DNA: In Search of… New Series Launches

Today, I’m excited to announce a new series titled “DNA: In Search of…”

I receive queries every single day about how to search for either unknown parents or unknown grandparents using genetic genealogy.

While some of the techniques are the same when searching for these different people, others vary and depend on a combination of factors:

  1. Your birth sex, meaning whether or not you have a Y chromosome which also means you only inherited an X chromosome from your mother.
  2. Which of the four kinds of DNA tests (autosomal, X, Y, and mitochondrial DNA) are relevant for identifying the person you seek
  3. Whether or not you know the identity of anyone else in your tree.
  4. Who else is available and useful to test, in addition to yourself.
  5. Which vendors you’ve tested with or uploaded to, and which tests you’ve taken.

In Search of Series Articles

I’m preparing a series of articles, including:

  • DNA: In Search of…Understanding the Basics

This article forms the foundation of the series and discusses the basics of each of the four types of DNA tests; autosomal, X DNA, Y DNA, and mitochondrial DNA. I describe when and how each can be utilized in our search, and when it can’t.

  • DNA: In Search of…Your Paternal Grandfather
  • DNA: In Search of…Your Paternal Grandmother
  • DNA: In Search of…Your Maternal Grandfather
  • DNA: In Search of…Your Maternal Grandmother
  • DNA: In Search of…Your Father
  • DNA: In Search of…Your Mother

These articles detail step-by-step how to conduct searches for each type of ancestor. I use example scenarios at each vendor and for each type of DNA when more than one type can be used to reach our goal.

You’ll also be able to use these same techniques to search for people further back in your tree.

Ponds to Fish In

I’ll be using examples from each of the four major DNA testing companies in each article. You’ll want to be fishing in all of the ponds because you never know where that critical match will be found.

If you’re searching for any of the aforementioned individuals, I strongly suggest that you order the autosomal test at, or upload to, all of the following vendors:

Unfortunately, Ancestry and 23andMe do not accept uploads from other vendors.

You can find detailed upload/download instructions for all vendors here.


  • If you are a male and are searching for either your father, paternal grandfather, or direct paternal line ancestors, take the Big Y test here.
  • For males and females, if you are searching for your mother, maternal grandmother, or direct matrilineal line ancestors, test your mitochondrial DNA here.


If you’re searching for both parents, you won’t yet have a family tree, but if you know at least one parent’s identity, you will have a partial tree.

Flesh out that tree to the best of your ability, including birth and death dates with locations, and be sure that tree has been uploaded to or is functional at Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA. In general, private trees discourage or prevent some tools from working.

Link your DNA test to your profile card at each vendor. Link any other relatives’ tests that you manage to their profile card too.

Most genealogists have a preferred tree someplace. For this purpose, you probably don’t need a deep tree, but you will need a tree with at least a few generations and descendants of those ancestors, if possible. My tree at all of the vendors reaches back at least six generations and 10 when I can. Try for at least 6 or 7 generations because you will have DNA matches with people who can reliably be connected to common ancestors within this timeframe.

Tools at all three vendors who support trees depend on being able to discover or connect to present-day descendants of those ancestors.

Do your best, but we will work with whatever you have.

Get Ready

What do you need to do to get ready for this series?

Are there other people you know who could benefit from this series?

Following is easy and free. The link is right on the main page, here. Pass it on!!!


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48 thoughts on “DNA: In Search of… New Series Launches

  1. My search is for great-grandparent in one line and 2nd great grandparent in another line. Somewhere in your series will you comment on this?

      • Can you reelaborate the steps in finding great grandparents from the inner branches?im brick walled on my maternal paternal gf father’s mom,maternal gf mom’s parents line and my maternal gm parents ines?Any suggestions ?

  2. Roberta, thank you! I’ve been looking for the parents of two of my second-great grandparents for years with zero success, even though I “know” (from a death certificate) the names of both parents of one of the two. I’ll definitely be watching for these posts with enthusiasm.

  3. Love this idea! very exciting! I know this is going to be an ocean of knowledge coming our way

  4. I know this is putting the cart before the horse…..is it possible to find clues for great great grandparents? …..or ggg grands? I do have a variety of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins tested on side I am researching.

    • I, too am looking for great grandparents. My DNA is uploaded on all forementioned sites. I also have 1st-3rd cousins on both sides who have tested on Ancestry

      • Roberta I’m in same scenario but I need clues to find paternal grandfather birth mom and her parents.Also simiiar query to find paternal great grandmother paternal line since father is unknown.

