This article is going to be a long one, but it is going to be full of a lot of information (primarily for adoptees, but can be modified for birth families as well.)
If you are adopted and are looking for your birth family, there is a lot of information that you should gather before you even search in order to make your search a lot more easy. I will list a lot of those tips, hints and helps here. If you know of any that I have not mentioned, please share by emailing me at PirateDixie@gmail.com or in the comments section below.
Best of luck to all of you on your search!
1. Where were you adopted from? Private Agency/state/foster/in-family adoption or something else? Make sure that you know the source of where you were adopted from.
2. How old were the people involved in the adoption? This includes you, your adoptive parents, the birth parents and any other parties.
3. Where were you born? Do you know the city, the state and the county that you were born in? Make sure that you are completely sure.
4. Do you have your original birth certificate? If not, have you sent off for your original birth certificate?
5. Have you created a narrative of your birth story?
6. Have you contacted the attorneys or government agencies that were responsible for facilitating your placement?
7. Have you had a DNA test done? If not, get one done. If money is an issue, you can get a free test done at Genes For Good. If you want to have access to the largest database, Ancestry.com is the one to go with.
8. Do you have any medical issues that have been in place since birth?
9. If you have had DNA testing done, where are all of the places that you have uploaded it to, such as GEDMatch, DNA.Land, etc.
10. Contact everyone that could have information about you and your files-the hospital, your birth state may have a birth index, the ob/gyn, etc. Check everywhere and leave no stone unturned.
11. Ask everyone in your adoptive family for details about your placement and adoption. They may have clues or information that no one else does. Ask publicly, ask privately. Don't be ashamed. It is your right to pursue this.
12. Make detailed notes at the time that you speak to anyone. Trust and believe when I tell you that you won't remember everything. Ask for spellings, dates, locations and anything else that they are willing and able to share with you.
13. Ask for information that was given to either side by the agency, attorney, etc. There may be valuable clues right there as well.
14. Make sure to ask facilitator if other side ever has written, sent updates, want to write or be in contact or any other information.
15. Write down your test kit numbers and keep them with you. Carry business cards to hand out wherever you go.
16. Prepare a medical history for other side as well as a way for them to contact you.
17. If privacy is a concern, create an email only for this search. Make sure that you check it regularly. You can even set up a notice to let you know when you have an email in that account.
18. Have an honest dialogue with yourself. What is the best case scenario of what you would like to happen? What is the worst case? What are your goals for the short, medium and long term? Are you prepared for the outcomes of death, rejection, mental or physical issues? How about if the person that you are searching for does not want to associate with you, but other relatives do-are you ready for that? What if family members or the family that you are looking for contend that you are creating fake documents or similar? Have you considered counseling to delve into these issues if you don't have ready answers to these issues?
19. Have you set aside money to aid in your search? Except for Genes for Good, DNA tests cost money, requesting documents cost money for copies, and writing to places costs time.
20. Are you willing to create notes and notebooks with all of your search information so that you do not backtrack or lose clues?
21. Are you able to provide verifying information to those family members who may doubt you or the veracity of your search? Are you willing to explain that you are not looking for any claim of money or property?
22. Make sure that all of your contact information at all of the sites you are on is current and correct. It would be a shame to invest all of the time and effort only to not have your matches be able to reach you.
23. Be prepared to ask people who say that they match you for proof as well. Some people are not noble, kind or honest. Be willing to ask for (and pay for) a DNA test if you have any doubts. Also, just because someone shares some physical characteristics does not mean that they are related, and the reverse is true as well.
24. You can set up a free web page or blog for people who are looking for you. Don't share every single detail about you, but for people looking, it may be the place they find without going through agencies, etcetera.
25. Prepare yourself now for the "honeymoon" and possibly "backlash". Some who search have never moved past the place in time of when the adoption event occurred. They may still be dealing with some issues. Some may romanticize or "saint" others. Some may "demonize" others. Be patient. Be kind. Make good notes, take loads of photos and create memories. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. This is an emotional time.
26. Protect your privacy and safety. Although these people are family, until you know one another better, use caution and be safe.
27. Keep originals, make copies to share. I was SO glad I did this one. This includes photos.
28. Reach out for help through social media, adoption support and search groups, DNA search groups and more. Keep track of where you have signed up and check your places regularly.
