Author used DNA to find birth mom, blood brother - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Author used DNA to find birth mom, blood brother

September 14th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Author used DNA to find birth mom, blood brother

By Alyson Johnson, Contributor

Advances in DNA science and testing have exploded recently.

DNA is being utilized for previously unthought of situations – catching criminals, identifying remains, finding biological family for adoptees or furthering genealogical research.

Despite these varying uses, the process of finding “matches” is the same for them all.

I started learning how to use DNA while trying to find my birth family. I have known I am adopted for as long as I can remember. While some adopted people have feelings of abandonment and rejection, I never did.

In February 2017, I went to a genealogy conference with a friend who raved about DNA testing. I bought a kit since they were on sale, spit in a tube and sent it off.

I was more interested in learning about my ethnicity than finding birth family, at first. However, when I got a list of people who shared DNA with me I got very interested in figuring out the puzzle of my biological family.

I spent time learning how to use DNA to find people and figured out who my birth parents were in July 2017. They lived 6.5 miles from the house I grew up in!

It took time to process the information emotionally, so it was several weeks later that I sent them a letter (they married after I was born.)

Six weeks went by with no response. I was going to visit my mom who raised me, so I mailed them a postcard letting them know I would be in town if they wanted to meet me.

Ten days later, my birth mother called and said she’d love to meet me.

As you can imagine it was a very emotional reunion. She gave me medical information for both sides of my family, and I found out I had a full-blooded brother 13 years younger than me. He did not know about me, and it took some time for them to tell him, but I got to meet my birth father and brother on my 53rd birthday in August.

I have now found my new mission in life (my kids are out of the house). I am a volunteer search angel helping other adoptees find their birth families. I also teach free DNA classes in the community.

When looking for “lost family” – whether people separated from family at birth or you’re trying to extend your family tree back further in time – here are some tips to help you in your research:

Ethnicity estimates. Segments of your DNA are compared by computers to samples of DNA from reference populations around the world, and an estimate is made based on which populations those segments most closely match. As technology improves, your estimate will change.

Shared DNA is not an estimate. The unit of measurement for DNA is centiMorgan (cM). The more cMs you share with someone, the closer your relationship to them. Do not rely on the testing company’s estimate of your relationship to a match.

Use to determine possible relationships based on the cMs you share.

Your tree. Use the information in your matches’ trees to get clues for your own tree. Always verify information in other people’s trees.

Adoptees will need to reverse engineer a tree from a close match, meaning identify the common direct-line ancestors of several of your matches and then build your tree forward to now by finding all the descendants of that couple.

Having your non-identifying birth background information will help you to know when you have found the “right” people.

Those doing genealogy will look at the trees of more distant cousins for information that can give them clues to investigate to extend their family lines.

DNA testing has become a remarkable, accessible and reasonably priced tool for those trying to find and identify people they’re related to. And remember, everyone has some nuts in their tree!

Alyson Johnson is a Chandler resident, and she will be teaching free classes about DNA testing in the community. She will teach one class from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 4 called “DNA for Beginners” at the Gilbert Family History Center inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2740 S. Lindsay Road in Gilbert. Johnson will also give a class from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 at Gilbert Historical Museum at 10 S. Gilbert Road in Gilbert.

Special to SanTan Sun News