Crazy DNA Story

+11 votes
Hello, fellow WikiTree genealogists . . . I need some advice. I finally got my sister's DNA uploaded to GedMatch, and now I have one of those crazy DNA stories. We are not full sisters; we are half sisters. This led to an awkward conversation with Mom, and I now know that my 'father' is not my biological father. He wasn't much of a father, to say the least, so I am not unhappy to be un-related to him. But it has been an emotional two weeks.  I have removed myself from that side of my extensive family tree here, and now there is a black hole where my paternal lineage used to be. How do I begin to find it again? I have a whole lot of DNA matches on GedMatch; they can't all be on Mom's side. Her side has been somewhat difficult. I do have my biological father's name - Robert (Bob) Ray, born most likely somewhere between 1925 and 1938, and he had reddish hair and lived in the Oklahoma City area in 1962.



WikiTree profile: Christine Giles
in The Tree House by Christine Giles G2G6 (8.3k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

Robert Ray

 in the 1940 United States Federal Census

Name: Robert Ray
Age: 5
Estimated birth year: abt 1935
Gender: Male
Race: White
Birthplace: Oklahoma
Marital status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Son
Home in 1940: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Map of Home in 1940: View Map
House Number: 1733
Sheet Number: 2B
Attended School or College: O
Highest Grade Completed: 0
Household Members:
Name Age
Charles Ray 36
Alta Ray 33
Charles Ray 7
Robert Ray 5

Robert Frederick Ray

 in the New Jersey, United Methodist Church Records, 1800-1970

Name: Robert Frederick Ray
Event Type: Membership
Residence Place: New Jersey, USA
Religion: Methodist
Organization or Description: Mount Horeb United Methodist Church

Robert F Ray

Death 1 Sep 1982 (aged 60)
Burial Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, USA
Plot Maus X-6
Memorial ID 97182188 ยท View Source

Dean of the University of Iowa Division of Continuing Education for 20 years.

Robert F. Ray joined the University of in 1949 as a professor of political science and served as the dean of the Division of Continuing Education from 1963 until his death in 1982. A recognized leader in distance education, regional accreditation, forensics and intercollegiate athletics, Ray believed in providing educational access to people of all ages and incomes. He and his wife were instrumental in founding the local Ronald McDonald House.

Iowa City Press-Citizen, Tuesday, May 27, 1947, page 6
(excerpt from engagement announcement)
Robert Ray, son of Mrs. Margaret ray of Davenport, graduated from Davenport High School, and received his B.A. at Coe college, Cedar Rapids, in 1944, and his M.A. at Iowa in 1945. He will receive this Ph.D. degree at University commencement June 7. He is president of Delta Sigma Rho, honorary speech group; president of the association of senior class presidents, and a charter member of Omicron Delta Kappa. He served as a member of Gov. Thomas Dewey's staff in the gubernatorial campaign of 1946.

Will the person who added the red flags please explain why?  A red flag means you are reporting it as objectionable, and unless I missed something, I don't see anything wrong with any of the posts.
Wasn't me but I suspect it's because the named individuals are potentially living.
I'll give my own cautionary tale as an example of why testing just at FTDNA isn't a great strategy.  My mom tested there at the request of a potential maternal second cousin who wanted to verify their relationship.  We then realized we could also use the results to find my mother's unknown father.  I spent two solid months assembling info on 3rd and 4th cousins and eventually solved the puzzle, but it was a real slog.  Then she finally decided to test at Ancestry, where we found two first cousins.  That would have made my search go a lot faster!  (Though granted one did not have a tree and the other's DNA was linked to his spouse's tree, which would have confused me for a while.)  "Fish in all the ponds" is a good approach, and Ancestry has the biggest one.  Good luck with your search!
One handy tool that FTDNA has is how it identifies potential matches as being on your mother's or father's side. So, once you tie a couple matches to your mom's side, start looking at the hits that have neither a "paternal" or "maternal" icon on them--they could be paternal hits that simply don't have anything to compare to that would flag them as "paternal".

Also, any hits you have in common with your sister are most likely maternal.

