My activity on a few websites has really amped up in the last few months, and I have been lucky enough to make some matches on my distant relatives generations back. I am still searching for my maternal grandfather.
The hardest part of all of the DNA information out there is when you are a half anything. (Half sister, half cousin, half aunt, etcetera.)
A half sibling is what we all know...where a sibling group of 2 or more only shares one parent. Half cousins, half aunts, half grandparents are the same, we are just not used to seeing those terms. I only have full aunts and uncles on my paternal side. That is so strange to me, I never even understood all of the half relations out there until I was involved in getting DNA testing done in order to find my biological father.
As I have written about before, I am a 3rd generation bastard. My great grandmother was not married to my great grandfather, nor did he stay around to raise my grandmother.
My grandmother had a fling (?) with someone that was not the man I was raised to know as my grandfather. I did not know this until nearly 3 years ago, when I got the results from the DNA lab. I am still sort of shocked about this, but not nearly as much as I used to be.
Finally, I sort of knew, but not in detail, that the man who raised me was not my biological father.
Through DNA, I found my full paternal aunt, which led me to my biological father. I won't go into details, but suffice to say I have aunties and cousins that I did not have before. I don't know my father, but I know who he is. That is sufficient for now. If we never meet, I still have to thank him for half of who I am through DNA.
Now, the search is on for my maternal grandfather. I have no hopes of him being alive at this point, but I would love to know who he is, and possibly see a photo.
I have tested with Ancestry, 23andMe, FTDNA and GenesForGood. I have uploaded to as many places as I can find that do genetic genealogy.
A tip that I would like to share is to write down everything. Yes, you can bookmark, but what happens if the site that you are using goes down? What if the record gets corrupted or pulled? What if any sort of inconvenience or disaster happens? By having it in writing in a dedicated place for your search, you will heighten the chances of not losing valuable research. I write down everything. The complete web address if it is an online search, the complete source if I am at a library or research center. A tip I found once was in a church recipe book. Had I not written it down, I never would have been able to trace back to it and found it to follow up. The drawing/sketch above was made by me to denote a landmark to get to the library I was going to in England. Anything that will help you get your research done is a tool, and I love to doodle. Those doodles have been valuable for me later on, when I was entering information into the computer.
I also make a photocopy or a print of obituary listings. Be aware, though. Obits are valuable, but they are not perfect. Don't treat them as such.
What are some search tips that you have used to help break through the brick walls in your search?
What a world we live in! With a simple saliva sample and some patience, secrets from the past come out and are there for us to examine.
In an article that I wrote in the past, I speak of being a 3rd Generation Bastard. That phrase is offensive to some, but that is not the intent.
I did not know who my biological father was until I had taken a DNA test. Even then, it was not the first or second test that I took, but the 3rd one that would put me on the correct path.
Those tests did illustrate a lot of facts for me and pushed my genealogical research years and decades ahead of where I had been to that point.
If I had to do it all again, I would do it the exact same way that I did it before, because having those time gaps between each test allowed me to process the information, gather more information and make informed decisions that were worthwhile.
One of the best decisions that I made was to get tested. I cannot emphasize that enough.
The first test that I took was with Family Tree DNA. They had a sale going and I got the test. It was a great deal. In recognition of today being DNA Day, they have a sale going again! Click this link to go to their sale price. I don't get a commission, but it IS a great deal. For $49.00, you get the Family Finder test, which will knock down brick walls and get a great start on your DNA genealogy!
There is no monthly, annual or semi-annual subscription, either. A great deal!
The next test that I took was Ancestry. They are the biggest consumer DNA test provider.
Through today, they are offering $69.00 testing. Their service requires a subscription, which is billed at different intervals. If you are interested in getting a test from them while their sale is going on, this is an excellent time to do it. Click here to get to their page.
My third test was through 23 and Me. Now this one, I DO get a commission if you order AND you get a discount. There is no subscription involved, either. Once you click here to get the test, you can always access your information.
