Finding Eastern European Cousins Using DNA

In the genealogical field, DNA has become a staple in research. For good reason, we can confirm the accuracy of our tree and fill in holes left by illegitimate children or foundlings. Genetic genealogy often feels hard or impossible for Slavic genealogists. There are many reasons people feel this way, DNA testing isn’t common in Eastern Europe, our families were wiped out due to World War One and Two. If we do have matches usually they have no information themselves or they share too little DNA to matter.

Let’s compare through Ancestry DNA three Americans. The first has family that’s been in America since the 1600s. Then me, I’m is mixed but most of my ancestors immigrated here in the 1900s, and my paternal grandfather whose grandparents and great-grandparents were born in Poland or Romania.

Western MeEastern
Ethnic BackgroundAmerican Colonial Polish, Irish + MoreCzech Polish
# of matches => 20 cM 1315256165
# of matches 20 cM 2624423

The numbers show us a lot, the western European testers has more 20 cM matches compared to my total matches and my grandfather has almost 100 fewer matches than me. The fewer matches you have the fewer breakthroughs you’re going to make. but there are a few strategies to get more out of your DNA and find relatives.

  1. Wait. It’s just that simple, wait for more people to take a DNA test.
  2. Organize all your DNA matches into groups. If you’ve gotten this far hopeful you have already done this but if you haven’t, you have to! the organization is important, even if the match small and unimportant you never know.
  3. While your at it with organizing, look at the quality of the DNA match, Ancestry and other DNA databases have ways to look at the longest segment of DNA you share with a match. Good matches share a segment of 20 or more cMs. (Or Blaine Bettinger recently twitted to me to trust 30 or higher cM otherwise you may find multiple common ancestors and misattribute the common DNA)
  4. Get everyone in your family to take a DNA test, grandparents (if they’re still living), parents, aunts/uncles, and if nothing else siblings or cousins. This is a good idea because not everyone inherits the same DNA, so the more people you get tested the easier it will be to find go matches.
  5. Put your DNA in every database possible. Make sure to take a DNA test with everyone, Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23&Me, and FamilyTreeDNA are the best options. If you only want to take one test then take Ancestry and upload to MyHeritage and FTDNA. MyHeritage is probably the best database currently for eastern Europeans. My Grandfather on MyHeritage has 349 matches that’s double the amount he has on Ancestry!

I hope you found this article helpful. Did I miss anything? If I did shoot me an email.

Published by SlavicGenealogy

A Polish-American Genealogist. Member of The Hidden Branch, NextGen, TheirVoices Podcast. Student of The National Institute of Genealogical Studies. My Field of specialty is Western Slavic research (Polish, Czech, and Slovak). Dabbles in Irish, Romanian, Italian, and German Research. Massive lover of immigration research and always willing to step outside of my research field.

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