4 Answers

+7 votes

Hi Christine, 

First, I would suggest that you remove the name of your putative biological father from this, as he may be a living person whose privacy needs to be protected. Besides that, I'd suggest exploring the 1940 US Census:

I see from your profile that you have tested with Family Tree DNA's "Family Finder" test. In one sense, that's the worst test to start with because Family Tree DNA's autosomal database is among the smallest (about 1 million). GEDmatch is helpful, but you're much better off testing with the 2 largest databases: Ancestry DNA (15 million+) and 23andMe (10 million+). The bigger the database, the more potential matches and the more likely you are to find close matches. Closer matches make tree building significantly easier. 

Yesterday was "DNA Day" (April 25th), so these companies may still have sales on. I'd encourage you to get yourself tested with them. If you test with either company, it would be helpful (but not necessary) to have your mother test as well, since it would help you to filter out your maternal matches from your paternal matches. 

After that, there's lots that you can do. So don't sweat it, but definitely do another test (or two!) first.

Best of luck and feel free to send me a private message if you want a hand. There are also the official WikiTree adoption angels and other folks who with lots of experience in figuring out unknown parentage. 

Post Script: 

There are groups that exist for consolation and support of those who discover life-changing surprises such as these as a result of DNA testing. I can't speak to them personally, but many have found some solace with their support. You can read about them here: "The Secret Facebook Groups for Shocking DNA Tests", The Atlantic, 

Generally speaking, you'll find many resources by searching for DNA Non-paternity Event (NPE). See also:

by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by anonymous
Having helped a couple of DNA cousins find bio family, I very much disagree that she should remove her bio father's first name or that his potential privacy interests outweigh Christine's interest in locating and identifying her father. Given that if alive, he is elderly, that adds some urgency.

I agree that Christine has an interest in locating and identifying her biological father, however that does not require posting information about a possibly living individual on a publicly accessible online forum, namely here on G2G. Christine can privately contact those who offer to help, privately sharing and discussing private information. The sharing of private information does not need to be done directly on G2G nor should it be done here. Moreover, such a search often requires analysis of the details of other living persons who are not WikiTree members (hey, I've done this too!). 

The rules of G2G also prohibit this:

Since G2G is public we don't allow questions about living people. They will be deleted.

So my comment on that point is not merely my personal philosophy, it's the group rules that I'm admonishing her and you to abide by. 

JN, I understand the renewed interest in complying with GDPR/privacy policy considerations, but to interpret this to mean that one cannot mention the first name of ones own father in the forums (or in ones biography, for that matter), publicly accessible or not, is well past the point of absurdity.

I have not seen that as an official policy, I don't believe that it is, and if it was it would be hopelessly broken. So I don't think it is your business to admonish her regarding this.

+4 votes
On Gedmatch, It should be trivial to find people who match you but not your half-sister.  These people will likely be from your father's side.  If you are lucky, some of these people will have uploaded their Gedcom tree files and then you can just have a look and see if any branches of their trees might fit that of your biological father.  You might want to spend 10 bucks to upgrade to the Genesis Tier 1 tools, which will make triangulation much easier.
by Michael Schell G2G6 Mach 2 (20.6k points)
+3 votes
It looks to me like your first step on GEDmatch would be to contact the first person on your match list there after your sister (it looks like she doesn't match your sister). At 130.2cM, they should be something like a 3rd cousin (3C).

The funny thing about THAT match is that her father is on your list, too, but only matches 40.5cM. Then her sister is yet further own the list, at 33.4cM. (Actually, with the two sisters being at 33.4cM and 130.2cM, they almost HAVE to be 3C to you.) All I can think is that you are more closely related to the sisters' mother than to their father, but that you're related to both parents.

Beyond that, though, something as Earth-shattering as this calls for throwing a few more bucks at it, and testing on AncestryDNA (with a subscription, too, at least for a while, so you can see the pedigrees of other people who have attached them to their tests. It's all about the matches for you, and they have - by far - the most people to match against.

Good luck!
by Frank Stanley G2G6 Mach 6 (63.1k points)
+3 votes
I would also recommend that you do the free transfer of your FTDNA FamilyFinder test to MyHeritage, although the recent chip changes at both sites may mean the results will not necessarily be immediately processed.

Yes Ancestry has the largest database, but MyHeritage and FTDNA both have better tools for working the DNA, along with GEDMatch.
Although the transfer into MyHeritage is free, which will give you match lists and contact with matches, it will cost $29 US to unlock the tools.

I would also suggest you check out the resources at
The techniques apply for all, trying to figure out matches, find family not just adoptees.
by Lorna Henderson G2G6 Mach 2 (22.5k points)

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