What Can DNA Testing do to Help You Find Your Ancestors?

January 13, 2014  - by 

Do you want to know if others with the same surname as you share a common ancestor? Do you have an uncertain family paper trail or a personal history mystery? Genealogical DNA testing is becoming a popular choice for those who are interested in their family histories, their ancestral make-up or their historic country of origin.

What Is DNA?

DNA testing is based on the standard 46 chromosomes that we all have from birth. Our genetic make-up is completely unique (except in the case of identical twins) and does not change throughout our lifetime. The X chromosome comes from the mother and the additional X or Y chromosome comes from the father. If the father contributes an X chromosome, the child will be female. If a Y, the child will be male. Each person carries mitochondrial DNA (a specific genetic molecule) in their cells. This is inherited exclusively from the mother’s side. For genealogy purposes, the study of mitochondrial DNA or the Y-chromosome forms the basis of the DNA testing.

What Is Genealogical Testing?

Genealogical DNA testing is used to determine information about genealogy or personal ancestry, but comparing your results to others from the same lineage or to different ethnic groups, both current and historic. These tests are not meant for medical use and can’t tell you about specific genetic disorders or diseases. DNA sampling is collected painlessly with a cheek swab rather than a blood test, which is great news for those who are squeamish about needles.

What Can Genealogical Testing Do?

With genealogical DNA testing you can discover the origins of your paternal line by analysing genetic markers (these are genes that code for specific characteristics). Some tests can also show what the migration routes of your paternal ancestors were up to recent years. This can also be done with mitochondrial markers to determine your maternal ancestors. You can find out which of over 200 populations you are genetically most similar to and what proportions of your ancestry come from each other the seven continental level groups. This is particularly useful for those wishing to know what percentage of their heritage is African or European, for example.

If you’re interested in finding out which of the known recessive gene variants for red hair you carry, you can be tested for the 40 known gene variants of the MC1R gene. This will show whether you have a strong or weak chance of producing red haired children.

DNA Testing Services

When deciding on the right firm to carry out your genealogical DNA testing, it’s important to remember that the company should work in accordance with internationally recognized standards. It’s worth doing some research into this area if you’re interested in the most accurate results. When choosing a company to work with, chose a company that is AABB certified. Below are a few companies that have AABB certification. (This is not an exhaustive list of AABB certified companies that offer DNA testing services.)

 Peter Boucher is a guest blogger. He represents General Genetics Corporation, a genetic DNA testing corporation.

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  1. I would like to find relatives in Sweden. My grandmother’s father emigrated from there in the 1800s, & I’ve had great difficulty tracing his siblings & their offspring because I have no information on the parishes in which they were born. What do you suggest ? ( a paid genealogist is beyond my means ).

    1. I am from Sweden and have last name Bryant in my familytree. I can help if you have Swedish ancestries. I have done my whole tree down to 1600 and even longer. eva ( @ ) fotsteg.se

      1. Hi Eva, I have a question you might be able to help me with? My 2nd great grandfather, Sven Andersson Kilgren born in Kila, Värmland, Sweden in
        1849– died about 1917 and I was wondering why he had two last names. His Daughter was my grandmother Eva Barabra Kilgren.

        1. Sven Kilgren Andersson born 2 aug 1849 in Kila, Värmland, Sweden. Death 1 May 1917. He was in Kindred Lutheran, Dakota. His father’s name was Anders Nilsson.

          In the past got the children their father’s first name as their last names, so Anders became Andersson and if a daughter she got the last name Andersdotter ( Andersdgt )

          It ended to be like that in the end of 1899.

          Often people took Last names after where they lived and your ancestors took Kilgren because if means ( KIL+ branch …. the branch of Kila / Kil )

          1. Eva Virginius, you wrote: “In the past got the children their father’s first name as their last names … It ended to be like that in the end of 1899.”

            I find the same change took place at least in some parts of faraway Nigeria about the same time. So, I’m curious. Do you have any idea what led to this change, and how widespread the change was? In Nigeria, I had wondered whether there was a presumption that children had to share their father’s last name induced or forced by the colonial government. But what could be the reason in Sweden or elsewhere?

  2. I would like to do testing because I am pretty sure therw is more than just Scottish and English on my dad’s side. We also are descendants of Ann Rutledge. I have an Aunt down the line named Doris Rutledge. We are also related to the Duke of Argyle, Scotland. My mom, we believe is pure Portuguese, although she doesn’t look overly Portuguese. Do you think Ancestry.com’s dna test is good to see the percentage of what I actually am?

    1. Thomas, you never know what you’ll find. At least with Ancestry DNA testing, you can be connected to living family that also took their DNA test. If some of your father’s family took it, you may find more information. You can read more about Ancestry DNA testing here: https://www.ancestrydna.com/kits/?s_kwcid=dna+ancestry+testing&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnuDTBRDUARIsAL41eDoZOZzN1cp5KJL0wdUeffTyk2rnSXMXNSC5Hx8yRmOgvS0UMHx6h58aAs23EALw_wcB&rd=https%3a%2f%2fwww.ancestrydna.com%2fkits%2f%3f&o_xid=79107&o_lid=79107&o_sch=Paid+Search+Brand

  3. Question, if my Father is dead, and just before he dies he mentioned he thought he was adopted, and is an only child AND his parents dies in 1968 and 1972, how can I find out DNA info and possibly find 2nd cousins etc that are true biological relatives?

  4. It can really surprise people to realize just how much genetic testing can help with family history. As the article points out, one of the bigger benefits you can gain is an idea of your heritage. This can help as it will let you know what parts of the world you should be looking for your ancestors in.

  5. Thanks for explaining how genealogical tests can help you determine the origins of your paternal line by studying the genetic markers of your DNA. A good friend at work was left in an orphanage when he was still little. This means that he has no clue about his family ties and ancestry. I will be sure to share this piece with him so that he can consider taking the test that can potentially track his paternal line.