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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 1, 2018

Will a DNA test reveal my family tree?

by Cynthia Carman

Usually the answer would be "no". A DNA test will only help you if you already have researched a good bit of your family tree and you want to confirm its validity or you have a specific question that only a DNA test could answer. DNA testing by itself cannot tell a person who their ancestors are. Using DNA tests in conjunction with traditional genealogical research, like what you might do at www.MyTrees.com, can break down some of the toughest brick walls.

For instance, I had already done quite a bit of genealogy research, but after reading the book "Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA" by Richard Hill, which I reviewed last year, I had serious questions about the possibility that I had been adopted. The book pointed out that men with AB positive blood types could not father a child with an O negative blood type. My blood type was O negative and my dad, when he was alive, had said his was AB positive. To answer this question, my sister and I took autosomal DNA tests and the matching segments were high enough to estimate that we were full siblings.

Notice I used the word "estimate" in the previous sentence. Autosomal DNA matching programs work by calculating an estimated relationship according to the number of matching segments in the various DNA strands. Each testing company uses a different criteria for determining a DNA match.

The DNA test also served as an estimate of proof that my mother was not adopted. In the family finder tool at FamilyTreeDNA comparisons are sorted according to the closest matches. Several of the DNA 2nd to 4th cousin matches in the FamilyTreeDNA database showed that their ancestors had the same surnames as my mother's family. Also their ancestors lived in the same county and state as my mother's family.

I tested with FamilyTreeDNA and I would recommend them over the other testing companies because of the tools they have that compare DNA segments.

My sister had tested with AncestryDNA. Fortunately she was able to upload her DNA results to FamilyTreeDNA, so a comparison could be done with my DNA test. It cost $19 for her to create an account on FamilyTreeDNA, so we could use the familyfinder tools to see if our DNA was a close enough of a match to be full siblings.

It might have been better if both of us had tested through the same company at the start, but at the time, when I chose to have the test done, it wasn't clear to me what to do to accomplish my goal of confirming our sibling relationship. Here are some steps that may help you to make the most of your DNA testing experience.

Choosing a goal or purpose for taking a DNA test.

  • Genealogy - finding cousins and proving your family tree
  • Ethnicity - finding what my DNA says about my country of origin
  • Adoption - finding unknown parents or other family
  • Health - finding what health markers are in my DNA

Choosing a DNA testing company based on that goal.

  • Genealogy - AncestryDNA does not allow the upload of DNA test results from other companies; but it is the leader among the DNA testing companies with regard to the number of people who have had completed DNA tests and also have public family trees available for searching. So testing with them first and then uploading to the other DNA testing sites may be the most economical way to get more connections to cousins.
  • Ethnicity - All the testing companies provide an estimation and percentage breakdown of a testers' DNA by country of origin. This is done by comparison to the testing companies reference database, so uploading to other testing websites may give you a different ethnic breakdown because they have a different reference database. Test with AncestryDNA first, then upload your raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA and 23andME
  • Adoption - Testing with all the DNA testing companies is the best strategy to get the widest comparison to other DNA testers. It is most economical to test with AncestryDNA first then upload your raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA and 23andME
  • Health - Test with 23andME first. Their DNA testing result is more complete with regard to health markers. You can upload your raw DNA file from other testing companies to their database to use their matching tools, but be advised that 23andME uses a different technology to produce their DNA results. Their DNA results are considered to be more accurate with regard to ethnicity evaluation and health markers.

Choosing a DNA test type.

  • Autosomal - atDNA is used to locate genetic cousins. It can help answer specific genealogical questions like whether two people have a recent common ancestor.
  • Y DNA (only for males) - A father passes his Y chromosome only to his sons. Usually the Y-chromosome is passed from one generation to the next without change. The Y DNA test is only offered through FamilyTreeDNA and through 23andME
  • Mitochondrial DNA - mtDNA changes slowly. Individuals with identical mtDNA can be related either very recently or thousands of years ago. mtDNA is not useful for finding genetic cousins in a testing company's database. It is only useful for finding whether or not two people are maternally related.

Remember DNA testing and genetic genealogy are not replacements for traditional genealogical research, like what you would do at www.MyTrees.com.

Recently new competitors have entered the DNA testing market. Since I have had no experience with these testing companies I have not mentioned them in this article. I am providing here links to a couple of articles that can provide more details about these testing companies in case you are interested in investigating them.

