Maybe your adoptive parents have always been open about having adopted you, or maybe you found out on your own. Whatever the case, there will always be that lingering desire to find out where you came from. No doubt, learning more about the roots of your family tree can feel like the only way to find out who you truly are. And fortunately, there are lots of tests you can take at home to do just that.
There are a number of direct-to-consumer DNA tests that offer you the opportunity to connect with family members to trace where you truly came from. For adoptees, the two best tests prove to be AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA. These two services offer different results, giving you a unique perspective on your ancestry and heritage by considering distinct components of your DNA.
How do they compared to one another, which one is right for the kind of knowledge you’re hoping to unravel, and what can you do to further the reach of your research into your adoptive status? Here’s everything you need to know.
Overview of the Best DNA Tests for Adoptees
|Database size||15 million||900 thousand|
|Health profiling||Yes, for an added cost||Yes, for an added cost|
|Raw data upload||No||Yes|
|Genetic traits explorer||Yes||No|
|Best for||Finding relevant, living family members||Decoding ancestral lineage and ethnic breakdown|
|Website||See it here||See it here|
|Prices||Start at $99||Start at $79|
Which One is Right For You?
Although both of these DNA test providers offer valuable insight, your unique situation might benefit more from one rather than the other. It all depends on the purpose of your research, and what you hope to discover.
The AncestryDNA test provides an autosomal test that you can upgrade for an added cost to get a look into your detailed health report. Autosomal tests take information form all 22 of your autosomes to provide you a clear depiction of your heritage based on the genetic traits you received from both parents.
The limitation of an autosomal test is that it can’t tell you where a specific trait comes from. For instance, if you’re found to have Native American ancestry, the test can’t provide you information on whether that lineage comes from your mother or your father’s side of the family.
On the upside, an autosomal test can be highly reliable if you’re in search of relevant, living ancestors. These tests can be accurate for up to 8 generations past, which means you can reach pretty far back into your lineage to discover your relatives from a recent, relevant time.
Plus, because AncestryDNA has the largest database for DNA tested profiles, you stand the chance to match with more people. This means you can get in touch with relatives you probably didn’t know you had, thus letting you discover more about your true, biological family by communicating with blood relatives from around the globe.
All of these factors taken into consideration, it becomes clear that AncestryDNA makes the ideal choice if you’re in search of living relatives in parallel branches. By accessing the wide database and reaching out to potential DNA matches, you can find out more about your family and potentially pinpoint who your biological parents might be through the information you can collect from others in your family tree.
On the other hand, we have FamilyTreeDNA. Their testing service is the only mainstream brand that offers both the YDNA and mtDNA test, giving them an obvious edge over other testing services. Although these tests might not do a lot in terms of connecting you with DNA matches, they do pose a major benefit that autosomal tests cant’s provide.
Both the YDNA and mtDNA focus on a single line of your family tree. With these tests, you can explore a single line upwards through your maternal or paternal branches, isolating a specific ethnic or ancestral path and reaching as far back as your haplogroup.
This can be a much better option if you want to learn more about a single line, often the case with adoptees who have identified at least one of their biological parents. If your adoptive parents are a completely different ethnicity or race, then these tests can also help you uncover more about your true roots, giving you a detailed map of your ancestral migration over time.
Scope and Limitations of DNA Tests
What are you hoping to discover through your DNA test? Depending on your needs, different tests can provide information on a number of specific areas of your ancestry, ethnicity, and heritage. So zeroing in on what you want to know can help make it easier for you to pick out the appropriate test for your purpose.
For Family Matching
There is no better test to discover your family matches than with an autosomal DNA test. These tests consider your DNA as a whole – leaving out just your 23rd chromosome. The result is a generalized idea of your ethnicity and ancestry, but a more accurate list of DNA matches.
The only challenge with an autosomal DNA test is that it provides matches from both your maternal and paternal side without providing a distinction. That means the only way you can find out where a specific person in your family matches will fit into your tree will be by communicating with them and asking them about their own lineage.
