DNA Q&A: DNA Testing for Kids for Genealogy

By Diahan Southard

What’s the genealogical benefit to having kids’ DNA tested?

Q: Is there any genealogical value in having kids/grandkids tested? (My understanding is that you have to be 18+ to buy a test, but minors can test with a guardian’s permission.)

A: Absolutely yes, there is genealogical value in having your children and grandchildren test, but maybe not for the reason you think.

When you are searching for clues among your DNA matches that will lead you to discoveries about your ancestors you need two things: DNA, and desire. The DNA will reveal the links between you and others who have tested, but as it turns out, that is a minor first step. The heavy lifting in this equation is done by lots of hard work, patience, and stick-to-it-iveness. Which means only people who really want those answers are going to see this process through until the end.


For the first step, the DNA, your children and grandchildren are completely irrelevant as long as you have been tested. Afterall, you have 100% of your DNA, while they only have at best half, in the case of your children, or a mere 25% in the case of your grandchildren. That means they will always be worse at finding the DNA matches that we need to help us learn about our ancestors.


However, when someone takes their own DNA test, and sees their own personal ethnicity results, and their own personal DNA matches, that can often be enough to create that critical component in this process: desire. There is something visceral about DNA test results that make us feel linked to others and especially to our ancestors that can sometimes not be achieved in any other way. Seeing a connection to a place or an almost endless list of names naturally brings up questions that need answers: Am I really from Italy? Who are all of these people that I am connected to? This curiosity breeds that essential desire, which in turn can create an excellent research partner.

However, please be very aware that if you want to test someone under the age of 18, you are entering some murky waters. As parents and grandparents we make all kinds of choices four our posterity and don’t give it a second thought. But because you will be required to sign their consent form, it is important that you realize what you are signing them up for, and help them be aware of the ramifications. While you may be trying to interest them in your side of the family, remember that their DNA is going to tell the story of ALL of their family. Testing your daughter can reveal relationships that were previously unknown about her father, and that is a lot to take in for anyone, but especially as a child.

So, like most things in life, there are pros and cons that need to be weighed, if you are considering testing minors, but if your kids are all grown up, buy them a DNA test, advise them of the potential risks, and if they choose to test, hopefully you will find yourself a new research partner.

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