29. If at all possible, create a family tree.
30. Never EVER give up. Take a break if it gets overwhelming, but don't give up!
This weekend has been one of a lot of housecleaning of my online family trees. I have been ruthless in pruning and cutting away family members who are not related to me. I am not talking about in laws or anything like that. I am talking about family members who I used to believe were related to me and I now know that they are not. Although I want to have a full and robust family tree, I need to prune the "bad branches" to make sure that I am not getting false positives.
First cuts to make it? Step parents and adoptive parents. I still love everyone, none of that has changed. I am increasing my odds of my parental family finding me by removing the people that I have no biological relation to.
Someone sent me an email explaining how we were related based on a surname that is of no blood relation to me. I sent a nice email and I am still pruning the tree, hours after I started this process.
I learned a couple of things that I would like to share.
When you download the GEDCOM file with all of the "bad" information, don't rename it and don't meddle with that file. If you make a mistake, that is your master copy, there for you in case you need it. I got a little crazy deleting people and nearly deleted myself at one point.
This is for Ancestry.com Other sites will be different, of course.
So, here is how I have done it. I hope that: 1. This is not confusing. 2. That you are able to follow all of this. Let me know if you have any question either by emailing me or by commenting below.
1. Download your GEDCOM file from Ancestry. To do this, go to the main page, click on TREES, then manage your trees. Go to Tree Settings. On the right hand column, there is a green rectangular box that says "Export tree". It will take several minutes to do, but less than 30 minutes unless servers are busy. leave that page open, you will be using it again in a moment.
2. Once the file is downloaded, create a new tree with a name that will let you know that this is for your DNA tree. I included the words Autosomal in there so that I will know which tree is the one for my research.
3. Upload the file you just downloaded. (I know, this is confusing.) This file is your GEDCOM file. Note that the name of the file will be the same as the tree that you took it from. Don't change the name of the file, because again, if you make an error, you don't want there to be a conflict.
4. Do you have family members that are no biological relation to you? Parents who are not your parents? We will use a parent who is not a parent for my example. (Referred to as a non parental event) Don't delete the parent yet. Save yourself some aggravation. Go back on their timeline as far as you can go. All the way back as many generations as there are. Start deleting people that are not related to you all the way back there. Don't forget spouses and children of these genetic non parents! Otherwise you will be forever cleaning up!
5. Remove all of the people that need removed. It may take a while, but be patient.
Now, go back and edit any relationships that may be mis-listed. Change siblings to half siblings and things like that. Ancestry has a setting for step parents, but I removed any and all similar ties because I was still having people contact me in reference to having a match to me.
6. When you are done, if you would like, you can download the GEDCOM file, which should show up with the name of the new family tree that you created. You can then use that new GEDCOM file to upload to any of the places online that host a family tree.
I am a new user to Autosomal DNA, only having my results arrive to me in the fall of 2016, so any time that new information is found by me, it is always new to me, no matter how long it has been out there.
Before you go to any of these sites, you will want to download your DNA and place the files in a folder on your desktop for easy access. Some sites will require that you convert your files to a different format. I have included a few links to get that done as well!
All of the links that I am going to include in this article have been visited and tried out with me. I will provide information about each link below. Bookmark this page!
www.gedmatch.com This site is such a fun site to visit, as well as very informative. If I were to write of all of the features at this 90 percent free site, I would be writing a several page long article.
Here are the basics: You create a profile and upload your DNA files to the site. Allow up to a few days for the site to process the data. Go back and you will have the following information available to you with just a few clicks of the mouse:
One to Many comparison: displays DNA matches found in their database. (If you have completed a DNA test somewhere, you may see some matches that you already know about!) I love this feature because I get to see a lot of people who are related to me who are not in my FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) profile.
X Match: Only displays those who you are an X chromosome match to.
A nice feature of these 2 tables is that when someone uploads data to the GEDMatch site, for the first 30 days, these two tables will reflect that by showing the test number with a green background in the test kit rectangle. The brighter the green, the more recent that it was uploaded. A white background in this field reflects that it has been greater than 30 days since the user uploaded their data.
Admixture Heritage (ethnicity) There are so many variables that you can use on this site to explore this option, I simply don't have the room to list them all here. Check it out, and you may very well find yourself spending a few hours in the Admixture Heritage section.
Are Your Parents Related? I don't know who my biological father is, so to be honest, I was a little bit nervous when I did this test. I was relieved that there is no relation between them, but for certain tribes of Jewish ancestry, this is a common problem. This test will show the answer if you are uncertain and looking for this information. Free.
