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How to use DNA tests to search for your family

Using DNA tests to search for your family, is becoming increasingly more accessible to many adoptees. We look at how to use DNA tests to search and have put together some handy tips.

Which provider has the largest DNA database?

Ancestry.co.uk  has the largest DNA database, and should give you a higher chance of finding a genetic match. Once your DNA kit arrives you will need to create an account on the website and register. The kit comes with step-by-step instructions and when you have completed the test you post it off and wait for your results. 

What about genetic traits and medical conditions?

23andMe.co.uk has the second-largest DNA database with the added bonus of providing information on health traits. This feature makes it a popular choice with adoptees as it displays your likely genetic inheritance for certain medical conditions.

It is not a medical diagnosis but an informative analysis of any genetic traits that you might have inherited. It will also give you a better chance of finding DNA matches that might not test through Ancestry.

Alongside the DNA relatives and health traits, both AncestryDNA and 23andMe give you a detailed and comprehensive breakdown of your genetic ethnicity. This is a very helpful aspect for adoptees in determining the ethnic origins of their birth parents. 

When is the best time to buy a DNA kit?

Both AncestryDNA and 23andMe have sales on the price of their DNA kits throughout the year – often at Christmas and other ‘family’ days such as Mother’s Day.

Now unless you find your birth parents the first time you take a DNA test you will be advised by all DNA searchers to buy a 23andMe DNA kit alongside your Ancestry DNA kit or an Ancestry kit if you have already purchased a 23andMe DNA kit. All the more reason to check their websites for special offers!

What should I do when I’ve done the test?

As you wait for the DNA company to email and say that your DNA has been processed it is really important that you learn what to look for when you receive your results. 

Join the DNA Detectives Facebook group. This is a large online supportive community of adoptees and others who use DNA to search for biological families. They will help you to understand what to look for and how to read your results. There are also search angels in this group who offer to help members for free with their results to search for biological parents. 

What if I don’t find any close genetic matches?

If after testing you do not find any close genetic matches then the third recommended route next is to download your raw DNA data file from Ancestry or 23andMe and upload it for free to MyHeritage.com

MyHeritage DNA is popular in Europe and uploading raw DNA has proven successful for many adoptees in finding birth parents who have not found close enough matches through Ancestry or 23andMe.

Other DNA companies where you can also upload your raw DNA data file for free are:





All of these sites have instructions on how to upload your DNA for free. 

What if I don’t get any matches?

It is important to remember that using DNA to search for birth family is largely based on luck. It depends on if your birth relatives have been tested. So it can be a waiting game for that one close match who will unlock the mystery of your parentage.

To give yourself the best chance of finding your biological parents you will need to follow all of these recommended routes. There are other Facebook groups to help or support you during this process

  • DNA Detectives
  • UK DNA
  • Social Adoption & Birth Family Tracing and Support
  • UK Family Foot Prints
  • Adoption Reunion Search and Support Adoptee Group