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Three Paternity Mysteries

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

I was contacted by Patti to help identify her biological father using autosomal DNA. Over the course of this research project, she tested with both AncestryDNA and 23andMe. Almost immediately the answer seemed obvious, but we were in for a lengthy ride!

A paternal half-sibling became apparent right away. Logically, the half-sibling's father would be Patti's father, as well. For months I was stuck in this assumption. This theory worked on so many levels including a move from Indiana to New Mexico, which Patti, herself, underwent with her adopted parents at a young age.

However, while researching this likely biological father, we noticed that Patti did not have any other genetic matches that shared this man's surname. We grappled over possibilities that maybe this potential father had also been adopted himself, explaining the discrepancy, but after awhile, it became clear that he was not Patti's father. In fact, it was later determined that the half-sister was not the daughter of this man, either. This was the second paternity event that needed to be tackled.

In the end, Patti's true biological father was identified. He had been an illegitimate child and had grown up with his step-father's surname. This was now the third and most complicated paternity event that needed to be resolved. In part, we had to unravel and analyze the relationships of at least six different children by at least four different women! There were cousins as far away as Italy that were contacted as we worked through all of the possible scenarios.

This was a project with a lot of starts and pauses over the course of countless months. Multiple records had to be ordered and received. Countless genetic matches were contacted. Letters were mailed. Many non-traditional methods were used including researching some distant connections through social media. Patti's eagerness and participation were absolutely essential.

In genealogy we learn that everyone has two family trees: a document-based tree, and a genetic tree. Sometimes these two trees match perfectly. Sometimes these two trees match partially. Sometimes, in the instance of adoption, these two trees may not match at all. While DNA rarely provides instant and complete answers, all on its own, it is an invaluable tool, and coupled with the right genealogical documents and research methodologies can lead to amazing discoveries.


Disclaimer: Each blog post is created and presented for marketing and entertainment purposes only but are based on larger research which adheres to the standards of The Board of Certification of Genealogists® as set forth in Genealogical Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing, 2014).

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