My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Three

DNA Discovery

I really should have showered before I sent that email.  Once I clicked send I obsessively checked for a response for hours. In between clicking refresh, I googled Bob’s* name.  His email address is his first name, middle initial, and last name.  Using just those clues I found Bob online.

At least, the person that I thought might be Bob.  Even though I know better, I analyzed every bit of his face.  I found him, and his wife, and his mother on Facebook.  More analyzing.  Was his mother his birth mother or his adoptive mother?  Could I tell from a photo?  (Of course not.)  All the while I obsessively clicked refresh over and over and over again waiting for a response.

Monday came and went.

No email from Bob.

Tuesday came and went.

No email from Bob.

Wednesday was slowly dragging on while I – yep, you guessed it – obsessively, if not quite so frequently, refreshed my email hoping for a message from Bob.

Mixed throughout these days were conversations with my mom talking through what we would do once we knew.  One thing she felt certain of – if Bob was the son of one of her brothers, they didn’t know anything about him.

Finally, at 1:18 pm on Wednesday afternoon, I had a response from Bob:


Thank you for reaching out to me.  I have been hoping someone would be able to help me someday.

How can we go about figuring it out?  I did both family tree and 23 and me, hoping someone would reach out!

Any help is appreciated.


Finally! Step one accomplished.  We have contact.

At this critical juncture we need to interrupt the story telling to talk about lesson one.


DNA Discovery, lesson one



Bob had tested with Family Tree DNA and 23 and Me in early 2015.  My grandma and uncle had both tested with Ancestry DNA at about the same time.  If Bob had also tested with Ancestry, he would have found his family two years sooner.

The reality is that most people can’t afford to test with every company.  So if that describes you, test with the companies who don’t allow you to transfer your data from another company, and then transfer your data to the companies who will allow that.  To understand this option more fully, read about autosomal transfers.


Now, let’s get back to the story.

I was so excited to get a response that I had a really hard time slowing my eyes down to really read and understand.  It took a few times through those scant lines of text to absorb it all.

Once it had sunk in, I responded with this:


Hi Bob,

I was so glad to hear back from you.  You are in luck, I happen to be the resident genealogy expert in our family and I have spent a bunch of time learning about DNA the last few years.

Based on how you match, I am fairly certain that one of 4 men has to be your father.  I actually think I might know which of the four it most likely is.  I also think, he doesn’t know about you.  Because of that, I want to get as much figured out as I can before I speak with him.

Here are a few questions that would help:

  1. Were you adopted?  Or do you just not know who your father is?
  2. Do you know anything about the circumstances of your conception and birth?  Like, where is your biological mother from, how old was she when you were born, etc?
  3. When and where were you born?  I would completely understand if you don’t want to share your birthdate, but your age and birthplace are essential to helping us figure out your parentage.

No matter how exactly we connect, you are without a doubt part of my family – a very closely related part of my family.  I’m so happy to know about you and can’t wait to find out more about our shared story.  I imagine you are having lots of emotions.  Take your time.  We can work on this as quickly or as slowly as you like…

I then shared with Bob a few links to blog posts I’ve written about this side of our shared family.  I also told him a few of the names in this part of our tree.


At this point our correspondence gets quite specific.  It’s not for public consumption.  Bob’s next response answered my questions.  He knew only a few small facts.  His birthdate, possible birth State, possible city he was adopted from, and a possible age for his birth mother.

Based on Bob’s age – only a few years older than me, which by the way means I was not the firstborn grandchild after all – he has to be the son of one of my mom’s brothers.


Because of the Y-DNA match, we have four possible fathers to work with.  John Costello, his son, or one of my two uncles.  John Costello died many years before Bob’s birth, so he is ruled out.  John’s son, my grandfather, had a vasectomy after the birth of his youngest son, many years before Bob’s birth.  He also lived several states away, eliminating the possibility of a reversed vasectomy and subsequent parenting of Bob.  So, one of my uncles had one more child than they previously knew about.

That is heavy information.

I called my mom.  I didn’t think the, “You might have another child, can we use your DNA to figure it out?” conversation should come from a niece.

