DNA testing results have, for me, always been something of a mixed bag. In most cases it does a fantastic job of confirming relationships that I have been pretty certain existed. For example, it confirmed that my half-sister, who was put up for adoption, is my half-sister. It also can provide for leads in other lines. For example, when a first cousin popped up on my completely unknown paternal line, it provided the clues as to who my biological father was. I am still confirming that line and I expect a definitive answer in a few weeks.
My feelings of being “Stuck in the Mud”
Front Street, Dawson City, Yukon, 1898
[Public Domain] via Wikipedia Commons
DNA test results have also led me down some dead ends. Researching the results that say “second to fourth cousin” are time-consuming when you don’t have a tree that names a common ancestor. I’ve spent a lot of time stuck on muddy roads looking for the gold that the DNA map indicated was there.
On rare occasions, a DNA match completely changes everything. I originally had my wife test her autosomal DNA looking for clues regarding her paternal line. I traced her paternal line to her 2nd great-grandparents but ran into several brick walls beyond that. I didn’t find anything that got me on the right track. I didn’t look her results for several months until I revisited them this week.
Oh, my. Someone new showed up on the list as “Close Family” – Possibly a first cousin. I thought, “Interesting, I wonder who this is.” The name on the matching account, “Birdsong….” wasn’t an actual name, so I was a bit confused. Ancestry DNA doesn’t let you see the actual matches but, if you click on the individual’s name then click on the little info logo, it will show you the amount of shared DNA. I clicked on it and was startled. It said 1,702 centimorgans shared across 54 DNA segments. Wow. That is the range of an aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, grandchild, or half-sibling. I wondered which of the nieces had their DNA tested. I sent “Birdsong…”, my standard inquiring message via Ancestry Messaging saying that said that she and my wife shared DNA and I was interested in exploring the potential relationship.
I took a break from the computer; I try to take a break every hour or so, and told my wife about my exciting new find. She, who doesn’t do genealogy, much less genetic genealogy, heard me say, “Wawh, wawh, wawh, wawh, DNA, wawh, wawh, wawh, niece, wawh wawh.” It didn’t sink in just how profound a match of over 1700 centimorgans can be.
My wife went back to her atelier and her painting and I went back to my office and my research. I noted that the individual didn’t match with my mother-in-law, so it had to be a match on my wife’s father’s side. Then looked at Birdsong’s family tree on Ancestry. nothing made sense to me. None of the surnames matched my wife’s surnames. Of course, Birdsong’s information was private so I couldn’t get any more information, but I did see information about her mother. I searched the internet and found an obituary. It provided the names of this woman’s children and that included the name for “Birdsong” – Robin. I also knew her father’s name from the obituary so I searched for Robin K____ using her mother and father’s names and found her birth information; she was born in 1947 in Washington DC. Interesting. I knew that my wife’s father lived in Washington DC in the 1940s.
Robin had two siblings, both older and both passed now. I though, oh my, it doesn’t look like an aunt or a niece, could this be a half-sister? Very interesting.
I jotted down the names, dates, and places and then chatted with my wife about my findings. She is so good about listening to me when I find something interesting and is exciting to me. I was telling her about my findings and she said, “Who?” then snatched the notes out of my hand. Apparently, I was mispronouncing the surname. She immediately recognized the names. looked at my notes, saw Robin’s name and her parents’ names and her jaw dropped. She knew the people from when she was a child. “OMG – I know this family.”
My wife was just plain gobsmacked — a half-sister, totally unknown before this. Her mind was totally blown, so blown she could be in a commercial for Jet.Com. It was fun to watch her wander around the house saying, “Wow.”
There is a saying in genetic genealogy, “you should never take a DNA test unless you are sure you want to discover the truth.” There is wisdom in that. In this case, the truth iss there is a half-sister that my wife, her mother, and her siblings knew nothing about. Genetic genealogy can be really fun.
[Note: I anticipate Part 2 of this article to be about my finding my half-sister after searching for nearly 50 years. I am still awaiting DNA confirmation.]