Hello, Everyone-

Major apologies in advance for the long message…

I was curious about the options for the “mirror tree” approach in possibly helping me sort out an NPE in my mother’s lines. At present, my Tree is on Ancestry, so creating a mirror Tree at that site is already “intuitive.”

Some background: As to DNA tests, I've taken one from 23andMe and, more recently, Ancestry. Additionally, I've uploaded my raw DNA (from 23andMe) to the MyHeritage, FTDNA and GedMatch sites. Inasmuch as most of my research over the last several years was associated with my Ancestry Tree, of late, still more of that research now relates to cousins who have non-Ancestry Trees. I therefore want to explore whether there’s any way to create a mirror tree, i.e., as it relates to other non-Ancestry Trees.

The deeper question that I’m trying to answer is who my maternal grandfather is (was). I didn’t know until a few years ago that my mother was adopted at a very young age (likely, age 2), in Canada. My mother, her mother (i.e., my maternal grandmother) and the step-father who adopted my mother are all long-since deceased. My “grandfather” divorced my grandmother only a few years after he married her (and had adopted my mother), so I never met him. This divorce occurred more than 20 years before I was born. Further, because my mother and her mother became estranged from each other prior to me being born, I also never met that grandmother (not happy stuff, I know).

If my unknown birth grandfather was (miraculously) somehow still alive today, my best estimate is that he would be at least 100 years old. This is a very conservative guess, but is also based on factual circumstances, e.g., the age of my grandmother when my mother was conceived (16) and then born (17). The point being, in all likelihood, he, too, is deceased. Moreover, I have no DNA to draw upon from either my mother or grandmother, nor are there any direct or collateral ancestors immediately related to my grandmother to draw upon (she had one brother who had NO children; also, a son from a 2nd marriage who, too, had NO children).

It’s important to note here that I do have confirmed ancestral connections on my maternal grandmother’s more distant lines that are “sure things”, meaning I have DNA-confirmed cousin connections to some of her various “older” ancestors. In other words, despite my mother being adopted (by ONLY a non-blood “grandfather”), my blood (genetic) relationship to her mother has been irrefutably verified. Principally, although not exclusively, this fact has been confirmed through DNA connections with descendants of two of my maternal grandmother’s uncles. Good stuff there.

A couple of years ago, I tried to obtain my mother’s Canadian birth certificate, but due to strict (archaic) Canadian privacy laws (based on her being adopted by the aforementioned “grandfather”) I can’t access my mother’s Full Birth Record. Frustratingly, this record might (but not necessarily “would”) have contained a reference to her actual Birth Father. Ever since a Full Birth Record became a “no dice” proposition for me, I've been compelled to look to DNA. Thankfully, this has proven a surprisingly good way to advance all of my genealogical research (if not actually answering the most pressing question at hand).

The major wrinkle (clue) in all of this is that my DNA results show an unexpected Italian component. Generally speaking, this consists of around 4%-13% Italian, plus some “Southern European” mixed in. More specifically, Gedmatch’s Eurogenes K13 Oracle (3 and 4 populations) and Dodecad 4 Ancestors Oracle admix calculators all point to a Sicilian component. Beyond that, I have numerous Italian cousin matches from the various DNA sites. Point being, this Italian (Sicilian) component is not some random speculation on my part. It is readily verifiable, and in multiple ways.

Most of these Italian matches have ancestors (grandparents or great-grandparents) from the same place: the town/comune of Saponara, in the Province of Messina, Sicily. In my view, these matches all but confirm that my unknown (maternal) grandfather was therefore part Italian. I say this because I’m comfortable enough with my research on my father’s lines to be able to eliminate the possibility that this Italian DNA came from his side of the genetic equation. I understand that NPE's are always a possibility (on any given line), but there are NO signs whatsoever that point in that particular direction here, i.e., that my father’s lines were somehow the source of my Italian DNA result (BTW, he, too, is long deceased). I will further comment on this “conclusion” below.

