Building Trees…

by Laura

…for others.

In figuring out how to use DNA and Ancestry’s databases for my own ancestor search, I’ve had a couple of friends reach out to me to guide them in their ancestor searches. One friend is adopted; the other friend has a parent who is adopted. Both friends have taken Ancestry’s DNA tests (as have other family member) and we’re either 1) waiting for some results to come in or b) trying to make sense of the results we’ve got.

This is the fun part. At least for me.

One of the more interesting aspects of these sorts of searches is, sometimes, the information is in a piece of paperwork you’ve already got in your hot little hand. In my case, I had my adoption papers, but, somewhere along the line, I was pretty much convinced the names given were “legal fictions”; spurious; not to be trusted.

Same with one of my friends. But, aha! turns out we were both wrong in our assumptions. Once we put names in trees, and added DNA to names, things began to fall into place. Of course, there are other, more complicated strategies that we also needed to think through. But rule Number One is, check your assumptions at the door. Keep an open mind. (And don’t believe every family story you’ve ever been told..).

In both our cases, the really important people who had the vital information were deceased. So they were unavailable to answer our questions or provide the necessary physical evidence for DNA testing. That meant we needed to find cousins, close cousins, who were enough removed from the “skeleton-in-the-closet” aspect of our respective family stories, but close enough to not blow us off as family history nerds, looking for a needle in a haystack.

For my other friend, jury is still out as we await the results…

DNA testing is rarely, if ever, straight forward. Even my husband, David, who has a very well-documented tree, going back to the Mayflower, for all intents and purposes, still has a fairly early brickwall in one branch for which DNA will, eventually, help. And he has already been contacted by a couple of fairly close matches who are using his tree to solve mysteries in their own…which is cool in its own way. It’s nice to be the person with the stable family, who can help someone with the NPE.

But we’ve yet to explore his 1000+ DNA matches, since there is so much to do just with the documentation he has. His ancestry focus is the complete opposite of mine, which has its own learning curve. For me, though, this is making both of us more well-rounded amateur genealogists. A good thing, I expect.

In any case, each and every one of us has our own personal family history journey, and no two are alike. That’s what makes this so very interesting for me. I’ve recently been asked by a cousin to help him with his Father’s tree. I can’t wait to get started on that!

I never expected that the search for my birthMother would turn into one of the more interesting hobbies I could ever have. But it has. Finding people, and learning about their historical context has been an awful lot of fun.