The New York Times recently ran a story of how a young woman was reunited with her family through the power of DNA testing. The young woman from St. Louis Missouri was convinced that her character and looks were inherited from her father. She felt her love of tradition and ceremony stemmed from her cherished Southern roots. That was until at the age of 42 she found out she had been adopted. Her whole image of her self was threatened, and she decided to find out who she really was by investigating her past.
Khrys Vaughan initially sought her adoption records, only to be disappointed and disillusioned when told that those records were sealed. After much frustration she came across a website offering DNA Testing and decided to take them up on their offer to help adoptees to connect with their blood relatives and discover their past. She received her DNA test kit, took a swab from inside her cheek, and sent the kit back to the testing lab. In about five weeks she received a report telling her that her bloodline extended to Romania, France and West Africa.
Amazingly, contained in the report was contact information for approximately a dozen or so living relatives in the form of email addresses. She eventually arranged to meet a third cousin living in Kentucky and was reunited with her in Evansville, Indiana, only around two hundred miles from her own hometown. Mrs. Vaughan is of African American descent, her cousin it turns out is Caucasian. Not that it matters at all to either of them. She is finally connected with her blood relatives, and they are happy to welcome her into the fold.
Thousands of adoptees are turning to these DNA Testing Companies these days for information about their past. Though some merely wish to know their geographical origins, others long to reconnect with their lost families, as did Khrys Vaughan. Still others wish to find out if they are susceptible to any particular genetically inherited diseases, but most want to find out who their real parents were, and to find any remaining relatives.
Why the Rising Popularity of DNA?
Those who may have been considering finding their family through DNA testing may be pleased to know that it has become quite affordable. The cost of analyzing DNA samples has plummeted in recent years, and this is largely due to the high demand of people wishing to find out more about their heritage. Because of so many people submitting DNA samples, many companies have developed immense DNA databases which they can use to compare samples sent in to their laboratories. Comparing these samples allows the company to determine if two or more people share the same genetic markers.
Traditional DNA researchers have not been very supportive of using DNA testing for genealogical purposes. They insist that DNA testing is not always accurate enough, and people may be connecting with those who are not actually related to them, saying that the definitions of what makes a relative are being somewhat stretched. In spite of the opposition, DNA tests continue to increase in popularity, and when combined with social media sites such as Facebook and Google+You, are providing adoptees with a sense of family and belonging they have not been previously able to enjoy.
Limitations of DNA Testing
DNA tests range in price from $100 – $500, depending on the extent of, and type of test performed. The companies offering the testing are up front about the limitations, and warn that it is much more common to find distant relatives such as third or fourth cousins than actual siblings or birth parents. Some adoptees have been fortunate, connecting with brothers or sisters, but these types of results are rare. Nevertheless, as DNA testing continues to evolve, the chance of finding first generation relatives is increasing constantly. Some companies have databases of over a quarter million names, and those numbers are only increasing. You may not find a relative today, but in 6 months or a year, there may be a match present in one of the databases.
There is also the possibility that found family members may not wish to connect with adoptees, so one should prepare for that possibility when searching ancestors. There have been instances when people have stopped communicating when they found out their new relative was adopted. It is for this reason that many experts believe that adoptees spend more time nurturing their current relationships rather than face the pain of rejection. There have however been many joyful reunions due to DNA testing, the case of Mrs. Vaughan being one. If you are considering finding birth relatives through DNA testing, be aware of the potential pitfalls as well as the benefits, and always remember to respect the privacy and wishes of others.