Dutch DNA Testing Strategy

So you’re of Dutch descent and want to take a DNA test to find cousins in the Netherlands or learn more about your ancestors. How do you go about doing that?

In general, Dutch people are guarded about their privacy. Many people in the Netherlands have very complete trees because of the excellent records and don’t feel the need for DNA testing. As a result, DNA testing for genealogical purposes is not that common in the Netherlands, though recent marketing campaigns have started to make it more popular.

To maximize your chances of finding matches, you want to be in the databases of all the different testing companies. Check their Terms & Conditions to make sure you agree with the way they can use your data before taking the test. I recommend starting with autosomal tests. If your brick wall is further back in time, you may consider Y-DNA testing or Mitochondrial testing.

Dutch DNA testing strategy

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA testing is used for tracing ancestors in both the male and female lines in the past six or so generations, although you can share autosomal DNA with more distant ancestors. Autosomal DNA tests are the most popular DNA tests.

Autosomes are the 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes. A parent passes on one chromosome of each pair to a child. The chromosome can be the full paternal chromosome or the full maternal chromosome of the parent, but usually is a mix of the two thanks to cross-over and recombination. For the child, half their autosomal DNA will come from your the and half will come from the father, but before that, it’s pretty random which grandparent contributed which segment.

By comparing your autosomal DNA with that of other people in the database, the testing company finds matches. These people share segments of DNA with you. The more autosomal DNA you share, the closer the connection.

Since autosomal DNA isn’t limited to one specific line, it’s the most popular DNA test. It can help you find matches who share an  ancestor about six generations ago, or even further. Beyond second cousins, there are no guarantees that you will share autosomal DNA, but you can share autosomal DNA with much more distant cousins.

Autosomal DNA tests will give you two types of results:

  • Lists of matches; people who have taken the same test and who share autosomal DNA with you. This is the most useful part of the result for genealogical purposes.
  • Ethnicity predictions, which can be pretty bad below the continent level and should be taken with a grain of salt. Many people are fascinated by these results though, so they can be the reason for people to test.

Autosomal testing strategy for maximizing matches on Dutch lines:

  1. Take a test at Ancestry. They only offer autosomal testing and have the largest database in the wold. The majority of their users are from the United States. This test has only been available in the Netherlands for a few years, and is not advertized in the Netherlands. Few people from the Netherlands use this, but you may find Americans of Dutch descent. Ancestry’s genetic communities may allow you to filter for people who appear genetically Dutch. Ancestry does not accept uploads from other companies, so if you want to be in their database, you have to buy a test with them.
  2. Upload your Ancestry data to MyHeritage. Many Dutch people use MyHeritage for their online trees. MyHeritage is marketing their DNA test on Dutch TV and to Dutch people on social media, so it’s become the most popular place for Dutch people to test. You save money by uploading your Ancestry results rather than taking a test directly at MyHeritage, which is another option.
  3. Take an autosomal DNA test or upload your Ancestry results to FamilyTreeDNA. The FamilyTreeDNA autosomal test is called the “FamilyFinder” test. For a long time, FamilyTreeDNA was the most popular DNA test in the Netherlands, since they were the only company to ship to the Netherlands for a reasonable price. An added advantage of testing with FamilyTreeDNA directly is that they bank your DNA for future testing. Instead of taking the FamilyFinder test, you can also upload the raw data from your Ancestry or 23andMe test to FamilyTreeDNA but these tests aren’t fully compatible and won’t give you all the matches. Since uploading results doesn’t store the sample, I recommend testing at FamilyTreeDNA directly if you can afford it.
  4. Take a test at 23andMe. Either the “Ancestry Service” or the “Health and Ancestry Service” is fine. Some Dutch people take this test to find out about about genetic traits and health risks. 23andMe does not accept transfers from other companies, so if you want to be in their database, you have to buy a test with them.

These tests are aimed at giving you the optimal results for finding Dutch matches. If you can only afford one test, I recommend testing at Ancestry and uploading those results to MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. In the Netherlands, MyHeritage is the most popular testing company for these types of tests. But Ancestry does not allow uploads while MyHeritage does, hence my advice to test at Ancestry and then upload to MyHeritage.

