Archives for category: DNA

Where to even begin. Since my last update I feel like ten thousand things have happened and my brain has thought of little else. It has been four weeks and three days since I first heard the name from my mother and it’s been on repeat over and over. Probably the longest stretch of time in my life, and sadly it’s just going to continue to take even longer.

I reached out to my potential cousin and aunt, and explained the situation as best I could. One thing I’ve learned quickly was that there really is no graceful way to approach this subject with the people involved. It’s awkward, it’s weird and for those on the receiving end it’s completely out of left field. But, I keep reminding myself that I exist and should not apologize for it. Unfortunately that doesn’t stop me from feeling like a crazy person intruding on people’s lives.

She was understandably skeptical, but very kind. She reached out to her brother and followed up with me explaining that he did say it was a possibility and she left the ball in his court to reach out. To this day he has not, which is probably for the best. I’m waiting to make contact until DNA can confirm or deny.

So just after Christmas I get a text from Virginia excitedly exclaiming that she knew the potential half brother I had shown her pictures of and that she was calling him first thing in the morning to get him to take the DNA test. My stomach instantly had a fit, but I was thankful for her complete lack of fear in this situation. I hadn’t been being that brave thus far. So she did as she said she would and made that call, and within a couple of days the test was in her hands and she met with him in a coffee shop. She kept telling me how calm and confident he was, and how she felt like a nervous teenager on a first date. I can only imagine I would have been the same. Virginia and I used to talk for hours about what my dad must be like and scheme ways that we could try to track him down. Obviously the loosely knit plans of a pair of 13 year old girls didn’t yield much by way of progress- but she has been one of the people closest to me in this journey. She knows how important it has been to me for so long. She dropped the test in the mail that evening and then the excruciating wait began.

In the meantime, with the help and advice of two outstanding facebook groups, I decided to do some research to see if I could link his family tree with that of some of my existing DNA relatives. I went to work drafting his family tree, learning as much as I could about the family, relatives and history. Watching it all unfold was addicting as in my mind, it really felt like I was finally learning more about where I came from. I spent several days engrossed in’s archives, adding, editing and researching. Then, a breakthrough. A notification sprung up that one of my DNA matches shared both a surname and a location. I investigated further. Upon looking I saw similar branches to her tree and my own, although much of hers was marked private. I sent a message briefly explaining myself, and heard back shortly with a phone number. I called right away and spoke with the woman who owned the tree. Her stories confirmed what I had found- she and I shared a common ancestor from my potential father’s tree. What this meant is that I share a definite blood relative with this family. With the predicted genetic distance from this relative, it would certainly add up for him to be my father.

So all this evidence, all this data and speculation and photos continue to add up all pointing to my search being over, and I still am left not allowing myself to get excited. My brain is refusing to let me celebrate or cry or relax into this knowledge. Not until the DNA test comes back. So I will sit here and continue to wait, and obsessively check the status of the test. I am hoping I will have the results by the end of the month and it seriously can’t come soon enough. I keep playing back in my mind what it will be like to see one way or the other, and I can’t really say what I am more afraid of- it being positive or negative. I have built this moment up in my mind for so long I don’t really know what to do.

In the time since my last update, the Australia lead came and went and ended in another rut. I did connect with both the young man from Australia and the mystery person from South Africa who matches him exactly on a particular chromosome, so while I took two steps back, I took another forward. The bright side to the Australian’s young age is he has a lot of living relatives. He agreed to let me send his mother a kit to see which line of his I am related to, and it took AGES but finally came back to show no relation with his mother which leaves me with his paternal line. Still waiting to correspond with him about this further, but again, baby steps!

But now on to the big guns. My mom called me out of the blue on the 15th and asked if I had a moment to talk. I was getting ready for my speaking engagement, but we chatted for a minute. She asked if a certain surname was possibly of Jewish descent, and I dug into why. She said she had suddenly remembered the name of her last roommate before she moved back in with her mother, and when she thought more about it the math would add up and she remembered him having dark hair and eyes. I quickly jotted down the name and began a full-scale internet sleuthing to dig up everything I could. My stomach sank when I found photos on his son’s facebook page. I was looking at myself. Even as I type this I’m trying to scale back what I say, because if I’ve learned anything through all this it is to NOT get my hopes up… but the guttural reaction I had when I saw his son, who would be my half brother, was hard to ignore. I ran this information through the two facebook groups that specialize in this sort of thing, and they both agreed the resemblance could not be ignored. One of the group members even found the would-be father’s high school yearbook photo, and the resemblance continued. I looked at the faces and saw mine looking back. Could this be the other half of me? Could this simple two words, a first and last name, have been the one I had been tormenting over for as long as I can remember? It has been a challenge to keep a realistic perspective when part of me wants to cry for 100 reasons, to call this person and hear his voice, to excitedly exclaim that I have finally found my father. It’s so hard to keep up this wall when I look at that photo and I feel like I know. I feel like the photo answered the question for me, although my sense of logic and realism know that is extremely foolish. But through this search, in the few photos I’ve skimmed through of people that could have been a potential “match” this was the first time that I felt something when I looked at him. I knew when I saw the photos. I can only hope I am not wrong.

