Any ideas as to how to get cooperation of people to submit to a DNA test?

+7 votes

As admin for a surname DNA project I frequently contact people asking them to join the project and test their DNA. 

Disappointingly most of the time ....crickets.

There are a couple of family associations, one claims the same ancestry as mine, another is a small geographical group whose origin is only speculated not known.

I contacted seven males of the latter, thanks to the help of one of the female members,  and my request was met by crickets.

I can only think of two reasons a person won't test their DNA: Money and Fear.

In many cases I have even offered to pay for the test. I have actually paid for three (complete strangers). Still crickets.

Then there is fear. Fear that perhaps they might find out something that they don't want to find out, such as bastardy or that they actually don't have the ancestry they so proudly claim.

Or fear that their DNA will be used by the authorities or insurance companies.

To my knowledge, genealogical DNA is not entered into a national data base, unlike military DNA. And the only info the testing lab has on genealogical DNA is the kit number, which they send back to FTDNA, or ancestry where it is  then matched with the name.

I am also aware that apparently the vast majority of people have little interest in genealogy, and are too busy trying to survive and prosper, or just never thought of genealogy as a high priority.

I have three children, 11 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and nary a one of them has shown any interest in genealogy, they are too preoccupied with what is going on now, and worries about the future.

Positive side. I found a person who does not share my surname, but shares my rather unique haplogroup, down to the termnal SNP, lacking funds they let me test Y37 and SNP. Their family transited the same county, only miles apart, as another member of the project with the surname and both have a unique and rare mutation, within the unique haplogroup.

Anyone have any thoughts as to how to overcome these objections, or can think of objections not already mentioned.


in The Tree House by Living Farrar G2G6 Mach 1 (15.0k points)
retagged by Peter Roberts

I paid for the very basic test eg mtDNA - reasonably informative but would love to find out more.

Priced up the Y DNA test but it's way out of my reach £300 + (equivalent to about US$480).  As I'm female, my twin is male and it would be interesting for both of us to have the test, especially as I would find out more but as it is so expensive it'll have to wait.

What puts people off in my opinion.

  • Cost
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Youth of today live in the present and future rather than think about where they came from
  • Possibly the data could be used against them
  • Fear of where they truly originate from

Whenever I see my 'younger' relatives, I let them know the interesting aspects of our roots eg one family member received an O.B.E. for his work.

All I can suggest is enlightening others with some of your findings.

For me I love it, it is like being a detective trying to uncover, who, when, what, why and piecing everything together.  Without the past I wouldn't be here today and the person I am.


Who do you test through? Those prices you mention are obscene.  I can understand cost if those are the prices you paid.

Why don't you try for YDNA testing an autosomal testing.  Autosomal testing is $99 (cheap). Y37 (male DNA) is $169.

The other reasons, other than disinterest, seem to be fear.

It is the question "What are they afraid of, that I want to know".

You mentioned fear of the unknown, which co-relates with fear of discovery of origin,

However none of us have just one origin. Most, not all, African Americans are mixed ..mostly African Euro or Euro African.

The same goes for at least 1/3rd (estimate) of Native Americans.

Tribes like Cherokee are so totally mixed I think that a full blooded Cherokee would be an anomaly. Other nations like the Navajo and Apache have for the most part maintained their genetic integrity.

Myself, well I'm frustrated because 23andme (which is autosomal mostly, will inform you of your major Y haplogroup and mtDNA haplogroup down to subclades, but they don't t provide Y or mtDNA matching) has different breakdown of my ethnic origins than does FTDNA.. thus there is no real standard to date as to determining one's ethnic origins.

Ethno typing appears to be a combination of assumptions based on haplogroup and SNP's. Cue the word: Assumptions.
I've just gone through this process recently ... I phrased it as a request to help me with genealogical research (which of course it is) ... made it clear that it was at my expense ... and also briefly summarized the procedure. Some people might be afraid it involves needles or blood.

Hi William Farrar

I've had the mtDNA+ already which cost me £42.  Not much point in my son, siblings doing this same test - hence I was interested in the yDNA for my brother (twin). 

As I already know my heritage going back to 1580 on my mother's side and unable to trace my paternal side (only back to 1680)- was really interested in the paternal side.

Would love for my son to have the paternal side too - but hey it' all down to cost.

Seriously though which package would be the best for either my brother or son?

£125 – about US$180’ish?


Family Finder US$99

yDNA37 – US$169

yDNA67 – US$268

yDNA111 – US$359

mtDNA+ - US$69

mtFullSequence US$199

Family Finder and yDNA67 US$367

Family Finder and mtDNAfull US$298

Family Finder and yDNA37 US$268

Comprehensive US$566

£79.00 each plus shipping £20 = £99.00

Trace your roots – US$199

Basic £159

Premium £369

Expert £969



You already have autosomal DNA, so not much to learn from testing other members of the family.

