Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

Right here, on Family Tree DNA’s main page, it says as much.

mythbusting ftdna

Here is the product description for their Family Finder autosomal test:

“Family Finder uses autosomal DNA (inherited from both the mother and father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.) to provide you a breakdown of your ethnic percentages and connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations.”

Now the genetic genealogists among us will know right away where this myth that women can’t find their father using DNA came from.  Indeed, it’s a true statement when you’re talking about Y-line DNA.  Women don’t have a Y chromosome because it is passed only from father to son.  The mitochondrial DNA that she does carry is from her mother’s maternal side, so before autosomal testing, there was no ready tool for women to identify or find missing fathers.  For a long time, before autosomal testing, it was said as a general statement that women could not test for their father’s DNA.  That statement was true in that context at that time.  Not anymore.

The Times, They are A’Changin’

Today, however, there are 4 different DNA tests/tools for DNA testing, all with different purposes and that can be used in different ways, often in tandem.

Where the Y-line test tests just the Y chromosome, the paternal line, and the mitochondrial DNA tests only the direct maternal line, autosomal testing tests your DNA contributed from all of your ancestors, males and females alike.

You can see in the chart below that the son and daughter carry some of every color of the DNA of their great-grandparents.  The daughter carries the blue of her great-grandfather’s autosomal and the yellow of his wife’s autosomal, but not the short blue Y chromosome of her father.  Only the son has that.

mythbusting autosomal chart

Therefore, you can indeed utilize the information to find missing fathers, for women and men alike, in exactly the same way.  The only difference is that men can take the additional Y-line test that women can’t take.

By way of example, let’s look at some of my results at Family Tree DNA.

I have a total of 333 autosomal (Family Finder) matches.  My mother has a total of 180 matches and we have a total of 66 common matches.  That means that I also have 267 matches from my father’s side.

So let’s say I’m adopted and I’m not really sure which side is which.

I would then begin to construct family trees based on my matches suggested relationship and their common ancestors.

mythbusting vannoy matches

On the chart above, my Vannoy cousins are shown, all with matches to me, and all from my father’s side of the tree.  Family Tree DNA’s estimates are very accurate, within one generation, and all are within the range they provide.  Their ranges and estimates are more accurate the closer in time they are to you.

If these people are my second cousins, we share common great-grandparents.  Third cousins, common great-great grandparents.  You’ve just gone from “unknown” to within 3 or 4 generations in one fell swoop.  Wow!

If you find a group of people with the same surname or the same ancestral surname, like I did on my Vannoy line, then you can, based on their estimated relationship to you, begin building a combined pedigree chart.  All three of these men have uploaded their GEDCOM file, so you can easily see their common ancestor.  Their common ancestor is also your common ancestor.  You can then narrow the list of possible links from them to you.  Once you identify their common ancestor, then continue to work down the tree to current to find someone in the right location at the right time.

On the chart below, which is my DNA pedigree chart, you can see how close the common ancestor of these matches really is to me.  We’re only 3 generations from my father.  This common couple, Joel Vannoy (1813-1895) and Phoebe Crumley (1818-1900) had 7 children, both male and female.  My father descended from one of those 7.  Now I’m only two generations from my father.  Going from “father unknown” to only two generations away is extremely powerful.  This is exactly why these tools hold so much promise for adoptees and others who are searching for their parentage.

mythbusting common ancestor

In the meantime, you may get lucky and click to open your personal page one day to find a very close, sibling, aunt/uncle or first cousin match.  Yes indeed, that can do a world of good to narrow the possible choices of parents.  That’s also why I always suggest to people seeking unknown parents that they swim in all of the autosomal pools, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.  You just never know where that answer or critically important hint is going to come from.

I hope you are now a believer and any confusion has been removed.  Women cannot take a Y chromosome test to find their father, but that has nothing to do with autosomal DNA tests.  Women can, and indeed do find their missing fathers using autosomal DNA.

128 thoughts on “Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA

  1. What I understand you need your fathers autosomal as well as your mothers? Well I don´t have them so it will be hard to find the link or?

      • Hi Roberta,
        Maybe Helena means you need a sample from your father as well as your mother to be tested.
        As we know, not even that is really necessary. If you and your mother have been tested, any match of yours who does not match your mother, will, with rare exceptions, be from your father’s family.
        If Helena has neither her father nor her mother to test, but she has cousins available, testing her parents’ first and second cousins is a good way to learn about which side of the family much of her DNA comes from.
        Best of luck, Helena!

      • Hi Bonnie,

        Perhaps that is what she means. Maybe she will elaborate a bit so we can help her. We do this with adoptees all the time, who have NO idea who either parent is, let alone the DNA from any relative, so it’s far from hopeless, as I know you know:)


      • Helena, you have 50% of your mother’s DNA and 50% of your father’s DNA. Using that, you can find matches with other people. The theory is straight forward, but it is definitely very time consuming and you have to wait on the luck of the draw for the right matches to line up sometimes. But I’ve seen it done many times.

