Recommended Tests

For DNA Testing:

For all adoptees and others with unknown parents and/or grandparents, I recommend autosomal DNA testing. 

Males with unknown paternity should also order a Y-STR test (Y-37 level or higher). With this test it may be possible for a male to determine his genetic surname. Max Blankfeld of Family Tree DNA has estimated that this is possible about 30%-40% of the time.

Autosomal testing:

For autosomal DNA testing, start with either AncestryDNA ($99), 23andMe ($99) and/or 
Family Tree DNA's Family Finder ($79).  Recently, we have been seeing a lot of success with AncestryDNA and unknown parentage cases due to the large database and connected family trees. If at all possible, test at all three companies in order to "fish in all three ponds" for close family matches. There are so many success stories using this method that it is important to give yourself the best chance possible because you never know in which database the key match will be found that will solve the mystery of your origins! AncestryDNA data may also be uploaded to FTDNA's Family Finder database for free (you get all of your matches and it is only $19 additional to receive the enhanced features, like the chromosome browser, My Origins, etc...), so if you test there first, you can be in both of those databases for much less. 


23andMe

For those primarily interested in their ancestral breakdown (percentages of "ethnicity"), I recommend 23andMe. 

Find 23andMe International here





AncestryDNA's strength lies in its vast collection of family trees that are attached to your matches' DNA results. I strongly recommend their product for unknown parentage/adoption search.


Family Tree DNA



For Y-STR and mtDNA testing, Family Tree DNA (aka FTDNA) is the only company that I can currently recommend. I generally recommend testing, at least, 37 markers for Y-DNA. If finances are an issue, then start with one of the lower resolution tests and upgrade at a later time. 

I generally do not recommend mtDNA* testing for adoptees except in rare circumstances. If you decide to use a mtDNA test in your research, then I recommend the full sequence mtDNA product.

*Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing is usually not genealogically informative, so I recommend that women, instead, start with autosomal DNA testing and men test either their Y-DNA or autosomal DNA (or both). 



For Research


For researching DNA matches' family trees, I find Ancestry.com to be invaluable:





Spokeo is very helpful for locating living people once you have narrowed down your search.  Click here >> Spokeo


Newspapers.com is great for searching for obituaries and finding marriages, which are essential when researching living people. I use this service every day.

Newspapers.com

68 comments:

  1. I was wondering what your opinion is on Mitosearch.org or Gedmatch.com

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    1. Hi Desiree,
      They are both great free services! All adoptees and others with unknown parentage should be in those databases when applicable. (Gedmatch = autosomal DNA, Mitosearch = mtDNA)
      CeCe

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    2. Please help me I need DNA testing.

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  2. Hello,

    Does the FTDNA test have more Y info in it than 23andMe? I was under the impression that the 23andMe test had Y info in it too.

    Thank you,

    Josh

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    1. Hi Josh,
      Yes, the Family Tree DNA Y-DNA tests are superior for genealogical and parentage search purposes to 23andMe's Y-DNA haplogroup designations. Family Tree DNA matches you to other people through the type of Y-DNA testing (Y-STRs) that they do, while 23andMe does not. 23andMe just provides a Y-DNA haplogroup. While the haplogroup can be revealing, it will not help to identify the surname or family group to which one belong on their direct paternal ancestral line.
      Thanks for writing,
      CeCe

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  3. Thank you CeCe for clarifying! As my biological father is a mystery (I have no name, just that he was from Peru, and a student in NYC in the '60's), sounds like the FTDNA test would be good to do. Does the Y37 make most sense to start with, or higher?

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    1. Hi Joshua,
      Yes, I usually recommend starting at 37 markers unless money is not an object. Because your direct paternal line comes from Peru, you may not have an matches at all. I don't want you to waste your money testing higher levels. Have you tested at 23andMe yet? If so, what is your haplogroup?
      Best,
      CeCe

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  4. CeCe, yes, I have tested with 23anMe. My paternal haplogroup is J2. Thanks!

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  5. J2...from Peru? That is interesting. I would have expected Native American. I see that the J Project mentions a Peruvian J2a3. My close colleague Tim Janzen is one of the project admins, so I am sure that he can help you after you test with FTDNA. Since your direct paternal line appears to be Spanish, you *might* get some matches (as compared to Native). What is your 23andMe Ancestry Composition breakdown?

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    1. I hope you don't mind my commenting on this. Peru's population is nearly 50% Native American, many of whom speak no Spanish (Quechua, Aymara, and other indigenous groups). Europeans (Spanish) comprise only 15% of the population. The rest are mixed (Native American, Europeans, Asians, Black).

