At the age of 18 Richard Hill , Author and Creator of DNA Testing Advisor.com discovered he was adopted which led to decades-long searching for his birth parents. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, he was the first documented case of an adoptee using DNA to discover the surname of a biological parent. Since then, Richard has made it his personal mission to share what he learns with other adoptees and genealogists. In this interview Richard insights of his amazing journey and key advice in finding family.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to create your website DNA Testing Advisor?
I was an adoptee who spent decades searching for my biological father. I finally identified him through genetic genealogy DNA testing. This changed my life for the better and was a huge breakthrough that opened the doors for millions of adoptees to get around sealed birth records and identify their birth families. I created DNA Testing Adviser to share what I had learned and continue to learn with adoptees, genealogists, and others.
Your book, Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA details your fascinating quest as an adoptee including the landmark use of DNA testing to discover your biological family denied to you by sealed birth records. What insights do you hope for readers to gain from this?
The book shares many tips for both DNA testing and conventional searching. Additional insights include the importance of perseverance, realistic expectations, and positive attitudes toward everyone involved.
Where would you recommend people who are new to genealogy start out? What do you consider “Step 1” in discovering their biological roots?
Step 1 is to get into all five autosomal DNA databases that report your genetic matches with other users. The least expensive route is to test at AncestryDNA and 23andMe…then download your raw data from one of these tests and upload it for free to Family Finder, MyHeritage DNA, and Living DNA.
How likely is that that someone can find their birth parents through DNA testing?
According to a mid-2019 survey, 64% of adoptees using DNA testing had identified a birth parent.
What other options do people have should DNA testing not be a success?
Seek the services of a search angel, who will help you search for free.
How long did it take you to find your biological family?
Identifying my mother took less than a year. But she was deceased and identifying my father’s family took about 25 years. Then I needed a few more years for better tests to become available that let me positively identify which of five deceased brothers had been my father.
Was there any point that you wanted to give up searching and if so, how did you overcome this?
There were many times when life got in the way and I had to set my search aside for a while. But I would eventually pick up the trail again and keep moving forward. I guess it was just the dogged determination to never quit.
During your journey what changes in technology were the most instrumental?
- Development of the Internet
- The availability of genetic genealogy DNA tests
The discovery of DNA and the development of the Internet have significantly altered family history research over the past few decades. What do you predict will be the next big influence on research?
We are already seeing powerful tools that automate various steps in working with genetic matches, e.g. auto clustering matches into groups with common ancestors and triangulation of matches that share common segments on the same chromosome. Other tools combine DNA with family trees to find probable paths by which two matches are related. Still more tools are figuring out how to build tentative family trees from genetic data.