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Family Tree DNA introduced the Family Finder DNA test, an autosomal DNA test that could help find a relative on any side of the family tree, in 2010. This was really exciting. Before this, there was a Y-DNA test, where the tester had to be a male, to test the direct male line, and the mitochondrial DNA test to test the direct female line. This new test opened up so many other possibilities.
I talked to my father about this new test and how it could help us find new relatives on all of his family lines. Possibly even on his grandfather’s line, the one we didn’t know anything about. In June of 2010 I wrote the Family Tree DNA help desk. I asked, if I was looking to find out who my grandmother’s father was and could test myself, my father, or my grandmother, was there a benefit to testing one of them instead of me? They replied that since my grandmother shared 50% of her DNA with her father and I shared only 12.5% with him, it was best to test my grandmother, then next best my father, then me. I thought okay, my father is better than me to test, and by testing him we would be able to reveal more information on his father’s side too, so great. The cost of DNA tests at that time was about a few hundred dollars, so I wasn’t really thinking our family would ever take more than one test. (Boy was I wrong.)
Note here is that this type of DNA testing was new, and the claim of my having 12.5% of a great-grandparent’s DNA was simply an average. I pictured that I had equal pieces of all my ancestors at each generation, which is simply not true. It is much more complicated, as I learned later.
In December of 2011 Family Tree DNA ran a holiday promotion, so we did it. We bought a DNA test kit for my father. He returned his kit right away. They received it December 16, and they had the results on January 17.
I excitedly logged in to check the results. There I found a long, long list of matches. Great, I could find out so much about our family. A long list of matches, where I searched through trees and surname lists. A long list of matches, but I couldn’t find a single connection to anyone. What happened? Was my father switched at birth? Did they mix up the DNA samples in the lab? This was going to be a lot harder that I thought.
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