YES! DNA can help you find your family. If you're adopted, confused or questioning your family relationships, DNA can be used to find out who you're really related to. We've all seen those TV commercials for DNA kits like Ancestry and 23 and Me. They mostly talk about ethnicity though. It's true, those kits do provide you with ethnicity results, and it's fun to find out your percentages of each nationality. They also talk about how you can research your family history with documents, like census and birth records. That's all great, but the most exciting thing isn't really mentioned... Your DNA match list. I've actually discovered that some of the people I've helped didn't even realize they had a DNA match list. Some people buy these kits and have no idea how to use them. It's not really their fault though. There's a lot to learn and it can be intimidating, especially if you're not good with computers. That's why I'm here to help.
When you buy a DNA kit, you submit a saliva sample to a lab and your DNA is compared to the millions of other people who have also submitted DNA. It typically takes a month or two before you receive your DNA results. If your DNA segments match up to other people, then you are related to those people and they will appear on your match list. You might see thousands of people listed, and they really are related to you in some way. You're probably not going to know most of them because they could be very distant relatives. They all share common ancestors with you somewhere down the line. You could find third, fourth and fifth cousins. Maybe even more distant relatives. You can also make family trees and share them with others so you can find your common ancestors. The websites will also show you how much DNA you have in common with all these people (measured in centimorgans).
It's quite possible you could have trouble understanding your match list because it may be the only DNA list you will ever see. Don't be afraid to ask for help from me or another genealogist. Experience dealing with DNA data is a big plus. I've seen hundreds of DNA match lists and have a good understanding of the numbers and relationships. Hopefully my upcoming blog pages will help make things easier to understand if you decide to do your own research. I'll cover topics like: Family relationships, how to use your match list and understanding DNA centimorgans. I'll provide advise on how to contact family members and I'll share some stories about my findings that may help you with your research.
A big problem you might run into is actually contacting the people you're related to. Some people don't even use their full names, or any name at all. It may only show you a username. People don't often reply if they have an expired account, or they may not even be alive anymore. It can be quite frustrating. You're also going to want to make sure you've interpreted the DNA data correctly. You don't want to accuse someone of being your unknown birth father because you've read the DNA results wrong. Don't get the idea that understanding your family history with DNA is easy. Sometimes it can be, but it usually requires a whole lot of research combined with DNA knowledge and an understanding of family relationships. Again, that's why I'm here to help.
WARNING! I think it's important to understand that you could find out things about your family that may surprise you. The adopted people I help already know they are going to be surprised. They don't know their families at all, so anything I discover is going to be new to them. It's the people who THINK they know their families that often are shocked to find out new information. You could find out there's a secret family member, or find out some scary family story you never knew about. You might find some fun and exciting things as well. Maybe you're related to a famous person, or maybe you'll find a distant relative who has photographs or documents you never knew existed. I've discovered a wide variety of interesting things for the people I've helped. Some people were related to criminals, one was related to a famous talk-show host, another was related to a famous musician and a beauty queen. Be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions. You never know what we might find.
So, can DNA help you find your family? Absolutely. Is it possible it won't help you? That's possible too. You may only have weak DNA matches who are distant relatives. You will likely find something valuable though. More and more people are buying DNA kits every day. If you can't get your answers now, be patient, there's always the possibility another DNA match will show up someday. If you really want the best chance to find your family, DNA is the way to go. Check my blog site regularly for new tips on how to find your family.
In my next post, I discuss which DNA kit is the best.