Talk about DNA at a Family Reunion

Diahan Southard

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Getting relatives to take a DNA test is easier if you can talk to a lot of them at once. Here are tips for talking about DNA with your relatives at your next family reunion or gathering.

DNA testing and your family reunion IO.png Savvy genealogists recognize that a family reunion is an excellent place to harvest memories and share stories. It’s also a great place to find relatives to take DNA tests! These 3 tips can help you start generating excitement for genetic genealogy testing among the young and old alike.

Talk up DNA ethnicity results

First, start off with the most flashy and entertaining part of the DNA test, your ethnicity results. I know, I know, I have told you that most of the time they don’t actually help you do family history, but ethnicity results definitely get people interested.

family migration chart cropped.png When you pull out the results, you might also want to have handy your family’s migration chart. This idea was popularized by J. Paul Hawthorne and is a simple way to describe the birth locations of your ancestors so you can visualize the migration of your family over the course of several generations. If you want to try it, here is a link to a spreadsheet I made based on his.

Then you can pull out your DNA test results and talk about how much of your DNA test results are reflected in your ethnicity chart. You might even have a good chuckle over some of the more outlandish claims (“22% Scandinavian?! Where did that come from?”).

2. Show the match-making power of DNA

The second step is to say something like, “While the ethnicity results were really interesting, the most exciting part was seeing my relatives show up on my match list.” You can then show them an individual on your match list for whom you have figured out your relationship.

You can weave in just a bit of the genealogical research you did to find your common ancestor, and end with the cool fact that you actually have DNA from that ancestor, and so does your match! If you are especially lucky, the person you are talking to will also have some connection to this ancestor, and you can tell them that if they take a DNA test, it can help them document their relationship to this ancestor as well.

3. Create DNA testing excitement at your family reunion

If you find yourself at a family reunion for a particularly elusive set of ancestors (about whom you don’t know much), this is a perfect time to help your family members understand that they might be THE ONE. Meaning: the one who holds the right combination of genetics to help you bust through that brick wall!

I myself have added the Chenoweth Family Reunion this year, though I am only an honorary Chenoweth. They have the ambitious goal of finding direct paternal line descendants of the 21 continuing lines of the 29 grandsons of John Chenoweth and Mary Calvert, and they are over half-way there! As part of their festivities a few years ago, they included a special DNA lecture on the progress of their project.

Having a specific goal like this really helps focus your family on a particular effort, and lets them track the progress of both the DNA and the traditional research. It is also very unifying, especially for a group as large as theirs. They all wear different colored T-shirts to represent the different lines they descend from. But when we look at the DNA, it is clear that, at least in their Y DNA, there is no distinction, they are certainly all part of the same paternal line.

Read more about getting your relatives interested in DNA testing in the following two articles:

    Children and DNA Testing 11.png

Originally published at This version was updated and revised in 2019.

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<a href="" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


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