Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – “I’ve got a secret”

Betty Jean’s Adoption search is moving right along. It’s an interesting thing, this kind of search because someone has to have a secret. A secret that they told no one, ever, if you are the father. If you are the mother? It’s a secret you probably had to tell someone at some point. I can imagine the fear of the disapproval and anger that might be foisted upon on unwed mother or father of the 1920’s deep south.

Betty X’s Abandonement

Betty Jean was left somewhere in or near Asheville, North Carolina. When her foster parents picked-her up, it was from, according to them, a Catholic hospital. When the Sister gave Betty Jean to them, she described Betty Jean’s mother as having blue eyes and black hair. Whoever left her, father, mother, grandparent, uncle, or aunt, didn’t leave any information with the Sister(s). All of her adoption files were empty. Blank. Nothing in them, period.

The Living Cousin

We found a living cousin, Jane and I, using Traditional Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy and a bit of Forensic Genealogy – from Dick Eastman’s Blog: “The word ‘forensic’ means ‘relating to the use of science or technology in the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence.” In this case, forensic would mean to use science or technology in addition to traditional records. In short, Forensic Genealogy is the use of something OTHER THAN standard records to add to your family history’.”

We had hoped that she might be Betty Jean’s real, live sister but she wasn’t. She was a real, live first cousin instead. A first cousin who had gotten me in touch with her real, live first cousin, Ike. As soon as her test came back as a cousin and not a sister I called Ike immediately. He was the possible clue to Betty Jean’s Adoption. I told him the test for his cousin was just that, a DNA test result showing her to be the first cousin of Betty Jean as well.

The Next DNA Test

Ike was more than happy, almost excited, to find the answer to this mystery. I ordered his test from FTDNA and we waited again for five or so weeks. Weeks of waiting to solve this 90 year adoption mystery. To reveal this secret.

The Secret Revealed? Well, Partially

We checked for the results nearly daily when four weeks had past. We checked so much that we knew the results were in before FTDNA had a chance to send the notification. At this early stage the results weren’t complete but still filtering through FTDNA’s system. Nail biting and grinding of teeth ensued. Finally they were complete and…

Glenn Cashion is Betty Jean’s Father

Glenn Cashion. He lived in Asheville in 1926/7 and his son Ike matches Betty Jean as a half sibling. Betty Jean looks like her father in so many ways it’s almost uncanny. Would they have recognized each other if they had met on the street? Would Glenn have acknowledged his resemblance in a strangers face?

Glenn Cashion PhotoHow did it happen? How did Betty Jean come about? We have no idea. It was a secret he kept to his death.

When Glenn married and started a family of his own, he named his first Child Betty. Betty Glenn Cashion was named for his grandmother, Emily Elizabeth “Betty” Asbury. Looking at this while we were searching, I always though it interesting that Glenn had named his first daughter Betty, when he might have been our Betty Jean’s father as well. I thought that this was a clue to the fact that he might be Betty X’s father. Instinct vs. fact is sometimes very interesting.

Glenn is…

“My Dad is a winner. He was the gem of the family. Glenn was giving and worked hard for Shriner’s charities, helped family with money when they needed it, even when they didn’t ask. He took care of family – he was a nice man.” – Ike Cashion

Ike didn’t say this to make the secret of Betty Jean right. It was not said in defense of whatever actions his father took in 1926/7, it was said just as a matter of fact. Glenn Cashion was a good guy.

Onward to work and research deeper and to find Betty Jean’s Mother…

Jane's Desk
Genealogical Researcher Jane’s desk.



Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – Connecting the Cousin Dots

Betty Jean’s birth family is slowly revealing itself through her DNA cousins. All I have to do now, with Jane’s help, is connect the numbers and the names and the cousins to each other and to Betty. I have to connect the Cousin Dots to end Betty Jean’s adoption search.

Pat, Betty Jean’s Adopted First Cousin Once Removed

We knew Pat’s (Betty Jean’s first cousin once removed) birth father. We also knew from the DNA numbers that Pat and Betty Jean most probably shared a MCRA (Most Common Recent Ancestor) at 2.7 generations from the estimates on GEDmatch.

