Adoptee DNA test for African American roots?
October 26, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Which of the several commercial DNA ancestry tests would be the best for a 44 year old man trying to find his African American relatives and ancestry. The man is adopted, his biological mother is white. He's met her but she remembers few details about his African American biological father, not enough to make him findable. He is hoping that a DNA test might help him to find out more about his father and his father's family.
posted by mareli to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is a bit of a long shot, but may help. You send them a saliva sample, they analyze it, and then (optionally) they will send you emails of anyone else using their service who is related to you.

For this to work the man's birth father would have needed to have sent in a saliva sample and agreed to being connected to any relatives 23andme finds.

My wife and I both got notified of various distant cousins when we did it. I think 23andme is one of the more popular services of its sort, so it is worth a shot.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:11 AM on October 26, 2014

Best answer: He is facing a double-whammy of genealogical unknowns-being adopted AND African-American. A DNA test will tell him the region his ancestors came from, and some of the companies have a database of relatives that *may* help him. This NYT article covers the issue pretty well; seems to be the big company offering links to relatives. As an adoptee myself I've considered having a dna test to see what I could learn about my father, my mother won't tell me his name or anything about him.

If your friend does the dna testing, it won't answer the question he needs answered most, who his father is, but it may give him some real info on his heritage, which he absolutely deserves. I'm sorry he has so little knowledge of his biological family, it's sad how tightly people hold our truths from us, and that as adoptees our right to know our own history is so callously disregarded. Adoptees have no choice in the trajectory of their very lives, and are disrespected by the courts and their own families, biological and adoptive.

Is your friend sure he doesn't have enough info to search for the identity of his father? It's amazing how little nuggets of info can be mined for the search. Your friend should join a search group, they're so helpful, other members may see something he has missed or have ideas he can apply to his own search. Good luck to him, I hope he finds some helpful information.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 8:15 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

In some states adoptees can access their original birth certificates, which may provide some clues.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:43 AM on October 26, 2014

Best answer: Being in the databases of all three major autosomal DNA testing companies (23andMe, Ancestry, and FamilyTreeDNA) will give him the biggest pool of matches and the best chance of success. If he can swing the expense, he should test at both 23andMe and Ancestry. He can then upload his raw data from either company to FamilyTreeDNA; he would receive his top 20 matches for free, but it costs $39 to unlock the full results. He should also upload to GEDMatch; this is free, provides another pool of matches, and contains some really helpful tools. If testing at two companies is not economically feasible, I would recommend doing 23andMe first, as Ancestry currently does not offer a way to directly compare chromosome segments between matches.

When his results come in, me may find he's hit the jackpot with a close match... but if not, DNAadoption has a wealth of information about how to work with autosomal DNA data. The folks at the DNA-Newbie and AdoptionDNA Yahoo groups are also really helpful; some will even offer to look at his data for him.

My husband and I are both adopted and have both located our biological fathers through DNA testing; him via 23andMe and GEDmatch, and me via a helpful 2nd cousin match on Ancestry. I am no expert but am happy to answer any questions you or your friend might have. Good luck to him!
posted by purplemonkie at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

African Ancestry may not help much with finding living relatives, but could help determine his biological family's country and ethnic group of origin.
posted by Soliloquy at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. His birth certificate only has the mother's name. I'll pass this all on to him.
posted by mareli at 3:51 PM on October 26, 2014

Response by poster: And I just found this chart which I'm posting for anyone who might look at this question in the future.
posted by mareli at 5:22 PM on October 26, 2014

Response by poster: An update: I found him thanks to some anonymous helpers on an adoption website and thanks to the fact that San Francisco issued two birth certificates, one of which included the father's fairly unusual last name.
posted by mareli at 5:32 AM on October 30, 2014

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