Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do I Get Started

1. Join the DNAAdoption Google Group. Our group is extremely active with experts in all areas of DNA and searching. Post in the group to get details specifically tailored to your situation that will help you get started.

NOTE: If you don’t initially see emails, check your spam or junk folder.  Google has to learn that emails from DNAAdoption are safe.

2. Go the the Start Here page and follow the process.

3. Have you or are you working with anyone else to help them find your families?  Occasionally we find that some folks are already working with other search angels or paid searchers.  Please let us know up front to prevent duplication of effort and to be fair to everyone searching.

What DNA Test should I take?

See Take a DNA Test under the Get Started menu.

I just got my DNA test results back. What am I supposed to do next?

Go to Learn about DNA and Genealogy (Step 5) in the Search Steps menu for more details.

What is "The Methodology"

The Methodology is the basic process used to conduct a search using DNA. It is encapsulated in Steps 6, 7, and 8 of our Search Process.

The Methodology  was developed, defined, and codified by Gaye Tannenbaum, Diane Harmon-Hoog, and Karin Corbeil and has since been updated and refined by Barbara Rae-Venter and our TeamThe Methodology is the core process used by all searchers.

  1. Create a profile for the person you wish to identify (“unidentified person”) using information from your Official Info (Step 3) and Info from Those That Know (Step 4).  Be sure to include  possible birth year, place of birth, place of residence, occupation, number of siblings, eye color, hair color, etc. This may not be possible for everyone.
  2. Cluster your matches.  In your list of matches, “tag” members of the clusters. (Step 6)
  3. Review the members of each cluster for surnames in common.  (Step 6)
  4. Identify your closest match.  (Step 6) Build a speculative tree “back” to at least a generation past where you expect the MRCA.  For example, if you have an estimated second cousin match, the expected MRCA is the great grandparents of the match. (Step 7)
  5. Add shared / ICW matches and cluster members to the tree as you find connections. Tag the matches so that you can find them easily.  (Step 7)
  6. Identify the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) shared by the closest match and his/her shared / ICW matches and cluster members. (Step 7)
  7. Build the tree “forward” from the MRCA to the time period when you believe the unidentified person was born (Step 7)
  8. Repeat for more matches and on other clusters (Step 7)
  9. Determine where the descendants of the different MRCAs connect (Step 8)
  10. Identify one or more candidates for the unidentified person using the information in the profile.  Request confirmation testing as needed. (Step 8)


The Methodology was invented, codified, and copyrighted by Gaye Tannebaum, Diane Harmon-Hoog, and Karin Corbeil, three of the four founders of DNAAdoption, in the 2011-2012 time frame and officially published for the first time in 2013. No other person was directly involved in the development of The Methodology. Gaye, Diane, and Karin discussed the The Methodology in the now defunct adoptionDNA email forum (precursor to DNAAdoption) where The Methodology was initially used, proven effective, and “adopted” by the adoption search community. 

Who Invented and First Used The Methodology

There are two core foundational blocks to The Methodology.  The first is Triangulation, the process that uses trees and/or segments to connect DNA matches to common ancestors. Of note, Segment Triangulation is predicated upon Pedigree /Tree Triangulation. Thus both Triangulation processes are included in The Methodology. Triangulation applies to X, Y, and MT DNA as well. The second foundational block, Connect the Trees or Reverse Triangulation, is the process of using multiple Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA)s identified by Triangulation to find a person hidden by a brick wall or lost in genealogical time.

Over the years, specialized techniques and tools that have augmented The Methodology process have been developed by others. Some of those pioneers are other members of the DNAAdoption Team. These techniques include but are not limited to refining relationship estimates, using ethnicity to segregate (cluster) matches, clustering, and automating tree building and tree searching. These techniques only utilize and augment but do not replace the foundational blocks and process of The Methodology.

Even as tools and techniques evolved and the number of DNA testers reached a level that is enabling the automation of many steps in The Methodology, it is and still remains the core process used by ALL search angels, paid searchers, family historians, adoptees, donor conceived people, those with NPEs, and any one using DNA to work on a brickwall. The Methodology is the foundation upon which the new application of Investigative/Forensic Genetic Genealogy was pioneered and invented exclusively by DNAAdoption’s Barbara Rae-Ventor in 2018. Barbara was trained by Diane and Karin and used the The Methodology as the basis for her groundbreaking work on the Lisa Project and Golden State Killer case.

Barbara Rae-Venter Invents Investigative Genetic Genealogy