I work methodically, how on earth did I just blow up someones world? Truly, it’s the way I work, slow and methodical. Find each piece and put into place.
When I say blow-up someones world I mean it in a good way. This time. Let’s take a step back and methodically go thorough this so at least you understand what I am talking about.
She is adopted
Of course she is. I could describe her in so many other ways too, but to know she is adopted is the only way to describe her today. I don’t think she frames her life to people she meets this way normally, but she framed her life this way to me, because when we met we talked about what we each did for a living. Of course when I told her what I did, she kind of looked at me sideways and from a distance. It’s something adoptees do when presented with something that might blow-up their life..
She briefly told me her story; she found her mother through the Adoption Disclosure Register of 1993 and had no idea who her father was…I did tell her that she would find her answers in her DNA.
A few months later she asked me for help.
She knew her mother, but the information she was given about who her father was, was incorrect. How did she discover it was incorrect? Because she paid a company to do a paternity test on a family member of the first person her Mother told her (paternity tests run into many hundreds of dollars). Then a family member of the second person her mother named (with a tiny bit of influence from me) had an FTDNA test (much less expensive).
The second test proved no DNA match to the second man named. Seems the more “no answers” she got the more her drive was ignited to know the truth.
Driven to Know
I talked with someone once who helps Adoptees. She told me a horror story about a client who, when given a bit of information on where the researcher thought the clients father/mother might live, spent an evening knocking on doors and being incredibly confrontational with the families she encountered.
Imagine opening the door to a wild-eyed woman who thinks the world has lied to her for 45 years and sees a crack of light peering through a darkened tunnel. I can’t imagine how utterly terrifying it would be to have a child you didn’t know about, or one you had hidden from your family, or that you had tried to hide from, just appear, demanding you talk openly and frankly about her. Your secret.
She was shown a crack of light.
Back to today, to this client, who is fast becoming a good friend. I opened a crack in her dark tunnel. I was working methodically. But I did ask her if she would take on some of the research since I know she was capable and because I told her the story I just related to you above. Did she listen?
She did and she didn’t and well…it was like a can of biscuits. You push the the spoon in just a touch and POP it’s all out there.
And it is all out there.
She spent the weekend working social media with the information I gave her. We talked and texted over the weekend and each time I tried to get my, “take it slow”, “don’t go overboard with this”, ‘don’t be disappointed”, “don’t”, “don’t”, “don’t”… I got a text from her this morning…”______ _______ is my Dad, I just talked to him.”
It’s all good. It is. After 2 hours it’s all good. What a wild weekend for her. What a wild weekend for him. What a, “what can of busquits have I opened” weekend for me.
I wish I could have bubble wrapped her after our “revealing” meeting Friday night. At least I would have felt she and her newly discovered family could have had some protection – protection that in the end none of them seem to need.
What about Rabbit Holes and Amonute Matoaka “Pocahontas”? As I sat down to go through my emails and social media notifications (I often laugh when I check in on Facebook for work) I saw a note from Abby Glann, Leader Liaison at WikiTree, telling me she has chosen the profile of Amonute Matoaka “Pocahontas” to be used as an example profile coming up in a week or two.
Setting out to do anything but what I planned
Forget my wonderful and patient (you know you are) clients, forget my research, push a blog post to the back (the blog is the first thing that gets pushed back to accommodate everything else) forget everything else, drop it all to run have a look at the state of this profile? 4 hours later I am still fixing stuff, piddling about, sending messages to project members about this looming deadline and the need to work collaboratively to make this profile sing.
To Blog or not to Blog
Blogging is something I enjoy. I love to Blog, to write (if you can call my butchery of the english language “writing”) and to share the “what’s going ons” of my genetic genealogical pursuits. In a year that has seen regular Genealogical Bloggers pull up stakes and move on from blogging I jumped in with so many feet and inches and centiMorgens that I am chest high in the muck of it – the genealogy blogging world. And LiveCasting – that too can be considered a blog. I don’t see myself jumping out either.
I have been pushing this blog thing to the back of everything. When Abby sent the note about the Example Profile, I thought I would just have to wait to write til another day. Enough!
What are all of these Rabbit Holes? Here are a few…
My most regular client
for whom I work a specified amount of hours a month – working the DNA and the Genealogy looking to make connections for him as I find them and or as they appear. He drops me a note when he gets a note from someone wanting to know if they are connected a certain way via DNA. They have the same surname in common, it must be it! 9 times out of ten it isn’t and I get to spend some time in the primordial ooze that is his family DNA and his genealogical paper trail to show the hows and whys of “not that route”or the excited exclamation of YOU ARE RIGHT! and we need to do this and this and…Doing work for him every month is like the part of the doughnut you save for last whether it be the filling or the icing, there is always something fun to be had and it can be had at anytime – no calorie restrictions (I have been craving doughnuts this week).
