Ancestry DNA, Should I, or Shouldn’t I? And Do We Have the Right to Know About Our Ancestors?

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DNA testing for genealogy seems to be all the craze now.  Some jump on the bandwagon and take the tests right away, others seem more hesitant.  Is it accurate? How will the results be used?  Is our information really private?  What if I find out something … unexpected?!

All of these same questions went through my mind.  Ultimately though, I did take the test, through Ancestry.  My sisters, father and adult children, took it as well.  And the results?  Well, my dad is my dad, and my sisters are my sisters, my children are my children, no surprises there. 😉

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Truth be told, once the results came back, a whole new world opened.  We have discovered many relations (some unexpected) which have sparked even more interest in our family history.

Quite a few DNA matches have reached out to me to ask questions, and some, to just say hello.

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Genealogy Frustration – Do we have a right to know about our ancestors?

A couple of years ago my older sister and I started tracing our family tree.  She took my mom’s side and I took my dad’s.  While exploring my paternal grandfather’s background, I hit a wall. This is a grandfather that I had never met and who died back in 1975.  Family rumors say that he left my grandmother, my dad and my aunt one day, and never returned.  I do know he remarried and started another family.  Truth be told, this man intrigues me. 

Did he really just leave them?  Was he “run off”?  What is the story?  Will I ever know?  Does that part even really matter? 

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While gathering simple documents (that I do for each person I am researching), and what I thought would be easy to acquire information, I found out that he died in Oklahoma.  So, I filled out the proper paperwork, sent in my fee, and requested a death certificate.  This is a common thing to do when researching genealogy.  I am able to get this information because I am his biological granddaughter – or so I thought.  I am his biological granddaughter, yes, but they told me I didn’t qualify to get a copy of his death certificate.  Why not?

Well, after he “left”, my grandmother remarried. That man adopted my father and aunt and raised them until his death in 1971.  From what I have been told, Grandpa J was a wonderful father and a loving man.  I do have a few pictures of him with me and my sisters, but I don’t remember him, as I was only a few years old when he died.

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So, after many months of back and forth communication with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Vital Records, and document scanning to prove my connection with my paternal grandfather, I was told that because of the adoption, the family line has been broken, and I don’t qualify to get the death certificate or any other documents about my biological grandfather.  Technically, he is not legally my grandfather.

I understand that this man did not raise my father and that my dad had a wonderful man that did indeed love and raise him.  But that does not change the fact that my biological grandfather and I share DNA and I’d like to know about him.  Was he a good man? I have no idea.  And to be honest, I am not doing this to judge that.  I am simply curious about what he did in his life.

I have had trouble getting in contact with anyone (aside from my dad) that will speak to me about him or help me with documents that pertain to him.  My dad has told me what he knows, and I very much appreciate his patience with me when asking questions.  After all, this is a part of his life that I am exploring, and some people don’t appreciate others “digging up the past”.  Dad has been wonderful about it though.  He knows my intentions and knows that this does not in any way take away from the memory of the adopted father that he knew and loved.

And so, as far as my biological grandfather is concerned, my research is at a bit of a standstill. As soon as the specified time has passed since his death (50 years, if memory serves), anyone can request his death certificate and other documents  And so, I will wait.

While this frustration was unexpected, it in no way tempts me to quit the search for information.  When I reach an obstacle, I simply put that person’s file aside (for now) and work on someone else.  There is always another ancestor yet to be discovered.  🙂

Have you taken an ancestry DNA test?  Were the results what you expected?  Were there some surprises?  How about your family tree? Do you have one in progress, or is it simply too overwhelming to even start?  If you have any interest or curiosity at all, don’t wait!  There will never be “a perfect time” to explore your ancestors and to be honest, you may never have a completed tree.  But with all the resources out there, it would be a shame not to explore and document what you can.  You may even find some surprises along the way 🙂 

A well-documented family tree is a wonderful gift for you to leave for your children and grandchildren, and beyond.

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