April 24, 2017

Adoption DNA Match Strategy: Combine DNA Test Types

Combining DNA test types can give you a better picture of your overall genealogical relationship to someone else. Combine your autosomal test results with the results of your mitochondrial DNA or YDNA test to make some amazing connections today!

combining DNA test types

My family recently visited the Jelly Belly Factory in northern California. Of course at the end of the tour, they funneled us into their gift shop where we felt compelled to buy jelly beans and other sundry treats. My favorite part of the big box we bought were the recipes on the side. We could turn the already delicious variety of flavors into even more pallet-pleasing options. Who knew!

This got me thinking about DNA, of course!

Combining DNA Test Types

Specifically, I was thinking about the power of combining multiple test types to get a better picture of our overall genealogical relationship to someone else.

If you recall, there are three kinds of DNA tests available for genealogists: autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and Y chromosome DNA (YDNA). Much of the focus these days is on how to use the autosomal DNA in our family history research. This may be because the autosomal DNA covers both sides of your family tree, so it is seen as a catchall for our family history. While it is a very powerful tool for our research, it can also be a bit overwhelming to try to determine how you are related to someone else.

Let’s look at an example from my own family history. My mom matched with Tom at 23andMe. Their predicted genealogical relationship, based on how much DNA they shared, was second cousins. To begin, we need to understand which ancestor could be shared by people who are genetic second cousins. To figure it out, you can count backwards like this: people who share parents are siblings, sharing grandparents makes you first cousins, and sharing great-grandparents makes you second cousins.

matches for combining DNA test types

Image credit: Diahan Southard.

So, if my mom and Tom are true second cousins (meaning there aren’t any of those once-removed situations going on, but that’s a subject for another time), then we should be able to find their common ancestor among their great-grandparents.

Each of us has eight great-grandparents. Because we can’t usually narrow down shared DNA to a single person, but rather to an ancestral couple, we are really just looking at four possible ancestral couple connections between my mom and Tom. My mom doesn’t have any known ancestors, as she was adopted, so we can only evaluate Tom’s line. Tom was kind enough to share his pedigree chart with us, and he had all four of his couples listed. But how do we know which one is the shared couple with my mom?

Narrowing Down the Results

Now, for those of you without an adoption, you will have some other clues to help you figure out which of the four (or eight, if you are looking at a third cousin, or 16 if you are looking at a fourth cousin) ancestral couples is shared between you and your match. Start by looking for shared surnames. If that comes up short, evaluate each couple by location. If you see an ancestral couple who is in a similar location to your line, then that couple becomes your most likely connecting point. What then? Do genealogy!! Find out everything you can about that couple and their descendants to see if you can connect that line to your own.

However in my mom’s case, we didn’t have any surnames or locations to narrow down which ancestral couple was the connection point between our line and Tom’s. But even if we had locations, that may not have helped as Tom is very homogenous! All of his ancestors were from the same place! But, we did have one very important clue: the mitochondrial DNA. Remember mtDNA traces a direct maternal line. So my mom’s mtDNA is the same as her mom’s, which is the same as her mom’s etc.

At 23andMe they don’t test the full mitochondrial DNA sequence (FMS) like they do at Family Tree DNA. For family history purposes, you really want the FMS to help you narrow down your maternal line connection to others. But 23andMe does provide your haplogroup, or deep ancestral group. These groups are named with a letter/number combination. My mom is W1 and we noticed that Tom is also W1.

combining DNA test types on pedigreeThis meant that my mom and Tom share a direct maternal line – or put another way, Tom’s mother’s mother’s mother was the same as my mom’s mother’s mother’s mother. That means there is only one couple out of the four possible couples that could connect my mom to Tom: his direct maternal line ancestor Marianna Huck, and her husband Michael Wetzstien.

Now you can only perform this wondrous feat if you and your match have both tested at 23andMe, or have both taken the mtDNA test at Family Tree DNA.

