DNA Genealogy

So a friend on facebook asked about pointers for DNA genealogy, and since there is a limit on how much you can type on FB, I will type my response and pointers for genetic genealogy here.

I have always been interested in genealogy and have worked on the family tree on and off over the years. I have an account at Ancestry.com and that's were I keep our tree and do most of my initial research. Well about 2 years ago Ancestry.com started offering DNA tests for genealogical purposes. I love science and decided that it sounded pretty cool so I purchased a test for myself and my wife. I knew nothing about DNA and each test was 75-80 bucks, so why not see what we can find right?

I purchased a Y-Chromosome test for myself and an mtDNA test for my wife. A few months later I received our results.

What you get is a high level overview of your ancient ancestry and a haplogroup designation. A haplogroup is a grouping of the same type of people, say a tribal designation. There is a lot more to it, but to make it simple, the world is split up into various groups (haplogroups) and each portion of the worlds people are in different groupings. Native Americans are usually A,B,C,D or X. The most common mtDNA haplogroup in Europe is H and there are many more. These groups can be subdivided more like H1 H1a etc. till you can try to get a very localized designation. You can read more here  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroups

So we found out my wife was in mtDNA haplogroup H  which is very European, and very common, and this made sense since her grandmother was from Germany. That's pretty much all we found out for her. We didn't find any match's within several thousand years so it was basically interesting from an anthropological standpoint but not very useful for genealogy.

My results were much more useful for genealogy. The Y-Chromosome mutates much faster than mtDNA so if I find a match, it means that it is usually within a genealogical time frame. mtDNA,  the test my wife took, mutates so slowly that if you find a match, it can be 10,000 years ago that your common ancestor lived.

My results went into a database were I could compare my DNA (Y-Chromosome) to other males that took the same test. I found many Allen Match's and immediately contacted these match's. Several had already researched their tree's and I was able to ride on their research to a much deeper place in my tree.

So I started reading more about DNA and how to use it and understand it. I found out that the company I used, Ancestry.com was kind of the b team in DNA testing. The company all of the big dogs use is familytreedna.com. I do all of my testing over their now.

familytreedna.com has a much larger database,more tests,better tests and projects that you can join like surname projects (Allen) or geographic area projects (British isles).

Ive tested with:

Ancestry.com : the results were ok, high level, kinda vague.. the Walmart of DNA testing.

The Sorenson Molecular Geneology Foundation : free, but takes literally years to get results into the database.

Familytreedna.com : This is were to go if you are serious about Genealogy. The prices are a little higher than Ancestry, but considering you will be able to use and upgrade the test for years, its a great value. They have sales often. I think I paid 140 ish for a 37 marker Y-Chromosome test and an HVR1 mtDNA test combined.

Here are a few sites to get you started if you decide to go down that route:





And of course for those nights that you just can't sleep, my mtDNA blog and project:


I have also used my results along with 18 other Allen's to start a project with professional genealogist John Robb.


Without DNA It would be much tougher to separate the Allen's into the appropriate bucket by decadency.

I advise everyone I know that does genealogy to take a DNA test first and test all living males that you trace. Things happen and its easy to trace a guys family for hundreds of years only to find out when you test a male descendant that that line isn't even his line.

If you ever have any questions at all or want to take a test, feel free to email me on FB or gmail and ask questions. I do this maybe 10 hours a day, everyday and can help you from making the same mistakes I made in the beginning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely fascinating. I spent the better part of about 5 years doing the research the old fashioned way. I managed to trace back my father's materal and paternal side to the late 1700's. I have never done anything like this before but it would be fasciating to see the results. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

E. Newsome