Luckily for all of us, one of my two uncles had previously tested with Ancestry DNA.  This meant we could download his raw DNA data and upload it to Family Tree DNA where Bob had also tested.  This would give us the fastest answer.

I updated my mom and asked her to call the DNA tested uncle.  She called him right away.  The problem was, he was in Europe for work.  Understandably, he wanted to talk to his wife, my aunt, before he turned over his DNA account to me.  It was Wednesday, he would be home at midnight on Friday.  I had to wait until Saturday for answers.

I knew the wait would be excruciating.  That’s a ridiculous word to use, I know.  There are much worse things going on in the world.  But I felt like the weight of the entire situation was resting firmly on my shoulders.  I had a previously unknown first cousin – FIRST COUSIN! – who wanted to know who his biological parents are.  I was the key to helping him learn the truth.

To help fill that space, the waiting space, I sent Bob an email with a bunch of pictures.  I was able to write sentences like this, “These are our grandparents…”, “These are our great grandparents…”, “One of these two men is your father and one is your uncle…”.  I felt like I was giving someone a huge gift.  There really aren’t words to describe the feelings that accompanied the composition and careful photo selection of that email.

Bob and I exchanged info about our immediate families and he sent me lots of photos of his children.  Again, even though I know better, I poured over their faces trying to see who their grandpa should be.  I imagine he was doing the same thing, only trying to guess who his father should be.  {By the way, I totally found the right Bob when I first went looking online.  Sometimes I scare myself.}

The days crawled by.  I was antsy.  I was worried.  I was trying to imagine the ramifications.  But most of all, I realized that this journey I originally thought was all about John Costello was about so much more.

My sister said something so profound – “If you had found John Costello before now, you never would have spent all of this money on DNA tests and you never would have found Bob”.

So true!

She went on to suggest that maybe John Costello was making sure I couldn’t find him, until I found Bob first.  Fascinating.  Entirely likely.  Completely wonderful.  I have been actively, anxiously, and sometimes desperately searching for John’s story.  Instead, I found Bob.  A cousin I didn’t know to look for.  A cousin I didn’t know was lost to us.


Saturday could not come fast enough.


I wanted to be able to tell Bob who his father was.



to be continued…


*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts will be changed or omitted for privacy purposes.  Previous posts in this series found here – Part One, Part Two.


22 thoughts on “My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Three”

  1. Wow, a first cousin! Just incredible. And your next post cannot come fast enough…. Amazing story, Amberly!

  2. I loveeeee this story…because I am Bob!! This is the story that I have lived the past 4 or 5 months! My mom died when I was a baby and never told anyone who my father was. Just that she was pregnant, having the baby and the father was not going to be involved. I looked for clues everywhere and there was nothing. I took the 23 and Me test last October and found relatives but nothing super close (did find out I was part Jewish which I did not know). I had thought about the ancestry.com test and finally at the end of December decided to do it. It made sense since my family tree on my mom’s side was there. Maybe I could build that tree more. Little did I know I was going to be matched with someone that would change my life!!! Stories like this hit so close to home. As someone on the opposite side, when we have nothing to work with, we can only HOPE to find people like you who are willing to work so hard to help! I got very lucky and it seems Bob did too! So excited for you all. I can’t wait to see how this all turns out 🙂 I am pulling for you!!!!!!!

  3. This is amazing! What a wonderful thing to find a new member of your family and to be able to help someone find their biological family. I just went through this with a friend of mine who is adopted and she was able to find her birth mother and father through DNA testing. Her birth father had no idea she existed! Thankfully he is very happy and anxious to get to know her. I look forward to the rest of your story.

  4. This post got me so teary-eyed. I have fairly close DNA matches who refuse to connect with me and one who shut down after a great one hour conversation (probably after she shared with her mom). I love how sensitive you are to the situation for all.

    1. Thank you Luanne, I really appreciate that. I’m so sorry to hear that you have faced resistance with your DNA matches. That is disappointing. <3 Hopefully you'll get some more matches that are open to connecting.

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