Genetic testing or DNA testing for adoptees-what test is best

I loved the Creating a Family Radio show we did on Genetic Testing and Genealogy for Adoptees. I learned so much, including that there is a subspecialty of genealogy that specializes in interpreting DNA results and an even further specialty (sub-sub specialty?) for working with unknown parentage, such as adoption and donor conception. Who knew??

Why Do Adoptees Do Genetic Testing

According to the genealogy experts on our show, the two main reasons that adoptees or adoptive parents on behalf of their adopted child do genetic testing is because they are searching for health information or for connection to biological family members. Sometimes these two reasons overlap–they are searching for a connection with a birth family member in order to get their medical history.

In addition to these reasons, I know that many adoptees simply want basic information that most people have known from birth, such as their ethnicity. For those who are not adopted it’s hard to imagine not being able to answer the most fundamental questions—What are you? Where did your people come from?

Which Genetic Testing Company is Best for Adoptees?

There are three main genetic testing companies using autosomal DNA testing:

  • 23andMe: $99 basic ancestry test; $199 includes a health report
  • AncestryDNA: $99 + monthly membership fee to access to archive of records (birth, death, marriage, military, etc.) and a membership forum
  • Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder: $79

Each of the companies offers slightly different services, so it is difficult to compare apples to apples. Each is a simple test (either cheek swab or spit test) and each will give you basic DNA information. 23andMe can also provides some basic health information based on your test results.

All of the experts on the Creating a Family agreed that adoptees wanting to connect with birth family members should sign up for all three because that expands the possibility of finding a connection.

For international adoptees, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe probably have the largest international market, but again, it makes sense to cast your net as wide as possible by signing up for all three.

How to Interpret the Results of a DNA Test

Interpreting the results can be tricky. If you are purely interested in health info, you can use the report provided by 23andMe. You may also want to enter your DNA results into Promethease, a literature retrieval system that builds a personal DNA report based on connecting a file of DNA genotypes to the scientific findings cited in SNPedia. The cost is minimal ($5 or $10), and the amount of information is vast. In fact, the breath of information may be overwhelming so you may need help separating the wheat from the chaff. A great resource for amateurs is the DNA Detectives Closed Facebook group.

How Can Adoptees Find Family Members Through Genetic Testing

Finding birth family members is often hard and you may well need help of a genetic genealogist. The sweet spot for tracking down relatives is a second cousin match, but even with more distant relatives you may be able to connect, especially with help.

Your first stop should be the DNA Detectives Closed Facebook group. It is free and has over 20,000 members, many of which will offer you advice.

If you want more help, you will need to hire a genetic genealogist. This is a highly specialized type of genealogist and no uniform credentials exist to help you choose. Start by going to the Association of Professional Genealogists and search their directory for the subspecialty of “genetic genealogist”. You will have to go to their individual websites to find out if they work with adoptees.

You MUST Listen to This Radio Show

I learned so much on the Creating a Family Radio show on Genetic Testing and Genealogy for Adoptees. Our guests were:

  • CeCe Moore, a genealogist with The DNA Detective, speaker, and teacher of genetic genealogy.
  • Richard Hill, genealogist with DNA Testing Advisor, and an adoptee that used DNA testing to find his birth family. He wrote about his experience in Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA.
  • Bethany Waterbury, genealogist with Next of Kin Research.




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Image credit: Drew XXX  thierry ehrmann