DNA Testing and Your Relatives


Getting your relatives to take DNA tests can boost your knowledge about your genetic connections—and can get family members more interested in their roots. Here are 3 tips for talking your relatives into testing.

DNA testing and your relatives.jpg

Did you SEE those holiday price wars at the DNA testing companies during the holidays? I’m guessing we haven’t seen the end of these, now that it’s becoming so trendy, AND genealogists are seeing the research payoffs of testing, AND now that another major genealogy website is offering testing services. 

As DNA sale prices generally become more attractive, more of you will want to expand your personal genetic database to include aunts and uncles and cousins. But what is the best way to proceed? How exactly do you ask someone for his or her DNA? And if you do, you may just have one shot at this. If so, which test? Which company?

3 tips for DNA testing your relatives 

1.Share your own testimonial

Nothing speaks louder than your own experience. Start with a short summary of your own DNA journey. Keep in mind what might interest them: do they like deep history? Share the ethnicity results. Did they have a special connection to Great Grandpa Joe? Show how your DNA has connected to your 2nd cousin, also a descendant of Joe. Bust out the photo album and remind them that while Joe is gone, there are these threads of DNA that can still speak for him, and we need as many of his descendants as possible to be tested in order to preserve his genetic legacy, and unravel the mystery of his past. 

2. Test the oldest generation first

You likely have a limited amount of funds with which to populate your family genetic database, so use them wisely. Anyone who does not have both parents living should be tested first. Order an autosomal DNA for everyone, and one YDNA test for a male delegate of each surname you want represented. For example, your dad’s brother Bill to represent the Johnson line, your mom’s cousin Robert to capture her maiden name, and so on until you have several surnames of interest represented.

As for the testing company, for the YDNA you need to test at least 37 markers at Family Tree DNA. For the autosomal DNA you now have four choices: Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and MyHeritage. While there are several factors to consider when choosing a database, size is probably the number one. Currently AncestryDNA has the largest database. Go to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy’s wiki for a full list of characteristics of each company.

3. Take care of everything—or not.

Depending on the needs and interest of your relative, you can handle everything from ordering to payment to correspondence so all they have to do is spit or swab. This is the preferred method for many who don’t want to be bothered with the details. If testing at Family Tree DNA, you will just have to keep track of the logins for each relative, and if at AncestryDNA, MyHeritage or 23andMe, you will want to make sure that all kits are registered under your account. At 23andMe and MyHeritage (I believe, I haven’t actually ordered a kit through them yet), that means you order the kit under your account. At Ancestry, the easiest way to do this is to have the family member take a picture of the activation code on the sample collection tube and send it to you so you can register it after you have logged into your Ancestry account. Hint: Register everyone’s DNA test results under the family member who has a subscription to Ancestry! 

If they do want to be involved, all the better! You can have them share their Family Tree DNA or 23andMe login with you, and they can share their Ancestry DNA results with you from their settings.

If you haven’t tested with a particular company yourself, familiarize yourself with the sample collection so you can be helpful when they have questions. (Click to read about sample collection methods for Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage.)

Learn more about YDNA testing and open up mysteries on a paternal family line!

Originally posted December 2016 on genealogygems.com.