DNA Tools Overview for Chinese Adoptees

  When searching, it is often useful to do at least two different DNA tests, which provide a couple of separate avenues to pursue a search effort. The most common place to start is with an autosomal DNA test, which provides broad genetic information and can lead to matching with close or distant relatives.  Most Chinese adoptees are in the database of 23 and Me, which testing functionality also provides some health history indicators, another useful plus for adoptees.  Click A picture containing microscope, object  Description automatically generatedhttps://www.23andme.com to review their site with details. This type of tool is quite popular and provides most Chinese adoptees with hundreds of “distant relatives” such as third/fourth cousin and beyond. A few cases of sibling matches have happened, but this is not at all normative.  

  Once your sample is submitted the lab digitizes results and runs the DNA sample through the computer algorithms, which wades through the data for four randomly repeating letters – GCA and T – which represent specific codes comprised of a specific chain of DNA.   Following this step, DNA is compared to other DNA samples and cross-referenced for similarities.  If the computer system finds very similar DNA patterns and genetic traits, then these samples are compared to determine if there is any family genetic connection. In most DNA testing services ethnic comparisons and/or estimated percentages are also provided.  Sometimes consumers wonder how ethnicity estimates vary so widely if they test at various companies.  It’s important to understand.  It’s important to understand how dramatically DNA amounts decrease for a match that is not within the nuclear biological family and the imprecise nature of ethnicity estimates.  Below are approximations for relative matches.
   The test does not definitively tell if you are someone’s niece or half-sibling. However, it can offer helpful insight so you potentially factor in other characteristics such as age, etc.. to make a reasonable determination. As is apparent from the above table, the amounts of DNA shared with close family members quickly drops.  What these tools do provide is some linkage and a starting point for understanding just how related someone might be.

DNA Numbers/Overlap

Autosomal & CODIS Testing:  Uses, Limits & Databanks

    When one submits DNA to 23andMe, there is no longer an option (as there used to be) to remain anonymous. However, one can use an alias and thereby retain the conditions of anonymity.  Oftentimes people save the raw data as a download and choose to upload to other autosomal database sites.  There is primarily one (currently at least,) Chinese database A person sitting on a bench  Description automatically generatedthat is compatible with the format of the broad autosomal DNA results. That site is WeGene (www.wegene.com)  Since it is a Chinese site, you will need to work through a translation tool such as Google Chrome, which is quite user friendly and compatible.  One can follow We Gene’s online instructions and upload raw DNA data there and see if any matches are made. With this tool, it does require one to give the login information for 23andme to access the raw data report, so it is recommended to change the password after this step. While this is a not a significantly large database in China, it is the primary autosomal one in use. It is critical to remember that very concept of “privacy” in China is almost unrecognizable to most N. Americans.  It is important to understand the cultural differences on “expectations of privacy” before you choose to do this upload or consider any other Chinese database

  Other Autosomal databases prevalent in N. America include: Promethease; My Heritage; Family Tree DNA and Ancestry DNA.  However, since the above databases are not used in China, it is not a high-yield strategy to input results there. If interested, one can submit RAW autosomal DNA results to GEDmatch.com, which allows the input from these other sites specified above and can save time and money. It’s important to remember that this does not offer a high likelihood of matching to any China based relatives, but could potentially link to more distant relatives if those relatives live in the West. 

CODIS Testing & Databanks– North America and China

A picture containing building  Description automatically generated  There is a subset of Autosomal DNA testing that is useful for Chinese adoptees who are conducting search efforts within China.  This is a CODIS test, which is a specific indexing tool used to only identify immediate family members; establishing a parent /child relationship with precise accuracy. It uses a very small and specific subset of markers called alleles, and because it is so pinpointed it is significantly less reliable to establish sibling relationships and not useful at all beyond that.

  In the US, this type of test almost never used, except for law enforcement purposes, as the general population is most interested in broader interest in genealogical type of results which can link to ethnicity and a broad reach of relatives. However in China, CODIS testing is typically the only type of test used. It is not possible to upload general autosomal DNA results to a CODIS database.

How to get a CODIS test done? The most commonly used CODIS test for Chinese adoptees to date has been via LabCorp:  https://www.labcorp.com.This testing service works with the nonprofit organization called My TapRoot which focuses on Chinese adoptees locating birth family members. You can register at their site and complete that information.  It allows you to order a CODIS test at a reduced rate via LabCorp. Once the results are received the test results can be uploaded to My TapRoot or one can upload results directly to the Baby Come Home database  http://www.baobeishujuki.com   There is no cost to enter CODIS test result information into the database and one can do so from outside of China, so this is practical and useful. My TapRoot also partners with “Baby Come Home”. This Chinese non-profit organization is completely staffed by volunteers and focuses on helping Chinese parents reunite their (mostly abducted) children.  It is a high-profile organization in China which has had significant success in helping Chinese parents locate their lost children.  Although this is a rather complex string of organizations to work with it has a decent degree of likelihood for DNA testing to potentially match with Chinese birth family members.