Thursday, February 5, 2015

DNA vs Dating

I have been DNA-tested and have been knee-deep in analyzing those results for about two years. For me, it is endlessly fascinating. I love the data analysis and the continual learning. What I don't love so much is the lack of regular communication with my potential cousins. It's an interesting little place, this world of DNA reseach. and it has some unwritten rules. And then I got to thinking...

DNA searching is like dating!

Now I am long married and my children aren't quite at the dating age. But through the media, we are bombarded with ads for dating sites:, eHarmony, ChristianMingle, JDate, and my son's favorite,

You may be chuckling, either at me or at the thought of an online dating site, but I think it's a good comparison!

Taking the Plunge

You enter your, ahem, personal information and maybe a picture (from about 10 years ago, looking awesome) into your profile, hoping to be connected to a perfect match from the website's algorithm. Using a genetic DNA site? Pretty much the same thing.


A match reaches out to you. Or more likely in DNA, it's you reaching out to the match. You carefully tiptoe around, sharing small, but not highly identifiable pieces of information to see if you click: favorite movies or books, or surnames of your great-grandparents. If you're lucky, you get a number to text, or on a DNA site, a profile connection.

The Date

You're finding things in common and decide to meet. In the dating world, maybe it is a movie or coffee or a drink. You find commonalities. You're happy if there is great conversation. You decide if there is intellectual and/or physical attraction. Would you introduce this person to your friends and family? In the DNA world, it's a flurry of emails or messages, and sharing a tree or a database while carefully reviewing your match's family tree. Hmm, do you like the way they created their files? What about their sourcing techniques? Can you live with these differences?! You're happy if there are large matching chromosome segments.

The Aftermath

Do you like this person enough to go out again? Better yet, do you give it a 2-day wait to text or call? And who initiates the follow-up?! Are they really your type, or are they a creeper? Why haven't they texted?! After the initial exchange of family tree information, you have no reply. Maybe for days. Do you email or re-initiate contact? You send three emails. How many emails is too many? Why don't they reply?  Do they think I'm the creeper?!

Back to the Drawing Board

Maybe that wasn't the one for you. You know the phrase: it's not you, it's me. Then try another option to meet people. If you can't get information from a DNA connection, try another. Maybe it's back to searching records, filling out trees with collateral lines and other siblings, and firming up questionable information.

The world of genetic genealogy, while similar to dating, is new and has many of it's own rules of connection and communication. It's taking the time to learn and try and fail and get back up again that will help find you those elusive connections.

If you truly want to further your DNA contact, may I suggest:

  • accept contact on the site
  • reply to emails
  • consider what you write (not "Hey, we're related!")
  • be pleasant and gracious, naturally
  • offer family names to the degree you are comfortable 
  • have a tree posted to your profile, even just a direct lineage tree, if possible
  • just because your surnames don't match, don't discount the DNA
  • update YOUR tree
  • it isn't just names, it's places! let your connection know where your family lived
  • keep reading and learning

There's a relationship for everyone and you will find your connection. Keep on looking for yours!

© 2015 Sally Knudsen