As to using mirror trees, the prospect of doing that is somewhat complicated in that, by far, my closest (strongest) Ancestry Italian cousin match (118 cMs over 8 segments - probably a 3rd cousin) was adopted herself and, unfortunately, has no idea who her birth father was! In short, she has virtually no Tree data as to his side. Oh, and you guessed it - it was her father’s side that imparted the Italian DNA to her, meaning there is NO Italian DNA evidence as to her mother’s side! Bummer!!! My next closest Ancestry matches are in the low 50’s cM range, so pretty much 4th cousins (or later). For any number of those 4th cousins who have Trees on Ancestry that go “deep” (far back) enough, I definitely can see the comune of Saponara (or, at minimum, the province of Messina) as being a point of reference on ALL of those lines. However, details are often extremely scarce (no DOBS, etc.). This Italian connection is therefore solid, but still quite distant.

Research-wise, certain other cousin matches from sites other than Ancestry have allowed me Tree access. For example, I have a certain female cousin match from Philadelphia who is at between 46cM to 59cM (depending on which DNA site results you believe) and 3 segments. I've since been able to find probably over two hundred Italian Birth, Marriage and Death records for her Tree, mostly between the 1820’s and 1880’s (I'm proficient at finding such records). These records all are connected on her father’s side.

In fact, I’ve even found a marriage record from 1857 that I believe speaks to my and this Philly cousin's MRCA. Historically, the ancestors in her father's lines run through a town about 10k from Saponara - Camaro Superiore. However, and interestingly enough, one male (b:1832) happened to marry a woman (b: 1835) who was born in Saponara. This was the 1857 marriage I just spoke of. Notably, the surname of the married female is the same as one of my “present-day” cousin matches from 23andMe. I tried contacting that particular match many, many moons ago, but to no avail. That disappointment aside, I now wonder how best to proceed, as I don’t believe I can do a mirror Tree thru MyHeritage.... right?!

[note: Because this Philadelphia cousin match has since tested her elderly mother (age 96), she was able to readily determine that her mother was NOT a match with me. By definition, therefore, I am connected to this cousin through her father. This reconciles nicely with the scenario that I just illustrated above. Similarly, my elderly uncle (my father's brother) recently tested and he was NOT a match with this Philadelphia cousin, so his lack of connection to her further supports my contention that my Italian does NOT run through my father's lines, rather, it runs through my mother's lines - again, likely, through her unknown birth father...]

I feel like I know what the most obvious response will be here: offer to pay for an Ancestry test for this Philadelphia cousin and then ask (hope?) that she’d also be willing to also upload a GedCom file to Ancestry so that I could then do a mirror tree at that site (with her set as the Home Person).

Is this my best option?

An alternative is to use any of my other best Italian matches already on Ancestry, but it feels like that will entail a lot of extra/duplicative work. I'm not averse to that, as I've done a ton of work already, but am seeking some thoughtful input here. Again, these various Trees on Ancestry do not appear to have the “collateral”, nor the “volume-detail” that my Philly cousin’s Tree now has (partially thanks to me).

The rub is that both this cousin’s Tree and also another MyHeritage Trees, as well as another FTDNA Tree, already seem "close" to potentially having some crossover ancestors (between each Tree). This is due to the combined several hundred records I’ve found (in total) for ALL 3 trees. I wish I could somehow overlay these Trees, as all of this has become a bit unwieldy for me. Despite my progress and best efforts, my ultimate goal of "gapping" any of those cousin's late-1800's ancestors... to the man that fathered my mother in 1934.... still seems lights years away. This is why I would prefer to utilize my latest MyHeritage research.... but on the Ancestry platform.

Of course, I also understand that I could ask the people who shared their MyHeritage Trees with me to send me a GedCom file. In this manner, I could then upload that portion of their Tree to my own program (I recently purchased Family Tree Maker software). Better yet, upload and create a (private) mirror Tree from same, but asking for that seems excessively intrusive. Sharing a Tree (but not giving management capabilities) to a person who can add to that Tree is one thing... freely giving away a GedCom file as to said Tree to a “stranger” (cousin or otherwise) is another matter altogether.

Even if I get no responses, I appreciate everyone who managed to read this.