thegenealogygirl


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Happy New Year! 2017 Review & 2018 Goals

Eleanor Brownn Quote

Happy New Year!

 

2017 was packed with amazing genealogy experiences, milestones of both the personal and genealogical kind, the sorrow of loss, and the joys of life.  When I reflect back over the year, these are some of the biggest moments:

 

Digging into the story of Rosey, my 2nd great-grandaunt, has been a fascinating adventure.  I’m still finding tidbits scattered across the world.  Just last week I found a big one I wasn’t expecting.  The story that is unfolding is so enthralling that I think it is worthy of its own book.  Here are the 2017 posts about Rosey:

 

John Costello continues to elude me.  He is my great-grandfather and my most challenging brick wall.  Despite his continued brick wall status, I have had some major breakthroughs this year.  I discovered seven seconds of color video of him with my great grandma and my mom as a baby!  I added to my collection of photos of him including the first one of him looking at the camera and smiling!!  I learned that he was ethnically Jewish.  He is still a brick wall, but I feel like I am making some meaningful progress for my own sense of connection to him, and preserving details for future generations to know something about him.

 

I finished organizing and filing all of the letters my grandparents wrote to each other during WWII and their LDS missions.  TEN Hollinger boxes worth.  I have also begun the process of digitizing and transcribing those precious letters.

 

I made enough progress in my Young surname study of Renfrew, Renfrew, Scotland to untangle my 5th great-grandparents James Young and Janet Robertson in the Family Tree on FamilySearch.

 

In my DNA efforts to learn about John Costello, I discovered a first cousin who was adopted at birth.  Together we went on an amazing journey to identify his father and mother.  I still can’t get over what a cool experience that was!  You can read about that journey here:

 

Still on a DNA high, I watched a Legacy Family Tree webinar on DNA and heard a tip from Diahan Southard that led me to solve my Priority 2 brick wall!!!

 

In September, I rushed to the bedside of my grandmother to be with her in her final days.  She was diagnosed with leukemia on a Thursday and passed away on Sunday.  I deeply miss her and the genealogy experiences we shared.  But I am so grateful that I started my genealogy adventures in my very early twenties.  That meant I got 20 precious years of asking her questions.

 

In October I finally held in my hands a long sought after, precious, and very rare book because of a cousin connection I made on Ancestry.com.  It confirmed my previous research efforts and added a richness of story to a family line that had been lost to time and young deaths.

 

I ended the year with a bang! when I helped my friend end her 50 year-long search for her paternal grandparents using her DNA results.  What a joyful experience!

 

As I consider 2018, I am struggling to put my finger on my top three goals.  I know that I want to continue to learn, research, digitize, archive, solve, teach, share, help, write, and answer questions I have.  But those are the things I do all of the time.  The one thing that often eludes me is a very important word – FINISH.

So I am pondering on what three things I want to FINISH this year.

The list of projects I am considering is long enough for a lifetime of effort.  I’m never short on projects.  But which three are the most important, the most pressing, the most meaningful?

I’m still pondering that and will be for a bit.

For now, I am grateful for the progress and experiences of 2017.  I hope 2018 will be just as richly rewarding.

 

How about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in 2018?

 

 

ps – The moment I am looking forward to the most in 2018 is standing in the baggage claim area of the Salt Lake Airport in August and wrapping my arms around my precious first-born, missionary son for the first time in two years and 5 days.  That will be a big milestone moment right there!  ❤️

 

 


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Save the Date!

2018FairPoster

I work one shift each week at my local Family History Center.  Every year, that center puts together a fantastic – and FREE – Family History Fair during the winter months.  We always draw a large crowd of people from our small town and the surrounding cities.  In fact, the last few years, we have filled the church almost to capacity.  This year I am teaching four classes.  It will be a busy day!

I know that most of my readers live far away from me and can’t possibly attend, but some of you live close by, so please, feel free to join us.  All are welcome.  The entire day is free and lunch is served.  It’s usually pizza, fresh veggies, cookies, and water.  Nothing too fancy, but it means you can stay all day without starving.  😉

2018Flyer

The classes I am teaching are the following:

DNA Basics – Have you wondered about using DNA in your research?  Come and learn about the different types of DNA tests, the different companies you can test with, what genealogy problems can be addressed with DNA, and a few examples of what DNA can do to knock down those brick walls.