I have not yet tested with My Heritage, but they have affordable testing at only $59.00 for the DNA Day celebrations, they are a test I will be taking in the very near future. Click here to order your test kit, too. (No commission, I think that you should test in as many places as you can!)
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Share below in the comments if you have taken a DNA test or if you are planning to! I want to hear what you have to say! Happy DNA day!
One of the hardest things in doing research is the reality vs. perceptions that a lot of people have about research into their family tree.
For some reason, we like to think that all women in our family are prim and proper and sweet little virgins when they met the men in our family.
Let me assure you. Not true. Not true today, and not true back in the day of our ancestors.
My mother was never married to my biological father. I have never laid eyes on him, although I know believe that I know who he is. (It is either him or one of his brothers, but his brothers were never in the part of the world I was born in.)
Do I believe that my mother was a sweet, virtuous angel before I got here? Of course not.
She had desires. She had attractions, crushes, encounters. All of the things that normal people have. Sex drive is not something that is limited to men. Women have urges, too. The only difference is not what they do with those urges, but instead, how they are treated for having those urges and acting upon them.
My mother, when it was obvious that I was looking for my biological family threw me on a trail of bad information and lies. To protect me? Perhaps. To protect herself from rejection and judgement? Of course.
I belong to a lot of different groups on social media. Repeatedly, adoptees who are looking for their biological families will have so much more luck with their paternal family than they have with their maternal family. It is so contradictory of everything that we see in movies, etcetera. But it is the truth. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, that goes without saying.
In one of the groups that I belong to on Facebook, the ratio of paternal family being open to meeting and knowing is about 3 to 1 compared to maternal family.
I know that when I had my son and placed him for adoption, it was deeply instilled in me to make sure that I did not interfere with the adoptive family or the child that I placed for adoption, after all, they were doing me a huge favor.
Wasn't I doing them a huge favor as well? Isn't having a baby and giving it to the adoptive parent to raise a big favor as well? I would think so, but the adoption agencies of the time did not really address that angle. Another reflection of women being punished/held accountable for her sexuality.
That leads me to DNA testing and reunions being made outside the parameters of the adoption agency.
Adoption agencies made the promise to people that they need not worry about being contacted. That their little secret was safe within the walls of the agency and the sealed birth certificate. With the event of at home DNA testing (Ancestry, Heritage, 23AndMe, Family Tree DNA, etcetera) becoming so affordable, more and more people are turning away from the agencies and the archaic laws of sealed adoption records. They are instead choosing to take tests that cost less than 100.00 per test. In less than 2 months typically, an adoptee can find their birth family on both sides. With social media being free and open, with a few clicks of the mouse, an adoptee can look at the faces of biological family.
The problem about this is for any member of the adoption triangle that does not want to be found. For the birth mother who wanted the secret of her pregnancy and childbirth hidden, her privacy is no longer assured or guaranteed. For the birth father who may not even know that a child was conceived, his life can be thrown into hell if he has never told his family of the existence of a child.
An adoptee that has never been told that they were adopted, or does not want to know their biological family and finds themself facing issues they were not prepared to handle can be a disaster.
Am I against DNA testing? No, not at all. I support open records. I support the right of people to know where they came from as an adoptee. I support the right of birthparents to know their biological child is well and cared for. Open adoption removes all of the mystery from adoption and allows for open communication. In medical emergencies, if the biological family is available for contact, information can be exchanged that is literally lifesaving.
As long as we continue to have a one sided stigma of women having sexuality, of women expressing their sexuality and of women having sexual relations, we will continue to have shame for an event that needs to have no shame.
As I continue to know my paternal family, I am greatly saddened by all of the years that I was denied these relationships. I have aunties and cousins and grand cousins. I had grandparents while I was alive on my father's side. From all that I have heard, they would have been very loving and kind. I have pictures of people who I look like. Who I share the same body type. Who I have common interests. I would still be searching for these wonderful family members if I had not taken a DNA test.
DNA is so accepted as a term that everyone understands now that it is mind boggling. I can remember sitting in a science class when our teacher offered 3 different ways to get 10 points each on a science final. (30 points!!!!) He also said that if you made a perfect score without the added questions, and answered any of them, he would roll the points to your final grade for that report card period.