Just as a Popcorn Jelly Belly plus two Blueberry Jelly Bellies makes a blueberry muffin, combining your autosomal DNA test results with your mtDNA test results (or YDNA for that matter) can yield some interesting connections that just might break down that family history brick wall.

combing DNA test resultsLearn more about DNA test types with these helpful guides:

Don’t go it alone with DNA. My quick reference guides will guide you through the process in easy to understand language. You’ll get more out of your DNA test results with these guides:

A Train Ticket and Popular Novel Solved this Adoption Mystery

Genealogy for adoptees can be a difficult journey. A train ticket from 1856 and one of our most popular Genealogy Gems Book Club titles helped one woman solve an adoption family mystery. Here’s her story.

Genealogy for adoptees

Ben Brooksbank [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Adoption Mystery: Solved

I recently read an article that I just had to share! Julia Park Tracey’s two-times great grandfather, William Lozier, was adopted. She wanted to trace his family history. Her only clue was the receipt for a train fare from New York’s Home for the Friendless to Oberlin, Ohio that William had. The ticket cost $7.50 and was dated 1856.

With a little bit of easy math, Julia realized that William would have been a three-year old at the time. Can you imagine? Julia was intrigued by the finding, but didn’t think much more about it until she read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This piqued her curiosity about Williams’s story and she started researching. What she found was an astonishing story of family struggling to stay together during the hardships of 19th century life.

Along her research journey, Julia learned that William’s mother was widowed in upstate New York in 1848. Consequently, the woman lost the family farm and needed to give up her two oldest boys to an orphanage. She managed to hold on to her oldest daughter and baby William while she worked as a seamstress. Sadly, she still couldn’t make ends meet and ended up placing her last two children in an orphanage as well.

Julia explains in the article: “Martha was undaunted; she worked and saved, and eventually wrote to ask for her children back. The orphanage did not respond. In those days, a child’s moral and spiritual welfare were tantamount, and a single mother was seen as not fit to parent. Nevertheless, she found her way to her daughter, and at least one of her middle sons, if not both. Martha lived the rest of her life with her married daughter and her grandchildren. She died between 1900 and 1910, [but] she never saw nor heard of what had happened to Will.”

With these new pieces of information, Julia was able to trace the line back through time and generations. She even learned a little more about her unexpected DNA results! I am sure it was very satisfying to finally piece together the story of the old train ticket and William’s family story. Even the smallest clues like the old train ticket can lead to long-forgotten stories that add to our family history tapestry. Genealogy is all about persistence, and much like a detective, the smallest piece of evidence can make all the difference!

More on Genealogy for Adoptees

orphan train Christina Baker Kline genealogy book clubIf you’ve been a Premium member for a while, you’ll recall Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It was one of our first Genealogy Gems Book Club selections—and based on feedback from you, it’s been one of our most popular choices. If you haven’t listened to Premium episode 121 which includes our interview with Christina, I encourage you to go back and listen. In that conversation, you’ll learn about the history of the orphan train riders in the U.S. and Canada and how the author researched it.

Learn more about the Orphan Train and it’s riders in this post: “Road Trip Anyone? An Orphan Train Museum.

See what else we’ve read by clicking: Genealogy Gems Book Club

 

Adoption and Genealogy: How to Create and Navigate an Adopted Family Pedigree

Adoption and genealogy often cross paths. More and more genealogists are having to navigating between both birth family and an adopted family pedigrees. Our easy, step-by-step instructions will show you how to merge these two pedigree charts into one with FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry.com.

adoption genealogy family pedigree chart

Creating a Birth and Adoption Line with FamilySearch Family Tree

Anyone can create a family tree at FamilySearch.org for free. You need to create your free account first. If you need more instruction on how to get started with a family tree on FamilySearch, click here.

For those of you who already have a FamilySearch family tree you work with, here is how to include both a birth line and adopted line.

