The latest rage to hit my social media is DNA tests. I’ve seen countless posts and comments on people taking DNA tests to find out more about their heritage and health information. While it is popular for all people alike, it holds a special meaning in the adoption community and was one wagon I was eager to jump on.
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What is a DNA test, you ask? Well…it is pretty cool (I know “cool” dates me but I just can’t seem to drop it!). It’s a simple at-home kit that collects your DNA sample, computes it in the company’s system against various other samples of DNA, and determines a host of different things about you. Depending on what kit you order, you can find out about your heritage, health aspects, and other family members you might have around the world.
Why is a DNA test so special in the adoption world? The main reason is the fact that as adoptive parents and/or adoptees, we often don’t have all of the background information. Sometimes the birth father is unknown, sometimes the birth mother only provided minimal details and sometimes both parents are not involved and there are no known extended family members to gather information from. There are countless other reasons this information may not be available. Adoptee’s often have records that are non-existent, sealed, or unknown. Information like heritage can be a guessing game; medical information such as a history of high blood pressure or cancer, can be an ever looming mystery.
Once I heard about DNA tests, I knew I had to try them! Since my kids are all still younger children, I was only interested in finding out about their heritage and possible family members. I decided to let them find out their own medical history, if they chose, when they were older. Having 8 children in the family, and the cost of each kit, I delayed for a few years. Finally I decided to wait for a sale and do a couple of DNA tests at a time. I chose two of my kids who had 50% of their heritage unknown to go first. One of my daughters had zero information about one of her birth parents, so we were extra excited to see the results. My son, who is very into scientific methods, was eager to see what the tests revealed.
We ordered our kits online and waited a week for them to arrive. They came in a box with very clear and detailed instructions and a little tube for the kids to spit in. I’m not going to lie…watching them spit into the tube was a bit nauseating…but they both enjoyed it (a little too much if you ask me) and it was very easy. Once they filled the tube, we put the tube in an enclosed baggy then into a postage-paid box provided. From there, all we had to do was drop the boxes in the mail and wait! Easy peasy!
As many of my readers know…patience is not my virtue (outside of kiddos that is). I eagerly checked my e-mail every day waiting for the results; it felt like waiting for a present to arrive! Ancestry sent an e-mail to us once they arrived, which only made me check my e-mails more frequently! Ancestry provided a neat online log-in option where you could see where your kit was in the process, including “activated,””arrived,” “lab processing” and “done.” It took about one month for both DNA kits to be processed, and as soon as they were, I received an e-mail indicating so. I eagerly logged in to see the results!
When I first logged in, I came to the home screen, which showed the various routes I could click on for more information, including: DNA Story, DNA Matches, and DNA Circles. Since I don’t have a current ancestry account with a family tree, there were no DNA Circles listed.
I clicked on DNA Story first, and was brought to another page which revealed my daughter’s ethnicity by list and by map. Each region also listed a percentage next to it, indicating what percentage my daughter was. Prior to taking the test, we were aware of one birth parent being half black (from the Caribbean on the grandfather’s side) and half Caucasian (from the grandmother’s side). We had zero information on the other birth parent, so raised my daughter for years embracing the African and Caribbean cultures. The region with the highest percentage, therefore, came as a huge shock.
At the top of my daughter’s list was Asia South. Essentially, she was more South Asian than any other ethnicity and we had no clue! Looking at her of course, it seems like how could we have not known? Her baby pictures made her look more South Asian than anything else, yet we always just went along with what we knew, and assumed it was her Caribbean and Caucasian mix we were seeing. Since many inhabitants of the Caribbean originally immigrated from Africa, it was interesting to see the various African countries as well.
My son’s information contained nothing too shocking, but did narrow down information we did not know. Right as we were awaiting the results, he got in touch with his birth mom and inquired about his history, which lined up with much of what he learned. The biggest shock to him was discovering he was Scandinavian, particularly Norwegian. It didn’t surprise me, but was something he didn’t know about himself and he suddenly was concerned he was a Viking 😛 My favorite part was finding out he was Scottish, since i have a deep affinity for the Country and all things Scottish.
As we processed through the results, both kids agreed they thoroughly enjoyed the process and loved finding out this new information. My daughter is eager to embrace her new South Asian heritage, and already requested some traditional clothing! My son, unfortunately, will not agree to taking up Highland dancing; you win some, you lose some. He is, however, excited to chat with is birth mom about the information he learned and combining his information with known family members. Through this process we discovered it is not so much about what you do with the information, but more about filling in gaps and unknowns for kids who already have so many questions about their identity, heritage, culture, history and more; a gap we would not have been able to fill otherwise.
In addition to discovering their ethnic heritage, the tests also revealed TONS of family matches for each child. I have begun to message some of them, and eagerly await their replies. In order to improve that process I plan to start family tree’s for each of them. I may develop a genealogy bug through all of this.
I am excited to send away for a couple more DNA tests for my next 2 kids, and I plan on sending in for my husband and I too! Bonus: Right now Ancestry DNA is having a 48 hour sale where you can get the DNA kit for only $99! Be sure to click on the link below and order yours before March 25th to take advantage of that sale!
If you would like to know how it went when I first met my child’s mother, click here.
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