This is a list of Betty Jean’s top matches, Betty Jean’s DNA Cousins:
Pat @ 342.8cM with a MCRA 2.7 generations from Betty Jean – Surname connection toBrotherton
B. @ 213.8cM – Surname connection to Howard
C. @ 147.6cM – Surname connection to Brotherton
J. @ 213.8cM – Surname connection to Brotherton
T. @ 111.3cM – Surname connection to Brotherton
J.  @ 93.7cM – Surname connection to Brotherton
T. @ 87.3cM – Surname connection to Brotherton
S. @ 85.5cM – Somehow connected to Howard/Brotherton
D. @ 77.2cM – Surname connection to Howard
C. @ 65.1cM – Surname connection to Howard
J. @ 65cM – Unknown Connection
S. @ 63.5cM – Surname connection to McConnell (Howard)
T. @ 57.9cM – Surname connection to Brotherton

Pat’s father was Phillip Alexander Brotherton, b. May 23, 1923 in Catawba County, North Carolina. Phillip Alexander’s Father was Seba Ivey Brotherton, b. August 11, 1880 who was married to Annie Cashion Brotherton.

The Connection

I had already worked through the Howard’s and Brotherton’s and had added Annie Cashion to her Brotherton husband on WikiTree, but I/we didn’t have a DNA match to the last name Cashion. Jane immediately contacted a Cashion cousin and friend and got her to test. Another Bingo moment…

J. @ 274.6cM with a MCRA 2.9 generations from Betty Jean – Surname connection to Cashion

I worked J.’s connection back to Annie Cashion and worked Annie’s family, filling in WikiTree and my huge DNA/Pedigree Chart down to J. The Common Connection? The Family of James Henry Cashion and Frances Little

Annie Cashion Brotherton’s brother, Charles Cleveland Cashion, b. 1884, from Catawba Springs, NC., was J.’s grandfather.

G. @32.7cM with a MCRA 4.4 generations from Betty Jean – Surname connection to Little & McConnell

Seems this family might be VERY connected to Betty Jean and the clue to her adoption.

The James Henry and Frances Little Cashion Family

James and Frances had 9 children. All these children in one way or another had connections back to the Howard’s or Brotherton’s. AND their mother, Frances Little had connections back to the Howard’s through her sister, Obedience who married a Barkley who’s mother married a Howard and… there were many, many overlapping connections.

William, b. abt. 1867 m. Julia Signora Brotherton
Junius, b. abt 1868 m. Carrie Salone McCall
Samuel, b. abt. 1871 m. Mary Lee Kelly
Nannie, b. abt. 1875 m. Sidney Allen Brotherton
Minnie, b. abt 1877 m. Jesse H. White
Annie, b. abt 1881 m. Seba Ivey Brotherton
Nora, b. abt 1882 m. Johnson Howard
Charles Cleveland, b. abt 1884 m. Lula Howard m. Lettie Maretta Little m. Julia Pippen
James Hua, b. abt 1885 m.

And who is it in this family who looks like they might have a few more connections than the others? Charles Cleveland Cashion, J.’s Grandfather and Pat’s Great Uncle.

Back to the Adoption in Asheville, North Carolina

We know that Betty Jean’s adoption took place Asheville, NC in 1928. We have been working on the assumption that she was born in Asheville or surroundings in 1927. Who in Charles Cleveland Cashion’s family might have been in Asheville NC in 1926 or 1927?

Charles Cleveland Cashion’s Children who were old enough to have had children in 1927:
James Harold, b. 1904
William Ray, b. 1905
Glenn Cashion, b. 1907
Annie Margie, b. 1909

Charles Cleveland Cashion’s Children who were in Asheville NC in 1926 or 1927?
James Harold, b. 1904
William Ray, b. 1905
Glenn Cashion, b. 1907

James Harold, the oldest was a delivery man. He was in Asheville, but not living there. Harold and Glenn are listed in City directories as living in Chatanooga, TN in 1927. William Ray and Glenn are listed as living in Asheville, NC in 1927 as well.

