Christmas once again.....for real this time!

It's Christmas morning, December 25, 2012 and I'm so looking forward to this day with family.

When I first discovered my brother was a full sibling on August 31, 2012, I titled the post "Christmas in August".  Little did I know then that it was an omen.

Christmas 2012 brought more to me than the usual this year.  First, our beautiful granddaughter Madison Grace, now almost 9 months old has been a joy without a doubt.  Christmas miracles come in all forms...and I got a huge one on Saturday of this week just 3 days before Christmas and the tears are still welling in my eyes.

For those of you who may not have been following  my story, we found my birth mother in June of this year. I discovered I had a living brother who did DNA testing which confirmed us as full siblings in late August.  He has been less than outgoing, so I have left him to his thoughts and we have yet to meet.  Our mother died at the age of 32 in a car accident in 1961 when he was only 13. The car went over a hidden ravine and her body was not found for two weeks subsequent. Our brother David died at the age 29 in 1982.  I felt that these tragic events played a role in his stand-offish attitude and maybe it brought back all that pain to him.  So, I have not pressured him. We've only had a few phone calls and emails since September.

On Saturday, the mail arrived with two Christmas cards mailed from Connecticut.  One from my lifeline to my Foley family and 1st cousin, Peter, who wrote me the most heart-warming letter, almost to the point of embarrassment. Through the tears, I could barely read the second card I opened.  To my surprise and delight it was from my brother and his family.  His wife, Sandy, wrote me the most awesome letter, that I will cherish for the rest of my life. She told me that Bob, my brother, just does not know how to express himself in regards to this discovery.  He is a quiet man, very private, and will not share his emotions.  But she knows he is absolutely delighted and overjoyed on finding a sister. They all are! She also told me that she has been married to him for 27 years and still doesn't know some things and said "Let's help each other and together, you and I, will learn more about your family."  It was the best Christmas present I could have gotten.

I would have liked to have been on their doorstep this morning but will thwart my anxiety again and I will be going to Connecticut the week after Easter and the anticipation is killing me!!! 

But it sure has been one heck of a year and Christmas came to me once again. Sometimes you just need to keep your exuberance and excitement to yourself for a period of time in order to let that full realization come to pass.  In my case, it paid off.....bigtime!!!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Karin Corbeil

Adoptee in Reunion - birth family found June 14, 2012
Search Angel - Helping others find their families

New and Innovative Ways to Help Find Unknown Ancestors

Several years ago I began to study the possibility of doing DNA testing with the ultimate goal of seeing if it could possibly help me to find my birth family.  I took a couple of courses on DNA at the local university and started reading everything I could get my hands on about DNA.

I contacted my good friend, Cece Moore, Your Genetic Genealogist, who I had been corresponding with for years on our genealogical connections. Cece has become the guru of DNA information and analysis combining it with her love of genealogy. And basically this combination is beginning to become the new innovative method of identifying unknown ancestors, whether you are adopted or not.

Before I get into the DNA angle, let me list some suggestions for adoptees. 

1. Put together a file with all the information you have on your birth and adoption, including copies of any birth or adoption documents that you may have and keep some kind of journal to record any progress.

2. Have you or are you working with anyone else to help them find your families? Occasionally we find that some adoptees have contacted other search angels who already have done some work. This prevents duplication of efforts.

3. Do you have non-identifying information provided by an agency?  If not, it is one of the first things you should try and get, if available. If you are unsure as to how to do that, we can help.

4. Are you registered with any state adoption registries? Have you posted your search to any online adoption registries or databases?

6. Depending on which state you were born and/or adopted in, you may already be eligible for original birth certificates or other information. Nineteen states do have some records open, either complete or partial. See list of states here: List of states with partial or full open records

We also recommend you join the yahoo group DNAadoption at Yahoo groups, an extremely active group with experts in all areas of DNA and adoptee searching.

What DNA tests should you do?

For males usually anything less than Y-DNA37 is essentially useless in identifying a surname. Males should have done at least Y-DNA37 unless they only have a few matches at a lower level.  If you already have done Y-DNA12 or Y-DNA25 and you have a number of matches, you should upgrade to at least Y-DNA37. Males should also do their autosomal DNA ("atDNA") (Family Finder at FTDNA; Relative Finder at 23andMe).