Archaic DNA Matches. Going back. Way back. You may be amazed at what you find. My thought was "cool".
The GedMatch.com is a great website, and they also offer a pay as you go option called Tier 1 Utilities that gives you access to 7 other features that are not covered in the free option. I have not used them, but I have plans to in the future. As soon as I do, I will update this portion of the article.
GedMatch is an excellent program that provides thousands of dollars worth of tests that are free. Plan to go over there with a pen and paper for all the notes that you will be making as well as printing out some of the beautiful charts and graphs that are free. I am actually considering framing a couple of them because they are lovely and distinctive.
dnagedcom.com I always feel a bit technically challenged when I come to this website because I don't remember how I got to the place on the site to access the information that I am interested in. After a few bad clicks and making notes, I finally will find the place I want to be. I am sure that your experience will vary, perhaps it would be better if I went there a lot more. I wish that I were more enthusiastic about this site, but perhaps with time and practice, which I endeavor to do this summer, my experience with this site will change. I will update as I use it more. The site is free to upload data, free to use.
http://dnaadoption.com/ This is a wonderful site if you are an adoptee or other displaced family member trying to family your family through DNA. I cannot say enough lovely and wonderful things about the wonderful group of people there. If you are on this search, as I am, I wish you nothing but the very best of luck in your search, and when you find your family, I hope that you will contact me here so that we can share the happy news. All of the very best of luck to you!
https://opensnp.org/ This is a place where you are free to upload your information and create DNA phenotype questionnaires as well as answer others. It is funded by donations, and I would strongly urge a donation if you can afford it. People are doing science research on their own as well as contributing to the research of others. Yay, science!
http://www.y-str.org/ This site is the very first site that I ran my DNA through. I was so glad that it was so easy. The creator of the tools that are still on his site for free is no longer working on the DNA project. He has moved his attention to spreading the word of God. I wish him the very best of luck and I urge you to go and have a look at the tools that he has created as they are free. The program files that are there must be downloaded to your hard drive for them to work. Some of the programs are nearly instant in their results showing up. Others, especially those that are processing a lot of information, such as the Parentless Phasing application can take a long time. For free, you can't complain!
www.promethease.com I found Promethease sort of by accident by doing a search for something else that was autosomal related and there was the Promethease site. But I am so very glad that I did. Promethease is chock full of information. If you were to print your results, I imagine that the report would be at least 50 pages long. Promethease IS pay to play. Their rates start at $5.00 and go to $10.00, depending on the amount of information that you are submitting. Save the bookmark when you get your results, or if you have the inclination, print the files, too! My family and I all ran our results through Promethease and the emails flew back and forth that week as we compared the results. It was really cool to nod at one another when we discovered that there was a genetic link to some issues in the family. For others, it can be a jumping point to a discussion with your doctor. After appx. 30 days, your results will be discarded unless you have saved your bookmark.
For all of these these tools, you will need to have a copy of your DNA results on your hard drive. I can only attest to the tools that are for autosomal DNA. I have not had any of the other tests done. At the point I do, however, there will be a post right here to let you know.
Tell me which tools you liked the best in the comments section!
This year, National DNA Day in the United States falls on Tuesday. It is pretty much agreed in the United States that the 25th of April is the day that DNA researchers, scientists, genealogists and others come together to bring forward awareness to DNA research.
We are especially mindful of all of the strides that have been made with DNA and in DNA research, starting with the discovery of the double helix in 1953, and the completion of the human genome project in 2003.
Personally, I am grateful that all of the research being done with DNA is being done in my lifetime so that I am able to benefit from it.
I have learned so much about DNA since my test results have come in, and I am not done learning.
This week, I connected with a cousin of mine (4th cousin) who may be from my paternal side. To say that I am excited and pleased is under expressing how very happy DNA tests have made me.
It is my fervent hope to meet my paternal family, and as I get more tests done, perhaps I will. To all of the fruitless searching that I did before DNA, I harbor no ill feelings. DNA has changed my life and me as a person in terms of how I view myself. I hope to write a very long article about it, once I have sorted all of the emotions that I am still going through!
Have a wonderful DNA day, and reach out to a few of your DNA relatives that you have not met yet!
If you have not completed a DNA test yet, don't forget that Genes For Good, through Facebook is still offering free DNA tests through the University of Michigan!
My name is Dixie, and this is the blog part of my page, where I write about whatever strikes my fancy. Contact me at: PirateDixie@gmail.com