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!

Melanie's Story: I Discovered My Birth Family Through a 2nd Cousin Match at AncestryDNA

Melanie has been kind enough to share her amazing story with us in her own words.

"My Adoption Search and Reunion" by Melanie

In 1968, I was placed for adoption during what is referred to as the "Baby Scoop Era". Young single women who found themselves pregnant usually did not have any support, including their own family. They were enticed by family and church to place their babies for adoption in order to give them a better life with two parents. During this period birth records, including original birth certificates, were sealed giving no future access or information to adoptees except for what is referred to as Non-Identifying Information.

I do not recall ever a time in my life where I did not know I was adopted.  Even with two loving parents I always felt alone and that I had been abandoned by my birth mother.  I have always known in my heart God's plan was carried out and I had the mom and dad God chose for me but it didn't take away the loss and pain. My childhood was spent trying to fit in to a family I didn’t belong and constantly trying to prove their love, driven out of the fear of being abandoned again.  

Melanie, 4th grade
At a very young age I realized that society expected me to be grateful and I became the compliant child who buried all the questions, confusion and pain. NO ONE ever stopped to think what it’s like for a child to go through life without their true identity, how that would limit their emotional growth resulting in damage to their true self. I’m not sure at what age I stopped asking questions but at some point I cut off all emotion since there were no answers to be had until the day I found my birth family. After many years of searching that day finally came through a DNA test.


 ·      Registered with Louisiana Voluntary Registry, ALMA, International Soundex Reunion Registry, any website I could find, also talked to a few private investigators.
 ·      For 14 years I consistently looked online and registered at any website I could.

Summer 2012        
·       Found G’s Search Registry and was matched to a LA Search Angel. 
·       Ordered updated Non-ID from Louisiana
·       Located one possible match on an online registry.  Made contact and interesting enough the mother chose my birthday to marry years later.  The Non-ID did not match but left many questions that couldn’t be answered since the mother had already passed away. (Turns out she is not a match, but I met a wonderful woman that I still communicate with)
·       Search Angel & I spent endless hours pouring through newspaper & obituaries on looking for males who drowned in 1951. (Non-ID stated that maternal grandfather drowned in 1951.*)
·       Searched using the information about birth mother provided in my Non-ID
·       Searched New Orleans Library website to find any female within an age range that passed away in 1967, then went to Genealogy Bank for the obituary to match Non-ID information.
·       Determined that my birth family was most likely not from LA. Gut feeling was they were from MS.  I called LA Social Services but there was nothing in my file.
·       MS newspapers are not on Genealogy Bank so the search stopped once again
·       Decided to wait on DNA testing as a last resort

·       December 2012 - started researching DNA testing; took 23andMe DNA test
·       January 2013 - Received 23andMe results. I was elated to have for the first time ever ancestry and medical information, but at the same time I had no clue where to even begin.
·       Uploaded 23andMe results to Gedmatch & Family Tree DNA – spent hours trying to find any correlation & had so many helpful distant relatives looking also.
·       February 2013 took DNA test
·       March 8, 2013
o   2:56pm received DNA test results with one match predicted to be a 2nd cousin (turns out to be a 1st cousin twice removed)
o   Immediately sent email to my match, Linda
o   Linda responded at 3:24pm that she could help me saying that my great grandmother was her dad’s sister along with some other information. Then all of a sudden she wrote STOP and gave me her phone number so we could talk. My maternal birth family is from Mississippi so it’s interesting that Linda only lives 30 minutes away from me in Texas.
o   Took a deep breath and called her.  At first she didn’t give me birth mom’s name but gave me the family background and history that corresponded to my Non-ID.  After about 30-45 minutes she just said “Oh heck, you deserve to know the truth. Your mom’s name is _______”.  We talked for over an hour and she said she would call one of the sisters.  The sister confirmed the connection and gave her my birth mom’s phone number.  Linda then called my birth mom who wanted to talk to me but would call later when she was in a private place to do so. Birth mom gave Linda my birth father’s name and some basic information which Linda passed on to me.
o   I had dinner plans that evening and, of course, my birth mom called at that time. She left the sweetest voicemail and asked me to call her back no matter what the time.
o   By 9pm I spoke to my birth mom for the first time ever. She gave me much more information and informed me she thought my birth father had passed away.
o   After we hung up I located my birth father’s family in TX through the internet at 1:00 am; it’s been an overwhelming long day!

·       March 9, 2013
o   I found my half sister on Facebook and spoke with her that afternoon
o   I phoned my Aunt (adoptive) since she is the family genealogist and gave her what information I had on my birth father.

·       March 10, 2013
o   My Aunt found my paternal grandfather’s obituary that included the names of his wife and children.

·       March 11, 2013
o   I located my birth father’s date of death on (1977), as well as my paternal grandmother’s obituary.
o   Using the names in my paternal grandfather’s obituary I was able to find one of my paternal aunts on Facebook and send her a message.

·       March 13, 2013
o   I get a response from the paternal aunt asking for more details.  Fear sets in that I will be denied my paternal ancestry.

·       March 14, 2013
o   Receive email from other paternal aunt welcoming me into the family. None of the siblings knew anything about me; only one of the sibling wives had ever heard mention of an adopted child. They are over the moon to have found me. I look a lot like him and he had no other children so I’m a little piece of him remaining in this world after they lost him so young. 

