I was up earlier than normal that Saturday morning. I didn’t want to call my uncle since I knew he had gotten home so late the night before. Mid-morning I got a text from my aunt saying to call when I was up, my uncle was anxious to talk to me about Bob*.
The second I read the text, I called. My uncle was super cool about the whole thing. He was positive that he wasn’t the father, but not opposed to learning the truth. Can we just take a pause and consider what he must have been feeling? Genetically, Bob can only be his or his brother’s son. If we were just talking straight odds, not accounting for any other factors, he was facing a 50/50 chance that he had a son he never knew about.
But, with courage, he faced it head on. I explained the fastest two options we had. Option 1 – I could walk him through downloading his raw data file from Ancestry and uploading it to Family Tree DNA. Option 2 – He could make me the administrator of his Ancestry DNA account and I could do everything. He happily went with option 2. It took us about 10 minutes to complete the steps needed to transfer administrator rights to me.
I very methodically downloaded his raw DNA file and uploaded it to FTDNA. I was so nervous that I triple checked every step. Because I had previously completed a Y-DNA test on my uncle with FTDNA, I uploaded his raw ancestry DNA to the same account. I didn’t know if Bob would be on top of it all enough to be checking his matches or not, so I changed my uncle’s profile name to a different first initial. I thought my uncle should know first if it turned out he was the father.
The default email that is generated when you make an autosomal transfer to FTDNA tells you that your first matches will begin to show up as early as an hour later and before 24 hours has passed. The thought that I might be waiting for 24 hours was a bit much for my nerves.
I tried to keep myself busy with other tasks for about 45 minutes. And then I began the obsessive refreshing of my uncle’s FTDNA page.
I would just like to point out that if my psychologist Grandpa were alive and reading this – he would likely be somewhat concerned about my mental state. Deservedly so. This was a lot to handle – a lot of emotions, a lot of pressure, a lot of holding multiple people’s futures in the palm of my hand. Kind of like this:
At minute 60, I clicked refresh again with no updates. My heart sank, was I going to have to wait a full 24 hours?
At minute 61, the waiting ended.
My brain had a really hard time processing what was finally in front of me. Was I reading this all correctly? Suddenly I felt like I didn’t know which column was which. I called my husband over and made him listen as I tried to explain what I was reading. I thought his eyes and mind would likely focus better and help me process correctly. I was wrong – he didn’t get it and tried to tell me I was reading it wrong. 🙂 Suddenly, I was back. I knew what I was looking at.
My DNA tested uncle was also Bob’s uncle. Not his father.
My first call was to my uncle. He wasn’t a bit surprised. I let him and my mom take it from here for a while. They knew that their brother had a child he didn’t know about. Once again, I thought that was a conversation better had with a sibling than with a niece.
From here, I was able to do something I never expected to do in my entire life. I had the distinct privilege of telling Bob who his father is. Let that soak in.
My DNA tested uncle called his brother and told him the news.
Arrangements were made for contact between father and son.
I felt like Santa Claus.
There was just one problem. Bob wanted to know who his birth mom was. In a perfect world, the story would be one of teenage love, being too young, or something along those lines. But that is not our story. My uncle did not know who Bob’s mother might be. He was, shall we say, a bit on the promiscuous side.
That got my nerves all in a tangle once again. But this wasn’t my journey. It was Bob’s. I was just helping him find answers.
We had our first answer. We knew Bob’s father. I sent more pictures and shared some cool and unique facts about my uncle. He is quite well known in a specific sporting history. In fact, famous, is actually a better word for it. I hoped connecting to that cool history might soften the blow of not being able to hand Bob details of a teenage romance, and the name of his birth mother.
A few days passed. Father and son spoke.
And then late one night I got this email:
Subject line: Any interest in looking at my 23 and me and ancestry.com info and seeing what
Message: Info you can figure out? Maybe mom side stuff?
You have come to the right place cousin!
This Santa Claus definitely needed to turn Wonder Woman and find Bob’s mom.
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, and Part Three.
28 thoughts on “My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Four”
I have always found genealogy a wonderful obsession, but have resisted the DNA strand…until now. Your cliff-hanging research has got me thinking on a whole new path of research!