In this example below, James Donald Woodard was raised by Robert Cole and Goldie Witt, but is the natural son of Elmer Woodard and Margaret Cole.

Step 1: From the pedigree view, click on the person you would like to have two pedigrees for. Then, choose “Person” to get to the individual’s person page.

adoption genealogy family pedigree

Step 2: At James’ person page, scroll down to the “parents and siblings” section. Here, multiple sets of parents can be added by clicking on “Add Parent.” We can also indicate what type of relationship the parent has to the child (choices include: biological, adopted, guardianship, foster, and step) by clicking the little pencil icon at the right of James’ name under the parent couple. Lastly, whichever couple is marked “preferred” will be the parents that will show up in your pedigree view.

add parents to adoption genealogy pedigree

Step 3: Add a second set of parents for James by clicking on the “Add Parent” icon and follow the prompts to add the new parents by name.

Step 4: You will have James appearing as a child under each couple. Now, indicate the type of relationship James has with each couple.

choose adopted father option in adoption genealogy

Find James in the list of children under Robert and Goldie.

Click on the little pencil icon in his box. A new window will pop-up. You will click on “Add Relationship Type” and then choose the appropriate relationship from the pull-down menu. When you are finished, click “Save.” You will need to do this for both the father and the mother.

You can see that James’ name appears under Robert and Goldie with the relationship noted. (When the relationship is biological, no notation appears.)

guardians on adoption genealogy pedigree

James now has two pedigree options. We can easily switch between the pedigrees for James by clicking the preferred button on whichever couple we would like to view. You can change the preferred couple whenever and how-many-ever times you want!

Creating A Birth and Adoption Line at Ancestry.com

Step 1: First, add one set of parents for the individual. You can do this in the pedigree view. Click on “Add Father” or “Add Mother” and fill in the fields for name, date of birth, etc.

adoption genealogy tree at Ancestry

Step 2: Add a second set of parents for Jason Tennant by clicking on Jason’s name and choosing “Profile.” This takes you to a new screen that looks like this image below.

relationships on adoption genealogy pedigree

Step 3: This is Jason’s profile page. You can see his newly added parents, Mason Tennant and Megan Adams. Click the edit button at the top right of the screen and chose “Edit Relationships.”

Step 4: A pop-up window for relationships will appear. Here, you can mark the type of relationship between Jason and Mason. The choices are biological, adopted, step, related, guardian, private, and unknown. After you have chosen the appropriate relationship for the first father, click “Add Alternate Father.”

add alternate parents to adoption genealogy pedigree

Step 5: Add the name of the second father and choose the appropriate relationship. You will then be able to choose which father you want to mark “preferred.” Do the same for the mothers.

If we want to see Jason’s birth or adopted family tree, we need only go to his profile page, click “Edit Relationships” at the top right, and mark one set of parents as “preferred.” Then, that couple will show up in the pedigree view.

Adoption genealogy certainly has it’s challenges, but creating a pedigree chart that includes both the birth and adoption lines, doesn’t have to be one of them! Let us know in the comments below how you have included both your birth and adoption lines into your family history. We love to hear from you.

More Adoption Gems

DNA for Adoption Research: Nice to Meet You!

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 178: CeCe Moore Talks about Genealogy and Adoption (Listen for free)

DNA Testing for Adoptees: Advice from Your DNA Guide

Adoption of Washington State Native Americans Among New and Updated Genealogical Record Collections This Week

Adoption of Washington State Native Americans records are now available for genealogical research. Also this week you can fill up on North Carolina school books, California land dockets, Florida newspapers, Canadian Aboriginal Peoples records, Lower Canadian census for 1825, and new additions to historic British newspapers.

dig these new record collections

United States – Adoption of Washington State Native Americans

Washington, Applications for Enrollment and Adoption of Washington Indians, 1911-1919 is now available at FamilySearch.org. This collection consists of records created during the creation of the Roblin Rolls of Non-Reservation Indians in Western Washington. The enrollment and adoption proceedings of Indian tribes in Western Washington that were not on tribal census records makes this collection unique. It is arranged by tribal name claimed by the applicant, and then by applicant’s name.

