Family Tree: DNA (Part 1)

Written by on February 16, 2013 in Family Tree - 7 Comments
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I recently purchased two DNA kits. One was from Ancestry DNA, a part of the larger Ancestry.com. The other was from a much lesser known company with a very similar name, Ancestry by DNA. My plan is to use the Ancestry DNA kit myself and send the other to my brother, since there is different information to be gained by testing a male member of the family.

DNA Tests

The two tests are quite different. For instance, the Ancestry by DNA test (on the right above) contains a simple swab that you use on the inside of your cheek. Once the swab has been returned to them and tested, they give you an estimated percentage of your ancestry that is from the four population groups they test for: Indigenous American, East Asian, European, and African.

Ancestry by DNA

The Ancestry DNA test requires you to fill a small tube with saliva which is then sent in for testing. Their test claims to be able to report your genetic ethnicity in much more detail. For example, rather than just finding out that you are of European ancestry, this test will tell you what percentage is from the British Isles, Scandinavia, Central Europe, or  Southern Europe.

Ancestry DNA

I am certainly no expert on DNA testing for genealogical purposes, but I am learning. And I hope to learn much more as my results come in. It will be interesting to see if my research will be proven true or if I have strayed somewhere. I’m also very curious to see if a family legend will be disproved. Both tests take 6-8 weeks, and I’ll share what I’ve discovered when I have the results.

Have you had your DNA tested for genealogical purposes? If so, what have you discovered? And if not, would you ever consider doing it?

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About the Author

Krystal L. Becker is the owner of Kinship Genealogy, a genealogical research and preservation company. With almost 20 years of genealogy experience, she has devoted much of her life to uncovering the stories our ancestors left behind. Krystal received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from DePauw University. She continued her education by earning a Master of Library Science degree from Indiana University, and she is currently pursuing certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

7 Comments on "Family Tree: DNA (Part 1)"

  1. Rachel February 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm · Reply

    I have done DNA tests through ancestryDNA and 23andme.com. I did not learn much from ancestryDNA because a lot of my matches have their family trees set to private. I could contact my matches and see if they want to share info but I haven’t bothered. I have not found anything interesting on the matches with public trees. The only info ancestryDNA gives so far is a breakdown of your genetic ethnicity but I felt disappointed with the lack of useful information. AncestryDNA is still in Beta so I am hoping they will make a lot of improvements in the near future including giving customers access to their raw data that can be used on other sites.
    I found the info I learned from my 23andme test much more interesting. 23andme gives you ancestry and health info. They also let you download your raw data which is very useful.

    • Sandy Drexler February 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm · Reply

      Rachel….I agree with you. My husband and I both had ours done [AncestryDNA] and we have yet to find a match up of a new relative from all the potential ones. Most have no obvious connections. We were very disappointed in the vague report. We had thought it would be much more personal. It was kind of expensive just to find out one’s ethnicity. I was raised by a stepfather and they keep sending me links to his family lines as my ancestors. That info had to come from my tree and not my blood lines. Don’t understand that at all.

  2. Tiffany Benedict Berkson February 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm · Reply

    I had my father do it since there was a family project for our surname–this was able to validate the 2 volume family vanity books with our tree mapped out to the first Benedict who arrived in the United States circa 1635. This test proved it since there were already so many Benedict descendants who had taken the test. I still don’t understand all the technicalities, but it was cool to get verification!

  3. Joan Hostetler February 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm · Reply

    I haven’t yet done this, but plan to in the near future. My mother was adopted, so I know nothing about her ancestry except the names Shipley and Campbell. Does anyone know if DNA testing can be done with hair? My mother is gone, but I save a lock of her hair for this purpose.

    • CeCe Moore February 18, 2013 at 3:42 am · Reply

      Hi Joan,
      None of the commercial genetic genealogy companies will test hair at this point, although that could change in the coming years since it is used in academic settings. If it has the root rather than being cut, you have the best chance of getting viable DNA. Makes sure not to let people handle it so as not to contaminate it.
      You can test yourself though right now and learn a lot from the 50% of your mother’s autosomal DNA that you inherited. There is a terrific group called AdoptionDNA that can teach you how to use the test in your search for information. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AdoptionDNA/
      Best of luck!
      CeCe

  4. CeCe Moore February 18, 2013 at 3:44 am · Reply

    I compared the four major companies providing “ethnic” breakdowns to genealogists here: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/comparing-admixture-test-results-across.html
    I liked 23andMe the best in this area.

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