As a kid, I thought that DNA was like the glue that kept us together somehow. Like the muscles under the skin, being glued to the bone. I had the correct answers, but my understanding was very primitive.
Let's see how my readers do with this science paper I just discovered in my own personal archives. Feel free to comment your answers.
1. What is DNA? Explain in a way that is easily understood by others.
2. What is DNA an abbreviation for? You can spell phonetically if you know it, or come to my desk after you have completed the test and tell me. I will not deduct for spelling.
3. Is your DNA the same or different from other people? Is it a combination of the 2, or neither? Let your answer explain this.
I made a perfect score. Here are my answers:
1. DNA is the building block of all life. It is the code that tells your cells what to do and where to go to create you as a human instead of as a cow or other living things, like a carrot.
2. I went to the desk and said it correctly.
3. My DNA is the same as other people to make us human, but the differences are my hair color and eye color and height and other stuff that makes me the person who I am, not the person that someone else is, unless you are an identical sibling like a twin or a triplet or something. So it is the same in the big picture, but different in the little details.
So, I made a perfect 100 on the test, and then I made a perfect 30, which I rolled to the grades. That brought my B to an A.
Share your answers and DNA stories below!
Ancestry rolled out a fun new feature today-Trading Cards. If you have a membership at Ancestry and have taken the DNA test, go and check out the new feature. It is a lot of fun, and I found my 10 year old stepson asking a lot of questions about it and then telling me that he wanted to have his trading card made!
So, for family members that may be reticent to get their DNA testing done, because they want some tangible proof of "What's in it for me?", the Ancestry DNA trading card may be the very thing that gets them on board.
Downside of the trading card? It will only show your top 7 ethnicities. If you have a greater mix, the lesser percentages will not show up. Other downside, the hashtag is My American DNA. I do not know how or if this feature changes in other countries. If you do, please share your trading card image.
Thanks, Ancestry, for bringing this fun feature out! Although the card is listed as being limited edition, I am hoping that they will leave it as a permanent feature!
Share your thoughts!
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, you may qualify for a study through 23 and Me. (Free Kit!)
Here are the criteria that they list through this link: enroll.23andme.com/research/depression-bipolar/identity/
Please check that you meet all criteria below:
Since I have been on my search for my paternal biological family, I have been fortunate enough to come across some really lovely people. I have met some of the most helpful people that you could ever want to meet.
I have also met some people who really did not think that I should be following through on finding my biological family.
I would like to comment on that with some cold, hard facts, and probably some raw emotion as well.
I am not a secret. I have never lived as though I were a secret. I am a person. I have thoughts, feelings, emotions, and bleed when I am cut, the same as everyone else.
I am not a secret. What two adults did to get me here was something that I was a result of, not because I was an active consenting person.
I am not a secret. When I am asked for my complete medical history, I can only make a guess at part of my history. Because I don't know.
I am not a secret. When I look at my family, I know that I have traits that belong to my biological parent that I don't know.
I am not a secret. I never agreed to be in hiding so that someone would not have to confront their actions from the past.
I am not a secret. I am not in hiding, nor should I have to be.
I am not demanding a relationship with my biological family, if that is not what they want. But what I am wanting is for them to know that I exist. For them to know that there is someone else in the world who is carrying their genetic line. For them to know that life is messy, that is how we are made. I don't hold any anger or grudges, but I am not a secret.
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!
This article is going to be a long one, but it is going to be full of a lot of information (primarily for adoptees, but can be modified for birth families as well.)
If you are adopted and are looking for your birth family, there is a lot of information that you should gather before you even search in order to make your search a lot more easy. I will list a lot of those tips, hints and helps here. If you know of any that I have not mentioned, please share by emailing me at PirateDixie@gmail.com or in the comments section below.
Best of luck to all of you on your search!
1. Where were you adopted from? Private Agency/state/foster/in-family adoption or something else? Make sure that you know the source of where you were adopted from.
