Betty Jeans Adoption Search – The DNA

Betty Jean had her DNA tested with 23andMe in an attempt to find out if she had any medical issues which she may have passed along to her children. Along with her health test, she was also was in 23andMe’s Genetic pool of genes. Having her genes in DNA gene Pools will help us in her adoption search.


On first look, Betty Jean’s information included some fairly close cousin’s. The closest was a predicted 2nd cousin sharing 1.76% of their DNA. There were 12, 2nd to fourth cousin matches. I sent notes to all of them via 23andMe’s internal messaging system.

I also took some time to look to see if there were any common surnames in these matches. There were – Brotherton and Howard. At the time 23andMe had no DNA analytical tools, so I immediately downloaded Betty Jean’s raw DNA Data file (to download a DNA Data File from 23andMe see this help information) and uploaded it to GEDmatch (you must register for GEDmatch to be able to upload) via the Generic Upload Fast New, Beta.

NOTE: 23andMe has recently added DNA analysis tools which lets it’s users do chromosome mapping and comparisons to other matches. This is great news for anyone who has their DNA tested with 23andMe. It does not preclude a tester from uploading data to GEDmatch, because a tester would want to have their DNA in GEDmatch’s large Gene pool along with people (anyone who uploaded their raw data to GEDmatch) from all the testing companies.

Betty Jean’s GEDmatch Matches

After uploading Betty Jean’s Raw data file from 23andMe we found Betty Jean’s genes swimming in the pool with many of her close cousins – the big one was a 1st cousin once removed at 342.8 total cM.

GEDmatch Matches
Betty Jean’s top GEDmatch matches.

What do we know from this list? Not much for this search since we don’t have any family line we can identify in the matches at face value, without being able to correlate the information with her matches family trees. GEDmatch does have a GEDCOM upload function, but not many of Betty Jean’s matches had their family trees on GEDmatch.

Gathering Family Trees

Again, using the emails for the matches on GEDMatch I sent emails explaining that Betty Jean Matched them and asking if they have family tree’s online or available for access in some other way. I also contacted Jane to discuss the matches. Jane and I spent a bit of time exchanging emails and connecting the dots of Betty Jean’s matches to Jane’s tree.

Remember the 20 foot tree I printed of Jane’s Ancestry Tree? At first I started trying to jump around that monster to mark where the matches landed in the tree. It was cumbersome and frustrating and I had to come up with a better way to be able to see ALL of it at once, and…

There was one more thing about Jane’s tree that needed some space to work-out. It seemed from a quick scan that the Howard and Brotherton lines, as well as other lines that married into them, were a product of Endogamy.

Endogemy Defintition
Google Search

Endogamy is not uncommon in the US colonies as our social spheres were limited by small communities and vast distance between them. This occurred in Appalachia to an extent that one often hears jokes about “my cousin is my wife”. Jokes aside, the area of North Carolina where the Howard’s and Brotherton’s lived is on the outside edge of Appalachia.

Why should Endogamy be something we need to look into carefully and closely? Simply put, it skews the numbers. If cousins marry, then the DNA mix is a mix from one family rather than two. So there is a double infusion of Genes.

My Map of Betty Jean’s Family

It started with one single 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. In the middle of that first sheet of the paper I wrote a list of Betty Jean’s top matches, the 12 Jane had in her tree and a few more. Then I started adding lines back. Creating pedigree charts from the DNA matches for each of the family lines identified by the DNA and Jane’s tree. As I went I added more blank sheets to fill in as I added family. At this point the Howard’s and Brotherton’s were extending to the right, radially from the DNA matches circle in the middle. I added papers to the map so that it was 3 sheets long and 3 sheets wide. Thankfully Jane’s tree was now easy to see, even with all the complicated connections within the Howard and Brotherton families.

For each person added to my map, I added or connected them to WikiTree to create Betty Jeans birth/mirror tree. It was a great help having WikiTree’s relationship tools at the ready to help me define how these people might be connected to Betty Jean. It also helped me when trying to decipher Jane’s voluminous emails on family connections.


Got an “Oh Wow” Today!

Nothing earth shattering, but wanted to share my selfish pleasure today. I went for an “Oh Wow” and got it. At first innocently, then when I realized that an “Oh Wow” was imminent, well, I went full out to make sure it happened!

I am helping my friend Ted with his family mystery. To find the answers, I am reviewing his new auDNA results and contacting individuals to see if they might help with the family mystery. Sent out 20 or so emails on Friday and have not heard a peep.

in a day or so I had a gentleman contact me about Ted’s match to him. Great!

I helped Ron (Ted’s match) get his DNA data downloaded from FTDNA and uploaded into GEDmatch. Ron’s expectations were, well, not high? After running a specific analysis for him on GEDmatch while on the phone his interest was piqued. There was something in the way he spoke that made me think he had no idea that my description of GEDmatch would be exactly what I said, he would have many more matches there.

