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How To Find Family Members With DNA Testing
Updated on November 9, 2023
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DNA Testing
How To Find Family Members With DNA Testing

A DNA test can help you find missing family members and other potential relatives. The company you take the DNA test from can locate people on their database who share some of your genes.

DNA testing companies can also give you the means to connect with them. They allow you to track down people you may be related to on some level–as long as they consent to having their data out there for potential relatives to find them.

Some people who take DNA tests may not want to be found for security reasons, or they're just disinterested in furthering their family tree or family history. Whatever the reason, finding relatives via DNA testing won't always show you all your potential relatives. Still, there may be some people out there who don't mind connecting with relatives.


You can find family members via DNA testing by accessing the database of the testing company you bought the test from. If your potential relatives allow their data to be discovered, you can connect with them (some users may not want to be found).

How To Find Family Members With DNA Testing 4

How Does A DNA Test Find Relatives?

It depends on the kind of DNA test you’re taking. In general, out of the several kinds of DNA testing, you want to take an ancestry test as their DNA test results will give you the answers you're seeking. There are three types: autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, and mtDNA tests.

Autosomal DNA Testing

Most human chromosomes are autosomes. Autosomes hold genetic information you inherit from both parents and share with everyone you’re related to.

An autosomal DNA test can help you find people directly or indirectly related to you. This includes possible relatives from maternal and paternal lines.

Y-DNA Testing

A son inherits Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) through his biological father. A Y-DNA test can trace your patrilineal ancestry if you're biologically male.

This DNA test can also help you find male relatives from your father’s side of the family. This includes your brother, father, paternal uncle, and paternal grandfather.

mtDNA Testing

A child inherits mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) through their biological mother. An mtDNA test can trace your matrilineal ancestry, whether you’re male or female.

You can only use mtDNA tests to find female relatives from your mother’s side of the family—like a sister, mother, maternal aunt, and maternal grandmother. You can only find female relatives because only biological women pass down their mitochondria and, therefore, the mitochondrial DNA.


Finding potential relatives may differ depending on the DNA test. There are three types of DNA tests:

  1. Autosomal DNA testing - This DNA test looks for autosomes, which have genetic information that you get from both parents, which means that everyone you're related to will have overlap with that genetic information
  2. Y-DNA testing - This DNA test can only be done by biological males as they trace male ancestors through their father's line
  3. mtDNA testing - Biological men or women can take this DNA test that traces female ancestors through your mother's line

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Best DNA Kit

Don't miss out on the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Read our best DNA test page to find the best one for you.

The Best DNA Test to Find Lost Relatives

1. 23andMe - Our Top Pick

How To Find Family Members With DNA Testing 5

23andMe DNA Test Pros

  • Comprehensive ancestry test: Track your DNA ancestry from over 1,500 different regions.
  • DNA matches: Helps you find lost and distant family members.
  • Understand your genetic traits: 23andMe tests your DNA swab for genetic markers associated with various traits, including freckles, hair, taste, and more.
  • No hidden fees: Once you pay for the test, you get full access to their services.

23andMe DNA Test Cons

  • No cross-platform support: You can't upload raw genetic data from competitors.

23andMe does all three tests: mtDNA, Y-DNA, and autosomal. Combined with a massive DNA database, it's one of the most accurate tests for ancestry. 

“23andMe DNA test compares your DNA data with profiles from possible distant relatives based on their genetic identification,” says Dr. Mira.

Here’s our 23andMe review if you want to learn more.

2. AncestryDNA

How To Find Family Members With DNA Testing 6

Ancestry DNA Test Pros

  • Easy to take: Requires a small saliva swab for a DNA sample.
  • Precise ethnicity estimates: Get a detailed geographic breakdown of your ethnicity.
  • Migration patterns: Discover the migratory routes your ancestors may have taken.
  • Find lost relatives: Matches your DNA with distant relatives you may not know.
  • Raw DNA data: Downloadable results that you can use on other DNA testing companies.

Ancestry DNA Test Cons

  • Limited access: To build a family tree, you must pay monthly fees to access public records and other users' family trees.
  • Doesn't estimate your racial group: AncestryDNA only performs genetic matches based on geography, not racial profile (e.g., Asian, American, and European).

Additional services can get expensive. But its massive database makes them one of the most trusted DNA tests. You can learn more about AncestryDNA here

4 Benefits of Finding DNA Relatives

Genetic ancestry testing and the DNA test results they provide can give you information about your family history and current living relatives. Here are some ways finding them via a DNA test can help you:1

1. Fill the Gaps in Your Family Tree

Family trees stretch far and wide. You can have relatives from different places around the world and not even know it.