Finding Hidden Records on FamilySearch – Did you know that FamilySearch has several different types of record collections? Come and learn how to find them all as we explore indexed collections with images, indexed collections with no images attached (but they might still be on FamilySearch), partially indexed collections with additional browse images, browse only collections, digitized microfilm found in the catalog that can be accessed from home, and digitized microfilm that can only be viewed at a Family History Center.

Making the Most of Ancestry.com – Come and learn how to supercharge your research on Ancestry.com by understanding the website and collections better and learning some fantastic smart search strategies that will help you find the records you are looking for more quickly.

Making the Most of Ancestry.com Trees – Why have a tree on Ancestry.com?  Is public or private better?  Learn how to create and use Ancestry.com Trees from scratch, by uploading a gedcom file, or by importing from FamilySearch.  Give your research a boost by adding the power of an Ancestry Tree.

I have been teaching the two Ancestry classes for a few years now, but they are a hit and draw a large crowd so I will just keep on teaching them as long as I am asked to do so.  😉  The DNA Basics class and the Finding Hidden Records on FamilySearch class are both new classes that I created this fall.  I LOVED teaching them and look forward to teaching them again.

Please feel free to join us and invite your friends!

 

Happy Tuesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 

 

 

ps – We have had an unseasonably warm fall.  I think it was 60 degrees on Saturday.  FINALLY, it snowed on Sunday night.  My little fella has had his snow gear all gathered and ready for weeks now.  Well, not really his gear, a collection of items from the coat closet that he decided were the coolest.  😉  He was sooooo delighted to put it all on for school today.

 

pps – Su, in September I mentioned that we had snow on the mountains and everything was still in full bloom.  Here you go – three pictures taken on the same day, at about the same time, from about the same spot.  The mountain as seen from the front of my neighborhood, the flowers on my porch.  Utah weather is crazy!

 


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The Mess That Just Keeps on Growing

Whiteley - Hyde

Once upon a time, I drew that colorful – {both literally and figuratively} – flowchart.  I wrote about the matrimonial messiness in this part of my tree.  I followed that up with a post about Arthur Hyde who seemed to have left a family in England and then married his widowed sister-in-law while still being married to his wife back home.  That was followed by a post about the incestuous relationship between uncle and niece – Robert & Rosey Hyde.  Then there was the follow-up post reminding readers that we need to always click to the next image because I found even more details about that crazy mess up there on page 50 of a record.

This fascinating series of discoveries was capped off by a post all about Rosey’s Girls.  I had learned so much since I drew that first flowchart that I had to update it.

marrying mess

The crazy, twisty, utterly shocking journey did not end there.

DNA connected me with two of Rosey’s living granddaughters.  My finding-living-people-stalking skills led me to a direct descendant of Rose Elvera Hyde.  And my cousin bait – namely this blog – brought a living descendant of Arthur Hyde to my digital door.

GUESS WHAT THAT ALL MEANS?!

 

That super colorful flowchart needs another update.  A major update.  So major in fact that I have to start from scratch.  I thought that last post about Rosey’s Girls was hard to write.  Ummm…these next ones are going to be even more complicated if you can believe that.

I just wanted to share a few tid-bit teasers and two BIG, FAT REMINDERS as a PSA to all my fellow genealogists.

 

Tid-bit Teaser #1

I wrote this about the men in Rosey’s life: “There are details that come from the nuances of the records that lead me to believe that Harry was the great love of her life, that Neil was a loving old age companion, and that Robert, well, Robert seems to be the villain.  I don’t know if that’s fair, but that is who he is becoming in my mind.”

Well.  I got that completely wrong.  It turns out Harry is definitely the villain.  So much so that Robert is starting to seem not so bad.  How’s that for a turn of events?

 

Tid-bit Teaser #2

A very long time ago I wrote about my Grandma’s adopted first cousin Sherry Hunter.  At the time I wrote about Sherry, I still didn’t know Rosey had any children.  But it turns out that Sherry is a descendant of Rosey, adopted by her biological 1st cousin once removed.  Sherry belongs to that crazy mess up there.  I did not see that coming.

 

Tid-bit Teaser #3

Muriel Grace Groome nee Hyde - cleaned up

This lovely photo made it’s way to me.  That is Rosey’s daughter Muriel Grace.  Isn’t she beautiful?