      • When you have information about one side and are looking for the other, it pays to differentiate maternal vs paternal matches as early as possible. If you are looking for both sides and there’s no clear way to differentiate, don’t worry about which side it might be. Just start plugging away looking for common ancestors among your matches. Build your jigsaw puzzle by putting two or three pieces together here and two or three pieces together there – as you find them. You end up building puzzle sections as you find additional matches who link to those ancestors. When you can connect those sections together to get to a great-grandparent or grandparent – you know you’re very close to solving the puzzle.

  2. Excellent explanation Roberta! I am still muddling my way through understanding how to go about using suggested matches when you see NO common surname for those suggested as 3rd cousins. Believe me I’ll be printing your post and walking through step by step on my test results to hopefully get a better understanding. I have tested on 23andMe, and FTDNA and now a company in England has sent me a free DNA test so I can try it and then review them on my blog. Looking forward to comparing all three!

  3. Roberta,
    Just yesterday I had contacted a DNA private match at ANCESTRY and she told me we couldn’t be related on X line because that wasn’t through one of the men!!!!!

    Thanks for all you do.

  4. I have an Adoptee on FTDNA with a match as a 3rd cousin in Family Finder, HVR2 so i am assuming we have a common Great Great Grandparent on the maternal side of my tree, would that be correct.

    • Not just on your maternal side of the tree, but on your direct maternal line – specifically, your Mother’s great-grandmother.

      Now, having said there, there is also slight possibility you could match her on the mtdna at the full sequence level and still be autosomally related to her on a different line. I’d upgrade to full sequence.

    • HVR2 would be anywhere on the strict maternal line – from your mother to a few thousand years back. If your mtDNA haplogroup is pretty rare, there might be possibility but if both of you have a pretty common mtDNA haplogroup I wouldn’t spend too much time looking for a connection in that direction. You’d be better off looking at which matches you have in common and which segments you both share with those matches.

  5. Thanks Roberta, but i started with a full sequence to 67 markers as i was informed this was a complete test, now there seems to be a magic 111 markers to upgrade to is that what i should do.
    Or is it that my 3rd cousin needs to upgrade

    • You’re talking Yline DNA with this question, not autosomal, just so you know. At one time there were only 67 markers available. But genetic genealogists badgered Family Tree DNA to death to introduce more so we could get better resolution, and they did. Whether you need or want that is a different question entirely based on your goals and the matches you do or don’t have today.

  6. Thankyou, but i have another issue with family finder, my Adoptee as i stated earlier is HVR2, however our mtDNA haplogroups are different, hers is H, mine is K1c1b even more confusing is that i have a mutation unknown in any published K project, see below –

    You have two additional coding-region mutations that are unique to K1c1b. Both are found in several other haplogroups. Your 13651G is found independently in another K subclade, but its appearance in the neighboring K1c1d subclade may be an indication of some very distant connection between the two subclades. 15289C does not appear in any published K sequences or in Project sequences.

    Wouldn’t these mutations show in both of our DNA samples, or is it that haplogroups vary in different lines of the family, i am confused.

    • If your haplgroups are different, you’re not related mitochondrially in thousands of years. You have to match on all of the levels, HVR1 plus HVR2 plus coding region to be considered an exact match.

    • Oh I get it now.

      When you said that you both have HVR2, you meant that you both took the mtDNA test at that level. Since you have different mtDNA haplogroups, there is no match with mtDNA. So mtDNA doesn’t even enter into the picture.

  7. On 23andme, I have a new Male 3/4 Cousin at 1.16%, 87 cMs on 3 segments..He is U5a1a1 and
    I’m Female U5a1b. What does this mean? Perhaps if I write him about this in my 2nd request, he’ll answer…

    U5a1b seems unusual? Only a few of 1300 matches at 23andme have it.

    This is the most clear explanation and the visual is in my language–colors! Thank you!!!
    May I forward this?

    • You can absolutely forward this and post the link wherever you want. The purpose of these is to help and educate people.

      If you’re not the exact same haplogroup, you’re not related in thousands of years mitochondrially.

  8. hi i was just wondering… which test to take to find out my fathers great grandfather ( William henderson ) on my fathers, mothers line. as my fathers grandfather. was illegitamate, ive been uable to trace the Henderson line. I only have a name for him, that is all. Just hoping there is a way to trace this line…and the best test to take to find matches. (my dads is deceased but i do have brothers)

    • Roachelle,

      This is a complex question and the answer, and who you test, depends on what you’re wanting to find. You have two basic options. Find someone from his line with the surname and test for Y, or do the autosomal. Roberta

  9. I am still curious as to why my adoptee shows up as a 3rd cousin in Family Finder if their is no possibility of a relationship due to different haplogroups, yet we share several common blocks in both HVR1 and HVR2, is it possible that we share common DNA through the male line of someone on my maternal side and if so how is it possible she comes up as a 3rd cousin, unless that male line is very recent, her father would have to be related closely to my mother.

