Blog Image January 29, 2024

This may be the most unusual case I've ever worked on.  It took place in Pontypridd, Wales, UK.  I decided to make this real-life story into another genealogy tutorial.  Don't worry, this is an easy one.  I'll provide you with some information and DNA numbers.  Let's see if you can figure this out on your own.  Some hints and the answer will be posted at the end.  It's actually not hard at all.  In fact, it's super easy.  The result was so unexpected though, it was hard to believe.  Names have been changed for privacy purposes and I'll only use first names.  Here's the story...

I don't normally get involved with cases outside the United States because they often involve weak, or very few DNA matches.  There aren't nearly as many people outside the USA doing DNA tests.  This one caught my attention though because the woman asking for help, Samantha, mentioned she had a very large DNA match on her list.  Later, another large match showed up.  Surprisingly, she wasn't really interested in these unknown, large DNA matches.  The reason she got on Ancestry was to find information about her paternal grandfather's family.  She said he was adopted and she was able to get his pre-adoption birth certificate.  She now had the names of her grandfather's biological parents and wanted to make a connection to that family.  As you can see in the tree I made below, her grandfather's bio parents' names are Neil and Gladys according to the birth certificate.  I agreed to help with that, but wasn't seeing any connection.  Could the birth certificate have been wrong?

Family tree Image

You'll notice in the tree, I am showing Samantha's father, Edward, and both of his wives.  His first wife was Alice.  He had two sons with her.  Then he married the much younger Paula.  Paula is Samantha's mother.  The tree shows Samantha's family as she knows it.  Additional people are showing up on her DNA match list however.  Here is a list of all the people who submitted DNA in this story:  Samantha, Mary, Wanda, Andrew, Craig and Julie.  I will list ALL the DNA connections to each and every person below if they have submitted DNA.  I'll also explain their relationships as Samantha has always known them to be.  Take a look at each person and then answer this question... What is wrong with Samantha's tree?

SAMANTHA - The main character in our story.  Born 1989, from Pontypridd, Wales, UK.  Any DNA matches to Samantha are mentioned below.

EDWARD - Samantha's father, born 1951.  Edward's parents were John and Martha.  He also has a full sister named Wanda.  Edward has not submitted DNA.

PAULA - Samantha's mother and Edward's second wife.  Born 1968.  She had no previous marriages or other children.  Paula has not submitted DNA.

ALICE - She was Edward's first wife.  Born 1950.  She had two sons with Edward; Thomas and Andrew.  She has not submitted DNA.

WANDA - Sister of Edward.  Daughter of John and Martha.  Born 1948.  DNA match to Andrew 1814cM.  DNA match to Craig 480cM.

CRAIG - Born 1949.  DNA match to Wanda: 480cM.  DNA match to Andrew: 200cM.  Craig's grandmother is Gladys shown in the tree.  His grandfather is not Neil.

ANDREW - Son of Alice and Edward.  Born 1976.  Samantha's half-brother.  DNA match to Samantha: 1802cM.  DNA match to Wanda: 1814cM.  DNA match to Craig: 200cM.

THOMAS - Son of Alice and Edward.  Born 1972.  Samantha's half-brother.  He has not submitted DNA.

JOHN - John was born in 1928.  He was the father of Edward and Wanda.  He was adopted and is no longer living.  His bio parents are Neil and Gladys.

MARTHA - Martha was born in 1928.  She was the mother of Edward and Wanda and is no longer living.

MARY - Unknown family member.  Born 1985.  DNA match to Samantha: 1440 centimorgans. DNA match to Julie 1700 centimorgans.

JULIE - Unknown family member.  Born 1987.  DNA match to Samantha: 1553 centimorgans.  DNA match to Mary 1700 centimorgans.

GARY - Born 1959.  Father of Mary and Julie.  He has not submitted DNA.  He passed away in 2018.

Can you solve the puzzle?  Do you know what's wrong with Samantha's tree?  All the matching DNA relationships are shown for the people who have submitted DNA.  Just to be clear, and to give you a head start, you should know, some relationships are 100% confirmed.  Craig's grandmother really is Gladys, and Edward's sister really is Wanda.  Gary really is the father of Mary and Julie.  The mother of Mary and Julie is unrelated to anyone and not important to the story.  Click the hint buttons below to reveal clues to the mystery.  First, try to solve this without looking at the hints.

  • HINT 1

    Look carefully at ALL the DNA relationships.  There might be more going on here than meets the eye.  Try making a new tree based on what the DNA is telling you.

  • HINT 2

    If someone who submitted DNA isn't a match to Samantha, no centimorgan number will be mentioned.  Therefore, there is no relationship to her.  Make a list of all the people who you can confirm are related to her.  Use the DNA numbers to take a guess at what the relationships will be.  In this case, the relationships should be pretty easy to guess.

  • HINT 3

    Andrew is the big surprise and the most important match in this mystery.  Here's an important DNA tip...  1400 to 2000 centimorgans is very typical for half-sibling relationships.  A full aunt/uncle relationship is typically in this same range as well.


    Based on the numbers alone, you should be able to get to the same conclusion as I did.  Only one thing is possible.  I'll tell you how I got the answer.  When I first started this, there was a huge DNA match to Mary.  I assumed Samantha's father must have had an affair and had a secret child.  It wasn't long though before I realized, the real answer was, Samantha's father is not Edward, it's Gary.  I knew that based on other matches I found to Gary's family.  We later made contact with Mary and confirmed, Gary is Mary's father.  Mary has a half-sister Julie, we had her do a DNA test.  This confirmed what we already knew.  Mary, Julie and Samantha all have the same father, Gary.  But wait!  There's a whole lot more!

    Samantha only has weak matches to her mother's side and we never bothered to look at them since the mystery was all about her father's side anyway.  So, what's wrong with this picture?  Andrew!  Think about it.  Samantha is not a match to Wanda, and that makes perfect sense.  If Samantha is not related to Edward, she can't be related to Wanda.  So, how is Samantha showing up as a half-sister to Andrew?  Wanda is showing up as Andrew's aunt!  The answer...  Samantha and Andrew have to have one parent in common.  That parent is not Edward.  Therefore, Samantha and Andrew have THE SAME MOTHER!  They are still half siblings as they always thought, but they are half siblings through their mother, not their father!  Paula cannot be Andrew's mother because their age difference is only eight years.  Therefore, Samantha's mother is, Alice!

    Yes, it's true.  Here's what happened...  Alice had a child with the younger Gary when she was thirty-nine years old.  That child is Samantha.  Alice did not want to keep the baby, so Samantha was given to Alice's ex-husband Edward and his new wife Paula.  Samantha's bio parents are really Alice and Gary.  She had no idea until now.  I've worked on several cases where it was discovered someone's father was incorrect, but this is the first time I've ever seen both parents end up being completely different people.


    Just to test your centimorgan and family relationship knowledge, here's a bonus question. What is Craig's relationship to Andrew, Wanda, Edward and Samantha?


    Craig and Wanda are in the same generation and have one grandparent in common, Gladys.  Therefore, they are half first cousins.  They have a perfect centimorgan number for that relationship.  Since Edward and Wanda are siblings, Edward is also Craig's half cousin.  Andrew's great-grandmother is Gladys, so he's a generation younger.  His relationship to Craig is, half first cousin once removed.  And finally, Samantha...  She is not related to Craig, Wanda, Edward or Gladys at all.

Next, a story about an adoptee receiving the incorrect identity of a birthparent.

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