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