One of my clients sent me an email from the Ukraine
Yes he took off on his own to investigate some of the information we have turned-up about his family. This one is interesting in that it is Jewish Genealogy rife with a demographic that makes genetic genealogy hard – Endogamy. The practice of marrying within ones own community or family group. This case is exacerbated by the living descendants protective nature of the past and the unwillingness to do tests to help find an adoptee from the 1910’s. “Yes, we must keep our 100 year old secrets hidden, even if we don’t know what they are ourselves”.
Oh yes Betty Jean is still on the front burner because we need to track down her mother. Yes I have been waiting for my favorite genealogical investigator to emerge unscatheed from some very hard family issues. Why do I feel guilty if I work without her? No, it’s not that I feel guilty, it’s because on this we are a team and I feel like I am walking without one of my legs. There is no rush on this for my part at all. Take care of family and I will see you soon.
New client with boxes
She actually said she was bringing shoeboxes with her to our first meeting. She is a professional who just doesn’t have time to learn how to do Genetic Genealogy. She is a good and tenacious researcher and a joy to work with. Sent her a note to ask her Ancestry DNA matches to download their DNA raw data and upload it to GEDMatch and zoom she was off. I am working the analysis and working the paper trail as they appear.
AND MORE! <breath> At this point I just had that stomach turning feeling of I really should be working and not blogging <STUPID FEELING>
Of course there is always work to do on WikiTree since I use WikiTree as my Genealogical Program and it is an integral genetic Genealogy tool in my genealogy toolbox. Did I mention Chris Whitten came back to me with the answer to a question I asked him while at Roots Tech? Hey! He has been busy revamping the GEDCOM apparatus of WikiTree among other things! The question?
How many DNA connected profiles do we have on WikiTree?
Drum Roll Please…
“A new number just went live on our home page: 3,027,628.
As in: “Our shared tree includes 15,105,620 profiles (3,027,628 with DNA test connections) edited by 453,232 genealogists from around the
…The total number of DNA test connections is up around five or six million….The total number of test-takers is about 53,000.
This is really very cool. A stat that really says something about our commitment and success in growing a shared, *accurate* family tree. Afamily tree that someday will be confirmed with DNA.”-Chris Whitten
What does a “Test Connection” on WikiTree mean?
Every time a WikiTreer adds their DNA test information to WikiTree, WikiTree adds that information to the WikiTreers profile as well as to that of every profile in the limbs of WikiTrees great big ole shared tree, that that test would affect. So, if I add that I have taken a FTDNA auDNA (Family Finder Test) to my WikiTree Profile, WikiTree will post that DNA Connection to every single profile of my family – siblings, parents, cousins, grand parents, great grandparents – back to my 64, 4th great grandparents will show my test information. All following how I. you, we, inherit auDNA.
Why is this important and why is it a connection? Let’s say Julie Blue is hunting around the internet for information on her great great great grandfather, Dempsey Gaulden. Because WikiTree is cutting edge on it’s search engine optimization, when she searches for Dempsey, his WikiTree Profile pops-up at the top of her search engine results page.
She bounces over to his profile and sees all of the information that this ‘Mags Gaulden’ has done on he and his family, “Oh wow I never knew Dempsey raced horses in New Orleans!” she exclaims. Then her eye falls on this list, “DNA Connections” prominently displayed at the top right of the page:
“Oh My Word! I tested my DNA, I wonder if we match?” And, “Wow, My Uncle jeb Gaulden – his y-DNA should match this Earle!” Julie Blue spends the rest of HER afternoon down the rabbit hole that is the GEDMatch/WikiTree integration. She uploads her raw data to GEDmatch where she finds Mags and Earle and others on wikiTree from her list of matches at GEDMatch.
Chris just posted this explanation – way more…techie than my answer. What you don’t like Melodrama? <southern hand across southern forehead>
“What exactly is a DNA test connection? It’s where we post a notice on a WikiTree profile that says there is a DNA test that might be useful for confirming or rejecting relationships to that person. For Y-chromosome tests it means the test-taker is on the same paternal line. For mitochondrial tests it means the test-taker is on the same maternal line. For autosomal tests (the most popular these days, e.g. AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA Family Finder, 23andMe) it means that the test-taker is within eight degrees and is therefore likely to share significant segments of DNA.
The bottom line: A DNA test connection is an opportunity to try to scientifically prove what’s been established through traditional genealogy.
Every time I see a new one on a profile that I care about I get a little rush of excitement. Knowing there are three million of these around our shared tree puts a big smile on my face.” – Chris Whitten
Had a busy couple of weeks which have included many visits with your Grandma! Besides the hugs and profound elder knowledge, you also got your very own serving of hot blueberry pie, straight from the oven. You missed the pie? The pie was there, I promise.
Forensic Genealogy and Adoption – Tracking Down Your Living Limbs.
The Ottawa Public Library let your grandma into the Carlingwood Branch to present “Forensic Genealogy and Adoption, Tracking Down Your Living Limbs.” Once the massive crowd (millions I tell ya) settled into their seats they were introduced to the concepts and strategies behind Forensic Genealogy and how those strategies can help with adoption searches.