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  6. Hi Cece,

    Below are some of my 23andMe composition from both sides, I didn't include everything...I have a ton of stuff in me! Ancestry DNA estimates my Native American more towards 6%. Perhaps the J2 from my father is due to the Iberian and African ancestry.

    82.3% European
    - 49.6%Ashkenazi
    - 9.4% Iberian
    - 15.5% Broadly Southern European

    9.9% Sub-Saharan African

    5.7% East Asian & Native American
    - 4.1% Native American

    Thanks,

    Josh

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    1. Hi Josh,
      Yes, I think so. So, your mom is Jewish. That makes your search harder using atDNA because you will mostly see her matches. That is a lot of SSA, so your father may have had one grandparent who was of African ancestry. Are the African segments in the 23andMe chromosome view in large chunks or small ones?
      CeCe

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  7. Hi Cece,
    I don't know if my answer to your question went through. I looked at the 'Countries of Ancestry' area on 23andMe and did not see any African countries in the list. Is there somewhere else to see the African segments? I also received my first contact from someone related to me on my father's side. He said: “Our common DNA segment is from Iberian origin meaning that you are connected to me via your biological father. You also match my father who is from Iberian, Italian, African and Amerindian descent.”
    Thanks!
    Josh

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for the late reply. You need to look at Ancestry Composition >> Chromosome View to see the size of the African segments. I hope your search is going well!

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  8. Hi Josh,

    I know, your post is a bit old. I too am looking for my biological father and have very little information. I just recently decided to start looking by way of dna. I'm super excited about what I may find. Super happy that you connected with someone. Please let me know if you have any tips/advice for me. Good Luck!

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    1. Hi Felicia, Please join us on our new Facebook group "DNA Detectives" for tips and advice: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/. We have birth parent search successes through DNA testing all the time. Hope to see you there!

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  9. Does ancestry DNA let you upload 23 & me data or do you have do take a new test?

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    Replies
    1. No, AncestryDNA does not let you upload from any other companies. Only Family Tree DNA has this capability and only with AncestryDNA transfers. 23andMe cannot be transferred to any other company (except tests done before 11/2013, which can still be transferred to FTDNA). You must take a new test to be in AncestryDNA's database, unfortunately.

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    2. CeCe, I had my 23andme test before 2013. how do you transfer to FTDNA?

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  10. Hi Joshua, did you ever find out more about your subclade from a Y test?

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  11. Hi, thank you for a fantastic guide to DNA testing, it has been quite confusing to me when researching. My step-dad doesn't know his paternity: no name, no nothing, and I didn't know where to begin. I do have one question, it is mentioned above that if you do the Ancestry DNA then your results are entered into the Family Tree DNA so in that case do you not need to take the Family Tree DNA separately?

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    1. Hi Kristi, It is so nice of you to help your step-dad. Yes, you can transfer autosomal DNA results from AncestryDNA to Family Tree DNA's Family Finder database, but he will need to do the Y-37 DNA test with them directly. They will send out a kit and he will need to return a DNA sample (cheek swab). If you haven't already, please join us on DNA Detectives FB page for further guidance. https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/. Good luck to you both on this journey! CeCe

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  12. Curious - I had the BRCA test done for breast cancer - would I be able to use my results to identify family?

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    1. Hi Kyle, Unfortunately, no. These are very specific types of tests and the most essential part of the test is the comparison to the proprietary databases at each company.

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  13. Hi Cece: Can u tell me what to do. I have had my testing done by 23and me. now what andy

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    1. You can join us on the DNA Detectives Facebook page for guidance: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/. Best of luck in your search!

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  14. Hello. My mom (deceased) never knew who her mother was and doesn't know her birth name or date so I am treating her as an adoptee. In searching for her mother, I now believe that her dad may not have actually been her biological dad since none of my family match his nephew or great niece. I have found some relatives that match me with the highest being about 516cM. This is a male who also matches me at 54 total cM and 54 on the largest. I sent an Ancestry kit to have this males maternal aunt tested since his parents are deceased but the 1st sample didn't work out. They took a 2nd sample which will hopefully be good because unfortunately the aunt had a heart attack and passed away last week. My question is, using the male, is there any way to determine whether our common ancestor is a male or female? We anticipate that the aunt will come back in the range of 1000cM match. If I understand correctly how this could work, my mom would match me around double of what I match anyone; putting her and the aunt as potentially matching at 2000 more or less. I believe that is great number to work with but I would need to know if I'm looking for a male or female common ancestor. Thank you for your suggestions/help in advance!!

