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DNA Basics for Adoptees

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Surnames/tags: DNA Adoption_Angels Adoption
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DNA and You

The following information is general. Parts of it may not apply to you or the location you live in/were born in. This information will be updated to the best of our ability, but DNA tests and information about DNA/tests change often.

Three basic types of DNA tests

  • Autosomal DNA or AuDNA: the kind of DNA we all inherit from both of our parents, that changes not only in every generation but every time a child is created (which is why siblings don’t have identical autosomal DNA).
  • Y-DNA: the kind of DNA that only men have and that’s passed from father to son to son basically unchanged through the generations. For male adoptees, this test can be very useful in determining the identity of the birth father as well as separating DNA matches that are paternal from maternal matches. So, if you are initially searching for your birth mother, any matches you have from YDNA would not be investigated. On the other hand, if you are trying to identify your birth father, you can be confident that all your YDNA matches are paternal matches. FTDNA is the only company that provides a comprehensive Y-DNA test.
  • Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA: a kind of DNA we all have that’s passed down from a mother to all of her children but that only her daughters can pass on to their children, again largely unchanged through the generations. FTDNA is the only company that provides a comprehensive mtDNA test.

Which Test Do I Take?

  • If money is very tight and you can only purchase one test, we would suggest the test. Why? A larger percent of their population has family trees. And in order to work more efficiently on your search, you will need family trees to compare with.
  • If you are purchasing more than one test, we would recommend testing in this order.
Note: #1-5 are Autosomal (AuDNA) tests
  1. (members have trees)
  2. (members have trees) {upload for free from Ancestry and pay a small fee to use their advanced DNA tools. Matches and their trees are free. No need to test separately}
  3. My Heritage (members have trees) {upload for free from Ancestry and pay an unlock fee. No need to test separately}
  4. 23andMe
  5. Living DNA (This test is especially good for those with British ancestry, however currently you may get very few to zero matches)
  6. FTDNA Y-DNA test for males only
  • Once you have your test results, see the "Now What section" for how to stretch your dollars with these tests

Ordering or Recommending a Test

If you plan to order a test for yourself, or would like to recommend that a family member or friend be tested, please use one of these URLs. The cost is the same to you, but WikiTree will get the referral credit.

23andMe DNA
Family Tree DNA
My Heritage

Who Should Test?

  • Test yourself first
  • If looking for only one biological parent, have the other parent tested if possible. This will help you to quickly sort your matches as paternal/maternal
  • Any other biological family starting with one to two steps away from you (siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, first cousins)
  • Later, you can look at other people to test based on your initial search results.

Check with an Adoption Angel if you need help determining who should be tested.

I Have My Results. Now What?

  • Post to WikiTree -- Click on the Add + Tab at the top of your screen. Then click on DNA Test Information. Use the drop down to choose the test you have taken. Be sure to include your Gedmatch kit number (see below).
  • Upload your Autosomal DNA for FREE to the following places (small fee may apply)
    • -- This is a MUST for everyone who wants to use their DNA more efficiently. Not only will it give you thousands of potentially new matches, it allows you to compare your DNA with others even if they have not tested at the same company you have. After you register, click on Fast upload and it will give you instructions based on the company you have tested with. Once your DNA is uploaded, you will be given a kit number which you can add to your WikiTree DNA information and share with others for comparison. (Note: If you have tested with multiple companies, you only need to upload one test to Gedmatch)
    • FTDNA -- By uploading instead of testing here, your list of matches will be smaller, but it should include all of your top matches. If you wish to pay a small fee (currently $19) you can have full access to all of the features of the FTDNA website. However, the fee is not needed to access matches and their trees.
    • My Heritage -- The DNA match results for more distant matches here has had a shaky reliability so use with caution, however, their reliability is improving and many have received a great deal of exceptional results, especially with matches outside of the USA. (There is now a $29 unlock fee to access shared matches and DNA tools. You need the shared matches for the information here to be helpful)
    • LivingDNA--They are currently allowing free uploads from other DNA companies. However, your list of matches may be very very small. LivingDNA is especially good for those born in the UK since that is their target audience.
    • Geni--If you have tested at FTDNA or uploaded to FTDNA, you can open a free account at Geni and connect it to your FTDNA account. The benefit of this is some people may not have a tree at FTDNA, but might have a tree at Geni. These trees are valuable information. You will not actually receive new DNA matches. Also, please be aware that you are connecting your FTDNA account to Geni by using your FTDNA log in information.

Note: Because of changes in the DNA chip used, some companies only take uploads of newer or older versions of tests. Please see THIS CHART on the first page of this blog by DNA expert Roberta Estes. It shows which test uploads each company is currently taking. The chart is current as of September 28, 2017

  • If you are looking for health information, consider uploading your DNA test to Promethease. For a small fee (currently $12), they will give you health information based on your DNA. For example, they may tell you of some common DNA mutations you have that may cause certain diseases. This information may be helpful to you or your healthcare provider.

For More Information

Below are some resources for how to best use your DNA results:


  • Login to request to the join the Trusted List so that you can edit and add images.
  • Private Messages: Contact the Profile Managers privately: Emma MacBeath and Adoption Angels WikiTree. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)
  • Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)

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Categories: DNA | Adoption Resources