Adoptees are ruining their own reunions by recklessly handling their DNA matches. Reunions are delicate situations and should be handled as such. Just because you are excited by your results doesn’t mean you should bulldoze your way through them. You won’t do yourself any favors by contacting your matches prematurely.

When my search angel and I found my birth family, we careful chose which immediate family member to contact first. Here’s why: As an adoptee, you don’t know the answers yet. There are many different scenarios you could be walking into. Your birth mother may be the only person who knows about you, or she may have spent the last few decades trying to block out the pain of your adoption. There are endless possible scenarios. The point is that your immediate family will probably be much less excited about your arrival if you announce yourself with a bullhorn to all the extended family beforehand. Adoption and reunion are personal matters to be handled with care.

Some will argue that it’s your right to barge your way in and announce yourself to whoever will listen. That may be accurate, but as the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you are looking for a long, meaningful relationship with your birth family, you should approach your reunion with caution and respect. You may be lucky and get an immediate family match as soon as you test, but that is often not the case.

So what do you do if your closest matches are cousin matches? First you need to educate yourself on what your matches actually tell you. Matches reflect a certain amount of centimorgans per a number of DNA segments. A half-sibling can show the same as an aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, or grandparent/grandchild. Likewise a half- aunt/uncle/niece/nephew or great-grandparent/great-grandchild may show as a first cousin. It’s important to create your own family tree of your matches so you can properly identify everyone. You can use the public trees of your matches as well as public records and social media to fill in your tree.

If you have put in the work and still hit a roadblock, there is a certain way to contact people. First, you’ll want to screenshot the trees that belong to the match you are contacting. That way if they get spooked and change their privacy settings, you haven’t lost anything. Next you will want to email the match using as little information about yourself as possible. You’ll want to send something like, “I’m doing some genealogy research, and I need your help. What was your grandfather’s name?” Adoption is often shrouded in secrets, and for that reason many people will shut down when they hear of an adoption referred to in their family. In order to preserve your reunion chances, you absolutely should not bring up the subject of adoption with anyone outside your immediate family.

I think sometimes adoptees just get wound up in the excitement of it all. I understand, I’ve been there. After many years of very little information at all, to be looking at photos of my birth family online was surreal. But bear in mind that while you have had several weeks to prepare emotionally while your test was processing, your biological family has not. I suggest waiting to make contact, if at all possible, until you locate your parents or siblings. When you do, you should reach out to them gently, and then allow them some time to process the shock of your arrival. I strongly recommend reaching out to a search angel if you feel like you need help. Your reunion may depend on it.

Need some help with your adoption search? Adoption Detectives may be able to help! Learn more.

For more information regarding DNA in your search for your birth family, check out this adoption information at the new adoption information website.