A time may arise during your search for family that has you ponder the need for help. It certainly did for me. I had taken an Ancestry DNA test and was unsure of how to use those results to find my biological family. When I submitted the test, I joined the Facebook groups DNA Newbie and DNA Detectives, so I could educate myself through other people’s posts while I waited. During that five weeks I learned enough about DNA connections to be happy when my results came in.

I knew what a search angel was, but I didn’t know where to find one. I didn’t have a computer at home or an Ancestry membership, but I did have access to a library. I decided to make a Facebook post and see if anyone had suggestions on how to move forward. The next morning I woke up to a message that would change my life. It read in part, “I’d be happy to lend a hand if you’d like. If interested, let me know, and I can provide next steps. I have some time this weekend and can use my account to help build trees using your cousin matches.”

I sent her my non-identifying info from my adoption records, gave her access to my DNA profile, and she went to work. By that night, she had found my family.

It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the information isn’t found easily, other times it only takes an hour or two. In rare instances, your puzzle may be beyond what an angel can piece together. There are a few things you should know if you decide to let a search angel work on your case.

Most angels do this as a way to give back. They empathize with you because at one time they were you. They understand the desire to connect with your bloodline. They have come full circle through the experience and want others to benefit from what was learned along the way.

Search angels have different areas of expertise. Some are great at working family trees using DNA. Others specialize in detective work. Many can do both. They have built up resources and paid for subscriptions to various services that will produce more details than a basic internet search. They use these tools to make it look easy, but it entails much work.

Make sure you feel comfortable with your search angel. You need to feel safe to be open and honest about very personal matters. You should have confidence in their abilities. Feel free to ask them how many families they have reunited in the past as well as what tools they commonly use to search. This can help you decide whether you have the right person for the job.

Be patient and helpful. Angels give their time and energy to help others for free. They have their own families and jobs. Sometimes an hour a day is what they have to offer. Other times their schedule may be wide open. Help them to be efficient. Give all the info you have upfront. Then be willing to help with small tasks like finding a birth or marriage certificate in public records. You may not feel like you know what you’re doing, but be available to try to help.

Don’t shoot the messenger. Emotions run high in situations like this. In the last couple of years I have heard all sorts of crazy family circumstances. If something shocking and unexpected comes up, take the time you need to let the news settle. Allow yourself time to process. You may not like certain facts but you can’t change them. They are part of your history. Don’t lash out at your angel. Simply put, search angels are messengers of the truth.

If you need help, ask for it. The internet is an amazing place of information and connection. There is a Facebook page for almost everything. People touched by adoption can start at the Adoptee Central or Adoptee’s Searching For Family Facebook pages. Or you can find ones that apply more specifically to you. Ask questions. Some adoption registries offer search angel services. Don’t get discouraged. Miracles do happen. For the search angels who perform them there will never be enough thanks or praise for what they do.

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

For more information about Search Angels, DNA, and other ways to find birth parents, visit the new search and reunion website for adoption training.