DNA Testing for Adoptees: Advice from Your DNA Guide

dna_magnifying_glass_300_wht_8959Knowing your genealogical question can make DNA testing for adoptees (and anyone else) more focused and relevant. Being patient and determined—not quitting after a single test’s results—can also pay off, as it did for Paul Dobbs, a Welsh-born man who followed his adoptive father to Canada only to learn he was fathered by a U.S. serviceman.

Paul Dobbs didn’t find out that Len Dodds wasn’t his biological father until after the man who’d raised him to adulthood passed away. The truth came out during a genetic investigation into Len’s rare medical condition. He learned that he was child of an American soldier stationed in Wales during World War II. But years of traditional genealogical research led to dead ends. Then Paul turned to DNA and found a match: a first cousin.

With the help of his new-found cousin and the traditional genealogical records available about servicemen serving in Cardiff at the end of World War II, Paul was able to form a convincing hypothesis about the identity of his biological father.

He reached out to a potential half sibling who agreed to conduct a DNA test to explore this option.

She was a match.  Paul had found his biological family! (Read his story in the Vancouver Sun.)

Not everyone will find their birth parents through DNA testing. But Paul took an approach that can serve anyone looking for biological kin through DNA. His experience reminds us that knowing your genealogical question can make DNA testing more focused and relevant. Being patient and determined—not quitting after a single test’s results—can also pay off, as it did for Paul.

For any male adoptee seeking his father, the yDNA test is a logical route to take. This is where Paul turned first. The yDNA provides an undiluted record of a direct paternal line.  This can often help adoptees identify a surname for their paternal line. However, Paul did not have the success he was hoping for with yDNA testing.

He then turned to autosomal DNA testing. Remember that this kind of test traces both your paternal and maternal lines and reports back to you matches in the database that have predicted relationships like, “2-4th cousins” or “3rd-5th cousins” and then you are left to decipher who your common ancestor might be.

DNA testing is a great option for adoptees to get a jumpstart on their genealogy. However, before testing, everyone, adoptees included, should carefully consider how the results of testing may impact you and your family, both biological and adopted.

Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat SheetsReady to learn more about your family with DNA testing? Learn how to with my series of quick guides. Purchase each guide individually or pick up the bundle of all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

Childhood Friends Reintroduced as Long-Lost Siblings

introduce_the_figure_10905Recently The National Post reported that two men who were childhood friends have been reintroduced to each other–as biological brothers.

According to the article, long-lost siblings Duncan Cumming, 72, and Ron Cole, 71, lived near each other as kids. They attended the same Canadian public school and sometimes hung out. They never would have guessed they were brothers. Eventually one moved away and the friendship faded into history.

Until recently, when an agency specializing in reuniting birth relatives linked them together by their shared birth mother and got in touch with both men.

Click the link above to see the whole story, including pictures of the boys together on the beach and of each man today. And read about how this family isn’t totally reunified yet–there’s still a sister out there somewhere.

Adoption and Genealogy: A History of Adoption in the U.S.

Mrs. Ella Watson, a government charwoman, with three grandchildren and her adopted daughter [reflected in the mirror]. Image from The Gordon Parks Archives in the Library of Congress.

Most of us probably have adoptees somewhere on our family trees. Do you know how to research them? It’s not the same as the adoption research people do nowadays to find their birth parents.

Formal, legal adoption wasn’t common in the U.S. until the late 1800s. (State adoption laws didn’t even exist until after Massachusetts passed the first one in 1851.) Before that,  if mom and dad couldn’t take care of a child, a relative, neighbor or friend took that child in, or the child was sent to a county orphanage or poor home. In even earlier days, orphaned or poverty-stricken children were also sold by their towns into indentures.

The Adoption History Project at the University of Oregon has a great timeline of adoption history in the U.S. Check it out to see what was going on when your family member was adopted.

To learn more about adoption and genealogy research, check out these links:

FamilySearch Wiki U.S. Adoption Research

All About Adoption Research by Maureen Taylor

RootsWeb’s Guide to Tracing Family Trees: Adoption

 

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