How far back can the adoption angels help out?

+13 votes

I've heard of "adoption angels" on here for finding biological parents and that they seem to be amazing at getting results.
I was wondering if they had the capability to do anything to help me with my great grandmother's parents? I don't know if it's too far back for you guys to help, but it's been a family mystery for generations, and we would appreciate anything we can get.

The story:
Marjorie was born in 1927. Her biological mother, a daughter of Robert and Belle Lisk, was unwed at the time. Marjorie's aunt Harriet (Lisk) had married Herbert Green, and the couple took in Harriet's niece as their own daughter. Eventually Marjorie was told they weren't her biological parents, and that her mother was "knocked up by a trucker", however which Lisk sister was the biological mother was not told, nor anything to further identify the trucker. 

Facts?: Any documents we've found indicate Herbert and Harriet Green as her parents. Marjorie married John "Jack" Schaub and had one son, Lawrence "Larry" Schaub. She passed away in 1979. Larry passed away in 2007, and Jack passed away in 2015. Besides Harriet, I've found indications of two Lisk sisters, Marinda Belle and Helen. Helen passed away in 1918, before Marjorie's birth. I only have "Belle" appearing on the 1910 census in the Lisk household as proof of her existence. The rest is unsourced or familysearch information. (apologies if some information is not on wikitree. I built my tree on familysearch and am still transferring information. Marjorie over there is: )

Maternal options? Marinda Belle Lisk? A still unknown sister? 

Paternal Options? Any male at the time? DNA suggests European, likely German. We have some Austrillian/New Zealand matches we cant trace, so may have a connection there?

Clues: My father (Larry's son) and I have both tested our DNA, but neither of us has many close matches (my dad's seem to be 3rd cousins and mine seem to be 4th), and my dad doesn't have an ancesrty membership to see match's tree's, so we aren't having much luck with using known matches to further phase or include/exclude. 

My dad tested through ancestry, his GEDmatch is A649150. My kit was through FTDNA kit#794461 which is GEDmatch T656310.

My dad was always very close with his grandmother, so it's been a very important issue for him. Jack was the only grandfather actively in my life and I deeply regret that I was over a decade too late to meet Marjorie. She was a special lady in the lives of two of the most important men in my life.

We also have some of her school report cards. She managed to get straight A's while out of school for a year during the influeza epidemic, and I was always very sick throughout school, but managed to keep high grades. I cant easily explain the kinship I feel for a woman who I've never met, or the desire to know more about who she was. Hopefully what I've said can peak someone's interest and we can know a little more.


You guys make me revisit the simplist thing- her birth certificate, of which I never saw an original back when I started looking for her parents. I believe I saw some remade copy thing at one point with Herbet and Harriet as parents, and I know her marriage and death papers have them as her parents, so I thought that was all we had. Since then my great grandfather died, my dad got lots of papers and we looked tonight. Now we have the real birth certificate. WE HAVE A BIRTH MOTHER! 

For "Margie Lou Green"

"Parents' name Luella Green" no father is listed

DOB January 3, 1927

Registration Number 381-344

So biologically I have Green in me, not Lisk as we thought. On top of that, I may have more information on Luella. A family Bible lists Mrs Luella Van Gilder. I'll figure out how to add some photos in a bit.  Born July 25 1909 and Died Sept 1 1975. I'm so excited. You guys this is so awesome!

If anyone can tell me how to find IF she was adopted formally or where to look for records I would very much appreciate it. I doubt they have the father's name if the birth certificate doesn't, but anything seems possible right now!

WikiTree profile: Marjorie Green
in Genealogy Help by Allison Schaub G2G6 Mach 1 (15.2k points)
edited by Allison Schaub
I'm interested to know this, too!

birth certificate

I dont know why the birth certificate picture insists on being upsidedown?


A page of one of our family Bibles

That looks like a short birth certificate - do they do full birth certificates in the US? However I would guess a full certificate would not give much more useful information (except maybe an address and occupation of mother).

