Informal Adoption Confusing Your DNA Results?

A reasonably close DNA match whose seemingly complete tree contains no names that match can be confusing. The difficulty is determining where the problem rests. An informal adoption is one reason this can happen. A relatively close relative who was born in the 1870s reminded me of this. Initial research on him located records towards the end of his life which covered the time period from his 1912 marriage until his death in the 1940s. Several children with this wife were mentioned in various records. When I worked to complete the gap between his birth and his 1912 marriage, a more accurate chronology was completed:

  • living in Nebraska in 1880 and 1900 census (with parents)–from census records;
  • married in Nebraska 1901–marriage record;
  • child was born in 1904 in Nebraska–1910 census;
  • living as a family in 1910 in Nebraska–1910 census;
  • wife and husband both marry again in 1912 (in different states)–images of county marriage records;
  • wife and second husband living together in 1920–child born in 1904 is listed as child of second husband—1920 census;
  • various later records list the child born in 1904 as being the son of the mother’s second husband and child is listed in various records with that last name throughout the duration of his life–including his tombstone.

Descendants of this son born in 1904 could very easily take a DNA test. Their tree could easily be full of names back quite a few generations and I’ll see none that resonate with me because the adopted father (who raised the child) is on the pedigree chart.

So if that close match has a complete tree and nothing seems even close, keep in mind that all it takes is the name of one non-biological great-grandfather to throw off one-eighth of the names going further back. If the error is closer, the proportion of wrong names gets even higher.

It’s also possible that an informal adoption in your own tree–that you don’t know about–is making your results more confusing.

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