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    1. t sounds like she very well may be an adoptee after all. 516 cM = first cousin once removed or half first cousin, so if it is the right side of the family. then his aunt should match you at about 1000 cM, as you have deduced, which would be a first cousin or an aunt/niece from a half sibling. Therefore, if that is the result, then she is very likely your mother's half sibling. (I am so sorry to hear of her death.) Without your mother's DNA or further access to his aunt's DNA, it will be challenging to determine if they are maternal half siblings or paternal half siblings or possibly aunt/niece. If they are maternal, then they would have the same mtDNA. AncestryDNA does not test mtDNA, so you would need to do another test. You could test your mtDNA since it is the same as your mother's and a child of the aunt's or even your original match if he is the son of her sister and not her brother. Best of luck -- I would love to hear how it goes!

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    2. First, thank you so very much for your response. Next I have a few additional questions. If they were aunt/niece would those numbers indicate a full aunt/niece relationship? Even though they would have been about the same age (maybe 5-7yrs) I know that "Aunt F" who just passed had an aunt and uncle who were born around the same time. If she were a half aunt, where would her numbers be with "Aunt F". If she is a half sister Aunt F, only one of her 2 sisters had children and the children are the male JF who was tested and his sister DF (not tested). My original match is DF's daughter. Who would be the best person to do the mtDNA test? And what exactly will that test tell me?? Sorry for so many questions :-(, but I thank you immensely!!

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  15. Hello again. I know you haven't responded to my last post but I wanted to update you that Aunt F's test results came back the day before her memorial service. She matches me at 1096.6 cM (largest 142.9) AND MY HALF SISTER AT 932.6 (largest 174.1) on Gedmatch. I figured I'd average out 2 and come up with 1014.6 with an estimated match of 2029 between my mom and Aunt F. Again, my question is if I test myself AND Aunt F's nephew (her sister's son) or the nephew's sister, then will the results determine whether the common ancestor is a male or female? Again, thank you in advance!

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  16. I did both 23nMe and the Ancestry DNA. I have recently joined Ancestry after having dropped it for a few years, is there anyway to recapture my information, or do I have to re-do the ancestry test for $99.00? Originally it had very few hits, but I am hoping now, a few years later, that I will have better success.

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  17. Hi Cici,
    We are hoping to locate my husband's mother's side as not much family information is there. we did the mtDNA on him and we have some matches in the 2nd cousin realm which makes sense as it is 2 generations that seems to divert off the path so to say. Not sure what to do with the information I do have.

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  18. I'm an adoptee with almost NO info on my birth family. I know my birthday and place,and my given name was "Baby Girl Meade" on legal documents. I have been reading and reading about this topic, and finally today decided to start with FTDNA Family Finder and mtDNA, but eventually plan on testing with all 3 big companies. Now I'm second guessing my start choice! Just looking for some reassurance that I'll get some decent info for the time being. What are your thoughts? I'm going to need so much help deciphering all of this. Lol. I just requested to join your FB group.

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    1. Hi, I am glad you have joined DNA Detectives. I would not have recommended starting with those tests, but you will still receive good information from them. When you can, please also test at AncestryDNA since they have the largest database, so the best chance for a close match.

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  19. My daughter is two and due to circumstances I do not know the name of her father. I am interested in maybe finding out who it is before the "who is my daddy" or "why don't I have a daddy" questions start. Which test would be best for us in order to find who her dad is? Thank you.

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    1. It would probably be best to use the AncestryDNA test due to the large database, but only if she is able to produce the saliva necessary for it. If she cannot, then you will need to use Family Tree DNA's Family Finder test instead. Best of luck!

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  20. Hello Cici: Thank you so much for all your hard work with us Adoptees. I have joined all the DNA Testing sites you have mentioned here. I have been searching for my family, since 1982. I had a real break though, with Ancestry DNA, 2 years ago, I found my 2nd cousin. He was able to figure out where I fit in the family tree, I found out who my birth mother was, and that I have 3 siblings. I sent my birth mother a letter in January of 2015, and sent a letter to my sister in March 2016. I have not heard a word. I don't know where to go next? I don't know anything about my birth father. What is the next step I should take? Thanks so much!

