Tag Archives: #research

The Verdict Is In

14 Jul

After the email from my Aunt (we will call her Aunt Patty), things started to unfold so fast. Within the next few days, she told her daughter and other son about me. Her daughter sent me an email and added me on Facebook while her son added me on Facebook and we chatted there. Anna had asked for a picture of my biological mother so she could show it to her grandmother and see if maybe she might have known my mother.

Everyone was so nice! They seemed genuinely excited to have a new addition to the family and were curious about who this new person was.  It was fun learning about everyone and seeing some of the things we have in common. Little did I know that Aunt Patty was hard at work behind the scenes.

Aunt Patty kept in touch. She said she was sorry she could not tell me who my father was but told me stories about both of them. I heard about some of their traditions, families, etc. She also sent me pictures of her brothers and herself. I sent her some pictures of me. I asked her if I reminded her of anyone. Nothing prepared me for her response!!!

She wrote me and said she wished she could tell me 100% who my father was but she can tell me in her heart who she believes it is. She said that she had a long talk with her brother. She told him all about me and showed him the picture of my biological mother. He said he did not recognize her and that he was not my father. Seeing his face and hearing him out, she believed him. She truly believed that her other brother (father #1) was my biological father. She even went as far as to say that I remind her a bit of him. He was such a good man. They did coffee together every Friday until he was too sick to do it anymore. He raised his daughters on his own and was very good to his mother. He called her every day and visited her often when she was in the nursing home.  He was also Patty’s daughter’s god father. Every year at Easter he sent her a corsage from her “secret admirer.” What an absolute sweetheart!! She said that if he knew I existed he would have been sure to be a part of my life and that he would have loved me.

So there is was. I would never know 100% but it seemed pretty darn sure. She of all people would know her brother and be able to tell if he was being honest with her. Plus, so many of the clues that I found along the way seemed to point to him. In all honesty, even though he was gone which means that just like my biological mother I will never be able to meet him and their story will always be a mystery, just hearing about the man he was, I would be thrilled if he was my biological father. Everyone tells me stories about the person my biological mother was. It would make so much sense if it was him. And wouldn’t it be nice that even if I can never meet my biological father in the end, that the memory of him that I am introduced to is such a good and positive one!

I was finally finding my peace. Little by little. It wasn’t quite closure, but it was peace. I still hoped for the rest. I still hoped in time maybe Patty’s brother would give me that closure. But this….this was all something I can live with. This was really darn close.  Father #1 was the first person on the list of potentials at the beginning of my search that I felt the instant connection to. It would make sense if it was him. I would be happy if it was him.

Testing 1-2-3

15 Jun

The wheels started turning. How could I solve this mystery? I was laying in bed, ready to go to sleep and it hit me. The light bulb over my head lit up!!! I whipped out my phone and started to google immediately. There had to be a test for this! There is a test for everything 😉

There is was. In black and white in front of me. A sibling test. A DNA test to specifically determine if two people are siblings, half siblings, etc. This was it! My answer to it all. All we would have to do is convince daughter #1 to take the test and we would know for sure.

I turned off the lights and tried to get to sleep. An act that seemed much harder than normal as my brain was working in over drive. The next morning I began to research the test. I found multiple places that could perform it. I could feel the excitement build. Once you take the test it is just days before you get the results! I was so happy.

Of course the detective in me..the girl that needs to know all the details, ins and outs, all the fine print before ever doing something..came out to play. I poured over the FAQ’s, product information, etc. And then I found it. The proverbial road block. These tests can determine whether you are siblings (or half siblings) but not in the case where the potential fathers are brothers.

Boom, excitement crushed. My easy resolution to solve the puzzle had been blown to pieces. But why? Why wouldn’t it work?

After a few phone calls to a couple of DNA laboratories I better understood. When a child is conceived, they get 50% of their DNA from their mother and 50% from their father. What percentage you are getting from each parent is a free for all. For example: Tom got 50% of his father and 50% of his mother. In his father’s 50% he got a larger percentage from his father’s paternal side. Tom’s Brother Peter got 50% of his father and 50% of his mother. In his father’s 50% he got a larger percentage from his father’s maternal side. This breaks down to the fact that two FULL siblings do not have the exact same DNA.

Now consider half siblings. If you have different mothers and the same father, you already eliminate half of your DNA. The fun fact is, cousins and half siblings share the same percentage of DNA. That means, depending on the Russian roulette of genetics, you can have more DNA with a cousin than a half sibling. Imagine that. So if daughter #1, daughter #2 and I took a a DNA test, the results could come back that daughter 1 is my sister and daughter 2 is my cousin when in fact it is the reverse! The only way to truly know is a paternity test. Yikes! The dreaded paternity test! The one thing that I hoped would not be the be all end all!

 

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.”

 

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!

The “Removed” Factor

11 May

The wait seemed to last forever. I got an email from Ancestry DNA saying they were backlogged because of the holiday rush and there would be a delay on processing my results. I continued to wait, stalking my inbox daily. Finally, one afternoon, the email arrived!!!

I don’t know why I was so excited to open it. It wasn’t like I didn’t know exactly what was going to be inside. Surprisingly, I did but I didn’t.

