Archives for category: DNA

I feel like the other half of my identity is just around the next corner. I’m approaching the one year mark since I started the search for my biological father using DNA testing. It’s been an eventful and exciting journey, and even if I learned nothing else from today on, I’ve gotten more information than I’ve had my entire life. My mother never hid from me that my father I knew and grew up with wasn’t my biological father. I don’t really recall any big, earth shattering conversations about it- I just remember knowing. I’m thankful for that. Growing up and seeing daytime TV shows of parents being reunited with adopted children, or missing siblings, or other lost family members always made me feel jealous, and a little sad. I had wished I could write in to Jenny Jones but I knew that without a name they wouldn’t be able to do anything for me. I would watch the psychic Sylvia Brown on Montel Williams and think that maybe she could find him for me. I bought one of her books when I was in middle school and read it cover to cover, but knew that I was just a kid and I’d never be able to afford her “services”. While I’ve grown up to not believe in those kinds of things, I’ve always wondered what she would have said.

I’ve played it out in my head a million times, what I would say or how it would feel. What would it be like to see him? To see someone that looks like me? When I first got connected with a woman that ended up being my mother’s cousin from her estranged father’s side when I read a line from her email I burst into sobs:

“You have a large family that would love to know you”

The emotion that spilled out of me was beyond my control. It was what I had been waiting to hear for a long time, but ultimately ended up from a side of the family I was already somewhat familiar with. It just made me realize that this search is so important to me. It’s important to me not because the family I’ve known my entire life is in any way lacking, it’s just that I’ve felt like a part of me is missing. I don’t need or want anything more than answers. Thankfully a few of those answers have already come just from the testing but I just want more. Again, I can’t help but feel like I’m just at the edge of a breakthrough.

This DNA thing has been a waiting game. Order the kit- wait. Spit in a tube and drop it in the mail- wait. Get your results- FREAK OUT. Upload to GEDMatch- wait. Get mom tested- wait. Add like two more waits in there. I’m actually still currently waiting for three different things to process. Turns out this process is not for the impatient. It’s hard to be patient when it feels like each step just might be the step that gives me a piece of critical information to piece together the identity of my biological father.

As of this week, for the first time in my life I now KNOW something. Not just assume. I KNOW. I know my father is just a little under half Ashkenazi Jewish. I’ve never said anything about my father that included the word “know”. I always kind of assumed he had dark eyes since I am the only one in the family who has dark eyes. I figure he was short, since my mom is over 6′ tall, and I’m 5’4″. Part of me assumed he was a musician, since my mom was probably into that at the time. All of these things were speculation, daydreams, me piecing little tidbits of information together- but nothing concrete. Until now.

I was driving to Chipotle on December 15th when my first set of results came back. I glanced at my phone (at a stoplight, obvi) and I saw “Your AncestryDNA results are in!” My heart stopped. I pulled over.

My hands were shaking as I pulled up the website, logged in, and looked at the first data I had available. My ethnic background. 80% was completely as I expected. Western European- my German heritage was no mystery. The other 20% was completely new to me- Ashkenazi Jewish. My head swirled! I had always assumed I had some sort of hispanic background, but I was incorrect. My ancestry was also speckled with different areas of the Middle East. I felt exotic :) I finally had an answer to the question I had been asked since I was a teen- what are you?

My next step was uploading my raw data to a 3rd party site called GEDMatch. It’s a free service that regardless of which testing service you utilized, you can upload your results and have one big shared database, and access to more matches. My plan was to spread my “net” as far and wide as possible, and then (surprise, surprise) wait. The goal would be to have my contact information out there, and hopefully at some point a close relative such as a first cousin or sibling may eventually get tested and give me a close lead. This could be a process spanning years, but at least I was starting.

The GEDMatch upload took about 12 weeks to process, but it finally tokenized. It arranged a whole new set of matches for me to explore, and plopped one at the top, who I decided to reach out to. He had a website and a blog all dedicated to genealogy, so I thought he would be a good place to start. I sent a message introducing myself to this guy, and we did a little corresponding. He lives in Jerusalem. After a few emails, he asks where I was born and my maiden name. I tell him I was born Molly Melinat, in Fairbanks Alaska.

“Oh, I have a cousin in Alaska”