Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Adoptees Who Received Close Family DNA Matches and Reunited with Birth Family as a Result - Part Four

AncestryDNA was also featured on the Steve Harvey show for reuniting adoptee, Mara Parker, with her birth father through a paternal half sibling DNA match. Mara had been searching for her father for 25 years.

It is a tearjerker, so have your hankies ready. 

Adoptees Who Received Close Family DNA Matches and Reunited with Birth Family as a Result - Part Three

AncestryDNA has been good about getting the word out that there is hope for adoptees searching for their birth families.

In the first story, Chris took an AncestryDNA test and found his maternal half brother. Here is his story on Katie Couric:

Chris meets his AncestryDNA match, his brother:

Adoptees Who Received Close Family DNA Matches and Reunited with Birth Family as a Result - Part Two

The second story was posted in September 2012 and involves an adoptee who found her paternal aunt at AncestryDNA and has since reunited with her birth father.

Adoptee Finds Birth Family at AncestryDNA

After my posts criticizing AncestryDNA for their handling of "Chris and Pat's" matching, it is only fair to report the terrific news that the second adoptee mentioned in my original story (let's call her Jenny) has confirmed that her close match is, indeed, authentic. A few weeks ago "Jenny" reported that she received a match with a predicted first cousin at AncestryDNA. Today we received the news that Jenny has actually found her biological paternal aunt!

At first I thought there was a discrepancy between the prediction and the actual relationship, but after seeing screen grabs from Jenny's account, I realized that Ancestry has two different categories that each include first cousin; one is "Close Family - First Cousin" and the other is "First Cousin - Second Cousin".  Given this opportunity, let's take a look at Ancestry's "First Cousin" categories.

I happen to have a known first cousin in my mother's AncestryDNA account, so I can compare the two categories here. Vi is predicted to be a First Cousin to my mother with a range of 1st Cousin to 2nd Cousin:

My mother's first cousin at AncestryDNA

With this explanation:

Click to Enlarge

Since I have this same cousin available for comparison at 23andMe, I can tell you that she shares 14.5% of my mother which is a bit higher than average. So, AncestryDNA got this right even though Vi and my mom share more than would be expected for a first cousin relationship.
My mother's first cousin at 23andMe
I share a first cousin once-removed relationship with Vi and 7.44% of my DNA, and she correctly falls into the same First to Second Cousin Category for me at AncestryDNA.

There is another category at AncestryDNA that is labeled as Close Family to First Cousin. It looks like this:

With this explanation:

Click to Enlarge

This is the category that the Jenny's match was placed, so in this case AncestryDNA's prediction was also correct.

AncestryDNA has not released their category guidelines, but from this I can deduce approximately what the percentage cut-off must be between the two categories (if they are using the traditional matching process that we are familiar with from 23andMe and Family Tree DNA's Family Finder). An aunt would share approximately 25% of her DNA with her niece, first cousins share approximately 12.5% of their DNA, first cousins once-removed share approximately 6.25% of their DNA and second cousins share approximately 3.125% of their DNA. These are variable numbers which are only an average, so some individuals, like my mom and her cousin Vi, will share more and some will share less than expected. AncestryDNA has apparently taken this into consideration since they correctly placed my mom's first cousin Vi in the lower First Cousin - Second Cousin category instead of the Close Family - First Cousin category. Without more comparisons, it is impossible to accurately guess AncestryDNA's upper end cut-off for this category, but at 23andMe my highest aunt/uncle relationship comparison is 27.88%, while my lowest is 21.14%, so they probably include at least 28% in this category and possibly much higher since the next closest genetic relationship level shares about 50% of their DNA - full siblings. AncestryDNA likely takes additional information into account in their predictions such as longest segment length and how many shared segments, but for general guidelines, the categories possibly look something like this:

Close Family - First Cousin Category        28% - 15% in common
First Cousin - Second Cousin Category     15% -  5% in common

If this is close to their actual thresholds, then the Close Family Category could include half-siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles (as we have seen in Jenny's case) and possibly great grandparents/first cousins who are on the high end of expected shared DNA.

With all of this analysis, I don't want to get sidetracked from the joy of this story. Jenny is absolutely thrilled to find her paternal birth family and they seem to be thrilled to find her! She is very appreciative of AncestryDNA's part in her discovery and, thanks to that aunt who is a member of Ancestry.com, Jenny already has an extensive genealogy for half for her biological family!

