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Not always a happy ending

Most of the unknown parentage cases I have worked on have had very happy endings and I have enjoyed reporting on them here and in my presentations. Sadly it is not always like that.

My observations from the many cases I have been involved with is that the fathers who never knew are frequently delighted; while the mothers who gave up the child often want to pretend it never happened.

There are at least two cases in my files where the overly young parents, gave up their child, later got married, and were happy to have that child back in their lives. However I have another case where although they later got married, they subsequently divorced and are not acknowledging their son.

A 1960s diary

There are also a few cases where the father claims to not even have known the mother of the child. That does not necessarily stop him from being delighted to have a new daughter or son.

Some fathers are not so welcoming. The first case I ever helped out on was a DNA cousin, early in the days of testing, so I did not know she could be more distant than the reported 4th cousin. Regardless, I was happy to help. She lives in the next town over and came to my house to meet me. I did not realize what an emotional moment it would be for her, meeting her first ever biological relative. Subsequently her birth state opened their records, so she found her late mother’s family. With the extra information from her mother’s diary and her Ancestry test, I was able to find her birth dad, my distant relative. However he said in an email response to her, “Sorry, but I have no recall of a [her mother’s name].” Since the story was one of being taken advantage of when drunk at a party, my cousin chose not to pursue this.

Another genetic cousin who turned up early in my DNA explorations was also more distant than I realized, a double sixth cousin. Eventually I suggested he test at Ancestry where he found a paternal half sister born days apart from him. I found their Dad, my distant cousin, and called him, but he wanted no part of DNA testing. His reason was that he was protecting his known daughter who was going through a tough time and besides he was always “good,” never stepped out. Luckily a few months later that very same daughter did an Ancestry DNA test and is thrilled to have a half sister (she had no sisters) and another brother.

The case that broke my heart was a recent one involving two war babies.

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Eliminating the DNA Matches from One Side

UPDATE 26-Oct-2018: Click here for this tool  –  Extract Desired Lines

Unless you get lucky with a first cousin or closer match, searching for an unknown parent or grandparent involves building lots of trees for your DNA relatives and looking for common ancestors among them. Then you build down from those ancestors looking for someone in the right place at the right time. It is best to have two pairs of common ancestors because then you are looking for where their descendants meet in a marriage.

Sample ancestor list from GWorks – linked to slide in my GWorks presentation – using-dna-for-adoption-searches

It is wonderful to have automation to compare trees for you. The GWorks tool suite from DNAgedcom.com does just that and, no surprise, I have written many blog posts about how to use those tools. They can collect all your Ancestry matches and then all the ancestors in their DNA connected trees and give you a list of the most frequently seen ancestors. You can also upload GEDcoms collected elsewhere or created by your own research to use in the comparison.

There are many times I would like to automatically exclude half the ancestors collected from Ancestry. For example when I am helping a person who knows only one parent but has a half sibling or the known parent tested. Specifically when they look at the results from a GWorks run, how do they eliminate the matches from the other side?

View Trees with an example for deleting

One way is to go to the “View Trees” on the GWorks menu at DNAgedcom and delete all the trees from the known side by clicking the red X to the far right of each tree. Then rerun the “Match GEDcom files” in the Manage Tree Files function. This could take forever in a half sibling case.

However, it is very useful to delete trees when one person has tested multiple family members and they are all in the same tree. In that case I keep the tree for the person who is further up the line. Very conveniently you can click on the tree name to go to that match at Ancestry, as long as you are logged in there, so you can easily figure out which one to keep. But again, this is too lengthy a process for a half sibling case.

DNAgedcom client home window

I have long used the Match-O-Matic (M-O-M) feature in the DNAgedcom client (DGC) to get the lists of matches for just one side (the m_ file) in a spreadsheet for use to keep track of my research. However M-O-M does not work for the tree files (aka the a_ file – actually it has a list of ancestors and which trees they are from).

Sometimes it is good to be a programmer. I have put together a new tool that you can use with a list of matches, for example the match file from M-O-M, to create a new tree file with only those trees that are for the matches in the match file. Then you can upload that match file and the new tree file to DNAgedcom for use in GWorks.

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An Endogamous Success Story

It is difficult to solve adoption cases in endogamous communities because everyone will share the same 4th and 5th grandparents, often multiple times, so the methodology for finding a birth parent from 3rd and 4th cousin matches just does not work. You have to wait for a few second cousin or closer matches.