I don't know anything about adoption or records in the USA, but I would guess if you had previously seen an amended birth certificate naming her adoptive parents as her parents, then it is likely she was officially adopted. The Facebook Group "DNA Detectives" are primarily US based and have a lot of knowledgeable people who have expertise in searching for adoption records, and would know which states have opened adoption records ( some states still keep adoption records sealed).
So, basically, the story got passed down that the biological mother was her aunt, and somebody got the idea that it was an aunt on the adopted mother's side, when it was really on the adopted father's side.

That's the way family legends generally work - there's a kernel of truth, but it gets distorted as it's handed down.

I kind of wonder about the "trucker" part. These days, that means a guy who drives a big rig, transporting mass quantities of goods in interstate commerce. But such things - including the interstate highway system - didn't exist in 1927. There were trucks, for sure, but they were relatively modest compared to those of today, and I would think they were for delivery around the city. I'm not sure if the word "trucker" was even used. Transportation of large quantities of goods between cities was done by railroad or ship back then, and that didn't change until the 1950s.

Still, he must have had an occupation that was somehow SIMILAR to that of a trucker of today. Perhaps the occupation title didn't get passed down intact because it was something nobody has heard of any more. It might have been explained, "It was something like a trucker, in a way..." and then "trucker" was all that was remembered. Keep that in mind, if you can identify the family, and need to distinguish between brothers.
Notice that biological mom is 17-1/2 when her baby is born. I think it's pretty typical that they're really young like that in these situations.

Interesting that she's listed right after mom & dad in the death record, without any annotation as to who she is. Because she's an aunt, but she's really more than just an aunt, but you might not really want to explicitly say so. No other aunts or uncles are listed.
That's my great grandmother's writing in the Bible, so I wonder if she may have known who her bio mom was? Or was perhaps close to her? It's kinda thrown me since I've heard my whole life it was a Lisk sister. I was surprised to see Luella listed, the rest of the births and marriages were immediate family, not aunt's or uncle's.

The trucker thing is something I don't know how to approach. Organisations for them seemed to just be starting around 1930, but it wasn't a huge occupation like now. The occupation really didn't take off until we had the I-75 and similar highways built. I've wondered if it may have been more of a local delivery thing, or even if it changed from a comment someone made like "he drove a truck". So frustrating. If he was what we think of as a trucker I wonder if any of the beginning organisations may have had member lists and how to find any of that.

Really I'm waiting on DNA matches, but most of my matches are 4th or more distant cousins that don't share family trees past their grandparents, so it's hard to find my "missing link" DNA to target a family as the potential bio dad.

6 Answers

+7 votes
Michigan Marriage Registration,1810-2001

Marjarie Lou Green,born Jan 3 1927,Lansing Michigan, License date Aug 29 1946, License issued in Indiana, Father Herbert Vermont Greeen

Mother Harriet Bealah Green, Spouse Jack H. Schaub,

How does first name John enter this ????
by Wayne Morgan G2G6 Pilot (922k points)
That's one of her records. Herbert Vermont Green was her adoptive father. I'm trying to find the Bio dad.

Jack Schaub was born John, but used the name Jack. He'd even argue with hospital staff about it being on his wrist band near the end of his life, and anytime they tried to confirm his ID, but his legal name was John Herman Schaub.
Even US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was known as "Jack Kennedy". Sometimes "Jack" is the official name, but it's a nickname for "John". Don't ask my why!
Is it all possible that Herbert *is* her bio dad, and that he got Luella pregnant?
Herbert was her biological mother's brother, so let's hope not!!
It happens....
While I would hope it wasn't any incest, brother/dad/creepy uncle, you're correct that it happens. Any way to tell from the DNA we have if there was that kind of pedigree collapse?
+6 votes
Do you have a copy of her original birth certificate? Was she formally adopted, and if so, have you located her adoption records? Not sure about the US, but in the UK it would have been very rare for a birth in 1927 not to be registered or be registered without the biological mother's name.

