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.
I am a new user to Autosomal DNA, only having my results arrive to me in the fall of 2016, so any time that new information is found by me, it is always new to me, no matter how long it has been out there.
Before you go to any of these sites, you will want to download your DNA and place the files in a folder on your desktop for easy access. Some sites will require that you convert your files to a different format. I have included a few links to get that done as well!
All of the links that I am going to include in this article have been visited and tried out with me. I will provide information about each link below. Bookmark this page!
www.gedmatch.com This site is such a fun site to visit, as well as very informative. If I were to write of all of the features at this 90 percent free site, I would be writing a several page long article.
Here are the basics: You create a profile and upload your DNA files to the site. Allow up to a few days for the site to process the data. Go back and you will have the following information available to you with just a few clicks of the mouse:
One to Many comparison: displays DNA matches found in their database. (If you have completed a DNA test somewhere, you may see some matches that you already know about!) I love this feature because I get to see a lot of people who are related to me who are not in my FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) profile.
X Match: Only displays those who you are an X chromosome match to.
A nice feature of these 2 tables is that when someone uploads data to the GEDMatch site, for the first 30 days, these two tables will reflect that by showing the test number with a green background in the test kit rectangle. The brighter the green, the more recent that it was uploaded. A white background in this field reflects that it has been greater than 30 days since the user uploaded their data.
Admixture Heritage (ethnicity) There are so many variables that you can use on this site to explore this option, I simply don't have the room to list them all here. Check it out, and you may very well find yourself spending a few hours in the Admixture Heritage section.
Are Your Parents Related? I don't know who my biological father is, so to be honest, I was a little bit nervous when I did this test. I was relieved that there is no relation between them, but for certain tribes of Jewish ancestry, this is a common problem. This test will show the answer if you are uncertain and looking for this information. Free.
Archaic DNA Matches. Going back. Way back. You may be amazed at what you find. My thought was "cool".
The GedMatch.com is a great website, and they also offer a pay as you go option called Tier 1 Utilities that gives you access to 7 other features that are not covered in the free option. I have not used them, but I have plans to in the future. As soon as I do, I will update this portion of the article.
GedMatch is an excellent program that provides thousands of dollars worth of tests that are free. Plan to go over there with a pen and paper for all the notes that you will be making as well as printing out some of the beautiful charts and graphs that are free. I am actually considering framing a couple of them because they are lovely and distinctive.
dnagedcom.com I always feel a bit technically challenged when I come to this website because I don't remember how I got to the place on the site to access the information that I am interested in. After a few bad clicks and making notes, I finally will find the place I want to be. I am sure that your experience will vary, perhaps it would be better if I went there a lot more. I wish that I were more enthusiastic about this site, but perhaps with time and practice, which I endeavor to do this summer, my experience with this site will change. I will update as I use it more. The site is free to upload data, free to use.
http://dnaadoption.com/ This is a wonderful site if you are an adoptee or other displaced family member trying to family your family through DNA. I cannot say enough lovely and wonderful things about the wonderful group of people there. If you are on this search, as I am, I wish you nothing but the very best of luck in your search, and when you find your family, I hope that you will contact me here so that we can share the happy news. All of the very best of luck to you!
https://opensnp.org/ This is a place where you are free to upload your information and create DNA phenotype questionnaires as well as answer others. It is funded by donations, and I would strongly urge a donation if you can afford it. People are doing science research on their own as well as contributing to the research of others. Yay, science!
http://www.y-str.org/ This site is the very first site that I ran my DNA through. I was so glad that it was so easy. The creator of the tools that are still on his site for free is no longer working on the DNA project. He has moved his attention to spreading the word of God. I wish him the very best of luck and I urge you to go and have a look at the tools that he has created as they are free. The program files that are there must be downloaded to your hard drive for them to work. Some of the programs are nearly instant in their results showing up. Others, especially those that are processing a lot of information, such as the Parentless Phasing application can take a long time. For free, you can't complain!
www.promethease.com I found Promethease sort of by accident by doing a search for something else that was autosomal related and there was the Promethease site. But I am so very glad that I did. Promethease is chock full of information. If you were to print your results, I imagine that the report would be at least 50 pages long. Promethease IS pay to play. Their rates start at $5.00 and go to $10.00, depending on the amount of information that you are submitting. Save the bookmark when you get your results, or if you have the inclination, print the files, too! My family and I all ran our results through Promethease and the emails flew back and forth that week as we compared the results. It was really cool to nod at one another when we discovered that there was a genetic link to some issues in the family. For others, it can be a jumping point to a discussion with your doctor. After appx. 30 days, your results will be discarded unless you have saved your bookmark.
