Whether you are trying to find out if a classmate is a distant cousin or if you are actually related to royalty, figuring out if you are related to someone can prove both entertaining and challenging. Finding these family relations can also have other benefits: you may be able to gain membership to federally recognized Native American tribes, begin to bond with a once-unconfirmed relative or learn about medical conditions which could be passed down.
Building a Family Tree
Start with what you know about your immediate family, and gradually branch out. Asking relatives, such as your grandparents, about the names, birth dates and other information of their parents and grandparents can help you create a basic family tree. Family photo albums, scrapbooks and borrowing records from family members, such as birth certificates or military records, can also be useful when building your family tree, according to Find My Past.
Use government or national resource websites to collect research. The National Archives can provide some military casualty records and names of Native Americans listed in the Dawes Rolls online. You can also choose to pay for print copies of records, such as pages from the census, court documents, immigration and naturalization records or records related to land.
Consider joining genealogy web sites, where you can view and collect research from other genealogists. While some sites require a subscription, others are free to join. As you add information about family members, some genealogy sites may connect you to users who have entered the same people in their family trees.
Research the benefits of DNA testing. If you are searching for a close relative, like a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or cousin, autosomal DNA testing can help, according to DNA Reunion. Both men and women can use this test, and it can indicate how you may be related to the other person. These tests only work with close relatives, so looking for great-grandparents with autosomal DNA will not work.
Look into other DNA testing choices if you and someone else may be more distantly related. If you are a man, the Y-DNA test may find more distant relatives through your male ancestors, as men pass down largely unchanged copies of Y-DNA to their sons, creating an obvious line, according to the BBC. Women can take the mtDNA test, which looks for matches only through female ancestors. Though these tests can tell whether or not you are related, they cannot be used to determine exactly how you are related.
Know the limitations of any DNA testing you choose to undergo. Y-DNA tests only look at your direct male lineage, so it will trace your paternal grandfather's family tree, but not your paternal grandmother's, according to the BBC. Women using mtDNA tests will only find information about the direct female line. Men can trace their ancestry up to about 60,000 years ago, while women may be able to trace their ancestry as far back as 150,000 to 200,000 years, according to the Tech Museum of Innovation.
- DNA Reunion: Compare Technologies
- Medical Genomics: How Does DNA Testing Work?
- Find My Past: 10 Tips to Start Your Family History Journey
- The New York Times: Advice on How to Research Family History, Part 1
- BBC: Genetic Genealogy: What Can It Offer?
- The Tech Museum of Innovation: How Far Back Can Ancestry Test Go?
- Ed Phillips/iStock/Getty Images