DNA Testing


DNA test results can be used to confirm common ancestry within a tree, to test if separate trees may share a common ancestor, to help test weak links in an existing Family Tree and to investigate ethnic origin. They complement the traditional methods of “paper” genealogy. The value of DNA tests for Genealogy is now established.

Testing has developed to the extent that results from some test agencies are comparable and are recorded in a standard format. Test results (but not the name of the donor) are published on the Internet and are available to all. Test material may be retained by some of the test agencies for many years, this allows more extensive tests to be run in the future.

Choosing the right type of DNA test for your interests and the agency to do the work is not straight forward. Testing is moderately expensive, therefore to avoid getting results which are of little value it is important to seek information other than from testing agencies advertising. The comments below describe members experiences, give information about the various tests available, and contain links to other sources.


(Editors Note: Lorna Henderson sent the following discussion of some of the problems that can arise in choosing a company for DNA testing. Thank you Lorna.)
LornaHen says:

I note that one of your members has tested with Genebase. For the general information of your members, genetic genealogists recommend testing with one of the three main players in the dna testing for genealogy world:
23andme, FamilyTreeDNA, and ancestry.

All test autosomal dna (all family lines back to say 4-6 generations with reasonable success at finding relations, but many get “sticky dna” matches much further back), only FamilyTreeDNA does yDNA (father’s father’s father’s direct paternal line) and mtDNA (mother’s mother’s mother’s direct maternal line) .
The three main players have large databases, which is what you need to find relations and thus confirm your papertrails and map your chromosomes to the particular ancestor who passed that segment down the generations to you.

Which of the big 3 is best depends to a certain extent on where you are.
Ancestry doesn’t ship to outside the USA, 23andme adds a $70 US courier cost (return) to addresses outside the US.
Both of these restrictions can be overcome by using a freight forwarder or a friend in the States.
FamilyTreeDNA ships anywhere for about $9 US.

Whichever you test at it is recommended that you also upload your raw data results to GEDMatch.com a free (registration required, donations accepted site) where you can compare your results with others who tested at the other companies and tweak the matching parameters to see if there are matches that you can detect that the company you tested with missed because of their higher criteria (used to eliminate false matches/hope).

All three companies have their strengths and weaknesses.
Ancestry’s strength is their associated trees BUT they simply do not give you the information necessary to confirm where/how you match, just that they think you do and you have to trust them – the match may NOT be the papertrail match shown in your respective trees.
FamilyTreeDNA has purely genealogy based clients (and does not test markers that can be used for health related information, with some small exceptions they warn you about in the full mitochondiral test) and your chances of responses to queries about your match are more likely to be answered than at 23andme which began with health related testing, now suspended, so they too now offer only genealogy test results.


Still curious, try the pages on the ISOGG wiki for some general introductory readinghttp://isogg.org/wiki/

 In particular read the top 6 pages at:
(the CeCe Moore ones are short).

If you want a good introduction to atDNA, try this instructive and humorous video:
(the last few minutes are just noise, as you can’t hear the questions/answers).

Hope this may help anyone thinking of venturing into this fascinating world
Lorna                            http://LornaHen.com


In the monthly Newsletters of FAMNET Gail Riddell is publishing an excellent series of short articles on  DNA Testing. Each article deals with a separate topic in a clear and readily understandable way illustrated with some relevant figures. Her topics are:

  1. What is Molecular Genealogy? (March 2014)
  2. Where would I begin? (April 2014)
  3. What test should I take? (May 2014)
  4. What DNA will NOT tell you and the risks involved. (June 2014)
  5. Direct paternal line (men only). (July 2014)
  6. Direct maternal line (men and women). (Aug 2014)
  7. All the lineages including maternal and paternal (men and women). (Sep 2014)
  8. Understanding direct paternal results. (Oct 2014)
  9. Understanding direct maternal line results.
  10. Understanding the “cousin” results.
  11. Hints and Tips.
  12. Invaluable websites and blogs and forums for DNA.

These can be found on the FAMNET Community page (click on the date of the desired article).


“Is the Answer in your Genes” on Debbie Kennett‘s website provides a concise and readable introduction to DNA testing.


See DNA Surname Project for BEDGOOD/BIDGOOD/BEDGGOOD/BITGOOD and variants for background information on testing and the results that may be expected, then sign up for testing by joining this project.


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