Can I use an ancestry DNA test to find my father?

Can I use an ancestry DNA test to find my father?

Can I use an ancestry DNA test to find my father?

Every week, there are stories of people finding lost family members, or discovering that their biological parents are not who they thought they were – or even that their biological father is a rogue fertility doctor.

With all these stories of hope and heartbreak, you may be wondering how you can use an ancestry DNA test to find a lost parent or other family member. Odds are that whichever test you choose to take, you will probably have some relatives in the database, even if the closest are only third or fourth cousins. It may be that you have to take multiple ancestry tests in order to find family more closely related to you, or upload your DNA data file elsewhere.

This guide will help you figure out which ancestry test is best for you, and how you can trace an unknown father or missing family member, even if they aren’t in the database you choose.

First things first: which ancestry test should I take?

When it comes to picking an ancestry DNA test to find relatives, what you really want to think about are numbers. Each ancestry testing company has their own database of users, and these databases do not overlap. For instance, if someone has taken a DNA test with AncestryDNA, then they will not show up in the 23andMe family finder feature unless they have also taken this test.

Current database sizes for the major ancestry companies are:

Given the sizes of the databases, you are most likely to find a missing family member – or a clue to your missing family member – in the AncestryDNA or 23andMe databases, since these are the largest. If you can’t decide between these two, we have published an article comparing 23andMe and AncestryDNA.

I already took an ancestry test with one company, but couldn’t find any relatives

Buying multiple ancestry DNA tests can get pricey. If you don’t have any luck finding your relatives in one ancestry database, then before you buy another test it might be a good idea to upload your raw DNA data file (which you can download from most providers) to GEDmatch, a free online database that allows genetic relatives to connect with each other.

If you can’t find any relatives that are close enough to help you on GEDmatch, then it might be worth purchasing another ancestry DNA test.

Also, bear in mind that more and more people are purchasing ancestry DNA tests all the time. If you don’t find any relatives immediately, it is worth allowing yourself to be visible in the family finder database, and switch on notifications so that you will be emailed with any new matches or messages. It might be a long waiting game, so don’t give up hope!

Can I find my father through my other relatives?

Even if you don’t manage to find your missing father, sister, or other relative in the ancestry database(s) you look in, you will often find you have a number of cousin matches. If you connect with a first cousin or an aunt, then you may be led quite easily to your lost parent.

Many people, however, will only have distant relatives in the database: second, third, fourth, fifth, and even sixth cousins. Though these are only distant relations, it is still possible for you to track down a missing father using cousin matches, especially if they are willing to help you.

Filtering by mother's or father's side on 23andMe

Filtering by mother’s or father’s side on 23andMe

First, if it is your father you are looking for, you will want to work out which of your DNA matches are on your father’s side. This is easiest if your mother has also taken an ancestry test with the same company as you. For instance, with 23andMe’s DNA Relatives feature, if you have connected with your mother (or another relative related to your mother and not your father) you can filter your DNA matches to show only relatives on your father’s side of the family.

If your mother or maternal relative is not able or willing to take an ancestry test, then you will need to work out how your cousin matches are related to you through your shared matches. Asking your cousin matches what they know about their parents and grandparents will also allow you to rule out more distant relatives on your mother’s side, and to find a common ancestor on your father’s side.

If you are on, then you will be able to view the family trees of your relatives, assuming they’re willing to share them. In order to use Ancestry’s genealogical features, you will need to either pay for a subscription, or take advantage of a free trial.

If you can find a relative on any site who has a link to their family tree, this will help to show how you are related to them, and might provide clues about your other relations.

Once you find a shared ancestor – a great-grandparent, for example – with one of your genetic matches, you can start to establish a family tree, working out who the descendants are of that ancestor and how they relate to you. You may have to contact your cousin matches to ask questions, and should try to do this as sensitively as possible, bearing in mind that they might not know how they are related to you or anyone in your immediate family. This will help you narrow down your missing father’s family, until you find his parents, siblings, and finally your father himself.

Can an ancestry DNA test prove paternity?

Once you’ve found your father in an ancestry database, or tracked him down through your shared relatives, you may wonder how valid your findings are, and whether an ancestry test really counts as proof of paternity.

Technically, an ancestry test is not recognised as legal proof of paternity. In order to truly prove paternity, you’d need to take a paternity test. Of course, it may be that if you’ve had to piece together your family tree yourself, you might have hit a wrong turn somewhere, and so it might be worth taking a paternity test with your suspected father, if only for peace of mind purposes.

If you have matched directly with your father (or his sister, or your half-sibling, etc.) through an ancestry DNA service, then you can be fairly confident that he is your father, unless you’ve stumbled across his identical twin. Still, one or both of you may not consider an ancestry test as definitive proof of paternity, and so you may want to take a paternity test together.

