A desire to find cousins interested in family history research drove my decision to take an autosomal DNA test. A typical result of being tested is finding scores of people with whom you have ancestry in common.
About a year ago, a DNA match emailed me for the first time. She wanted information on ancestors with a specific name. Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with those she was focused on.
To determine our common ancestors, I sent several surnames for her consider. I also sent the names of communities where they had lived.
The two of us knew we probably were third or fourth cousins. Our AncestryDNA results had been uploaded to GedMatch, the website where she found my contact information. The site, which features tools for analyzing the test results, shows we share 103 centimorgans, a measure of genetic linkage.
I was surprised at her response.
She said that according to rumor, her biological father’s name was one of those I had sent to her. Since she did not know her father, research had been limited to her mother’s ancestors.
Resolving the question of her paternity was not going to further my research. I knew that if she and I were close kin, he and I were even closer. From my perspective, even the appearance of becoming involved in that research could create a situation fraught with difficulties.
Apparently, she began researching her paternal ancestors. The following month she posted photos of my paternal grandmother’s kin on ancestry.com. She labeled one of my cousins as her father.
Was it not appropriate for me to assist her in some way?
If the man she labeled was her father, a man whose help with my research and has been critical to its success, was her grandfather. He was my paternal grandmother’s half-brother, the son of my great-grandfather and his second wife.
Since my grandmother died when my father was barely school age, little to no information was passed on to me about her family. I only knew the given name for her mother, my great-grandmother, because I found it in U.S. Census records. She too, had died young leaving minor children.
This granduncle was special. Nearly 90 years old, he spent months considering and eliminating surnames until he came up with the correct one.
He told me about ancestors I would never have known existed. He discussed the names found on my great-great-grandmother’s deed. He told me which children in my great-grandaunt’s home were hers, and which were there because they had no place else to go.
My DNA match sent another email after seven months. A screen shot of a paternity test result identifying my cousin as her father was attached. She requested that I share the family tree with her.
What do I owe our ancestors, my family, myself? Should I inform my cousin that my DNA match has been contacting me?
I told her that with my cousin’s permission, we could meet and discuss how I might assist her in researching the family’s ancestry.
She was planning to ask him. Three months have passed. I have not heard from either of them.