For all of these these tools, you will need to have a copy of your DNA results on your hard drive. I can only attest to the tools that are for autosomal DNA. I have not had any of the other tests done. At the point I do, however, there will be a post right here to let you know.
Tell me which tools you liked the best in the comments section!
Some of you have been following my nervousness and excitement about participating in the University of Michigan's DNA project, Genes for Good. You can look them up on Facebook. After you join Genes for Good, it is pretty straightforward to "earn" your test.
Take a week or so, answer some questions and then one day, you will have answered enough questions to be sent a "spit kit" in the mail.
From the time that I started on their website until the time that I got the spit kit was between one and three weeks. From the time that I sent it until I got an email saying it had been received was perhaps another week or two. After that, it was about 3-4 months until I got the results. Every single time that I get new DNA results, I now know that I get really giddy and it prompts me to do a lot more online research about the information that I have received. I have now completed two tests. One from Family Tree DNA and now, this one from Genes For Good. My results have a lot of similarities, of course, but they also offer a look at my current information differently.
I do not have family members to compare to on Genes for Good, and to my knowledge, there is no database at this time to link other participants to one another if they are related. I have written to Genes for Good for an answer and I will update this post as soon as I hear if there are plans for that in the future.
One of my side hustle jobs is taking care of an elderly person for a few hours a week. I really like the person that I care for and she is a lot of fun to be around. Her physical needs are great, which brings me to the idea of getting the most senior or most frail person DNA tested before it is too late. My client has a lot of physical needs.
With the DNA tests that are out there right now to test your DNA results through, especially through Promethease, a person can make a lot of discoveries about themselves for the modest fee of less than ten US Dollars. The test results are available to be downloaded and reviewed at your leisure. Of course, these tests are not a replacement for proper medical treatment and consulting with your doctor, but they are a great stepping stone that allows you to have a baseline with which to compare information when you do decide to go to the doctor.
With the eldest person in your family being tested, you get an additional generation of research and information upon which to stack and build your research. Additionally, some of the information, if run through Promethease, can be searched through in order to see if they have a higher risk factor for diseases, drug interactions and the metabolic rate that certain drugs are processed through.
When I took the test and ran the results through Promethease, I learned that certain medications, I process much more slowly than the average person. I also saw that I have an elevated risk of bladder cancer, but a reduced risk of dementia disorders and diseases.
With any of these tests, the strongest thing that you can do is make sure that you take good notes, note the source and go forward from there.
Here is an example image of one of the test results:
As you can see, the magnitude of knowing that your body takes longer to metabolize medications is something that is very important. I strongly and heartily endorse taking this test as it can point out factors that can change the way that you take medication.
There are so many good tools out there for all of the DNA tests that are out there. I will be reviewing helpful sites and tools on this blog.
Today we are looking at Genealogy Junkie's Very helpful article "Help, I recieved my test results from FTDNA, now what?"
When you first get your DNA, the amount of information can be staggering. In an easy to understand format, the writer walks you through the process of making sense of your DNA and points out ways to make your DNA useful to YOU. I found that although they are still editing the page, the article was very helpful. Click on the link, and if you find it helpful, please let them and me know.
I am in the process this weekend of creating my GEDCOM file. The process can be frustrating, but it is also very helpful because once it is done correctly, the sense of accomplishment is palpable.
Additionally this weekend, I am completing the work on my family tree "error" database. This is where I have been keeping a file of known errors, but I needed to be able to back up the fact that I KNEW they were errors with hard facts. One by one, I have gotten that done, but to be honest, it was a lot of work.
Finally, this weekend, I have been organizing my family research files into 2 separate and important bookmark folders, Genealogy and DNA. Although they are assuredly related, knowing that I won't have to wade through the tons of bookmarks that I have collected will be a huge timesaver. I am also in the process of making subfolders as well for some very specific bookmarks.
What are your tools for organization for your family research?
From Thanksgiving week until now, I have been inordinately busy. Moving from one part of the state to another, starting a new job and personal life events have really taken a lot of my time.
Originally, I was going to only bring a few things, but things changed and I ended up having to pack almost everything in less than eight hours! It was hectic, but it is done now, thank goodness.
