DNA Research

How can you find this hidden part of your origins?

Since 2001, the law in relation to donor insemination has changed in Switzerland and donors can no longer be anonymous. Thus, a child born from a sperm donation since 2001 can access, at his majority, information on his donor and even request a meeting (which can be refused by the donor). The law is theoretically retroactive, but in practice, especially for people born between 1974 and 1990, it is impossible to retrieve information on donors because everything has been destroyed.

The only way for these people to find out more about the unknown half of their origins and their anonymous donor is through DNA testing. What information can these tests provide?

  • Estimates of your ethnicity. These are based on algorithms and the database of the company where the test was carried out, and are rarely very accurate (especially for continental north-western Europe, where France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands are massed together). However, they can be very useful if your mother's ethnicity is different from that of your donor.
  • DNA matches. Once your DNA has been added to the company's database, it will be compared to all other members. You will then see matches with a higher or lower percentage of how much DNA you share with that person. This information, combined with the family trees that some members post on their profiles, can sometimes reveal information about your donor.
  • Close family ties. It may happen that you discover half-siblings, cousins, uncles/aunts, nephews/nieces or the donor himself through the DNA matches, if they are registered on the same site as you.
  • Other estimates based on your genetic traits. Some sites, particularly 23andme, use your genetic material to guess the colour of your hair, the shape of your ears or whether you prefer to get up early or late. These funny but useful predictions are based on current knowledge of genetic medicine, but can be wrong for various reasons.
  • Information on potential diseases. Some sites also offer analyses based on current scientific knowledge in medical genetics, which can predict certain diseases. Beware, however: these sites are forbidden to provide such a report for a person residing in Switzerland, as this type of analysis is illegal in Switzerland if it has not been done by a doctor. Furthermore, these predictions may turn out to be wrong. If you have any concerns about this, it is best to discuss them with your doctor, who may be able to refer you to a doctor specialising in genetics.

In the following section you will find information about the different DNA tests available on the market and another section on genetic genealogy if you wish to start your genealogical investigation.