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

Milti color DNA strand

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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