Archive | January 2017

A Jewish Adoptee Finds His Birth Family

This is the story of how I helped a Jewish adoptee find his birth family using DNA testing. helps adoptees with DNA, including classes

First, here is a simplified explanation of the technique that an adoptee uses to find his birth parents using DNA:

  1. Do an autosomal test at each of the main companies. Once the results are in …
  2. Look through the family trees of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousin DNA matches for a common ancestral couple or two.
  3. Build private, unsearchable family trees down from each common couple to find someone in the right place at the right time.
  4. Get other people on those lines to test when their results will narrow it down some more.
  5. Males can also do a Y DNA test which might give them a surname if there are any close matches.

Obviously the more you know about the birth parents the easier this is. For more details on this technique see or sign up for a class there.

Sadly these DNA search methods do not work well for adoptees from endogamous populations, such as Ashkenazi Jews (AJ) because everyone in that group shares as much DNA with each other as a 4th or 5th cousin. Even worse, most Jewish family trees stop at the grandparents or great grandparents because they do not continue across the ocean. Another problem is that even second cousins can have different Americanizations of their original surnames and let’s not forget that surnames are very recent in this population, about 1815 for most.

That is why there are so very few jewish adoptee successes, so I am celebrating this one with a blog post.

The DNA Search Story

I got an inquiry from, let’s call him Roger Stein, an adoptee curious about his birth parents who matched a cousin of mine at GEDmatch. GEDmatch is a site where you can compare tests done at different companies. His story follows, with all the names changed for privacy. If you do not want the DNA details just skip to the section titled “Contact.”
Continue reading

DNA news this past week

When you are home and sick in bed what better to do than catch up on reading your favorite DNA blogs? So I decided over today’s bowl of chicken soup to make a page listing the blogs I like to read. It is listed under Resources or click the image on the left.

Also I feel guilty since I am so behind on my own blogging when there is so much news to report. So here are my favorite recent reads to replace my lack of posts:

Legacy Tree Genealogists is releasing their free grandparent/grandchild DNA mapping chartmaker tomorrow, Monday (yes I helped, yes the code is based on my mappers, yes I am an affiliate)

Roberta Estes has a new post on segment size and false matches in her terrific concepts series

She also gives the new 23andme ancestry timeline feature the thumbs down. I do not completely agree with her assessment but as my own post on this is unfinished, perhaps read hers …

Blaine is doing a study that I need to send to all the adoptees I have worked with to fill out

Amy Johnsons Crow’s post on DNA testees and genealogy

Debbie Kennett reports on her Living DNA results

And to tantalize you (I hope), here is a list of my in progress unfinished posts:

  • A jewish adoptee finds his birth family in spite of endogamy with DNA and my help!
  • New Tier1 features at GEDmatch
  • The New Grandparent Mapper released by Legacy Tree Genealogists
  • The 23andme new ancestry timeline feature
  • Ancestry shared DNA from member profile feature
  • follow up
  • Exploring 23andme transferred results at for an asian adoptee
  • My Updated Triangulation talk for Rootstech

Now back to bed with my latest science fiction read …

Chicken soup for what ails you

So I have been fighting off a cold for weeks now and never seem to actually get rid of it. This has slowed down my blogging as well kept me from doing much of anything energetic.

A bowl of my frozen chicken stock cubes

Thus it seems appropriate to follow up on my new year’s resolution of occasionally writing a cooking or gardening post by sharing my chicken soup recipe. I made it again yesterday. This is the third time since the start of this cold!

I always make a lot so that I can freeze up two or three ice cube trays of the broth for use in cooking. The trays get emptied into baggies or my glass containers for the freezer as pictured on the left.  I always use a cube or two or three for extra flavor when I cook various things on other days.

Click the continue reading for my recipe which cheats a little by using a rotisserie chicken (I prefer the rosemary-garlic or lemon-pepper ones)

Continue reading

Party with Me on Feb. 10 at Rootstech 2017!

Last year’s Rootstech saw the advent of a great new event, the MyHeritage after party on Friday night, with lots of fun games (no I cannot throw a bean bag well) as well as music, karaoke, prizes, food, and drink. A great tension reliever after a hard day focusing on wonderful talks.


Shipley Munson and A.J.Jacobs on screen and on stage at Rootstech

I have five free party tickets to give out to my readers for this year’s after party on Friday February 10th. Everyone who completes my survey about my blog (click here) will be entered into a random drawing. You can also answer inline after the read more below. In addition, you can choose to do the questionnaire and not enter as well. Winners will be notified by email very soon.

This will be my fourth year at Rootstech and my third year speaking. My topic will again be DNA Triangulation, updated from previous renditions. This is one of my favorite subjects and I love to demonstrate how we used this in my family to confirm a shaky paper trail, as well as ways you can use this technique at the different companies.

Another point of excitement for fellow genetic genealogists is that our own wonderful Cece Moore is doing a keynote speech on Saturday.
Continue reading

Following an X match in the Etne farm books


Having just received the Etne, Norway local history books (bygdebuker) for Christmas, I have spent countless hours looking at my ancestors in them. Naturally I have been trying to think of even more ways to use these books.

An idea that came to me was to look at my Dad’s one-to-many X matches at and see if I could find a match where I could follow the lines and connect them to Dad’s maternal grandad via those books


The largest X match he had with an unfamiliar name and email was to *k for 26.8 centimorgans (cMs) and it included a small autosomal match of 6.3 cMs. This seemed promising so I used the user lookup function on my GEDmatch home page and was delighted to see that she had uploaded a GEDCOM.


The GEDCOM number is clickable from the lookup result and it takes you to a page listing the individual. Of course what you really want is the pedigree to quickly scan for relatives in common and there is a button for that at the top of the page. Better is to use the compare 2 GEDCOMs feature from the home page to compare your match’s GEDCOM to your own. Works great if you both have deep trees but I had no luck with that for *k.

Next I clicked on the pedigree button at the top of her individual listing in the GEDCOM which took me to her pedigree page. Nothing jumped out at me and most of them were from Germany.

Continue reading