Was the Family Rumor True? DNA Says….

Sunny Morton

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Family rumor said grandpa’s birth father was not who everyone thought it was. Here’s how DNA testing shed light on the gossip–AND revealed more about grandma’s ancestry, too!


Could the family rumor be true?


Judy Line’s family has passed down an intriguing rumor through the generations. “The story was that my grandfather Paul’s birth father was not the father on his birth certificate,” she says. “The man who we believed to be the birth father was known to the family (surname Fenski). He was actually the godfather of Paul’s first child.”


After “years of searching, a family tree with his possible birth father, Henry, was located,” Judy continues. “Contact was made with the tree owner. She had been raised with a similar story.”


Judy, now a graduate of Diahan Southard’s DNA Skills Workshop, knew DNA testing could reveal whether a biological relationship existed between these two families. “Both of us had already ordered our DNA kits, but just hadn’t submitted it. When the results finally came in, we were absolutely related.”


The two family stories, plus the relationship, was fairly compelling. But it wasn’t absolute proof that Henry Fenski was her grandfather’s father. She looked for any other family tree connection between herself and the tree owner that could explain the DNA match. She could fine none.


Judy learned other strategies in the DNA Skills Workshop that could also help clarify whether this DNA connection indicated the family story was true. For example:


  • See whether the amount of DNA she shared with the Fenski tree owner was consistent with the amount of DNA they should share if they are related via Henry Fenski.
  • Look for historical evidence that Henry Fenski and her great-grandmother were indeed in the same place at the time of conception.
  • Explore whether Henry had a close male relative who also could have been the father, and whether the amounts of shared DNA are more consistent with one of them being the father.


More DNA discoveries


Judy’s DNA analysis showed enough evidence to satisfy her of the connection to Paul. BUT, she says, “The success didn’t stop there!”


“I was contacted by a genealogist from Canada, who believed we were related through the Fenski line, but we couldn’t find the connection,” she continued. “Paul was a first generation American; we knew that both his parents had immigrated from Poland. Paul’s mother’s death certificate gave her parents as Adam Berger and Anna Lichnich. I looked at his ancestral surnames and found a name that I had run across before: Liechnitz. Years before I had contacted the Liechnitz Family Project and suggested that my Anna Lichnich was really a Liechnitz. This was shot down immediately.”


“Then a person with the surname Liechnitz showed up as my second closest match; only my first cousin was a stronger match. This was pointed out to the Canadian genealogist and bingo! Paul’s mothers baptism was found, and her parents were Adam Mroczynski and Anna Liechnitz.”


“So my reason for getting a DNA test was to find Paul’s father, which I did, but I also got the bonus of solving the mystery about his mother’s parents.”


Judy gained more knowledge and confidence about working with her DNA matches in the DNA Skills Workshop, a six-week masterclass experience.



Not ready for that yet? Pick up a copy of the “do-it-yourself DNA manual” we use in the Skills Workshop: Your DNA Guide–the Book. And put your DNA to work solving YOUR family history mysteries!




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  1. Laura

    I believe that the second bullet point should say to look for evidence that Henry Fenski and her great-grandmother were indeed at the same place at the same time of conception. As Judy is looking for information on her granfather’s parents that wouldn’t have anything to do with his wife aka Judy’s grandmother being with her father-in-law when her husband was conceived. Judy’s grandmother probably wasn’t already an adult when her husband was born either. Judy is looking for proof that Henry Fenski was her great-grandfather. She needs to prove this for her great-grandmother.

    • Diahan Southard

      You’re right, that was a typo on our part, Good catch! I’ll make sure to fix that.


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