Are you frustrated looking at the number of DNA matches on your list that have no tree? It is so much easier to figure out how someone is related if they have at least a basic tree attached to their DNA profile, so I completely understand your dissatisfaction when there is absolutely no information to help you work out your connection. There are many reasons why a match might not have a family tree on their account, and I’ll tell you ten of the most common ones in this post.
Your DNA match only took a DNA test for the ethnicity estimate
In my experience, this is the most common reason that DNA matches have no tree. The DNA testing commercials have a significant focus on the pretty ethnicity estimate “pie chart” or graph, and so most people, at least initially, may not even realize that they will also have DNA matches and that their results can help them build a family tree. So, they do their DNA test with an interest only in the ethnicity estimate or ancestry composition, and never end up doing a family tree.
Honestly, I think I was in this crowd. I didn’t really understand that I would get DNA matches, or what they really even meant. I had a moderate interest in genealogy, but I didn’t really understand the power that my DNA results could bring to my family tree research.
Your DNA match is not interested in genealogy
Some people know that they will get an ethnicity estimate, and they even understand that they’ll get DNA matches. Maybe they are even looking for a particular person on their DNA match list – but they just aren’t interested in genealogy. Building a family tree take some patience, and there can be learning curve, especially if someone knows very little about their family history. So, your DNA match might be content just to enjoy their ethnicity estimate and wait for their close DNA match to come along.
Your DNA match doesn’t know how to build a family tree, technically speaking
Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA make it super simple to spit in a tube or do a simple cheek swab, pop the kit in the mail, and wait for an e-mail. Most people can manage these steps very easily. For someone who is not very technically-oriented (or computer savvy, in other words), it’s not hard to click a link in an e-mail to get the pie chart with the estimate of family origins. It is a little trickier to decide which website to use to build a family tree, understand all of the technical aspects (what’s a Gedcom??), and navigate through all of the steps of building a family tree.
Combine this with someone who isn’t super interested in genealogy, and you have a recipe for someone who will never have a family tree on their account.
Your DNA match thinks that genealogy is too hard
As I mentioned before, building a family tree can be a bit of a chore, even though for some of us, it is a labor of love. It’s also tough! My own family is filled with Smiths, Johnsons and Thompsons. These are such common surnames and it is such a pain to have to wade through pages and pages and pages of records of people with the same name. Some of my ancestors are from countries where I don’t speak the language (German, Dutch, Slovak, Polish – just for starters). Another person in my position might wonder how they would go about finding records in these countries – where would they even start?
You can see how someone could be easily discouraged from starting a family tree when they can see all of the obstacles right from the start. Of course, they don’t know how easy it is to build a tree on Ancestry, and how many millions of genealogical records can be found online. We know that they are missing out, but we should also be understanding of their situation.
Your DNA match is adopted
There is a very good chance that your DNA match is adopted. People who were adopted are sometimes very curious about their heritage and know that DNA testing is a great way to answer some of their important questions. Since an adoptee might not know very much about their biological family, it makes perfect sense that they would not have a family tree attached to their profile. Other times, even if an adoptee does know who their biological parents are, they might not build a tree out of respect to their adoptive parents.
Your DNA match doesn’t know who one of their biological parents is
If your DNA match doesn’t know who one of their biological parents is, they might not feel like building a tree is worth the effort (even though it totally is!). They might have grown up with a step-parent who has served the role of a biological parent, and they feel like they might be dishonoring their memory or disrespecting them by building a family tree and not including them in it. Family trees can be an emotional business, and I am definitely understanding of people who don’t feel comfortable building a family tree at this point in their journey.
Your DNA match has a family tree on another website
Your DNA match might have an excellent family tree posted online, but it might just not be in the place that you are looking. I have found that some of my DNA matches have their own websites dedicated to their family tree research, or have an extensive family tree posted on a family tree website that I don’t generally use. It’s worth a good, thorough look (use Google) to see if you can locate your DNA match’s tree – you never know what you’ll find!
Your DNA match has a “paper” family tree, and it’s not online
Maybe your DNA match is “old school” and they haven’t built an online family tree. Family tree building software has been around since at least the 1980s, but it was often expensive (and so was a computer!). Some people, especially our older matches, might have an incredible wealth of family tree research, including documents, photos, and pedigrees, but they have it all in a filing system in their home office.
Your DNA match has a tree, but doesn’t know how to upload it or attach it to their account
I just mentioned family tree building software, which has been around for a long time. Some people still use similar software to build their family trees, though more modern versions. Most of these software programs have the capability of creating a Gedcom file, which can then be uploaded to basically any website that hosts family trees. This means that your DNA match might have a great tree, but it is on their home computer and cannot be viewed by you.
Your DNA match just discovered a surprise in their family tree, and what they thought they knew was wrong
It’s possible that your DNA match had a 10,000 member tree, thoroughly researched and complete with photographs. That is, they had one until they got their DNA results back and saw that everything that they thought that they knew about their family history wasn’t true. Maybe they didn’t share DNA with one or both of their parents, or maybe they realized through testing that one of their parents had been secretly adopted as a baby. There are dozens and dozens of possible scenarios that could lead someone with a great tree to delete it, and then show up as a match with no tree.
Which scenario applies to your match?
There are likely many more possibilities that could possibly apply to your match, and the only way to know what’s really going on with a match is to reach out to them with a friendly note. Of course, don’t ask them why they don’t have a family tree. You could ask them if they’d like to try to work with you on your connection, and let them know some basics about your family tree (or send them a link to it). Sometimes, people will be very friendly and respond back with an explanation that fits into one of the above scenarios. Maybe you can even help them out – they are family, after all.
I hope that this post has helped you understand some of the possible reasons why your DNA match doesn’t have a family tree, and maybe even why you should consider contacting your match to see if there is a way that you can lend a hand in their journey (which might also help your journey). If you have any questions or comments about something that you read here, I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!