Looking for answers? Try DNA! I was in the midst of a search for my birth father in 2011 when I decided to take the swab and send it in to Family Tree DNA. My birth mother had told me his name some years earlier, but I had never been successful in my search. I had found who I thought was the guy earlier in 2011, but I couldn’t be sure because he had a fairly common surname.
One key piece of information that I did come to know from my birth mother was that he was Jewish. My birth father’s surname didn’t sound Jewish at all, so when I received my DNA results later that summer and nearly every hit was Ashkenazi Jewish, I was sure I had the right guy. For me, it was validating to find out what I was sure I already knew. Somehow, it just helped me to tie everything together.
For adoptees who don’t have any information about their roots to begin with, I can only imagine how powerful and significant receiving their results would be. The database connects you to others whose DNA closely matches your own and provides you with their contact information so you can actually reach out to them and talk about what they know about their ancestry. When I received my matches, I spoke to several people I was connected to in the database who were more than happy to share all they could about their ancestry. It was incredibly helpful to me.
Bennett Greenspan is the president and CEO of Family Tree DNA, and he founded the company in 1999 after running into some obstacles during a genealogy search. I was able to catch up with him recently to ask him how he got started. “I had sold off my company and started getting back into my family genealogy,” Greenspan said, “but I became frustrated when I found someone in Argentina that I thought could have been a connection to my mother’s lineage, and there was no way to prove it.”
Greenspan subsequently approached the University at Arizona, which had used genetics to prove ancestry, and was able to secure a partnership to get the ball rolling. The rest is history. The Family Tree DNA database currently has more than 672,000 records, making it the largest database in the world, according to the company, and it continues to grow rapidly. “I’d like to do whatever I can to help people learn about their ancestry,” Greenspan said. “And I know the services we provide at Family Tree DNA can be especially helpful for adoptees.”
Family Tree DNA also has select groups that are created for people to join based on last name, and they also have a special group for adoptees, which currently has more than 2,400 members. If you decide you want to take the route of submitting a DNA sample to Family Tree DNA and are an adoptee, you will be able to obtain a discount. See their site for additional information and to get started!