Adoption and DNA Testing

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Information for Adoptees about DNA Testing

You might be able to identify biological family through DNA testing. Follow these steps to get started:

Step one for using DNA in adoption cases

Step 1: Get Your DNA Tested

The best place to start is AncestryDNA because they have the largest commercial database. That means you have a greater chance of finding close DNA matches.

Once tested, you have the added benefit of transferring your DNA test results to Family Tree DNA and My Heritage DNA for FREE and searching their databases for DNA cousins too.   

Step 2 in finding DNA relatives for adoptees

Step 2: Investigate your Match List

The first step in finding names for your biological parents is to evaluate your match list. As soon as you open it, just take a second and realize that everyone on this list is your biological relative. Even if you don't know how you are related, these people are your family.

Start with an evaluation of your best matches: those at the top. First or second cousin matches will often help you identify your grandparents or great grandparents. 

For details on how to use the amount of shared DNA in your analysis, see our Shared cM Project page.

Step 3 in using DNA for adoption cases

Step 3: Do Genealogy

If your match doesn't post their family tree, ask to see it. If you don’t get a helpful response, you can research their tree for them. We have several videos in our premium Video Tutorial series to help you through this process. Or if you want more involved help, we are happy to do that too! Check out our Expert Research Assistance.

In general, you are trying to determine which individuals in your matches’ pedigree chart are also your ancestors. You then find the descendants of that ancestral couple until you find someone who was in the right place, at the right time, to be your ancestor.

Step 4 in using DNA matches to help in adoption cases

Step 4: Contact Your Matches

OPTIONAL STEP! Keep in mind: You don't have to contact any of your biological relatives. If you are able to piece together your lineage without their input, perhaps that is enough. If you want to contact them, you can send them a message through your testing companies email service.

Please keep in mind that just taking a DNA test does not necessarily mean someone is actually interested in finding their biological family. Nor does it mean that they know they are missing any relatives (that someone was adopted out). Think through the whole process before undertaking the test to make sure you are ready for all of the possible scenarios.

For detailed instructions on how to turn your DNA cousins into family names, whether you are looking for a father or a 2X great grandfather, see my quick reference guide, Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNA."


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