New Cousins

I took a DNA test to find blood relatives who might know my biological father’s identity.

me and my DNA
Me and my DNA

I am an adoptee on a mission. I’ve written about the mystery man before, the father who really wasn’t a father to me. I don’t need (or want) to meet bio dad. In fact, the thought of meeting him actually scares me. But I would like some answers. What’s his name, what did he do for a living, does he have a family, do I have other brothers and sisters? How did he meet Lillian, my birth mother? I wonder if he and I look anything alike. Photos along withfacts would be great.

I’ve talked to a handful of people who were close to Lillian, hoping they would know who my father was but nobody knows (or they’re not saying). Finding my bio dad is like locating an available New York taxi in a downpour. Still, I am giving it my best shot.

Well, I got my DNA test results and I am a little disappointed. None of the more than 600 matches are close relatives. There are no siblings or half siblings. I have cousins, hundreds of cousins, but they’re not exactly kissing cousins if you know what I mean. There’s not a single first cousin on my list of matches. The closest relatives are second cousins and many are even more distant on the family tree.

I knew a DNA test was a long shot. Taking the test was quick and painless.  Interpreting the results is time consuming and hard.

Using Family Tree DNA’s chromosome browser feature,  I try to separate the cousins on my maternal side from those on my father’s side. I have emailed a few of my DNA matches to introduce myself and delicately inquire about the nature of our relationship. I don’t use the “A” word (adopted) unless I know I’m talking to another adoptee. As my fellow adoptees know, that word makes some people nervous.

Three of my cousins got back to me and wouldn’t you know? They’re all from Lillian’s side of the family. Two are genealogy buffs. Shannon and I have exchanged several friendly emails. She’s shared many interesting stories about how our Irish ancestors scraped by and filled me in on the diseases that run in our family. That’s  valuable information. I like Shannon and hope we meet in person some day.

In a few hours, Sharon managed to put together a family tree for me. How did she do it so quickly? I was awed by her skill. Thanks to Shannon and Sharon, I know quite a bit about my ancestors on Lillian’s side of the family.

I shared the family tree with another cousin, Duane, who used it to create a tree of his own. Duane and I have gotten friendly. We’re both adopted, close in age and on similar missions. Duane and I are seeking answers to questions about our birth parents.

Two cousins never responded to my emails. I believe they are from my father’s side of the family. Wouldn’t you know?

I thought about calling one of them. He is a few years younger than me and looks friendly enough on his Facebook page. Most important, this guy is one of my closest DNA matches, and he has taken a Y-DNA test. Perhaps he knows who my father is. Maybe he is also adopted? Since he hasn’t responded to emails, would he be more receptive to a phone call?

For adoptees who have taken DNA tests, what would you do in my situation?  Have you called any of your matches directly? Is it taboo to call a match who doesn’t respond to emails?

I feel discouraged. I am no closer to answering the big question hanging over me: Who is my father.

This is hard work. I need encouragement so I am re-reading Richard Hill’s excellent book, “Finding Family”  for motivation and tips. An adoptee, Hill used DNA tests and old-fashioned detective work to learn the identity of his father.

I take comfort knowing it took Hill many years to dig up the truth. That could be my future, too.  I have a lot of spade work ahead of me.

19 thoughts on “New Cousins

  1. But you ARE closer! You have cousins that are on your birth father’s side of the family! I don’t know what is or isn’t taboo, but I WOULD BE CALLING! lol! Good luck Lynne, and thanks for keeping us posted on your journey! xoxo

  2. hi lynne, i have seen a few of your posts and i encourage you in your search. i have been searching for my mother’s bio-family for years. i recently located and met the younger half-sister to my mother! she took a DNA test along with me and it verifies that we are very close family. it’s been exciting for both of us as well as for mom’s other two half-siblings.

    i currently am trying to locate her paternal family line and i am stumped like you. i had hoped for a link in the DNA matches but nothing yet. let’s both pray for answers that don’t take a lifetime to figure out.

