Communicate with Genetic Relatives

Connect with Genetic Relatives Identified Using AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, or 23andME Data

When you talk to a distant relative, they may already know about their genetic risk or the news of possible risk may be completely unexpected. You. may have already experienced different responses while talking to your close relatives about genetic testing. Communicating with relatives identified through DNA testing can be especially challenging. Before talking to distant relatives consider all the ways that they may respond. We have some suggestions and example scripts before proceeding:

Key Suggestions

  • Use tools provided by AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage for initial connections. Do not try to find personal information or contact information that is not shared on common forums.
  • Be clear about how you found someone.

    Example:“I found that we share DNA through MyHeritage”

  • Communicate about how you are related.

    Example:"“I am your second cousin. Sally King was our great grandmother. Your grandmother, Bessie, and my grandfather, George, were siblings.”

  • Tell them about your family history related to your variant.

    Example:“We have a lot of breast cancer in my family. I have been doing family history work and I think it may becoming from Sally King, our common great-grandmother.”

  • Invite them to find out more.

    Example:“Because we both share DNA, I think that we may have the similar cancer risk. Would you be interested in talking with me about this?”

  • Respect your relative’s right to decide to follow up. Genetic risk can be hard for some people. Sometimes a relative may respond that they are not interested. Sometimes people are interested, but it is not a good time in their life. They may be preparing for a new child, starting a new job, or struggling with health issues. Sometimes people want to follow up privately.

Conversations About Specific Variants

  • If possible, try to set up a time to talk by phone, video chat, or in person.
  • Share your experience with medical care and genetic testing.
  • Ask your relative what they think. They may have had similar experiences. They may have already received genetic testing or have other close relatives who have had genetic testing.
  • Tell them that you think that they might have the same variant because you both share DNA with and common ancestor who you think had the variant. Be clear, but be careful not to overstate the chances that they have the same variant. There are always exceptions in genetics. Express that clinical genetic testing is important, if they want to find out for sure.
  • Tell them clearly about the specific gene that your variant is in and about the specific genetic variant. If you have a copy of your genetic testing report, sharing a copy will help your relative and their doctor know exactly what to test.
  • Offer help and tell them about resources. There are many excellent educational websites and patient support groups. Your relative could also use ConnectMyVariant, reach out to their own doctor, or find genetic counselors listed at the ConnectMyVariant contact page.

Next Steps & Related Pages