[If this is your first time reading my Adoption Story, it is a fascinating journey told in pieces. For your best experience, start from the beginning at: Adoptee with a Note]
While all this other exciting stuff was going on, I used my free time to try and work my magic through the DNA matches on my Birth Father’s side. That task was far more challenging. The closest DNA matches I had were 4th - 6th cousins, which meant I had to go back four to six generations then shift over to a sibling and down four to six generations. And as you may or may not know, four generations ago, families were large! In addition, my father was Danish, and the family trees of my DNA matches quickly went back to other countries such as Denmark and Germany. Documents were no longer in English and newspaper articles were not going to help me.
I was able to connect via email with a couple of my DNA matches on my father’s side. They both were very enthusiastic to help me find our common ancestor, but the project was a daunting one. Cathy, a 4th-6th cousin, had compiled a genetic tree containing 28,640 people! There were hundreds of surnames in her tree, four of which ended up in the North East United States, but they were all born in the 1700s. Another 4th – 6th cousin, Kevin, had a smaller genetic tree created containing 444 people and a mere 70 surnames, 28 of which settled in New York state. They generously shared their genetic research with me. As I looked at these family trees I couldn’t imagine where to even begin. I knew so little about my father and his family and I couldn’t read Danish or German. Finding a clue would be like finding a needle in a very large haystack. I frankly needed a miracle piece of information to guide me in the right direction.
Kevin suggested that I submit my DNA results to another website called GEDmatch, a much less user-friendly website that takes your DNA results to a deeper level. You see matches at the X and the Y level which tell you how you match, from your mother’s side or your father’s side. The science is complicated and quite honestly overwhelming, but Kevin, who is obsessed with genetics, looked at how we were matched and analyzed it against his DNA and some of his relative’s DNA and told me that I had to come from his uncles side of the family. He told me why, but it all went over my head and I just had to trust him. He told me to trace up the male side of the trees, starting from his uncle. I wasn’t sure if this was my miracle clue, but it narrowed things down for me. His uncle’s last name was Osterby and came from Denmark. I searched Newspapers for the last name Osterby in Binghamton. There were no hits. This search was going to be a challenge!
I continued to monitor my Ancestry.com mailbox. I hoped that some of the DNA matches I had reached out to would respond. If you recall in an earlier entry, I had originally reached out to three DNA matches on Ancestry. Tina had been one of them and responded immediately. I hadn’t heard from the other two. And then one day, I did. The Ancestry UserID I heard back from was SeaShell41. By this time, I had sent several messages to SeaShell41. I could see that they had logged in to Ancestry repeatedly, so I knew they received my messages, but for some reason they were not responding … until now. In my messages I had revealed that I was adopted and was searching for my birth parents. SeaShell41 would have been from my mother’s side as they were Italian/Mediterranean. The last message I sent to SeaShell41 I revealed that I found my birth mother but she was not ready to connect. I mentioned my connection with a wonderful cousin and that I was hoping to connect with other blood relatives when and if they wanted to. I also mentioned that I was still looking for my birth father. But as I said, I never heard from SeaShell41, so I stopped reaching out.
What a surprise to finally receive a response. SeaShell41’s message said that they were in a difficult position and apologized for not responding sooner. They said that they were aware of the adoption and knew very little about the details, however they did know my birth mother, which is why they felt nervous about responding to me, especially when I had revealed that my birth mother was not receptive to me finding her. SeaShell41 said they were sympathetic to my situation and wanted to help but didn’t see how they could and wished me good luck. I replied to SeaShell41 that I was grateful for their message and understood their difficult position. I mentioned that I had learned enough information about the circumstances and that my desire was to give my birth mother and everyone else as much space as they need. When they are ready, they can find me. In the meantime, I said, I was still on the search for my birth father.
A few days later, my miracle happened. I received a short response back from SeaShell41 who said that they remembered the last name of my birth mother’s boyfriend back in 1964.
“A handsome blond young man from Vestal, NY named Andersen. Sorry, it was so long ago, I can’t remember any more.”