Next Friday I am doing a workshop at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank on using the tools at DNAGedcom and GEDmatch to solve unknown parentage cases. Since I like to have slides that are screenshots for my attendees, I decided to grab a few images using the latest and greatest GWorks on a missing father search case whose maternal half brother’s results were just in.
The basic technique for finding an unknown parent is to search the trees of close DNA matches looking for an ancestral couple shared among many of them. Build the tree down from that couple until someone is in the right place at the right time. The more you know about the unknown person(s) the easier this is. See the top of this post of mine for a summary – http://blog.kittycooper.com/2017/01/a-jewish-adoptee-finds-his-birth-family/
It has been a while since I used DNAGedcom. Why? Because now that Ancestry.com DNA has over 4 million testers, many adoptees get lucky and as soon as their DNA results are posted, they have enough good matches to figure out who at least one birth parent is. Also the use of a mirror tree with a second cousin’s information can often identify the family branch they are looking for (see http://www.borninneworleans.com/how-to/what-is-a-mirror-tree/ for that technique).
However when there are only third and fourth cousin matches, the remarkable tools at DNAGedcom.com can help you solve your mystery, but it is not intuitive or easy. It works best for folk with deep American roots, since that is the most tested population at Ancestry.com.
GWorks is a tool at DNAGedcom designed to automate comparing the people in all the different trees of your DNA matches. With an inexpensive subscription, you can use their “client” to aggregate the results from each different testing site and the people in the trees at ancestry. You can also manually upload Gedcoms which are easy to generate from ahnentafel lists (for that technique see http://blog.kittycooper.com/2016/10/text-to-Gedcom-using-ahnen2ged/ ). Then you get GWorks to compare all those trees looking for common people.
Much to my amazement, as I took screenshots of the GWorks process using my case, I was suddenly able to solve it! And he had NO good paternal side matches! It was all from the trees of fourth cousins. And done in two days using GWorks. (OK, once I saw that I had it, I stayed up until 2:00 am building the tree, I admit it, still…)
So how did I do this?
I can only imagine the pain of not knowing your family’s medical history or origins or why your mother gave you up for adoption.
DNA testing has reunited many adoptees with their birth families. Some get lucky and find their biological parents within days of their test results. Others work on it for years before succeeding. There are some wonderful reunion stories at DNAadoption.com – Trish’s story moved me to tears, as did many of the others. That web site has a tried and true methodology and classes for using DNA in these searches.
Richard Hill, an adoptee who found his biological roots, has just published an excellent two page summary of how to use DNA testing for adoptees. A great starting point, it is available at http://www.dna-testing-adviser.com/support-files/seven-guidelines-for-adoptees.pdf
Also if you have not read his autobiographical story of his search, I highly recommend it; click on image at the left to get that book from Amazon. It reads like a good mystery novel.
Times have changed now and for many it is no longer an embarrassment to have a child out of wedlock. These days an adoption can be open, which solves the medical and ancestry issues for the adoptee (see http://www.adoptionhelp.org/qa/what-open-adoption ). But back in the 1950s and 1960s, being unmarried and pregnant was a huge social stigma, so many of those women still want to hide that fact today.
You do not have to be an adoptee to benefit from a class on DNAadoption.com – they have several one day classes which are introductions, explaining how to use your results, tailored to each specific vendor. They also have a longer basics course and many more advanced courses.
Diane, Tim Janzen, and Kitty at the 2013 Rootstech
The inimitable Diane Harman-Hoog wrote a blog post today announcing the two year anniversary of their classes. Along with Karin Corbeil and Rob Warthen, Diane has taken DNA adoption searches into the electronic age with online courses and much more information available on that site. The many success stories bring tears to my eyes. A few are here – http://www.dnaadoption.com/index.php?page=reunions and more can be found in the archives of the DNAadoption yahoo group.
I got to meet Diane at the 2013 Rootstech conference along with expert genetic genealogist Tim Janzen and many other wonderful people I had corresponded with via email. Needless to say I keep going back to that conference; of course, the location next to the great genealogy library in Salt Lake City has something to do with that also!
Rob Warthen has written some wonderful tools that benefit all of us genetic genealogists that are hosted over at DNAgedcom.com and are linked to from the DNA adoption site.