It’s a story as old as time: Siblings, separated and adopted into different families hear family whispers later in life that they are not alone. In the internet age, there is a far greater chance of connecting the dots that may lead to reuniting with an adopted sibling, especially with the proliferation of ancestry DNA websites.
Here are six recommendations for how to try to find an adopted sibling.
Six ways to search and find an adopted sibling
The good news is there are plenty of ways to go about the search, from adoption agencies, records and registries to social media and DNA tests. In 2015, for example, author and genealogist Blaine Bettinger found his half-brother via AncestryDNA’s database after taking a DNA test.
“A sibling I didn’t know existed,” said Bettinger, who started The Genetic Genealogist, a popular ancestry and genealogy website. “He is older than me—and was adopted.”
1. Take an ancestry DNA test
CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist who’s nicknamed “the DNA Detective,” said the evidence is “abundant and undeniable” that ancestry DNA tests can help connect siblings after adoption. Moore pointed to the Facebook group she runs, with more than 175,000 members, for examples of people finding their adopted siblings.
“We see these types of scenarios every day now,” said Moore, who is the chief genetic genealogist for Parabon NanoLabs while working as a consultant for a number of television programs.
“There are over 35 million people who have tested at the consumer DNA-testing companies, and that means almost everyone from the United States will find a relatively close family member already in these databases,” Moore said.
On average, siblings with the same parents share 50% of DNA with each other. That means any DNA match in an ancestry database with a sibling is highly likely to be a solid one.
If you’re looking for an adopted sibling, Moore suggested starting with the bigger ancestry DNA sites, such as AncestryDNA and 23andMe, then uploading your raw data DNA file to smaller databases. MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch have all begun the process of building out their sites to connect relatives, including those who don’t know they’re related.
“Of course, if a person’s family member is the one who was placed for adoption versus themselves, it is more challenging to find them because they need to have taken the test themselves, or one of their children or grandchildren must have done so,” Moore said.
“I would estimate that at least over a million adoptees have tested at one or more of the DNA companies, so there is a good chance of connecting with them, but [it’s] not absolutely guaranteed.”
2. Contact your parents’ adoption agency
If you or the person you’re helping are in touch with one or both parents, ask them which agency they used for the adoption process. Or, in reverse, if you or the person you’re helping are the adopted child, you could ask your adoptive parents.
Either way, that agency could serve as a liaison between you and your adopted siblings, helping to establish your interest in connecting while also protecting their privacy if they do not wish for any contact.
3. Use search and adoption registries
Adoption registries are meant to help connections between adopted siblings. Sites such as Adopted.com and Adoption.com collect as much information from users as possible to compare and contrast with other users in their databases. This tool is a lot like DNA sites: You may find a sibling you didn’t know you had.
4. Use state adoption records
Results may vary in your search of state records based on what the government is legally allowed to share with you. That said, many states keep records of adoption information, from the identity of parents to other information that could be relevant to your search.
Because of the complexities here, you might want to hire an adoption specialist or an attorney to help you navigate any potential legal issues.
5. Search social media
From social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and now TikTok to good old-fashioned gumshoe reporting on search engines such as Google, there are endless opportunities to find information online.
The big challenge with any of this is finding even the smallest crumb of detail to help you in your search. But if you can get that far, you have a much better shot of making headway in your search for your adopted sibling.
6. Use a private investigator
As with any complicated information-gathering situation, you can hire a private investigator to help. Whether it’s worth the cost always comes back to how much information you can find on your own and how much you’re willing to spend on an investigator.
PIs often charge by the hour, and depending on the complexity of the search for an adopted sibling, the effort may require some time and review of records. Those costs could add up. Still, there is no denying the potential value of adding investigators to your search if you have the means and the determination to do so.