Records may contain:

  • English name of the primary individual or family members
  • Indian name of the primary individual or family members
  • Birth, marriage, or death dates
  • Birth, marriage, or death places
  • Place of residence
  • Ages
  • Number of children in the family
  • Occupation
  • Other biographical details about the family or individuals such as migrations
  • Tribal affiliation
  • Religious affiliation
  • General information about the tribe

United States – North Carolina – School Books

North Carolina Digital Heritage Center features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of sources from across North Carolina. This week, the archive has added almost 90 years worth of “BlueBooks” from St. Mary’s School in Raleigh. The years covered are 1911-2000.

St. Mary’s School was both a high school and a college. In particular, the Student Blue Books could be especially useful for genealogists or historians, as they document the names, activities, and some addresses of the students.

United States – California – Land Docket

Ancestry.com has the California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858 available online. This record collection includes case files regarding private land claims in California. They are based on historical Spanish and Mexican land grants that took place before California became part of the U.S.
California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858 for José Abrego at Ancestry.com

California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858 for José Abrego at Ancestry.com

The purpose of these records was to show the actions taken regarding the claims after they were confirmed valid. Additional items within these case files include: notices and evidence of claims, certificate or plats of survey, affidavits, deeds, abstracts of titles, testimonies, appeals, and letters.

Each record in the index usually includes the name of the land owner, their docket number, and the record date.

United States – Florida – Newspapers

Do you have ancestors from Florida? Newspapers.com now has the Palm Beach Post. With a basic subscription, you can see issues of the Palm Beach Post from 1916 through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access earlier years and additional issues from 1922 to 2016.

Florida’s Palm Beach Post first began publishing in 1908 with the name Palm Beach County, and in 1916 (by this time called the Palm Beach Post) the paper made the switch from running weekly issues to daily.

Canada – Aboriginal Records

Library and Archives Canada added over 600 documents from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recently. These records can be viewed at the Library and Archives Canada website.

These records include transcripts of more than 175 days of public hearings, consultations and roundtables; research studies by academics and community experts; and submissions by non-governmental organizations. Until now, patrons could only access this collection in person at LAC’s downtown Ottawa location, or by submitting a reprography request. This is a wonderful asset to the many helpful collections online for Canadian researchers.

Lower Canada – Census

The Lower Canadian Census of 1825 from Findmypast contains over 74,000 records covering modern day Labrador and southern Quebec. Each search result will provide you with an image of the original document and a transcript. Information may include the language your ancestor spoke, where they lived, and with how many people they lived. It does not name each of the inhabitants in the home by name,smorgasbord_2 but they are marked by age.

1.2 million Irish immigrants arrived from 1825 to 1970 according to Wikipedia. The peak period of entry of the Irish to Canada in terms of numbers occurred between 1830 and 1850, when 624,000 arrived. Quebec was a port of entry. So, if you have Irish immigrants who you think may have come to Canada by 1825, this might be a great census for you to look at.

Britain – Newspapers

Over 1.5 million new articles have been added to the military publications available at Findmypast in their historic British Newspapers. The Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service are two of the new titles added. Additional articles come from the Army and Navy Gazette.

More on Native American Research Collections

This week’s records featured Adoption of Washington State Native Americans. But whether you are searching your Native heritage in Canada, the Western United States, or the Southeastern United States, we know you want the best in education and helpful tips. We have created a three part series regarding how to use the Native American collections on Fold3.com here:

How to Use the Dawes Collections for Native Amnativeamericangenealogy_bundleclasserican Research

Eastern Cherokee Applications for Native American Research

Guion Miller Roll for Native American Research

FamilyTree.com also offers a crash course in Native American Genealogy. Learn more about these great classes, here.

