Finding an unknown grandfather using DNA

A friend, Jane (all names in this story have been changed), asked me to help her identify her unknown maternal grandfather.  Her mother was born out of wedlock in 1913 to her 16 year grandmother and the father was unknown.  The first thing we did was write for a birth certificate.  That came back with the adopted parent’s names.  My friend knew the family story – that her grandmother was taken to a relative’s house to have the baby and after delivery, returned home with her own mother claiming to be the mother.  In other words, my friend’s great grandparents adopted her mother.

Jane’s older brother gave a clue when he told her that Ted Hanover was the father.   He also said that the rest of the family and neighbors had known all along what actually happened.   Armed with this small segment of information, we looked at census records to see what we could find.  Ted Hanover showed up on the 1900 census as a 5 year old boy living with his grandparents,  Joseph and Emma Farmer in the same town as her grandmother.  Years ago, proving that Ted Hanover was my friend’s grandfather would have been impossible but with DNA testing, we had a new resource to work with.

Having previously tested with Family Tree DNA, we looked at Jane’s matches to see if anyone had the Hanover or Farmer surname name.  None did and the low cm’s were not promising.  I suggested she test with Ancestry since their database is so large. When those results came back, Jane had three matches with large centimorgans (cms):  one at 549, one at 325 and one at 278.  Jane contacted all three to see if they would work with her.  The only match to respond was the one with 549 cm (quite possibly a 1st cousin, or 1st cousin once removed, or a second cousin) and yes, she would love to work with Jane to find a common ancestor.  Not wanting to upset a stranger with her story, Jane sent a list of all of her surnames to the match, hoping she would verify what we suspected.  Jane never heard back from the her, even though the match has been on Ancestry frequently.  We assumed she recognized the surnames in question and didn’t want to get involved.

So we decided to see what other matches we could find.  There were no Hanovers on the list, but we did find several matches with the Farmer surname.  Pretty sure at this point that we were on the right path, we returned to genealogical research.  We found all of Joseph Farmer’s seven children and then located their spouses.  None of the spouses matched the Hanover name.  One child did not have a spouse, a daughter named Susan.  With more research on her, we finally found an online family tree that said Susan (unmarried) had a child with a man having the surname Hanover.  This was not proof, since there was no way to document it, but we took it as a lead.

Knowing about the Farmer – Hanover connection we went back and researched Ted Hanover (the possible grandfather) and found his marriage and two children.  One of his daughters married and we noted her married name of Henderson.  Going back to DNA, we noticed that one of the large matches who had not responded to Jane’s original request had a surname of Henderson.

We now had the proof that we were looking for.  DNA connections to both sides of her maternal great grandparents, through her grandfather, Ted Hanover.  One at least on the Hanover side through the name Henderson and four on the Farmer side.  We had found Jane’s grandfather.

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