Also, how about baptism records - although these may not be available online.
by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (144k points)
I actually just saw her birth certificate for the first time today. I think I had seen a copy thing made with Herbert and Harriet Green as her parents, but we can't seem to find that now. My great grandfather passed in 2015, so my dad recently inheirited a LOT of papers. Sunday we have family dinner, so we went digging and IT LISTS A BIRTH MOTHER! It seems like her mother may have been Herbet's sister, not Harriet's. This changes EVERYTHING I've been searching for. Im going to add/change the info to her profile and above in my question.

We don't know if she was formally adopted or not. I immediately assumed no since I'd never heard of anything, but I asked my dad and he assumed yes, but says he has no idea why he assumes yes and doesn't know of any records.
That's great news..that will help focus your DNA testing and results. And yes, it is possible to identify birth family from a person born in the early 1900s but takes a bit of work and is very dependent on the right matches testing, and target testing those that you think could help narrow down the line.

I'm currently working on my step-grandmother's unknown father. She was born in the 1920s but being in the UK, there are much fewer testers. I have also helped a cousin identify the father of a child born in the early 1900s and also identified the birth grandfather of an illegitimate child born in 1837 (but can't pin-point which of his three sons was the father) it can be done
+6 votes
Hey Allison! I'm not sure exactly that would work with the adoptee being your great grandmother but it is always worth a try.  I'm not sure where I would start that search but I'm sure some of our more experienced angels may be able to give you some guidance.  Here's the link to the Adoption Angels Contact page:


I hope this helps you out some!  I'm at a brickwall right now regarding my grandmother's father, we have no clue who it could be and I know how frustrating that can be.  Good Luck!
by Kimberly McComb G2G6 Mach 2 (25.3k points)
+7 votes
The answer is it depends.

Autosomal tests are accurate to about 4 generations.

MtDna (mother's line only) goes back a lot farther but you only get mothers. Only a female can take this test.

Y DNA (father's line only) Only a male can take this test.

All of the above tests are dependent on someone in the same lines having been tested.  

By far, more people have taken Autosomal tests than MtDNA or YDNA

So it is not a simple answer.  

Using a combination of DNA testing and well researched trees I was able to help someone and go back into the 1700s  but that was a very rare situation.  We had multiple types of DNA tests and well documented lines to work with.  Most of the time what we get is an adoptee who knows basically nothing.  

When you have someone who comes from a very large family that can also be a blessing and a curse because you may have more people who have tested that you are close to but finding the exact person within that family you have to have ways of differentiating siblings.  I have several people I am working with who are waiting to find someone who descends from a specific sibling in order to determine which brother or sister was the mother or father.  There is a lot of waiting while you find people who you hope will agree to test.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (713k points)
I'm curious as to what exactly you mean by "Autosomal tests are accurate to about 4 generations." Are you saying that any result beyond that of a 3rd cousin is bogus? I can tell you from extensive personal experience that THAT'S not true.
It's my understanding that males can also take the MtDNA test because everyone (male or female) inherits their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, but only females pass it on. Thus, you'll only get matches along maternal lines.
It is the law of diminishing returns and recombant DNA

you get 50% from each parent

theoretically 25% from each grandparent but that can vary as the recombant DNA can give you more from one grandparent than his or her spouse.

Great Grandparents you theoretically get 12.5% once again it varies due to recombant DNA

Great Great Grandparents you are down to 6.25%   

The farther back you go the more diluted the results and that can affect accuracy.

Emily you are correct a male can take the test but only mother results will be returned.  Males get mtDNA  from their mother and so can go back into their mother's mother's..etc line,  but do not pass it on to their children. I did not state what I said about MtDNA very well.  Thanks for correcting me.  

"The farther back you go the more diluted the results and that can affect accuracy."


You haven't defined what you mean by "accuracy", and you have added an additional term, "diluted". All I can think that you might be getting at is that it becomes more difficult to discern exactly what the relation is as it gets more distant.

I have verified matches to 3rd cousins for 7 out of 8 of my great-grandparents. The problem with the 8th is that I HAVE zero 3rd cousins on that side - none of grandma's aunts & uncles had children, which is unusual.