Females should have their atDNA done (Family Finder or Relative Finder).

For both males and females, we have found that Mitochondrial DNA is not real helpful because it's usually much too far back (1,000s of years). For adoptees, it will be rare to find a match to your biological family in recent generations using only mtDNA.  If you wish to have your mtDNA done you should have the Full mitochondrial sequence ("FMS") done.

If you have known living biological ancestors (such as you know your mother, but not your father) additional DNA tests should be done on those biological family members to help in possible phasing of your data (analyzing and recognizing the segments that are maternal vs. paternal) and possibly see other matches based on the randomness of DNA.

Once your test results are posted, you should download your raw data and upload to GEDmatch ( Fishing in two ponds is better than one. Additional information and instructions to upload to Gedmatch can be found at

GEDmatch is a FREE, non-profit, “do-it-yourself” genomics website that allows DNA testers to upload raw data from FTDNA and other companies to compare with a large database of data that has been voluntarily uploaded by other testers.

My Tests

I had my DNA first tested at Family Tree DNA and also at 23andMe.  Both companies are recognized with state of the art testing, each has their pros and cons as I have discovered, but their analyses are well respected within the DNA community. I also more recently tested with AncestryDNA but that's another story for another blog post.  Nothing wrong there, they are just not geared to those of us who are interested in more detailed information regarding our results.  It can be helpful for some but since most adoptees have no idea of their ancestry, and have no family tree to link their results to, it may not be as helpful, unless you know at least some in your biological family and can post a tree to link your results.

For a female my only options were autosomal DNA ("atDNA") and/or mitochondrial DNA ("mtDNA").  At the time I was not well enough versed in which tests would give me the most bang for my buck, I opted to take the Family Finder (atDNA) plus mtDNA.  The 23andMe test automatically includes both, and Y-DNA for males. These tests are not cheap and spending $300 is not unusual. Sometimes FTDNA and 23andMe run sales which can save you at least 20% if not more.

The day finally came when my results were posted.  The dream of every adoptee is to have a 2nd cousin or better match on atDNA tests.  A 2nd cousin match would mean that you shared the same great grandparents.  As we only have a total of 8 great grandparents, this narrows down the field considerably of possible descendants who could be your birth parents.  The further back we go the more descendants to wade through. But I was beginning to realize that it was not impossible.....difficult and tedious? Yes, but the thought entered my mind.....why hasn't this been explored further? My years of work in genealogy was the perfect match for attempting something like this.  The skills I had learned could certainly be put to use in solving this mystery.

Next Step

I joined a few adoptee mailing lists. Eventually I found the awesome and extremely active DNAadoption at YahooGroups which had been recently started. Early on, not many of us were extremely well versed in DNA analysis but we all knew that this avenue of possibly solving the mysteries of our heritage was a new road we all wished to be traveling. Today there are close to 500 members of this group.  We have people who are experts in Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, Y-DNA, German adoptions, search angels who comb records, and many others.  I contacted Cece and told her about it and said, "We could really use your help here."  She joined and has been one of our biggest assets and cheerleaders. We are all learning more and more and we all agreed that there definitely was a "method to our madness."

I also joined DNA-Newbie at YahooGroups moderated by Cece. Although not specifically geared towards adoptees, this list is a "must read" for anybody attempting DNA analysis. Another active mailing list is which may address more complex matters regarding DNA but it is well worth putting on your reading list.  A great place to learn.

Each day I learn something new from the people on these lists. The subject matter on DNA is excruciatingly complex.  Many times I have to read an article 6 times for it to sink it. But the more I read, I realized that this intricate technology could be the latest innovation in finding my Foleys. The world of DNA is changing as we speak. Just in the last few months new discoveries and new methods are changing how scientists understand this once little known phenomenon.

Methods and tools are now being developed that will help adoptees in their searches. I met Rob Warthen on the AdoptionDNA list.  His expertise in programming and development along with his inspiration to help find his wife's birth family has led him to pioneer the development of tools and programs that has eased the process of retrieving DNA data and make it easier to manipulate. His website is being developed to add these tools in a web based format. We all hope that 2013 will show a new growth of the use of these tools and programs with the ultimate goal of finding adoptees' place in their biological families.

