Archive | May, 2017

Tick…Tock…Tick…Tock……..

31 May

I told Anna about the membership card. She and her parents were intrigued. They had been along for much of this journey and now they were personally invested too. After all, somehow or another it will tie in to someone in their family. We had so many questions about the test itself and how accurate the matches are as well as our personal connection.

Nothing prepared me for the following email from Anna:

SO here is the plan… My dad is going to do the same DNA test that my mom and you and I did. Depending on how he matches to you, we can narrow it down even further It will also give us more of an idea of the tests accuracy, etc. He said he would order it tonight (he was thinking it would be cool to do anyway). I will let you know as soon as the results come back, but of course you know it does take a chunk of time to get them back. Hopefully this will be an extremely useful piece of information! I will keep you informed!

Omg….Omg….Omggggggggg! It just so happened I had gotten a coupon that day for the Ancestry DNA test so I emailed it to her to pass along to her dad. Why not try to save her father a little money right?!?

He received the test in the mail a few days later and sent it back the week before Easter. The test takes six to eight weeks to process.  What I am saying is……I stalk the Ancestry DNA website EVERY DAY looking to see if I have new matches!! By my calculation, if they received the test the week of April 17th, then six to eight weeks should have the results coming back between now and June 12th so if I pad that a little to be safe, maybe say by June 23rd.

I am going crazy. Might you have guessed that? I have been staying so busy, trying not to think about it. FAIL! I have been overfilling my schedule, exhausting my brain hoping to forget. FAIL! I am so exhausted that my brain hurts and all I want to do is sleep and I still can’t shake it from my mind. I am freaking out waiting to see what the results say!

Once we know her father’s results I am hoping to have a more definitive and clear picture. Something more solid. Her father should be my closest match to date. I am hoping it will give me some answers and that with these answers I can take the next step. Whatever that next step might be. Admittedly I am not sure what that is yet.

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I Think I Can…I Think I Can..

30 May

So it seems that somehow my mother was tied to Father #1 through this lodge. Not that it actually answers any questions though! In order to be an associate member of the lodge, you had to be sponsored by a member. So, was Father #1 her sponsor? If so, how had she met him prior to that? What was their original connection? Or, had someone else sponsored her and maybe she met him there?

Taking that one step further though, if all you needed to become an associate member of the lodge was to be sponsored by someone who was a member that means that Father #2 or #3 could have been associate members too. Could she have met one of them there? Or did she know father #1 and met Father #2 or #3 through him?

Really, the finding of this card does not answer any of my questions questions. In fact, if anything, it creates MORE questions. But is does do one thing. It proves that I am on the right track!!!

Through this DNA test I have found a relative that matches pretty closely. This match and her family as well as all the possible “fathers” lived in the town that mother was living and working in when she got pregnant with me. The associate membership card for the Lodge shows there was a definite connection. It not only put them in the same city but in the same organization. So while the massive amount of new questions is discouraging, it is also encouraging. I am that much closer to solving this mystery. I can do it. I will do it. I HAVE to do it…..for me!

 

Here’s Your Sign!

26 May

As I have mentioned before, life is all about “moments.” There have been moments over the years that have made me feel close to my mother. The dream that I had that started me out on my journey to learn more about her. The picture I received from her friend that looked exactly like she did in my dream, the framed pictures falling from a coffee table and on to the floor when we were talking about her. A Volkswagen Bug with eyelashes (like her very first car) appearing behind me the day that I wished more than ever for a sign that she was there with me. These and other experiences have led me to believe that my mother is with me. Not in the conventional “let’s hang out and grab a coffee” kind of way, but in the way where she is looking out for me. In tune with my needs, making her presence known at times, protecting me.

This was the case one day as I found myself getting closer to the answer.

Several years ago, someone came across my birth mother’s wallet and gave it to me, thinking it was something I would like to have. I LOVED that wallet. Not the actual wallet itself, but all the contents inside. There was a driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, card for a doctor’s appointment for my brother, pictures and so much more. I must have held each item in my hands 100 times, studying it…looking for clues. Nothing. There was absolutely nothing to be found. I had researched a few items, making calls and digging for information, but came back empty handed every time.

Here I found myself facing something so big. Trying to find my biological father. Man how I wish my mother was here. She could fill in all the blanks. She could answer all the questions I have. She alone could give me all the information I need. But she is not here. Of course she isn’t. I don’t know why she felt so strongly that she did not want to tell anyone who my father was. To protect him? To protect me? To protect her own heart? People always told me that they believed she would have told me when I had gotten older if I really wanted to know. She didn’t know she was going to pass away so suddenly. But man, it left me in such a hard place. She left me no clues. Nothing to try to solve the mystery on my own!

As I was perusing the internet looking for information on my potential fathers, I came across the obituary for father #1. My heart sank at the idea of being too late. Is it possible that after all of this I will never have the chance to hear my father’s voice just once either?

