REVIEW: The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing by Tamar Weinberg – “In my opinion, this is a must-have DNA guide for adoptees and ANYONE interested in DNA and genealogy!”
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The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long-Lost Family – a MUST-HAVE DNA Tool!

[Editor’s Note: The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing is available in print (click HERE) as well as in e-book format (click HERE). Purchase BEFORE September 1st using promo code ADOPT15 and save 15%! Regularly priced $29.99 USD, now just $25.49 USD!]

Weinberg, Tamar. The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long-Lost Family, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2018, 242 pages.

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Full disclosure: I am not an adoptee and in my own family history research, I’ve not found many adoption situations. So why would I be interested in a book like The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long-Lost Family? I’ll tell you why: because you can never have too many tools to help you understand DNA test results and using them in your genealogy! And this book ROCKS when it comes to helping people understand the complexities of sorting out DNA testing results and matches.

Most of my readers know I am all over “research methodology’ when it comes to genealogy and family history. The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing is a great example of how to build solid skills when it comes to incorporating DNA testing into your research matrix.

Why I Think The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing Works for Everyone Interested in DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

Consider the challenges facing an adoptee looking for one or more birth parents and the immense progress that has been made with the advent of personal DNA testing. Still, the process of deciphering the results and the relative matches is a complicated one. The author takes you through various case studies to understand how to best leverage DNA test results and sort through the matches.

So why should you be interested if you are not an adoptee? Well understanding this process of sorting through relative matches using DNA can help if you’ve hit a brick wall and need to identify birth parents for an ancestor.

Here are some areas of the book that I absolutely fell in love with:

  • Amazing charts and graphics. Wow! These call outs and illustrations such as How to Calculate Cousinhood are great ways to help the reader understand concepts through visualization. I know I’ll keep referring back to many of these illustrations as I work through my own DNA results.
  • What about paper records and adoption? Weinberg covers the topic of birth certificates and other adoption records, pointing out how imperfect the records and research process can be. In addition, she reviews the current non-DNA related tools such as adoption registries, social media and more. She makes a strong argument for using DNA testing to overcome the obstacles presented by these options.
  • A solid primer on DNA testing and how it works. This section is also just worth the entire price of the book! Weinberg is spot on when it comes to bringing the reader up to speed on how DNA testing works, using results, the myth of ethnicity estimates and more.
  • Recommendations on DNA Tests and Testing Companies. The author excels at explaining the different types of DNA tests (autosomal, Y-DNA, mt-DNA, X-DNA), and how it test works. In addition, there are EXTENSIVE chapters devoted to several testing companies including AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA.
  • Advanced Tools – Putting It All Together! The author adeptly covers concepts such as mirror trees, endogamy, using GEDmatch, triangulation of DNA data, DNA Painter, and more. She does so in an easy-to-understand method which cuts through the complexities and gives the reader confidence in using these tools for their own research.
  • Excellent Case Studies. Weinberg presents seven different case studies involving DNA research and different ethnicities. Each case focuses on an individual and how their DNA test results were used to solve family mysteries.

Plus, there’s a foreword by Kitty Munson Cooper, one of the authorities when it comes to DNA and genealogy – that gives you an idea of how respected Tamar Weinberg is when it comes to her work with DNA and adoptees!

What’s Inside

The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing features[1]:

  • Strategies for connecting to previous generations, including how to reach out to potential relatives
  • Detailed guides for using DNA tests and tools, plus how to analyze your test results and apply them to research
  • Inspiring real-life success stories that put the book’s techniques into practice

Sample Tips

Here are some tips you’ll find in The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing  [2]:

  • Don’t start with DNA. While it can be tempting to jump into DNA testing right away, start with traditional research techniques and records before turning to genetic testing. DNA testing’s usefulness depends on who has tested so far, and you could wait a long time before connecting with a DNA match in the database.
  • Save before you send. Before you contact a match (particularly a close match), grab a screenshot of the match’s information and (if possible) create a mirror tree. Many adoptees will make initial contact with a potential relative, only to be blocked by the other user or see the other person’s Ancestry.com account shut down. Some people test only to learn their ancestry and don’t want to be contacted by potential relatives, especially birth parents or unknown or long-lost children.
  • Follow the paper trail. DNA tests can take you back a few generations, but you’ll want to consult traditional records to support your hypotheses. Many adoptees and others with unknown parentage don’t have traditional genealogical documentation, but they can still try to match with someone who can/has created a family tree.

Conclusion

Again, while the focus of The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long-Lost Family is on adoptees using DNA test results to locate birth family members, don’t let this discourage you from running out and getting your own copy! Luckily for me, I have the e-book version, otherwise I know the paper copy would be dog-eared, have post-it notes and become well-worn in no time. Tamar Weinberg has given us a much-needed tool for this important area of genealogy. If you are at a point in your genealogy and family history research where you want to incorporate DNA test results and don’t know where to start, there is no better guide, in my opinion.

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About The Author: Tamar Weinberg

Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler, genealogy enthusiast, and writer, having authored the bestselling book The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web. She’s appeared on CBS News and The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and has been quoted in Forbes, USA Today, Businessweek, and many other publications. She is an active participant in online communities relating to genealogy and DNA, and after thousands of hours of study and research, has helped solve many cases of unknown parentage. She resides in New York with her husband and their four children. Read more about Tamar on her website

Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler, genealogy enthusiast, and writer, having authored the bestselling book The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web. She’s appeared on CBS News and The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and has been quoted in Forbes, USA Today, Businessweek, and many other publications. She is an active participant in online communities relating to genealogy and DNA, and after thousands of hours of study and research, has helped solve many cases of unknown parentage. She resides in New York with her husband and their four children. Read more about Tamar on her website.

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Disclosure Statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2018, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

[1] The Adoptee’s Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long-Lost Family, Family Tree Magazine online store (https://www.genealogybargains.com/ftm-adoptee-dna-print, accessed 7 August 2018). Used by permission.

[2] Ibid.