Sunday, March 18, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 11 - Luck

Genetics and Genealogy

I’ve never been especially lucky but this quest began with only one name and a lucky guess.

My son-in-law was adopted and seeking health information he so did a DNA test at 23andMe in 2012. The test did reveal some things he needed to be aware of but nothing shocking. He wasn’t really looking for family then, just the background health information so we did nothing about matches.

About the same time my son-in-law’s state of birth opened their adoption records and adoptees could order a copy of their original birth certificate. He ordered his birth certificate but when the certificate came, there was very little information on it. His birth mother’s name and age were there along with her address. For his father there was only an age.

With that information I began searching for her on I entered her name and year of birth into ancestry along with the state and county where she lived.

She was too young to appear in the 1940 census and I had absolutely no idea who her parents were. Someone with her name did appear in high school yearbooks in the area. As I looked at the yearbooks, I noticed that there were two other students with the same surname in the school. Here is where the guess comes in: I decided they were her siblings! Now I had three names to research.

Since I had two sisters and a brother and women often change their names when they marry, I decided to look for the brother. Unfortunately, he was deceased and apparently never married although he had served in the military. Because he was deceased, he did appear in a family tree on There was the tree showing the brother with birth and death information and two pink living icons telling me he had two living sisters. I also found the names of his parents. Now to prove that this was the right family!

Using traditional genealogy methods, I built a tree for this family with sources. When I found his mother’s obituary, I knew I was on the right track since his sisters were both mentioned with children and spouses.

In 2016, my son-in-law took a DNA test at and we began checking on the matches for both tests. The matches that we that responded to our requests seemed to be a high number of adoptees but I kept developing the tree anyway.

We have uploaded DNA results to ftDNA, Gedmatch, and MyHeritage in addition to the tests at and 23andMe. Working with the DNA matches provided by the companies involved, I can confirm that the tree I developed for my son-in-law is indeed, his correct biological line. On his maternal line there are shared matches with some third and fourth cousins and he also shares a genetic circle with those matches on his mother’s line.

One of the shared matches turned out to be a half sister on his biological father’s line. A shared match between them is actually a first cousin once removed. We now have both a paper trail and a genetic trail to my son-in-law’s heritage. His maternal tree goes back to 1793 in England and the 1830’s in Germany. There are other matches that are still to be explored as we widen the family tree.

It was really lucky I played that hunch about those three names in a high school yearbook.