Are you struggling to make sense of the clues to your ancestry found in DNA results? Maybe you’re an adoptee or working on an adoptee line in your family history. You might be missing an entire branch of your family tree and need a way to discover it using DNA. I recently helped my adopted sister, Nancy, identify her biological father through DNA networks and mind mapping. Today I’m sharing how I did it.
I wrote about my sister’s story in Using DNA to Find Biological Parents: 3 Tips to Get Started and a Case Study I’m happy to report that through good old fashioned genealogy research, tips from DNA cousins, and organizing DNA networks with mind maps we located her birth father and his family.
Eliminating Half of the DNA Results
My sister and I were fortunate that we had located her birth mother several years ago and she knew her half-siblings. When a very close match on Ancestry DNA proved to be her half-niece on the maternal side, we were able to eliminate all of their shared matches.
With the remaining DNA matches identified as her paternal line, I started looking for patterns. I noticed common surnames and common ancestral couples. Nancy’s ethnicity showed 22% Finnish, so we knew her father had to be 1/2 Finnish. As I created networks of shared DNA matches, I found patterns forming. One branch of the family lived in Montana and the other in Michigan. The Michigan family was all Finnish in origin. I surmised that one of the Michigan/Finnish individuals married one of the Montana/ non-Finnish individuals and their child was my sister’s biological father. The only challenge was that the Michigan/Finnish common ancestral couple had 17 children. That would require a lot of descendancy research to track down a possible match.
Contacting DNA Cousins
Nancy sent messages to all of her close DNA matches with mixed results. Some got back to her right away and others ignored her messages. A few cousins, though were very helpful. One in particular knew of an elderly cousin who had done extensive research on the Michigan/Finnish branch. As soon as my sister mentioned a Montana possibility, he got right to work searching his files. It only took him a couple of days to come up with the individual who had moved to Montana and settled there. The only problem was that this individual had married a German woman and the time frame wasn’t quite working.
Analyzing my Mind Map
With a strong possibility for the Finnish branch of the family emerging, I needed to figure out if the man who moved to Montana had a first marriage that resulted in Nancy’s father. I revisited the mind map I made for the Montana network of DNA matches and looked at some possibilities. I noticed one female who was the right age for the marriage. Armed with this information, I did some checking on FamilySearch and discovered their marriage record and the birth of their child – Nancy’s biological father.
The marriage ended in divorce just five years later. Tracking the records we discovered the marriage of Nancy’s father which also ended in divorce. The record noted that there were two girls from the marriage, my sister’s half siblings.
Using the white pages online, Nancy was able to locate the cell number of her half sister’s husband. With great trepidation, she dialed, and left a message. She didn’t hear anything for 24 hours, then she got a phone call. Her half sister was delighted to hear that she had another sibling. Interestingly, she had started feeling like there might be another sibling out there and was thinking of doing her DNA testing. She was able to fill Nancy in on the family background and give some clarity to the situation. My sister’s biological father is still living, but she isn’t sure whether she’ll contact him. For right now, it’s enough to know where she inherited her beautiful, blue Finnish eyes.
Diana and Nancy
Putting It All Together
When it comes to DNA testing and adoptees, each story will have a different pathway and a different ending. Regardless of your situation, using traditional genealogical research with DNA networks and mind mapping to visualize the possibilities can work. Contacting cousins can yield amazing dividends or at least provide some clarity to the family tree.
What now? Now that I’ve identified my sister’s biological father and half-siblings, I’m going to tackle some long-standing mysteries on my own family tree. Using DNA networks, mind mapping, and cousin contacts, I’m going to use the same principles to figure out new ancestor connections.