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What to Say if a DNA Match Contacts You

Have you been contacted by a DNA match, but aren’t sure how to respond? In this post, find tips and ideas for how to proceed.

What to Say if a DNA Match Contacts You

I receive a lot of questions through my work here on this site, and one of the most common things people ask for help with is how to connect with their DNA matches. In other words, a lot of people are interested in ideas for what to say when they reach out to their matches.

It recently came to my attention that there is another side to this situation. What if you are on the receiving end of a message, and you aren’t sure how to respond?

The person reaching out to you could be a distant cousin searching for information about an ancestor you might share in common, a close relative who is surprised to see you on their list, or anyone in between.

Since the first communications between you and your new relative will set the stage for your relationship well into the future, even if it is unlikely to be a close one, it is important to be thoughtful in your response. This person is, after all, related to you.

Take some time to think

The first thing that many people do when they receive a message from a DNA match is take some time to think. If it is a distant match, you might only need to think for a little while before responding, unless you need more time to look up information that you plan to include with your message.

We might occasionally receive a message from someone who is more closely related than a distant cousin. When this happens, especially if they are a surprise to us – or if we are a surprise to them, we might want to take a little time to think carefully about how we want to respond to their message.

It is important to not respond with negative or fearful emotions. We also want to make sure our respond is not overly-enthusiastic or insincere.

Remember that you even if you do choose to respond to your DNA match, you are not required to provide them with the information or access to your family that they request.

Read the message a few times

Before you decide to craft your message to your DNA match, be sure to read their message carefully a few times. We should pay careful attention to what your relative is trying to accomplish with their message to you.

If the message is from a close DNA match that was previously unknown to you, they may only want your opinion about how you might be related. In this case, your response should be focused on your understand about your shared DNA, family tree information, and any other details that you have that you want to share.

Alternatively, the message may be from a distant cousin who has provided no information to you about their family tree, and wants you to figure out how you are related to each other. It can be frustrating to receive messages like this, but a non-emotional, matter-of-fact response is the best way to get a conversation going that could benefit both of you.

Decide what you want to say

Deciding exactly what to say to your match can be the hard part, but it doesn’t need to be stressful for you. All you have to do is craft a basic message based on what you would like to accomplish with your message.

Responding to a close relative can often be the most stressful. First, decide what kind of information you are willing to share with them, and write a kind, polite message answering their questions with as much detail as you are comfortable sharing.

If your match is a distant cousin who wants help figuring out how you might be related, and you want to try, kindly let them know that you are willing to help if they can provide you with a link or access to their family tree. If you don’t want to help, let them know that you are sorry that you won’t be able to help and wish them luck in their research.

Don’t overshare

You should not give into the temptation to overshare about your family history in your first response to your DNA match. There will most likely be many opportunities to communicate with your DNA match about various aspects of your family connection, so there is no need to tell them everything in one message.

This is especially true if your DNA match is less experiences with family history research or DNA matches than you are. Too many details can be very overwhelming and confusing at first.

Give alternate contact information

If you prefer to communicate via e-mail, you can give your DNA match your e-mail address in your response to them. E-mail is often the best way to send photographs and longer messages, so that’s why I usually respond to messages with my e-mail address.

On rare occasions, I might provide my phone number to a match, especially if I have something more “delicate” to discuss that I feel is better for a live conversation. My family history is filled with “delicate” topics, so this might not apply to everyone.

Only give a DNA match your telephone number if you feel comfortable.

You don’t have to respond

An important note that should be included in this list of things to say or do when contacted by a match is that you do not have to feel obligated to respond to a message from any of your DNA matches. There are several reasons that you might choose not to respond to a message from a match, and it is within your rights to not respond if that is what you choose to do.

You might feel uncomfortable conversing with a stranger, even if they are related to you. If your match is a close relative, you might feel like it is more appropriate for a different family member to communicate with them before you do.

If your DNA match’s message was especially rude or aggressive, you should not interact with them. If your match persists in trying to contact you and you no longer wish to see their messages, you can use your DNA testing company’s “blocking” process to block your match from contacting you.


I hope that this post about how to respond to a message from a DNA match has been interesting and useful to you. If you have any questions about something that you have read in this article, please feel free to join in the discussion below.

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