I slowly read the article, taking note of the different family members listed, etc. They talked about his military service as well as his 30 years on the police force. There was a list of numerous things he had been actively involved in including a bowling league and a fishing club. It also mentioned him being a member of the Fraternal Order of a specific lodge.

I don’t know what it was, but the minute I saw the name of the lodge I stopped dead in my tracks. I have not lived in that town since I was two and a half years old so there is no reason I would know the name. Seconds later I had it. I thought back to my mother’s wallet and for some reason felt that was where I had seen this before.

It was 10:30 at night and the fact that my alarm was going to go off at 4:30 am meant nothing to me! I jumped up out of bed and started tearing my whole bedroom apart looking for this wallet. At 1 am I finally threw in the towel. I went to work the next day, exhausted. All I could think about was getting home and where else I could look.

The day finally came to a close. I got home and headed right for my room. I stood there looking around and said, “ok mom, where is the wallet?” I looked under my bed and pulled out a box. I opened the clasp and there inside were all the contents of my mom’s wallet. About half way down, there was an associate membership card bearing the same name as the lodge listed in the obituary!

I can’t begin to explain the feelings I had when I saw that card. Relief that I was not losing my mind was one! But really? After all those hours of tearing the room apart and then taking one moment to breathe and ask my mom where to look and poof…there it was? It felt like she recognized I was ready. That I had been working so hard to find the link and this was her way of letting me know she was ready to share her secret. That pat on the back saying “you are on the right track kiddo.”

 

Three Men and a Grownup Baby

25 May

So I am afraid of getting my hopes up. I feel like I am so close to finally having an answer but my fear is that maybe that is all it is. Hopes. Hopes that will be dashed, broken down. I mean after all, to go from no hope of ever knowing who my biological father would be to being so close to the answer, how could this be possible? How can I keep my emotions from getting the best of me?

But hope it is! I will take it. Mostly because I feel like there is a reason I am supposed to know now. It has been a secret for so long with not even an ounce of a clue or direction and then suddenly, all this information has just landed in my lap. Why now? Is my mom ready to reveal her secret? Does she think I am ready to know now? Who might these mystery men be? What was the connection between my mother and biological father? How did they meet? Why hide this man from the world? From me?

I decided to take a break from all the family tree research and the daily frying of my brain trying to figure out relationships between people. Instead, I wanted to learn anything I could about the three potential “fathers” in my life.

Sometimes I despise social media and the internet. The constant connection, the unnecessary information people share, our inability to unplug. But there are other times when I live for the internet. When used for the right reasons, it is a plethora of information and tools.

I spent the next day or two trolling social media, googling and doing any other research I could on my three potential fathers. Information, pictures, anything I could find. The irony….one of them lived on the same street as my now mom’s best friend. In fact they lived on the same street during times that I was there in her best friend’s house! Imagine that, I could have been just a few doors away from my father and didn’t even know it! How crazy to wrap my head around that!

So who were these men?

Father #1 – he was about twenty some odd years older than my mother. He had been in the military and later had a long career as a police officer. He was divorced during the time that my mother would have known him and remarried about six years after I was born. He had several biological children and adopted several children as well. I saw pictures of him. He has a kind face and sounded like a really nice and good man.

Father #2 – he was also about twenty some odd years older than my mother (Father 1 and 2 are brothers). I don’t know as much about him aside from the fact that he was married at the time and I believe is still married to the same woman now. I haven’t seen any pictures of him as a younger man but he seems happy and family oriented. There are lots of pictures of him with his grandchildren.

Father #3 – I believe he was my mother’s age, maybe a year or so younger. He was in the military and not married at the time. I haven’t seen younger pictures of him, but as a man in his 60’s, he looks kind and happy. He is married now with several children.

As I wait for the rest of the mystery to unfold, all of this new information keeps racing around in my brain. Who are you? How am I going to figure out who you are? Do you look like me? (yes, I have totally taken their pictures and put them next to mine to see if I see any similarities). In the meantime, the betting line is now open. Who do you think it is going to be?  Feel free to take a guess 🙂

The Match Game

24 May

My parents always joked I should be a lawyer or a politician. After this crazy adventure, I think I should be a detective or maybe even a genealogist. Oh heck, who am I kidding? This genealogy thing has literally made my brain hurt at times!!

Because the DNA tests are “predicting” your relationship, it does not mean the relations they designate you and your match to be is 100% accurate. The more DNA you share, the more confident they are in their predictions. For example, Anna and I are predicted 2nd cousins and the confidence level of Ancestry DNA is extremely high. Shannon Wayne however is a predicted 4th cousin with a confidence level of high. The more distant the relationship (the less DNA matched) , the less confident the prediction.  I have a very long list of people with whom the match prediction confidence level is moderate.

