How do you identify a "natural" grandfather who has not been declared on a birth certificate? This is one of the most frequently asked questions, which we will answer by giving you the essential information needed to start an identification using a genetic test.
Choosing the DNA Test
The most appropriate DNA test will be the one which gives you the best chance of finding a genetic cousin according to your ethnic origins in particular, some laboratories having categorised more nationalities than others. But an element of luck will come into play. If you quickly identify a close family member, such as a first cousin, a simple email exchange will be enough to identify the grandfather.
In most cases, you will have distant relatives. You will then need to be tested in as many laboratories as possible to increase the chances of identifying a close relative, or relatives, but also to apply genetic genealogy techniques based on the family trees of your cousins.
To reduce costs, you will need to start with the two laboratories that refuse transfers: AncestryDNAand 23andMe. Then, you can transfer the raw data file to the other two labs: MyHeritage and FamilyTree DNA.
Warning: ethnicity will not necessarily be enough of an indicator to identify the grandfather. You can be French and your results may show Iberian origins. You need to understand the ethnic reference panels used for this. The article: Are ethnicities reliable? will help you see things more clearly.
Each laboratory has deployed different tools, this comparison table of the four genetic genealogy laboratories presents a summary.
This 5-minute video, which DNA test to choose? with links to genetic genealogy labs will help you make your choice.
The Y chromosome
This male-only test is less prevalent nowadays. Yet it is a valuable and powerful tool for identifying an entire paternal lineage. The DNA analysis is carried out on the Y chromosome, transmitted almost identically from father to son. The Y chromosome of the great great-grandfather will be identical to that of his grandson and to those of his paternal uncles, and so on until you reach the lineage's oldest common ancestor, who lived in archaeological times.
FamilyTree DNA is now the only genetic genealogy laboratory offering the consumer tools to analyze the Y chromosome. Wait for Father's Day promotions in particular, as you'll get a 20% discount on this test, which is much more expensive than the others. To begin with, the analysis of 64 markers is sufficient.
You can also get an immediate discount if you buy the test through a project to identify genealogical lines, such as the Canadian project French Heritage.
Who to have tested?
You, of course, but not just you. You get 50% of your DNA from your mother and 50% from your father. If you're looking for the grandfather on your father's side, and your father is dead, you'll need to have your mother tested. This way, you will be able to identify the genetic cousins on the maternal side, and on the other hand, distinguish those on the paternal side!
But it will still be necessary to distinguish the genetic cousins on the side of the grandmother and the unknown grandfather. Similarly, if the grandmother is dead, the genetic test of a great aunt or a cousin on her side will enable you to trace the cousins on the maternal side, and therefore, conversely, those corresponding to the unknown grandfather.
If you are unable to test your father, if possible you will also need to have your uncles and aunts on your father's side tested. They inherited half of their father's DNA, so they'll have more genetic cousins.
Failing that, you'll have to have your brothers and sisters tested. You inherited about 25% of this unknown grandfather's DNA. Your siblings too, but not the same 25%. This way, you will widen the field of corresponding genetic cousins and increase your chances of identifying the grandfather.
As you will have understood, it is a matter of putting together the pieces of a puzzle. To identify the missing piece of the unknown grandfather, you need to reconstruct the other branches of the family tree.
Other tools will enable you to identify family links with your genetic cousins, such as the inheritance of the X chromosome for example. Not all laboratories indicate it. Today, only 23andMe and FamilyTree DNA give you this information.
You will also need to know how to use the tools of different laboratories or other sites such as DNApainter or GeneticAffairs. You can also transfer to free databases like GEDMatch, although you'll need to take certain precautions because it's a public database!
And anyway, you'll need family trees in order to build your own family tree. Many genetic cousins don't have one, so it's up to you!
Genetic genealogy is something you can learn about, you will find more details in the book: DNA, A Genealogical Tool.
My mother was born n 1925 and her father was never listed on her birth certificate. She never knew who her father was and it was never talked about. This was in Glasgow Scotland and she carried that shame of being a bastard child as my father would call her when they fought. All us kids never knew the women we called nannie was really our grandmother, my mom told us she was her sister. All the relatives that might have some information to find any background of my grandfather such as illnesses or anything to that matter would help. It would also put to rest her background….She existed, and She counted, She wasn’t a throwaway child
I identified the possible surname of my grandfather through some of my DNA matches. By searching family trees I found the name of a possible half first cousin who agreed to take a DNA test. The result was that we share 979 cMs of DNA. Can I be sure we share a grandfather or could his grandfather be my great uncle?
I understand that you don’t know your grandfather, and that you are looking for his identity.
I need more information to help you. From what side is your grand father, paternal or maternal ?
Which company do you use? Each one has different functions and results, such as X-chromosome and haplogroups.
If you did your test on Ancestry, none of these are shown.
Whatever, to identify the different familis links possible with our 979 cM’s, I recommand you to consult the Shared Cm Tools of DNA Painter.
Hope it helps,
Good evening! I got dna test for 24Genetics 6 month ago and I find that I have more Hungarian and Croatian origin that Romanian. My family tells me that it is impossible because the my family members still have Romanian origins, apart my great-great-grandfather for my mother side. He came from Russia and Ukraina, and I don’t have Russian origins in my dna. At 24Genetics I find out that I have 4.5% Estonian (Saaremaa) and 0.7% Latvian (Latvia Karsava) origins and I think it belongs from him.
Plus my father tells me that my great-grandmother she have Turkish and Mongolian origins and is a mixture of Mongolian and native features, and nothing came out of my dna.
I admit that Hungarians and Croats lived on the territory of Bukovina, but less today. The lot of Hungarians live in Transylvania and Croats live in Transylvania but more in Banat. For example, several Germans and Poles lived in Bukovina. In my 24Genetics results I don’t have Germans origins and Polish origins only 0.2% Lubuskie Sorbs.
I don’t know how to find which ancestors connect me to these origins! For my great-great-grandfather side I discovered distant cousins who live in Estonia, Latvia and even in Ukraine via My Heritage DNA but their results are not accurate. The 24Genetics results is very accurate. I apologize for disturb! Have a nice day!
Ethnics origins are probabilities, and the most difficult part to understand for now.
What you must understand is that you inherit DNA from 6 generation about you, and some ancestors from 7, 8 and even 10 generations above you.
That means that you must have your genealogical tree of your ancestors who lived 300 years ago. Their DNA and ethnic origins were transmitted unchanged. That means that if 300 years ago, a people coming from Croatia did settle in Romania, his/her dna maintained unchanged.
That’s where you must think about the “Balkans” history, which I know a few as my father was from Serbia.
At that time, it was the hugarian-austrian empire, with a lot of wars, forced people movements to settle in new regions, also people moving to find better way of life. What DNA teach us is that the human history is a migration history.
Apart from this, people who migrated were used to easily change of names. At that time, there were no identity card. When people arrived in a new country, they used to change their names for names that sound like all the others in their new country. I was the way to be better incorporated. If they were running away because of political of religious persecutions, they even lie about their origines in order to protect themselves.
For all theses reasons, you can not rely only on a result of 24genetics.
If you want to understand your origines, you should make a genetic test with 23andMe. That’s the only laboratory which show you what origins on each chromosomes. You can rely them with your genetic cousins in order to find the common ancestor and the common ethnic origins.
You should read the article I’ve written about 24GEnetics, but also about “Are the ethnics genetic tests reliables?” and how AncestryDNA did ameliorate its ethnic results.