After years of researching her European ancestry, JoLynn was surprised to discover a document that indicated one of her great-grandmothers was of African descent. Without more of a paper trail to follow, she took an AncestryDNA test to confirm her ethnicity results and discovered MUCH more!
JoLynn: I found a document on my paternal 3rd great grandmother that identified her as a “free woman of color.” I was so intrigued that I did a DNA test and my results showed that I am 4% Southeastern Bantu.
Ancestry: How would you describe your level of personal family history knowledge before getting started on Ancestry or taking the AncestryDNA test?
JoLynn: My family history knowledge before using Ancestry and before being DNA tested was okay, but limited. It’s infinitely easier researching online with all the databases that Ancestry has and much quicker than the old days of ordering and searching through microfilm!
Ancestry: Tell us about your research approach once you were matched with possible cousins.
JoLynn: When I got the match for my sisters, the match said we were “close to 1st cousins.” I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly. I was not aware of any other siblings so I assumed we were cousins. I wrote to them first, calling them “cousin.” It only took about eight emails back and forth, before we realized we are not cousins. We are half-sisters and share the same father! All three of us were super excited, but it was especially exciting for my sisters since they had been given up for adoption at birth, and had finally connected with a blood relative. I was able to provide them with family pictures of our grandparents and beyond.
I’ve also been matched with cousins on both my maternal and paternal sides. I’ve also contacted cousins that I’m related to through slavery on a few of my lines. We haven’t determined which ancestors we are connected through yet, but we are working on it.
Ancestry: What were the reactions of your family members when you shared the information you discovered?
JoLynn: My mother, who is 88 years old, was very surprised. She was not aware that my biological father had fathered twins before he married her. My sisters that I grew up with were equally surprised. (We are actually half-sisters too. We all three have the same mother, but different fathers.) They would like to get tested now as well to see where their results will lead them. I am only referring to my sisters as half-sisters for clarification. I love all my sisters dearly.
Ancestry: What was experience of meeting your sisters for the first time?
JoLynn: When I got to meet my “new” sisters for the first time it was so exciting and I was so nervous. They live only a 5-hour drive away from me. They are identical twins, and they are so fun and funny to be around. They had so many questions. We talked and talked ’til our throats were sore from talking. This whole experience has been so amazing. We are not only sisters, but friends for life.
Ancestry: Has the experience of finally locating your long-lost family changed you in any way?
JoLynn: This whole experience of finding new family is wonderful. I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know if the experience has changed me in any way. It has made me more aware that anything is possible. Don’t be afraid. Find out what you can. You may find out more than you ever thought possible.
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