At first there were search engines like Google, where people could do name searches to find friends and family members online.
Next came social media, where people could find and reunite with friends and family online through social networks like Facebook.
However, for adoptees looking for biological parents or families with little or no family name information there weren’t a lot of search options.
That was until the rise in popularity of public DNA testing services and databases like 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA.
According to Genome Web, the increasing use of commercial DNA testing companies and their expanding DNA databases have made it easier for adoptees to find biological family members.
In fact, the success rate for adoptees who use these services to find their birth parents has gone up significantly in the past two years, as these services have started to reach a critical mass of users.
23andMe and AncestryDNA have both done DNA testing on over a million people as of this year.
The increased use of DNA testing to find biological family members has been largely due to closed adoption records in many states. DNA matching allows adoptees to get around laws that restrict access to their adoption records.
23andMe estimates that around 6 percent of their customers are adoptees looking for birth parents and family.
One of DNA matching’s success stories is adoptee Kathie Ruggieri.
Ruggieri wasn’t actively searching for her birth parents, but decided to give DNA testing a try when her own daughter purchased a test from AncestryDNA.
Within about a month of submitting her DNA sample to AncestryDNA and working with family search volunteers, Ruggieri was able to find the names of her biological parents and make contact with family members.
After her success, Ruggieri recommended DNA testing to her adopted sister, who then used the service to find her own biological parents.
However, it wasn’t as easy for adoptee, Bruce Grimes.
After spending 40 years searching for his biological family, Grimes tried Family Tree’s Family Finder DNA test, but the search went very slowly.
Grimes ultimately got help from a search angel volunteer and did additional DNA tests with 23andMe as well as AncestryDNA. It then took an additional 8 months to locate his birth mother through a second cousin that he found. However, Grimes is still searching for his birth father.
Even with advancements in commercial DNA testing, many adoptees still rely on family search volunteers and genetic genealogists to navigate the technical issues of finding out which people are genetically related to them and how.
Search angels and genetic genealogists work with adoptees to help them use their DNA test results along with people searches and public record searches to find and contact birth parents and other biological family members.
Genetic genealogist, CeCe Moore, says that the number of adoptees that have contacted her for help using their DNA test results has gone up dramatically over the past several years.
As a result of the increased demand for help with DNA test results, Moore started a group on Facebook called The DNA Detectives. The DNA Detectives are a group of genetic genealogists that can help adoptees find their birth parents using DNA test information.
Each of the DNA testing companies have different people in their genetic databases. Because of this, search professionals usually advise adoptees to use all three of the major DNA testing services – 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA – to increase their chances of finding family members.
See also: 23andMe Finds Adoptee’s Birth Family