DNA Testing Options
Reviewing DNA Testing Options
Before you take a DNA test, it’s a good idea to understand the different kinds of testing and the options for getting the tests. For genealogical purposes, there are three types of testing that are most common.
Autosomal DNA Testing – can be taken by either males or females. It is carried on the 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes, one of each pair is from the mother and the other from the father. Contains random pieces of DNA from parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. Autosomal DNA has a reach of up to approximately 5-7 generations. The farther back in the tree, the more deluted the results. So you have a wide range, but not as deep.
Popular U.S. Providers:
- 23andMe – $99 for the lifetime of the platform in the U.S.
- Family Tree DNA -$99 for the lifetime of the platform.
- Ancestry.com’s DNA Ancestry test – $99 – subscription is required to access some features.
MtDNA Testing – Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be taken by both males and females, but is inherited only from the mother. It is derived from the mitochondria (rather than chromosomes). It is passed down to all children unchanged, but only the daughters pass it on to their offspring. It tracks the direct maternal line and has a reach of hundreds of thousands of years. So you have a very narrow range, but very deep.
Popular U.S. Provider:
- FamilyTreeDNA – $199
Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) Testing – can be taken by males only. It is carried on the Y (male) chromosome. It is inherited only from the father and is passed on unchanged to all male children. It tracks direct paternal line and has a reach of hundreds of thousands of years. So you have a very narrow range, but very deep.
Popular U.S. Provider:
- Family Tree DNA – $169
Decisions, decisions, decisions. What is the best to do?
The Autosomal DNA test is the one I chose a couple of years ago. It’s the most affordable and gets the widest range. I did mine through ancestry.com.
← This map is from DNA Ancestry and shows where my ancestors are from.
With DNA Ancestry you get a list of matches. I have hundreds of matches, but I only have 6 leaves, all verified cousins. The leaves will show up if there is a matching person in someone’s tree that you have a DNA match to. As I come across the strong matches with no leaf, I will be expanding my collateral research to see if I can find them.
So what has this done for me? It has validated some of my paternal line. Five of the six matches all connect to a 2nd or 3rd great grandparent in my fathers line. One connects to my mothers line.
The other nice thing about DNA Ancestry is it allows you to download your DNA profile. I downloaded mine and uploaded it to GedMatch.com (free) which allows you to upload your testing results from various tests and run reports as well as connect with other genealogists using DNA testing. I think the GedMatch.com interface is a bit clunky, but it does the job. You can even do a one to one comparison to another person.
← This map is from my Family Tree DNA profile. You can see some differences from the DNA Ancestry map.
Eventually I’m hoping the testing fees will come down and I can get my brother to do a YDNA test. I’d also like to do an mtDNA test.
If you search around, you may find DNA groups for your ethnicity. I found one for Danish Demes, that I’d like to join, but they require a YDNA or mtDNA test in order to do so. It’s on my someday list, as my mothers side of the family are all from Denmark.