Who was your great-great-great grandma? ….One user’s discovery.

Who was your great-great-great grandma? ….One user’s discovery.

Little did MyHeritage.com user Jeff Ausmus know, that by answering this question he’d be reuniting family ties lost through fate and time. Jeff has lived all his life in the small town of Erie in Monroe County, Michigan.

During Thanksgiving 2008 he decided to begin tracing his family history – after a discussion with his grandma, in which she knew very little about even her grandparents.

With family trees numbering over 6000 people, Jeff has not only traced his family roots as far back as 8 generations to Germany and Poland – but discovered that two people he grew up with in the same grade in High School were in fact his cousins! Jeff’s tale includes finding letters in Germany written by his great-great grandma in the late 1890s – and a reunion with descendants of his great-great-great grandmother’s brother – ironically who also live nearby. Read on to find out more about Jeff’s fascinating family history discoveries, from Barack Obama to nearby neighbors…

Jeff doesn’t know the reason why some of his mother’s family left Germany in the late 1800s – but it was a step that would divide the family for over a hundred years. Thanks to some persistent research, Jeff managed to reconnect to his mother’s third cousin in Germany – whose ancestors had kept copies of letters sent by Jeff’s great-great-grandma from the US to Germany following her emigration. Even though communication between the two sides of the family in Germany and US had been broken, the fact that the letters were kept and looked after symbolizes the strong bonds that once existed.

One of the letters written by Jeff’s great-great grandma in German

One of the letters written by Jeff’s great-great grandma in German

On his father’s side, Jeff has, only in the last several weeks, discovered long-lost cousins in Poland. Coincidentally, Jeff speaks German which has enabled the two sides to exchange information in a common language and share family memories.

Sometimes we expect to reconnect with long-lost family in far flung locations whilst doing family history research. However few of us expect to find relations we never knew of living nearby. That’s exactly what happened to Jeff. Following a Smart Match a few weeks ago – Jeff attended a family party of descendants of his great-great-great grandma’s brother. Originating from Poland – his great-great grandma moved to the US in 1903. His newly discovered 3rd and 4th cousins had no idea their great-great-great grandfather even had any siblings – let alone that he emigrated together with his niece. The meeting and newly found knowledge of their shared ancestral history has brought the divided family together again.

Reunited – Jeff surrounded by his newly discovered cousins – celebrating the 90th birthday of cousin Louis Truna (left).

Reunited – Jeff surrounded by his newly discovered cousins – celebrating the 90th birthday of cousin Louis Truna (left).

Jeff attended Erie Mason Senior High School in 1999 for 4 years. He played baseball and studied Science together with his classmates, and faced all the trials and tribulations of every other teenager in his grade. What he didn’t know was that he was in fact related to two boys within his peer group. The boys that he grew up with weren’t just his friends – they were 4th cousins! What an incredible discovery to make ten years later.

Jeff didn’t just have a little luck with his family history research – he deployed every tactic in the book to break through brick walls. His methods included interviewing distant relatives, neighbors of ancestors, approaching a local hotel in Germany for more information about the history of local residents and researching census data for clues. One by one, each small lead helped him take his family history research to the next level.

One of the most mind-blowing discoveries was made in the past few weeks. Jeff was contacted by a relative in Germany – and discovered that he shares a common ancestor with Barack Obama from the 1500s. From class-mates to the President of the United States – building Jeff’s family tree seems to take endless exciting turns!

We’re happy to provide a home for Jeff’s incredible family tree research and to have played a role in reigniting old and lost family ties. Thanks to Jeff for sharing his family history discoveries with us.

So do you know who your great-great-great grandma was? Perhaps, like Jeff, you’ll find out more than you ever imagined along the way.


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  • Carol Clement

    April 28, 2011

    whooohooo Jeff!! Way to go! If you are related to Barack Obama… I guess I must be too right? But how?

  • Sharon Grodi

    April 28, 2011

    I know you have put a lot of time and effort into this project. You did a fine job.

  • missy

    April 28, 2011

    Way to go jeff !!!!

