Personal DNA testing has been a miracle for finding biological family, whether you are looking for both parents, an unknown dad, an unknown grandad, or even, as in my family, an unknown 3rd grandfather as well as an unknown 5th grandad.
On Monday evening October 25 I will be giving a talk about using DNA for unknown parentage live (online) for Indian Trails Library in Prospect Heights, Illinois (click here and scroll down to Oct 25 at 7pm Central time). I have given presentations on the methodology for these searches in the past, most recently for Rootstech 2021, but I am always updating it with new tools. Also this will be a full hour, so more in depth. Plus it includes a question and answer session afterwards.
Little did I know nine years ago, when I started testing my family and blogging about DNA and genealogy that those skills would translate into helping others find family. Click here for some of the interesting cases that I have blogged about.
It is an incredibly rewarding experience to reunite families and it has brought me much joy.
UPDATE:The video is now online at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE89cvNiBKg
Unknown parentage searches have changed dramatically over the last year thanks to a number of great new automated tools. I will be updating my presentation on this for the upcoming i4GG conference in Las Vegas in a few weeks, the first weekend in February. I will also probably talk about what’s new at GEDmatch as well as be on a panel there.
Plus I will present how to use these new wonderful tools to explore your cousin matches at the North County DIG meeting next Saturday, January 18.
Below is a screen shot of the final slide in my unknown parentage presentation where I list the steps, in order, that I currently go through on these searches. I need to add at the beginning another step, “check the ethnicity,” as it can be a huge clue when the two parents are descended from very different populations. Click here for a recent blog post on a case solved with ethnicity. Also I have found that the listed communities at Ancestry are pretty accurate so they can be quite useful too.
Finding an unknown father in a few hours with DNA has become much more common due to the large number of American testers. A neighbor, let’s call her Dede, noticed I was a genealogist on FaceBook, so contacted me for help late one evening in December. She asked if I could help figure out who her unknown Dad was from her DNA results. She was a bit discouraged because no one had answered her messages.
Dede was tested on Ancestry and although her mother was not tested, a known maternal first cousin happened to be in her match list. That would be useful for separating the maternal from the paternal matches. Dede’s ethnicity had a surprisingly high 47% German percentage while her first cousin had only 27% . Plus that cousin had no Eastern Europe (Dede 10%) or Baltic (Dede 3%) so perhaps Dede’s father was part Germanic and Slavic.
Dede’s ethnicity at Ancestry – note the Kentucky community
I took a quick look at her Ancestry match list and saw several paternal 2nd and 3rd cousin matches so I told her that it would be pretty easy, then quoted her my discount rates and a estimate. The next day I sent her the wedding picture of her father’s parents. She and her family drove to Oregon after Christmas to get to know her half sister and Dad. What a magical Holiday it was for all!
Sometimes DNA can reveal an ugly truth. A reader, let’s call her Patty, asked me for help explaining the unusual looking comparison of her DNA test results with her uncle Bob’s results. The surprising thing was the large number of green bars that she saw in the GEDmatch one to one comparison, indicating fully identical segments (FIRs), almost as many as a full sibling would have. How could that be?
Of course my first thought was that Bob is actually her full brother, that her mom, Janet, had a child out of wedlock who was raised by the child’s grandparents, Mona and Dick, as their son. This has happened in many a family. But that was not the backstory. Janet was a small child when her brother Bob was born. Bob and Patty also share just one segment of 27 cM on the X chromosome, which, of course, would be normal for a maternal uncle but low for a brother. Have a look at the comparison image from GEDmatch for chromosomes 1-22:
Thoughts? Usually only full siblings or double first cousins will have numerous fully identical segments, so what could this be? Obviously Patty’s dad would also have to be a close relative of Bob’s for there to be so many FIRs. A full sibling would usually show even more of them, however.