Updated date:

Finding Your Birth Family With DNA Testing

Billy W. Mitchell is 49 years of age, was born Billy W. Wells, and was put up for adoption in Houston, Texas.

I'm not only the author of this article, but I found my birth-mother and 2 out of 3 half-sisters so far using the results of DNA testing.

I'm not only the author of this article, but I found my birth-mother and 2 out of 3 half-sisters so far using the results of DNA testing.

I Am Billy W. Wells

My name is Billy W. Mitchell. I was adopted through the DePelchin Faith Home in Houston, Texas in 1974 and for years I had no clue who my birth family was beyond the very limited information that the adoption agency provided my adopted family. That information was mainly limited to generalized regional ancestry and health data. Because it was a closed adoption that meant all names were sealed by court order.

With the help of my case worker and through a chance meeting with someone who worked in a group home to which I was assigned as a toddler, we learned that my birth surname could have been "Hill" or "Wells". Then, around the year 2001, I visited the Terrell Genealogical Library in Beaumont, Texas. I looked through micro-fiche files of the Texas State Birth Index for the date and county of my birth using those names and found a listing for "Billy W. Wells" with the Birth Number that is on my birth certificate. Sadly those records do not list that names of parents. I did, however, confirm my last name at birth.

Last Christmas, my step-daughters' grandmother bought them each an Ancestry DNA kit from Ancestry.com. Neither one of them used it so, about 3 months ago, my wife thought it might be a good idea if we used them. My wife loves to research her family tree and thought this would help her with her research. I was hesitant about committing to taking the test, but she pointed out that maybe I would find some of my birth family and get answers to questions that have been rolling around in my brain for decades. Truth be told, this was the very reason why I was so hesitant. Everyone fears facing the unknown and, if I actually found some of my birth family, would I truly be ready to open Pandora's Box? I have always wondered who my ancestors were. Was I related to anyone famous? Was I descended from royalty? Did I have Native American ancestry and, if so, how much? Could I register with a Tribe? Eventually I overcame my fear and took the test and about two weeks later my life was forever changed! Before I reveal the results, though, let me explain the process of completing a DNA test through the mail.

Choosing a DNA Home Test Kit

During my research, I found that the top 3 home DNA test kits are: Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me DNA, and My Heritage DNA. A great place to find helpful information about home DNA testing kits can be found at the Genealogy Explained website.

Taking the Test

Once you order your test kit and get it in the mail just follow the instructions. Generally these kits require you to collect your saliva or cheek swab in a vial, seal it, put it in the return box provided, and mail it in to the testing center. It will also prompt you to register your kit on the corresponding kit's website and, if you provide your phone number, you can get text messages updating you on each leg of the testing process and, eventually, when your results are ready!

Because I used the Ancestry DNA kit, I will use it for my example. All of the screen shots and pictures will be of my actual results.

Results process text message for AncestryDNA

Results process text message for AncestryDNA

Getting Your Results

As I no longer have the text message of my results progress, the above screen shot is from a potential half-sister of mine who agreed to take the DNA test to see how we are related. I was introduced to her through our 1st cousin who was wondering how we were so closely related because she didn't know anyone on my family tree (which at the time was only showing my birth mother's side). She did state, however, that I looked just like her uncle...the potential half-sister's father. We are currently awaiting her results. Her father admitted that he knew my birth mother when they were younger. He and his brother used to hang out with my birth mother around the time of my conception. So, based of the results of the potential half-sister...whether she is a close family match (half-sibling or aunt/niece) or a 1st cousin match...we will know whether her father or her uncle is my father. Additionally, I am a close family member match to the sister of her father and uncle, which means their sister is my aunt. That being said, one of the two brothers is definitely my father.

Are you confused yet?

For the sake of definitive results, I will confine my results progress to my birth mother's side of my family tree. Those results are 100% confirmed and accurate.

My Results

Once I got the email and text message that my results were in, I logged into ancestry.com and viewed them. This is the first thing that I saw...the overview page:

My results overview page.

My results overview page.

The main three categories on this page are: DNA Story (your ethnicity by geographical region), DNA Matches (a list of your relatives who have also taken the DNA test), and Thru-lines (which is trademarked by ancestry.com which gives you possible family tree suggestions based on the DNA results in their database).

My genetic ethnicity by geographical region.

My genetic ethnicity by geographical region.

As you can see in the photo above, my ethnicity is England/Wales/Northwestern Europe (73%), Ireland/Scotland (14%), Germanic Europe (7%), Sweden (5%), and the Baltics (1%). Unfortunately, no Native American ethnicity showed up in my results, which makes me wonder if the Ancestry DNA testing included that region, since I was told by the adoption agency that I had Native American ancestry.

This section lists DNA matches to other family member who have also taken the DNA test.

This section lists DNA matches to other family member who have also taken the DNA test.

The next section is the DNA Match section. This lists all of the people on ancestry.com who are related to you and the level of match (close family, 1st cousin, 2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, etc.). The first person on my list was the most closely related and turned out to be my half sister on my birth mother's side. I sent her a message through ancestry.com and got a reply back the next day. I turns out that she had been looking for me for years! What's more, she told me that our birth mother had four children and that she had already found another one of our half-sisters. Sadly, though, I was informed that our birth mother had passed away in 2011. Only one of us ever got the chance to meet her. So, at this point, I had found half of my family tree!

My 2 new half-sisters and myself.  We met in person as soon as we could!

My 2 new half-sisters and myself. We met in person as soon as we could!

A Brand New Family!

Through this DNA test and tests like it adoptees like me don't have to wonder what their biological ancestry is anymore. It has become mail-order simple. I'm sure not every story will turn out like mine...with family so eager to meet me, but knowing is a reward unto itself. Almost all of my generation of family, especially on my birth mother's side, were given up for adoption. I have been accepted by all of this new family and everyone is being reunited. It is all thanks to home DNA testing!

Comments

Billy W Mitchell (author) from San Marcos, Texas on December 06, 2019:

I know it can be kind of scary...it can be like Christmas or like opening Pandora's Box. You hope for the former, but if it's the latter....I believe it's still better to know...you know?

Liz Westwood from UK on December 06, 2019:

Thanks for sharing your experience to help others considering this test.