New Netflix Documentary: Twins Separated at Birth Reunited by Social Media

A new documentary on Netflix tells the story of twins who were separated at birth–sent to different countries–who rediscovered each other through YouTube and Facebook. Become inspired and learn the remarkable story of how they were reunited by social media.

Twins reunited by social media

A new Netflix documentary on twins separated at birth is getting great reviews–and it’s a great story. We’ve all heard about twins being separated at birth before, but these were sent halfway across the world from each other. They only reconnected because a friend of one twin saw the other in a YouTube video.

I first read this story in the Irish Mirror. Anais, now a college student, grew up in France. She always knew she was adopted and that her biological mother was a single woman in Korea. One day, a friend sent her a YouTube comedy sketch performed by someone who looked just like her. She watched the video over and over. There was no contact information on it. Eventually, the same friend spotted the mystery girl again in a movie trailer. Suddenly, Anais was able to learn more about her from the IMBD database. Her name was Samantha and her birthday was the same as her own.

Anais reached out to Samantha on Facebook, saying she thought they were twins. Samantha replied with a copy of her adoption paperwork—from the same clinic. Three months later, they met in London where Anais lived. Each young woman took a DNA test and traveled to Korea to attend an adoptee conference together.

Throughout it all, Samantha had the video camera running. She’d already been on-screen in Memoirs of a Geisha and now she took a shot at directing herself and her sister as they were getting to know each other. The result is Twinsters and it’s on Netflix. The show is getting some awesome reviews from critics and audience members alike. If you’ve got Netflix, check it out!

This unlikely reunion started entirely on social media: YouTube, Facebook, and Skype. Just goes to show you the amazing power of these technologies to bring family members together!

More Stories Like This One: Reunited by Social Media

siblings reunited by social mediaScottish Birth Siblings Reunited: “When You Are Fostered, You Don’t Know Who You Are”

Twins Reunited 78 Years After Separation at Birth

YouTube for Family History: Documentaries You’ll Love

The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 193: Published!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 193The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 193 is ready for listening! It’s packed with genealogy news you can use; inspiring tips from listeners and experts and the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club pick.

Ready to tune in the newest episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast? Episode 193 offers a true “variety show” of news, listener comments and expert insights. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard weighs in with a key principle for genetic genealogy: helping you understand the not-quite-so-simple relationship between your genetic family tree and your genealogical family tree.

download backblazeMy favorite segment in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 193 actually comes from Lisa’s listener mailbox, though. This listener responded to The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192 with a tip of his own on the U.S. Public Records Index, some great sleuthing on his part into an adoption mystery in his family and even his own research into the area of Sussex, England, which Lisa highlighted in the show in connection with The Summer Before the War, the previous Genealogy Gems Book Club title.

genealogy book club family history readingSpeaking of the Book Club, this episode also announces a brand new featured book. It’s another novel about love and war by a British author. But it’s a different war, a different kind of love story and a VERY different way of telling the story! Click to the podcast episode for the “big reveal.” I will tell you this: Gems audio editor Vienna Thomas just remixed our upcoming interview with the author and she LOVED it! She said now she can’t wait to read the book.

GGP award finalistThe FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast has been entertaining audiences on the “internet airwaves” for years! Nominated last year for the first-ever Academy of Podcasters awards, the show has had more than 1.75 million downloads worldwide. Host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke is loved for her warm conversational style, inspiring family history stories and the expert genealogy tips she threads into each episode–especially the tech tips we all need to keep up with the fast-paced and exciting world of genealogy.

GGP thanks for sharingThanks for listening! And thanks for recommending The Genealogy Gems Podcast to your genealogy buddies. You’re a Gem!

How and Why to Create an Alternate Family Tree

alternate family treeUse an “alternate family tree” to emphasize unique or interesting patterns in your family history, such as eye or hair color, birthplace, age at death, or adoption. Here’s how to do it–and WHY.

