I’m so glad that you have decided to get in touch with one (or more!) of your DNA matches! I hope that with this post you learn how to craft your message, what information to include, and how to increase your chances of getting a positive response. At the end of the post, there is a special section for adoptees who are trying to contact their bio families.
Note: For those of you using Ancestry DNA, you can contact your matches without a subscription. You just need to make sure that you click on the green “Send Message” button from their DNA match profile page and NOT the orange one on their regular Ancestry profile.
What to do before you contact your DNA match
If you have close match ranging from parent/child, immediate family, or a 1st-2nd cousin match, and you are surprised to find this match, before you contact them:
- Take a screenshot of everything on their profile, especially their tree and username (if they have one).
- If you don’t want to take a screenshot, write down as many notes as you can from their tree.
Even though these precautions aren’t usually needed, you would be surprised to learn that some people react strangely when they are contacted by unexpected close relatives. Sometimes, they even delete their family trees, their profiles, or even their DNA results. So before you contact them, make sure you write all of the important information down somewhere, just in case you need to refer to it later and it is no longer available.
For everyone, no matter how close or distant your match, make sure that you check:
- Their family tree that they have posted.
- Shared matches that they share in common with you.
The whole idea is that you are as prepared as possible before you make initial contact. If possible, you want to check shared matches so you can have a basic idea of which side of the family you and your match share (i.e. father’s side, mother’s side, paternal grandfather, etc.). If they have a family tree, you will want to check it thoroughly, since you might spot a common surname or even a common ancestor.
If the match doesn’t have a common match with you or share a common surname, you might get some clues from a geographic region or their ethnicity. For example, if your mother is Polish and your father is Irish, and you have a 3rd cousin DNA match that is almost 100% Eastern European, you can probably safely assume that they are related to your mother’s Polish family.
All of this is important since it will help you write your message to your match.
How to Write a Message to Your DNA Match
The goal, usually, for a message like this is to get a response and hopefully, start a conversation about your shared family connection. Whether you are writing to a newly found sibling or a 5th cousin twice-removed, there are some basics that you will want to make sure that you cover:
- Be as polite and respectful as possible.
- Don’t assume that your DNA match knows or doesn’t know something (i.e. about a family secret or history)
- Provide a vague idea on how you might be related. Sometimes, being too specific or too confident can turn people off. I will provide some examples of this below.
- Make sure that your message is well-written. Grammatical, spelling, or punctuation will decrease the likelihood of getting a response. For example, don’t say “How r u related to me?” Believe it or not, people send messages like this!
- Give the match a few different ways to contact you. Some people prefer e-mail, and others prefer a good old-fashioned telephone conversation.
Sample DNA Match Contact Letters
Here is an example of how you might contact a 2nd cousin that is on your list:
I hope you are doing well. I was checking through my DNA matches, and your name came up on my list.
It seems like you might be related to me on my Smith line. My great-great grandfather was John Smith from Vermont, and your tree shows a Sally Smith born a year later in the same town.
I would love to hear what you think, and possibly share some of my information if you think it would be helpful to you. If you prefer e-mail my address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I had a new sibling or first cousin match that popped up, and I was sure that I didn’t know who it was, it would mean one thing: Someone close to me had a child that I don’t know about. Knowing this information, I would want to offer a tidbit of information to them that would let them know that I might be able to provide them with a lot of information on their biological family. That said, I will also want to be careful that I don’t scare them away!
I hope you are having a good day. I’ve been going through my DNA matches, and I just saw your name pop up. According to Ancestry, it looks like we are pretty closely related.
Both of my grandparents were born in Wisconsin, and it seems like it must be on one of their lines that we are related. The surnames are Franklin/Greene and Drew/Brown. I’ve been working on my family tree for a few years now, and I would love to share what I have with you.
Thank you so much for reading my note, and I can’t wait to hear back from you. If you prefer e-mail my address is email@example.com.
The final example note is going to be to a distant cousin who I think might have some information that I would love to have or someone who I want to share some information with. I’m thinking of maybe a 4th-6th cousin. The key is to ask a specific question (whatever it might be) and offer a specific piece of information that they might not have.
I hope this note finds you well. You and I are DNA matches on Ancestry, and it looks like we share a common ancestor: Thurman S. Grooding, born in 1815.
The reason I am contacting you is because I have been searching for original documents for this ancestor. I saw on Ancestry that you posted a baptismal certificate for his daughter, and I thought maybe your family line was able to hang on to some original documents for Thurman.
On the topic of Thurman, I see in your tree that you don’t have parents listed. I was able to trace his parents to a farm in upstate New York, and I’m fairly sure that I’ve found the right family. Let me know if you’d like more information on that.
I am looking forward to hearing back from you. If you prefer e-mail my address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contacting Matches if You are an Adoptee
If you are adopted and looking for information on your biological family, you know that you have to act carefully and deliberately when contacting your closer matches. I also strongly recommend taking screenshots of your closer matches’ profiles and family trees. While it isn’t common, some people “freak out” when they are contacted by adoptees or anyone else who might reveal unknown information in the family, and go as far as deleting their profiles. I want you to have as much information as possible, so definitely protect yourself by taking notes and screenshots.
I realize that you might not have as much information to provide to a potential match. You might know some information about where you were born, and possibly potential names of your birth parents. You will also have more distant matches on your DNA match list. I recommend going through 2nd-3rd cousins FIRST, if you have them. Try to see which surnames/geographic areas that these matches have in common with some of your closer and even more distant matches. The goal is to determine a family line, even if it is just a surname.
When crafting your message – even if you are 100% sure of who the DNA match is to you, I would recommend that your initial note be on the vague side:
I hope you are having a great day. I have just done the Ancestry DNA test, and you show up as my closest match.
I have roots in Houston, TX and surnames of Findley, Hurt, Oakley, and Drake in my tree. I’m fairly sure we are related on one of those lines, but I can’t narrow it down.
If you have the time, I’d love to hear back from you so we can figure this connection out. If you prefer e-mail my address is email@example.com.
Some people get nervous about reaching out to their family matches, but I want to encourage you not to worry. If you don’t get a positive response, remember that it’s not a reflection on you or who you are. People are just people, and sometimes they are going through things. Just let it slide and move on to the more positive people in your life.
Have you reached out to a family member or do you have a question about how to contact someone? Leave me a note in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!