I was recently contacted by “Smitty” through Ancestry DNA. I had been tagged as his fourth cousin in his DNA results. He was asking for help to identify his birth parents as he had been adopted as an infant. He also mentioned that a man named “Jonesy” had been identified as his third cousin. Since Smitty and I are fourth cousins, I went back to my third great-grandparents to search for a possible connection. There are five generations from me to my third great-grandparents, so I needed to look in the fifth generation down from them to go through my fourth cousins to see if I could find Smitty or his mother in my database of over 80,000 relatives. Since everyone has 32 third great-grandparents, I felt I needed to narrow the field!
As it turns out, Jonesy is my second cousin, and as I was familiar with his pedigree, I was able to pinpoint the most likely grandparents to have had Smitty’s mother as a descendant. How did I do this? Since Smitty, Jonesy and I were related on my father’s side, I was able to eliminate my mother and Jonsey’s father’s lines. My paternal grandfather’s line was also eliminated as Jonesy and I are related on my father’s maternal line, leaving two couples in whose descendants I expected to find Smitty’s birth mother.
Smitty forwarded me information that the adoption agency gave him which was gathered at the time of his birth. There were no actual dates or names, but these facts were revealed; His mother was Catholic and was 21 years old when he was born, her father was 50 when he died and her mother was of Italian descent and she had two siblings who died as children.
Since most of my family are Baptist and not Catholic, I printed out the descendants of both couples and used “control F” to find all references to “Catholic”. There was a reference to a Catholic cemetery attached to a lady whose maiden name was VERY Italian. She was married to a man who died at age 50. Their son and a daughter had died on the same day when a speeding car struck them both. These were indeed Smitty’s grandparents, and his mother was the child who survived. She was 21 years old when Smitty was born.
In order to understand how DNA matches are related to you, you must understand how DNA divides with each generation. A good article is at https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/autosomal-dna-ethnicity-results/
• How do you decide which test or tests to use?
• You’ll need to understand cousin designations: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/cousins-removed/
• To look for birth parents, some resources: https://adoptionnetwork.com/looking-for-your-birth-mother-resources-for-teens