You want to test as many family members as you can, especially from the oldest generation since they will share the most DNA with any particular ancestor. Siblings inherit different segments of DNA from their parents, so if parents aren’t available, test as many siblings (or aunts and uncles) as you can. Testing first and second cousins is also helpful, since they can help you figure out what side of your tree a match is on. The more people in your family you test, the easier it will be to sort out your matches and see what line the shared ancestor must be on.

Y-DNA test

Y-DNA testing is used to trace the strict male line. The Y-chromosome is one of chromosomes that determine the sex of the child. It is passed on intact (with a chance of some mutations) from father to son. A Y-DNA test compares markers with other people who took the test. The more markers you share, the more likely it is that you are closely related. Since only men have a Y-chromosome, only men can take a Y-DNA test.

Taking a Y-DNA test is most useful if you have a more distant brick wall. You can test a brother, father, uncle, cousin or any other male in the strict male line (usually: family name) you’re interested in. For example, if you’re a woman interested in your father’s male line, you can test your father or brother. If you’re interested in your mother’s male line, you can test your mother’s brother or maternal grandfather.

If you find a close Y-match, the number of differences in markers will give you a rough estimate of how many generations ago the shared ancestor was. If you and your Y-match both take an autosomal test, you may be able to refine that estimate.

You can order Y-DNA tests from FamilyTreeDNA. I recommend starting at 37 markers. If you don’t have any matches at that level, chances are slim that you will have good matches at a higher level. If you do have many matches, you can always upgrade later.

You can join the Netherlands DNA Project or a project dedicated to your haplogroup to compare your DNA with others. There may even be a surname project that sorts out the different families by that name.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA testing is used to trace the strict female line. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on by the mother to all her children. Both men and women can test, but only women pass it on so the test will only reflect their maternal line. Mitochondrial DNA mutates very slowly, much slower than Y-DNA, so even a perfect mtDNA match could mean that the shared ancestor was hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Mitochondrial DNA tests are expensive, so few people take them. Combined with the slow mutation rate, this makes a mitochondrial DNA test not good for “fishing” for cousins to help you break down brick walls. They can help you prove a line though, for example if you want to know which of two wives was your ancestor. You could test known strict female-line descendants of the candidates and compare them to a strict female-line descendant of your brick wall ancestor. Taking a mtDNA test will also help to build the databases, so in the future more people will find matches.

If you want to do a mitochondrial DNA test, I recommend the Full Sequence Test from FamilyTreeDNA. This is the highest resolution test. There are cheaper tests that only test part of the mitochondrial DNA, but any matches you find there could share ancestors many thousands or even tens of thousands of year ago.

You can join the Netherlands project or Benelux mtDNA project to compare your results with others from the area.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Hi Yvette, wanneer ik vast zit met mijn Vaserlijke lijn in 1776 en ik zelf denk dat er een connectie is met een plaats die nu in België ligt welke DNA test zou je me dan aanbevelen?

    Gr, Irma

  2. Ann Van... says

    Thank you for this great explanation. I did the Ancestry test the end of last year and like you say the cousin results are mostly here in USA. I have just one who I know here in the states that showed up on my list. I haven’t uploaded my file to MyHeritage yet. By reading your article I will definitely do that.

  3. Patricia van Rhijn says

    Thank you Yvette! This is exactly the information I have been looking for. My father was from the Netherlands and my mother from Belgium, so I have close to 100% European DNA. I have tested at 23andMe and Ancestry and uploaded my Ancestry results to GEDmatch. At this point my best matches are at the 4th cousin level, and I can count them one one hand. I have been in contact with 4 of those matches and so far have been able to identify a common ancestral couple in only one case. So, a third DNA test is in order, and I need it to be the one where most Dutch (and Belgian) people test. Your article has clarified my options for me – it should be the Family Tree DNA test. Veel bedankt!!

