15 years ago when I started on this journey into my family history , DNA was a relatively new thing. But now it’s one of the hottest topics in genealogy. When you go to conferences you will see more and more presentation about DNA. This week I’d like to explore the subject of DNA. (note that I am by no means an expert but I read everything I can put my hands on about the subject).
I’ve been involved in my own families DNA since 2010. It was at that time I had my father do a YDNA and mtDNA test kit with Ancestry. Since that time Ancestry no longer handles this type of DNA and I’ve transferred my dad’s information over to Family Tree DNA.
Whenever you speak with anyone about DNA for genealogy everyone wants to know what company should I use or what test should I take? Before you think about what company you should use or what test should I take, I thinking the first thing you should ask yourself is, what do I want to learn? When you know what you want to learn that will help you choose the test to take and the company to test with.
Let me explain why I say that. For instance if you were to take a Y-DNA (Y-chromosome) test first of all you’d have to be male or have a male test subject. The Y-DNA test will tell you who that male test subject’s paternal line was. So your going to go down the line of the father’s, father’s, father’s father’s… you get the idea. That’s because the Y chromosome is passed from father to son almost completely unchanged. So if that’s what you want to learn about then the Y-DNA test is for you.
Another DNA test you can do is a mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) test. For this kit both men and women can take the test. This test follows the test subject’s maternal line, so in the case of a male it would be his mother’s mother’s, mother’s…etc. or for a female test subject; her mother’s mother’s, mother. As this DNA mutations are very rare it’s my understanding that you need an exact matching on the mtDNA full sequence to confirm a common ancestor.
Finally the test that I think that is the most talked about is the atDNA (Autosomal DNA). Again this test can be taken by both males and females and I like to think that it helps not only with your direct lines but all the family in the middle. This is because you receive 50% of your chromosomes from your mother and 50% from your father. Note that no two children will receive the same 50%. This test along with a family tree can help you find your family.
So as I said earlier; you need to know what you’d like to know before you choose a test. Over the next few days I’d like to tell you a bit more about the tests and also about the testing companies as well as some of my own experiences with the test kits that I look after (I currently look after 17 kits for my family).