    God bless you in your search.

    terre

  3. Thanks so much for your support, Terre. It’s such a big project isn’t it? Taking the DNA test is easy compared to the follow up that’s required on our part. Congratulations on finding your mother’s bio-family. Interestingly, it appears most of the new “cousins” found through the DNA test appear to be from my mother’s side of the family. Not many “cousins” from dad’s side. Hmmm. Let’s hope we both get answers to our questions. All the best to you 🙂

  4. It took me 24 years. It was worth it. So many times as a child I thought they weren’t telling me because I was the product of rape. Turns out my a-dad was my bio dad. Sad he couldn’t tell me. Good luck!

  5. Why couldn’t your father tell you the truth, Joan? That is sad. Too many secrets in families. Thanks for the support.

  6. Long long story. I wrote Call Me Ella detailing the story. Bottom line, the secret was he had an affair while married. I was the result. Shame.

  7. Wow. I am constantly amazed by the stories I hear from adoptees. Was it helpful to write a book, Joan? I find blogging about my experience helpful and motivating.

  8. Hi Lynne
    I also did my DNA test through family tree recently. They just sent me an email saying they received my swabs. I’m trying not to have any expectations or high hopes. I am looking for my father as well. As far as you making phone calls, I’d say go for it! No more walking on eggshells is my motto these days. Best of everything to you. May all us adoptees find our truth.

  9. Thanks for your support, Lori, and good luck with your DNA results. It’s hard work making sense of the results but I like to think it’ll all be worth it. I’m going to make those phone calls.

  10. Your book inspired me to embark on my search, Richard. Frankly, I wish I had started sooner. I will check out that group on Yahoo. Thanks!

  11. The good news is that you will keep getting matches as more and more people test. Ironically, my closest match is adopted and is supposedly on a quest for her birth parents. She is supposed to be my 2nd to 4th cousin. I contacted her twice about seeing what we can do to figure this out. I have a pretty extensive tree and my dad has tested, too. She didn’t answer the first time. The second time she said she’d been busy, but she would be back in touch. Months have now passed and no word from her. Too bad; I really think I could help…

  12. Frustrating isn’t it? Don’t give up, Cheryl. I’m going to keep plugging away at this project. Many people have encouraged me so I plan to keep searching. You do the same. Best of luck to you. 🙂

  13. Try not to get discouraged Lynne. When I get that way I take a break and return to it later. It helps sometimes and lets me clear my head. You are making great progress and are a little closer each time you look into your information. When I first contact a relative because I don’t like sending messages, I ask if they would like to talk on the phone. Some have said yes others don’t respond at all. It seems that it is a delicate subject for some of them. Good luck you will know the truth.

  14. Second cousin is a very good find for a DNA test! My closest finds are 4th cousins so far, and I am meticulously trying to find common threads — painstaking and difficult. I am using the Ancestry DNA test, where a lot of people also attach a family tree to the results so that makes it easier. I will check out your Family Tree DNA test — I expect it will be a completely different group of people so may contain some helpful connections.

  15. Lucy, did you take the autosomal DNA test? Have you figured out how to separate the relatives from your mom’s side from dad’s relatives? I agree it is painstaking work to find those common threads, especially for me, a non-scientific type. What other information did your DNA test provide? Thanks for reading my blog.

  16. The ancestry test gives heritage estimates, and, looking them over, I quickly discovered that most of the closer cousins fell pretty neatly into two main groups — about half had a lot of Polish and German with accompanying family trees showing a locus of birthplaces in the midwest, and another half had a locus of birthplaces in the southwest, with a significant amount of native american and hispanic heritage (that was a surprise, but it makes sense). The nonidentifying information I got from the agency said the birthmother was a midwesterner with German and other European ancestors so I think that the first group are birthmom family. So right there I know something, although I would love to have names and faces.

  17. I just saw that FamilyTree will take my autosomal data from Ancestry and generate Family Finder matches for $69. I may do this just to take advantage of the additional individuals in FamilyTree. It is possible that Ancestry will do the same, although their kit is on sale now for just slightly more than that.

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