I’ve been stewing over this for a week, with only one or two people to really talk to about it wishing I could get it off my chest over and over again. Then I remembered I have a blog. HA! I need to remember the catharsis that comes along with getting all these thoughts out onto my keyboard.

A few nights ago, a new 2nd-4th cousin match popped up on my FTDNA list. He took rank as now my 3rd closest match on there, right on the first page. This was the first time I had gotten a new first page match since 2014, so you can imagine my excitement. After some sleuthing, I figured out that this person was an 18 year old from Australia. We corresponded a little- nothing too in depth, but it was good to see that he replied when contacted. That night I had a very vivid dream about finding my father. I don’t remember meeting him in the dream, but seeing a name and then collapsing in sobs, overwhelmed with emotion (which is probably how it will go when the time comes). As I woke up, I grabbed my phone with my eyes barely open and did my usual check of my email, instagram, facebook, etc. I was greeted with a facebook message from just moments earlier. My cousin in Israel told me to not get my hopes up, but he had another potential “match” he had just ordered a kit for. He also said the wait might be longer given that the person in question lives in Australia.


I can’t help but feel a little hopeful. My search had felt somewhat bleak after the last lead ended up to be a dead end. I knew I was back to the brain numbing waiting game yet again, and quite frankly it bummed me out a bit. I remain hopeful, but I remember how sad my mother was when she found her father only months after he passed away. Knowing that this person likely has a good decade or so on my mom, I am understandably nervous about this guy being dead by the time I find him. Hopefully he stopped living the fast life some time in the late 80’s like many did, calmed his ass down and is now living one of health conscious self preservation. One can hope.

So hopefully I’ll have good news to report in the next 8-12 weeks, maybe the end to my search, maybe just narrowing down another avenue. Either way it’s progress, either through completion or through elimination. I’ll again remain cautiously optimistic and neurotically checking my matches each day. Every day advocating for the miracle of autosomal DNA testing and what it can mean to yourself and others.  Each test, each connection being one additional fiber in an immense network of information paving the way to answers for those of us that seek them desperately.

I woke up on the couch at 8am and sighed, feeling sad and let down. I had woken from a dream that was so real and so emotional, I felt more tired having slept. I laid there, remembering it, knowing that when you start moving out of bed, you begin to forget your dreams. I told Max out loud that I just dreamed I found my father. In it, I had gotten a first cousin match on one of my DNA sites- not sure which one, looked sort of generic, like one would expect in a dream. I did some elimination and realized this person was my father’s brother. Eventually I tracked them down, and they were all fishing in a pond. I looked around, and made eye contact with a man with a long, white ponytail and tan, aged skin. We smiled at each other, and I noticed his eyes looked like mine. He seemed kind. I didn’t say anything and just took him in visually, inspecting him for similarities. Suddenly my sister was with me, and he looked at us and commented how we looked alike, and I just laughed and told him that we didn’t hear that often, and that we have different dads, mentally laughing at the irony. I couldn’t work up the nerve to tell him.  I went to Max and I held him and sobbed that I had finally found him- that I was able to get to him with zero information, no name, no anything. I had done it. I woke up shortly after that, so there was no big revelation to this person and no name. I remember the feeling distinctly though- it was peaceful but very, very overwhelming. My head was spinning. I can only imagine that would be pretty accurate. I laid on the couch for a few minutes, just remembering his face and that feeling. It left me feeling sad, but hopeful. I’ll feel that someday.

So I’ve had this close match on my 23andMe since day one. As I’ve gotten more and more savvy with these results, I’ve realized just how important this match could be. It’s by far my closest match across all four platforms (GEDMatch, 23andMe, Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA) and of course- it’s private.  ZERO identifying data aside from the fact that it’s a female. Plus, this person was ignoring all my requests to communicate for nearly a year. It was driving me nuts because this person is basically DEFINITELY as close as a first cousin to one of my parents, but which one? No way to tell…. or was there?

dnaAfter posting about this quandary in a particularly helpful facebook group, a member helped me and showed me a trick to identify which side a family member comes from. The two matches above are both from my mother’s side so I was able to use this workaround to iron out that the mystery second cousin was in fact from my mother’s side. Furthermore, since my aunt and my mom have different fathers, this gave me more information. My aunt does not have either the mystery relative or Mary on her results (I have my aunt’s sign in info so I can see her matches). This, combined with the little trick I learned, let me see that Mary is also related to this mystery person and my mom, but not my aunt- this means they are related to me through my mom’s father (my maternal grandfather). Not surprising, as he comes from a large family- but I cannot tell you how much less stressful it is knowing that this person is NOT related to me through my biological father. Ok mystery person… ignore me all you want :)