Here’s how adoptees and others searching for birth families can use both DNA testing and the free WikiTree genealogy website to help reconstruct their biological family trees.
Thanks to Emma MacBeath and Chris Whitten for co-authoring this guest article. See their bios below the article.
Finding birth family is often complex. Just like with genealogical research, there is a process to follow that will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome to your search. This process can include gathering and presenting information, DNA testing, and contacting potential family. WikiTree can help.
WikiTree is a free, collaborative, family tree-building website with a great deal to offer adoptees and others who are searching for their birth families. This summary takes you step by step through the process of joining WikiTree, adding your information, and taking advantage of the DNA features that will help you in your search.
Setting Up Your WikiTree Profile as an Adoptee
As a Guest member, you can look around WikiTree, add information to your personal profile, and ask questions in the G2G forum. Signing the Honor Code and upgrading your membership will allow you full access to all the features of the website, including the DNA features. (It’s still free: here’s the difference between membership levels.) To upgrade your membership, simply click on the upgrade link at the top of your profile while logged in.
Consider which name you wish to use (your birth name or adopted name) and what privacy level you would like for your profile. At WikiTree, adoptees are given several choices about how to set up their account that best suit their needs and wishes. The Adoption Angels Project has created a WikiTree help page for adoptees that covers these concerns.
As you upgrade from Guest membership, you are asked to enter tags based on your genealogy interests.
Tags are a way to follow activity, through notifications, in topics that interest you and to connect with other genealogists who share the same interests. The tags you choose will appear at the top of your profile. When a member enters a new tag, other members following that tag will receive an email notification. Those WikiTreers will often pop on over to say hello and to see what tree and DNA test information may already have been added by you.
For those searching for family, surnames are an obvious choice for tags. You also might consider location tags as well as “adoption” and “adoption_angels.”
There is always a chance that someone who finds your profile may have a key piece of information that can help your search. WikiTree makes this easy by having all the DNA test information, surname tags, and any biographical information you want to share front and center on your profile.
DNA Testing for Adoptees
DNA is one of the most effective means of finding and confirming birth family. After tags are added and your membership is upgraded, you can now add DNA test information. WikiTree doesn’t take raw DNA data, so there’s nothing to upload. You simply list the DNA tests you have taken. This can be done by going to Add > DNA Test Information in the menu.
WikiTree supports all of the major DNA testing companies, and third-party comparison sites GEDmatch, MitoYDNA, and yourDNAportal. You are also encouraged to enter your Y DNA or mtDNA haplogroups. Once saved, your DNA test will appear near the top on your personal profile.
Collaboration at WikiTree
One of the major reasons the DNA features at WikiTree are successful is that the site and its community culture encourage members to interact with and help one another. It’s all with the goal of growing an accurate one-world tree, or a single, shared, global family tree. Because all members who are related share some of the same ancestor profiles, instead of having dozens of separate trees, all descendants work together to improve their shared ancestor profiles. For those searching for family, having a pool of people to contact regarding a possible ancestor is inspiring.
In addition to collaborating individually, WikiTree’s G2G forum is an amazing place for members to get help on all aspects of DNA and research. Whether a member has a question about adoption, how DNA works, how to search for family, or researching ancestors of interest, other WikiTreers are willing to assist.
Growing Your Family Tree
After birth parents have been identified is when the DNA features at WikiTree can really begin to go to work for you. As you discover your family tree, you can add it to WikiTree one generation at a time. As the tree grows, the DNA test information will populate through the family profiles of eight generations of your tree. (For YDNA or mtDNA tests, WikiTree will populate the information up to the earliest known male or female ancestor and down through all the male or female lines.) When potential relatives see the ancestor’s profile, they will see your DNA test information listed on that profile and can contact you to compare DNA and share family information.
It is quite likely that relatives will find the profiles you create at WikiTree. WikiTree is known among genealogists as one of the best “cousin bait” tools. Since WikiTree profiles appear highly in Google search results, any relatives who are searching for your common ancestors on Google are likely to find their WikiTree profiles. And you. Many adoptees have found themselves in contact with cousins who may have even been unknown to their birth parents.
Connecting test kits at GEDmatch is another powerful DNA feature. When a WikiTree member appears as a one-to-many match on GEDmatch you can click on the “Wiki” link to go straight to an eight-generation tree. When two GEDmatch kits appear on a WikiTree profile, you can go straight to a one-to-one comparison.
As you can see, with the global family tree and its DNA features, WikiTree can be an invaluable asset for assisting adoptees in their search for family and helping them build their family trees once that family begins to be discovered.
Keep learning about adoption and DNA testing
You’re off to a great start! If you’re looking for more information on DNA and birth roots, take a look at our free guide.
Again, thank you to our guest authors for this article:
Emma MacBeath is the co-leader of WikiTree’s Adoption Angels Project, leads WikiTree’s US Black History Project, and is a genetic genealogist who helps find birth family for those searching. Chris Whitten is the founder and president of WikiTree.