Since I tend towards the Genetic side of things we delved deeply into my Cousin Betty Jean’s adoption search and the use of Genetic Genealogy. After all Betty Jean’s Genes helped us find one of her birth parents so far (and possibly the other – soon…the test is in processing).
It Takes Time
This was one of the biggest points of the presentation – It takes time. I know. You and everyone else in the world has watched these shows where one instance they are sitting at a table with a Genealogist in Philadelphia and the next they magically appear in Paris talking to their newly found 3rd cousin. It’s TV folks and slow just don’t sell the sponsors DNA test kits.
Adoption searches can be a roller coaster emotionally. Bolster your support group with more than just friends and family. Get involved in a local support group and even get some professional help.
This was another big point and a big talking point for questions during the presentation. As someone who is researching to find the birth family of an adoptee or the adoptee for a birth family, you do not have the right to willy nilly spread someone else’s story all over the internet. If you know your surname? Post the surname, but don’t go about saying that Jane Smith had a baby in 1955. Especially if it hasn’t been proven in the least yet. Be respectful and only tell the parts of the story that you have permission to tell.
Telling the tale with caution
Whatever avenue you use to put yourself “out there”, whether it be a Facebook page about your adoption, an adopted and a birth family tree on WikiTree, an instagram feed of photographs of yourself and likenesses between you and people you have proven to be your kin, do so with caution.
I myself, personally, don’t know anyone who has been the target of Genealogical Identity theft, but be vigilant with your own personal information.
I am very much so “out there”. Being “out there” is a part of my business model, so I hope I am ahead of the game and in charge of my own narrative. You? You have to decide how much or how little you want to make public. Take care of yourself.
Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, covers some of the privacy issues in a posting online in her December of 2016 Blog, The opt-in default.
Your Grandma is working away making afghans for all of you. You know, the ones with the big holes that never really keep you warm? The ones you throw over the back of the sofa just when your Grandma comes to visit? They will arrive with blueberry pie stains all over them too. It is, after all, hard to crochet and eat blueberry pie at the same time.
Grandma’s Genes is winding down 2016 with a mind towards the things that most influenced our work. Aside from the blueberry pies, presentations, research, Swab-A-Thons, field trips, conferences, phone calls, blog posts etc., there is one major take-away.
Networks connect us all. We drive to our jobs on a network of roads. We communicate with each other over a network of airwaves or wires or through the vast web of the internet. We have a network of support – friends, family and the baker down the street. Even our neighbor next door is a thread in the Network of our Lives.
How we connect to our networks is just the facility of that connection. What matters is the content.
If I hadn’t joined WikiTree in December 2013, the mother load of genealogy networking and collaboration, and turned this many, many year passion into a mystery solving venture that pays for my blueberry pies? I would still be just answering family queries and would never have learned the joy of genealogical collaboration. Collaboration on such a stratospheric level. I posted once about how WikiTree has given me an education beyond my university degree in WikiTree’s G2G Forum. That was a year ago – I must be working toward my WikiTree doctorate now.
As such, I have been able to solve a 90 year old mystery, fairly quickly (8 months to find her father), because I was able to use a Network to make a connection. 23 and me connected me with Jane and her family who in turn helped connect Betty Jean to half of her birth family.
A woman posted in Gauldings page on Face Book about a common Ancestor. She found an obituary stating our common ancestor was a Captain in the revolution under Francis Marion. In all the research anyone has ever done on this man, he was not a soldier in the revolution. He served as a Petit Juror. He also might have been providing supplies to the troops – no one knows for sure. She used Facebook to find me and my very underwhelming answer to her question, “was John Gaulding a Captain under Francis Marion?” “No…”
A man who believed a long held family story that his gggrandfather was adopted into a family of African Canadian’s has been able to find interest in the real story. This story told mainly by his DNA and supported by the network of other distant cousins who had heard and believed or not believed the story. These distant cousins are all testing their DNA now and finding that they too have a connection to a very rich African ancestry. These distant cousins have also created their own network, on Facebook, so that others who are not in the know can find the truth and their heritage through them.
If mother natures network of weather hadn’t dumped 20 + cm of snow on Ottawa in a matter of a few short hours last year, the idea that became Grandma’s Genes would not have formed into what it is today. Marc, my fellow shoveler on that day, has moved on to work in his day-job field full time. During the year, though, he helped an adoptee find his fathers family. Marc helped so many with Indigenous roots find the right identity for themselves and possibly take the true meaning of being connected to an indigenous ancestor with them into their new found knowledge of self. Marc also made long sought connections within his own genealogy through research and networking with others who have connections to his indigenous lines – to his Quaker lines – to his southern lines.
Moving Forward Through Networking
For me? I found a path which has been made stronger, straighter and more focused than I would have ever thought imaginable. Only with the help of my network of family, friends, partners, genealogists, geneticists, clients and all those ancestors long passed, has Grandma’s Genes grown into what it is today. What it will become tomorrow.
Thank you, every – single – point on our network – one of you.
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?
How 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.
“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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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 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 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.
Subsequent 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
Deciphering 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