Searching for birth parents? This adoption research success story involved several proven techniques: mapping DNA matches, research legwork–and years of patient determination.
Adoption Research Inspiration
This inspiring letter about adoption research came to me from Liz:
Thank you for your part in a major milestone of my genealogy research! You motivated me, educated me, and shared many wonderful resources throughout hours and hours of your podcasts. After listening to you talk with Diahan Southard a few times, it finally dawned on me that I should contact her to help me better understand DNA and its impact on my research.
Here’s the “story” as it unfolded for me.
During much of the last 30+ years my brother-in-law, Chuck, searched constantly for his birth mother. Chuck maintained hope that information he requested from the state of Michigan or newly available electronic adoption records might give him enough clues to help him find his mother. Six or seven years ago, Chuck was disabled by a stroke and a few years following the stroke vascular dementia robbed him of his ability to continue the search for his mother. In January 2015, we were able to get Chuck (despite the dementia) to spit in the test tube and provide a DNA sample. Little did we know he would be dead by Thanksgiving. As I wrote Chuck’s obituary, I realized I could offer one other piece of assistance to Chuck’s widow and children. I offered to continue his quest to find his birth mother.”
Then Liz outlined the steps she took to carry on the search:
“After gathering the limited detail we had (birth date, location, possible mother’s name and age) I began my research in earnest. Ultimately I:
created a “proposed” family tree for Chuck based on Chuck’s birth mother’s surname and his birth location,
reviewed Chuck’s DNA matches and
began to narrow down the family tree.
I used Diahan Southard’s website tutorials as the foundation for my analysis, put together a PowerPoint presentation with my research and theory and presented the information to her in a video conference. She found no fault in my logic and helped me plan my next steps: the search for Chuck’s birth father.”
Eventually, the paper trail and the genetic research came together to tell a story:
“Last week my niece finally received the adoption records from the state of Michigan, eighty-six years after Chuck was born, over twenty years after Chuck first requested them and almost a year after his daughter requested the records. I am impatiently awaiting my copy! What I do know so far:
Postcard of Harper Hospital, MI, posted on RootsWeb (click to view).
My research (thanks to you and Diahan and DNA) accurately determined the identity of Chuck’s mother.
She had a very difficult young life and died of TB—tuberculosis – when she was just 25 years old in 1939.
Chuck’s mother became pregnant with Chuck while a ward of the state and an Inmate at a girls school.
Chuck’s mother became pregnant during a time when the school “farmed out” Inmates to Harper Hospital to work as nurses’ aides.
Both Chuck’s mother and her sister checked on Chuck after turning him over to the state, both in an attempt to get him back and to learn how he was doing.
It was heartwarming to learn that Chuck actually had a birth family who cared about him! I wish he had known!”
WOW, what an incredible story! Congratulations to Liz on such thorough and persistent research. I feel very sure that Chuck knows that not only did he have a birth family that cared, but also a wonderful sister-in-law (although I would guess he well aware of that even before he passed.)
I’m also thrilled that Genealogy Gems was able to play some part in Chuck and Liz’s story.
Get Ready for Adoption Research Success
Are you looking for someone’s birth parents? Get started with the DNA strategies Liz used:
Take a DNA test from a company such as AncestryDNA, which has an enormous database of testers and family trees. Click here to learn more about your DNA testing options.
Map your DNA test results using Google Earth and/or, if you test with AncestryDNA, the site’s tool within an individual DNA match view for identifying locations you have in common on your tree. Click here to learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy by watching my free full-length video class on using Google Earth for genealogy.
Share your DNA results on other websites (such as Gedmatch) to increase your chances of finding matches.
To access Diahan’s great video tutorials on her site that Liz used, click here— as a Genealogy Gems reader you’ll get a great discount on them.
Along with DNA evidence, create the best paper trail possible, as Liz did. Scour all available records and follow up on all possible leads for any information about the birth parents. In this instance, Liz needed to rely on records created by or about institutions, such as the hospital and state girls’ school. Genealogy Gems Premium members will find tips for finding and using these records in my newest Premium video tutorial, Institutional Records. (If you’re not a member yet, click here to learn more. )
Lisa Louise Cooke is the author of several books including The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 3rd edition. She produces and hosts the popular Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the free weekly YouTube show Elevenses with Lisa at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. She offers a Premium Membership service at her website ( https://lisalouisecooke.com ) featuring exclusive on-demand genealogy education. And she writes a regular column for Family Tree Magazine and produces the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.
Lisa found her passion for family history at her grandmother’s knee at the age of 8. She is now the owner of Genealogy Gems, a genealogy and family history multi-media company founded in 2007. She is Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, the popular online genealogy audio show available at www.GenealogyGems.com, on your smartphone’s native podcast app, and through the Genealogy Gems app available through app stores. Her podcast brings genealogy news, research strategies, expert interviews and inspiration to genealogists in 75 countries around the world, and has been downloaded nearly 4 million times. She also produces weekly genealogy YouTube videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channeland a monthly live show called Elevenses with Lisa for Premium Members.
Lisa’s offerings are not limited to online. She is a sought after international genealogy speaker. Whether in person or online, Lisa strives to dig through the myriad of genealogy news, questions and resources to deliver the gems that can unlock each genealogist’s own family history treasure trove!
