Tag Archive | Adoption Success Stories

Automatic Clustering from Genetic Affairs

My genealogy groups are buzzing with excitement about a new tool from Genetic Affairs to automate the clustering of your DNA matches. This takes the Leeds method concept to another level.

Everyone is posting pretty cluster pictures like the one below that I made for my perfect cousin, the star of many of my blog posts. This is a table where each DNA match is listed on the top and side; then if they match each other, the box is colored in with the color for that cluster. The chart is sorted by cluster. The idea is that each colored cluster shows descendants from a probable great grandparent couple of yours.

The gray boxes show where people match others outside the cluster which can often happen when families intermarry more than once or when they are first cousins enough times removed to have been in the second or third cousin group by DNA but are related to more than one set of great grandparents.

Automated clustering is useful because it puts your DNA relatives who are related to each other into visual groups so that you can quickly see which line a new match is related on. The picture is pretty but the workhorses are the charts for each cluster shown below that image when you scroll down. Here is the privatized one for my “perfect” cousin showing our MUNSON cluster.

Each name can be clicked to go to that Ancestry match page plus much useful additional information is shown next to the username: how many cMs shared, how many matches shared in the whole group, cluster number, how many people in their tree, and the notes you made for that match.

The image and charts are from the HTML file which arrived via email from Genetic Affairs after I requested automated clustering for my cousin’s Ancestry profile, which is shared with me there. You have to save the html file to your computer and then click on it to view it. When it first comes up, it is a mish-mosh sorted by name, but then it resorts itself by cluster. Fun to watch. Click here for the step by step of how to use this tool from the Intrepid Sleuth. It can also cluster matches from other sites like 23andme.

I decided to try it on an unknown father case I had not gotten around to working on yet, to see if it succeeded in speeding up the process and it did, to under an hour! A new record.

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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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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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This is your life DD Carol!

When DNA Detective (DD) Carol Rolnick showed a family network diagram at her presentation last Saturday a voice suddenly piped up from the back of the room. Amazed, she looked up and said, “Sean?” A foundling whose case she had recently solved had flown in from Texas to come and surprise her. They had never met in person before. He saw on FaceBook that she was speaking in Carlsbad, so he got on a plane. Wow.

Sean left, Teri (a DIG organizer) center, Carol (surprised) right, photo by Kimber Motsinger

What a treat for us at our North County DIG (DNA Interest Group) meeting! Not only did we get Carol’s presentation but we got to hear the story of this case from both her and Sean. She mentioned that she has a special place in her heart for foundlings. They took turns explaining how she used DNA to solve this mystery of a 4 year old boy abandoned so many years ago in a motel room with his 2 year old brother. They knew their first names and not much else.

Sean was absolutely compelling when he spoke. Not a dry eye in the house. Preparation for his book tour?

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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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