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Thanks to the searchers

The Legal Genealogist isn’t seeing too well this morning.

Perhaps there’s a bit of the residue of sleep in my eyes.

Perhaps there’s a bleary remnant of the mulled cider my family shared last night.

Most likely, it’s just some filmy moisture in front of my eyes.

Angelic being obscuredAnd it’s really because I was reminded, powerfully, over the last couple of days of one thing that is abundantly clear:

There are angels among us.

And I for one am so grateful for them.

We call them “search angels” in the genetic genealogy community — these folks who give selflessly of their time and energy and knowledge to try to guide adoptees in their searches for their biological families.

And they are simply amazing.

On Christmas morning, I woke up to a message from a reader who wasn’t quite sure what it meant when a comparison of DNA results on the third party site Gedmatch reported that the reader was a particular number of generations away from a match.

We exchanged a bit more information, and it turned out that the reader was a 71-year-old adoptee who had information about the now-deceased biological mother but not the biological father. The match was 81 years old. Neither of them knew quite what to do with the information they had.

I explained what I could about the likely relationship (based on the amount of shared DNA and the like) and suggested what I always suggest to adoptees: (1) get familiar with the website, which offers guidance and resources to adoptees looking to use DNA as one of their tools; and (2) join the Yahoo discussion group for adoptees at

And I suggested that the reader also read through Michael D. Lacopo’s amazing tour de force on his own search for his biological grandfather at Hoosier Daddy?. Most adoptees won’t face the twists and turns he did, but can sure use the methodologies explained in that search.

And, since I don’t do this sort of forensic work, I tried to feel that I’d really done about as much as I could and tried to put this out of my mind.

But I couldn’t.

The relationship disclosed by the DNA was so close that it really should be solvable. But when you’re talking about people in their 70s and 80s, time is not on the adoptee’s side.

And the words the reader had written kept nagging at me: “As you can see from our ages, almost everyone involved is no longer living. I feel like we have hit a brick wall. … I don’t know where to go from here.

Well, I did. I took the reader’s case to this amazing community of search angels.

And by last night, they’d solved it.

The specifics of the reader’s story are not for me to tell.

But the story of the search angels? That’s one that doesn’t get told nearly often enough.

Some of them listed on the site will guide an adoptee through the first few steps. Others will work on particularly challenging cases from start to finish. Others help teach adoptees and genetic genealogists about using DNA in adoption cases. Some of them write blogs. Almost all of them will help answer questions on the Yahoo DNA adoption discussion group. And some work entirely behind the scenes and you’ll never see their names out there.

There are always more cases needing to be solved than there are search angels available to help solve them. Not every case will be quick or easy to solve, not every case can be jumped to the top of the list. The focus is, and has to be, on teaching more and more adoptees and genealogists alike how to do for themselves what the search angels try to do to help.

But thanks to folks like Diane Harman-Hoog, Karin Corbeil, and Patty Drabing, there is one fewer unsolved case out there as of last night.

And I for one can only say thank you…

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