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DNA tests are all the rage right now! Find out which companies to test with, what they show, and learn about adding DNA testing to genealogy searches.
DNA TESTING COMPANIES, ETHNICITY RESULTS EXPLAINED
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One of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. I could spend all day researching family trees. A few years ago, I kicked it up a notch and added DNA testing to the mix. It has been a total game changer. Last year, I helped a dear friend discover who her biological dad was through DNA testing. I’m asked a lot of questions about DNA so I thought I would share my 5 tips for DNA testing.
Before we start, let's talk about the major test providers. There are several out there, but these are the three main testing companies I think are worth looking into:
2. 23 and Me
5 Tips For DNA Testing
1. WHO DO I TEST?
Most people want to naturally test themselves (because who wouldn’t?), but if your parents or grandparents are alive, start there first. You want to test the oldest generation first. If you have a great aunt, or your grandpas brother is still alive - test them while you have a chance! It’s also very helpful to narrow down your maternal side and paternal side if you test both your mom and your dad.
Feeling sunk cause you have no one to test besides yourself—— That’s okay too! If you are an adoptee, or have no living relatives, you are just fine testing yourself.
2. The Ethnicity Estimate is just that. An estimate.
The ethnicity algorithm is complex, and one that is different from company to company. These are two screen shots from two siblings through Ancestry DNA.
Two Full siblings with the same parents. Honestly, the one on top seems to have inherited more paternal traits, and the one below, more maternal.
This is the estimate from Family Tree DNA for the first person:
There are differences for sure but it’s pretty obvious that he’s of European descent.
3. The #1 thing I see in DNA forums - I know I’m of Native American descent - why is it missing?
I’ve seen it time and time again. People who swear their grandma was 100% full blooded Cherokee Indian. And then nothing shows up in the DNA.
The Native American issue is complex, and I would refer questions to a qualified forum.
There are several explanations. One possibility is that that family lore is just that. Another possibility is that it was your Great Great Great Grandma, and by then the percentage is small.
Look at it this way:
- Great Great Great Grandma 100%
- Great Great Grandma 50%
- Great Grandma 25%
- Grandma: 12.5%
- Your Parent: 6%
- You: 3%
This is using the theory that exactly 50% of the genes are handed down at each generation level.
Other times, Native American shows up loud and clear:
4. Which Company Do I Test With?
This is another question I see a LOT. There are 3 main DNA companies: Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23 & me. There are pro’s and con’s to each. Here are my thoughts on each (If you'd like to purchase a test from any company, simply click on their name to be directed to their website):
- Largest databases of matches.
- Testing is simply spitting into a tube
- User friendly interface
- in depth viewing of matches trees requires subscription to services
- Testing is done by swabs (good for those who can't spit)
- Database is not as user friendly
- Offer more complex DNA testing for specific types
(Y- DNA for males, Maternal DNA for women)
-Largest database for international connections (popular for Europeans)
-Good start if your looking to break down a brick wall from immigration
- database of matches is not as user friendly
- testing is spitting in a tube
-offer additional health information with an increased price
5. EVERY FAMILY HAS SECRETS
No matter how much you think you know your family, there are always family secrets to be found. Some of these are considered pretty tame from what they were 100 years ago. It’s not uncommon to see a marriage and 6 months later a baby. Some are a little more intense, like discovering you suddenly have a half sibling. I tell everyone to prepare themselves, because you never know what might pop out of the woodwork.
The beautiful thing is that even though you may know your family backwards and forwards, there are others that don’t. There is a huge group of adoptees using DNA testing to make connections with their bio families. Some are merely looking for health info and general ethnicity results to get a sense of “who they are”. Others are looking for their parents. Some have happy reunions, and some don’t. It's like Forest Gump's box of chocolate. You never know what your gonna get.
My adopted friend was able to connect with her biological father who never knew she existed. Yesterday, she sat at the family table for Thanksgiving dinner. Together, with her father and 5 half siblings. All because people she has never met tested their DNA. With a little bit of genealogy research, a little education on how DNA works, and a little detective work, she now knows her family. By testing your DNA, even if you are not a close match, you are still filling in gaps for this community of searchers.
I urge everyone to test. It makes a perfect gift to give and it's always a huge hit when I gift a DNA kit! Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more tips and tricks on using your DNA results. I can’t wait to share my favorite hobby with you! Hopefully you've found my 5 tips for DNA testing helpful!