Is it possible to find information or people on my unknown paternal side?

+12 votes
Both my sister and I completed the DNA test.  After 62 years we have found out that we are 1/2 sisters.  Well, according to Ancestry.  We are both really shocked but taking it all in stride.  My quote is "Life Happens" :-)

I would like to know if there is a way to find paternal ancestors here on WikiTree.  I am so lost on this site!  Need as much help as possible!

Thanks to any answers!

asked in Genealogy Help by Sandy Pittock G2G Crew (800 points)
retagged by Eva Ekeblad
Hi Sandy and Welcome to WikiTree.

Can you go back to your question and add the tag "DNA", that will call the attention of WikiTree folks who are well versed in finding relationships.
Do you know your father's name and the area he was from?
Hi Sandy, nice to meet you.

Wow!  I can imagine your surprise.

At Ancestry, you should be able to list your matches that do not match your sister.  Those matches would be from your ancestor that she does not share with you.  That would help sort your matches and give you clear indication as to who is on your paternal side.  Then it's a matter of viewing their trees or communicating with them to find a common ancestor.

I hope this is helpful.  Ask as many questions here as needed.

Cheers from Vermont,

Hi Eva,

It looks like someone has tagged my question with dna??
Hi Eddie,

Nope I have no idea whom my biological father was or even where he was from.
Keith,  Yes, both my sister and I are on ancestry and yes, I have narrowed down a few possibilities but sadly the closest relationships are not willing to help. :-(  I might have hit a nerve. I also found a woman on 23andme that is a 1st cousin.  Sadly she has not responded to any of my requests.

My sister (bless her heart) purchased the kit from 23andme just incase ancestry is off.  Although since we do not match several others I suspect her buying the kit was in vain.

I match up very very close to the Saponari family but again, it doesn't seem as though they are willing to help.  The part that really confuses me is the paternal side of their family. Is it possible to be related to the Grandmother of this family?

Thank you so much for the response!
Sandy, most people won't reply.  So at that point, you have to do the hard work of analyzing their trees, searching for common surnames.  Hang in there.
Hi Sandy,

I can imagine the shock,  I've found the same situation with responses, I have a supposedly 1st cousin that isn't technically possible based on my tree as I know it.  However they didn't return my e-mails, nor have several others, so it may not just be your situation, just a lot of people don't seem to reply back sometimes.

I'm helping out someone who is in the same situation as you, and it's been an interesting learning curve for me on many levels.  If you have a possible "lead" that is always great.

What I would suggest to start is to upload your DNA to Gedmatch, and do this for both you and your sister.  I believe also family tree DNA allows free uploads of your ancestry file to look for matches there as well.

‚ÄčThis will help provide a "bigger" pool to compare, and Gedmatch offers some interesting tools, where you can run a report of all who match you, then run a report of all who match your sister and then remove the ones that match and that will leave you with hopefully a solid group.

If you think you have solid leads I would also suggest using the last names you think might be it and look to the addresses near where your parents lived at that time, and even see if those names might be on the backs of old family photos from that time frame.   Sometimes a DNA mystery can be explained by looking at the neighbors on a census :)

Some of the gedmatch files have trees attached to them, so you can look for the names in common, but I have also found that those on gedmatch tend to be better at replying back asking to view trees, as they have all gone through the extra step of uploading your information there and sharing their tree with you.

I wish you luck, and hopefully answers soon.. And just a few do you have another family member to compare with?  EG do you know for certain you have different dads?  Or is it possible different moms? And have you ruled out the possibility that a younger or unwed sibling got pregnant and the child raised by your parents?  

I think you will find out who the family is, and even if not "the exact person" likely find your family :)
Kristina, this is one more time I really wish there was a way to upvote a comment!  Or at least thank them!  Very nice post!

Your reply is so appreciated!  

Both my sister and I have uploaded our dna to  It is just extremely difficult for me to even understand how to interpret results other than the easy part of who matches 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on. Ancestry is a bit easier for me to understand   23andme doesn't have family trees (well that I can find) and here on wikitree I have no idea how to see other members family trees. Yes, I am a mess!

I have completed and received my dna with 23andme and now I talked my sister into the test.  We should have her results back soon :-)

My son is ready to send in his dna to 23andme and he also completed the Ancestry dna.but I understand that his dna is not going to help me.

On Ancestry both my son and I match crazy close to an Italian family and of course my sister does not.  I have written to each member of this family (there are several) and they just don't seem to want to help. Two of them are listed as my 1st cousin and my son's 2nd cousin!  I am sad that they haven't uploaded their dna to any of the other sites so I could have a better comparison. .

To go even a bit deeper into the story. A woman on Ancestry is my 1st cousin.  Her and I have connected and formed a good relationship. At first I thought she might be my belated brothers daughter.  I was pretty excited about that but we had my brothers daughter do an Ancestry dna test and they don't match.  This woman is searching for her paternal father also.  She was adopted and 10 years ago found her biological mother.  But mother (whom is still alive) does not know who the father was.