This is about the grandmother of Laura's father (he's our "customer", really, because he's been tested). We want to know her biological parents (and we think we know one of them) and that means our "customer's" great-grandparents. If the family involved has been in the US long enough, and has a decent level of proliferation, there should be matches to relatives for most great-grandparents, and these relatives can be used to try to identify those great-grandparents.

So it isn't easy, but it might be possible to do.

Accuracy = a good solid match of at least 7 cm and 700 overlapping SNP

Accuracy = not a false match

The more generations you go back the more times recombant DNA has taken place which dilutes the possible top %   In my own case I got far more DNA from my paternal grandfather's line than I did from my maternal grandmother's line.  So it looks like I have closer relationships than I really do in one branch and less in another branch.  That affects the accuracy of how you read the DNA results.

Also you have to take endogamy into consideration in any small locations were there are a lot of families intermarrying over time.  I also that happening in one line.
OK, so really by "accuracy" you're talking about 2 things:

(1) False matches. From what I hear, every match on AncestryDNA down to, and including, "Good Confidence" has a 100% chance of NOT being a false match, because the cutoff is 16cM. I think AncestryDNA's cutoff for even putting a match on your list is 6cM, where it's more of a 50/50 proposition.

But the "Good Confidence" matches continue well into the "Distant Cousin" category. I doubt Allison will be dipping into her pool of matches that far, so I don't see that as an issue.

I have a 6th cousin with a 22.5cM match, so I don't see how the "4 generations" applies. Only a small percentage of such cousins will actually match you, but there are so many of them that SOME will - and that's what matters.

(2) The ability to infer what possible relationship might exist between you and your match, based on the cM, degrades as the relation gets more distant. Maybe that's what you're getting at, about the "4 generations". But you can't even tell for sure if somebody's a 2C from their cM. Or even a 1C, really. It's a matter of degree.

Allison needs to try to discern who the common ancestors are amongst her matches, and from THAT determine who is descended from them. She doesn't really need to discern the exact relation to these people, in order to make use of their matches.

If Allison is lucky, her dad will have mystery people in his matches who turn out to be half second cousins on her dad's mystery bio-gt-grandfather's side, but I wouldn't count on it. (A half-2C would usually show up in either the "3rd Cousins" or "4th Cousins" category, BTW.) These would be people in his generation that were descendants of the mystery man with a different woman.
Remember for a true match you need more that total CMs shared you need to have at least 7cm on a shared chormosome with at least 700 SNP of overlapping range.  

So if you have person A and person B who match at 20 cm

But have they have no shared chromosome you do not have a match.

If you have person A and person B who match at 22 cm and match on chromosome 15 but one has a range of 1500 to 2937 and the other has a range of 3569 to 5784 you do not have a match.

The only time you have a match is when  A and B share on overlap on a chromosome of at least 700SNP and cms of 7 or higher.
To be clear, I believe Laura is talking about triangulation, which actually has to involve THREE people. To show that YOU have a common ancestor with persons A and B, they all have to match on the same segment of the same chromosome.

Allison can't do that, though, at least not on AncestryDNA alone, which does not support that. The parties involved would have to copy their data to, or someplace where they offer that kind of service.

But that's for an official, proper, validation of ancestors, which is a step beyond what she's pursuing right now. In fact, I think the official rules might require a paper trail as well, which she doesn't have, and probably won't have.

She might be able to go a long way with just Shared Matches and centimorgans. If she can come up with a good theory about who the mystery ancestors are, THEN it would be a good idea to try to do the "paper trail free" version of this.
I would love to find a half second cousin or something. Dad and I both have plenty of "fourth cousin" matches, but usually they don't reply or don't know third tree well enough to rule them in or rule them out as my "missing link" DNA

Both our kits are on gedmatch, and I've reached out to the top dozen closest matches that we share, which have an estimated shared ancestors at 3.7-4.5 generations. (Mostly around 28cMs)

Ive had two replys, one who has quite a few earlier brick walls and we couldn't find anything yet, and the other we found a very strong link though my Dad's mom's side (although wikitree would require triangulation to confirm this link).

