Posted by Stephen Baloglu on July 22, 2013 in AncestryDNA

If you’ve already taken the AncestryDNA test, you may think you’re done. You could DNA test your other family members, but they will have similar results as you, right? Well, not quite.

You inherited your DNA from your ancestors and so did the rest of your family, but like most inheritances, it can be complex. It’s true, you share DNA with your family, but each of you gets a unique mix and different amounts from your ancestors. The closer you can get to a DNA source, and the more sources you can identify, the more you can learn about your family.

Why test a family member?

1. Go back further in time with older relatives

By testing the “oldest” DNA in the family tree, you get the strongest connection to the past. Consider this: a fourth cousin to you is a third cousin to your parent and a second cousin to your grandparent. Because the relationship is closer, you can go further back in time with more confidence by testing older relatives. So it always makes sense to test the oldest living relatives in your family tree on all of your branches.

2. Pinpoint new cousins on your family tree

Think of your family tree. It starts with you, then immediately splits into two branches: your paternal and your maternal relatives. You got DNA from both sides—but your parents didn’t. Having them tested lets you divide your tree in half: you can assign one set of matches to your dad’s side and the other to your mom’s. Get your grandparents tested, and you can divide your DNA matches in fourths. If some of your great-grandparents are still alive…well, you get the idea. And testing gets really exciting.

3. Find more cousins

Depending on who you test in your family, you could have some of the same DNA matches, which can give you clues on who the shared ancestor is for that match. But remember, DNA is mixed and inherited differently across your tree. So your family members may have matches that you don’t, which could mean new discoveries in your family tree as well.

4.  Have some fun

Getting other family members involved in your family history research is just downright fun. You can compare your ethnicity results to see who got what mix of ethnicities. And hey, DNA may even confirm you’re related! All joking aside, DNA is a cool new technology that can get the rest of your family more interested in their ancestors. Trust us; we’ve seen it happen.

See how it can work for you.

Watch this short video to see the power of having your other family members tested.

OK, so who do I test?

Here are some specific benefits of testing other family members.


You get half your DNA from Mom and half from Dad. One of the most powerful benefits of having their DNA tested is being able to assign a DNA match to a specific branch of your family tree. Also, you can dig into the other half of their DNA that you didn’t get. Odds are they will have DNA matches that you don’t have. Imagine the possibilities!


If you’re lucky enough to still have living grandparents, having their DNA tested can pay even bigger dividends than testing your parents. Remember, not only does it allow you to assign matches to even more specific branches of your tree, but your grandparents’ DNA has mixed once since coming down to your parents and twice since coming down to you. So while your DNA can give you high confidence matches 5–6 generations back, your grandparents’ DNA matches can connect you 7–8 generations back with that same level of high confidence.

Your Spouse

You probably have a lot of things in common with your spouse, but DNA matches are not usually one of them. Your DNA test won’t help trace your spouse’s family tree. And having your spouse tested can also be lots of fun. You can compare your ethnicity results, confirm you’re not 1st cousins (fingers crossed!), see who gets the most matches, and share your findings with the rest of your family. If you have children, testing both you and your spouse’s DNA can help paint the picture of the heritage you each passed down to them.


Unless you are an identical twin, your siblings received a different mix of DNA from your parents than you did. While results can be similar between siblings, ethnicities can vary, and a sibling may also connect to a DNA match that you do not. This may seem counterintuitive, but remember, DNA inheritance is complex and involves a great deal of randomness. Testing a sibling opens the possibility for you to discover new cousins and new insights into ethnicity, especially if your parents aren’t available to test.

Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins

Your aunts and uncles have a significant link to you and can be a great proxy for your parents’ and grandparents’ DNA. You will likely share similar matches, which can help determine which branch of your family tree a match belongs to. Like your parents, grandparents, and siblings, their matches could also lead you to new discoveries in your family tree. And it’s a great way to get others in the family involved in your family history research.

So, now it’s your turn. Get started.


