I may not know much, but what I do I will help others with. Yesterday I shared with my genealogy society some basic knowledge of DNA testing and how it can be used with traditional genealogy. I’ve tested at all of the big companies so I don’t have an issue telling others about my experience. It was my first speaking engagement about genetic genealogy, squee!
I love research. That may seem odd, but I do. In preparation for the presentation I dusted off some information about autosomal DNA and it’s reach, about five generations was what I found, but what did that really mean? I looked in my family tree that I have been building in my research. I had went a little overboard it seems. I have it back to some 5x great grandparents.
Some long nights, some just one more document, and there I am. I know at least with some certainty who my 5x great grandparents are. I looked at the dates. He was born in 1749, well before the Revolutionary War. Knowing the other members of the group are all older than me, we could safely say that we were all living breathing DNA examples of people who lived between 1689-1750.
That is the part of genealogy that blows my mind. For me it’s actually being a part of history. I read the documents, I can see their lives, their struggles, everything they left to make a life here. I can see the loss of children and homesteads. Picking up again and moving further. Challenging what was expected with what was needed to survive. Until finally it ends with me.
I look through those records and find those stories so it’s not all lost. I help others to find new ways to find connection because our stories are important. DNA will help us to tell stories that were thought lost. Our voices will be heard again, our stories our not lost, they are just waiting to be told.
I don’t know what I will do with the information I have. Knowing isn’t the end it’s the beginning. I can begin separating the matches into to known groups. My paternal and maternal sides without guessing. I have a good 2nd cousin match on the maternal side. She has a great tree and they are from the area of Michigan that I am from.
I know from my non-identifying information that I requested some basics about my first mother. Bless my obsession with Scooby Doo, I have gathered my clues gang! I am not falling into this blind though. I have excellent guidance. There are many support groups and organizations out there to help individuals in their search.
The one group that I have found solid advice is the DNA ADOPTION group. They have a forum based closed group on yahoo groups that offers solid experience based advice. The group is closed so you can ask questions in a format that isn’t out there for public view. Most likely someone there has been there, done that. There are literally thousands of success stories that have ties to this group. They offer classes for all levels, I am currently taking a Y-DNA class to find my husband’s paternal origin but that is another DNA story.
So, here I am with non-identifying information, which varies wildly among adoptees. Mine is pretty good. A friend of mine had his, it was basically, your birth mother was a woman and she placed you for adoption. Well, that was enlightening! Mine was carefully recorded I could see that someone cared, a social worker noted her neat appearance, her curly hair, her tall elegant posture. I had a picture in my mind of her, I knew her family knew about me. Whether that social worker knew it or not, they wrote me a love letter.
I have never seen or touch my first mother, but I’ve held her in my mind through that social workers words. I knew about her loves, her hair, her family’s high forehead-thanks for that by the way. She was always just beyond reach, somewhere in my DNA.
It’s over whelming. Matches come in every day many without trees or connections now I’ve got a rhythm to sorting them. No tree? No Problem! I look for shared matches, no shared matches-oh no! Worthless DNA! I might be able to find who they are through user name. If not, I set them aside and move on, maybe they will decide to build a tree in the future.
My two groups have grown. I know names and places. It’s a surprise to me. I have huge clusters in Illinois. I always thought that all of my matches would be in Michigan. That’s where I was born and raised. Clearly I have a close connection to a large family from Illinois. Hum, who are these people and how do I fit? I’ve got a great match, in fact it’s my top match. So I jump right into the water and I contact her and crickets…
I’m not stopping there. Ancestry’s messaging system is legend for it’s lacking. So, I find out how to contact this match outside and lo and behold I get a response. She doesn’t know anything though, most people don’t, but she is a very sweet elderly lady who I am closely related to. I keep building out the family tree, she does tell me that her family is large and there is something unusual, there are double cousins in the family.
Double cousins share more DNA than other cousins in similar relativeness. For example, The Smith brothers marry the Maguire sisters. Both sets of couples have children those children will share a higher amount of DNA with each other.
That existed with my match and her first cousins. Well, well, well-that would explain why an elderly woman was matching me at a 1st cousin level but not high enough to be an Aunt. I immediately looked at the other set of double cousins, another large family. Only one son, who lined up in the right age group to be my father. I think I found my father.
Sometimes, all the information seems like the overflow