    • You’re connecting dots where none exist. The mitochondrial DNA is disconnected from the autosomal DNA. The mtdna is telling you that because you don’t match, your common maternal ancestor on that specific line with that person is very far back – thousands of years ago. This tells you that your autosomal match is NOT that maternal line. This only applies to that direct line, that person’s mother, her mother, her mother, her mother. You could be autosomally descended from any OTHER line including any of the men who married those women I n those generations.

      • Exactly. It’s like wondering why someone you knew from grade school isn’t in your college yearbook.

      • Thank you Roberta for explaining this again.

        Let me try –

        Everybody has 16 great great-grandparents.  Y-DNA only shows ONE of these and mtDNA only shows ONE of these.  Autosomal DNA shows ALL 16 great great grandparents.

        If your match on Family Finder or 23andMe does not share a Y-DNA or a mtDNA haplogroup with you – it’s because there is no direct paternal line from your Y-DNA or no direct maternal line from you mtDNA.

        Y-DNA is NOT “your father’s side” and mtDNA is NOT “your mother’s side”.  It is your father’s father’s father’s father’s …father’s line -or- your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s … mother’s line.  All other paths (eg mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s father’s …..) are NOT represented in Y-DNA or mtDNA.

  10. Hi Roberta!

    I’m trying to find out who my father is. I’m female and no one else can/will test with me. I’ve tested with FTDNA. The results came back with the message that they believe I’m part Ashkenazi Jewish (a family friend told me once that my father was Jewish so it wasn’t a big surprise). FTDNA said they made adjustments to the FF relationships to account for intermarriage in this group. FF found 10 3rd cousins and over 900 4th and 5th cousins. It looks like over 700 of their last names are Jewish. I’m familiar with my mother’s side-mostly British and German. Population Finder says I’m about 20% Middle Eastern and 80% European with a greater than 15% margin of error. European populations included Orcadian and other Western and Eastern countries (France/Spain/Romainia etc.).

    I’m overwhelmed with all the names on my list and not sure where to start. It seems pointless to contact the 3rd cousins if they share only 1/16 of the g-g grandparents- correct? I’m also confused why the vast majority of the cousin names (and their family surnames) are Jewish if my mother wasn’t Jewish. Does the database contain more Jewish people than would be expected based on their numbers in the general population? Any tips you could give me to figure all this out and to find my father would be GREATLY appreciated!!!

    Thank you! Jane

  11. Hi Roberta,

    I have an adoptee who came up as a 2nd cousin for both myself and my brother through FF. We have ruled out the maternal lines, but our paternal lines are proving extremely difficult. It seems some of my Acadians have been marrying their 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins for several hundred years which I believe is compromising the results. I have another 2C match that is 3C1R on paper and a 3C that is HALF 4C on paper. While it is possible that there is a closer relationship than what I have on paper, I don’t think there is. Both of these come up as a 3C to my adoptee through FF.

    Is it possible that there is just too much DNA in the mix to give me accurate relationships on my paternal side? Do you know if this is a common occurrence with Acadians?

      • Roberta – If possible can you email me your email address. I’m new to this & have some questions. Looking for my father & got a family match on DNA with someone in the 1st- 3rd cousin range. 329 cm 56 blocks – Never heard of this woman’s last name (so I don’t think it’s my mother’s side). It’s saying it should be a 2nd cousin match but what exactly does that mean? Who would my father be to her?

      • Joseph – At 329 cM shared, that’s solidly in the 1st cousin once removed to 2nd cousin range. This person would likely be a 1st cousin or 1st cousin once removed to your father. Where the likely fit is would depend on what generation this match is from. If she is from your father’s generation, they are most likely 1st cousins. There is a very good chance that she knows your father.

        One caveat: You mentioned that you didn’t recognize the match’s last name. I hope you are basing it on more than just her last name and that you are looking at her ancestral surnames too. For a first or second cousin on your mother’s side, her last name might be enough as you would undoubtedly know her (or her parents).

  12. Roberta, I am adopted and have found who I believe to be my Birthparents, I know for sure my Mother. Father says its not him…here comes the VERY uncommon part. If the man I believe to be my Bio Father indeed is, then I also married one of my second cousins. I just recently came across the info about the DNA and how it might be able to aid me in this situation. I would rather just like to know one way or the other. I was thinking of using 23andme testing site since it says reports health info as well. Do you think that would be my best way to go? Of course I would be sending my husbands in also, so to see if we match or not. Any advice is appreciated.

