Connecting with Your Biological Family through DNA Testing

February 22, 2019  - by 

Adoptees and others with unknown parentage can use DNA testing to find and connect with their biological families or to learn more about where their ancestors came from.

DNA testing won’t always provide adoptees with a quick answer to finding their biological roots, but with some traditional genealogy research and DNA testing, many have found success! If you’re wondering how to find your birth parents through DNA, this article can help you get started.

First Step—Taking a DNA Test

If you wish to connect with your biological family or determine an unknown parent, consider taking an autosomal DNA test. An autosomal DNA test can be taken by males or females and may provide you with DNA matches within 5 to 6 generations on both your biological mother and father’s sides of the family.

What’s a DNA match? A DNA match, sometimes referred to as a “cousin match,” is the result of your DNA data being compared to other people’s DNA data to identify matching segments of chromosomes that indicate a family relationship. How closely you are related depends on how much DNA you and another person share.

Second Step—Consider Taking a Test from More Than One Company

The major DNA testing companies help compare your DNA to the DNA of other people who have tested with the same company. For this reason, many genetic genealogists suggest adoptees upload their DNA file to other DNA websites, when possible, or test with multiple DNA companies. If you test with more than one company, your DNA will be matched to a bigger pool of potential relatives.

A woman searches for her birth parents through DNA.

Third Step—Review of DNA Matches

Once your DNA has gone through the testing process, most companies will provide you with a DNA match list. Reviewing your DNA matches is the next step. Although you may not find a parent match in your match list, you will possibly have a half-sibling match, a close cousin match, or a more distant cousin match. Though a close match of second-cousin or closer is ideal, an adoptee may still be successful in connecting with his or her biological family while learning more about more distant DNA matches.

Some of the DNA cousin matches may have additional information available for you to review online. Additional information may include family surnames, places of origin, or even a family pedigree with names, dates, and places.

A daughter reunites with her birth mother through dna.

Fourth Step—Reaching Out

The fourth step is to reach out to your DNA matches via the testing website’s message system. When using DNA testing to find your biological family, consider the following before reaching out to them.

  1. Your DNA match may not know how to help you determine your birth parents or immediate family.
  2. Your birth and subsequent adoption may have been kept a secret from other members of the birth parents’ families.
  3. Your birth family may not wish to make a connection.

With these and many other things to consider, what are adoptees to do when they are ready to take the next step and reach out to their biological family? For inspiration, here is Jillian’s story of finding and reaching out to her birth father’s family after taking a DNA test.

Jillian’s Story

Jillian was adopted at birth, and her main purpose in DNA testing was to learn about her ancestors and where they came from and to be able to put together a family tree of some sort. But she thought that if she found her birth parents in the process “that would be great.”

Jillian tested her DNA but found the process of analyzing her DNA matches overwhelming. She enlisted the help of a professional genealogist. DNA match lists from multiple testing companies were the key to finding her family. In no time, the genealogist located a few first-cousin matches and one of several responded.

The first cousin did not have a family tree already, but using traditional genealogical research, they were able to build one. Then, with the limited adoption information Jillian knew, they determined that Jillian’s biological father was likely one of the uncles of her newfound cousin. Jillian’s first cousin tried to help other cousins test their DNA to determine who specifically was Jillian’s father, but not all of the cousins were willing to test.

Although Jillian still does not know which of the uncles is her own birth father, she has been able to exchange family pictures and stories with her first cousin. Just recently, her cousin sent some of their grandmother’s Ukranian recipes for Jillian to try. “I will never taste the pierogies my grandmother made,” Jillian said, “but I can connect with her when I make them myself.”

Hope and Support for Adoptees

Many stories show happy reunions of biological families through DNA matching, but not all stories end in the same way. Many adoptees wishing for a similar story of their own may be disappointed with how their search for their biological family ends.

A group provides support for each other.

If you are looking for support after not having an ideal reunion, learning that your birth family doesn’t want to connect, or discovering an unknown parent, many community groups can help, including the following:

These groups can provide guidance, sympathy, and support. They can also advise on how to approach other family members sensitively, as your current and newfound family members may also be affected.

Whether you meet your immediate birth family or not, DNA testing can offer you a way to learn more about your genetic history and where your family comes from. You can begin building your own unique part of your family tree for free on FamilySearch.org, before and after you take a DNA test.

