DNA testing for adoptees (and others with unknown parentage) isn’t a last resort–use it along with other strategies to discover biological roots. Genetic genealogists CeCe Moore and Diahan Southard share five tips for getting started.
Not long ago, I chatted with genetic genealogist CeCe Moore of The DNA Detectives about using DNA testing for adoptees. Here I summarize some tips she shared, along with some perspectives of my own and resources that can help your search for biological relatives.
Click here to listen to our chat:
DNA testing for adoptees: 5 tips
1. Start with available records. A lot of people of people are coming straight to DNA testing now without looking at any available records first. Adoptees should start by looking at state laws and seeing if they can get access to original birth certificates. Click here to read about access to adoption records (U.S.).
2. Take an autosomal DNA test. This test looks at both sides of a person’s biological family, mom and dad. Most people start by testing at AncestryDNA because it has the largest database of potential matches (over 4 million now!). If you don’t find a close match (at least a second cousin), you will want to transfer to both Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage for FREE to expand your search radius. Males with unknown paternity should also take a YDNA test (at least at the 37-marker level) from Family Tree DNA.
3. Do your own adoption search. Sure, you can hire someone to help. But you should be invested in your own search when possible. You’ll likely get a much greater satisfaction out of it.
As with any kind of search you are doing for people who may still be living, proceed with care and try to keep your search as private as possible. Try first to contact the people who are most likely to know about you already, including your parents and grandparents. If you do discover a biological family buy ed medication member who may not know about you, please carefully consider the impact you may have on their lives by revealing information you have learned.
4. Become educated. Learn all the strategies you can for researching your biological roots. Read and read! Keep learning! The DNA Detectives Facebook group is about self-education, with members helping members work their own cases without a professional having to work each one. (You can also check out The DNA Detectives website.)
5. Keep your expectations flexible. CeCe Moore says, “The end result of an adoption search is positive most of the time. There are some stories where contact has been rejected by a birth relative, but they are in the minority. A positive outcome doesn’t necessarily mean a connection ora loving relationship with a birth parent, but perhaps with a birth sibling or cousin.”
Finally, I want to share this powerful statement from CeCe Moore on adoptee rights:
“I believe everyone has an equal right to learn about their heritage. There’s a whole class of people denied the joyful experience of building their biological family trees. Everyone deserves that knowledge. That doesn’t mean the birth family has to have a relationship. There’s a difference between knowing your heritage and having a relationship with the birth family. The adoptee deserves the knowledge of their origins.
But you can’t legislate a person to have a relationship with another person!”
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Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? Please share this post with any genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested. At the end of this post is a search tip for researching records in other languages.
ARGENTINA BAPTISMS. Ancestry has updated its database of Argentina, Select Baptisms, 1645-1930 (in Spanish), which is also searchable on FamilySearch. It’s a partial but growing index; click here to see current coverage on FamilySearch. Baptismal records are generally for newborn babies, with the date and place of event, parents’ names, and newborn death information.
ENGLAND AND WALES CRIMINAL RECORDS. Nearly 2 million records have been added to Findmypast’s databases of “crime and punishment.” Datasets include England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935, with details of felons in England and Wales, 1770-1935; the Home Office: Newgate Prison Calendar 1782-1853, taken from printed lists of prisoners to be tried at Newgate, in London, a prison for debtors and felons; Quarterly Returns of Prisoners 1824-1876 with 639,600 records of sworn lists of convicts held on board prison hulks, in prisons and criminal lunatic asylums; The Home Office: Criminal Entry Books 1782-1871, letters sent out from the Home Office, and a sort of “most wanted” list: the Metropolitan Police: Criminal Record Office: habitual criminals’ registers and miscellaneous papers kept by the police and circulated among the force on a regular basis.
IRELAND PARISH RECORDS. We blogged earlier this week about this new collection and it’s been a super popular post! The National Library of Ireland has posted digitized images of all its parish records, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s. Click on the blog post link to learn more about it.
KANSAS CENSUS RECORDS. Kansas, City and County Census Records, 1919-1961 is now available to Ancestry subscribers. Partially indexed, the images are of population schedules for city- and county-level enumerations. These include household, livestock and agricultural details by head of household; beginning in 1953, all household members are named.
POLAND GHETTO ID CARD REGISTRATIONS. A new FREE database on Ancestry is Poland, Łódż Ghetto ID Card Registrations, 1939-1944 (USHMM) (in German), an index to Jewish records from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Records include extracts from vital records, ID cards, work registration documents and protocol forms.
Some of the record sets mentioned above–and many others–were written in languages you might not speak. For best results, use the version of the name that would be common in that language, along with keywords in that language, before trying searches in your own language. Google Translate does translate common keywords and some common English names (John, Alexander, Mary, Andrew) to other languages, but isn’t guaranteed to show you an equivalent every time (especially if one doesn’t exist). You can also Google “name translator” plus the name of the language you wish to know; several online tools exist. And MyHeritage has advanced translation tools that do the work for you when you’re searching!
The 40 millionth record has been added to WorldCat, the enormous multi-library catalog that helps people find library materials all over the world.
Even cooler, that 40 millionth record was harvested to WorldCat through the WorldCat Digital Collection Gateway. This gateway allows for “unique, open-access digital content” to be brought into WorldCat, according to owner OCLC. “Once there…collections are more visible and discoverable to end users who search WorldCat as well as Google and other popular websites.”
If you haven’t used WorldCat for genealogy, you may be missing out on a lot. Like published history books (regional, county, local, ethnic, religious and more). And published family histories (search by the surname as a subject). The holdings of the enormous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah are now included in WorldCat, too (click here to read a blog post on that).
The idea that digital archives are integrating into WorldCat–hence becoming more searchable for us–is fantastic. What kinds of digitized materials might be cataloged here? Well, the Arizona Memory Project is the digital archive that provided that 40 millionth WorldCat record. The Arizona Memory Project “provide(s) online access to the wealth of primary sources in Arizona libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions including government documents, photographs, maps and objects that chronicle Arizona’s past and present.” Good stuff!
Remember to also search ArchiveGrid, WorldCat’s sister search interface for archival materials, for original family history documents.