I was curious to see how accurate the matches actually were. If i could crack that code, it might help me further narrow things down in the search for “dad.” Because I still was not sure who my father was, I had no starting point if I used myself so I did the next best thing. I used Anna. I started going through the list of our shared matches. I found the people who shared the closest matches to her who also had information available in their profile (some people had mini to very large family trees in their DNA profile which can really help you find where they link in some cases) and began tracing them on her family tree. The tree that I had built using any information she had given me combined with all the research I had done to expand. If I could do the physical research and formulate a guess as to their relationship, I could then compare my guesstimate with her Ancestry DNA findings and see how close I was.

What I found was that I was far better at this family tree research and DNA analysis than I thought I was. Unlike when researching my maternal side, I was essentially starting from scratch here. But I did it. In fact, I did it so well and pieced together such an extensive tree that I was able to get through several matches in different branches of the tree. When I was all done, I went back to Anna with my guesses to see how well I did.

I was right on point! Using my research I was able to deduce all of her predicted relationships as well as find a pattern. Just because it says you are predicted to be 4th cousins does not mean you are. There are several possible combinations. For example, one of the relatives I matched, ancestry predicted that they were 4th cousins. However, when you draw out the family tree, looking at it visually you can see that they were in fact second cousins twice removed. I looked like they were 4th cousins but because of the generational gap, they were actually second cousins twice removed!

That means the further out your relationship, the more possibilities there are. The closer the relation the fewer the options which means the easier the answer.

Anna and I are listed in the 1st to 2nd cousin range with the prediction that we are second cousins. I have other matches listed in the 2nd to 3rd cousin range that are also predicted to be second cousins. That says to me that Anna and I share more DNA and have a stronger tie than the others. My guess is that we are either 2nd cousins (share great grandparents) or are 1st cousins once removed (which would mean I would be her father’s cousin’s child).

Three. If all the assumptions are correct, I am down to three potential fathers. But which one is it? How did they connect with my mom? How did she know them? Why would she keep them a secret? Did she keep me a secret? Does he know I exist. Does he dread the day the phone rings and I am on the other end? Does he wish for that day? Does he even know it is a possibility? What does he think happened to my mother? Does he know she died? Or does he think she just disappeared?

All of these questions racing through my mind, I decided it was time to take a small break from the family tree research and try to learn a little about these three people. Maybe if I did a little digging, I would be able to unearth something. Another clue…..

Deductive Reasoning

23 May

The wait was not long. Two days later I had a message waiting for me in my inbox.  Anna* had dinner with her mom and dad and after some discussion seemed to have narrowed down the possibilities. If we were second cousins as the test predicted, that would mean we share great grandparents. We knew that we did not share great grandparents on my mother’s side so it had to be on my father’s side.

When ancestry gives you a DNA relative match, it also gives you a list of your shared matches. Anna’s mother and maternal grandmother had also taken the test. Neither came back as a match to me. That meant the connection had to be on her father’s side which quickly eliminated half the options!

Once we had that all figured out, Anna gave me a list of her great grandparents on her dad’s side. It occurred to her that she had been contacted by Shannon Wayne. They had not talked much, just enough to know which part of the tree they connected on. They had never looked at where they actually intersected on the tree.

Anna asked me if Shannon Wayne was on my list of matches. If so, she connected with Anna on Anna’s father’s maternal side. That meant that if Shannon was on my list I connected with Anna on her father’s mother’s side. If she was not on my list, we connected on her father’s paternal side. Either way, it would rule out half of the possibilities.

What do you know?!? Shannon was right there on my list as a predicted 4th cousin! In a matter of days I went from not a clue on how to try to find my biological father to finding a second cousin thorough whom maybe, just maybe I might be able to solve the 37 year old mystery!

With this new found information, Anna and her parents pieced together a mini family tree of her great parents all the way down through Anna. They crossed out all the females and males that were too young to be my father or who had not been born yet. That left us with about three options. THREE. Unless I was somehow mistaken in my deductive reasoning, I was so close!!

 

*For the purposes of this blog name have been changed in order to protect identities. After all, while I am excited about this new adventure, we are dealing with someone else’s family. The last thing I would want to do is somehow accidentally cause a reveal of information that could hurt a family via the internet!

Paper Bag Ventilation

12 May

Waiting for a response was brutal. I sent out several messages just hoping to hear back from someone. But I had done this before on 23 & Me so I was not very optimistic. And then…….it happened. The message that changed it all!

It read:

“Hi! I haven’t done a ton of research… just did the ancestry DNA. I was born in PA in 19xx. Some family names are: Xxxxxxxxxxxx, Xxxxxxx, Xxxxxxxxx, Xxxxxxxx… any of those ring a bell?”

