It’s 2018 and we are learning more than ever from our DNA. In “Discovering DNA Testing – Opening New Doors to Genealogy Trees – Part 1“, I explained how DNA testing helps us understand our medical background, genetic traits, heritage and finding distant relatives.
Here’s a summary of how we can use our DNA to find family and relatives.
DNA test results include a great deal of important information about yourself.
- Genetic ethnicity and heritage. Where did your ancestors come from?
- Health and medical conditions. While the DNA tests for medical purposes can provide some insight into genetic traits and issues that may occur later in life or be handed down to your children.
- Living relatives. Your results are compared to others who are in the database, thus linking you to others that have similar genetic markings in their results.
Finding Living Relatives
Research of living relatives is unavailable as it’s against many genealogy research company policies or extremely difficult because of identity theft concerns and a person’s right to privacy. However, DNA is one way to at least know that a living relative exists.
Since we can’t test the DNA of ancestors that have passed away [insert disappointing sigh], we have to test ourselves, close family members and have hope that distant relatives that we don’t know about have tested.
Often, when we receive our DNA results, we are provided with lists of matches who share our same DNA and ethnicity. Sometimes, relation estimates are provided (2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, 4th cousin, etc.).
At this point, it’s up to us what we want to do in terms of contacting our DNA Matches to determine how exactly we connect and how they are related to us.
Common Reasons to Connect with DNA Matches
Adoption and finding biological family
Children and babies have always been put up for adoption for a variety of reasons. Today, it’s easier than ever for adopted children to learn about their biological families. Before DNA testing, it was a matter of researching archives and files, maybe even petitioning the courts to unseal documents to determine the mother or father.
With DNA testing, an adopted person can research their matches and connect with siblings, cousins, parents and even grandparents.
It can be a sensitive subject for adopted children to contact their biological families but it can be beneficial and rewarding for many reasons when they discover where they came from.
It’s an amazing story when an adoptee’s biological family is excited to learn about their lost relative and welcomes them with open arms.
Check out this blog “Adoption and Finding Relatives Through Social Media” that tells the story of a person who used a DNA test and social media to find her biological family.
Is there a specific medical condition or physical trait that you believe runs in the family or want to know what line of a family it is strongest? Is it a rare genetic condition that you’re looking for support, insight or maybe trace where it began?
It could be awkward to start a conversation with a DNA match about a specific medical condition but just explain the situation and why you’re asking. Even ask for a simple yes or no and no other details are necessary. If they share or know of a family member with a similar medical condition, they may be interested in talking with you as well on how you handle it.
Genealogists talk a lot about brick walls and researching every corner they can find to break it down. DNA is one of these resources that can be used to help. Searching DNA matches for that common surname can get you in touch with someone who might just have enough information to point you in the right direction.
This may be the most common reason for wanting to connect with a DNA match. You see someone with a familiar surname and the relation of a 2nd or 3rd cousin. Who are they and how are you connected? Where have they been hiding?
I’ve contacted numerous DNA matches out of curiosity as well as many contacting me for nothing other than solving a quick connection mystery. I’ve made a few friends and discovered a few Facebook groups dedicated to specific lines in my family tree that I otherwise didn’t know existed.
How to Contact a DNA Match
The DNA testing sites that provide us with our DNA matches typically provides a messaging tool. Start the conversation with a simple email with these details.
- Who you are
- What is the estimated DNA relation (2nd, 3rd, 4th cousin)
- What ancestors do you share
- Surnames you might have in common
- What you’re looking for with contacting them (just to chat, looking for specific information, etc.)
NOTE: Be patient with any reply you may receive as it might take a while to get one or if ever. Everyone has their own reasoning for taking a DNA test. They may not be interested in connecting with matches or just wanted to know their heritage.
Have you used DNA testing to connect with a DNA match? What’s your story? What did you learn? Did you make a new friend or find a long lost cousin? Tell us about it in the comments!