Healthy Living

Genetic Genealogy: Private Interest, Public Good

 

 

Type of DNA tests Ancestral lines tested Remarks
Autosomal DNA (atDNA)

 

All ancestral lines

 

 

*brown, pink and blue boxes in the pedigree chart below

 

 

Most popular type of DNA testing for the purpose of building the family tree and learning about one’s ethnic makeup

 

Matches are strongest and most accurate for recent generations

 

Some atDNA tests also include X-DNA testing since some specific inheritance patterns apply to the X-chromosome. Also, X- DNA testing can help to isolate shared common ancestor to particular branches of the tree

 

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Direct maternal line

 

*Pink boxes in the pedigree chart below

Everyone has mtDNA inherited from their mother

 

Males can test their mtDNA but they cannot pass it on to their children

 

Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) Direct paternal line

 

*Blue boxes in the pedigree chart below

Male – only test since only men have Y-chromosomes

 

 

 

Genetic Genealogy and DNA testing companies

Knowledge of the types of DNA tests makes it easier to understand services offered by major DNA testing companies.

One thing to note is that DNA on its own does not provide any genealogical insight. As such, DNA testing companies with large databases are the ones that best serve the purpose of learning of one’s own ancestry and connecting to the family members. In addition, each company also offers unique set of tools that determine the amount and the quality of matches identified upon completion of the testing. That being said, some companies are open to information sharing which allows consumers to make use of the tool provided by other companies. For example, not all DNA testing companies allow access to their database; however, most of the companies provide raw DNA data in a format compatible with various human genome programs.

 

DNA testing company Types of DNA tests offered Database size (as of Nov 2018) DNA data  transfer from other companies Personal DNA data being sold / shared by the company Remarks
AncestryDNA atDNA 10+ mln

 

No

 

Yes  
23AndMe atDNA

mtDNA

Y-DNA

5+ mln

 

No Yes  
MyHeritage atDNA 2.5 mln

 

Yes

(23AndMe; AncestryDNA; WeGene; Family Finder)

 

 Yes  
Family Tree DNA AtDNA

mtDNA

Y-DNA

 

>1 mln

 

Yes

(23AndMe & AncestryDNA only)

 

No

Once DNA sequence has been analyzed, the companies present respective familial matches to the users.  Family members of first and second degree are the most valuable matches since you can reasonably expect to identify a common ancestor with them. Relatives of third degree provide very little relevance while relatives of further than third degree might not even be a true genetic match. Since genealogists usually suggest DNA tests in order to find cousins and build connections from there, let’s consider the above point based on the genealogical relationship between the cousins: first degree cousins share a grandparent, second degree cousins share a great – grandparent while third degree cousins share a great – great – grandparent …. That said, if the company you tested with did not list your first or second degree relatives, it might be due to the fact that they belong to a database of a different company. For this reason, choose DNA testing company that not only owns a big database but also allows data to be shared with other family genealogy related sources.

Last and not least aspect to fully understand about DNA testing is that it is a scientific enterprise. While findings of DNA research have the potential to revolutionize the world, they also hold claim to fame and fortune which skeptics fear might affect management of information and privacy of records.

 

Trending DNA- related Projects

Following are few DNA related projects that are trending right now. It is worth mentioning that the above DNA companies provide results that genealogists use to build family trees and establish connections between family members. DNA related projects mentioned below are mostly focused on examining one’s genetic composition and migration patterns of human DNA.

Project Focus of the project Compatibility with DNA testing companies Service fee Personal DNA data being sold / shared by the company
GEDmatch Open source personal genomics database which is actively used for genealogical and law enforcement purposes

 

23AndMe

AncistryDNA

MyHeritage

Family Tree DNA

 

Free Yes
DNA.land Non – profit human genome research company which provides DNA matches and ethnic makeup interpretations in return for donation of one’s raw DNA data

 

23AndMe

AncistryDNA

Family Tree DNA

 

Free Yes
Genographic Project

 

Privately funded genetic anthropological scientific study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples

 

23AndMe

AncistryDNA

MyHeritage

Family Tree DNA

 

Free Yes
GPS Origins Private company that uses new algorithm of DNA testing that traces migration patterns rather than belonging to population groups existent right now. GPS Origins claims that it is able to pinpoint the geographic origins of one’s DNA (not of individual ancestors) 23AndMe

AncistryDNA

Family Tree DNA

 

 

$$$ Yes

 

 

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