Finding all children of an ancestral couple can help you build a DNA-friendly family tree for your DNA matching experience. Use this collateral research strategy on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch or MyHeritage.
A couple years ago, my friend (let’s call him Steve) got a surprise when DNA testing showed that his mother’s father wasn’t his biological grandfather. Since then, he’s been searching for the identity of his birth grandfather.
Using Shared Matches and other strategies, he narrowed the field of contestants for his birth grandfather’s parents. In fact, he identified the paternal family and determined that his grandfather’s mother was likely one of four women in the same family.
Steve then discovered that one of the four women did have a daughter with a man from the paternal family. He theorized that they could have had another child together—his grandfather. Or that one of the man’s brothers could have had a child with the same woman or one of her sisters, since the two families were likely in proximity.
So here was his question:
“Do you know if it’s possible to search birth records (maybe an index) by mother’s name in hopes of finding missing children?”
Finding all children born to an ancestral couple
The answer is YES! Genealogy websites Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and MyHeritage allow you to search historical records by just the names of the parents, or even of one parent. (Ancestry and MyHeritage are both subscription sites; FamilySearch is free.) This is a great strategy for Steve and anyone else who is trying to build out a DNA-friendly family tree that can help them identify missing ancestors or identify their relationships to their DNA matches (or both!).
To run a search like this, instead of entering the name of his grandfather (who is unknown), Steve will leave the first name field empty. He then activates the options to enter the mother’s and/or father’s names, where he enters parental candidates to see if they show up as parents in any old records. Here’s what that search looks like on Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage, respectively:
You can enter first or last names or both for one or both parents, depending on what you know, but as you can imagine, if you only enter common first names, you’ll get waayyyyy too many search results to be useful. You can also add an approximate date and place to narrow down the possibilities.
The searches shown above will prioritize results where the names entered appear as parents. This strategy can help you identify multiple children born to the same couple (or person), as long as the records themselves are on that website and the names are recognizably similar.
Thanks, Steve, for asking a good question!
Using Your DNA to Find an Ancestor
You can use your DNA test results to help find “missing” ancestors, just like Steve is doing. Follow the strategies in our popular Finding An Ancestor Using Your DNA quick reference guide, available as a digital download.