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TEAM ZOELLA JULY 14, 2021

We Spoke to Two People Who Found a Relative Through a DNA Service

In this blog post, we spoke to two people who’ve used a DNA website to make sense of their past, discover their ancestry and find long-lost relatives they never knew they had.

We’ve all sobbed over episodes of ITV’s Long Lost Family before – twins separated at birth reunited decades later, young mothers who had to give up their babies meeting their children once again, now fully grown incredible humans, and adoptees tracing their biological parents to find out how their story came to be, we will never know how Davina manages to hold it together. It’s beautiful to watch.

In the age of Facebook, Google and at-home DNA tests, building our family trees and uncovering our genealogy has never been easier. In this blog post, we spoke to two people who’ve used a DNA website to make sense of their past, discover their ancestry and find long-lost relatives they never knew they had.

Whether you’re hoping to trace your own ancestors someday but don’t know where to start your search or you’re just here for the heart-warming stories (grab a multi-box of tissues), we hope this feature will inspire you to find out more about your own family history and heritage.

Cassidy

Tell us a little bit about why it was important for you to find your relative, what inspired you to start looking into your ancestry?

I have been interested in genealogy ever since I was in middle school and that is when I got my DNA test. I convinced my mom and grandmother also to get theirs done. It wasn’t really until my senior year of college that I researched deeper into my ancestry and that is because I created a genealogical documentary for my senior project. You can watch it at this link.

It was important to me to find more relatives because I had very little information about my mom’s dad’s side of the family because everyone died very young except distant cousins.

How did you start your search? Talk us through which website you used and what the step-by-step process involves…

I started my search by looking through my DNA matches on FamilyTreeDNA, which is the site that I used for my DNA test. I then created a family tree on Ancestry with the knowledge that I had. Ancestry then helped me fill in some blanks and a distant cousin of mine also gave me tons of photographs and information.

What did you do once you had found your relative. Mixed emotions, we imagine?

It was exciting for me! I loved discovering new cousins from all around the world. I have a very small family and I have always wondered what it was like to grow up in a large family.

Did you always want to meet them in real life or was knowing that they existed, enough for you?

Yes, I for sure want to meet them in real life! I, unfortunately, discovered them during the height of the pandemic so it was impossible for me to travel to Italy, which is where most of the family I’ve met online is from. I have become Facebook friends with a multitude of distant cousins and I love seeing what they’re up to and finding common connections between family members that I knew or my mom or grandmother knew. I plan to meet up with some cousins in Illinois and Italy once the pandemic has settled down.

How did you feel going into the process compared with how you feel now? Was there any element of expectation vs reality, or was it exactly as you thought it would be?

I didn’t know what to expect going into this process because of my tiny family. I didn’t think I was going to find any cousins at all because of that, or any living cousins that is. I am so glad they have all been so friendly because I can imagine it be sort of weird when a distant cousin messages you on social media wanting to connect! I am so grateful for the connections I’ve established through this process.

Did you find out everything you wanted to know?

There is still, unfortunately, a lot of mystery surrounding my relatives because of their deaths at a young age. I also have a great-great-grandfather that went under a pseudonym for awhile so there is some craziness and a lot of unknowns pertaining to that!

How is your relationship with your relative now?

It’s fantastic! I’ll message them whenever I come across any photographs that I think they would appreciate or any documents I find. They all are very interested in genealogy also so I will give them my tips and tricks for creating a family tree.

Is there anything you weren’t emotionally prepared for?

The great-great-grandfather I previously mentioned was NEVER talked about when my mom was growing up so I don’t think I was emotionally prepared to all of the secrets that I uncovered. There were secrets that not even my mom or grandmother were aware of.

Did finding your relative change how you feel about your family history and your story, at all?

Finding my relative made me appreciate my family history and story even more. I learned all that my ancestors went through to make it to the United States from Italy and I’m very grateful for their sacrifices. I am glad that now I am older, I started to reach out to the names that I would see when I would get DNA matches online.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to trace a long-lost relative?

I strongly encourage everyone to research their ancestry and contact any long-lost relatives that they come across. It definitely is scary at first because they are a stranger, but the conversations that come from your connection are such a blessing. I loved hearing new stories about my grandfather because he, unfortunately, was not able to speak for as long as I can remember and passed on twelve years ago.

Genealogy is commonly stereotyped as a boring hobby that only old people participate in, but that’s so not the case. Genealogy is for all ages and it is important to connect with people that may no longer be living when you are older. You don’t want to regret not developing a rapport later on!

Kathy

Tell us a little bit about why it was important for you to find your relative, what inspired you to start looking into your ancestry?

I didn’t know I would find a sister. Honestly, I was hoping to find my maternal grandfather. We’ve never known who he is. I never found that out. At the least, I wanted to know my ancestry as far as where I came from. 64% British, 22% Irish, etc.

How did you start your search? Talk us through which website you used and what the step-by-step process involves…

23andMe but the results came from ancestry.com. Once you buy the kit, you create an online account, spit in a tube and mail it in. It took several weeks for the results which I accessed through my account.

What did you do once you had found your relative. Mixed emotions, we imagine?

Yes, I was thrilled to find her but it was definitely a shock. My 2 full blood sisters that I grew up with still doubt the validity that she’s our half-sister because our dad was such a religious and wonderful person, he would give his shirt off his back to a stranger in need, he saved a mans life once who was burning in a car, of course risking his own. He worked so hard to provide for all of us. So bursting his perfect image is too much for my eldest sister especially. But DNA doesn’t lie.

Did you always want to meet them in real life or was knowing that they existed, enough for you?

No I definitely wanted to meet her in real life! Not only for myself but for my dad. And I’m so happy I did. Seeing the way she moves her mouth when she speaks and walks and smiles, it was like seeing my dad and grandma alive again somehow.

How did you feel going into the process compared with how you feel now? Was there any element of expectation vs reality, or was it exactly as you thought it would be?

I feel great about it. I was a little apprehensive to be honest because it was a bit unnerving to have my DNA “out there” but I’m glad I did it because I would have never known about her. I partially expected to find at least something about my maternal grandfather but didn’t so that was a bit off from reality.

Did you find out everything you wanted to know?

No I wish I could have found out who my maternal grandfather was.

How is your relationship with your relative now?

Wonderful. We text all the time and we’re planning a trip together with my other sisters. I think once they see her they will lose all doubts.

Is there anything you weren’t emotionally prepared for?

I believe my dad knew about her and that’s hard to understand. He wasn’t the type of man not to be involved in his child’s life. But her mother was married to another American soldier so he probably didn’t want to upset their family dynamic. Her dad didn’t know she wasn’t his biological daughter as far as we know.

My cousin once asked me about her at a family reunion many years ago. I told him that it wasn’t true and must be just a rumour. So it was always a family secret. My cousin recently told me no one spoke of it out of respect for my mom.

Did finding your relative change how you feel about your family history and your story, at all?

Yes it shook everything. My brother passed in May 2020 and she and I matched DNA that June. I think he had something to do with us finding her from the “other side”.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to trace a long-lost relative?

Do it! It’s thrilling and even though you might learn dark family secrets it’s definitely worth it in the end. It’s important to know where you came from.

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