      • Yes, that would solve it. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my wording, I will try better…The man believed to be my Bio Dad ((Joe) for sake of a name)) well Joe says he is no way my Bio Dad so absolutely NO chance of testing. My Husband (Moe) however, we believe to be Joe’s 1’st cousin once removed AND my 2nd cousin (if I got the graph right). Since Moe’s Father is 1st cousin to Joe. Hope that clears it up better. I really welcome any help. TY

  13. Hello Roberta,
    I don’t know anything about DNA really. I had my DNA done through Ancestry. I recently had a 3rd cousin match and she is a female. When I first saw the results that I was 12% Irish I knew there was something wrong because as far as I know I don’t have any Irish ancestors and most of my family is well documented. This cousin comes from a family with all the paternal side living in the same Minnesota town that my Mother was born in (The 3rd cousins maternal grandfather and his 3 brothers and their children). The last name matched a female relative related through marriage only to my maternal grandmothers brother so at first I recognized the last name. Now I question my mothers paternity. My maternal grandmother was an alcoholic and had at least one other child fathered outside her marriage in the 1940’s and I wonder if it is possible that who my mother thought was her father could be wrong. I haven’t found any name matches to her fathers side of her family or links to anyone in that line but I have found 2 or 3 more 4-6 cousins in the same line as the 3rd cousin and they are all Irish. I’ve been reading here and I’m afraid that I may be wrong about this but can’t figure out any other explanation for the 3rd cousin match. I do not see any other possibilities in the 3rd cousins line. Would it do any good for my Mother to have her DNA tested too and linked on Ancestry or can we see everyone she is related to through my DNA? Do you have any suggestions? Thank You.

    • I always go by Sherlock Holmes’ often quoted maxim:

      When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

      While it is certainly possible that Ancestry’s ethnic breakdown could be off (it used to be WAY off) – there is no denying the other corroborative evidence you have – no matches on your maternal grandfather’s line, a history of adultery on the part of your maternal grandmother.

      You have a hypothesis – your mother’s father is not who everybody assumed he was. It is up to you to test it (or not).

  14. Hi Roberta
    I’m looking for help in what DNA test I should take I and my brother want to know if we are half or whole brother and sister .We have the same mother I was adoption I found my mothers whole side of the family.I think her husband is my father but my uncle thinks its another man.But he said he did know her.

    • The autosomal tests will tell you if you are full siblings or half siblings based on how much DNA you share. If you test your brother’s Y-line as well, it will tell you which lines he matches, assuming others from that line have tested. So you might be able to easily confirm your relationship. I suggest and the Y test combined with the Family Finder. They have their holiday sales going on right now too.

  15. I would like to know which test is best to find out what ancestory I picked up from my bio-dad since I have never met or seen him. I have been told he is Italian, I am dark featured, whereas my mother is white- really white… Blond/pale/hazel eyes. Irish and many others. I want to know where my dark features really come from and I am not sure if she clearly knew his nationality. She was so young…. Thank you.

  16. Hi fellow Acadian Cousin Roberta,

    I currently am on 23 and Me sharing with about 629 (630 if you accept!). Try as I might, EVERY match thus far that I have investigated leads back to my Maternal Acadian grandparents. There is NO representation from my paternal side at all. While there may still be some paternal representation there, I have not yet found it after 8 months of analysis.
    Very strange for an Autosomal test, but other forces seem to be at work here.

    Firstly; In the 50% of DNA we inherit from each parent, over 49% will be identical to the half inherited from the other parent. This is at least true for women, who have two X chromosomes and therefore have symmetrical pairs of chromosomes. Men receive a shorter Y chromosome from their father. The Y chromosome is about 2.5 times smaller than the X chromosome. So men inherit more DNA from their mothers. This may seem counter-intuitive, but that’s the way it is.

    Secondly, Acadian ancestry due to all the inbreeding seems to drown everything else out. It also messes up predicted relationships making them wildly inaccurate in some cases. I can’t speak for FTDNA. Maybe they filter it out better, but I suspect the same applies.

    How do I know you ask, that 99% of my matches thus far are Maternal?
    My logic may be flawed or defy rigorous scientific analysis, but I have cobbled together my own “triangulator” checking Ancestry Finder spreadsheets of my matches for common relatives. Either they have no relatives in common (extremely rare but I have a few), or some relatives in common have confirmed ties on paper to Acadia, and by default everyone associated shares common ancestors, or they appeared as a relative of a relative of someone with an Acadian connection. Guilt by association!

    I suppose a few could have something in common with BOTH of my parents, but until I can prove it I am sticking to my original hypothesis. Guilty until proven innocent!
    Unfortunately, no one connected paternally to me is open to testing.

    On a side note, out of curiosity, would you know what the chances are of a picking random person to share with you, and having that person having several relatives in common with you on the Ancestry Finder, yet not be related according to 23 and Me and their ~5cM cutoff?
    My experience has been around 60% of the time this would hold true.
    Maybe 60% of the world is Acadian! The Ashkenazi content in Acadia doesn’t hurt either.
    If you share common relatives, then wouldn’t you also be sharing common ancestors, even if you are imperceptibly related even according to GEDmatch?

    Often times if said person was compared on GEDmatch using a lower threshold, and throwing caution to the wind with all the additional noise, there would be a match (albeit a very distant one). I just mention it for the person that doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned!

    In addition, 23 and Me’s lack of processing power makes them cap the Relative Finder at 1000, and a lot of your distant matches are hiding out of sight. (You are not even on my AF or RF yet we share 6cM on chromosome 15. You are part of this 60% whether you know it or not!).

    Some relatives can still be scrounged off the Ancestry Finder (capped as well), but most distant ones like you are tossed. The AF like the RF also changes by the week. Matches come and go, not because they are not a match anymore but simply they cannot all be accommodated, so a weekly chore of mine is farming the AF.

