01 April 2009

DNA: Solving adoption mysteries

While DNA tests seem to attract family historians, there's another side to genetic genealogy - helping adoptees find their biological families.

Howard Wolinsky focused on just this issue in this online article in March's Ancestry Magazine.

Jeff Brickman always joked that he was a Scottish Jew. Really, he had no idea about his birth family’s place of origin. But thanks to a DNA test, Jeff found out that his joke answer might be right.

With blue eyes, straight, light brown hair, freckles, and light skin, Jeff Brickman never blended in at family gatherings.

Standing 5′ 8″, he towered over his dad’s family, where everyone had curly, dark brown hair and brown eyes. And in his mom’s family, the brown-eyed men stood tall at 6’ 4” and 6′ 6.”

I just don’t look like anyone in my family,” says Jeff, who grew up with a Jewish family in Phoenix and Boston. There was a reason he looked different from his parents, who were of Eastern European Jewish origin. Jeff had been adopted.

The story discusses the Y-DNA and mtDNA testing conducted at FamilyTreeDNA.com.
“I’m not looking for my parents. The whole interest for me was where I’m from genetically. Why do I look the way I do?”
In addition to confirm family relationships or learn about deep ancestry, male adoptees can find their paternal lines. Jeff had his Y-DNA (male) and mtDNA (female) tested.

According to FamilyTreeDNA's adoption expert Max Blankfeld - also VP of operations and marketing - says 30-35% of adoptees who use his service “end up finding their biological paternal line, which means that they get to know what their paternal surname would be if they were not adopted.” He stresses that the Y-DNA test is not a paternity test.

Jeff ’s testing showed 15 matches, including close ones—and some surprises.
Blankfeld told Jeff that based on Y-DNA testing, he could say “with almost 100 percent certainty that your biological paternal line was a Beall and that line was of Scottish ancestry.”
Regarding his maternal line, Blankfeld said he is probably of Jewish ancestry as the genetic signature is consistent with several people who have stated Jewish ancestry and others from Eastern Europe, and added:
Interestingly, since from the Jewish perspective the maternal line is what counts for one to be Jewish, you are not outside the group in your family get-togethers.”
Jeff's in the military and will be deloyed to Iraq. His wife is making a blanket of Beall tartan to take with him, and Jeff said he may have a tartan kipa also to combine his family traditions.

He's contacted some Bealls online and been welcomed; the story details some of those connections.

All Jeff knows is that he was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1970.; the adoption files were destroyed in a fire. He's run a Google search on Columbus Bealls but the list is long. It is possible that through this search he might find his biological father and possibly his biological mother. What would he say if he ever meets them?

“I would say to them, ‘Thank you for giving me to a wonderful family. ’ And the only question I would have is ‘What were the circumstances?’ And that’s it. I’m not looking for my parents. That’s not why I did it.”
Read the complete story at the link above.

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