Alternate family trees are popping up all over social media and genealogy blogs. Have you seen them? Some trees emphasize the age at death, cause of death, or birthplace for each individual.

There can be tremendous value to creating trees like these. Recognizing patterns can help tear down brick walls. Imagine a pedigree chart with birth places instead of names. It’s a new way to see migration patterns. I also love the a-ha moments I have! For example, the time I realized my hair and eye coloring likely came from my maternal great-grandmother who I have a special connection with.

I can share these quick “did you know” revelations with my relatives on social media (totally shareable images!) or at family reunions. Images are often more powerful than words because they are easy to glance over. Your family won’t be able to resist taking a look, and most importantly, sharing your tree images with other family members. Shared images can generate new information when shared with the right relative. Hey, here’s an idea: you could even blow up your alternate family tree to poster size for the next family reunion!

Take a look at these examples of my own alternate family trees for age at death (left) and birthplace (right).

Alternate_Trees_1 alternate family tree Alternate_Trees_2 alternate family tree

 

Other alternate family trees may focus on occupations, schooling, or color of eyes or hair.

I was inspired to create an alternate family tree that had significance to my own immediate family. We have a lot of adoption in our family tree. My three children are adopted, my husband is adopted, and several of my great-grandparents were raised by other family members. This is a unique perspective. Blood lines are important, but even more important are those people who influenced my family the most as caregivers.

I created a pedigree that indicates who, if anyone, the father and mother figures were. Take a look:

Alternate Family Tree

Did you notice that every set of my great-grandparents had one or more parent die or abandon them? I was shocked to see this significant ancestral dynamic. I had never considered the likely effect of such a family tree. It was fascinating!

How to Create an Alternate Family Tree

The easiest way to create an alternate family tree is to use a genealogy software program. I use RootsMagic. RootsMagic is a genealogy software program for PC and Mac computers. (Note: To use RootsMagic on your Mac computer, you will need to use the MacBridge add-on.) You can purchase the full version of RootsMagic for $29.95 or you can use the RootsMagic Essentials for free!

There are two ways to make an alternate family tree using RootsMagic. You can start from scratch or use the wall chart report.

Starting from Scratch

To start a new pedigree, click the “blank sheet of paper” icon at the top left. Name your tree with a title that will indicate its purpose. (Example: Age-at-Death Tree)

Alternate Family Tree

Instead of using the names of your ancestors, use whatever alternate pieces of information you wish in the name fields.

Now, you simply click “Reports” across the top and choose “Pedigree.” You can generate the report and print out your new alternate tree.

Using an Existing Tree

If you already have your tree on RootsMagic, you can use the Wall Chart feature to create trees with unique data.

As an example, if I wanted to create an occupation family tree, I would first need to enter that data for each person by clicking on the individual and then “Add a Fact.” From the drop-down list, choose “occupation.” Type in the occupation in the description field at the right and click “Save.”

Alternate Family Tree

Add the occupation to each individual and when you are ready to print your alternate family tree, simply take the following steps in the image below.

Alternate Family Tree

After taking these six steps, it is time to “Generate Report.” You will be taken to a new screen where you will see your creation.

Alternate Family Tree

Once you have completed your alternate tree, it’s a great idea to print it and lay it out in front of you. You might ask yourself, “What does this information tell me?” The interpretation of the data will be unique for everyone. Maybe your “Cause of Death Tree” will make you think, “Oh no! I should really be watching my heart health!”

I hope that you will take the opportunity to create an alternate family tree or two today. Genealogy Gems Premium website members who like this idea will also want to listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast #136, due out later this month. In that episode, Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard goes in depth on the value of gathering family health history.

shareHow does this view of your family tree make you feel?
We love to hear from you so leave your feelings or comments below,
and please feel free to share your alternate family tree on our Facebook page!

