Friday, July 5, 2013

Tim Discovers Birth Father and Confirms Identity of Birth Mother Using Both Y-DNA and Autosomal DNA Testing at Family Tree DNA

Tim knew he was adopted since he was very young. He grew up, married and had two daughters. His daughters married and each had grandchildren of their own without Tim ever searching for his roots. Last June, one of his daughters and her husband started thinking that maybe it was the right time to try to figure out the identity of Tim's birth parents. Tim had thought about it off and on throughout his lifetime, but figured he would just never know.

Tim's family encouraged him to submit a sample for Y-DNA testing at Family Tree DNA. The results came back in late August 2012 and he matched several men with the surname Vick who descend from Joseph Vick. (The family has an organization: Joseph Vick Family of America.)

His son-in-law, Sheldon, tells us that by researching Colorado's adoption laws they learned that they could unseal Tim's adoption records through the Colorado Confidential Intermediary Service. Even though the names of Tim's birth parents were falsified on his original birth certificate, the court records contained questionnaires that the birth mother had filled out. In these was found what turned out to be key clues to unraveling the mystery of Tim's origins - the name of the town where his birth mother was born and the mention of an uncle who had an unusual name.

The court-appointed intermediary researched the town mentioned in the adoption papers and contacted an author of a book about the settlers of the town. This author, Roger, ended up “knowing” about a son his aunt had given up for adoption. To make things even more interesting, Roger revealed that this aunt had a daughter (JoAnn) after the son who was given up for adoption and, in 2011, he had convinced her to submit a DNA sample to Family Tree DNA for mitochondrial DNA testing.

Sheldon describes his strategy and the results:
Due to knowledge of where Tim’s mother was born, I narrowed down lines of VICKs in the area and it boiled down to two brothers as potential paternal grandfathers of Tim.  We ended up (autosomal DNA) testing a grandson of each, and lo and behold – one clearly is a half-brother and the other is precisely in the range to be a 2nd cousin!!!
Matching DNA between Tim and his paternal half-brother (dark blue) and 2nd cousin (light green) at 23andMe

Tim and his half-brother on his father’s side share 28% of their DNA!! – and there’s another sister and brother on his father’s side as well.

Left to right: Tim's paternal half-brother H.C., Tim, Tim's 2nd cousin Gene
Next, they used the stored DNA sample of Tim’s presumed maternal half-sibling, JoAnn, to upgrade her original mtDNA test  to the Family Tree DNA's Family Finder autosomal DNA test. They also uploaded Tim's autosomal DNA raw data from 23andMe to Family Tree DNA's Family Finder.
Autosomal DNA matching between Tim and his maternal half-sister at FTDNA (in orange)

The results showed that Tim and JoAnn share 24% of their autosomal DNA, thus confirming that they are, indeed, half-siblings and that the intermediary's conclusions were correct.

Tim and his maternal half-sister, JoAnn
Sheldon continues: 
Due to DNA testing, Tim now has 4 siblings, at least 9 nieces/nephews and many, many cousins. The neatest part is that he has met most of his close relatives – AND, most importantly, everyone on both sides has accepted him as one of them.  We are truly blessed :-)  

Although Tim’s biological father died in 1986 and his mother died in 1992 (without ever telling her daughter that she had a brother out there somewhere), Tim has enjoyed a happy reunion with both sides of his biological family. It took a lot of cooperation from his presumed relatives and a well-thought-out DNA testing strategy, but the effort was obviously well worth this heartwarming outcome!


  1. What a great article! Makes me want to run out and get my DNA tested!

    To have found all this family - what a wonderful thing!

    Catherine @OshawaJournal

  2. Welcome to Geneabloggers!

    Regards, Grant

  3. I think that this is great! I am glad that he was able to connect with his siblings.

    I found you through Geneabloggers and am following you via the Feedly Reader.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. lots of adoptees are using dna to restore their genetic heritage. will be nice when the laws restoring equal access to original birth certificates catch up with the science which is reuniting people! laws sealing away obcs and Then creating a fictitious document showing the adoptive parents as having physically created the adoptees are from a time of fear and shame. modern adoption practices are based on studies showing the psychological benefits of open adoption and the constitutional fairness of adoptees having their obcs just like every other u.s. citizen.

  5. My father was adopted at 12 days in Colorado in 1918, and when I began the hunt for his parents in 1967. The State of Colorado informed me we had no right to know, and my father was alive at that time. Have things changed since then???

  6. My father was adopted at 12 days old, in 1918 in the state of Colorado where he was born, when I tried prior to my father's death in 1976, they informed me we had no right to his adoption papers! Has it changed now??

    1. Hi Helen,
      Yes, things have changed. Please see this link for details:
      I am not an expert in this area and am not sure how it would apply to such an old case, but it is worth checking into it.
      I'm sorry your father was denied his right to know where he came from.
      Thanks for commenting,