  1. Robin Bittner

    I have a question. My great grandmother never revealed to anyone who my grandpa’s father was. Never even a hint. Assuming that this unknown man’s relatives are in ancestry’s database, if I ran my Dad’s DNA, would it be possible to isolate one individual as my great grandfather or one specific family as his blood relatives? Thank you.

  2. TC

    Robin – IF you tried just his Y-DNA, you may see some matches (depending on how many markers you elect to have run) and than you can take his results and upload to several other websites for further potential matches, and begin to gather surnames and where they lived, and perhaps put together a list of potential ‘fathers’. That list may allow you to pinpoint further down with making trees from them, and see if the possibility exists for the GGgrandmother and this unnamed individual to have gotten together.

    If you have him do an autosomal testing, than you may get a broader hit grouping, but that will also have his mothers DNA mixed in (not a bad thing) and you will need to ascertain which side of the family may be showing up. Making your known side very detailed, will help you as well.

    The way the trees work with the DNA on Ancestry, is that you may see a ‘shaking leaf’ when the software sees a similar name on both trees – you can presume that this may be your MCRA. But as most of us are seeing, until the person whom tested, knows more history on their families, you show up as potential matches, with no names to go by as to where you may be related.

    Hope this helps

  3. Virginia Brown

    Is it possible for my brother’s DNA to be tested to show what he has inherited from my mother and what he has inherited from my father?

  4. Steven Emery

    Great article.
    I had the DNA test done on me to find ancestors on my Emery family tree, but in that tree I have ancestors of my mothers side of my family listed. My mothers side is Smith. Do I have to find a male Smith related to my mother and have him do another DNA test?


  5. I have a cousin living in England who is willing to be tested. Can a test kit be sent overseas? She is an member too – would she be able to view the test results and matches directly, or would I need to forward everything to her that might be of interest to her?

  6. Pat MacFadyen

    My mother will be 93 next month &I am thinking of having her DNA done, I have had mine done. already. Do you think it would help in my research?

  7. Can I learn more about my paternal grandfather’s family background if I had my brothers’ DNA tested. I already know about everyone else but my late grandfather and his family (from the Ukraine) are still somewhat of a mystery.

  8. Andrea Hyde Booth

    I sent my “are you a Viking?” Saliva sample to you months ago.
    Why haven’t I heard anything?

  9. Sally

    I did my DNA test and not sure how correct it is. It showed a 33% European and 33% British. When doing my tree, it’s mostly in the uk. Would I be able to take this test again?

  10. Aleta

    Is this the ‘new’ DNA test that was offered for 99 dollars a year ago, or is it the ‘old’ one ? We have already taken the old one, and I have taken the new one and would like my husband to take it.

  11. David Yost

    I had my DNA testing done last year. My family tree showed I was 50% German, 12.5% German-French (ethnic germans in Alsace, Fr), 12.5% Scottish, 18.75% unknown but some possibly British and 6.25% African.

    Ancestry’s test of my DNA came back as 57% Scandinavian and 43% British Isles! I can see the probablility of some of the British Isles but not the Scandanavian.

    When I questioned Ancestry about this I was referred to a mumbo jumbo explanation about “deep” ancestry that made no sense to me, but yet some of their advertising leads one to believe you will get results from closer ancestors.

    Personnally I think they mixed up my sample with someone else’s. They did not agree to a retest. I would not recommend that anyone take Ancestry’s test but rather look to other companies who do the testing.

  12. Shelley Green

    I had my son’s DNA tested and also a member of the “other family” tested. I did the 46 marker test. The other family member matched 31of the 46 markers, but Ancestry said he was not a match. Could the difference be because he was descended from the maternal side?

    Shelley Green

  13. Cecelia H. Burr

    I had the DNA test last year. My brother has volunteered to have the test as well, but he is not a member of, and he lives in Korea. I need to know if I can get the DNA kit(s), and mail it to him. Your quick response is greatly appreciated.