·       March 15, 2013
o   Birth father’s best friend who also didn’t know I existed sends me lots of childhood stories.  It was amazing the commonalities I share with my birth father as well as those he shared with my dad (adoptive).

·       Easter Weekend 2013 - Reunion
o   On my drive to my mom’s (adoptive) I stopped to meet my paternal uncle and his wife. They live in a Texas town I have driven through many times over the last 9 years where my birth father was raised. My uncle’s wife was very close to my paternal grandmother, spending a lot of time in the kitchen over the years after my birth father’s death. My grandmother would make comments every now and then to her that she fantasized about finding his daughter.
o   My mom (adoptive) and I met my birth mom and half sister the day before Easter in Mississippi. This particular town I’ve probably been through over 100 times in my life not knowing I have birth family there. We spent about five hours together sharing stories, pictures and gifts.  Looking back on that day it feels like as if I was on the outside looking in. It was so surreal to actually lay eyes on and know the person that brought me into this world!

Melanie with her adoptive mother and cousin Linda

Even though it has only been a couple of months into the reunion I have a peace unlike I have ever known before.  My friends and family even say I am a completely different person now. I no longer live in a world where I constantly wonder and question everyone and everything around me. I recently read a book that stated..."We tend to prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty". I believe that this is such truth since no one can process the unknown. Knowing the truth gives me the ability to work through the hurt and a lifetime of feeling abandoned. Things are not always 100% rosy and perfect in reunion; working through all the relationships will take time, but I am blessed that so many in my birth family have accepted me and taken me into their lives without question. DNA testing and a cousin named Linda gave me the ultimate gift! 

The best answer for adoptees is for laws to be changed giving adoptees access to their original birth certificates. It is a blatant denial of civil rights. But in the meantime DNA testing has given hope to adoptees and circumvents outdated legislation. 

[*Note on Non-ID: Had Melanie's maternal grandfather lived in Louisiana there would have been a chance to locate him via newspapers & obituaries. However, because Mississippi doesn't have their records online, the paper trail search ended when every Louisiana source was exhausted. Melanie also searched for her maternal grandmother in the same way since, according to her non-ID, she was killed in an auto accident in 1967. It turned out that this was all true and, because of these tragic events, Linda knew to which family Melanie belonged.]

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Cousin Godmother": Genealogist Bernice Bennett Helps Adoptee Connect with Birth Family through 4th Cousin Match at 23andMe

"Our 23andMe Story - Helping My Newly Discovered Cousin Find Her Birth Family!" by Bernice Alexander Bennett of BlogTalkRadio  

She waited 36 years and now she has found her birth family.
This beautiful young woman, a year younger than my son, was searching for her birth parents. Given up for adoption as an infant, she had loving parents to nurture and support her. She had Cystic Fibrosis, the only known genetic link to her birth parents and did not know who they were.

Beth Davis
Beth Davis discovers her birth family!
She began searching for her birth parents at the age of 18 because her adoption was a closed adoption. Her search did produce two surnames and basic information. She knew that she had a Louisiana connection.

Three months ago after taking the
23andMe autosomal DNA test she had a list of new cousins. Her DNA results showed that she was at the 4th Cousin level with me.

I sent her an invitation asking her to share her genome and her name. After accepting my invitation, she informed me that she was adopted and was searching for her birth parents. I wanted to help her and felt that I could.

One of her surnames was Sheppard. I immediately matched her genome to my 4th cousin and she showed up as her 2nd cousin.

I decided that it was time to get on the phone to tell my 4th cousin about her 2nd cousin. I simply said we have a cousin who is looking for her father. She is matching you at the 2nd cousin level and only a few 1st cousins are out there who could be the father. “Can you make this happen”?

My 4th cousin then contacted one of her first cousins to inform him of the situation. I stepped out of the picture to allow them to talk to this young lady. Her uncle called her and she told him everything she knew about herself and possible parents.

Her uncle kept me updated and later informed me that he had confirmed that the father was his brother.

I prayed every single day that the connection would be made and it was!

The physical connection has now been made between the birth father and daughter.
She knows what he looks like, his habits, their similarities and differences. She knows about her birth mother, grandparents, great grandparents, cousins, uncles, and half siblings, yes siblings. Compassion to help, knowledge of a loving family, our genealogy and 23andMe made it possible for one adoptee to find her birth family. I think that I will call myself "Cousin Godmother"!

Professional Genealogist Bernice Bennett, "Cousin Godmother"

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Adoptee Finds Her Birth Sister at 23andMe Through a First Cousin Match

Greta had searched for decades for her birth mother, Carolyn Palmer, without success. She had all but given up on finding her birth family when she joined 23andMe, but her dreams were realized when her DNA matched her to a maternal first cousin, Laura Oliver. Through that match, she learned that, sadly, her birth mother had died only months earlier, but that she had a living sister who was looking for her too.

I was aware of this reunion, but was unsure as to whether it would be made public, so I was happy to see that 23andMe published a story about it earlier today. Since there are many of these success stories thanks to DNA now, but most of them stay private, I wanted to quickly get this out to my readers.

Don't give up, adoptees...there is hope through DNA!