What's Next

Cece Moore, Rob Warthen and I recently spoke at the 8th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston explaining the methodology.  It was well received and those of us involved are continuing to try and make it easier for adoptees to understand and use the tools. There is a light shining brightly at the end of that unknown tunnel and the methodologies have already been proven.  I expect that in the next year or two as new developments occur in the field of DNA we will begin to see a flood of questions answered for many adoptees.


The theory is simple - Find your DNA matches; Find others who match people on your list of matches by comparing chromosomal segments and overlaps; Find the ancestors of those matches; how they connect and work ancestral trees both linearly and laterally with the ultimate goal of finding your place in that family.

The execution is hard work, complex and tedious - but it can be done.  It has been done!

Suggested Reading

Richard Hill, one of my co-administrators at the Global Adoptee Genealogical Project at FTDNA, tells the story of his decades-long search for biological family and the innovative use of genetic genealogy DNA tests to identify his birth father. I highly recommend this well written book for anybody searching for their unknown ancestors.

Karin Corbeil/Carol Lee Foley
Daughter of Edward & Helen Rasmussen Baum and Robert & Barbara Foley Shumsky


"Where were you?"

The past 24 hours have been more than overwhelming. 

The horrible angst of waiting for my brother's and my cousin's DNA results; the fear and wonder, mixed with eventual joy, that proved (yes, PROVED) that we are fully related to the same parents. 

As you can see by these side by side photos of Robert and me when we were both about 17 years old, the resemblance is unmistakable.

At about 5 p.m. yesterday I called the first person (other than my brother and cousin) who deserved to be on the receiving end of this outstanding news - my search angel extraordinaire. She was the one who quickly, within 2 hours, put all the pieces together for me back in June once my newly updated non-identifying information was received and sent me down the road to discovery. There are many out there like her, too numerous to mention, but you know who you are. And they provide these services for free. They don't even require a "Thank you".  Their work benefits many but as she once told me, the rewards to them in return is a hundred fold.

New cutting edge technology involving DNA testing is beginning to open doors for adoptees and anyone with questions about their ancestry. I personally have seen the methodology of using DNA with a combination of good old fashioned sleuthing WORK. I know of 3 "finds" alone last week. Companies like FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) have given adoptees and others a true gift. There are others, like 23andme who also provide great resources but FTDNA is geared towards genealogy and in my humble opinion is #1 for this purpose. Others may disagree but I have tested at FTDNA, 23andme and AncestryDNA and in the end FTDNA is the easiest and most useful for adoptees. If you want to take advantage of the health testing at 23andme you can then have the option of uploading your raw data to the FTDNA database for a reasonable cost. Fishing in two ponds is always better than one.

Aside from the joy of my own discovery using FTDNA, it has been a real learning experience in that it has really added to my knowledge of how DNA is so randomly handed down. I also believe it will help me weed out other maternal vs. paternal matches, because Peter has a different father than Robert and I do.  Anyone that matches all 3 of us with an overlap will theoretically be my maternal side.  Anyone who matches me and Robert but not Peter should theoretically be my paternal side. This is also where the X chromosome matches to Robert and Peter can be helpful. 

I've gotten a little off track, but I think it is important that I mentioned it. So back to my story.....

I wasn't even hungry for dinner,  my hunger lied in learning more about the parents that gave birth to me. Hubby insisted I get away from the computer and phone for a bit, go out with him to have something to eat and later make those phone calls to Robert and Peter. Upon our return I was anxious to get on the phone and share the news with Robert and Peter.  I called my brother, Robert, first.

Karin: Hello, Robert?
Robert: Yesssss, who is this?
Karin: It's Karin.
Robert: Who?
Karin: Karin!!!
Robert: Who????
Karin: IT'S YOUR SISTER! I got the DNA results back today and not only is your mother my mother but your father is my father as well.  We are full siblings! (without taking a breath)

After much laughter and verbal jousting on both our parts the conversation turned to questions from me about his family, his wife, his children. We eventually drifted to talk about our mother. I could hear the emotion in his voice and he almost sounded like he was crying. I told him, once again, how sorry I was that he had lost our mother at such a young age. (She died at age 32 in a car accident in 1961 when he was only 13. The car went over a hidden ravine and her body was not found for two weeks subsequent.). 

Robert: She was the most beautiful woman I ever knew.

Karin: She certainly was. I have wonderful pictures of her that Peter sent me.