When purchasing a paternity test, you are usually given two options: either a peace-of-mind test, or a legal test. Legal paternity tests can be used in legal proceedings (such as changing the name on a birth certificate). Peace-of-mind tests do not require that the parties be observed taking the DNA samples, and so are only for private information and are not legally admissible.

And… if I still don’t get anywhere?

If you are still unable to find your unknown parent or family member, then you might want to think about reaching out to a genetic genealogist. Genetic genealogists use a combination of genetics and more traditional family tree mapping in order to work out your family connections. Often, they are experts in using genetic matches, birth, death, marriage and adoption records, and social media to fill in gaps in family trees and establish connections between biological relatives.

Each genetic genealogist will come at their own price, so you’ll want to think about how much you’re willing to spend. has their own AncestryProGenealogists service, and offers free estimates on how much it may cost to have one of their genetic genealogists find your missing family member. Bear in mind that finding missing family can be very difficult and time-consuming, and that the price tag may reflect this.

I’ve found my biological parent – now what?

Once you’ve discovered your missing parent, it might be daunting to get in touch with them. You may also discover more family members than you initially bargained for, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and half-siblings.

You should bear in mind that until you contact them, you won’t know what their family dynamics are, or how open they are to receiving new family members. It’s a good idea to think about what you hope you’ll get out of the new relationship – if you manage to establish one – and how it will impact you if your attempts to make contact are rebuffed. You should be prepared for the possibility that your biological parent may not know of your existence, or may not want to be contacted.

Still, even if you fail to establish a relationship with your birth parent, you may find an aunt, uncle or half-sibling who wants to make contact and get to know you. Again, unless you get lucky and find a close family member in the database, finding your birth family could be a long process. But it will hopefully prove rewarding in the end.

monica foss

6 September 2019

i didn’t find out anything . was always told my dad was australian tells me nothing wish i hadn’t bothered


8 October 2019

My mother saying she dont I know who my father is or his name any chance I could track him down plz kind regards t.overton

samiha ahmed

2 June 2020

I would like to lbw who my father is I don’t even have a picture of him and my mother died two months ago and didn’t tell me who my father is can you help me please

clifford sharp

3 June 2020

i want to know whomy farther is

Alana Shaw

5 June 2020

My mother doesnt know my fathers identity, she said he was homeless at the time also..

Will it be a waist of money trying to track that side of my family ?


3 August 2020

Have ordered a DNA kit.Want to know who my dad is.Have no name or photo.Have a few details that’s all.Do you think I have a chance.Should I have done sibling test first?

Clan Murgatroyd

9 October 2020

Sadly, we note that five of the six fatherless young people above possess dreadfully deficient spelling and/or punctuation skills. That tells us why it’s valuable for a father to remain in the home to stabilize its income and thus the children’s education and attitude toward education.

Ray salome

3 November 2020

Ok am a17 year old girl my mum died 4 years ago n i am asking if by using aDNA kit ican trace my dad whom my mum told me nothing about


17 November 2020

Am 88-yof. FATHER deserted mother 6 mos. pregnant with me. When born, brought up by mom and in mother’s married sister’s home with 3 cousins in their teens. Told was NEVER to mention his name ever again….no photos, never knew or saw him EVER. SENT DNA TESTS X 2 to HAVE NEVER RRECEIVED ANY RESULTS. WAS NEVER ABLE TO EVEN FIND A LEAF OF MY FAMILY TREE, although names and approximate years of birth given. tried several time following to contact you people, with not success of replies. PAID FOR MEMBERSHIP…HAVE .VAGUE MEMORY OF SUPPLIED PASSWORD, BUT NO RESULTS OR ANSWERS. NEEDED HELP DESPERATELY. REALLY EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTING EXPERIENCE!!! JCM

D J Smith

19 February 2021

I found my biological father after he deserted my mother 75 years ago and I was put up for adoption. It takes time and effort and analyitical skills.
You need to be lucky and find two second cousins. It took me about two years on ancestry. I was already experianced in tracing family history. I would have thought you need a search angel if you cannot spend LOTS of time.


28 February 2021

my mother was in the ATS in WW11 l was the result of course in 1940s this was taboo and my mother refused to talk about it. How do l find my genetic father

June Sindrey

4 March 2021

I’m 77 years old and was the result of a misdemeanour with Mum and a Scots Guard who was stationed in our Town in September 1942 my Birthday is 22/04/1943! I don’t know his name or anything as I found out after Mums death 3 years ago. Mum married in October 1942 to another soldier who suspected that I wasn’t his and was cruel to me. ‘Dad’ tolerated me but I was very good to him and he mellowed with age. Although in crunch times he showed his dislike for me. It would be lovely to know who my father was but time is running out now for me!