2. How old were the people involved in the adoption? This includes you, your adoptive parents, the birth parents and any other parties.
3. Where were you born? Do you know the city, the state and the county that you were born in? Make sure that you are completely sure.
4. Do you have your original birth certificate? If not, have you sent off for your original birth certificate?
5. Have you created a narrative of your birth story?
6. Have you contacted the attorneys or government agencies that were responsible for facilitating your placement?
7. Have you had a DNA test done? If not, get one done. If money is an issue, you can get a free test done at Genes For Good. If you want to have access to the largest database, Ancestry.com is the one to go with.
8. Do you have any medical issues that have been in place since birth?
9. If you have had DNA testing done, where are all of the places that you have uploaded it to, such as GEDMatch, DNA.Land, etc.
10. Contact everyone that could have information about you and your files-the hospital, your birth state may have a birth index, the ob/gyn, etc. Check everywhere and leave no stone unturned.
11. Ask everyone in your adoptive family for details about your placement and adoption. They may have clues or information that no one else does. Ask publicly, ask privately. Don't be ashamed. It is your right to pursue this.
12. Make detailed notes at the time that you speak to anyone. Trust and believe when I tell you that you won't remember everything. Ask for spellings, dates, locations and anything else that they are willing and able to share with you.
13. Ask for information that was given to either side by the agency, attorney, etc. There may be valuable clues right there as well.
14. Make sure to ask facilitator if other side ever has written, sent updates, want to write or be in contact or any other information.
15. Write down your test kit numbers and keep them with you. Carry business cards to hand out wherever you go.
16. Prepare a medical history for other side as well as a way for them to contact you.
17. If privacy is a concern, create an email only for this search. Make sure that you check it regularly. You can even set up a notice to let you know when you have an email in that account.
18. Have an honest dialogue with yourself. What is the best case scenario of what you would like to happen? What is the worst case? What are your goals for the short, medium and long term? Are you prepared for the outcomes of death, rejection, mental or physical issues? How about if the person that you are searching for does not want to associate with you, but other relatives do-are you ready for that? What if family members or the family that you are looking for contend that you are creating fake documents or similar? Have you considered counseling to delve into these issues if you don't have ready answers to these issues?
19. Have you set aside money to aid in your search? Except for Genes for Good, DNA tests cost money, requesting documents cost money for copies, and writing to places costs time.
20. Are you willing to create notes and notebooks with all of your search information so that you do not backtrack or lose clues?
21. Are you able to provide verifying information to those family members who may doubt you or the veracity of your search? Are you willing to explain that you are not looking for any claim of money or property?
22. Make sure that all of your contact information at all of the sites you are on is current and correct. It would be a shame to invest all of the time and effort only to not have your matches be able to reach you.
23. Be prepared to ask people who say that they match you for proof as well. Some people are not noble, kind or honest. Be willing to ask for (and pay for) a DNA test if you have any doubts. Also, just because someone shares some physical characteristics does not mean that they are related, and the reverse is true as well.
24. You can set up a free web page or blog for people who are looking for you. Don't share every single detail about you, but for people looking, it may be the place they find without going through agencies, etcetera.
25. Prepare yourself now for the "honeymoon" and possibly "backlash". Some who search have never moved past the place in time of when the adoption event occurred. They may still be dealing with some issues. Some may romanticize or "saint" others. Some may "demonize" others. Be patient. Be kind. Make good notes, take loads of photos and create memories. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. This is an emotional time.
26. Protect your privacy and safety. Although these people are family, until you know one another better, use caution and be safe.
27. Keep originals, make copies to share. I was SO glad I did this one. This includes photos.
28. Reach out for help through social media, adoption support and search groups, DNA search groups and more. Keep track of where you have signed up and check your places regularly.
29. If at all possible, create a family tree.
30. Never EVER give up. Take a break if it gets overwhelming, but don't give up!
I write a lot about genetic genealogy, family trees, DNA, and home life as well as the occasional product review. Comments? Email me at CocktailsAndSwagger@Hotmail.com