Oh Nola, the other stories going on in my DNA/genealogy world right now would blow your mind. I don’t know yet if I’m going to tell them. But from one genealogist to another – JUMP IN! One tip I would give is to consider testing with Ancestry and then doing an autosomal transfer to My Heritage and FTDNA (for free). I prefer FTDNA, but if you are just trying to get your feet wet and see what you can do, that approach would give you the most bang for your buck. If you test older relatives who won’t be around much longer – test with FTDNA. It’s easier, it’s a cheek swab and they store the sample for 25 years so you can retest it later with new tests (assuming the sample is still viable).
Me too! Great work and very respectfully handled.
Thank you Sheila, that means a lot. I’m trying to tell the story in such a way that other adoptees or genealogists will hopefully be inspired in ways to get answers to their own mysteries, but still preserve the privacy of the players in the story. Even with permission, I don’t want them to feel like such a personal part of their life is laid bare for the world to see. That’s why I’m writing it from the only perspective I can accurately represent – mine.
Amazing—how did the uncle who is the father respond to all this? How did his family? If that’s too personal, I understand. But I feel like I am experiencing this myself and trying to imagine how I would respond if it were my husband who found out he had a son he never knew about or me finding out who my father was after all these years. Incredible.
Thank you Amy! It really has been incredible. My uncle was surprised, but excited. He doesn’t have other grandchildren so he gained and son and became a grandpa in one conversation. I was worried about how some of my other family members may react, but it’s gone really well. My Grandma is still alive and I was the most worried about her, she is great with it. I think part of what helped is that I approached it from the “Isn’t this amazing that DNA helped us find a family member who was lost to us?” angle. 🙂
That’s wonderful, Amberly, that everyone has been so open-minded and accepting and non-judgmental. I know many families where that would not have been the case. I hope the story continues to have happy endings!
Thank you Amy! <3
Great story! Great storytelling!
Thank you! 🙂
Not only tear-eyed this time, but goose bumps!!!!!
Let’s just say I really relate to Bob because my brother and my kids are adopted–and I never knew who my one grandfather was until 9 years ago.
Oh! I love that! I have several readers who are feeling so connected to this series of posts. I think we all have “secrets” in our family whether they are intentionally hidden or not. This type of discovery is so inspiring, because it really shows us what is possible. I hope it’s also encouraging for those of us who want to solve a mystery and haven’t been able to. Like me and my John Costello mystery. So, I’m embracing this one while I’ve got it. There are plenty of others that are still a mystery.
I’m so curious now about you not knowing who your grandfather was… Has your brother found his birth parents? Does he want to? What about your children? My sister has one son who is adopted. But he is young and it’s a much different adoption world now. My sister is friends with his birth mom on Facebook and so on. No big mysteries there.
I imagine that people are loving this series! The story about my grandfather is in the draft of my memoir haha. IF I ever decide to finish it. My brother was able to get on his birth parents because somebody he knew worked somewhere blah blah. He ultimately decided not to try to meet the family. My kids have not searched, but I did buy them DNA tests from 23andme, just in case. If they were more interested I would get them tests at other companies. But of course the real problem is that they were born in Korea, and most of who they get as matches are other adoptees because they don’t have access to a Korean database. Of course, their DNA is very homogeneous, in some ways, akin to Ashkenazy Jewish DNA.
I guess it’s a good thing your children aren’t very curious about it since it sounds like a huge challenge to try to solve it! Did your brother’s birth family know that he tracked them down? So curious about that.
They did not know, and he decided he didn’t want to have a relationship with them. It was enough to get the information on them.
I’m glad to know he felt satisfied with what he learned. It is such a personal and complex journey. Everyone’s story is so different.
Thank you Luanne, that is high praise indeed. <3
It is a wonderful and scary responsibility to be the person entrusted with the DNA results. Our being genealogists, especially if we have a well-researched family tree, gives us a completely different perspective while looking at the matches. OK, Wonder Woman, I can’t wait to hear what happens when you use your Lasso of Truth on Bob’s DNA results.
Thank you Cathy. Lasso of Truth… hahaha! I remember watching Wonder Woman as a very little girl, but I had totally forgotten about the Lasso of Truth. So apropos in this instance. 😉
I am loving this series! Like Amy said, it’s wonderful that your family is so open and accepting of these revelations.
Thank you! It’s been fun to write about. It was such a joyful – and overwhelming – journey. So I’m glad to have recorded it, somewhat.
This is fascinating! Love it!