Jennifer’s project was the first one I did for a complete stranger. Jennifer and I met by chance. She messaged me on social media in 2015 because her research had led to a person with the same name as me. Then explained to her that I married a man with that surname, but it was not my maiden name. I told her was really into genealogy and would be happy to help if her research lead back to NJ, and she needed digging.
Fast forward to 2019, and by chance, she randomly sent me a meme in a direct message (thinking it was her friend Patty whom she was sending it to). I reread our message thread and said to myself, hey I think I can help her now that I’ve been working with DNA matches and had solved a few cases. We exchanged pleasantries and laughed at the random Patty message. I asked if she ever figured out who her father was. She had not.
I explained to her that since our last message I started getting into DNA and trying to solve adoptee/NPE (not parent-expected) cases. I told her to consider taking an AncestryDNA test. Then told her I’d be willing to help build a tree based on her matches and see if we could narrow down the possibilities. The next day, she ordered the test. When her results came in, she and her husband called. I walked them through the process of sharing her DNA matches and tree with me.
Taking a First Look
She had a lot of first to third-cousin matches to work with. I told her this may take some time as I had to build out her mom’s side to determine which parent’s side each of her close matches were on. She told me that her mom did a tree on ancestry a while back. She helped me find it. I was impressed with her mom’s trees (she had one for each line of the family). This was a HUGE help in determining which matches belonged to her mother’s side. That alone cut my time in half.
I was able to look at what was left and started to compare matches one by one. I was able to connect a few cousins to the same family and several other matches to another family. I needed to research these families to see if and where they intersected.
Putting the Pieces Together
These two different families were both rather large. I had to look across 7 different states to piece them all together. Just when I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track, I learned a little tidbit from a newspaper mentioning a marriage license, that a man I was looking at commonly went by George – while his legal name was Henry.
George and his wife had 6 children and I was able to start connecting these matches to some of them. Of the 6 siblings, there was one that lived in Portland, Oregon – a location that Jennifer had previously given me. He was my immediate focus. I was able to connect him to others in the tree – and quickly realized that I had pulled enough pieces together to confirm that he and his wife were Jennifer’s grandparents. The two families I was working on intersected at their marriage!
Her grandparents had 3 children, 2 sons, and a daughter. One of the sons had to be Jennifer’s father! One son passed at the age of 18. Based on Jenn’s date of birth and the time of his passing, he could not be the father. The only other possibility for her biological father would be their other son. Her father was identified.
A Surprise Connection
During this process, it was amazing to help Jennifer answer her question, but maybe the best part for me was when Jennifer searched her matches for the surname she had been originally looking for… guess who came up as a 5th – 8th cousin match? ME!