Cathi Hardesty is a Riverview resident who specializes in genetic genealogy.

Cathi Hardesty is a Riverview resident who specializes in genetic genealogy. She uses DNA and research to find the biological parents of adoptees. To the residents of Riverview, she is known as ‘The DNA Detective.’

“I caught the Genealogy bug about 10 years ago from my biological father,” Hardesty said. “We spent many hours developing our tree together. In 2014, I submitted my DNA to and became fascinated by all that can be learned with a tube of saliva and a laptop! Later, I developed my skills enough to assist my brother-in-law in the search for his biological father, using DNA. From that experience, I realized that I have a knack for interpreting the DNA and delivering results.”

Hardesty began helping others and now she considers herself a seasoned researcher.

“The majority of those who ask for my help are the adoptee looking for their family; however, I have had a few cases that were the birth parent or sibling was looking for the child who was placed for adoption,” Hardesty said. “Most of my clients are U.S.-based; however, I have solved some from as far away as Canada, Wales and Scotland.”

The search for a biological family member takes time, knowledge, patience, experience and a lot of work.

“After receiving the adoptees’ DNA results, my work begins,” Hardesty said. “I research their matches to identify the two or four if they are adopted and looking for both birth parents in genetic networks. These networks roughly represent maternal mother and maternal father’s relatives and also paternal mother’s and paternal father’s relatives. I then predict the relationship of each of the higher DNA matches. I determine the common ancestors in each network and build family trees out of many generations. Then I reverse course and build the trees forward to modern times. Using obituaries, census records and newspaper articles, I make sure no family member is left out of the tree. From there I develop a hypothesis and try to disprove it. Upon proving lineage to all four of my predicted birth parent’s grandparents, my work is done.”

Hardesty’s favorite part of her work is solving a case.

“My favorite part of solving a case is actually being able to provide the name, a phone number and an address of a birth parent to an adoptee,” Hardesty said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and knowing that through my own tenacity, they will no longer feel like a part of their life is missing. I am so grateful to be a part of their story. I have been known to do a happy dance or two when I have solved a difficult case.”

To learn more about Hardesty and her research, visit her website at If you would like her help, you can email her at

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Libby Hopkins
Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.