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.

The DNA

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!

Swab-A-Thon a Success ‘Thanks Ottawa!’ says Grandma’s Genes

Grandma’s Genes held Ottawa’s first (World’s First) genetic genealogy Swab-A-Thon.    The event, held at Bowman’s Bar and Grill on Saturday August 27th, brought a diverse crowd.  People came with questions about their origins, asking what they could learn from DNA testing?  Genetic genealogist, and Grandma’s Genes co-founder, Marc Snelling opened the event.  He spoke about the discoveries that can be made through DNA.

Marc spoke about how to learn more about your ethnic background. About how and where we fit into the human family tree.  He also spoke about breaking a brick-wall in records, such as adoptions where no records are available, or finding unknown grandparent. Other reasons for DNA testing he covered included; leaving a legacy for your children and grandchildren, making new discoveries, and connecting with living cousins.

Participants in Ottawa's first genetic genealogy Swab-A-Thon put on by Grandma's Genes, Family Tree DNA, and Ancestry.ca
Participants in Ottawa’s first genetic genealogy Swab-A-Thon put on by Grandma’s Genes, Family Tree DNA, and Ancestry.ca

Grandma’s Genes co-founder Mags Gaulden spoke about DNA tests currently available to consumers.   Autosomal tests  (chromosomes 1-22, and X),  are a test offered by ‘the Big 3’ testing companies, 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA.  23andMe includes testing for DNA health markers, and idetifies paternal and maternal haplogroups, currently priced at $249 (CA). She also spoke about mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) a test of your direct maternal line and it’s associated halpogroup, and Y-DNA a test of the direct paternal lines. (tests offered by Family Tree DNA).  She also spoke about The Genographic Project, a science-focused DNA project to document the human family tree and it’s haplogroups.

Mags Gaulden, Marc Snelling of Grandma's Genes at Swab-A-Thon
Grandma’s Genes co-founders Mags Gaulden and Marc Snelling answer attendees DNA questions at the Swab-A-Thon.

Mags and Marc spoke with Swab-A-Thon particpants about the value-added services Grandma’s Genes provides to customers who have purchased a DNA test from one of ‘The Big 3’.  Some of the services offered by Grandma’s Genes include;

  • In-depth ethnic analysis, beyond simple percentages with results across multiple DNA testers,
  • Searching for birth families of adoptees, and uncovering the identity of unknown ancestors,
  • DNA mapping – identifying common ancestors shared with DNA cousins, through triangulation of DNA and genealogy across all company’s databases and public records, 
  • Preparing genealogical reports for First Nations or American Indian Nations, and other lineage societies such as United Empire Loyalists, Daughters / Sons of the American Revolution.

Lesley Anderson from Ancestry.ca spoke to the crowd about the Ancestry database, over 2 million samples. The size of the DNA database together with millions of user-created family trees creates discoveries through Ancestry DNA Circles. Ancestry DNA Circles are an automated tool that discovers common ancestors shared between DNA matches.

Everyone who came had a different reason for being there.  One adoptee sought to learn more about his birth parents.  Two others wanted to learn more about what their DNA will tell them about their deep roots in their home countries, France and Algeria.  Another wanted to know more about his maternal granparent. An ancestor the family says was in England while other lines were in Eastern Europe. Several others purchased tests as gifts for their relatives.

Free kits won by three!

Three free DNA kits were awarded.  One from Grandma’s Genes., one by Family Tree DNA, and a third from Ancestry.ca. Geraldine won the FTDNA Family Finder kit offered by Grandma’s Genes.  Vanessa won the Family Finder kit offered by Family Tree DNA.  Lyle won the free AncestryDNA kit.  Those who won prizes all purchased additional kits for testing themselves at both Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA. They also purchased kits for other family members.

Another Swab-A-Thon?

Thanks to everyone who came out and helped create Ottawa’s first genetic genealogy Swab-A-Thon.  Several participants were hopeful another Swab-A-Thon will be held.  An event  to bring their cousins and family members to, to learn more about DNA testing.  Grandma’s Genes hopes to bring another Swab-A-Thon to the area in the future.

Genetic DNA, Patience Is The Word

DNA has been around since…well forever. It will be around forever. What has not been around forever has been our ability to get to it and to understand it. All that getting to it, understanding it and connecting to it takes patience.

I am currently working with a client who is in her late 80’s. She is adopted and she has never been able to find out much about her birth story other than where she was adopted, her name, “Girl X”, and her date of birth. She has patiently spent some of her time trying to gain access from her records via the County Courthouse where she was adopted only to be turned away with, “there isn’t anything in the file and if there was it wouldn’t be available to you if there was.”

Then her kids had some health issues and she wanted to know more. DNA has arrived so she sent away to 23andMe to get her medical information. She did and she seems to be OK with the DNA Medical knowledge, but, she still wants to know about HER story. The one where she came into the world drew breath and was given away for what ever reason.

And that takes patience.

I laughed at myself today and tonight. I sent out letters to people she matches on 23andMe and to people she matches ad GEDmatch. I got a few replies, but one of them? One of the relies has the promise of bigger answers to her questions. This match is so very close to her. But, I worked all day and heard nothing. I ate dinner and after dinner I was scheduled for a webinar through the Association of Professional Genealogists and just as I was getting myself signed in for the said webinar I see my mailbox lights up. It has just received the first of two emails from the match with the bigger answers…Oh the patience it took to stay the course and participate in the webinar. I did it, though I still haven’t opened the emails yet. I was so struck by the little bit of patience I needed to have, just for an hour and a half tonight, that I wanted to write this blog post while it was still such a real feeling for me. And to think my client has been waiting patiently for a lifetime to receive her answers.

Patience is the word.