After a moment of silence, his voice cracked.

Robert: Where were you when I needed you most?

My heart absolutely broke.


And then I could hear him literally swallow a sob. I didn't know what to say.

Oh, dear he still, after 50 years, mourning the loss of his mother?

Karin: Robert, I didn't know! I was living on Long Island and had no idea about what was going on in your life. I didn't even know you existed! But I am going to come visit you real soon. And I promise to give you the biggest hug you have ever gotten. It's all going to be okay. I'm here now!

We ended the call soon thereafter after about an hour of talking and then making plans for me to come to Connecticut.

After a little breather and another tissue to mop my face, I called my cousin Peter. No one answered so I left a message: "Peter, this is Karin. I just got back the results of our DNA tests. Call me back....quickly!"

Within minutes he called back and said, "You don't even have to tell me, I heard it all in your voice on the message. Congratulations and welcome to the family. I'm so happy for all of us - so when are you coming to Connecticut?"

We spoke for about an hour.

But I was haunted.....I think I will always be haunted....

"Where were you when I needed you most? Where were you, Karin?"

Barbara June Foley Shumsky
February 25, 1929 - July 31, 1961

And my father:
Robert Joseph Shumsky
June 16, 1928 - July 31, 1985

Karin Corbeil
- born Carol Lee Foley 1945 to Barbara June Foley (1929-1961) and Robert Joseph Shumsky (1928-1985); sister to Robert Shumsky and David Shumsky (1953-1982)

NEXT New and Innovative Ways DNA is Helping Adoptees


It's Christmas in August!

What did I finish that last entry with?

"So I pass the time writing this blog, hoping that the next time I log into my DNA account, the chromosome browser will light up like a Christmas tree. Hmmmm?...Christmas in August??? Let's hope so."

It's Christmas in August!
The minute I posted that last blog, I did go the FTDNA site and logged into Peter's (my presumed 1st cousin) account. Did I ever get the surprise of my life.....literally. Robert's (my presumed brother) DNA results were not due until late September, early October. But Robert was listed as his match! His results had posted also. My heart beating so I could hear it. I quickly logged into my own account and there was Robert listed and next to his name under "Suggested Relationships" is FULL SIBLING.

The chromosome browser lit up with lots of blue, showing where Robert matched me. The orange is where Peter matches me. Look at all that blue!!!! The specific numbers show a definite full sibling relationship.

I am still trying to absorb all of this. It's late and I'm exhausted. Tomorrow is a new day with a new adventure ahead.

Thanks to all who helped me in this search and journey that began in 1982. But's another beginning.

The waiting is over,
Karin Corbeil




As I sit here....waiting.....waiting.....waiting.  It's been over 5 weeks since my presumed 1st cousin's DNA arrived at the labs of FamilyTreeDNA. My presumed full brother's test won't be completed for at least a few more weeks.

Over two weeks ago the test batch my cousin is in (#474) started to post some results....that was August 10th. What's today? The 31st (Oh dear God....that's another story, I'm usually not superstitious, but that is not a good omen). So it's been 3 WEEKS!

Many people today are having their DNA tested, mostly to try and make family connections to confirm their ancestry or for health related reasons.

And then there are people like myself who, after 30 years of searching and over 60 years of wondering, just barely 11 weeks ago, identified my birth family. People I've never met and have never known.  People I would like to know and share the story of my life with. People I would like to have share the stories of their life with me. People who knew my deceased mother, my deceased father and my deceased brother. People who could tell me what they were like, what they loved to do, what they hated to do. Such simple things that most everybody else takes for granted and never gives it a second thought.

My cousin's DNA test will confirm or deny my birth mother. My brother's test will confirm or deny my birth father.

The 31st? Days of loss in a life I never knew. My birth mother signed the adoption relinquishment papers for me on July 31st.  She died on July 31st. And you guessed it, my father died on July 31st.  Thank God today is NOT July 31st....but it's August 31st....and waiting...still waiting.

Now wouldn't you be just a tiny bit anxious if you were in my shoes???? So I pass the time writing this blog, hoping that the next time I log into my DNA account, the chromosome browser will light up like a Christmas tree. Hmmmm?...Christmas in August??? Let's hope so.

Karin Corbeil



DNA to the Rescue.....Finding my Mother and now my Father!

