DNA Testing for Family History

From Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems: DNA testing is one of the most personal ways to get involved in your family history. You have DNA from your parents, who have DNA from their parents, and so it goes, back into your greats and great-greats. The technology of genetic genealogy is all about tapping into that DNA record and pulling out information that might be useful in your family history. DNA can do this for you in two ways:

  • First, it connects you to places. These are places where your ancestors came from a hundred, a thousand, or tens of thousands of years ago.
  • Second, it connects you to people. These people are your genetic cousins, other living people who have taken the same DNA test that you took. The similarities in your DNA tell you that you share a common ancestor. You can then examine the pedigree of your match and work with them to help verify your family history, or give you new ideas about who your ancestors might be.

Types of DNA Tests for Family History

You have three choices of DNA tests, each with its own unique purpose.

Autosomal DNA – For any ancestor, male or female, who is fewer than 5 generations from you, you can take the autosomal DNA test at either Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage to find out more about that individual. Remember with the autosomal DNA that you always want to test the oldest generation first. So anyone who does not have both of their parents living should take the autosomal DNA test.

mtDNA – If I want to know about a female ancestor, let’s say Mary West, I need to find Mary’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s, etc. child (male or female) to take the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Family Tree DNA.

YDNA – Essentially, if you want to know about a male ancestor, you need to find a direct male descendant to be tested. So if I want to know about my 3X great grandfather Morris Mitchell, I need to find Morris’s son’s son’s son, etc. until I find a living male with the Mitchell surname who can be tested on the Y chromosome DNA (mtDNA) test at Family Tree DNA.

DNA Testing Companies

There are several companies that test DNA for family history including:

Each of these companies offers a very similar autosomal DNA test, but each has its own unique tools and databases. Decide which company you want to test with by evaluating things like:

  • their website accessibility
  • their company goals
  • and especially the size of their database

You can see a table comparing these companies here.

Great (DNA) Expectations

The best thing you can do when setting out on your genetic genealogy journey is set good expectations. You can expect that the test will document the personal genetics of the person who takes it. By so doing, you are creating another genealogy record that will last for generations. This test will link you to your ancestors via your cousins. That means that you may take the test looking for ancestors, but what you get are cousins. It will take traditional genealogy work to turn those cousin connections into ancestral connections. Above all, expect that this is a growing industry, and what we know today is different than what we will know tomorrow, so enjoy the journey!

Genetic Genealogy for the Layman

There are several comprehensive books on Genetic Genealogy out there. However, for the layman who just wants to understand their DNA test results and get some additional value from them, an entire book full of scientific explanations can be overwhelming and daunting. The following email is one we receive regularly:

“Could you direct me to an understandable publication which explains dna results in layman’ terms ? Thank you” – Anne B.

Genealogy Gems Publications is proud to publish Diahan Southard’s wonderful series of DNA quick reference guides for understanding your DNA results in plain language, and helping you get the most out of the investment you made in testing.

8 Guides to Help You Understand and Use Your DNA Results

The complete collection of DNA quick reference guides cover:

  • The testing companies: AncestryDNA, 23andme, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage
  • The tests: Autosomal, YDNA, Mitochondrial
  • How to find your ancestors using your DNA. 

All guides are available in convenient digital download format. 

DNA Guides bundle of 8

Click here to shop now: Save on the set of 8 DNA quick reference guides at the Genealogy Gems store.

More DNA Resources from Genealogy Gems

Free Videos: Here’s a link to our DNA videos on YouTube with the author of the guides, Diahan Southard. Here’s a great one to start with:

Free Podcast: Diahan has a regular segment on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast where she answers your questions and provides invaluable insights into the latest in genetic genealogy.

Free Articles: You can browse the complete archive of DNA articles at Genealogy Gems. The most recent will appear first and then scroll down to read through the past articles.

DNA in the News

As of March 28, 2017, AncestryDNA customers can see if their ancestors belonged to about 300 different Genetic Communities, small migratory groups that can be identified by DNA. In the next free Genealogy Gems podcast episode #202, you will learn more about it straight from Ancestry’s Chief Scientific Officer, Catherine Ball. For more information on Genetic Communities, watch the video below:

Want to get tested? Get your AncestryDNA test here.

Lifting the Fog: Tips for Beginning Irish Genealogy Research

Ready to start tracing your Irish genealogy? Don’t get into a fog and loose your way. Beginning Irish genealogy is a snap when you follow these step-by-step tips from expert Donna Moughty.