  • Jason

    April 28, 2011

    Ditto what Missy said! 🙂

  • Sa

    April 28, 2011

    Good job Jeff

  • Jolie

    April 28, 2011

    This is amazing!!! What an accomplishment!

  • Evelyn

    April 28, 2011

    Good job Jeff, you’ve acomplished much more than any genealogy person can.

  • Fitz Lee

    April 28, 2011

    Very cool, thanx for your hard work.

  • Winfried Mundt

    April 28, 2011

    Hallo Jeff
    Gratulation, Du wirst berühmt. Du hattest aber auch viel Glück bei Deiner Recherche. Diane Denney (Greiner) gab Dir den entscheidenden Tip, da sie alte Dokumente aufbewahrt hatte. Auch meine Urgroßeltern hatten nicht alles weggeworfen, sodass die Briefe von Maria Katharina Mahler (Greiner) noch vorhanden sind. Ich vermute, dass kaum jemand den Brief von Maria Katharina Mahler (Greiner) lesen kann.
    Glückwunsch und weiterhin viel Erfolg bei Deiner Ahnenforschung

  • Troy Walentowski-Romancky

    April 29, 2011

    Great Job Jeff!
    have you translated the letter from German.

  • Carolyn Day

    April 29, 2011

    Fantastic work Jeff! I know how you felt. I was an adoptee with closed files until the early 90s Now I have discovered cousins in Norway and Sweden, and am trying to trace the English/Welsh side of the family. Good luck with your own further research.
    kind regards

  • marilyn

    April 29, 2011

    incredible story!!! You have given me a lot to think about

  • Donnie Poston

    May 1, 2011

    I am so proud of your achievements with this family tree project. I had always heard that so many of our relatives came from Germany, but I had no idea someone would ever make the connections. Kudos! Great job!

  • Marge

    May 3, 2011

    Jeff, this is awesome. I know you have just begun on your journey to become a great genealogist. Alot of new doors should begin to open for you after this publication. I’m here if you need help. Good Luck and job well done.

  • patricia ausmus

    September 10, 2013

    Way to go Jeff! Just received my letter today & will contact you soon! Would love the English translation of the letter very much. P–

  • Miss Hartshorn Foote

    January 16, 2014

    Thanks for sharing such a true – to – life example of what one can accomplish when the passion for adventure and discovery is yet flowing in ones blood … most people nowadays do not wish to share any of their search tips… but Jeff – you are the MOST !congratulations are in order and I wish you well…. p. s. it would be awfully nice if you were to do a follow – up – some time in the near future !

  • Vivian Estes

    January 17, 2014

    When you do family genealogy you are always surprise by your findings. My father’s family has been traced back to William the conquer.

  • Paul Morris Hilton

    January 20, 2014

    Jeff, Did you know that all the United Presidents are connected either to each other or to links that are related to other Presidents. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in fact related perhaps distantly. George Washington’s Heraldic Shield is carved into the stone of my Ancestral Home in Sunderland, Co. Durham, England and George Washington’s Ancestral Home- OLD WASHINGTON HALL is 3 miles away from Hylton Castle (my Dad’s Ancestry). My Mother’s Ancestry goes back to Chepstow Castle in Monmouth, Wales. My Ancestry goes back 32 Generations to beyond William The Conqueror. Maybe Vivian Estes and I are related in some way. Contact5 me at if you wish to. Thanks for such great info. Sincerely Yours, Paul Morris Hilton.

  • Babulal Parmar

    January 20, 2014

    its is exellent job…

  • Matthew Ferguson

    January 20, 2014

    You have made a fantastic discovery Jeff. It is wonderful when this happens as not always the case. I discovered I (in Northern Ireland) am related to the late William Ferguson Massey P.M. N. Z. I am still searching and its great when you can help others to do the same.

  • abubakr melegi

    January 22, 2014

    thanks myheritage making far near like jeff case

  • Ramakrishna Rajalbandi

    January 22, 2014

    Very interesting to read , I too want to search my family tree by now..