Family is not just a priority professionally. Lisa is a doting wife to Bill, the proud mom of three daughters, and has added the role of Grandma to her resume. She counts her blessings every day for the love, fulfillment and laughter that family brings to every aspect of her life.
Lisa in the Press
Click hereto listen to interviews and read articles about Lisa and Genealogy Gems.
It’s important to know how to find a missing webpage when you’re a genealogy researcher. Clues to your family history are all over the Internet, and so are must-use research tools, directories, maps and how-tos. This free 2-minute video tutorial shows you...
Here are the reasons every family historian should be writing a family history blog–and how can you get started NOW.
Why Start a Family History Blog
Many of us want to write up our family stories, but with busy schedules, a 300-page book may not be in our future!
You don’t have to have a lot of time to write and share your family history. Blogging about family history is a perfect alternative. Blogs are just simple websites that present articles in chronological order beginning with the most recent. This is a great format for telling a story that travels through time.
Blogs also allow your readers to “subscribe” for free much like a podcast. In other words, your readers don’t have to remember to visit your blog and read the latest. Instead, they can receive email prompts when you publish new articles, or they can receive those new articles alongside their other favorite blogs and podcasts in a blog reader. Very convenient indeed!
Still not convinced it’s possible to start your own genealogy-themed blog? Here are 7 reasons why and how you can start a family history blog.
1. You can write a little bit at a time.
You don’t have to fill hundreds of pages or lay out an entire book. With a blog you can write as little as a paragraph at a time. There are no rules because it is your blog!
Over time, even a one-paragraph blog post, once a week, will eventually result in many pages. It’s a great way to pace yourself and still get your family’s story in writing.
2. Every word you write is searchable by Google.
Gone are the days of simply posting a query on a genealogy message board that only reaches genealogists.
By blogging about your family history, other people who are researching the same family lines can find and connect with you through their Google searches. You’ll be writing about the family they are searching for, so you’ll very likely be using many of the same keywords, dates and information that they will include in their search query. This means your blog should pop up high on their Google search results list!
Think of your family history blog as your own big message board. Your posts can be found by anyone in the world searching for the same information. The connection possibilities are endless. So essentially, family history blogs are your way to “fish for cousins.” This of it as “cousin bait!”
Blogs typically include a Comment section at the end of each of your articles, so encourage visitors to your blog to leave comments. Don’t worry, you can set your blog to only show the comments after you have reviewed and approved them.
3. You might bust your toughest brick wall.
I’ve heard and shared countless success stories here at Genealogy Gems from readers and listeners. By just “putting it out there” on a blog they have opened the door to a distant relative contacting them with a treasure trove of new information about their family tree.
“Your encouragement to blog genealogy has given me courage and a vehicle for which I can share the stories of our family’s common history. So, over the past month I’ve been posting digital images of each day (from my great grandfather’s) journal from 50 years ago, the transcription of the journal and an historical image that gives context to what he was writing about. I plan to include family photos and other documents as I expand this blog.”
– Chris C.
4. You’re more likely to spot your mistakes and missing links.
Have you ever told a story out loud and discovered in telling it that something in the story didn’t quite jive? A blog can help you tell your family’s story “out loud” too.
The process of writing up your family history discoveries can often reveal gaps, errors, or bad assumptions in your research. And that’s a good thing! Use it to your advantage to identify further research that needs to be done. But those items on your research to do list.
And don’t be afraid to let your reader know what your gaps are and where you’re stuck. They just might be able to help!
5. Your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, etc. are online.
Your descendants probably prefer to read quick and easy stories on-the-go on their smart phones and tablets, and a blog fits the bill perfectly.
Putting your research on a blog provides your relatives with an easy way to digest the family heritage. And of course they can subscribe to it, since blogs can be delivered to their email inbox or to a blog reader like Feedly.
Blog posts are also super easy to share to Facebook, which means your post can get even more traction.
“The family response has been amazing. The cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles think it is cool and want to see more! They love the stories and can’t wait for subsequent postings so they can hear detailed history about (him) that they never knew about.
I believe this blog will be part of how our family begins healing and comes back together again.”
6. Because there are no excuses.
You can start a blog for free, so cost is not a barrier.
There are no rules, so you can decide how often and how much you write at once.
There is just one thing you have to do to successfully blog about your family history: begin.
7. Because your blog continues to share even when you aren’t researching.
The best news of all is that your family history blog will be out there working online for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Even when life gets in the way and you need to take a sabbatical from blogging and genealogy, your blog is still out there ready to be found. You will still be sharing your family’s story, and attracting relatives to it. And when you’re ready, your blog will be ready for you to add the next chapter.
How to Start a Family History Blog
Starting a family history blog isn’t hard. But some people find it intimidating. So I’ve created two entire series to help you get started.
The “Footnote Maven,”author of two popular blogs, talks about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, tips for getting people to comment on your blog posts and more.
In this concluding episode, learn how to add a few more gadgets and details to your blog; pre-plan your blog posts, publish your first article, and how to help your readers subscribe. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.
Share the Blogging Adventure!
Invite someone you know to start a family history blog of their own. Send them a link to this webpage or share it through social media. They’ll thank you for it later!
And if you have started a family history blog, please comment below and share your experience.