I was hopeing to get a few more responses before I sent out emails to matches he had that I didn't inheirit, which aren't strong, but I will probably do that this weekend.
Frank, i think the estimate of the closeness of the relationship what is being stated here as less accurate as the generations go by.  There is no denying that immediate family is immediate family when you see the cMs.  But the range of possibilities widens  as the amount of shared DNA gets smaller.  See this great interactive chart:

You will see that if 46 cMs are shared, that could be a 2nd cousin or it could be an 8th cousin or even further back.  It is still shared DNA , nothing inaccurate or bogus about that, but the likelihood of being able to pinpoint the relationship based on the shared cMs becomes less and less accurate.
+4 votes
I'm surprised that nobody has emphatically pointed out that you should just ignore your own AncestryDNA results and just use your dad's. It's a HUGE advantage, being one generation back. In fact, if he has any living siblings get THEM tested too. The results for siblings can be surprisingly different, - they are complementary! Your own test will not tell you anything about HIS relatives that his does not, but his will tell more than yours.

It sounds like you should have had his test on your account (that's what results in all those "managed by" matches you see. You should look into seeing if you can still get designated as a manager for his test. I wouldn't be surprised if you can. I've done that process myself, but I forget the details because it was almost a year ago. If you can't do the "managed by" thing, you just need to bite the bullet and get him signed up for a subscription.

This is really like "paper trail" genealogy, though. I think it's easier for your biological relatives - IF they know how to do it, and apparently few do - to spot that you are related on a certain part of their tree. If everybody on here learned how to do that - using shared matches and centimorgans - there wouldn't BE anything for our Adoption Angels to do! I have identified a number of such people - the surprising part to me is when sometimes they don't answer. I've messaged TWO people whose profile say specifically that they are adopted ang looking for their biological parents, but heard nothing back.

My first case was when I helped find the biological parents for a person who turned out to be my 2nd cousin's daughter. I connected a biological 3rd cousin's granddaughter to her grandma (and father) too. In that case, the dad was simply unknown - there was a story (that helped confirm the match) but no name.

Heck, one guy in my wife's matches didn't even realize that his father's father was not the biological father! He needed our Adoption Angels for his dad, but didn't even realize it.
by Frank Stanley G2G6 Mach 7 (78.2k points)
edited by Frank Stanley
I am trying to go through all my dad's matches, but a lot of people see the generations back and seem to give up.

 I think my dad hoped the test would be a lot more interesting. He basically saw he was 96% Western European, said "I knew that, why'd I take the test?" And gave it up. I can look into trying to to become profile manager- I didn't know that would be possible now. Dad wants to be included but not really involved. I think he was really hoping for that magic heres-your-answer commercial moment.
+4 votes
I just found my great-grandmother, after three years of working with DNA and largely unsourced trees on Ancestry.  The fact that I still lack documents to prove this doesn't mean that I'm not certain that she is my ancestor.  Most people in Ancestry didn't respond to my appeals for information on how they might be related to others of our matches, but a couple of people did.  Finally, the right person uploaded a correct tree, and in combination with other trees and all of my other work, there she was, slotted in the midst of a bunch of Wilsons.  It takes a combination of patience, persistence, and luck to get there, and it will require a great deal more work for me to prove it, but at this moment, I have multiple matches between a cousin and me with a particular family group, and the amount of DNA inherited by various people, in combination with their relationship to me, makes sense.  I never thought I'd get here.  GEDMatch helps.  Ancestry, as pathetic as it is, also helps (if only it were better!).
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (209k points)
My dad picked ancestry- the commercials got him wanting to do it for years. I had done FTDNA, and while we'd lose the ease of veiwing common matches I figured we'd have a wider net to find matches. I was a little shocked to see ancestry didn't have any sort of chromosome browser or way to see how you matched.

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