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Why You Don’t Have More DNA Matches

Do you want to know why you don’t have more DNA matches? In this post, learn the reasons why you might have fewer genetic relatives on the DNA platforms than you were expecting.

Why You Don't Have More DNA Matches

Some people are overwhelmed by the number of DNA matches that they see when they first log into their DNA results. After all, it’s typically a very long list of people who we don’t know (essentially, strangers) who are supposed to be related to us in some way.

Equally as common is a feeling of disappointment in the number of DNA matches, or a feeling of frustration about having few relatively close DNA matches. Most people will have many very distant cousins on their match list, but not everyone will have a long list of 1st-3rd cousins who can be very helpful in learning about our recent ancestry.

Fortunately, there are a few explanations for why we don’t have the DNA matches that we were hoping for on the list of matches. In addition, all hope is not lost – you’ll find out how to get more matches, too.

Reasons you have a low number of DNA matches

There are several very common reasons why some people have a low number of DNA matches. The list below covers most of them.

Your ancestors may have had fewer children than average

The number of children that your ancestors had and whether those children reached adulthood to have children of their own will have an effect on the number of extended relatives that you have in your family tree.

I know this sounds like an odd thing to think about, but it makes sense. How many kids did they have, how many survived to have children, how many of their kids had kids, and so on and so on?

Many people are able to build a family tree and find out how many children their more recent ancestors, such as grandparents, great-grandparents, and even great-great grandparents had. If you build your tree back about 4-6+ generations on all lines, you will be able to get a good idea about how many potential cousins might show up for you on DNA results, considering that not all of them will actually take a DNA test.

All of your recent ancestors were born in another country

If your parents and/or grandparents were born in another country, you might not have DNA matches because your relatives do not live in the same country that you live in. Thus, they might not test their DNA with the same company that markets their DNA tests where you live.

This can be disappointing because we often take DNA tests to learn about the ancestry in the countries where our immigrant ancestors came from.

Some people have a very small number of DNA matches for this exact reason.  This person only had 16 4th cousin or closer matches when they first got their results back, and six years alter, they only have 123. 

And in fact, only a few of those 123 DNA matches are likely to actually be genealogical second or third cousins due to endogamy in his ancestral community. The rest of his DNA matches are likely to be more distant.

The person whose results that you see in the above screenshot was born in another country, and so were his parents.  This is a perfect example of why some of us have more matches than others.

Some of the factors that go into how many DNA matches you will have when you test.

Were there events outside the control of your ancestors?

Events like natural disasters, violent conflicts, etc, can also factor into the exact number of living DNA relatives you have right now. Our ancestors might have had a large number of children who all grew to adulthood to have children of their own, but these outside events might have had an effect on how many of those descendants survive to this day.

History is complicated and filed with tragedy. Not all of the descendants of our ancestors survived to produce offspring, and thus, people to show up on our DNA match lists).

DNA testing is not popular where your relatives live

The number of DNA matches that you have depends greatly on where your recent ancestors were born, as I mentioned above. If you have recent ancestors born in a different country, you likely have 1st-4th cousins, and more distant cousins, living in that country.

If DNA testing is not popular or affordable in that country, your list of DNA matches might be limited to those who have been able to find a way to take a test. This might make it seem like you have fewer relatives, of course.

Most likely, you have the same number of relatives that everyone else has, but fewer of those relatives have taken a DNA test.

Fortunately, DNA testing is growing in popularity around the world, and more of your relatives may choose to take a test in the near future. When they do, they might show up as a match for you

Some of your relatives might not be interested in DNA testing

DNA testing popularity seems to spread within families, and maybe it is not common in your family – yet. Who has – and hasn’t – decided to take a test might even seem completely random to you.

Some people have taken a test, and some never will. Some of our relatives people are just now learning about it. 

So, even if a lot of your extended-distant family members haven’t done a DNA test, give it time.  

It seems like in some extended families, every first, second, and third cousin has taken a test. In other families, almost no one has decided to take one.

However, it is becoming more popular to take a DNA test and you will still get new future matches as they show up as genetic relatives to you. Given more time, more of our relatives might get around to testing.

We don’t share DNA with all of our relatives

Even if you have many relatives related at a fourth cousin distance or closer, and many of them have tested their DNA, all of them are not going to show up as genetic matches to you. This is because we do not share DNA with all of our relatives.

If you do the math to try to determine how many 2nd-4th cousins the average person has, you might be shocked. We can have thousands of relatives at the 4th cousin level or closer.

But if that’s true, why don’t we have many thousands of DNA matches?

Apart from the reasons I have already mentioned in this post, you should know that we don’t actually share DNA with all of those people who are in our family tree.

DNA is inherited through a random process called “recombination“.  Basically, you inherit 50% of your DNA from each of your parents.  Each generation, some DNA is lost, and the DNA that you did not inherit from your ancestors cannot be used to match with distant cousins.

This means that you won’t share DNA with all of your cousins past the 3rd cousin range.  So, even if your true genealogical 4th cousins are testing, they might not match you as a DNA match.

Do you need more DNA matches?

If you don’t have many DNA matches, you might consider uploading your DNA to Gedmatch, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage.  They all accept free uploads from most companies and can allow you to compare your DNA to people who have tested with other companies.

What is another question that many people ask?

Click here to buy the Understand Your DNA Results Ebook

Do you want more DNA matches?

I love DNA matches, and so I try to get as many as I possibly can.  DNA matches can help you learn so much about your family tree, and can even help you build your tree further out than you could do without them.

One great way to get more DNA matches is to do a DNA test with an additional company.  You never know which company the DNA matches that you are looking for tested with, so having your DNA in all of the databases is highly recommended. 

You can order a DNA test using any of the links below. I may receive a very small commission that helps me support this site, and it is at no extra cost to you, so thank you!

If you want more DNA matches, you can upload your DNA data, generally for free or a small fee, to many sites.  Read these two posts for more information:


I hope that this article has given you some ideas about why you don’t have more DNA matches (or why you have so many!).  How many cousin matches do you have?  If you have a lot, how have you managed to work through them?  I want to hear from you in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Monday 30th of January 2023

May I ask a question, I have a 1c 1r, we share just 6 matches and only one of those belong to my maternal gm. Why so few shared matches?

Phillip Jeck

Sunday 29th of January 2023

I have thousand DNA matches. I have more than I will ever be able to work. I first color coded all of the matches that I knew to which grandparent they were from. Once I did all of those I then started with the highest cM and looked at shared matches. I found that most of the shared matches were from a single grandparent color. I have tried to build out from me to the match on my tree. I use the common suggested ancestor in ancestry and try to prove it. Since I started that about 5 years ago my tree has grown from 13000 to almost 26000. When I work from me to the match I put all related people in my tree. That makes it easier as I work more and matches. Since many people have no or a very small tree I many times can do nothing with them now, but may and have found the line on some that only had 2 generations. I would love guidance to fix my system.

Stephen Squires

Sunday 29th of January 2023

Hi, I have been following and enjoying your Newsletter for some time now and it has taught me a lot. I have a question.

Both my wife and I have taken DNA tests (me with Ancestry, she with 123andMe) would we learn anything from our sons' having tests?

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