Happy 1st Day of Spring!
Today marks the first day of Spring. With the beginning of Springtime, I thought that it would be a good time to do some "Spring Cleaning" on my family tree.
Ancestry is a great site. I love it and I use it a lot. For learning about your DNA origins, their site is amazing. For making connections to your family, still amazing. A feature that I don't like is how easy it is to add to your family tree the connections of other families.
That may seem amazing, but in reality, some people make connections to others with no documentation.
This spring, I will be doing a lot of pruning of my DNA trees to make sure that all of the people that I add have proper documentation.
What is something that you are doing on the first day of Spring?
I am all about the search. I am all for finding the people with whom you share a blood connection.
I believe that DNA becoming more and more affordable is making DNA testing happen. I have been reading heartwarming stories of people even in their 90's discovering family that they never knew they had, or family that has been lost.
The thing that people do not talk about as much is when family does not want to be contacted.
I have been fortunate with some of the people that I have searched for. I have "new" aunts that I never knew I had. I cherish each and every one of them. I have cousins, I have grand cousins. It is amazing that these warm, loving and caring people are part of my family.
I have also come in contact with people who have not been wonderful. I interacted with a distant cousin who accused me of lying because they did not want to be a part of my family. This person said that I manipulated my DNA to match theirs. Emotionally, I was able to tell that they had a lot of issues, and I did not push. I gave them the space that they needed. It hurt my feelings at the time, because I so badly wanted to have my missing family members. This person (I am being very careful to not identify them) blocked me from Facebook. They blocked me from their phone. How do I know this? They made it a point to share that with me.
Was I overzealous in my actions with them? Actually, I am very proud that I was very polite. I did not intrude in their life. I did not ask a lot of questions. I merely pointed out the match that was on several of the DNA platforms that we both tested on.
If you are reaching out to family members that you do not know prior to your test, the best approach is non emotional. Simply state the facts and go forward from there. Just because you want a relationship with all of your newfound family does not mean that they are even prepared for such revelations. Take it slow. Be prepared to explain how you are related.
If it is a very close match, such as a parent, ask if they are able to talk.
Best of luck!
I have been looking for a certain relative for a number of years. He is not a "close" relative, but I believe that he could help me in my search. I have looked at search sites, social media sites, phone number sites and more. It is like this person does not exist after a certain date. No wife, no children, no nothing. I was doing everything that I could do and having no luck doing it. To say that I was frustrated was very much an understatement!
Tonight, watching Forensic Files, got me to thinking about this person that I was looking for. I reached for my book, The Manual to Online Public Records, which I reviewed here recently. I flipped to the last state that I have any information on my missing relative to see if anything would stand out for me as a place to search. There was my lead. Sexual Offender Registry. Could it be? Would I find my person there? I went to the address and typed in the name. Sure enough, there was my "missing person." I was sad about his life situation, but I now understood why he fell off the radar.
When you are looking for someone that seems to disappear, look in cemeteries, obituaries, city, county, parish, state and federal jail and prison records. Look in neighboring communities as well.
I have noticed that with prisoners who die in prison, it is very rare to see an obituary. If there ever is one, I have never seen an obituary for an everyday person note that the person died in jail or prison. I am sure that there are exceptions, however, I have never seen them.
Another place to look for your missing person is in local newspapers in the "Police Blotter" section. It may be called something else, but do take the time to look around.
There was a newspaper in a small coastal town in Texas that used to publish photographs of everyone that had been arrested for drunk driving. I don't know if they still do that, but the first time I saw it, I was appalled. I thought about how embarrassing it would be to live in that town and have a moment like that captured for a newspaper. Talk about an incentive to be good!
Finally, get in touch with the relatives closest to this person. Were they troubled? A drifter? Chemical addictions? Any clues like that might point you to where you can find the person.
Now that I have found my answer, I can close a chapter of a search. I was looking for this person to determine if they could be the father of someone. At the time of the person's conception, they had already been incarcerated for 5 years. So, he is eliminated and we can focus on other people. What a ride it was to get to this place, though!
I was beginning to doubt whether or not I would ever be able to write this article!
As all of you know, I have no idea of who my biological father is. This caused me a lot of angst when I was a teenager. I so badly wanted that "Dad" moment that you see on television. The one where the daughter knows that she and her father have a special bond.
Growing up, I assumed that my mother's husband was my father. I had no reason to believe otherwise. I called him "Daddy" and he loved me very much and still does, I am sure. Bring in an ugly divorce and all of the sudden, I knew that "Daddy" was no biological relation to me. I was gutted to the core.
Less than 8 years later, I would be adopted by my Aunt and Uncle. I would now call them "Mom and Dad". I loved them very much then, and I still do now. I honor and respect them very much, too.
As I grow older, it is weird when I am asked for medical information. I have to leave part of my information blank. I simply don't know the answers because I don't know who my father is.
I find it interesting that through the years, I have been discouraged from searching by people. I have been told "What if you are intruding upon his life?" or "What if he has a wife or children?" and similar.
My answer has changed over the years, from quietly backing down my search back then to explaining that I never agreed to be someone's shameful secret. Why should I be a secret, anyway?