  5. Hey Roberta, what’s the logic (and I know there is some) behind 23 & Me before Ancestry? Ancestry is the bigger pond, so I’ve always told folks to test there first.

    • Also, each vendor has benefits that the others don’t have, and sometimes it’s the combination of information between vendors that makes solving the puzzle easier rather than more difficult. I’ve struggled at one, including ancestry, only to find the answer just sitting there waiting for me elsewhere.

  6. This is my most wished for quest. I have a wonderful Gedcom from a family researcher. I think I can figure out an unknown 6th great grandmother by using DNA. I have Y37 dna from a first cousin and Y111 from my brother. I have 23&me from my sister; ancestry, ff, Geneanet and my Heritage for myself. I have done all this but I am pretty lost and look forward to this Roberta. You are so generous! Thank you!

  7. I am looking forward to this series, in order to expand my own understanding of the process. I wrote my own blog on how to find a genetic father a couple of years ago, and have already amended it to point readers to your blog!

  8. Hi Roberta, this series is very needed! I’m assisting a 78 year old male NPE who found out from DNA that he is 15% – 19% Ashkenazi Jewish. He did a Y-111 which is giving us many surnames but nothing closer than 4 GD; however, we know the Jewish line is paternal. A Jewish researcher told me it was useless to do a Y on him. None of the Y testers match him on autosomal but not all of them have autosomal tested. What is your feeling on this? Would you recommend that he do a Big Y? Thanks!!

    • Yes, the big Y will put him as the leaf on his branch and show him definitively who is closest.

  9. OOHHHHHH, you know I need this one for sure. !! I can’t wait for the day that I can post ” I found a Jewish close relative..’..since not even ONE person exixts that I can connect to so far. ..even on 23&Me! Not one person out of my 3500 Jewish matches, is marked as a reletive on my Tree. Oh yes, It’s been a journey, alright, LOL.

  10. Desperately in search of a maternal great grandfather‘s parents and a paternal 2nd gg‘s parents. Have tried many methods, attended many classes and seminars and even paid professionals to help. So frustrating to me and worrisome as I’m not a young person anymore. Time is running out. Have tested so many family members and we are on all the sites. 20 years of traditional research as well
    But, I’ll be watching anyway, just to see if there’s a stone left unturned.

  11. Very good timing for me. I’ve just begun sorting matches in order to tackle the brick wall I’ve been working on since 1983.

  12. THANK YOU for this……Still looking for Bio Paternal Grandparents – have lots of “good matches” & family groups but 106yrs after the fact, hard to pinpoint (and perhaps impossible) the exact couple. I know there are other people offering guidance on this type of problem but I am looking forward to your “easy to follow” common sense logic.

  13. Beyond these searches, I am curious about using autosomal DNA to confirm family lines and relationships.

    I have 10,000+ matches on FTDNA and 15,000+ matches on My Heritage [ with few in both groups].

    I’ve found with close families, there are DNA segments which are exactly the same – revealing they all come from the one line. However, with others they have segments which come from different genealogical lines.

    I thought that indicated a link with the different genealogical lines, but, within the period allowed for 5th cousins the respective trees don’t show any other lines linked to me.

    It is interesting…..

  14. Will you cover endogomous groups? Searching for a friend’s fahehr, He is either half-Jewish, half-Italian or 1/4 Jewish and half-Italian. No Jewish match with more than 60cM at any of those companies.

    • Endogamous groups are very difficult. How successful it will be depends. All I can say is to try.

    • We will be using all four vendors, so it’s unlikely that you’ll receive matches that aren’t in those databases that are at GEDMatch. You can use the same techniques there.

      • Good point on the matches! I just know that I occasionally receive matches on GEDmatch from kits that have utilized vendors other than the main ones you have listed. Then again, as you have said, the techniques are the same. I am thinking there might be new readers joining in that are not aware of GEDmatch as of yet…

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  16. I am searching for my father’s half-sibling. I’ve a first cousin DNA match with a woman who was adopted. She found her mother’s name on the her original birth certificate, but no father’s name. Her father would be my father’s half sibling. How would searcing for this relationship be different?

    • I don’t know your circumstances. I’d suggest following along in the series to see what resources you and she have together.

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