Christopher Brown

6 March 2021

Please send some details of DNA testing to find an unknown father

Jacqueline Wood

25 March 2021

My sister will be 80 this year and still doesn’t know who her biological father was. It has been the best kept secret nobody in my mums family would talk about it and my mum wouldn’t tell me or my sister. I feel really sorry for her because it seems so unfair of my mum. She loved and was loved by my father but would still have liked to know where she came from instead of three dots on her birth certificate. Doubt that there will be a match as he will be over well over a hundred years old now.

Jacqueline Wood

26 March 2021

My sister will be 80 this year and still doesn’t know who her biological father was. It has been the best kept secret nobody in my mums family would talk about it and my mum wouldn’t tell me or my sister. I feel really sorry for her because it seems so unfair of my mum. She loved and was loved by my father but would still have liked to know where she came from instead of three dots on her birth certificate. Doubt that there will be a match as he will be over well over a hundred years old now.

Mandy Williams

2 April 2021

I am trying to find my biological father and possibly my half brother . My half brother is mixed race and was about 7 years of age in November of 1967 when she probally got pregnant with me .My Mother was in her very early 20,s . My mother was not at all happy to talk about my biological father or my half brother , My half brother , His name was or is Barry John but mum also referred to him as Billy . She was very young when she got pregnant and gave birth to him and I believe he was in foster care , I have no idea how my Grandparents took to her getting pregnant at such a young age or what they thought of her seeing a black boy /man but the relationship with my mother was different to her siblings . I know mum kept contact with Barry Johns father (Len) for many years and we even seen him and gave us a lift in his car . We dident know who he was at the time as she told us he was a taxi driver but later on me and my half brother and sisters sort of guessed . I remember mum receiving photos of her son on his weeding day with his new wife when I was in my teens .She got very angry and defensive when I said I would like to try and find him . I dident ask again . She had always told us that he was with foster parents but she dident know where he lived . What my mother has told me about my father is that she had taken her son from the people who were caring for him and she was on the run , she met my father who was driving a van in Gloucestershire and he picked her up I think at the train station she said his name was Dave and he was short, I was apparently conceived in the back of the van whilst my half brother was present . From what she told me it was literally a wham bang Thank you man and I was the result . A friend of my mother’s has recently told me that she told him he was a prison officer at a prison near Gloucester but she never told me that . I think she never saw this man again so he has no idea about my existence and this was also about the last time she ever saw her son . I don’t know how much of what she has told me is true , She died in 2012 . I have thought many times of tracing this man and my half brother as he was about 7 at the time and something has dramatic as my mum described he surely would remember ? , I could never have looked for them whilst my mum was alive but now it’s Something I at least have to do even if it means that what I discover I don’t think I’m going to like .

Claire Turnbull

2 April 2021

My mum is in denial about my birth father.Gave her the chance to tell me his name but she still maintains my brother and I have same father,who she hates.My grandmother confirmed my real father’s name after a rumour reached me.My birth certificate has line drawn through father’s details,mum s not aware I have long version.She doesn’t know that I know anything and as she is 93 yrs old,I can’t possibly have it out with her now..All I know is his name and he was an Irish contractor lodging up the road.Im aware he has probably died now but I still have family there and I want to know about him ,even though they may not want to know me.I can only afford to get one DNA kit,how sure can I be that it will bring up something?I also can’t afford to waste the money as on a pension.Thank you for any help


2 August 2021

Hi I am looking for my father, I am 32 years old and has been lied too, I got bought up by a man who I was led to believe he was my dad when I ask my mum she don’t know and the other man in question was dead and that was all the information I got, I know his name and I can’t find a death certificate, I have never fitted in with my family. I just would like some answers, it it something you can find out, by taking a test? I know his name but he may have died but would like to know if I have any siblings?

Elizabeth Hickmore

14 October 2021

Can I find my biological father? Or some of his children born after me. My DOB is 23 04 1946. I know his name is James Murphy. I guess if he is alive he would be 95. I imagined he married and had other children. I would love to know about him and if I have half brothers and sisters.
What is my best course of action

Denis Bastarache

14 December 2021

My father was adopted, he is 84 and has wondered who his paternal father is. I did get a DNA through CRI Genetics and did mention to them I was more interested in knowing names of family member in our past. Not so interested in knowing the color of my eyes or if I get along with cats or dogs. For an extra fee I can get a “Paternal Haplo”, ‘Maternal Haplo” or “Famous people”. My question is this, Is the Paternal Haplo the best chance of finding where my father’s background is. Or Is there a service that I can try other than CRI Genetics that can get me these answer that won’t be asking for more money. Thank you


18 January 2022

My husband who’s 72 years old found only found out he was adopted 5 years ago. He knows who his mother was but not his father who we think may have been American. He wants to do a DNA test but is not sure which name to registers the test, his adopted name or his birth name ?