There are some testing services that will construct your family tree for you, but only after you’ve provided some information about your heritage. The AncestryDNA service does however provide you tools to sort your matches and make it easier to create a complete picture of how each person fits into your family tree.
Some adoptees aren’t quite as interested in their biological family as they are about discovering their ethnic background. Some adoptive parents travel from developed areas to adopt children from depressed communities in foreign countries, which can cause some confusion once the child has reached a certain age.
If you’re trying to learn more about your ethnicity, then the autosomal test and both the YDNA and mtDNA tests can be of assistance. The autosomal test provides a generalized idea about your ethnicity, taking information from both your maternal and paternal lines so you can see the major ethnic groups that contribute to who you are.
The downside is that autosomal tests can only accurately tell you your ethnicity up to a certain generation. So if a certain ethnic component was present before the 8th generation in your family lineage, then the test might not be able to accurately depict that information.
YDNA and mtDNA tests can be helpful for ethnic research, especially if you’re interested in a single lineage. To illustrate how it works, if a woman were interested in unraveling the truths of her maternal lineage, she can take an mtDNA test that will provide an extensive report on her mother’s maternal line only. The same goes for YDNA tests that consider the male paternal line.
The limitation of these tests is that in some cases, they might not be an available option. For example, women can’t take the YDNA test because of the absence of the Y-chromosome. The only way to collect the information would be to test a biological brother, father, paternal uncle, or paternal grandfather. Because most adoptees don’t have access to these biological relatives, then in would be impossible to take the test.
FAQs About DNA Testing for Adoptees
What are my chances of finding my biological parents through DNA testing? That ultimately depends. Remember that there are a range of factors that come into play with DNA testing and the quality of the results you’ll get. For instance, if you’ve discovered that your biological parents are from somewhere in Southeast Asia, then it would help to take a test with a database that has more Southeast Asians.
Some testing services are heavily populated by North Americans, making it difficult for other nationalities to find matches within the database, no matter how expansive the sample population might be. It also pays to know that the only way you’d be able to find your biological parents through a DNA testing database is if they took the test themselves, and if they made their information available to other users. Otherwise, you’re more likely to find other relatives.
Can I use a direct-to-consumer DNA test for legal purposes? No. If you’re trying to prove a biological relationship with someone to establish your right to a claim or an inheritance, then it would be necessary to take a test through an accredited testing facility. Keep in mind that any service you encounter online for the purpose of DNA testing can’t be used for any legal purposes and should only serve as a guide for your own personal research.
My closest biological relative is a 4th cousin. What can I do to narrow my search? Unfortunately, most of the adoptees who perform DNA research will find very distant relatives, typically 4th cousins, within a DNA testing database. But don’t lose hope – even the most distant link can be a key towards solving your heritage mystery. You will share great-great-great grandparents with a 4th cousin, and if they’ve performed enough research of their own, then you might be able to map out where you fit into their tree.
But manage your expectations – a person will have 16 pairs of great-great-great grandparents, and each of those pairs will have some hundreds of descendants after them. If you’re stuck in a rut, try exploring other matches or hire a professional to help you decode your findings.
Who am I? That’s the burning question on the minds of most adoptive children. Often, those who find themselves in the situation will find comfort and peace of mind in tracing back their biological roots – something that gives everyone a sense of identity.
If you want to learn more about your ethnicity, try a test from FamilyTreeDNA that offers multiple tests for deep ancestral exploration. If you’re interested in discovering relevant, living family members, go with the autosomal DNA test from AncestryDNA where you can find matches within a pool of over 15 million other users.
- Connecting with Your Biological Family through DNA testing. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/how-to-find-birth-parents-through-dna/ on November 8, 2019
- Can You Tell Your Ethnic Identity From Your DNA? Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/how-to-find-birth-parents-through-dna/ on November 8, 2019
- Looking for your roots? For Asians, blacks, and Latinos, DNA tests don’t tell whole story. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/12/02/asians-blacks-latinos-genealogical-tests-dont-tell-full-story/2132681002/ on November 8, 2019