After I got my test done from Family Tree DNA, I wanted to know who my father was, RIGHT THEN!
Of course, life doesn't work that way.
I diligently uploaded my DNA to all of the relevant sites. GEDmatch is the massive one that everyone will tell you about. I uploaded to there, and I encouraged all of my family that had been tested to do the same. I joined groups on Facebook and elsewhere that are for people trying to connect with their bio family.
I am referred to as an NPE, which stands for Non-Parental Event or Not Parent Expected. I prefer the easier term of "bastard" because my parents were not married at the time of my conception, or anytime before or after. I truly understand that term, but we live in a gentler time, so NPE it is.
Being a part of these boards is being a part of a community. Adoptees searching for birth parents and birth family, birth family looking for adoptee, people like myself looking for their bio father and similar.
Occasionally, people will post with their reunion story, and they will sometimes post photos of them and one or both parents. It is very heartening to see, and it breeds hope in the soul.
At first, I would scroll through. I did not participate, I only read. I was too scared about all of the what if that was out there. I tried to tell myself that I was too busy or that I was wasting my time, and a bunch of other reasons that were not really valid.
When it boiled down to it, I was scared. I was scared of the possibility of rejection. Of the chance that my birth father did not want to have anything to do with me. Plus many more thoughts that became huge fears that only increased in size during the time that they were allowed to dwell unabated in my head.
I read a post that changed all of that. A woman posted looking for her father. She was in anguish because she wanted to know this man before her grandchild was born. The responses were heartfelt and genuine. People encouraged her to proceed with her search. They told her to be brave. Heart emoji's flew everywhere. She asked the question that had been lying in my heart. "What if he doesn't want anything to do with me?"
The answers back were a balm for me. "Then you know." A woman said. "Give him time. Wait for him to make the decision. Right now, he doesn't even know that there is a decision to make."
Those were the words that firmed my resolve. My biological father, if he was alive, did not know. How could he decide yes or no about knowing me if he did not even know I existed?
I crafted the post over several days. It was really hard for me to try and explain what I now call "My conception story" because I really did not have a lot of details. The ones that I had were not really specific. But they were details. If a person who was born into a traditional family was able to hand out their conception story on an engraved card, I felt like mine was on a dirty bar napkin. But it was all I had.
I added a few photos of me, and a few photos of my mother. Within a few hours, I had people asking to help me. Asking where my DNA results were posted to. Making connections and letting me know what those connections meant. I was really happy, and excited.
This month, I got my very own "search angel". A search angel is a person that helps you with your search and points you in the right direction, asks your contacts questions, and does what is needed to narrow your search down.
My search angel has been amazing. She has asked me questions and helped me on my search. By using my DNA information and my contacts through my DNA test, she has been able to create a family tree with me in it. She sent me an image and said "I think that this man is your father." I stared at that photo. I could see me in him, but for some reason, I didn't want to see the link when she told me that this man was deceased. It was like being gut punched. Shortly afterwards, a photo was sent to me that, if it turns out that he is my father, she is my half sibling.
We will know soon enough, but I am possibly on the path to knowing the other half of me.
No matter where you are in the adoption triangle, if you are searching for your family, while you are waiting on things is the perfect time to make a kit in the event that you are united.
This can also turn into a valuable resource for you in the event that you get in contact with your person/family that you are looking for.
I will tell you that when I was posting everywhere, looking for my birth relative that was placed for adoption, I knew the facts by heart. When she contacted me via AOL instant messenger, I could not even remember her birthday, a date that I knew for over a decade.
I can remember fumbling over the keyboard, trying to express how I felt, but my fingers would not even strike the correct keys!
Here is what I would do now.
Create Pages. Make a separate page for each of the following topics:
Their basic facts that you know for sure. These would be confirmed facts.
Facts that you cannot confirm. (In non identifying information, I was told that my family member was raised by people of specific professions. One was true and one was not.)
Photos that you have labeled and their relationship to you as well as the relationship to the person that you are looking for.
Basic medical information. Only list confirmed things, not assumptions.
Contact information. Your contact information that you are willing to share. I advise extreme caution about giving your home address until you know one another better. Although you may be family, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Have a hard copy (printed off) of all of this information as well as a digital copy. Most likely, you will be exchanging information online at first, so if you have a folder with everything in it, you won't have to do a frantic search like I did at 3 in the morning.
I also recommend taking the time to make copies of every single photo you have of family members when you make a family tree for your reunion. It is easier to comprehend facts when you can put a name with a face.
My adopted relative told me that of all of the things that we gave to her, the most valuable was the photos and the family tree. It was really confusing for them to try and learn all about us.
Write a brief bio of the family members that are in your family.
If you are the adoptee, simple facts about your adoptive family are great, but your birth family will really want to see photos of you growing up as well as know about you. You can make it sort of generic at first, but let them know how your life has turned out. Your birth family, especially your birth parents want to know that they made the right decision for you. For birth family, include photos of birth parents at early ages to present. If the birth parent/s are deceased, let them know the cause of death as well as if the parent was cremated or buried. Also note the location of burial if that applies.