Still, sitting with him on the phone – live – yes Genetic Genealogists do things with live people – I had him plug his GEDmatch number into a one-to-many matches and waited.

He said, “Oh WOW” and made my day! Literally, OH WOW!


Betty Jeans Adoption Search – Connecting Birth and Adopted Limbs To The World Tree

How can one person have two limbs connected to the world tree – WikiTree? The whole idea of a World Tree is one profile per person on the tree. Well, Betty Jean has her birth family and she has her adopted family. To connect her to only one line, her biological line, seems right because genetically this is the family she is related to. But we also shouldn’t discount her adopted family.

Adoptees have two totally different, viable, family lines.

A WikiTreer (a member of WikiTree) asked this very question in the Genealogist to Genealogist forum (G2G):

“I’ve got a question regarding the profile(s) you’ve created for Betty Jean to see if I understand correctly how you’re using WikiTree. Did you create two different profiles, one connected to her adoptive family and one that was wholly unconnected as you didn’t know anything about her birth family?

If that is the process you use:

  • Will you eventually merge the two profiles?
  • How will you decide which set of parents to leave her attached to?

I ask because I have an adoptee for whom we know all four parents (adopted and birth). I’m looking for options / best practices on ways to handle the adoptive vs birth parents links.

My Answer:

  • “Yes I added a profile for her adopted self and connected her to her adoptive family.
  • Yes I created a birth profile.
  • I have been adding individuals to WikiTree that are in Betty Jeans birth family and will connect her to them once the last DNA test proves which of the three men in my cross hairs is her father and which of the singular woman in my cross hairs is her mother..
  • I will not merge her two profiles. She has two completely different Genealogies. One which is her adopted genealogy and one which is her BIO or DNA connected Genealogy.

Connecting her two selves to her two different genealogies works out the best because they are both real, viable, family lines. Since I have been working my way back to her through the research we have done, I have created a mirror tree for her birth family that is just itching to have her twig connect.”

What is a Mirror Tree

Simply put, we are going to find people that Betty Jean matches via DNA and add them to WikiTree, or find them if they are already there, and work to make connections between these matches and the end of our search – Betty Jean.  This is where the whole one profile per person comes into play. We won’t spend time scouring many, many duplicate lineages looking for connections; we only have to find one line.

The tree will be worked in bits and pieces as we find DNA matches and Triangulated DNA matches with identifiable common ancestors. As we find or add these common ancestors we will work our way from the distant past to now. The goal? To ultimately find the right people in the right place at the right time – Asheville, NC, in 1926-1927.

Jane’s Ancestry Tree

When I connected with Jane (Jane Howard Schenck, one of Betty Jean’s DNA matches and Genealogist) Jane’s first words were, “it has to be the Howard’s.” Jane quickly invited me to view her family tree on Ancestry. Viewing Jane’s Tree on Ancestry was like trying to see a map of the US using a mono scope from two feet away. My excitement at finding a Tree to connect Betty Jean to was immediately overwhelmed by the scope and size of Jane’s tree…all 20 feet of it.
janestreeDeciphering all the intricacies of Jane’s well sourced/documented Ancestry tree was going to be one huge undertaking. To be able to use WikiTree’s Connecting abilities, DNA Tools, Relationship Finder Tools and RootsSearch integration tools I needed to be able to use Jane’s Tree in WikiTree. I started adding Betty Jean’s top DNA matches to WikiTree based on Jane’s research.


“WikiTree is on the brink of releasing a new tool which will do the work that I labored over for months, in the blink of a proverbial eye.

The WikiTree X Chrome extension… can create WikiTree profiles from the huge tree(s) shared [with us] in a super, super-easy way…” Chris Whitten, WikiTreer-In-Chief

Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – Begin At The End

Betty Jean’s Adoption Search

Begin at the end? Well yes. To find Betty Jeans birth family we have to start with her. Since she is the descendant of her parents – we have to start with her. Since there is nothing in her adoption file – we have to start with her. Since technology has progressed to a point where we can scour the world’s birth, death, marriage, newspaper, city directory and family tree records with ease and ultimately submit DNA tests – we have to start with Betty Jean. She is the end, the end result of her mother and father, the people we want to find.

The Genealogy

Betty Jean has no Genealogy, or does she? Of course she does, it just doesn’t connect to her… yet.

March 1, 2016 – The first step in working her Genealogy was to go to WikiTree and connect her to what I had already input for our shared/her adopted family by creating her adopted profile. Then I created her birth profile. WikiTree is the program I use for all of my genealogy, including clients. WikiTree’s collaborative, connective mindset paired with its tools for DNA makes it ideal.