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    1. Hi Kimberly, Congrats on finding your birth mother's side. Are you sure you had the correct address(es)? Did you send the letter restricted certified in order to make sure the right person signed for it? If you are on Facebook, please join my DNA Detectives group to discuss your next steps with others who have been through the same thing. https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/

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  21. Just wanted to let you know that FamilyTree is not able to upload raw DNA from Ancestry tests whose raw DNA has been downloaded in the last few weeks. Here is their reply to me on May 31st, 2016:

    "In the last day we've identify the problem that you're encountering. Unfortunately no one is able to upload raw data from Ancestry.com right now if they downloaded the raw data from Ancestry recently. It appears that Ancestry changed the file format of their raw data file and we haven't updated our website to identify the new file format yet. Our development team is aware of the issue and working to fix it, but I don't have an ETA on when it will be functional again."

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    1. Thank you. I believe they will get this sorted out soon.

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    2. Hi CeCe
      you will probably remember me as I am a member of DNA Detectives and I am searching for my adopted sister Kimberly. I want people to know that I tested with Ancestry.com in Jan of this year without expecting much. I really just wanted to see what my Heritage was but in addition found out that my biological father is someone other than who my mom suspected. I have more than 6 matches from 2nd -4th cousins connecting me to the Surname Vecce/Veccia and then shared matches connecting me to the surname Mangiante bring me to the location my mother grew up in. It seems that a R. Veccia married a L. Viti and L.Viti's parents were A. Viti and M. Mangiante. One of my matche's Great Aunt was M.Mangiante. I would have thought all this was not true but I have matches to my mom's Aunt Carmelia's Grandaughter that I have never met but know without a doubt they are my family members on my mother's side. It is truly amazing. I just received my 23 and me kit today and I am hoping it will help me find Kimberly. Why do you recommend Family Tree Finder test over the others? Please let me know

      Sincerely
      Sheila Wilson

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    3. Wow, great! Thanks for posting about this. I do not recommend FTDNA Family Finder over the other autosomal DNA tests. I wrote that they are the only company to do Y-STR and mtDNA testing, not atDNA testing. This is because they are the only company offering tests that match two people on the Y-chromosome and mtDNA specifically. I hope you find Kimberly!

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  22. Hi CeCe,

    My husband and I are searching for his birth parents. Through AncestryDNA, we were able to find a first cousin. This person has a 765 cm across 37 DNA segments match. The full name is not displayed for this person on the tree, so We are not sure of the gender. We reached out and explained my search, giving my month and year of birth, birth city and state, and approximate age of my parents per my adoption records. We have a few more facts that we didn't reveal because we wanted to know if there was any interest in helping us. It has only been a week with no reply. The family is large on both the maternal and paternal side of this first cousin. There are three second cousins in the same tree also listed and thee highest is a 457 cm across 24 DNA segment. Another family is listed as a second cousin, two of them are related and the highest has 255 across 14 DNA segments. Where should I go from here?

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    1. Hi Val, Please write to my team immediately at info@thednadetectives.com for guidance. Good luck! CeCe

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  23. Hi CeCe --
    I am new to DNA Dectectives and am excited to see where I can go with the information I have. I am a adoptee seeking my biological family. I have done Ancestry DNA and 23 and Me. On Ancestry I have a person with 257 centimorgans shared across 13 DNA segments and is listed as a second cousin. I also have 5 people with 136 centimorgans shared across 9 DNA segments listed at 3rd-4th cousins. I also reached out to these people. On 23 and Me I have a person listed as a half sister with whom I share 24.9% of my DNA including the same Maternal Haplogroup. This person is listed as anonymous but I did reach out to her also. I wanted to share my autosomal DNA information with Family Tree DNA but it appears the latest data reports from both Ancestry and 23 and Me are incompatible with FTDNA. Where to you suggest I go from here? Clearly there is family out there for me to connect with and I am excited.
    thank you for your help.
    CVP

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    1. Hi CVP, I would say you are in very good shape! I will cross my fingers that your maternal half sibling gets back to you. In the meantime, see if you can find common ancestors in the trees of your top matches at Ancestry. If you can, then start building their trees forward in time, looking for someone who fits the time line and location. Where were you born/adopted? Do you have non-ID? Please post questions in DNA Detectives for guidance. Good luck!

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    2. PS- Family Finder at FTDNA is on sale right now for $69 so if you don't want to wait for them to fix the compatibility issue, you may want to order that test now. With what you already have, you may not need it though.

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  24. I was tested very early on with Ancestry, and my results were incorrect-wrong ethnicity based on my own research. I complained as did a number of other people and they corrected my results. When I transferred my raw data to family finder, the results were exactly the same as my original results from Ancestry-not a spec of British Isles. Since I am not an adoptee, I know my family history. I tested with 23 and me, and those results were much more accurate. I am in the process of another family finder test with FTDNA. Having said that, I am getting matches with Ancestry-lots and lots. I can also look at some of the Chromosome matches, but the only information they give is: Amount of Shared DNA 75 centimorgans shared across 5 DNA segment...And they are now giving the option of looking at common matches. It's not enough! I am having some really good matches on a brick wall right now. (Of course they all are staring at that same brick wall.)

