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finding Grandpa's father

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  • finding Grandpa's father

    Just a note to ask if anyone has any ideas about solving my personal mystery. My paternal grandfather was adopted in Chicago in 1899, and I want to identify his biological father. There's no record of the names of his birth parents, although a very lucky autosomal match led to identifying his birth mother. She was the daughter of a prosperous northern Ohio family, and I've found no clues as to how she became pregnant; the possibilities range from assault by a complete stranger to a consensual event, possibly with a fiance, but there's no mention of her being engaged at that time, nor have I found records of her family bringing criminal or civil charges against the man they'd have regarded as her seducer. The Children's Home and Aid Society can't find Grandpa's file and believe it was lost in a fire in the 1930s. I don't see a pattern in my autosomal matches (both Ancestry and FTDNA) that suggests a group of people related to a mystery line that could suggest Mr. X or his surname. My Y-DNA111 has been disappointing; the best result is four matches at 37 markers, all different ancestral surnames, all with a genetic distance of four.

    Any suggestions?

  • #2
    • You can try seeking help from the DNA Detectives. They have a Facebook group as well.
    • Cast a wide net: Have you uploaded one or the other of your FTDNA or Ancestry raw data files to MyHeritage or GEDmatch? You might also test at 23andMe, to get more autosomal matches.
    • In your matches, pay attention to those who list locations in the same general area as where your paternal grandmother live, and at the same time.
    • Have your Y-DNA 37 matches tested at higher levels? If they have, but they don't show in your Y-67 or Y-111 match lists, then you can eliminate them from your consideration. The connection will be too far in the past. If they haven't tested at a higher Y-DNA level, you might contact them and ask them to do so, to see if they continue to match you.
    • Have you joined an FTDNA project for your Y-DNA haplogroup? They can give advice for any further testing, and try to place you in a subgroup of the project. Perhaps the surnames in a subgroup might help you.
    • If your father is living, has he tested anywhere? Has your mother or other known maternal relatives tested anywhere? It's best to test the oldest generation if you can. If you have known maternal relatives who match you at FTDNA, you can upload or create a tree at FTDNA (even if only with your known maternal relatives). Then you can link any of the known maternal relatives to their place in your tree, and the Family Matching system will sort your matches into those who are maternal. This doesn't mean that those not marked as maternal will definitely be paternal, but some will be.
    • You can use the "Not In Common With" tool at FTDNA to find out which matches do not match another match who you know is on your maternal side.
    • You can use tools such as DNA Painter and the Leeds Method to try to sort your matches.


    • #3
      Originally posted by stennor View Post
      …. My Y-DNA111 has been disappointing; the best result is four matches at 37 markers, all different ancestral surnames, all with a genetic distance of four.

      Any suggestions?
      You have quite an admirable piece of research getting as far as you have.

      So no matches at Y-67 or Y-111? The person who I formed a terminal SNP with did not match me at Y-111. Interestingly, I haven't convinced that person or the subclade project's administrator, but a weak autosomal match is suggesting that my 2nd great, patrilineal grandfather was the culprit. They think the time for the formation of the SNP was much further back. I am waiting for results from AncestryDNA to compare us on the same testing platform before I come to a definite conclusion.

      If you can afford to upgrade to Big Y, I'd go ahead and do it. At least you would have a terminal SNP for your patrilineal line to aim for, however far back it proves to be. Then you always will have the possibility that a new Big Y tester forming a more recent terminal SNP with you.

      Good luck and I am looking forward to the rest of the story.


      • #4
        Many thanks to KATM and georgian1950. I have identified Mister X--to be precise, he's one of three brothers. My discovery was a matter of sheer luck and the randomness of who's in a given DNA database. All five of my grandfather's grandchildren are in Family Finder, but the matches provided no progress. I got around to asking my sister to test with, and her autosomal match list included a person sharing 115 cM with her--certainly strong enough to get my attention, the quantity suggesting second or third cousin. (I then found her on my own match list, but sharing only 18 cM, and since I must have hundreds in that range, none of them helpful, I hadn't investigated her.) That person had posted a partial family tree, and one of her great-grandmothers came from the same part of northern Ohio as my grandfather's birth mother. (Note KATM's suggestion regarding geographic location.) I built an extensive family tree for the new match (ultimately 1700 names), tried a variety of scenarios, rejected one or two hypotheses, and reduced the pool of Mister X candidates to her great-grandmother's six male first cousins on the more promising side of her family. (The 115 cM match turned out to be a fourth cousin.) I subsequently was able to rule out three of those first cousins via DNA matches with their descendants being too weak, so I'm left with three brothers, none of whom had children of record, so no chance of DNA tests with their descendants in hopes of confirming just one as Mister X. However, one of the three was one of two groomsman at a family wedding where my grandfather's birth mother was one of two bridesmaids, and the dates work out right for conception and eventual birth. So while I can't prove that the groomsman was Mister X, I'm very confident.

        As a matter of interest to my fellow genealogy enthusiasts, during my investigation, I sent several queries to people in the 115 cM match's family tree, asking if they'd be willing to test and offering to pay the cost, and the only one who replied favorably was a person who had been planning to buy tests for her grandparents anyway. I conclude that most people are suspicious of strangers and possibly also of DNA tests in general.

        Thanks again for your replies.


        • #5
          stennor I'm very glad that you made progress! It sounds like a detective story, but after all, that is what draws most of us to genealogy, I think. We like to solve those family mysteries. Sometimes it does take a lot of time and dedicated searching. I think some of us may get complacent about our DNA matches (I am not innocent about that myself), but we do need to take the time to review them and pay attention to the details.

          I would think that it is hard to accept a stranger offering to pay for a DNA test for most people. It's hard enough convincing relatives, I've found. But I've by now paid to DNA test, or convinced to test on their own, just about all the relatives out to second cousins who I think would possibly help in the grand scheme of gaining anything via DNA. Other things in life take precedence nowadays, but I still keep checking match lists, and hope to have more time to dedicate to genealogy research later this year.


          • #6
            Stennor, congratulations on your progress. I frequently joke around about taking a Star Trek approach to discovering an elusive common ancestor. I look for where the lines intersect in the space-time continuum, but getting it down to groomsmen and bridemaids at a specific wedding is really taking that approach to the maximum.

            Good luck with future progress.