    Another pet peeve is in the naming of matches. You can imagine all the Robert Smiths I have by now! It gets mighty confusing separating them all, and that alone becomes a job in itself. I again can’t say if FTDNA has this shortcoming, but like Hollywood, no one should ever be allowed to have exactly the same name. A sequential number should be used as a suffix in cases like these. GEDmatch has the right idea. Now if GEDmatch can only post a directory of Kit numbers to names!…

    Re: Haplogroups. I have never found any useful information gleaned from these. Am I missing something? Haplogroups themselves tell you absolutely nothing about whether your match is paternal or maternal, so what good are they for recent ancestry?
    I am lucky enough to know both maternal & paternal Haplogroups, and many of my matches have the exact same ones, but since EVERYONE matches me maternally, (even the ones in my Paternal Haplogroup), it is of little use.
    Like Neanderthal info, and genetic similarity it is nice to know there is a connection back thousands of years, but it won’t take you very far. All that combined with the “health” info is mostly useless information. Not enough is known yet to put that to good use. Finally the FDA agrees with me.
    Maybe they were tipped off by FtDnA!

    Any advantage to having FTDNA do an autosomal test from scratch over doing a transfer of results from 23 and Me? Would my results be identical, a little different or would I again be deadlocked with Acadia?

    Since I am having such difficulty with my paternal side, I imagine a Y-DNA test is an obvious next step, but which one? The 37 or 67 marker? Kind of a steep price difference. I would just be happy finding ANY paternal match right now!

  17. Am I 50% my mother and 50% my father? Am I not unique? Is there anything different/unique about me? I dont want to be 50% someone and 50% someone else :( It makes me feel like im… other people!

  18. Wow, I’m in the same place. I have already tested with 23andme as well as ancestry. I was adopted with little information about my family. It was assumed I had been abandoned. There was an older boy who was also adopted with me. I’m waiting on his results form 23andme. He has some mental issues that makes what he tells me about my parents unreliable. What should be my next step?

  19. Both my mother and father have passed away and both were cremated I have since been told that my father was sterile and that I couldn’t possibly be his daughter. Is it possible if one of his brothers (my uncle) and I both gave out dna could it tell if we are related at least as in the same family line? This is really hurting me and would really like to find out if he was my biological father. Thank in advance for any advice you can provide.


    • Yes, you and your uncle should both purchase the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA. Just be prepared for an answer either way before you do the test. I’ve been in your shoes and did the tests because I couldn’t NOT know.

  20. Hi, I am trying to find out who my father is. I have an idea, he passed two yrs ago and his daughter is willing to take a DNA test. I had ordered the Autosomal test from and just sent it to her yesterday. After reading on line they say they are not the best. I have already done the MTDNA with familytreedna and need to upgrade. I really don’t know which to upgrade to and can the tests from be compared to my tests at Thank you in advance.

    • For very close relatives, any one of the top three autosomal tests (, FTDNA’s Family Finder, 23andMe) will work. Even if you test at different companies, you can upload results to GEDmatch.

  21. Hi,
    My father died in 1989 but I have a watch with metal link band of his. My mother died in 2008 and I have some of her hair and other personal effects, I really need to extract my father DNA firstly. Can this be done from his watch to show a match to me?
    As I have no brothers or would I need to use a male cousin to show a match to me?

    This is for pedigree reason.


  22. I’m adopted and I know absolutely nothing about my biological father and I would really love to find out who he is. I tried to contact my biological mother and ask for his name but she wouldn’t tell me anything. All that I know is that I was born in Brooklyn NY. So I’m assuming back in 1994 that’s where he lived. On my birth certificate there is no name for the father. I’m just wondering if there is any hope for me.

  23. I have had my DNA tested and have my half-brothers (same mother) DNA results. I know my mother but not my father. Doubt if I can get her to test. Can I use the comparison between my brother and I to narrow down possible relatives from MY fathers side?

  24. Hi, I was wondering if someone could please give me and my half-brother some guidance on DNA testing involving a rather weird family situation! I have been looking into DNA testing and I’m very confused; we’d very much like to find out about our father’s lineage but don’t know which test or tests to have done.
    I finally found my birth father when I was an adult, but discovered he was adopted and knew absolutely nothing about his origins (Murphy’s Law, anyone?!). Happily, I learned I have several half-siblings and have become very close with one of my half-brothers. Our father died a few years ago, leaving us with no information on his ethnicity, but many questions!
    We want to find out anything we can about our father’s lineage. I know my half-brother should do a Y-test, but if I understand correctly, that will only show our father’s male line, not his mother’s line. Should I have the Autosomal test done, should he, or both?!
    Can someone please tell us how to proceed so that we may get the fullest picture possible about our father’s heritage? My half-brother and I both have extensive, complete pictures of our respective mothers’ lineage, so that’s not an issue.
    THANK YOU in advance for any help you may provide, we appreciate it so much!!