Learn more about FamilySearch’s shared online tree and how it can help you learn about your family, collaborate with cousins and other family members, and do much more!

More about DNA Testing


Compare options for DNA testing and find answers to DNA questions on FamilySearch.org.

RootsTech

 

Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser Tennant is a genealogy researcher, writer and presenter.She writes blog articles and other content for many top companies and societies in the genealogy field. Her most treasured experience is working as a consultant for family history. Amie lives with her husband and three children in Ohio, surrounded by many of her extended family.

Latest posts by Amie Tennant (see all)

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Comments

  1. I recently took a dna test and didn’t understand any of it. I was blessed enough to find a researcher who would help me. I never have known my dad. But I got a dna match with a half sister and 1st cousin on my paternal side. I still don’t know exactly who my dad is but have narrowed it down to two brothers. Because my 1st cousin dna matched and I found grandparents. I’m a little confused because the 1000s of names I matched with are the same last name and it’s not any name my mom had ever mentioned to me. Everyone on my mom’s side is dead. I’ve reached out to the half sister but not the 1st cousin yet.

  2. Good Afternoon, my name is Theresa and I have been trying to locate my biological father. I was able to locate my biological mother who was German, unfortunately she said she did not know who my father is. I have submitted my DNA to Ancestry and CRI Genetics, no match was found. I would like to locate my father or some other relative that can share the family history. I am a two time cancer survivor and would love to know if cancer or any other illness run in the family.

  3. My mom is 92 and won’t tell me who my real dad is. Supposedly it was an agreement that I would never find out. I really need to know something about my dad. That’s it. Can you help me.

  4. I have never seen my birth father name on birth certificate is joe Ferguson i want to know if i have brothers and sisters mother is Dorothy Janie Bonner ward

  5. Hello I am about to turn 61 in a couple of weeks. I found out when i was 34 that the father that raised me with my mother was not my real father. My mother just told me so casually while playing cards, like by the way. My only responce was.”that explains so much” As i di not get along with him growing up. Anyway then as fast as she said it, it was dropped. I know she gave me a phoney name as Tom Brown is so common. What i do know is as she told me he was a social worker in Winnipeg Manitoba. CanadaI am guessing around 1958-60. not sure why she needed a social worker. Anyway i was born 1960. I know he has probably passed as he would probably be in his late 80’s. my mother passed 27 years ago now. Now more then ever I just want to know who the other half of me is or was. A note, no one in my family aka siblings knows anything as i am the second oldest and my older brother was just a baby himself. Apperently all that happened was kept a big secret by both sides. I am on a very fixed income disability through social services in Victoria bc, canada that is why i hesitate paying for the dna as there are so many out there. I do not even own a credit card, don’t like them.
    if you have any ideas that wold be great. all that i put down here is all i know.
    thanks for your time.
    sincerely Ms.Kelly Harvey
    mothers maiden name was Hoy Shirley, she rematrried as Mrs. Horseman.father that raised me was Roy Overton

  6. If there are any genealogist, genealogy researchers, writers, or presenters in the okc area that could help me in my situation I’ll allow my story to help in any way. Help me heal a broken child. It literally takes a village to raise a child. Please email me at dlgallimore1996@gmail.com

  7. My father passed in 2002. My aunt told my brother and I that brother of us were dads biological children. My brother did somehow find his bio dad but it was too late, he was also deceased. Now 20 years later, I have a desire to find my bio dad. I recently asked my uncle, the only living relative of my dad, to take a DNA test with me and it came back very unlikely and we didn’t have hardly any kinship index. It was 0.005. Now how do I begin to find what man is my bio dad out there?

  8. My family didnt really tell me who was my family is i want to know my family.i didnt fell right growing up at all.

  9. I would like to find help finding my siblings my mother took to the Grave who my father really was and I’m wondering if I have more family out there I’m all alone today I would really like to just do where I come from it’s who I am please help me

    1. My biological father’s name is Johnny Louis Coleman his birthplace is North Caroline but at my birth he lived in Baltimore, Maryland my last name was Boyce.

  10. My mum was adopted when she was a baby, so I’d like to know who my grandparents are or even family. I have no idea where to start can someone please point me in the right way. Thank you