Thursday, 25 September 2014

Rob Warthen ... Finding Sue - How one quest grew into the DNAGedcom & DNAadoption websites

Name - Rob Warthen

Affiliations - Masters Degree from Johns Hopkins University
Founder of DNAAdoption and AdoptionDNA_Tools
Member of ISOGG, SoaringAngels, AdoptionDNA, and UnknownFathersDNA
Project Administrator for Warthen/Wathen YDNA Project

Day Job - Write computer programs for Health Care Companies. Previously Technical Architect at Nasdaq Stock Market

Night Job - Teach Introduction to Computer Programming
Write Computer software for Web site
Support Search Angels in their searches and training
Employed by my wife Sue as an apprentice gardener (aka dig holes)

How did you get into genetic genealogy?
I always enjoyed genealogy, ever since I was little. My aunt was a Librarian and it was fun to research. When my soon to be new mother-in-law said “You know Sue is adopted right? Since you know all that new-fangled computer stuff, could you help Sue find her biological mother”. What do you say to a sweet 80 year old lady who looks up to you with love in her eyes. I said of course I can. Mean time in my head I’m thinking “Boy, what did I get myself into”. I knew Sue was interested, but I didn’t want to get her hopes up. So I started researching and learning and gathered paper. In fact, she can still remember asking me what all that paper up on my desk was for. (Umm, nothing dear).

Sooo, that first year I get a message from some guy name Charlie Warthen and he asks me if I’d like to take a DNA test. I’m like what? Umm, no. Then I hear about the National Genographic program and think, well maybe. And then I get this wonderful idea. I’ll get Sue a DNA test for Christmas. Just what every girl wanted.

So now that I had a DNA test and it’s results, I was like now what. These are the early days when Autosomal DNA first came out. From those early days, I met a group of people called Search Angels who were also trying to learn how to use DNA to help find birth family. Search Angels are special people who help adoptees find their birth family. Together we came to the realization that no one knew what to do with all this information. At least not yet. So we all started trying different things. I quickly realized that no matter what, the key would be to gather as much information together as possible.

Great. Do you realize how much data is out there? A LOT. I quickly realized that the steps we had to go through were tremendous and very time consuming. So now I think back to that promise I made to that sweet lady, I think, how can computers help? So, I started to create tools to help me in the search. Soon, I found others complaining that it took so long to do some of these steps, so I offered to run my tools for them. Then I couldn’t keep up with the demand, so I created the web site.

From there, it has grown to, and a training course called Working with Autosomal DNA Results. We are now at the second generation of people now paying it forward to those new to the journey. They have the tools and the ability to do so much more.

All because of that sweet 80 year old lady.

So what will you be talking about?
I will be taking you on a journey of discovery. You will learn more about our DNA Adoption group and all the people who help out. I will tell you more about Sue’s story and other stories of success and let down.

During this journey, I will tell you about the methodology that we use to successfully find birth family. I will also show you some of the tools that we use to make things easier on you. The methodologies and tools I will talk about are helpful whether your brick wall is your biological parents or your ancestors from 1800s.

So sit back and enjoy the journey. Savor every new item and know that each discovery and each failure brings you just one more step towards your goal.

What DNA tests will be discussed?
Y-DNA, autosomal DNA

To what surnames is this topic particularly relevant?
O’Toole, Gregg, Warthen, anyone who knows an adopted person, anyone with a Brick Wall

Where can people get more information about you or your topic?

The following websites:

The Soaring Angels Facebook page -

Our Warthen Surname Project at FTDNA -

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

You can watch a video of the presentation by simply clicking on the image below. To watch it in Full Screen, click on the "square" icon in the bottom right of the screen.

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