When I heard my mom, an adoptee, telling her story on the Who Am I Really? podcast, I realized the importance of telling your DNA story in your own voice.
I have told my story about finding my mom’s birth family dozens of times. I have shared it in lectures, in personal conversations, live-streamed to thousands, in podcasts, on airplanes, and countless other situations.
But I haven’t ever recorded my MOM telling the story from her perspective.
Who Am I Really Podcast
I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Damon Davis for righting that oversight, when he captured her story in Episode 133 of his Who Am I Really? Podcast. Hearing her tell the story changed everything for me.
Damon is a master storyteller. He wove our story together with just the right sound clips and just the right questions. The recording itself is a treasure, but the reminder it has given me about each person telling their own part of the story is invaluable. Even when we share DNA with others—as I do with my mom—what we each learn from our DNA and how we each change is totally unique.
Finding Your Story—and Your Voice
Storytelling is an art, and it helps to think about your “DNA story arc” before you want to share your DNA discoveries over dinner or at your next family gathering. The more you tell it, the more you’ll develop your own storytelling voice that makes your unique story even more personal.
After seeing and hearing Damon at work, I want to add a storytelling tip: Find someone who is good at asking questions (and a good listener) and let them interview you. Record it. Listen to it. You’ll realize new things about your own story. What’s interesting. What you would have left out—that you shouldn’t. What’s meaningful. Sometimes you’ll find a larger message or meaning in your story that you hadn’t previously seen. And you’ll hear your own voice, which is a powerful thing. Don’t be critical of its cadence, accent, hesitations, or tone. Your voice is good, however it is. It matters. It should be heard. Especially by your loved ones.
What’s MY DNA story?
Many people don’t have a DNA story as dramatic as adoption or the discovery of birth relatives. But most of us have tales about compelling DNA discoveries—or we will, once we’ve looked long and hard enough.
I’m inspired by the many and varied DNA stories shared on our blog. There are stories about solving family mysteries, finding birth relatives, identifying unknown ancestors, meaningfully connecting with matches, and more. We’re always interested in other people’s DNA journeys. (If you like, send us your story.)
Not sure yet what your DNA stories are? Haven’t thought of the questions you want to ask? Unsure how to answer the questions you DO have (or whether they even CAN be answered by DNA)? Read about the limitations of DNA testing. Just for context. Then….
Let us help you find your DNA story
Our entire business is built on the belief (well-proven!) that YOU can DO the DNA! It’s science, but it’s not rocket science, if you know what I mean. You can learn it. Especially if you have an expert teacher who breaks things down with doable step-by-step instructions. Who encourages you. Who uses analogies and humor to make things clear and FUN. I am that teacher.
If you’re not sure where to start, head over to our free download on next steps to take with your DNA test.
For those who like to learn entirely on their own, I’ve written the ultimate do-it-yourself DNA instruction manual, Your DNA Guide—the Book. This popular resource helps you define a DNA question and then pursue it, wherever it leads. Depending on what you discover, you’ll skip around in the book to your next action item. Like a DNA scavenger hunt. Get your copy of Your DNA Guide—the Book.
This was great, Diahan. Loved hearing your story and your mum’s. Thank you for taking the time to share.
Although I had done a lot of genealogy in 1990s and dabbled a bit in early 2000s, I had never taken DNA ads seriously or considered taking one. Then, after a serious health diagnosis, a doctor prompted me to do a health test at 23andMe in 2018. I had no clue I could also use this for genealogy until, in 2020, I read a novel by Nathan Dylan Goodwin where the hero is a genealogist who uses DNA. I shot straight off to find out how to get matches, as I suddenly saw the possibility of finding out who my paternal grandmother really was after years of fruitlessly searching for any clues about her birth that led to an informal adoption sometime after 1911.
Cue a crash course in DNA, including all your webinars etc. My DNA matches made no sense though, so I got Dad to test at Ancestry and 23andMe as I hoped that testing the older generation would produce better results and also sort my own results into maternal/paternal buckets. Mum wouldn’t test, so I also took an Ancestry test.
Working with Dad’s results, I have now found a birth certificate for his mother and know much about her maternal side. The father isn’t listed, but I have narrowed down to a likely family with several sons, so nearly there.
However, DNA also showed that Dad’s father wasn’t his mother’s husband! Quite a shock at 84! So more research and I have again found a family of brothers, one of whom would seem to be the culprit.
So with both of these I need to do descendancy research and target testing I suspect to finally nail things down.
Finally, the biggest shock of all … I discovered that Dad isn’t my biological father! This is not something I have shared with the family as it would break his heart. So I managed to persuade my maternal aunt to test, explaining that it was easier to work with the oldest generation’s DNA. Now I am on my own quest, in secret! From my DNA, my BF is obviously of Irish descent whereas I was born in London, England. Despite some good matches, none of the possible candidates in the most obvious family were in England at the right time and the other side (his maternal I think) doesn’t seem to tie in to any of them, but that may just be the result of the challenges of Irish genealogy! Or maybe I’m looking for an undocumented liaison?! Hopefully time and more research will tell.
Would love to join the Academy, but finances don’t permit. I have the book and am working through it a second time in case I missed something initially. If I can’t make any more progress though, I’ll probably see you for mentoring.
Wish me luck!
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your story!! It sounds like you have been quite the detective! Good for you! Keep it up!
I just finished listening to your mother’s adoption story – really an amazing tale – and what a blessing that you could be such an integral part of finding her biological mother’s family. I’m intrigued with her Ukrainian roots and wondering if you have found relatives in present day Ukraine. If so, is there any fund set up that can help them, whether they are still in country or refugees?
You have helped me so much in my understanding of DNA and how it relates to my genealogy research that I would love to donate to your family’s cause, if they have been affected by this horrible war! My husband and I have donated money to three overseas organizations already to help in this massive relief effort, and I would be happy to add your family’s fund to our list, if you have one.
In either case, I enjoyed listening to you and your Mom’s interview and I thank you for it!
Ashburnham, MA 01430
Oh my. How very generous!
We are in contact only with my mom’s close relatives here in the US. Her line was really only in the Ukraine for a couple of generations, having been in Germany before that. So while there may be a few there still, most of the family we are in contact with left the Ukraine and moved here to the US.