An interview with Avangelene Von Whipple “The Cousin Collector”
I find dead people, but I also find living people as well. Adoptions were a taboo subject in the 50’s thru the 70’s. I find that a lot of people have been lied to or misinformed about their lives, due to these “closed adoptions”. It was embarrassing to be pregnant at a young age, girls were sent far away to school and it was a big secret or cover-up, and their parents demanded they give up the child to adoption. Those people are now being able to gain access to their adoption paperwork and they want to know who they are as a person, where they come from, what nationalities they are. You have to seek yourself out and by doing so you have to seek the past to be able to see where you are at here in the future and what you can do to change things from here on out.
In 2003 I felt my pull towards Geneaology calling when my grandfather passed away. While on his death bed he began talking about how we had Blackfoot Indian heritage, he was also heavily medicated at the time. I left this alone and then I started wondering if this was true while my mom put dream catchers and Indian statues around the house thinking she was representing the Indian heritage, which she was very proud of. I had to know if this was factual, so I started researching and couldn’t find anything so I had my mother take a DNA test.
At that time they broke it down to 4 different categories of ethnicity, Caucasian, African American, Asian or Indian. My mom’s test came back 100% European (Caucasian) and she was kind of upset about the news cause there was no trace of Indian DNA there on the paperwork.
Back then it was the pioneer days of DNA and just a few years before that they came up with a human genome DNA project and were able to trace their ancestors thru DNA, but at that time you could only trace the Y genome which is males direct line so it was only fathers. The first company to provide direct-to-consumer genetic DNA testing was the now-defunct GeneTree. In 2000, Family Tree DNA, founded by Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, was the first company dedicated to direct-to-consumer testing for genealogy research. They initially offered eleven marker Y-Chromosome STR tests and HVR1 mitochondrial DNA tests and originally tested in partnership with the University of Arizona. The Y-DNA looks at the Y-chromosome, which is inherited from father to son, and so can only be taken by males to explore their direct paternal line. In 2007, 23andMe was the first company to offer saliva-based direct-to-consumer genetic testing. It was also the first to implement using Autosomal DNA for ancestry testing, which all other major companies now use. Autosomal DNA is a test that a woman can use to find her biological father. In 2019 it was estimated that large genealogical testing companies had about 26 million DNA profiles.
I continued researching. Around the time I was 13, I began looking for who I was told was my father. When I was 18 I found my mother had other kids with this man who they led me to believe was my father. I did some research and in 2008 found this man in Indiana, reunited with those siblings who are raised in Kentucky with my maternal grandmother, and that was awesome. When I went out there I had questions that I wanted answers to and there was something in my gut telling me I had no connection with this man, cause I look nothing like him, he has blond hair blue eyes, and I have dark hair and dark eyes, but my mom just told me I take after her. I asked my sister to take a DNA test (Sibling test). At the time I did not know I was a half-sibling for certain until she took the test..her name is Mary, and this confirmed the man was not my biological father. I took the sibling test in 2015, and I took the Autosomal DNA tests in 2016 and within 3 months found out who my father was, his name was David R. McCollum.
How to find a biological parent
How do you find a biological parent if you don’t know much information about them, is there a way to find out who your father is? Autosomal DNA tests utilize DNA from the 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes. Autosomal DNA is inherited from both parents. Therefore, an autosomal DNA test may be taken by either a male or a female. In addition to finding genealogical matches, the test will also provide an estimate of your overall ethnic ancestry. Through that process, I came up with a man who was adopted as my first top match. Initially, I skipped him and went down my list of matches, I ended up figuring out the adopted match (Ron Burgess) was a 1/2 uncle and is the half brother to my biological father, who didn’t know who his parents were and didn’t have his adoption paperwork. Shortly after I was able to discover who my father was I found out I had an adopted sister, and had other siblings as well, although he did pass away a few years before I was able to acknowledge who he was. I also have another half Uncle named Joe Lopez who was the son of my paternal grandfather. Now I have not only 4 new siblings but I also gained 2 uncles and lots of cousins and I had met with my 80-year-old great Aunt who helped raised my real father who was delighted to meet me and welcomed me into the family with open arms and enjoyed telling me stories about my father..there was so much I had in common with this man and best of all everyone loved and adored him..he was a true legend. Even though he has passed a piece of him remains in my children’s DNA, so now when I look at each of them I also see a piece of him.