More DNA tests

The first descendant of these three brothers we found, who met our criteria (living) for further testing, was a daughter of William Ray. I called and talked with her and told her Betty Jean’s story and that I wanted her to take a DNA test. The conversations about the test and what it would entail was spread over two or three phone calls. She agreed and was very interested to find the answer to this adoption mystery. She also told me about a first cousin, one of Glenn’s children, that we might want to contact – Ike.

I ordered her test and had it shipped to her. The DNA company let me know it had been shipped and I waited. And waited some more. While I waited I contacted her cousin, Ike. He too was interested in doing a test, solving the adoption mystery. Since his cousins test was already ready to be sent in, I told him we would wait until we got the first test back to see if we needed to test him.

Nearly as soon as I hung-up with Ike I found out I had travel to William Ray’s daughter’s corner of the world. Once there I called her to ask if I could swing by to say hello. It’s always fun to put a face, a person to the work. Her answer? She was glad I called because she hadn’t done the test yet and had some concerns. OH NO!

DNA Tests and Privacy Concerns

When she had received the DNA test kit and looked through the paperwork she saw a slip of paper where she needed to sign a release allowing her DNA to be shared. I explained to her that sharing was a huge part of DNA testing because if she didn’t share her results then I wouldn’t be able to find matches in her results – the most important one being Betty Jean. I then explained to her how we could make her test information anonymous. She looked incredibly relieved, signed the papers and did her swab. I mailed the kit off the next day. I also took a couple pictures of her for later use if her DNA came back as a close match to Betty Jean.

The Results

The test came back 5 weeks later and…she was a very good match to Betty Jean. A solid first cousin. Even before the results had finished loading I was on the phone to Ike.

Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – All In The Family

Betty Jean’s adoption search is all in the family. She ended her Adoption search years ago with her family, her husband, by her side. There was nothing to find. Then many, many years later a cousin (me) asked if she could start the process all over again. The physical search itself is all about looking in the nooks an crannies of the Howard/Brotherton family for people living in, or being in, Asheville, NC in 1926/7. The Howard’s and Brotherton’s are the family who hold the clues that will lead to an end to Betty Jean’s adoption search – 90 years after her birth.

Her 1st Cousin Once Removed, The Other Adoptee, Pat

To tell Betty Jean’s story we have to tell a bit about Pat’s story. Pat is a generation or so younger than Betty Jean. She is, like Betty Jean, adopted and looking for her birth family. Pat got a DNA test done in the hopes of the DNA being the key to he mystery. It was/is.

Jane, the Genealogist/Adoption Researcher who is a member of the Howard and Brotherton family, was also her key. But there was another key to Pat’s search, something every adoptee wished they had.

The Letter

The letter comes from a time before the agency would offer to find birth parents. She paid them a fee to go through the microfiche records to see what non-identifying information existed. It was a weird experience for her to read that letter because of the similarities in some of the her family hobbies.

LetterSubsequent communications from the adoption agency to Pat also gave more information on the birth mother and birth father. Like occupations, religion, height and ultimately what the cause of death was for her birth father – cancer.

The Howard/Brotherton Connection

Why these two families? Because of the number of people who have done DNA testing with strong connections to these two family lines who also match Pat.

Armed with the clues in the Agency’s non-identifying communications, Jane hit the pavement running. Tracking down anyone in the Howard or Brotherton families who were in the professions listed for Pat’s birth parents. She also scoured the geographic locations.


Eventually Jane found Charlotte, NC as the common geographic denominator in the equation. She located a few Brotherton’s who matched the profession of Pat’s birth father. Then worked to determine if one of them could have crossed paths with Pat’s birth mothers profession. She interviewed people who new Pat’s possible birth fathers and anyone else who could give the answer to the questions Jane asked.

