More than forty years after his father was murdered by a hitchhiker, one man finds the killer without intending to. The act of going through his family history was the original plan for Clem Pellett, but some information that turned up in his search led him to a killer he didn’t even think would still be alive. In an era where the ability to scientifically trace our steps further than ever before, will there be more individual interest in the applications of such science for mere family tree purposes?
Clem’s grandfather, Clarence Pellett, was murdered in 1951 when he picked up a hitchhiker. The 19 year-old boy, seemingly in need of a ride, turned out to be Frank Dryman, a drifter that shot and killed Clarence. After being sentenced to life and paroled in 1969, Dryman “disappeared” and was never heard of again. Until Clem found a detail in a newspaper article regarding his grandfather’s murder, and decided to pick up where Dryman’s escape left off.
Hiring a private investigator and working with police to access his grandfather’s murder case files, Clem found Dryman still alive. Living in Arizona, Dryman is now 78 years old and works as a public notary, running a small wedding chapel, reports CNN. It’s funny how life works out, and where the smallest detail can lead you. It is those small details that often make the biggest difference in one’s life journeys, yet those details are often the most difficult to track down.
Yet it’s becoming an American pastime, as forensics has carved a place for itself in pop culture thanks to shows like CSI, Cold Case and Bones. The ability to go back into one’s past is being romanticized further with new television programing, such as Faces of America, or the special on George Lopez’s show, both of which offer up the DNA findings of participating celebrities to determine their heritage and family history.
The ability to find more information on yourself and your family is becoming an easier task, as the costs behind such research are decreasing, and the cataloging of our own DNA is likely to be as common as having an old photo book tucked into a closet somewhere in the house. Initiatives such as 23andMe are encouraging individuals to begin keeping track of their own DNA, which could be used for personal and institutionalized reasons later on in life. Pretty soon, we won’t need to do much digging at all in order to find out things about our past, how it’s affected our own lives, and what our family tree really looked like.
And it’s not just the DNA initiatives that are making such research an easier task. Social media has created an automatic archival system of our digital DNA, offering up alternatives to a “family tree search” for future generations. While we won’t always be able to rely on technology for the safe-keeping of our life’s details, it will certainly enhance the knowledge we have about ourselves and others in the human race for years to come.