Best Family Finder Sites - Genetic genealogy and DNA testing
In this article, we introduce websites that help you discover your family and ancestry with DNA data (SNP, single nucleotide polymorphisms), and methods that require no DNA data. Each DNA test company or third-party website has a different user's DNA database, so you might be able to find more family finder matches by signing up for more than one service. Your DNA stays the same, but your journey to discover your biological family and ancestry is never complete because the network continuously expands!
This article is written by the Genomelink team. Genomelink is a place for people to know more about their DNA data, beyond relative matching, and including Food & Nutrition, Personality, Intelligence, Fitness, and more. Check us out now and get 25 Free genetic traits!
1. DNA Testing Companies
2. DNA Upload Sites
3. Find Your Family Without DNA
1. DNA Testing Companies
First, let's get started on the journey by purchasing an initial DNA test kit that includes the family finder test. If you’re on a tight budget and cannot purchase multiple tests, we recommend starting with either AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Other testing companies like FamilyTreeDNA and LivingDNA accept raw DNA uploads, so you can maximize your DNA family network without paying any additional kit fees.
Each of these companies also provides an “ethnicity estimate” based on autosomal DNA analysis with genetic genealogy methods, which can help you discover new branches of your family tree and relatives all over the globe. Some of these DNA test companies provide additional resources such as access to national census records or other relevant historical records that they store in a massive electronic database.
With 15 million users, the AncestryDNA test is undoubtedly the DNA test kit with the most users. It is the largest in the United States and worldwide, by a large margin. The next top company, 23andMe, has only around 10 million users, giving Ancestry a 5 million user advantage. That’s what makes it the best choice for finding as many family members as possible.
Searching for DNA matches is mostly a “numbers” game. The larger the database you connect to, the more matches you will find. So, by starting with the largest DNA testing company out there, you are connecting to the largest database of other DNA users. This will likely give you hundreds of potential relatives to begin your search.
Plus, Ancestry offers a number of resources for developing your family tree and family history. For a subscription fee, you can build and expand your family tree to any size. This could potentially include thousands of common ancestors and living relatives. The company also offers rich historical records and resources, which you can search through to back up your family history and add “leaves” or new members to your family tree.
23andMe is the second biggest testing company with nearly 10 million users. If you want more information in addition to your DNA ancestry, such as health and other traits, 23andMe may be a good choice. Though 23andMe does not have a historical records database to search through, its “DNA Relatives” tool offers users powerful DNA matching through 23andMe’s proprietary algorithms. In simple language, 23andMe is essentially the Google of finding DNA matches. 23andMe also provides a chromosome browser, a tool that allows users to see if they share any fully identical regions with their matches.
23andMe offers a wide range of health traits, from Carrier Status reports on genetic diseases to a wide range of genetic health risk reports that can estimate your increased (or decreased) risk of breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others. This is a huge benefit for users that want to find out as much as they can about their DNA, not just who they are related to.
2. DNA Upload Sites
After you get the result from either one of two leading companies, you can download your raw DNA data and upload it to other DNA testing websites (DNA transfers or autosomal transfers). This will allow you to get more results and expand your free family tree. Because each company and website has a different user database, it is a good idea to try them all. This way you can maximize the opportunities to find your DNA relatives.
All of the sites below allow you to upload your raw data and search for a family matching for free! This is awesome because it can greatly expand your family search into new databases. Check them out!
Besides the two big American DNA test companies, MyHeritage DNA is one of the most well-known ancestry DNA testing companies and it is especially popular in European countries. Over the past 15 years, they have helped millions of people find new family members. This means that by using this service you may be able to expand your family network beyond the U.S. where AncestryDNA and 23andMe are the most popular tests.
This can move your DNA relative search to a more global scale. You may find you have aunts in Albania, parents in Portugal, siblings in Spain, or even cousins in Croatia! At some level, we are all related. MyHeritage can help you find distant or long-lost European relatives quite well.
This site is also a great choice for users with European ancestry because MyHeritage also has a massive database of historical records from Europe. Plus, like Ancestry, you can build out an actual family tree and back it up with evidence you find in the historical records database. Pretty cool!
FamilyTreeDNA is a great resource to connect to more of your family members for free! You can upload your raw DNA data to gain free access to autosomal matches with other potential family members in their database.
FTDNA’s “Family Finder” is a simple DNA matching service that looks for large segments of DNA you share with other users. The larger the segments, the closer you are related. Like other sites, FTDNA will estimate your relationship with the match (i.e. brother, cousin, etc.) so you can determine which relatives you want to try and contact.
GEDmatch provides DNA and genealogical analysis tools for both amateur and professional researchers and genealogists. It does not provide a DNA test kit and purely operates as a third-party upload tool. Because of this, it attracts users from many different DNA test sources. Millions of users are registered on its relative match database with full contact information.
However, GEDmatch was recently purchased by the company Verogen, Inc. Verogen is a company dedicated solely to genetic sequencing as it applies to forensic science. In other words, Verogen helps police catch criminals by matching DNA from the crime scene to the GEDmatch database. Since GEDmatch was used to catch the Golden State Killer, Verogen saw the site as a huge value.