 

Now for the PSAs.

 

Big Fat Reminder/PSA #1

If you have not DNA tested – PLEASE DO IT!  I cannot believe the wealth of information that has come my way as a result of DNA testing and transferring my results to two additional companies.  Followed up by contacting my matches.  In fact, I’ve gotten so caught up in the deluge, that I have lots of matches I haven’t had time to contact yet.  What other goodies are waiting for me?

 

Big Fat Reminder/PSA #2

When you have a mystery, brick wall, dead end – write about it.  Leave plenty of cousin bait.  If you are a regular reader you have probably noticed that I mostly write about my questions and unsolved mysteries.  In fact, if you aren’t paying close attention you might think I never solve anything.  😉  I am putting out massive amounts of cousin bait.  And it works.  People email me after finding something I wrote about a family member we have in common and they fill in details that ONLY THEY can share.  Details that exist in photo albums or memories.  Details that answer some of my most unanswerable questions.  Like what the heck happened to Arthur Hyde and his first wife Mary?  Did he really just leave her and the children behind in England and marry Alice?  Why yes, yes he did.

Cousin bait is your friend.  Make sure you are leaving it out to attract the cousins you need to find.  Your beautifully researched, perfectly reasoned, tidy little genealogy stories will attract cousins too, but usually not the cousins who bring more toys to the party.  You solved those ones.  Go ahead and write them up, but don’t let your mysteries languish in a stack of notes.  Those glittery little bits attract the distant cousins who just might answer some of your burning questions.  You may not like the answers – after all, there is a reason you haven’t been able to solve it with traditional research – but they are usually very fascinating answers.

 

Are you excited for my new flowchart?

 

I am!  Now, I just have to figure out how to fit all of the crazy connections on one page.

 

Maybe I need to go buy a posterboard…

 

 


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Conclusion and Tips

DNA Discovery

Finding Bob’s* birth mother and father was such a privilege.  I learned a lot, and felt like I was on a rollercoaster.  Because we were successful, I thought I would reemphasize the biggest lessons and tips that I gathered along the way.

 

DNA tester's warning

First – Please go into the DNA world with your eyes wide open.  There will be surprises.  Possibly, surprises that are upsetting.  Like, it turns out your favorite Grandpa isn’t your Grandpa after all – at least not biologically.  Or, you have a half-sibling you never knew about.  Or, one whole brach of your tree is completely wrong, genetically speaking.

For me, the surprises were not unwelcome.  That is not always the case.  So please, if you choose to DNA test, or ask someone else to DNA test, be open to surprises.  (People have been having babies outside of marriage for like, ever.  It bears repeating: There will be surprises.)

 

DNA Discovery, lesson one

Luckily for us, Bob had already tested with FamilyTree DNA and 23 and Me – three total tests.  Additionally, my uncle had Y-DNA tested with FTDNA and autosomal tested with Ancestry.  Having multiple tests in multiple places was really the key to finding Bob’s parents so quickly.

Most people can’t afford to test with every company.  As the person working with Bob’s matches, I can tell you that each one of those 5 tests played a crucial role in the process.  If even one of them hadn’t existed, we wouldn’t have gotten our answer.  Well, at least not so quickly and easily.

So what do you do if you are an adoptee and can’t afford multiple tests?  Learn about autosomal transfers so you get the most bang for your buck.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson two

I know this one is easier said than done in many cases.  For adoptees, they have a whole bunch of matches that they can’t differentiate.  They have nothing to work with.  There are plenty of cool science-y things you can do.  If that speaks to your soul, and you have the time – by all means, learn the cool science-y DNA tricks that barely register in my pianist/dreamer/reader/artistic brain.  If that is not you, pull up a chair and let me give you a few of my sneaky detective tricks.

Study your closest matches – up to third cousin.  Look to see if they have a tree.  If you are looking at matches in Ancestry, please note that just because there is not a tree attached to someone’s DNA results, does not mean they don’t have a tree.  Here is an example from my matches:

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.13.43 PM copy

This is a match I have been working with over the last few weeks to help solve some long standing mysteries.  She has not linked a tree to her DNA results.  But if you look at the very bottom left, I have the option to “Select a tree to preview” with a drop-down arrow.  After clicking the arrow I see the tree she does have.  If she had more than one tree, they would all be listed here.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.13.52 PM

Her tree is quite small, because she had a dead-end she was trying to solve.  I have been able to help her, and she has been able to help me.  Win-win!