    Also, in this new reduction in price of the DNA test… many do you get. It says to test your family, but am I paying the reduced price for each DNA test per family member?

  14. Ellen Vietri

    I would like to find out more about my fathers line, but the men in my family are deceased. Will I find out anything by having my oldest brothers oldest son tested. And should it be a ydna test?

  15. Keith Marley

    I just bought another DNA test… I did one as soon as it came out. I’m going to ask an uncle or aunt (both in their 80’s) to do the DNA test. Which should I choose?
    I’m male.

  16. Ronald McRae Sr.

    My parents and grandparents are deceased, yet i have an aunt that was cremated is she useful for DNA? Is anything useable if a person isn’t living.

  17. Mary Campbell

    I had my dna done and I am afraid it just took my tree as the match. My fathers mother was 1/2 Indian and it didnt mention that at all in my match. All it said was England. Not sure i believe this.. My daughter wants to do hers since i wont tell her who her father is and i wont let her do thisunless I know it is for real.

  18. Carol B. Smith Fisher

    My mother died in 2007. I have saved some of her hair. Are you able to do DNA from her hair? I would like to have this done if you can do DNA from hair samples. Please let me know.

    Thank you, Carol B. Smith Fisher

  19. Joyce Rentfro

    I have no living male family members, but would be very interested in obtaining Y chromosome information for myself and my sisters. I have a hat and electric shaver that my recently deceased brother used. Can you obtain DNA information from these things as valid DNA samples since, obviously no “spit kit” can be used. Thanks, Joyce (Armstrong) Rentfro.

  20. Karen T

    So, the new test is pretty accurate, worth the money. Only thing is the native ancestry is not split between natives from south or north America (like it was before). They are bundling all natives North and South Americans into one.

  21. Bill W

    I am curious about the DNA results. My family members have passed down stories of our Native American ancestor. Is there an explanation, other than it might be bad info, as to why Native American did not show up in the DNA test?

    Thanks, Bill

  22. Kathryn B. Wilson

    The strategy of using dna blood samples from living people who can trace their ancestry back five generations to determine ethnicity does have drawbacks. In our culture of identity politics, it is more important than ever to know your family history. Ethnicity reflects primarily the last three generations (hundreds of years), while migrations of dna go back thousands of years. Being clear about how the analysis is done is basic, and then tweaks should be made.

    For “native american” dna uses both North and South American “natives” together. This is not a good idea as the histories of these two continents are different. For North Americans, indian blood was a terrible stigma socially, and so many family bibles and birth records were altered or destroyed. The facts of forced migration and genocides, also epidemics and war, left North American tribes without those long genetic histories. More effort to collect stories from those who have reason to believe they have Native North American blood and have taken a dna test that is not positive. My father in law’s ancestry dna test showed no Native Amer but did show traces of African, Asian, and East Asian dna.

    Additionally, those coming from countries like the Czech Republic face the fact that although their genetic traceable heritage goes back many generations in country, after WWII their lines disappear there. So, for the ethnic analysis, they will not show up as having any Czech ethnicity. This was the case for my mother in law. Interpreting this data….does it mean that all her ancestors migrated, were killed by the Nazis, or died out? She had Czech on both maternal and fraternal sides. A bigger sample is needed. Dna is very complex.

    As with Native American, the Scandinavian ethnicity needs to be broken down more. Scandinavia includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Lappland, and Samiland. It looks like Finland is part of Russia at present. What about Iceland, the Shetland Isles, etc? I’d really like to see more of a breakdown into countries. If ancestry is using contemporary blood samples, then why not? Ancestry knows the country the samples came from.

    If ancestry would involve more scholars it would improve their service. Since their dna service is devoted totally to ancestry and ethnicity, they need to be more specific and thoughtful about their analysis and presentation.

