Thursday, November 1, 2018

What to Do When You Get A Message from an Adopted Person Who is Related

Y-DNA (father’s, father’s, father’s branch), mtDNA (mother’s, mother’s, mother’s branch), and finally autosomal DNA (leaves, twigs, and branches from all directions) has paved the way for adoptees to reconnect with their biological family.

I don’t think I have found a genealogist who has done an autosomal DNA test who hasn’t been contacted by an adoptee who is somehow related to them.

Some of the people you contact may fear to respond to your messages because they feel they have nothing to share. But they do! The date and place they were born to start. (I often include the words “Adoptee Friendly” at the end of my test site messages.)

Some test sites have made things deceivingly simple for many genealogists. Many of whom wait for a wiggling leaf to guide them to their family or a smart match to fill in leaves.

These genealogists don’t know the fun they are missing!

I remember the first adoptee I worked with (it is often much easier when an adoptee is related to you). That person is the reason I do what I do today. (Bless you.)

The following is a brief step-by-step adoptee helper guide for people who have done autosomal DNA.

1.  How many total cMs do you share? (cMs is the way DNA is measured.) Segments (little pieces of DNA) are measured in cMs. The more cMs you share the closer your relationship.

2.  Don’t use the test site’s relationship estimate (3rd to 4th cousin). Enter the total amount shared in DNAPainter’s cM Relationship tool. Click HERE. This will provide other possible relationships. Keep in mind when working with an adoptee you will usually be looking for half-relationship matches. Determine the possible relationships.

If you end up with a close family relationship - please, no rock throwing. If it is a male he may not have known. If it is a female she had her reasons. She may have longed for someone to confide in for years.  

3.  Use the Shared Matches tool to see if you find the adoptee among a group of matches you have already identified. You may need to add some twigs to your own tree in this process.

4. Once you have identified the possible Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) you will often know better how to build that branch down than the adoptee. Let’s say it is your 4th great-grandfather. Make sure his siblings are included in your tree. You may need to add ALL of their spouses and their children. (You might have to search a few census records. This is a simple task with Heritage Quest. Free at many libraries. I can access Heritage Quest from home using my library card.)

If you have a fully leafed tree you should have at the very least all of your grandparent’s through five generations and their children, and who they married. (Really healthy trees do this for 12 generations.) Genealogy is a process. Add to your tree as you make new matches.

5. Have more than one public tree. Upload your tree to each site where you have uploaded your DNA data or have taken a test. You will be amazed at the response.

I highly recommend joining (free) WikiTree as other members can add their branches to a tree you have started and save you a ton of work. When someone asks to view a tree you can send them the URL link to your WikiTree profile page.  Link your WikiTree profile to your GEDmatch kit number. If you are on GEDmatch ALWAYS add your Gedcom to the GEDmatch site too. (Run your Gedcom in "1 Gedcom compared to All" and find who you relate to before you triangulate. BTW you don't have to upload your DNA to GEDmatch to use this tool. It is how the site got started.)

Wise genealogists have both a link to WikiTree AND a Gedcom on GEDmatch.

6.  For those who manage multiple family members’ kits, make sure EVERY person you manage has a tree linked to whatever site you have uploaded their DNA data, especially GEDmatch. (Not all of your family members are going to match everyone. It takes three full siblings to equal 99% of the sum of your parents.) 

You can download your tree file (called a Gedcom) from wherever you built it and upload it to GEDmatch in less than 5 minutes.) Don’t worry if your tree has errors; most people’s do. 

Other genealogists will help you sort your errors and they are usually pretty darn nice when they do. If you're certain your tree is right, send them screenshots of your documentation and DNA triangulation results.

(Note if you have built your tree on Ancestry: This is merely a copy of your Ancestry tree. Your tree will remain on Ancestry. When you add it to WikiTree you may need to re-create some of your sources. (Not to worry-- WikiTree has an awesome Research tool that links to all sorts of sources.)

A recent observation I have made--- EVERY newly uploaded Gedcom or link to WikiTree on GEDmatch may help no less than THIRTY adoptees move forward in their quest to find their family.

7. Finally, keep in touch with the adoptee who contacted you. Welcome them to the family.

Understand that you may end up a shoulder to cry on if their parents reject them or they discover a parent is not the kind of person they had hoped and dreamed. Let them know you are a member of their family who does care.

When the outcome is good you will be one of the first people they will contact. Rejoice with them. BE FAMILY. (And ask for pictures of their reunion.)

If no adopted people have contacted you yet, seek them out. You’ll find them. They are the people who don’t have trees or have a one-sided tree with no names you recognize.

Contact them. Let them know they have found someone in their missing family. Be their angel.

The rewards are profound (and addictive).

Happy finding!

Still having a blast.

P.S. Please, if you are or have family in Australia encourage your relatives to test and please upload to GEDmatch. I need to knock down some brick walls. 

If you like this post, please share it with others. I am still trying to figure out where/how to activate the social media icons for this blog. (Yes, I have Googled it. Note the title of my blog.)

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