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Kimberly Powell

Using DNA to Solve Adoption Mysteries

By April 1, 2014

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DNA adoption. Photo by Getty Images/Cultura/Liam NorrisStories of DNA being used to help solve an adoption mystery have been in the news quite a bit in recent months, inspiring many adoptees to look into using DNA as a tool in their adoption search. Case in point, a recent article by Erin Alberty in the Salt Lake City Tribune tells the heartwarming story of two parents and the son they gave away for adoption almost 50 years ago recently reuniting because they both happened to have their DNA tested with AncestryDNA. Ken Drake took the test out of curiosity about his ethnicity, while Richard Larsen, the biological uncle of Ken Drake, received the test as a Christmas present from one of his daughters. Both families were surprised but excited when the DNA test turned up a "close match" between the two men.

Now before you adoptees out there get your hopes up, most DNA searches aren't quite this easy. As a matter of fact, this wasn't exactly a search at all --- more luck than anything. However, some of you will get lucky and may find a close biological family member has also tested. The rest of you still have hope as well, as genetic genealogists and adoption groups have worked hard to formulate tools and methodologies for using DNA to help connect adoptees with their birth families. It can be an interesting, but emotional ride, and you may find you happen to match some genealogists out there who--like me--don't mind taking out a few hours to investigate our shared matches and what that might tell you about your biological family. If you don't have the time or interest in learning how to use the technology yourself, you can hire a genetic genealogy expert who specializes in this type of research.

All of those who are not adopted benefit as well, as these same methodologies and tools can be applied to any number of our own tough genealogical mysteries...

Learn how in Using DNA in Your Adoption Search.

April 1, 2014 at 8:14 pm
(1) Janet says:

I had my nephew take a DNA test (I didn’t realize that Ancestry.com had changed their test) as I thought I needed a male to find my father’s ethnicity. I was looking to verify my father’s claim of Native American heritage. His test came back with no Native American ancestry. I was surprised enough to take the test myself. And was in for an even bigger surprise. My dad was adopted. I wrote back to the county he was born in to have the records unsealed and there was no records of adoption. But in the 1920 US Census it shows my dad age 2 with adopted in parentheses. In the 1930 US Census it shows my dad still living in the same household but now it states son in relationship. I really thought I was at a dead end until I decided to put in my grandmother’s genealogical line. I got lots of matches for my DNA! So either my dad is my grandmother’s natural son (but illegitimate as there is no birth certificate on file) or she took my dad in from a sibling or very close cousin. I just don’t know how to prove it. So thanks for posting this article.

April 1, 2014 at 8:41 pm
(2) Sheryl says:

I have been searching for my grandfather’s half sister, through his mother, for years. She was adopted out after their mother died suddenly. Could DNA possibly match us?

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