  23. Judith Contois

    I want to let folks who are posting and asking questions know that the results they will get from this DNA sampling/testing is EXTREMELY vague. I had somehow hoped that it would specify what Indian tribe(s) my husband descended from, as well as myself (he is more than 75% American Indian; I am 1/16, both born in Canada). We had our daughter’s DNA tested in order to ‘cover’ both sides of her family. But nothing that specific is included in the results through testing; as a matter of fact, they draw a circle around ‘all of the Americas’ (North, Central & South America) when ‘mapping’ where in the world these ancestors are from.
    How much more non-specific could that be??
    The results are somewhat interesting, but disappointing, nonetheless.

  24. Judith Contois

    By the way, the appropriate percentage of American/Native Indian ancestry DID show up for our daughter, which we knew would be the case! What is disappointing in that the specificity was so vague…….(besides the ‘America/Native American’ breakdown, hers also included even 1% Pacific Islander, plus a 7% combo of Asia Central & Asia East, which makes sense as that is where the American Indian distant ancestors would have originated from)….

    So, there is no ‘hiding’ of the Native American ancestry with DNA testing; either you have it, or you don’t.

  25. Carla

    I took the DNA test last fall since I’m a big fan of PBS genealogy shows by Dr. Louis Gates (“Finding Your Roots,” “Faces of America,” etc.). I am 1/2 White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (“plain white American”) on my mom’s side. Her said claims to have some Cherokee blood. My paternal grandmother is Mexican – American and my paternal grandfather is unknown but was likely also Mexican – American. My paternl My DNA test showed I am 33

  26. Carla

    I took the DNA test since I am a big fan of genealogy shows by Dr. Louis Gates on PBS. My mother is white and claims some Cherokee blood. My dad is Tex-Mex. His mother claims Spanish blood and no Indian blood, and his father is unknown. My DNA results showed I am 75% European (33% Great Britain, 13% Scandinavian, 13% Italy/Greece, 10% Iberian Peninsula, 3% Ireland, etc.), 21% West Asia (17% Near East, 4% Caucuses), and 3% Native American.

    If I had not previously watched an episode of “Finding Your Roots,” I would have been really confused by the West Asia thing. In the episode former politician Linda Chavez finds out she has Sephardic ancestry through a DNA test and genealogy research. Her DNA test pointed to the same West Asia/Middle East region that includes Israel. I started doing research on Crypto-Jews of Texas and learned that about 1/2 the colonists of what was once New Spain and is now south Texas were Jewish converts from Spain. It has been eye-opening to think of myself as being of Jewish ancestry when I had never even met a Jewish person until college.

    The British and 3% Native American were not surprising, but I would have thought Iberian Peninsula would be much higher. I read on the website that Italy/Greece is common in people from Spain. I’ve never heard anything about being Italian or Greek in my family. The large Scandinavian % was surprising, and I’m wondering if it could be related to the Lutherans or Protestant Reformation somehow.

    Overall, I’m glad I took the test. I told my students about it, and they all want to be tested now, too! I bought a test for my boyfriend for Christmas and we’re waiting on the results. I plan to have my dad to get some clues about his father and the Jewish ancestry.

  27. Rita Snyder

    I see all the questions, but there’s no answers from Ancestry, so what’s the point of reading what others are asking.

  28. Jane Miller

    I agree with the previous comment. What good are the questions everyone is asking without the answers?

  29. Linda Price

    I keep searching for an answer for this question and can’t find it. Maybe someone writing here can answer it. If both my half brother and I took the DNA test, should we show up on each other’s results? Thanks.

  30. Michele Bundy

    Reason #5

    When you start testing other relatives, you might discover something is off like I did. My 96 year old Grandma was busted. She finally admitted to my 71 year old Dad, the man he thought was his Dad, was infact not his Biological Father.

    The shock has still not worn off. I don’t know what my name should have been. My Family tree name is not even correct, let alone all of the ancestors.

    We have ordered a 111 marker Y-DNA test from Family Tree to see if we can come up with a surname.

    Just when I thought my tree was quite large, I find I have to tear it down and start again.

    Fun Times.

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