If you are the birth parent, write a bio about yourself. Where you were born/raised, what you do/did for a living, how many other children you have, the relationship with the other bio parent, religion and medical history. This may be uncomfortable for you to do, but please realize that most adoptees want to know their history. When I shared with my family member about our shared parent, I will tell you right now that there was no judgement on their part. They only wanted to know more about the birth parent that they would never know personally.
Create a contact information page for yourself to add to your file that is current and correct. Decide now if you want your social media to be a part of that page.
Good Luck With Your Search and NEVER GIVE UP!
Are you going to a High School Reunion?
This is an excellent opportunity for some genealogical research if you are from the area that you went to school.
Why? Yearbooks will be brought out, photos that you may or may not have seen before and more.
When I went to a high school reunion with a friend of mine, he was delighted when he saw a photo of his mother in photos of the big football game, gluing sequins onto posters. His mother was deceased, so any new photos were welcome additions to his collection.
Here are some tools to use if you are going to be going to a high school reunion, get business cards printed ahead of time. There is no need to have a lot of information on there. Links to social media. Email address. Phone number if you feel comfortable sharing. Always put a link to your LinkedIn account as well. Most important part of the business card? A tip I learned from a realtor: Have a photo on your business card. People will not throw away a business card with a photo on it as quickly as they will discard others.
When you mingle with others, tell them that you are into genealogy and let them know to get in touch with you through any of the means that are on the card.
If you are in a town where you have family, make it a point to let people that you really want to get in touch.
If you are interested, you can also live-stream your Facebook some video of your high school while you are there. Make it a point to say people's names if you are bad at this sort of thing. YouTube is an option here as well, but in Facebook, you can tag fellow users right then and right there so that you do not forget to tag them later.
Of course, have a good time. That goes without saying. But unless you are on the committees, find out who is in charge of the reunion, who is in charge of media and anything other groups and committees that are there. You may want to reach out to these people in order to get copies of the contact information, photos or videos from the event.
I love reading. It is one of my great passions. I like to read a book where every page is a joy to experience.
I recently read Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) By Megan Smolenyak, the companion book to the television series of the same name. She refers to herself and other genealogists as "genies", which I find very endearing.
Megan writes about how you can research your own family tree and she provides copious links for the diligent to use in their own searches. She writes in a style that is easily understood and followed by others, and I found myself making notes throughout the time that I was reading, filling a composition notebook with links and observations for use on my own family tree.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a lot of information in WDYTYA that I did not know about and had not seen before. Some of the links I did not even know existed.
WDYTYA shows how to research for the novice. It is the helper who gives you the nudge that you need to point you in the right direction. It is the notebook with all of the links you need, it is a great companion book.
There is a difference between the hardcover and the paperback editions. The hardcover features celebrity genealogy profiles in a color section, whereas the paperback does not. If you are wanting a book solely for researching your family, the paperback should suffice. I found that the celebrity section added some depth and understanding.
I recommend this book strongly for the amount of links that it contains, the easy to follow directions and the delightful way that the author makes a sometimes tricky hobby into something that becomes more vibrant and alive with each found relative.
My friend, Katy and I got together a month ago to go over photos. As I mentioned in the past, it is a shame when photos from the past are not labeled because you just don't know the relevance.
We were poring over the photos when I saw a man in a uniform, arm dangling over a beautiful woman. "Who's that?" I asked.
"I wish I knew" Katy sighed, dropping it into the cookie tin of photos.
"Hand it back. Just let me look for a second" I saw writing on the uniform. We grabbed a magnifying glass and looked. There, on the uniform were 2 embroidered patches. One was the name of the company, the other was the name of the person. Neither Katy or myself knew the name of the company, so with Google, we were able to find out the name of the business, which gave us the place of the business.
Once we knew all of that, Katy knew which part of her family it was. A little more asking around of family members, and she was able to determine that the photo was of an older great uncle who never came home from World War II.
Look for clues in your photos.
Some examples for dating a photo include:
Cars. If a 2000 Ford Mustang is in a photo, you know that it is not from 1985.
Landmarks in the background. I used to hear the story from my late mother about the bridge heading into the small town of Columbia, Louisiana. The joke was that by the time you crossed that bridge, a relative would have called my great grandmother and let her know that you were on the way to her house. How? Because the community was so small (at the time) that everyone knew everyone as well as the car that they drove. When I was small, we picked persimmons from the side of the bridge, making sure that we did not touch the peel to our lips because the alum (I don't think that is what it actually was) would taste bitter. We loved the time there, and a when I wanted a timeline of a photo that was taken long before I was born, I looked up the history of the bridge. I was thrilled to have a working timeline to go on.
Products. A photo with my great-grandmother shows a box of cereal on the table, a brand I had never heard of. A quick Google search found the brand for me, as well as the years that it was made. I was able to greatly narrow the field of timeline, and by doing that, I was able to also find out some of the food habits of my ancestors, which always adds some depth to them.
I know, these things can seem to be long shots in identifying family, but by narrowing down your timeline with clues, you can eliminate those who have not yet been born, those who have already passed away, and those who were deployed or at college or otherwise not around at that time. This may help you to determine who those people are in those photos.