  • http://www.genie1.com.au/blog/58-which-dna-testing-company
  • https://dna-explained.com/2017/04/24/which-dna-test-is-best

Copyright © 2017-2018 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.
Links to this article are encouraged.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 1, 2018

Will a DNA test reveal my family tree?

by Cynthia Carman

Usually the answer would be "no". A DNA test will only help you if you already have researched a good bit of your family tree and you want to confirm its validity or you have a specific question that only a DNA test could answer. DNA testing by itself cannot tell a person who their ancestors are. Using DNA tests in conjunction with traditional genealogical research, like what you might do at www.MyTrees.com, can break down some of the toughest brick walls.

For instance, I had already done quite a bit of genealogy research, but after reading the book "Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA" by Richard Hill, which I reviewed last year, I had serious questions about the possibility that I had been adopted. The book pointed out that men with AB positive blood types could not father a child with an O negative blood type. My blood type was O negative and my dad, when he was alive, had said his was AB positive. To answer this question, my sister and I took autosomal DNA tests and the matching segments were high enough to estimate that we were full siblings.

Notice I used the word "estimate" in the previous sentence. Autosomal DNA matching programs work by calculating an estimated relationship according to the number of matching segments in the various DNA strands. Each testing company uses a different criteria for determining a DNA match.

The DNA test also served as an estimate of proof that my mother was not adopted. In the family finder tool at FamilyTreeDNA comparisons are sorted according to the closest matches. Several of the DNA 2nd to 4th cousin matches in the FamilyTreeDNA database showed that their ancestors had the same surnames as my mother's family. Also their ancestors lived in the same county and state as my mother's family.

I tested with FamilyTreeDNA and I would recommend them over the other testing companies because of the tools they have that compare DNA segments.

My sister had tested with AncestryDNA. Fortunately she was able to upload her DNA results to FamilyTreeDNA, so a comparison could be done with my DNA test. It cost $19 for her to create an account on FamilyTreeDNA, so we could use the familyfinder tools to see if our DNA was a close enough of a match to be full siblings.

It might have been better if both of us had tested through the same company at the start, but at the time, when I chose to have the test done, it wasn't clear to me what to do to accomplish my goal of confirming our sibling relationship. Here are some steps that may help you to make the most of your DNA testing experience.

Choosing a goal or purpose for taking a DNA test.

  • Genealogy - finding cousins and proving your family tree
  • Ethnicity - finding what my DNA says about my country of origin
  • Adoption - finding unknown parents or other family
  • Health - finding what health markers are in my DNA

Choosing a DNA testing company based on that goal.

  • Genealogy - AncestryDNA does not allow the upload of DNA test results from other companies; but it is the leader among the DNA testing companies with regard to the number of people who have had completed DNA tests and also have public family trees available for searching. So testing with them first and then uploading to the other DNA testing sites may be the most economical way to get more connections to cousins.
  • Ethnicity - All the testing companies provide an estimation and percentage breakdown of a testers' DNA by country of origin. This is done by comparison to the testing companies reference database, so uploading to other testing websites may give you a different ethnic breakdown because they have a different reference database. Test with AncestryDNA first, then upload your raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA and 23andME
  • Adoption - Testing with all the DNA testing companies is the best strategy to get the widest comparison to other DNA testers. It is most economical to test with AncestryDNA first then upload your raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA and 23andME
  • Health - Test with 23andME first. Their DNA testing result is more complete with regard to health markers. You can upload your raw DNA file from other testing companies to their database to use their matching tools, but be advised that 23andME uses a different technology to produce their DNA results. Their DNA results are considered to be more accurate with regard to ethnicity evaluation and health markers.

Choosing a DNA test type.

  • Autosomal - atDNA is used to locate genetic cousins. It can help answer specific genealogical questions like whether two people have a recent common ancestor.
  • Y DNA (only for males) - A father passes his Y chromosome only to his sons. Usually the Y-chromosome is passed from one generation to the next without change. The Y DNA test is only offered through FamilyTreeDNA and through 23andME
  • Mitochondrial DNA - mtDNA changes slowly. Individuals with identical mtDNA can be related either very recently or thousands of years ago. mtDNA is not useful for finding genetic cousins in a testing company's database. It is only useful for finding whether or not two people are maternally related.

Remember DNA testing and genetic genealogy are not replacements for traditional genealogical research, like what you would do at www.MyTrees.com.

Recently new competitors have entered the DNA testing market. Since I have had no experience with these testing companies I have not mentioned them in this article. I am providing here links to a couple of articles that can provide more details about these testing companies in case you are interested in investigating them.

