Knowing the Forest from the Trees

When we think we are getting close to a birth relative and there is just cause to try and prove it against other similar ancestry trees, I tend to use to place the test results upon an individual who will represent the adoptee. Then I build out the line of grand parents and great grandparents, until I reach back several generations.

Note that I keep these family trees private and unsearchable on because I don’t want to proliferate false information. I consider this family tree theoretical at best, until we have substantiated everything with plenty of proof and likely capped it all off with a DNA test with a close relative that comes as close as possible as the adoptee.

Obviously getting people willing to perform a DNA test requires building up plenty of trust with them and lots of patience from the perspective of the adoptee performing the search. I did at least five DNA tests throughout the life of my search before I had conclusive evidence to prove my biological family.

Once we build out our theoretical family tree and have given plenty of time to try and match our tree and genetic test results with others then we can look at the area known as “DNA”, and “Shared Ancestry Hints”. If there is a number next to the second item mentioned, then we likely have a shaking leaf next to some of our DNA matches. Meaning we share both a similar DNA relative distance and very similar ancestry trees.

While one ancestor matching feels good, the idea is to find several. In doing so we start to understand who the shared ancestors are between our genetically linked cousins and our biological relatives.

The problem is, that sometimes people are just not assembling their ancestry trees perfectly, so while our tree may be well documented and pretty accurate their tree might actually be missing important information. If you can communicate delicately you can reach out to these cousins and encourage them with “updated information” you wanted to share. It is either that, or assumes you have a link with them and don’t shake their tree.

Sometimes you can reach out to people and simply ask them questions about a relative you found and see if they want to help you “clear things up”. In other words, let them come up with the solution. You may be surprised to learn, it was your interpretation of some flawed census poll that needs updating; so make no assumptions and try not to come off as a “know it all”.

Remember, we want to play nice with other genealogists. No one will respond to unkind communication or stern suggestions to “fix their tree”. It especially important not to suggest a relative of theirs may have had an affair that led to an unknown birth in the family. You will never get a pleasant response from someone who believes their being attacked by an outsider with some “scandal” in the family. Even if we get to a point where we believe it is possible, it is a whole other conversation; and likely one you would have directly with a birth mother or father candidate, then a close relative of theirs.