Another mystery solved with a single DNA match. October 20, 2023

This is a continuation of my previous post.  I mentioned in the Greek story how there were about a thousand useless DNA matches.  They were too weak and all from a foreign country.  This is quite common with foreign matches.  I've tried to help people from countries like Mexico and only saw fourth or fifth cousin matches.  This story did not even have weak DNA matches though.  There was literally ONE DNA MATCH related to the relative we were looking for.  I'm not kidding, ONE single match was all we had.  Luckily, it was a pretty good one.  Again, some names have been changed or left out for privacy purposes.  Here's the story...

A woman named Anna was trying to figure out who her grandfather was.  Her father was born in 1958.  Her grandmother would never reveal the father of her son.  Much like the last story, she took the secret to her grave.  The real story remained a big mystery for many years.  Her grandmother originally stated that she had adopted her son from a white military man and a Korean woman.  They didn't think he would fit into a Korean family being half white.  Her story turned out to be completely made up however.  She really had an affair with an Asian man and would tell no one who he was.  Thanks to DNA, we now know he wasn't Korean at all.  She had an affair with a Chinese man.  Anna is one forth Chinese.  As you might suspect, no one in China is doing Ancestry DNA.  That would explain why only ONE person was matching to the Chinese part of the family.  This had to mean he did not have many other family members in this country, or at least not any who did a DNA test.  Who is this mystery Chinese grandpa, and what would the single DNA match tell us?

Don't give up looking for birth parents even if you only have a small amount if data.

The one DNA match was to a young lady named Kimberlee.  We could see she was not much younger than Anna.  She did not have a complete family tree made however.  Anna had already chatted with her and was told, Kimberlee's father was adopted and he has no idea who either of his parents were.  He had some vague adoption info including a possible last name of his mother.  He was also told his father worked as a cook in Portland, Oregon.  Both Kimberlee and Anna assumed this was a dead end and were out of ideas.  Here's where knowledge of DNA numbers really comes in handy.  Kimberlee and Anna have a DNA match over 400cM.  I have an old post called Four Hundred Centimorgans.  Check it out if you get a chance.  I discuss the "Half Cousin" relationship in that post.  I noticed Kimberlee was also one fourth Chinese.  Odds are extremely high that Kimberlee and Anna are half cousins (one grandparent in common).  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Both of them have the same unknown Chinese grandfather.  It's the only thing that makes sense.

So what's next?  We had no name for the grandfather and no other Chinese DNA matches.  There's only one possible way this could be solved.  Can you guess what it is?  I would have to figure out who Kimberlee's unknown grandmother was, hope she is alive, and hope she would tell us the name of the Chinese man.  Even if that unlikely scenario all worked out, I'd still have to somehow find him or hope she had information on him.  I explained this to Kimberlee and she quickly let me view her DNA match list.  The search for the grandma was on.  It ended up being a quick search.

The DNA connections to the unknown grandmother were very easy to figure out.  In less than thirty minutes I had a name and all the data you could imagine.  We'll call her, Martha.  From what I could tell, she is eighty years old and still alive.  There was more good news.  A nephew of Martha is an active Ancestry user.  He was contacted and confirmed she is still alive and he gave her a call.  She confirmed, she was indeed the birth mother of Kimberlee's father.  She told her nephew this was the first time in her life she ever admitted to giving up a child.  We still had one problem...  She would not reveal the identity of the Chinese man she had a child with.

I explained to Kimberlee that there is no other way to find out who he is without the help of Martha.  There are no other DNA matches.  I asked if she had planned on contacting Martha herself.  A week later, I got a message.  Kimberlee had talked to her grandmother and she got the name!  I should point out that the Chinese man, we'll call him Joe, was married.  Both Anna and Kimberlee's fathers were the result of affairs he had with the two women.  I am not using real names since family members may not want this story to be told.  It was amazing we were able to get this far, but we were not at the end of the road yet.  There was still one more obstacle to overcome...

Don't give up on your family search, the answers are out there.

We had the first and last name of the Chinese man, but would we be able find him?  As you may know, Asian people often go by an American name, rather than their Asian name when living in the USA.  We had his American name, Joe, and his Asian last name, but that was all.  An internet search did not look good.  Nothing was coming up for that name.  Was it even a real name, or did she make it up?  Pure luck strikes again.  On, no data was appearing for that name, but one person had his name in a family tree using his American name, Joe.  This was not a close relative who would know him.  It appeared to be a very distant relative of his wife.  There was more good luck, Joe's wife's name was listed.  This is where the entire mystery unraveled.  Finding his wife's name led to me finding his full Chinese name.  Apparently, he was using it more than his American name.  I was able to find:  A death certificate, former addresses, immigration papers, parent's names, sibling's names, and the village his family came from in China.  I even found proof he was employed as a cook in Portland, Oregon, just like the adoption information said.

Unfortunately, Joe died from Leukemia back in 1969, shortly after Kimberlee's father was born.  Because of his young death, Anna and Kimberlee could never have known their grandfather, but thanks to a single DNA match, they can now trace their Chinese heritage back to China over a century ago.  Knowing his cause of death could be important medical information for them as well.  Never underestimate the power of DNA...  and a whole lot of luck.

Next I'll give some advice and examples involving DNA privacy issues.

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