 
More Family Tree and RootsMagic Gems

RootsMagic 7 Uploads Family Tree Maker Files Directly

What are the Politics of Your Family Tree?

Family Tree Hopscotch: Fun at the Family Reunion

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 192 is Ready

GGP 192The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192 is ready. It’s perfect pre-family reunion listening: learn to make oh-so-shareable family videos, gather health info from relatives and more.

It’s tough to pick one favorite part of the new Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192. I loved the segments that have inspired me as I’m getting ready to attend a family reunion this month:

  • Lisa teaches us how to easily create professional-looking family history videos–and I do mean EASY and BEAUTIFUL (see the example below);
  • A listener shares a favorite database that can help us find and connect with living relatives.
  • The inspiring story of how DNA solved one family’s adoption mystery.

But there’s more! New Genealogy Gems team member Amie Tennant shares insights as she prepares for professional certification. And you’ll hear a fun segment from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with author Helen Simonson on The Summer Before the WarYou’ll also hear something new about Dropbox and a new initiative to capture the family histories of remote, indigenous populations.GGP thanks for sharing

Whether you’re in tech mode, prepping for a family reunion or looking for tips and inspiration to be a better genealogist, this episode has something for you.

Who else do you know who will enjoy this free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #192? Will you share it with them? Thank you!

DNA for Adoption: Katie’s Genetic Roots Were Closer Than She Thought

DNA and adoption mysteryThis story of DNA for adoption research tells how one Genealogy Gems listener discovered biological roots that were closer to her adopted home than expected.

You never know what you’re going to learn when you start researching the biological roots of an adopted ancestor. And that was certainly the case for Katie from Pacifica, CA.  Recently, she wrote me to share her story of researching an adopted ancestor. Understandably, people hope for a happy ending when using DNA for adoption research. But in Katie’s case, it may be just the beginning. Here’s why:

genealogy gems podcast mailbox“When I set out on this geni-journey, my goal was to find my grandfather’s birth parents. [He was adopted.] But as I read all the old family letters and newspaper clippings, I found myself getting so attached to his adoptive family. I was saddened that we weren’t blood-related, because I felt so connected and proud of them.

My mother and I decided to take the AncestryDNA test, not sure what we’d find. When we got the results back, the strangest thing happened. My closest match with a family tree was a descendant of my grandfather’s adoptive grandfather.

My other closest match was adopted. He had been searching for his birth parents since the 1970s. When I called my adopted match, I think we were both excited and confused, not really sure how we’d be able to help each other in our search. As we compared notes, everything started clicking together. He began to cry. This mystery cousin of mine was no cousin at all. He was my grandfather’s half-brother. He was my great uncle, who was raised by a different, unrelated adoptive family!

DNA for adoption research

Katie’s grandfather at 4 years old, shortly after being adopted by Angela.

My grandfather, Joseph, turned out to be the biological nephew of his adoptive mother, Angela. His birth father was Angela’s brother, Paul. Angela’s own son tragically died of a ruptured appendix at age 4. Her husband, Ralph, was a merchant ship captain who traveled regularly all over the world, but most commonly between Oakland, CA and Brooklyn, NY.

According to family lore, less than a year after their son’s passing, Ralph mysteriously brought a freckly little boy (my grandpa) home to Oakland with him from Brooklyn, shocking his wife with this child she was suddenly expected to raise. Can you imagine that boat ride, all the way through the Panama Canal, as a confused orphan? And oh the family rumors that started!

Using DNA, we were able to put those rumors to rest. I’m not sure if Angela ever learned the truth– I’m not sure what Ralph told her, whether she even knew she was raising her own brother’s boy. All those years grandpa never asked who his birth parents were because he was afraid of hurting the family’s feelings, and little did he know he was being raised by his aunt the whole time. He probably met or at least wrote to his father without ever knowing it.

I have now met both my great half uncle, whose adoptive name is Bill (born Paul, in honor of his deceased birth father)– he lives in NY– and his son [Tom].

