Our Greatest Challenge

>> Sunday, September 20, 2015

The participants
Karin Corbeil, Patty Drabing, Marianne Brown and I are all Search Angels. We are all also members of DNAadoption.com. DNAadoption is a non-profit group which provides education for those trying to interpret DNA results. This means that we wear several hats, CeCe Moore has often been our mentor.

Patty is the President of DNAadoption.com, Karin is on the board of DNAadoption.com and DNAgedcom.com (our tools building companion site) and she also provides the support for DNAGedcom, Diane is the director of education for DNAadoption. Marianne is our magician who we call in to solve a problem when we are stuck, or to give us ideas. We all also help people search for missing or unidentified family members by analyzing the DNA results.

This blog is intended to reveal the role of DNAadoption in the search. Others were involved and they can tell you more about their role.

How it started
About 2 years ago, CeCe Moore came to Karin and asked that she look into identifying a man known as Benjaman Kyle who was an amnesiac with no memory of who he was and only fleeting memories of his past. CeCe had been working on this case for some time on her own.
Benjaman from the early days

Benjaman had received lots of publicity but no one had come forth to say that he was someone that they knew, The police had not been able to identify him either. CeCe had gotten FTDNA to donate DNA test kits. Others, including  DNAadoption's Angel Fund, bought Ancestry and 23andme kits and paid for Ancestry accounts to work on the test results. DNAGedcom also paid for a couple of Ancestry subscriptions in the past years.

Our hearts kicked into high gear and we were determined to help out this lost man, no matter what it took. Little did we know it would take 2 years. We said all along that we did not care about who got the credit or who found the answers as long as he found out who he was and could resume a more more normal life. However, since we did solve it, we want to let others know that DNA is a miracle and that with work it can provide answers - sometimes a lot of work.

How we worked
Karin started working the DNA results and after a while asked me and Patty to give her a hand in the search. Karin's principal role continued to be analyzing the DNA and constructing a large combined tree of the people who had been identified as DNA relatives. She eventually wound up with over 30,000 people in the tree.

I assisted in the expansion of the tree and analyzing the results. Patty is an expert in resources so she helped with that as well as tree building. When I realized from some of Benjaman's memories that we had lived in some of the same places at the same time,  he and I started chatting about the days we had lived in Colorado.When Benjaman remembered a detail, I would check it out and add to a timeline. However, Karin was the real workhorse on this. She would not let it go

I also started concentrating on certain trees figuring that sooner or later they had to lead to Benjaman.

It went on and on
We had plenty of other things to do, but worked on this case when we could fit it in. One of the people who was most likely related in some way to Benjaman started helping with family genealogical history and facts, This was a big push to the search. CeCe started encouraging us on, Email between us would keep saying we have to find this answer.

I have had a method in searching.  Every time a search got to a certain point, I would call in Marianne Brown who has a wonderful reputation of being able to find information about anyone, I call her the magician.

Our methodology
In the meantime, we were using the methodology we have developed to find the missing family members of adoptees. We have been very successful with this and genealogists have started taking our classes to learn this methodology. The methodology was started when I was brand new to DNA Analysis and kept asking where are the directions. Only to find that there were none. I kept quizzing Gaye Tannebaum, an early analyst in our field and as I followed her ideas, I logged the methods being used. The first search worked! Now we were excited. Rob Warthen started developing tools for us, Karin jumped in and the two of us worked as one to improve the methodology which has proven to be a constant task, the methodology is here.

There were so many people clamoring for help and so few to help them, that we made the decision that we needed to educate searchers to use our techniques rather than do the searches ourselves. This has worked well and we offer classes at http://dnaadoption.com

Why this case was more difficult
Benjaman's family tree that incorporated his many DNA matches was tremendously endogamous. Not much analysis has gone into the effects of endogamy on the results of DNA testing and we were partly under the misconception of how much distortion can occur to DNA predictions with the multiple intermarriages within small communities. The marriages do cause some pile up of DNA. It appears to be at its worst with 3rd cousins and improves from second grandparents and closer where the predictions again become more accurate,

Benjaman's more immediate family
Identification is being withheld at his request. We early on identified what appeared to be his second grandparents, These families were very large families and the endogamy was occuring in small communities and within the Baptist church communities that were quite isolated. It turned out that Benjaman's specific line was less endogamous than most of the family, probably because they migrated to another area. 

Marianne strikes again
As we were wallowing in thirty thousand members of the extended tree, we once again contacted Marianne and told her that we thought we were close and just could not close the deal. After a couple of days, she asked if we had checked this branch. We looked at it, I personally took one look at it and said, OMG, he was right he is Catholic, He had insisted on this as well as his birth date throughout the search. In the meantime CeCe, was reworking data to see if she could isolate the last part. At this point, we asked CeCe to take over the actual contacts and after convincing the family that it was not a hoax, a positive identification was made.

Our reaction
We all cried with joy and relief and then went back to our other searches.Our children and grandchildren had been aware of this search over the many months and had repeatedly asked if we had solved it. They had total empathy for Benjaman, so they were the first outsiders I told. And like  in this blog the specific answers were not so important as the fact that there was an answer.

Benjaman from NBC feed after the search

Word to Benjaman
Benjaman, we grew to love you and greatly admire your strength. We were so pleased to able to give this gift to you.We wish you happiness and good health.


Argie September 21, 2015 at 4:37 AM  

This team is awesome, as a team and as individuals.Well done!

Rain Man December 8, 2016 at 9:21 AM  

What a beautiful and inspiring story. Thank You. As a "newly discovered" (at age 64!) adoptee not only was it emotionally touching, but enlightening technically.

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