Reading Room & Genealogy Institute
Make sure to check our holiday closures prior to visiting.
Last entry to the Center for Jewish History exhibition spaces is 30 minutes before closing.
If there is a living Holocaust survivor, our preference is to test them. Children only inherit 50% of each parent’s DNA, so the parent’s DNA test yields more potential useful information. Please note that if a parent has already tested, we do not need to test their child.
The goal of the DNA Reunion Project is to get commercial DNA tests to Holocaust survivors and their families; we prefer AncestryDNA because of the comparative size of its database and because it has the highest quality of cousin matching for Jewish testers. If you’ve already tested at Ancestry, you’ve done your part. If you’ve tested elsewhere, and are a survivor or child of survivors, you can sign up to receive a free Ancestry kit but please be aware that priority goes to those families who have never tested before.
There is no separate “database” to which we can add or upload results. If you’ve already tested, you can sign up for our mailing list to learn about educational programming about how to interpret your results or you can consider donating to the project to allow more survivors to receive free kits.
Your DNA results belong to you; the company you test with will send results directly to your registered email address, not to CJH. The DNA Reunion Project will provide general education and resources on how people can use their DNA results to learn more about their family history, and to support people in their attempts to trace relatives' fates.
We will only be able to answer individual research questions from survivors on a case-by-case basis as time allows. Should it be necessary to get access to your DNA results in order to answer a specific research query, we will require your informed consent and provide further directions.
No, unfortunately we cannot. We are only using saliva-based tests taken by living people.
We are not creating a unique test or database but rather a chance to receive a DNA kit from one of the major commercial DNA companies. If you have already taken such a test, or plan to do so, and would like to be added to our mailing list about upcoming online workshops on how to interpret your results, please click here. For the distribution of free kits, we will prioritize survivors themselves as well as anyone for whom purchasing a kit would constitute a financial hardship.
We define “survivor” as anyone who experienced Nazi persecution firsthand or had to flee from it.
At present we are only able to consider applications from first and second generations: the survivors themselves, and the children of survivors and victims. If there is a living survivor available to test, we do not need to test their children. If you have extraordinary extenuating circumstances that don’t fit these categories, let us know and we will consider your request.
DNA provides two key pieces of information: an ethnicity estimate that tells you where in the world your ancestors likely originated and a list of people with whom you share DNA, ranked in order of predicted closeness to you, usually called a “match list.” Our focus is on this match list. Although we cannot guarantee you will find close relatives, DNA tests have the potential to connect you with family members you may not have known about and illuminate missing pieces of your family’s story.
Our preferred test (AncestryDNA) requires that you produce about a half teaspoon of saliva into a vial. We strongly encourage this method as the one most likely to produce accurate and useful results. If this is simply not possible, please request a swab kit instead, but understand that you are less likely to find relatives, as the companies that use a swab have far fewer people in their databases.
The kit will come with easy-to-follow instructions both for collecting the sample and activating your account. If you’re concerned about producing saliva, before spitting, relax and rub your cheeks gently for 30 seconds. If you find it difficult to produce saliva, you can place a very small amount (1/4 teaspoon) of white table sugar on your tongue.
The commercial DNA tests look at your autosomal DNA, which you inherited equally from both parents. Anyone can take them, and the results will reflect genetic contributions from both parents. Whether you match with more maternal or paternal relatives is entirely dependent on who else related to you has already tested.
Results usually come back within four to eight weeks. You will be notified by email to log into the commercial DNA company’s website.
In order to get your results, you just need to set up a free account linked to your email address. If you are interested in doing more research on your own, you are welcome to purchase a subscription.
There are a lot of misunderstandings about what commercial DNA testing companies can and cannot do with your DNA sample. We feel confident with the level of privacy afforded by the companies we are using, keeping in mind that you shed DNA daily as you go about your day-to-day life. We ask that you read the terms of service for the company whose kit we provide. If you are at all uncomfortable with the terms, do not proceed with testing. If you prefer, you can test under a pseudonym or initials to remain anonymous.
From our experience within the genetic genealogy community, the biggest risk in DNA testing is receiving unexpected results that reveal previously unknown situations like extramarital affairs, adoption, donor conception, etc. If you are unwilling to potentially learn of such situations, you should not test.
The primary companies whose kits we provide do not allow law enforcement access to their databases. If we need to use a company that does, we will alert you.
The tests we use do not provide users with any health information. You are welcome to investigate those on your own.