi Renee Mason

Deeply embedded

Inside the earth,

Twisting, turning

In every direction;

The source,

The beginning,

The origin of all;

Firmly established,

Gripping tightly,


Securing our existence;

A network of viability,

Our roots


The genesis of life.

Clues into Frank McCourtney’s Mysterious Past

Resting spot for Frank L McCourtney at Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Photo taken March 2016.
Resting spot for Frank L McCourtney at Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Photo taken March 2016.

Frank L McCourtney is one of the most mysterious ancestors that I have researched in a long time. His name came up at a dinner conversation last Christmas, when my Uncle in Law commented that he knew very little about his grandfather, Frank. My uncle had done his own genealogical research into his grandfather, but could not find who his parents were.  Further conversations with other family members about Frank McCourtney made him even more intriguing.  This man did not speak of his past much, at least with his grandchildren, and the varying stories that they had of his youth inspired me to want to find factual sources to get the story straight. Continue reading Clues into Frank McCourtney’s Mysterious Past

Giving back to Find A Grave

Tombstone of Verna May Smith (1895-1929). Photo taken in the Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon on March 1st, 2016.
Tombstone of Verna May Smith (1895-1929). Photo taken in the Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon on March 1st, 2016.

Almost all of my genealogical research has been for ancestors that live in other states than my current state. I recently began working on my husband’s lineage, and was happy to discover that he has a lot of roots in and near where we live in Vancouver, Washington. Since today is #TombstoneTuesday, I decided to visit his great grandparents burial site at the Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, snap a few photos, and make my first submission to the Find A Grave website. Continue reading Giving back to Find A Grave

The Great Scottish Slave

Robbins Buria Site from
Robbins Burial Site from

I recently began researching my husbands family tree, and discovered a very interesting individual, who’s life story has taught me new aspects of American and Scottish history.  I chose my most unconventional and unorganized method of research for the initial effort of discovering my husband’s roots.  This process begins with the grandparents where I dig up all the genealogical  information that I possibly can. Then, I choose which ever great grandparent intrigue’s me the most.   After discovering all that I can on the chosen great grandparent, I  decide which of that person’s parents intrigues me the most and research them to pieces. This process repeats until I either run out of time or hit a road block.

My husband’s grandmother, who just turned 90, was the grandparent I initially chose. Next was her father, Dean Oscar Broughton, then Dean’s mother, Ella Marie Hollingsworth, then eight more generations of intriguing grandparents later,  I discovered the Scottish warrior, Daniel Robins.  There has been a lot of previous research on  Daniel Robins so it was easy to grasp a quick picture of his adventurous life. Continue reading The Great Scottish Slave

A Y-DNA Revelation


My Mother’s brother took the Family Tree Y-DNA test so we could find clues on the paternal family of my adopted grandfather, Dwight Willard.  He has been the largest brick wall in my family tree since absolutely nothing is known of his biological parents.  The y chromosome is passed from father to son practically unchanged, so I thought the Y-DNA test would be the best chance for me to find my grandfather’s biological surname, and may even connect me to direct family members. Since only men have the y chromosome, I was unable to take the test myself, but am so fortunate that my mother has a brother, and that he was willing to take the test. Continue reading A Y-DNA Revelation

2016 Genealogy Resolutions

Picture from
Picture from

I am a life long fan New Year’s resolutions and think it is important to take the time to really ponder what you want from the year, as well as what you have accomplished. The past 5 to 10 years I have restricted my resolutions to one per year. These  have  been  mostly self-improvement related; listening more attentively to my talkative child, being honest with myself (tough one), being true to myself (very tough one), not use any paper towels for a year (yep, I did that), and write one letter of gratitude a month to someone that I did not personally know).  I was able to commit to these goals most of the time , but the addition of marriage and a larger family have challenged my commitment the past couple of years. Continue reading 2016 Genealogy Resolutions

Collecting Loos Puzzle Pieces

A section of the Alzey-Worms Map that includes Erbes-Budesheim.
A section of the Alzey-Worms Map that includes Erbes-Budesheim.

I have began a new Genealogy Research Project that  may be a bit too grand for my expertise. My ultimate goal is to determine the Loos Genealogy for the villages in the Alzey-Worms district  at or around my Loos ancestral village, Erbes-Budesheim in the 1700 to 1800s.  I would be happy though if all I discover is the familial connections between the Loos’ in Erbes Budesheim. Continue reading Collecting Loos Puzzle Pieces

Mirror Mirror on the Tree

Photo from
Photo from

I have recently joined a great Facebook Group called DNA Detectives that I believe was started by Cece Moore one of the genealogists on Genealogy Roadshow. It is a group dedicated for those using DNA to locate biological family of adoptees.  Besides being inspired from all of the posts from those that have connected with lost family members,  I have gotten a lot of great ideas for new research strategies for finding my grandfather’s biological family. Continue reading Mirror Mirror on the Tree