Finding your birth family is the wish of many adoptees. For various reasons, a person may feel the emotional pull to find out who they are and where they come from. Genealogy research combined with DNA testing is making dreams come true. Are you ready to find your own birth family? Here are some tips to get you started.
Tip 1 : Collecting Information
Being familiar with adoption on a personal level myself, I think this may be the hardest step. Some families have avoided talking about the details of an adoption, so as not to hurt feelings. However, this is a vital step that can put you on the right path to discovery.
The first thing you want to do is collect all the information about your adoption from your adopted parents. A few questions you should ask are:
- What state were you born in?
- Were you given a different name at birth? If so, what?
- What agency were you placed through and was the agency in the same state you were born in?
- What state did your final adoption take place?
- Did your parents meet your birth mother, father, or any other member of the birth family?
- What details can they remember about meeting a member of your birth family?
Tip 2 : Contact the Adoption Agency and/or State
States within the U.S. each have different laws pertaining to adoption records. Some states will offer no information, some will only offer non-identifying information, and some may offer access to all information. Legal adoptions in the U.S. can start with an adoption agency making the placement of a child, the State making a placement, or even a physician, lawyer, or neighbor. The placement and finalization of an adoption may be done in two different states and/or with two different entities.
If you were placed for adoption by an agency, contact the agency directly and ask what their policy is on learning more about your birth family. In some cases, the birth parents could have added their name to a list, indicating they would like to be put in touch with their birth child should the child ever call the agency.
From the agency, you want to inquire about the following items:
- Your original birth certificate
- Birth mother/father in-take interview answers [sometimes called a background report]
- Adoption finalization paperwork
If you were placed for adoption by the State, contact them directly. You can learn more about the adoption records for your state, what they offer, and who to contact by reading the pdf found here.
Tip 3 : Adding DNA to Find Your Birth Family
One of the easiest ways to find your birth family may be to take a DNA test. I have been successful in finding birth families using only the adoption information collected in interviews, but using DNA testing in addition to the collected information is much easier.
It is important to realize that those who have been most successful at finding their birth families took advantage of more than one DNA testing company. In other words, they may have tested with Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Family Tree DNA. Why would you do this? Simple. Because you want to compare your DNA to as many people as possible. Each of the testing companies has their own data base of matches…you want to be compared to as many as you can. For this reason, I suggest being tested from at least two of the following companies:
- Ancestry DNA – [Currently has the largest matching database at over 8 million]
- MyHeritage – [Their test is on sale now for $59! Sale ends Feb. 4, 2019]
- Family Tree DNA – [This test is called the Family Finder Test and is now $59! Sale price ends 14 Feb 2019]
- 23andMe – [They are offering free shipping for Valentine’s Day!]
Special Note: If you have already tested with Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, or 23andMe, did you know you can upload your results to MyHeritage’s DNA matching database for free? To do so, click here. Though the matching service is free, to unlock other tools (such as your ethnicity report), there is a fee.
My Special Message To You
I have three children who are adopted. It has always been their wish to know more about their birth families, to varying degrees. Though this has sometimes been hard for me as the adopted mother, I understand and empathize with their feelings. When I really thought about it, I realized their birth families were just an extension of my own family and our history. Not all parents of adoptees feel this way and not all birth families want to be found or contacted, but be patient. I’m rooting for you!
To find support as you go through the journey of finding your birth family, consider joining an adoption Facebook group. You can find a list, here.
The Genealogy Reporter has entered into an affiliate relationship with Ancestry DNA, MyHeritage, and Family Tree DNA. Clicking on links in this article may result in a commission being paid to The Genealogy Reporter at no additional cost to you.