Jenny shared her thoughts with me:

I need to give AncestryDNA some credit, they were 100 percent right on this one. Although I still stand by my opinion that their system needs changes, because there still is no way to know if there are errors...They need to release the raw data, not everyone is going to be as lucky as I was, but I also don't want to discourage people from submitting their DNA.  The more DNA they receive, the better the results I would presume.  They have a great system for the most part, but with no way to interpret it, we have to just have blind faith in Ancestry that our results are correct.

Personally, I am very happy to be able to report this positive flip side to my earlier story because I do not want to discourage anyone from participating in DNA testing. Although not my first choice, with a database that has exceeded 65,000 (judging from recent ID numbers), AncestryDNA is a viable place to search for relatives whether it be for adoption reunification or genealogical purposes. You can bet that we, as a community, will keep badgering the folks at AncestryDNA for our raw data and access to more detailed genetic information, but some will enjoy success with their matching system even as it currently is. In fact, because of their outstanding automated matching combined with their vast collection of already existing family trees, a number of individuals have already reported confirming many common ancestors with their matches at AncestryDNA and, in some cases, broken through decades-old brick walls. These successes could greatly aid in, perhaps, the loftiest dream of our community - to build a universal genetic family tree by "assigning" DNA segments to specific ancestors, but only if AncestryDNA decides to release the genetic data to their customers. Let's keep our fingers crossed that they will soon listen to us, because what a wondrous thing this could be!

[10/26/12: This test is now out of Beta, so you can order it here.]

Adoptees Who Received Close Family DNA Matches and Reunited with Birth Family as a Result - Part One

I have posted a couple of adoptee/birth family reunions on my "Your Genetic Genealogist" blog in the past and wanted to bring those stories over here, so to get started, I am going to repost them.

First we had the emotional story of Dan, an adoptee who found his half-sister at 23andMe back in December 2011 with many of us following along as this beautiful story unfolded. I will be writing a follow-up to this story soon detailing more about Dan's reunion with his six half-siblings.

Adoptee Reunites with Birth Family at 23andMe

For a little over a month, many of us have been following the story of an adoptee who tested at 23andMe on a whim and amazingly found a 27.3% DNA match in their database. Today, finally, there is a happy resolution.

Dan had always planned on finding out more about his birth family, but had not taken any steps in that direction until one day a few months ago when he saw a GroupOn offering a discounted 23andMe test. He ordered the test and waited for his results. Initially, he didn't fully investigate his Relative Finder list. When he did so in mid-November, he received quite a surprise. He had a 27.3% female match with the same mtDNA. This meant that his maternal aunt or half-sister (or, less likely, niece from a full sister) had already been tested at 23andMe.

Here is Dan's own summary of his discovery:

 I decided to have my DNA tested on a whim one day as the result of-of all things-a Groupon deal! I had always known that eventually I would seek out my birth family, and the timing was right. To make a long story short, a few months after my results came back, I finally clicked on the "Show Close Relatives" button, and lo and behold, a major match showed up. 27.3% on the maternal side. The good folks here in the community helped me figure out that it would have to be either my bio-Mom's sister, or my half-sister. Stunning news, to say the least.

He immediately sent an invitation to connect to his relative and then turned to the 23andMe Community for confirmation of what he thought he had found. He received an outpouring of support, advice and very interested followers, including me. Throughout this long month, we have all hoped that Dan would receive a response from his match. Personally, I checked almost every day on his progress. With the days drawing on, many theories were developed and ideas for alternate avenues of searching explored, but in the end the DNA test was the answer.

Yesterday, Dan's half-sister logged into 23andMe and received his note. I am so happy to report that she and his five other half-siblings are ready to welcome him with open arms. I have to say that they are lucky to have found a brother such as Dan has proven to be throughout the waiting. From his postings in the 23andMe community forum, he has shown himself to be a caring, thoughtful and well-balanced individual with a lot to offer his new-found family. Obviously, his adoptive parents deserve credit for doing an outstanding job. Kindly, his "new" sister even posted to the very extensive thread concerning Dan's discovery and introduced herself to all of us interested 23andMers. This resulted in many tears of joy from Dan's supporters.

This story is one of hope and encouragement for all adoptees still searching for their biological families. It is also a testament to the power of DNA testing. As the DNA databases grow, I am confident that this type of story will become commonplace. I am, and have been for sometime, committed to helping adoptees utilize their DNA results to learn more about their ancestry, especially in light of the unjust laws on the books of so many states blocking adoptees from their inherent right to know who they are and from where they come. Let's hope this story inspires more adoptees and birth families to DNA test, especially those who have exhausted the traditional avenues of self-discovery and have lost hope.

I hope to post more on this story as it develops and would like to extend my best wishes and congratulations to all parties involved. Dan and his "new" family have received the best Christmas present imaginable. Happy Holidays to all!