That was it. Just a simple reply. But it was an opening. So I went for it. I took a deep breath and penned a response:

“Hi there 🙂 Soooo, they don’t look familiar to me but I have also only done parts of my tree. I will have to try to see if there are any relatives that are from the area that I have not traced fully. Maybe someone married in and I did not trace them yet. Do you recognize Xxxxx, Xxxxx, Xxxxx, Xxxxxx?

The other part that makes it hard is that I don’t know anything about one side of my family. In fact, I am quite certain they do not even know I exist. That makes it difficult because I don’t know what name I should be tracing 😦

According to the test it predicts we are second cousins which I believe would mean we would possibly share the same great grandparents? My great grandparents were: Xxxxx Xxxxxx and Xxxxxxx Xxxxx and Xxxxxx Xxxxx and Xxxxxxx Xxxxx on my mom’s side. I don’t know about my father’s side. My great grandparents each had 1 child – Xxxxx Xxxxxx and Xxxxxx Xxxxx who married and had 4 children. Xxxxx, Xxxxx, Xxxxxxx and Xxxx. Xxxxxxx was my mother. She was married to Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx. They had a son Xxxxx. She had been living in Florida but got divorced and moved back home to PA with Xxxxx to be closer to family. I believe she was back for about 2 or so years and then I was born. She never told anyone who my father was. She just said that she was pregnant and keeping the baby. When I was 4 1/2 months old she died. I was raised by my aunt (another story there lol!). She eventually married and had 2 children. They gave me everything parents do. I grew up very happy and very blessed to have people that loved me so much. Everyone believes that when I got older my mother would have told me who my father was but that at that point in time she just preferred to keep it to herself. To be honest, I don’t know that he even knows I exist. I am not sure what her reasons were for not telling anyone else who he was, but maybe for the same reasons she didn’t tell him I existed. Or maybe she did and they decided it was better to leave everything well enough alone. Who knows 🙂

If we are not connected through my great grandparents on my mom’s side, it is possible we are connected through one of your sets of great grandparents. Do you have a family tree of the people in your family starting with your great grandparents? I can see Xxxxxx and Xxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxx and Xxxxxxx and Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx in your pfofile, but the rest is private. If they are your great grandparents, then in theory I believe, one of their children had a child that could have been my father. I will also say…that I have been running on no sleep, my brain hurts today and I haven’t had any coffee yet so I could have done that breakdown wrong lol!!! And of course this is ALL speculative!!!! 

I hope this does not freak you out. Especially because I could be totally wrong!! It is just a guess. Or maybe wishful thinking 🙂 If it does, I am SOOOO sorry!!! Ever since I was a kid I have always wished for a way to find out who my biological father was. Not because I even wanted to introduce myself or be a part of his life because he may not want that. I just wanted to see his face and see if I look like him. That must sound silly. I guess because I grew up without my biological mom I don’t know where I got my nose, my eyes, my smile, etc. 

Again I am so sorry if this is off the wall or freaks you out. Especially if I am wrong in my guesstimating!!! I hope you will be in touch. If nothing else we are related somehow and that is pretty cool in itself 🙂 

Happy Thursday! I hope you have a great day!

Sincerely,
Rebecca”

Just a few hours later, another message appeared:

“I will definitely help you if I can! None of those names sound familiar so we are likely related on your father’s side. If I am understanding the linage correctly, you would be the daughter the male child of one of my great aunts or uncles? I didn’t fill out a ton of family history and then I stopped my subscription. I emailed my mom for some of the missing pieces. I will give you a breakdown when I hear back from her 🙂 If you don’t hear back from me for a few weeks it’s because my life is about to get really busy… adding another member to the family tree any day now!”

OMG OMG OMG!!! Someone please give me a brown paper bag!! I think I am about to hyperventilate!! Is it possible?!? Were my suspicions correct?!? When I had originally looked at her ancestry she had many of the ethnic regions and groups that were new to me when I had gotten my results back. I had a suspicion before sending my original message that MAYBE she might be related on my biological father’s side. The fact that she did not recognize any of the surnames and I had not come across any of hers in my previous research was another hint I could very well be on to something.

Could it be possible? If she and I were related on my father’s side, I went from no chance of ever even knowing where to even start looking, to possibly being only two sets of great grandparents away from finding my biological father!!!

I needed a few minutes to process this as a wild mixture of emotions raced through me. Astonishment, excitement, curiosity, nervousness, shock….the list goes on and on. She had reached out to her mom for more information and was waiting to hear back. Since She was going to need info from both her mom and dad’s sides I wasn’t sure how long it would take and the clock was ticking down to her delivery date for her new baby. Once the baby arrived I would obviously be the furthest thing from her mind. I was at her mercy!!! I was so excited and ready to burst, yet forced to somehow try to figure out how to be patient and HOPE that I would actually hear from her again!!!!!!