Okay, let’s get back to the point here.  Compare the trees of your matches and look for the closest common ancestors.  Everyone will fall into two camps – maternal and paternal matches.  If you can group them based on common ancestors you will be in better shape.  Try to connect your matches.  There are connections – find them.  Pay attention to names, but be careful, they could be maiden or married surnames.  Pay attention to dates and places.  You are looking for patterns.

Use the tools in the DNA service you are using to look at matches you share with your matches.  This tool can help you separate your matches into two groups.

Look for a match who is really into genealogy, they love to help!  Even if they are a little bit more distantly related, a 3rd cousin say, they probably know a lot about their tree and can help you narrow things down.

In my case, it was easy.  I already knew which of Bob’s matches belong to my side of his tree.  I was just looking for common ancestors of the remaining matches.  All of these matches were from his birth mother’s side.  Each of them added a clue or two that helped me identify Bob’s 2nd great grandparents as the common ancestors of his closest matches.  From there I had to switch to descendancy research.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson three

What is descendancy research?  I’m glad you asked.  I happen to have an info graphic handy that answers that very question.

gg defined- descendancy research

I know that is super tiny and not the least bit reader friendly.  Just click on the image and it will take you to the original post.

Completing descendancy research on the common ancestors of your matches, will help you build a tree filled with your family members.  You may not know how you are related, but you do know that you are related.  Building that tree will lead you to living family members who may be able to help.

Remember – you can switch any trees in Ancestry and FT DNA to descendancy view.  This will help.  Don’t overlook those living people who are marked private.  They still show gender.  I actually looked at Lucy in someone’s descendancy view, I just couldn’t see any data other than her gender.  She and her siblings gave me a pattern to look for – a family with a certain number of sons and daughters.  That key obituary for her brother, backed up the pattern I had already discovered.

By the way, there is a delightful bit of serendipity I left out of my previous posts.  Lucy’s brother who died?  He has the exact same first name as Bob, spelled the same way.  I know there is only one way to spell Bob, but there are several ways to spell Bob’s actual name.  Bob’s given name was chosen by his adoptive mother, who did not know that Lucy’s brother had that name.  I hope that was a tender and helpful thing for Lucy in her journey.  ❤

 

DNA Discovery, lesson four

Once you have built the descendancy tree of your common ancestors, start adding living family members by searching for obituaries.  Recent obituaries can often be found by simply googling someone.  Learn how to do targeted google searches to help with this.  My favorite tricks are putting quotation marks around a name, like this, “Ronald Skeen Peterson”.  If I search google with that phrase, I’ve just said to google, please bring me things about a person with this EXACT name.  Be careful though, not everything uses a full name.  So I should also try, “Ronald S Peterson”, “Ronald Peterson”, and “R S Peterson”.

Ronald Peterson is a super common name, so I can make my search even more targeted by adding additional facts.  Use operators like OR, AND, NOT, etc.  So if I wanted to find an obituary for my Grandpa I could try something like this: “Ronald Skeen Peterson” AND “1997” AND (death OR funeral OR obituary).  I’ve just told google to only bring me results that include the exact name Ronald Skeen Peterson, and the year 1997, and one of these three words: death, funeral, or obituary.

These google tricks can help you find LOTS of goodies.  Of course, remember to use variants.  In fact, if I want to get reeeeeaaaaally fancy I would do this: “Ronald (Skeen OR S OR ?) Peterson” AND “1997” AND (death OR funeral OR obituary).

If you can’t find obituaries using google, consider trying GenealogyBank or another newspaper website.  Many libraries or Family History Centers have subscriptions to such websites that you can utilize in their facility for free.

Once you find an obituary, update your tree with all of the people mentioned.  Even if you only know their first name.  Get everyone linked together and make good notes so you remember which obit added which people.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson five

Now if you are thinking to yourself you just did that when you found some obits, you are correct.  But what I mean here is you need to learn how to find contact information for living people.  This is where we get into creepy stalker territory.  This is where my particular skill set goes into the danger zone – that area where some people may use the skills for good, like me, or for not so good.  So I will be a bit on the vague side here.  If you know me and need personal pointers, and I know you will be using your powers for good, shoot me an email.  If not, well – shape up creepy stalker!  😉

I will just point you to my three main websites for finding living people: Facebook, the White Pages, and Family Tree Now.