To continue from my recent previous post in locating my birth mother.

I have been in contact with my birth family. I have a living full brother who is understandably overwhelmingly shocked. We will just take baby steps. The son of my birth mother's sister, a 1st cousin, has been extraordinarily welcoming and we have talked several times. He is putting together a box (a BOX!, not an envelope) of photos and other family memorabilia for me, including my mother's baptismal certificate and pictures of her from the time she was a child. My cousin and I have already developed a wonderful rapport and he has been totally supportive. But the question still nagged at me....Who was my father?

DNA was not the avenue that identified my mother but I am now confident that it has identified my father.

After a week of absorbing all the information, I finally went and checked my Polish DNA matches. I never knew what to do with them before I had at least a surname. My father was of Polish descent with a somewhat uncommon surname. At least it wasn't Kowalski - the Polish equivalent to "Smith"! My mother got pregnant at the age of 16, the facts are is that my father was 17. A year or two after I was born she married. And I totally believe she married the man who was my father.

In looking for his surname, I was able to determine that there were 2 of my matches on FTDNA, 1 match on 23andme and a 4th match on Gedmatch who all matched each other and they all have my father's surname in their ancestry. All of these matches were managed by the same person. She lives in Belarus and only speaks and writes Russian. The most recent common ancestor is probably back in the early to mid 1700's and we are probably no closer than 5th cousins. Needless to say, the challenges seem to be endless. Regardless, with my gut instinct and knowing a little bit more about my mother's history, the common surname and matches, the overlapping segments especially on Chromosomes #2, 3, 4 and 12, can only lead me to conclude one thing...the man that my mother married was also my father.

The screenshot below is from FTDNA chromosome browser of the two Family Finder matches from this family. Notice the nice overlaps on Chromosome 3 and 4. The other two matches from 23andme and Gedmatch also overlap at the same segment location!!!:

So I'm comfortable with my conclusion (or maybe I should say "confusion") that DNA has identified my father.

What's next you may ask? As I discover more, my "To do" list is never-ending. I believe I may also have some half-siblings, as my mother died young at the age of 32 in a car accident. My father remarried a few years later. I have been active, although on the fringe, of the Adoptee Rights movement and will definitely become more involved, especially in New York and here in South Carolina. Access to original birth certificates should be everyone's right...not a privilege. I will also continue to help other adoptees in their searches in any way I can possibly contribute.

A special thanks to all those who helped me in this continuing know who you are!

Karin Corbeil
-- born Carol Lee Foley in Brooklyn, NY
mother identified 6/14/2012



Have I Found My Birth Family? Overwhelming Circumstantial Evidence!

I believe I have found my birth family!

Last week I received some additional non-identifying information from the adoption agency that within hours led to the discovery of a FOLEY girl from Connecticut. The 3 new little clues that I received coincided with much of the information my adoptive parents told me and out of every FOLEY girl found in the 1930 and 1940 censuses, she is the only one that fits.

I have already spoken with a few of this FOLEY family's members. I believe I have a full brother, as I believe his father was also mine. We found a yearbook picture of him and the resemblance to me is unmistakable, almost shocking. I talked to him last Tuesday. He was, needless to say somewhat shocked, but receptive, and listened to my story most attentively. I think he just needs some time to absorb it all. I will give him all the time he needs.

A cousin I spoke with was ecstatic and has agreed to do a DNA test.

With this discovery, I again spoke with the adoption agency and after a little tap-dancing around, I shared with them the information....names, places, etc. Remember, we are dealing with New York State and their archaic adoption response or confirmation, except one sentence. "Perhaps confirmation isn't necessary as you seem to have done your homework."

That was good enough for me! Sometimes reading between the lines is all that it takes.

Something my cousin told me....there was a rumor years ago in the family that possibly one of the FOLEY girls from this family "lost a baby girl". My cousin always assumed that someone had a miscarriage but he and I now believe that this "lost baby girl" was ME!

Until this FOLEY family is totally comfortable with all this and/or the DNA results give us the proof, I will not identify them by name out of respect for my deceased mother who died quite young. It's apparent that this family had several tragedies over the years and I'm hoping that my existence may bring a little joy and brightness to their lives.

A special acknowledgement to all those that helped me on this journey, you know who you are the best!.

Stay tuned.....much more to come, I'm sure.