  25. I’m not sure if DNA testing can help me. I’m male and trying to find who the mother or father of my maternal grandfather (so my mother’s dad) is. He only had two daughters, so there’s no direct male line to follow for him.

    If I were to take a DNA test, would I have to hope that a descendant of my maternal grandfather has already taken a test and their results recorded?

    • Test the two daughters if you can. If not, test yourself and as many of their children as you can. You will have to work through this by process of elimination but it’s probably doable if others related to him have tested as well. Let’s put it this way, you’ll never know if you don’t test.

  26. I am interested in learning about my maternal g gf’s Martin’s side. I had a direct male Martin cousin do a Y-DNA test, and there were no remotely close matches.

    My g gf’s mother died during his birth, and his father (my gg gf) died within the next six months of his birth. He was probably raised by his paternal aunt, but I have no proof. I only have family stories. No one even knows the name of the mother, or what country she was from. Since there are no close matches with Y-DNA, do you think I would learn anything earth shattering doing autosomal testing on myself?
    I have done Y-DNA testing through male cousins for my other grandfathers, and have found matches for them, but I would love to find out something about my Martin side before 1846 when my great gf was born.

  27. Please help me out here, I am a female, age 61, that would like to find out my father’s dna details to see his ethnic heritage of which I have always wondered about. He was adopted so there was no way to tell and no other relatives of his to test that I could know of. He died 35 years ago, so I can’t get a sample from him, it would have to be from me. One of my sons got his Y dna test results back, but I have been reading that his test results would not include my father because he is my son’s maternal, not paternal grandfather, so he would not show up in his Y test results. Now, I still don’t know about my father since it was stated that my son’s test results only show the paternal grandfathers of my son, not the maternal grandfathers, so now what should I do ?

    • You can’t test his Y chromosome directly, since he is gone, but you can take the Family Finder test which will provide matches to cousins on both sides of the family. If you know something of your mother, you can “subtract” her information and my inference, the balance is from your father. If you know any of your mother’s relatives, and if they could test, that would mean that people who don’t match you and your mother’s close relative (like a sister perhaps) are related to you on your father’s side. Some people have been successful reconstructing family trees using these methods. If you haven’t already, click on the adoption links in this help page:

  28. I have waited too long to find out who my father is. My mother will not! give me any information except that his name is LV Coburn, and his sister (not sure if either is even true) Mary who worked with her in Detroit. I am the youngest child and have four half siblings, one half cousin all on my mothers side who are all of German and Polish descent. I have no idea of my paternal siblings or cousins. I have only my dna to find my other half. It has felt like only half of me is present throughout my life. I am doing this for me finally calling forth my identity that has been stiffled and silenced through maternal loyalty. I can no longer deny myself the man who caused my life, and the emotional longing to know him or my other family members who I can identify with no matter the consequence. I am a bi-racial woman of German descent on my mothers and African American or Puerto Rican on my biological fathers side, just by my appearance I would guess. Is there any chance to find my other family who I don’t know any other information from such little detail and no assitance from currant family members? I am 54 and am looking for the good health of my paternal father to meet him, but if not my cousins on his side can tell me about him and show me pictures of him and what I have missed all these years waiting for the opportunity for this to be possible.

    • Yes, you can test your autosomal DNA and, hopefully, figure out who your father is, or if he is the person your mother suggested. If your mother will test, or someone close to you from your mother’s side of the family (half sibling would work) that will help you eliminate matches that come from your mother’s side. You need to check the adoption resources on the help tab for guidance. You need to order the Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA and possibly the 23andMe and Ancestry tests as well, depending on what you discover at Family Tree DNA.

  29. Hi Roberta! I was hoping that you may be able to help me. I am adopted and I have 2, 3rd cousin matches on my father’s side but I am having trouble thinking through this network of families. I was able to find my birth mother and her family through Ancestry DNA and now hoping to do the same for my birth father.


  30. My father was adopted. I am the last of siblings. Is there away to discover any information out , as the state he was adopted in will not release records. I’m 64, my father was born in Wisconsin, adopted in Illinois. Born oct,1919. Would DNA help out in finding any information out. I have two boys and sister had two boys. She has passed away.

    • I wish you had a brother so we could test his Y DNA. Yes, you can take the Family Finder test. Some of your cousin matches will be on your mother’s side and some on your father’s. If there is a close cousin in your mother’s side to test, it will make telling who is from your father’s side easier – because if the match is from your mother’s side they will likely match you and your close cousin. Are any of your mother’s siblings still living who could test along with you?

      • My mother had one sister, who had two boys ,first cousins, I have no idea where they are as I have tried on line to connect to them. I did have a brother who also passed in 03. No DNA available

      • No children on brothers side just found one 1st cousin alive my mothers sister a son would this help

  31. Hi my husband doesn’t have any idea who his father is and never seen him.we willing to find him and by your research we are very interested. How do we go about? And is it true that he needs nothing from his father to confirm who his father is? He only need tests from himself? Please we desperate on knowing

    • Your husband can take the Y DNA test from Family Tree DNA. About one third of the time, we can tell the surname from the test. Narrowing the surname down to an actual person is another matter. But yes, this can and has been done.

