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Hiring a Professional Researcher Hiring a DNA Testing Company
DNA testing has become an accepted tool for identifying ancestors and for verifying genealogical leads. It is also used frequently to learn about our deep ancestry.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can DNA testing help me in my genealogical research?
- Which company should I pick?
- How much does it cost?
- Who can be tested?
- How do I interpret my DNA results?
A lecture given at RootsTech 2012 can help you answer these questions:
CeCe Moore's "DNA Testing for Genealogy - Getting Started" series is a great place for beginners. Read her posts at the Geni blog:
Information stored in the Y chromosome (Ycs) passes virtually unchanged from father-to-son for centuries. Analysis of this genetic information, found in living people, can help you determine whether you share a common paternal ancestor with another person alive today. Based on the number of genetic markers shared on the Ycs with another person, you can also estimate how many generation in the past your common paternal ancestor lived. This is called Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA) and it is based on a mutation rate calculated on many thousands of father/son pairs. Ycs testing can help in verifying a common paternal ancestor, or learn about the origin of a particular surname. Additionally, each Ycs can be predicted into a specific branch of the large Ycs tree based on the set of Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) tested by many companies and using an online predictor, or it can be accurately assigned to one of these branches through the test of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) (see the Ycs ISOGG tree).
Note: Only males carry the Ycs, but a woman can have a male relative tested in her stead to obtain such information.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a small circular genetic molecule found outside the nucleus in organelles called mitochondria. It is inherited exclusively from our mothers and it follows an unbroken maternal line. MtDNA is helpful in verifying the existence of a common maternal ancestor or to study the ancient origins of our maternal line. MtDNA lineages can be grouped together in a large mtDNA tree. Each branch of this tree may have a specific geographic distribution that might help someone locate the country or region of origin of their maternal line.
MtDNA testing can be done for a small section of the genome called the control region (which usually include the segments HVR1, 2 and/or 3), or for the full molecule (16569 bases). Family Tree DNA is currently the only commercial laboratory offering the complete mtDNA sequence to its customers.
Note: Although mtDNA is inherited exclusively along the maternal side, both males and females carry it. Only females will pass it on to their children. ISOGG has a useful diagram which shows the path of mtDNA transmission.
Autosomal DNA Testing
Autosomal DNA is the DNA found in the 22 pairs of nuclear chromosomes. They are shuffled at each generation and only half of it is passed to our offspring. It does not follow a clear and straight path of inheritance as the Ycs and mtDNA described above. However, current testing provides a survey of one million or more sites on a person nuclear genome. This information is helpful in identifying recent cousins within the last five generations, or the ethnic origins of our family tree. Companies like 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and Ancestry all offer autosomal testing for genealogical purposes. The Genographic Project recently launched an autosomal test that offers insights into our deep ancestry. These tests offer a lot of information about our DNA and they may be difficult to understand. Each company offering such tests has numerous tutorials and aids on their website to assist with the interpretation of such results. Additionally, 23andMe offers information about medical predispositions and traits.
DNA Testing Companies
Some major commercial DNA testing companies are listed below in alphabetical order. Please visit their websites to learn more about their services:
- 23andMe: Autosomal DNA test only (Relative Finder), with Ycs and mtDNA haplogroup assignment and information about diseases and traits.
- Ancestry DNA: Ycs and mtDNA profiles sold separately. Plus a new autosomal DNA test which is currently only available in the US.
- DNA Consulting
- Family Tree DNA: A large variety of DNA tests available, including the largest set of Ycs STRs (111) and the only complete mtDNA sequence. Their autosomal test is called Family Finder.
- Oxford Ancestors
Public DNA Databases
- YSearch: Ycs data only.
- YHRD: Forensic database for Ycs.
- Mitosearch: mtDNA data only.
- mtDNACommunity; a database for full mitochodnrial sequence results
- Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (formerly sponsored by Brigham Young University). SMGF has been recently acquired by Ancestry. The website offers a large Ycs and mtDNA databases correlated to known pedigree data.
- Gedmatch: autosomal raw data only
Result Interpretation Assistance
Organizations, such as The Genetic Genealogy Consultant, provide services to help you interpret your DNA results and get the most out of what they can tell you about your roots.
Thousands of DNA Projects, usually focused on a particular surname, location, or ethnicity, are active around the world. To determine if a DNA project is underway for your ancestor's surname, start with World Families Network. A listing of geographical projects can be found in the ISOGG Wiki.
Other DNA projects can be found on the Internet by using a search engine, such as Google, with the words "Genealogy DNA". Contact each organization for additional information.
Examples of individual projects include:
- Britton International DNA Project at Ancestry
- Britton International DNA Project - main website
- Cruse/Cruwys DNA Project
- Global Adoptee Genealogy Project
- Harrison DNA Project
- Kerchner DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy
- Kevan DNA Project
- New Mexico DNA Project
- Spencer DNA Project
What is DNA?
DNA research is based on the 46 chromosomes that every human being has (with few exceptions). The gender-determining chromosomes are X from the mother and either X or Y from the father. If X from the father, the child is female and if Y from the father the child is male. The Y-chromosome can be traced from father to son to son and so on.
In addition, each human being carries a genetic molecule in their cells called the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This genetic component is found in organelles called mitochondria, which produce energy for the hosting cell. MtDNA is inherited exclusively along the mother side. Both males and females carry mtDNA, but only women will pass their mtDNA to their children.
Since the mutation of chromosomes is very slow the study of the Y-chromosome or the mtDNA trail forms the basis of the DNA tests used for genealogy purposes.
DNA in the news
- Some articles on DNA and genealogy.
- DNA blog posts at EOGN.com
- With DNA Testing, Suddenly They Are Family by Rachel L. Swarns (New York Times, 23 January 2012). Discusses DNA tests for adopted people.
- DNA solves a Joseph Smith mystery by Michael De Groote (Deseret News, 9 July 2011)
- DNA shows Joseph Smith was Irish by Michael De Groote (Deseret News, 8 August 2011)
- Pinpointing DNA Ancestry in Africa by Linda Heywood, Ph.D. and John Thornton, Ph.D. (The Root, 1 October 2011)
- When in Doubt, Spit It Out by Allen Salkin (New York Times, 12 September 2008). DNA testing parties.
- Sorenson compiling huge DNA database by George Anders (Wall Street Journal, 27 April 2005)
- International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). Site includes newsletters, a DNA Wiki, Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree, list of DNA consultants for hire, list of DNA speakers, DNA signatures of famous people, project listings and much more.
- Genealogy DNA Mailing List (RootsWeb). Active conversations about genetic genealogy.
- Chris Pomery: DNA & Family History. Online resources include DNA talks, books, papers, articles, blogs, presentations, podcasts, and websites by an expert in the field.
- Journal of Genetic Genealogy. Free articles from leading scholars in the field.
- Genetic Genealogy Consultant. Free tutorials and resources for understanding DNA results within a genealogical and ancestral context.
- Your Genetic Genealogist. This Blog strives to make the subject of genetic genealogy accessible and understandable for the non-scientist. Written by CeCe Moore, a professional genetic genealogist and experienced personal genomics consumer.
- ↑ Dick Eastman, "Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy Part #4," Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, 11 August 2012, http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2012/08/getting-started-in-genetic-genealogy-part-4.html.
Neither The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nor FamilySearch is associated in any way with any DNA studies. As a non-profit organization, FamilySearch cannot recommend a specific DNA-testing company to you.