At the recent RootsTech 2017 conference in Salt Lake City, I had the opportunity to sit down and film a conversation with Irish genealogy expert, Donna Moughty. We discussed some of the key elements of Irish research such as developing a research plan, tracking down the necessary information in U.S. records, and the dramatic way in which Irish genealogical records research has changed in the last few years. You can watch that video below:

But this wasn’t my first conversation with Donna. Last Spring, she was a guest on Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode #134. That podcast episode is available to Genealogy Gems Premium website members. But, in honor of all those celebrating their Irish roots this month, here are some tips from the episode.

Tips for Beginning Irish Genealogy from Donna Moughty

Donna Moughty Irish Genealogy Expert

with Donna Moughty at RootsTech 2017

1. Start with yourself and work systematically back, making sure you’ve made all the right connections. Common Irish names can easily send you off on the wrong track.

2. It’s all about location in Ireland. Not just the county but name of parish, or if possible, the townland they came from. If that information exists, it’s likely to be in the country to which they immigrated.

3. If the information exists, it’s probably not in one location. You might find it in bits and pieces in a lot of records. All records are not online, especially Roman Catholic church records in the U.S. When requesting those, write to the parish, send money, and tell them you’re looking for the locality in Ireland. The parish secretary will fill out a form, which may not have room for the locale on the form so you may not get that information unless you ask for it.

4. Scour the documents! Some Catholic priests would not marry a couple without proof of baptism, so there may be information in the marriage buy medication for gonorrhea record about the location of the parish of baptism.

5. Research everyone in the family including parents, siblings, and children. If that doesn’t pan out, start all over again with the witnesses and the sponsors from the baptismal records. Who are they? Where are they from? They were likely a family member or close friend who came from the same area in Ireland.

6. Many of us had Irish immigrants who came during the famine era or after (1840s-). They used chain migration. One relative came and worked and earned the money to bring someone else. The later the person arrived, the more information we’re likely to find on that individual. Watch later censuses for someone living in the household who was born in Ireland, maybe a cousin or niece, because they likely came from the same place. If they came after 1892, we’ll find a lot more information in the passenger list, including the place they were born, and if they naturalized after 1906, we’ll have all the information we need.

7. Once you get back to Ireland and if you know the maiden and married surnames of a couple, look in Irish records to see where those two surnames show up in the same geographic location. This overlapping of names is a good indicator that you are researching in the right place. You can research surnames using Griffith’s Valuation 1847-1864, which is an Irish tax list (search it here on Ancestry.com). The majority of the people who were occupiers of land (tenants on someone’s estate) are named here.

Bust your Irish genealogy brick walls

Irish Genealogy Problem Solving Video Webinar DownloadGenealogists with Irish roots face a number of research obstacles that only seem to produce more questions. The fire at Four Courts in 1922, as well as the government’s destruction of early census records, has left a major void for Irish family historians. Contrary to popular belief, however, not all records were destroyed. Although difficult, tracing your ancestry in Ireland is not impossible. In this hour-long webinar, Irish genealogy expert Donna Moughty will answer the most common questions faced by researchers conducting Irish research. Click here to order the instant video download now!

MyHeritage DNA Updates 2019

MyHeritage made some exciting DNA announcements at RootsTech 2019! We’ve got the recap here about all of the new tools that will help genealogists find their ancestors and living relatives: The Theory of Family Relativity™ and AutoClusters. These groundbreaking...

Irish Genealogy: Find Your Poor Ancestors in Ireland

Have you ever heard of the “Irish Reproductive Relief Fund?” That name made me wonder what it was all about (and I was totally wrong). It was actually a program ahead of its time, and its records can help you trace your hard-working, poverty-stricken Irish ancestors. The records are now online for the first time at Findmypast, along with a new, easier-to-search version of the 1911 Ireland census.Irish censuses Irish genealogy Irish family history

“The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor’ – those most affected by poverty and famine,” says a press release from Findmypast.

“This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Potato Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world. Now anyone can go online and research individuals and families to find out more about where they lived, their financial situation, their social status and more besides.”

Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said, “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

These new records complement an expansive collection of Irish records at Findmypast, including Irish Petty Sessions, Irish Prison Registers, Irish newspapers, Irish Births 1864-1958 and  over 800,000 Irish marriages dating back to 1619.. Another new online Irish record collection is the Clare Electoral Registers, which include early female voters.

Here’s a tip for Irish genealogy researchers from Findmypast: “The Ireland Census 1911 is an excellent starting point for anyone researching their Irish ancestors. Findmypast’s powerful search will for the first time allow family historians to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name – all making it easier than ever to trace Irish ancestors.”

 

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