One of the good things about moving is that you come across important family or personal documents. I made it a point to take photos of each and every one of the documents that are of any importance to my family and myself. This included my drivers license and social security card as well as my voter registration.
Family Tree DNA allows you to designate a person to get your files and information when you pass away. I have asked several family members who are into genealogy and am currently waiting a response.
This year, for Christmas, I have sent out a questionnaire to all of the members of my family that are old enough to participate 25 questions. I hope to get a lot of fun questions answered that will add a lot of dimension to our family.
Additionally, my aunt got a photo from a family member that she met through Family Tree DNA and we are now enjoying seeing new photos and sharing fun stories with family members that we did not even know existed.
Finally, please click on My Links for some products that you probably already use. The links are all referral, so I get a very small commission and it costs you nothing. Peace on Earth, dear readers.
Hello to all of my readers! The wedding was beautiful, and I left single and came back with a boyfriend in my life. How wonderful is that?!?
I wish that the wedding would have been closer to my home because of the drive time, but then again, I would not have met the gentleman that has me swooning.
While I was getting back here, there was a death in my extended family of a baby who was just shy of three months of age. Of course, that is tragic, I won't downplay that. It is presumed that the baby passed of SIDS. As soon as I know, I will share here.
The passing of this infant got me to thinking about the importance of DNA testing. You never know when life will end. You never know when the person you were just speaking to yesterday will not be here. My grandmother passed away last year in December. The one thing that everyone in the family has lamented has been the fact that we did not get a DNA test done on her. That chance is gone forever to us.
If you are considering getting DNA done in your family, please start with the oldest or the weakest members of your family first. My grandfather was gone long before DNA testing was available to the public. The thought of getting him tested is just a tragedy as it wasn't there at the time. With my grandmother it was, and I don't want my family's regret to be your family's regret. Please, get DNA testing done on your older relatives now.
We are about to get into the big time of the year when families are all going to be seeing a lot more of one another. I thought that it would be a lot of fun to create a list of questions and answers to send out to all of the members of my family, as well as requests for photos and things like that.
I want to get some simple family tree items taken care of, but I am also wanting to really flesh out the people who are doing the project for me.
In thinking about this, I decided to ask about them, their kids, parents and grandparents for starters.
Then, I am going to ask questions that I will be getting from various dating sites that are meant to elicit good responses that are not simply yes and no answers.
I am looking forward to this and I think that it will be so much fun to see what everyone writes. I will be sending this to people close to me in terms of knowing them and not so close.
For the more distant relatives that I don't know, such as those that I will be contacting from online matches via DNA, I have decided that I will have an online family tree where I omit the names of the living relatives (except me) and show the tree as far back as I can go. That will help my more distant matches see if they match me at all, or if we cannot find a common person to be matched through. It is my hope that by doing this project, I will have an idea of my paternal matches, too! Plus, how fun will it be to get to know more about my family?
If you can think of any good questions, use the contact form below or email me. PirateDixie@gmail.com I will respond as soon as I get back here.
This coming weekend, I will be going to the wedding of someone that I love very much. I am really excited to be going and getting to see a lot of people that I care about.
I am also excited because one of the cities that I will be near has a National Archives research center. I don't know if they will be open when I am there, but all of the family research has me making a huge list of questions to ask them when they are open. I thought of almost all of these questions today, a Federal Holiday that I don't observe. (National Oppress Native American Land and Asset day.)
I don't think Columbus and that Spanish Queen were cool. A lot of really crap stuff happened to the Native Americans in the United States, and I really wish that we had a holiday to celebrate Native Americans. I am not Native American, but I think that for a long time, they have gotten the bad end of the stick.
Which brings me to the wedding. Since the DNA test that has been done, I have been the list maker. Lists of various things to do and look up and find. Lists of things to compare and contrast. I feel like I need to not sleep in order to get all of the updating done that I want to do. I have a long list of relatives that I need to remove from my tree. Which brought me to a problem that I finally decided on a solution for.
I now have a problem with my family tree. Years of research is invalid as it is no longer relevant to me. Do I delete all of that information? Do I give it to others? I finally decided that my family tree will remain intact, but I will build a second tree that is DNA accurate. I have named them 2 different things so that there are no mistakes. That way, people who are benefiting from the research I did on a couple of lines that are not mine are still able to access that. I merely pulled the connection to me away.
The second tree is my little tree. All me. All DNA locked down. It is tiny. For now. But it is good because it is accurate.
