Sunday, March 26, 2017

I Found My Secret Half-Great-Aunt with DNA Testing

I mentioned in a post two years ago that my maternal grandfather was conceived out of wedlock.  His mother was between husbands, and his father got around.  I also mentioned that a much younger half-sibling had contacted my grandfather in the late '90s, but I never learned her name.  She lived far away, and my grandmother had said she would send her a copy of the only photo they had of my great-grandfather and the few she had of his other children, the legitimate offspring.  My half-great-aunt didn't know her father because she had been conceived during an extramarital affair.  Her mother and social father (stepfather doesn't seem accurate if they passed her off as his own) already had two other children.  My half-great-aunt would be about 70 now, barely older than my mother.  Well, I found her.  Or, more accurately, DNA testing found us both.

My half-great-aunt popped up on AncestryDNA the other day with just three people on her family tree -- herself and her biological parents -- and I immediately knew who she was.  Even without the family tree, the 450+ cM of shared DNA and the many DNA relatives in common made it clear that my great-grandfather was our closest common ancestor.  I messaged her explaining how we're related (cushioned with "I think") and that my grandfather was one of the children born after their father's wife died.  I was trying to put delicately that he was one of the outsiders like her, that almost everything I knew had come much later from my own research.  I wanted her to feel comfortable talking to me.  I wanted her to know I was an outsider too, albeit one with lots of collected data and photographs.

I asked if she'd been the half-sister whose named I'd never learned who had written to my grandfather in the '90s.  She wrote back right away, and she was welcoming.  She said she was probably the same sister.  The few details my grandmother had mentioned, like birth year and state of residence, matched up, and she said she had tried to reach out to her "father's people" back then.  She hadn't known her father, she said.  She'd only seen him once when she was little, and her mother was still married to someone else, so she hadn't been allowed to talk about him at all.  How strangely similar to being donor conceived.

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