  4. Thanks for the great article.

  5. Thanks, Yvette for the comprehensive article. Yes, although Genealogical Research in The Netherlands has always had a strong following, and the archives today are more accessible than ever in the past, the Dutch lag way behind even the Finns when it comes to the percentage of the population engaged in the pursuit of their family history. It has irked me for several years that the one Dutch person in FTDNA who matches my Y-Chromosome Haplogroup, refuses to communicate with me. I ask myself why? I pose no threat to him, and he stands to learn more from me than I do from him? I have even thought of trying to go around him by finding a male relative of his to test. Is he just stubborn, or does he have something to hide? We are the only ones in the FTDNA Dutch database with a Y-Haplogroup N-M178 classification, and it seems quite likely to me that our ancestors were related and came to Noord Holland about 1580+- from Finland? He stands to learn more from me, but he won’t budge. Is there a way for me to find a family member of his I can test? Keep up your good work, The Netherlands needs a pro-active researcher like you!

  6. Somehow, my comment above got posted as a reply to Patricia Van Rhijn’s comment? That is curious, especially since de Sus van mijn bet-overgrootvader Gerrit Gerritsz. Blankman, Jr., whose name was Maria, married Theodoris Gerard van Rhijn, and they had several descendants. It would be incredible if there was a family tie there too?

    • Patricia van Rhijn says

      Yes Donald, it would be incredible – but not impossible. My Van Rhijnen line originated around 1700 in Schiedam ZH (near Rotterdam) – descendants of a soldier from Lotharingen (Lorraine) by the name of Laurens Reijnier who married a young woman from Schiedam in 1692. I don’t have a “Theodoris Gerard van Rhijn” in my files, but I do have a few “loose” Theodoruses” (no other family members) born about the mid-1800’s. Also a Theodora Catharina who is a descendant of another branch of my Van Rhijn family (also born mid 1800’s). If your Van Rhijns have any connection to Schiedam, I would be interested to know!

  7. Nancy DeVries Adams says

    Hello, I just got my autosomal DNA test results from MyHeritage.com. I chose that website since I have a family tree on it. This article says that autosomal DNA testing is used for tracing ancestors in the past six or so generations. I was quite surprised to learn that I’m 77.2% Scandinavian, 20.9% North and West European and 1.9% English. I have traced all branches of my ancestors back 5 or more generations and they all lived in the Netherlands, so I would have expected my results to be mostly European. Furthermore, when I look at the profiles of some of the 8 extended family and 4,484 distant relatives, many have Netherlands as a common ancestral region and no one has Scandanavia. I will try to convince my brother to take a Y-DNA test and perhaps I will test Family Tree or Ancestry. Feedback will be greatly appreciated.

  8. Cecile Coetsee says

    Hi Yvette
    My husband (and I) live in Australia and have done our dna tests through Ancestry. My husband’s cousin, whom he would like to compare dna with, lives in the Netherlands. I have searched for Ancestry’s contact details in the Netherlands but can’t find anything. I’m not sure if the UK will send one to her in the Netherlands. Do you know how she can obtain an Ancestry dna kit please? I hope you will be able to advise.

  9. Gary Gauthier says

    Hello Yvette;
    The AncestryDNA test I took has been uploaded to MyHeritage, Geneanet and Living DNA. This is because I was only getting 15cM matches (at most) on AncestryDNA. So far, I’ve only had 2 matches above 40 cM and those were on MyHeritage. Based on my DNA results and birthplace, the geographic locale of my ancestors seems to be centred in France and may extend to nearby countries to the north. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some Dutch ancestry, given the physical characteristics of myself and my children.

    You mentioned uploading DNA results to FamilyTreeDNA and possibly taking a 23andMe test. While FamilyTreeNA won’t cost me anything additional, 23andME would. Do both databases have good coverage in France, Belgium and the Netherlands?

  10. Predrag Babic says

    Hello Yvette. Can you please tell me after so many years is it possible to do the test in person anywhere in Netherland?

    • I think there are some specialized forensic labs where you can go for DNA tests but I do not know any consumer DNA tests that you can take in person in the Netherlands. All these companies are elsewhere and require you to mail the sample.

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