I became involved at this point and started hashing out the family connections using the DNA numbers – cM’s (measurement in DNA) of matches and generations to MCRA (most common recent ancestor) estimates, one to one comparisons, one to many comparisons, GEDcom + DNA searches, in common with, not in common with, overlapping segments, triangulation, working the patterns slowly appearing in WikiTree DNA Sanbox, all to whittle down the possible candidates. Whittle is the appropriate word because it wasn’t a BINGO moment, it was slow and deliberate process of elimination. Just like slowly morphing a piece of wood into a shape.

Janes’ work, and my bit of back-up, found the shape that is Pat’s birth father. A Brotherton.

Health and focus

For me Pat’s birth father was circled on my big DNA/Pedigree Chart (the chart I created to help me understand Jane and Pat’s and, soon to be Betty Jean’s, crazy confusing family tree). Somewhere in that tangled mess of limbs lay Betty Jean’s birth something.

At about the same time, just as Pat’s father was confirmed, Betty Jean contacted me with some worries about her health. Doctors visits and traveling for appointments were in her very near future. Betty Jean was nearly 90, and I didn’t know how serious her health issues might be, so we, Jane and I, turned the majority of our focus toward the work to find Betty Jean’s birth family.

Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – DNA, Finding Patterns

Finding the patterns in genetic genealogy research is really a fundamental thing we do when looking for the clues to our roots. Even in traditional genealogy, looking at a pedigree chart reveals patterns in geographical locations, dates and names which help our research. Looking for patterns is not new, even if we don’t realize we do it.

How do we find the patterns are we looking for? Spreadsheets?

Betty Jean’s Raw Data is file loaded to GEDmatch. If we do a One to Many matches analysis we can capture the entire results list via cut and paste, and insert it into a spreadsheet. We can grab similar results lists from most of the DNA testing or results companies. Getting all the formats similar in a spreadsheet takes some juggling and tweaking but it’s worth it. It is made easier by learning how to create things like separate first, middle, maiden and last name entries by converting text to columns and using filters to clean-up the columns. Sorting is a whiz, once you have all the information in a sortable state.

Sort your spreadsheets by Chromosome, Segment Locations and Last Name and you have a pretty clear view to the people on the sheets who share your DNA and where they share it.

Who do your Matches Belong to? What Familial Surname?

Don’t get that? Who is a matches MCRA (Most common Recent Ancestor) in common with you? Some of the files you download from the various companies give you common surnames. Well that helps, doesn’t it? Sometimes? They also show how many Generations back you might share one of those surnames (some people have 50 or more Surnames). That’s it. That is the answer!

Try adding each of those surnames to a sheet individually or using the text to columns conversion and…

Family Trees and Pedigree Charts

Aside from adding columns upon columns of surnames to your spread sheet there really isn’t any way (that I know of) to add a pedigree or family tree to a spreadsheet – it might be doable, but…I don’t have enough finger tips or time for that.

There are great places where you can upload your GEDCOM to a DNA testing or analysis site, but the DNA isn’t in any way correlated with the tree. It’s just there and you have to use your brain and knowledge of what you are working on to make any sense of it. ESPECIALLY if it’s further back than a generation or so.

But I have something…

I was at a conference in the spring of 2016 where some of the current icons of Genetic Genealogy were a part of a Panel Discussion on the future of Genetic Genealogy. Something brought up by one of the Panelists was that we don’t really have anywhere to make the connection between a World Family Tree and DNA.

Small Rant?

I was a bit shocked and dismayed that not one of these Genetic Genealogy Icons brought up WikiTree. WikiTree, where genealogists collaborate on a true, single, world family tree. WikiTree, where I, you, them, anyone can add all current and future DNA test’s and have the test information auto-populate every single ancestor with that test information. For auDNA tests, back to at least our 64-4th great grandparents. For Y and mtDNA tests back into the depths of our shared pedigree. WikiTree even maps XDNA for it’s DNA tested members! WikiTree, where if something happens (in so many different scenarios), will carry on with nothing more than a hiccup for ever and ever – really. Not ONE mention.

