DNA testing has increasingly become a useful tool for adoptees seeking information about their birth families.
Many people take one or more DNA tests in the hopes of finding matches, but then don’t know how to respond if they do. The match goes both ways. Some biological relatives may not even know that a child was born, and thus don’t know how to deal with the person. The adoptee may have been watching too many TV adoptee reunions and think they are going to be automatically welcomed with open arms. A lot depends on whether the birth parents are still living and what age they are.
Adoption records have been sealed in most states since the 1940s, but some are opening up and allowing an adopted person access to their original birth certificate. Keep checking on the status of the adoption records in the state where you were born and adopted.
DNA testing can often result in the discovery of a close relative who might be willing to help find the answers the adoptee is seeking. Diahan Southard, a leading DNA lecturer whose mother was adopted, wrote the article “Finding Your Birth Family with DNA” in Family Tree Magazine’s December 2017 issue. Speaking from experience, she tells a riveting story. But she also cautions: “The general consensus among researchers experienced in birth family reunions is that, as an adoptee, you have the right to know your heritage, but you don’t have the right to a relationship with your biological family.” DNA testing can help you find second cousins or other close kin that could be contacted. But in my view, you should be upfront and tell the DNA match your situation and the purpose of your inquiry. The full article is at familytreemagazine.com. DNA testing is a fairly inexpensive way to lay the groundwork for finding one’s birth families, so it’s well worth doing.
Post Office records help locate ancestors
United States post office records are useful in documenting where your ancestors lived, so don’t pass up checking in gazetteers, business directories maps and other sources to pinpoint places. If your relative was the postmaster, that and dates of service can be verified in the official records now on Ancestry.com. Look through the entire county as many community names have long since disappeared but your relative might have served there.
Last minute Christmas gift, a family heirloom
If you have run out of ideas a week before Christmas, consider passing on a family heirloom, photograph, or some memory. Never too late to do that.
Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O.Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or ggensociety.org.