When we adopted Colin, his birth mother, who is Caucasian, did not identify his birth father. The only information she gave on her intake form was that the father was African-American, and we did not ask any additional questions about it the first time we met her.
After we were home a few days, we started to wonder if Colin’s birth father had really been African-American. Colin’s skin is light, but his hair is thick and black. It gets curly when it’s wet. Many of our African-American friends or people we know who have African/Caucasian mixed children told us they thought he was African/Caucasian, and that his skin would get darker as he got older. We were told to look at the tops of his ears, the beds of his fingernails, and his genitals for darker skin. We still didn’t know.
We have had some limited contact with Colin’s birth mom, Amy, but we have had fairly regular contact with her sister, Amber. We set up a generic e-mail address (without our last name). It started mostly with photos (we e-mailed her some photos of Colin, and she e-mailed us some photos of his half-brother and half-sister, his cousins, baby pictures of his birth mom, etc), but it gradually developed into a “relationship.” Eventually we purchased a pre-paid cell phone and talked to her a couple of times. We are still cautious in that we limit the frequency and content of the contact somewhat, but right now we feel comfortable with the decision to keep in touch. (I’ll have to write a separate post about that sometime.)
Anyway, after we had been communicating with Amber a while, I finally felt that we had reached a point where it would be appropriate to ask more questions, and we asked about the birth father. Amber told us that Amy thought the birth father was an African-American man, but that there was also a possibility that the birth father was a Hispanic man.
By then we were really curious. There were days when we were convinced that Colin was half African-American, but then there were days when we were sure that his birth father had been Hispanic. As time passed, his skin seemed to get lighter, not darker as many people told us it would if he had half African ancestry.
We also started to wonder what we would tell Colin one day. What if we raised him telling him he was half African-American and then found out that he was not? I think most people who were adopted have some identity issues, and it just seemed like those would be compounded for Colin if he didn’t even know what RACE he is.
I started researching DNA testing online, and found that there are tests that can determine genetic ancestry. There are several companies that do this type of testing, but we chose DNA Tribes and purchased a kit online. When it arrived, I swabbed the inside of Colin’s cheek and soaked up his saliva on a giant, flat Q-tip like thing, and transferred it to a test strip. Then we mailed it back to the company. About three weeks later, they e-mailed us the results. And…..
Colin is Hispanic and Caucasian.
Statistically, Colin’s DNA is most similar to the DNA of the people in these population samples, in order of highest to lowest:
- Central Mexico
- Mato Grosso du Sul, Brazil
- London, England
- Chihuahua, Mexico
- Hispanic (Arizona, USA)
- Puerto Rican (Springfield, Massachusetts, USA)
- Glascow, Scotland
- Republic of Ireland
- Dundee, Scotland
- Caucasian (USA)
- United Kingdon
(The categories listed here are from DNA Tribes, not from us. For example, I have no idea what the difference between “17. Belgium” and “18. Belgium”.)
Colin’s birth mother is Caucasian, and indicated that she was of Western European heritage (she specifically listed Scandinavian heritage, though that was only on her mom’s side as she does not know her biological father). So, assuming the Denmark, England, Ireland, Finland, Norway, etc genes are from his birth mother, the Mexico, Brazil, Hispanic, and Puerto Rico genes would be from his birth father.
Of course, we never really cared what race he is, but we were curious. I also just think that this will give him some connection to his birth father since he will not have any other information about him.
We think we will have this same test done for Zoe. It would be wonderful to learn which of the 50 or so ethnic groups in Vietnam she belongs to, but I don’t think the test is sophisticated enough for that yet. They would have to collect samples from each of those minority groups to be able to compare DNA. However, the test should be able to tell us if Zoe has any Chinese or European ancestry in addition to her Vietnamese heritage. Many Vietnamese people tell us that she is not “all” Vietnamese because her eyes are too big. It is conceivable that she could have had an American grandparent (a soldier stationed there during the war). It’s also possible that she has Chinese ancestry, since her province is near the Chinese border. Additionally, she could also have French ancestry as Vietnam was under French colonial rule from the 1850s to the 1950s. In any case, since we do not know anything about Zoe’s birth family, we feel like this is at least some little piece of information we can offer to her about her heritage.
Christian and I also plan to do the test eventually, just because we think it’s interesting. Noah gets to skip the cheek swabbing though, since we can just figure out his results from ours.