My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part One


DNA Discovery

Every DNA class I have taken, every detailed DNA blog post I have read, all contain the same caveat – You need to be prepared for the unexpected if you are going to take a DNA test.  For some reason, I never considered that this applied to me and my family.  But there is a reason that every good genetic genealogist regularly issues this word of caution.  No family is immune from secrets.  Including mine.

For the past few years I have been learning about DNA tests and DNA testing companies trying to figure out who I wanted to test and which company I wanted to use.  The big mystery I was hoping to solve was the mystery of my great grandfather’s family.  John Costello is my elusive, tantalizingly-close-but-oh-so-out-of-reach, great grandfather.  Earlier this year I selected my course of action and tested a handful of family members.

The first test I chose was a Y-DNA test for my uncle.  He is the son of John Costello’s son.  The results were a huge surprise.  My Spanish-born, Spanish-Italian, Roman Catholic great grandfather was ethnically Jewish.  You could have knocked me over with a feather that day I opened the long planned for and anxiously awaited results.  I had been warned that DNA results can bring unexpected information to light.  I was learning how true that statement was.  But even that surprise could not prepare me for the series of surprises that awaited me.

Looking back, all of the clues were there.  I could have at least seen an inkling of something.  If those moments were a movie, and the audience had been introduced to all of the players – that instant I learned I was part Jewish, would also be the moment the audience knew what was coming before I did.

What was this clue?  What was this foreshadowing of a surprising journey I would take a few months in my future?

My uncle had only one perfect Y-DNA match.  This one perfect match had no data – no tree, no surnames listed, no places listed.  He had only two items, his name and his email address.  Let’s call him Bob*.

Aside from being shocked to learn my great grandfather was Jewish, the other thought I had was this – Bob can’t help me.  He’s clearly not a genealogist.  He is an adoptee looking for his family.  He will not help me solve the John Costello mystery.

This thought was followed by a lot more shock and awe to learn I was part Jewish.

The clues were there.  But I was so distracted by the ethnic surprise that I didn’t see the real surprise that was literally staring me in the face.  The surprise that I correctly identified as soon as I saw it.  Bob, my uncle’s only perfect Y-DNA match, was an adoptee looking for his family.  A family he never knew.


My family.



to be continued…


*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts will be changed or omitted for privacy purposes.


Author: thegenealogygirl

I'm a girl who loves genealogy. Let me tell you about it.

41 thoughts on “My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part One

  1. Wow! As the wife of an adoptee and the mother of an adopted son, I am intrigued. My husband and children are all on 23 and me in case a close family member shows up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow! Several adoptees in one family. Hopefully my posts will be helpful for your loved ones. I’m trying to keep them short and pointed so tomorrow includes “Lesson 1”. Feel free to email me if you have questions on the steps I took. I would be happy to be a bit more detailed with you if any of your family want to be more direct in their searching.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t wait to see what happens next! Hope you post soon! And now that the shock has worn off, what are you feeling about your Jewish roots? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well you don’t have to wait long, next post will be up tomorrow. I have three written so far, I’m hoping to tell the story straight through M-F. It may take two weeks. I want to keep it bite-sized with some good directions on steps so that hopefully it will be helpful for others seeking lost family members. Adoptees, birth families, or recent genealogy mysteries.

      I don’t know if the shock has totally worn off. I’m mostly English, Scottish, Danish, Welsh, and French. My great grandpa brought the most ethnic difference to my tree already when I believed he was Spanish and Italian. I still don’t totally have my mind around it. I think part of it is that I don’t know any of the what, why, and when. I have all of these new Jewish cousins who are, in some cases, fairly closely related but their own family history is so fractured they don’t go back far enough for us to find our common ancestors. I feel cheated that he wasn’t open about it all, that he didn’t leave any answers or even hints. I think it will feel less shocking when I am able to make my first bit of real progress. I embrace all of my ancestors as they were, but he is making it hard to understand what exactly I am embracing. If that makes any sense at all… I am totally rambling here. Let me see if I can summarize – I LOVE this new discovery that I am partly Jewish. I wish I understood it better – both independent of my family but especially in relation to my family. Who was the most recent family member to actively follow Judaic Law, what did they experience because of their faith, etc. I also feel a bit at a loss because I’ve always been a very sympathetic outside observer who does not tolerate persecution of any kind. I’ve read more Holocaust memoirs than I can count, but I still don’t really understand the religion, or even much of the vocab. I’m rambling again… I’ll get there. It’s a weird mental shift from thinking maybe one day I’d be connecting with a distant Italian cousin who might share an old family recipe for delicious marinara to not knowing at all what I might learn from a distant cousin. Does any of that make any sense at all…? Thank you for asking. I appreciate your interest and support. Again, I think once I make that first concrete step from John to his parents and siblings, I will start to feel like I’m finding my way. It’s a journey I’m anxious to take and happy to go wherever it leads. It’s all still just a bunch of questions for now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amberly, I hope you realize we are hanging on the edge here! Such suspense. I can’t wait for you to set up the second reel of film for your movie. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t wait to find out the rest of the story. Please post soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Two | thegenealogygirl

  6. I am very interested to hear more of this story. Genealogy can lead in any direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Colleen, more tomorrow. And yes, it really can. My mind has been going bananas the last month with this, and several other family connections bringing very unexpected stories to the genealogy party. 🙂


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  14. I’m fascinated by this story as I am an adoptee looking for my family and recently did a DNA test. Interesting how this is handled on the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

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