If you don’t have luck finding people on Facebook, spend a little more time learning how to search it effectively.  Use a name but also add a city or state.  And so on…

The White Pages are good for people who still have a landline.  However, they are constantly tweaking their website hoping to make money off of you, so there is less info here now than there used to be.

Family Tree Now is a hackers dream come true.  I urge you to go there and get you and all of you family members off of their website by “opting out”.  However, you can track down those living people you found in the obits on this website because hardly anyone has opted out yet.  This website is free, but scary!  It definitely could be used for evil.

I know I said I was only going to mention three websites, but I should also mention that High School yearbooks helped me identify Lucy.  You can find many at Classmates.com.  But, you can often find them in local libraries online.  I found them in both places and found Lucy in them.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson six

I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but people are good.  There are always helpers in every family.  If your first, second, third interactions are discouraging – keep trying!  Don’t you quit.  You will find someone one day who will be happy to help.

Look for the helpers, there are always helpers.

 

Here are a few last tips:

Contact your matches.  Remember that people like reciprocal relationships.  They love messages that say things like, “Hey cousin, I see that we are a DNA match, I have some family photos I would be happy to share.”  Now.  An adoptee can’t say things like that.  So come up with something that invites that same type of reciprocity.  Be creative!  Maybe you are willing to help fund other family members DNA testing or something like that.

If your matches don’t respond, try again.  Be nice.  VERY nice, low-key, low-pressure.  Keep your messages short and open.  Try to deal with only one question or issue at a time.  Think like you would if you were texting someone who you know is really busy.  Once you get a feel for the other person’s interest level and time, adjust your message length and content accordingly.

Learn about DNA.  I barely know anything about DNA research, all the crazy cool, ultra-smart and nerdy charting and phasing and segmenting and so on, but it would have been the next step if my genealogy skills weren’t so robust.  Find ways to learn, watch Legacy Family Tree webinars, find Facebook groups for adoptees and DNA research, read one of Blaine Bettinger’s books, attend classes at your local Family History Center/Archive/Library, attend a genealogy conference and go to DNA classes etc.

 

A few closing thoughts:

I began my journey with a very clear goal – find matches that would help me learn more about my great grandfather John Costello.  I did not set out expecting to find a first cousin who was adopted at birth.  That wasn’t anywhere on my radar at all.  And yet, that is what I found.

The journey we took together was overwhelming, emotional, exhilarating, surprising, and of course had a few hiccups.

I will forever be grateful and humbled that I was able to help Bob find his birth parents.  That is a distinct honor and privilege that will hold a special place in my heart all of my days.  I hope to do it again one day.  Although… hopefully not for the same uncle.  😉

I imagine that John Costello is smiling down on all of us, a bit like a puppet master who somehow managed to keep his pre-marriage life a secret so that I would go looking at our DNA and find his long lost great grandson.

Well played Grandpa John, well played.

 

 

Isn’t genealogy cool?!  Isn’t DNA cool?!  But the combo – WOW, that is a powerhouse combo!

 

 

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  A lot of you have been reading along.  In fact, a lot more than normally click on over to my little corner of the genealogy blogosphere.  Thank you for sharing your own stories both here and through email, text, and FB messages.  I am inspired by how many of you have a personal connection to Bob because of your own experiences or the experiences of your loved ones.  You are awesome!

 

 

*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts have been changed or omitted for privacy purposes.  Previous posts in this series found here – Part OnePart TwoPart Three, Part Four, and Part Five.


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Five

DNA Discovery

Thankfully that email arrived very late and I was really tired.  I replied that I would be delighted to help.  Bob* immediately emailed me his usernames and passwords to his FTDNA and 23 and Me DNA accounts.  I drifted off to sleep wondering if it was even possible to track down Bob’s birth mother.

Let’s review what information I had to work with:

  • Bob’s birth date.
  • Bob’s possible birth state.
  • Bob’s possible adoption city.
  • Bob’s birth mom’s possible age at the time of Bob’s birth.
  • Bob’s birth mom’s possible first name – we’ll use Lucy*.

That is not a lot to go on.