You indicate an interest in YDNA.

If so then Y37 at it has a larger data base than others for matching.

23andme does not test YDNA specifically
Good ideas. I never thought of the fear of needles angle. I'll be sure to inform them that it is only a swab.

However, it is a mainstay of crime and detective shows these days that cheeks are swabbed, so I think that most folk already know that.

2 Answers

+1 vote
Well, I think you have many of the major reasons, but  there are others.  At first the Y chromosomes were pushed, but when I signed up with Ancestry.comDNA I didn't realize it was for auDNA.  And the first results I got were ethnic and didn't match what I knew of my lineage; lots of Scandinavian rather than Great Britain,  Of course I knew of the various invasions, but probable Vikings and Huns weren't what I was looking for.  

It's only the last month or two I've learned how to download the Ancestry.comDNA raw data and upload it to GEDmatch and there are more and better matches both places that it's become something approaching exciting.  I have matches from both my parent lines so I know my parents were my father and mother.  And there are a ton of people I need to contact to see how they connect.  And I haven't yet had the time to post a request on FaceBook where most of my friends are close family or correspondents from genealogy. So I expect to eventually be able to verify most all the lines (assuming they are true lines.So letting people know the ease of verifying their relationships and finding new cousins may go far in getting you the surname cohort you want.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (411k points)
Thanks Dave, but I don't see, in your response, one of the other reasons for not testing.  Could you clarify for me please, What reason would that be? I must have missed it. I really need reasons, that I might overcome objections.

+4 votes
I have had some success in getting family members and some distant relatives of mine to test.

As you point out, offering to pay for the test removes one of the major barriers to people agreeing to test.  In addition to paying for the test, I always make sure to explicitly offer them complete control over their test and to offer to help them interpret/understand their results.

In addition to paying though, I also feel like you have to make a personal connection with the tester by showing them the work that you have done on their relatives - which then makes you have credibility in making a claim that the test will provide important information on relatives and ancestors that they know/care about.

For example - last summer, I reached out to a third cousin of mine who had done a nice job documenting his family line on Ancestry's public member trees.  We exchanged several email messages and then agreed to meet.  At our meeting, I brought an Ancestry DNA kit that I had purchased, and he was enthusiastic about it.  He immediately sent it in and we actually ended up meeting again for another DNA kit for his grandmother.

This said - even when you make a personal connection, there are no guarantees.  Another second cousin of mine actually reached out to me about what I had posted on our family line on Wikitree.  I exchanged several messages with him and asked him to test and mailed him an Ancestry DNA kit (in January of 2015).  He still hasn't sent in the kit - despite a series of gentle reminders.  Humorously, I still haven't given up hope that he will test.  I just need to find the right pitch that will motivate him to want to send in the test.
by Ray Jones G2G6 Pilot (155k points)

Thanks Ray: You have given me a positive suggestion. Here:  I also feel like you have to make a personal connection with the tester by showing them the work that you have done on their relatives - which then makes you have credibility in making a claim that the test will provide important information on relatives and ancestors that they know/care about.

I have one situation in mind, actually two. These people head up Family Reunions and/or have posted exhaustive genealogies on rootsweb,, they have the money, but when I approached them to join the project...crickets. Gave up after the second try.

I can only surmise that they fear that the results will not validate their claimed ancestral tree.  Problem is, that in my surname project there are over 40 persons in lineage 1, some are NPE's, a couple descend from persons who acquired their surnames before the Poll Tax of 1377 (which mandated hereditary surnames), but because the DNA is so unique and rare in the British Isles, that all who have this YDNA can trace their ancestry to what was once Northumbria at the time of the conquest, actually after the conquest.

There are some others with the surname, but they belong to two different and very common haplogroups, and their ancestors originated in either that part of England known once as Anglia or Mercia.


This sounds great - you already have a clear and compelling account of why the project you are doing has the potential to be "personally meaningful" (for lack of a better term) to a potential tester.  Selling a potential tester on being part of a bigger project that has direct relevance to their family has some real potential.

As you point out though, a person who is defensive about their possible family connection could actually view a DNA test as a threat.  I have even seen this in a few cases in my relatives, as they sometimes become upset over their ethnicity percentages (even though I try and assure them that these should not be taken as scientific evidence beyond the continent level).

If someone is very proud of their family legacy but secretly has doubts about it (especially if they are DAR or SAR or claim to have Euro Aristo roots, for example), a DNA test might be the last thing they would ever do.....

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