Going to this wedding, I will be encouraging a few of my friends to get their DNA done because we have a few surnames in common. I am convinced that 2 of my friends and I are actually distant cousins. I am excited about this, because if they do test, if we are related, that will fill in a missing line that was lost around the turn of the 20th century. If we are not related, then they will have the fun that I am having with all of this.
If this was a wedding of a family member, I would be encouraging every single person there to get testing done. Because why not?
I think back to all of the family members that are gone, and I wish that I had gotten some DNA from several people, so that there were no unanswered questions. Too late. Don't regret asking someone to test. I will be putting a page up by Halloween of this year with all sorts of fun links and things to do when you get your test results as well as my reviews of DNA testing.
Have a fun week and tell your family that you love them.
If you or anyone in your life wants to get DNA testing done, please use my link listed in my LINKS tab above. I get a small commission, and every little bit helps. Additionally, if you shop Amazon, please shop through my link. Again, commission, sales, etcetera. Using my links don't cost a single cent more.
You see the images online of these beautiful family trees, maternal and paternal, all lined and filled in. A thing of genuine beauty. People frame these and put them up. Quite special and meaningful.
I wish I could have one of those family trees and not be so stuck on my gnarly, turned and scarred family tree.
My family tree is raw and brutal and ugly. Branches are missing. Three generations of paternal lines are missing, giving my tree a lopsided look that is horrible and shocking. I look at it and I look away from it. We can't help how we are created or who created us, but I don't know the answer to that question of who is the man who helped to create me? Who is the man whose DNA I literally have coursing through my veins?
How do you explain it to someone who sees your family tree? The occasional missing or unknown person is one thing, but several generations of it? I make light of it. "I am a 3rd generation bastard!" I proudly joke. Inside, I am still coming to terms with what those betrayals of lineage and partner mean to me and to my family. My heart aches for the past, for decisions made that we will never understand.
I know that nothing has changed in my life, honestly. I have the same family and they love me the same now as they ever did. My family has all said that to me. My sister has said that to me several times. I do not know what I would do without her gentle heart being there for me.
My sister is taking this a lot better than I am. She explains that the parents that we now have are the parents that have chosen to be there, so they are our parents. She is very kind and matter of fact about it. Her calmness is the anchor to my ship in the storm. It still makes me feel sad and angry and all sorts of emotions that I am still processing. I think about it a lot. I believe that is normal.
Snippets of conversations from people who are now dead come back to me like small pieces of paper scraps left on the floor. Are any of the pieces that I have worth anything? Are the clues that I have collected worthless? It is very frustrating. I want so badly to call a lot of the people from my past and ask for names and details. They took those with them, so I am a detective, piecing together what I can with what I have to work with. I wrote down a name today on a piece of paper, knowing that I heard it in my past, but not knowing what to do with it. So frustrating.
The more work that I do with my family tree and with my DNA, submitting it here there and everywhere, it is therapeutic. It is freeing. Perhaps a paternal family member will do the same thing. Perhaps I will get to know someone from that part of my life. I think that I hope that hope every single time I hit the upload button.
Additionally, I think that I, myself may have been entertaining a little bit of the Hollywood DNA magical thinking, where I would get the test done and there would be the name of the person right there, ready for me to simply make a phone call or compose an email. Of course, it is not that simple, now is it? Answers are not instantaneous.
DNA needs to be split. It has to be determined which line is maternal and which line is paternal. I read blog after blog where well meaning people list it all out, starting with knowing the maternal and paternal pieces to be able to compare it to.
My mother is my mother. My father is my father. Genetically, they are not my parents, but emotionally they are. They have loved me when I have not been lovable at all. They have tolerated me and so much more. I cannot thank them enough for allowing me to explore all of this and to not discourage me. I really mean that.
Tonight, I added my DNA to a new site. There were matches to my DNA. Biological matches. I should have been excited. I stared at the screen, and then I just turned away. I don't know any of the names there. But I don't know which side we are related on. They are so distantly related that I have no idea where to look for them. It is heart wrenching.
If you create a child, no matter how hard it is for your heart, please don't do this to them. Tell them who their true genetic parent is. That is their right to know. To not have a raw and ugly family tree. For all I know, my genetic father could be a complete waste of carbon (save for creating me) or he could be a pretty nice guy. I don't know that I will ever know. I would give anything for my complete family tree to be filled in.