  32. Hello! I hope you see this. I just convinced a friend (female) to sign up for 23andme, she doesn’t know who her dad is, and was hoping this would give her some clues who she is on that side, and maybe introduce her to possible relatives. Can anyone confirm for me whether or not relatives on her dads side will show up when her results come back? I have two haplogroups and can see relatives on both sides, she’ll end up with her moms haplogroup, but will there be any results for her paternal side? Thanks!

    • She won’t get a paternal haplogroup, but her autosomal matches will be from both her Mom’s and Dad’s side. If her Mom will test too, then she will know that people that don’t match her and her Mom too are from her Dad’s side.

      • Hi Roberta, so my friend just got her 23andme results, and added them to GEDmatch. We’re stumped with regards to how to sort through the autosomal information to determine who is on the dads side. As I mentioned, her mom has passed, so she can’t test. She and her mother had only half siblings on both sides, so I guess there is no way to cross check. Is this a pointless battle?

  33. Hi, Roberta–My father’s gf was illegitimate so we are looking for that man’s paternal and maternal lines. We just got a “2nd-3rd” cousin match (131.17 cM) on my dad’s FamilyFinder (no Y matches so not the gf paternal surname) and would like clarification on interpretation of that statement. Generally speaking, are only full cousin matches reported? Or would we use the specific quatitative cM results to determine full or removed? We do have the surname in the known portion of our tree–although none of the individuals in the matches tree are familiar)–so I assume we are related via that known branch, and I am working on trying to converge our 2 trees, but wishful thinking leads me to hope we may be related though the unknown lineages. MtDNA is still cooking. Your expert opinion is appreciated.

    • You can’t tell if they are a cousin or “removed” by the DNA amounts. The DNA amounts are used to estimate the relationship assuming that 50% is passed in each generation, which we know it isn’t, but it’s the best we can do to use an average. You’ll have to work the genealogy. Use the ADSA tool to see who else clusters there.

  34. Hi Roberta. I was looking at genetic testing to find my genetic information. Although interested in my Mothers, I was especially interested in my Fathers genetic heritage. He has passed on, he was a only son, he had three daughters. He had one sister, who did have a son. I am a novice at all of this but from what I understand if I am tested, I being female will not find out any heritage from my Father. Would having my male first cousin, a male son from my Fathers only sister tested show my Fathers heritage from his Mothers side only? Or at this present time is genetic Heritage lost in the ages for us to retrieve? Suze

    • Roberta, Trying to get grasp on this. I looked at charts you recommended reading. If I wanted to get full genetic history of my parents, I would actually need testing on myself to know X which would only show female lineage from my Mother & down females lineage. If I wanted to know my Grandfathers lineage on my Mothers side I would have to find direct descendant down male lineage. For my Fathers side I would have to find a male somewhere in family tree that also was descendant from male to male lineage. To find out my Fathers Mothers history his sister could supply that. Every generation requires two test for each parent (a male descendant & female descendant in direct line of their sex) to have full genetic heritage if I understand this correctly? Just a question I’m curious about my son looks exactly like my Father, with similar personality. Can different sexes still then inherit looks, personality & health issues from opposite sex parent? I’m really new at all of this, but fascinated…thanks Suze

  35. Hi Roberta,

    Thankyou for helping me towards understanding of DNA. My sister and I had our autosomal DNA tested recently. We are half-siblings, meaning that I have a different father to the man I grew up with. I would dearly love to find him, and your article has greatly heartened me. FTDNA shows matches that sis and I have in common and not in common. I know it isn’t as simple as assuming that the matches I don’t share with sis are paternal. I have heard that if I get my mother tested, which I plan to do, it will make deducing the paternal line somewhat easier. I wonder if you can suggest specific clues I might look for in the matches that would indicate paternal relatives? And are there other tests I might take to make it easier (I’m female)?

    Also, Roberta, if I could ask one more thing: I have built a fairly comprehensive maternal family-tree that goes back to the 1700s.. The matches that sis and I do have in common at FTDNA – meaning that they’re maternal – are in the 2nd to 5th cousin range or beyond, And yet, looking at some of the closer cousin matches, I don’t recognise any of the ancestral names from my own tree. Let’s say somebody’s listed as likely to be a 4th cousin. That means we share a common great-great-great grandparent, is that right? Does that rule ever have exceptions?

    Sorry Roberta – I’m pretty clueless and I do thank you so much for your time.

    • Those are just estimates based on the amount of shared DNA and the size of the segments. These estimates presume that 50% of the ancestors DNA is passed each generation, but that’s not always true. Sometimes we get more and sometimes we get less. So these are meant to be helpful clues and not gospel.

  36. There are 2 men who could be my father, they are brothers. Which test do I take/is there any test to conclusively determine which is the father? it’s pretty clear from what I have been told which one is, and that she married the other in a hurry to cover it up BUT I want DNA evidence.

    And, when did this – if there is one – conclusive test become available?

