A DNA test from Ancestry.com launched a journey of discovery for Corri Ackerman of La Vernia — and it didn’t stop at finding his own roots.
The U.S. Air Force veteran was invited by a lady at church to join a genealogy class.
“I’ve always been interested in genealogy,” he said.
Then, eight years ago, his wife, Suzanne, suggested he should do a DNA test from Ancestry.com.
Corri’s last name at birth was Eaves, his mother’s maiden name. At the age of 2, he was adopted by his stepfather. Years later, Corri’s mom, Sally, got divorced, and married a gentleman named Ron Ackerman.
When Corri was 25, he “adopted” Ackerman as his “dad.”
Through the test, he discovered his biological father, Duane Dexter. Since then, Corri has had several visits with his biological father, including attending Dexter’s 80th birthday party. When Corri retired from the Air Force after a 31-year career, Dexter attended his retirement ceremony.
Corri now has successfully traced his ancestors back to the 1700s.
Piecing together his own family tree led Corri to helping someone else find their own missing pieces of their family puzzle.
Recently, Corri was contacted by a woman named Judy from Alaska, who was searching for her birth mother.
Judy was born in 1954 and was adopted from an orphanage in Los Angeles, Calif. Her DNA test results led her to finding her father’s sister, and Judy then attended a family reunion where she met her aunt, her dad’s sister, and a half-sister. Unfortunately, she found that her father died in 1997.
But Judy was determined to discover who her mother was. She’d visited the adoption agency more than 25 years prior, but was only given non-identifying information, Corri said. Through her searches, she found her mother’s cousin, Rhonda — who happens to be Corri’s cousin. Rhonda suggested that Judy should contact Corri for assistance in her quest.
“Judy and I talked on the phone so I could learn her story,” Corrie recalled. “I looked at all of Judy’s DNA matches and tracked down her great-grandparents, but that left me with 20 potential grandparents to research.
“This is where the real work began,” Corri added. “Judy’s mother was one of 12 kids. Those 12 kids had 46 kids between them.”
Using Judy’s DNA information, Corri plugged in the results to a Leeds chart, which narrowed down the matches between her relatives. After a very time-consuming search lasting more than three months, Corri found Judy’s mother’s son, and called him.
“I think you are the family I am looking for,” Corri told him, and then gave more and more details about the family.
“You know way too much about my family … hold on a second,” the man told him.
Putting the pieces together
“And he puts me on hold,” Corri said. “And then he comes back online, and he goes, ‘Marilyn, Mom, listen to what this guy has to say. He knows too much about us!’”
Corri asked her if she gave a little girl up for adoption in 1954. She said she did.
“She goes, ‘I was wondering if I’d ever get this phone call,’” Corri said.
The two bombarded Corri with questions about Judy.
He put the two on hold and called Judy, asking if she’d like to talk to her half-brother and her mom.
“Absolutely!” she responded.
The four spoke on the phone for 10 minutes, then Corri left the conversation and the call dropped. But Judy called Marilyn back and they spoke for two hours.
“Judy now knows where she comes from,” Corri said. “Now she can ask about family health issues.”
And, he shared, “Judy’s 68th birthday was the day after that phone call. And she had been trying to track down her family for 25 years!”
What a birthday gift!
Corri said Judy and her daughter are planning a trip to Los Angeles to meet Marilyn, who’s now 93 years old.
And it transpires that Marilyn never knew who her father was, and she’s now going to take a DNA test to see if she can discover his identity. She was a twin and was raised by her grandparents. Genealogy sleuth Corri hopes to help her find the answer to that mystery.
Continuing the search
He enjoys helping people find their biological families and fill in their family trees.
Corri would like to start his own company to help people with their genealogical searches, but he’s unsure how he would charge.
“How do you put a price tag on helping somebody find their biological parents?” asked the father of four. “I’ve got more work than I could do in the next year, and that’s just for four people.”
Currently he’s working for the Air Force in civil service and conducts his genealogical searches in his spare time.
He calculates that he put in 250 hours of research in helping Judy.
He constantly meets people who don’t know who their biological parents are and would love to have his help.
Corri’s eyes express the joy he gets from helping people find their family lineage.
“The more I learn, the more I want to know,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes.
“When you’re able to make that discovery and open that door for somebody that didn’t even know that door was there, I don’t know — there’s no feeling like it!” he added. “You don’t know what you don’t know, until you know what you didn’t know.”
Digging into your DNA
There are several different companies that offer DNA tests, including Ancestry.com, which Corri Ackerman used.
A Leeds chart uses a spreadsheet to sort DNA matches into color groups based on shared ancestors, according to its developer, Dana Leeds (www.danaleeds.com/the-leeds-method/).
For more about Leeds charts, check out How to Create a Leeds Chart with 23andMe Results | Genetic Genealogy Explained – YouTube.
A La Vernia News reader suggested Corri Ackerman’s story.
If you have ideas for future stories, contact Editor Nannette Kilbey-Smith at email@example.com or 830-779-3751.