30 Years of Waiting for My Mom's Birth Parents - Part 2

Updated on December 16, 2018
Kasey Kolosh profile image

Kasey is the daughter of a deceased adoptee who is trying to find her maternal biological family.

My mom and me, 1995
My mom and me, 1995

A Quick Recap...

So in Part 1 of my story I talked about my mom's story and what she was able to discover about her biological parents prior to her death. As a follow up to the story, I want to talk about what I have done since taking my first DNA tests via AncestryDNA and 23andme back in December 2017.

As I previously mentioned, when I first got my results I started impulsively messaging my matches with no real method to my madness. After joining some online DNA groups, I learned that this was not the best way to go about finding my mom's biological family; I needed a plan.

I started doing research on DNA and reading the online posts in my adoption and DNA groups. I quickly learned about centimorgans, mirror trees, and search angels - all things I will discuss in this article.


So what are centimorgans anyway?!

Centimorgans (cM) are the units used for measuring genetic linkage. A centimorgan is defined as the distance between chromosome positions. DNA testing companies provide the estimated centimorgans you share with your matches and typically give an estimated relationship. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ESTIMATED RELATIONSHIP IS A GUESS AND NOT A GUARANTEE!

Genetic Genealogist's Centimorgan Chart

This is a very helpful chart to reference when reviewing your DNA matches.  As previously mentioned, the estimated relationships are not always correct and this chart can help you understand how someone may be related to you.
This is a very helpful chart to reference when reviewing your DNA matches. As previously mentioned, the estimated relationships are not always correct and this chart can help you understand how someone may be related to you. | Source

My Closest Matches

Match
cM
DNA Testing Company
Maternal/Paternal Side
Father
3,532
Ancestry/23andme
Paternal
Half-Sister
1,655
Ancestry
Maternal
Father's First Cousin
530
Ancestry
Paternal
Father's Cousin
285
23andme
Paternal
Unknown Match #1
225
Ancestry
Paternal
Father's Cousin
216
23andme
Paternal
Father's Cousin
210
23andme
Paternal
Unknown Match #2
136
MyHeritage
Paternal
Unknown Match #3
133
Ancestry
Paternal
Unknown Match #4
127
Ancestry/MyHeritage
Paternal
Unknown Match #5
105
MyHeritage
Maternal
Unknown Match #6
104
Ancestry
Maternal
Unknown Match #7
99
Ancestry
Maternal
As you can see from my closest matches, I really don't have a lot to go off of when trying to piece together my mother's family tree. DNA is a great tool to figure it all out, but my skill level is not quite high enough yet to figure out with this l

Building Out My Family Tree

Before I got my dad's DNA results back, I had no way of knowing which matches were maternal or paternal. I used Ancestry.com to build out my paternal tree as far as I could. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), because my father's family consists of somewhat recent immigrants, I was not able to get very far overall.

Why does this matter? It matters because Ancestry has a very neat feature where it will give you "Shared Ancestor Hints" that show how you and a DNA match are related if you both build out your trees far enough. I was unaware of this feature until I made considerable progress on my paternal grandmother's side. By doing this I began to receive these "Shared Ancestor Hints" that show how I am related to people I don't even know, some as distant as my 6th to 8th cousin! These Shared Ancestor Hints identify the common relative in which the matches descend from.

Actual Representation of a Shared Ancestor Hint

This screen shot illustrates a Shared Ancestor Hint that I received for a match.  I did not know this match.  This graphic was produced by Ancestry after I built out my family tree on my father's side.
This screen shot illustrates a Shared Ancestor Hint that I received for a match. I did not know this match. This graphic was produced by Ancestry after I built out my family tree on my father's side.

Genetic Mirror Trees

Something that I kept hearing about in my DNA groups was a "mirror tree." It took me a while to figure out what exactly they were and how to do one myself. Essentially, a mirror tree is taking your own DNA and attaching it to one of your matches to try and find your common ancestor. This can only be done on Ancestry.com.