Guno Ronde

22 January 2022

Can i find out if i have kids in the world that I don’t know about?


13 March 2022

Hi, I just found this article, which is very interesting, and akin to my experiences. I’ve studied my family tree most of my life, since my first school homework, and thought I had it sussed – back to the 16th century on many lines. I had my DNA tested with Ancestry about 10 years ago and the results have changed dramatically in that time – due to the improvement in the science (my DNA hasn’t changed!). However, I noticed that a first cousin (who was also tested) was listed as a 2nd cousin and in analysing it, I found my father wasn’t my grandfather’s son! So I (and my siblings and their families) had no connection to the family whose name we share!

It came as a complete shock, but after a year I decided to try and identify my genetic grandfather’s family (and possibly identify him) from the DNA matches. It took me a year – and I’m very adept at ancestry analysis (like D J Smith says above, otherwise you would need a search “angel”), and I discovered my biological grandfather last month.

I have reached out to new 1st cousins, but as the article says, I don’t know what dynamics exist in those families, so I can only wait and hope that I get friendly responses. I am 98% sure, but would need a 1st cousin to take a DNA test, to be able to prove it! That might be my biggest challenge yet!

But I agree, the DNA companies should declare a potential “health warning” that the results can cause stress, worry, anxiety and family bust-ups if you find results are not as expected! However, the title: Can I use an ancestry DNA test to find my father? – the answer is YES, with patience, a lot of research and considerable time.

Shonda Crumble

22 May 2022

I’ve always been told by my mother that a certain man was my dad. I’m the oldest; have 2 brothers but myself and the one next to me, I’ve always been told, have the same dad. I began to hear rumors about how my dad wasn’t even my dad when I was in my early 20s. I kept hearing that my biological dad could be a very close relative of my dad, or even some other man so I asked my dad about it and he said he’s never been so sure about me and how he only took her word for it when she told him that I was his. When I was a child, my mother told me that when she was pregnant with me, she had relations with another man but that man couldn’t possibly be my dad. When the rumors kept spreading, I took it upon myself to order a DNA test for my dad and I, in which we took but weeks later it came back saying that he wasn’t my dad. I was devasted and decided to take another one from anothe company but that to came back saying that he was not the dad, I went to my mom about my results but she only got mad at me and said that she knew who she slept with, she was young and GOD forgave her. She also said that she didn’t care what that test said, the man I’ve known to be my dad is my dad and when I had asked her who all she had slept with during the time she had gotten prego with me, she only told me that she had known whom all she had slept with and that I needed to let the past go. she left it at that. I think that she knows whom all she had slept with but doesn’t know which one of them impregmated her with me. I’m wanting to find out if someone can tell me which DNA ancestry test would be the best choice for my situation. I would love to find out who my other half is so that I in turn can tell my son who his other family members are. Everyone needs to know both parents, not just one.

John goulding

23 May 2022

Hello I’m John I know my biological mother but she’s a shame to me , I was raised by my grandmother from berth , im wanting to find my biological father , I have no information on him I was a one night stand so he Doesn’t Evan know I exist , is this possible to find him thru DNA ???

Sarah East

28 May 2022

yes i would like a free dna teat please

Nicola Edwards

14 October 2022

I never knew who my father was for 55 years last year I did a DNA test on ancestry I had two cousins on my biological father side straight to him he only had sisters so it had to be him I got in contact with him he said I didn’t match his dates he was with my mother well I found him on DNA only I match all his grandparents so he’s my biological father alright I’m glad I did it

Joanne Coles

3 November 2022

My mother was 18 when she had me. My father was Army and it was then she found out he was married with two children, I have been told he didn’t want to know me and my mother refused to discuss him . All I know was where he last was in the late 80’s either in Royal Signals or Fusiliers in Catterick Garrison. He’s never bothered to find me , I am not expecting him to be bothered by me but I have two beautiful boys and I wish to know if there is anything hereditary medically I need to be aware of . I was born 12/04/1975 my fathers name is Robert Bergin that’s all I have . I would love any help , kind Regards Joanne

Charles Washington

29 March 2023


Nikki poleykett

29 January 2024

I am looking for my father
I have nothing to go on my mum says she doesn’t know his name or anything about him
I’m 56 was born in Harlow I’m hoping this dna will help even to find someone in his side of family

Post a Comment