For most people, tracing family lines through past generations requires tedious research. However, relatively recent developments in the field of genetics have allowed many to use DNA tests to trace their bloodlines. Whether you want to know if you are related to someone who shares your last name or you are looking to reconstruct your family tree as much as possible, ancestry DNA testing can provide you with some helpful information.
To test DNA, genetic testing labs need to collect DNA samples from you and the others in question. Most collect saliva samples with either a cotton swab, a piece of gum or mouthwash. Once the necessary samples have been gathered, you mail them in to the lab for analysis.
Depending on the company, your results will usually be available within a few weeks. These results may appear online through the company''s website (but only available to you with use of a secret password), through a mailed written report or through both options.
Most companies test Y-chromosomes, using the Y-Line DNA test, or mitochondria, using the mtDNA test. Y-chromosome testing follows male ancestry, which can be helpful for following family names, especially in Europe, for genealogical research. If you are a woman and want to use Y-chromosome testing, you can get a close male relative to take the test for you a brother, father, uncle, or cousin will all work well.
Alternately, mitochondrial testing follows the maternal line of ancestry. This is useful because people inherit their mothers mitochondria in their DNA without any change in the normal course of events (there are a very few exceptions). Unlike Y-Line DNA tests, mtDNA tests can be difficult to use for genealogical research because most countries use male surnames for family heritage, instead of females'' maiden names.
Ancestry DNA testing can, as mentioned before, aid in genealogy research. Also, scientists point out that increased information from these tests will help us understand human migration patterns over the course of history. Studies that allow medical testing on their DNA samples might help further medical research looking for cures to certain genetic diseases.
Ancestry DNA tests are not the same as ethnic DNA tests. An ancestry DNA test will not tell you your ethnic makeup nor what percentage of your ancestors comes from particular ethnic groups.
For some, ancestry DNA testing can yield some upsetting results. For example, some people have discovered that the father listed on their birth certificate isn't their biological father.
Another drawback of ancestry DNA testing is that some privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the more detailed tests, since they can reveal medical problems on occasion. However, any lab in the United States will destroy your DNA sample after the testing if you request that it do so.
Ancestry DNA testing can cost anywhere from around $100 to $1000, depending on what test you want and which company you choose. Most, however, cost less than $400. Some companies provide gift options for consumers, so you can put a genetic testing kit on your wish list for the next major holiday or your birthday.
Keep in mind that, if the reason you're getting DNA testing to confirm that you're related to another person, you will have to test that persons DNA too.
Genebase Systems (2007). Get Your Participation Kit. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from the Genebase Web site.
Genebase Systems (2007). Trace Your Ancestry. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from the Genebase Web site.
Human Genome Project Information (2008). Genetic Anthropology, Ancestry, and Ancient Human Migration. Retrieved March 13, 2008, from the Human Genome Project Information Web site.