I mastered the method of using DNA testing, to my advantage to connect my clients to their unknown birth parents. Initially, it was Stephani Miller, who has been my mentor and one of my best friends, who encouraged me to follow my calling of genealogy. She taught me how to find my biological father, and how to do this. She had a lot of faith that I could keep giving forward and help other people and that nothing was going to stop me getting the answers I wanted, so she invested a lot of time in me.
I took a course program at Boston University and I’m going after my certification so I can help other people find their truths and give them their answers. Thru this journey I’ve met several other people who were lied to about who their parents were, I had to deliver that news, it’s been such an emotional journey, but on that journey I was able to come across people who were going through the same experiences I was going through and we bonded and now have great relationships and keep in contact on Facebook. I have a 1/2 sister named Cynthia Bitton on my dad’s side, she’s 1 1/2 years older than I am. She didn’t get to meet him either, but she was also searching for him the same time I was. My dad had 5 kids, and I have 5 kids, and my sister had 5 kids so he would have been a grandparent of 10 right there. A DNA match popped up this last summer 2019 confirming I had a new sibling match, his name is Chris Hendrickson and my sister and I met him here in my hometown of Huntington Beach.
I feel that the energy our ancestors have left here has helped me to be where I am now. I have had to travel through different states in my life, and funny enough those places I did go to are places my ancestors did live. So it’s like I had to travel through time and it got me to where I am now. There is this connection and calling.
I go to several graveyards, I like the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, it’s beautiful and one of the largest cemeteries in America. There’s lots of energies there. I’m on findagrave.com where I contribute as a volunteer. It’s a free website that’s pretty much an online graveyard and memorializes by uploading pictures of tombstones with flowers and stickers. You can request someone to go to a certain cemetery that is local to where the volunteers are located. They will let the volunteers know that you within a certain amount of miles from it if you’d be willing to claim that request. If you claim that request then you would go to that cemetery and take pictures of the headstones or the mausoleum, upload them to this site and you can share with not only the person who requests the information and picture but they are open to the public as well. On that page there will be information regarding their birth and death, whether they were buried, what cemetery and the cemetery address giving them their memorial ID number. I’m always traveling to different cemeteries, especially when I’m on vacation I will go to the nearest cemetery. It also has a spot where family members can be included that have been deceased. So their parents, spouse or siblings can add their profile with their information as well. You can connect families and share that or just keep for your records. You can leave a little memorial and reach out to different family members this way and add flowers and put a special note there. Findagrave.com is a huge database, virtually an online cemetery, so if you can’t get to the cemetery physically you can visit anytime by seeing a picture of it online. It’s free and anyone can sign up to be a volunteer. There is something about closure and peace that a cemetery gives me, I feel such a connection as if they are guiding my spirit to help others connect, feel complete with closure and be able to move on in life. I feel this has been my calling so I seek out the dead. They have answers.
I feel that this has been my calling so I seek out the dead, they have answers. Life is one big puzzle piece and I’m here to place the pieces together one at a time. I have helped several people find their biological families thru my website beyondancestry.com. I give them family history and help them understand the process of how DNA works. It goes beyond signing up with websites like 23andMe, AncestryDNA and MyHeritage to find these answers. You have to go through documents and be able to validate who people are to come up with a conclusion report. DNA is exploding and it’s only getting bigger. So far this has been an awesome journey, and I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold.
If you have questions and are looking for answers about your DNA test results contact Avangelene with Beyond Ancestry today.
Interview with Avangelene Von Whipple done October 4th, 2019 by Maggie St.Thomas