William Paul Nolan (left), born Paul Toomey, and his son, Tom (right), meeting Katie, their first known blood relative.

William Paul Nolan (left), born Paul Toomey, and his son, Tom (right), meeting Katie, their first known blood relative.

At 69 years old, that was his first time meeting a blood relative. I also connected with two living cousins in their 90s thanks to their very sweet children and nieces. I had photos of them from 1935, standing with my grandfather when he was only four years old, having no idea who they were until I started doing research.

DNA for adoption research

Katie’s grandfather as a little boy (in the sailor suit, second from left) with his adoptive first cousins (who were of blood relation), including Jack (10) and Loretta McKinnon (13). On the right is Katie’s grandfather’s adoptive sister (who would have been his first cousin by birth), Clare.

Jack (90, left) and Loretta (93, right) McKinnon meet Katie for the first time in 2015, 80 years after the photo with her grandfather was taken.

Jack (90, left) and Loretta (93, right) McKinnon meet Katie for the first time in 2015, 80 years after the photo with her grandfather was taken.

I couldn’t believe they were still around! I was able to meet them last year. I was also able to provide them with photos of their father, as they had only a few of their own.

I now send regular emails to the whole reunited family to update them on my genealogy discoveries.

I went on an homage journey to Prince Edward Island, the place my adoptive and birth great grandparents grew up, and was able to lay flowers at the gravestones of our long lost family members. The house they grew up in was still standing. Still being lived in, even!

It was such an amazing discovery after feeling so mysteriously close to that family, to know that it wasn’t all in my head. And to find out I had an uncle still living? Amazing.”

When Katie’s story landed in my inbox, it reminded me how lucky I am that so many of you share your personal, and inspiring stories! Thank you to Katie for giving us permission to share this inspiring story about using DNA for adoption research. You can read more about her family history adventures at her blog called McKinnon Ancestry.

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DNA Testing for Family History: New Premium Video

getting started in genetic genealogy dna testing for family historyReady to start DNA testing for family history? Or maybe you’ve tested but need help getting the most out of your results. Here’s a new video for you: Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy.

If you’re new to DNA testing for family history–or floundering along the way–the new Genealogy Gems Premium video tutorial may be just what you’re looking for. Millions of people have already tested, and savvy genealogists use those test results to better understand their ethnicity and family connections.

Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard, author of a fantastic series of laminated DNA guides, walks you through the answers to three important DNA questions in Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy:

1. Which test should I take?

2. What will I get from the testing?

3. Will it help?

In this video, Diahan reminds us that “genetic genealogy is not about miracles.” In fact, DNA testing for family history works best when paired with good old traditional research. You know, creating a pedigree chart, finding records, and searching dusty courthouse basements. (You didn’t think you were going to get out of that, did you?)

Diahan breaks down the elements of atDNA, mtDNA, and YDNA testing. You will want to hear why she gives a five star rating to YDNA, but only a three star rating to mtDNA! Click the video below to get a quick preview of this exciting class:

DNA testing supplements traditional genealogy research in many ways. For the majority of us, even the basic autosomal DNA test can provide us with a long list of cousin matches. The more family members you have tested, the more matches you will find. Cousin matches are fun, but they are also the tools we need to break down those brick walls. Maybe your DNA results will lead to finding Cousin Susie who just happened to get the family Bible. Wouldn’t you like to have the opportunity to get to know her?

Premium_2016In my own family, our true ethnicity was carefully hidden. Traditional research hinted to our racial identity, but it wasn’t until a DNA test was taken that we were sure. Adoptees and foster children are also finding DNA tests helpful in locating their next of kin.

Genealogy Gems Premium website members have exclusive access to Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy and 30 additional full-length video tutorials on topics ranging from research strategies to technology tools. They also have access to the full audio archive of the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast. Click here to learn more about Premium website membership.

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