The easiest way to create a mirror tree is to take your closest unknown match that has a public tree available on their Ancestry profile. Create a new mirror tree and mark yourself as the person in the tree. It is recommended to make your tree private so that others do not see it and take it as fact.

Once you create the tree, you will want to add the parents of your match. You can then work on building out the tree until you find the common ancestor on your own tree. The Shared Ancestor Hint will also work with this function and it can help clear up some of your other matches that you may not have reconciled yet.

For my purposes of trying to find my mother's biological family, this hasn't been the most useful tool in determining who my grandparents are since I can't build out my family tree on that side. It can, however, help me understand how my matches are related so that I can use the centimorgan chart and the process of elimination to understand how I am related to these folks.

For a great tutorial on how to do mirror trees, check out this link that I used to teach myself: https://dna-explained.com/2017/07/29/concepts-mirror-trees/.

Ancestry DNA Test Kit

AncestryDNA: Genetic Ethnicity Test
AncestryDNA: Genetic Ethnicity Test

Ancestry DNA is the only DNA testing kit that you can use to make the mirror trees described above. Testing on Ancestry is highly recommended if you are trying to find biological relatives or building out your family tree.

 

My Brief Stint as a Cover Model!

Cover of Mom to Mom, NWI Magazine, August 2018
Cover of Mom to Mom, NWI Magazine, August 2018 | Source

Excerpts from Magazine Article

Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

Mom to Mom, NWI Magazine Article

This summer I responded to a Facebook post that was featured on a local magazine that I follow, Mom to Mom, NWI. The post asked to hear from women who were adopted and have gone through/were going through the process to find their biological family. Given my background and the fact that I had already submitted to the State of Indiana to get my mother's original birth certificate, I responded. Within a couple of days, I was scheduled for a phone interview.

I thought the interview would result in a few brief sentences in the magazine, but I quickly found out that it was actually the cover story and I would be one of the featured women. I was super excited but also very nervous!

Overall, it was a great experience and I'm glad I did it. I made sure to get extra copies of the magazine so that I can share it with my mother's birth family if I ever find them and meet them.

Should My Half-Sister Test?

Recently I sent my half-sister a DNA test through Ancestry. I hadn't done this previously because I felt that I had as much DNA information as I needed and I wasn't sure having her test would add much value. Since I have recently gotten to a point where I feel like I am running out of ideas, I had her do the test.

I was surprised to find out that she matches many of our mutual matches quite a bit higher than I do. My sister looks more like my mom than I do, but I had never really put much thought into how much different our DNA could be. (Even though we share the same mother, it does not mean that we get the exact same segments of DNA from her. That is why it is beneficial for siblings to test since they will likely have different DNA from the parent but also the grandparents, great grandparents, etc.)

For the closest maternal matches that are listed above in my chart, my sister actually matches these people closer than I do. There are some further down on my match list (that are not posted in this article) that I match closer than she does. My intent in having her post was to further solidify my maternal versus paternal matches and to see if she matched any of these people so much more that it narrowed down our potential relationship based on the centimorgan chart above.

I am still deep-drilling these connections but I am hopeful that maybe it will help point me in the right direction, even if it is something as passive as someone havng my sister and me pop up on their match list and wanting to figure out who we are. One unknown match is one thing but the more they are...you never know!

And I'm Still Waiting...

It has now been over 24 weeks since I originally submitted my paperwork to receive my mom's adoption information. I received an update a couple of weeks ago that the application I submitted on June 15, 2018 was somehow not received until June 27, 2018. I find this to be completely ridiculous seeing as how the application was mailed via Priority Mail and only had to go a couple of hours away within the state.

The update I received this week is that the processors are currently working on submissions received in mid to late June 2018. I am hoping that this means I will receive my mother's information within the next couple of weeks, even though I've been thinking that for the last 2 months.

I will publish Part 3 of my story once I receive my information in the mail.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kasey Kolosh

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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        9 months ago from UK

        This is a fascinating account of tracing family history with a difference.

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