I apparently have a DNA connection with over 79,000 people on Ancestry.com. It’s making me realize that the whole world is related in some way. I’d like to think that each of us should treat each other like brothers, but there’s many brothers that unfortunately don’t get along. I never had a true brother growing up, so I can’t directly relate, but I have friends that I love like a brother. According to my DNA testing, I’ve had four half-brothers but only one is still living. I made an effort to connect but there was no response. I check him out occasionally on Facebook to see if we have any similarities. Is that weird? I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but we are the product of the same mother and curiously share the same name, Jerry Lee.  I think he looks like her, while I tend to resemble my birth father. At least, both of us still have our hair – though silver.

My birth mother had three brothers, including a set of twins, and four sisters. She was the youngest and at 86 now the only surviving sibling. My birth father had an older sister, but no one in the family knows if she is still alive. He took his life 8 years ago, seven years before I ever discovered his identity. I doubt that he knew that I ever existed. He left behind a wife of 60 years, five daughters, and a grandson. His only son died at age 16. My birth mother also experienced tragedy with her family, losing two sons. There was also a daughter that has not acknowledged my communications. I have, however, met four of my five half-sisters and their mother, so all my efforts to connect with my DNA relatives have not been in vain. 

My only true father had a brother and one sister, while my loving mother was an only child. In addition to myself, four years later they adopted a daughter. Apparently, I did not do enough to discourage them from raising another. We were both given everything we wanted and I still call my sister every Monday to stay in touch. She has been in close touch with her birth mother for many years now, while I was reluctant to fully conduct a search. It wasn’t until my parents both passed away five years ago that I began to seek some answers. In the process, I did two DNA swabs and have built a tree of over 18,000 family connections. On Ancestry, I currently have 2,465 close matches (over 21 cM – centimorgans) and with 23andMe 1,274 more. I try to mark each of them on the Jerry Banister Family Tree with a green “DNA Match” graphic instead of a photo or silhouette. To clarify, in terms of DNA comparison, a centimorgan (abbreviated cM) is a unit for measuring genetic linkage. The higher the number – the closer the relationship. 

As Christmas approaches, thoughts of family gatherings come to mind. It was a year ago at this time that I got together with my half-sisters in their hometown of Scipio, Indiana. I had already met two other DNA family members in Chicago and Indianapolis. Each was a memorable occasion and has resulted in Banister friendships. I’ve yet to meet with a male relative. Most of my DNA matches are with women, who tend to me more receptive to testing. My potential closest brotherhood of Banisters is limited to a half-nephew, the son of my half-sister, Gabe Burkman. His mother Julianna is my closest Ancestry DNA match at 1719 cM, while he is at a logically more distant 894. Terry Banister at 262, J.S. Sampson (218), SNI Snider (201), Jared Stinehart (169), Craig Banister (164), and Brandon Willard (162) are the nearest to being living “brothers.” Phillip Legg, Brandon Willard (again), Larry Bogue, and Benjamin Wilson are my closest male 23andMe DNA connections. I still can’t determine how Larry and Benjamin fit into the structure of my family tree. Where are you, brothers?