An Easy Guide to Commercial Genealogical DNA Tests

An Easy Guide to Commercial Genealogical DNA Tests

DNA Tests have become a staple of Genealogy in recent years and as they are getting cheaper and cheaper a lot more amateur genealogists are becoming much more interested in unlocking the secrets kept within their DNA. The main question is which one to get.

DNA Tests can help in a number of ways including:

  • Verifying research – For example if you think someone is your great grandfather but aren’t 100% sure and you match with people who have him in their tree too you use this to confirm that he is related to you.
  • Surname Variants – Surnames are not always passed down exactly as they were originally so using Y-DNA to match with other people with the same and similar surnames can prove that surnames are related. For example in my tree I have the Pynn surname written as: Pynn, Pymm, Pin and Pinn.
  • Locations – You might end up matching with lots of people that all live in the same area. This could open up new avenues of research.
  • Ancestral Homeland – Some people like the fact that samples can be compared to “Ancient” samples. This can often show where some portion of your DNA likely originated. Most tests also give you a breakdown of this.
  • Discover Living Relatives – One of the most important features for people that take a DNA test is the fact that you are matched with people within the same database.
  • Confirm or Disprove Family Secrets – Take for example someone who does not know their grandfather but has been told he was in the army during the war and had a fling with the grandmother. This might be broken down by having living descendants of the real grandfather who might turn out to live right around the corner.





There are three main types of DNA Tests used within Family history.

  • Y-DNA, which is used to find out more about direct paternal lines.
  • mitochondrial DNA, is used for direct maternal lines.
  • Autosomal DNA is all the nuclear DNA in your cells that is not on a sex chromosome (X or Y chromosome). This is used in matching all lines.

The most popular of these test are the autosomal tests. These are usually the cheapest and offer the most information.


Autosome

Autosomal Tests

Autosomal DNA tests look at the numbered chromosomes. We have 22 (numbered 1-22) Pairs of Chromosomes and two sex chromosomes (X and Y). An autosomal test can be used to estimate relationships between two people, this is the reason that it is the most common type of genealogical test.


23andme banner

1 – 23andMe

Price: £125.

Method: Saliva Sample (About 1 cc).

Contacting others: Contact may be made after seeing your list of matches in DNA Relatives or Ancestry Finder; the matches must be willing to share genomes with you if you are to see what segments you share with your matches.

Number of People in the Database: 1,200,000.

Medical Data: Yes.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: Ancestry Composition, Ancestry Finder, Neanderthal Ancestry, Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry tool, Y and mtDNA haplogroups provided for people you are sharing with.


ancestrydna logo

2. Ancestry DNA

Price: £79.

Method: Saliva Sample (About 1/2 cc).

Contacting others: Contact can be made through Ancestry.com’s messaging system.

Number of People in the Database: 2,000,000.

Medical Data: Yes.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: Comparison of overlap of ancestral origins between matches and automatic identification of common ancestors, surnames and birth places between matches’ family trees.


ftdna family finder

3 – Family Tree DNA (Family Finder Test)

Price: £65.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting others: Email Addresses of all matches are available.

Number of People in the Database: 250,000.

Medical Data: Yes, not as many as 23andme.

Online Community: Yes.


natgeo

4 – National Geographic Project Geno 2.0

Price: £127.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting others: No, but stories about one’s Y patrilineal and matrilineal ancestry can be posted on the web site for others to view, so add your contact information to them.

Number of People in the Database: 230,000.

Medical Data: Yes, not as many as 23andme.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: There are approximately 75,000 Ancestry Informative Markers from about 450 populations around the world that are included on the test. About 10,000 of the Y chromosome SNPs included on the test have not previously been tested in large populations. Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestral percentages are provided.


ftdna-ytest

Y-DNA Tests

These tests are primarily used in Surname Studies. i.e Do two or more males with the “Pynn” surname share a common patriarchal ancestor? They also provide you with your Y-Haplogroup which is the branch on the human DNA tree your Y chromosome sits on.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers three types of Y-DNA test. Each of these tests for a different number of genetic markers on the Y Chromosome. The 37 Marker test will allow you to confirm close relationships and the 67/111 tests will let you narrow down matches even further. With Y-DNA it’s all about what you can afford. If you can afford the 111 STR test then do that one!

Price: 37 STRs $169, 67 STRs $268, 111 STRs $359.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting Others: Public FTDNA Forums.

Number of People in the Database: 568,000+


ftdnammtDNA Tests

mtDNA Tests look at the mitochondrial DNA that is present in everyone. It is passed from mother to child so Males and Females can be tested for this however males will not pass this on to their children. Much like how the Y-DNA test looks at the fathers direct line, the mtDNA test looks at the mothers direct female line. This also gives the mtDNA Haplogroup which again shows where the mtDNA fits in to the human DNA Tree.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers an Entire mtDNA genome (HVR1, HVR2 + coding region = 16569 bases) test. This is the only one worth getting if you want to get in depth information about your mtDNA. It is by far the cheapest of it’s kind. 23andme and some other autosomal tests will tell you about your mtDNA but it will not be anywhere near as informative as an Family Tree DNA test.

Price: $199.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting Others: Public FTDNA Forums.

Number of People in the Database: 200,000.

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