If you have French heritage, you might wonder why you don’t have many French DNA matches. Here is an overview of DNA testing in France to help you better understand where you might find your French cousins.
Is DNA testing legal in France?
According to the French bioethics law, DNA testing is only allowed for medical, scientific or judicial purposes. The main concern is that paternity tests and medical DNA tests shouldn’t be done without supervision. But the ban also extends to genealogical DNA tests.
When this law was debated earlier this year, genealogists thought that this would change. And that DNA testing for genealogy would be possible, at last. But the National Assembly and the Senate finally decided against it.
In consequence, France remains the last country in Europe where DNA testing is still illegal.
This mostly means that no French company is allowed to sell DNA tests for recreational purposes like genealogy. And that French people shouldn’t have their DNA tested outside of a medical facility.
However, no one has ever been fined for buying a direct-to-consumer DNA test. And more and more French people have had their DNA tested anyway, by buying kits to DNA testing companies abroad.
Where can you buy DNA tests from France?
As a consequence DNA tests are not as easy to buy from France as from other countries. Some of the major international companies (like Ancestry) do not ship their tests to France. And most of the companies don’t make advertisements in France.
MyHeritage started selling in France in 2018, and they have done a lot of advertisement for their tests, on TV and through Youtube videos. They are also the only ones who provide information in French. So this is where most French people buy their DNA tests nowadays.
However data protection is a big concern for many French people: they would rather not “give away” their DNA outside of the European Union. So a lot of French genealogists are waiting for a legalization before buying DNA tests.
Where can you find French DNA matches?
As Ancestry doesn’t ship to France, you might not have a lot of French DNA matches there. You might find a few French DNA matches on FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme.
But nowadays, it’s on MyHeritage that you will have the most chances of finding French cousins. Moreover MyHeritage allows you to filter your matches by country. Which is convenient if you want to focus on your French heritage.
Recently, a very popular French genealogy website – Geneanet – launched their DNA matching service. They do not sell DNA tests, but you can upload your results from any other major company (Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, LivingDNA, 23andme) to find DNA matches.
Their main asset is that they have a large database of family trees for France (and neighboring countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg, …). So most of your matches will have a documented family tree, which will help you find the connection.
For now, it is still in beta test, so there are no analysis tools (no chromosome browser, etc.). It will only tell you “you share x% with this person”. And there are not a lot of people yet. But I’m sure this will change in the upcoming months and that it will grow bigger.