The test came back with all the same countries and regions as the other test, but the percentages were slightly different.  What I liked about the Ancestry format is that they show you the percentages of your genetic makeup on the left side of the screen with a map of the world on the right. If you hover over the different percentages, it will show you that location on the map gives you a list of the countries that are grouped into that region. For those of us who seem to have retention issues with all the geography we learned in grade school, it is helpful to have a refresher 😉 I knew which countries were where, but when your brain is going a mile a minute because it is so excited processing information, seeing the list pop up just makes it that much easier and faster to process. As I am reading results I have bells and whistles going off in my head saying, “this country” and “that country” recognizing some of them from my research.

For a visual person like myself, a presentation like this is fantastic. If you click on the different regions they give you information about the area including historical facts which is fascinating. It tells you not only about the history of the area but also reasons people left their country, even going as far as showing the places in American where they most commonly immigrated to during that time period.

After getting through all of the ancestry information, I decided to take a peek at the DNA matches. It had way more matches than with 23 & Me so it seemed my guess was pretty on point that this might be the more popular service. I had a very long list of what they define as “distant relatives” and 141 members that came back ranked as a 4th cousin or closer.

The majority of these matches were 4th cousins. There were a few who were a little closer in relation.  There were four 3rd cousins. My mind was still blown that a simple vial of spit could actually link me to other people!

Now in the scheme of things, 3rd cousins doesn’t sound that far off. In reality though it actually is. For anyone who is not super versed in ancestry, get ready for a crash course (much like the one I had)! Haha!

A third cousin is someone who shares great-great grandparents but who are not siblings or 1st cousins. So in theory, these four people and I would share great-great grandparents. Sounds simple right? But then you have to take into account the “removed” factor.

A “removed” cousin is a cousin that is at a different generational level. For example, let’s say you draw a family tree. You have person A and person B. You find where they intersect on the tree. From there you move down the branches, counting to find the relationship.  Let’s say that mathematically, according to the tree, they come out as second cousins (they share the same great grandparents), but, when you are looking at the tree, person A is two people further down on the tree than person B. That means that there are separated by two generations on Person A’s side. Therefore, person A and person B are technically 2nd cousins twice removed. That is because they intersect at the point making them second cousins but the generational gap between them makes them twice removed. Because the test does not show generational gaps, instead of coming back as 2nd cousins twice removed, the DNA results would show as 4th cousins. So if your match predicts that you are 4th cousins, you might be just that. Or you could be 2nd cousins twice removed and other possible variations.

Here is one of the maps I used to help me better understand when I first started (I say that like I am a pro now….but I most definitely am not even close).

cousins

http://metro.co.uk/2014/10/03/finally-a-chart-explaining-who-your-second-cousin-twice-removed-is-4891538/

I wasn’t kidding when I told you it gets tricky. Add in a very tired brain that is new to this process and overwhelmed by all this new information, and it is a recipe for a meltdown. Haha! Needless to say, without some kind of base point (their relatives and my relatives), it would be nearly impossible to try to trace back where these DNA relatives and I intersect.

I also came back with two other matches. One of them fell into the 2nd to 3rd cousin range with the match predicted to be my second cousin. This person had their profile set as private. There was no way to see their surnames or any kind of family tree.

The other was listed in the 1st to 2nd cousin range, predicted to be my second cousin. She was not private which was great because it allowed me to see her information, but she did not have an extensive family tree. Just her, her parents and grandparents on each side and a few great- great grandparents. I opened her profile and looked a little more closely at the match. It showed me her ethnic heritage as well as common matches we shared.

I went through all of my more closely related matches and emailed everyone on the list, hoping to hear back from someone. My emails were vague. How do you tell someone you want to see where you connect but don’t know anything about half of your family so you are not sure where to start? That would seem like an impossible challenge. No sense in them writing you back.

Once again I was left sitting and waiting………………that was until a message appeared in my inbox!

Besties

2 May

As I began to research my family tree, desperately trying to learn something about my heritage…and let me say, after a massive amount of work and lots of confusing hand drawn diagrams, I was able to trace my roots back to Germany, Ireland and Scotland to the time of the castles. Pretty amazing. I even traced family to Canada where I tracked down and “visited” an old homestead (but that is a story for another day)…I wanted nothing more than to learn about my biological mother.

 

I started to ask questions, dig deeper and researched the heck out of the internet. Finally, I found an address and a phone number for one of her childhood best friends! I couldn’t believe it. I psyched myself up and finally made the call. I was so nervous. Kinda like that, “hey, not sure if you know who I am or that I exist but…” phone call. She didn’t answer but I left a message with someone else in the house.

 

Time passed and I did not hear back right away. I thought maybe she didn’t want to talk to me. Maybe it would be another dead end. Another disappointment.

 

One afternoon I was sitting at my desk at work and my phone rang. It was HER!!! I couldn’t believe it. She told me she had been hoping for this phone call for years. That she knew who I was and had always hoped I would find her. And I had. We had a good long talk. She told me lots of stories about my mom. She loved animals. She was always smiling. She had a big heart. She loved her kids. She loved politics. She was kind. She was fun.

 

By the end of the phone call the planning of a girls’ weekend in Boston was in the works. She and the other member of their childhood trio were coming to visit.


I was so excited to meet them. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was on a path. Somehow I would be closer to my mother. I would not be able to physically touch her, see her or hear her voice…but somehow it would bring me closer to her. That by knowing them, somehow, I might know her.