How DNA is Changing Adoption Searches

Increasing Popularity

Nearly every week, I come across another news article that touts the use of DNA to solve an age-old mystery. Sometimes that mystery involves sinister crimes such as rape or murder, but the mystery also sometimes involves heartwarming stories of adoption and reunion, or perhaps the positive identification of a Jane or John Doe.

Those heartwarming stories of adoption and reunion are the focus of this article. November is adoption month, so it’s only fitting to honor adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents by writing about a topic that’s slowly made its way to the forefront of many, many adoption searches today.

The Role of DNA in Adoption Searches

The advancements in DNA testing, as well as their increasing popularity and now affordable pricing ($100 or less), have drastically increased their importance in the role of discovering biological history. For many adoptees out there, uncovering their biological history is a dream come true.

Many individuals who decide to submit their DNA for testing are simply curious about their roots. They want to know if the stories of their Irish heritage that have been passed down really ring true. Do I have any Native American roots in my family? Can I trace my line back to someone famous?

But for some, namely adoptees, it’s not always as much of a heritage question as it is, who is my biological mother? What is my biological father’s name? Do I have any biological siblings?

DNA testing has become an essential component in many adoption searches, especially for adoptees who have little or no information about their biological history.

How It Works

Adoptee Ann was adopted as an infant after she was left on the front steps of a fire station in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a white female with brown hair and brown eyes. As an adult, she is of slender build and stands 5’ 7” tall.

Despite her best efforts and even the combined efforts of her adoptive parents and siblings, Adoptee Ann has been unable to uncover any helpful information about her biological family or where she came from that night she was dropped off at the fire station. Adoptee Ann has absolutely no clues at all and has remained completely in the dark about her biological parents, potential biological siblings, medical history, and genetic heritage.

Adoptee Ann is the perfect candidate for DNA testing. She finds a popular DNA provider, sends off for a packet, spits in a tube, and mails her DNA off to the lab.

When her results are ready, Adoptee Ann logs into her password protected account online and scans her computer screen for clues as to her biological identity. She immediately uncovers her genetic makeup. Adoptee Ann is roughly 60% Western European, 20% British, 10% Irish, and 10% Native American.

She is also linked to over 100 other individuals who have tested with this same company. Many are third cousins and beyond, but a few are second cousins and one is listed as a first cousin.

So Adoptee Ann contacts the first cousin and few second cousins to start. She at first only gets a response from a second cousin, but over time and through correspondence with the second cousin, more relationships are uncovered until a family of four sisters is tentatively identified as Adoptee Ann’s potential mother and aunts.

As relationships develop over time and family stories are sorted out, more DNA tests are ordered and Adoptee Ann eventually uncovers the name of her now deceased biological mother. After that identification is made, it isn’t long before the biological father is identified. He is still living and knew nothing of Adoptee Ann’s birth. The two now share a special bond and see each other regularly.

Deciding Which DNA Provider to Use

DNA testing has become a viable adoption search tool that should be carefully considered by anyone looking for information about their biological heritage. There are many, many DNA labs out there that market their services for adoption searches, but none of them are anywhere near as accurate or comprehensive as the larger DNA testing providers.

Everyone has an opinion on the “best” DNA provider. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. It is my recommendation that you register your DNA with more than one provider since they each use different databases and yield varying results. In fact, registering with all of the major providers is highly recommended because you cannot know ahead of time which registry will uncover the most helpful information for you.

Really, the broad spectrum purpose in registering your DNA with multiple providers is the fact that so many people only register with one. Consequently, you cannot know which provider might hold the link that could lead you to identifying your biological family.

The idea behind using DNA tests to unravel your biological history is to identify your closest relatives and request family trees from each of them, then compare them and start to unravel the clues you’re looking for.

The Process

The process is pretty well the same for each provider. Order the DNA test kit online and have it delivered to your doorstep. Each kit contains written instructions, a saliva collection tube or cheek swabs, and a pre-paid return mailer. After you drop your test kit in the mail and your results have been published online, you can access them via the provider’s website with your own username and password.

Another tip to save money, all of the major providers offer regular sales on their DNA testing prices. They all offer sales in the months leading up to Christmas, so the time is now.

I would also recommend this short YouTube video that offers five truths about DNA tests -