What I use daily in my work is the WikiTree DNA Sandbox.
DNA Sandbox
WikiTree DNA Sandbox

This is where I start looking for patterns that aren’t obvious or easy to correlate anywhere else.

Take GEDmatch and it’s GEDCOM + DNA tool. I can scroll down a list of people to see the pedigrees of my matches. Once I find a Pedigree that matches, I run a One to One comparison. Then I cut and paste the One to One Match comparison information to a section for the match into the DNA Sandbox.

The section titles show the match name and shared chromosome numbers.  If I continue this process over time it will start to reveal patterns:

With this view I can start to make connections between specific Chromosomes and Familial Surnames. It will also show outliers – matches who probably don’t belong to a specific familial surname group even though at first blush they may appear to belong. Try working on the Smith family of NY and see how many matches with the last name Smith are outliers to YOUR Smith family.

Partial Table of Contents for DNA Sandbox
Partial view of the table of Contents for DNA Sandbox

In the table of contents for the DNA Sandbox you can get a peak into those patterns. Take the mtDNA Matches. Obviously matches 3.1.3 to 3.1.5 need some further looking into as do the paternal haplogroup matches 4.1.3-5.1.5. Since these DNA matches posted their mtDNA and YDNA haplogroups information in their auDNA results on GEDMatch we are able to see right off the bat, from the title sections, that they share Chromosome 15. Do they share overlapping segments? A quick look at the meat of the information and…

Information showing segment locations and generations
Information showing segment locations and generations

Yes two do. Granted, they are distant connections – 5.1 generations to 6.1 generations – but they do overlap. If I can figure out the MCRA and add a familial surname to this grouping? It’s a HUGE step toward finding more matches that share Chromosome 15 with you who also are in this Familial Surname grouping.

Betty Jean’s DNA Sandbox

Betty Jean? Where is she in all this? Well, back in the Spring when we started her search for her birth family, I started her WikiTree DNA Sandbox.

Bit and Pieces become patterns

Working steadily with small bits and pieces of data from different testing companies, I pasted data into her sandbox. It started with her highest DNA match on 23andme, her first cousin once removed, who is also an adoptee. We’ll call her Pat (she is very much still in the midst of figuring out her own identity and dealing with the emotional roller coaster that comes with finding ones birth family).

Pat’s information wasn’t sitting alone in the sandbox for long. 12 of Betty Jean’s top 15 matches belonged to the same family – the Howard’s and the Brotherton’s. All these people had either had their DNA tested on their own or were prodded by Jane to get their tests done to help in finding Pat’s birth family. Lucky Betty Jean again, having Jane in her corner.

Patterns Emerge

So within a few weeks, adding Betty Jean’s one to one matches, researching the pedigrees and using the number of cM (centimorgens) – “In genetics, a centimorgan (abbreviated cM) or map unit (m.u.) is a unit for measuring genetic linkage. It is defined as the distance between chromosome positions (also termed loci or markers) for which the expected average number of intervening chromosomal crossovers in a single generation is 0.01.) WikiPedia
 – and the generations estimate, her sandbox began to show patterns. Surnames began to have specific chromosomes connected to them.

As Jane and I worked, I compiled a list of Surnames for Betty. Surnames to use and Surnames to discount. If a pedigree or tree leads to one of the discounted Surnames? Then attention can be focused elsewhere. The list, added to the Sandbox, includes links within WikiTree to the MCRA for a specific Surname in the line. With the sandbox filling up, jumping around the great big ole shared tree with ease, working WikiTree’s relationship tools as well as the DNA tools, I was finding answers in a flash.

Fully Customize the sandbox to your level of expertise and knowledge

And there is no hard and fast rule about what goes into the sandbox. Some have graphics with triangulated groups. Some have Haplogroup information by Surname. All have the ability to make finding answers in the DNA connected world tree that is WikiTree an easier thing to do.

Now, after this VERY long post, I need to go find some patterns in nature for a while. Does Blueberry pie get cold FAST in -2 degree weather? an experiment I must try.