Even if you know your parents and grandparents, there are other relatives you likely haven’t met. In some cases, family members may not even know about them.

An ancestry test can determine your closest potential DNA matches and help you connect with them. Having this knowledge can give you the confidence to reach out and even further flesh out your family history.

DNA testing can also help you reconnect with family members who may not have known they had other connections or relatives, which can sometimes be a positive experience.

2. Find Relatives You’ve Never Met

DNA testing kits can match you with potential parents and full siblings. However, usually, more tests (whether DNA tests or otherwise) are needed to confirm your biological relationship.

DNA testing for distant relatives can be challenging, but finding a genetic link is still possible. Finding long-lost relatives is one of the best benefits of DNA testing.


The first two benefits of finding DNA relatives are:

  • Fill the gaps in your family tree - If you've always been curious about how wide your family tree really expands, finding relatives via DNA testing is a good way to delve deeper into your own family history
  • Find relatives you've never met - Meeting family you've never met can also be a rewarding or fulfilling experience as you can find parents or siblings you may have always wanted to connect with

3. Learn About Your Biological Family

The current trend with adoptions includes an open system. This means that an adopted child may access information about his biological parents. 

In the past, many adoptions were closed and discreet. Interactions between birth mothers or parents and their adoptive families were not allowed.

If you were placed in a closed adoption, a DNA test could help you track biological relatives, including your mother and father.

Further tests are needed to confirm maternity or paternity.

You can talk to a genetic counselor first before you start your search. They can better explain how DNA tests help you find relatives.

4. Understand Your Health Risks

Learning about your biological family can be emotionally rewarding. But it has practical benefits as well.

It can uncover your family’s health history and help you predict health risks. This allows you to adjust your diet and lifestyle before it’s too late.

Knowing your family’s medical history can also help you find out which genetic risks you might pass on to your children. You can use this information to consult a genetic counselor before having children.


The next two benefits of finding DNA relatives are:

  • Learn about your biological family - In the past, birth parents could not communicate with the biological children they put up for adoption. Finding relatives via DNA tests can make those who feel estranged from their biological family can be rewarding.
  • Understand your health risks - DNA tests can also reveal conditions, diseases, or even risks you may be predisposed to. If you find a relative who can tell you more about their own medical history, you can prepare accordingly.

Accuracy of DNA Testing for Ancestry

DNA tests aren’t created equally. Some are more reliable than others. You must do extensive research before choosing a brand.

If you want the most accurate ancestry tests, you should consider:

  • The type of DNA test (e.g., autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA)
  • The size of the testing company’s DNA database
  • The degree of the relationship being tested

23andMe and AncestryDNA are two of the most accurate DNA tests for finding relatives. Both direct-to-consumer (DTC) testing kits perform autosomal DNA testing. They also have a large database of users.

According to 23andMe, the reliability of their DNA results depends on the relations. Their tests are 100% accurate in detecting close family relations, like parents, siblings, or first cousins. But they are less accurate for distant relatives like second cousins.2

It can help you find third cousins with up to 90% accuracy. But a fifth cousin has a 15% chance of being detected.2

The same goes with Ancestry DNA. Your chances of finding closer relations are much higher than finding distant relatives.


DNA tests aren't all the same, so accuracy isn't the same across the board. It also depends on the types of DNA tests, the size of the DNA testing company's database, and the degree of the relationship being tested.

DNA tests like 23andMe and AncestryDNA have pretty large databases, which can make finding relatives a little easier.

How to Use DNA Tests to Find Relatives

If you’re ready to find relatives with a DNA test, here are four tips to get started:

  1. Work with DNA services that have large databases - They can compare your results with more people and more genetic data. This increases your odds of finding genetic matches.
  2. Upload your raw DNA data for DNA matching - It’s one of the things you can do with your DNA so you can find genetic relatives on other platforms. It also lets people with similar DNA find you.
  3. Connect with DNA matches - Most services let you get in touch with people you may be closely related to. You can connect with them online and find other ways to communicate if they agree.
  4. Respect the privacy of your DNA match lists - Not everyone wants to be found. A genetic match may also not know of your birth or adoption. If they opt out of the program or stop communicating midway, you must respect that.

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Updated on November 9, 2023
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2 sources cited
Updated on November 9, 2023
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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