Later in the month, on March 23, Betty Jean gave me her 23andMe information. Yes, Betty Jean had already done a 23andMe test. She had done it because, like so many other adoptees, she wanted to find medical information she could share with her children regarding any inherited medical issues. As for using DNA to find her birth family? She may have thought about DNA connections at the time, though it wasn’t at the top of her list.

She had been contacted through 23andMe’s internal messaging by a few people who found they shared DNA with her. But she didn’t know what to do with it as she had no idea who she was. She couldn’t share any family information nor identify from the messages, any names which belonged to her.

Answering all the 23andMe messages, I explained who I was and what I was doing.  I also looked through her matches, and found something very interesting right off the bat – a first cousin, once removed. I frantically sent this match a note stating that she was Betty Jean’s highest match her closest know living relative. Boda Boom Bada Bing it’s done! Just grab this cousins family information and genealogy and that’s it. Wow how easy was that?

It was not that easy

This new first cousin once removed is adopted too. No quick and easy answers.

March 28, 2016 – I sent 26 emails to Betty Jean’s 23andMe DNA matches. While I waited for responses (two were immediate) I added her 23andMe test information to her WikiTree birth profile. Then I downloaded her raw DNA data from 23andMe and uploaded it to GEDmatch. “GEDMatch is a free service that helps you find even more relatives than 23andme’s relative finder. That’s because it also matches you with people who have uploaded their data from another genetics service called FtDNA (Family Tree DNA).” Google Search GEDmatch also accepts raw data from the other major genetic genealogy testing companies.

CeCe Moore uses the pond analogy to explain why you should upload your data to as many sites as you can, to test with as many companies as you can. The more ponds your genes are floating around in, the more likely you will find matches. GEDmatch is a big pond with user uploaded Genes from all the testing companies floating in it.

I sent 35 emails to Betty Jeans top GEDmatch matches. It goes without saying that every time I did anything with Betty Jean’s information, I asked her permission. With all the emails sent, I got many good responses. But I also hit the mother load of Genetic Genealogy Research. Another Genealogist who had already been working with Betty Jeans’s other adoptee match, her first cousin once removed. The match I mentioned above. Another Bada Bing Bada Boom and we are done right? Well, no.

A Huge Step In The Right Direction

A huge step in the right direction, but the answers will have to be teased from the information this other researcher, this other adoptee searcher, has been compiling. One other HUGE thing about this other researcher? Jane Howard Schenck is ALSO a DNA match to Betty Jean. This means that Jane has incredible knowledge about Betty Jean’s birth family not just from data and research, she has a memory of many of the people involved.

On March 28, 2016 I began a collaboration with Jane which would propel us toward finding Betty Jean’s birth family. I love collaboration!

Bada Boom Bada Bing!

Betty Jean’s Adoption Search

Betty Jean and The Search for Her Birth Family

Betty Jean is my Dad’s first cousin. I have never met Betty that I remember. So we are not close – I had to explain to her who I was when I first called, “Earle, your cousin Earle’s youngest daughter.”

I had been told she might be in possession of some family papers or information. She sent my dad information a few years ago that she has compiled on all of my cousins and a bit on our family back a generation or two. She also has information on our McElmoyle’s (one tiny piece of paper on this line would be an avalanche compared to what I have already found). As soon as I told her why I was calling she said, “You know I am adopted” and I answered yes I did.

What did telling me she was adopted have to do with what her parents had left her – the family papers?

We continued talking about the papers and other information, “Have I told you about how we are related to Francis Scott Key?”, about our shared family over a few phone calls from January to March. At some point the conversation turned back to her adoption and she talked to me about her search for her birth family. How, when she and her late husband had gone to Asheville, NC to look into getting a copy of her files she was told, that she wouldn’t be able get her files because there was nothing in her file. Nothing – in – her – file.

And so started and ended her search for her birth family.

Betty Jean was probably born in Asheville, NC on or about November 5, 1927. She was probably abandoned by one or both of her parents somewhere in the city and ended up as a ward of the state of NC in the care of a Catholic Hospital in Asheville, NC.

The information about the Catholic hospital comes from Betty Jean’s adoptive mother. Betty Jean clearly remembers a conversation where her adoptive mother told her that she and her adoptive father picked her up from a Catholic hospital, in Asheville, and that the sister who handed Betty to them told her that Betty’s birth mother had black hair.

The Hospital?