So, just know that by uploading your data to GEDmatch, you are essentially helping police solve crimes. This may be good or bad, depending on where you and your relatives stand with the law.
While the above sites are some of the best for finding family members using your DNA data, there are many other sites out there that can analyze your raw DNA data. To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites" for a complete and up-to-date list.
But, maybe you don’t want to test your DNA for privacy or health reasons, which is totally fair. You can explore the resources on the sites below to dig into your family history without a DNA test kit!
3. Find your Family Without DNA
The easy availability of a DNA test to find relatives has made searching for long-lost family members easier than ever. But genealogy searches existed long before at-home DNA test kits became available. With companies like FamilySearch, DNA is not required at all.
Keep in mind that without DNA, family search services are limited to just that: They cannot provide information on health, haplogroups, or ethnicity the way that Genomelink can. Raw DNA data is needed for any type of genetic information.
Here’s some information about how to maximize your chances of finding relatives without using DNA. These websites and methods were common even before DNA tests became popular.
If you started your journey to find your biological family through DNA, you may not have created an account at FamilySearch yet. You should! It is the largest family tree database in the world with a billion unique profiles. Simply build a profile on the site, and start clicking around. In many cases, your family may already be on the site and ready to meet you!
FamilySearch is a nonprofit family history organization under The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints and is dedicated to connecting families across generations. While this religious affiliation turns some users away, it shouldn’t. The site will not try to recruit you into the church, it is just a byproduct of electronic family records keeping that the church uses to track its members. When you use FamilySearch, DNA testing is not needed.
Like FamilySearch, AncestorRecords provides users with a deep database of information that includes service records, birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, court records, and US census reports. This site proves you don’t need a DNA test to find relatives (though it helps) if you are willing to do some basic sleuthing.
Through AncestorRecords, users can access one of the largest genealogical databases in the world, which is maintained by the Mormon Church. Even more amazing, there is no cost to search the records, and AncestorRecords provides easy instructions and helpful hints for getting the most out of a monumental database.
If you are adopted, you should check the services offered by adopted.com. This site specializes in connecting adoptees to their birth parents. The site uses complex algorithms to search and analyze a large number of adoption events. Based on questions the site asks you when you sign up, these algorithms will search millions of profiles and adoption events to connect you directly to possible matches. This makes Adopted.com one of the most powerful adoptee search tools on the web!
Adopted.com also connects with major DNA testing companies. This means that you can confirm or reject possible matches if you do choose to take a DNA test in the future. While you don’t need one to start, a DNA kit can instantly prove whether or not you are related to the potential matches you find!
While this may seem like a no-brainer, Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are excellent tools to find your relatives. Even professional genealogists use them to find potential relatives by searching for the target family name. There are some articles available online that can guide you on how to go about this.
Essentially, you put your feelers out. Search the sites for mentions of your parents or adopted child trying to reach out. Ask others to help you. People love to become internet sleuths, and you can gain some technically-savvy and experienced allies on your journey.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. For some, finding a long-lost family turns out to be incredibly easy. For others, the search never ends. For this reason, social networks can provide excellent support, both technically and morally. There are many groups on the web dedicated to helping family members reconnect, and even more groups that help families with the difficult issues of reconciliation, forgiveness, and becoming a family once more.
Surprising Benefits of Taking a DNA Test to Find Relatives
Before scouring the internet for the best DNA site to find relatives and build your family tree, it’s worth taking the time to understand exactly what DNA testing is and how it can benefit you.
DNA testing looks at the unique genetic code that every person carries. This is called your DNA profile, and it is part of the information you receive when you take a DNA test to find relatives.
Each person’s DNA data is interpreted from a small sample of cells. Whether you’re doing a DNA test to find relatives, learn more about your health, or discover your family’s route to their current location, it all starts with a drop of blood, a strand of hair, or a swab of saliva.
Most testing sites, including Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage, sell kits with easy instructions for collecting a DNA sample. Once you have collected the sample, you simply send it back to the company.
Researchers in a laboratory isolate the DNA code within your sample and read the results, which they translate into a report. These results are highly accurate. However, even the best DNA test to find relatives is not 100% foolproof.
When the results from your DNA test are ready, most companies will send an email telling you where and how to access the results online. In addition to finding relatives, other benefits of DNA testing include:
- Making more informed decisions about healthcare
- Answering questions about family heritage
- Making informed decisions about having children
- Having better health screening for newborns
- Learning about your family’s history and migration pattern
DNA science continues to evolve. New technologies and new methodologies are constantly improving the field. With each advancement, it gets easier to use a highly accurate DNA test to find relatives or health information.
Keep in mind that even the best DNA site to find relatives may not offer laboratory services. Instead, you send these sites information from an outside laboratory. For example, at Genomelink, you can upload the raw data you received from a different company to learn about your ancestry, health, and more.
Today, companies can more accurately identify ethnicity percentages, common ancestors, geographical groups, and locations where your ancestors have lived.
Did you like this article? I hope it helps you in finding your long-lost family and expanding your DNA family network!