Anyone can Test DNA 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.
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.
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.
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.
Companies that can Test DNA for Family History
There are several companies that test DNA for family history including:
Each of these companies is offering a very similar kind of test, but each has their 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. The MyHeritage test is new, and is not on the chart yet, but will be soon.
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 buy prescription medicine overseas 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!
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 ?
Genetic Genealogy for the Layman
I encouraged Diahan to immediately get to work putting her easy-to-follow explanations into a new series of quick reference guides. Genealogy Gems Publications is proud to publish her 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.
Start Here to Jump into Using DNA for Genealogy
Diahan has a regular segment on my free Genealogy Gems Podcast where she answers your questions and provides invaluable insights into the latest in genetic genealogy. You can also find the complete archive of DNA articles at Genealogy Gems by clicking here. The most recent will appear first and then scroll down to read through the past articles.
For those who have tested with Ancestry DNA
- Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
- Understanding Ancestry DNA
- Organizing Your DNA Matches
- Next Steps: Working with Your Autosomal Matches
Mix and Match for Genetic Genealogy
The beauty of the DNA quick reference guide series is that you can mix and match the guides to perfectly suit the testing you have done. We’ve published Diahan’s guides that delve into the testing companies FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe, as well as the other tests available such as Mitochondrial (for your maternal line – both men and women can take this test) and YDNA (for your paternal line – only men take this test.)
Take Your DNA Test Results to the Next Level
If you’ve already tested and feel like you have a good foundation, then I highly recommend Diahan’s Advanced DNA Bundle. It will take your DNA test results to the next level by instructing you on the heart of what matters in plain English.
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.
New and updated records for Canada and the United States are hot off the press this week. Mortality schedules, cemetery records, Roman Catholic records, and passenger lists are listed for Canadian genealogy research. For the United States, check out Ohio newspapers, New Jersey census records, Confederate maps, and more.
Canada – New and Updated Collections
Ancestry has three brand new collections of Canadian records. First is the Census Mortality Schedule, 1871, covering the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.
Specifically for Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989 includes records of several Toronto Cemeteries. And the Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923 collection includes indexed records of Ontario baptisms, marriages, and burials. Other records, such as family lists, communions, and confirmations may appear, but do not have associated indices.
At FamilySearch, the collection of Canada Passenger Lists (1881-1922) has been updated with over 33,000 new indexed records. The collection contains an index and images of ships’ passenger lists (also known as ships’ manifests or seaport records of entry).
United States – Newspapers, Census Records, & More
Ohio. MyHeritage has a new collection of Ohio Newspapers from 1793-2009 that you’ll definitely want to explore. These newspapers come from various cities and towns throughout the state and may provide vital records substitutes as well as a glimpse of daily life.
New Jersey. State Census records for New Jersey are now online at Ancestry for the following years: 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1905, and 1915. Records did not survive from all New Jersey counties but all available records are included in this collection.
New York. Brooklyn, Bethlehem Steel Shipyard Employment Cards, 1908-1965 is another new collection at Ancestry. Records include name, age, birth date, next-of-kin, and employment date.
Illinois. New over at FamilySearch are Illinois Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880. This collection lists people who died in the year preceding each census starting in 1850.
National Archives. Over 100 Confederate maps have been digitized at the National Archives. These maps are part of Record Group (RG) 109 and can be viewed online as well as downloaded. Additionally, some of the maps contained unique information on the back, and both sides are available to view in the Catalog.
Railroads. Finally, the Railroad Retirement Pension Index, 1934-1987 is available now at Ancestry. Records vary, but the information found may include birth date, death date, and social security number.
Our weekly e-newsletter is packed with the latest in all things family history! Included each week is our round-up of new and updated records collections around the web and offline. Get inspiring ideas, brick wall strategies, expert interviews, and more when you sign up for our free newsletter. As a bonus, you’ll get a free ebook of my top Google search strategies! Click here to sign up now.