    Thank you,

  37. I never knew who my grandfather was. My grandmother had my mother not naming the father. On 23 and me the dna turned up a close cousin who we feel is a possible grandfather. With the exception that her grandfather had 5 brothers. Is there any way to tell if we share the same grandfather or is my grandfather one of his brothers.

  38. Hi, Roberta. Can one ever test enough descendants to make an educated guess to determine the identify of a man’s father when the 2 paternal candidates are brothers, both of whom are deceased? I would guess only the “paternity”-type test done on living paternal candidates would be the only way, which is impossible in this case. The man–Bill–does not want to test. Bill has children and grandchildren. Bill’s son has tested, as has a known grandchild of each of the two paternal candidates. One paternal candidate has no living children but three other grandchildren; The other has children, the one grandchild (tested, waiting on results) and great-grandchildren . The mother of Bill and the mother of the child of the other brother were sisters and are also deceased.

    • Because children inherit different portions of their parents DNA, it’s potentially possible to discern which child was the parent is you have enough of the right people to test. I will contact you offlist.

  39. Hi,
    I am an adoptee and located my bio mother when I was 18 years old. That was easy because her name was on my adoption records and she has lived in the same area since before I was born. When I met her she told me that me and older sister share the same father. For years she would only give us his name and no other information. My sister located and met him ,and it was clear by the lack of resemblance that he was not my bio father. When I questioned my mother she told me a new story about being sexually assaulted by a friend’s brother. She CLAIMS she does not know his name. My suspensions is that she cheated on the man she said is my father and when I came out looking nothing like him she decided on adoption. My gut feeling tells me it wasn’t a rape. This man may or may not have known she had a baby….and probably was never told he was possibly the father. I am 47 years old now and have waited long enough to find out the truth. My question is where does the DNA come from? Does it ever come from court records of other DNA test or the convected felons DNA registry? I just feel like the people in the area where my mother grew up probably has not spent the money for a DNA to find ancestry information of seek out any missing relatives.

  40. This is amazing! All my life I have never been able to find my biological father since fathers could get a young girl pregnant and then run away and never look back. They didn’t in force child support back then so to him I didn’t exist. I didn’t look like anyone in my family since my mother was fair skinned with red hair and I had olive skin, auburn hair and brown eyes of course I had a natural desire to know. He told my Mom he was Italian but since he lied about even the spelling of his name maybe he lied about that too!!. I would like to know before I die who he was and ethnicity he he was. I believe every person has the right to know who their parents are whether that parent wanted them or not. Now science has opened that door for people like me who couldn’t get answers from anyone any other way. Its like living your entire life not knowing who you came from or anything else about him. Does it mean I will ever know him, of course not he’s probably dead, but perhaps I’ll learn more about what kind of man he was and what kind of life he lead. Perhaps I have sisters and brothers and cousins. Its the worst thing ever that anyone can do to someone is to make a baby and then disappear leaving so many unanswered questions.

  41. Is there a way to know through DNA tests if one’s mother was a first cousin once removed, maternal side, or half-sister, maternal side?

  42. I am sure this will be confusing but I have two 2nd cousins who want to know if their grandfathers were the same man or brothers. Can this even be done? The two adult grandchildren in question are a male and female. The male’s father is deceased, the female’s mother is not. Can it be determined if their parents are half siblings or simply cousins?

  43. Greetings, I am an adopte who has my birth mother’s family tree. She is not forthcoming with my birth father’s information however she gave me a name. There are few hits with this nam,e and when there are, they also include a surname from her tree. I completed my DNA test at Ancestry and have uploaded the results to familytreedna. I created a spread sheet and noted common surnames to my birth mother’s family using results from both. (Process of elimination) I have yet to come across a surname that is not in my birth mother’s tree. I have been through hundreds of common matches and tried “not in common” matches using a known connection but can always find a surname in my birth mother’s tree.. While her family is primarily Irish and I was told he had dark hair, dark eyes, I cannot find any connections, even the southern European, that don’t have a surname in common with hers, Is there something else I can do?


  44. So simple math here…..I think. 23andMe notified me today that I have a first cousin match. She contacts me and tells me she was adopted and knows nothing of her parents. So it’s up to me to figure this out. Since I only took the Mtdna test, does the possibilites of parents to this girl come from only my mother’s sibling or would the test also pick up my dad and his siblings. This will be oodles of fun since there were eight siblings on both sides ;-/ . Trying work by way of process of elimination but it would be much easier if I knew to include/exclude one side.

  45. My Father is adopted. We had his autosomal testing done through Ancestry. We have found the Mother’s side. She unfortunately took her secret about my Dad and His Father’s name to her grave 30 years ago. I have uploaded the raw dna to FTDNA. On both Ancestry and FTDNA the closest match is 3rd cousins. But we do know His Mom’s family tree back to her G-Great Grandparents on both her parents sides. what is the easiest way to eliminate Her side from my matches?
    so we can find My Dad’s Father’s side. Any tips? there is so many names! I get overwhelmed! Any suggestions would be Wonderful!

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