St. Joseph’s Hospital was the only Catholic Hospital in  Asheville, NC in 1927. Run by the Sisters of Mercy. “St. Joseph’s Sanitarium stands out because it was a religiously affiliated facility, operated by a small group of Catholic sisters, in an area where Catholicism was not the predominant religion. St. Joseph’s Sanitarium continued to operate and grow, despite community opposition, until the late 1930s.” Treatment with a Habit: Asheville, Truberculosis and The Sisters of Mercy. The Universtiy of North Carolina at Asheville, A Senior Theses submitted to the department of History in Candidacy For The Degree of Bachelor Arts, by Carol Fronkowiak Jordan, Asheville, North Carolina, November 2004.

St.Josephs was one of many Sanitarium’s for Tuberculosis which sprung up in the fresh clean air of the North Carolina mountains in the last part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. My question was why on earth, how on earth would a TB hospital take in a healthy baby? The Sisters of Mercy still operate facilities in NC, so I called and asked them about it. The answer from Sister Maria was, “I have no doubt” that the sisters would have taken a baby in and to their own homes to care for it until suitable parents could be found. Sister Maria has been a part of the Sisters of Mercy for a very long time – she herself is 87.

Suitable Parentsmooreindentureprivate

She was officially placed by the court with a family on January 20, 1928 for a period (“indentured to”) prior to the couple being approved for adoption. Betty X’s hopeful new mother, Ethel, wrote to her folks about her new bottle baby who had black hair and blue eyes, telling them that they had picked-her-up on Tuesday. Betty X’s Adoption was finalized on September 5, 1928. After the Buncombe County Juvenile Court Clerk, Ruth Arp, brought her forward to the court. Judge Carl B. Hyatt stated that the child, Betty X, #6437ret, appeared to be 1 year of age.

That is it – all Betty Jean has ever known about her birth and adoption.

In March of this year, without hesitation, I did what I always do, I jumped in with both feet. I told her that was one of the things I, we, my business, Grandma’s Genes, does. I, we, Grandma’s Genes help birth families find each other using DNA and Genealogy. She agreed to let me help her.

A DNA test or five and 8 months later I am ready to tell her how we did what we did and how we figured out who her birth family is. I know, the TV shows make it look like these things happen over night, but for this 90 year old (this week) Adoptee the answers are long overdue.

Genetic Genealogy Discoveries

The past seven or so days have been full of discoveries.

Discovery One

This one isn’t a big one, but it is certainly a good one. Rick’s sister contacted me to try and find out to which of the five Campbell Clans her particular Campbell’s might belong. Since Rick is the only male line descendant in her family Rick agreed to test. His results are in and he is very Scottish, according the Campbell DNA Project Administrator who sent me a good bit of information on the Campbell DNA Project and even more information on Rick’s possible matches (2 at a distance of 1 on 37). I also ran across a Campbell DNA project results paper (The Campbell DNA Project – An Update by Kevin Campbell) that he did in the projects infancy which gives information on speculative connections to “a common ancestor in Sir Gillespic Cambel of Lochawe who lived circa. 1350.” I have an email in to him to see if there is a similar update to this paper that is more current. Needless to say I am very impressed with the Campbell DNA Project Admin.

Discovery Two

A client who’s family history claimed to be unconnected to a possible US Slave or Freedman received his results. His request was that we look for his real last name – the last name of the Caucasian boy orphaned and raised by this Freedman. He did a Y-DNA 111 and the results show he is Haplogroup E-M2 which is of African origin. Certainly not what the family lore has said for generations. As to the last name? This is something still in the works. If he is indeed the son of the Freedman, then the last name is problematic. We might know what the Freedman called himself while he lived as a Freedman.  But a US Slave often took the name of his Master. Even when sold to a new master the Slave might take the name of the new Master. There are no cut and dried rules to follow on names used by Slaves. When you get right down to it though, the real last name of the family would be found somewhere in West Africa. Where to go from here? That would be up to the client.

Discovery Three

We have been working with a client since last January. She is my adoptive cousin. I called her wanting to find out what information she might have on our family. As soon as I told her what I was calling about she said, “You know I am adopted” and I answered yes I did. We continued talking about the papers she has and other information about our shared family over a few phone calls. At some point she talked to me about her search for her birth family. How, when she and her late husband had gone to Asheville, NC to look into getting a copy of her files she was told, that she wouldn’t be able to because there was nothing in her file.

I told her that that was one of the things I do, I search for adoptees birth families and that I did it using DNA and traditional genealogy. I explained how DNA could help her and she agreed to take a test. The whole story is for another series of blog postings, but in the 11 months of searching and researching and testing probable cousins we have found her last name – Cashion. The Discovery? We have found her first cousin and with this knowledge another possible very close relative who sent his DNA off to FamilyTree DNA on Monday. A first cousin? A brother? A half nephew? We should know in six weeks or so. I know, the TV shows make it look like these things happen over night, but for this 90 year old Adoptee the answers are long overdue.

Now I need to bake a blueberry pie to celebrate all these great discoveries!