But the other very important, absolutely essential, data we had to work with were Bob’s DNA matches with two different companies.

I logged in to each account and took a cursory look at his matches.  Right away I could set aside several that I knew belonged to my side of Bob’s family.

I looked at his close cousin matches – 1st through 3rd cousins.  There was a small handful of people to try to connect.  On the surface there was no obvious connection.  Several of those matches had absolutely no information to work with aside from their name.

Luckily, one of his close cousin matches had a rather extensive tree including descendants.  After comparing the scant clues between all of these people, I was fairly certain that I knew exactly who Bob’s 2nd great grandparents were.  They seemed to be the common ancestors for all of Bob’s close cousin matches that weren’t part of my family.

One important thing to note here is that the only clue connecting some of them to the common ancestors was their surname – not the surname of the common ancestors, but surnames that matched some of their other descendants.  This isn’t a perfect indicator, but a good possible clue.

So I had a family to comb through.  I was looking for descendants of this specific couple who lived in the right place at the right time and that had a family member named Lucy.

Luckily for me, this couple, the common ancestors, were immigrants.  They settled in one state and their children lived in that state and the neighboring state.  But still not the state Bob was possibly born in.

I moved down the tree to the grandchildren of the common ancestors.  This is where it gets sticky.  Some of these folks are still alive and not viewable in any online trees.  That doesn’t mean I couldn’t find them, I did, but it took some of my genealogy street smarts.

I wish I could show you the steps that I took.  But out of respect for Lucy, her privacy, and being sensitive to her experience in all of this – we will have to keep this all theoretical.

Her father is a grandson of the common ancestor couple.  The only grandson to live in the state of Bob’s birth.  He raised his children in the city Bob was possibly adopted from.  He died in that city.  His wife, children, and grandchildren still live in that city.

All, except for his one son who died a few years ago.  That young death generated an obituary.  In that obituary I found the name I was hoping to find – Lucy.  She was listed as his sister, along with her husband and children’s names.

I found Lucy in old High School Yearbooks.  I found her and the nexus of her family on Facebook.  She was the right age, in the right place, at the right time.  All told, I found Bob’s mom in about 40 minutes.

It happened so fast that I wasn’t sure what to think.  Did I really find her?

Did I just find the birth mother of my newly discovered first cousin?

He is in his early 40s and has been searching for years.  Did I just solve his life-long mystery?  In 40 minutes?!

I retraced my steps again and again.  I thought about something Tom Jones always says about puzzle pieces only fitting together one way even if there are a bunch of missing pieces.  My puzzle pieces were only fitting together one way.

I had found her.

What followed will, again, remain private out of respect for Lucy.  But needless to say, I was able to confirm my work.  Lucy is Bob’s birth mother.

And once again, in less than a week’s time, I was able to do something I never expected to be able to do in my entire life.  I was able to tell Bob who his birth mother is.  Let’s take a moment and let that sink in.

Wow, wow, wow!  Seriously, WOW!

 

 

I felt like some strange and fantastic genealogy combination of Santa Claus and Wonder Woman, and I loved it.  I love it.  There is really nothing like it.  I totally want to do it again.

I was able to give someone the gift of knowing where they come from.  In this crazy and delightful world of genealogy, I am constantly searching and learning more about who I am.  But the core of who I am – who my parents are, my grandparents – I’ve always known.  I have no earthly idea what it feels like to wonder who you are.  To have a completely blank slate.  No understanding of your family’s history.  At all.  No knowledge of your ethnic, religious, and cultural background.  No idea if your family is filled with recent or long ago immigrants.  I, who constantly seek more understanding of my past with a real hunger, have no idea what it feels like to be an adoptee with no knowledge of my past.  I was able to use a very tiny list of possible facts, DNA, and my super-hero like genealogy skills and find someone’s mother and father.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over how cool it has been.

 

So, so, so, so cool.

 

 

Seriously.

 

Coming Monday, one last post to wrap it all up with a few more lessons learned, as well as some tips.  I hope you will join me and share with anyone who is searching for their family.  Maybe this story will help them make their own amazing discoveries.  I hope so!

 

 

*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 OnePart Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

 

 


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Four

DNA Discovery

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:

dna-1500076_1920

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.

Wow.

 

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.

 

But how…?

 

 

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 OnePart Two, and Part Three.


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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.

Why?

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.