  • http://www.genie1.com.au/blog/58-which-dna-testing-company
  • https://dna-explained.com/2017/04/24/which-dna-test-is-best

Copyright © 2017-2018 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.
Links to this article are encouraged.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 1, 2018

Will a DNA test reveal my family tree?

by Cynthia Carman

Usually the answer would be "no". A DNA test will only help you if you already have researched a good bit of your family tree and you want to confirm its validity or you have a specific question that only a DNA test could answer. DNA testing by itself cannot tell a person who their ancestors are. Using DNA tests in conjunction with traditional genealogical research, like what you might do at www.MyTrees.com, can break down some of the toughest brick walls.

For instance, I had already done quite a bit of genealogy research, but after reading the book "Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA" by Richard Hill, which I reviewed last year, I had serious questions about the possibility that I had been adopted. The book pointed out that men with AB positive blood types could not father a child with an O negative blood type. My blood type was O negative and my dad, when he was alive, had said his was AB positive. To answer this question, my sister and I took autosomal DNA tests and the matching segments were high enough to estimate that we were full siblings.

Notice I used the word "estimate" in the previous sentence. Autosomal DNA matching programs work by calculating an estimated relationship according to the number of matching segments in the various DNA strands. Each testing company uses a different criteria for determining a DNA match.

The DNA test also served as an estimate of proof that my mother was not adopted. In the family finder tool at FamilyTreeDNA comparisons are sorted according to the closest matches. Several of the DNA 2nd to 4th cousin matches in the FamilyTreeDNA database showed that their ancestors had the same surnames as my mother's family. Also their ancestors lived in the same county and state as my mother's family.

I tested with FamilyTreeDNA and I would recommend them over the other testing companies because of the tools they have that compare DNA segments.

My sister had tested with AncestryDNA. Fortunately she was able to upload her DNA results to FamilyTreeDNA, so a comparison could be done with my DNA test. It cost $19 for her to create an account on FamilyTreeDNA, so we could use the familyfinder tools to see if our DNA was a close enough of a match to be full siblings.

It might have been better if both of us had tested through the same company at the start, but at the time, when I chose to have the test done, it wasn't clear to me what to do to accomplish my goal of confirming our sibling relationship. Here are some steps that may help you to make the most of your DNA testing experience.

Choosing a goal or purpose for taking a DNA test.

  • Genealogy - finding cousins and proving your family tree
  • Ethnicity - finding what my DNA says about my country of origin
  • Adoption - finding unknown parents or other family
  • Health - finding what health markers are in my DNA

Choosing a DNA testing company based on that goal.

  • Genealogy - AncestryDNA does not allow the upload of DNA test results from other companies; but it is the leader among the DNA testing companies with regard to the number of people who have had completed DNA tests and also have public family trees available for searching. So testing with them first and then uploading to the other DNA testing sites may be the most economical way to get more connections to cousins.
  • Ethnicity - All the testing companies provide an estimation and percentage breakdown of a testers' DNA by country of origin. This is done by comparison to the testing companies reference database, so uploading to other testing websites may give you a different ethnic breakdown because they have a different reference database. Test with AncestryDNA first, then upload your raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA and 23andME
  • Adoption - Testing with all the DNA testing companies is the best strategy to get the widest comparison to other DNA testers. It is most economical to test with AncestryDNA first then upload your raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA and 23andME
  • Health - Test with 23andME first. Their DNA testing result is more complete with regard to health markers. You can upload your raw DNA file from other testing companies to their database to use their matching tools, but be advised that 23andME uses a different technology to produce their DNA results. Their DNA results are considered to be more accurate with regard to ethnicity evaluation and health markers.

Choosing a DNA test type.

  • Autosomal - atDNA is used to locate genetic cousins. It can help answer specific genealogical questions like whether two people have a recent common ancestor.
  • Y DNA (only for males) - A father passes his Y chromosome only to his sons. Usually the Y-chromosome is passed from one generation to the next without change. The Y DNA test is only offered through FamilyTreeDNA and through 23andME
  • Mitochondrial DNA - mtDNA changes slowly. Individuals with identical mtDNA can be related either very recently or thousands of years ago. mtDNA is not useful for finding genetic cousins in a testing company's database. It is only useful for finding whether or not two people are maternally related.

Remember DNA testing and genetic genealogy are not replacements for traditional genealogical research, like what you would do at www.MyTrees.com.

Recently new competitors have entered the DNA testing market. Since I have had no experience with these testing companies I have not mentioned them in this article. I am providing here links to a couple of articles that can provide more details about these testing companies in case you are interested in investigating them.

  • http://www.genie1.com.au/blog/58-which-dna-testing-company
  • https://dna-explained.com/2017/04/24/which-dna-test-is-best

Copyright © 2017-2018 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.
Links to this article are encouraged.

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