Tessa was looking for her unknown biological father. Her mother had given her a name, Rudy Padilla, and said he was perhaps Mexican. I ran a GWorks for her which I showed in my lecture about unknown parentage at the SCGS Jamboree. This is the full story.

The Compare Trees at DNAgedcom from GWorks for Tessa

I had never seen ancestors who were in 30-40 trees before! How can that be? Perhaps endogamy? Then I looked at the names and recognized many of the surnames. These are the Spanish soldiers who were among the earliest European settlers of New Mexico.

New Mexico in 1824 from Wikipedia, click image for the article (see *map credits)

These soldiers who came to the Southwest in the 1600s and 1700s mostly had to take Pueblo women as brides or not get married. A few brought wives with them from Mexico of presumed Spanish descent. For many years these Spanish “first families” of New Mexico hid the native part of their roots. Now many are proud of this heritage. Click here for an article about that which mentions the New Mexican woman in those Ancestry ads who discovered her Native American roots with DNA. By the way, Tessa shows 17% Native American at Ancestry.

I told Tessa that success finding her dad could take a very long time since she would need to wait for close matches, but to please upload to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA to look for more relatives. She had tested at both 23andMe and Ancestry DNA.
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DNA makes a Merry Christmas

Yesterday was a very very happy day. Thanks to DNA testing, an 82 year old man who thought he had no kids, now has two wonderful adult children plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Merry Christmas Billy (my pseudonym for him)! Here is the story.

An accomplished and successful Florida business woman, let’s call her Cheryl, discovered at her father’s funeral that he was not her biological dad. His relatives told her and were not particularly nice about it. Cheryl knew that her dad, let’s call him Larry, had married her mom when she was three months along, but Cheryl had not known that Larry had a paternity test done and knew that she was not his child. He loved her mom very much, so chose to love and cherish Cheryl as his daughter. They were always quite close.

Her mother was long gone and could not be asked. In disbelief, Cheryl took the Ancestry DNA test to confirm or deny this tale. She also got her half brother, her mother’s son from an earlier marriage, to test. That way she could separate out the matches on her mother’s side from those from her Dad’s line.

Her DNA results had no matches to anyone in Larry’s family, which disappointed her, even though it was not a surprise now. However she found what looked to be a half brother, let’s call him Joe, an adoptee born and raised in Australia. Her other paternal side matches, two second cousins, and several third cousins, all had roots in a small town along the Mississippi River. Surprisingly. the second cousins had no ancestors in common with any of the others. So Cheryl contacted me for help back in early October.

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DNAgedcom can compare gedcoms and help analyze match results

The DNAgedcom site was created to provide tools for adoptees using DNA to search for biological family but it is also very useful for those of us working on our family’s genealogy. Down with those brick walls!

 

Richard Weiss of DNAadoption.com did a very informative talk for our local genealogy group recently and as always, I learned a few things. Click here for that presentation which I uploaded to slides.com for him. In the next few weeks there will be a voice over version on DNAgedcom; I will add that link at the bottom of this article when it is ready.

There are two terrific free web sites created by volunteers that have tools to use with your test results that are often confused with each other: GEDmatch and DNAgedcom:

 

  • GEDmatch is a place to upload your DNA results and GEDcoms and compare those to possible cousins and your family. Click here for my many posts on that wonderful site.
  • DNAgedcom; is a place to upload your match comparison results, not the DNA results, and work many tools on them. You can even upload your match results from GEDmatch!

The key to successful use of DNAgedcom is to get a paid membership for at least a month and download their client program, DNA Gedcom Client (DGC), to collect data from the sites where you tested.

The feature that I have used the most as a genealogist is the collection of all the segments that every person I share with at 23andme.com shares with each other. Of course now that there is automated triangulation at 23andme, this is less important. Click for a good article at segmentology on that 23andme feature and also click here for this article of mine about the new 23andme experience which discusses it towards the end.

There are two main types of analyses you can do at DNAgedcom:

  1. Tree comparisons
  2. Segment data analysis

DGC can collect the tree data from Ancestry.com with ease. I use the fast version, 4th cousins only for most cases and then follow with Gworks for the analysis. If you are lucky, you may never need to look at segment data at all to solve your mystery.

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