DNA and Adoption: Podcast Episode 122

By Lisa Louise Cooke

dna adoption genealogy

Listen to this Family Tree Magazine Podcast episode here: 

This Month in Family History

This month we’re turning the clock back 45 years to a disastrous event that lit up the hot July skies in 1973: the fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis Missouri. Theresa Fitzgerald, Chief, Archival Operations at the National Archives at St. Louis tells us all about it.

Resources: Read more about it in this recent article from our magazine

Visit the National Archives website

Social Media Minute

“Like” the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page

Website: Gedmatch


With the rise of DNA testing we’re seeing more and more articles published about adoptees locating and meeting their biological parents. Sunny Morton has written an article for the July / August issue of the magazine called One Man’s Successful Search for His Sperm Donor Father and she’s here to tell us about it.

3 Tips from Sunny:

  1. You’ll need advanced DNA strategies. You have to be willing to wait and to work the results
  2. Remember that traditional genealogical research still plays a large role and you research the trees of matches.
  3. Keep the human element in mind. Think about what you are looking for and your motivations for finding it. Keep expectations in check. Be sensitive to the perspective and lives of those you contact.

Read the article: One Man’s Successful Search for His Sperm-Donor Father.

More resource articles:Researching Orphan Children and Adoption in Your Genealogy

5 First Steps to Researching Your Own Adoption

DNA Deconstructed

DNA Testing for Adoptees and Anyone Searching for a Birth FamilyDNA Deconstructed: DNA Testing for Adoptees and Anyone Searching for a Birth Family
Many advances have made it possible for adoptees to search for answers using DNA more easily than they could even a few years ago. For instance:

  • Types of at-home DNA tests have increased and dropped in price
  • Genealogical data and documents are accessible online in larger frequencies for adoptees to do preliminary research
  • Thank to social media. many people are easier to track down now
  • And, adoptees are sharing their DNA stories publicly, through TV shows and other media giving many people hope for their own search.

Different approaches for different needs

What helps one person is not the same for all others. There are different approaches used by other adoptees or professionals in this field to find people and information they are searching for.

The catch in the testing pool is that someone related to you must have tested at the same company. An alternative to this is if a match has tested at a different company but has transferred their data to another matching website where your data has been transferred as well. A connection can only be made between your DNA sequence and someone else’s if your data in the same place for comparison. For this reason, genealogists recommend you “fish in all the ponds” if possible. In other words, the more places your DNA is, the greater the chance you will find someone you’re related to.

More family to meet

Since the introduction of DNA testing, more people beyond just the adoptee and birth parents are involved in searches and reunions. Searching now often includes biological siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and even some grandparents, mostly because of the explosion of interest in DNA testing. Sometimes siblings, cousins, or grandchildren of a birth parent are identified by DNA testing. This change in the way people can meet requires balancing the needs of more people in a family than ever before.

Search angels are experienced researchers who volunteer their time to individual cases.

What is most important is that if you are going to test you have:

  • Patience
  • A good support community to turn to
  • And time to educate yourself on how (and if) DNA can help you

Best Genealogy Websites: ISOGG

Guest: Katherine Borges is the Co-Founder and Director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), which promotes and educates about genetic genealogy to over 20,000 members in over 70 countries. She works to increase professional standards in the practice, research, and discussion of relevant issues in DNA testing, interpretation, and ethics. Katherine gives many presentations on genetic genealogy to groups across the United States, the United Kingdom and in Ireland.


  • Totally user contributed
  • Best known for: Ysnp Tree, and ISOOG Wiki
  • Mailing Lists
  • Facebook group
  • DNA Newbie Group on Yahoo
  • Admin Projects

Katherine’s recommendations for getting started using the site:

  • Be goal specific
  • Develop a goal before you test
  • Don’t worry about having to know everything – ask questions and you’ll get answers

ISOOG Adoption resources: ISOGG Wiki


Join the DNA Detective Facebook group. There you’ll find Search Angels who will make contacts for you as a third party.

Stories from the Stacks

At the top of the show we heard about the fire that occurred at the National Personnel Records Center back in 1973. So, in today’s “Stories from the Stacks” segment we  check back in with Theresa Fitzgerald, Chief of Archival Operations at the National Archives in St. Louis to find out more about the lost Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) for the Army and Air Force.

Alternative auxiliary files available at the national archives include:

  • Deceased Veteran Claim Files which can include copies of some of the OMPF documents.
  • Army and Air Force Morning Reports

Tips on how to make the most of our visit the National Archives in St. Louis, MO

  • Make an appointment 6 weeks in advance to access the “Burn File” (AKA B File)
  • Bring your ID card

For more information visit their website.

This Just In

Listen to Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems and Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcasts in iTunes and visit her Website for great research ideas, podcast episodes and videos.

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