I have read an incredible amount of information.  I really don't understand most of it!  I think I have checked off most of the suggestions you have made so far but if you have more I am SO willing to listen and take any guidance offered.

Yes, I was shocked to find out that I am only half related to my sister but I know that unplanned LIFE happens.

 Thank YOU again for the response and please know how much I appreciate it.

5 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
WikiTree can be an excellent community from which you can find others who are also interested in helping find answers to these kinds of questions. I recently read an excellent article in the Washington Post that describes one woman's journey to find answers in her family tree, and you may get some inspiration and ideas from it:

I also suggest making sure to utilize the tools available at the GEDmatch website, where you can start doing some investigative research to find others whose DNA matches yours, and email some whose DNA seems like the closest fit.

And be sure to post further follow-up questions here at WikiTree when you make progress, but hit various 'brick walls,' and you may find someone who has just the tip, clue or answer you need.

Good luck!
answered by Cynthia Larson G2G6 Pilot (157k points)
selected by Sandy Pittock

I want to Thank You for this information and the article :-)

I really appreciate your help.

+8 votes
Its possible, but its not going to be easy -- or quick. And it will depend on a lot of luck. Luck that relatives of your unknown side have also tested and are willing to talk with you about their known family tree. Eventually, together, you can fill in the missing pieces.
answered by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (293k points)
+4 votes
I would suggest that you and your sister also subscribe to  IMO, its worth the cost for a chance to find some close relatives. The forums also seem to be quite active and people familiar with the available tools.

Many of the subscribers, because they lack a family history, also find that the focus on DNA related to health and traits, reason alone for testing.

Note: I noticed on your profile that you tested at 23andme but have an AncestryDNA gedmatch id.
answered by Ken Sargent G2G6 Mach 5 (55.9k points)
Hello Ken,

We are both going to be on 23andme. I am now and my sister has submitted her dna.  What does IMO stand for?

I am not too sure how to change the dna profile.  Or do I need to?

Thank you!

IMO - In My Opinion.  You might sometimes see people use IMHO - "In My Humble Opinion".
+2 votes

I agree with Cynthia regarding GEDmatch. I would spend the $10 and download all the information from the Triangulation tools into a spreadsheet. Pay close attention to all those who show up with trees on the Graphic Tree. Each branch on your tree will represent a common ancestor line. Write all of the people in your triangulated groups and explain your situation.

By identifying the people you and your sister do share with each other, you will know to which matches to focus on to find your paternal.

You might want to run people who match on one or two of both kits. This will give you a list of people who match both of you, those that only match your sister and those that only match you. Focus on the closer matches who match you but not her. Some of them will end up being connected to both of you anyway, but it is a process of elimination.

Look for the people who match you but not your sister in your triangulated groups.

When you discover a possible paternal line match from your triangulated group search for the person on WikiTree. Go to the descendant mode and start comparing Gedmatch kit numbers for descendants in that line to see if you match them as well.

You can also run Gedcom + DNA and study the trees comparing them against each other to see if you can find some common ancestors for your matches. Since you match their DNA you may share the same common ancestor.

Happy finding!
answered by Barbara Shoff G2G6 Mach 1 (19.4k points)
Barbara, thank you for the reply.  Can you give me step by step directions regarding this descendant mode?  And I have done the triangulation but I don't understand it. :-(

On profiles that have descendants in WikiTree you will see a little icon on the profile very close to children's names that says "Descendants."  Click on that and it will show you the children's names, sometimes who they married, followed by their children and children's children. Click on any spouse or child when there is a surname change in the descendant list. You will land on another descendant profile. Anyone who has taken a DNA test may show on that page along with a Gedmatch number. Do a one on one with that person.  I wouldn't stop there. You can go to that surname page. From the pulldowns at the top of the page select DNA connection. That will provide a list of everyone who has taken a DNA test and is linked to that surname. Do a one on one with every person who has that surname. If it is a common surname it can take some time. You never know when you will find a match. (I keep track of where I leave off when I get tired of doing it and often come back later.If they have a GEDmatch number, do a search for that number on your one to many page. They will show up when you do Ctrl-F. Then click on the A to do a one-on-one.


Happy Finding!
Sandy, if you have done triangulation you've got a pot of gold at your fingertips. Contact your matches one by one. Tell your story briefly. Provide your one to one comparison with them. Let them know who else matches with them in the target group. Ask if they know who the common ancestor is or to look at their tree. Thank them profusely for their assistance.

The larger the amount of total cM and the larger the single segment (f only one), the closer your relationship. Write everyone in every triangulation group. Make notes. Send another message if you haven't gotten a reply in two weeks. Fill in the names of common ancestors and actual relationship once you learn who you are to them in your notes.

Have a blast!
+2 votes
Sandy, the way to see family trees here on WikiTree is to go to the tab on a profile "Family Tree and Tools". Whether you see the tab will depend on the security level the manager has chosen.  But if the tab is there you will be able to see several generations.

Keep asking questions and, as you see, you will get lots of help.
answered by Kristina Adams G2G6 Pilot (132k points)

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