Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Story of Bernadette - Part 11: DNA Solves a Mysterious Baptismal Record

Researching Family Genealogy
To prove the birth father stated on Bernadette’s baptismal certificate was incorrect, I needed to disprove that Bernadette was related to the prominent businessman shown on her record. Let’s call him “Frank” (not his actual name).

As a side note: another interesting case had recently come my way involving the same “Frank”. How bizarre that this particular man seems to be connected with at least two questionable births within the same community. The story of how Frank plays a role in another NPE case will be told in a future blog post!

Returning to Bernadette’s DNA results, I decided to check if there was any connection with Frank’s descendants. Since I personally had a genetic connection to Frank (deceased many years ago); I knew the identity of his children and grandchildren; and I was aware that some descendants had tested with AncestryDNA, I used the search filter within Bernadette’s test results to locate the two descendants closest in age to Bernadette. If Frank had actually been her birth father, the two descendants should appear as Bernadette’s half-siblings.

Of course, we already know from our previous sorting of Bernadette’s DNA results, there were no close family matches. Any half-siblings appearing in Bernadette’s results would have immediately sent up a red flag and indicated a specific birth parent lineage.

None of Frank’s descendants were a close match to Bernadette. But were they cousin matches? The results of my search showed one descendant barely matched Bernadette with only 18 cMs, indicating a very distant cousin relationship. And the other descendant didn’t register at all as a DNA cousin, meaning that whatever DNA he may have shared with Bernadette was too low to show up as a match. (The minimum threshold for AncestryDNA is 8 cMs. Any match sharing less than 8 cMs could be a false or erroneous match and therefore it is eliminated from their results.)

The conclusion of these distant matches proved without a doubt that Bernadette was only very distantly related to Frank and he could not have been her birth father.

But while I had disproven Frank’s identity as Bernadette’s father, I still had no definitive proof that the man who raised her was her true birth father.

Without a close family match to use for comparison and both of her assumed parents deceased and unable to be tested, the results pointing toward Bernadette’s paternal side was still inconclusive and too distant. After much pondering, I decided there were two possible scenarios:

  •         Bernadette’s father was her true birth father
  •          Or a younger paternal uncle and brother to her father who lived nearby could have fathered a child (Bernadette) with a woman from their endogamous community. The illegitimate child was then given to his brother’s family to raise as their own. (This often occurred in families where an out-of-wedlock child was "adopted" by another family member and raised as part of their family.)

If the second scenario was true and Bernadette’s birth father was her uncle, she would still match the same cousins related through her paternal grandparent lines.

At this point in our search, we had made progress by:

  1.      eliminating Frank as the birth father
  2.       proving Bernadette’s baptismal record was incorrect
  3.       identifying both of her paternal grandparent lines as being correct
  4.       and zeroing in on two possible birth father scenarios.

Without any close, direct descendant matches to Bernadette’s paternal lines in her results, we had gone as far as we could with AncestryDNA.

Another disappointing discovery after sorting Bernadette’s closest ten Ancestry matches was apparently there were no direct descendants related of her maternal grandparent lines! Since the rest of her matches are at least 4th cousin or further in relationship, this obviously posed a problem in proving the identity of her birth mother.

It was time to try another tactic!

Researching Family Genealogy



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