Gerri Berger, Genetic Genealogist
The Genetic Genealogy Coach
Welcome! If you are here it is likely because you are an adoptee in search of your birth parent(s) or are interested in solving a mystery of unknown parentage somewhere in your family tree.
I am a Genetic Genealogist and reunited (New York) adoptee who helps other adult adoptees identify and locate their birth parents, using their DNA test results, via AncestryDNA, 23andMe, etc. I also solve other cases of unknown parentage in addition to accepting traditional genealogical projects and speaking engagements.
Since 2014, I have reunited hundreds of adoptees with their birth parents and have solved many other cases of unknown parentage. I identified my own biological father, via DNA testing, and have been an active member of the adoption community as a "Search Angel," since 1991, through ALMA, an organization very close to my heart that reunited my birth mother and me, in 2007.
What separates me from other professional Genetic Genealogists is the fact that I am an adoptee, in addition to my long-term, personal involvement and experience in the adoption search and support community as a community member, search angel, experienced intermediary (between adoptees and their birth/first parents) and adoptee rights activist. I know, first-hand, what it feels like not to know the truth of your origins, ancestry and health history. "The need to know" was a life-long preoccupation and my search for my birth mother lasted 24 years. We were reunited in 2007, via ALMA's adoption reunion registry; I'd never have found her (before DNA) otherwise, as mine was a private adoption and my birth mother used an alias.
I've successfully reunited many other ALMA members with their birth parents (who birth parents were not registered), via DNA testing and Genetic Genealogy. I'm also an Adoptee Rights Activist and contributing author (Chapter 4) to Adoption Reform Movement pioneer, Sandy Musser's latest book, "My Last Love Letter to President Obama," that she dedicated to me.
For adoptees, and others with unknown parentage, the journey of DNA testing and awaiting results is filled with a spectrum of emotions ranging from joyful anticipation to fear of rejection. In 99% of the cases I handle, I act as intermediary between my clients and members of their families of origin to ensure the best possible first contact between them. In addition, DNA testing, analyzing test results, and knowing what conclusions to draw from them is new to first-time testers and the learning curve is steep, which can be confusing and/or overwhelming, to say the least. Like most of my clients, maybe you've gotten as far as you can get on your own and/or maybe you don't have the time or inclination to want to go it alone... and you don't have to. Order an AncestryDNA kit, submit your DNA sample and contact me when your results are in.
I have been successfully reuniting adoptees (and others with unknown parentage) with their birth/first parents and families of origin, via their DNA test results, in capacity of Genetic Genealogist, Coach/Consultant, support system, intermediary and friend. It's personal. My clients confide in me, sharing all known details of their birth (and adoption or donor conception) information, as well as their feelings. Then... I get to work in search of the truth of their origins.
Working with an experienced intermediary is key. Those without real expertise may inadvertently sabotage any chance of reunion between an adoptee and their birth parent(s), as those calls can be emotional mine fields and knowing how to navigate them ...vs. winging it or emulating a TV script (no, those first calls really don't happen that way - or they'd receive a lot of permanent hang-ups) are the difference between successful and unsuccessful first contact. My mentors were birth moms who surrendered children for adoption in the 1960s and 1970s, some of whom are pioneers of the Adoption Reform Movement and are still my dear friends. An experienced intermediary is usually the best option and also gives birth parents the emotional space to process their feelings and the fact that their (adult) child has been searching for them and is interested in contact.
In the ten years after my reunion with my birth mother, my search for my natural father proved fruitless. I began DNA testing in 2013, but all my DNA matches/relatives were too distant (4th - 8th cousins) for me to identify him. I contacted three well known experts (there are very few true experts in this field), shared the details of my search and DNA results and was told, "It's impossible...you're just going to have to wait for a closer match." That's when (and why) I decided to master Genetic Genealogy... in pursuit of the other half of the truth of my origins. Even so, and much to my dismay, they were right; without a closer match it was not (YET) possible. The only difference was that I fully understood the details and all the nuances of "why."
My search for my natural father (via my DNA test results) became the school within which I learned to help others with unknown parentage much the same way my 24 year search for my birth mother became the school within which I was able to help other adoptees via more traditional (now dated and less successful) methods. I also have a Masters Degree in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and earned a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University. I have successfully solved hundreds of DNA adoption search cases, via Genetic Genealogy.
At last, in August 2017, it happened for me -- a closer match (aka DNA relative) appeared among my AncestryDNA matches and now I know the full truth of my origins. The irony is that I had successfully reunited many other adoptees with their families of origin, before I was able to do so for myself. Why? There are contingencies in this type of search (such as how close your matches are, whether or not they have posted trees, how communicative they are, etc.) that we have no control over....and that no one (whether a newbie or expert) is exempt from. It's like taking home a puzzle that you know is missing pieces from the beginning and attempting to solve it. The length of time each search takes and the outcomes are as varied as the people they involve. That said, never give up!
It is my passion, joy and privilege to be woven into the fabric of peoples' lives, in this way....helping other adoptees give themselves the gift of the truth of their origins and contacting their family members to let them know they have a genetic relative who has been searching for them and (in some cases) one they may never have known about. See Testimonials.
For adoptees whose identity, ancestry and health history has been withheld from them (by the state governments where they were born) or other person with unknown parentage - no matter what the circumstances and being denied information by other entities, having this knowledge (of oneself; their birthright) is profoundly empowering, healing and liberating, in a way that nothing else can be. The "need to know" is normal and part of the human condition; this basic human need exists independent of one's life-long family relationships...no matter how wonderful and loving.
Are you ready to unlock the truth of your origins?