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  25. I did family tree DNA and,so did my late mom. Me and her weere,looking for our fathers and family.how,do I go about to get results. She passed before she got answers

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    1. I am sorry for the loss of your mother. Please join my Facebook group DNA Detectives for guidance in your search: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/. Best of luck!

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  26. so im the daughter of an adoptee, my father doesn't want anything to do with the people that "threw him away" but it kills e not knowing so could i do a DNA test through ancestry and it work the same way? is it even worth trying? im so desperate to know who my family is!!

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    1. Yes, it will work the same way. Since you are only looking for grandparents, atDNA will work very well. I am sure you realize it will be challenging if you find them. I do believe that everyone has the right to know their heritage, including children of adoptees. Best of luck if you decide to move forward with the search. Please join my DNA Detectives Facebook page for guidance. https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/

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  27. I am adopted. I am in search of my biological family. I went through Ancestry.com and the closest match is a third cousin. It got me no where. What can you suggest?

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    1. Third cousins on Ancestry are actually pretty good matches. You may also want to test at the other two companies to see if you can get any closer matches. Have you joined my DNA Detectives Facebook group for more detailed guidance on your search?https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/

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  28. What test do you recommend to find my biological father, I have no information about him.

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    1. Due to their very large database, I am recommending AncestryDNA first now. If you are a male, I also highly recommend the Y-37 test from FTDNA.
      Good luck!
      CeCe

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  29. My adopted son is from China. I've been told in online groups that 23andme is the way to go for Asia searches. Do you find that this is the case?

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    1. Yes, I would agree with that advice, although it is a long shot regardless. Good luck!
      CeCe

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  30. Any opinions on the Genes for Good test?

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  31. Hello !
    I am 45 years old and have recently discovered that the man I had always believed to be my father, wasn't. I am determined to find my "real Dad". Unfortunately my Mother is sticking to her story despite strong biological evidence. Although he has been dead for many years, I tested against his daughter and was sad to find that we were not half-sisters at all. I have done an Ancestry DNA and the closest non-maternal match that came up was a third cousin, an older man that is an adoptee searching for his roots as well. I don't want to lose hope. What should my next step be? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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  32. Hi Cece
    We did ancestry DNA. My husband did his test And the first result shows the person is my husband's father . How do we go about finding this person since it doesn't appear that they've been checking the site ?
    Stella

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  33. Ordering 3 Ancestry DNA test kits from your DNA Detectives blog link tonight for my found 1/2 brother, 1/2 sister and 1/2 uncle. Just wanted you to know the final price was $108.95. $99 + $9.95 shipping.

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  34. Hi! I am looking for advice on finding a half-uncle that I believe most likely is living in France if he is still alive (he was born there, probably in Paris where my Dutch grandfather was living when this son was born in 1944). I have his first name and a second name, but cannot tell if the second name is his middle name or last name (it is Francois). I also have his exact birthdate. I have tested on both Ancestry and 23andme, and uploaded the results to Gedmatch and to FTDNA. Absolutely nothing shows up on any of the 4 sites for any family members in Europe. Any suggestions for how I might locate him? I have no living family members who would know (I'm the oldest one now!). Many thanks for any suggestions you may have.

    Debi

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  35. Hi Cece,
    Do you have any suggestions for finding a French half-uncle? I have his name, but the second name could be a middle name or a last name (it's Francois). I also have his birthdate. He was born to a French woman in 1944; my Dutch grandfather was living in Paris during the war (my American grandmother was here in the States with my American dad). I know all of this because, in cleaning out my parents home, I found papers relating to my grandfather's estate and a settlement for his French son who was only 14 when his father died. I have done testing on 23andme and Ancestry, and uploaded the results to Gedmatch and FTDNA. My closest match is a niece, my second closest match is a 2d cousin, once removed to whom I'm very close; no "bites" out of Europe at all. Unfortunately, I have no living family members who might have information (I'm the oldest living family member now!). Do you have any suggestions for me, especially since I now understand DNA testing is prohibited in France unless ordered by a court. Thank you in advance for any suggestions you may have for me.
    Debi

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    ReplyDelete
  37. Dear Cece,
    I hope you can help us.
    We are a group of Sri lankans who want to know if we are related to eachother.
    Could you recommand what company and what method to use to find out if there are siblings in our community?
    Thanks in advance,

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