It is a very exciting time in the world of family research (aka genealogy) and DNA testing. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Ancestry sold over 1.7 million AncestryDNA tests. Of course, this will mean longer processing times as these kits start rolling in to the lab, but the wait is worth it. With Ancestry’s current database of over 6 million testers, this is by far the largest database available for those seeking to use DNA to confirm family relationships, knock down research brick walls, or find biological family.
I was contacted by Lisa in early November. She was looking for help to analyze her DNA matches, build her family tree, and identify her birth parents. As with many adoptees, she had no information about her birth family and no medical history.
She and fellow adoptee Daphne already had a good start but they needed someone who could devote more time to the search. Within a few days, we were able to separate a good number of maternal and paternal matches. The biggest challenge we faced was that Lisa’s non-ID records indicated that her birth mother had also been adopted.
We had been invited to do an interview for ABC affiliate WEAR TV in Pensacola and were eager to share how DNA can be used to search for biological family.
Through continued research, we were able to make contact with potential relatives on Facebook who put us in contact with the daughter of a woman who seemed to match the non-ID profile for Lisa’s birth mother. The family was able to confirm that the woman we wanted to contact had indeed been adopted (by a relative) and could be Lisa’s birth mother.
Yesterday, we met with Lisa’s potential half sister and a likely 2nd cousin. It was a fun afternoon listening to family stories and getting to know her new relatives. Both ladies provided samples for AncestryDNA tests which were dropped in the mail that afternoon. While we wait for the results of those tests to confirm her maternal family, we continue to attempt to make contact with her paternal family in California.
When I first started researching my family history, one thing my mom stressed was that it was a family history not just my history. The story of my grandparents lives didn’t just belong to me. Their story was important to my brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as to my grandparents’ siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and so on. Each of us individually may have a piece of their history (a story, photo, heirloom) that other family members do not have. When we all share what we each have or know, we ensure that the next generations do not miss out.
My mom told me about all of the extended family who had shared their research with her in order to grow the branches and roots of our family tree. Over the past 40+ years of combined research, we have spent thousands of hours conducting research to document our ancestors and their descendants and thousands of dollars paying for subscriptions and DNA tests. Even with all that we have personally done ourselves, it look a collaboration with other relatives to bring together a more complete family history.
Crista Cowan’s video It’s Family History NOT Personal History really sums up all that my mom taught me. When someone contacts you about a possible family connection, please think about how what you have done can help another person learn about their family history.
The holiday card below was nearly lost to my family. I received it in a box of “misc stuff” after my grandmother Helene Marie Gow (nee Rude) passed away. When her mother Olaug Therese Rude (nee Fladaas) died in 1923, the two youngest daughters were given up for adoption. For several years the 4 Rude sisters were able to stay in touch, but they eventually lost touch with Martha (photo on the right). Finding this “lost” photo was a gem as most family members had never seen it. She was not just my great aunt Martha. I did not want her to be forgotten. It has now been shared with all of Martha’s nieces and nephews and their children.
I am excited to announce that I will be doing a presentation about the use of DNA in family research at the West Florida Genealogical Society on Saturday, January 6. With sale of over 1.7 million AncestryDNA kits during the 4-day Thanksgiving weekend, we will be seeing a major increase in the number of DNA matches. Now is the time to learn how to make the best use of the new matches that will be coming.
I look forward to sharing the benefits of DNA testing.